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Croatians strive to revive Yugoslav spirit

January 16, 2006

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ZAGREB: Croatia’s communists still dream of reviving what they call the spirit of brotherhood in the countries that once made up the former Yugoslavia by removing borders created by the wars of the 1990s.

“People of the former Yugoslavia were linked between themselves too closely to be separated today,” said Dragan Batak, the leader of the Communist Party of Croatia (KPH), which he says succeeded the Yugoslav Communist Party.

The establishment of the party — on December 29 last year — coincided with the 62nd anniversary of the founding of former communist Yugoslavia.

The party’s red flag bears a star adorned with the hammer and sickle. It also features an emblem symbolically representing the ex-Yugoslavia’s six republics — Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia Slovenia — and the two autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina.

Batak does not hide his admiration for the late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito carrying a badge with his signature on his lapel.

Sitting in a small bar in Zagreb, the 44-year-old electrician and former truck driver explains that his party does not intend to “rebuild” a new Yugoslavia.

“Our goal is that the borders between the (former Yugoslav) republics which are now independent become rather symbolic, like it was before the wars, so that anyone can feel like at home at any place of the former federation,” Batak told AFP.

The former Yugoslavia created by Tito after the Second World War had a communist government but remained independent of the then Soviet Union to become one of the most prosperous countries in Eastern Europe.

Tito’s death in 1980 heralded the federation’s bloody collapse in a series of wars in the 1990s which claimed more than 200,000 lives.

The KPH was symbolically founded in the eastern town of Vukovar, which due to its mixed ethnic population was a symbol of Yugoslav brotherhood, said Batak.

But, the town became the symbol of the brutality of the 1991-1995 Serbo-Croatian war. During the siege of Vukovar, rebel Serbs backed by the Belgrade regime killed about 1,600 people and flattened the eastern town.

Last month Batak filed before a Vukovar court a lawsuit against Croatia, Serbia and its former leader Slobodan Milosevic over “starting a fratricidal war” in the ex-Yugoslavia.

Batak said he held Croatia responsible due to policies led by its nationalist leader Franjo Tudjman, but could not file a suit against him since he was dead.

In the suit, the KPH demanded that the court orders Croatia and Serbia to compensate the families of war victims for suffering.

Milosevic’s regime backed Serb separatists in Croatia and Bosnia, while under Tudjman Croatia backed the secessionist aspirations of Bosnian Croats during the 1992-1995 war there.

Tudjman — who proclaimed Croatia independent in 1991, sparking the 1991-1995 Serbo-Croatian war — died in 1999.

Milosevic is currently on trial for his role in the 1990s wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo before the UN war crimes tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands.—AFP