Excerpts from ANTO KNEZEVIC'S AN ANALYSIS OF SERBIAN PROPAGANDA
WHY IS TUDJMAN'S WILDERNESS UNDER ATTACK?
The saying "Habent sua fata libelli" (books have their own fate) is attributed to the Roman writer Terentianus Maurus from the first century A.D. Tudjman's Wilderness of Historical Reality proves that the saying still holds true even nineteen centuries later.
Written and published before the first democratic elections in post-World War II Croatia, the book turned up in the center of international public opinion in 1991 and 1992. Although the book examines the historical and philosophical aspects of war and violence, the international media present it in an almost exclusively political context.
It is significant that the polemics about Tudjman's book coincided at the time when Croatia was seeking international recognition of its independence. It is entirely clear that the attacks on Wilderness of Historical Reality are directed against the President of the Republic of Croatia, not at the Historian Dr. Franjo Tudjman. The first edition of the book was published in 1988, but the book was attacked in the international media three years later, at the height of the war in Croatia. The attacks are an expression of those inter- national forces which strove to postpone the international recognition of Croatia. These attacks have been carried out by non-historians.
Still, the attempt to postpone recognition of Croatia cannot by itself explain certain facts. It is well- known that Tudjman has written other books: Rat protiv rata (War Against War, 1957), Stvaranje socijalisticke Jugoslavije (The Creation of Socialist Yugoslavia, 1960), Okupacija i revolucija (Occupation and Revolution, 1963), Uvod u historiju socijalisticke Jugoslavije (Introduction to the History of Socialist Yugoslavia, 1964), Jugoslavenski odbor i stvaranje zajednicke drzave jugoslavenskih naroda (The Yugoslav Committee and the Creation of a Common State of Yugoslav Peoples, 1966), Velike ideje i mali narodi (Great Ideas and Small Nations, 1969), Nationalism in Contemporary Europe (Boulder, Colo., 1981), etc.
When some politician is to be toppled, then his entire biography and bibliography are "raked up." Here one might ask the question: why, out of all these works by Tudjman, is the book Wilderness of Historical Reality attacked?
Was Wilderness of Historical Reality attacked because of its "anti-Semitic" contents, as the American Balkan specialist Robert D. Kaplan asserts? No. Neither the book itself nor the political moves of the President of Croatia offer support for such an accusation. Tudjman explicitly condemns anti-Semitism in his book as well as in a letter to Edgar Bronfman, the President of the World Jewish Congress (January 8, 1992).
A "Correction" printed in the Congressional Record on Thursday, July 11, 1991 indicates that the American Congress had indeed received some misleading information about Tudjman's Wilderness:
Mr. CRANSTON. Mr. President, last year I submitted for the RECORD an important study on rising anti- Semitism in Eastern Europe. The study was drafted by the London-based Institute of Jewish Affairs in coordination with the Anti-Defamation League.
Since that time, it has come to my attention that a mistaken translation of an excerpt from a book by Dr. Franjo Tudjman, leader of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union and now the President of the Yugoslavian Republic of Croatia, gave a misleading and inaccurate picture.
In discussing antisemitic incidents in Yugoslavia, the report stated that a 1989 book by Dr. Tudjman entitled "Wanderings of Historical Truth" sic! included a blatantly antisemitic reference. The report described the antisemitic reference as a "particularly worrying incident."
It seems, however, that the antisemitic comment was not made by Dr. Tudjman. The statement was a quotation by a former Serbian prisoner in one of the Nazi death camps. Dr. Tudjman was quoting the prisoner, specifically identifying his statement as anti- semitic.
Dr. Howard Spier, the author of this report, has apologized for the, error. He was quoting from an article which appeared in the London Jewish Chronicle by Srdjan Matic, a leading official of the Zagreb Jewish community. Mr. Matic has since indicated that he was misinterpreted.
I am pleased to correct the RECORD at this time.
In a letter to members of the U. S. Congress (January 21, 1992) Tudjman writes:
Dear Member of Congress:
On behalf or the citizens of independent, democratic Croatia, I extend my greetings to the distinguished and esteemed Members of the U.S. Congress.
