news 02 Sep 13

Croatia War Veterans Trash Cyrillic Signs in Vukovar

Angry ex-soldiers tore down the bilingual Croatian and Serbian signs which were installed on state buildings by the government as part of its attempts to support minority rights.

Boris Pavelic
BIRN
Zagreb
 

The bilingual signs with Latin and Cyrillic script which were installed on the from the Vukovar government, police and tax administration buildings on Monday morning were taken down soon afterwards by several dozen Croatian veterans who defended the city which was devastated by Serb forces in the 1990s war.

Tensions remained high during the day with dozens of police officers maintaining a high profile in the city to prevent unrest.

Vukovar police said that four officers were injured during scuffles with protesters, but there were no arrests.

The leader of the war veterans, Tomislav Josic, vowed at a press conference in Vukovar that the resistance would continue and “the city will boil until Friday”.

“Our friends from all over Croatia would come and help us tear down the signs,” Josic said.

“Cyrillic once came to Vukovar on tanks, and now it is coming with powerful police forces and cars,” he added.

The signs were installed as the Croatian authorities started on Monday to introduce Serbian language and the Cyrillic script into official use in about 20 municipalities where Serbs make up more than a third of the population – a requirement under the country’s minority rights law.

According to the 2011 census, 34.87 per cent of the population of Vukovar is Serbian.

But war veterans have strongly opposed the introduction of bilingualism in the city which has a special symbolic significance for Croatians, and have organised a series of mass protests against the government plan where they vowed to use force to stop the signs being installed.

Croatia’s public administration minister Arsen Bauk, who is responsible for the introduction of bilingualism, claimed that the protests were “politically motivated”.

Bauk said that he hoped that the introduction of Cyrillic would be “properly implemented in a way that suits the moment and all that Vukovar went through in the war”.

He also pointed out that Vukovar city council has the legal right to restrict the implementation of the minority rights law in places where there are fewer Serbs.

Serb political representatives in Croatia meanwhile urged the authorities to react to the protests.

“The state must not recoil before unlawfulness and those who destroy state property,” said Serbian Independent Democratic Party MP Milorad Pupovac.

“The persistence of those who oppose laws and European obligations is becoming a big problem,” Pupovac said.

Vukovar, on the border with Serbia, was besieged and demolished by the Yugoslav Army and Serbian paramilitaries in 1991, becoming a symbol of Croatian resistance.

More than a thousand people were killed during the siege. After Serbian forces took the city, more than 200 wounded and prisoners of war were taken from Vukovar hospital to nearby farm Ovcara and executed; at that time, it was the biggest mass killing in Europe since World War II.

 Photo by Beta
 Photo by Beta

 

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