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.
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.
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.’”
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.”
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 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.”
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.
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.”