The Biography of Franjo Tudjman
Joe Tripician
Excerpt One:

Partisan Behavior

One of Tudjman’s Partisan comrades was Vinko Komarica.  In his seventies today, this neatly-groomed man bears a resemblance to an elderly Lawrence Olivier.  He spoke in his sprawling yard surrounded by tree-lined hills and split-level houses, while he recorded our conversation with a concealed portable cassette machine; a remaining habit, no doubt, from his Communist years where a misstatement could land you in jail – or worse.  Komarica himself spent time in prison after one of his speeches was tape recorded and used against him in trial.  That was during Tito’s reign.  The previous time he was in prison it was the Partisans who freed him.

“Thanks to Tudjman the political work in the Partisan army stopped being an illegal thing – a cocoon – a conspiracy,” says Komarica.  “And instead of that, he opened it up to everyone.  Because, up to then, the political work outside the army in the cities was an underground work.  And when they came to the army they proceeded in the same way.  And he was the first to change this attitude... That took a lot of maneuvering on Tudjman’s part.  He had a lot of initiative.”

Both Komarica and his wife said that, after W.W.II in the 1950s, the Yugoslavian defense minister ordered Tudjman to develop an index system on all types of military commanders.  The index were written anonymously and described character traits such as whether one was brave or not, where they leaders or not, whether they were loyal communists.

Explains Komarica:  “A typical one would be: ‘the comrade is good, loyal, and likes women, drink, and the liberation movement.’”
Komarica and his wife had a chance to look at their own traits.  “My characteristics were written that I had some very good qualities, but among the others they had written that I was too much under the influence of my wife, who was a petit-bourgeois.”  At that they both laughed merrily.
Both husband and wife said the characteristic indexing system was a failure.  But it would prove useful to Tudjman, years later, during his secret campaign of political financing from the very same Croatian exiles he kept tabs on.


Excerpt Two:

Anti-Fascist or Convenient Communist?

Many unsubstantiated rumors swirl around Tudjman’s activities during the period when the Partisans were liberating Zagreb in May of ‘45.  Some in the army carried out murders on suspected collaborators.  Accusors say Tudjman and his father were involved in the murder of the “local spies” Stjepan Tudjman railed against; but no evidence exists to substantiate this, largely politically-motivated, claim.

Most of these rumors portray Franjo Tudjman as a devoutly loyal communist, ready to do the bidding of his red leaders.  Certainly he was ambitious, driven to protect his homeland, and serve his father’s cause.  But how loyal a communist was he?  According to Tudjman, he started having doubts about the Communist Party in Yugoslavia during the war – in the autumn of 1942, when a local Partisan from Tudjman’s own district was nominated as a representative to the Central Committee of Croatia – overlooking Tudjman entirely.  “I was rather amazed,” Tudjman recalls excitedly, “I told the Committee: ‘this man is an anti-fascist, and he’s against the NDH, and against Hitler and so forth, but he does not enjoy the confidence of the people in the area.’”

What really galled Tudjman was that this nominee had been a member of the Serbian NRS party, whose parliamentary representative had shot Stjepan Radic on the floor of the assembly.  The essence of the Serbian-Croatian conflict is never far from the surface of Tudjman’s speech:  the Serbian drive toward centralization and dominance versus the Croatian desire for autonomy and homogeneity – what others would later call racial separatism.  But as long as he was employed by Tito, Tudjman would have to curb his speech; from Tito, his second father in politics, Tudjman would also learn the brutal lesson of enforced loyalty.


Excerpt Three:

Breaking Ranks

According to Tudjman, the fact that the JNA so quickly withdrew from Slovenia, but did not withdraw from Croatia, meant that Slovenia had an agreement with Serbia to secede.  According to Rupel, the fact that Croatia was constantly in negotiations with Serbia, and did not rush to Slovenia’s aid when the tanks rolled in, meant that Croatia was planning an alliance with them.  “I was very disappointed sometimes,” sighs Rupel, “as everybody here in Slovenia, I suppose, because of this, how shall I say – two-faced or two-faceted, or twofold policy of Croats, even when the two leaderships, the Slovenian leadership and the Croatian leadership met for the last time before the hostilities in June 1991.  I remember we flew with helicopters to Zagreb, and there we met with Tudjman and his staff – I’m sure that at that time Tudjman was considering two possibilities.  Everybody had two scenarios:  the Serbs had two scenarios, Croats had two scenarios; Slovenes didn’t have two scenarios.  Croatian scenario one was following the Slovenian example and becoming an independent country, which in effect seceded.  Second scenario was to use Mesic – who was then actual leader of Yugoslavia – to use Mesic and the Croatian contacts all over the place, for a, how shall I say, Serbo-Croatian sort of dominated Yugoslavia.  If separation, or if this disassociation, as we called it, didn’t succeed, they could still jump – you know they had this fall-back position.  And I could see this, because Mesic was also playing a very key role.  He was no longer necessary after a certain time.  But at that time, in the beginning of 1991, the European Troika wanted Mesic back to his post.  So, Tudjman was playing this double game.”

