Introduction The last parliamentary elections victory enabled HDZ to form a government independently of the far-right Homeland Movement. This enabled the creation of the center-right government in which Boris Milosevic, who represents the Serbian minority, became a deputy prime minister covering social affairs and human and minority rights. The government is trying to heal the …
The last parliamentary elections victory enabled HDZ to form a government independently of the far-right Homeland Movement. This enabled the creation of the center-right government in which Boris Milosevic, who represents the Serbian minority, became a deputy prime minister covering social affairs and human and minority rights. The government is trying to heal the wounds of war 26 years after the end of the war. Croatian and Serbian representatives go together to commemorations on the occasion of the fall of Vukovar and Operation Storm, but also for the first time to mark the anniversary of the massacres of Serb civilians after Operation Storm.
The people of Croatia, like the rest of the world, are predominantly preoccupied with the pandemic. All other political topics and divisions have fallen into the background. Another disaster, two earthquakes that hit Zagreb and Banija in 2020, is worrying people because the government has not yet started reconstruction. Croatia has less than six months left to spend the 6.8 million euro in recovery cash it received in December 2020 from the European Union’s Solidarity Fund. Less than one percent had been spent.
Inflation reached 4.8% year-on-year in November, the highest rate since February 2013. Fuel and other utility prices are rising, and the state has briefly halted fuel price growth by limiting maximum prices.
Foreign policy is reduced to constant arguments with Serbia and interference in the internal problems of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Due to the desire of Croatia to enter the Schengen borders of the EU as soon as possible Croatian border police are using violence to repel migrants and refugees trying to cross the external border of the European Union from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
Racist and intolerant hate speech in public discourse is escalating, with the main targets being Serbs, LGBT persons, Roma, and refugees. Politicians used inflammatory speech to fuel conflicts between different sections of the population, and this not only applies to extreme parties but the entire political spectrum.
Status of the far-right in the country
Political periods in Croatia can be observed through two periods, when the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) is in power and when the HDZ wants to be in power. When the HDZ is not in power, then through the “veto players” who are in Croatian case war veterans’ organization and the Catholic Church, attempts are made to destabilize the government’s true radicalization of the political scene.
When the HDZ came to power, it regularly renounced the burden of extremists, whose leaders were silenced by positions and grants. After Andrej Plenković took over the HDZ he vowed to turn it into a modern conservative party, free from chauvinist rhetoric. Also, his last five years in power would not have been possible without the parliamentary support of the Independent Democratic Serb Party, SDSS, a party that represents the Serb community in Croatia.
At the 2020 parliamentary elections, most of the far-right opposition to Plenković and the HDZ is united in the newly-formed Homeland Movement party, led by nationalist singer and former HDZ MP Miroslav Škoro.
Although they achieved a very good result for the new party of almost 11% of the vote and 16 members of parliament, they did not gain power and position. Therefore, immediately after the election, there was a division into two parliamentary clubs of the Sovereignists and the Homeland Movement. A few months later, two more MPs left the Homeland Movement. After a heated argument, its founder, Miroslav Škoro, left the party together with his sister.
In October 2021. Croatian Sovereignists held a party congress on which the far-right parties merged. Hrast, the Croatian Conservative Party and alt-right Generation of Renewal, many members of the Independents for Croatia, and some from the Homeland Movement.
But soon there was also a conflict, this time over the vaccination when the most notable Sovereignists MP Hrvoje Zekanović publicly called on people to get vaccinated and criticized the far-right for being guilty of the small number of vaccinated. So he was kicked out of the party.
Status of antifascists in the country
The activity of anti-fascists is at a very low level. The pandemic has reduced activities to occasional commemorations and press releases. There has been no anti-fascist protest or march on the streets for a very long time.
The biggest concern of anti-fascists currently in Croatia is the issue of border violence against refugees and migrants. The biggest danger is that the far-right has taken the lead in protests and actions against pandemic measures. In the beginning, these protests were led by marginal lunatics from the far right who lined up in black uniforms on the main square, fighting against the invisible enemies – viruses. But now the parliamentary far right is riding on that wave of disinformation, paranoia, and populism. At the same time, while seeking complete freedom regardless of the danger to public health, they are advocating for machine gun nests at the border and a complete lack of freedom for refugees to seek asylum.
There are several groups of anti-fascists. Traditional associations of anti-fascists under the SABH, the successor of the SUBNOR (Partisan Veterans Association). They are less and less active and their membership is old. There are new increasingly active anti-fascist associations of Homeland War veterans, trying to reconcile anti-fascist principles and the War of Independence. The Anti-Fascist League, which was on the line of liberal anti-fascism, is less and less active. Some informal antifascist organizations are publicly presented as anarchist, and some as eco-socialist. And some were divided on the issue of measures against covid and public health.
The biggest risk for anti-fascists is poor work with young people and not passing of knowledge and experience to new generations.
