The Croat clings stubbornly to
freedom which has been transmitted to him
by his ancestors for so many centuries.
CROATIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL
Youngstown, Ohio, United States of America
“These are the ends for which the associated peoples of the world are fighting ….:
…. 2. The settlement of every question, whether of territory, of sovereignty, of economic arrangement, or of political relationship, upon the basis of the free acceptance of that settlement by the people immediately concerned, and not upon the basis of the material interest or advantage of any other nation or people which may desire a different settlement for the sake of its own exterior influence or mastery.”
Address at Mount Vernon,
July 4, 1918.
“It is an old and indestructible demand of the Croatian People, that it should live in its own, sovereign, and independent state.”
November 23, 1918.
Whenever a nation, or a state, becomes so “divided against itself” that the dissatisfaction, felt by one or more elements composing it, with their position in that state, and the intensity of their desire to break away from it, greatly out-weigh, on their part, all considerations favorable to its preservation and the retention of the status quo, even if this status be slightly modified, such a state—the lesson of history is unmistakable—cannot endure. Such a state, moreover, is a standing danger to the peace of the neighboring nations, who are drawn into the conflict either by the very discord in, and the instability of, the country of incidence, or by the vortex formed by its ultimate sinking and vanishing from the surface.
The kingdom of Yugoslavia—formerly the kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes—is a state, in which the discord between the component parts and the dissatisfaction of some of those parts with the ruling section have reached such heights and such intensity of feeling, that, if nothing is done to ease the strain, an open outbreak of hostilities is extremely probable, nay, inevitable.
What effect that happening would have on the peace in Southern Europe should not be a mystery to anyone familiar with the general situation in that part of the world.
At the present time, the only power, which keeps the discordant elements in Yugoslavia together, is the brutal force possessed and con– trolled by the ruling section, while the centrifugal forces consist of the desires and tendencies of most of the other sections to free themselves from the persecution and exploitation by the rulers.
The first and foremost of these sections—one that contains more than one-third of the total population of Yugoslavia—are the Croats, whose desire for freedom and independence is by no means unreasonable or whimsical, but is well founded on facts, and on the unfortunate experience they went through during the fifteen years of being a part of Yugoslavia.
The most important of these facts and experiences—the principal reasons for the Croatian demands and position—are as follows:
Croatian National Rights and Traditions.
I. The Croatian People represents a distinct, full-grown and highly civilized nation, with a fully developed national consciousness, based on twelve centuries of separate statehood and of continuous historic development, political, cultural and economic.
Fully organized State since Eighth Century
The main body of the Croatian people—seven of its strongest and largest tribes—came to present-day Croatia in the second quarter of the seventh century at the invitation of Emperor Heraclius, as the emperor’s allies in his fight against the Avars. In a bitterly fought war they succeeded in routing the Avars completely, and in conquering all the territories between the Danube and the Adriatic Sea, which they kept then for themselves, as their permanent habitation. Assimilating and absorbing all of the smaller Slavic tribes which had preceded them into this land, they were in a very short time able to organize their national state, which became as early as the middle of the eighth century an important factor in South-Eastern Europe. In the year 925, Croatia became a kingdom, which remained for two centuries the most powerful—with the exception of the Eastern Empire—and the best organized state in the Balkans and Central Europe.
In Personal union with Hungary
In 1102, the majority of the Croatian nobles elected as the king of Croatia the Hungarian ruler Koloman. Thereby Croatia entered into a personal union with the kingdom of Hungary, preserving in that union not only the continuity of its separate statehood, but also the full sovereignty of the Croatian nation. This point is well established and is best illustrated by the fact that in 1527 the Croatian Diet elected as the king of Croatia Ferdinand I of Austria, quite independently and long in advance of the Hungarians.
Member State of Hapsburg Empire
By this election of Ferdinand all of Croatia—except Bosnia and Hercegovina then under Turkish rule—came into that combination of states, from which there developed in time the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the Hapsburg Empire.
Although even then, while a part of this empire, Croats were successful in preserving the internal autonomy of their country and the political individuality of their nation, the powers of Vienna and Budapest were yet able to encroach upon their rights and violate their interests in a sufficient degree to make the Croatian people justifiably dissatisfied with their status and with the treatment accorded them by the common rulers. This dissatisfaction became especially strong after 1849, when a regime of cruel absolutism was established, which—by greatly diminishing the scope of Croatian national autonomy, and by continuing the division of Croatian people in two separate political bodies—served well the selfish interests of the associated nations, but was very detrimental to the political, cultural and economic interests of all Croats.
Complete Independence regained 1918
In accordance with the truths expressed in the first paragraph of this Memorandum, the final result of the above mentioned state of affairs was, that—at the first opportunity they had—Croats broke away from their exploiters, and made their country again completely independent. The opportunity was given them by the developments in the world-war, and the independence was proclaimed by the Croatian Sabor (Diet), as the legal bearer and representative of the Croatian national sovereignty, on October 29, 1918—two weeks before the armistice on the Western front.
Treachery and Fraud of 1918.
