Croatian Themes

“The disrobing of the actors in Alexander Popović’s Second Door on the Left, done by the Student Experimental Theater from Zagreb signified the first breaking of this taboo in the Croatian, but also in the Yugoslav, theater.”
A monograph on the Americanization of Yugoslav culture in the sixties.
“The term ‘Optical Art’ entered the jargon of art critics after a 1965 MoMA exhibition titled The Responsive Eye. Croatian artists such as Ivan Picelj and Miroslav Šutej took part in this exhibition, and therefore Yugoslav artists contributed to the promotion of this new artistic direction.”
“Abstraction, and the split with socialist realism, were both visible as well in Croatia, in the work of the group Exat 51, which was founded in 1951.“
“The next major step in the Americanization of shopping was the opening of a supermarket in Zagreb on December 29, 1957. Three years later, there were thirteen such stores working in Croatia”

“In 1882, the fates of three Croats hailing from Bosnia-Herzegovina, who would place the Usta­sha cause at the center of their lives, crossed in the Jesuit seminary in Travnik.”
From a monograph on Ante Pavelić and the Ustasha movement.
“Knife, pistol, automatic shotgun, and time bomb” the poglavnik wrote in 1932, “are the bells that will announce the dawn and birth of the independent Croatian state.”
“Pavelić asked the Duce to send his ‘invincible army’ to Croatia, in order to rebuild the thousand-year independent Croatian state.”
“Jasenovac was the symbol of the annihilation policy applied by the Independent State of Croatia during the four years of its existence. Most Croats not only did not take part in the crimes committed by the Ustasha, but also were frequently victims themselves.”
“Once in Italy, middle- and high-ranking Ustasha leaders were hidden within churches, mon­asteries, abbeys, and colleges.”
“In November 1957, Pavelić set out for the Spanish capital. On his arrival, Archbishop Ivan Šarić was there to greet him.”

“Throughout the history of Croatia, myths have been instrumental in forging a sense of identity and in justifying political positions. The mythological discourse adaptation to evolving realities is a permanent process, as old myths are harnessed to bolster Croats’ European integration.”
The place of myths is discussed in the memory politics in a number of East-European countries.
Controversies reviewed comprise the many faces of Bishop Gregory: by turns a medieval Croatian nationalist opposing the Italian clergy; a symbol of Yugoslavism supporting the common Slavonic liturgy; a promoter of Byzantine liturgy, trying to detach Croatia from the Catholic West; and a symbol of Slav barbarism for the Italian fascists.
“Josip Jelačić died as an unpopular servant of the Viennese court, a few years after his death he was resurrected as a symbol of resistance to constant Hungarian pressure.”
“Some believed that positing Croats as a nation destined to suffer for the benefit of others was a positive ideological construct, which supported Croatia’s efforts to integrate into the European Union.”

Titles from the backlist, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

The Nansen Dialogue Center worked 10 years on the joint school for Serbs and Croats in Vukovar that the municipal assembly voted down in February 2013. But Croatia cannot continue to integrate abroad while segregating at home. “If Poland managed to reconcile with Germany after what its people experienced during WW II, then most people can. If the people of Vukovar can reconcile, then people in Mitrovica can”.
The essays examine the development of democratic practices and liberal values in Europe's newest state, with due references to other issues of former Yugoslavia. “Within this multinational Yugoslavia, the position of a few minor populations (Bosnians, Montenegrins, the inhabitants of Vojvodina, Macedonians, peoples who to some extent still miss Tito) was strengthened so that they might act as counterweights to the greater populations (Croats and Serbs, who by tradition still today take a negative view of Tito). The role of the minority populations had been strengthened by Tito to water down the Serb-Croat dispute”.
“Links with the British army were important, and the investment that London had made in the Kosova Liberation Army training had paid off. General Ceku, the KLA leader after February 1999, had fought in the Croatian army in the independence war period and had many British as well as American links”.

