Monday, January 31, 2005

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Two Carnivals Added to Blogroll

Two blog carnivals – dedicated to the subjects that have much in common.- Carnival of the Balkans and Carnival of Bad History - added to blogroll.

Political Filmmaking in Croatia

Tragic protagonist of the last presidential elections is Boris Mikšić (Boris Miksic). He, to everyone's, including his own, surprise won second place in the first round, humiliating the favoured and government-sponsored HDZ candidate Jadranka Kosor. However, thanks to Herzegovina votes and fraud, his second place disappeared.

Mikšić made a mistake by trying to extend his short-lived triumph with staging Croatian version of Orange Revolution. However, Croatians' traditional unwillingness for such kind of endeavours, Mikšić's lack of foreign support and organisational infrastructure, as well as fear of things getting out of hand led to the Revolution being stillborn and Mikšić losing credibility of serious politician. To make things worse for him, media, undoubtedly aided by government and mainstream opposition – both scared by legions of Mikšić's protest voters that could damage them at upcoming local elections – applied Plan B and exposed stories about Mikšić being long-time domestic abuser. For many political observers in Croatia, that meant the end of Mikšić's political career.

After few weeks Mikšić decided to get back in the ring and stay true to his promise of running on the local elections.

Yesterday he had a press conference during which he formally announced that he will run for Zagreb mayor and also have his tickets on the elections in other Croatian towns. He also explained that he won't form new political party because "they were too many political parties in Croatia". This corresponds well with the populist anti-establishment sentiments that brought him so many votes.

However, the person he chose to accompany him at the press conference is most likely to further damage his image of serious candidate. At the conference he had an endorsement of Jakov Sedlar, one of the best known, but also the most disliked of all public figures in Croatia. Sedlar, author of controversial Četverored (Cetverored) and many other films, is often seen as the embodiment of everything which was bad in Croatian culture during Tudjman's years. Many of his films are considered to be among the worst in the history of Croatian cinema and Sedlar himself as a worthless hack. However, Sedlar's lack of filmmaking talent was always compensated with his incredibly ability to get huge budgets from powerful sponsors, mostly government. At the conference he announced that he would make 58-minute documentary for PBS detailing the recent vote fraud.

Will Sedlar deliver to Mikšić what Michael Moore failed to deliver to John Kerry? Not likely. Average voter didn't need documentaries to be attracted to Mikšić and his populist message. Intelligentsia, on the other hand, will use Sedlar as a rallying point against Mikšić and do everything in its power to prevent people like him becoming serious factors in Croatian politics.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

[ADMINISTRATIVE] New Blogroll Addition

Pearsall's Books added to blogroll.

RIP Ephraim Kishon (1924 – 2005)

I remember that many years ago on this very date I received Ephraim Kishon's book as a gift. I remembered that because today I heard that Kishon had died a day before.

Today I don't have much time to read books. Those that I read usually don't make me laugh, and none managed to do like those written by Kishon did.

Iraqi Path of Least Resistance

Like most countries today, Croatia has succumbed to growing anti-Americanism and this new phenomenon reflects in the way national media are covering events in Iraq. Almost everyone sees US military presence in that country as a repeat of Vietnam fiasco and whatever happens is interpreted as another phase in upcoming disaster. This reflected in the way Croatian media reported about today's elections. They were more than eager to use headlines emphasising low turnout and unstoppable violence.

However, it seems that estimates of low turnout were premature, to say the least. Turnout was indeed low, but only in Sunni-dominated areas where the voters boycotted the elections, either because of fear or principal disagreement with the whole process. This was apparently more than compensated in Kurdish and Shiite areas where the turnout exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.

So, the election turnout is going to be bigger than expected and whatever government comes out of this process is going to have popular mandate together with legitimacy no other government in history of Iraq had.

Of course, Bush and pro-war camp are going to be ecstatic with this surprising turn of events. The mere fact that election went through despite all the hardships is going to be touted as great victory in struggle that didn't look good in past few months.

The main reason why this should be seen as a great victory for Bush and all those who had supported invasion of Iraq is in the elections giving legitimacy to the whole affair. And that very legitimacy was lost when Weapons of Mass Destruction – the alleged reason for war – turned out to be imaginary. However, this election and the new, more-or-less democratic, government to come out of it, gives justification for war. Few people could deny that election like this could have been possible without the violent overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime – something that could have been achieved only with US military might.

Anti-war camp will, of course, grudgingly admit that some of its worst case Iraq election scenarios, at least for time being, didn't materialise. The opponents of the Iraq War could, however, point towards many serious issues – whole areas being excluded from the voting process, flaws in the election law, lack of security, intimidation, vote manipulation, fraud – that might put the legitimacy of the election into question. And they could also point to the fact the elections, regardless of how successful they are, won't stop the insurgency and violence.

On the other hand, some details of today's elections points to them as potential Pyrrhic victory for Bush and pro-war camp.

One of these details is Sadr City, place which also saw incredibly high turnout. Only few months ago Sadr City used to be battleground between US forces and Shiite militias which enjoyed at least some support among its many residents.

It could be argued that at least some of the people who voted today share at least part of the agenda with the militants and insurgents. Most of Iraqis are unhappy with US military presence and most would like to see Americans go. The differences are only in when this should happen and how. It is likely that some of Iraqis saw election as a way to do it with least amount of risk and personal effort.

Iraqis are today probably aware of something that most people in developed democracies tend to forget – voting in elections is the easiest, cheapest and simplest way of political participation for an average individual. It doesn't require individuals to risk life, property or social position by standing for something unpopular. Voting doesn't require financial resources associated with campaigning or free time necessary for demonstrations, strikes or peaceful (or not so peaceful) protests. Voting is, therefore, the most convenient way to express displeasure with government.

And it is very likely that many Iraqis will express that displeasure at the polls – against the government, as well as the force behind it – USA.

With enough time and with global political circumstances changing, this election – touted as glorious Bush's victory – could lead to something that insurgents tried but failed to do with AK-47s, RPGs and suicide bombs.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Winter Joy in Split

Last night snow fell in Split in sufficient quantity to lead to endless snow fights among enthusiastic youth, apparently unaffected by cold and midnight curfews.

