MYTH: "TUDJMAN AND MILOSEVIC WERE LATE CONVERTS FROM COMMUNISM TO DEMOCRACY"
Reatity: Dr. Franjo Tudjman resigned his Army commission in 1961. He became a strong advocate of democracy in Croatia and was imprisoned for his views. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic simply changed the name of his party from Communist to Socialist before the 1990 elections and remained a committed communist.
Franjo Tudjman was born on May 14, 1922, in Veliko Trgovisce in the Zagorje province of Croatia. At the age of nineteen, he joined the Partizans and became a decorated war veteran.
Like tens of thousands of Croatians who fought with the Partizans, Tudjman believed that a new federated Yugoslavia would guarantee the rights of the Croatian nation which had been trampled in Royalist Yugoslavia. The Nazis put a price on Tudjman's head and killed his brother in 1943. Both of his parents were killed by the Communists in 1946.
After the War, Tudjman was sent to the advanced military academy in Belgrade. His exceptional abilities led to his appointment as the youngest general in Yugoslavia. After twenty years of service, he left the army with the rank of major general in 1961 at age thirty-eight.
From 1961 through 1967, Tudjman was the Director of the Institute for the History of the Workers' Movement in Croatia, linked to the Central Committee of the League of Communists. He was a respected member of the Party and held a number of senior political positions.
As director of the Institute, he devoted himself entirely to scholarly work and was appointed professor of History at the University of Zagreb in 1963. He obtained his doctorate two years later, specializing in the history of royalist Yugoslavia from 1918-1941. Although the government would not allow his dissertation to be published, his scholarship was such that he was appointed to the board of the academic and cultural society, Matica Hrvatska. Tudjman published a number of works in the fields of military studies, history, philosophy, and international relations. His 1981 book, Nationalism in Contemporary Europe, foretold the great European upheaval a decade before the tumultuous events of 1991-1995. In 1965, he was elected to Parliament.
At forty-three years of age, Franjo Tudjman was one of the most respected men in Yugoslavia: a Partizan hero, retired major general, member of Parliament, Professor of History, Director of the Institute for the History of the Workers' Movement, Editor of the Yugoslav Military Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia of Yugoslavia, and a dozen other powerful positions in the Party, government, and academic community. It was in that year that Secret Police Chief Aleksandar Rankovic began planning for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Liberation War to be observed in 1966.
A part of the celebrations included the dedication of a monument to the "700,000 to 900,000" people who died at the Jasenovac concentration camp. Tudjman, whose Institute had collected the actual number of war deaths in a secret report to be used in gaining war reparations from Germany, knew that Rankovic's figures were inflated by at least ten fold. He was told not to make trouble for Rankovic, Tito, or the Party. Tudjman then suggested that the data from his scholarship be made public. In 1969, the data were made public by Bruno Busic, an associate of the Institute. Busic fled to France where he was murdered by the Yugoslav Secret Police in 1978.
The Croatian Spring and Tudjman's Fall
Even before publication, Tudjman's appointment to the Yugoslav Academy was rescinded and he was removed as Director of the Institute for the History of the Workers' Movement by Rankovic. Even Rankovic's own fall in 1966 did not save Tudjman from mounting persecution. By 1967 he was removed from all offices and duties for stating his views on history and the Croatian language. In 1969, he tost his seat in Parliament. At the same time, Franjo Tudjman became one of the leaders of the great liberalization movement known as the Croatian Spring. That movement reached its peak in the Fall of 1971 before being ruthlessly crushed by the hardline Communist government on Serbia's National Day in December of that year.
On October 12, 19?2, after a brief "trial" Tudjman was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for counter-revolutionary activity and "hostile activity against the State." Upon appeal, the charges were changed to "hostile propaganda" and he was released after nine months and stripped of his civil rights, including the right to publish, speak in public, or travel outside the country. In 1977, Tudjman violated the ban by granting an interview to Swedish television. Although the interview was blocked by a diplomatic protest from Yugoslavia, Swedish television aired a one minute excerpt and the text was published in Sweden's Dagens Nyheter and Germany's Der Spiegel in October 1977. Within months it had been translated into English and published throughout the world.
