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Franjo Tudjman

Franjo Tuđman or Tudjman (May 14, 1922 - December 10, 1999) was the first president of Croatia in the 1990s.

Franjo Tuđman
Order: 1st President
Term of Office: May 30, 1990 - December 10, 1999
Predecessor: none, 1st President;
prior Collective Presidency Presidents
Date of Birth: May 14, 1922
Place of Birth: Veliko Trgovišće, Croatia
First Lady: Ankica Tuđman
Profession: soldier & historian
Political Party: Croatian Democratic Union HDZ

Tuđman's political party HDZ ("Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica", Croatian Democratic Union) won the first post-communist multi-party elections in 1990 and he became the president of the country. A year later he proclaimed the Croatian declaration of independence. He was reelected twice and remained in power until his death in late 1999.

Table of contents
1 The Communist
2 The Dissident
3 The President of Croatia

The Communist

Franjo Tudjman was born in Veliko Trgovišće, a village in Hrvatsko Zagorje, region in northern Croatia.

During WWII Tudjman fought on the side of Tito's partisans, where he also met his future wife, Ankica. He became one of the youngest generals in the Yugoslav people's army in the 60s-a fact which some observers linked to the fact that he sprung from Zagorje, a region that gave few Communist partisans. On the other hand, others have observed that Tudjman was probably the most educated Tito's general (as regards military history, strategy and the interplay of politics and warfare) - the claim supported by the fact that generations of future Yugoslav generals based their general exam theses on his voluminous book on guerilla warfare throughout history: "Rat protiv rata" (War against war), 1957, which covers as diverse topics as Hannibal's drive across the Alps, Spanish war against Napoleon and Yugoslav partisan warfare. Tudjman left active army service in 1961 to found the Institute for the history of the workers' movement, and remained its director until 1967.

The Dissident

Apart from the book on guerilla warfare, Tudjman wrote a series of articles attacking the Yugoslav Communist establishment, and was subsequently expelled from the Party. His most important book from that period was "Velike ideje i mali narodi" (Great ideas and small peoples), a monograph on political history that collided with central dogmas of Yugoslav Communist elite with regard to the interconnectedness of the national and social elements in Yugoslav revolutionary war.

In 1971 he was sentenced to two years of prison for alleged subversive activities during Croatian Spring, the reformist movement actually set in motion by Tito and Croatian party chief Bakarić in the climate of growing liberalism in the late 60s. But, since from its initially tepid and ideologically controlled party liberalism "Croatian Spring" soon grew into mass manifestation of dissatisfaction with the position of Croatian people in Yugoslavia, it began to threaten the party's political monopoly. The result was brutal suppression by Tito, who used the military and the police to crush what he saw as the threat to his undivided power - Bakarić quickly distanced from Croatian Communist leadership he himself helped to gain power earlier and sided with Yugoslav ruler. During turbulent 1971, Tudjman's role was that of the dissident who questioned the central myth of modern Serbian nationalism, the number of concentration camp Jasenovac's victims, as well as the role of centralism in Yugoslavia and continuation of ideology of unitary "Yugoslavism"- originally the Croatian romantic pan-Slavic idea from the 19th century that has mutated in harsh realities in both Yugoslav states into the front for pan-Serbian drive for domination over non-Serb peoples- from economy and army to culture and language. On other topics like Communism and one-party monopoly, Tudjman remained mostly within the framework of Communist ideology. His sentence was commuted and Tudjman had been released after nine months. Tudjman was tried again in 1981 for the "crime" of giving the interview to the Swedish TV on the position of Croats in Yugoslavia and got three years of prison, but again he only served a portion, this time eleven months.

In 1989 Tudjman published his most celebrated work, "The Horrors of War" ('Bespuća povijesne zbiljnosti') in which he questioned the number of victims during WWII in Yugoslavia. "The Horrors of War" is a strange book, a compilation of meditations on the role of violence in the world history interspersed with personal reminiscences on his squabbles with Yugoslav apparatchiks and slowly spiralling towards the true center of the work: the attack on hyperinflation of Serbian casualties in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) -the main pillar of the modern Serbian mythic martyrology; the self-image of a people victimized by Croats who are depicted as diabolical Serbocidal fanatics-which in turn led to the state of mind battening on fear, hostility and thirst for revenge. Serbian "historians" and their copycats "estimated" the number of Serbs killed in Jasenovac from 500,000 to 1,000,000. These pathological fixations, oppressing the Serbian collective psyche, were intentionally nourished, cleverly manipulated and intensified in the concentrated effort of vast majority of Serbian intelligentsia in their efforts to create and solidify Greater Serbia domination on the ruins of destroyed post-Titoist Yugoslavia. Tudjman had, relying on earlier investigations, concluded that the number of all victims in the Jasenovac camp (Serbs, Croats, Jews, Gypsies and others) was somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000. Current investigations have bracketed the figure between 49,000 and 85,000- therefore, confirming Tudjman's estimates. Other contorversy surrounding "The Horrors of War" was Tudjman's alleged anti-Semitism, supposedly expressed in this book. On closer examination, Tudjman can be blamed only for the lack of sensitivity: he quoted various Jewish sources that show how the number of victims is hard to estimate- Jewish and Israeli historians placed the number of Jews killed in the Nazi genocide between 4 and 6 million. The relativity of these figures ("margin of error" fluctuating around 2 million people dead or alive) prompted Tudjman to lump these estimates with evidently overinflated Serbian ones. Just- in the case of Jewish victimology, figures vary ca. 30 %, which is completely unlike Serbian situation with no less than 1200 % "margin of error "- a grotesque example of manipulation. Also, Tudjman's style was anything but nuanced: the characteristic amply misused by Serbian propagandists who quoted Tudjman's frequently superficial generalizations taken out of context, in order to depict him as virulent anti-Semite. This ensued in tension between a part of Jewish communities (especially in the USA and Israel) and befuddled Tudjman- a tension that was soon dispelled by prominent Jewish figures like writers and publicists Finkielkraut and Philip Cohen or Tommy Baer of Jewish World Congress. Aside from that furore, "The Horrors of War", the most famous (but not the best) Tudjman's book, remained closer to the leftist and socialist worldview, not questioning the Marxist ideology as such.

