The internal and much more external destruction of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s is celebrating in 2016 its 25th years of anniversary. The date of celebration is taken to be when Slovenia and Croatia formally announced its independence on June 25th, 1991. However, this historical and much more geopolitical event still needs a satisfactory research approach in regard to the true geopolitical reasons and political-military course of the destruction of this South Slavic and Balkan state.
During the last quarter of century, the (western) global mainstream media unanimously accused Serbia and the Serbs for the national chauvinism as the main cause of the bloody wars on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s. However, the role and direct impact of the other Yugoslav republics and nations in the process of killing the common state was not taken (purposely) into the consideration; especially of the Croats and Croatia as the biggest nation and republic after the Serbs and Serbia. This article is an attempt to contribute to the full-scale of understanding of the process of destruction of the former Yugoslavia taking into account a role of the Croats and Croatia. Thematically, the article is divided into two parts: Authoritarian militarization of Croatia, and Croatia’s territorial imperialism.
The Croat unltranationalists (i.e., the followers of the Ustashi movement) called in the 1990s for the full scale of Croatia’s militarization in order to achieve their chauvinistic and racist political goals of the Croat-based ethnically pure independent (a Greater) Croatia. In their opinion, a full or complete political independence of the ethnically pure Croatia within the borders of the Socialist Republic of (a Greater) Croatia could be reached only by the open war against Croatia’s Serbs and the Yugoslav authorities, but not negotiating with them. In this respect, a leader of the most ultranationalist political party in Croatia – the Croat Party of Rights (the HSP), Ante Djapic, was clear in his statements to abandon the political activity if a single part of the territory of Croatia is going to be lost by the negotiations with the Serbs. The WWII Ustashi movement followers openly advocated in the 1990s a full scale of the war against “the Serb aggressors” for the sake to gain Croatia’s independence. That was done at least for two crucial reasons:
1.They believe that a struggling for the Croat nation’s ethnopolitical goals was a legitimate framework of both a beating the Serb nationalism and fulfilling the Croat historical task of creation of the Greater Roman Catholic Croatia without the Orthodox infidels.
2.They sponsored the attitude that the Serbs cannot be trusted as a nation to negotiate with them about the peaceful agreement on the disputed issues with the Croatia’s Government and therefore the war was the only way to pacify the Serbs from Croatia according to the pattern of the pacification (i.e., the ethnic cleansing) of the Palestinians in Israel .
Henceforth, the “Israelization” of a Greater Croatia became the ultimate goal of the Croat ultranationalists in their policy to Croatia’s Serbs. In order to achieve their “Israelization” political goals, the Ustashi followers in the HDZ’s governed Croatia followed exactly the militarization pattern of the ethnic Croat society in the WWII Independent State of Croatia (the NDH). Therefore, the most ultranationalist Ustashi political party in the 1990s Croatia – the HSP, established its own ruthless paramilitary party’s militia in 1991 under the name of the Croat Defense Forces (the HOS) with using all kinds of the WWII Ustashi regime insignia followed by several similar militia detachments by other Croat ultranationalist organizations. The Croatian state army (the HV) was, nevertheless, during the 1990s under direct influence and control by the most extremist wing of the ruling the Croat Democratic Union (the HDZ) that successfully cooperated with the HOS and the other Croat paramilitaries in the West Herzegovina and the North and Central Bosnia in the military actions of ethnic cleansing of the Orthodox Serbs and the Muslim Bosniaks.
Administrative division of the Socialist Federal Republic of Croatia, 1945-1991
The eminent militarization of the ethnic Croat society in the 1990s was in direct coordination with the fundamental task of all Croatia’s Croat ultranationalists that all other rights and duties of the society have to be put in the service of the state interests. As all ultranationalist segments of the ethnic Croat society in Croatia fought for the independent pure ethnic Croat Croatia, the ultimate ethnopolitical goal of them was to mobilize all ethnic Croats for the execution of the “Final Solution” in regard to the “Serb Question” in a Greater Tito-Tudjman’s Croatia. Therefore, the authoritarian political system and government based on the absolute HDZ’s majority in the Parliament were necessary in order to achieve this goal. As an example, the experience of the Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and the 1980s of a centralized political system, strong military-police forces, oppressed freedom of the mass-media, and above all a silent opposition were activated. A parliamentary multi-party democracy became just a façade of a classical Latin American dictatorship as a western parliamentary democracy was understood as a harmful experiment for the realization of the Croat ethnopolitical goals primarily against the Serbs.
