News 27 Jun 17

Zagreb Mayor Decides to Rename Tito Square

Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic said that he will ask the city assembly for the square named after former Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito to be renamed the Square of the Republic of Croatia.

Sven Milekic
A protest for keeping the square named after Tito on June 22, Croatia's Day of the Anti-Fascist Struggle. Photo: Sven Milekic.

To meet demands from a new right-wing political party in order to secure a majority in the city assembly, veteran Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic announced on Monday that he will propose to the first session of the new assembly this week that Marshal Tito Square in central Zagreb is renamed.

The new right-wing party, gathered around controversial former Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic and MP Bruna Esih, won five seats out of 49 in the local elections on May 21, with a campaign that included their suggestion that the square be renamed because of the crimes committed during the Yugoslav President Tito’s reign.

Bandic had insisted until Monday that the issue would be resolved by a local referendum, but changed his mind and said that he will propose at the assembly session on Thursday that the square is renamed the Square of the Republic of Croatia.

“This square deserves to have the most beautiful and most important name for a square in the Republic of Croatia,” Bandic told a press conference on Monday evening on the square.

“My suggestion to the committee for the naming of neighbourhoods, streets and squares at the first session of the assembly is that this square is called the Square of the Republic of Croatia,” he said.

The governing centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, will also back Bandic’s proposal, and so he will be able to secure a narrow majority of 25 assembly members. The HDZ confirmed on Monday that it will begin talks about joining a coalition in the assembly.

Hasanbegovic said that he was satisfied about the name being changed, although he had advocated that it be called Theatre Square, as the Croatian National Theatre is located there.

“It is a matter of civilisational hygiene that this square doesn’t bear the name of the person and the symbol of the Yugoslav Communist dictatorship,” Hasanbegovic told the private Nova TV station.

Theatre Square is a name used between 1945 and 1946, and was strongly advocated by far-right groups who have protested for the name change on the square each May.

But Pedja Grbin, an MP from the opposition Social Democratic Party, SDP, wrote on Facebook that if it had not been for Tito’s anti-fascist Partisans, his native region of Istria would not be a part of Croatia and he would not be an MP.

“Death to fascism, freedom to the people,” he added, quoting a well-known slogan.

Socialist Yugoslavia took control of Istria at the end of World War II after it had been under Italian control for over 20 years.

Anti-fascist groups and left-wing parties claim that renaming Marshal Tito Square is part of an aggressive attempt to undermine Croatia’s anti-fascist legacy.

“The question of the renaming of the Marshal Tito Square is not just the abolition of a glorious history but also the abolition of our future. Who has the square has the future of our children as well,” the Square Is Ours campaign group, which is against the renaming, said on Monday.

From the 1990s onwards, many streets named after anti-fascist fighters and units have been renamed, and around anti-fascist 3,000 monuments partially or completely destroyed.

Hasanbegovic also said last Thursday, on Croatia’s Day of the Anti-Fascist Struggle, that the annual commemoration of the victory over fascism should be banned because the country should only celebrate events from the 1990s onwards.

Meanwhile the New Left political party on Monday called on NGOs, other parties and the general public to sign a petition to keep the square’s name.

After leading the Partisans during WWII, Tito ruled Yugoslavia until his death in 1980.

The post-war crimes and human rights abuses committed under his rule, along with the economic, cultural and social progress made at the same time, have ensured that he has remained a disputed figure in the region.

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