This article examines how and why the falsification of Croatian history leads to tension, injustice and conflict instead of peace.
In Croatia perhaps history would have taken a different course if documents were scrutinized instead of being accepted at face value. For example, a telegram allegedly sent from Nikola Tesla to Vlatko Macek in 1936 appears to be a fake because it does not have the distinguishing characteristics of a received telegram. Below is how a 1936 Western Union telegram looks. The example has been chosen randomly from a website about telegram history (rife.org).
In textbox at top left of authentic telegram it states, "Class of Service. This is a full-rate Telegram or Cablegram unless its deferred character is indicated by a suitable symbol above or preceding the address." In textbox at top right of authentic telegram, sent and received, an explanation of the symbols used in the message appears. (see below, image 1) Note, as part of the body of the message a symbolic code appears, the originating address, the class of service and time. There are no lines on this form.
The above document (see above, image 2) which contains an alleged message by Nikola Tesla appears to be an Application to send a telegram, not a telegram. The alleged message in ticker tape, including telegraphic equals symbols, has been glued onto an Application form in order to make it appear as an authentic telegram, but missing are the symbols which refer to the location and origin of the sender. In textbox at top left of Application form the sender is instructed to indicate how he wants the telegram or cable to be sent by listing classes of service, for example, Day Letter, Night Letter, etc. In textbox at top right of Application form details about payment appear. Above the message it states, "Send the following message, subject to the terms on back hereof, which are hereby agreed to." At bottom of Application it states, "Senders address for reference. The quickest, surest and safest way to send money is by telegraph or cable. Sender's telephone number."
Telegram Applications would normally be in handwriting or typewritten on the lines provided, and applicants would not use ticker tape which blocks out those lines, nor would applicants use the equals sign ( = ). In the case of this document there is no distinguishing symbol as to the origin of the alleged telegram, no registration symbol showing from where it was sent or which Class of Service, and at what time. The only mark on the telegram is a Nikola Tesla Museum stamp (this particular museum is in Belgrade, which has handed it to the NY Tesla Society for use). The alleged telegram addressed to Macek in Zagreb was not received in Zagreb because it would appear on an official Yugoslav header with Latin and Cyrillic writing on the top, and not on a Western Union form. There is no way to verify where the message came from.
In the year 1936 Vlatko Macek was the leading politician in Zagreb and Nikola Tesla was 80 years old living in a New York Hotel. Macek, still a believer in the Yugoslav idea, after his release from a Royalist Yugoslav prison in 1934, was working in the former Royalist Yugoslavia to find common ground between opposing Croatian and Serbian politicians. Such a telegram, if it had existed, would have helped his cause at the time--surely Macek would have mentioned it in his 1956 autobiography.
It has been alleged on a Croatian tourism website that Macek first sent a congratulatory telegram to Tesla, possibly on the occasion of Tesla's birthday, which Tesla allegedly answered, but the problem with this is that this telegram is dated May 26 and Tesla's birthday is on July 10. And, one might ask, where is the alleged telegram that Macek sent to Tesla?
The question is, if the above message is not genuine, why has a fake been concocted? The answer is that evidence of Tesla's ancestry is needed. Such a telegram, if authentic, would convince people that Tesla had Serbian ancestry and this fact would serve the new Western Balkan version of history. Perhaps the real reason for the pro-Serbian propaganda about Tesla in Croatia is the extended link between the alleged Serbian ancestry of all Orthodox in Croatia and Serbian territorial claims there. Their propaganda is paying off, as seen in the example below.
Lonely Planet's 'Western Balkans' History
In Lonely Planet's first edition of 'Western Balkans', 2006, Tesla is described as being born in "northern Serbia". There is no excuse for this deliberate falsification of history because Lonely Planet is contradicting their own tourist guide book 'Croatia', 2005 edition, where it says in the column, in bold text: " Did You Know: Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), the father of the radio and alternating electric current technology, was born in Croatia. The Tesla unit for magnetic induction was named after him."
And there are more alterations to Croatian history. In 2006 Lonely Planet has rewritten its description of the Vojna Krajina: "Austrians invited Serbs to settle in Vojna Krajina (Military Frontier) north of Zadar. The Serbs in the borderlands had an autonomous administration under Austrian control. These areas were reincorporated into Croatia in 1881". In three earlier editions Lonely Planet has mentioned Vlachs, and other Orthodox peoples' existence in the Vojna Krajina, but this history has now disappeared from the latest Lonely Planet information about Croatia in its "Western Balkans" guide. As I have argued in the article, "Who Are the Croatian Orthodox?", the claim that all Vlachs in Croatia were exclusively of Serbian ancestry contradicts the well-known European history of the Vlachs by Fortis, and the philosopher Rousseau who romanticized the lifestyle of the Vlachs as Europe's 'noble savages'.
If what Lonely Planet claims is true then Tesla would have said he was from Serbia when he entered America, but he actually said he was from Croatia (born in Smiljan, Lika). Tesla identified himself as being born in Croatia on his arrival at the Castle Garden Immigration office in Manhattan in 1884, even though the Croatian region of his birth was administered from Austria and not directly from Croatia at the time Tesla was living there. In other words, Tesla did not have to say he was from Croatia, and could have said he was from Austria, so he freely made his choice. Tesla's ancestors (real surname Draganic) had lived in Croatian territory for centuries. Indeed, nowhere has it ever been written that Tesla's ancestry reaches back to 'Serbia' per se.
Consequences of False Propaganda
In July 2006, the 150th anniversary of Nikola Tesla's birth was marketed as evidence of a rapprochement between Serbs and Croats, or even as a new unifying force in the Balkans. The alleged telegram was an important part of this campaign, but as I have argued the document does not appear to be authentic. Politicians are pointing to this alleged message from Tesla as if it holds a formula for reconciliation in the 'Balkans'. They are as mistaken as Chamberlain in 1938 waving the infamous Munich Agreement about "peace in our time". An apparent amateur forgery such as this alleged telegram would not be admissible in a courtroom so why is it good enough for the Croatian government? In addition, the false claim by Lonely Planet that Tesla was born in "northern Serbia" seems to be a deliberate attempt to spread lies and the Croatian government should expect a public retraction.
As long as the falsification of Croatian history and identity remains unchallenged the human rights of Croatian people will continue to be sacrificed. Government-level investigation, vigilance, and protest would be appropriate, considering the millions spent by Croatian taxpayers on the new Tesla Museum in Croatia, and on a tourism website. UN Peacekeepers are sent into harm's way because of perpetual conflict in the 'Balkans' and therefore these men and women deserve to know what is truth and what is false, so that justice prevails instead of further aggression.