Published in Nacional number 375, 2003-01-22

Autor: Robert Bajruši

Sports, cultural and media elite all back failed ideologies

Athletes led right wing in Croatia

The paradox of the Croatian reality is seen in the fact that on 3 January 2000, the nationalist party HDZ was defeated, but despite this, the right-wingers continue to shape public opinion

“I said that in the quarterfinals of the European Championship, I was cheering for Germany, because I like the Germans, especially when in tanks or warplanes. Further, the Germans gave the Russians such a beating in this Championship that it was revenge for Stalingrad and everything else,” Regardless of how this comment appears that it could have come from Ante or Ivica Kostelić, this sentence in fact does not belong to any of the members of the most famous skiing family of today. This comment was made at a press conference by – Miroslav Ćiro Blažević, then coach of the Croatian National Football Team, just before the quarterfinal match against the Germans at the 1995 European Championships in England. And while a similar statement by a head coach from any other national team would have resulted in his automatic suspension and likely the forced end to his career, in Croatia, this was seen as a good joke.

If one considers the financial advantages – football players who pay no taxes to the state, the debt worth hundreds of millions of kunas in the football clubs Dinamo, Hajduk and others, the numerous sinecures for filming statebuilding films and plays, reasonable housing loans and testimonials by the right journalists – this are only some of the benefits which this group has become accustomed during the period of Tudjman’s ruleBlažević’s reference to Nazi tanks and warplanes and the revenge mission of the German National Football team for the massacre at Stalingrad, this statement saw only some erratic resistance in Croatia. The foreign press never learned about Blažević’s comments, and no one other than the Croatian readers had the opportunity to learn that the Croatian players considered Bertie Vogts a vengeful soldier commanded by the field marshal Von Paulus. In so much, Blažević did not differ much from Antun Vrdoljak, former president of the Croatian Olympic Committee, stated on Croatian Television in 1997: “Now you’re going to accuse me again of being a chauvinist or a racist, but 60% of the medals for France were won by black people. Are the French black?”

Thus situation is more than clear. Miroslav Blažević, Ante and Ivica Kostelić are no exception but, on the contrary, the most representative spokespeople of the right wing neo Nazi ideologies rooted in Croatia in the early 1990s. Ivica Kostelić has had two cases of bad luck: first his father irritates people by his unequivocal rejection to pay taxes to the states and his comments about “a president with dark hair and blue eyes”, and considering that Ivica is a world class athlete, his comment was quickly picked up and carried by numerous world newspapers. Nor is the list of those defending Kostelić any surprise, as the three most conservative political parties, Budiša’s HSLS, Pašalić’s HB and Đapić’s HSP had dared to do so by Saturday, 18 January.

The Singer and the Priest

The paradox of the Croatian reality is seen in the fact that on 3 January 2000, the nationalist party HDZ was defeated, but despite this, the right-wingers continue to shape public opinion. The singer Marko Perković Thompson, the self-proclaimed healer Zlatko Sudac, a series of film directors from Antun Vrdoljak, Jakov Sedlar, Zlatko Vitez, Anja Šovagović, Vedran Mlikota, Milan Štrljić, athletes Igor Štimac, Zvonimir Boban, Miroslav Blažević, Ivo Šušak. Iva Majoli, Franjo Arapović and many journalists, writers and other public figures which have been leading their right-wing counter-revolution over the past three years.

Though their standpoint has nothing to do with the usual statements by conservatives in democratic states, where world views are founded on tradition democratic values, in Croatia, everything revolves around nostalgia for the Ustasha period and rejection for the based values of liberal democracy. Further, in an interview for Nacional, Ivica Kostelić assessed that liberal democracy was “the greatest fraud, as it gives the people the impression that they have the power”. If one adds the financial advantages – football players who pay no taxes to the state, the debt worth hundreds of millions of kunas in the football clubs Dinamo, Hajduk and others, the numerous sinecures for filming statebuilding films and plays, reasonable housing loans and testimonials by the right journalists – this are only some of the benefits which this group has become accustomed during the period of Tudjman’s rule.

The two most important figures on the Croatian right-wing became arose last year – Marko Perković Thompson and Zlatko Sudac. Thompson begins his concerts with the shout “For our home!” to which the public responds “Ready!”, and the end of the concert is regularly reserved for singing a Ustasha rising hymn. In a hit song on his new album, he describes an explicit list of enemies “Anti-Christs and masons, Communists, these, those, spreading Satanist phrases to defeat us, oh, my people”. Not a single concert, from Vukovar to Dalmatia did not pass without chants to the current government, “Oh Ivica and Stipe, the black crows will eat you”, while the only free seats in the audience were regularly reserved for those indicted for war crimes, Ante Gotovina and Mirko Norac. Similar political messages could be heard at masses led by Zlatko Sudac, in praying for Generals Bobetko, Gotovina and Norac and the “Croatian prisoners in the Hague”. True, Sudac’s charisma was almost destroyed by television footage showing him leading the mass in a complete trance, yelling to the believers gathered, “Do not be ashamed to be a Croat, I am proud to be a Croat!”

