Monday, December 11, 2006

Uzmi Stipe...

Croatia's Index portal has previous form for uncovering public figures discussing the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in terms they'd rather have kept quiet about: in 2003, Marko Perković Thompson received the unwelcome New Year's Eve gift of discovering that a recording of his performing Jasenovac i Gradiška Stara had been released on to the internet courtesy of the Indexovci.

Now they've done it again - this time with the Croatian president Stjepan Mesić, who is said to have given two speeches at a Croatian club in Sydney in May/June 1992 (partially transcribed in Večernji list thanks to an enterprising Sydneysider) in which he described the Croats as having 'won twice' during the Second World War:

'The Croats won in 1941 when on 10 April they proclaimed a Croatian state. Because the Croats did not proclaim that state because they were fascists, but because they had a natural and historical right to a state. But the results of the Second World War are well-known, but it is also well-known that the Croats won in that war on a second occasion too because they found themselves together with the allies at the victors' table.'

The second speech involved an exposition of the current war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in which 'we are fighting for our own territory, and they are fighting for other people's', then headed off along the same lines, including the rhetorical instruction to those who disagreed to 'go and kneel down at Jasenovac'.

Neretva River has been following this assiduously all weekend, including reactions from Žarko Puhovski (Croatian Helsinki Committee), Vesna Pusić (leader of HNS, to which Mesić belongs), prime minister Ivo Sanader, and Mesić himself - plus the controversy over two Croatian Television journalists who have been suspended for their coverage of the story.

Mesić is holding to the line that he 'never supported the Ustaša regime', separating the idea of statehood from the criminal reality of the regime itself (The League of Anti-Fascist Fighters and Anti-Fascists of Croatia, for its part, is still behind him), and that the statement - which he no longer remembers giving - must have been a product of its time when 'it was necessary to win over [pridobiti] and consolidate [objediniti] all people in the defence of Croatia from aggression.'

(And when, he could have added, Tudjman's HDZ - to which Mesić still then belonged - was conducting an intricate balancing act between emigres some of whom believed wholeheartedly in the NDH and international sympathies which certainly didn't.)

Ironically enough, Mesić was himself the butt of insults in the final verse of Jasenovac i Gradiška Stara, which called on Our Lady of Sinj to 'take Stipe away and give us Franjo [Tudjman] back' (uzmi Stipu a vrati nam Franju). Is this the first time Mesić and Thompson have actually found common ground?

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