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An International Symposium
"SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE 1918-1995"


Publisher: Croatian Heritage Foundation & Croatian Information Centre
For the Publisher: Ante Beljo
Expert Counsellor: Dr. sc. Dragutin Pavlicevic
Editor: Aleksander Ravlic
Graphic Design: Gorana Benic - Hudin
Printed by: TARGA
Copies Printed: 2000
ISBN 953-6525-05-4

IMPRESSUM

CONTENTS


 

 


Prof. dr. Josip Pecaric
member of Croatian Academy of Arts
and Science; member the General
Council of the Croatian Frater
organization "Bokeljska mornarica 809"
Tekstilno-tehnoloski fakultet,
Pierottieva 6
10 000 Zagreb CROATIA

CROATS OF BOKA KOTORSKA FROM 1918 UNTIL TODAY

1. THE CURRENT STATUS OF CROATIANS IN BOKA KOTORSKA
From the beginning of the Serbian aggression against Croatia in 1991 until today, the status of Croatians in Boka Kotorska has been characterized by various kinds of pressure. The most respected Croatian families in Tivat have received threatening letters in which the following, among other things, are written:

"If you do not leave on time, the night will swallow your children and family. Hurry to the summons of Mr. Tudjman to Croatia, because there are more Serbian centuries-old homes there than there are of you." (The letter was published by independent Montenegrin media.)

For this reason, Croatians of Boka have been moving to Croatia, while from Tivat alone, there have been over 300 Croatians (7 medical specialists among them) who have moved to Croatia. In effect, what has happened is a continuation, if not a completion, of the ethnic cleansing of Boka Kotorska since the existence of Yugoslavia. The census of 1910 (the last census carried out during the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and the census of 1991 (the last census in Yugoslavia) reveal that ethnic cleansing is truly in effect. The total population almost doubled from 33,400 in 1910 to 61,440 in 1991, while at the same time the number of Croatians has decreased three times (from 13,500 in 1910 to 4,910 in 1991.

However, only one part of the population emigrated. The other half was subjected to constant pressure to change nationality. This is why we have separated "Yugoslavians and others" in the tables presenting the national structure of Boka Kotorska and Montenegro. The reason is obvious: only Croatians in Montenegro had reasons to declare themselves as such in the census of 1991.

According to data of the Catholic Church of Boka, today there are approximately 12,000 Catholics. Thus, we have a paradoxical situation with more Catholic-Yugoslavians in Boka than Croatians.

The demographic picture of Boka Kotorska, however, has changed dramatically since 1991, not only because of the exodus of Croatians, but also because of the great influx of Serbians, namely, the Yugoslav Navy has made Boka its naval base and Serbians from eastern Herzegovina and Croatia have settled there - SERBIANIZATION is in full effect in Boka. It is not surprising that of the 1,000 refugees who departed from Croatia after "Oluja", 200 settled in Tivat. For this purpose, an initiative for a "census of empty houses" was set in motion by the Podgorica "Pobjeda" at the beginning of August so as to "take care of the people of "Krajina" in Montenegro". Thanks to the Montenegrin independent media, as well as the attitude of the municipal organizations of the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Union, the attempt at the so-called "humane confiscation" of empty Croatian houses was somewhat thwarted but not completely stopped.

GRAF 1

Percentage of Croatian Catholics in the population of towns (1910.) and imunicipalities (1991) of Boka kotorska.

2. DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGES IN BOKA FROM 1910 UNTIL 1991.
When we say Boka Kotorska, we understand this to be the Boka Kotorska Bay. The coastal belt of Boka Kotorska-Budva-Spic was, however, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire administratively included into one district with its center in Kotor. The censuses carried out convey religious rather than ethnic affiliation. While it is clear that the Catholics are essentially Croatian people, it is difficult to distinguish the Montenegrin and Serbian people among the Orthodox inhabitants. It is not difficult to note certain regularities in the displacement of the population in 1910. The Orthodox majority in the entire district was the result of colonization in higher mountainous regions, as for example, the Boka Kotorska hinterland and the region of Pastrovici, in which the people of the Orthodox faith are practically the only inhabitants. They also make up the majority on the Lustica Peninsula and in the agricultural Grbalj parish. In larger towns, the Orthodox population in 1910 and earlier was only noted in Risan. The remaining town settlements : Kotor, Perast, Tivat, Dobrota, Prcanj, Herceg-Novi and Budva had a Catholic, that is, Croatian majority. Distinct Catholic regions were the Vrmac Peninsula in Boka Kotorska and the southern part of Spic from Sutomor to the border towards Montenegro. (see pict. 1)

