Despite War Veterans' Protests, Varaždin to Allow Concert by Serbian Singer

By 16 August 2018

In recent days, war veterans’ associations are very active in trying to decide who is allowed to perform in Croatia and who is not.

Varaždin Mayor Ivan Čehok commented on Thursday on the request made by some local war veterans’ associations which wanted to ban a concert by Serbian singer Bajaga as part of the town’s popular Špancirfest, reports Jutarnji List on August 16, 2018.

“Bajaga has performed twice in Varaždin in the last eight years. We have never had any opposition to his performances or negative reactions. This is probably an echo of what happened in Karlovac, but Karlovac is not Varaždin,” Čehok said, referring to the recent events in Karlovac, where Bajaga’s concert was cancelled after local war veteran’s associations announced they were against it. This was just one in the recent wave of attempts by some veterans to make themselves the arbiters of who is allowed to perform in Croatia and who is not.

Čehok’s position on Bajaga’s concert received support from Damir Habijan, the president of the Varaždin City Council and the president of the local HDZ branch. “After the end of the World Cup and the great results of our national team, we have quickly returned to the Croatian reality. Divisions and discussions about what happened in 1941 and 1945 have now spread to musicians as well. If just 50% of the energy invested by some individuals in pushing topics that have nothing to do with 2018 were to be invested in solving the real problems in Croatia, we would certainly be better off,” Habijan wrote on Facebook.

“It is a fundamental right of everyone to express their views on the current topics, but the responsibility of the authorities is not to accept any pressure and not to change the decisions depending on the public's reaction. This is what differentiates leaders from politicians. On the other hand, bans have never done anything good. We do not need a council of experts to rule what is good for the state or a town, and what is not. Such ‘political system’ exists in just one country in the world. Let us turn to 2018 and the years ahead, leaving history to historians,” commented Habijan.

The cancellation of the concert has been requested by former members of the 7th Guards Brigade, days after a concert of the same artist was cancelled in Karlovac. “We have fought as defenders for a free and democratic Republic of Croatia – democratic in the sense that everyone has the right to express their opinion, to sing and listen to what they want, but also to respect others without humiliating them. We do not intend to impose any prohibitions, but as defenders and citizens, we have the right to our position, and even more to the respect that all veterans in democratic countries have. We consider it extremely insulting for all citizens of Varaždin, and especially for Croatian defenders, to organize a concert by Serbian singer Momčilo Bajagić Bajaga, who during the Homeland War, together with other Serbian performers, openly supported the Greater Serbian aggression on the territory of the internationally recognized Republic of Croatia,” wrote the war veterans in their demand.

More specifically, Bajaga is accused of supposedly singing Serbian Chetnik songs in occupied Knin, although there is no evidence that it ever happened. On the contrary, the singer is known for his anti-war positions and he actively participated in protests against the policies of the then Serbian President Slobodan Milošević. He was born in Croatia and is believed to hold the Croatian citizenship.