By noon, most of the snow melted but some of it, especially in shade, actually froze making the streets slippery and dangerous to walk by. Whether this winter joy resulted in serious injuries or increased number of traffic accidents remains to be seen.

Kozjak wasn't very white around noon, as you might judge based on the photo above.

Second "Constructive Opposition"?

One of the sadder chapters of recent Croatian history is the lack of official opposition in the first two years of its democracy.

On paper, there was a strong opposition, at least judging by the composition of first democratically elected Sabor. While Tudjman and HDZ party won nearly two thirds of seats, nearly a third was taken by Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) and his ex-Communists.

However, after few months some interesting phenomenon developed in Sabor. MSes from SDP were conspicuously silent during debates and whenever someone voted against government's proposal it was more likely to come from the ranks of HDZ. Some SDP leaders were even more passionate in defence of Tudjman and his policies than the most sycophantic members of HDZ. And, since Tudjman used to run HDZ with iron discipline it tells a lot about the way SDP acted as opposition party.

When asked about that state of affairs – which many saw as de facto coalition between HDZ and SDP - Račan described it as "constructive opposition". Later he would claim that "constructive opposition" was inevitable because SDP shared the major political aim with HDZ - Croatian independence – and didn't want to jeopardise realisation of that aim with "petty criticisms" of things like privatisation, mishandling the war, arms smuggling or human rights abuses.

More cynical observers saw "constructive opposition" as a strategy of survival for the party which many sections of Croatian society saw as embodiment of Communism and Yugoslavia.

More than a decade has passed and many things changed. But many things are also very much like they used to be in 1990. HDZ is again in power while SDP is strongest opposition party. And, Ivica Račan apparently thinks that this situation warrants another "constructive opposition".

In the last days of presidential campaigns, President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) together with leaders of HNS, HSS and other opposition parties was surprised to find Ivica Račan having some secretive negotiations with Ivo Sanader, prime minister and leader of ruling HDZ. Almost immediately media began speculating about SDP leaving its former coalition partners in favour of new, this time grand coalition with HDZ.

This new arrangement is, at least at present, more needed by Sanader than by Račan. HDZ rank-and-file might not like the coalition with the party it saw its worst enemy during past few elections. However, HDZ leadership would prefer one strong partner and clear majority in Sabor to the thin majority dependant on petty parties always blackmailing Sanader for their share of pork barrel. Coalition with SDP would also be less embarrassing than present coalition that includes Serb nationalists. At the same time, coalition with Račan could silence all those in Europe who still brand Sanader's party as hard-line nationalists.

Apart from the obvious benefit of coming to power earlier than anyone expected, Račan could use the grand coalition to increase his party's chances on the local elections, especially in Zagreb where dominant SDP is in bitter feud with HNS, its former partner on national level. At least in the short run, the coalition between SDP and HDZ could marginalise other parties, especially those on the left whose leaders have apparently allowed themselves to be taken for a ride and support Račan until this day.

If asked about it, Račan is ready to use excuse for his "constructive opposition" very much like the one used more than a decade ago. Again it is the great noble aim SDP shares with HDZ and that shouldn't be jeopardised over petty ideological and other differences. Last time it was Croatian independence, this time it is entry to EU.

Ironically, both aims are related to Croatian sovereignty. Last time Račan deprived Croatia of opposition for the sake of establishing full Croatian sovereignty. This time he is going to do it for the sake of giving Croatian sovereignty away.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Mistakes of Nova TV

Judging by the flood of criticism, Nova TV executives made a greatest mistake possible by trying to raise their poor ratings with the controversial Ceca interview.

However, this was followed by even greater mistake. After great pressure from outside and within (if some reports about internal debates among Nova TV editorial staff are to believed), Nova TV decided not to air the interview. In its official communiqué Nova TV tried to put the all blame on Petar Vlahov, interviewer who allegedly "didn't ask the all necessary questions about war, Đinđić (Djindjic) assassination" etc. Vlahov, whose father is 1991-95 war veteran and whose grandparents were forced out of their home by Serb paramilitaries, was quite unhappy with the way he became Nova TV's sacrificial lamb and said that "he suddenly became aware that Croatians were refined, cultural people who prefer going to theatre to listening to turbo folk music".

So, after showing itself to be a network prepared to lower content standards, Nova TV presented itself as a network which bows to any kind of pressure.

However, this bowing to the pressure might be the point of the whole affair. Because, Ceca's interview is the most controversial content scheduled to appear on Nova TV, but it isn't the only one able to create controversy and bad blood among certain sections of Croatian society.

On Sunday Nova TV is going to start airing Laku noć, Hrvatska (Laku noc, Hrvatska), series of short cartoons spoofing Croatian public celebrities. The characters, drawn by Stevo Šinik (Stevo Sinik) a.k.a. Steve Cinik, are based on the likes of Severina Vučković (Severina Vuckovic), her former lover Milan Lučić (Milan Lucic), prime minister Ivo Sanader, RTL show host Renata Sopek etc. Judging by the way Steve Cinik used to cover the same material in right-wing tabloids, none of those people is going to be very happy about the way they are treated. And some of them are powerful enough to express their displeasure by pressing Nova TV, directly or indirectly. Brouhaha created around Ceca interview is undoubtedly going to help them in their efforts.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Auschwitz 60 Years Later

Many bloggers seem to have an urge to say something related to the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation.

That includes me, although I feel uncomfortable because I don't think that anything I write might fit the relevancy and seriousness of the topic.

All I can do is to write two things. One is a personal anecdote and another is an slightly ironic observation.

Ten years ago I met an elderly gentleman and shook his hand. There was something strange in the way he shook my hand and looked at me. I never knew what it was but it was quite uncomfortable. I felt like I was shaking hands with some supernatural creature rather than a frail old man. Later they told me that the elderly gentleman survived Dachau.

This might look like a plot of a bad horror film, but sometimes I think that the horror and evil that old man had experienced somehow found a way to affect people even today.

I could only imagine what kinds of stories can tell people indirectly affected by Auschwitz.