II. The union of Croatia with the kingdom of Serbia was concluded, on the Croatian side, by politicians who had absolutely no authorization for such an act. The method of the union and even its earliest results was entirely adverse to the wishes and expectations of the Croats. For these reasons the act of the union was never ratified by the Croatian people, but was, on the contrary, overwhelmingly rejected by them, not only at the elections for the Constituent Assembly in 1920, but also at every other opportunity which they had before and since that time.
The idea of united front of the South-Slavs
During the long fight against the supremacy of Austria and Hungary a conclusion was reached by a number of Croatian leaders that, when the complete independence of Croatia is finally regained, a special arrangement will have to be made in order to protect it from new assaults by the old enemies. An ideal protection, many thought, would be found in the establishment of a united front of all the South-Slavic nations, Slovenes, Croats, Serbs and Bulgars, which could find its expression in a common united state, organized either as a federation or confederacy of free and autonomous peoples.
During the war
In accordance with this thought, whose popularity rose in proportion to the growing hegemonistic tendencies of the Austro-Hungarians, those Croatian leaders, who had been able to leave the country before the outbreak of open hostilities in 1914, together with some Slovenes and Serbs from the lands of the Monarchy, constituted themselves into a “Yugoslav Committee”, the purpose of which was to work for the liberation of all the South-Slavs from the Austro-Hungarian rule and their ultimate union with Serbia and Montenegro into a common state, which would act as the protector of the liberty and territorial integrity of each nation joining it.
Inside the country, in Croatia, this program was also gaining momentum. Its most open and most radical champion was then the Starchevich’s Party of Rights, which, on June 5, 1918 adopted a resolution, whose most important clause was the following:
Expected retention of Croatian statehood
“We demand liberty and the union of all our people into a national state of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, which would preserve all the separate (national) individualities of our trinomial people, and guarantee the continuity of all the historic politico-juridical structures on its territory. On the basis of our own state-rights, we particularly demand the preservation of the continuity of the distinct Croatian statehood.”
Free State of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs
This passage expresses not only what the members of the Starchevich’s Party of Rights thought, but also what the great majority of Croats wished, hoped for, and confidently expected from the union. In that expectation, the same declaration of the Croatian Diet, which proclaimed the complete independence of Croatia, expressed also the willingness of the Croats to join “a united, national, sovereign State of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, which would include all the territories in which this trinomial people now lives, irrespective of any provincial or international boundaries.” At the same sitting the Croatian Diet also recognized the National Council of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs—organized some time before—as the de facto government of the State of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs—a fully sovereign and independent state, which was established on the basis of that declaration, and which included all the South-Slavic lands of the (former) Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
The duties and powers temporarily entrusted to the National Council SHS included those which up to that time were exercised either by the common government at Budapest, or by the central government at Vienna, or by the emperor; they also included the authority to enact necessary emergency legislation. The Council, however, was given no authority to conclude, on its own responsibility, a definite union with either Serbia, or any other -nation. The idea was to first complete the organization of the new State SHS, and then to enter, on a footing of full equality, into discussions with the constitutional representatives of Serbia, with the view of finding and establishing a mutually satisfactory basis, on which the union would ultimately be enacted.
The Geneva Protocol
The task of entering these discussions the Council entrusted to its own president, Doctor A. Koroshetz; to the president of the Yugoslav Committee of London, Doctor A. Trumbitch, and to a few other delegates. The meeting with the representation of Serbia—consisting of the prime-minister, Mr. N. Pasich, and of the chiefs of all the larger political parties—took place at Geneva, November 6-9, 1918. The result of the ensuing conference was the so-called “Protocol of Geneva”, which, although not quite satisfactory from the Croatian standpoint, was yet much more so than the act of Dec. 1, which superseded it. The Protocol, namely, not only accepted the principle of the complete equality of the State SHS with the kingdom of Serbia, but also left to the first named state its full sovereignty and self-government—with the National Council of Zagreb as the highest authority—until a new constitution had been adopted by the proposed Constitutional Assembly.
Intrigues and Nov. 24
Such an arrangement, however, was exactly what the real (though invisible) government of Serbia—a clique of militarists, financiers and politicians, with the prince-regent Alexander as one of the group—did not want. While the telegrams sent from Geneva were mysteriously “lost on the way”, this clique succeeded—by propaganda and cajolery, as well as by intrigues and various underhand deals—to so influence the membership of the National Council SHS at Zagreb, that it finally fell victim to the designs of the plotters, and decided (Nov. 24, 1918) for an immediate union with Serbia, conferring at the same time the highest executive authority on its prince-regent, Alexander Karageorgevitch.
Although the declaration, which proclaimed the above decision, contained also a few of what they considered as “saving clauses”, about which more will be said later, the members of the Council caused an irreparable mischief by their hastiness: Notwithstanding the fact that they had clearly overstepped their authority—which, of course, made their act constitutionally illegal—yet they had succeeded in giving over into the hands of the above mentioned ruling clique of Serbia all the real power in the whole country, administrative as well as military, opening thereby the way for all the misuse of that power, and for all the tyrannical persecutions, in which even some of them, themselves, later were victims. This power, moreover, allowed Belgrade to manipulate further developments and arrangements connected with the organization of the united state in such a way, that Croats, instead of finding in the union a protection for their national independence and for the integrity of their territory, only found in it a monster, which has robbed them of both.
