Monday, March 31, 2003

Another Bites the Dust

After Norac, another Croatian general is sentenced for war crimes, this time in Hague. Unlike Norac, Mladen Naletilić "Tuta" (Mladen Naletilic "Tuta") was arrested during Tudjman's reign following Hague indictment. It is possible that some of Naletilić's public statements against Tudjman's all-powerful defence minister Gojko Šušak (Gojko Susak) were the reason for Tudjman to change his status from Croatian hero into expendable asset.

Again, Too Early to Tell

Local elections in Croatia are rather unreliable way for predicting results of general elections. Many rural areas, that otherwise vote for HDZ, tend to elect non-HDZ candidates for their local, municipal and county assemblies.

That didn't prevent HDZ for triumphalistic interpretations of their victory in city of Virovitica. Nor did the media – "independent" and independent – took more analytical approach. HDZ victory in Virovitica was hailed as a sign of things to come.

But the municipal elections in Galovac, settlement near Zadar, gave overwhelming victory to HSS. Elections for community councils in city of Opatija near Rijeka resulted in victory for Istrian regionalists from IDS.

In Vojnić (Vojnic), municipality where the returning Serbs had gained majority for some time, elections created rather unpleasant situation for winning SDP – whether to create grand coalition with HDZ or Serb nationalist parties (that tend to co-operate in other areas).

Finally, elections for community councils in city of Karlovac, Croatian frontline stronghold during 1991-95 war and place known for Croatian nationalist extremism, gave victory to lists that represent the carbon copies of governing coalition in Zagreb.

It seems that the optimism of Ivo Sanader was quite premature and that Račan (Racan) might indeed rally support in next few months and snatch the victory out of jaws of defeat.

Sunday, March 30, 2003


I recently discovered Agonist blog. I must say that I like it, although the information is not always completely credible. I can only imagine the effort an individual could invest in such kind of war coverage.

Small and Probably Completely Trivial Reminder

It has been 20 years since the daylight savings time was introduced to former Yugoslavia.

Saturday, March 29, 2003


Remember the huge fire in Split Shipyard on last Friday? Unnamed sources connected with official investigation claim that it was arson.

I can only speculate about possible motives. Disgruntled worker? Someone who doesn't like Russians (the shipyard was building a tanker for Russian shipping company)? Someone who wants to undermine present government?

RPGs, Buildings and Birds

American soldiers in Iraq face RPGs. Croatian policemen in crusade to protect few endangered bird species face the same.

On the territory belonging to Vrana National Park near Biograd (Zadar-Knin County) building inspectors found foundations for four houses. The houses were built without permit, which is old Croatian custom. Usually, the authorities in such cases took "laissez faire laissez passé" approach, which is the policy adopted even in Communist days.

However, since Vrana National Park contains few precious (and endanegered) bird species, Croatian Ministry of Planning and Environmental Protection, led by energetic (although not too competent) Božo Kovačević (Bozo Kovacevic) decided to have those foundations removed. It was easier said than done, because the people who had wanted to build those houses are war veterans, many of them armed and many of them enjoying sympathies of local population. There was even some talk about threats being made against police and government officials. So the police conducted massive raid in Biograd. The net results was huge cache of weapons, including few RPGs.


I'm not talking about role playing games.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Too Early to Tell

Ivo Sanader, leader of HDZ, already sees himself like next Croatian prime minister, but his optimism might not be justified.

International Republican Institute (IRI) has recently published results of extensive Croatian public opinion survey which puts new light on widely-held belief that HDZ would win next election. The only certain thing is that HDZ would come out of next elections as the strongest Croatian party, but the support among electorate is simply not enough to form government by itself. To make things worse, only three parties are likely to break through 5% barrier and have representatives in next Sabor and all three – SDP, HSS and HNS – are members of current coalition. SDP is barely holding the lead over HNS, party most attacked by HDZ opposition and probably liked by anti-HDZ voters for that very reason.

Even more telling is enormous popularity of Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) who maintains favour of formidable 56 % of electorate. His strong position is, however, easy to explain with his constitutional emasculation – Mesić is free to criticise Račan's (Racan's) government and he doesn't take responsibility for its massive failures.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

First Skirmishes and First Casualties

Norac verdict created first casualties. In Bibinje, settlement near Zadar, unknown perpetrators have set roadblock of their own in the middle of the night. They have sawed few pines and put the trunk in the middle of Adriatic Highway. Young man crashed his car and got seriously injured because of that.