On the other hand, what proved to be the bad thing for citizens of Auschwitz in 1939 – being at the mercy of the nastiest occupying force in recent history – proved to be a blessing after 1945. Today they can make money as a place of pilgrimage while calling their city by a different name and not experiencing unpleasantness some other historic locations do till this day.

[TEST] Kozjak

Kozjak, the most popular mountain in Croatia

There are three reasons why I made this post.

First one is to test how this blog can handle images.

Second purpose of this post is to show readers that there isn't any snow in Split today.

Third reason why I made this post is to acquaint the readers with Kozjak, the most popular mountain in Croatia. It served as an location for the most popular piece of filmmaking in Croatian history – at least in pre-Severina period.

Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Snow Falling On Palm Trees

Snow fell on Split today. Due to Mediterranean climate, it is very rare occurrence and the source of great joy for Split's children. City administration tends to be less enthusiastic about this phenomenon, because every such occurrence shows complete lack of preparation for traffic and other problems that might arise. Thankfully, the snow fell but only to melt immediately. The streets weren't turned white, there weren't snow fights among children and the amount of traffic accidents was at regular level.

However, when snow falls on Split it means that the rest of country, which doesn't enjoy benefits of Mediterranean climate, is hit hard with snow and blizzards. Any such occurrence results with complete breakdown of all traffic between northern and southern sections of Croatia – all that despite billions of HRK invested in new roads, bridges and other sections of transport infrastructure.

[ADMINISTRATIVE] New Blogroll Addition and Some Changes

Balkan-Scissors added to blogroll.

I intend to make something like a minor make-over of this blog in very near future. I would appreciate any advice and suggestion about design.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Ceca ante portas

Croatian media is doing anything in their power to make Niko Kranjčar's transfer from Dinamo to Hajduk this into a cosmic event. However, despite Kranjčar being greeted by thousands of enthusiastic Hajduk fans in Split, lot of gloating on Slobodna Dalmacija pages and disgruntled Dinamo fans wrecking police car and sending one policeman to hospital, this story isn't going to be exploited much further.

The Transfer of the Decade is going to be overshadowed by the Interview of the Decade.

Nova TV, privately owned national TV station which had lost most of ratings war in 2004, is apparently ready to do anything in order to bring viewers to screens. For Petar Vlahov, host of Drugo lice talk show, "anything" means having a show with the most controversial guest imaginable.

The guest of the show, which is going to be aired on Thursday, is Ceca Ražnjatović-Veličković (Ceca Raznjatovic-Velickovic), Serbian turbo folk star, which is also known as the widow of notorious Serbian paramilitary Željko Ražnjatović (Zeljko Raznjatovic) a.k.a. Arkan.

Ceca, despite Arkan's militia being responsible for all kinds of atrocities in during the war in Croatia and despite standing for her late husband and everything he had symbolised, enjoys incredible popularity in Croatia, especially among the people whose political sympathies are set far to the right. The more someone rants against reconciliation with Serbs and any other "insult to the memory of Patriotic War and thousands of martyrs slain by Serbs", the more likely is for that person to enjoy Ceca's music.

The interview, during which Ceca is going to express her view on 1990s wars and share some untold stories about her incarceration after Đinđić (Djindjic) assassination, is almost certainly going to be among the highest rated shows in the history of Croatian television. Needless to say, it is going to spark enormous controversy and that controversy is, of course, going to bring even those viewers who would, under normal circumstances, avoid Ceca na her music like plague.

To say that Vlahov and Nova TV are being criticised is understatement of the century. Many claim that they lowered the standards of Croatian television and that it is simply unacceptable for Croatian television with national license to host the widow of a man "who has done Croatia so much harm" and whose personal wealth comes from the plunder of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Even some on the Croatian liberal left are joining the chorus of outrage, albeit for somewhat different reasons – for them Ceca is unacceptable because she promotes "turbo folk", music which is anti-thesis of everything modern progressive liberal and urban Europe of 21st Century stands for.

Both groups of critics have valid points, but they are wrong for at least two reasons.

First, nobody saw interview and nobody knows what the interview would look like. Perhaps Vlahov had some sort of journalistic epiphany and asked the right (and for Ceca unpleasant) questions. Although his previous interviews don't give much hope for that, he should be given benefit of the doubt.

Second, even if Vlahov didn't ask proper questions, he or Nova TV shouldn't be accused of some unforgivable crime. All they did was for the sole purpose of increasing ratings and they wouldn't have done if not for one very simple reason – Ceca is popular among Croatians. Without that popularity there wouldn't have been any interview.

The real problem is not in Nova TV. It is in all those hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Croatians who don't see anything wrong with Ceca's music.

So, anyone who criticises Nova TV is only shooting at the messenger.

Monday, January 24, 2005


This blog has been nominated for Satin Pajama Award in two categories.

I don't want to insult your intelligence by saying that I don't feel flattered or that I wouldn't appreciate your vote.

Yet I don't expect to win in each of those two categories. However, you might follow the link and at least find some interesting blogs that deserve the award more than this one.

Denis Latin on Big Brother Croatia

There is first time for everything. Tonight Croatian state television had the very first talk show solely dedicated to the show belonging to rival TV station. Latinica, popular show hosted by Denis Latin, dealt with Big Brother, which had been aired on RTL Televizija.

Of course, this isn't the first time Denis Latin dealt with television programme not belonging to his employer. In late 1990s Latin and Latinica have defected from HRT to TV Mreža (TV Mreza), network of local stations which was supposed to be transformed into first privately-owned national TV station. He made a series of shows, and one of them dealt with HRT 3 – third national channel which was supposed to be privatised. Latinica did a hatchet job on HRT 3, trying to prove that state-run HRT could do well without it and that the frequency should be given to commercial station. Although Latin enjoys quite a reputation as a brave journalist, that show was one of the darker chapters in his career. Thankfully for him, TV Mreža, financed by Croatian tycoons connected with Tujman's regime, went down into oblivion and Latin returned to HRT shortly afterwards.

However, while most people forgot that episode, I didn't. So I was anxious to see whether the history will repeat itself and whether Big Brother Croatia will be savaged.

