Croatia's distorted past and troubled present

23 May 2016 by Iva Vukusic in The Hague (The Netherlands)

These days Croatia is going through a surge of nationalism and historical revisionism unseen since the worst days of the war of the 1990s. The polarization in society is between those who consider the regime, known as Independent State of Croatia, a source of pride, and those who perceive it as a source of shame. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) deals with another past, less distant, but equally painful. The population is no more open to honestly discuss it than it is the crimes of the 1940s.

Poster supporting Croatian general Ante Gotovina
Image caption: 
Dangerous road ahead: poster in Croatia supporting Gotovina. The text on the banner reads 'welcome to the land of general Ante Gotovina' (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Stefan Richter 2005)

In both cases, nationalism seems to stand in the way of a critical approach to the past. The regimes of the 1940s and 1990s were very different, but they are treated equally uncritically. There is continuity in how society views its own history: dominant narratives are simplistic, constructed in ways that paint the Croats as striving for statehood and independence.

--This opinion piece is the first in a series of four IJT articles focused on the legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ahead of the special debate “Coming to a close. Trials and tribulations of the Yugoslavia war-crimes tribunal" jointly hosted by the Dutch NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies and International Justice Tribune which will be held in Amsterdam on 31 May. For more information on the debate, the speakers and to register click here.--

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