A country with an infamous fascist past, Croatia faces resurgence of this movement since its independence from Yugoslavia.
From the 1990s up to today, Croatia had to redefine its identity as an independent country. One of the ways of concretely splitting from the Yugoslavian period was to bring back the “kuna”, or at least, introduce in 1994 a new devise with the same name that the Croatian fascist government used during the Second Word War. (See more)
Officials denied a link with the fascist past, or with an apparent attempt to revive it. Instead, the then president Franjo Tudjman explained that it was a final step in establishing the national sovereignty of Croatia. It still seems like a thoughtless act, considering the many victims of the fascist regime in Croatia, in neighboring countries like Serbia, and in the Jewish and Roma minorities of the region that were persecuted by the Ustaša Movement. It was indeed a currency from a time where Croatia was an independent country, but a lot of other symbols from Croatia’s centuries of history could have been the new face of the national money. Today the kuna seems to have been accepted, but more events suggest other resurgences of fascism.
During the socialist period of Yugoslavia, many monuments and statues were erected in order to commemorate the anti-fascist struggle of the Partisans fighters. The socialist narrative presents them as heroes who liberated Croatia from Nazi Germany. As such, they deserved public recognition. Several monuments are also dedicated to countless victims of the war, for example memorial plaques in villages that suffered population loss in massacres. Together, they represent an important historical heritage of the Croatian people.
Throughout the 1990s and up to today, Croatia is going under what can be interpreted as a historical revisionism. (See more on this process)
Anti-fascist monuments and statues are vandalized by the local population. Some events are more of an anecdotal nature, like the story of a man who ended up in the hospital after getting stuck under a statue he was vandalizing. (See more)
But this is far from being an isolated case: there have been more than 3000 monuments vandalized in the independence war of the 1990s. (See pictures here)
In an apparent process of changing the narrative of the newly independent country, monuments or memorial plaques were destroyed or changed, in order to commemorate the victims of the latest socialism regime. This can be interpreted as a way of consolidating the sovereignty of Croatia, as the fascist period was one of freedom that socialist Yugoslavia took away. It also can mean that socialism is now seen as the darker period of Croatia, and the fascist crimes are erased from the collective heritage. (See more)
If there is nothing to commemorate them, they don’t exist, right?
Today, the main issue, beside the fact that monuments are still being vandalized or destroyed, is the lack of concern. The ones that are still standing are slowly decaying, since next to nothing is done to preserve them. As an example, the Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija at Petrova Gora is disappearing because people are stealing materials from it. (See more)
A few dozen of monuments have also been vandalized between 2015 and 2017( see more), which could mean a resurgence in the extreme nationalist ideas of the 1990s. While any political groups are entitled to their opinion, the destruction of historical heritage and the memory of victims should not be the way to express it. Authorities should not tolerate this behavior and concrete measures of protection must be put in place. The message that the vandalizing and its tolerance send about a new rise of fascism is worrying in the way it seeks to erase the historical legacy of the Croatian anti-fascist struggle, and disrespectful in the name of the victims who fought and suffered under the former fascist regime. National awareness must be raised to protect this part of Croatia’s history.