Croatian Culture Minister Hasanbegović Responds to Latest Controversy

By 12 February 2016

Croatia's Minister of Culture gives press conference on the allegations dominating the national media. 

After yesterday's meeting of the government, Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegović gave a statement to the press. He reacted to photographs and an article published in Novosti magazine. A photo from the 1990s allegedly shows Hasanbegović with a cap which is very similar or identical to caps used by members of the Ustasha movement during the Second World War. The article quoted Hasanbegović's writings from that time in which he described the Ustasha as heroes and made other controversial statements reports Vecernji List on February 12, 2016.

"I have never in any way been an apologist for any criminal regime, including the Ustasha regime and the communist regime. Indeed, in my public appearances and articles I have clearly emphasized that the Ustasha crimes are burdened not only by the defeat, but I have always said that they represented the greatest moral stumbling in the history of the Croatian people, whose shadow to this date still falls on the Croatian people. I am against every totalitarianism, both fascist and communist, and I am a member of the government and the party which clearly stand on the foundations of a democratic anti-fascism, anti-communism and anti-totalitarianism and which are committed to democratic values ​​and parliamentary rule. This is my human, civil, political, moral and, if you will, scientific point of view", said Hasanbegović.

"To selectively use some completely peripheral statements taken out of context and given more than 20 years ago, during my student period, represents political manipulation. As a scientist and a historian, I have made my name in the public life, my works have undergone scientific verification. In fact, I think that my ministerial term must be judged by my work, and not by selective manipulation of facts from the distant past. My conscience is clean, in human, moral and political terms. I am ready to explain all other details to all those interested at any time, in a quiet atmosphere and in the intellectual debate, but not in an atmosphere of lynching and public prosecution, which in my case includes even elements of madness", said Hasanbegović who did not want to answer any questions.

First Deputy Prime Minister and HDZ president Tomislav Karamarko said yesterday that Hasanbegović was a sincere anti-fascist and anti-communist and added that he was not a burden for the government and will have the support of MOST as well.

"Hasanbegović is not a burden for the government, because this whole affair has been fabricated the same way as was the scandal with Veterans Affairs Minister Mijo Crnoja. He will have the support of MOST", said Karamarko. Commenting on SDP president Zoran Milanović's statement that Hasanbegović will not be accepted anywhere in Europe, Karamarko asked where was Milanović accepted while he was the Prime Minister. "Current opposition's only activities are what happened with Crnoja and now with Hasanbegović", he said and wondered who is going to be next. Karamarko added that he had not read Hasanbegović's articles published more than 20 years ago in The Independent State of Croatia magazine, a journal of the Croatian Liberation Movement.

"Hasanbegović is a historian and they are sometimes allowed to evaluate certain thing in a way different from journalists. Let us not blame the man for something he did not do", said Karamarko and called on everyone to turn towards the future. He reiterated that HDZ and he personally were anti-fascists and anti-communists. "We are proven anti-fascists because our party was founded by a general and a man who fought against fascism in the World War II. But, we are also anti-communists, because after 1945 Croatia entered a Bolshevik dictatorship. Why would I not be an anti-communist? We are against any totalitarianism", said Karamarko.