The Spread of TolerancePosted by John on Jul 3, 2013 in Blog, Eastern Europe, Featured | 0 comments
If it bleeds, it leads.
That’s the slogan in the newspaper business. War, crime, disaster: these are big sellers. East-Central Europe was on the front page of U.S. newspapers when there was a war going on in former Yugoslavia. If a politician or oligarch gets assassinated in one of the countries in the region, it will make an unhappy return to the headlines. And every time there’s an outbreak of extremist violence – attacks against Roma, a synagogue bombing – the foreign desk will take note.
But the spread of tolerance is, for the most part, not newsworthy. “Serbs and Croats Now Get Along” might merit a short article in a U.S. media outlet, but it’s not going to be a ten-part series in USA Today. Nor will it merit documentary treatment on PBS or engage a dozen Huffington Post columnists in furious counter-commentary.
European news media are more interested in the narrative of reconciliation. The European Union, after all, is all about burying hatchets and moving on. So, for instance, veteran reporter Tim Judah wrote a piece for BBC on improved Serb-Croat relations that cites residual tensions but points out that “in the last [Croatian] government a Serbian party was part of the ruling coalition, while today several Serbs are ministers or in prominent roles.”
As of July 1, Croatia is now a member of the European Union. At the celebrations in Zagreb, Serbian Prime Minister Tomislav Nikolic was on hand to toast the new EU member. And Croatia has pledged to help Serbia with its own EU application. To make it into the Euroclub, it has been vitally important for Croatia to escape the image it had in the 1990s of an intolerant, war-torn country.
Ivo Goldstein, a historian and currently Croatian ambassador to France, believes that Croatia has essentially become a different country. Despite lingering signs of intolerance – such as some of the rhetoric surrounding the dismissal of war crimes charges against Croatian general Ante Gotovina — the latest EU member has witnessed a veritable blossoming of tolerance.
“So, for instance, you see that Serbian pop singers are singing all over Croatia,” Goldstein told me back in October, shortly after he’d learned of his ambassadorial appointment. “According to polls on Facebook, the most Facebook friends of Croats are Bosnians, Serbs, and Slovenes. Speaking about the relations of the Serbs and Croats in the 20th century and before, it’s not only the history of hatred. It is the history of love and hatred. Some elements of love, or at least sympathy, have become visible once again. Recently we had the first piece in Zagreb of the great Serbian drama writer Branislav Nusic. And last year there was Miroslav Krieza, the most significant Croatian writer of the 20th century, and his piece Gospoda Glembajevi at a Belgrade theatre. The cultural connections are not as intensive as they were before the war in the 1990s, but something is going on. Nobody speaks about Serbian tourists coming to Croatia as a problem. There have been no attacks as there were some five or 10 years ago. And then it was 100,000 Serbian tourists, and one or two cars would be attacked with a piece of stone.”
Goldstein, the author of an excellent history of Croatia, has also been a leader of the Jewish community in the country. Even when anti-Semitism has flared up, for instance around a book tour by Auschwitz survivor Branko Lustig, the response from government officials was quick. “Scandals of this kind can happen,” Goldstein concludes. “But then there is a reaction that shows that we have passed certain tests in developing democracy.”
We talked about why the EU represents the best option for Croatia, the renaming of the central square in Zagreb, the imperative of redesigning the Bosnian state, and what, if anything, has changed with his football team since the last time we talked four years ago.
Do you remember where you were and what you were thinking when you heard the news of the fall of the Berlin Wall?
I remember it very well because I became a father on November 4. Also, at that time (in spring 1989), I was among the first 40 or 50 co-founders of the Croatian Social Liberal Party. Initially the party had a core of 27 founders and then in the next couple of weeks more people were joining and I was among them. In October 1989, we organized a gathering at the main square here in Zagreb, which was called then the Square of the Republic but was renamed shortly after that the Square of Ban Jelačić. That was the name that it had before 1945. We were gathering in the square to ask the authorities to put back the statue of Ban Jelačić, which the Communist authorities removed after the war after 1945.
The statue was just sitting around in pieces, wasn’t it?
Yes, it was hidden somewhere in the museum. Jelačić was an Austrian general, commander of the troops in the war of 1848/9 against the Hungarian revolution. Karl Marx in his day designated Jelačić as a counterrevolutionary. That is why in Zagreb the statue of Ban Jelačić was removed and throughout Croatia streets and squares named after Jelačić were renamed. Jelačić was a symbol of suppressed Croatian national feeling. But he was not a Croatian chauvinist, because his troops included Serbs as well as Croats. We were protesting against the general attitude of the socialistic authorities toward history, toward remaking the history according to their own biases.
