By Željko Todorić
Communism is, by all accounts, the most murderous ideology in human history. The communist governments have murdered 100 millions of people around the world. That is five times as many killings as the Nazis. Even though some Croats, including the Yugoslav leader Marshall Tito, wholeheartedly embraced the communist ideology, communism, in fact, had little popular support among the Croatian people.
Another competing ideology of the time - Nazism or Ustasha movement - had a similar fate. Neither Ustashe nor communists were seen as real representatives of ordinary people. Yet, these two ideologies were forced upon us like a cruel, inescapable punishment from hell.
A lot has been said about Nazism in general, and Ustashe in particular, but little about the red dragon (communism) and its crimes. As for the Croatian contribution in bringing down the Yugoslav communist regime, this is even less known to the general population.
We Croatians shouldn't be silent about it. On the contrary, our heroic efforts in fighting communists should be trumpeted all over the world. Our heroes are not those of a comic book, or Hollywood fiction, but those from the reality of blood and tears, hopes and dreams of a shackled, yet undefeated nation. In short, a small nation being at the forefront of the universal struggle against the deadliest calamity in the history of mankind is not a small thing.
Croatian people have been both victims of communism and its cheerful gravediggers. There is no Croatian family, here in Canada nor around the world which was not affected by the red nemesis. The stories of human misery and courage are plenty. However, there are those who are trying to falsify the history of 20th century to make our sufferings less obvious.
A couple of days ago I accidentally stumbled upon a website run by The Centre for Research on Globalization , a non-profit organization based in Montreal, Canada. One of the site's contributors is also Aleksa Đilas whose father (Milovan Đilas) was a close associate of Yugoslav Communist Dictator Tito.
In his article Understanding Yugoslavia: Remembering Mihajlo Mihajlov (April 6, 2012), Aleksa Đilas claims that the Serbo-Russian professor Mihajlo Mihajlov made a huge contribution not only in fight against Tito's rule in the communist Yugoslavia, but also in "ending the one-party government system in Eastern Europe".
The Serbian magazine "Vreme" goes even further arguing that Mihajlo Mihajlov used to be the only sole dissident in the communist Yugoslavia.
I beg to differ.
First, Croatian contribution in fight against communism is completely ignored here. Croatians too lived in the communist Yugoslavia, didn't they? And, boy, how determined we really were in seeing Yugoslavia dead once and for all! In fact, we Croatians wasted little time in making that happen.
Yes, the Serbs did have a few Communist dissidents of which Mihajlov and Đilas were the most prominent figures, but it is a far cry from being real anticommunist warriors of Croatian type. Serbian disidents wanted to reform communism, not to destroy it. Despite occasional differences here and there, they were still members of the same Titoist "family".
The Croatians, in contrast, saw the destruction of Yugoslavia and its communist institutions as their first priority. They saw it as a prerequisite for establishment of Independent State of Croatia.
Some of the Croatian dissidents may have occasionally adopted a soft approach towards their Titoist opponents (mostly Serbs). By masquerading themselves as benevolent reformers, they pretended to work with the system, not against it. However, these were just strategic maneuvers to buy precious time when the balance of power was not in their favour. President Tudjman's skillful political navigations at the beginning of Homeland War in 1991 exemplified this method quite well.
In short, we Croatians should be particularly proud of playing a major role in this process of democratization in Eastern Europe. We did far more than Mihajlo Mihajlov, Milovan Djilas or any other nationality in the former Yugoslavia and beyond. For example, if there hadn't been a Croatian Spring in the 1970's we wouldn't have had the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution which opened the door for more freedom and protection of individual rights in the Communist Yugoslavia. Also two Serbian provinces - Kosovo and Vojvodina - received a substantial autonomy, while Bosnian Muslims were given a separate national status as a result.
No doubt, this was a direct outcome of the Croatian Spring which seriously shook the rigid Stalinist structures within the country at the beginning of 1970's. It was, perhaps, the most significant victory of communist reformers (disidents) not only in Yugoslavia, but in the whole communist world. True, this was achieved gradually through evolution rather than revolution, but the outcome is the same. The fact is: even though the Croatian spring was brutally suppressed, its ideas continued to live on. In short, despite systematic persecution, the Croatians had shown enough determination and courage to bring pressure on Tito's regime which consequently brought about the substantial changes to the country's political structure. This was our Croatian victory which also benefited the whole humanity by bringing a little bit more light to the darkness of the world.
Next, we Croatians were the first and the only nation in the communist empire which were engaged in armed rebellions against our communist oppressors even after WWII. First, it was Križari, a ferocious anticommunist guerrilla which operated in various parts of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1945-1950.
Then came a group of Croatian insurgents which were prepared and organized in Australia by the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood. This so called "Bugojno group" managed to infiltrate Tito's Yugoslavia in 1972 with an idea of overthrowing the communist regime and creating an independent and democratic state of Croatia. These guerrilla fighters were battling the Yugoslav armed forces for a few days before being owerwhelmed.
The Croatian revolutionaries of the 1990's finally achieved under Tuđman's leadership what "Križari" and the "Bugojno group" failed in the previous years, that is destruction of communist Yugoslavia and creation of a free and independent Croatia established on the democratic principles. Many of the young country's top leaders used to be former political prisoners including the first Croatian President Franjo Tudjman or professor Marko Veselica (also called the Croatian Mandela) who served eleven years in Tito's prisons.
Here in Canada, numerous Croatian political activists, such as Dr. Josip Gamulin, Dr. Mladen Zorkin or Marin Sopta were unstoppable in defending Croatian national rights and freedom and calling for overthrow of communism. Some were even assassinated by the Yugoslav secret agents. The percentage of Croatian anticommunists killed by the Yugoslav UDBA was especially high among the diaspora Croats. Yet, the political resolve and desire to fight injustice and oppression grew even stronger.
In short, we Croatians were trying to do more than just dismantle an oppressive communist system. By resisting Yugoslav despotism, we were an inspiration to the abused and oppressed, a role model for the world.
Unfortunately, the current crop of Croatian politicians are not doing enough to improve our image in the world by stating the obvious: we Croatians fought the evil; we were an important part of a universal struggle (good vs. evil) which has been defying time and space since the time immemorial.
As a Croatian, I am proud of this.
Are you ?