by Marinko CULIC
That was most definitely the most intensive peacetime expenditure of ammunition in the whole Croatian history, which led to a new custom that has survived until recently, that tons of ammunition be sent skyward around Christmas and new year’s holidays. However, the day of international recognition of independence was left without an initial powder charge. The fact that January 15 was not included in the Tudman’s list of public holidays, as well as in the most recent list of state holidays, based on Skrabalo’s recommendations, indicates that the ceasefire was not accidental.
No one ever explained why January 15 was quietly degraded, but it is actually easy to guess why that happened. Both the former and the current authorities do not like the idea that independence was something received on a tray from Europe (unlike Slovenians, who openly and without a chip on a shoulder treat their independence as a European project). No, our heroes need the legend about independence won against all odds, because it is obvious that such a heroic deed provides a much better basis for the establishment of authorities that must be unquestioningly obeyed.
And, indeed, the obedience was abundant. One expression of this obedience was the tendency to grant the topic of Croatian independence the status of a sacred cow and ban any free discussion of it in public. And what is there to discuss? Literally everything! If Croatia really on its own won everything it has today, ten birthdays should be more than enough to ask the question of all questions: was independence worth it? To make things clear, I do not intend to a priori defend any answer in this commentary.
Besides, it is totally legitimate that different people have different opinions on this topic, so that some say that today they live worse than ten years ago, and that’s it. Others may say that they do not care about living in poverty, as long as they can hide their head under their own national flag, and that’s it, again. Something else is at issue here, the fact that there is no public discussion regarding whether the project independent Croatia has succeeded or failed, and whether independence “sings” the way biggest dreamers dreamt about it.
In passing and without any deeper explanation, only Ivan Zvonimir Cicak said something about that, stating that the dreams of his student colleagues have come through, but that that is not a reason for too much happiness, rather for disappointment in some matters. However, that is an atypical opinion, totally isolated in the pile of festive verbal slug that we have been buried under these days. These layers of words without meaning have been for the last ten years hiding essentially the same festive discourse. Today, it includes maybe just a little less “thousand-years-long dream”, but the independence is still treated as something given once and for all and beyond doubt of questioning.
There is no desire (actually it has been deliberately excluded) to put together something as a “balance sheet” of independence of Croatia. On the contrary, the opinion of Zarko Puhovski according to which about 10 percent of population of Croatia that was victimized one way or another during the war was too high a price to pay for independence is viewed as an obvious and cheeky provocation. True, to that we should add that those who fought, or only claimed to be fighting, to save the former Yugoslavia, paid the same, too dear, price. Because those two prices fed on each other.
But that does not in any way change the fact that the achievement of independence has in a way become an official state dogma, even a sort of post-communist dogmatic dialectical Marxism, and dogmas have an unfortunate problem. If they are not regularly aired, and dogmas would not be dogmas if we did that, they get moldy and their edges start decomposing. The same is now happening with relatively wide-spread appearance of different modes of “Yugo-nostalgia” (mostly in culture, or more specifically, in subculture).
No, the faithful of the national state do not have to fear that their deity will be destroyed. Those Yugo-nostalgic fringe elements have neither sufficient power nor desire to rebuild Yugoslavia, and even if they did want to do something like that no one in the world would have helped them (only some HDZ supporters believe contrary; it is ironic that thereby, as Budisa said, they spiritually “remain in Yugoslavia”; furthermore, the HDZ is the only political force that does not seem to be able to accept that what happened on January 15 really happened).
However, these faithful of the nation-state should be concerned that their deity is seriously ill. And on its sick bed it has started making some strange, hitherto unknown signs. The results of an opinion poll published recently in Vecernji List reveal that traitorous Puhovski’s precedent has multiplied to the so far unprecedented degree. The poll shows that barely more than one half of all citizens is convinced that it was worth fighting for Croatia, while as many as 25 percent are convinced that Croatian independence was definitely not worth a war.
Another aspect of the poll, the fact that as many as 51 percent of poll participants believe that today they live worse than ten year ago, explains current pacifism among Croats. Those 51 percent can be viewed as a large political party about to be founded, a party of disappointed, or at least sobered up supporters of independence who realized that their own nation-state can oppress and steal as well as or even better than somebody else’s state. Hyperproduction of patriotic odes in the last ten years is only a mask used to hide that.
If this is not only a passing flicker of the flame of Croatian collective intelligence, it would have to realize the following: that Croatia realized as a regional redoubt of nationalism – in which outside the circle of ex-Yugoslav states the only counterpart is obviously the most backward transition country, Slovakia - necessarily ends up in the stinky swamp of corrupt national elite and politicized judiciary. Briefly in a septic tank of lawlessness and provincial ignorance.
The international recognition of Croatian independence was supposed to solve the Croatian national problem. Instead it fanned the flames of Croat nationalism and deified the nation, so that only recently we’ve seen first signs of the realization that the nation is supposed to serve citizens, not the other way round.