I’m not ashamed of certain things I was doing. But taking into account that I’m 22 years older and I may be a little more intelligent than I was then and taking into account the things that happened in the 1990s and all that happened over the last 20 or so years, well maybe I would do some things differently. At least I wouldn’t be so happy that communism has fallen and that a new era of democracy is coming, because we were confronted with numerous challenges. First of all, there is the challenge of social injustice, of poverty, a challenge that I thought we would overcome many years ago but which is going on not only here in Croatia but throughout the region – in Bosnia, Serbia, even Slovenia (where I didn’t think it would be a problem, but it is) as well as in Hungary and Italy, not to mention Greece.
So, the whole region is stricken by the economic crisis, and it’s not only linked with ex-communist problems or problems of transition. It is a much deeper crisis, and the public here in Croatia and elsewhere doesn’t understand this. Generally speaking, there is a problem with the nature of capitalism on the one hand, and on the other hand it’s the problem that Europe is losing the importance that it had over the last centuries.
Here in Croatia, we’ve been a member of NATO for several years. In few days, from July 1, 2013, Croatia will be a member of the European Union. But we also have unemployment of 19%. Many people are not satisfied with the situation here, and more than 50 percent of the young population would like to find a job and live outside Croatia. So these are the obvious problems.
Croatian intellectuals always have an explanation for the problems this country experienced. We were living together with Austrians and Hungarians for 800 years and the only thing we needed was to become independent, so in 1918 we got rid of Austria and Hungary. Then we got Belgrade and the attitude was: we need to get rid of the Serbs because Belgrade is creating all the problems. So, in 1991, we got rid of Belgrade and then we had four years of wars. That was four years of destruction and instability, but okay, it finished in 1995. So now we have 17 years without Belgrade or Budapest or Vienna, and now you can say that we are in the middle of nowhere.
Do you think that it’s just a matter of time after accession to the EU that people will say they don’t want to have Brussels either?
We have the problem of the evil of small numbers. We are fewer than 4.5 million people here in Croatia – only a third of New York City. Even in the most remote and isolated areas of Croatia, where a large number of people are working abroad particularly in Germany, the gastarbeiter, they know that without Germany, without the outside world, Croatia cannot survive. People understand that isolationism is not an answer. And that integration, some kind of integration, is an answer. And the European Union is the least worst answer to the problem of integration. The European Union more or less offers a good balance between local independence and an umbrella that can block all the evils around you. Of course you cannot avoid these evils completely, but I think that the European Union, despite all its problems, gives hope that the worst scenario won’t happen.
In the last referendum, 66% of Croatians supported accession to the EU.
Yes, that was the result of the referendum.
When we talked last time you said that the litmus test for democracy in Croatia is the treatment of the Serb minority, and you said there had been progress four years ago. How would you evaluate the situation today?
I think that on the high political level it’s not a problem any longer. In Zagreb, it’s not a problem. Yes, there are some circles that do not like Serbs, that are spreading anti-Serbian hatred, but it is really a minority. If you look at the results of the recent elections from December 2011, the parties that would like to spread anti-Serbian hysteria got one or two places in the parliament. These are insignificant numbers.
Speaking of the political elite, I don’t think that the ruling party or the president of the republic are true antifascists. When I say true antifascists, I’m not saying only that they are taking sides regarding the Second World War or that they are proud that their fathers or members of their family fought on the partisan side. Here in Croatia when you say “anti-fascist,” it’s a broader concept of “brotherhood and unity.” Translated into modern political language, “brotherhood and unity” means tolerance toward others regardless of their affiliation, whether it’s religious, national or whatever. I don’t think this atmosphere of tolerance exists only within the government: this tolerance has spread around the country. Of course, there are signs of intolerance, of promoting extremist views such as the Ustasha, which we should not underestimate. But we are obviously seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
So, for instance, you see that Serbian pop singers are singing all over Croatia. According to polls on Facebook, the most Facebook friends of Croats are Bosnians, Serbs, and Slovenes. Speaking about the relations of the Serbs and Croats in the 20th century and before, it’s not only the history of hatred. It is the history of love and hatred. Some elements of love, or at least sympathy, have become visible once again. Recently we had the first piece in Zagreb of the great Serbian drama writer Branislav Nusic. And last year there was Miroslav Krieza, the most significant Croatian writer of the 20th century, and his piece Gospoda Glembajevi at a Belgrade theatre. The cultural connections are not as intensive as they were before the war in the 1990s, but something is going on. Nobody speaks about Serbian tourists coming to Croatia as a problem. There have been no attacks as there were some five or 10 years ago. And then it was 100,000 Serbian tourists, and one or two cars would be attacked with a piece of stone.
