Original article (in Croatian) was published on 17/01/2023
Vecernji list dedicated its Sunday issue to the Faktograf article on the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia. On four pages, they interpret recent history in a revisionist way.
In the Sunday edition of January 15, Vecernji list devoted its issue to Factograf. It bothered them that we correctly contextualized the so-called The Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, i.e. its mention in Thompson’s song “Lijepa li si” (“You are beautiful”) (1, 2).
It all started with a post on Facebook, in which Vecernji’s regular associate Bozo Skoko, co-owner of the PR agency “Millenium promocija” and a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences, explained that there was no reason to be outraged by the mention of the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia in Thompson’s song with which the Croatian football team celebrates its sporting successes.
According to the interpretation that Skoko offered on that occasion, the term Herzeg-Bosnia is significantly older than the wars fought during the 1990s and in the past was used as a name for the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is the same revisionist pattern by which attempts to rehabilitate the Ustasha greeting “Za dom spremni”, which is often referred to as the “old Croatian greeting” without any factual basis, are often used in the public space.
In this case, the room for manipulation is somewhat wider, given that the term Herzeg-Bosnia was indeed used outside of the war context in the distant past. Skoka’s manipulative thesis, however, is denied by Thompson himself. In the music video for the song “Lijepa li si”, he lays a flower on the grave of Mate Boban, the founder and first president of the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia, which was initially called the “Croatian Community”, and was later renamed the “Republic of Croatia”. Therefore, there is absolutely no doubt that “Herzeg-Bosnia” is what the author is referring to in the song that the Croatian Football Association declared to be a kind of anthem of the Croatian national team.
Precisely in this, as we clarified in the article from January 10, lies the reason for outrage: the addition of the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia to other Croatian regions (and the song also mentions Zagora, Slavonija, Dalmacija, Lika, Istra and Zagorje, whereby the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia gets the epithet of the “proud heart” of Croatia) undoubtedly represents the appropriation of the neighbouring country’s territory. The scandal becomes even greater when viewed in the context of the indisputable historical fact that Franjo Tudjman’s regime unsuccessfully tried to conquer and annex the same territory during the war.
The cornerstone of the national myth
Embarking on an attempt to defend the claims of its associate and columnist Skoko, Vecernji list presents a comprehensive but rather inept attempt to revise recent history on four pages. Trying to reduce the criminal character of the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia, Vecernji’s correspondent from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zoran Kresic, lists irrelevant details about its administrative structure, combined with factual errors (e.g. he incorrectly claims that Franjo Tudjman drew a map of the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina in front of Paddy Ashdown after the end of the war in 1996, although Ashdown himself claimed that it happened in May 1995), and he particularly resents us for calling that defunct parastatal creation the “so-called”.
As a key argument against its “so-called” nature, he represents the fact that the law on national holidays passed by the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia (although further on in the text he admits that in reality, this is not true either, considering that the Foundation Day of the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia is not celebrated as a holiday).
At the same time, no one from Vecernji list will object when the so-called, for equally justified reasons, is titled the so-called Republika Srpska Krajina, although there are more similarities than differences between these two parastatal creations: the so-called RSK was proclaimed under the auspices of the Serbian regime, its goal was to tear off a part of Croatian territory, its existence was marked by the absence of the rule of law and war crimes, it disappeared in the whirlwind of war defeat, and was dismantled with the support of the international community. The so-called Herzeg-Bosnia was proclaimed under the auspices of the Croatian regime, its goal was to tear off part of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, its existence was marked by the absence of the rule of law and war crimes, it disappeared in the whirlwind of war defeat, and it was dismantled with the support of the international community. Only the circumstances of their origin are different; the declaration of the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia was a direct reaction to the aggression initiated by Serbia, while the establishment of the so-called RSK was not preceded by an occasion in the form of an armed conflict.
