What follows is the English translation of my piece originally written in French for a French publication.
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Since the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, Croats have faced an ill-defined identity. Their recent war of secession, awkwardly called the “Patriotic War” and “War of Defense,” lends itself to serious legal misconceptions. The more accurate phrase, namely “War of Croatia’s Liberation from Communism and against Yugoslavia” has never been used.
There is a considerable difference, however, between these labels. The political class and the media class, all being converted now to the US-style Westernism, consist mostly of former Yugoslav officials—former Communists, including their progeny. If the recent Croatian war of secession is named the “War of Defense,” one is entitled to raise the question whether Croatia between 1991 and 1995 was in the process of protecting and safeguarding the heritage of Communism and Yugoslavia, or whether it was expressing a desire to get rid of it.
Moreover, the role of Croatian nationalists must not be overplayed, as the foreign media often does. Many Croatian nationalists can be described as “Croats by default,” or “reactive Croats,” given that their nationalist sentiments are often framed in terms of their hatred of the Other, namely in terms of the alleged Serbian threat.
In Croatia, the political class deliberately sidetracks the root causes of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. By focusing solely on the real or alleged Serbian threat, Croatia’s political parties, including many followers and supporters of the former Communist leader Marshal Tito, thus allocate themselves a convenient niche in order to hide their bloody legacy.
The accession of Croatia to NATO in 2009 and then to the European Union in 2013 further complicates Croatian identity. Despite the fact that NATO has no more reason to be in Europe, given that its opponent, the Warsaw Pact, was dissolved long ago, NATO, in the Croatian popular consciousness, remains a symbol of Croatia’s adherence to the West, as well as the best defense against the alleged Russian and greater-Serbian appetites.
Moreover, whether one likes it or not, NATO is the armed wing of American hegemony to which all European countries are expected to submit, including the new Croatia. It must be emphasized that pro-American and pro-NATO sentiments among Croats, along with similar sentiments among other predominantly Catholic nations, such as the Baltic countries, Poland, and Slovakia, are traditionally more pronounced than among Christian Orthodox peoples in Europe. As for the former Yugo-Communists and the post-Yugoslav Croatian Left, they all have become by now, similar to the Left in France, fervent fans of NATO. In case of a serious Russian-American crisis, one cannot rule out that NATO will play the card of Croatia, and these other predominantly Catholic counties. The scenario in Ukraine may serve as an example. Croats seem to forget that America’s interests are subject to geopolitical circumstances. Until 1992, and contrary to what some renowned French authors say, America had been an advocate of “unity and integrity of Yugoslavia.” It was only later that it radically changed its course.
The same applies to Croatia where, apart from marginal parties of the extreme right, all political parties are advocates of the “Euro-Atlantic integration.” The accession of Croatia to the EU is considered the best shield against Christian Orthodox Serbia and by implication, against the alleged Russian hegemony, as well as the best tool against any temptation for any new Balkan future.
This does not sound quite convincing. What good is it to rid oneself of Yugoslavia only to embark immediately afterwards on a new multicultural environment of a new supra-state, this time under a more attractive name of the “European Union”? The Brussels ukases, however, are firm. Although only a third of Croatians had cast their ballot during the referendum in January 2012 in favor of the European Union, the vote threshold had been deliberately lowered in order to make its EU membership valid.
Certainly, in the 1990s the Europeanist ideas carried some prestige in Croatia. Today, however, similar to other member states, Croats are becoming disillusioned. Even the most naive Croats realize that the EU is not a money machine. It cannot be excluded that Croats, similar to other member states, will soon begin asking themselves not how to keep their place in the EU, but how to walk out of it.
The Great Replacement from the Croatian perspective
The scourge of non-European migration flows only further complicates the construction of Croatian identity. Undoubtedly, migratory flows pouring into Europe have had by now a huge psychological impact on all Europeans professing identitarian ideas or those claiming adherence to various European nationalisms. What strikes one, however, is that the ongoing large ethno-racial replacement — if one were to use more specific words — goes virtually unreported in the Croatian media. Afro-Asian migration is being covered as an incident that will miraculously stop by itself. And maybe the Croats are not that wrong. They are aware that the migration flows are destined to reach the lala-land of plenty, i.e., Germany, and not come to a final stop in Croatia.
