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Prof. Dr. Ante Markotic: THE DEMOGRAPHIC CASCADE OF THE CROATIAN ARCHIPELAGO IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA (TO STAY OR TO GO)

Written 02.12.2009. 16:20
The first ever democratic and multi-party elections characterized a process where the aspirations of newly independent and internationally recognized states on the territory of the former Yugoslavia were expressed. Those advocating the idea of a Greater Serbia are the aggressors. Their aggression is bent on preventing this process by means of war. The consequences of the war, which is still going on, are devastating, especially in some parts of Croatia and BiH where a majority of the population is non-Serb.

As war in BiH continues, so does the existential drama to resist aggression. The struggle for survival marks every aspect of political, national and refugee life. The Washington Agreements ended the conflict between Muslims and Croats. It also established legal principles for a new political foundation for a federal state in which the federal entities are cantons or counties. The composition of the population's majority, Croat or Muslim, will determine a canton or a county. Furthermore, the agreement in Washington provided a way for forming a possible confederation between the Republic of Croatia and the Federation of BiH. It is still uncertain what kind of political solution the international community has in mind for Serbs in Croatia and for Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

We are daily witnessing changing events of historical significance. The Republic of Croatia is legally obligated by its constitution to consider the need of all of its people, regardless of where they live or reside. The needs of Croats in BiH are of special concern because of their peculiar geostrategic position and their geopolitical interests. The above are considered as reasons and challenges for formulating a strategy for a process that will provide the components and means of integrating and propagating the Croatian national program--a Croat view and position on the future in these areas.

The beginning of our initiative is somewhat unusual. Instead of a classical approach, we decided to take an undisputed portion of the forthcoming demographic program. We will present the program's substantial part and proceed by methodologically elaborating its essential idea, with which this particular part of the program is functionally connected. Through a somewhat more extensive detailing of the demographic segment, we are giving the content--a methodological emphasis on the entire project.

The time has come to point out the shortcomings of others through creative conceptions. Are Croats capable of articulating what they want and how they want it?

1. WHERE DO CROAT RIVERS FLOW?


Centuries-old events created mottled convictions, dispositions, practices and social relations in the area of the present-day Republic of BiH. In that sense, the last three years have been exceptionally turbulent. Namely, after the first ever democratic and multi-party elections, war "arrived" in BiH towards the end of 1991. War gripped the Republic of BiH after the independence referendum at the beginning of 1992, and after it was accepted in the middle of that same year as a legitimate member of the world community and a legitimate member of the United Nations.

The two and one-half years old war, which was predominately conducted on areas with a majority non-Serb population, destroyed the judicial, political, business, communication and every other foundation of the Republic of BiH. The war drama culminated at the moment when, along with uncurtailed Serbian aggression, fighting started amongst the victims of the war--between Muslims and Croats. As a result, nothing in this country can be or ever will be the same as before. Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the meantime, along with a vast number of killed and wounded, has become the most destroyed and depopulated member of the world community.

The catastrophic war goes on, and the search for an escape from the governmental, political, and national crisis in the most complicated political arena of Europe is continuing under the lofty patronage of international organizations. In the past two and one-half years, four models for solving the national crisis in BiH have been offered. In political circles these documents are known as the Cutileiro Plan, the Vance-Owen Plan, the Owen-Stoltenberg Plan, and the Washington Agreements (the Redman Plan).

The Washington Agreements ended the war between Muslims and Croats, and on the territory of the internationally recognized country of the Republic of BiH in areas where these two peoples are a majority, a new Croat-Muslim country was created--the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. A large part of the territory of this nascent governmental formation is still under Serbian occupation, and it is still unclear which judicio-political manner will be used to arrange relations between the Federation of BiH and the Bosnian-Serbs.

A quick look back at political events in and around BiH introduces a coherent and methodological frame for positioning a key question: How can we retain and secure the role of Croats in the Federation of BiH, who inhabit approximately 90% of the area around the geostrategic backbone of the federal territory--the Brod-Capljina line (Neretva and Bosnia Rivers)?

2. THE CROAT CASCADE

Preserved documentation in writing and tradition testify, without a doubt, that the territory of BiH is one of the oldest Croat domains dating back to the very first presence of Croats in these parts. However, in this "classical" domain of Croats, conditions became complicated with the Ottoman takeover and the centuries-old process of de-Croatizing Catholic Bosnia. It seems that in this present-day war cataclysm we find the Croat presence in BiH as summarily the smallest and economically the weakest, with the present-day devastation and its consequences similar to the sufferings of the past. With this, disappearing are the traditional red and silver colors of silver Bosnia and rocky Herzegovina. Furthermore, the creation of new sovereign states will have a strong influence and consequences in the demographics on its further development. What questions and demands await Croats? Can negative tendencies be anticipated and prevented, and if so, how?