“At the patriotic end of the scale in Croatia, the organizations were openly anti-Serbian to such an extent that they refused any cooperation with Serbian feminist organizations. When it came to the question of rape, the ethnic aspect overruled the gender aspect.”
Feminist discourses are analyzed alongside the nationalist discourse in the early 1990s in the volume that explores the past twenty-five years of east-central Europe in the perspective of intellectual history.
“The nationalist discourses in both countries try to gain legitimacy from the use of the concept of democracy and the attribution of meanings to it. In continuation of their discourse in the 1980s, they interpret democracy as the freedom to express their nationalism. This was accompanied, particularly in Croatia, with the labelling of those who argued against the break-up of Yugoslavia and creation of the nation states in any way as ‘communists,’ therefore anti-democrats.”

“President Mesić delivered a ground-breaking speech in 2003, when he rejected Tuđman’s notion that the Ustasha state was an important milestone toward Croatia’s independence, denounced the idea of the ‘reconciliation of all Croats’ as a falsification of history, and condemned the crimes committed in the name of the Croatian state—both during World War II and the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s.”
Steps in post-communist memory politics in Croatia are discussed in a comparative collection.
“Sanader was the first HDZ politician to break with the tradi­tion of mentioning the Bleiburg victims along with those killed in Jasenovac and explicitly called the Ustasha regime responsible for Jasenovac.”

“Aleksandar Solovjev suggested that contemporary Muslims could trace their roots back to the Bosnian Church, which he described as Bogomil, and heretical. Distinct from Croat and Serb religious medieval lineages, he further argued, the Bogomils had voluntarily converted en masse to Islam, shortly after the Ottoman conquest in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.”
By exploring the development of ethnic diversity and national tensions, this edited volume challenges the readers to engage in a new way of thinking about the region and Balkan studies in general.
“Krleža does not interpret the Bogomil steles as ephemeral and low art, but as the last evidence of an autonomous Yugoslav culture, of a ‘Yugoslav Atlantis’.”
“Since the break-up of Yugoslavia, Serbian, Croatian, and Bosniak national activists have deployed standard languages as one of the means of laying claim to citizens’ loyalties.”

"The establishment of the first foreign bank in Croatia was perceived by the public as something desirable, even if war was being waged in some parts of the country... In Croatia and elsewhere, people have ambitions that they couldn't realize before, and these multinationals are the opportunity to leapfrog through the hierarchy and help themselves not only financially but also to the rewards of an achievement of another kind" - the book on how East-European mindset adapted to capitalism recalls the climate of the regime change. The different strands of economic thinking in Croatia are also analyzed.

"Local strongmen, like Franjo Tudjman in Croatia and Slobodan Milošević in Serbia, were able to steal the whole first decade of transition in name of building a strong nationalist state where all important productive assets were in the hands of cronies, protected by the ruling party at the central as well as the regional and local levels of power. This cozy arrangement was greatly enhanced and facilitated by the armed struggle which engulfed the Balkans until the very end of the twentieth century".
This is a quote from the erudite and sweeping essay on the political economy of transition from command to market economy. It goes on:
"While the Croatian and Serbian societies were finally able to rise against the suffocating oligarchic order and find the path to the competitive market economy and democracy by the end of the twentieth century, the war and the oligarchic order have left ugly scars on the face of these societies and, more importantly, some deep distortions in the social fabric as well."

A collection of essays focuses on women and war mirrored in the arts. The works of two Croatian authors (both living abroad now) are being discussed: Slavenka Drakulić and Dubravka Ugrešić.

"Serbs who objected to the nationalisms of others were accused of nationalism themselves" - the explanation to this paradox is key to understand Tito's Yugoslavia. This is one of the topics in the latest attempt to interpret the contexts, meanings, and consequences of the revolutions of 1989. The volume matches the seminal CEU Press title on the collapse of Soviet domination.

(July 1991) Bush: Germany came forward with the recognition of Slovenia. Maybe we should opt for a short statement consisting of two-three declarations. We could note our concern about the events in Yugoslavia, call on everyone to respect the ceasefire, and condemn the use of force to deal with political problems. Let the Yugoslavs decide their own fate through negotiations.
Sentences taken from the last face-to-face conversations of Cold War leaders.
Baker: We should avoid loaded wording like territorial integrity and self-determination. Self-determination is what the Germans are insisting on.
Gorbachev: I will speak on the essence of this issue. Before the start of this conversation, when the President was walking toward the building, Mr. Scowcroft and I had a conversation. I told him that even a partial breakup of Yugoslavia could create a chain reaction that will be worse than a nuclear reaction.