So, we are speaking about post-war wounds that we are healing together with the Serbs. Historical revisionism is still a problem –
Historical revisionism regarding World War II?
Both of World War II and the war in the 1990s. If you say that the genocide in Srebrenica did not happen, it is destabilizing for the situation in Croatia and certainly in Bosnia Herzegovina, which is, as you can imagine, a very unstable country.
Four years ago you mentioned that you played football with a group of people that were from various nationalities. You said that you all got along, but you never talked much about history. It’s just football of course, it’s not a history roundtable. But I was curious whether you think one of the ways people have been able to get beyond the 1990s is by not talking about the 1990s.
Some yes, some no. Simply, my friends and I have many things in common to talk about, even about the political situation, but about the war…? Some Serbs in my environment, my friends, had to flee or thought that it would be very smart to leave Zagreb for a couple of years to avoid persecution. Some Muslims were refugees living here in Zagreb with their relatives or stayed here for some time before going further to Germany or Sweden. So, we know all this, but, well, we don’t talk about it. They know that I didn’t suffer directly from the war, that we were on their side, that we know what happened, that we know that they are victims. And that is enough. Nobody wants to go back. We are now, most of the team, in our fifties, like I am. We know that we have a certain time to live together and that we should enjoy the moments. So, it’s not intentionally that we don’t want to speak about it. Sometimes we speak about it with some friends from Bosnia or from Serbia, but our friendship, our relationship, is based on something other than a discussion of what happened in the war.
Four years ago you said that there wasn’t really wasn’t much in the way of anti-Semitism here in Croatia. You mentioned just one statement that the mufti had made about American Jewish responsibility for 9/11, and that was the only example you gave. Is the situation pretty much the same now?
Yes and no. You have anti-Semitism even without Jews here. We had a scandal a couple of weeks ago involving Branko Lustig, who is a Croatian Jewish survivor of Auschwitz and who won an Oscar as the Hollywood producer of Gladiator. He was traveling around Croatia talking about his experience in Auschwitz when he was 12 years old. He was promoting ideas of tolerance and friendship. He wasn’t making any money on this trip. And he was expending a lot of energy. When he was in the town of Knin, somebody said that it was unacceptable that Lustig has been saying that after Auschwitz he no longer believed that God exists. This became a reason to boycott Lustig’s lecture there, and it became a scandal.
The minister of education, condemning the boycott, said that this was a second Holocaust. The mayor of Knin, who first said that she is a Catholic and cannot accept the denial of God’s existence, later said that the media distorted her statement and she didn’t mean that. Then she invited Lustig to come back and have dinner and give another lecture. So, as you see, scandals of this kind can happen. But then there is a reaction that shows that we have passed certain tests in developing democracy. I am the president of the Jewish community, and we thought that there is no need for a reaction from the Jewish community. We Jews here in Croatia are not responsible for the eruption of Ustashism or anti-Semitism, so it should be the Croatian Catholics who respond first. I was asked by the media, and I gave a couple of statements, but only after the minister of education and the minister of science gave their statements. So, I was not the first, and I am happy that I was not the first.
In the United States and in parts of Europe there has been a wave of Islamophobia. I’ve noticed that some of the language used to describe Islam and some of the anti-Islamic sentiment is very similar to anti-Semitic sentiment especially of the 1930s: that Islam is a global threat, that Muslims, in general, cannot be trusted, that Muslims want to take over the world. I’m curious whether if you noticed anything like that here in Croatia?
No, I can say I haven’t, and I am not just being politically correct. The Islamic community here includes Muslims from Bosnia – the so-called Bosniaks – and Albanians and some Macedonian Muslims and some other Muslims coming from elsewhere. The Bosniaks and Albanians are well integrated, and there are no signs of extremism. They are well integrated because they have achieved by the second or third generation a high intellectual level. On my football team of some 20-25 people – I don’t think I’ve ever counted – but we have I think four Muslims: two Bosniaks and two Roma. But we generally don’t divide people by religion.
