Hrvatski Fokus

Croatian Nationalism – hrvatski nacionalizam

Croatian Nationalism And The Croatian National Movement (1966-1972) In Anglo-American Publications – A Critical Assessment

Ponukan člankom u Hrvatskom fokusu Pavla Blaževića »Marko, nacionalizam je domoljublje!« ( dr. Ante Čuvalo poslao je svoj vrijedni uradak iz davne 1988. godine na temu nacionalizma i odnosa hrvatskoga nacionalizma i domoljublja u vrijeme druge Jugoslavije na izdisaju. Nadamo se da će ova poduža iznimno vrijedna i poučna analiza, bez obzira što je na engleskom jeziku, pripomoći da se bolje sagleda nužnosti uvedbe institucije »političkih Hrvata« u hrvatski pravni sustav kao jedinoga rješenja svih naših državotvornih problema.
On Nationalism in General
Nationalism is one of the greatest forces in modem history. It seems that no political, economic, psychological, ideological, or any other drive can match its compulsion and its impact on our world. Furthermore, nationalism continues to defy scholarly analysis, prognosis, and even logic itself.1 One of the major reasons for this defiance is that nationalism has a chameleonic nature, has a number of contingencies, and can be expressed in multiple ways. A strong indication of the complexity of the subject is the fact that a good study of nationalism must include a host of interdisciplinary fields, such as history, geography, language, religion, economy, political science, international relations, sociology, literature, ethnography, and art, just to name a few. No wonder, then, that among numerous definitions of nationalism one can not find an adequate one.
Dr. Ante Čuvalo
Although nationalism can be linked to imperialism of one kind or another, most nationalisms strive to gain, maintain or increase a certain national group’s self-awareness, cohesion, individuality and self-rule. Nationalisms, however, differ in their formation, goals, expression, degree of self-consciousness, mobilization, and in a number of other features. Even the same nationalism can be expressed differently and in various degrees of intensity at particular times. Furthermore, different individuals, social elements, and regions of the same nation express their nationalism in distinct ways and measures of passion at different times and situations. Thus, it is very hazardous to bring a generalized judgment about nationalism as a phenomenon, or even about the nationalism of a particular nation.
The purpose of this paper is not to examine nationalism in general, but to explore how the latest surge of Croatian nationalism has been viewed in contemporary Anglo-American publications. Nevertheless, I will mention just a few more difficulties with which a student of nationalism is faced. For example, is nationalism something “primordial” and “irrational”, or is it a historical phenomenon? Is nationalism simply an invention of modem intellectuals and politicians for the purpose of harvesting political legitimacy in the name of the people, or does it go deeper?


Who can tell precisely when did people begin to have “national feelings”? Was it after the French Revolution, during the Reformation, the Renaissance, or the Middle Ages? Or did such feelings already exist in ancient times when the Jews considered themselves the “chosen people” and, therefore, different from the rest, or when the Greeks saw themselves as civilized and all others as barbarians? What were the feelings, for example, of Croatians like Grgur Ninski (10th century) and his followers when they fought for the use of the Croatian language in church liturgy, or of Joan of Arc (1412-1431) when she gave her life for the cause of her people? Were such feelings “national” or simply “tribal,” “parochial” or “religious”? Were those feelings something “primordial” and “irrational”; were they already a politically mobilizing force, or possibly a little of everything? One can say with some certainty that nationalism gained its full political force only after the people’s sovereignty replaced “divine right,” hereditary principles, and similar claims of government legitimization. But how far the roots of national consciousness go, even the roots of political nationalism, is still an open question. Had not the concept of the “chosen people” been already used at biblical times for the political purpose of conquering the “promised land”?
Is nationalism just a phase in history which will disappear from the face of the earth? For those who consider nations as a natural division of mankind, certainly, nationalism is not just a passing phenomenon. True, nations are born and die, but national divisions are here to stay. On the other hand, according to Marxist ideology, nationalism cannot be considered “primordial” but a product of bourgeois capitalism. For both the Marxist and non-Marxist “assimilationists, ” the age of nationalism has been over for some time and, therefore, nationalism is on the way out. What is left of it is merely a negative force which is being misused by those who wish, for one reason or another, to disrupt the integration process of the world into a global community brought about by modernization and/or revolution.
The empirical evidence, however, clearly indicates that nationalism is not subsiding. On the contrary, nationalism is alive and doing well in all parts of the world. Predictions that modernization (industrialization, transportation, communications, literacy, education, etc.) would bring about a unification and homogenization of the world and that nationalism would become irrelevant did not come true. We see that the world is becoming smaller and smaller; states and nations are becoming more and more interdependent economically, environmentally; and much of the world is united in fear of nuclear annihilation. At the same time, membership in the United Nations has been growing steadily and national liberation-movements are not decreasing but increasing. Not to mention a growing gap between the rich and the poor which is contrary to the process of a meaningful world unification.
Even in Western Europe, where it was believed that the question of nationalism had been resolved by unification (Germany, Italy) or by assimilation (Britain, France, Spain), nationalism is very much present. Presence of nationalism can be seen in Spain, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, South Tyrol, France, as well as in the animosity toward the “guest-workers” in Germany, Austria and other West European countries.2
Nationalism in the communist countries is doing even better than in the capitalist societies. Suffice it to mention the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.3 Thus, neither the proletarian revolution nor the capitalist modernization theory brought an end to nationalism.