We may justifiably calculate that the situation was similar at the time of the creation of the first Yugoslavia and from that moment, the influence of Greater Serbian politics was of crucial significance to the demographic changes in Boka. Graph 1 displays how this was reflected in the population censuses in the second Yugoslavia in the entire number of inhabitants and Graphs 2 and 3 in Montenegro in percentages.

GRAF 2

The national structure of Boka kotorska (1991).

 

The annexation of Boka to Montenegro did not follow until 1945 when federal units of the new Yugoslavia were established ( during the war the terms used were: Montenegro and Boka Kotorska, that is, Montenegrins and the people of Boka). The census of 1948 was characterized by great pressure on the population to declare themselves Montenegrin. There is, however, a characteristic fact seen in Graph 3 showing that the number of Serbians and Croatians in Montenegro was the same in 1948, while in 1991 there were 9 times more Serbians. Also, Graphs 1 and 3, show how the number of Croatians was reduced with respect to the population as a whole and in part in percentages.

3. GREATER SERBIAN POLITICS AND BOKA KOTORSKA
Boka Kotorska was the first of all Croatian lands to be inflicted by Greater-Serbian politics. Objective and subjective reasons exist.

Objective reasons lie in the fact that Boka Kotorska is the most southern of all Croatian lands.

Subjective reasons lie in two great Serbian complexes.

1. The sea is a generally known Serbian complex. From the time of the Nemanjic Dynasty until today, whenever they were in a position to do so, Serbians have executed genocide upon the people who were obstacles to their access to the sea.
2. The Croatian cultural heritage is a Serbian complex which was best manifested in the war when they systematically destroyed all cultural monuments of the Croatian people. The symbol of this both here and in the world is Dubrovnik.

The culturocide, however, which is being carried out against the Croatian people holds one more component which may be seen in the attempt to usurp the cultural heritage of the Croats of Boka Kotorska, namely, it is the Boka Kotorska coastal settlements which were primarily inhabited by Croatians and which were the hub of maritime affairs. For centuries, this promoted strong development of the territory and the inhabitants were the bearers of a culture which attained an enviable level. This culture was particularly important to the Croatian people. Let us emphasize that the oldest Croatian Cathedral dating back to 1166, is St. Tripun’s Cathedral in Kotor or Our Lady of Skrpelja, the magnificent church, the shrine to the Holy Virgin erected on an artificial island across from Perast which was built by the inhabitants of that town. The church houses the life’s work of the greatest Croatian baroque painter who was born in Perast - Tripo Kokolja. Testimony to the greatness of the Croatian people’s heritage may found in official Montenegrin sources, which state that 40% of the republic’s immovable heritage and 66% of the republic’s movable heritage is located in Boka Kotorska. Clearly, one may conclude that today over 50% of Montenegro’s cultural wealth belongs to the Croatian people. More precisely, the Croatian people of Boka are heirs to this wealth.

GRAF 3

Nacional stucture in Montenegro (1991)

After his visit to the Catholic parishes in Boka and Montenegro, Monsignor Ratko Peric, the Bishop of the Mostar-Duvno and Trebinje-Mrkanj dioceses, said: "It takes more courage to be Croatian there than it does to be Catholic". In effect, his comment is indirectly talking about the goal of Greater Serbian politics in respect to the Serbian usurpation of the Croatian cultural heritage of Boka. Serbians need non-Croatian Catholics to ensure the painless seizure of the heritage which is primarily situated in Catholic churches. Eventually, with the completion of ethnic cleansing in Boka and the disappearance of Croatian Catholics, the Kotor Diocese would  no longer be a part of the Church for Croatians. Yugoslav Catholics would rapidly become, first, Montenegrin Catholics and then Serbian Catholics. In other words, Montenegro would first swallow Boka and then Serbia would swallow Montenegro. Moreover, while Montenegrins are, for Croatians, those who are taking away their land and their cultural heritage (something which is truly being witnessed by our people), the reality is that Montenegrins are also victims of Greater Serbian politics. Namely, they are doing the dirty work for Serbians in the same way they were drawn into the attack on Dubrovnik with the same scenario. They are not aware that they are working against themselves because by unjustly claiming the so-called Nemanjici Bay, they are giving an added motive to their own Serbianization.

