Croatia: A cautionary tale

Drakulic_cac_468wSlavenka Drakulic at Eurozine:

It is late November. The day is grey and chilly but people on Zagreb's main square are patiently queuing up in front of a stand where a few men are collecting signatures. Another appeal to the government to save shipyards or factories? A union calling for another strike? Another plea to the state by impoverished pensioners? No, these people are waiting to sign a petition – the latest fashion in Croatia. This particular one is demanding a referendum to forbid the use of a minority alphabet and language, unless that minority makes up 50 per cent (!) of the population. It is aimed at Serbs and the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in Vukovar, the town on the border with Serbia. Over 30 per cent of Vukovar's population are Serbs and it is their constitutional right to use the Serbian language. But the town suffered more than any other at the hands of the Serbian military and paramilitary during the war over twenty years ago, and today it is still divided – plaques and signs in Cyrillic are destroyed and the divide manipulated for political purposes.As of last week, these petitioners – war veterans calling themselves the “Council for Defence of Croatian Vukovar” – have gained in strength and confidence. On Monday, 18 November, their members, some of them dressed in some kind of paramilitary uniform, prevented the entire Croatian government, along with the diplomatic corps, from joining tens of thousand of people honouring the dead in Vukovar.

more here.