I am compelled to communicate with you in response to recent articles that have appeared in the general press in the U.S. that have accused me of the serious charge of anti-Semitism. The baseless charges stem mainly from inaccurate translations from Croatian into English of my writings Wilderness of Historical Reality as well as quotations that are either erroneous or taken out of context.
I am deeply troubled by these false allegations and consider them to be a stain on my personal character and honor, and by extension that of the Croatian people. This letter is meant to seek your under- standing as representatives of the American people of my past and present position on the subject.
1. In 1941, the Nazi puppet regime in occupied Croatia put a price on my head. The same year, a leading Jewish physician fled Croatia and entrusted me with the safekeeping of his son.
2. I fought the Nazis during World War II as a member of the resistance forces, attaining the rank of General. Many Croatians fought against the Ustasha regime of terror and evil and against the Nazi-Fascist occupation.
3. My brother was killed by the Nazis in 1943.
4. My mother and father were killed by the Communists in 1946.
5. I was jailed by the post-war Communist regime because of my anti-totalitarian political views.
6. I am unalterably opposed to oppression from the right and the left, and I condemn in the strongest terms possible the evil genocide which the Nazis and their puppet collaborators in Croatia and other countries perpetrated against the Jews, Gypsies, Croatians, Serbs and other groups.
The systematic process the Nazis developed and implemented to exterminate the Jews of Europe made it, undeniably, one of the greatest crimes in history against mankind.
In this regard, the Ustasha regime of the Independent State of Croatia committed countless war crimes against humanity. I deeply regret the fact that the Jewish Community of Croatia was victimized as part of the Holocaust of World War II. As President of the Republic of Croatia, I will oppose the specter of anti-Semitism in Croatia whenever it rears its ugly head, as it does from time to time in many countries. I will not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form whatsoever. All Croatians including Croatian Jews know this. I fought for and strongly support the new Constitution of Croatia which protects individual human rights and guarantees the rights of all minorities in Croatia.
Since my election on April 1, 1990, 1 have taken the following steps in support of this policy: 1. I have issued an appeal seeking funds to restore the destroyed Jewish synagogue in Zagreb, and I am working with Croatian Jews to achieve that objective. In addition, I have returned the property previously confiscated by the state to its rightful owners, the Jewish Community of Croatia.
2. I publicly endorsed the repeal of the "Zionism is Racism" resolution in the United Nations, which passed the UN. 3. I offered to provide transit to Jews wishing to emigrate from the former Soviet Union to Israel. Until the outbreak of the recent Serbian war of aggression against Croatia, El Al had regular direct flights from Zagreb to Tel Aviv.
4. Following the recent bombing of the Jewish Community Center by unknown individuals, I attended a rally of 40,000 Croatian citizens to express my solidarity and support for the 1200-member Jewish Community of Zagreb.
5. As soon as the situation in Croatia permits, I have every intention of traveling to Israel to meet with Israeli government officials and citizens, and to visit the Yad Vashem Memorial Museum on that occasion. I wish to reiterate my deepest sorrow and regret about the losses sustained by the Jewish Communities in Europe and to vow in their memory that such events will never happen again.
6. Twelve Jews serve in high-ranking positions within the Croatian government today, including the President of the Constitutional Court, two Judges of the Supreme Court, the Minister of Health, the Deputy Attorney General and the Deputy Foreign Minister.
7. A major street in the center of Zagreb will be dedicated in the memory of the Croatian Jews who were persecuted during World War II.
The people of Croatia are struggling to build lasting democratic institutions and to assure a free and democratic future for generations to come. I urge you not to be misled and misinformed by propaganda from Communist sources and their agents seeking to falsely defame me and, thus, to manipulate for their own sinister purposes the serious subject of the Holocaust, thereby damaging the image and accurate identity of Croatia and its people.
I look forward to establishing diplomatic relations with the U.S. in the near future and enhancing the friendship that already exists between the people of our two democratic nations.