MAP

By taking over Boka, Greater-Serbian politics is working in three basic directions:

1. the elimination of national consciousness of Croatians in Boka;
2. memoricide upon the Croatian people as a whole, that is, erasing Boka and the Croatian people in Boka from the minds of Croatians in Croatia.
3. territorial separation of Boka from Croatia.

The elimination of national consciousness was first carried out by the so-called "Bokism" and then by " Yugoslavianism". In the previous century, Serbians spoke to Croatians in Boka about "togetherness:" We are all "Bokans" and nothing else", they would say. Then they proceeded to divide them into Serbians and Catholics! Thus, Croatians were denied their Croatianism, whereas Serbianism was not touched because their faith is Serbian! At that time they were successful, especially in the creation of the first and second Yugoslavias when some Croatians found salvation by declaring themselves to be "Bokan" (and later Yugoslav) rather than Serb or Montenegrin! But in both circumstances, the Serbians achieved what they had wanted: for the Croatians to cease to exist because, severed from their people, they are condemned to become that which the Serbs want them to become, condemned to give the Serbs the great cultural heritage of the Croatian people of Boka as dowry.

There are many examples that display how successfully memoricide was carried out upon the Croatian people as a whole  with respect to Boka, the Croatian people and the great Croatian cultural heritage in Boka. The effect of this memoricide can still be felt in Croatia although I believe that many more people today know about Boka and its meaning to the Croatian people than they did several years ago. Three to four years ago, I was appalled by the fact that many Croatian politicians and cultural workers did not know that Boka Kotorska was the "Bay of Croatian Saints". Namely, of the six Croatian Saints and canons, three are from Boka (St. Leopold Bogdan Mandic, sainted Ozana of Kotor and sainted Gracija of Mula). The only Croatian Pope, Siksto V, is also from Boka. I was also appalled to discover that many Croatians of Boka did not know this either.

From the very beginning, the territorial separation of Boka from Croatia has been a major goal. This can be seen in the Vidovdan Constitution of 1921 in which the division of states into administrative regions was proposed. The division would be carried out by a parliamentary decision at the government’s suggestion. If this is not accomplished, a shortened legal procedure is predicted and should this not succeed the King would pass a statute in which the district of Boka Kotorska would fall under the Zeta administrative region. One can see how such crucial decisions were determined in advance and it is immediately clear that neither the first nor the second circumstance occurred, rather the third, which ensured the separation of Boka Kotorska from her mother country. In all future changes, including the Banovina (Ban’s dominion) of Croatia, Boka remained outside Croatian borders. When the HSS (Croatian Peasant Party) gained the most votes in seven Boka municipalities at the elections of 1939, Croatians in Boka expected that the Boka Kotorska Bay would enter the Banovina. Since the Cvetkovic-Macek Agreement did not define the borders, representatives of Boka Croats went to the HSS headquarters in Zagreb asking for the border to be on Trojica, behind Kotor. A correction of the border, however, was never accomplished due to the war and the arrangement of the first Yugoslavia.

Boka did not enter into the Independent State of Croatia in 1941. It was after the fall of Italy in 1943 when Boka formally entered into this structure, but it was, however, the German army which entered Boka rather than Croatian armed forces. In Boka, people believe that the reason for this was that Don Ivo Stijepcevic, a well-known Croatian historian, requested this. It is ironic that Don Ivo was imprisoned after the war by those whom he had aided by this act.

On the other hand, the "Boka " syndrome was in effect turning those Croatians in Boka into partisans. During the war, the term Montenegro and Boka Kotorska was used, whereas at the second meeting of "ZAVNOCG i Boka" (Territorial Anti-Fascist Council of the National Liberation for Montenegro and Boka), which took place on June 14, 1944, the name was changed to "CASNO" (Montenegrin Anti-Fascist Assembly for National Liberation). By the end of the year the term "and Boka" was erased from the title of the republic as well, although many organizations kept to the original name even several years after the war. This was clearly a simple consequence of the fact that Boka had been wrenched from its mother country. This enabled great pressure to be placed upon the Croatians of Boka. In this way, many well-respected Croatians in Boka were killed, among them priests: Don Ivo Brajnovic, Don Gracija Sablic and Don Djuro Perusina.