In the latter part of the 1980s, when Yugoslavia was creeping towards inevitable demise, torn by conflicting national aspirations (among them the most "visible" Albanian "troubles" in Serbian province Kosovo and pan-Serbian national populist movement, moulded by Serbian intellectual elite and led by former banker and Communist official Slobodan Milosevic), Tudjman formulated Croatian national program that can be summarized in the following way:

The President of Croatia

Internal tensions that had broken the Communist party of Yugoslavia prompted governments of federal Republics to call for first free multiparty elections after 1945. Tudjman's connections with Croatian diaspora (he travelled a few times to Canada and USA after 1987) have proven to be crucial when he founded Croatian Democratic Union/Hrvatska demokratska zajednica or HDZ (as it became known after its acronym) in 1989- a party that was to stay in power until 2000, and which cannot be classified along criteria dominant in stable societies. Essentially, this was the Croatian national movement that affirmed Croatian values based on Catholicism blended with historical and cultural traditions generally suppressed in Communist Yugoslavia (although soon many "repentant" Communists joined this pan-Croatian movement). The aim was to gain national independence and to establish Croatian nation-state. Tudjman's HDZ triumphed and got ca. 60% seats in Croatian parliament (Hrvatski sabor). After a few constitutional changes, Tudjman was elected to the position of President of Croatia. Since the split among Communists in Yugoslavia was caused by pan-Serbian movement led by Slobodan Milosevic, it was inevitable that the conflict should continue after the democratic elections that brought to power non-Communists in Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Communists held their position in Serbia and Montenegro. For the tensions and wars that ensued, one should see History of Croatia and History of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During these decisive years, especially from 1990 to 1995, Tudjman proved to be a master strategist. According to the testimonies of both friends and enemies, he outmanoeuvred Croatia's adversaries on many levels: diplomatic, military, information and economic. While his opponent Milosevic was a brilliant tactician who, by many accounts, lacked the strategic vision, Tudjman was the exact opposite: frequently clumsy and erratic in behavior, he possessed the strong sense of mission and the vision of Croatia's independence- and the statesman's wisdom how to realize it. This was seen at crucial junctures of Croatia's history: the all-out war against combined forces of Yugoslav Army and Serbian irredentist rebels, war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Operation Storm and Dayton peace agreement. For instance: Tudjman's strategy of stalling the Yugoslav Army in 1991 by signing frequent cease fires intermediated by foreign diplomats was efficient- when the 1st cease fire was signed, the emerging Croatian Army had 7 brigades; the last, 20th cease fire Croats had met with 64 brigades.

Apart from war, other significant changes had altered Croatian society in the "Tudjman era" that covered the last decade of the 20th century. Probably the most of these changes would have happened anyway during the transition from communism to capitalism, or from one-party dictatorship to western-type democracy. But, unquestionably, Tudjman has "speeded" or "slowed down" some processes by his influential position-for better or for worse. Tudjman initiated the proces of privatization and de-nationalization with mixed results: Croatian economy coped with war extremely well, having in mind all the pros and cons; only in last two years of Tudjman's tenure detrimental effects of "wild" and unrestricted capitalism had become visible. The charge of nepotism and favoritism, frequently levelled at Tudjman, seems to be unresolved yet: his personal property was, as the official proving of will had shown, acquired in a completely legal way. On the other hand, it is beyond doubt that not few shadowy figures who moved close to Tudjman, the centre of power in Croatian society, profited from this enormously, having amassed wealth with suspicious celerity. Although this phenomenon is common to chaotic reforms in all post-communist societies (the best example being Russia with her "oligarchs"), the majority of Croats are of the opinion that Tudjman could and should have prevented at least a part of these malfeasances. But, the most common accusation is that of autocratic behavior and "despotism". Essentially, this claim is both true and false: Tudjman was a strong, but democratically elected national leader, and this was a mixed blessing. Faced with a superior military aggressor, Croats, who had not yet built functioning national institutions, had to rely on a strong personal leadership Tudjman embodied. Although such kind of leadership necessarily involved unpleasant side-effects like traits of autocratic behavior, it was beneficial in crucial matters: thanks to this characteristic, Croats have won the war and founded the nation-state. Without the statesman of Tudjman's stature and profile-this outcome would be very unlikely or would have costed many more lives.

Tudjman, who had been thrice elected as President of Croatia, fell ill with cancer in 1993. He recovered, but the general state of health declined in 1999 and Tudjman died from internal hemorrhage December 10th 1999.

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