Beginning of terrorism
Immediately, namely, after the proclamation of December 1, 1918, Croatia was overrun by detachments of the Serbian army and gendarmerie, and a rule of terror and intimidation was introduced. The favorite method of this terror was and is the beating and flogging of the Croatian peasants and the incarceration of their leaders. The immediate motive for these atrocities was the fact that Croatian people—in contrast with the majority of their politicians, members of the National Council SHS—had a better sense of realities and of their national rights, and declined to accept the arrangement of Dec. 1 as final or legally binding. In April 1919 they sent a petition with 157,669 signatures, to the Peace Conference at Paris, which petition pointed out the fact that, by their act of Dec. 1, the National Council SHS had clearly exceeded its authority, and that, therefore, this act was null and void.
Croats decline to accept the arrangement of Dec. 1
In November 1920, at the elections for the Constituent Assembly, Croats reiterated this stand. More than three-fourths of all the Croatian votes were cast for parties — primarily the Croatian Peasant Party — whose programs included the non-recognition of the legality of the said act. This position, as all the later parliamentary elections showed, was never changed by the Croatian people.
III. Unauthorized on the Croatian side as it was, and such as it was, the Pact of the Union-if such a name could be given to a number of documents and declarations, the most important of which were the National Council’s resolution of Nov. 24, 1918, and the prince-regent’s address accepting the same—was afterwards broken, and violated in its most import- ant provisions, by the Serbian government and the executive head of the Serbian state.
In the National Council’s resolution of Nov. 24 the most important of the saving clauses”—on the basis of which many of the Croatian members, who would not have done so otherwise, voted for its adoption—was the following:
Constitution adopted contrary to preliminary provisions
“The final organization of the new state can be determined only in a general Constituent Assembly of the whole united nation of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, by a two-thirds majority of votes …. For the Constituent Assembly is specifically reserved to determine: The Constitution, including the form of government—monarchy or republic,—the internal organization of the state, and the fundamental rights of citizens”.
In the address by which the prince-regent of Serbia, in behalf of that nation, accepted the Council’s declaration, and proclaimed the union of Serbia with the State of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, we find this passage:
“In regard to the wishes and opinions with which you have acquainted me, and all of which I and my government unreservedly accept, the government will at once undertake to bring to realization everything you stated regarding the transitory period till the meeting and the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, and also everything you stated regarding the election and the organization of that Assembly”.
However, when the Constituent Assembly finally convened, more than two years later—the intervening time was utilized by the ruling clique to engineer the elections to its own advantage—the new constitution was not adopted by a two-thirds, but by a simple majority, only 223 out of 419 members having voted for its adoption. Even this simple majority, moreover, could be secured only after several smaller groups had been openly bought by the government; the expropriated Bosnian begs, controlling the Bosnian Moslems’ Party, receiving, for instance, 100 million Dinars. Out of 91 Croatian representatives only 11 voted for the new constitution, while 51 members of the Croatian Peasant Party, faithful to the principle of non-recognition of the original act of the union, never took their seats in the Assembly.
Eleven out of ninety-one, a little more than 12%! Yet, in November and December 1918 no cry was heard oftener than the assertion, that there would be no “majorization” in the Constituent Assembly of either of the uniting peoples, i. e., that no constitution would be adopted, unless it received the support of the majority of each, the Slovenian, the Serbian, and the Croatian representation.
Inequality in rights and privileges
Another provision contained in the “Pact of the Union” and announced with all the loudness possible was the principle of the full equality in civic rights and privileges of all citizens, regardless of their being Slovenes, Croats, or Serbs.
In reality, as soon as the union was carried through in the above described manner, it became evident, that being a Croat was a terrible handicap to all those who had any business with governmental agencies and particularly for those who were qualified for, and wished to enter, any branch of the government service. The Serbian ruling clique and the Serbian politicians had plenty of their own henchmen to place in the government service, and the question of qualifications was not considered one of importance. There were many instances of former clerks with only a couple of years of public school education displacing law-school graduates with 15 or 20 years of experience, in the important office of district commissioner.
Army, finances, railroads, public instruction, diplomatic corps and foreign service—all these departments of government were filled with Serbs, protégés of the Serbian politicians, and in none of these departments was there ever much of a chance for a Croat, unless, of course, he was willing to become useful, not to the people, but to the camarilla.
In the Austrian-Hungarian army there were always from ten to twenty commanding generals who were Croats. In Yugoslavia, which was supposed to be “their own” country to the Croats, there were at one time more than 80 generals, and not one of them was a Croat, although there still lived several of the former Austro-Hungarian high officers of Croatian nationality, who had rendered, during the critical period of October and November 1918, a great service to the cause of liberty of all the South-Slavic peoples.
