Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Karlovac. Croatian History - And Ethnic, Religious Group Conflict. Deaths writ large and small.

Croatia.  History of a Crossroads.
1.  Deaths writ large - Karlovac
2.  Deaths writ small - Osijek

1.  Deaths writ large.

Slavko Goldstein, Croatian journalist, publisher, philosopher in his way, wrote a book not yet translated, but there is an extensive review worth absorbing. See "He Understood Evil" at
  • In 1941, the Jewish author Slavko Goldstein was living with his parents in the city of Karlovac

Slavko Goldstein's father was among those killed by the Ustache, pro-fascist nationalists who bloomed under the Nazis 1941 ff. What followed: the deaths of "32,000 Jews, 40,000 Gypsies and 350,000 Serbs". See He Understood Evil, a review by Charles Simic, as to Goldstein's book (not yet translated), 1941: The Year That Keeps Returning, Zagreb, Novi Liber, 494 pp., HRK180.00. Find it at  It has been criticized by others, see
The elements are familiar: There is a family from this lovely setting, a medium-sized, working town, regular people. Then deaths on a massive scale. It takes close reading and concentration to absorb all this mass death and history, but do it. How does it happen? This review, from Dialogic, by a Thivai Abhor,; focuses on nationalism as triggering disregard for all other interests, rights, see Le Monde Diplomatique, English ed., at National identity, group identity, has any nation resolved issues of humana vs. immediate self-interest with an ethnic or cultural group.

Croatia has been at the center of Balkan conflict for centuries of invasions, wars, ethnic warring.  Find an overview at  With war criminals still being found and arrested and brought to trial at the Hague, the issue remains important.  How could all this happen.

Croatian history: Conflict, invasions, re-orderings. Complex.

2.  Crossroads and conflicts.  Ancient history to modern. 

2.1  Greeks.   It began with the Greeks, in a peaceful way, apparently, see Croatian History at .  The Greeks established colonies in 600 BC. Here in Croatia, see Cavtat at
Then came the Romans.
2.2  Avars. Migrating groups soon arrived, although elements of smaller groups may have shared space with the Romans, see
2.3  Croats.  Now begins more forceful takeovers.

Croats came, we understand, from the Ukraine in the 6th Century AD. They defeated the Romans and others at the Adriatic Sea area, and its many ports, in about 614-635 AD. The Croats also beat back the Avars, another group, back to the Danube: then were awarded lands under the sovereignty of the Byzantine Empire, that became the Orthodox branch of Christianity.
2.4.  King Tomislav. 
Capilyn, Bosnia;  King Tomislav

Tomislav first ruled over a unified Croatia - until his mysterious death in 928 when the Roman branch of Christianity was competing with the Orthodox (see and  Then begin the back and forth wars and migrations among Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Istria, other regions.
2.5  Turkish Ottomans. 
Invasions of the Turks (Ottomans): see, leading to tensions that persisted and augmented both World Wars, and to today in some regions: Orthodox Christians, Roman Christians, Hungarians, Muslims, Magyars.
The capital, Zagreb, became a seat of a Bishop in 1094 a Roman Catholic Bishop, in the conservative and authoritarian Roman mode. This was only after centuries of conflict with the earlier egalitarian heritage of Nin, see Bishop Grgur Ninski who opposed imposing a Latin service on the people, but lost and was deposed. 
In neighboring Serbia, the Orthodox heritage prevailed, in competition with the Roman, see  That competition continued well through WWII with charges by Orthodox that the Roman clergy stood by while Orthodox were slaughtered in Jasenovac Concentration Camp, offering only "conversion" - of these already Christian people.  See  What proofs of opposing the slaughter has the Vatican provided? Is the issue still current? Apparently so, with the counterattacks on the work of
Is group identity and justification always determinative over rights of an individual. When does tolerance end and threat start
Ethnic group conflict. A part of any society under stress, or where one feels threat by the emergence of another. In Croatia, there is an added element: groups that lived in concert reasonably for centuries, were turned against one another with horrific results. How did that happen after all that time. What are the roots of genocide.

3.  Deaths writ smaller.  Individual Death.

Find compassion, details, of individual deaths, in cultures where portraits, stories, are told on the stones: where circumstance permitted individualization.
Osijek, Croatia. Cemetery. Child Therezia, age 16

Here is the face and figure of the child, Therezia, who died at age 16 - a random stop to walk slowly through a graveyard near Osijek. Who was she. How did she die. Who were her people.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Zagreb - Officer Yellachitch, or Jelacic

   Officer Yellachitch.

