Croatian Viewpoint
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Ethnic Cleansing of Croats from Knin 1990 to 2001

In Croatia the continuing mass overseas emigration translates into destabilization, family 'disunion', an aging population, extremist politics by default, and ultimately groundwork is laid for yet another conflict. How many more young Canadian or other UN peacekeepers must be put at risk in the so-called 'Balkan' region?
"Why do so many Croatian families fly away from Knin?" asks Father Petar Klaric, ten years after the beginning of the well-coordinated Serbian aggression against Croats in Knin, Dalmatia and Lika? The war has stopped but the exodus of Croats still continues today!


After the Slovenian and Croatian first multiparty free elections in 1990, on 17 August 1990, in the middle of the tourist season, the Serbian so-called 'log revolution' began with road and rail blockades on route to the Adriatic Sea.
From the end of February 1991 Croatian Catholic villages in the vicinity of Knin and throughout Northern Dalmatia and Eastern Lika were ethnically cleansed by Serbian forces wearing ‘Chetnik’ hats. Similarly, Croats were then cleansed from the adjacent Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Serbian 'Chetniks' who had declared the autonomy of the so-called "Krajina" in Croatia were supported by Serbian-led JNA forces (Yugoslav National Army) to accomplish their ethnic cleansing.
The United Nations arrived in early 1992, after the international recognition of Croatia, and set up their UNPA 'Sector South' and buffered by a UN 'Pink Zone'.
From inside the UN Zones the entire region as far as Zadar, Sibenik, and to the north and west, the Serbian bombing continued, resulting in many thousands of Croatian dead and wounded, and the flight of hundreds of thousands of Croatian refugees to the Croatian Adriatic coast which was already isolated from the rest of Croatia and without normal water supply.
The continued shelling by Serbs on Croatian civilians lasted from 1991 to 1995 when Croats finally brought peace to the area after their 'Operation Storm'’.

The Legacy of Ethnic Cleansing

If the bombing is over the question needs to be posed, "Why do Croatian families continue to go overseas, and how".
One answer to this question is that the issue is not being discussed in the Croatian 'diaspora' at the various Croatian community meetings. Only the problems faced by refugees to Australia are discussed--not how to prevent them from leaving Croatia.
Within the 'global' Croatian society there is no 'anti-emigration' forum. Disaspora organizations traditionally define their role in Croatian affairs as one of charity, or maintaining the multicultural status quo. For Croats emigration is just their tradition. No one in the diaspora is concerned with the negative demographic effects of unnecessary mass overseas emigration from Croatia, or so it appears.
Admittedly, international groups are currently assisting Croatian families to emigrate, like 'voluntary' aid organizations which are funded by foreign governments to "neutralize" conflict regions (Pilger p.144 "Hidden Agendas"). But, it is equally true that there is another dimension to the overseas emigration process and that link is the role played by the sponsoring Croatian relative who lives overseas.
To date no noticeable change has resulted from a haphazard Croatian media focus on demographic decline in Croatia. If there was any reduction in Croatian emigration to Australia in the last few years, it was due to the reduced immigration quotas of the Australian Liberal/National Coalition Government, a situation which will rapidly change under a Labour government, if elected in 2001. Under a new Labour government internationalists such as the former PM Fraser or Dr Andrew Theophanous, and others who are advocate for increased immigration to Australia will have no opposition to their agenda. (note: Since the publication of this article in April 2001 and the change to Labour in 2007 my prediction was correct that the net immigration into Australia would skyrocket, with Labour’s goal of 60% population growth over the next 40 years—Croatian emigrants are always included in these numbers.)
Australian Croats are like American Croats, who according to Dr Jerry Blaskovich "Accept every American proposal without receiving anything in return".
Of relevance to the issue of Croats leaving Knin are the voting habits of Croats in Australia. For example, how long will Croats vote for Dr A Theophanous who claims to be fulfilling a role as Deputy President of the Australian Slovenian/Croatian Parliamentary Friendship Group, who says one thing—but does another. Dr Theophanous talks to Croatian people at dances about the need to improve the Croatian economy, etc. But in the Australian parliament he talks about laws which would enable more Croats to go away; and to Zagreb politicians he talks about the need of the international community (including Australia) to pay for building houses which would help Croatian-born Serbs to return to Croatia! Did Dr Theophanous plead with the international community to help to pay to build houses for Croats to return to either Croatia or Bosnia-Herzegovina from their place of refuge? (note: since the publication of this article in 2001, Dr Theophanous, of the Socialist Left faction, was sentenced on charges of migration fraud, released from prison after 2 years, and is no longer political office.)
Because there is a strong relationship between immigration to Australia and family sponsorship, even in the case of refugees to Australia (during the 'homeland war' and after for a total of 10 years) it is time that Croatian people themselves compare their 'tradition' with the role of other ethnic cleansers. Their intentions might be good but the long term negative effect is the same.
I have personally observed four kinds of houses in 'Croatian' villages in the Zadar/Knin region since 1995. Generally, one quarter are in disrepair because of decades of abandonment; one quarter are empty due to damage from Serbian-led bombing between 1991 and 1995; one quarter are still under construction by Croatian emigrants who don’t live there (mostly who work the EU) and the remaining quarter are repaired—and someone lives in them all year around. Thus, generally speaking, a proportion of the homes are vacant due to the Serbian-led aggression which began ten years ago; but, the ethnic cleansing of Croats is also due to family-sponsored emigration overseas. This is not called 'ethnic cleansing' however because it's called a 'tradition'.
For the sake of democratic change and peace in the entire Croatian region, Croatian society needs to be 'stabilized' not '‘neutralized'. In Croatia the continuing mass overseas emigration translates into destabilization, family 'disunion', an aging population, extremist politics by default, and ultimately groundwork is laid for yet another conflict. How many more young Canadian or other UN peacekeepers must be put at risk in the so-called 'Balkan' region? It is in everyone's interest that Croats must do more than answer the call to donate to Caritas in Knin—they must be prepared to sacrifice more in the long term, to help their family stay in Croatia, because Croatian families 'in Croatia' are the backbone of Croatian culture, society and the future.
Jean Lunt Marinovic
April 2001
Updated & condensed in Nov. 2009
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