This simple example may serve as a fair illustration of the “equality in privileges and civic rights” as between the Croatian and Serbian citizens of Yugoslavia.
Dictatorship—violation of the original “pact”
Still another cardinal provision in that “Pact” concluded between representatives of Serbia and the members of the National Council SHS was the unconditional stipulation that the united country would be run in accordance with the principles of democracy and parliamentarism.
In the above mentioned address of acceptance of the National Council’s declaration of Nov. 24, the prince-regent made the following pledge:
“Faithful to the example and to the counsels of my exalted parent, I shall be the king to only the free citizens of the State of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and shall always remain faithful to the great constitutional, parliamentary and broadly-democratic principles, based on the right of general popular franchise”.
This pledge was reiterated by the prince-regent in his first proclamation addressed to the people, and dated January 6, 1919, in the following words.
“As the king of a free and democratic people, I shall steadfastly, in everything I do, remain true to the principle of constitutional and parliamentary government . . .”
On the tenth anniversary-day of this last quoted proclamation, i. e., on January 6, 1929, king Alexander made another one by which he suspended the constitution, dissolved the parliament, and set up an absolutist dictatorship.
A Medieval Conspiracy.
IV. In setting up the dictatorship, the real rulers of Serbia have not only removed from their authority in Croatia the last remaining vestige of legality, but, since the preliminary steps leading to dictatorship included the murdering of foremost Croatian leaders, they have also made any reconciliation between Croatia and Serbia—for as long at least as they are the masters in the latter nation—quite impossible, except, of course, on the basis of complete restoration to the former of all the national and state rights.
The fraudulent manner in which the union with Serbia was executed, and the terrible misrule which followed that union, were naturally resented by the Croatian people, who in a short time developed a strong opposition to the whole system of government which was imposed on them against their will, and under which they were subjected to a reign of brutal terrorism. Since the very first elections held in the new state—those for the Constituent Assembly, in the fall of 1920—the Croatian voters expressed their dissatisfaction with the conditions by electing to the Belgrade parliament ever increasing numbers of deputies, who were opposed to the whole system on which the country was organized.
The Croatian opposition was becoming ever stronger. The ruling clique of Belgrade felt itself really endangered, and particularly so, when, through the efforts of Croatian deputies, one of their own number—R. Pasich, the son of the former veteran premier—had been publicly convicted for corruption, shady dealings, and misappropriation of -public property. Then, for the first time, rumors of an impending suspension of the parliamentary principle began to circulate in Belgrade coffeehouses and newspaper offices.
Croatian leaders doomed
The resistance of the Croats, however, was still increasing. Using the Belgrade parliament as the medium, through which they could be most easily heard, Croatian leaders were raising a cry of protest, which was becoming ever louder. The ruling camarilla was in a tight corner, but it was still far from being ready to give way to the will of the people. Instead, it decided: “Parliamentary must go, but, before this can be done effectively, Croatian leaders must first be put away . . where they could hold no speeches, and write no articles for the papers . . .”
June I 8 and 19, 1928 were busy days for some people in Belgrade. One of the busiest places was the king’s palace, where a great many conferences took place during those two days. One of the most frequent visitors to the palace was a Serbian representative, whose name was—Punisha Rachich. On the night of June 19, Punisha was there again and spent several hours in a talk with the Marshal of the King’s Court, Drag. Jankovitch.
Murder in the parliament
On June 20, this representative, a member of the parliamentary majority, asked to be recognized by the speaker. Afterwards he seemed to change his mind. But at the direct urging by the speaker—also, of course, a member of the parliamentary majority—he went to the rostrum and, immediately upon arriving there, he produced a revolver, which he leisurely proceeded to empty into a group of Croatian leaders. Result of the shooting: Two Croatian deputies dead, three wounded, one of the wounded being the chief of the Croatian Peasant Party, Stephen Radich, who died from the consequences of the shooting a few weeks later.
The first object of the conspiracy was attained. The way to the second was now open.
Dictatorship was proclaimed some six months after the shooting.
The Plight of Croatia.
V. Since one party to the Pact of the Union of December 1, 191 8, the National Council SHS, had no authority to conclude it; and since the other party to it, the king and the government of Serbia, had afterwards broken and violated its most important provisions: therefore, that pact is legally null and void, and the rule of Serbia over Croatia cannot be considered as resting on any other foundation, but on that of brut- al force. The main effects and consequences of that rule of force for Croatia were, and still are: the annihilation of the Croatian national individuality and of distinct Croatian statehood; the subordination of Croatian national and racial interests to those of Serbia; maladministration; economic exploitation of Croatia by the Serbian rulers; deliberate restraint of the cultural progress in Croatia; and a reign of terror and oppression.