The modern spelling for the name is "Jelacic"; but the more familiar spelling may come from the fine vintage book about the Balkans, "Black Lamb, Gray Falcon", by Rebecca West, from 1937-41. The officer stands, mounted, in the market square, Jelacic Square.

Yellatchitch-Jelacic according to "Black Lamb" is the 1848 hero who had been appointed Ban of Croatia. He was a Croat General who brilliantly repelled the Hungarians, crushing their rebellion, and thus preserved the Austrian Empire from the Hungarians.  They later joined forces as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but at this time there was conflict.

"Ban" means "Viceroy".  The story is important for its human betrayal side:  Jelacic was then promptly shoved aside, as other powerful interests and people took over. See, the 1937-41 book, "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon," by Rebecca West at the paperback version pages 53-56, Penguin Books 1994.

Read about the old Zagreb there:  here is the Epilogue at, Old Zagreb, "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon."

Travel reading.  I took the paperback, but cut it in half. It was too thick as a single paperback, too heavy as a hardback. Kept both halves,

Zagreb - Metropolitan: Cathedral, Mirogoj Cemetery, St. Mark's, St. George, underground mall

The lower new town of Zagreb, off the hillside-cliff defense area, is cosmopolitan with parks and grand statues and great Viennese-style avenues and buildings, for business. Days of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Railroad Station, Zagreb, Croatia

The huge old (cloak and dagger?) railroad station in Zagreb has been a main stop for passengers coming from Vienna and moving on to Belgrade or elsewhere, and back.

You can see the influence of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire in most all of the buildings and statuary. The tiled roof is on St. Mark's. We found more people who spoke German than English. See fine photo gallery at

St. Mark's Church, Zagreb, Croatia

There are two main churches:  This, St. Mark's Church; it is first documented in the 12th Century, Romanesque.  The roof tiles form the coats of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia (the coastal region), Zagreb and Slavonia (the western agricultural region, see ://

Then there is the Cathedral of St. Stephen, a more traditional Gothic-looking structure.

In the Cathedral of St. Stephen is the burial place for Cardinal Stepinac, whose activities during WWII are a discussion point for those concerned with the role of church officials in wars. Do you stand aside, and condone by passivity the genocides and other atrocities, or do you give up your life for your friends?

Cardinal Stepinac kept his life, and offered only to convert the Orthodox headed to their deaths at the hands of the Ustache.  He did not stop or try to stop the executions.

For a favorable review of what Cardinal Stepinac decided and when, see  For a less favorable account, see Fine minds differ.

Here is St. George, battling the perpetual dragon. Moisture drips from his toe, but this is not seen as miraculous as in some other religious statuary. See example at Bosnia Road Ways, Medjugorje site .

St. George and the Dragon, Zagreb park, Croatia

Dragons.  The earliest "known" dragon may be at Mesopotamia, from the time of King Nebuchadnezzar.

What traces of what led to the nearly global idea of hte dragon.  Is it just a kind of dinosaur.

Collateral and unrecoverable damage caused by wars over the centuries. Is there any archeological evidence of anything left there, after Operation Iraqi "Freedom." See information on collections at

Dragon forms were also in Egypt, see, and in various eastern and western cultures, see

More on dragons: A TV show (history channel? sponsored by the army??) recently, in September 2006, said that dragons were also in Mexico, Alaska (!) . and we have seen the dragon boats in Viking cultures. Were they real once? Here is the story of a knight and the dragon, and saving the lady, from Libya:

Miragoj Cemetery, Covered Gallery, Zagreb, Croatia (Orthodox; some German, from WWII)

Miragoj Cemetery. This has been a heavily Orthodox area, and the big Mirogoj cemetery, just outside Zagreb, has many if not almost equal Cyrilic alphabet monuments, or other Orthodox symbols.

There is a large outdoor cemetery, of course, with walkways, and photographs of the deceased on the stones, embedded, or otherwise attached.

Miragoj Cemetery, Gallery, Zagreb, Croatia

There is a former Croatian president here, Mr. Tudjman, and artists, literary figures, professionals. Their locations are mapped; or just follow a tour group.

One travel site has little on Mirogoj, and asks for input, but their motto is something like, find what is true, and then travel to see it. See We do the opposite - who says what is true and why? Go and find it out yourself.

There also German soldiers from WWII, interred with a carefully alphabetized common marker, with names and full birth and death dates.
Miragoj Cemetery, German section WWII, Zagreb, Croatia