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Dealing or Conflict with the Past? Croatian 20th and 21st Century Experience

When Jun 06, 2016
from 06:00 to 07:30
Where Phil I, Austellungsraum der Universitätsbibliothek
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During the 20th century Croatia has participated in three wars – two World Wars and one “regional”. Except World War I the other two are still very present in Croatian historiography, politics, culture and everyday life. During World War II the anti-fascist resistance in Croatia (and Yugoslavia at all) was one of the biggest and most organized resistances in Europe. At the same time nationalistic Croatian movement (Ustashe) became ally with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The result was the end of the war with Croats both on the winning and the losing side. Anti-fascism and anti-fascist struggle became the base of the new socialist federation. On the other side (fascist) collaborators and all other political enemies were excommunicated and in many cases brutally eliminated. After the war new official narrative was created, influencing every aspect of the society, from the official (the constitution, legislation, history teaching, etc.) to everyday life aspect (street names, monuments, “partisan movies”). Crimes against political enemies and collaborators were suppressed and denied.

 

The breakup of Yugoslavia and the formation of the independent states have affected the (changed) attitudes towards WWII, anti-fascism, communism and Yugoslavia. In Croatia, the new narrative has been affected by the war for the Croatian independence, but also by the fact that many anticommunists and descendants of defeated Ustasha soldiers returned to Croatia. Officially, anti-fascism remains a part of the Croatian Constitution, the Anti-Fascist Struggle Day is a public holiday, and the law prohibits the use of fascist symbols. Nevertheless, an unofficial narrative has been formed and it has a more dominant presence in the public domain. It comprises of ignoring or dismissing the fascist crimes, diminishing the anti-fascist (and later on, the communist) success and values, and overemphasising the crimes committed by the Partisan army (and later on, by the communists). The main drivers of this new narrative are the Catholic Church, the Croatian political emigration, and the political prisoners who were incarcerated in the socialist Yugoslavia (socialist Croatia). An important element utilized in the revisionist approach to anti-fascism (and communism) is the fact that, in the 1990s, Croatia was attacked by the Yugoslav People's Army, which was deemed a successor of the World War Two Partisan army. As a consequence of the aforementioned revisionism, numerous monuments dedicated to individuals and events related to the World War II were destroyed, street names relating to anti-fascist struggle were changed, and there is an increase in nationalism and the glorification of the World War II Croatian fascist movement (Ustasha), particularly among the younger population. The main consequence is deeply divided Croatian society with (unsolved) history as the leading factor of division.

 

// Lecture by Dr. Hrvoje Klasić (Department of History at the University of Zagreb).

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