Tuesday, January 07, 2003

White Christmas in Croatia… Sort of

After incredibly warm start of January, good old winter came to Croatia. Most of the country is covered with snow. While the children are appreciating this chance to build snowmen, have snowball fight or play Kostelićs, the rest of the country probably doesn’t share their enthusiasm. Snow on the roads usually means the collapse of traffic system. Trains and buses are so far delayed for 30 minutes or hour. Flights at Pleso airport (Zagreb) are also delayed for an hour. Traffic problems are reported even in Zagreb. Even those areas not covered with snow have their share of problem. Coastal highway that connects Rijeka with Dalmatia is closed for trucks due to strong winds, while sirocco created havoc in Dalmatian ferry traffic.

By some mean coincidence, this snowfall – another perfect excuse for Croatians not to have things done - happened on Orthodox Christmas. For obvious reasons, the date is not observed in Croatia as public holiday. Many years ago, one of my friends, who described herself as “Christian” reacted to upcoming January 7th with words: “On that day I’ll work my ass off. No holiday for me.” However, I doubt that most of Croatians, whether they are Catholics, rabid nationalists or something else, would follow her example if given a chance to enjoy Orthodox Christmas as public holiday.

On the other hand, chances of Croatian government following Egyptian example are next to negligible.

First, most of Orthodox Christians in this country used to be Serbs and their numbers were drastically reduced in the last decade, partly through war and ethnic cleansing, partly through assimilation.

Second, those Orthodox Christians who remained aren’t likely to make their presence known. One of the best examples is city of Split. 2001 census showed that there are only 9 (nine) people who consider themselves Orthodox Christians in Split, town with 250,000 or so inhabitants. Yet, only few days after the publication of census results local newspaper published report from the mass held in local Orthodox church and attended by hundred or so people.

Third, such move would be in sharp contrast with the trends of present-day Croatian government. A year before regular election right-wing and neo-Tudjmanist parties are announcing their return to power as sure thing, so Račan and his team are reacting by becoming even more nationalistic than Tudjman. Any move that would have compromised Tudjman’s legacy – including the ethnic/religious purity of Croatia – is viewed as political suicide. Yet, it is doubtful whether the continuation of Tudjman’s policy would woo right-wing and nationalist voters. In most likelihood, Račan has already lost young, left-wing and urbane vote – those people are most likely to stay at home during the next election. Thoughts of this make this winter day even bleaker than it should have been.


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