The alternative to the parliamentary democracy was only a one-party’s dictatorship that could save Croat national interests from the destructive nature of the parliamentarianism. Subsequently, in the 1990s it was established in Croatia a HDZ’s one-party political system with strong cult of leadership of the President Dr. Franjo Tudjman, who was seen in the eyes of the right-wing political structures as a political reincarnation of the WWII NDH’s führer, Ante Pavelic. Tudjman, as an inviolable dictator of Croatia, was even proclaimed by some of the HDZ’s members and other right-wing followers as a “Father of the Homeland” like by Hrvoje Shoshic who was a leader of the Croat Party (the HS) and a MP. In essence, the Croat extremists only declaratively supported liberal democratic institutions while in the practice rejected them as the political framework within which the national goals are going to be reached. However, a formal support for the liberal democracy and its political institutions were of the very practical nature to present a newly independent Croatia as a western-type democratic political system in contrast to Miloshevic’s Serbia as an expression of the Balkan/Oriental autocracy. Hence, the HDZ’s Croatia pretended to present herself as a last bulwark of the European civilization and values in the South-East Europe. Nevertheless, in the practice, the HDZ functioned in all ways that undermined a real democracy even to a greater extent than Miloshevic’s regime in Serbia at the same time. The extremist wing within the HDZ, including and Tudjman himself, openly used all kind of mechanisms of political opression against the opossition that was proclaimed as the enemy of the Croat nation and Croatia and collaborators with the „Serbo-Chetnik aggressors“. As in many cases of personal dictatorship, Tudjman as well saw himself as a personalization of the state and state institutions. In the other words, he attempted to equating his own personality with the survival of Croatia. As the oposition leaders and party’s members have been constantly under the physical intimidation as the „betrayers“ of Croatia it was created very inhospitable political atmosphere for any sincere democratic talks and exchange of the views. Surely, Tudjman’s regime in Croatia was much more effective in silencing its own opossition than Miloshevic’s regime in Serbia. It is visible at least from the fact that in Tudjman’s Croatia there was no single mass-meeting of the oposition against the regime differently to Serbia under Miloshevic’s strong hands. The latter finally and lost power exactly after the mass-protests in Belgrade on October 5th, 2000 (the first „Colored Revolution“ in Europe).
Tudjman’s authoritarian dictatorship was especially hostile towards the opposition press that was considered as a fifth column in Croatia. The opposition journalists were accused for irresponsible (miss)usage of their freedom of expression. As a metter of fighting against the opposision press, it was introduced a special (illlegal) taxation of independent weekles but primarily of the most anti-regime’s newspaper – the Feral Tribune from Split. During the election campaignes, the opposition parties were denied equal and full access to the state-controlled press and TV, likewise in Serbia, and therefore violating one of the fundamental elements and conditions of the parliamentary democracy. Hence, the electoral results theoretically were not fair what does not mean that a majority of the ethnic Croats from Croatia would not vote for the HDZ in the case of fair electoral campaign. Similarly to all totalitarian regimes, the HDZ’s controlled Parliament (Sabor) passed a special law (in the spring 1996) for „defamation“ against the state officials. However, such or similar law did not exist in Miloshevic’s Serbia. Tudjman’s personal efforts to make stronger his own political (authoritarian) position in Croatia at any cost of liberal democratic institutions are obvious and very similar to his counterpart in Serbia in the 1990s with one difference: Tudjman was more successful in destroying liberal democracy in Croatia in comparison to Miloshevic’s efforts to do the same in Serbia.
For the HDZ’s political leadership, „without Franjo Tudjman there would be no HDZ and without the HDZ there would be no Croatia“. It is clear that Tudjman’s party attempted to equating itself with the creation and survival of the post-Yugoslav Croatia while Tudjman himself attempted to personalize the institution of the presidency. Any opposition to himself or his political party were seen as the opposition to Croatia as the stare and the Croats as the nation that is probably mostly visible from the fact that Tudjman as a President of Croatia refused to ratify electoral results for the Zagreb municipality’s mayor in 1995 as the opposition leader won under the excuse that Croatia’s capital cannot be in the hands of the enemies of Croatia.
As a part of anti-liberal policy, the liberal-democratic notion of the citizenship was crucially challanged by the HDZ’s rulling authority as the voting rights for the state and the other public officials became based on the ethnic (Croat) background rather than on the residence criteria. Therefore, it was practically reserved twelve seats in Croatia’s Parliament for the ethic Croat diaspora for the very reason that the HDZ was and is traditionally supported by the Croat diaspora especially from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The citizenship law was also changed in the favor of the ethnic Croat diaspora as Croatia was proclaimed as the motherland of all ethnic Croats. However, a similar ethnocitizenship/voting law in Miloshevic’s Serbia was never introduced at least for the very political reason that the Serb diaspora in the West opposed his policy as anti-Serbian. In the other words, Miloshevic’s Serbia was seen, by the Constitution, as a homeland of all her inhabitants, rather than only of all ethic Serbs wherever they live.