Instead of better security — annihilation
ABOLITION OF THE STATE OF CROATIA. For twelve hundred years the Croatian people lived in their own national state. This state was at first completely independent, but since 1102 its independence of action was somewhat limited by the personal union with Hungary and, afterwards, by its becoming a member-state of the Hapsburg Empire. During all this time, however, Croatia preserved its individuality and distinctness as a nation, as well as the autonomy of its internal affairs. Resenting the hegemonistic policies of Hungary and the centralizing efforts of Vienna, and the encroachments upon their national rights and privileges, Croats made use of the opportunity given them by the developments in the world war BY MAKING THEIR COUNTRY AGAIN COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT. This newly won independence was, unfortunately, short-lived. Through treachery and fraud Croatia came into the grasping claws of imperialistic Belgrade, WHOSE FIRST MAJOR ACT, WHEN IN POWER, WAS THE ABOLITION OF THE SEPARATE CROATIAN STATEHOOD AND ANNIHILATION OF THE CROATIAN NATIONAL INDIVIDUALITY. Croatia was wiped off the map of Europe, its inhabitants transformed into a subject-people, its territories made into a domain for exploitation by the ruling class of Serbia.
Denationalization of the Croatian people was one constant policy of the Belgrade rulers. Since the establishment of the dictatorship this policy is particularly pronounced. The use of the very names of “Croat” and “Croatia” was forbidden by a decree of the dictator, and also the Croatian flag, and every other emblem of Croatian national distinctness. The present generation of Croats is being forcibly prevented from using and honoring all that, which countless generations before it had zealously preserved, and had left to it, as its rightful heritage.
Betrayal of Croatian interests
SUBORDINATION OF CROATIAN NATIONAL INTERESTS IN THE FOREIGN POLICY OF YUGOSLAVIA. One of the main arguments propounded by the advocates of the union with Serbia among the Croatian politicians was, that such union would serve as a preservator for the integrity of the Croatian national territory. This argument was proved as faulty, and the expectation on which it was based as unfounded, when a great part of Croatia was lost to it, only through either the criminal negligence or deliberate planning on the part of the Serbian diplomacy.
The terrible cost of “liberation”
ECONOMIC EXPLOITATION OF CROATIA. The economic policy of the Yugoslav (Serbian) government was from the very beginning violently anti-Croatian. Early in 1919 the government decided to devaluate the Crown (Krone), which was, naturally, the only money used in Croatia. The first act was to stamp all the Crown-notes with a special stamp, and to confiscate 20% of all the money offered for such stamping. Only a short time later, the stamped Crown was forcibly exchanged with the Serbian Dinar in the ratio of 4 Crowns for 1 Dinar—in spite of the fact that on international exchanges, although these were previously artificially manipulated through the selling of Crowns and buying of Dinars by the Belgrade government, the ratio was still much more favorable to the Crown. BY THESE TWO OPERATIONS THE CROATIAN NATION WAS ROBBED OF MORE THAN TWO-THIRDS OF ITS SAVINGS.
In addition to that, TAXES PAID BY CROATS WERE, AND STILL ARE, FROM THREE TO SIX TIMES AS GREAT AS THE TAXES PAID BY THE INHABITANTS OF SERBIA WITH THE SAME INCOME AND PROPERTY. This inequality has been defended by the Serbian politicians with the cynical statement, that the Croatian people were thereby paying only what they “owed” Serbia for their “liberation” from the Austro-Hungarian yoke!
The rate of taxation was not only exorbitant but truly ruinous. While the prices of agricultural products, which bring more than 80% of Croatia’s income, fell between 1921 and 1928 nearly 300%, the rate of taxation rose in the same period some 1500%.
The power of the government was also used to divert the flow of commerce in such a way as to benefit Serbia and weaken Croatia. There were many instances of government’s refusing a license to operate to a manufacturing or commercial concern unless and until it was willing to move its place of business from Croatia to Serbia.
DUE TO SUCH ECONOMIC POLICIES OF THE SERBIAN GOVERNMENT, CROATIA, ONCE A REMARKABLY PROSPEROUS COUNTRY, IS TODAY ON THE VERGE OF ECONOMIC RUIN.
Forcing down the standards of culture
GOVERNMENT’S SABOTAGE OF CROATIAN CULTURAL PROGRESS. In the field of cultural and educational endeavors Belgrade pursued the same policy in regard to Croatia as in the field of economic development. Many Croatian cultural institutions and organizations were forcibly dissolved and their funds confiscated by the government. The standards of teaching in the public schools were deliberately lowered, a great many of the high schools altogether abolished, and the standards of the University of Zagreb impaired by the refusal or restriction of necessary budgetary credits. Several of the most prominent professors at the University were dismissed, some because of their political convictions, some again simply in order to injure the cultural prestige of the Croatian nation in general, and of its main university in particular.
These were some of the means by which Belgrade hoped to equalize the cultural standing of Serbia with that of Croatia, WHOSE CIVILIZATION IS SEVERAL CENTURIES IN ADVANCE OF THE SERBIAN.
Corruption and incompetence of officials
MALADMINISTRATION. In accordance with their idea that Yugoslavia was only an enlarged Serbia, the Serbs retained the same administrative apparatus, which had been designed to administer a nation of a little more than 4,000,000 people, to administer a country with a population of more than 12,000,000. This apparatus was, moreover, filled with personnel—appointed for political reasons, as previously mentioned—so incompetent and so corrupt, that in a short time a terrific chaos became supreme in all the branches of public life.