"The structural tensions that began to chip away at the core of the Yugoslav federation found their expression in the social movements and unrests that took place between 1968 and 1971. Among these, three had a direct connection to education, and particularly addressed the universities… The third event, taking place in 1970–71 in Croatia and known as mass movement (‘Maspok’) or the ‘Croatian spring,’ represented a nationalist mobilization that, although it was dealt with rather sharply and swiftly at the federal summit, motivated a large part of the constitutional reform and transformation of the federation that took place after 1974.”— From Class to Identity, The Politics of Education Reforms in Former Yugoslavia.

"When I returned to Zagreb in the autumn of 1983, three years after the death of Tito, the mood of the Croats seemed brighter—despite power cuts and protracted blackouts. There was an air of elegance in the Croatian capital that was largely lacking in chaotic Belgrade and other Yugoslav metropols—perhaps a hangover of the Austro-Hungarian Empire”. In his memoirs that span almost half a century, the reporter of the New York Times recalls historic merits, too. “The very idea of Jugoslavija was born in Croatia in the 1830s.”
The author was so fascinated by Dalmatia that he dedicated a separate chapter to his memories from the Adriatic coastline, telling about the protracted siege of Dubrovnik, and about remarkable people born in the Lika region.

“The city as a total happening” was a maxim of the Croatian art group TOK, which was formed on the occasion of the 7th Zagreb Salon in 1972. The group could realize their socially engaged public art projects that problematized the multifaceted pollution of an urban environment, as they were perceived as unthreatening by the authorities.
The story of the brief existence of TOK is unfolded in the monograph that unites ecology with conceptual art analysis in the frame of area studies. The book uncovers the neglected history of artistic engagement with the natural environment in the Eastern Bloc.
Thanks to the activities of the high-profile institution of the Gallery of Contemporary Art and the more informal Student Centre Gallery, in the 1970s the contemporary art scene in Zagreb flourished, while an additional important asset was the Haustor, a temporary gallery in the entrance hall of a house in the center of town. TOK offered a critique of art production outside galleries and museums, which were in most cases still preoccupied with the aesthetic qualities of the artworks, despite the fact that they were displayed in the public spaces of the city.

“At the beginning of the 1960s Zagreb became a lively city of arts… The intention was to prove the self-awareness and ability of Yugoslav society to establish creative interchanges with the international art scene without losing its historical and ideological perspective” – from a collective book with 35 contributors that analyzes artistic interactions both within the Soviet bloc and with the West between 1945 and 1989.
One of the best manifestation of this drift were the five New Tendencies exhibitions organized by the Zagreb City Gallery. The initiative came from a group of artists who, “in contrast to the social indifference of modernist abstraction of the European mainstream, were advocating an experimental, rational approach to art, as well as an active and socially engaged relation to existential reality.” As a unique phenomenon in the history of the eastern bloc, this movement evolved into a genuine international art project that lived between 1961 and 1973.

The last volume of the grand CEU Press undertaking entitled Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe 1770–1945 presents forty-six texts under the heading of anti-modernism”. The series is a challenging collection of essential primary sources, accompanied by introductory essays and contextual analyses in the best senses of the term: their high level of scholarship demands the intelligent engagement of the reader throughout.
Croatian personalities are represented in this concluding volume by Vladimir Čerina and Milan Šufflay. Earlier volumes include Drašković (1832), Gaj (1834), Rački (1860), Radić (1902), Matoš (1912), Supilo (1915), Cesarec (1923), and Krleža (1938).

Zagreb grew from 3 square kilometers in 1850 to around 100 square kilometers by 1940. Its modernization offered in many ways the perfect case for examining how cities operate within transnational geopolitical structures. For centuries the city—a national capital without a clearly defined national territory— occupied a strategic position at the “center of the edge” of the great European empires and multinational states. Faced with the ineffectuality of normative planning methods in conditions of political instability and economic weakness, architects and planning officials in Zagreb developed agile and flexible modalities of architectural intervention.
The birth of modern Zagreb is explored alongside the metropolitan aspirations of Athens, Helsinki, Kaunas, Kiev, Moscow, Riga, Sofia, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Vilnius, and Warsaw.