Probably, the HDZ’s deny of any kind of the regional autonomy in Croatia was the expression of the policy of anti-liberal democracy concept of minority rights. Therefore, the regional parties of Istria, the Serbian Krayina and Dalmatia suffered mostly from such policy of a brutal centralization of Croatia. However, in Miloshevic’s Serbia, two regions of Vojvodina and Kosovo-Metochia enjoyed at least ethnocultural regional autonomy if not political one as it was fixed in the time of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia according to the 1974 Constitution (up to 1989).
The fact was that all ultranationalist parties and organizations in the 1990s struggled for creation of a Greater Croatia according to the principle of the ethnographic, historical and even natural rights. In all of those concepts, Bosnia-Herzegovina was seen as an integral part of the united Croatia. There were, in principle, two concepts of the united Croatia:
1.A minimal concept of Croatia within the borders of the Banovina Hrvatska as it was in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1939−1941 (when a Greater Croatia as a separate and autonomous administrative territory became a state within a state).
2.A maximal concept of Croatia within the borders of the WWII NDH in 1941−1945 that included all Bosnia-Herzegovina and parts of Serbia inhabited by 6, 663, 157 citizens of whom 1/3 were the Orthodox Serbs.
The cardinal point of the question of Croatia’s state borders involves Bosnia-Herzegovina as an indivisible part of any kind of the “natural Croatia”. All existed differences between the Croats and Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslims were considered as artificial and created by the Yugoslav authorities. The Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina were considered in essence as the “purest Croats” according to the WWII Ustashi ideological pattern. In general, for the Croat politicians, academicians and public workers, the Drina River was a demarcation line between the civilization and the barbarianism, or between Europe and the Orient. The Serbs were considered as the proponents of the Byzantine-Ottoman Oriental anti-European culture, while the Croats and Slovenes were saw as the last bulwarks of the European civilization in front of the Oriental primitivism. For all Croat nationalists, the Drina River was and is the border that the Serbs must not be allowed to cross as well the border of the “natural Croatia”. In some conceptions of the ultra-territorial enlargement of Croatia, the territory of Serbia had to be restricted to the area around Belgrade only. Nevertheless, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia were considered as the same land and the people from both of them as of the same blood which consist the same nation. Therefore, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have to be united into a single national state of the ethnic Croats. Croatia’s unification with Bosnia-Herzegovina was explained by ethnic, historical economic and even civilizational reasons as the historic mission of the Croat nation was seen to defend Europe from the Oriental despotism, i.e. from Serbia and the Serbs.
It is known and proved that Tudjman had a set of secret negotiations with Miloshevic to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia. Hence, the Dayton Accords on November 21st, 1995 on the final division of Bosnia-Herzegovina according to the mathematical formula of 51/49 percent can be seen as a practical implementation of their secret agreement sponsored by the U.S. administration of Bill Clinton. A creation of an ethnically pure Croat portion of Bosnia-Herzegovina was a part of this Tudjman-Miloshevic’s deal and in order to achieve this goal the Croats practiced in 1993−1994 the policy of ethnic cleansing of the West Herzegovina and a part of the Central Bosnia within the territory of the Croat-proclaimed Herzeg-Bosnia with the capital in Mostar on the Neretva River. The Croat-Muslim civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was halted in the spring of 1994 just due to the U.S. ultimatum to Zagreb: in order to liquidate the Republic of Serbian Krayina and to reintegrate it into Croatia the Croats had to unite their military forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina against the Serbs. Therefore, it was agreed in March 1994 a creation of the Croat-Muslim federation in Bosnia-Herzegovina that was advocated by Washington (the Washington Framework Agreement). In practice, even today, the Croat controlled part of Bosnia-Herzegovina is not under a virtual administration by the central authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo similar to the case of the Republic of Srpska. Nevertheless, Tudjman’s policy of the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina with the Serbs was opposed by all kinds of the Ustashi groups either in Croatia or Bosnia-Herzegovina as for them a whole territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina was indivisible part of a Greater Croatia as a national state of all ethnic Croats including and the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslims who were ideologically considered as the ethnohistorical Croats as well. The Ustashi organizations and parties advocated a common Croat-Muslim combat against the Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina but only after the creation of ethnically pure Croat Herzeg-Bosnia. In principle, they opposed the Dayton Accords as, in their opinion, they gave to Serbia a real possibility to cross the Drina River.
In conclusion, Tudjman’s authoritarian regime in Croatia and the territorial expansionist policy of the HDZ’s ruling party during the bloody destruction of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s were not noticed at all by the western politicians and journalists of the global mass-media who, in contrast, accused “dictator”-President of Serbia Slobodan Miloshevic (a “Balkan butcher”) for the policy of creation of a Greater Serbia, Serbia’s aggression on Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and for the practice of ethnic cleansing. However, Franjo Tudjman in Croatia introduced tougher dictatorship than Miloshevic with intention to establish ethnically pure a Greater Croatia within the ethno-historical borders of the Croat nation as proclaimed by the ultranationalist Croat ideologists in the 19th and the 20th century.