Croatia Myth&Reality: Tudjman is a recent convert from communism to democracy

MYTH:"TUDJMAN IS A RECENT CONVERT FROM COMMUNISM TO DEMOCRACY"

Myth: Until recently Croatian President Franjo Tudjman was a Communist Yugoslav Army general. Both Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic are recent converts from Communism.

Reality: Dr. Franjo Tudjman resigned his Army commission in 1961. He has since been a strong advocate of democracy in Croatia and was imprisoned for his views. Slobodan Milosovic simply changed the name of his party from Communist to Socialist before the 1990 elections.

Franjo Tudjman's long and difficult transition from Yugoslav Army general to President of the Republic of Croatia was as remarkable as the man himself. Franjo Tudjman was born on May 14, 1922 in Veliko Trgovisce in the Zagorje province of Croatia. At the age of nineteen, he joined the Partisans and became a decorated war hero. Like tens of thousands of Croatians who fought with the Partisans, he believed that a new federated Yugoslavia would guarantee the rights of the Croatian nation which had been trampled by the government of Royalist Yugoslavia. The Nazis put a price on Tudjman's head and killed his brother in 1943. Both of Tudjman's parents were killed by the Communists in 1946.

After the War, Tudjman was sent to the advanced military academy in Belgrade. His exceptional abilities led to his appointment as the youngest general in Yugoslavia. After twenty years of service, he left the army with the rank of major general in 1961 at age thirty-eight.

From 1961 through 1967, Tudjman was the Director of the Institute for the History of the Party in Croatia, linked to the Central Committee of the League of Communists. He was a respected member of the Party and held a number of senior political positions. As director of the Institute, he devoted himself entirely to scholarly work and was appointed professor of History at the University of Zagreb in 1963. He obtained his doctorate two years later, specializing in the history of royalist Yugoslavia from 1918-1941. Although the government would not allow his dissertation to be published, his scholarship was such that he was appointed to the board of the academic and cultural society, Matica Hrvatska.

He published a number of works in the fields of military studies, history, philosophy and international relations. His 1981 book Nationalism in Contemporary Europe foretold the great European upheaval a full decade before the tumultuous events of 1991. In 1965, Tudjman was elected to Parliament. At 43 years old, Franjo Tudjman was one of the most respected men in Yugoslavia: a retired major general, member of Parliament, Professor of History, Director of the Institute for the History of the Worker's Movement, Editor of the Yugoslav Military Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Yugoslavia and a dozen other powerful positions in the Party, government and academic community. It was in that year that Secret Police Chief Aleksandar Rankovic began planning for the 25th anniversary of the Liberation War to be observed in 1966.

A part of the celebrations would include dedication of a monument to the "700,000 to 900,000" people who died at the Jasenovac concentration camp. Tudjman, whose Institute had collected the actual number of war deaths in a secret report to be used in gaining war reparations from Germany, knew that Rankovic's figures were inflated by at least ten fold. Tudjman was told not to make trouble for Rankovic, Tito or the Party. Tudjman suggested that the data from his scholarship be made public. The data were later made public by Bruno Busic, an associate of the Institute in 1969. Busic was forced into exile where he was murdered by the Yugoslav Secret Police in 1978.

The Fall

Immediately, Tudjman's appointment to the Yugoslav Academy was voided and he was removed as Director of the Institute for the History of the Labor Movement by Rankovic. Even Rankovic's own fall in 1966 did not save Tudjman from mounting persecution. By 1967 he was removed from all offices and duties for stating his views on history and the Croatian language. In 1969, he lost his seat in Parliament. At the same time, Franjo Tudjman became one of the leaders of the great liberalization movement known as the Croatian Spring. That movement reached its peak in the Fall of 1971 before being ruthlessly crushed by Tito and his hardline Communist government in December of that year.

On October 12, 1972, after a brief so-called trial, Tudjman was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for counter-revolutionary activity and "hostile activity against the State." Upon appeal, the charges were changed to "hostile propaganda" and he was released after nine months and stripped of his civil rights including the right to publish, speak in public or travel outside the country. In 1977 Tudjman violated this ban by granting an interview to Swedish television. Although the interview was blocked by a diplomatic protest from Yugoslavia, Swedish television aired a one minute excerpt and the text was published in Sweden's Dagens Nyheter and Germany's Der Spiegel in October 1977. Within months it had been translated into English and published throughout the world. In 1979, Tudjman was named co-chairman of the International Democratic Committee to Aid Democratic Dissidents in Yugoslavia, a New York based human rights organization. On November 17, 1980 Tudjman was again indicted for the crime of "maliciously and falsely representing socio-political conditions in Yugoslavia." The Communist's Orwellian double-speak may have reached its apex when, in an indictment for speaking to a foreign reporter, the prosecutor wrote: "It is well known that (Tudjman's statements) are untrue because in the SFRY not only in its constitutional and legal decrees, but in the everyday life of its inhabitants as well, complete equality of all nations and nationalities in all areas has been realized, as has full freedom of the expression of opinion." Tudjman's eloquent defense was published in a number of languages and became a part of the literature for the democratization of Yugoslavia. "Everything I said was an expression of my personal belief in accordance with the ideals for which I fought in the Socialist Revolution and the anti-Fascist War" he said.