The 20th century is marked by its specific demographic parabola (rise- stagnation-downfall). For instance, the rise of Croat demographics in BiH at the turn of this century and its stagnation, or better stated, its downfall during the second Yugoslavia seems to be at a crossroads as the new century approaches. This reality forced our people to fight for sheer survival and existence in our historical domains.

The diminishing of the Croat national entity on the territory of BiH, especially in the last several years, was occurring behind the curtain of the so called "equality of constituent peoples." This was a well carried out, calculated plan of guilt infusion, or historical blame laid out on the Croat populace while, in reality, Croats were discriminated against in every aspect of cultural, political, religious, social and economic life. That discrimination induced massive emigration out of BiH, and an all out diplomatic effort to compromise everything connected with the Croat name. This was only a part of the Greater Serbian plan to eliminate and extinguish the Croat national identity and all that was an integral part of that identity (as Serbs say, "to extinction, ours or yours"). That trend was broken, as it can be seen, thanks to the creation of an independent Croatian state. How do we eliminate the remnants of the evil Serb plan? What is the Croat national response and do the Croats have a national program?

It is enough to take a quick look back at numerical statistics of Catholics in BiH in order to illustrate the above stated realities. In a period of 30 years, that is between the first Austrian census in 1879 and the last in 1910, the number of Catholics in Bosnia doubled and their percentage in the entire population rose from 18.1% to 22.9%. Catholics were a majority in areas around Mostar, Travnik and in 12 counties: Ljubuski, Mostar, Stolac, Fojnica, Zupanjac, Livno, Prozor, Travnik, Zepce, Bugojno, Brcko and Derventa. At the beginning of the 20th century the metro area and county of Sarajevo was primarily Muslim (35.6%) and Roman Catholic (34.5%), followed by Eastern Orthodox (15.4%) and a smaller Jewish community. How did Croats "lose" Sarajevo in the span of one average human lifetime?

Events after the 1920s (since the creation of the first Yugoslav state) account for a decrease of the Croat population in BiH. The consequences of WWII, turbulent political events, brainwashing and forced emigration were responsible for undermining and preventing the national growth of the Croat population. The growth rate gradually fell and then, during the 1970s, the numerical presence of the Croat population in BiH took a drastic downfall (every Yugoslavia eliminated Croats in terms of population).

The evil role of migration took a sizeable bite out of Croat demographics. The Croat populace was prone to emigration more so than the other two constituent peoples in BiH. In the past twenty years, BiH lost one person each hour, one village each month and one small city each year due to emigration. In that period, the emigration rate surpassed the birth rate by approximately 1,500 to 1,000 people. In other words, the migration's negative balance "took away" the natural growth in the period of 1971- 1991 (approx. 165,000 people plus 23,000 Croats from 1971; all together at least 188,000 Croats). Instead of making up more than 1 million of the total population of BiH, Croats numbered less in 1991 than they did twenty years earlier. The fatality of emigration was further heightened because emigration selectively took the most vital segment of the Croat population in BiH biologically, economically and culturally speaking.

The erosion caused by this exodus amplifies the demographic devastation of the Croat population on this territory and with it, the diminished demographic role of Croats, and with that, the diminished role of Croats in every aspect of life in BiH. The numerical ratio between Croats and Muslims in 1948 was 1:1.28, while in 1991, according to the census, the ratio was 1:2.53. This shows the speed of the process by which the Croat majority in some regions of central Bosnia became thinned out. Until the 1960s the Croat majority fared well in the counties of Travnik (Novi Travnik, Busovaca, Vitez), Bugojno (Bugojno, Donji Vakuf, and Kupres), and Kiseljak (Kiseljak, Kresevo, Fojnica).

Even without the current war and its negative demographic implications, a study of the Croat majority has sobering effects. Until this war, Croats could be found in all of Bosnia's 109 municipalities. They were present in 2,720 out of the 5,878 recorded towns. Croats comprised an absolute majority (according to the 1991 census) in 14 municipalities (221,639 or 29.47% of the Croats in BiH), 995 recorded towns (518,687 or 68.41% of the Croats in BiH). Croats make up a relative majority in an additional six municipalities (71,470 or 9.5%), and 34 recorded towns (16,629 or 2.19% of Croats in BiH). One- fifth of Croats live in the most densely populated municipalities in BiH (Mostar, Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Zenica and Tuzla). Only a decade ago (1981) a Croat majority was present in 22 previously Croat municipalities and in 1961, three-fifths of Croats in BiH lived in 29 municipalities with a Croat majority.

