Thursday, 31 March 2022

Introducing Three of Croatia's Minority Communities

31 March 2022 – The European continent is infamous for its ethnolinguistic diversity. Anyone who has journeyed across the winding and seemingly haphazard borders which paint the atlas know that accents, dialects, and even whole language families can change within as little as 5 km. A look into Croatia's minority communities. 

Some countries are pointed out more frequently as linguistic mosaics, while others have yet to garner such recognition. For example, most Spaniards would likely agree that anyone who visits Barcelona and fails to embrace the Catalan ethos has not fully captured the essence of their destination. The same could be said about the Welsh in Cardiff or Breton in the French city of Rennes. While it may not receive the same attention, Croatia is no exception to this rule of multiplicity. Home to a plethora of unique ethnic and linguistic minorities, each with their own historical and cultural origins, Croatia is a destination where visitors will benefit significantly from putting effort into scratching beyond the surface. As more and more people act on their desires to explore and discover, cultural awareness is becoming an increasingly valuable tool in the traveller’s skill set. So, to make cultivating this vagabond essential a little easier, I have put together a list including three of Croatia’s largest minority groups by population. This catalogue is far from complete, but I hope it will wet the palate of those looking to dive deeper into Croatia’s beautiful and surprising diversity. 


The relationship between Croats and Serbs extends back centuries. The two groups have coexisted in towns and villages throughout the Western Balkans since the fall of the Roman Empire, an epoch when both peoples were establishing themselves in the region. Comprising just over 4% of the total population, Serbs are the most numerous ethnic minority in Croatia. Similarly, Croats maintain a similar status in the neighboring republic. Given their cultural, linguistic, and historical ties, it is no surprise that ethnic Serbians within Croatia has much in common with the local majority. 

Despite the parallels, several notable differences exist, which may be almost redundant to outline on this platform. So, I will keep it brief. Religion is pointed out most often as a significant difference between Croats and Serbs. Serbians are majority Eastern Orthodox by tradition, and Croatians are Catholic. Moreover, Cyrillic script is standard and employed by those writing in the Serbian variant of the language. On the other hand, Croatia uses the Latin script, making an already challenging language a little simpler for those of us who speak English, Spanish, or German as our mother tongue. 

Beyond these somewhat superficial distinctions, the Croatian-Serbian relationship contains deeper, more far-reaching nuances. I would advise anyone considering a holiday in Southeastern Europe to do their homework. As you may already know, the history of Croatia is dense, convoluted, and filled with many thorny spots that have influenced the psyche of many of the country’s current inhabitants. It is best to approach specific topics with respect and be culturally aware. Topics such as the Homeland War and Yugoslavia are excellent examples of such cases. That said, do not shy away from a conversation inspired by genuine curiosity. Many locals are willing to discuss history with curious tourists. Just be respectful and prepared to receive an ear-full of opinions. 


One only needs to visit the colosseum at Pula to know that Italians have made a home in Croatia since antiquity. The Italian ethnic minority of modern Croatia is small, comprising only around 20,000 people or less than 0.5% of the total population. Despite these low figures, the Italian influence along Croatia’s notoriously stunning coastal regions is apparent. The Italians of Croatia are descendants of Romanized Illyrians and transplants from the empires that later ensued.

Venice ruled over much of Dalmatia and Istria for nearly 400 years, leaving a mark on these territories that still stands the test of time. Many of the cities and islands which litter cruise itineraries, and travel blogs worldwide actually have a second Italian name, a testament to the varied history of these settlements. Think of cities like Spalato (Split), Ragusa (Dubrovnik), and Zara (Zadar). In fact, Fiume (Rijeka) is a direct translation meaning river in both languages.  

While the Italian population is modest, it was once more pronounced, comprising substantial proportions of essential centers in Istria and Dalmatia. Two massive exoduses occurred in the aftermath of both WWI and WWII, which resulted in the drastic reduction of the Italian population. Enthusiastic tourists should pay attention when traversing the villages, towns, and cities that dot the eastern Adriatic. A short history lesson will go a long way, providing new insights into the monuments, architecture, and people that coalesce to provide one of the most iconic destinations of the 21st century. 


Much like the previous entry, Croatia’s Hungarian minority is a direct result of human migration and the rise and fall of empires. With approximately 14,000 individuals, ethnic Hungarians only make up less than 0.4% of Croatia’s total population, residing predominantly in communities near the Hungarian and Serbian borders to the east. Hungary and Croatia share a long relationship that extends back to the 11th century when the former proclaimed sovereignty over the Kingdom of Croatia. This union persisted until 1918, leaving plenty of time for people to move and blend across the borders we recognize today. 

Those with a Hungarian connection may find interest in visiting municipalities like Kneževi Vinogradi and Bilje, where Hungarians constitute nearly a third of the local population. Similar ethnic minorities live in surrounding Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and Slovenia, showing visitors that Magyar magnificence doesn’t stop at Budapest. 