Rupel, it has been suggested, may be using the ‘two-faced’ argument to explain why Slovenia stood aside during the following war in Croatia and Bosnia.  Certainly, the double-game is such a part of political history, and was in fact the second language in the communist JNA, that it seems improbable that Franjo believed the JNA would not attack Croatia.  Yet, as Zimmermann recalls, Tudjman told James Baker during their meeting that ‘dogmatic communists and unitarists want to involve the army against Croatia, but the JNA’s ideology wouldn’t allow it to act against us.’  “Baker,” recounts Zimmermann, “was shaking his head over Tudjman’s extraordinary belief that the JNA wouldn’t attack him.”  Croatia, however, had little arms and manpower at that time when compared to the Yugoslav army.  It is a lingering question whether Croatia could have won an early fight against the JNA; but Tudjman was not willing to take that chance, not when there were diplomatic options still open to him.


Excerpt Four:

The Priest and The Last Loyal Soldier

Sarajevo, October 1997…

The road from the airport is the notorious Sniper Alley, a short jaunt smack dab in the middle of former Serb artillery; a road where luckless pedestrians were killed daily.  It is only a few kilometers long.  A colorful building stands empty, racked with pockmarks and holes of war: a former pensioner’s home.

The Serbs, I am told by The Priest, are blackmailing the new Bosnian central government by preventing sufficient supply of Russian gas to enter.  So, heating systems are seriously devastated.  Devastation.  The word most used to describe Sarajevo.  By November a leaked report by the executive body of the European Union would detail the wholesale loss to the Bosnian government of tens of millions of dollars, mostly from black market and other criminal trade, by all three ethnic groups.  The city’s infrastructure is at a virtual standstill; electricity and the trams are running, but very little else has been rebuilt.  The view outside the world’s most famous Holiday Inn is a typical testament:  a twenty-story building with almost its entire facade blown-away, nothing but iron girders and cement remain.

The Priest is one of the top twelve people in the Bosnian Croat Federation and is undergoing a spiritual, or as he puts it, “existential” crisis.  During the war he was close to the Last Loyal Soldier, Mate Boban, the head of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s HDZ, and the man who, had he not died, would surely have been the number two most wanted war criminal in the world.

‘The Priest’ is the name I chose to describe the man’s shattered faith in God and Croatia, and his corrupted belief in democracy and the human spirit; another legacy of the war.  The Priest is as sophisticated as Tudjman is simple, as questioning as Tudjman is doubtless, as disaffected as Tudjman is devout.  He chain-smokes – measured, fastidious – and relates how he lost three secretaries by sniper fire in his office, “their heads exploded as they fell to my feet...”
“Spirit among Muslims back in 1992, was – well, I was in Sarajevo: Croats were gods.  We were liberating Mostar, we were fighting in Posavina, we were fighting everywhere, I mean the kind of organization—  the Muslims were totally confused.  It was chaos.  And I was a prime figure in government; I could do everything at that time, yet I couldn’t convince Zagreb to assist.  [Haris] Silajdzic [Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Prime Minister] was calling me every day:  ‘Why don’t you involve your people in diplomacy?’  Every day.  But Zagreb prevented us from doing so.  That’s incredible, incredible.  I have written letters – I have, of course a huge documentation about what was happening here.  But no one read it.  No one read it.”


