News 02 Mar 17

Croatia to Review Use of Fascist, Communist Symbols

The Croatian government has set up a council that will examine how to deal with the legacy of the WWII-era fascist and post-WWII communist regimes in the country.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Andrej Plenkovic in the government. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Denis CERIC/MO

The Croatian government on Thursday adopted a decision to establish the Council for Dealing with Consequences of the Rule of Non-Democratic Regimes to draft “comprehensive recommendations aimed at dealing with the past”.

The council is to develop “recommendations for the legal regulation of the use… of the insignia and symbols of non-democratic regimes”, as well as to examine how such periods in history are taught in schools, how their anniversaries are commemorated, and whether figures from these regimes should have streets named after them.

“The starting point is a clean break from all totalitarianism,” Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at the government session.

The establishment of the council is a reaction to continuing controversies over the public use of the Croatian World War II fascist Ustasa movement’s slogan.

The 18-member council, which will include historians, law professors and judges, must base its recommendations solely on “scientifically valued historical facts”, the government said.

It will also include political scientists, the deans of various university faculties and the heads of Croatia’s cultural institutions - Croatian Academy of Science and Arts, the Miroslav Krleza Institute of Lexicography and Matica Hrvatska (‘Parent Body of Croatia’).

“It will convey to the government proposals to preserve memories, scientific research, documentation, policies for naming streets and squares, the enabling of public access to information, the distribution of knowledge and the education of children and young people about violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms during the government of undemocratic regimes,” Plenkovic said.

Plenkovic first announced the formation of the council in December, after a plaque with the slogan of the Ustasa movement – ‘Za dom spremni’ (‘Ready for the Home(land)’) – was discovered in the municipality of Jasenovac in central Croatia, near the site of the country’s biggest WWII concentration camp, where the Ustasa killed over 83,000 of Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-fascists between 1941 and 1945.

There was speculation at the time that the council would discuss the banning of the red star, a symbol of former socialist Yugoslavia and its anti-fascist WWII fighters.

Some experts argued that such bans could involve serious risks.

Since the 1990s and the break-up of Yugoslavia, Croatia has been split over the historical interpretation of the Ustasa-led, Nazi-aligned Independent State of Croatia and of socialist Yugoslavia, which went through totalitarian and authoritarian phases.

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