It is very possible that the effects of the revolution and modernization were just the opposite of what the internationalists hoped for. More and more people became aware of their oppressed positions and of their human and group rights. Thus, the demonstration effect has been stronger than the willingness to sacrifice one’s own national identity and rights for the sake of some eschatological vision of a nation-less world.
Leaving aside all predictions and theories, the fact is that nationalisms do exists, and should be taken as a fact of the historical and political panorama. Historical evidence also indicates that nationalism can be imperialistic and anti-imperialistic, oppressive and liberating, a unifying and disunifying force, offensive and defensive, backward-looking and future-looking; it can be economic, political, cultural and so on. Thus, it is pointless to argue that nationalism is good or evil in itself. The virtue of nationalism as such, or more often of a particular nationalism, most of the time, depends on the ideological view or, very often, on the political or economic interest of the observer’s nation at the time of the evaluation.
Croatian Nationalism Before 1960s
Historical evidence indicates that the roots of Croatian national self-awareness go deep into Croatian national history. Despite a centuries-old struggle for mere existence, national identity and the nucleus of national statehood were kept alive. Thus, Croatian nationalism and the idea of statehood were not a product of some accident in the nation’s modem history, nor of geographic position, nor of an outside action of some bigger power(s). Neither is the Croatian nation a product of religion, as some would suggest.4 The foundations of modem Croatian nationalism are based mainly on two principles: historical memory and rights, and on popular sovereignty.
The Croatian “Illyrians” began (1830s) the national reawakening, but it was Ante Starcevic (1823-1896) who, in the spirit of the French Revolution, articulated most clearly the historical rights and peoples’ sovereignty. He transformed these two principles into a national ideology and a political action in the middle of the last century. Today’s main streams of Croatian nationalism are based on these two fundamental components: that Croatians are a nation with a long history and centuries-old statehood and culture, and that they have every right to determine their own fate. It is on this principle of self-rule that their nationalism had been frustrated for a very long time. The common feeling among the Croatians is that their individual and national destiny has persistently been in someone else’s hands. Thus, the essence of their nationalism is a struggle for self-preservation and national sovereignty.
Since the middle of the nineteenth century, there have been two main political streams in Croatian nationalism: one envisioned an independent Croatian state as the only guarantee for the national future; and the other sought a wider Slavic, specifically South-Slavic, federated political framework in which Croatia would be autonomous. Both of these streams played an important role among the Croatians. However, the pro-Yugoslav version of Croatian national ideology tended to be elitist and it played a disproportionately important role in Croatian politics. At critical moments, such as the end of World War I and the end of World War II, the pro- Yugoslavs had a decisive role in determining the fate of the Croatian nation. But one should not forget that, in both cases, external factors were more decisive in the political settlement of the Croatian question than the will of the people.5 The second brand of Croatian nationalism, promoted by the advocates of Croatian independence, had much less understanding in the international community, although the Peasant Party, which advocated an independent peasant republic, represented most of the people in Croatia in the inter-war period.
Generally speaking, Croatian nationalisms never gained much sympathy in the West, more specifically in the Anglo-American world. This can be said of the nationalism of the Croatian liberals in the Habsburg empire, of the pacifist nationalism of Stjepan Radic and his Peasant Party, the revolutionary nationalism of the Ustasha movement (1929-1945), and of the socialist nationalism of the 1960s and 1970s.
Already in the middle of the nineteenth century, Marx and Engels condemned Croatian nationalism as reactionary because it did not fit into their revolutionary theory.6 Similarly, C.A. Macartney, a historian of nineteenth-century Hungary, stated that Croatians were “a people which had, indeed developed the habit of opposition for opposition’s sake further than any [other nation] in Europe”7 This subjective judgment has been often quoted by contemporary observers of Croatian affairs as if to suggest that it is deep in the Croatian nature to be troublemakers for no reason at all. Interestingly, while Croatians were encountering the full force of the reinvigorated Magyar nationalism and were faced with the policy of Magyarization, they were considered as unreasonable obstructionists; on the other hand Hungarian nationalism was seen as progressive and not oppressive. Clearly, the two nationalisms were defined differently.
In the inter-war period, Croatians found themselves in a state which was, for all practical purposes, a Greater Serbia. Croatia was treated as an occupied land and Serbian terror ran rampant. Although Stjepan Radic, and the Croatian Peasant Party, which in reality was more a national movement than a political party, responded with pacifism and then with parliamentary struggle, Croatians were seen by many, especially in England, as unreasonable, as a poison in Yugoslav politics, and later on as wreckers of the state. Some experts on Yugoslavia’s politics even accepted Belgrade’s propaganda that Radic was emotionally unstable and his assassination was simply a violent response to his unbearable insults of the Serbian carsija. Or, at best, Radic and the Serbian Radical leader, Pasic, were put on the same level of fanaticism and stubbornness.8 It was believed that the two were the main stumbling block of a “normal” development of the Yugoslav state.
One American social scientist wrote recently that Serbian nationalism of the 1920s was modern and of the “Jacobin type, intolerant of particularism and regionalism.” On the other hand, Croatian nationalism for him has been “legitimist” in nature, stressing only historical rights.9 However, he does not point out that Serbian nationalism could afford to be anti-particularist, because the Serbs were the ruling nation in the state. It would more correct to say that Serbian nationalism was “intolerant of particularism” because it was imperialistic, not because it was progressive. It is an absurdity to conclude that every “state-making” nationalism is progressive, and every “state-breaking” nationalism is retrogressive.