Excerpt Five:

Shotgun Wedding

Full-scale war between the Muslims and Croats erupted in the Spring of 1993.  Throughout this period and thereafter, as David Owen relates, during the European-led negotiations Izetbegovic sided with his military leaders who “apparently wanted to continue to fight, particularly against the Croats.”  Meanwhile, the atrocities in Vitez, Ahmici and others bloomed.  According to Stipe Mesic, Tudjman’s ex-advisor and current political opponent, when he told The Old Man the news of torture and abuse in Croat camps, the President replied that “the others had camps as well.”
“As far as Stipe Mesic is concerned,” Tudjman angrily responds, “I think he’s an unbalanced political amateur – no, a dilettante – and I would not wish to comment on his claims.”


Excerpt Six:

The Map Is Not the Territory

In January of '94, prior to the Washington negotiations, Granic had personally met with Izetbegovic in Bonn.  “In that meeting,” recalls Granic, “Izetbegovic told us that he is maybe not in a position to stop the Bosnian army from taking central Bosnia.”

As the Muslim-Croat conflict wore on, Diplomacy came to a head in Washington.   Contrary to Komsic’s claim, the Bosnian Croat delegation did tow the party line.  “Both Zubak and Akmadzic had to take their orders from Granic,” says a translator who was present during the negotiations.  “The US negotiated an agreement between the Croats and the Muslims for a federation with human rights guarantees.  Zubak and Akmadzic were freaked.  They said, ‘This is a dream.  How the hell are we gonna implement this on the ground?’  But they signed.”

By the time of the Washington Accord [1 March 1994], Boban was already out of the picture; and the HVO and the Muslim paramilitaries were disenfranchised (at least on paper).  The new joint Bosnian Croat and Bosnian Muslim alliance could fully unite in their fight against the Serbs.  But Franjo, whose nickname had now become “The Big F,” was looking westward, not eastward – away from Serbia and into Krajina.

Through the years of international negotiations Tudjman proposed, re-proposed, and considered several diplomatic initiatives for a peaceful settlement in Krajina, including the ‘Z4 plan’ which would have permitted Krajina its own flag, president, police and parliament, while granting Serbian recognition to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  The Z4 thus would have provided the Croatian Serbs more autonomy than the Bosnian Croats got through the Washington-brokered federation.  It was, however, rejected by the Krajina and Bosnian Serbs who wanted nothing less than partition from Croatia.

Krajina was Croatian territory; the Serbs, who had lived in the region and co-existed with their Croat neighbors for more than three centuries, had taken over the land during the Knin rebellion, and now Tudjman would reclaim it in the name of all Croats.  Krajina had belonged to Croatia since the middle ages, and was the birthplace of Croatian kings – “king”, it had a nice ring to it.  Franjo would reintegrate Krajina, even if he had to dismantle the HVO, destroy Boban, and sell out the radical Herzegovians who did most of the fighting in central Bosnia.  But, then again, this is politics.  In the end, diplomacy won over hostilities, however late for the thousands of dead and maimed.


Excerpt Seven:

Into His Own

There are two strains in Tudjman’s character, both formed in early life, which steer his actions in two directions:  The Freedom Fighter Tudjman – the Partisan peasant organizer and enemy of fascism; and the Presidential Tudjman – the leader of the nation, and defender of his race and religion.  Both dovetail within the texture of Croatian heritage, and are made explicit in Tudjman’s courting of both the white socks and the Zagreb liberals.

“In his party there exists only one man; that’s Franjo Tudjman,” claims Ivan Cicak.  “No right, no left.  He by himself produces right-wing group when he needs them, and he by himself produces left-wing group when he needs them.  He is like ballerina, and he must have those several groups, just because that is the way to drive the power.  But he will never give power over to any one group to be stronger.”

An agile politician, and a visionary, within Tudjman’s character lives also the abandoned son, the betrayed patriot, and the besieged warrior.  Is Franjo’s one weakness the same strength that sustained him in jail, that helped him carry out his father’s dream, and lead his army in a battle against the Serbs and his diplomatic corps against the bias of international opinion?  In his attempts to ‘reconcile’ the ancient, medieval symbols of Croatian statehood, did he fall into the trap set by Serbian and pro-Serbian propaganda that painted all such efforts as Ustasha revivalism?  In his driving battle to avenge his father’s death, perhaps he gave over part of his control to that bitter urge; the Master General, leader and ruler of the first independent Croatia became a subject to this emotional coalition inside, tagging him as one of several Croatian Spring politicians who waged a campaign for democracy motivated by the dark contours of an ex-prisoner’s ethic.