Russia criticizes Croatia for intolerance toward Serbs

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has mentioned intolerance toward Serbs in Croatia in its document dedicated to neo-Nazism.

Source: Tanjug

The study, "Neo-Nazism - a dangerous threat to human rights, democracy and the rule of law" was published to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over fascism. As part of an analysis of European countries, it mentions Croatia.

The Croatian newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija writes that the Russians, among other things, stated that "aggressive nationalism, ethnic and religious intolerance" in Croatia was directed primarily against the largest ethnic minority, Serbs, whose numbers have decreased by two-thirds since 1991.

Referring to the data of human rights activists, the document states that during the last 19 years, about 30,000 Serbs in Croatia, Orthodox Christians, "converted to another faith, that is, accepted Catholicism."

"Experts say that the main reason is the desire of parents to prevent bullying of their children in schools based on their ethnic or religious background," the document says.

Russian analysts stress also that Serbs in Croatia face serious administrative and other obstacles in finding jobs and reclaiming their property rights.

Individual cases are listed of xenophobic vandalism targeting Orthodox cemeteries, as well as removal of signs written in Serbian Cyrillic and the destruction of a memorial plaque to the victims of the Ustasha death camp of Jadovno in Pag, as well as the desecration of a 16th century Jewish cemetery in Split.

This document identifies Slavonia, northern Dalmatia, and western Srem as areas of Croatia with particularly strong nationalism.

It also claims that the former head of state, Ivo Josipovic, warned of an alarming trend of strengthening neo-fascism and neo-Nazism in Croatia, that should not be ignored.

Commenting on the report for the daily, President of the Croatian Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Minorities Furio Radin said that he "never heard about 30,000 Serbs converting to Roman Catholicism" and concluded these were "unfounded figures."

Radin assures that Croatia cannot be criticized because of neo-Nazism, adding there was "sporadic flirtation with the Ustashe movement, the stadium nationalism, but the general assessment of the Russian MFA does not stand."

Ustashas were in power in the WW2-era Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH), an entity that operated death camps for Serbs, Jews, and Roma in Jasenovac and elsewhere.

The article added that some of the cases referred to in the Russian document can be found in a comprehensive study, "Violence and intolerance towards Serbs in 2014," written by member of the Serb National Council (SNV) and journalist Tamara Opacic.

The SNV and the SDSS group in the Croatian assembly in 2013 started recording and monitoring such cases, and Opacic said that last year saw "82 examples of ethnically motivated violence, intolerance and hate speech against Serbs, which is an increase compared to a year earlier."

"Elections are to blame for this because the right-wing, led by the HDZ, has been using nationalist rhetoric that implies an anti-Serb hysteria as their main political capital for return to power," Opacic said.

The Russian document singles out singer Marko Perkovic aka Thompson and estimates that the absence of laws against historical revisionism and denial of war crimes allows Croatian entertainers to promote the Ustasha movement, noting Thompson's songs about "Jasenovac and Stara Gradiska (death camps)" that glorify Ustasha massacres.

Member of the Executive Board of the Croatian Helsinki Committee Ivo Banac confirms that "in Croatia, like elsewhere" there had been "incidents related to neo-fascism" - but asks "who are Russians to call (others) out and what is their interest in doing that."

He believes that a law that would prohibit historical revisionism "must not be adopted because it would limit the freedom of speech."

The Split-based daily also mentioned that the SNV study contains photos and descriptions of Nazi graffiti, fascist and Ustasha symbols and messages calling for physical violence against Serbs, found in almost every Croatian town, such as, "Hang Serbs on willows,", "Kill the Serb," "Serb, move out," "Slit Serbs' throats."

The highest concentration of this type of "offensive graffiti" was noticed in Zagreb, the report said.

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