World War II Croatian nationalism has been seen as an “evil incarnate,” and every expression not only of Croatian nationalism but of Croatian consciousness itself, ever since the war, has been labeled as reactionary, Ustashism, fascism, and the like. But those who write about Croatian’ nationalism of the period do not even try to distinguish between state legitimacy and government legitimacy. It seems that very few are interested in finding out whether the Croatians did have a legitimate claim to have a state or not.
The fact is that the vast majority of Croatians accepted the state in 1941 as an expression of their wishes. Even most of those who opposed Pavelic and the Ustashe, wanted a Croatian state, in one form or another, as the realization of their national dreams and rights.10 Furthermore, those who identify Croatian nationalism only with Ustashism seldom mention that Croatians fought on both sides in World War II. However, even the nationalism of those who were on Tito’s side, or the nationalism of their children has been labeled as “extremism,” “chauvinism,” “fanaticism,” “terrorism,” “neo-fascism,” and so on.11 This is a weapon constantly used to disarm the Croatian quest for human and national dignity of all moral values.
It seems that the most often condemned aspect of Croatian nationalism is its quest for statehood. All Croatians, Marxists or non-Marxists, who stand for a Croatian statehood in any shape or form are condemned as chauvinists and even neo-fascists. This labeling tactic has been practiced in Yugoslavia, as well as by many outside the country, since World War II. Thus, one should keep in mind that the issue is not alleged Croatian chauvinism, or an ideology, but the integrity of the Yugoslav state and a potential Croatian statehood, which are mutually exclusive.
Croatian Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s
The Croatian socialist nationalism, or national Communism, of the late Sixties did not fare much better than the past Croatian nationalism in the Anglo-American press. I will touch upon only a few of the categories and labels which have been attributed to the Croatian national movement and to its leaders of the late Sixties and early Seventies.
First, in newspapers, magazines, and even scholarly periodicals in English, one can find most often that Croatians are a “nationality” (or sometimes “a major nationality”), an “ethnic group, ” a “minority, ” or a similar social-group category; but very seldom are they considered as a nation. Is this just an indication of sloppy writing, or can we conclude that it is up to the individual author and his or her whim to decide when a certain people become a nation or when they lose that prerogative. There is the usual interchangeability of the terms “nation” and “state” in English. Thus very often multi-national states, like Yugoslavia, or the Soviet Union, are identified and treated as “nation-states”.12 For many journalists, politicians, and even scholars, it is the state which determines nationhood. If this is so, it is not clear what happens to the nationhood of those people who once had a state and lost it, or those nations that had been divided into two states? Do the first simply turn into an ethnic group, or the latter become two distinct nations? Ironically, Croatians have been recognized as a nation, at least on paper, in Communist Yugoslavia, while outside the country they often are not granted even that basic recognition.
One should keep in mind that there is a political effect of such misuse of terminology. For example, an uninformed American reader imagines that Yugoslavia, the USSR or other multi- national states, are in nature the same as the United States. No wonder, then, that many average Americans or Australians are quick to compare their multi-ethnic country with multi-national Yugoslavia. Although the multi-ethnic model differs from the multi-national as apples differ from oranges, the differences remain obscure to such readers who, seeing terms such as “self- determination,” “self- rule, ”or ” independence, ” imagine a region or an ethnic group in their own country demanding autonomy or independence. But the news media or the experts in the field seldom even attempt to clarify such issues and differences.
There are some authors who simply do not see any serious flaw in the Yugoslav state, in its legitimacy, its regime, in its politics, economy or the inter-national relations (inter-national here means relations among different nations within the country). For an American scholar, Bogdan Denitch, for example, Yugoslavia has been by “far the most open of the societies ruled by communist parties”; its “intellectuals are far more outspoken than any in Eastern Europe”; its “public and press [are] outspoken”; “more American social scientists and journalists wander around Yugoslavia than in any East European country”; its economic emigration is a “temporary solution … and not as massive exodus “; that Yugoslavia does not need to build a Berlin wall to keep the people in or out the country, etc. These are supposedly proofs that the system is stable and that both the state and the regime are legitimate; that its military and secret police forces have no sympathy for the East; that its economy is being integrated with Western Europe rather than with the East European bloc; that the Belgrade regime is “the most open and progressive of regimes ruled by a Communist party”; that religious toleration in Yugoslavia “is the norm, and the decentralization of political and economic power has gone further not only than in any other Communist regime but probably further than in many of the West European politics”; that multi- national problems are more “acute in Spain, Belgium, Canada and Great Britain, and the problem of the social order is posed far more sharply in Italy, Turkey and Portugal” than in Yugoslavia.13 If this is one’s scientific conclusion of the national, social, political, and economic situation in Yugoslavia, then there is no choice but to see in the Croatian national movement of the late Sixties and early Seventies, as well as in Croatian nationalism in general, a negative and destructive force which disrupts a presumably normal and progressive development of a very “normal” country. It cannot, however, be concluded from the above praises that Croatians should be happy and legitimize the Yugoslav state and its regime because they enjoy freedom and prosperity, but they should not rock the boat because there are peoples who are worse off than they are.
