A revisionist relationship to Antifascist history is not only a Croatian problem, although that is no comfort. “Unusual” changes to history are also an issue in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. Despite everything, however, there are “resistance movements” that are trying to preserve Antifascism as a pledge from the past to the future – this was the message from GONG’s conference of the same name held in the Croatian Journalists Association on May 7 – a day before the 70th anniversary since the liberation of Zagreb and the victory over Fascism.
I always welcome invitations to professional conferences. They are always an opportunity to hear and learn something new, to exchange ideas and views with colleagues. The focus of my interest is the study of the Holocaust – a subject that, for some, still belongs to sensitive historic subjects. For me, the further away a conference is from home, the better my feelings about participating; the closer it is to the Homeland (with a capital 'H'), the worse the knot in my stomach. Why? Because in Croatia, sensitive subjects are slowly being transformed into taboo subjects.
Apart from the usual labels of being a Yugo-nostalgic, Freemason, Jew, Serb, foreign mercenary etc., speaking publicly about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism has secured me overt death threats, just as has speaking publicly about Antifascism. That is why I find it hard to explain to my colleagues from the U.S. or the Netherlands why I am so excited about organizing an online quiz entitled „70 years since victory was won“. What's the big deal? The big deal is the fact that, in 2015, someone would call you an „Antifascist“, meant as an offense.
When reading about the events regarding the relationship towards Antifascist values in former Yugoslav countries, we can reach the conclusion, probably rightly so, that in Montenegro the situation is not that bad. The uprising of July 3 1941, a symbol of the Antifascist struggle in Yugoslavia, had become the Statehood Day of Montenegro. Still, this was aided by the fact that Montenegro gained international recognition on the same day in 1878 at the Berlin Congress, so there was no dilemma that July 13 would get its proper treatment.
“Professor, how is it possible that, as an elementary school pupil, I learned that the Partisans were good and the Četniks were bad; as a secondary school student, I learned that Partisans were good, but so were the Četniks; and today, in University, I am learning that Partisans were bad and Četniks were good?”
“Dear colleague, it is called ‘transition’!”
“Us people from the Balkans are afflicted with an illness, the obsession with change”, said in his time Jovan Ćirilov, dramatist and member of the first Committee for the change of street names in 1991. Between 1991, while Vojislav Šešelj and his supporters were holding performances in front of the House of Flowers, brandishing a wooden stake they would drive through the heart of Josip Broz Tito, and 1996, while the Mayors of Belgrade were Milorad Unković, Slobodanka Gruden and Nebojša Čović of the Socialist Party of Serbia, 70 streets were reassigned and 110 were given new names.
One of the photographs made during WWII made its way around the world. It displays the moment when, on May 22 1942, Partisan commandant Stjepan (Stevan) Filipović, a noose around his neck, fists held up high, hailed freedom and called the gathered people to take up arms and begin the fight against Fascism. This photograph, life-sized, has found its place in the United Nations building as a symbol of resistance to Fascism. A monument to this revolutionary was erected in Valjevo in 1961.
The educational system in Bosnia-Herzegovina is probably one of the least functional ones in the world. In a country with only 3.5 million inhabitants, there are as many as 13 Ministries of Education and at least 12 different curricula. Especially problematic is the situation in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where each of the 10 Cantons has its own education department and, consequently, its own curriculum which may or may not differ substantially from curricula that are in place elsewhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina (B-H). This is a direct consequence of the political system of B-H, with the fact that severely divided jurisdictions enable extreme autonomy in curriculum making, with much room for the influence of politics and political ideologies.
Findings of research on young people in Croatia show a decreasing acceptance for constitutional values, no trust in social institutions and a loss of interest for politics, leading to inadequate political socialization of young citizens and their low democratic potential. An additional cause for alarm in this respect is the latest refusal to introduce mandatory civic education, contributing further to the systematic production of followers instead of active citizens.
Is this Government capable of undertaking any reform when still after three year it failed to introduce civic education and is now abandoning the idea – that was the question asked by civil society organization at a press conference in the Human Rights House in exasperation with Government’s moves. They hold the Government entirely incompetent, and another one in line of governments that fear free thinking citizens and prefer uneducated citizens susceptible to different manipulations.
Organizations gathered under the umbrella of GOOD Initiative for systematic and quality introduction of civic education in schools and Platform 112 hereby call upon the Government of the Republic of Croatia to ensure quality introduction and implementation of content and methods aiming at development of civic competences of pupils as active and responsible citizens pursuant to proclamations and plans based in Plan 21 and the Coalition Agreement.