For more, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

MP Jeckov: There Are Definitely No Segregated Schools in Croatia

ZAGREB, 7 July, 2021 - MP Dragana Jeckov of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) said on Wednesday that there are "definitely" no segregated schools or exclusively Serb schools in Croatia, let alone a segregated state education system.

Jeckov made the statement in parliament following statements in the media by "quasi-reformists of minority education," primarily the one conducted in the Serbian language and Cyrillic script.

"Certain myths need to be debunked," she said, including the one that Serbs in Croatia have separate schools and that they are being taught from textbooks from Serbia, based on the so-called Serbian programme.

"In Croatia, there are definitely no segregated schools, there are no exclusively Serb schools, let alone schools that are segregated from the state education system," said Jeckov.

The truth is that students go to school within the same building, that they usually go in the same shift, that they have extra-curricula activities together. The only difference is that members of the minority community are taught in their mother tongue and only if their parents decide so.

"Model A is used by the Italian and Hungarian and Czech minorities and they enjoy their minority rights to a greater extent than Serbs because their schools are registered as minority schools, unlike those for Serbs," she said.

She said that the Serb minority is not asking for more than others but it hasn't achieved the level of rights that others have, and that there is no alternative to education in the mother tongue and script.

MP Stipo MIinarić, of the Homeland Movement (DP) retorted that she was not telling the truth.

"Schools are segregated. Children are segregated from kindergarten age to secondary school. That is not good for Vukovar, the Serb community, the Croatian people, for anyone. Why are children being segregated?" he asked.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page


Saturday, 3 July 2021

Serb National Council Unveils Memorial to Victims of Ustasha WWII Crime

ZAGREB, 3 July 2021 - The Serb National Council (SNV) unveiled in Donja Suvaja on Saturday a monument to the victims of a crime committed by the Ustasha on 1 July 1941, with SNV president Milorad Pupovac saying "the crime in Donja Suvaja, Osredci and Bubanj was one big evil."

"On 1 July 1941, the Ustasha, led by Maks Luburić, savagely tortured and killed women, children and older inhabitants in Donja Suvaja. We are erecting this monument on the 80th anniversary, in memory of their lives and horrific moment od death, but with faith in the idea of man's victory over hate," it says on the monument alongside the names of 290 victims.

According to an SNV statement, the crime in Donja Suvaja was one of the first mass crimes against women and children committed by the Ustasha, followed by a campaign of cleansing the Lika region, which resulted in an uprising of the people of Lika.

Pupovac said most of the 290 victims were women and children, while the rest were infirm and old. He said the crime took "only two hours" and that Luburić "decided to go a step further" by killing the victims "in the worst possible way, by slaughter and massacre."

"From 29 June 1941 until the beginning of July, all the worst methods were applied here, all the worst procedures seen in war, persecutions and forced resettlement," he added.

Pupovac said Lika also had been the site of the first Ustasha death camp, Jadovno, "which claimed dozens of thousands of lives in less than two months of operation."

"This was not a death factory as with some other peoples in World War II. Donja Suvaja was a horrible hate crime, a crime of extermination."

Pupovac reiterated that the Ustasha salute "For the homeland ready" was the "most shameful salute in Croatian history and the most shameful expression of the Croatian people's striving for its freedom," adding that it "was not, nor could in be, nor is anything else but a symbol of hate and crime." 

He commended the state leadership's decision to "dedicate more attention to antifascism (this year), as never before, which we could see at Brezovica, where the first Partizan detachment came together."

"Everyone must realise that the blood and meat of that movement, said to have been the largest in Europe, was right here. The souls of these women, children and older people, and of those who since that moment never gave up, from 27 July, until the area of freedom had spread across the whole country at that time, including Croatia, are our anti-fascism," said Pupovac.

He called out "the high-ranking Croatian officials who, at recent commemorations, have been pardoning the crimes and criminals in this last war, just because they are our boys." He called on them not to downplay crimes because "that insults all of us who remember as citizens of this country."

The memorial in Donja Suvaja was erected as part of the SNV's culture of remembrance programme with funds from the government's office of human and national minority rights.

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated politics page.

Friday, 25 June 2021

Ending Segregated Education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava Announced an Idea

June 25, 2021 - Is there any possibility of ending segregated education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava announced Serbian and Croatian education could merge in school and kindergarten levels, but more details are yet to be revealed.

The start of the week saw interesting news that surprised many. As reported by N1, Ivan Penava, the mayor of Vukovar, announced Croatian and Serbian classes and kindergartens could merge together.