“Privileging the noble nationalities of Poles and Croats fuelled dissatisfaction among nationalities who were not dominated by nobles, but by peasants, workers, or urban middle classes—first of all the Czechs, who represented a possible republican challenge toward dynastic reign”.
The nation-building processes within the Habsburg Empire are examined in parallel with related trajectories in other empires in Europe. “National elites forged alliances with the imperial core, despite the presence of a national awakening that sought self-determination. These tactical alliances aimed at maintaining regional hegemony over ethnic rivals (e.g. Galician Poles versus Ruthenian claims, Littoral and Dalmatian Italians versus Croat and Slovene aspirations)”.
Was the demise of the Habsburg Empire a loss for its peoples? “In periods of peace the huge single market made up for a lack of competitiveness of the goods of Austria-Hungary on international markets”. However, in times of war the heterogeneous economy of the empire was not competitive in the arms race, which led to its downfall.

“I was determined to find a novel that I found both truly interesting and historically significant” —explains the translator his choice in the preface to the Croatian item in the Central European Classics series. This is the first English edition of Dva svijeta by Vjenceslav Novak (1859–1905), a Croatian realist writer and dramatist, author of modern psychological poetry with occult themes.
The novel presents tensions generated by 19th century modernization and the evolution of Croatian nationalism through the story of a young musician, equally devoted to current international trends and his beloved, sweet homeland.

“A Venetian stereotype about Ragusans was that they pathologically hated Venice and were willing to do almost anything to harm it. Scandals were caused by Ragusa’s cooperation with the Ottomans, especially its espionage for the Porte.” While in Ragusa “Venetians were seen as cowards who preferred to achieve their goals through trickery instead of honorable open combat.”
A collection of studies proposes a new cultural history of the early modern coexistence of various communities.
“In 1596 one Venetian nobleman, looking for a certain courtesan, entered the wrong door in Ragusa. Although he immediately apologized, this incident sparked full-scale chaos: the city gates were closed, alarm bells rang, and men armed themselves and ran onto the streets, while everywhere the stunned Venetians were beaten and taken to prison. The result was one Venetian nobleman murdered, another wounded.”

The Dalmatian city of Osor (Ossero) has fewer than 100 inhabitants now. In the middle ages it was a bishopric seed though. The latest volume in the Latin-English bilingual series of Central European Medieval Texts contains the biography of St. Gaudentius, bishop of Osor, composed by an anonymous monk "in real time": see sample extracts at bottom. The chronicle written by Thomas, 13th century archdeacon of Spalato (Split) also appeared in the series; as well as the Gesta Hungarorum of Anonymus, and an eye-witness record of the Mongol invasion with references to medieval Croatian lands.

“In 2012, archaeologists found an early Christian basilica complex surrounded by a cemetery in Vinkovci-Kamenica. Geophysical research revealed the ground plan of a possible martyrium. The findspot was interpreted as the place where Pollio was killed and where the feasts commemorating the martyr were held.”
A collection of essays on pagan-Christian relations in the Roman Empire from the fourth to the eighth century.
“Fleeing Avar and Slav invasions, the inhabitants of Salona moved with imperial permission into Diocletian’s palace in Spalatum (present day Split) in the seventh century. The palace became a city. The mausoleum’s conversion into a church was not immediate, and it amounted to a simple refurbishment of the interior with Early Christian church installations.”
“Constantine’s Christian affiliation and his attitude towards Christianity versus pagan religions, most evidently reflected in his wavering between the Sun god, Sol, and Christ. The spa centre of cosmopolitan Aquae Iasae (present day Varaždinske Toplice) simultaneously hosted the worship of Sol and Christ during the rule of Constantine.”

The backlist of the Central European University Press presents many more books that relate to Croatians and Croatia in one way or another (going backwards in time):

