When it comes to unwanted or unwarranted national symbolism promoted or promulgated via monuments then Zagreb’s Mayor Milan Bandic takes the cake! But it’s a bitter and twisted cake that’s being shoved down the citizens’ throats! When it comes to Zagreb, Bandic continues to place priorities on historic monuments that attempt to uplift the communist era rather than focusing on the absolute essentials of decent living – such as access to public buildings and facilities (if not private) for people with disabilities. He spends obscene amounts of money to raise monuments, fountains etc. dedicated to the memory of the very former communist Yugoslavia regime, which majority of voters fought to get out of in the early 1990’s and the Croatian Homeland War.
So, Bandic has been the Mayor of Zagreb since 2005 and yet wheelchair-bound people are still unable to independently access the cable-car that takes one from city centre to the old city precinct, for example. No disability access ramp to this important city venue that facilitates quick independent access to important places such as government building, the parliament etc. for people with severe physical disabilities. Access to public facilities for people with disabilities in Zagreb, in Croatia, is a picture of neglect and careless disregard. I won’t even go into the many desperate needs in the city of Zagreb for the fixing and refurbishment of public buildings and roads that are a lifeline to its inhabitants. But, Bandic is spending exorbitant amounts of taxpayer money to raise monuments to figures from the communist Yugoslavia era! No surprises here from a former communist but plenty from the lack of force to stop this sinister madness.
Shame on you, Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandic.
Ever since the renaming of the most beautiful Zagreb square from Josip Broz Tito to Republic of Croatia square in August/September 2017 – championed by conservative side of political field in efforts to strip away the symbols of the murderous communist Yugoslavia regime – Bandic has been busy fixing old communist monuments or raising new statues that take one back to that dark era for Croatia! It’s almost like Bandic is on a path of vendetta against people wanting to rid Croatia of the communist mindset! In October 2017 he raised a bust of WWII prominent communist Ivo Lola Ribar but not without loud protests from many citizens and politicians. On Friday 8 June2018 he unveiled a refurbished fountain dedicated to communist Yugoslavia leader Josip Broz Tito, costing the taxpayer some 95,000 euro!
While Bandic has on several occasions expressed his reasons for such monuments to communism as being celebrating antifascism, without which, he states, there would be no independent Croatia of today, the truth is that the communists he celebrates via these monuments were nothing more than thugs and murderers (of all those that opposed communism) who pretended to be allied to true antifascists.
It’s disappointing to see that there is not enough challenging of Bandic’s narrative through public monuments of Croatia’s past since 1941; he pushes the narrative Croatia must not allow itself to remember in the context Bandic is pushing. The narrative Croatia should pursue is that of respect to all victims, especially those of communist crimes; Croatia already has a monument to victims of the Holocaust but not to the victims of communist crimes. Bandic as Mayor of Zagreb should be raising monuments to the multitudes of victims of communism whose remains were found in mass graves even in recent months in the vicinity of his jurisdiction as Mayor. So, one wonders whom or what is propelling the acts of monument remembrance within the City of Zagreb Assembly, which, I gather, votes on budgets and plans!
Tributes and memorials don’t rise on their own as some dispassionate records of history. They are created by people making specific comments about their values. And the things a culture obscures or refuses to recognise say as much about its ideals as the things they do.
Croatia’s so-called antifascists, including Bandic, may go around saying that communist Yugoslavia movement during WWII freed the country from “fascism” and the comparisons between communism and fascism gets its skin depending from which standpoint one looks. But when facts are looked in the eye one only sees that communism was all about itself and not the people; it pursued purges on class and political grounds. It pursued the agenda of communist supremacy – not antifascist one; murdering, torturing, imprisoning, stealing of property to actively pursue the agenda of communist supremacy.
We are only too aware today that memorials and monuments – named buildings, streets, statues, historical markers – say a lot more about the people who erect them than the people they commemorate. Every historic site is in fact a story of two eras. It’s a story of what it’s about and it’s a story of when it went up and these days in Croatia, monuments to the communist era have nothing accurate to say; they obscure and hide the horrors of communist crimes. But, they do tell us accurately about the people that erect them. They do tell us that resistance to move Croatia away from oppressive and murderous communist ideology and mindset is fierce.
To tolerate the erection of communist era monuments says something really significant about the failure in Croatia to confront horrendous communist crimes against humanity and freedom. A society that can’t or won’t look at its full history will continue to make decisions based on inaccurate and incomplete information. This is the outlook for Croatia as it stands now! To highlight one facet of a legacy while rendering its others invisible, as Bandic is doing with his fountain dedicated to Tito, to mythologise at the expense of the truth, perpetrates the original injustice to the people and their reasons for having paid in blood the freedom from communist Yugoslavia they fought for in the 1990’s Homeland War, brought on by Serb aggression and Yugoslav People’s Army aggression.
Bandic’s moves with monuments to communist figures of the past do a terrible disservice to history, and to all Croatians who have to make sense of the present using the record of the past and the Homeland War.