On November 17, 1980, Tudjman was again indicted for the crime of "maliciously and falsely representing socio-political conditions in Yugoslavia." The communists' Orwellian doublespeak may have reached its apex when, in an indictment for speaking to a foreign reporter, the prosecutor wrote: "It is well known that [Tudjman's statements) are untrue because in the SFRY not only in its constitutional and legal decrees, but in the everyday life of its inhabitants as well, complete equality of all nations and nationalities in all areas has been realized, as has full freedom of the expression of opinion."
Tudjman's crime was that of having publicly stated that there was no freedom of speech in Yugoslavia. His eloquent defense was published in a number of languages and became a part of the literature for the democratization of Yugoslavia: "Everything I said was an expression of my personal belief in accordance with the ideals for which I fought in the Socialist Revolution and the anti-Fascist War" he said.
Tudjman was sentenced to three years in jail and loss of all civil rights for eight years. Before entering prison in November 1981, he was admitted to a Zagreb hospital with a heart condition. Despite a world-wide outcry that included naming him a "Prisoner of Conscience" by Amnesty International, Tudjman was sent to the infamous Lepoglava prison in January 1982 where he suffered a series of four heart attacks. Another investigation was launched in 1988 in yet another attempt to silence Tudjman, but by that time the new direction of the tide in Europe was clear. His civil rights were restored, he obtained a passport and undertook the foundation of a new political movement.
HDZ and Victory
On November 29, 1989, Tudjman and his newly formed Croatian Democratic Union, known by its Croatian initials HDZ, issued an appeal to the citizens of Croatia and to its communist-controlled Parliament to form a new multi-party government. The appeal called for a repeal of the Communist Party monopoly, secret and direct elections for Parliament, unrestricted travel, and freedom for political prisoners.
During this transition period the HDZ was the first al party to expressly call for self determination for Croatia, including the right to secession. Although the Yugoslav Constitution specifically guaranteed that right, it was considered treason by Belgrade.
In light of the dramatic changes sweeping Europe, the Croatian Parliament voted in February 1990 to legalize opposition parties and grant freedom of political affiliation. In April and May, the first free elections were held in Croatia with some twenty political parties competing for seats in Parliament. Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union was victorious with 205 of 349 seats. The Communists, who had ruled for a half century, secured only 77 seats. Franjo Tudjman was elected President of the Republic.
On July 26, 1990, the Parliament dropped the word "Socialist" from the name Republic of Croatia and ordered the red star removed from all state symbols. Still, Tudjman and the Croatian government sought a new accommodation with the other republics of Yugoslavia through a confederation of sovereign states. Serbia's unwillingness to even negotiate for such a confederation led Croatia and Slovenia to declare independence on June 25, 1991, at which time Franjo Tudjman became the first President of the independent Republic of Croatia.
Slobo, "The Butcher of the Balkans"
Franjo Tudjman's long and arduous journey from Partizan war hero to president of his country was very unlike that of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, whom the New York Times labeled the "Butcher of the Balkans." Milosevic, an unrepentant hard-line communist in the mold of Joseph Stalin, was a product of communism and the Yugoslav Party-State.
Known to his few friends as "Slobo," he was born in 1941 in Pozarevac, near Belgrade, the son of a Serbian Orthodox priest from Montenegro and a hardline communist school teacher. His father abandoned his family, taking Slobo's brother Bora with him. Both of his parents committed suicide, and Milosevic literally grew up in the Party. He married Mirjana Markovic, a professor of Marxist theory who controlled the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. She was a member of one of Yugoslavia's best known communist families. Milosevic lived such a secretive life at a villa on the outskirts of Belgrade that one of his closest friends admitted to a reporter from the New York Times Magazine that in twenty years he had never seen Milosevic's home or his wife.
Under the mentorship of Ivan Stambolic, the previous Serbian Party boss, Milosevic rose through the ranks from being director of the energy company Tehnogas to the presidency of Belgrade's main bank. In the mid1980's Stambolic elevated him to head of the Communist Party of Serbia. By way of thanks, Milosevic engineered a coup within the Party in the fall of 1987, overthrowing his old friend and mentor, and naming himself the undisputed head of Party and government in Serbia.
Milosevic immediately set to work purging the leadership of Vojvodina, Kosova, and the Republic of Montenegro, bringing those constitutionally autonomous regions into line with his "Greater Serbia" policies. Many who opposed his policies, including Branislav Matic, a key opposition leader in the Serbian Renewal Movement, were murdered. Another opposition leader, George Bozovic, mysteriously fell from a high building.
