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South Slavic: July 14, 2005

14 July 2005, Volume 7, Number 18


Part IV.

By RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages broadcasters Slobodan Kostic, Dzenana Karabegovic, Ankica Barbir-Mladinovic, Biljana Jovicevic, Gezim Baxhaku, and Blagoja Kuzmanovski.

In early May, the 60th anniversary of the "victory over fascism" was marked worldwide [see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 April and 15 May 2005]. In former Yugoslav states, the topic is still bound up with controversies and ideological conflicts. Why are some World War II personages considered heroes by some and traitors by others? Why are accounts of the past subjected to the influence of ideologies and political myths?

From Croatia, the president of the Serbian National Council, Milorad Pupovac: "One thing is beyond any doubt: during the last 15 years, antifascism has been challenged either directly, by identifying antifascism with war crimes, or indirectly, by making excuses for others' war crimes and then comparing them with war crimes committed by the Partisan units."

Pupovac thinks that although things are getting better, divisions regarding antifascism remain significant in politics and society, even among antifascists:

"During the parliamentary discussion that we have already mentioned, there were attempts to imply that Istrian antifascism is 'clean' while others are allegedly 'dirty.' It is a very perverse way of understanding things to use antifascism as a means for defining territorial integrity [by praising the antifascists who claimed Istria for Yugoslavia], rather than using it to define the underlying values of the state.... If the Partisans took back a part of Croatian ethnic territory from the Italians, it's OK, but if they were the ones who established the system of modern European values [in Yugoslavia], then we cannot accept it, because we are on the opposite side. This way of thinking reveals a conflict of values and ideologies."

By stressing the Bleiburg killings and other actions by the communists against their enemies right after the war, some historians and politicians in Croatia seek to portray the antifascist movement in Croatia as Yugoslav-oriented and therefore anti-Croatian [see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 May 2005]. Others note that the antifascist movement led to a totalitarian dictatorship of the Left. But many others have a positive view about the role of Croats in the antifascist movement....

Social Democratic Party legislator Nenad Stazic told us about two different aspects of antifascism in Croatia:

"...The Communist Party launched the antifascist struggle in Croatia. Its secretary-general [Josip Broz Tito] was the antifascist leader and supreme commander of the armed forces. One cannot ignore that fact. We can talk about communism and [what happened under communist rule], but that is another issue. We cannot simply reject the antifascist struggle just because it was the Communist Party that started it."

He also says that the recent discussion in the Croatian parliament about Bleiburg reflected a bad choice of time and place.

"We can discuss the Bleiburg events, we can discuss anything. Scholarly symposiums can be organized on whatever topic, but I think that the presidency of the Croatian parliament made a mistake by allowing this particular symposium to take place right now. The entire world will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the victory over fascism, while Croatia will take part in the festivities with a symposium about Bleiburg. It is just as if the Germans organized a panel about the bombing of Dresden to mark the 60th anniversary of the victory over fascism."


French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said that the 13 July 1941 insurrection in Montenegro is something Europe should be proud of because those 32,000 fighters constituted the very first organized resistance against fascism in occupied Europe.

In spite of the temptations that followed, particularly during the early 1990s, Montenegro�s understanding of fascism has not changed. As a case in point, the Montenegrin media continue to write about deceased war veterans. Historian Zvezdan Folic has a simple explanation:

"The point is that what we have here is a far more realistic and objective picture of World War II than what one finds in some recent books that cast doubt on the National Liberation War in Yugoslavia and Montenegro or take an apologetic stance on the Chetnik movement."