There were 17 Croatian culture clubs in Boka in the first Yugoslavia and the Croatians joined their mother country in joy (the thousandth anniversary of King Tomislav was celebrated magnificently in Boka and a stone plaque was placed on the Cathedral in Kotor commemorating the event) and in sorrow (a Boka navy unit took part in Stjepan Radic’s funeral). In the second Yugoslavia, however, all of this was destroyed in the two years following the war. In 1948, Croatians were faced with great pressure to declare themselves Montenegrin. Those among them who were in the Communist Party received party orders to do so. Not even three years had passed since the erasing of the term "and Boka". In those three years, many well-respected Croatians were imprisoned, with or without trial, and loss of employment was a standard occurrence.

This was usually accompanied by the label "clericalist". Pressure continued during the entire existence of the second Yugoslavia resulting in the demographic changes we have mentioned.

4. CROATIA AND BOKA KOTORSKA
The confiscation of Croatian houses, threatening letters and a case of arson in Donja Lastva by Tivat (the owner of the house in question was a Croatian Dejan Brkan), have made the situation in Tivat very explosive. This was reported to the Minister of Internal Affairs by a delegation from the Liberal Union of Montenegro. It is clear why the Montenegrin opposition did this and why they are supporting Croatians in Boka: by fighting for the Croatians, they are fighting for themselves and for the independence of Montenegro and its European orientation. To the Croatians of Boka, its Serbianization means losing their homeland, but to the Montenegrins it is a battle TO BE OR NOT TO BE . They are fighting for the survival of their nation.

Unfortunately, the Montenegrin opposition is not powerful enough to significantly alter the situation. This is why the question of what the Croatian nation can do is extremely important.

Clearly, it is Croatia’s duty, according to its Constitution, to report on the current situation in Tivat and the entire Boka region to all relevant factors to the world. However, that is not enough.

In its political program, Croatia must begin with the fact that Boka Kotorska is one of Croatia’s most important interests. That this is truly so we may conclude from the following three facts:

1. The overwhelming Croatian cultural heritage in Boka. In fact, by destroying our heritage, the Serbs have raised the level of awareness of Croats with respect to the significance of their cultural heritage.
2. Boka is the Bay of Croatian Saints. Is it necessary, particularly now after the visit of the Holy Father to Zagreb, to emphasize what Catholicism and the Bay of Croatian Saints means to the Croatian people and the Croatian nation.
3. According to the Croatian Constitution, Croatia is obliged to take care of all Croatians outside Croatia, therefore the Croatians of Boka Kotorska.

Thus, because Boka Kotorska is one of Croatia’s significant interests, Croatia cannot accept that it be a part of a state such as today’s SR Yugoslavia - a state in which Croatians and other peoples are subjected to culturocide and genocide.

Naturally, the Croatian army will not cross Croatian borders (unless Croatia is attacked), regardless of the fact that demographic movements in Knin and Boka have been very similar in this century and that with the completion of ethnic cleansing in Boka, they would be entirely the same.

All these reasons show how it is of vital interest to Croatia that Montenegro become an independent state, as are the other republics of the former Yugoslavia. We are hopeful that Croatia will succeed in convincing its allies of this fact and that they will become more active in aiding the Montenegrin opposition in its battle for freedom and the independence of Montenegro. Montenegro, separated from Serbia, would surely turn towards Europe, and in this way Boka Kotorska, this Bay of Croatian Saints, would, together with Montenegro, be where it belongs - in Europe. European Montenegro is a guarantee for everything Croatian in Boka Kotorska and it is the Croatian part of Montenegro which is exactly the ticket to affiliation to the Western world. Today’s situation, i.e. Serbian Montenegro, represents the feeding of the Greater Serbian appetite and ensures the continuation of Greater Serbian politics, which alone is a constant threat to vital Croatian interests.

Prof. dr. Dzenana Efendic Semiz: Serbian Land Reform and Colonization in 1918


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