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South Slavic: June 24, 2004

24 June 2004, Volume 6, Number 21


Part II.

In Tito's Yugoslavia, 15 May was celebrated as the Day of Victory Over Fascism. Almost 60 years after that victory, RFE/RL's topic of the week is extreme nationalism, chauvinism, and various forms of fascism in today's Yugoslav successor states.

RFE/RL: What accounts for the popularity of nationalist singers like Marko Pekovic "Thompson," whose lyrics include words like "bodies of Serbs floating in the Neretva River?"

Zoran Pusic (president of the Civic Committee for Human Rights in Zagreb): We are talking here about a combination of vulgarity and Ustasha overtones. As far as I know, he has never been taken to court.

Thompson used to be very popular, but his influence has waned with time....

RFE/RL: Zoran Pusic about the role of the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia:

Pusic: The church has never protested against the frequent public display of the letter "U" -- symbolizing the Ustasha movement -- with a crucifix added.

The very first time that the church took a position somewhat different from that of Tudjman's state was when it opposed his ham-fisted attempt to partition Bosnia.

RFE/RL: Bosnia-Herzegovina is the state that suffered the most during the wars in the 1990s. However, it never witnessed the extreme nationalism, chauvinism, and fascism that could be found in neighboring Serbia and Croatia.

Let's discuss this with Refik Hodzic, who until recently was the representative of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal in Bosnia-Herzegovina:

Hodzic: There are two main reasons for that.

First, the fact that power in Bosnia-Herzegovina is almost always exercised by a sort of a trinity [of Muslims, Serbs, and Croats]. However, in the areas where one group is clearly in the majority and controls the local government, extremism did emerge.

I am not talking about radical or drastic cases, but, for instance, in a recent situation in Stolac [where the Croats are in a majority]. The authorities there refused to allow some young people to replace the flag of the Croatian para-state called Herceg-Bosna with the Bosnian flag and even charged the youths with inciting national hatred!

It is, in fact, the presence of the international community that keeps extremism in check and prevents a drift into fascism.

RFE/RL: Bosnia-Herzegovina is unique in former Yugoslavia because it used to have laws in each of its separate parts discriminating against members of other ethnic groups. The courts have declared this unconstitutional.

Hodzic: We are slowly harmonizing legislation throughout Bosnia.... It has fantastic laws, but their implementation is far from what it should be. This is why a silent form of discrimination persists.

RFE/RL: We asked Zoran Pusic and Refik Hodzic to comment on the statement of the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman that he was "glad that his wife was not a Serb or Jew," as well as on the appeal against mixed marriages by the head of Islamic Religious Community in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Reisu-l-ulema Mustafa Ceric.

Pusic: I still vividly remember Tudjman's statement. It was made before the war. If it had been made during the war, the reference to a Serbian wife might have been interpreted as something said in the heat of the moment. However, it was said before the war and that makes it even more reprehensible. In any event, the reference to Jews [has no bearing on the war context] and is unfathomable.

In short, the statement sounds more like what one hears from jerks talking in bars than what one expects from a head of state. This just shows what kind of person can become a head of state and influence public discourse.