We cannot speak about Islamophobia here, but maybe we will have a problem if something happens in Syria, if NATO goes to war with Syria. Croatia is a member of NATO, but Croatia also has certain economic interests in Syria: it owns some oil fields and Croatia lost 400 million Euros because our companies couldn’t reach those fields. That’s a big amount of money for a small country. So, we have certain interests there, and any worse development will cause problems. But I don’t think that it will harm the peaceful relations between the Islamic community and the majority of Croatian population.
The problem, of course, is in Bosnia. You know the geography. Everything that happens in Bosnia can very much affect the situation in Croatia. Bosnia is a dysfunctional state. Speaking about in simple terms, if a politician from one side says that this wall is white, a politician from the other side will say “no, its red,” and the third one will say its green or blue. So, the Bosnian state does not function. During the war in the 1990s, there were some mujahideen who were involved in war crimes against the Croats and the Serbs. Their influence is diminishing, but there are still some concerns that extremism could reemerge in Bosnia. I don’t think that an Afghanistan or Iranian or Iraqi scenario could develop. Or something like what happened in countries that experienced the so-called Arab Spring can happen in Bosnia. But this antagonism between the Serbian politics in the Republika Srpska and the Bosniak politics in the Muslim-Croat Federation is not good and should be limited by the intervention of the international community. This is something that not only members of the EU should be concerned with, but also the United States. Over the long term, this kind of antagonism prevents social and economic development, and if you don’t have this kind of development you will face extremism from every side. Some redesign of the political picture of Bosnia Herzegovina should be on the table very soon to prevent the vicious circle of extremism and Islamophobia.
When you say “redesign,” are you thinking simply reapportioning power among the three constituent parts of Bosnia?
Definitely it should be some kind of redesign of the state. I don’t want to say what kind of redesign this should be. First of all, in the Dayton Agreement in 1995, it was written that this was only a temporary arrangement that would create opportunities for the development of this process and the redesign of the state. So, after 17 years, not enough has happened with this kind of development. The political elites in Bosnia Herzegovina should first of all be aware that further antagonism is not fruitful, that there has to be some kind of compromise. And it should be helped by the international community: politically, economically, socially and in every way.
This is in the interest of Bosnia Herzegovina, it is in the interest of Croatia, but it is also in the interest of the European Union as well. If you have instability in Bosnia, then you have refugee problems. Bosnia is an internal problem of the European Union, because Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, and Macedonia are now encircled by the members of the European Union. These states are not yet in the Europe Union and who knows when and how they will become members. But Bosnia is an internal problem of the EU anyway.
When Slovenia entered the European Union it didn’t completely turn its back on former Yugoslavia, but it didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about or trying to solve the problems of former Yugoslavia either. I’m curious whether you think that when Croatia joins, which is likely in July, it will follow the same pattern as Slovenia did. In other words, will it basically turn its back on this part of the world or will Croatia see that it has a special responsibility as the first ex-Yugoslav country after Slovenia to join the EU to deal with many of these issues that you raised with Bosnia?
No, it cannot be the same. Why? Because Slovenia is a smaller country than Croatia. It is also, in a way, isolated from the region. If you look at the map, you will see what I’m talking about. Slovenia only has a border with Croatia. It doesn’t have so many links as Croatia has with Bosnia and Serbia. Also I think that Croatian politics today are more responsible than Slovenian politics were. Slovenia in those times was trying to escape in a way from the region even though it had economic and other interests in the region. I think that Croatian politics has more interesting and better answers to the challenges that will come in the next few month or years than Slovenian politics had.
Also, Croatia knows why it was admitted as a member of the European Union. Partially it is because we are seen as an engine for southeastern Europe, for so-called ex-Yugoslavia. We are to be an example of a good pupil, to demonstrate to other countries of the region what happens when you are a good pupil.
The problem is that joining the EU now is not the same thing as joining the EU 20 or 30 years ago, when there was much more money and the situation was much much better. But still, when there are hurricanes, I think that it is better to be in the boat than to be in the sea. So, we will be in the boat and it will be better for Croatia and for region.