Croatia, whose administrative machinery before the union was excellent, felt the change to the new system of inefficiency, incompetence, and plunder-by-bribery most strongly, for it was to Croatia that the worst element of the Balkanic Serbian officialdom was sent, THIS TYPE BEING THE MOST SKILFUL IN THE ART OF PERSECUTING AND TERRORIZING A PEACEFUL AND CIVILIZED PEOPLE.
Barbarian methods and oriental cruelty
OPPRESSION AND TERRORISM. From the time, when the first Serbian troops came into Croatia, and up to the present day, Croats were subjected to a reign of terror and oppression, which has few equals in the whole history of Europe. It began with the flogging of the Croatian peasants in the winter of 1918-1919 and reached its height in the killing of the Croatian national leaders in June 1928. During the era of dictatorship, consequent upon that killing, it was developed into a complete system of governing by terror and persecutions.
Culmination Under dictatorship
The installation of the dictatorship was followed by the suspension of the rights of assembly and free speech. Then the press was muzzled, and the whole country was put under a rigid censorship so that no cry for help may escape across the frontiers. When these preliminaries had been attended to, thieves and other common criminals were released from the jails and penitentiaries—to make room for the “political offenders”. In a short time all these jails and penitentiaries were filled to overflowing with the patriotic Croats, whose only “crime” was, that they wanted to remain true to their nation and their race. These prisoners were then generally subjected to the most inhuman cruelties imaginable, the purpose of which was to extract from them incriminating “confessions” by which others could be arrested and convicted.
Flogging, bastinado, murder
The favorite forms of torture were flogging and bastinado, but frequently methods were used which probably had not been employed since the times of the barbaric invasions. Only two of the many KNOWN instances: A merchant, Javor by name, was hanged by one arm, while burning candles were applied to his naked body. To M. Starchevich, a young college graduate, heavy weights were hanged on the most vital part of the male human body, and removed only, when the terrible pain caused him to loose consciousness. Later they were put on again, and the operation was repeated several times. It happened at times that one of the victims could not endure such or similar treatment, and he died either during the torture, or shortly afterwards. The unfortunate’s body was then generally thrown from an upper-story window down on the pavement below, to make it appear as though he had committed suicide. In this particular manner, and in less than two years, eight Croatian patriots lost their lives in the Zagreb penitentiary alone.
Again, dozens of prisoners were killed by the police while being taken from one jail to another. The pretext was always that the victims had “tried to flee”, or that they were “resisting the officers of the law”.
Persecutions and killings of intellectuals
Croatian intellectuals seemed to be especially obnoxious to the dictatorial government of Belgrade. One of them, the University Professor Milan Sufflay, whose inborn astuteness had prevented Serbian agents from bringing him to jail by the favorite method of the frame-up, WAS FINALLY MURDERED BY PROFESSIONAL ASSASSINS HIRED FOR THAT PURPOSE THE AGENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT, MEMBERS OF THE ZAGREB POLICE FORCE.
The same method was used in the, fortunately unsuccessful, attempt to assassinate the Croatian leader Dr. Mile Budak. Doctor Budak escaped death only because of his strong constitution, but, as a consequence of the terrible beating he received in that assault, he had to spend many months in bed, recuperating from the wounds and from the shock to his nerves.
The latest victim is Jos. Predavec, the representative of the Croatian Peasant Party, who was murdered.
Such are the means upon which the King of Serbia and his camarilla rely in their efforts to restrain Croatia—enslaved by them only through fraud and treachery—from regaining its freedom and independence.
Can they be successful? Or will they succeed in only starting another general conflagration in Europe—as they did once before?
In view of all the reasons enumerated and all the f acts mentioned above, the Croatian National Council of North America, in the name of more than 250,000 American Croats, who have either countersigned or otherwise endorsed this Council’s resolution of February 22, 1932, hereby declares:
1. The rule of the king and the government of Serbia over Croatia has no basis in either law or equity. It is maintained exclusively by force, and in direct opposition to the repeatedly and clearly expressed will of the Croatian people. The further toleration of that rule is, for that reason, dangerous to the peace in Europe, and contrary to the best interests of civilized humanity.
2. The only true representative and the only de iure government in Croatia is at the present time the Croatian National Representation consisting of representatives chosen by the Croatian people in the parliamentary elections of 1927.
3. The Croatian National Council of North America heartily endorses—with the amending reservation, contained in clause 4 of this declaration—the resolution of the Croatian National Representation of November 1932, as interpreted and amplified by its now imprisoned president, Doctor Vlatko Matchek. This resolution calls for a return of Croatia to the status of October 29, 1918, and demands an immediate withdrawal of the Serbian army and of the king’s minions from the territory of Croatia, in order, that the Croatian nation may freely determine the form of government, under which it wishes to live, and all the relationships with the neighboring nations, into which it may wish to enter.