Tudjman was sentenced to three years in jail and loss of all civil rights for eight years. Before entering prison in November 1981, he was admitted to a Zagreb hospital with a heart condition. Despite a world-wide outcry that included the naming of Tudjman as a "Prisoner of Conscience" by Amnesty International, Tudjman was sent to the infamous Lepoglava prison in January 1982 where he suffered a series of four heart attacks. Another investigation was launched in 1988 in yet another attempt to silence Dr. Franjo Tudjman, but by that time the new direction of the tide in Europe was clear. His civil rights were restored, he obtained a passport and undertook the foundation of a new political movement.

HDZ and Victory

On November 29, 1989 Tudjman and his newly formed Croatian Democratic Union, known by its Croatian initials HDZ, issued an appeal to the citizens of Croatia and to its Communist controlled Parliament to form a new multi-party government. The appeal called for a repeal of the Communist Party monopoly, secret and direct elections for Parliament, unrestricted travel for Croatian emigrants and freedom for political prisoners. During this transition period the HDZ was the first internal party to expressly call for self-determination for Croatia, including the right to secession. Although the Yugoslav Constitution specifically guaranteed that right, to voice such a sentiment was considered treason by the Belgrade government. In light of the dramatic changes sweeping Europe, the Croatian Parliament voted in February 1990 to legalize opposition parties and grant freedom of political affiliation. In April and May the first free elections in half a century were held in Croatia with some twenty political parties competing for seats in Parliament. Tudjman' s Croatian Democratic Union won a landslide victory with 205 of 349 seats. The Communists who had ruled for a half century secured only 77 seats. Franjo Tudjman was elected President of the Republic. On July 26, 1990 the Parliament dropped the word "Socialist" from the name Republic of Croatia and ordered the red star removed from all state symbols. Still, Tudjman and the Croatian government sought a new accommodation with the other republics of Yugoslavia through a confederation of sovereign states. Serbia's unwillingness to even negotiate for such a confederation led Croatia and Slovenia to declare independence on June 25, 1991 at which time Franjo Tudjman became the first President of the independent Republic of Croatia.

Slobo, "The Butcher of the Balkans"

Franjo Tudjman's long and arduous journey from Partisan war hero to president of his country was very unlike that of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, whom the New York Times labeled the "Butcher of the Balkans." Milosevic, an unrepentant hard-line Communist in the mold of Joseph Stalin, is a product of Communism and the Yugoslav Party-State. Known to his few friends as "Slobo," he was born in 1941 in Pozarevac, near Belgrade, the son of a Serbian Orthodox priest from Montenegro and a hardline Communist school teacher. His father abandoned his family, taking Slobo's brother Bora with him. Both of his parents committed suicide and Milosevic literally grew up in the Party. He married Mirjana Markovic, a professor of Marxist theory who controlled the Communist League for Yugoslavia. She was a member of one of Yugoslavia's best known Communist families. Milosevic lived such a secretive life at a villa on the outskirts of Belgrade that one of his closest friends admitted to a reporter from the New York Times Magazine that in twenty years he had never seen Milosevic's home or his wife. Under the mentorship of Ivan Stambolic, the previous Serbian Party boss, Milosevic rose through the ranks from being director of the energy company Tehnogas to the Presidency of Belgrade' s main bank. In the mid-1980's Stambolic elevated him to head of the Communist Party of Serbia. By way of thanks, Milosevic engineered a coup within the Party in the fall of 1987, overthrowing his old friend and mentor Stambolic, and naming himself the undisputed head of Party and government in Serbia.

Milosevic immediately set to work purging the leadership of Vojvodina, Kosova and the Republic of Montenegro to bring those constitutionally autonomous regions into line with his "Greater Serbia" policies. Many who opposed his policies, including Branislav Matic, a key opposition leader in the Serbian Renewal Movement, were murdered. Another SRM leader, George Bozovic, mysteriously fell from a high building.

As the rest of Europe was abandoning Marxist-Leninism, Milosevic reinstated courses in Marxist theory in Serbia's schools and colleges. In January 1990 at the last Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Milosevic stormed the podium to declare that Communism would go on even without Slovenia and Croatia. But the realities of Europe in the 90' s eventually came home to roost even for Milosevic. In the Fall of 1990, he renamed the Communist Party the "Socialist Party" before winning 61% of the vote in the Party controlled "free" elections. Milosevic's transformation from Stalinist to "democrat" was thus complete. In April 1992 he finally consented to the removal of the red star from Yugoslavia's flag. History will judge which of the two men, Franjo Tudjman or Slobodan Milosevic, fought for his country, suffered for his beliefs and liberated his nation and which unleashed a massive war of aggression against his neighbors to sustain Communism in Europe and the myth called Yugoslavia.