Later in the day veterans organisations have put the roadblocks on 19 locations all over Croatia. All the roadblocks were quickly removed after police intervention. Some of those interventions were quite violent, something not seen that often during Račan's (Racan's) era.

But Račan could hardly expect the electoral backlash because of the use of force. Veterans' organisations have suffered great defeat today. Barely 1500 people gathered on the roadblocks. Unlike 2001, it was easy for police to disperse them. Račan was winner today and Croatian voters tend to side with the winners.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Dining With Đinđić (Djindjic)

Croatian veteran organisations are going to set up major roadblocks all over Croatia tomorrow. However, their press conference was marked by the statement of Dražen Pavlović (Drazen Pavlovic), one of their representatives from Sinj area. He advised "Mesić (Mesic), Račan (Racan) and Manolić (Manolic) to dine with their Comrade Đinđić (Djindjic) and thus rescue Croatia from misery".

The statement caused something of a shock on Croatian political scene. Even Ivica Crnić (Ivica Crnic), chief justice of Croatian Supreme Court, called it "a incitement to murder". Zagreb County Prosecutor's Office has announced investigation in the matter.

Račan (Racan) is probably going to profit from this statement. As I said before, any attempt to bring down Croatian government through coups, popular revolts and assassinations looks like a pointless exercise in a time when every opinion poll predicts current government's defeat at the elections. Then again, in Sinj and other areas of Dalmatian hinterland, the song about Mesic and Racan becoming worm food is constantly playing on local radio stations. It is easy to imagine Pavlovic being slightly carried away.

Norac Reactions

Iraq War seems to be the best possible news for Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) and his embattled government. With eyes of Croatian public glued to the live reports from Baghdad and Iraqi desert, few people seem to care about another war that was somewhat closer to home, but more than a decade in the past. So, the reactions in Croatia, although mostly negative, aren't beyond verbal condemnation. The roadblock in the city of Sinj is removed, as well as the roadblock in Kaštela (Kastela), Split suburb. Some 50 demonstrators in the city of Split has blockaded traffic in one of town's main street for half an hour.

All this is in striking contrast to the protests that raged in many areas of Croatia more than two years, when the warrant for Norac's arrest and rumours of his extradition to Hague led to days of roadblocks, tens of thousands (in the case of Split hundreds of thousands) demonstrators, rumours about some police units disobeying governments and even rumours about popular revolt toppling Račan's government.

Reason why Croatians, even those who feel embittered over the verdict, won't go to the barricades is rather simple. In 2001 Račan's government seemed much stronger than today and the prospect of its removal with the conventional means – ballot boxes – was distant and uncertain. In 2003 Croatian right-wingers don't feel the need to rock the boat, since they are confident of electoral victory. Norac verdict is, therefore, going to be used only as a propaganda point during election campaign.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Wars, Heroes and Criminals

In most of countries of the world Iraq War is the top news. But not in Croatia today.

Mirko Norac is going to enter history books as the first general to be sentenced for war crimes by his own country's courts. Young general, who had earned his rank and fame by organising successful defence of Gospić (Gospic) in Autumn 1991, during Croatian war against Federal-backed Serb rebels, has just been sentenced to 12 years. He was sentenced for the role in massacre and disappearance of few dozens of local Serbs. Two of his associates – Tihomir Orešković (Tihomir Oreskovic) and Stjepan Grandić (Stjepan Grandic) – were sentenced to 15 and 10 years, respectively.

His sentence could have serious political implications. For Croatian right wing, Norac became a martyr figure – symbol of everything that is wrong with post-Tudjman Croatia. Streets of Rijeka, where the trial took place, were filled by few thousands of General Norac's supporters – mostly war veterans and people from his home town of Sinj. Many of them have expected acquittal and this decision, although not particularly surprising (even Tudjman's government has considered the Gospić troublemakers expendable) and although not the worst case scenario for Norac (if he was tried in Hague, he could have gotten a life sentence), is not going to sit well in many areas of Croatia.

People of Sinj have reacted by organising roadblocks, bringing back memories of widespread revolt in February 2001 and sinister comparisons with Serb rebellion that took the similar shape in August 1990.


