News 19 Jul 17

Croatian Town Removes Tito’s Name from Square

The town of Karlovac changed the name of a square dedicated to Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito to honour 1990s war veterans, amid an ongoing dispute in Croatia about the former Communist leaders legacy.

Sven Milekic
Josip Broz Tito (centre) in 1961. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Flodur44.

The municipal assembly in the town of Karlovac in central Croatia voted on Tuesday for a square dedicated to Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito to be renamed Croatian Defenders Square in honour of 1990s war veterans.

Karlovac’s mayor, Damir Mandic, argued that Tito “suppressed basic human rights”.

“We don’t have a reason to be ashamed of this decision… I don’t know, what should we be ashamed of? Let’s be the first in Croatia to pass a decision like this,” he said.

Mandic cited a number of similar initiatives for changing the names of squares and streets dedicated to Tito across Croatia - the most prominent being the planned renaming of Marshal Tito Square in central Zagreb.

The initiative in Karlovac came from nine 1990s war veterans associations, with the ruling Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ giving its support, while the opposition, led by Social Democratic Party, SDP, rejected the proposal and accused the other parties of using the veterans.

The HDZ was even backed by Ivan Vilibor Sincic, president of the anti-establishment Living Wall political group, a staunch opponent of the ruling party’s politics in parliament.

In Zagreb, the idea of renaming Marshal Tito Square was initiated by far-right politicians - controversial former Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic and new right-wing star Bruna Esih, whose electoral list won five out 51 seats in the capital’s municipal assembly in the local elections on May 21.

In need of these five seats to form a majority in the assembly, veteran Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic decided last month to propose that Marshal Tito Square be renamed the Square of the Republic of Croatia.

Due to Hasanbegovic’s public criticism of the WWII anti-fascist struggle in Croatia and Yugoslavia, some have seen the move as a part of an ongoing attempt by right-wingers to suppress the anti-fascist legacy in the country.

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.

Mandic insisted however that “anti-fascism as a European value in Karlovac is not being called into question”.

“Indeed, those who stood up in 1991 against the fascism of the [Yugoslav] regime at the time were anti-fascists,” he argued.

“In my opinion, Karlovac needs a square of victims of totalitarian regimes. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but I assert that communism has done the greatest damage to anti-fascism,” he added.

However, the SDP’s representative in the Karlovac assembly, Dario Jankovic, argued that it was possible to support the idea of having a square named after Tito as well as one dedicated to war veterans.

“I support war veterans having their own square … But now it turns out that anyone who has a different opinion about changing the name of Josip Broz Tito [square] is also against war veterans, which is a manipulation and a lie,” Jankovic said.

Croatian Defenders Square already existed in Karlovac, right next to Josip Broz Tito Square, but now the entire location will be unified into a single square without Tito’s name.

During the debate in the Karlovac assembly, Jankovic read a passage from a book written by Croatia’s 1990s President Franjo Tudjman, the co-founder of the HDZ, in which he praised Tito.

“I ask you, doesn’t a man who Tudjman mentions as one of the biggest statesmen in Europe, who opposed [Soviet leader Joseph] Stalin when the whole West was powerless, deserve a piece of a street in Karlovac?” Jankovic asked.

After leading the Partisans to victory 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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