President Stirs Controversy
with WWII Remains Issue
ZAGREB, April 23 (Reuters) President Franjo Tudjman wants the remains of historically prominent Croats, including late Yugoslav communist dictator Tito and the head of Croatia's World War Two fascist regime, to be returned to their homeland. "I support the idea that the bones of every Croatian man who lived for Croatia be returned to Croatian soil," the nationalist president said in an interview published on Tuesday in the government-controlled newspaper Vecernji List.
"Why leave Pavelic out of it?" Tudjman said, referring to Ante Pavelic, the head of Croatia's Nazi puppet "Ustasha" regime in 1941-45 that was responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews and gypsies. "It must be said that (Pavelic's) idea of creating a Croatian state contained positive things, but it must be also acknowledged that in the implementation of his policy he made terrible mistakes," Tudjman said.
Tudjman, 72, fought with Tito's Partisans against German occupation during World War Two and later rose to the rank of general in Tito's army. He subsequently embraced Croatian nationalism and became a historian before turning to politics. He has drawn criticism from Jews, Serbs and Western officials and analysts in the past for what they say is his insensitive historical revisionism.
In 1993, two years after Tudjman led Croatia to independence from federal Yugoslavia, Zagreb introduced a new currency, the kuna, with the same name as the official currency of Pavelic's "Independent State of Croatia." Tudjman recently revived his idea of turning a monument to the victims of Ustasha rule at the Jasenovac death camp site into an "all-Croatian" memorial ground, an idea fiercely opposed by Croatia's remnant Jewish minority.
Revises Historians' WWII Death Toll
He said on Monday that his own research showed that "no more" than 40,000 people were killed under Ustasha rule. Most historians put the number of Jews, Serbs and others slaughtered at Jasenovac alone at around 80,000. Tudjman said the remains of Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the longtime strongman president of Yugoslavia who was also a Croat, should be transferred to Croatia from Belgrade, where he was buried in 1980.
"It is certain that world history will remember Tito as one of the most distinguished leaders of World War Two," Tudjman said, adding that he came to believe Tito was the mostsuccessful Croat politician ever. Tito led the multinational Yugoslav Partisan resistance against the Nazi German army and its collaborators, and revived Yugoslavia under Communist rule after the war.
Tudjman also praised Tito for taking Yugoslavia out of Soviet dictator Stalin's orbit in 1948, an event the Croatia leader said was of "worldwide importance." But Tito's Yugoslavia started disintegrating in the 1980s after his death opened the door for the rise of republican nationalist leaders, including Tudjman. Tudjman, once one of Tito's youngest generals, later left the army under pressure because of his Croatian nationalism.
But Tudjman, who comes from the same peasant background and geographical region near Zagreb as Tito, often seems to view the late Yugoslav leader as a stylistic role model. He appears to mimick Tito's iron authoritarianism and his fondness of grand military parades and pompous high life.
Apart from Tito and Pavelic, prominent Croats whose remains Tudjman wants reburied in Croatia include a pre-World War Two politician Vladko Macek and a Croat nationalist emigrant, Bruno Busic, killed in Paris by the Yugoslav secret service. Tudjman regards the posthumous repatriation of top Croats, and the building of a memorial for Croats fighting on both sides in 1941-45 and for those who died in Croatia's 1991 independence war, as a step towards a "reconciliation of divided Croathood" and reinforcement of national unity.
Berserkistan is a world news service of Michael Linder Productions, Inc.
©1995-1996, All Rights Reserved