This book assesses the formation of Croatian national identity in the 1990s. It develops a novel framework, calling into question both primordial and modernist approaches to nationalism and national identity, before applying that framework to Croatia. In doing so, the book provides a new way of thinking about how national identity is formed and why it is so important. An explanation is given of how Croatian national identity was formed in the abstract, via a historical narrative that traces centuries of yearning for a national state. The book shows how the government, opposition parties, dissident intellectuals and diaspora groups offered alternative accounts of this narrative in order to legitimise contemporary political programmes based on different versions of national identity. It then looks at how these debates were manifested in social activities as diverse as football, religion, economics and language. This book attempts to make an important contribution to both the way we study nationalism and national identity, and our understanding of post-Yugoslav politics and society.
Some years before the ‘Warwick debate’, the journal Millennium held a symposium entitled ‘re-imagining the nation’. In his introduction to the volume, Adam Lerner suggested that ‘[t]he nation exists as much in people's minds as it does in the world’. The contributors to this collection agreed that the ‘great divide’ offered unsatisfactory ways of understanding the formation of national identity and shared a desire to ‘re-imagine’ the nation in ways that could build on the insights offered by both sides of the divide. This chapter considers some of these new approaches to the study of national identity formation and assesses how they can be used to study the formation of Croatian national identity in the 1990s. Liisa Mallki, Michael Billig, Sarah Radcliffe and Sally Westwood have offered alternative ways of thinking about nation formation that expose how nations are continually produced and reproduced in human subjectivity. Paul James introduced two new concepts to the study of nationalism and national identity: ‘continuity-in-discontinuity’ and ‘abstract community’. This chapter looks at Croatia as an abstract community.
In his 1998 state of the nation address, the Croatian President Franjo Tuðman noted that with the restoration of the Croatian Danube region including Vukovar ‘to our homeland’, ‘[t]he centuries-old dream of the Croatian people has thereby been completely fulfilled’. This chapter explores historical claims to self-rule and the ways that Croatian historians and historical narratives have tended to focus on questions of elite politics and sovereignty rather than the ethnic and linguistic claims expected by primordialists and articulated by sections of the contemporary Croatia's nationalist movement. It demonstrates that abstract accounts of national identity draw upon a common stock of narrative about historical statehood. These accounts provide the ‘frames’ of reference used by competing politicians, intellectuals and others in the 1990s to legitimise particular political programmes.
This chapter investigates how the Croatian nation was imagined in the 1990s. It focuses on four sets of accounts that attempted to provide contemporary resonance to the abstract frames of national identity. After a discussion of the so-called ‘Franjoist’ narrative offered by Croatia's President Franjo Tuðman and his party, it looks at alternative conceptions of identity that were articulated by opposition parties, dissident intellectuals, and the Croatian diaspora. It argues that each of these ‘political entrepreneurs’ drew upon, and offered interpretations of, the historical statehood thesis in order to legitimise their programmes or to challenge the manifestos of others. The abstract frames thus presented common frames of reference with which to seek legitimacy for political practices or to use to question that legitimacy. Ideas about national identity provide a framework for political discourse. In the case of a nation that has only recently achieved statehood, issues of state politics are ‘nationalised’ and particular rules of engagement are developed.
In 1990s Croatia, regionalism was a powerful source form of political opposition. The Croatian flag includes the emblems of the so-called historic regions of Croatia: ‘civil’ Croatia, Slavonia, Istria, Dalmatia and Dubrovnik. This chapter examines the way that the disputes about the meaning of Croatian national identity in the 1990s were manifested in a variety of social practices. This level of abstraction is concerned with how competing conceptions of national identity that make use of abstract frames are manifested and embedded in social practice and in identifying sites of resistance to the national ‘common sense’. The chapter presents six brief studies that reveal the nation to be a terrain of political competition in which the state is but one, albeit powerful and well resourced, protagonist. The focus is on how interpretations of the historical statehood narrative are manifested in the identities that inform social practices. The chapter also looks at the Croatian economy and how the Croatian national football team promoted national solidarity and unity, particularly during the 1998 World Cup.
Because of the perceived importance of language in framing national identity, the language question not only dominated political debate during the Yugoslav period, but also continued to create controversy in independent Croatia. There were two key debates about the relationship between language and national identity. On the one hand, there was the question of whether the Croatian language was distinct from Serbian. On the other hand, there was the issue of what that Croatian language should look like, given that there has been no generally accepted and widely used Croatian standard language in recent history. While overtly liberal orientations could be discerned in the studies of regionalism and education, when we looked at football and the Church, counter-narratives emerged from other forms of nationalism and Christian theology. This chapter examines the language question in Croatia, the role of the Catholic Church in nurturing Croatian national identity, and how national identity was continually reinterpreted through social practice.
In a seminal work published in 1999, Misha Glenny attempted to plot the Balkan history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Glenny interpreted Croatian national identity as the product of an aggressive nationalism informed by the political interests of social elites. The other prominent approach to Croatian national identity was unmodified primordialism. Here, instrumentalist arguments are inverted: nationalist movements are understood as reflecting national identity rather than vice-versa. Moreover, they use a broader understanding of the nation whereby most instances of group activity can provide evidence of the existence of a prior national or ethnic identity. The ‘great divide’ in nationalism studies is therefore reproduced in studies about Croatia. Attempts to understand Croatian national identity have tended to articulate both modernism and primordialism in their most polemic forms. This concluding chapter discusses competing claims to national identity, focusing on what Rogers Brubaker labelled ‘nationalising nationalism’ as well as Franjoism, re-traditionalisation and ruralisation, opposition to Franjoism, and overlapping and competing national identities.
As the Republic of Croatia enters its second decade as an independent state, with a new president and a new government for the first time, this book asks whether sentiments of Croatian national identity have changed and, if so, how and why. It proposes a multi-layered approach to studying contemporary Croatian national identity. To understand the formation of Croatian national identity in the 1990s, it is necessary to locate the discussion within wider concerns about the nature and origins of nationalism and national identity. National identity derives its power from being embedded in individual subjectivity. Thus, the narratives of national identity articulated by political and intellectual elites are manifested and constantly reinterpreted in social practice. The book insists that at the most abstract level Croatian national identity is constituted by the narrative of historical statehood. It also considers six areas of social practice in order to provide a series of snapshots showing the way that competing conceptions of national identity were embedded in areas as diverse as regionalism, religion, and sport.
According to Tom Nairn, ‘the reason why the dispute between modernists and primordialists is not resolved is because it is irresolvable’. Nairn described the so-called ‘Warwick debate’, between Anthony Smith and Ernest Gellner, as a ‘courteous difference of emphasis’. The ‘great debate’ in nationalism studies, captured at Warwick, is one between so-called ‘primordialists’ and ‘modernists’. Put simply, primordialists argue that the nation derives directly from a priori ethnic groups and is based on kinship ties and ancient heritage. For their part, modernists insist that the nation is an entirely novel form of identity and political organisation, which owes nothing to ethnic heritage and everything to the modern dynamics of industrial capitalism. This chapter provides a brief overview of the two positions but concludes that primordialism and modernism, and the scope of the debate between them, fail to offer a satisfactory account of the formation of national identity. It also explores the central problem with accounts that emerge from the ‘great divide’.