Around 90% of Croats in BiH lived for more than 150 years around the significantly strategic territory marked by the Rivers Neretva and Bosnia, and bound by the line Dubocac (on the Sava River)-Jajce-Livno on the west and the line Brcko-Vares-Ravno to the east. West of the western line, 22 municipalities were inhabited by 58,598 Croats, and east of the eastern line, 32 municipalities were inhabited by only 17,195 Croats. Those 90% lived on that territory even before this war, but that 90% in 1991 was less than in 1981 and congruently, that 90% in 1981 was less than in 1971.

One-third of Croats in BiH (around 250,000) live in the Livno-Prozor- Ravno triangle. That represents the most ethnically homogeneous and the largest area inhabited by Croats on the territory of BiH. This triangle lies along the border with the neighboring Republic of Croatia. Next is the region in the central portion of Bosnia (the region of the Rama-Vrbas- Lasva-Bosnia Rivers bound by the line Bugojno-Kresevo-Vares-Zenica- Jajce) where one-fourth of (around 175,000) BiH Croats live. Surviving many historical upheavals, this so called "cradle of Bosnia" withstood all the way up to the 1960s when, at that time, Croats lost the demographic war with the Muslims. This was in part due to emigration and also, because of administrative and territorial gerrymandering of historically and ethnically homogeneous Croat territory. Over the past 30 years and especially during this war, only small clusters of Croats remain (they make up a majority in those small clusters or enclaves). The takeover of territory in the Balkans (Bosnia is a prime example) means the negating of time and covering up of history.

Bosnian Posavina (with about 128,000 or 17.0% of Croats in BiH) is the third largest homogeneous area inhabited by the Croats. Unlike central Bosnia where Croats are primarily mixed with the Muslim population, Croats in Posavina are somewhat more mixed with Serbs, while the Muslims in Posavina primarily inhabit more urban areas. This historically Croat territory shares a border with the Republic of Croatia.

It can be said that the Croat population in BiH is characterized by its high degree of concentration. Actually, around three-fourths of Croats inhabit three relatively homogeneous territorial regions, of which the mixed central Bosnian region borders the homogeneous region of Herzegovina. The remaining one-fourth of the Croat population is like an archipelago of ethnically homogeneous islands thrown into a sea of Muslim and Serbian majorities (in and around Tuzla-4%, in and around Sarajevo-5%, in and around Banja Luka-8% and in and around the area of Usora/Zepce-6%). It can be better stated that the Ottoman invasion and subsequent rule smashed the mirror of Catholicism in BiH, out of which larger parts in the southwest and north survived to the present, and the smaller parts were encircled by the newly arrived Serbs and the newly emerged Muslims. Even today's ethnic portrait reflects traces of the major historical events on this territory.

In speaking about the particularity of Croat inhabitation in BiH, it must be noted that they are significantly concentrated in larger, homogeneous regions or in smaller island-like pockets that were deliberately hidden by statistical and cartographic simplifications of the other two, more numerous peoples. The larger the unit of territory under investigation, the more evident the cover-up of a Croat presence. Croats "lose" in terms of total numbers in cities and in ethnic cartography in terms of overall territory (except for villages or land ownership in BiH). Is that also some strategic factor, and if so, how can it be validated? How, in that sense, can it contribute to a new territorial administrative system and local government?

The dispersion of other Croat areas which, at the same time, is the connecting line between eastern and southern Croatia (Neretva-Bosnia and Rama-Lasva) was forcefully carried out after WWII. It is important to note that the Croat population from this particular area valiantly defended BiH's Catholicism and Croat identity in the 15th Century, especially after the invasion of Vienna. Even though it is difficult to list and separate the reasons for this, the following reasons are some of the most important:

- The overall position of the Croat nationality in Socialist Yugoslavia with constant and consistent reminders that "Croats were at fault for WWII";

- Emigration;

- Unemployment and political tendencies;

- Slow urbanization coinciding with easy access to schooling and literacy;

- Education in distant urban areas;

- Economic development bypassing Croat cities and towns, or economic development causing the migration of non-Croats to Croat cities;

- Unfavorable administrative and territorial structure which undermined Croat national interests and destroyed their social, educational, cultural, political, religious and administrative institutions;