I must say that I'm more pleased with the results than usual. At least few of my favourites have won – Adrien Brody for The Pianist, Roman Polanski for best director, Chris Cooper for best supporting actor in Adaptation etc. I can't comment on Chicago winning the top prize because I haven't seen the film yet. I was also slightly disappointed with Charlie Kaufman not getting an "Oscar" for best adapted screenplay, but I'm definitely most disappointed with Nicole Kidman winning for her role in The Hours. is probably one of the worst "Oscar"-winning movies in recent memory. I almost got physically sick while watching it and now it seems that the hordes of innocent viewers are going to be lured into the same traumatic experience.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Black Sunday

BBC and CNN were too squeamish to air the footage of dead and captured US soldiers. Croatian Nova TV was not. I saw only glimpses and that was enough to ruin anyone's day. I might watch Oscars tonight, but I can't drive those images from my head. And what is even more disturbing is the fact that there is going to be more of that. Iraqis, by all accounts, are putting much bigger fight than anticipated, and those images are only going to encourage them. So this war is going to be much longer and much bloodier than anyone has imagined.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Deja Vu

First casualty in any war is truth.

Hearing early reports about US/UK captures of Umm Qasr, Nassyriah and Basra and subsequent clarifications about "large sections under Allied control" and "isolated pockets of resistance soon to be dealt with" brings memories of 1991, especially the way Belgrade media covered war.

In September 1991 Radio Belgrade announced the "liberation" of Vukovar from "Ustasha hordes". Militarily it made sense. The city was, just like Umm Qasr, on the border and the attackers – JNA – had overwhelming superiority over defenders. Yet Radio Belgrade had to repeat the same news about "liberation" or "imminent liberation" many times until the city finally fell in November 1991, after incredible devastation and thousands of casualties.

For many who had opposed the war, the start of the campaign was signal to support Bush & Co. since the quick and relatively painless war is next best thing. But it seems that we aren't that lucky. Iraqis look like they are resisting more expected, even conscripts. Who could blame them? People, regardless of their political persuasion, tend to act strangely when someone invades their country.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Surreal Experience

In light of recent events and all those talk about weapons of mass destruction it was quite surreal experience to come home this evening and notice strange smell in the air. I wondered what that might it be, creating all kinds of apocalyptic scenarios. Few hours later television stations partially validated my suspicions about something bad going on – huge fire had engulfed Split shipyard.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Strange Choice of Movies

According to Nic Robertson, Iraqi state television is preparing the people for difficult times by airing "a movie about Tito". I can only guess that the movie in question is Sutjeska. If this is indeed the case, I don't think Iraqi morale is going to be improved much, since the 1973 movie rather accurately portrays the 1943 battle – the worst disaster Tito's Partisan army ever experienced throughout whole WW2. Out of some 20,000 Partisans who got involved in the battle, some 7-8,000 got killed, many of them in most unpleasant ways possible (being eaten by German dogs etc.) and even Tito himself got wounded in German air raid. The mere fact that Partisans survived that hell was the reason why the event later became one of most splendid victories in post-WW2 historic books, but this triumphalistic feeling wasn't shared by former Yugoslav audiences who had preferred other films of that particular genre, mainly Neretva (which was nominated for 1969 Foreign Language "Oscar").

I can only guess what the Iraqi audience would think of Richard Burton playing Tito. Despite being hand-picked by Tito himself to do the job, great Welsh actor didn't take it seriously and spent most of the shooting being drunk. Christopher Plummer could have been much better choice.


I distinctively remember that Neretva was one of rare non-Iranian films being shown in theatres during Iran-Iraq wars. It seems that Middle Eastern countries at war have some thing for former Yugoslav WW2 movies.

Changing Times

Coalition of Croatian war veteran organisations led by Colonel Mirko Čondić (Mirko Condic) has issued an official statement expressing full support for American attack on Iraq. This is hardly surprising, because Čondić's main political allies and sponsors – HDZ and HB – had done the same.

But this support is rather interesting in light of the events from two years ago. People connected with Čondić then led the demonstrations in front of US Embassy in Zagreb, protesting alleged American influence on Hague Tribunal and its indictments against "Croatian heroes". Needless to say, American flag was then burned as the part of the spectacle.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

What Else To Say?

I wanted to make some comment on the posts in this blog, but I don't think any comment is necessary.

Casualties of War

While White House prepares American public for casualties among US troops invading Iraq, the war has already claimed first American life.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Why I Don't Support War Against Iraq

It is very probable that in couple of hours my opinion on the upcoming war against Iraq is going to have strictly academic importance. And this is exactly the reason why I decided to share some of my thoughts on the subjects.

First of all, don't get me wrong. I'm not some kind of bleeding-heart pacifist nor do I keep posters of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden on the bedroom wall. Nor do I consider George W. Bush as the only person responsible for this mess; actually, I'm pretty much convinced that Al Gore could have handled things much worse.