Some other authors are not so generous in praising the Yugoslav regime; they are critical of the Communist monopoly of power and of its economic policies. They even recognize some of the injustices and grievances raised by Croatians and other non-Serbian nations and nationalities in the country, but for them the unity and integrity of the Yugoslav state, and for some even its centralism, become an indispensable value, an untouchable good in itself.14
In their eyes, the latest Croatian national movement was either purely separatist, or its leaders had gone too far in their decentralizing demands. Although the Party leaders themselves might have been moderate, supposedly they were not able to control their “extremist” allies. Or the movement was a mix of various forces which really got out of hand, and there was no choice but nip it in the bud. The proofs of “extremism” are usually found in Croatian demands not only for more personal freedom or decentralization of economy, but in the fact that the leaders of the movement dared to raise the question in national terms. Moreover, they indicated that the time had come for an ideological reconciliation, or at least a truce, between the Croatians themselves. To speak, however, in terms of Croatian national rights and grievances has been an anathema in the eyes of the Belgrade regime (as well as in the eyes of some of the foreign observers) not only since 1945 but since 1918. Any united Croatian voice, no matter how democratic or reactionary, how humanistic or oppressive it might be, has been perceived as threatening, and, therefore, condemned.
Interestingly, the observers are almost repetitious in pointing out that some Croatians suggested that Croatia, as well as other nations in Yugoslavia, should be members in the United Nations and that most of the army recruits should serve in their own republics. While these were peripheral issues that came up during public debates, where anybody could express his or her opinions, the real Croatian grievances for example economy, emigration, foreign currency, import-export firms, education, language, freedom of speech, independence of the courts, free market economy, and similar basic national issues were barely mentioned or simply papered over. And these and such issues were not of romantic but of down-to-earth nature.
Although some observers considered the national problem in Yugoslavia to be “the most basic of all” and that “for many Croatians, Yugoslavia and Serbia are virtually synonymous”15, according to them, the solutions to the national and other questions of the country have to be found within the existing state and even under the same system. To think otherwise, or even to ask for further decentralization and democratization of the system, was nothing less than Croatian “inherent” oppositionism and national hard-headedness.
The following are some of the views and judgments passed about Croatians and the Croatian national movement one can find in some of Anglo-American publications: “Continental Europe has no more volatile and troublesome minority than the Croats.” They are described as “dour and resentful,” as well as “having a case of permanent national paranoia”.16 Some also talked about “chronic Croat animosity” and the “Serb frustration” with them.17 For others Croatians are incapable of “genuine politics of give and take”.18 Although Croatians did have some reasonable grievances they were carried by “ancient passions” .19 For some, Croatian nationalism of the 1960s and the 1970s was a nationalism in the classic tradition of East Europe20, which, in the West, means everybody hates everybody else. Thus, for some, there has been nothing, or very little, positive in the Croatian national movement. One author stated that “it would be a prime mistake to equate either Croat or Slovak nationalism with liberalism”.21 Similarly, another observer concluded that “the Croatian crisis did not represent … a temporary upsurge of modern liberal humanism.” According to her, the centralist forces, “because they were defending a precarious socialist status quo against the resurgence of historically dangerous politics of romantic nationalism, were in the right in 1971”.22 But is humanism possible only in stepping out from the national framework? Is every nationalism devoid of humanism? If not, who decides whose nationalism is and whose is not humanistic? What are the objective criteria for such judgments?
There is also something contradictory in the evaluation of nationalism in Yugoslavia. According to the research of an American scholar, which was done in the early 1970s, 45% of the Serbs, 52% of the Croatians, 60% of the Slovenes and 73% of the Macedonians rank as particularistic.23 The Slovenes also “stray from the common ‘Yugoslav’ pattern in socialist patriotism”.24 But it is also concluded that while Slovenes were “considerably more particularistic than Croats,” they “at the same time possessed a very modern system of beliefs”.25 Interestingly, while the Slovenes could be progressive and most particularistic (nationalistic) in Yugoslavia, Croatian nationalism has been constantly seen as reactionary and retrogressive. We can guess that the reason for such views is that Slovene nationalism, at least up to recent times, was not seen as dangerous to the Yugoslav state, while Croatian nationalism always carried at least such a potential. Thus, the measuring stick of the progressiveness of nationalisms in Yugoslavia is not, it seems, a particular nationalism itself or its ideology but its position on the integrity of the Yugoslav state and its centralism.
Dennis Rusinow, who wrote a four-part report on the Croatian national movement and whom some consider to be a leading expert on the subject, argues that the “movement was evolving in the direction of separatism” and therefore it “represented destructive and dangerous forces.” For him, “the Croatian Party leaders … were in fact creating a political system that had more in common with fascism than with either democracy or socialism.” Naturally, he was “glad that the whistle was blown,” meaning that he was pleased to see that the central powers crushed the Croatian evil spirit that got out of the bottle.26
Leadership of the Croatian National Movement
While some considered Savka Dabcevic-Kucar, the Party chief in Croatia in the early 1970s, to be “the first genuinely popular Croat leader since World War II” 27, Rusinow, for example, in order to prove his hypothesis that the movement was reactionary, backward looking, and destructive, tried to discredit its leaders by his own method of psychoanalysis. According to him, the leaders of the movement were “individual neurotics, people with special personal problems or chapters in their lives to live down” or “those with political ambitions who ‘never made it’. ” He stressed that the leading Croatian Communists of the time came from “old and distinguished Dalmatian bourgeois families”; we can conclude, therefore, that they were of a suspicious background and could not be true proletarians. Rusinow also tried hard to discredit the student leaders by using their religious affiliation, or the regions they come from, as indications that they, and the movement as a whole, were linked, at least spiritually, if not organizationally, with Ustashism.28 To anyone who is familiar with the Croatian scene, this approach of Rusinow’s is a clear reminder of the methods used by the Yugoslav regime, especially during the Rankovic era. Those who came from certain regions of Croatia were then always looked upon with suspicion. They were the first to end up in jail for political reasons, or they had to serve in special army camps because the UDBA could “see in their eyes” that they were an anti-Yugoslav element. Thus, according to Rusinow, Drazen Budisa, for example, became one of the student leaders, not because he was, as Rusinow himself admits, “handsome, articulate, highly intelligent and respected by his contemporaries,” but because he was from Drnis. And to be from Dalmatian hinterland or from Hercegovina one has to be “Ustasha” by birth. It seems for the same reason Rusinow tendentiously stated that Zvonimir Cicak, another student leader, was from Hercegovina, although he was from Zagreb.29
The young Communist leadership of the time has been accused of mere “careerism”30 and of “manipulating the hitherto dampened fires of ethnic and cultural nationalism” as “a means of protecting and extending their influence. Ambition drove them to push ‘Croatianness’. ”Savka and Tripalo are identified as the “Croatian Bonnie and Clyde”.31 It is said that Tripalo and Savka “played upon the underlying fears and insecurities of the Croatian populace” for personal gains.32 However, authors do not explain why Croatians were in fear and insecure. What were the reasons for such feelings in an entire nation? One should also have in mind, that Savka, Tripalo and Pirker had been already at the top of the Party hierarchy, and surely they did not get there because they were good nationalists. One does not climb the Communist Party ladder on the basis of popular sentiments! National Communism is nothing new in the world; why would one not allow at least a possibility that the Party leadership in Croatia was genuinely interested in the fate of their nation.