4. In reference to the future relationships of Croatia with the neighboring nations, including Serbia, the Croatian National Council of North America, in accordance with the opinions and demands expressed in the four appendices to this document and in the Joint-Memorandum of all the Croatian groups in emigration, feels duty-bound and fully authorized to state:
Americans of Croatian descent, and Croats residing in the United States and Canada, as well as all the other groups of the Croatian race now living outside the boundaries of Croatia (in South America, Belgium, France, Germany, etc.) have repeatedly and nearly unanimously expressed a decided preference, over all the other suggested solutions of the Croatian question, FOR THE REESTABLISHMENT OF CROATIA AS A COMPLETELY FREE, COMPLETELY SOVEREIGN, AND COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT NATION, inside of whose boundaries would be gathered and reunited all the historically Croatian territories on which Croatian people live in compactness.
5. Having been assured, and fully convinced, that Croats in Croatia agree completely with the above stated declaration of political aims of the Croatian nation, but are prevented from publicly proclaiming their convictions by the brutal force of their oppressors: Therefore we, the members of the Croatian National Council of North America, in the name of 250,000 people of Croatian origin now living on this continent, appeal hereby to the League of Nations, to the governments of the United States and Canada and all other civilized nations, to the Press, and to the individual statesmen and political leaders of the world., to use their power and their influence in such a way, as to speedily bring an end to the suffering and to the enslavement of the Croatian nation.
We particularly appeal to them to prevail upon the king and the government of Serbia to peacefully withdraw the Serbian troops and administrative apparatus from the Croatian territory, in order, that the Croatian nation may in complete freedom exercise its right of self-determination, and decide about its future. We also ask, that to the right of national self-determination of Croatia no strings be attached beforehand, and that the free decision of the Croatian people be in advance recognized as final and binding for all the parties concerned.
In conclusion, we again call attention to the fact, that, unless the just demands of the Croatian nation receive, in the future, more consideration from the League of Nations and other responsible factors, and, unless Serbia is prevailed upon to recognize Croatia’s right of national self-determination, and to peacefully withdraw from its territory, Croatian people have no other recourse open, but to resort to that kind of self-help, which may include open rebellion. If that happens, further conflicts will be unavoidable, and the peace of the world will again be disturbed.
The responsibility for such consequences will not rest with the Croats, whose just demands include only the recognition of their elementary rights to liberty and free development.
Youngstown, Ohio, September 20th, 1933.
Appendix No. 1
Declaration of the All-Croatian Congress
(On October 16 and 17, 1931, representatives from nearly all of the fraternal, educational, and political organizations of Americans of Croatian descent and of Croats residing in the United States and Canada, met in Detroit, in order to protest against the oppression of their brethren in the country of their common origin, and to design plans, whereby they could participate more actively in the fight for a free and sovereign Croatia. This, the All-American Congress, unanimously adopted the following declaration:)
Americans of Croatian descent and Croats residing in the United States and Canada, as represented at this Congress, enthusiastically declare themselves in complete sympathy with their brethren in the country from which they originate, and with their demand for the re-establishment of the free and independent Croatia.
The All-Croatian Congress protests bitterly and vehemently against the oppression and the persecutions of the Croatian people in the homeland, and against the rule of terror and exploitation, the responsibility for which lies with king Alexander Karageorgevich and his henchmen.
This Congress appeals to the League of Nations, to the governments of all free nations, especially the government of the United States, and to all liberty loving and humane people throughout the world to do everything in their power to bring to an end the suffering of the Croatian nation by a general recognition of that nation’s right of self- determination.
Appendix No. 2
OF THE CROATIAN PRIESTS
TO THE CROATIAN PEOPLE
IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
“We, the undersigned, Catholic priests of Croatian birth or ancestry, hereby proclaim to our beloved Croatian brethren this, our message and our vow:
In union with you, and with all true sons and daughters of Croatia, we shall always defend the vital interests of Croatia in national and religious affairs; and, with all the strength of our souls, we shall stand staunchly by our Croatian brethren, ever ready to make any necessary sacrifice, so that our brothers and sisters, who live across in the beloved land of our ancestors, with our humble help may regain for the Croatian people that position in the family of nations, which is rightly theirs as ordained by God and justice.”
Dated December 1st, 1931.
Rev. Mirko Kajić, D.D., pastor, Johnstown, Pa.
Rev. Oskar Šuster, pastor, Detroit, Mich.
Rev. Francis Podgoršek, pastor, E. Chicago, Ind.
Rev. Leo Jos. Medić, OFM., pastor, Steelton, Pa.
Rev. I. Petričak, OFM., Steelton, Pa.
Rev. Ivan Stipanović, pastor, Youngstown, Ohio
Rev. John Juricek, pastor, Omaha, Nebr.
Rev. Albert Žagar, pastor, Millvale, Pa.
Rev. Ilija Severović, pastor, Chicago, Ill.
Rev. Ambroz Mišetić, OFM., pastor, Milwaukee, Wis.
Rev. Špiro Andrijanić, OFM., pastor, So. Chicago, Ill.
Rev. Zvonko Mandurić, OFM., pastor, West Allis, Wis.