Regarding non-European migration floods, Croatia, similar to other countries in Eastern Europe, can’t do very much about it. Those who are responsible for sparking off this largest ethno-racial replacement and those who keep it alive and kicking are German and Brussels politicians.
That being said, there is no German conspiracy in it whatsoever, nor any need for alleged cheap labor, as it is sometimes mentioned in right-wing milieus in Europe. The main reason for this “welcoming culture”, including the German political class as its main sponsor, lies in the historical guilt complex of German politicians, a complex dating back to 1945, and which is now pushing the German ruling class, along with its left-wing intellectuals, to be more Catholic than the Pope — that is, to be more democratic and more prone to multiculturalism than any other EU state. Paradoxically, Croatia, including the entire Eastern Europe, thanks to the Communist grip of yesteryear, has been able to preserve its European face, its White visage and it historical memory. For how much longer?
By contrast, Germany, which is facing its past that won’t pass away, must double down on its humanitarian and altruistic overtures toward migrants, assuming that its turbulent past will thus better pass away. Having been subjected after World War II to an exemplary re-education, it should not come as a surprise that Chancellor Merkel and her entourage must resort to excessive humanitarian and multiculturalist discourse and actions. The problem for the neighboring countries, however, including Germany’s traditional friend, the Croatian people, is far more serious. By resorting to grotesque and expiatory gesticulations, Germany is running the risk of becoming again a new European pariah— in a reversed fashion, of course. Neither can its eastern neighbors, such as Hungary and Croatia, forever maintain their status of White enclaves. Migratory floods will inevitably spill over onto them with effects that can only be guessed now. One thing is clear, though. The Croatian people, or the Serbian people, are far less subject to the complexes of historical guilt.
The Case “Hasanbegovic” and the new dominant ideas
In terms of its cultural policy, Croatia, despite a high number of former Communist and Yugoslav officials, especially in the diplomatic corps and its higher education, still carries in the foreign media a stigma of a far-right state with strong Nazi-Ustasha residues. Logically, this conclusion is false and dishonest. Croatia could be better portrayed as a country with strong neo-communist and Yugo-nostalgic proclivities. The former Minister of Culture, Zlatko Hasanbegovic, had to undergo a true media lynching for his alleged revisionist and neo-Ustasha views. It was to be expected. During his short tenure, Mr. Hasanbegovic was a fierce advocate of the lustration of former Yugo-Communist cadres. Moreover, as the minister of culture he refused to dish out grants to non-governmental organizations linked to various centers of Western cultural and media power. The media lynching, triggered by the Western media, such as the journals Libération and Le Monde, was quick to follow suit. The most effective method today to shut the mouth of any European identitarian or any nationalist, be it in France, Croatia, or in Germany, is to resort to the guilt-by-association procedure and categorize him or her as an anti-Semite, Ustasha and Fascist. Hasanbegovic went through this bitter experience.
Following the elections of September 11, 2016, the name of Hasanbegovic continues to appear first on the list of the winning party, the HDZ. But even with the success of the HDZ (center-right party) of which he is a member, the new government, for lack of absolute majority, will be required to enter into a coalition with other parties, all tuned, of course, to the Brussels edicts. It is clear that in the parliamentary system “the more things change the more they stay the same.” Besides fashionable formulas distilled from the gospel of human rights, the theology of the free market, and the ideology of progress (which are repeated now endlessly on all wavelengths by the entire Croatian political class, although their ways of expressing these ideas vary), nothing new will happen in Croatia run now by the new HDZ government.
This time around for Croatia and for all of Europe the main issue lies elsewhere. The Donald Trump phenomenon in America is announcing a profound political changeover in the political landscape, as well as the rise of new ideas and new myths. Germany, with its current policy of ethno-masochism, remains, as usual, the big unpredictable. In the months to come, whatever happens in Berlin or in Washington will inevitably have consequences for Croatia — and for all of Europe.
Dr. Tom Sunic is an author and former diplomat.