"A group of about three to four people in their 40s approached us. They were visibly inebriated and started swearing at 'our Chetnik mother', asking 'how come we were not ashamed to come to Zagreb'. My wife and I looked at each other and remained silent. What were we to do, we were here with small children? We waited for their rampage to end but it went on for a while and then they left with the message that they would take care of us and the children, should we ever return", Dušan Kovačević, the director of the Novi Sad music festival Exit, said during his visit to Zagreb. The incident occurred in mid-February 2017, the same month that stickers appeared on the streets of Vukovar with the invitation to hang Serbs, and that members of the extreme right party Autochthonous – Croatian Party of Rights (A-HSP) marched through the Croatian capital dressed in black. Last February will also be remembered as a month when an Ustasha graffiti appeared on the Orthodox church of Holy Trinity in Bjelovar, a protected cultural monument. Also in February, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Milanka Opačić, received police protection because of the photomontage inspired by her Serb nationality, published by the portal Dnevno.hr. Dalmatia was no exception to this trend. At the end of February, organisers of a carnival in Kaštele near Split, torched before hundreds of spectators and effigy of Milorad Pupovac, the president of the Serb National Council (SNC) and of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS).

These are six from among 393 events which the SNC registered in 2017 as displaying ethnic intolerance, revisionism, denial of historic events, offences, threats, physical attacks and hate speech against Serbs in Croatia. Data that we have been gathering since 2014 indicate that such incidents are on the rise. To be more precise: last year we registered an average of one event per day containing elements of historic revisionism and/or ethnic intolerance towards Serbs. But this increase has not been as drastic as the year before (between 2015 and 2016, the SNC noted a 57 percent rise in the number of such events) — which can be ascribed to the chauvinist campaign led by the then HDZ (Croatian Democratic Party) president Tomislav Karamarko. We are still witnessing the consequences of this campaign even today. Although the current coalition government led by the HDZ and supported by the liberal HNS (Croatian People’s Party) and representatives of national minorities, formally condemns such occurrences, it still is not energetic in curbing anti-minority and pro-Ustasha manifestations in the society.

This can be seen from the fact that in September a plaque bearing the Ustasha salute "For homeland ready" was simply transferred from Jasenovac, site of WW2 death camp, to the nearby town of Novska. Related to this, the government negotiated with Marko Skejo, the commander of the notorious IX battalion of the Croatian Defence Forces (HOS, paramilitary troops) named after the WW2 Ustasha criminal Rafael Boban, which had fought in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s. The government also negotiated with Anto Đapić, a former mayor of Osijek and president of the extreme right party HSP (Croatian Party of Rights), which had announced it would initiate a referendum to eliminate the national minorities’ right to be represented in the Croatian Parliament.

Aside from the visible manifestations that aim to send a message to Serbs that they, their culture, language, and script, not to mention political activity, are not welcome in Croatia, what is even more frightening is that the phenomena of this kind are so omnipresent in our society that they are almost tacitly accepted. This leaves an impression that the executive and legislative power, as well as the judiciary, will have to put in much more efforts just to halt the rise of such phenomena, and even more to supress them.

Bulletin #14: Historic Revisionism, Hate Speech and Violence Against Serbs in 2017