It seems that one of the major “faults” of the Croatian leadership, Party and intellectuals, was that they raised too much expectation and optimism among their people. And when they could not deliver, it is stated, the frustrations were turned into nationalism.33 In most countries optimism and enthusiasm of the people is considered as a positive and not a negative indicator. Stock markets and sales go up or down because of the mood of the people. Politicians and economists love optimism. But it seems that if there is calm and gloom in Croatia, it is seen as “deceptive quiet”;34 if there is some enthusiasm, it is perceived as dangerous. Thus it should be clear that the Croatian issue is much deeper than the particular mood of the people at a certain time, and a serious observer should go beyond those moods in order to understand the true nature of Croatian grievances and Croatian nationalism.
The leading “troika” (Tripalo, Savka and Pirker) have also been accused of being intolerant of other opinions in the party. One observer claimed the “the struggle was ruthless on both sides [conservative and liberal], and the methods used [by the liberals] did not inspire confidence that nationalism would usher in a new period of socialist democracy”.35 However, no one compared the methods used against the opposition during the national movement and the way the Croatians, those in and out of the Party, were treated before and after the movement. In order to condemn “both sides,” one should see how many people were jailed for so-called political offenses, or were kicked out of the Party; how much freedom there was for individuals, groups, and institutions; or how much the state interfered in the economy, education, press, and judicial system before, during and after the movement. The methods and goals of the conservatives and liberals were entirely different. While the Croatian liberals fought for socialist humanism, their opponents were defending socialist centralism. While the first brought the politics to an open forum, the later clung to the Party’s monopoly of power and mere force.
A few authors did consider the Party leadership in Croatia as being “essentially moderate, looking for peaceful methods to reform the system and meet the basic demands of the Croatian population.36 However, generally speaking, the Anglo-American observers have passed a negative judgment on the movement and on its leadership. Although most of them praised Tito for ending the Croatian spring, some. did regret the way the movement was crushed.
Nature of the Movement
At this point one should probably ask, what was so terrible about the Croatian national movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s to deserve such condemnation? In a wider context of Croatian history, the movement represented a continuous Croatian national quest for political, economic, and cultural autonomy and national emancipation. That struggle began under the Habsburgs and it continued under the Karadjordjevics after 1918. In the new state (after 1918) the Croatian nation was completely dominated by the Serbian army, police, and bureaucracy, and Croatians were treated as an occupied nation. A similar Croatian subordination continued within Tito’s Yugoslavia. Although Communist Yugoslavia claimed to have solved the national question in the country and was organized on a federalist basis, that federalism was on paper only till the mid-1960s. The policy of cultural unitarism was implemented in all aspects of life in the country. In practice, Yugoslav unitarism meant first of all suppression of everything that was Croatian. Croatians were pressured to become “Yugoslavs,” while others could remain what they were. (New nations in the country were even invented.) A number of Croatian historical figures were thrown out from history books and other publications, the Croatian language officially lost the status of a national language, Croatian culture was suppressed, its economy exploited, and anyone who raised questions about this kind of national oppression was hit hard. In many cases, just being Croatian was enough to be considered an enemy of the state.
It was only in the late Sixties that a new Croatian national revival took place. The prime movers of the national renaissance were the intellectuals, first of all the Left intelligentsia. The regime itself realized that unitarism and centralism did not work, thus they introduced decentralizing reforms in the mid-1960s. These reformers in turn provided room for more and more national expression. Croatians began to demand the implementation of the constitutional stipulations, meaning that federalism in words be realized in practice.
The main issues that were raised during the Croatian national revival were of very practical nature. First of all, there was a demand to halt the economic exploitation of Croatia which had been taking place in a number of forms for a long time. Skimming off Croatian economy in the name of “brotherhood and unity” for nothing in return was done through the central banks, export-import firms, investment policies, foreign currency collection and exchange by the federal government, remittance of the close to a million Croatian “guest workers” in the West, and so on. For example, while Croatia earned more than 50% of all foreign currency entering the country, it could keep only 7% of it for its needs. The federal investment policy had a similar discrepancy. While 46.6% of all federal investment funds, from 1965-1970, went to Serbia, only 16.5% went to Croatia.