Also note that I don't support war. Which is in my humble opinion a tad different that being opposed to war. If I would have to align myself with pro-war or anti-war camps in this global debate, I would have probably preferred to remain fence-sitter or join anti-war camp with great deal of reservations.

Reasons why I don't oppose the war against Iraq could be found in the validity of arguments used by pro-war camp. Saddam Hussein is a dictator, man who had practically ruined his country, started two incredibly destructive wars of aggression, had no qualms about committing genocide, oecocide or even using weapons of mass destruction against his own people. The soon he leaves the political stage in Iraq, the better. His removal for the scene is necessary pre-condition for Iraq to start looking like a decent place to live and prosper.

Unfortunately, it is not that clear that the military action, at least in the form predicted, is the best method to achieve that aim. All those who oppose the war also have very sound arguments. The campaign is going to be marked with unimaginable levels of destruction and bloodbath not seen since the darkest days of Vietnam War. Even after Saddam is deposed and something resembling democratic government of Iraq takes place, many Iraqis and the Arab world in general is going to be bitter about it. The people in that area still hadn't gotten over Crusades, and to expect them to take positive view of another Western invasion (and possible destruction of Baghdad) is exercise in over-optimism.

Those who oppose the war, however, got one thing very wrong. For them this war is nothing different from the old-fashioned imperialist conquest – USA wants to take hold of Iraqi oil deposits and thus secure its dominant economic position in the world and fill the coffers of scruples oil executives who had helped George W. Bush's election (or "coup d'etat" ).

But I doubt that the oil is the prime motive for war. If Americans really wanted oil, they could have got it through less direct, less costly, less dangerous and less complicated ways. If USA was led by truly Machiavelian leaders who would sacrifice every principle of decency for the sake of oil, there wouldn't be any war – Saddam would remain in power unmolested in exchange for overt or covert co-operation with American government. Military invasion would jeopardise the oil deposits, making them inaccessible for years to come and thus jeopardising the whole profitability of the war.

The real motive of the war could be seen in the way it was prepared. And the motive could be best described by two words. September 11th.

Basically, those who had perpetrated 2001 attacks have succeeded in reaching their main objective – proving the world that not even such global superpower as USA is invulnerable or omnipotent. Perception of American omnipotence was the foundation not only of Pax Americana, but also the most important tool for American political, cultural and economic domination over all other nations of the world. With this perception gone, this domination is under question, and the first cracks in American hegemony have already been noticed in quarrel over Iraq. Another, not less important, consequence of September 11th was the collective feeling of insecurity and uncertainty that had struck American nation. This feeling reflected not only among the ordinary people but also in the highest ranks of American government, thus influencing long-term policies.

In short, American government feels the need to restore the perception of American omnipotence, and the only way is to do it is to launch war which would be directed not only against the individual rogue state, but indirectly against the "international community" as a whole. War against Iraq is such war – for various complicated reasons, hardly any country other than USA wants it, and this is the reason why US government insists on it. The purpose of the war is to show that USA can do whatever it likes, without any qualms about the international law, humanitarian concerns or even the interests of their closest allies. Attempts to resist the war or broker some face-saving diplomatic solution only served to make USA even less willing to compromise and more resolute in taking the most extreme position possible.

So, it is easy to explain why American preparations for war included probably the most disastrous effort in the history of American diplomacy. It also explains why the military preparations were way below the standards for the operation of such complexities and risks. USA is going into this campaign with hardly any allies, with force that might prove numerically not fit for an ambitious task of invasion and successful occupation of the entire country, without much serious preparation for political future of post-Saddam Iraq or securing support of friendly Iraqis.

The purpose of war is going to be reflected in the strategy for the campaign. The aim is not to have quick, easy victorious campaign. The aim is to make long-lasting impression, and "splendid little wars" comparable to cakewalk in Afghanistan or even 1991 Gulf War simply won't make such impression. USA must show not only its might, but willingness to show this might with extreme prejudice and without any concern not only for the lives of innocent civilians but for the lives of their own soldiers too. So, instead of prolonged bombing campaign which should grind down and exhaust the enemy or effective pincer movements, American offensive is going to resemble WW1-style frontal assault with the exact details all but publicly announced. Since Americans possess overwhelming superiority over Iraqis in training and equipment this might not be as insane as would be in occasions when two sides are more evenly matched. But history teaches us that war is always a risk and that underestimating the enemy and overestimating its own forces is the most common cause of military setback.