- Devastation, confiscation, and defamation of religious objects, customs and traditions;

- Ideological education with the goal of hardening a national feeling in the absence of one, etc.;

A view into the orbit of the Croat national entity on the area of the present-day Republic of BiH really shows the arranging of temptations in a multi-century fight for survival. Numerous cultural and historical reminders (many were destroyed, extirpated or taken away, apart from the duration of Ottoman rule) radiate the strength of people that is rooted here, deeply and regeneratively. Nothing about BiH, an unusual and misunderstood country, bears witness as persistent and protracted as the will and soul of the "ikavski people" (ikavski is a dialect of Croatian used by Croats in BiH) and their church of the 7th century Franciscans - our uncles. However, everything that occurred during this century, apart from the past few years, unfortunately does not help "Cro-optimism." Behind the mottled drapery of "equality of the constituent peoples of BiH" lies a truth where the model of solving national issues in fact "ate" one-third of the "Croat importance" just during the period after WWII. Namely, the Croat population in BiH plunged from 25% to 17%, and Croats became the most inclined to emigration. Although rural (three-fourths of Croats live in rural areas), Croats on the average are the most literate people in BiH. This fact did not help Croats find domestic employment as much as it helped them find foreign employment. Namely, the domestic rate of employment was two times lower than the percentage of Croats in BiH, while the number of employed Croats in temporary foreign employment was double that of the number in their homeland.

Croats in modern BiH and in the middle of an era of urbanization were pushed out of major cities by dominant populations to the point where they do not make up a majority of the population in any of the important city centers. The aforesaid facts make up a very sophisticated argument for the absence of prospects for, and the national inequality of, Croats in BiH. What are we to do?

One must take into consideration the historical foundation of Croats in these areas and the current situation on the remaining parts of Croat areas in BiH, for which the Croat people defended militarily and by referendum. This raises questions about aims, objectives, immediate and projected tasks in all domains of life and operation and the type of constitutional structure that will protect historical Croat interests. These interests include securing ethnic, geographic, transit, economic, cultural, denominational-traditional and other relevant presumptions in order to transform unfavorable conditions to favorable conditions for living in one's own historical domain. We also must consider the fact that these Croat areas benefit from superior educational and economic resources for future development (geographic position, industry, number of emigrants, industrial habits of the larger number of BiH Croats employed for decades in European countries, overseas and the Western-Christian cultural orientation of our people). It is exceedingly important to take into account a necessary historical achievement - the realized Croat nation and, accordingly, there can be no talk of significant interests that, at the same time, do not include integral interests of all Croats and the Republic of Croatia. In other words, the point in question is an attempt to outline those parts of the Croat national program that must be carried over by Croats in BiH. Only these admissions (best shown before the war like all other events in "the search for a just peace") have enough circumstances and challenges for all Croats. We must know and understand our destiny and take it into our own hands. We do not have the right or much use in correcting or accusing others. Consciousness of these necessities is in fact a just beginning and a just response to this historical challenge.

3. WAR AND CROATS

With or without war statistics, the following generalization can be made: The entire world still regards this war as the most appalling of all wars up to date. On one side, the destruction of people has lasted for more than three years with international diplomatic sophistication on the ideal theme of "justice and injustice" on the other. Above and beyond everything is the lesson of unattainable justice.

After all (what kind of war is being conducted, where is it being conducted, how and why is the war being conducted with the kinds of fighting methods being used?), it must be said that "the drama in the former Yugoslavia" is taking place in Croatia and in BiH.

The war is being conducted predominately in areas with a non-Serb majority, while ethnic cleansing (in fact, stuttering genocide) is being conducted in areas with a Serb majority. The prewar ethnic and demographic picture has been significantly changed. Millions, whose exact numbers have not yet been registered, suffered death, disfiguration, moral deprivation, arrest, sickness, hunger, starvation, desertion, exile, concentration camps, etc. Heterogeneous and multi-layered, current demographic and ethnic implications on individual, family, group, and ethno-collective levels are only a methodical frame for expressing demographic, socio-psychological, economic and political swings in the bio-reproductive behavior of a large part of the Croat and Muslim population in BiH. They do not, meanwhile, represent less painful implications for the Serb corps whose biological vitality deteriorated during the war. Namely, war casualties among the youth contributed to a growth in the average demographic age of the Serb people which, before this war, was noticeably higher than that of the Croats and significantly higher than that of the Muslims. What is the strategic importance of differing demographic structures and trends in social and political events on the territory of BiH? For this one must separately consider the demographic vivacity and youth of Muslim people, the demographic collapse of Croat people and the demographic exhaustion of Serb people. The pre-war ethnic picture of BiH was significantly smeared by ethnic cleansing (genocide) and it is impossible to "re- paint" that picture.