In closing, I reiterate my complete and total dedication to the fulfillment of the most essential tenets of democracy: respect for human rights and the guarantee of freedom and protection of minority rights.
Sincerely, Franjo Tudjman, President
Numerous intellectuals of Jewish descent throughout the world have shown that accusing Tudjman of anti-Semitism is unfounded:
Those of us who have read Tudjman's book also can testify that he did not make anti-Semitic or Holocaust-denying statements. (Arnold Harris, Stefanija Harris and Dr. Philip Cohen "Friend of Serbia distorts the truth", The Wisconsin State Chronicle, February 28, 1992, p. 5.)
Dr. Tudjman, who during World War II fought against the Nazi regime in Croatia and was later imprisoned by the Communists, is on record for supporting the rebuilding of the synagogue in Zagreb at government expense. (Martin Dryer, "The Jews In Croatia, The Jewish Press, March 20, 1992, p. 80.)
This, naturally, does not mean that Tudjman's book might not contain some formulations which should be the subject of scholarly debate.
Was Wilderness of Historical Reality attacked because of the "Nazi" contents of the book and "Goebbelsian" spirit incarnated by Tudjman, as Israeli journalist Teddy Preuss asserts in The Jerusalem Post? No. In the book itself Tudjman calls the powers defeated in the Second World War, including the Nazis, war criminals.
Was Wilderness of Historical Reality attacked because of Tudjman's "fascism," as some non-Yugoslav newspapers report again and again, referring to sources from Belgrade? (See, for example, the paid advertisement, "Serbs Fear Croatian Return To Fascism," published in The Washington Post on February 19, 1992, p. A16. The advertisement brings public charges against Tudjman on the basis of Wilderness of Historical Reality.) No. Tudjman himself was part of the anti- fascist resistance during World War II. Such an accusation is not accepted even by the Belgrade correspondent of the Communist Moscow newspaper Pravda, Evgenii Fadeev, whose reports have an unquestionable pro-Serbian character. After the unsuccessful putsch in the USSR in August, 1991, Fadeev's reports showed a certain tendency to depict the conflict in Croatia somewhat more objectively, but his basic tone remained the same. Fadeev met Russia's decision to recognize Croatia and Slovenia with evident disapproval. Fadeev informs the readers of Pravda that I. S. Deriabin of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained to the Serbian and Montenegrin administrations that Russia did not wish to lag behind developments. "Remember", says Deriabin, "how many times in the past we were late, and that did us no good. This is a similar situation. We must take contemporary reality into consideration." Aleksandr Kondrashov, the correspondent of the Russian news agency ITAR- TASS, and Evgenii Fadeev do not agree with Russia's official position. They hold that "taking reality into consideration does not mean hurrying," as the title of their report from Belgrade reads. The recognition of Croatia should not have been hurried, say the correspondents, and they conclude their report with these words:
Having cut with one stroke the Gordian knot of the Soviet Union, but not yet having found the solution to the knots of Chechenya and Tatarstan, we have decided to pull on one more thread, hoping this time to untangle a complication beyond the boundaries of our own country - the Yugoslav knot. Why are we in such a hurry? (E. Fadeev, A. Kondrashov, "Shchitat'sia s real'no- stiami - ne oznachaet speshit'," Pravda, February 7, 1992, p. 4.)
Three weeks later Pravda would repeat Fadeev's refrain about the premature recognition of Croatia. Russian academic Pavel Volobuev and scholar Liudmila Tiagunenko write that in Croatia there are "too many facts about the crudest genocide against the Serbs." They do not make clear whether along with "the crudest genocide" there also exists a "more refined genocide." They give no proof of the "genocide." But all the same, despite this serious accusation, the writers do not assert that the Croats are fascists, nor do they attack Tudjman. They are more concerned about Russia's strategic interests in the Balkans. The Russian federation, they write, has inherited from the Soviet Union
"certain geopolitical interests, and historical traditions. There is also a capacious concept known as long-term interests, which are essentially different from short-term ones and opportunist ones. Foreign-policy categories such as spheres of interest, long traditions of alliance, also have not disappeared (whether or not this pleases certain of our moralistic editorial-writers). (P. Volobuev, L. Tiagunenko, "Riskovannyi obgon: Chto za speshka s priznaniem Khorvatii?" Pravda February 28, 1992, p. 4.)