Latin didn't do this, at least not as explicitly as I feared. He brought the usual set of celebrities and public personalities traditionally divided into "pro" and "contra" camp. The former included Dnevnik journalist, composer of Big Brother theme song and Mario Kovač (Mario Kovac), one of show's story editors. They were accompanied with Iva Carić (Iva Caric), described as best friend of Zdravko Lamot. That young lady talked a little bit in the beginning and tried to say something in the end, but I doubt that many will remember her participation. "Contra" camp was represented by university professor from Zadar, Catholic theologian and Massimo Savić (Massimo Savic), pop singer who attacked the show for the lack of "artistic skills" among participants.

In the debate itself "pro" camp generally managed not only to stand its ground but to score some major points against "contra" camp. However, accompanying TV footage was mostly anti-Big Brother. The most disturbing were images from Samobor few weeks ago, recorded when Saša Tkalčević (Sasa Tkalcevic) and Zdravko Lamot tried to give autographs in local shopping malls. The mall was literally besieged with hundreds of children and young teenagers leading to a panic among mall executives and security personal – they all looked concerned over more than real possibility of catastrophic stampede.

Scenes like that are the reason why even the biggest fans feel comfortable about show being over.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Hearts of Iron 2 – First Impressions

After two years Paradox Entertainment has issued one of the most anticipated PC game sequels – Hearts of Iron 2. Naturally, by the time I got my copy, Paradox has issued its first patch – 1.1. This didn't bode well, but I tried to see whether the sequel is better than original.

I didn't want to be overwhelmed and I wanted my first test game to be short. Unlike HOI 1, this game together with four campaigns (Road To War, Blitzkrieg, Awakening the Giant from HOI plus Gottämnederung from HOI Platinum) has couple of individual scenarios that allow players to recreate individual battles instead of the whole war.

However, while individual scenarios might offer some glimpse into game mechanics, the only true measurement of difference between HOI 2 and HOI 1 is the grand campaign. I picked Road To War (1936-1948) and played as Peru.

Peru, apart from having border dispute with Ecuador, was relatively safe from unpleasantness that had struck Europe and Asia. I was free to experiment with various domestic and foreign policies and see in what way trade, diplomacy and research differed from HOI 1. Only late in the game I chose to join Allies, only in order to see combat mechanics and how alliances affect economics and research.

In many areas HOI 2 represent an improvement over the original. There are more nations to play, and there are also more provinces. Graphics look more impressive and there are more leaders with more personality traits.

Trade and economics mechanisms are also significantly improved. Resources are divided into more abstract categories like Energy, Metals, Raw Materials and Oil. With Raw Materials replacing Rubber from HOI 1, some tropical nations like Brazil and Siam aren't that likely to become industrial super-giants while some nations that didn't have rubber historically are in much more competitive position. Individual trade deals can be negotiated between individual countries for the specific amounts which allows for more flexibility and easier handling of economy.

I'm less enthusiastic about technological research. Compared with HO1 1, it is more simplified, less detailed and, therefore, allows less space for experimentation or fine-tuning of each countries' and each militaries' specific needs. This is a far cry from HOI 1 where the player had to choose what kind of calibre he wanted for the its light tank main guns. In HOI 2 player gets only generic light tank, which has the same specification regardless of whether it is Japanese or German. The good news about research is ability to trade technologies without diplomatic cost, although it is, compared with HOI 1, done indirectly via blueprints that has to be researched, although with major bonuses.

More problems can be found in AI, although only in later stages of the game. Since played as Peru, I haven't much capacity to make an impact on world's events. I satisfied myself with monitoring. I didn't notice much divergence from real history (and HOI 1 patterns) – in 1936 Italy gobbles up Ethiopia, Spanish Civil War starts only to end in 1939 with Nationalist victory, in 1937 Japan invades China, in 1938 Hitler gets Austria and Sudetenland, in 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is followed by disappearance of Poland and Baltic States and the actual war between Germany and Western Allies.

The only major divergence in 1939 was Stalin's decision not to go to war with Finland. This later had significant impact on the course of the war, although at first it looked very familiar – in 1940 Germany conquered Norway, Benelux and France went Vichy after the fall of Paris. That was followed by Italy joining Axis and British having to fight bitterly over control of North Africa and Suez (with Cairo and Alexandria changing hands several times).

In 1941 historical pattern was again followed and Hitler invades Soviet Union. However, with Finland out of Axis and with Petsamo serving as a buffer zone between Murmansk and German-controled Norway, Soviets were able to make things very different from Barbarossa. Instead of blitzkrieg, war in the East turned into slugging match with Germans not being able to advance further than Latvia and westernmost parts of Ukraine. It took only four months for the tide to turn in Soviet favour – Romania was annexed in October, in January Soviets gobbled up Slovakia and in September same thing happened to Bulgaria, which, inexplicably, chose to join Axis after Romania's fall. In August 1942 Hungary switched sides and became Soviet puppet.

The most important divergence was Japanese decision not to attack USA or Western Allies. Japan, with Soviets and Ameircans being busy elsewhere, had free hands in China – by the end of 1948 (and game) Japan conqured all except for Sinkinag, Mao's Communist stronghold, two warlord states in the west and single Nationalist province.

American entry to war, however, didn't reflect much on Europe, at least not at first. The major impact was presence of US Navy which helped Royal Navy sink Kriegsmarine and Regia Marina by the end of 1942. In 1943 British finally closed the chapter on Italian North Africa.

Then AI began to act funny. Vichy France remained neutral and Western Allies, unlike the real history, chose to respect that neutrality. That included even De Gaulle and Free French territories. Due to logistic and other problems stemming from this neutrality, Americans were conspicuously inactive while Soviets continued to steamroll over Poland and Germany. Americans landed in Italy in late 1943 and stalled after conquering Rome. In France 1945 they landed only three divisions, waiting for exhausted German divisions to be smashed by Soviets in the eastern parts of France.