Vukovar, often referred to in Croatia as the „Hero City“ for the heavy blow it suffered in the 90s war Croatians refer to as Homeland War, still has a lot of ruins as memories of that ugly past. In the light of national tensions among Serbs and Croats, the segregation of kindergartens and different shifts in schools for Serbian and Croatian classes seem to be a solution to keep the peace.


screenshot/ N1

Good idea but more talks needed?

„In Vukovar, parents do not choose the model of education that is imposed by politics, it is nowhere written in public“, said mayor Penava, as reported by N1.

Penava, a former member of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), despite earning a new term in the recent local elections as an independent candidate, enjoyed support from Miroslav Škoro, runner-up candidate for Zagreb mayor elections, and the leader of the Homeland Movement (DP) supports Penava's idea.

„I lived in America for a number of years, in Hungary, I traveled the world... what is the difference between Serbian and Croatian mathematics? Is Argentina in Serbian in the northern hemisphere, and southern in Croatian? I don't get it“, said Škoro adding that segregation was done in malice with a tendency to divide children from the start.

„In Vukovar, the symbol of defense had priorities. Reconstruction of the water tower, and certain moves Penava did well in his last term (he wouldn't win elections if he hasn't), thinks that city needs to move on. I support him 100%“, concluded Škoro.

On the other hand, criticism is erected on national-level politics.

„I don't think that local officials are the ones who need to determine a way in which minority education will be conducted. Political trade is clear here, and I'm glad there is no longer just Serbian-Croatian trading coalition, but also another one“, said Dragana Jecov, a Croatian parliament member from the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) referring to the accusations of the right-wing that current coalition of HDZ and SDSS and is vile political trade.

Interior Minister Davo Božinović also said that while we need to work on erasing national, social, and political tensions, but this is a question that needs to be discussed more seriously.

Additionally, as N1 reported, the Ministry of Education pointed out that different models of education for Vukovar schools exist, and parents can choose which they find most suitable.

Accepting national differences or nationalistic uniformity?

Some improvements have indeed been seen in the city infrastructure, but Vukovar still remains a challenging place to live. Partly due to the tough economic situation, but also because of discrepancies among Serbian and Croatian residents. Earlier in June, there was even a violent incident when a 30-year-old Serbian member of the Grobari football fan group physically attacked a Croatian 13-year-old boy in front of a bakery for having a medicine mask with Croatian symbols.

„Sadly, this kind of thing happened too long in Vukovar, where people attack each other because of national disputes. Media aren't even introduced to some of these events. It is spread a lot, as evident by the constant police patrols around Vukovar high-schools where there are always police cars around“, said Vukovar police to Večernji List daily newspaper.

Such incidents, a misfortunate loose ends of the war, also come from the Croatian side. Earlier in May, a group of young men chanted anti-Serb slogans in Borovo Selo (close to Vukovar), a scene of heinous war crimes in the '90s), sparking condemnation from both president Milanović and the Croatian Government.

In that light, integrated schools might finally bring positive changes in regards to tolerance and peaceful life for Vukovar citizens. But again, not everyone sees the glass as half full. columnist Gordan Duhaček agreed in his column that Serbs and Croats don't need to go to separate shifts but warns how Penava isn't the guy that should unite them.

„Penava doesn't want to integrate Vukovar schools and end the troubling segregation in a way to ensure a better future for the whole city, but instead to impose his nationalistic, often anti-Serbian narrative as the official one. Penava wants that Vukovar Serbs bow down to his view of the Croatian state“, wrote Duhaček.

Duhaček also reminded the readership of the attempt and fail of the Danube International school that supposed to integrate pupils of both nations, an idea that spawned 16 years ago. But, the project failed, and Duhaček sees both Penava and SDSS leader Milorad Pupovac not feeling too sad about it.


Iconic Vukovar water tower, pixabay

Questions on details

At the end of the week, the situation seems more confusing than clear. Is class integration a good idea? Could it save money for the city financially? What are some actual details of merging Croats and Serbians into one class? Obviously, Škoro is right that 2+2=4 in any math class around the world. But, troubling questions appear in subjects such as language and history. Croats and Serbs sadly have their own, different interpretations of historical facts, particularly when it comes to the last war, and while the speakers of two languages perfectly understand each other, some words do differ, and there is a different accent and spelling in the two formal languages. So, how can these issues be resolved? Would those two subjects remain in different shifts while universal subjects such as biology, math, or physics will listen in one merged classroom? Or will there be a different curriculum that would present both Serbian and Croatian history, Serbian and Croatian literature in that way, making Vukovar pupils more knowledgable in those areas than other pupils in the country?

Or some curriculum consensus on history could be reached, one that would satisfy both the Croatian and Serbian sides and thus truly open a doorway to the better understandings of the two nations in the future in perhaps the most nationally torn city in Croatia?