  • Together with twenty-eight more post-communist transition countries, the political and economic performance of Croatia is also examined as part of a search of varieties of transition models.
  • The comparative analysis of the issue of desegregation of Roma pupils in east-central Europe has references to Croatia as well.
  • Revisiting her holiday home on Pelješac peninsula after the recent war, prompts Serbian artist Katarina Šević to create a Home Museum installation.
  • The volume on international conflicts discusses, among others, three intertwined cases brought before the World Court (the International Court of Justice in The Hague) in the 1990s, involving also Croatia.
  • An attempt to thoroughly explore the roots of conflict in former Yugoslavia.
  • Essays by young people whose lives were interrupted by the Yugoslav war.
  • Wartime victimization of refugee women in the Balkans.
  • An indictment of the partition of Bosnia.
  • A chronicle about turbulent times, written by Stipe Mesić on the demise of Yugoslavia.
  • A CEU Press book breaks new ground with its subject: investigating tourism in communist Yugoslavia.
  • The book on 1968 discusses also the repercussions in Yugoslavia.
  • The successful three-volume survey of travel writing from and into Eastern Europe contains hundreds of varied references to Croats as travelers: Nemčić (1845), Jarnević (1908), Matoš (1908), Biga (1999); also Croatian cities, customs, personalities as described by foreign travellers; including scholarly analysis of the phenomenon.
  • The general introductory book on eugenics in east and central Europe describes the appeal that racial anthropology had on Croatians representing various professions in the interwar period.
  • The role of Andrija Štampar in the formation of Yugoslav health policy, and the drastic anti-abortion legislation passed by the Ustasha regime.
  • The essays on ideologies and national identities discuss nationalism, myth, and memory in 20th century Croatia, and more particularly the Croat Catholic youth organizations between 1922 and 1945. The essays on Yugoslavia's Pioneer organization, and on folk epics in Tito's Yugoslavia also largely relate to Croatians.
  • One of the most successful CEU Press books ever, contains entries on the following Croatians: B. Despot, D.Jarnevi ć, M.Juri ć, A.Milčinovi ć, K.Pejnovi ć, and L.Sklevicky.
  • The monograph about Jesuit communities on the peripheries of the Habsburg empire describes attempts to install Catholicism in Belgrade during the Austrian rule between 1727-1739.
  • The early waves of founding Croatian bishoprics, and the practice of reading aloud by eighteenth century Croatian priests.
  • The city government of Ragusa extended special privileges to an extraordinary Jewish woman in the 16th century on her way from Portugal to Constantinople.

Extracts from Saints of the Christianization Age of Central Europe:

The course of the temptation is said to have been the following, as the blessed man conferred with his own mouth to our ears. That nobleman is to be considered ignoble because he insisted on contracting marriage with a woman who was regarded as beautiful in appearance but was his relative, against the interdict of the most pious pontiff. On the main feast of Easter, as the divine mysteries had already begun, he did not fear to enter violently the bounds of the church with an armed band of accomplices. Whereupon the blessed Gaudentius, rushing into the battle joyfully, like a good athlete, struck him with the bond of excommunication.
Ordo vero temptationis talis fuisse perhibetur, ut ore suo beatus vir nostris auribus intimavit. Ille vero nobilis, quasi ignobilis est reputandus, cum quadam, quae pulchra ducebatur specie tamen consanguinea, matrimonium contra interdictum religiosissimi pontificis contrahere nixus est. In principali festo, paschae, iam divinis incoeptis mysteriis ecclesiae limina suis cum complicibus armata manu violenter intrare non timuit. Quem beatus Gaudentius, tanquam bonus athleta ad certamen laetus accedens, vinculo excommunicationis percussit.

Thus the bishop's soul, separated from the dungeon of the flesh, ascended to the heavens above in order to yield service in its ascension. And such sweet odor was released from his body that it seemed as if it surpassed the smoke of all incenses.
Divisa ergo de carnis ergastulo anima ipsius ascendit ad superos, ut obsequium compraeberet, in eius ascensione. Atque tantus odor ab eius corpore resolutus est, ut omnium aromatum fumus excidisse videretur.

And the Germans, who saw the church at their disposal, set out to descend upon it with a great army. And through the Holy Ghost someone came and liberated the church and none of them could come near to it; and thus it remained intact. And many times choirs of angels have been seen in the night, singing a canticle to the Lord, and the figure of Gaudentius could be clearly discerned among them.
Teutonici vero, qui viderunt paratam domum, magno cum exercitu ad eam descendere festinarunt. Et divino spiritu quidam accessit et liberavit domum, ad quam nullus eorum accedere potuit; et illaesa sic domus permansit. Angelorum vero chori multoties visi sunt in nocte, inter quos aspectus Gaudentii visibiliter apparuit, cantantes canticum domino.