Italy finally surrendered after last American offensive in 1946. In the meantime, Americans landed in Norway and Netherlands (and later liberated Belgium). When the game ended – map of Western Europe looked very strange – USSR included Poland, Germany, Czehoslovakia, Denmark plus large chunks of northeastern France. Vichy France remained intact. The rest of France was under US occupation.

The strangest thing to happen was Soviet decision to spare Berlin. So, at the very end, Axis still existed with its sole member - Nazi Germany – being reduced to Berlin, completely surrounded by Soviet troops. I'm convinced that this must be some bug that will, thankfully, be handled in 1.2 patch.

I also noticed some annoying aspects of diplomacy. As Peru, I sent two mountain divisions to help Allied effort but they didn't do much, apart from having their noses bloody in mountains of Italian-controlled Albania. When British took care of Albania, I sent those divisions to occupy Italian holdings in Dodecanesos and Rhodes. When Italy surrendered, those became Peru territories. However, Greece had territorial claims on them. I tried to give up those territories voluntarily through diplomatic deals, but I failed. It seems that territories can be given only to allies, and Greece was neutral.

I must say that I'm not too enthusiastic about the game, but I'm not too disappointed. AI problems and some diplomacy issues can be solved in subsequent patch. I'm not so sure about technological research – this is a leap that requires Hearts of Iron 3 rather than regular patch.

My impressions about the game, however, can change if I choose to play major power and thus become familiar with some aspects of naval, air combat and long-term-strategy.

In the end, I should also praise Paradox for choosing to have original game soundtrack instead of classical music. Andreas Waldetoft is a very talented composer and some of his themes contribute a lot to the atmosphere of the game.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

[ADMINISTRATIVE] New Blogroll Additions and Some External Problems

Kakanien Revisited Editor Blog and History Carnival added to blogroll.

I also must address the issue of Draxblog 2. Those who tried to reach Croatian version of this blog weren't able to do so in past few days. It is due to some technical diificulties at its host server -, which has affected most of Croatian blogosphere, including some Croatian celebrities.

A Time For Reflection

Ivo Sanader in his first reactions to Jadranka Kosor's loss at presidential election and questions about their possible effect on HDZ chances on upcoming local and regional elections sounded very optimistic. He said that he was very pleased with Kosor's percentage and that Kosor's loss won't affect local elections because "they are completely different contest".

Less than a week later HDZ leadership had its first major conference and it appeared that Kosor's loss had some effect on local elections after all.

Before presidential election most people believed that the local and regional elections would be held on April 17th. Normally, local elections are held on the third week of May and were so in 1997 and 2001. However, due to unpredictable nature of local and regional politics and difficulties in forming coalition-based local and regional governments, Sanader proposed that the election date be little bit sooner. This was supposed to leave extra month for coalition talks and allow many coastal communities to have their local and regional governments ready before the start of tourist season.

However, it seems that some things that had happened during and immediately after the presidential election made Sanader and HDZ leaders change their minds. The local and regional elections are going to be held on May 15th.

Reasons for that could be found in surprising aggressiveness of Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) who doesn't have to worry about re-election and whose mandate – based on almost two thirds of all Croatian voters – allows him to discard all pre-election niceties and retaliate for all the dirt HDZ used during the campaign. Mesić all but announced that he would campaign for SDP, HSS, HNS and other opposition parties before local and regional elections. Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) and other leaders, who had been very quiet and subdued after their November 2003 loss at parliamentary elections, feel emboldened and want to use this momentum.

HDZ, despite Kosor's loss being expected, will need some time to adjust to new reality, some of them not so pleasant. The biggest problem for HDZ is far right, whose backers and even some parties used this election to express their displeasure with Sanader's pro-European policies and "gentler and kinder" image of new HDZ. At local levels that may create major difficulty for the party that depends on right-wing electorate. Independent candidates and right-wing populists might expect to benefit from disgruntled HDZ voters in more spectacular fashion that Boris Mikšić (Boris Miksic) did on presidential election.

So, one extra month for preparing tourist season was sacrificed for the sake of one extra month for ruling party to lick its wounds.

Limits of Fame

While so many people strive to become famous, those who do reach that goal only discover that reaching fame, regardless how difficult it might seem at the beginning, is much easier than maintaining fame.

Those who chose Big Brother Croatia as their path to fame saw this phenomenon in past few weeks. The media hysteria surrounding them and insatiable public desire for each and every detail about their private lives have been replaced by indifference and oblivion. Partly due to holidays, partly due to another, more spectacular contest – presidential election – Croatians began to forget the contestants.

Some Big Brother Croatia contestants, however, fared better than the others.

Saša Tkalčević (Sasa Tkalcevic) seems to be following the pattern noticed in other nations' Big Brothers. Despite being the winner and presumably more famous, he is less likely add long-lasting fame to his financial reward. After few brief public appearances he found himself a relatively quiet marketing-related job in one Bjelovar firm.

Other contestants, less popular but, in a way, more colourful, enjoy better success in having their faces on the pages of Croatian magazines. Good example could be found in two finalists - Alen Macinić (Alen Macinic) and Marina Bajlo – who, unlike their former housemates, had some media attention.

However, the way they got the attention wasn't by their own choosing. Last week Marina celebrated her 25th birthday in one Rijeka restaurant. Whether she and Alen (who had been also invited to the festivities) received VIP treatment isn't yet known, but after few hours they discovered that for some Croatians Big Brother fame means very little, at least when compared with their own drug habit. Alen and Marina, to their utmost horror, found their cars burglared and vandalised. While Alen had his Audi TT only damaged, Marina had some 4000 HRK (cca. 525 €) worth of make-up and wardrobe stolen from her VW Golf. Marina was reportedly so upset that, after having the broken car windows patched up with plastics, forgot to wear seat belt on her return to Pula. There she was stopped by traffic police and had to pay 500 HRK (cca. 65 €) fine.

However, upset or not, Alen and Marina behaved like real troopers the next day in Rijeka. They appeared dressed as bride and bridegroom on the nuptial fashion show. That was a charity event with proceeds being intended for air-conditioning in one of Rijeka's hospitals. The story about unpleasantness was suppressed with the image of fashion glory and humanitarian spirit only to leak to the public few days later.