The problem of emigration was another major issue. While Croatians were making most of the money and supposedly were a richer region, they had a tremendous outflow of population to foreign countries. Besides the brain drain caused by the emigration, this phenomenon was loaded with a number of negative effects for Croatia and the Croatians for generations to come. Croatians were for a long time not able to learn about their own past or their cultural heritage. Their language was Serbianized, the Army, police and other federal, and even republican institutions were controlled by Serbs. Thus, demands were made by the Croatians to take control of their economy, to rehabilitate their culture and national history by lifting the official “curse” from everything that was Croatian. They also advocated greater freedom of expression, separation of the judicial system from the Party’s tutelage, greater pluralism, equal rights for religious believers, and market economy. In order to assure the implementation of these and similar demands, there was a strong quest for decentralization of the federal power and greater republican autonomy. In fact, it was the question of the federal power (Party, military, and economic institutions) that the struggle was all about, and not the issue of a Croatian “romantic,” “reactionary,” “counter-revolutionary,” or “neo-fascist” nationalism. These and similar labels were merely weapons of the centralist forces to disarm their opponents and defend the privileges and powers that they enjoyed.
The question of the Serbian minority in Croatia usually came up as one more useful weapon for the centralists and unitarists in their preservation of the monopoly of power. It has been constantly projected that the movement was a threat to the Serbs in Croatia. But Croatia is one of the rare places in the world where a minority has been privileged and not oppressed. What the movement was in fact trying to achieve was equal rights for the Croatians in their own home. An indicator that the movement had not been a threat to any of the minorities in Croatia is the fact that most of the minorities supported the movement; even some leading Serbs in the republic were part of it.
It seems that a major objection outside and inside the country to the Croatian national revival has been that its leaders presented the issues in national terms, which made them instantly old- fashioned, romantic, reactionary etc. However, if a whole nation has been oppressed and exploited, how can one present the issues in class or some other terms? One thing that all Croatian classes and social elements had in common is their Croatianism, and all of them had experienced the negative effects of being Croatian. It is, then, reasonable to expect that Croatianism would unite them in defending their human and national rights.
Ever since the time of Humanism, Croatian intellectuals tended to be internationalist in their world view, without giving up their own identity and heritage (Pribojevic, Krizanic, the Illyrians, Strossmayer, Radic, etc). But they were also among the first ones to question internationalist ideologies which tended to crush personal freedom and individuality in the name of the greater good (Strossmayer’s fight against Papal infallibility and Croatian Marxist revisionism in the 1930s are good examples). Leading intellectuals in the latest Croatian national movement also were world visionaries, on one side, and on the other, defenders of personal and national freedoms. This was clearly expressed by the leading ideologue of the latest Croatian movement, Vlado Gotovac, who stated “I have never understood those who think that the rainbow should be of one color! A uniform world means a homogenized emptiness! The existence of different ‘homelands’can only retain the beauty of the world when the dedication to the world’s future transforms its colors into a harmony . . .”.37 Clearly, his vision is one of a peaceful world, where every color, every culture, social element, national group, and every individual is seen as a blessing and not as a curse. What is needed, therefore, is not a forced unification of mankind into a monotonous and enslaving mechanical world, but creative human freedom, freedom to be responsible, freedom to be different and a harmonization of those differences into a rainbow of humanity. Certainly this is a humanist and an internationalist vision, but it is not an internationalism of forced assimilation, imperialism or a totalitarian ideology. It is an internationalism through freedom.
Why a Negative View?
It is clear that there is sharp dichotomy between the perceptions of the Croatian national movement among the Croatians themselves and in the Anglo-American world. While Croatians saw their struggle as part of a human quest for freedom, human dignity, and self-rule, and even expected much understanding in pluralistic societies, many Anglo-American observers portrayed them as nothing more than passionate reactionaries who could not get rid of their backward looking mentality. It is legitimate to ask what were the reasons for such a negative judgment of the latest Croatian national movement. There are numerous answers to this question, including personal likes and dislikes, political pragmatism, and visions of the world. I will attempt to give here at least some probable causes for this Western view of Croatia and the Croatians in the recent past.
There has been very little written in English that deals with the Croatian national movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. And among those who did write on the subject, very few attempted to analyze the movement in itself: its origins, ideology, goals, visions, methods, its claims, etc. The main interest of the observers has been how Croatian nationalism effected, or might effect, East-West relations. Thus, although the observers slightly differed in their views of the movement, they all had the same approach to the problem and the same basic assumptions, which can be summarized as follows: Yugoslavia might have an oppressive Communist system, Serbs might be hegemonistic, Croatians might have some legitimate grievances; though we salute freedom, pluralism, market economy, etc., a unified “Yugoslavia is the healthiest for the West at this time”.38 Anyone who even comes close to rocking the foundations of Yugoslavia is dangerous to peace in the world, and, therefore, a villain. Furthermore, the Communist party is the only trans-national force in Yugoslavia which holds the country together, therefore, our support of the Party should be also unconditional.39
Major reasons for such thinking rise mostly from a vision that the world should remain as it has been the last few decades, that international society should be dominated by two superpowers. The Croatian national movement, or other similar movements in the world, are relevant only in so far as they interfere with the balance of power. It has been evident for some time that the Soviet Union has been “domesticated,” that it has given up its early revolutionary ambitions, and it has become merely a traditional great power. To the people with this world view, the ideas of equality of nations, or even of the states, freedom of the oppressed peoples, etc., are minor problems, or wishful thinking of the idealists or of the weak. According to them, an emancipated world would result in an international anarchy. Thus, it is the duty and responsibility of the great powers to save the world from itself. They are the only ones that can coordinate economic interdependence and retain the political status quo (out of altruism, of course!). In a sense, this model is similar to the trickle-down theory in domestic economic and social policies in some countries or the Party’s role in others. For those in power, the world is a chess board on which, they hope, two super-powers play the game. This old European concept of power politics has been transferred to the world-wide arena. Rights, freedoms, and equality, are nice words, but without political reality.
