Since the collapse of Yugoslavia, the Croatian right has been increasingly popular and active. Read More
The nationalist rhetoric of the Croatian right finds support in the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia and its declaration of the right to self-determination through independence in June 1991. In the Croatian War for Independence from 1991-1995, nationalist sentiments legitimized ethnic cleansing and the exclusionary and homogenizing project in Croatia that largely targeted the Serb minority.
In the post-Yugoslavia republics, ethnic identity was validated through activities at the state level that ultimately minimized the view of ethnic cleansing as atrocity; thus making it acceptable. Hayden (1996) suggests these activities, such as fear propaganda and ethno-national constitution making, attempted to objectify a sense of culture that was in direct contrast to culture as experienced on the ground. Rather than viewing nationalism as simply an imagining of primordial communities, objectified culture implies that nationalist aims also seek to make the existence of heterogeneous communities unimaginable. In the former Yugoslavia, ethnic rhetoric prompted by state-owned mass media provided an objectified view of culture and a distinct ethnic identity of “us” that was incompatible with the existence of “them” (Rabrenovic 1997: 96). Nationalism stresses the cultural similarity of its adherents and, by implication, draws boundaries vis-a-vis others, who thereby become outsiders. The distinguishing mark of nationalism is its relationship to the state. A nationalist holds that political boundaries should be coterminous with cultural boundaries (Eriksen 2002: 138).
The Croatian right draws on these ethnic distinctions by imagining a political community that is both limited and sovereign. Benedict Anderson (1983) suggests the nation is imagined because members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion. The nation has finite boundaries beyond which lie other nations. It is this idea of the imagined community, conceived of as a deep, horizontal comradeship, that persuades people to not only kill, but to die for the nation.
The Zagreb activists challenge the legitimacy of the Croatian nation and its supposed right to self-determination as a nation-state. In a country that has swung this far to the right, these activists often encounter skinheads, rightist punks, and other nationalists with very different politics. For more on Croatian national identity and activist responses to Croatian nationalism, watch Heroes and Criminals.