The non-acceptance of the fact that the Republic of Croatia attacked Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to try to redraw the republic’s borders defined back in Yugoslavia is today the cornerstone of contemporary Croatian revisionism. The entire Croatian national myth relies on the narrative of the “righteous and defensive Homeland War”; in order to preserve this perception, it is necessary to deny the reality of Tudjman’s criminal policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This reality is denied despite the abundance of evidence pointing to Tudjman’s intention to dismember BiH. The first Croatian president publicly announced his obsession with the formation of a new Croatian state within the borders of the former Banovina Hrvatska. Tudjman’s own words (contained in the “Transcripts on the Partition of Bosnia”) testify to his intentions firsthand, Tudjman’s former associates, international diplomats, various preserved documents and judgments of the Hague Court. Events were also carefully recorded by journalistic witnesses of the time, as evidenced by newspaper archives from the 1990s (primarily Feral Tribune, Novi list and Globus), as well as various publicist books (among which the book “Urota Blaskic” by the best Croatian investigative journalist Jasna Babic, which was published in 2005 in the edition of Vecernji list).
Evidence of the complete subordination of the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia to the regime of Franjo Tudjman can, after all, be found on the very pages of Vecernji list, in excerpts from the autobiographical records of Mateo Granic, who was the Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs during the 1990s. In an excerpt from Granic’s book published by Vecernji list in 2019, it is clearly illustrated to what extent the rulers of the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia were under Tudjman’s control; Granic thus writes about the circumstances in which Tudjman, under pressure from the international community, dismissed the first president of the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia Mate Boban and then brought him to Zagreb to hire him in INA, in a position for which Boban did not have the necessary knowledge and experience.
With indisputable historical facts, Vecernji list contrasts the opinions of obviously compromised sources: Bozo Skoko himself (who baselessly talks about the “rather questionable judgment of the Hague Court on the never-proven so-called joint criminal enterprise”), Ivo Lucic (who is manipulatively presented as only a historian, even though it is about a man who was the head of the Security and Information Service of the Croatian Defense Council during the war and has a personal interest in attempts to wash the criminal image of the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia) and Miroslav Tudjman (the son of the first Croatian president who was posthumously designated by the Hague Court as the organizer of a joint criminal enterprise with the aim of dismembering Bosnia and Herzegovina, whereby Franjo Tudjman, just like his key collaborator Gojko Susek, was only saved by an untimely death from being tried for war crimes in The Hague).
At this point, we could elaborate in more detail on the criminal nature of the so-called Herzeg-Bosnia. We could describe the brutal torture and murders of prisoners of war and civilians in the Heliodrom, Dretelj, Gabela, Kocerin concentration camps. We could refer to the conspiratorial agreements of the Herzegovinian-Bosnian leader Mate Boban with the leader of the Serbian rebellion in BiH, Radovan Karadzic, one of the more monstrous characters who shaped the course of the war in the 1990s. We could describe how Tudjman’s regime armed the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and incited them to war, and later tried to cover up their role in the crimes committed under the auspices of the Croatian state leadership.
We could also question the credibility of the source that unfoundedly accuses Faktograf of ideological censorship and, in the manner of war-mongering propagandists, imputes to us a tendency towards communism and regret for Yugoslavia, through the comment of a certain Ivan Vukoja from Mostar. We could describe the inciting articles that Vecernji list used to contribute to the bloody incitement of nationalist hatred during the nineties (about which the interested reader can be informed in more detail in the book “Forging War” by the British historian Mark Thompson). We could draw attention to the fact that the issue of real ownership of Vecernji list is concealed through a foundation registered in Austria, in which key decisions are made by a powerful man rarely mentioned in the media, whose biography highlights alleged cooperation with the intelligence services. We could ask how the credibility of Vecernji list is reflected in the collaboration with Bozo Skoko, a notorious plagiarist who as a columnist contributed to the visibility of the marginal web portal Epoha, a website that falsely presents itself as a media outlet, and which exists solely for monetizing internet traffic generated by the publication of disinformation.
However, there is no need for any of that. It seems that additional reminders of facts that have been publicly known for years, and in some cases even decades, will not help those responsible from Vecernji list to realize the shame they have exposed themselves to through inept attempts at historical revisionism. Instead of further elaborations, we will conclude this text with the well-known maxim of the Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana: those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.