Monday 4 June 2012

The Croats under Yugo-Slavian Rule (1932)

Dr Milan Sufflay
A Visit of Investigation
The authors of this Report are members of the Balkans Committee which meets from time to time in the House of Commons. We have both interested ourselves for many years in Minority problems in the Balkans and elsewhere.
In 1931 Mr. Rhys Davies, accompanied by the Rev. James Barr (then M.P. for Motherwell) made an inquiry and report on the treatment of the several million Ukranians in Eastern Galicia under Polish rule, Those interested in that particular issue in our own country were, we are assured, much better informed of the situation by a perusal of that study made on the spot.
This present Inquiry made by the undersigned follows on similar lines the one made by Messrs. Barr and Davies on Eastern Galicia. The spirit which animated us to undertake this task was the same, namely, a desire to find out the truth. So much has appeared in the public Press and so much interest has been aroused of late among a number of our own people at home on the troubles in the Balkans that we decided to visit Yugo-Slavia and see the situation for ourselves. We wanted to know whether the adverse Press reports about the treatment of the Croats were justified, whether the situation in Yugo-Slavia was as terrible as painted and whether the Government of that country designated as a 'dictatorship' was quite as harsh in its treatment of the Croats as was alleged.
We had, of course, no reason to harbour a critical attitude towards the Yugo-Slavian government, neither were we bound by any person or organisation to favour the Croats if we found on inquiry that their present unfortunate position is of their own making. We were free from the beginning to report as we found.
We, therefore, approached the Croatian problem without any bias, and in our examination of the case called to our aid as much of the judicial mind as we could command. We decided that if we found the Government harsh we would say so. On the other hand, if we found the Croats unreasonable in demanding what they conceive to be their rights we would report that failing too.
We endeavoured to find out what the answer of the Yugo-Slavian Government would be to the charges made by the Croats; but it is obviously difficult to secure answers from Governments on issues of this kind. Finally, our conclusions are set forth in this Report.
Whilst we travelled separately on some occasions we satisfied ourselves of the facts by other means.

28, Westfield Avenue,

House of Commons,
London, S.W.1

October 1932

Geography and History of Croatia
The Croats inhabit those territories of South-Eastern Europe which gave the old Austro-Hungarian Monarchy much of its status as a great Power, namely, the Eastern coast of the Adriatic and the territory lying between the Adriatic and the Middle-Danube.
The northern portion of this territory is the part properly called Croatia; the Southern coastal province is Dalmatia, and between them lie Bosnia and Herzegovinia.
The Croats settled down in these countries in the sixth century and created and organised their own State. In the twelfth century Croatia formed a personal union with Hungary, and with Austria in the sixteenth century; both unions lasted till the end of the Great War.
Some Dalmatian towns and islands were for four centuries under the domination of Venice. All Croatian countries for centuries suffered very much from Turkish incursions; Bosnia and Herzegovinia were ruled by Turkey until 1878.
In spite of all this the sentiment of Croatian national and State individuality has never ceased to exist.
Until the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy the relations of Croatia to Hungary and Austria were based on treaties concluded between the representatives of Croatia and those of Hungary and Austria. The last, concluded in 1868, was known as the "Compromise" ("Nagodba"). According to "Nagodba" pre-war Croatia enjoyed a considerable measure of legislative and administrative autonomy. Home affairs, Justice, Education, and Agriculture were in particular the autonomous concerns of Croatia.
The last pre-war decades of Croatian public life may be characterised, on the one hand as a struggle against Hungary's violation of Croatia's autonomy; on the other as a struggle for the restitution of Dalmatia, illegally detached from Croatia and transformed into an Austrian province, and of Bosnia and Herzegovinia, which were proclaimed by Austria and Hungary a separate body and were jointly governed by them.
Note: This article was researched by Tomislav Jonjić and Ivan Popović, from Zagreb and Željko Zidaric from Toronto, to whom we thank.

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