And in Croatia, where bad publicity tends to be better publicity than good, this is rather rare occurrence.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Transfer of The Decade

Those who follow Croatian soccer league are more than aware that they may see many interesting things, but truly competitive soccer is not one of them. That doesn't mean that there aren't competitions between clubs, but those competitions rarely have anything to do with the events on pitch.

In case of Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb, the old rivalry is reflected not only in the ancient feud between Torcida and Bad Blue Boys – clubs' fan groups – but also in the rivalry between Igor Štimac (Igor Stimac) and Zdravko Mamić (Zdravko Mamic), two strong and colourful personalities that dominate those two clubs. For years those two men fought bitter war over player transfers, trying to secure each and every promising soccer star (or, to be more precise, what the media tried to describe as "promising soccer star") for Hajduk and Dinamo.

Lately, it is Hajduk that has the upper hand. Dinamo, plagued by bad results and with players being subjected to threats and physical assaults from disgruntled Bad Blue Boys, was helplessly watching their arch-rival cruising to top spot in the mid-season. All that led to internal problems in the club, most of them related to club's main star, or, what many had hoped to be club's main star – Niko Kranjčar (Niko Kranjcar), son of Zlatko Kranjčar, veteran Dinamo Zagreb player.

Niko Kranjčar, his excess weight and consequent lack of playing potential are among convenient excuses for the bad results of Dinamo. Kranjčar was gradually snubbed by fans and his team mates and his transfer was seen as a godsend.

However, this was also opportunity for Štimac to make his move and offer what many saw as a "transfer of the decade". Media reports that some 1.5 million € were offered for Kranjčar's transfer.

It could be argued that the main motive for transfer is less improving Hajduk and more humiliating Dinamo. In any case, many hard-core Dinamo fans saw the transfer as betrayal and Kranjčar was very reluctant to agree until very last moment.

However, after days of drama and Kranjčar being subjected to intense pressure from his father, the deal was clinched today.

It remains to be seen whether the change of scenery will help Kranjčar improve his game.

In any case, those Croatian interested in good soccer are more likely to watch RTL Televizija, which has recently acquired broadcasting rights for English Premier League.

Crossing the Old Lines

Serbian movies are making good business in Croatian video stores, Bosnian actors are main stars of Slovenian television, Croatian pop stars are popular in Serbia. This is so different from the past decade, when many serious intellectuals believed that it would take decades "if not centuries" for relations between former federal partners become normal.

One of the phenomena to mark this normalisation is To sum jas, Big Brother-style reality show which implicitly panders to Yugonostalgia among its fans and viewers.

However, when the show's producer Zoran Ristovski tried to be explicit with Yugonostalgia, it turned out that the some wounds were still too fresh.

Ristovski decorated To sum jas house with Tito's pictures, hammer and sickles, large Tito's signature and "Work and only work" – slogan used at the gates of infamous Goli Otok prison. The show hosts were supposed to wear uniforms of Tito's Pioneers youth organisation.

The show aired on Wednesday but only for Macedonian, Serbian and Montengrin audience. Slovenian, Bosnian and Croatian television refused to

air it, because "the show's purpose was entertainment and not politics".

Anja Alavanja, one of Croatia's most popular TV hosts, also refused to appear in Tito's Pioneer's uniform. site in the article reporting the story used computer graphics to offer its readers an image of what the viewers were deprived of.


Faced with the potential loss of advertising income from the Slovenian and Croatian – the most lucrative of all former Yugoslav media markets – producers of To sum jas have seen the error of their ways and decided to remove the controversial scenography.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Agonies and Ecstasies on the Ski Slopes

Only few weeks ago there was 16 degrees Celsius in Zagreb, one of the record high temperatures for January. That led many environmentalists and other commentators to restart talking about global warming, but they also used opportunity to comment on something which at the time looked like one of Croatia's greatest follies – a World Cup slalom event at Sljeme, a ski slope near Zagreb.

Mercifully, the weather got gold again and today the very first World Cup event in Croatian history was held. Since Sljeme happened to be home slope for Janica Kostelić (Janica Kostelic), Croatia's sport superwoman, few people dared to expect anything other than another Croatian triumph. Some 25,000 spectators have gathered, many equipped with pyrotechnics and other hardware more common for soccer fans.

At the very beginning it looked like the things would go smoothly for Kostelić. Her arch-rival Anja Paerson – who always gets booed by Croatian fans on the Slovenian slopes - made an error in the first run.

Only few minutes later it was Janica's turn to make an error. The very first event held on her home turf and large expectations proved too much of a burden for her. She didn't finish the first run.

However, Ana Jelušić (Ana Jelusic) and Nika Fleiss – two other Croatian athletes – managed to win 8th and 9th place, respectively, so the very first Croatian World Cup ski event wasn't complete disappointment for the home crowd.

American and Croatian Excuses

Executives of GFK and PULS – two agencies that embarrassed themselves with the Croatian presidential election exit polls – can comfort themselves with their American colleagues being affected by the same sort of predicament few months ago.

However, unlike them, American polling agencies have decided to actually conduct survey and see what had gone wrong with their exit polls. The results of the survey indicate the young of age of interviewers being one of the most important reasons for discrepancy between the exit polls and actual votes. Younger interviewers tended to attract disproportionate number of younger interviewees who disproportionately tended to vote Kerry.

GFK and PULS, while trying to explain what went wrong with their exit polls, also tended to put the blame on older and less educated voters who weren't likely to respond to interviewers. But their statements don't point to the age of their interviewers and the way they could affect the exit poll results.

Apart from dead women in Herzegovina, of course.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Dirty Harry

I didn't blog about Prince Harry's costume party and the brouhaha it had created. I didn't have much time, and I believed that other, more informed people will have much better things to say. It seems that I was, at least partially right. This piece, more or less, corresponds with my thoughts on the whole issue.

Furthermore, if someone indeed tries to use this incident as an excuse for EU-wide ban on Nazi insignia, this will be the worst thing to come out of the whole affair.