Of course, the strictly military outcome of the war could hardly be in doubt. But the tiny details, especially those that would create public impression of the war, are crucial. If some of tiny, almost invisible setback occur, in the long run American victory, regardless whether it takes place after a day, week, month or year, might prove to be Pyrrhic. Unfortunately, the price is not going to be paid by Americans or Iraqis alone, it is going to be paid by the whole world.

Finally, I must admit that my thoughts about upcoming events are at least partly based on my own experiences of war. The war that I witnessed first hand was in many ways different from the one we are going to see in the near future, but some of the lessons can apply to all conflicts. Let's just hope that those lessons were learned and that I'm wrong in my assumptions.

Monday, March 17, 2003

So Far the Best Thing About Iraq

To be frank, I never read anything by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho (and those who had tell me that his reputation of literary genius is unjustified), but after reading this open letter to President Bush I must say that he has some literary talent. This little pamphlet is so far the best thing to come out of the whole Iraq mess.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Peculiar Choice

Many people saw Nebojša Čović (Nebojsa Covic), acting Serbian prime minister and one of the more skilful negotiators in Serbian governments, as the best and most logical choice for Đinđić's (Djindjic's) successor. But Đinđić's Democratic Party thought otherwise and selected Zoran Živković (Zoran Zivkovic), former mayor of Niš (Nis) and the last interiors minister of any entity with the name "Yugoslavia", as their candidate for prime minister.

Peculiar thing about this choice is the fact that Živković, as someone who, at least theoretically, had to improve public safety, fight terrorism and organised crime, bears at least some responsibility for the demise of his predecessor. And, strangely enough, he is the one who profited from this tragedy. This decision is going to be conspiracy theory fodder for years to come.

Incidentally, Zoran Živković has the same name as famous Serbian science fiction publisher whose business empire managed to survive the collapse of former Yugoslavia.

The End of Season

For Croatian Nova TV, the end of Alpine Ski World Cup was the more important news than selection of new Serb prime minister or the upcoming war in Iraq. This finale, however, wasn't as triumphalistic as many had predicted. Janica Kostelić (Janica Kostelic) had already secured World Cup title and Little Crystal Globe as best slalom racer, so she didn't bother with slalom and giant slalom event. Yesterday, during the slalom event, she even allowed herself to fall few meters before finishing line. Today, she was lucky enough to qualify for the second run.

Her brother Ivica, on the other hand, had some chance to end the season with the title of best slalom racer. But he just couldn't keep up with the recent victory streak of Kale Pallander.

Janica's good friend Anja Paerson, on the other hand, was much luckier. She nearly lost her giant slalom title in today's final event. Her first run was atrocious and she had to make a real miracle to get into top five positions – necessary to stave off challenge by Karen Putzer.

It is really sad to see this season coming to an end. That means that there are going to be very few good news for Croatian public in next few months.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Đindić (Djindjic) – Bad Role Model?

Croatian media has already started putting positive spin on Đinđić assassination. According to some op-ed pieces in Slobodna Dalmacija, killing of Serbian prime minister justifies cautious and non-confrontational policies of his Croatian colleague. Račan (Racan) refused to attack organised crime and far right extremists within army, police and intelligence community, and because of such caution, Croatia is spared of assassinations, terrorism and states of emergency. Furthermore, Đinđić killing should lead to the re-evaluation and changes in Hague Tribunal policy towards ex-Yugoslav republics – Carla del Ponte and her unrealistic demands for arrests and extraditions are indirectly blamed for Serbian tragedy.

Croatian media is also less constrained when it comes to describing dark side of the slain Serbian leader. Nova TV – Croatian private television – uses every opportunity to remind the audience of Đinđić's association with Siniša Subotić Cane (Sinisa Subotic Cane), notorious cigarette smuggler and one of the leading organised crime figures in former Yugoslavia. Other commentators are pointing towards "Zemun gang" leaders being the key factor in bloodless transfer of power from Milošević (Milosevic); the price for their co-operation had been the immunity from prosecution – domestic and Hague-based. By breaking its promise and announcing co-operation with Hague, Đinđić made himself into legitimate target (which is another analogy with JFK).

Some Croatian media don't even hide their nationalistic Schadenfreude. For them, this killing is final proof that Serbia belongs to Asiatic Balkans, while Croatia belongs to Europe. Other commentators point towards the harshness of some post-assassination measures – crushing of "Zemun gang's" headquarters is nothing more than public spectacle designed to hide Serbian government's lack of success in capturing the perpetrators, while some of emergency measures – ban on strikes, ban on public demonstrations, total control of media – weren't seen in the darkest days of Milošević's reign.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Serbian Lee Harvey Oswald?