On the other hand, there are the bourgeois and socialist internationalists who in the name of their world view tend to crush all individual freedoms. These are mostly intellectuals who believe that modernization and/or revolution will erase all our differences. It means that in an assimilated and uniform world we will live in peace and happiness. For such believers “those who wrap themselves up in the skirts of nationalism are living in the dangerous past .40
Interestingly, such internationalist voices most often come from within the nations which have “made it.” This kind of “internationalism” also often comes from those who have economic or political interest in being internationalist. One may call this a “Coca-cola” internationalism, and not a humanist vision of the future. Internationalists of this kind usually “love” the whole world standing on the backs of someone near to them.
It seems that most of the Anglo-American observers of Croatia see Croatian nationalism from the pragmatic political, bipolar world perspective. No wonder, then, they come with negative conclusions about the Croatian national movement and its leaders. At least one of the observers writing in a British journal was honest enough to admit that,”not one self-respecting Western intellectual raised voice in defense of the [Croatian] students and intellectuals in prison, nor on behalf of the professors and the judges who were summarily dismissed … It is no wonder that, with the worst seemingly over, Western diplomats sighed with audible relief and vied with each other in assuring both their Chanceries and visiting foreign correspondents about Tito, that ‘the old man has once again saved Yugoslav unity after all this is what matters for us all’.41
Ideologies, human and national rights, justice, humanism, trials, prisons, life or death have very little to do with such a pragmatic approach. The essential question for them was what would happen if Yugoslavia would collapse, or of its foundations were shaken. Again, the issue is not Yugoslavia itself but its geopolitical importance.
There has been a constant preoccupation with the Soviet enigma. What would they do in the Balkans? One effect of the Soviet question has been that the Croatians have been suspected, or directly accused, of being in touch with the Soviets. The “Russians are coming!” has been the Yugoslav regime’s tactic for a long time. A message of the West to the nations in Yugoslavia also has been “stay together or hang separately”.42 Supposedly, Yugoslavia and its “defense system and the determination behind it are the gold in the bank that American strategists count on”.43 But the historical indicators do not give any assurances for such a belief. On the contrary, one should keep in mind that what happened with Yugoslavia’s defense system in 1941 might happen again tomorrow.
To conclude, historical evidence shows that nationalism has been a very fluid ideology. It has been used by the extreme left and the extreme right, as well as by the liberals; every kind of government has appealed to it: tyrannical (left and right), authoritarian, royal and democratic; it has been imperialistic, oppressive, and liberating. It could be bad or good. But many times its moral quality is relative to the perspective from which it is viewed.
The Croatian national movement of the late Sixties and early Seventies has been looked by most of the Anglo-American observers in a negative light. However, the reasons for such interpretation of the events in Croatia have been predetermined by the observers’ initial belief that the Yugoslav state is indispensable for the balance of power in Europe. Furthermore, evidence points out that inter- national problems have been the primary cause of Yugoslavia’s internal instability; therefore, any sign of Croatian nationalism is perceived as unhealthy because it can cause the disintegration of the country. Moreover, the primary function of moral judgments and the labeling of the Croatian movement and its leaders is to disarm them of any moral value in the eyes of potential sympathizers outside the country.
Some also think that what Yugoslavia needs is more time, and that then the various nations and nationalities will melt and become one nation. One student of nationalism wrote not so long ago about such new multi-national and multi-ethnic states the following. “Put into the pot of physical proximity, covered by the lid of a common political system, exposed to the heat of cultural and social interchange, the various elements will change after a fairly long time . . . into a brew. The brew will not be quite homogeneous. You can still point to grain of rice, to a leaf of onion, to a chunk of meat, to a splinter of bone. But it will manifestly be one brew, with its distinct flavor and taste.”44 However, those who are fanning the fires under the pot known as Yugoslavia and are eager to cook “a Yugoslav brew” should be careful, because the latest indications are that pot and the brew may blow up into their faces.
1Jayant Lele, “Two Forces of Nationalism: On the Revolutionary Potential of Tradition.” In Jacques Dofney and Akinsola Akiwowo, eds., National and Ethnic Movements (Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE, 1980), p. 201.
2See Milton J. Esman, ed. Ethnic Conflict in the Western World (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977).
3Quite often there is a double standard on nationalism. For example the Yugoslav regime on one hand suppressed Croatian nationalism while on the other encouraged Macedonian and the so called “Moslem” nationalism. The U.S.S.R. and other governments have done similar things.
4Many popular writers, even some scholars, state that Croatian and Serbian nations came as a result of the split between the Orthodox and Catholic churches. See for example Eugene Kamenka ed. Nationalism (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1976), p. 13. Their national identity developed much earlier than the split in the Christian church and their conflict is not religious in nature at all. Contrary to popular opinion in the West, religious toleration has been much better in that part of the world than in Western Europe.
5Although many authors stress that “most Croats opted to join a common State with the Serbs” the fact is that Croatians as a people never had a chance to express their political will in freedom. See Stephen Clissold, Conflict Studies No.103, January 1979, p. 3.
