September 16th 2008 06:20:52 PM
Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulic has been dealing with quite a bit of vitriol from her fellow Croatians because she dared to point out that her homeland might have more than just a little fascination with its fascist past:
Shadows in the Sunshine
It is a tourist favourite and looks EU bound, but Croatia’s attitude to its fascist past is troubling
Croatia is a “small country for a big vacation”, as the ads tell you. But beyond the marketing and optimistic reports of millions of holidaymakers spending their “big vacation” there, there is less cheerful news, casting an unpleasant shadow over that small tourist paradise on the Adriatic.
This summer Dinko Sakic, the 86-year-old former commander of Jasenovac, the notorious second world war concentration camp, was buried in his Ustashe uniform, the Croatian equivalent of the Nazis. After the war, Sakic emigrated to Argentina but returned after Croatian independence in 1991. He was welcomed back like a celebrity. In his interviews, Sakic repeated that he regretted nothing. What Sakic should have repented was that tens of thousands of inmates in Jasenovac were murdered under his command. He also personally executed two Jewish prisoners. Franjo Tudjman’s government showed no will to put Sakic on trial until Israel signalled it was perfectly willing to try him there. So in 1998, Sakic was sentenced to a maximum of 20 years. At his funeral a Dominican priest, Vjekoslav Lasic gave a speech in which he advised Croats to admire Sakic and to take him as an example.
Efraim Zuroff from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre protested to Croatian president Stjepan Mesic. There ended the scandal.
Then, a few weeks ago, Zvonko Busic, a 62-year-old Croat who served 32 years in US prisons for terrorism, was welcomed at the Zagreb airport by pro-Ustashe supporters who hailed him with the traditional fascist salute. Busic had hijacked a TWA passenger plane in 1976 on the way from New York to Chicago, intending to throw leaflets describing the discrimination against Croats in Yugoslavia. [No elaboration on what this “discrimination” entailed.] A bomb planted at the same time by Busic at New York’s Central Station exploded, a policeman was killed and three were wounded. But in Croatia he was considered a hero and a martyr “for our cause”; the victims, just a misfortune. He was compared to Begin, Arafat, Mandela, Che Guevara and Tito. [Wouldn’t Tito be the chief discriminator against Croatians, who delivered them their nightmare: having to share a country with other ethnicities and worse — with Serbs?]
As if this pair were not enough, the country has been further split by the pop singer Marko Perkovic Thompson, whose audiences, dressed in clothes adorned with Ustashe symbols, habitually raise their hands in a fascist salute - some even shout “Kill Serbs”. Should his concerts, inciting nationalist hatred (which is forbidden by law) be banned or not? Recently President Mesic did not attend a tennis tournament because Thompson was due to play in the same town. However, the Croatian Helsinki Committee - for human rights! - defended the singer’s right to perform. Mayors of Croatian cities are divided: for some, Thompson is a patriot; for others, a promotor of fascist values.
It’s interesting that the common denominator of these three is not only the rehabilitation of fascist ideology, but the apparent unwillingness of legal institutions such as the police and the public attorney’s office to react to them. Indeed, how could they, when even some ministers attend Thompson’s concerts?
The dilemma of whether the law should be enforced or not is absurd. If anti-fascism is stated in the constitution of the new Croatian state, if the law prohibits the inciting of national, religious and racial hatred, then what’s the problem? The problem is the Croatian attitude to its own past. Documents and declarations are one thing, but reality is another. In reality, before its 17 years of independence, Croatia was an independent state only once: between 1941 and 1945 - when it was ruled by a Nazi puppet government.
This is the history that the Croatia of Franjo Tudjman fell back upon, and the same sentiments continue. In spite of political speeches denouncing episodic revivals of this infamous heritage, the general attitude here is that fighters for the “national cause” can not, by definition, be criminals. It is not the crime that counts, but the intentions behind it. This is the same logic that turns war criminals from the Balkan wars, such as Mirko Norac, into heroes.
Croatian politicians, especially the prime minister Ivo Sanader, loudly promote European values and declare their commitment to join the EU. While such un-European behaviour as war crimes, terrorism and fascism might be legally banned, they are, in practice, tolerated and even nourished. Does the EU need this Croatia - a country that is showing the world only its pretty summer face, but keeping its dubious values hidden?
• Slavenka Drakulic is the author of the book They Would Never Hurt a Fly - War Criminals on Trial in The Hague
Indeed, Ms. Drakulic is to be commended for seeing her own with at least this amount of honesty, so she can be forgiven for still thinking that Croats were discriminated against by Yugoslavia, a communist state that ensured misery for all — though less misery, apparently, than the ethnically pure statelets it splintered into.