As the rest of Europe was abandoning Marxism, Milosevic reinstated courses in Marxist theory in Serbia's schools and colleges. In January 1990 at the last Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Milosevic stormed the podium to declare that communism would go on even without Slovenia and Croatia. But the realities of Europe in the nineties eventually came home to roost even for Milosevic. In the Fall of 1990, he renamed the Communist Party the "Socialist Party" before winning 61 % of the vote in the Party-controlled "free" elections. Milosevic's transformation from Stalinist to "democrat" was thus complete. In April 1992, he finally consented to the removal of the red star from Yugoslavia's flag.
By 1996, Milosevic had come full circle from communist to nationalist back to communist. He had caused the greatest conflict in Europe's post-war era. He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, concentration camps, forced labor, slavery, and for the use of rape as an instrument of war. Yet it seemed unlikely that he would ever stand trial as a war criminal. Instead, Milosevic was ready to forget what he termed "nationalist ezcesses."
At the 1996 Socialist Party (the re-named League of Communists of Serbia) Congress, Milosevic stood before almost two thousand hand-picked delegates as the Socialist "Internationale" was played. He was triumphant in his reelection, by a vote of 1,799 delegates to four, even though there were no other candidates, and he had purged two-thirds of the party's leadership. He promised to lead Serbia back to communism in the mold of China and announced a new direction for the twenty-first century - "Serbia 2000." That direction looked very much to the communist past and not to a democratic future.
Judgement in The Hague or Justice in History
Slobodan Milosevic started and prosecuted the greatest European conflict since World War II. He was responsible for thousands of deaths, injuries, and rapes. He personally authorized concentration camps, and oversaw mass murder in Croatia and Bosnia. While many of his lieutenants were indicted for war crimes, it remained questionable that Milosevic, the "Darling of Dayton," would ever be punished for his crimes. Even if he is not brought to justice, the World Court began a case in mid-1996 which charged the state of "Yugoslavia" with violation of the 1948 Paris Convention Against Genocide. It was the first time in history that a such a charge had been leveled at an entire country rather than a few of its citizens.
Franjo Tudjman may not have built a perfect democracy during the difficult war-torn years of 1989 through 1995. Many problems faced the republic and its politically divided leadership. Reflecting on the post-dictatorship periods in Spain and Greece, Tudjman called for national reconciliation in 1996. He urged a "balanced historical view of all major personalities and movements in modern Croatian history," whether Josip Tito, Ante Pavelic, or Vlako Macek, and suggested that all could be buried in Croatia. For this he was accused by his critics on the Left as being a too far to the Right, and his critics on the Right for remaining an "old communist."
The Right also charged that he had let far too many former communists stay at their jobs if they were performing them well. The charge was partially true. Unlike American presidents, Tudjman did not sack every minister and every attorney from the previous administration. The Left charged that far too many former exiles, from the United States, Canada, Australia, and around the world, had returned to Croatia and were in positions of power. That charge was also true. For example, twenty-two per cent of the Foreign Ministry staff came from emigration, including the Ambassador to Canada who had lived in California for decades before independence.
Whether Franjo Tudjman was too far to the Right, too close to former communists, too nationalistic, or too conciliatory toward the Serbs, was in the eyes of the beholder. Yet the young Republic of Croatia from 1991 through 1996, with all of its problems, moved more quickly toward a free market economy and democratic institutions than many other emerging nations.
The deeds of Slobodan Milosevic will be judged by the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, whether or not he sits in the dock. Franjo Tudjman will be judged by Croatian History.
Author's Preface to the Third Edition
Croatia and the Croatians
Myth: "Croatians asked to join Yugoslavia
Myth: "Croatian Assassinated King Alexander
Myth: "All Croatians were Fascists
Myth: "The Basket of Human Eyeballs"
Myth: "Two Million Serbs Died"
Myth: "Croatians Executed American Airmen"
Myth: "No Retribution Against Croatia"
Myth: "Borders were Drawn to Benefit Croatia"
Myth: "The Serbo-Croatian Language"
Myth: "Tudjman and Milosevic were Late Converts"
Myth: "Serbs had no Guaranteed Rights in Croatia"
Myth: "The Fascist Finders"
Myth: "The Croatian Coat of Arms is Fascist"
Myth: "The Fascist Ferret"