Ladies and gentlemen,
Antifascist veterans and antifascists,
Coming here to mark the start, a full sixty-eight years ago, of resistance against Nazi-fascism and occupation in Croatia, is much more than a commemorative rally. It is a manifestation of a very specific, noble and sublime human commitment. And even more than that.
In present-day conditions it is the holy duty of everybody who cares about the democratic Croatian state founded on antifascism. This is precisely what has brought us to the Brezovica forest, to the place where the first group of armed men met, determined to resist occupation and the quisling state emerged from it. They were also determined to reject the inhuman ideas on which that state was based - implemented forcefully not only by the occupiers but also by those who agreed to be their lackeys for the sake of power and who in their servility often surpassed the horrors of their masters.
Today we are paying due homage to the people who heralded in this forest, in June 1941, the uprising which would soon flare up both in Croatia and in other parts of the former Yugoslavia. They were the standard-bearers of freedom-loving ideas and the forerunners of what we accomplished in the Homeland War, to a considerable extent in the wake of their struggle.
Unfortunately, we are paying them homage in an atmosphere permeated with the aggressive fits of the latter-day promoters of ideologies defeated a long time ago and rejected throughout the world, an atmosphere characterized by ever cruder assaults of the followers of historical lies against the champions of historical truth. In a nutshell, in an atmosphere in which the defeated in the Second World War and those who accepted their views are trying to assume the role of victors and assign the role of the permanently defeated to the unquestionable victors.
That is simply impermissible!
Sometimes I envy the president of Germany, a country in whose name crimes baffling description and imagination were committed in the Second World War, because he - and I have in mind both the current president and his predecessors - has never been in a position to have to speak up against the glorification of the Nazis, of those responsible for the Holocaust, genocide and crimes against humanity, or to defend those who tried those criminals, and sometimes even passed sentence upon them without any trial. The German state has cleared up, once and for all, its relation toward Nazi-fascism and antifascism. And the state responds - momentarily, consistently and decisively - to any occurrence of historical revisionism or glorification of war criminals and their ideology, and such incident situations are also present in Germany.
Sometimes I also envy the prime minister of the United Kingdom - not only the current head of government but also all his predecessors - because he has never been faced with the situation of having to defend the war-time premier Winston Churchill from accusations that he was a war criminal because of the way in which he waged war against Nazi Germany and threatened revenge on Hitler and his minions. In the United Kingdom it is also perfectly clear who was fighting for what in the Second World War. And the British followers of the Nazis, because there were also such people, have definitively been relegated to the appropriate place in history without the least chance that anybody serious could designate them as fighters for the just cause without any response of the state.
Sometimes I also envy the president of France, and all the presidents of that great and important European country. I envy him because no French president will ever be faced with the need to defend the legendary leader of the Resistance and later head of state, General De Gaulle, from the accusation that he was one of the greatest executioners of the French people because there is no doubt that the Resistance fighters, after the end of the war, summarily liquidated in their avenging rampages thousands of collaborationists with the occupiers. France is aware of this painful page in its history but lives on reconciled to the fact that revenge did happen, knowing at the same time and never forgetting what preceded it.
I envy all of them because of a very simple reason, because I must speak up, ever more frequently and emphatically, and defend the antifascist struggle and the people who led it, including Marshal Josip Broz Tito. Certain people in this country are trying to drag down into the mud this military leader, politician and statesman, a Croat, still appreciated throughout the world, or, if the attempt to mark him as a criminal should fail, to destroy every memory of him and thereby invalidate the entire antifascist struggle.
Therefore, I envy the presidents of Germany, of the United Kingdom and of France. I envy all of them, because they have no need to fight the fabricators of history. In their countries this struggle is waged by the state and the state will react at all levels just as befits the countries of the Allied coalition but also as befits the country from which Nazism spread its sinister wings across Europe and which, after its defeat, knew how to recognize - albeit not painlessly - the proper path and take its place among countries that appreciate antifascism and build democracy. Incidentally, without the antifascist struggle there would have been no democracy in Europe, whether introduced immediately after the end of the Second World War or just some twenty years ago.
I envy them because they are not alone in safeguarding the achievements of antifascism. And I sometimes have the impression that I am alone in this regard. Do not get me wrong: I know quite well that many citizens, the so-called silent majority, share my views and support my words and deeds. Otherwise I would not have won two presidential elections.