Was Wilderness of Historical Reality attacked because of its "denial of Ustashe crimes", as some journalists and politicians have asserted, for example, in the French press? No. Tudjman condemns all the war crimes of all the sides in the Second World War and he explicitly condemns the Ustashe crimes.
Now we come to the crucial question: if the above- mentioned accusations against Tudjman's book are unfounded (and we shall demonstrate that they are), why then have many newspapers throughout the world, as well as some politicians, attacked Wilderness of Historical Reality so violently? Or rather: why is it Wilderness of Historical Reality that they have attacked, and not any of Tudjman's other books?
The answer to this question can be given only by a comparative analysis of Wilderness of Historical Reality and the texts written against Tudjman. The results of this analysis demonstrate that the book is attacked precisely because of its scholarly content.
In the book, Tudjman systematically and with thorough documentation demolishes the myth of the collective guilt of any people, and of the Croats in particular. Making use of scholarly facts, he questions almost every foundation of the anti-Croatian propaganda that has gone on for many years. These are the main reasons for the attacks on Wilderness.
The numerous anti-Croatian articles and audio- visual programs in the world media all start from the fundamental premise that "Croats are ugly, dirty and evil." On the basis of this premise, taken as an unquestionable and already proven truth, the anti-Croatian myth is constructed in various versions. The main actors in the anti-Croatian myth have negative characters. Croats in the myth can be good only if they testify to the evilness of other Croats. In keeping with one's needs, the myth can include ingredients from reality (geographical data, individual historical actors and events), but the basic premise remains unchanged.
Naturally, Tudjman is neither the first nor the only person to deny the hypothesis of the historical guilt of the Croats. This has also been done by numerous Croatian exiles throughout the world. However, Tudjman's words have greater weight than the others for several reasons. First, unlike the many who for their whole lives abroad (whether they wanted to or not) have carried the brand of the Ustasha on their brows, Tudjman is a well-known anti-fascist. And the world knows that, East and West. Second, Tudjman, as a scholar of history, not as a historical layman, used facts to bring the presupposition of a people's collective guilt into question. Third, Tudjman came into conflict with the Communist powers in Yugoslavia several times because of his published works. He was sentenced to prison twice in former Yugoslavia. Tudjman is a historian who has received several international awards for his works including the Catherina de Medici Peace Prize (Pisa, Italy, 1990) and the award of the Center of Ethnic Minorities (Barcelona, Spain, 1991). He is a European intellectual who was listed as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, and who later became the President of a post-Communist state. It is clear that all these reasons provoked the wave of anti-Tudjman texts that spring from the rich treasury of anti-Croatian propaganda.
This, among other things, is what Tudjman writes about in Wilderness of Historical Reality in 1988, on the eve of the first democratic elections in Croatia:
From a historical perspective, it is unquestionable that there can be no positive changes in the political and psychological climate as long as a Croatian person feels that moral and psychic violence is being done to his being and conscience, first of all by a distorted and unacceptable interpretation of the history of his forbears and his present life, or rather as long as he feels fettered and insulted in his personal and national dignity. Since the history of a people consists of the totality of historical events, from which no single ideology, religion or movement can be excluded, nor any ideological-programmatic orientation, political party or historical personality - regardless of how close or different they might be, however they might be interconnected or denied, however advanced or retrograde, and to whatever complete or partial, positive or negative results they led - the fact is that the Ustashe cannot be separated out of Croatian history, just as the Chetniks cannot be separated out of Serbian history, or, say, colonialism from English, Nazi-fascism from German, or Stalinism from Russian history, etc. (Wilderness, pp. 71, 72).
The immediate creators of anti-Croatian propaganda could hardly have undergone a harder blow than the one delivered by Tudjman's book. With documents in hand, Tudjman demonstrates how, for example, the "Jasenovac myth" came to be.