Obviously, Vukovar city authorities have some tensions with SDSS, but the city also has an expert associate for the development of civil society and national minorities, Siniša Mitrović in one of the City's departments. Did Mitrović manage to gain input from the Serbian minority in Vukovar about this merge? And how fast could the whole thing be realized? This autumn or maybe a bit later?
These are important and interesting questions that can only be answered either by mayor Penava himself or perhaps Josip Paloš, the director of the Vukovar City Education Department.

„Mayor Penava is in a lot of meetings and on fields, and his schedule is full. We will sadly not be able to answer you by your Friday deadline, but we will contact you at the earliest convenience“, said the lady at the Vukovar City PR service when I called them (and E-mailed) with a wish to arrange and conduct a brief phone interview.

While this article may present the current issues surrounding segregated education in Vukovar, this TCN reporter hopes mayor Penava will share more details about his plan on ending segregation in Vukovar schools and kindergarten with joint classes. If done right, this move can indeed be the way to a better, more peaceful future for Vukovar citizens.

Learn more about Vukovar on our TC page.

For more about education in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Milorad Pupovac: Ban on Ustasha Insignia is Civilisational Issue For All Political Actors

ZAGREB, 22 June, 2021 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) president Milorad Pupovac said on Tuesday that adopting amendments to the Criminal Code to ban Ustasha insignia and the salute "For the homeland ready" was a civilisational issue for all political actors in Croatia.

Adopting amendments to the Criminal Code is a civilisational issue for all political actors in Croatia do that it can get rid of the legacy of World War II, especially the consequences of the Ustasha rule from 1941 to 1945," Pupovac said ahead of Antifascist Struggle Day commemoration in Brezovica.

Asked whether adopting the amendments to the Criminal Code would be a condition for the SDSS to support the government, Pupovac said that no one should set any conditions about that.

"We can only discuss how to do it," he said.

He said that the president of the Zagreb Jewish Community Ognjen Kraus convened a new meeting for Friday to discuss further steps towards resolving the issue of the Ustasha salute "For the homeland ready", adding that the final version of the bill of amendments to the Criminal Code was being prepared.

Pupovac welcomed the fact that the government was the organiser of this year's central Antifascist Struggle Day commemoration in Brezovica, stressing that this was very significant.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Zvonko Milas: "Serbian Croats Receiving More and More Threats"

ZAGREB, 25 March, 2021 - The head of the Central State Office for Croats Abroad on Thursday told the parliament that after the "shameful" decision of the Subotica city's authorities to give a status of an official language to the Bunjevci vernacular, local Croats in Serbia had been receiving more and more threats.

In the wake of the discussions about that wrong and shameful decision by the Subotica City Council, which were also soon followed by the propaganda film "Dara iz Jasenovca",  more and more threats were made against ethnic Croats, notably ethnic Croat leaders in Serbia, Zvonko Milas told the Sabor, while presenting the 2019 report on the implementation of the strategy pertaining to Croat communities outside Croatia.

He also warned that the Subotica decision on the Bunjevci vernacular was against the Croatia-Serbia bilateral agreement on the respective ethnic minorities and that it also led to the further fragmentation of the ethnic Croat community in Vojvodina and Serbia.

Milas said that Croatia would do its utmost to make sure that Slovenia can grant a status of ethnic minority to local Croats.

The community has more than 50,000 members, Milas said adding that Slovenia does not recognise any ethnic rights of those Croats.

For more about the Croatian Diaspora follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Football Game Between Croatian and Serbian Minorities to be held in Vojvodina

In the village of Tavankut, near the city of Subotica in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina in Serbia, a football match will be played between the Serbian minorities of Croatia and the Croatian minorities of Serbia, said the president of the Association of Croatian Minorities in Serbia, Petar Kuntić, on Thursday, reports on May 2, 2019. The game will be played on June 15, 2019. 

The meeting, with the full support of the Croatian and Serbian Football Federations, is organized by the Croatian National Council (HNV), the Joint Council of Municipalities and the Serbian National Council in Croatia, and details of the meeting were recently agreed in Belgrade at the headquarters of the Football Federation of Serbia.

“Holding this football match will also be a chance for the political representatives of Croats in Serbia and Serbians in Croatia to meet, with the goal being their cooperation in the field of sport, in order to create better relations between the two countries. By doing it this way, we believe, it will show that members of both national minorities want to be a true bridge of cooperation and give their contribution to further progress of relations between Serbia and Croatia,” said the leadership of the Croatian minority in Serbia.

Negotiations for the match were held in Belgrade and were conducted on behalf of the Croatian minority by President of the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina, Tomislav Žigmanov, HNV Councilor Ivan Budimčević, and Petar Kuntić.

The game between the two minorities will be played exactly three years after the first match in Vukovar when the Croats from Vojvodina won 4:0.

Representatives of Serbian and Croatian Minorities are expected to attend the football meeting, including SDSS President Milorad Pupovac.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page