However, what I miss is the support of the state in the broadest sense of the world. In this country there is still readiness to condone the behaviour of even high officials when they fail to react to ustashi insignia or uniforms and thereby actually accept and approve them. But, we all know them, they are good people! Are they truly? I am not really certain. In this country there is no will to penalize civil servants who disqualify this or that organization by saying that they are run by “the children of partisans and Jews”. Because we know them quite well, too, and they are otherwise good people.
Are they truly? I would not swear to that. In this country we are still faced with a totally unfounded and incomprehensible tolerance towards those who are, even in school textbooks, revising history - to say the very least - in the name of historical studies and rectification of the evils committed during communism. The result are uninformed and ideologically totally disoriented young people subject to manipulation of the worst kind. And the manipulators, from those in the media through those in politics to those in the so-called scientific circles, deck themselves out with high-sounding titles and revel in the privilege of interpreting and spreading their own truth. And is what they have been spreading for almost twenty years really the truth? Definitely not!
I do not wish to be more specific. I am referring to these examples by using somewhat generalized phrases in order to ask myself, or actually to ask all of you: why is this being done? What is the underlying goal? I shall also offer an answer to this question and explain how I see things. Actually, they want to force us to pay because, before transition, we had a system called the socialist system, although it was over time in many respects increasingly liberal and closer to Western systems. They want to force us to pay because we had an autochthonous resistance movement which was not controlled by London and certainly not by Moscow, and because the success of that antifascist movement gave rise to a self-reliant regime - a single-party one to be sure - which pursued its own original course after the initial several years in which it copied the Bolshevik model.
They want us to pay because we are the successor state to a multinational country which for decades played on the global scene a role disproportionate to its size and actual power and which was a precious model and ally to many countries just setting out on their path towards freedom and independence.
Finally, they want us to pay because a Croat, Josip Broz Tito, was in the vanguard of the antifascist resistance in the Second World War and later at the head of the Yugoslav federation and, on the global scale, at the head of the non-aligned movement. And the price they are forcing us to pay, unfortunately often with the tacit backing of state institutions and individuals from these institutions, is the acceptance of the historical lie. This means accepting the false claim that the collaborationists were actually patriots who admittedly did commit a crime or two under the pressure of the occupiers, and accepting the false claim that the victorious antifascists, or at least their leaders, were a mob of bloodthirsty criminals whose most pressing or actually the only mission was to kill Croats because they were Croats.
I do not accept that lie!
Democratic, civil Croatia must not accept that lie! European Croatia cannot accept that lie although some Europeans are also trying to serve it to us wrapped in the colourful cellophane of democracy. But that is very transparent cellophane.
Let me be quite articulate. My words are not an apology of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia existed, and it does not and will not exist any more. But my words are an apology of antifascism as the foundation of democracy and, therefore, of democratic Croatia as well! Ours is a young state. It emerged in the Homeland War, in our fight for freedom and independence. Present-day Croatia has no bond whatsoever with the entity which defiled the Croatian name in the Second World War and which was responsible for unparalleled crimes against Serbs, Jews, Roma, antifascist Croats and generally everybody even suspected of having a different mind.
The so-called Independent State of Croatia, NDH, was not the expression of the historical aspirations of the Croatian people, and today’s Republic of Croatia is not in any way its continuation or its resurrection. The Independent State of Croatia was neither independent, nor Croatian, nor was it a state! That is the truth which needs to be said and which must become clear to every citizen of this country!
Along the same line, there can be no return to NDH times or to the times of the Croatian policy until the year 2000! In defending antifascism we are defending democracy, and by defending democracy we are creating a guarantee for our future. Because of that we must be ready to resist the increasingly violent onslaught of historical revisionists and anticommunists who are mixing up communism as an idea, Bolshevism as practice and antifascism on Yugoslav soil into a struggle led by communists. We must defend the historical truth.
If we do not do it today, tomorrow may be too late! Today, while I am still the President of the Republic, and soon as a citizen of that Republic, I am waging and will continue to wage my last battle, my last war. If anyone thinks that I might win a battle but lose the war, he could be badly mistaken. Of course, I need your help, the help and support of all the citizens of the Republic of Croatia devoted to democracy.
Therefore, I shall end this address precisely with this call, a call to joint struggle in order to safeguard what is worthy and noble in Croatia, what was worthy and noble yesterday and will remain so tomorrow, with a call and a message: together we are stronger, together we can do everything.
And thank you for your attention! We shall meet again on the same spot in a year’s time. In the meantime - the struggle for the truth goes on!