The far-right in Croatia is most often associated with the historical Ustashe movement, hence they have connections to Neo-Nazism and neo-fascism. That World War II political movement was an extremist organization at the time supported by the German Nazis and the Italian Fascists. The association with the Ustaše has been called “Neo-Ustashism”.
Therefore, the key historical event for the extreme right is the establishment of the so-called NDH (World War II-era puppet state Independent state of Croatia), which is celebrated every year in various ways, for example with the destruction of anti-fascist monuments.
The Ustasha genocide against Serbs, Roma, and Jews in the NDH is also a key event. The denial of Ustasha crimes and the memorization of the Jasenovac death camp, which is constantly called the “Jasenovac myth” or “Jasenovac work camp”, regardless of the list of over 80,000 victims, is a constant obsession of the far right.
The surrender of the Ustashas to the Allies and the Yugoslav Army near Bleiburg (Austria) is also a key victimological historical event. Due to the vengeful mass murders of captured fascist gangs after the surrender, the Ustashe presented themselves as fighters for independent Croatia and victims, and the partisans are demonized. Ustasha mythomania exaggerated the numbers of killed Ustashas to as many as half a million.
The Croatian War of Independence was fought from 1991 to 1995 between Croat forces loyal to the Government of Croatia—which had declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia —and the Serb-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and local Serb forces, with the JNA ending its combat operations in Croatia by 1992. In Croatia, the war is primarily referred to as the “Homeland War”.
Key events from this war are the Battle of Vukovar, during which the JNA completely destroyed the city and committed many mass crimes against prisoners and civilians, and Operation Storm, which liberated most of Croatia and expelled most Serbs from Croatia.
The Croatian Defence Forces (HOS) were the paramilitary arm of the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) from 1991 to 1992, they fought in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. With its name, iconography, and war goals, HOS relied on the regime of the Independent State of Croatia and explicitly stated as its goal the effort to establish a Greater Croatia state, which should include Bosnia and Herzegovina and parts of today’s Serbia (Sandžak, Srijem i Bačka) and Montenegro (Boka Kotorska). The iconography of HOS and the Ustasha salute “Za dom – spremni!” (For homeland – ready!) which is also used by HOS are favorite symbols of the far-right in Croatia.
Journalists exposed that Croatian Sovereignists are forging ties with Azov’s political wing.
Some former fighters of the Azov Brigade from Croatia are now members of the Sovereignists, leaders of groups of football hooligans, or presidents of veterans’ associations.
Tomislav Sunić who ran unsuccessfully for the European Parliament on behalf of the Sovereigntists, and was on the Homeland Movement party list on 2020 parliamentary elections is described as the ‘intellectual guru’ of the Croatian far-right, and The Southern Poverty Law Center describes him as former Croatian diplomat who provides an intellectual voice for white nationalists in America. Sunić sits on the board of directors of the white nationalist American Freedom Party. Sunić was among the main speakers at the European Congress of the NPD’s youth wing and on several occasions been associated with the Hungarian extreme right-wing party Jobbik.
Since 2015, the Despa memorial has been held on the Croatian coast in the summer, organized by the Blood and Honor Croatia. Dozens of neo-Nazis from Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Italy, Bulgaria, Austria, and Germany came to the RAC (Rock Against Communism) concerts.
The far-right is most openly represented in the Croatian Parliament through the Croatian Sovereignists’ Club, which currently has six members, but their numbers are constantly changing. Miroslav Škoro and his sister recently joined them, and Hrvoje Zekanović will probably be expelled soon. In that club, we have singers of Ustasha songs, former commanders of special police units that took part in crimes against Serbian civilians, promoters of alt-right propaganda that equates belonging to the LGBT community with pedophilia, and those who want to dig up the Jasenovac death camp.
The Homeland Movement Club has fallen to eight members, four of whom can easily be described as far-right. The most famous among them is Zlatko Hasabegović, who became famous while he was the Minister of Culture for shutting down non-profit media and removing the name of Marshal Tito Square in Zagreb. In the 1990s, he took part in a violent anti-anti-fascist protest, wore an Ustasha hat worn by HOS members at NDH Day celebrations, and wrote for NDH magazine celebrating Ustashas as heroes and martyrs.
Their representative is also Ante Prkačin, the war chief of the HOS General Staff, whose unit in BiH was mentioned in the context of war crimes against civilians. He regularly uses the parliamentary rostrum to rehabilitate the Ustasha movement and spread Ustasha mythomania. Ivan Penava and Stipo Mlinaric are MPs from Vukovar, whose entire political program is reduced to spreading hatred towards Serbs.
MOST (The Bridge) was once a non-ideological party of the center, they underwent a rebranding in conservative clerical movement that rode on a wave of protests against measures to suppress covid. That made them the most popular and most dangerous right-wing opposition party at the moment. At least two of their representatives can be easily labeled far-right due to the constant spread of hatred towards refugees and the use of the Ustasha salute.