When you look at the politics in Serbia, there has been great oscillation between the Democratic Party and the nationalist parties. I’ve been told that here in Croatia that oscillation has ended with what people call the auto-lustration of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), that basically HDZ has purged itself essentially of its extremist politics and moved much closer to the center. And the Party of Rights, as you said, won only one seat in the last elections. Do you think that the era of political oscillations has effectively ended here in Croatia? I’m not talking about just the rotation of parties, but the oscillation of extreme ideologies that you see in Serbia.
I hope so. We don’t know because HDZ has been defeated and the other parties, except the ruling Social Democrats, are in deep crisis. As in many other countries, people here are looking more towards bigger, stronger parties. They see minor parties as unstable, as more open to political pressure. So, the Social Democrats are now stable. HDZ is the biggest and most important opposition party, but they are in court on charges of corruption — not only the high officials and the ex-prime minister of the party, but the whole party stands accused of taking money from state funds. HDZ needs some time to stabilize its political and economic position and discuss its image as well.
Some members of HDZ talk about the Tudjman period and the 1990s. But we are in a completely different situation today. Things have changed in Croatia. The whole world has changed. It’s an irreversible development. Talking about the Tudjman period is like talking about Bismarck or Napoleon.
Zagreb, October 12, 2012
I am a professor in the department of history at the University of Zagreb. I teach Croatian history from 1918 to the present. Until 2003, I was a professor of general history of the Middle Ages. Before that I wrote two books on the 20th century.
It has become more difficult to define nationalism. The nationalism here is mixed with love. At the same time that Croatian and Serbian nationalists are keeping their distance from one another, they more or less have the same mythologies. They listen to the same kind of music. They have similar popular folklore. So Serbs and Croats can speak for a long time with each other about many things that they more or less have in common.
I play football on a team with mostly people from construction companies. Most are not what we call in this part of the world the intelligentsia. They are Serbs, they are Croats, they are Muslims from Bosnia. But we do not care who is of what nationality although sometimes we understand that this man is from the other nationality because his Christmas is not at the same time as ours.
These people I am speaking about, they are mostly the first generation of villagers coming to town. They are investing a lot to send their children to university. They understand that education is very important for the future of their children. They are part of an urbanization process. In 1931, 45% of Yugoslavs were illiterate. In some parts of Bosnia, this rate went up to 85%. This country made tremendous progress.
I don’t think that ethnic hatred was the reason for the war. I wrote a book on Croatian history, and the new edition came out 20 days ago. In this book, I made a broad analysis of the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Ethnic hatred was not the reason. I know how much American society invests in promoting tolerance. But how much time do you think would pass before a racial war broke out if the Ku Klux Klan came into control of the important media like CNN and the other networks? A couple months, maybe less. That’s what happened here. In 1992, several people wanted to incite war in Bosnia. They killed a few people of another religion to show their compatriots how to do it. And suddenly concrete persons became “the other.”
We are divided in our understanding of what happened during World War II under the Ustasha and how to confront two events with strong symbolic value – the Jasenovac concentration camp [where the Ustasha killed an estimated tens of thousands person, many of them ethnic Serbs] and what happened at Beliburg in 1945. At Beliburg, the communist authorities captured Croatian civilians and Ustasha and killed them en masse. These two phenomenon cannot be evaluated at same level. They have to be understood as they were. One was a concentration camp run by a pro-Nazi puppet regime. The other was massive retaliation, a squaring of accounts with class enemies. What happened in Beliburg cannot be understood as the eternal hatred of Croatian people – in this squaring of account there were many Serbs, Slovenes, Germans, and Italians who were victims.
The textbooks in the 1990s were poisoned by revisionism. Some very nasty things were said about partisans. Genocide against the Serbs was directly denied. But in the last couple of years, a gradual change has happened and we have a better situation now, with alternative textbooks.
ON CROATIA AFTER THE WAR
We are not the same state. A war happened and cannot be forgotten. I still have friends in Belgrade. We don’t talk about the war. We have other things to talk about. We’ve held conferences for Croatian historians, first in southern Hungary, then in Croatia and Serbia. It was very fruitful. After a couple of conferences, we addressed the most sensitive questions, such as the victims of World War II. In those discussions, by the end, you couldn’t tell who was from Zagreb and who was from Belgrade if you didn’t know the accents. The language of professional historians is just the same.