Rev. Blaž Jerković, OFM., pastor, Chicago, Ill.
Rev. Bono Andačić, OFM., San Francisco, Calif.
Rev. Franjo Bahorić, pastor, Los Angeles, Calif.
Rev. V. Vukonić, pastor, Lorain, Ohio
Rev. B. Badura, pastor, Lackawanna, N.Y.
Rev. Chas. A. Štimac, pastor, Kansas City, Kansas
Rev. Dobroslav Sorić, pastor, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Rev. A. Hugolin Feisz, OFM., Chicago, Ill.
Rev. Josip Mišić, Youngstown, Ohio
Rev. Anselm Slišković, pastor, Farrell, Pa.
Rev. Vladislav Luburić, OFM., Chicago, Ill.
Rev. Josip Matun, Cleveland, Ohio
Appendix No. 3
ADOPTED AT THE 3rd CONVENTION OF THE H. B. Z.
(CROATIAN FRATERNAL UNION,)
HELD ON THE 27th OF JUNE 1932, IN GARY, IND.
The third Convention of the H. B. Z., representing and speaking in behalf of the 90,000 organized Croats in the United States and Canada, and interpreting the thoughts and feelings of its members concerning the conditions to which the Croatian nation in the old country is subjected, adopts, unanimously, the following declaration:
1) The H. B. Z. condemns most emphatically all the tyrannies and persecutions, that have been, and still are, perpetrated by the Belgrade regime over Croatia and the Croatian nation. It condemns the annulment of the millennial Croatian State, the total disregard of Croatian interests in the spheres of international politics, in economics, and its cultural development. It condemns the unabated use of terror as a means, by which the insane imperialism of Belgrade militarists tries to keep the Croatian nation forcibly and perpetually enslaved. It condemns, explicitly, the imprisonment, flogging, torturing and murdering of Croatian leaders, eliminating, thereby, the best sons of the Croatian nation.
2) Having unbounded faith in the immortal American declaration of independence and of the inalienable right of every nation to its freedom and to an independent and self-sustaining national life, which right has been attested to the Croatian nation by the well known declaration of the President of the United States during the world war, this Convention solemnly demands the return to the Croatian nation its liberties, its confiscated rights and its stolen wealth. It, furthermore, demands the acknowledgement of its sovereign right to decide for itself, and to establish its own State: a free and independent Croatia with full freedom, full equality and perfect social justice for all its citizens.
3) The Convention greets all those Croatian patriots who work and strive in the spirit of the above declaration, calling to them: Persist, and do not relax, until the defrauded and sorely tried Croatian nation has established its right to a free life in a free State of Croatia.
4) The Convention honors the countless victims who sacrificed their lives in the struggle against the imperialistic tyranny and for the freedom of their nation and the rights of Man.
Appendix No. 4
AFFIDAVIT OF OFFICERS OF
THE CROATIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL OF NORTH AMERICA
RELATIVE TO CIRCULATING PETITIONS APPEALING FOR THE NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE OF CROATIA
THE STATE OF OHIO
COUNTY OF MAHONING
KUZMA KUHARICH and REV. JOHN A. STIPANOVIC, both of Youngstown, Ohio, being first duly sworn according to law, upon their oaths severally depose and say:
That they are the duly elected, qualified and acting president and secretary, respectively, of THE CROATIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL OF NORTH AMERICA; that as such, they were instructed and authorized to circulate, amongst the Americans of Croatian ancestry or Croatians residing in the United States of America and others, petitions which were styled “AN APPEAL FOR NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE OF CROATIA”, and which contained the following language:
WHEREAS, the Croatians, who constitute one of the smaller civilized nations of Europe, have been wrongfully and unjustly denied their national independence and their right of self-determination after the World War; and
WHEREAS, militaristic Serbia now rules Croatia through force and deceit and chicanery; and
WHEREAS, the tyrannical, despotic and oppressive government of the Serbs is persistently subjugating and trodding over the Croatians, with a view of wiping them out of their motherland; and
WHEREAS, the Croatians in Croatia (including Slavonia, Dalmatia, Bosnia, Hercegovina and Vojvodina), by reason of the Serbian military occupation of the Croatian provinces, are being wrongfully denied the privilege to freely express their honest convictions as to their right of self-determination as a nation.
NOW THEREFORE, be it resolved, that we, the undersigned, either Americans of Croatian descent, or Croatians residing in the United States of America, or friends and advocates of justice and liberty for all nations, hereby appeal to you for the liberation of Croatia from the tyrannical and despotic rule and domination of the Serbs, and we further appeal to you for the national independence of subjugated and down-trodden Croatia.
Pursuant to said authority and said instructions, such petitions were circulated and the genuine and bona fide signatures of 41,087 such persons were procured; and that in addition thereto, the genuine and bona fide signatures of 66 civic, church and fraternal organizations, by and through their respective officers, were procured.
AND FURTHER, deponents saith not.
Kuzma Kuharić (signature)
Ivan Stipanović (signature)
SWORN to before me, and subscribed in my presence this 20th day of September, 1933.
Julia M. Matus, m.p.