Tuesday, June 29, 2004

RIP Stipe Šuvar (Stipe Suvar) (1936 – 2004)

Stipe Šuvar (Stipe Suvar), former Croatian minister of education, former head of Yugoslav Communist Party and former member of Yugoslav Presidency has died. However, all those titles are just part of one remarkable story about one controversial individual.

Šuvar, born in Zagvozd, small place near Imotski, used to be one of the most disliked high-ranking Communist apparatchiks of former Yugoslavia. Many of his fellow Croatians didn't like his coming to power in the bleak decade following the crushing of "Croatian Spring" and purges. Many in the rest of former federation didn't like his controversial education reforms. Many were aghast at his "White Book" about "counter-revolutionary" artists and authors.

But even people like Šuvar can get opportunity to become popular heroes. This opportunity was provided by Slobodan Milošević (Slobodan Milosevic) in late 1980s. Šuvar became the champion of all those Party (and non-Party) forces determined to prevent Milošević from taking over Party and Federation. If someone wants to know why, for example, Croatians embraced man like Tudjman, little incident involving Šuvar would give perfect explanation. Torcida, Hajduk Split fan group, (in)famous for the virulent Croatian nationalism of its members, began to chant Šuvar's name any time Hajduk played against Serbia's teams (whose fans chanted Slobo's name).

Šuvar's failure to stop Milošević led to his fall from Party leadership and, ultimately, dissolution of Party and country. Unlike many who tried to "rediscover themselves" during those turbulent times, Šuvar remained loyal to his former self – he continued to advocate Communism and Yugoslavia. When victorious Tudjman's party asked him to resign from the post of Croatia's representative in Federal presidency, he refused and had to be removed following spirited speech in Sabor.

Many believed that the war would mean the end of Šuvar. They were wrong. In 1992 Šuvar's name again appeared in newspapers, this time due to his sociology research (his field of expertise before entering politics) and numbers that told convincing tale about most former Party members joining Tudjman's nationalist HDZ.

Šuvar, however, couldn't resist the need to become political player again. He and couple of other leftists – people disappointed with the "reformist" sellout of Račan's (Racan's) SDP – founded SRP (Socialist Workers Party). His first major move was condemnation of NATO's bombing of Serbia in 1999 – something heretical for country whose citizens had been praying for such event only few years ago. Through years SRP gathered many respected individuals but failed to make any serious impact on elections. Šuvar wasn't discouraged, though. He remained celebrity despite never returning to Croatian political mainstream.


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