Attacks on the press

Two other events have again tied together the village singer and the young priest, and in both cases, the press were the targets. First, Sudac’s bodyguards attacked photographers who were trying to photograph the mass, and their cameras seized, film ripped out and they were insulted and called “Communists”, while the press units which tried to cover Thompson’s New Year’s concert in Stuttgart faced similar treatment. While his bodyguards forced the journalists to strip, and threatened to rape them, Perković watched quietly, and several days afterwards justified the violence with the accusation that the reporters were “Yugoslavs and Communists”.

Igor Štimac was more temperamental, and more effective. One of the leading right wingers, and well known for his radical nationalist position, in December 2002 he was fined 1134 kuna for disturbing the peace for his attack on the ‘Capo’ café and the beating of the owner Željko Vidović 15 months earlier. The reason for the attack: Vidović decided not to play a song about Ante Gotovina in his locale. Though there is information that Štimac was involved in the mining of Serbian houses in 1992, over the last decade this arrogant right-winger has become one of the wealthiest citizens of Split. He owns a café and a discotheque in Split and on the island of Brač, and in the early winter, the residents of Bol protested against the concession granted for the famous Zlatni Rat beach to Štimac’s relative. This concession, which guarantees millions in profit, was a gift by the county which is run by right-wing prefect Branimir Lukšić.

“Franjo Tudjman led us, gave us the idea on how to firmly and decisively achieve our goal. We succeeded, when we all worked together. When the HDZers lost the elections, they handed over the elections, and now when I hear about ten years of darkness, I just can’t come to. Let those critics leave the ‘darkness’ and look for the light somewhere outside of Croatia,” stated Zvonimir Boban in an interview. A regular at Thompson concerts, he has achieved the status of ‘intellectual’ with certain media, since he enrolled in college at the age of 30, and he is considered a shoe in for the next president of the Croatian Football Association. He referred to the conflict with the police at the football match between Dinamo and Crvena Zvezda in 1990 as the unofficial beginning of the Patriotic War, however, while the aggression was ongoing, Boban did not spend a single day in Croatia. Nonetheless, together with Štimac, Rađe, Vranković, Ivanišević, Asanović and several other athletes, he signed an appeal accusing the government of treasonous behaviour for deciding to hand over Generals Ademi and Gotovina to the ICTY. The fact that none of these men participated in a single action during the war did not bother them in accusing the government for betraying the national interests.

Financial support for the members of the so-called “Croatian actors” was secured by Franjo Tudjman, and in return propaganda such as Sedlar’s documentary “Franjo Tudjman: Croatia’s George Washington” was filmed. Sedlar is also author of the most controversial film “Četverored” about the ending of World War II, filmed with the generous assistance from the state and the Croatian military. Though the film dealt with the partisan crimes at Bleiburg, the basic these is that the Communists were behind the crime, and their successors today are the Social Democrats.

‘Diehard persecutors of patriotism’
The proximity of the right wing was sign in the signing of the Christmas statement of support for Ante Gotovina, in which among the 555 signatures were 50 artists. Demands to end cooperation with the ICTY, thus resulting in the complete isolation of Croatia, was also signed by the former HDZ Minister of Culture Zlatko Vitez, who only days called those supporters of cultural cooperation with Serbian and Montenegrin artists “diehard persecutors of patriotism and national emotion, which for Croatia is a necessary evil”.

Štimac, Boban, Blažević, Sudac, Thompson, Sedlar, Vitez and dozens of other public figures have passed their viewpoints on to the majority of the Croatian society. Today, that society is in general unable to see the boundary where patriotism ends and xenophobia begins. For years, the indoctrinated exaltation of NDH or Nazism, most frequently from the mouths of athletes, the social elite, press and even certain church officials, saw the most recent statements by Ante and Ivica Kostelić as no more than a good joke. However, the world outside Croatia does not even permit Nazism and its quisling variations in jokes, not even when those comments are uttered at high altitudes with reduced oxygen levels. The Kostelić’s will learn this lesson well, but the question remains, what about the others?

Music and Politics

The fact that it is difficult in artistic-media circles and virtually impossible in the sporting society to find individuals who openly support the civil-liberal options would sound like pure science fiction in the majority of countries. In Croatia, only a few dozen people over the past years have dared to speak out against xenophobia or to publicly criticize the exaltation of neo-Ustashism. In the last election campaign, Goran Bare, lead singer of the group Majke, explained why he joined the allied parties, SDP and HSLS, “I don’t want my child to be ashamed to be from Croatia.”

Unlike him, Husein Hasanefendić and Parni Valjak have decided to no longer support any political parties. Hasanefendić unquestionably blames the ruling coalition, “We did not sing for money but for our beliefs. Now those beliefs have disappeared and we will not perform at all.” Former HTV journalist and director of the film ‘Novo, Novo Vrijeme’ Igor Mirković gave his own synthesis of these two opinions: “The coach has turned into a pumpkin, and the overly high expectations of the new government appear to be unfulfilled.” However, it would appear that the best assessment of Croatia today was given by Split priest Ivan Grubišić, whose comments on Ivica Kostelić are no surprise: “For a long time, evil ghosts have been dancing in these regions, which announces nothing good. These comments made by the Kostelić family fit into the revival of those evil ghosts from the past, but that is not the exception, but instead agrees with a good portion of the population which accepts the failed ideologies. Carried away by the results, they have though that they could be arbitrators in all fields. But it seems as though their upbringing has failed where it comes to the civilization problems of society.”

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