It seems that the Serbian government has found someone very convenient to put the blame for its leader's killing. They named names and alleged that the one organised crime gang – so called "Zemun gang" - was responsible not only for yesterday's assassination, but also for most of the unsolved high-profile murders and kidnappings in Serbia during 1990s.

Serbian government's sudden frankness and willingness to point fingers is rather suspicious. Serbian police and intelligence services had all that information before, but they hadn't acted on them. According to government's statement, the assassination was an attempt to prevent major arrests of "Zemun gang" leaders.

I'm a little bit sceptical towards this. Đinđić could have moved against "Zemun gang" much earlier, with the same zeal shown by his successors. But he chose not to, which leads to all kinds of speculations. If the truth about yesterday's killing comes out some day, my guess is that at least one part of it would have something to do with the people with whom Đinđić was in cahoots.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Serbian JFK

Zoran Đinđić (Zoran Djindjic) could have been remembered as the embodiment of all the best and all the worst of East European post-Communist politicians. He could have been remembered as a "kindler and gentler" version of Vuk Drašković (Vuk Draskovic) – opportunist who tried to reconcile "pro-Western" platform with Serbian nationalism even more virulent than Milošević's (Milosevic's). He could have been remembered for publicly supporting Bosnian Serbs when they had major quarrel with Milošević.

He could have been remembered for his unsuccessful attempts to oust Milošević and his very successful attempts to prevent anti-Milošević opposition from creating united front.

He could have been remembered for his good connections with organised crime and recruitment of the most notorious Milošević's thugs into his inner circle.

He could have been remembered for breaking his country's Constitution for some 50 million US$ of foreign aid.

He could have been remembered for wrecking the last remnants of Yugoslav federation simply in order to torpedo his main political rival – President Vojislav Koštunica (Vojislav Kostunica).

He could have been remembered as one of the least popular Serbian prime ministers – man who allowed his government to be constantly paralised with coalition quarrels rather than break the impasse and take his chances on the polls.

But, now he would enter Serbian history books as a good-looking martyr figure – man who gave his life in an attempt to lead his country from darkness.

And Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) now has good excuse for doing nothing to stop the organised crime and increasingly virulent far right in Croatia.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Things to Come?

On the elections for Virovitica City Council, HDZ won 33,85 % of the vote and 8 out of 19 seats. Second best result was by SDP – 12,64 % and 3 seats, while HSS won 11,69 % and 2 seats. HDZ is most likely to form the new administration by combining its seats with those of two right-wing parties – HKDS (7,91 %) and HSP (6,93 %). The elections were called after the collapse of previous administration, dominated by SDP.

It is usually quite futile to predict general political trends on the basis of local elections. When people go to poll on local elections, they tend to vote more for individuals rather than parties, and different ideologies play little part in mundane affairs like waste management and tending public parks. Unlike national elections, independent candidates are often major players (in Virovitica one of such lists gathered 9,24 % and 2 seats).

What makes Virovitica elections significant is the turnout. The turnout in Croatian local elections usually around 10 or 20 %. In Virovitica it was 43,77 %.

This might turn out to be the major boost for HDZ and heavy blow for Račan's (Racan's) governing coalition. Until now, Račan (Racan) could have expected most of his 2000 voters to express their disappointment by staying home. But now it seems that many of them are going to vote for HDZ in order to protest.

Worth Reading

Jonathan Edelstein has a very good post about War on Terror.

Old Europe, New Europe and DVD Discrimination

While Donald Rumsfeld, together with most of Americans, prefers "New Europe" (post-Communist countries in the eastern part of the Continent) to "Old Europe", at least one of the major Hollywood studios takes the opposite view. For some of them treacherous French and Germans are more valuable than America's allies.

At least, this is the conclusion you might make if you compare various Region 2 DVDs of some movies (Royal Tennenbaums, Signs). Those intended for West European ("Old Europe") market are equipped with the usual set of additional material – deleted/alternative scenes, documentaries, audio-commentaries etc. Those intended for East European ("New Europe") market – at least those that end up in Croatian video-stores – don't have any additional material except the film itself.

So, while treacherous "surrender-loving cheese monkeys" might enjoy the stuff like audio-commentaries with French subtitles, America's noble allies are considered to be untermensch not sophisticated enough to understand or appreciate anything beyond the simplicity of an average Hollywood movie.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Possible Hiatus

Previews of Oscar-nominated movies are going to be shown in Split, so I might not have much time for blogging.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Gotovina Update

Croatian Supreme didn't confirm nor deny Nacional article about its refusal to authorise telephone tapping and other surveillance measure directed at the members of General Gotovina's family.