Look at how this debate is being disseminated in the public. The number of Serbian publicists, researchers, and others presented on Croatian national television is enormous. Serbian singers are here; Croatian singers go over there. Even the nationalists, like Thompson [Croatian singer Marko Perkovic], are popular in Serbia — not because of their subject matter but because of their tunes. By the way, Thompson is accused of promoting radical Croatian ideology, of spreading Ustasha propaganda, if not directly then indirectly. I believe he’s doing it in a way so that he can’t be directly accused of it. He is always denying that he has anything to do with Ustasha ideology. On other hand, his concerts are now prohibited in Australia and the Netherlands. Nevertheless, he is very popular.
The ethnic Serbian population here in Croatian declined from 12% to 4%, from 580,000 people in 2001 to 201,000 in 2001. This situation has stabilized. For the last eight years, the Serb minority has participated in government. Of course, Zagreb is not Croatia. When you talk with Serbs here in Zagreb, they don’t have a problem. But if you go to territories struck by war and talk about ethnic hatred and the problems people there have with others, it’s a different matter.
During the war, in this country the atmosphere was unbearable. The Serbs at the Faculty of Philosophy at the university here all left. One went to Paris, another to Australia. They left not because of persecution but because they had an opportunity to leave. There were Croats too who left because of this unbearable atmosphere. I could cope with it. I got used to it. I might get an anonymous letter: “If you love Israel more than Croatia, you should go to Israel. Are you packing your things?” A nervous person might start packing their things. But I’m not that kind of person. I didn’t care. I had a stable position.
We had a 10-year setback because of the war and because of the Tudjman autocracy. Twenty years ago, we were far in front of Hungary, the Czech Republic. And now, Bulgaria and Romania have joined the European Union. The standard of living here is better than Bulgaria or Romania, but they joined the EU first. Albania is joining NATO at same time as Croatia, and Albania has long been for us a symbol of backwardness.
We understand this as an injustice. Some rational analysts understand that this is due to Tudjman. Others find some strange reasons for it: for instance, that we are being punished and that it is unjust that we have to pass certain exams that others do not. The EU is waiting for Serbia. These are the ways that people are thinking and will think until the moment we join the EU. But all this will be forgotten the moment we join the EU.
The EU can help us with democratization and the Europeanization of society. But the major part of the job has to be done by us. It will be very difficult. But much of the job has been done, and we see the light at the end of the tunnel
ON JEWS AND SERBS
In some European societies or states like Germany, the attitude toward Jews is what I would call the litmus test for democracy in society. This is true for Germany and other societies in Europe but not for Croatia. In Croatia, only 1 percent of the population is Jewish. Everyone will say what happened to the Jews during independent Croatia in World War II was horrible, that it was organized by the Ustasha. Some of the revisionists on the extreme right will say the Ustasha did these things but under pressure from the Germans – which is not true – but at least they will admit that these atrocities were done and they won’t deny that they happened. The acceptance of guilt is relatively high.
The litmus test for democracy here is the attitude toward the Serbian minority. Unlike the Holocaust, the level of acceptance of genocide against Serbs in 1941 and 1945 is comparatively lower. This touches the basis of Croatian identity. In 1991, Serbia and Montenegro committed aggression here through the Yugoslav National Army. We were attacked and we did some things that were totally unacceptable. But some Croatians have a different attitude. They say that the bombs were falling on Zagreb, that we were attacked and not Belgrade, that there was no reason to attack Croatia. Serbs were not endangered as the Milosevic propaganda was saying.
Anti-Semitism is not so high here. There have been a couple anti-Semitic incidents. The nastiest one happened when the leader of the Muslim minority in 2006 said in a newspaper interview that Jews were responsible for 9/11. The other journalists asked him, “do you really mean that all Jews were responsible for 9/11??” He said, “Oh no, not all Jews. Just American Jews.”
I was born in 1958. I can remember listening to American music. We were able to see American movies. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was here only a few months after being shown in America. We didn’t have problems establishing contact with American culture, at least not in urban areas. We had Coca-Cola before the collapse of communism. McDonalds came more recently. It was not a question of not having contact with American culture. It was just a question of having money to buy American things.
If people are speaking of the ethnic situation, they will take European examples. The American examples of the melting pot and multiculturalism are beyond the comprehension of the average Croatian person. I’ve been in the United States – in Boston, Atlanta, Washington, New York – and the situation there and here are completely different. They’re almost incomparable. It’s more logical to compare the situation here with other European countries. So, for instance, the Serbs and Croats waged only one war. They can learn how to understand each other because French and Germans waged three wars in 70 years and now are friends.