First, I'm more than aware that some people in Europe and elsewhere are very sensitive and more than uncomfortable when anybody using such insignia in any kind of context. However, I'm ready to give Prince benefit of the doubt and conclude that his choice of costumes was nothing more and nothing less than another example of irresponsible behaviour so typical for Europeans of his age, not so different from public drunkenness.

Two years ago, on this very blog, I gave the same benefit of the doubt to Ivica Kostelić (Ivica Kostelic) only to realise that there was, sadly, that his problematic statement indeed had some basis in his personal ideology.

In any case, whether Harry is indeed a Nazi or not, his, or any other case, shouldn't be the reason for such insignia to be banned. If the proposed legislation is indeed adopted it would do more harm than good. It won't suppress Nazism – those who are inclined to such ideology will embrace it one way or another.

One thing that such legislation might achieve is to turn many young and irresponsible, but otherwise harmless, people into criminal. Another, more problematic, consequence is forcing neo-Nazis to go underground and sweeping the whole issue under carpet. The Nazis won't disappear – they will only learn how to hide and the smug self-assured Europe will treat any warning signs about their existence with the same way it reacted to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in their own cities.

I'm also reminded of a similar case which happened in a country that was as anti-Nazi as anyone can imagine and which laws were as strict as those recently proposed for EU.

In second half of 1980s former Yugoslav public was shocked with the scandal which bore great resemblance to Prince Harry's youthful prank. One night there was a huge party in Sarajevo, attended by Bosnia-Herzegovina's equivalent of young royalty – children of top generals, Party officials, newspaper and television editors, state-run company managers etc. The party was supposedly wild, but one thing offended the guardians of former Yugoslav "political correctness" – all attendees were supposed to wear Nazi uniforms, Nazi insignia was part of the scenery, huge cake with swastika was on the menu etc. Needless to say, the press was up in arms, Party committees had emergency conferences and there was palpable anger against the "decadent" and "spoiled" children of Party bureaucrats. In the end, there wasn't any major consequences – some of those youths had their political careers extinguished, but in soon-to-be-ex-Communist Bosnia it didn't matter much.

One of the attendees, however, later did some great things. Miljenko Jergović (Miljenko Jergovic) first became a reporter from besieged Sarajevo and later found enough talent to become one of Croatia's best known and most popular writers. His successful literary career also corresponds with his career of liberal and left-leaning political, cultural and social commentator.

While it is hard to imagine Prince Harry having such epiphany, it is uncomfortable to think that Europe might deprive itself of their own Miljenko Jergovićs if the proposed law is accepted.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Weak Characters and Weak Ratings

According to the article in today's issue of Globus, Endemol Entertainment is deliberating possible lawsuit against the organisers of To sum jas, reality show popularly known as Ex-YU Big Brother. Endemol Entertainment is currently studying the show in order to determine whether the concept was stolen from the original Big Brother or not.

Zoran Ristovski, one of To sum jas producers, has promptly reacted. He issued an official statement naming 20 major differences between the ex-Yugoslav show and original Big Brother. He attributed the eventual lawsuit to professional jealousy which is, according to his words, "sign of weak character".

Original or not, To sum jas is reaching high ratings, even in Croatia where it is available only through second tier network of local TV stations. Unlike Big Brother Croatia, which, according to more informed viewers, lacked more colourful situations like sex and violence, To sum jas delivered what the voyeuristic audience had expected.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Sanader's European Comfort

Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) tries to use as much momentum from his victory as possible. Less than 24 hours after polls closed he asked not only for defence minister Berislav Rončević (Berislav Roncevic) to resign but also for Croatian electoral laws to be changed in order to prevent any further meddling of Herzegovinian "diaspora" into Croatian elections.

Thankfully for Sanader, only a day after his great defeat he managed to score something that the media would hail as major victory. He flew to Brussels to talk with EU officials about accession negotiations. EU commissioner Baroso said that he hoped that Croatia would become part of EU during his mandate or, in other words, "before the end of a decade". Year 2012, which was floated as the alternative date for Croatian accession, seems to be off the table. Croatia will, in most likelihood, enter EU in 2007 or 2008.

Not Magnanimous In Victory

Last evening, immediately after the polls had closed, HDZ was in full damage limitation mode. Their representatives began to wear carefully prepared smiles on their faces and explain that Jadranka Kosor's 35 % represents a "huge victory" because "based on that result, HDZ continues to be the strongest party in Croatia".

However, even more telling is sharp contrast between the way HDZ treated President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) before and after the election. After weeks for being called all kinds of names, criticised for "betraying first Croatian President", and selling "Croatian heroes and martyrs" down the river, Mesić suddenly became "a president they look forward to continue a cooperation they had in previous year". Sanader and other HDZ leaders also said that "campaign rhetoric shouldn't be taken so seriously".

Stipe Mesić didn't take this olive branch. In his first statements he called the campaign "dirty" and continued to slam defence minister Berislav Rončević (Berislav Roncevic) over some questionable truck purchases for Croatian Army.

Lijanović (Lijanovic) Brothers, Herzegovina meat packing tycoons who happened to be his campaign donors, used the victory celebration as an opportunity to launch their new brand product – Stipina Pašteta (Stipina Pasteta), liver paste named after President. This was more than obvious reference to his defeated rival who had taken a great offence in Mesić's use of liver paste as a metaphor for the omnipresence of Kosor's campaign ads.

Lack of magnanimity in Mesić and his supporters can be explained with the local and regional elections which are scheduled for April 17th. Mesić might be lame duck president who is more than able to forget HDZ for all campaign sins and continue with cohabitation. However, Mesić owes his second mandate, among other things, to the support of opposition parties and their voter. Now he must pay back for this favour by slamming HDZ in next three months.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

[ELECTION 2005] HDZ Concedes

HRT has called the elections for Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) in its first special election report.

In HDZ headquarter Ivan Jarnjak, former Tudjman's minister of interiors, was the first one to publicly concede Jadranka Kosor's loss.

HDZ has good reasons not to push this election any further. The sooner this whole process disappears from public memory, the better for that party. Especially since the way they handled the campaign reminded many of rhetoric and practices more characteristic of the old hard-line nationalist Tudjman's HDZ and not the "kinder and gentler" version Sanader tries to sell to the public.