She can also be forgiven for not seeing past the pop-demonization of Radovan Karadzic. After all, if the entire Western world doesn’t know any better than to deem this Serb a war criminal, how could we possibly expect a Croatian to? She is impressive for a Croatian, and I know there are at least six other Croatians like her on the planet. You can tell who they are because they intermarry with Serbs. In other cases, they move out of Croatia in favor of Serbia. These are the “good Croatians” we’ve heard about before. It’s not by accident that Ms. Drakulic lives in Sweden rather than Croatia. From Wikipedia:
Slavenka Drakulić is a noted Croatian writer and publicist who currently lives in Sweden.
Slavenka Drakulić was born in Rijeka, Croatia, in 1949 (in what was then socialist Yugoslavia)…Drakulić emigrated from Croatia in the early 1990s for political reasons, after having been declared insufficiently patriotic by several important albeit jingoistic newspapers. [I bolded ‘newspapers’ because in every other society the media are the self-loathing seditionists of that society, but in Croatia even the press is supremacist.]
A notorious unsigned 1992 Globus article (Slaven Letica, a known sociologist and writer, subsequently admitted to being its author) accused five Croatian female writers, Drakulić included, of being “witches” and of “raping” Croatia. According to Letica, these writers failed to take a definitive stance against rape as a planned military tactic by Bosnian Serb forces against non-Serbs, and rather treated it in feminist fashion, as crimes of “unidentified males” against women. Soon after the publication, Drakulić started to receive telephone threats; her property was also vandalized. Finding little or no support from her erstwhile friends and colleagues, she decided to leave Croatia.
Her noted recent works relate to the Yugoslav wars. As If I Am Not There is about crimes against women in the Bosnian War, while They Would Never Hurt a Fly is a book in which she also analyzed her experience overseeing the proceedings and the inmates of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague. Both books touch on the same issues that caused her wartime emigration from the home country.
Drakulić currently lives in Stockholm with her husband and regularly visits her home in Croatia.
When referring to Croatians, I have occasionally borrowed the term “Undead” from Svetlana Novko at Byzantine Blog. The term is meant to impart that WWII was supposed to be the Nazis’ final resting place, but they are alive and well in Croatia. The term is apt also given that Croatians have a history of consuming the blood of their victims. (See “We Croats do not drink wine, but the blood of Serbs from Knin.” Original saying with “Ustashi” instead of “Croats” here.)
However, while Croatian behavior is consistent with the negative legend of vampires, the person on whom the legend of Dracula is based, “Vlad the Impaler” may not have been the villain we’ve been taught to believe he was. As one history buff wrote me:
It is my understanding that these Ottomans and their allies, both Muslim and non-Muslim, were trying to annex the area around Bulgaria. They started the slaughter and Vlade met them in kind.
Vlade was well aware of the atrocity in Constantinople. Europeans offered no assistance. The Venetians sought trade and the Catholic Church was not about to help the Eastern Orthodox Church. Czarist Russia sought hegemony through the eastern Church as well, so he had no allies to assist in the fight.
Given that scenario, he chose to wage war and to do so through means that drove the Ottomans elsewhere. Muslims bribe what they cannot terrorize and they had more gold than did he. He developed a zero tolerance towards anyone accepting Muslim Gold. That made being a traitor too costly and ghastly.
The Muslims developed this tale of him as a blood thirsty tyrant and positioned themselves as victims. Sound familiar?
It is my understanding of history that Muslims [though originally the ones to put him in power] murdered his family and sought to destroy his kingdom. His response worked, and stopped the aggression and for this we remember him as inhuman. In other words, if you stop Islam by using its methods, you are remembered as the bogeyman and even the source of the vampire story.
Indeed, when it comes to Vlad’s impaling people, we were told just that he was a sadistic guy randomly killing subjects by tossing their bodies onto spits. Now we can wonder whom he got such methods from. Though if we look around the world today, that answer becomes obvious.
Vlad’s last name was Draculia, or Dracula, and it seems a touch poetic that Slavenka Drakulic could be of his lineage or married to someone who is. So I hereby dub her the good vampire, of the sort played by Kate Beckinsale in the “Underworld” film series.
It’s possible that, like the whole self-loathing presentation to us of the Crusades — also provoked by Muslims, as the teachers don’t tell us — the story of Vlad the Impaler is just another historical inversion of the bloodsuckers trying to get him. I wonder if this has something to do with why my favorite breakfast cereal has always been Count Chocula. I am now considering changing my name to Julia Draculia.
UPDATE: Upon doing more reading on Vlad, I see the guy was a sadistic flesh-eating monster, probably worse than the Ottomans at the time. His ways simply worked in favor of achieving the geopolitical goal of defeating the Ottomans. And of course, fear of impalement worked to dissuade merchants from trading in Ottoman gold.