Casualties of the war in BiH are extraordinary. Their influence and effect will be felt long and deep when it comes time to construct peace and coexistence. Those who lost the most will feel a distinct anxiety and need for continued direction in the course of social processes. Unfortunately, the number of these people on all three sides is too large to neglect. It is often said that refugees and displaced persons "play" the most difficult role in the drama of war. This role will endure even after the war. Although it is habitually said that everyone is a loser in war, the importance of forming a goal in an ethno-political atmosphere where people individually compare their proper standing should not be forgotten. Namely, it is very important to see which ethno-collective sensation (justice-injustice, gain- defeat, or national optimism-national apathy) will bind the individual peoples of this war. This is a particularly important "gradation" in the individual decision model: "to stay, to return or to go." Refugees and displaced persons will have a crucial influence on the stability of the territorial-political construction of BiH.

In estimating the course of the placement of "extra people" on the territory of the Federation of BiH, the fate of people who, before the war lived in zones now controlled by three armies (the point in question is mainly one of refugees and displaced persons), relies on the pursuit of a lasting solution to the situation of a wartime, governmental and national definition of BiH. Since approximately half of BiH Croats were expelled from their pre-war homes (in areas under Muslim control lived approx. 30% of BiH Croats and in areas under Serb control lived 25% of BiH Croats), the importance of a relative question about the optimal interests of Croats in BiH and how to protect these interests becomes apparent. Today, consequently, Croatia needs to evaluate the chances of returning Croats to their places of origin (e.g. Posavina, where occupation and genocidal killing, expulsion, destruction and devastation is rampant and central Bosnia with its overflow of Muslim refugees from areas controlled by Serb forces which will be very difficult to return). The possibility of individual and ethno-collective choice (since approx. 300 predominantly Croat villages were ethnically cleansed, pillaged, destroyed and burned) must include the creation of a bill of strategic components. This is distinctly related to the areas of Bosnian Posavina, Herzegovina, and parts of central Bosnia that make up a specific and strategic "French key" for the protection of the "soft under-belly" of Croatia.

4. HOW TO RAISE THE FLOOD-GATES TO PREVENT THE CROAT DEPARTURE

Through an awareness of the strategic gout of Croats in BiH, apart from areas of numerous colonization, one finds the most natural base for a long- standing formation of the geopolitical stability of the Croat nation. If Muslims do not understand that the life of the Federation of BiH is connected to the Republic of Croatia by an umbilical cord, then there is no room to question whether Croats (Croatia) lost Bosnia. In this case the main objective becomes (connecting the Federation of BiH to the Republic of Croatia) a system of tasks that must be accomplished and instruments to realize the objective to life, development, language, religion, culture, employment, movement, choice, and the right of free economic and political association), particularly in Croat archipelagos in cantons with Muslim majorities. Before everything, it would be of interest to the Muslims. It is worth evaluating the interests of Croats in BiH, the Republic of Croatia and the Federation of BiH. The point in question is in fact to form a strategy of political, economic, demographic, educational, cultural and historical evaluation that protects the interests of Croats in the Federation of BiH, with reference to the Republic of BiH.

Because many important elements from the political-judicial basket of BiH are not defined, "there exists the real possibility and danger that the Croatian people will simply disappear". A serious nation that finds itself at a historical crossroads can not lack the objective and direction from which to achieve it. What is the national objective of Croats in BiH and how to attain it?

The need for a national program is not just a measure of cultural level, but also an expression of collective worries for its destiny and national preservation. The creation of an independent Croat state and subsequent war have uncovered the significance and need for a Croat national program to awake motives, reasons and inducements to engage millions of Croats to express their concern, work and creativity. The coexistence of these historical occurances appertain to privileges of these feelings and also the commitment of our descendants to carry on the pride and understanding of continuation; not always a new beginning like that of our grandfathers, fathers and us ourselves.

The objective is large and the purpose is honorable. Attaining the objective is an enduring process, and there are many tasks in that process to be completed. It is worth evaluating the historical-cultural, judicial- political, demographic, economic, educational and strategic-defensive standings and tendencies in the present-day Republic of BiH with urgency and a particular accent on the role and future of the Croat people. The specific "BiH tri-lema" carried over onto Croats in terms of "to stay - to return - to go" can not be ceded to a spontaneous self- individualistic decision.

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