Kosor's attempts to present herself as modern "European" liberal candidate were fruitless partly due to her own inability to stray from Tudjman-style Mesić-bashing and partly because of her cause was being adopted by Croatian far right. One of the examples can be found in infamous "Templars" leaflets. Today they were distributed on the island of Čiovo (Ciovo) by a Catholic priest during morning service.

However, even more problematic for HDZ is Kosor's reliance on Herzegovina and, furthermore, apparent vote fraud that pushed Kosor into second round. The fraud allegations are going to tar the image of HDZ as "modern European" party. Those allegations will be taken even more seriously after Jutarnji list reporter managing to vote twice today – first at the polling station in Bosnia-Herzegovina then in Croatia proper.

[ELECTION 2005] Landslide All But Confirmed

If the actual results don't stray much from exit polls, Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) is going to have a record margin of victory in the history of Croatian presidential elections, surpassing even Franjo Tudjman in his best days.

HDZ all but conceded, with their officials saying that the exit polls are "significant".

HRT, quotes unnamed sources within State Electoral Commission and says that the first batch of returns also points to Mesić landslide.

Mesić campaign expects the their candidate's percentage to fall under 70 % once the Herzegovina results are tallied in, but "not much".

[ELECTION 2005] Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) By Landslide?!

RTL Televizija and Nova TV, based on their exit polls, are calling elections for Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic). He won 71 %, Jadranka Kosor won 25.5 % with some 3 % invalid ballots.

Of course, exit polls aren't that reliable but this looks like landslide to me.

First images from HDZ headquarters will say whether these exit polls are to be believed.


Ratko Maček (Ratko Macek), chief spokesman of HDZ, said that if the result is close to exit polls "it should be respected as voters' will".

This looks like concession to me.

[ELECTION 2005] Herzegovina Electing Croatian President?

Last time GONG, Croatian election watchdog NGO, made quite an embarrassment of itself by claiming the first round of presidential election to be regular only to discover dead people voting and other massive irregularities in Bosnian polling stations. This time they don't take anything for granted. They increased their presence at the polls and while the election still goes on, their reports are very different from the rosy pictures painted two weeks ago. According to those reports, there were instances of Croatian citizens with Croatian residence voting both in Bosnia and Croatia proper. There were also reports of hundreds of new voters being registered at the polling stations.

In the meantime, State Electoral Commission updated its data. At 16:00 CET the turnout was 39.84 %, which is 2 % lower compared to first round turnout.

At the same time, Radio 101 reports that the turnout in Mostar, capital of Herzegovina is three times higher than on the first round. There are reports of large cues at the polling stations in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

These numbers don't look good for Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic). Although he had a massive lead two weeks ago, Kosor slightly improved her poll numbers after the debates and her voters, being more disciplined and more inclined to vote, are going to increase her percentage with the low turnout. High turnout in Bosnia-Herzegovina, especially in Herzegovina, is going to make the race much tighter than anyone could have imagined.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

[ELECTION 2005] Second Chance

Two weeks ago Croatian public took great deal of pride over the fact the presidential election was the first one not monitored by foreign NGOs and election watchdogs. This was taken as a proof of Croatian democracy being mature and not needing foreigners to rescue it from being overtaken by authoritarian past.

However, after the initial disbelief allegations about fraud at Bosnian polling stations became legitimate enough for Ivica Crnić (Ivica Crnic), chairman of State Electoral Commission, to admit that something was very wrong. Ivica Crnić said that the State Electoral Commission had replaced the electoral board members at the problematic polling stations.

This time, however, at least some people are taking fewer chance. According to official data, there are 222 more election observers more than in the first round and some 22 OSCE observers are going to cover polling stations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro.

Friday, January 14, 2005

[ELECTION 2005] Templars From The Air

Today is the last day of election campaign. Tomorrow starts so-called "electoral silence" that would last (at least formally) until the publication of the first results.

Needless to say, the campaign intensified in the last days and became more eventful. And, as it is the case, I haven't got as much time to blog about as I have wanted.

The most spectacular event of the campaign is the yesterday's distribution of leaflets in Split, referenced on East Ethnia blog. The leaflet, signed by the group calling itself "Templars", called Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) all kinds of names and asked "patriotic Croatians" to vote for Jadranka Kosor. While the first reports said that the leaflets were dropped from one of Split's skyscrapers, the actual source was a Cessna 172 plane, piloted by Matko Raos, retired Croatian Air Force brigadier and former commandant of Divulje Air Force base.

When confronted by media, Split air traffic authorities confirmed giving permission for the leaflets to be dropped.

It is still uncertain whether the dropping of leaflets, which has caused some problems with traffic on Split streets, lead to any kind of criminal investigation.

In any case, image of political extremists operating planes and using them to make their point isn't exactly the most comforting one in post-9-11 world.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Police Killing In Split

Ranko Grković (Ranko Grkovic), 44-year old police inspector from Split and father of four children, was fatally shot last night on the street while trying to check identity papers of a suspect in a criminal investigation. The alleged shooter, 31-year old Stanko Bubić (Stanko Bubic) immediately fled the scene, leaving his stunned friend and two of deceased policeman's colleagues. Police immediately began a massive manhunt.

Despite its recent violent past and large amounts of firearms in private hands, killings of police officers are relatively rare occurrence in Croatia. Needless to say, this murder shocked the nation and talking heads are immediately starting Something Must Be Done To Prevent Incidents Like These mantra. Police officials used this opportunity to ask for greater powers to use force while handling possibly violent suspects, as well as harsher punishments for crimes against police officials.

However, if certain unconfirmed news proves to be correct, all those debates aren't likely to happen in near future, because, in most likelihood there won't be any trial. This afternoon, Siniša Bubić was killed in Mravinci near Split, after being cornered by police and refusing to surrender. The other version tells about suicide.

In any case, I doubt that citizens of Split and Croatian public in general would care much which one of those two stories is true.


According to official police statement, Bubić at 15:00 CET opened fire on policemen conducting search in Mravince. They returned fire and shortly afterwards Bubić was found dead. First indications are that he committed suicide after being wounded.