At the last European Parliament elections, Ruža Tomašić’s Croatian Sovereignists coalition won another mandate. In 2013, she was a candidate for the HDZ. Journalists revealed that Tomašić had published poems glorifying Ustahsa and NDH leader Ante Pavelić, and had been photographed wearing an Ustasha uniform while living in Canada. After that Tomašić told a Croatian journalist that she was “not ashamed” of this and attempted to whitewash the large-scale atrocities committed by the Ustasa and NDH.
The Croatian weekly (Hrvatski tjednik) systematically denies the crime of genocide committed against Jews, Roma, and Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia and the Ustasha system of the Jasenovac camp. It promotes the deniers of the Jasenovac genocide and the Holocaust and calls for the financing of their activities, while in various ways it affirms the Ustasha movement and the character and work of Chief Ante Pavelić.
The media have repeatedly reported on the disgusting writing of Hrvatski tjednik. For example, claiming that the Social Democratic Party of Croatia is “full of potential terrorists and murderers”. Ombudsman Lora Vidovic, historian Hrvoje Klasic, IDS President Boris Miletic, Zagreb Jewish Community president Ognjen He called Kraus and Milorad Pupovac “riders of the Greater Serbia apocalypse in Croatia”. They called the rape of a girl in Zadar a fabrication. They called former Presidents Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic “shameless”, Stjepan Mesic an “asshole” and Pope Francis himself an “antichrist”, spreading hatred and the most obscure conspiracy theories, such as that the coronavirus is a “planetary satanic operation of biological warfare” aimed at “chipping” a vaccine to control humanity.
Since 2014, the TV show “Bujica” hosted by Velimir Bujanac has been spreading the most extreme ideas of the Croatian far-right three times a week. In the 1990s, Bujanec established himself as a fascist bully who beat people in the stands, smashing memorial plaques to NOB fighters, worships Hitler, burns left-wing newspaper, demolishing Tito’s bust, threatens death to Serb minority and activists, expelling “niggers” from UNPROFOR (UN peacekeeping force in Croatia) and ‘dirty Jews’, calling himself Croatian Ustasha all the time.
Thanks to the right-wing political mainstream, Bujanec will be promoted to a star of the Croatian right and an unofficial channel for most of their incitements, from war veterans protests, pro-Ustasha revisionism, attacks on Serb minorities, and anti-fascist.
Due to hate speech in the talk show Bujica from November 5, 2018, the Council for Electronic Media decided to revoke the concession for 24 hours to the broadcasters who broadcast the disputed show. The show called for violence against migrants. Migrants were called sick people, infected with severe and infectious diseases (AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis) which, according to the guest of the show, migrants deliberately spread.
In addition to Bujica and Hrvatski tjednik, there are many Internet portals of the far right that are constantly emerging and disappearing, which mostly spread texts, transcripts and video clips from these two media, but also produce their content full of hate speech and harassment.
The Supreme Court confirmed the conviction of the Croatian Democratic Union for the Fimi-media affair, named for the private company used to channel public funds into the HDZ’s coffers. The verdict indirectly exposed the back of the far right of Croats. It has been unequivocally established that Hrvatski’s list, which is now called Hrvatski tjednik and delivers most of media fascism in Croatia, was also bought with looted money. Another symbol of the far-right, singer Marko Perkovic Thompson, received money not to sing in the far-right opposition election campaign.
The Ministry of Culture has donated 1.3 million kuna from the European Social Fund to the portal Priznajem, which openly promotes pro-Ustasha revisionism, calls Serbian returnees ‘abolished Chetniks’, NGOs ‘inhumane haters of Croatia’, and LGBT behavior ‘a sign of serious illness’. The head of the association and editor-in-chief of the Priznajem portal Hrvoje Macan and the head of marketing and his brother Mario were also members of the pro-fascist organization Croatian National Front, which in its founding message in 2010 called for violent methods.
The World Youth Association of Croatia, which received 941 thousand kuna from the same Fund, operates in accordance with the goals and mission of the American organization World Youth Alliance. Globally, they are fighting sex education, abortion, premarital sex, and condoms. Their political sponsors claim that HIV is ‘God’s punishment for homosexuality and drug use’. They also fiercely lobbied for the expulsion of gays from anti-discrimination documents.
Documents published on WikiLeaks show that at the end of 2013, Croatia was among the priority countries to which the CitizenGO platform decided to expand its influence and funds That year a referendum was held in Croatia on the constitutional definition of marriage initiated by the association of Željka Markić, In the Name of the Family.
The documents show a number of financial transactions with the association In the Name of the Family, and besides Željka Markić, other well-known political names in Croatia are mentioned, such as MEP Karlo Resler or Nikolina Čorak from the Ministry of Veterans and Vice Batarelo, who attended their conferences and summits.