This is hardly surprising for all those familiar with the state of Croatian judiciary. Most of Croatian judges were appointed by Tudjman's government, following the massive purge of Communist-era cadre in early 1990s. Supreme Court was not the exception and it is dominated by rigid nationalists who don't hesitate to make rulings solely based on their political sympathies.

Račan's (Racan's) government, on the other hand, won't be disappointed by this decision. It delivers the perfect excuse not to do anything in Gotovina affair, while maintaining its co-operative stance towards Hague tribunal.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Nostalgic Perspectives

According to one recent poll, more than half of all Russians think of Stalin as figure who had positive role in that nation's history.

This is hardly surprising, considering that most Russians weren't alive when Uncle Joe used to run things. Even their parents are probably having a blurred perception of those traumatic years and the people's natural tendency to remember only positive things and suppress the bad also contributed to the poll results. So, things like collectivisation, purges, gulags and Barbarossa are put under the carpet; Russians prefer of Stalin as a man who led the industrialisation, turned Russia into superpower and, last but not least, led Russia into victory over Nazis in WW2. The last thing is something that the Russians should be particularly proud of, since their effort and their sacrifices were those that broke Hitler's back and prevented the world from speaking German. Ironically, Stalin, to whom the credit for this victory is often contributed by his latter-day apologists, is the very person that nearly made that victory impossible. His handling of German invasion prior and immediately after June 1941 leaves impression that one of Hitler's generals was in charge of Soviet defences.

But Russians aren't alone in undeserved deification of their WW2 leaders. British also consider Churchill as one of the greatest Britons of all time, man to whom they must thank for the victory of Hitler. But real Churchill was incompetent hack who had the dubious honour of having not one but two wars unnecessarily prolonged. In April 1915 his mishandling of Dardanelle invasion kept Turkey in war and indirectly led to at least two more years of slaughter at Western Front and Russian Revolution. In April 1940 Churchill, despite overwhelming British superiority at sea, allowed German invasion forces to occupy most of Norway unmolested and thus gave away extra submarines bases for Dönitz in the upcoming Battle of the Atlantic. A year later, his decision to send expedition force to Greece prevented British from finishing off Italians in North Africa, which indirectly led to extra two years of fighting in Lybian desert. But British, just as Russians, tend to put all that under the carpet and remember Churchill as brilliant orator, talented writer and inspirational leader.

In Russian case, re-emergence of Stalin's personality cult also has something to do with the fact that his regime represents the opposite of everything which is wrong, or perceived to be wrong with modern Russia. Country that is burdened with widespread corruption, gangsterism, poverty and humiliated by the rest of the world yearns for the days when there was order and certainty and when other nations trembled in fear of Russian might.

Something similar (and more sinister) happened in Croatia. Ante Pavelić (Ante Pavelic), WW2 leader of quisling Croatian state, was probably the worst thing that could have happened for Croatia. But for many Croatians in early 1990s he became one of national heroes, simply for being viewed as the opposite of everything that was sacred in Tito's Yugoslavia – Communism and union with Serbs (and Communist propaganda, which had tried to connect even the mildest form of Croatian nationalism with his legacy, contributed to this effect).

Monday, March 03, 2003

Croatia's Most Wanted

According to Jutarnji List, Croatian government mulls putting the financial reward for any information leading to arrest of Ante Gotovina, Croatian Army general indicted by War Crimes Tribunal in Hague.

It is too early to tell whether this initiative would produce any results. Croatian police, at least according to ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte, did very little or nothing to apprehend Gotovina, showing the same zeal as their Serbian colleagues who hunt Ratko Mladić (Ratko Mladic).

What is certain about this bounty is Gotovina becoming even more mythical figure than he currently is. Fugitive general already enjoys the status of folk hero among large segments of Croatian population, and the song dedicated to him was one of last year's biggest hits. For Croatian right-wing opposition his plight is symbol of everything that is wrong with current Croatian government – "Serb-loving Yugo-Communists who are betraying national honour by selling Croatian heroes down the river". Needless to say, most of Croatian war veterans are subscribed to those views, at least those who still hold important positions in Croatian military, police and intelligence services and who are able to make Gotovina's arrest very difficult.