6One should, however, keep in mind that they also considered all of the South-East European nations as the trash of humanity, and the sooner they disappear the better.
7C. A. Macartney, Hungary – A Short History (Chicago: Aldine, 1962), p. 189.
8See for example Joseph Rothschild, East Central Europe between the Two World Wars (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1974), p. 212 and 232.
9Bogdan Denitch, “The Evolution of Yugoslav Federalism” Publius Vol. 7, No. 4, 1977, p. 109.
10On some aspects of legitimacy, see Walker Connor “Nationalism and Political Illegitimacy” Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism Vol. 8, No. 2, 1981, pp. 201-228.
11Interestingly, some scholars label Croatian nationalism simply as “neo-fascism,” although it is evident from their writings that they have little knowledge about Croatian nationalism or Yugoslavia as a whole. See, for example, T. V. Sathyamurthy, Nationalism in the Contemporary World (London: Frances Pinter, 1983), pp. 90-92.
12On the confusing terminology of nation, state, nation-state, etc, see Conner “Nationalism,” p. 201.
13See Bogdan Denitch, “Succession and Stability in Yugoslavia,” Journal of International Affairs Vol. 32, No. 2, 1978, pp. 223-238 and Bogdan Denitch, “The Tito legacy,” Commonweal Vol. 107, No. 5, March 14, 1980, pp.143-146.
14For some the solution to Yugoslav problems is in a “democratization” of the country (Aleksa Djilas, Nora Beloff, Mihajlo Mihajlov, Oskar Gruenwald). Others advocate a status quo, Dennison 1. Rusinow and Fred Singleton for example.
15J. F. Brown, “The Balkan: Soviet ambitions and opportunities,” The World Today Vol. 40, No. 6, 1984, pp. 245-246.
16Time June 5, 1972; “The most troublesome . . . nationality . . .” Ibid. Feb. 7, 1972.
17Brown, “The Balkan,” p. 246.
18Oskar Gruenwald, “The Croatian Spring, 1971: Socialism in One Republic,” Nationality Papers Vol. 10, No. 2, 1982, p. 225. Interestingly, similar opinions were expressed about Stjepan Radic in the 1920s.
19The Times (London) Jan 24, 1972.
20George Schopflin, “The Ideology of Croatian Nationalism” Survey Vol. 19, No. 1, 1973, p. 142.
21George Klein, “The Role of Ethnic Politics in the Czechoslovak Crisis of 1968 and the Yugoslav Crisis of 1971,” Studies in Comparative Communism Vol. 8, No. 4, 1975, p. 356.
22Cynthia W. Frey, “Yugoslav Nationalisms and the Doctrine of Limited Sovereignty,” (Part II) East European Quarterly Vol. 11, No. 1, 1977, p. 102.
23Gary Bertsch, “A Cross-National Analysis of the Community-Buildings Process in Yugoslavia,” Comparative Political Studies Vol. 4, No. 4, 1972, pp. 450-451; f.n. 24, p. 459.
24Gary Bertsch and M. George Zaninovich, “A Factor-Analytic Method of Identifying Different Political Cultures,” Comparative Politics Vol. 6, No. 2, 1974, p. 235.
25Bertsch, “A Cross-National Analysis,” p. 450.
26Dennison 1. Rusinow, Crisis in Croatia (Part I) Southeast Europe Series, Vol 19, No. 4, 1972, p. 19.
27Paul Lendvai, “Yugoslavia in Crisis,” Encounter Vol. 39, No. 2, 1972, p. 68.
28Rusinow, Crisis (Part I), pp. 18-19.
29Ibid., p. 18.
30Frey, “Yugoslav Nationalisms,” (Part 1) East European Quarterly Vol. 10, No. 4, 1976, p. 439.
31Alvin Z. Rubinstein, “Whither Yugoslavia?” Current Histor Vol. 64, No. 381, 1973, p. 204 and Alvin Z. Rubinstein, “The Yugoslav Succession Crisis in Perspective” World Affairs Vol. 135, No. 2, 1972, p. 103.
32Gary K. Bertsch, “The Revival of Nationalisms” Problems of Communism Vol. 22, No. 6, 1973, p. 8.
33Ibid., p. 11.
34Brown, “The Role of Ethnic Politics,” p. 357.
35Klein, “The Role of Ethnic Politics,” p. 357.
36Pedro Ramet, “Yugoslavia and the Threat of Internal and External Discontents” Orbis Vol. 28, No. 1, 1984, p. 113.
37Vlado Gotovac, “Autsaiderski fragmenti” (Part III) Kritika Vol. 2, No. 8, 1969, p. 538.
38Ramet, “Yugoslavia,” p. 120.
39Klein, “The Role of Ethnic Politics,” p. 362.
40George Macesich, Economic Nationalism and Stability (Now York: Praeger, 1985), p. 3.
41Lendvai, “Yugoslavia in Crisis,” p. 69.
42Robin Remington, “Yugoslavia-the Strains of Cohesion” Survival May-June, 1972, p. 116.
43Sterling, Clair, “Tito’s New Balancing Act” Atlantic Vol. 231, No. 6, 1973, p. 50.
44Benjamin Akzin, State and Nation (London: Hatchinson University Library, 1964), pp. 83-84.
Published in Journal of Croatian Studies, Vol. XXX, 1989. A shorter version of this paper was presented at the International Symposium “Croatia and Croatians in the 20th Century” held at the Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, October 2-7, 1988.
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