If financial reward is indeed contemplated, it must be quite hefty, because anyone who betrays Gotovina risks infamy that would last even longer than fugitive's fame.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Worthington Cup and Worthless Leagues

FC Liverpool won't finish this season without trophy. Despite being an underdog, the team has managed to pull a 2-0 win against Manchester United in the final of England's Worthington Cup. This is good news not only for fans of the Liverpool club, but also for their manager Gerard Ullier, who had disappointing run this season. FC Liverpool was knocked out of FA Cup and had its chances for Premiership title shrank beyond reasonable possibility. This victory would represent a great boost for FC Liverpool in their upcoming battles for UEFA Cup title.

The game itself was somewhat disappointing. The start was slow and both teams played too cautiously. However, at the end of first half thing began to happen. Despite the result, Manchester United made a good show of itself and only thanks to the excellent work by Liverpool's goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek this effort was unrewarded.

This was the most important soccer event in the world today, but I had to rely on Bosnian Federal TV for watching it alive. This is due to some obscure UEFA rule that prohibits national televisions from airing other countries' soccer games simultaneously with domestic events.

For soccer fans in countries like Italy, Spain, Germany or England this doesn't seem like a big deal. But soccer fans in small countries like Croatia are condemned to watch domestic leagues, with quality of game and atmosphere that leaves much to be desired, at least compared to Serie A or Premiership. The lack of interest in Croatian league is such that even clubs like Hajduk – bastions of rigid Croatian nationalism and far right views – are beginning to toy with the heretical idea of joint soccer league with Serbia and other republics of former Yugoslavia. Such precedent was already made with basketball and creation of Goodyear League.

However, until something like that happens, fans of good soccer in Croatia would have to rely on satellite channels.

Uninteresting Coincidences

This evening Croatian public had the opportunity to see the very first news show by Nova TV, the most popular of all Croatian private television stations (and the only one with the national coverage). The station was rumoured to be heavily influenced by HDZ and to serve as a counter-weight to government-controlled state television.

But I don't believe that Nova TV could really work as crude propaganda tool. It is true that the most of reporters and anchorpeople began as Tudjmanist cadre on state television. But in their first show they failed to score major propaganda point against current government. The largest part was dedicated to the another series of negotiations between ex-Communist SDP and conservative (peasant) party HSS – two biggest partners in governing coalition.

Yet, for all their perceived anti-government slant, Nova TV failed to inform Croatian public about similar negotiations going on and failing in Poland. Two parties of soon-to-be-former Polish government coalition – Left Alliance and Peasant Party – have incredible resemblance to two major parties of Croatian governing coalition.

Iraq Effect

Vaclav Klaus, former right-wing prime minister of the Czech Republic, is apparently the first European politician to be elected thanks to Iraq crisis. Long-time deadlock in the Czech Assembly was over after his archenemies from Communist Party decided to back his run for Czech presidency instead of left-wing Social Democrats.

Of course, Vaclav Klaus' post of Czech President is mainly ceremonial and Klaus won't be able to influence Czech policy or change Czech government's pro-war policy. However, his opposition to war would represent a huge contrast to pro-war stance of his predecessor Vaclav Havel.

Bad Day for Ninoslav Pavić (Ninoslav Pavic)

Yesterday morning unknown perpetrator had planted and activated explosive device under Mercedes M2 owned by Ninoslav Pavić (Ninoslav Pavic), one of Croatia's best known media tycoons. The explosion has wrecked the car and damaged Pavic's house but, thankfully, nobody is hurt.

This incident only shows the sad state of public safety within Croatia. It is too early to speculate about possible motives and perpetrators, but, in my humble opinion, the intention of the bombers was to show that nobody is untouchable in today's Croatia, not even a media tycoon who was very close both to Tudjman's and Račan's (Racan's) governments. The bombing follows a campaign of threats against journalists who work in Pavic's newspapers and magazines.

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Bad Day For Kostelićs (Kostelics)

Earlier today at Yongpyong, South Korea, Ivica Kostelić (Ivica Kostelic) had to abandon the first run of giant slalom event after missing one of the gates.

Later in the same day in Innsbruck his girlfriend Caroline Lalive was seriously injured while finishing her downhill race. Lalive managed to pass through finishing line only to have one of her skis loose and crash into fence. At first few people believed that she was seriously hurt. Austrian skier Michaela Dorfmeister was first to run towards her, check her up and immediately call paramedics. Judging by the expression on Dorfmeister's face, Lalive's injuries were bad.

In unrelated incident yesterday, Silvia Nef, one of the prettiest alpine skiers of today, practically finished her season after tearing the ligament during the practice run.

Ivica's sister Janica Kostelić (Janica Kostelic) didn't seem particularly hit by those misfortunes (which had been quite common in her career) and finished Innsbruck event at 11th place.