It is that time of a year again. Spring in Croatia is in the past few years less associated with warmer weather or need to go on fast diet and more with activity Jutarnji list recently branded "May Games". This season, like many before, are going to be time when Croatians become obsessed with their nation's increasingly distant and decreasingly relevant past - usually at the expense of present day and future.
The season unofficially begins with April 10th - 68th anniversary of the creation of Independent State of Croatia, which is opportunity to all those closet or open sympathisers of that entity to express their feelings towards that chapter of Croatian history. Then comes April 22nd - 64th anniversary of liberation of Jasenovac Concentration Camp. Next important day is May 4th - 29th anniversary of Josip Broz Tito, which is opportunity of all of his supporters and fans to express their sadness over premature passing of a man who could have, in their way, prevented misery in which many live now. Then comes May 8th - 64th anniversary of a day when Tito's Partisans entered Zagreb, which some call liberation, while other call occupation.
Then comes May 15th - 64th anniversary of a surrender of Axis forces in Balkans, which triggered series of events in Croatia known as Bleiburg massacre. The season ends with 68th anniversary of formation of Sisak Partisan Detachment, the very first partisan unit in Croatia, former Yugoslavia (and, according to some hagiographic sources, entire Europe). The last day is also celebrated as public holiday in Croatia, known as Antifascist Struggle Day.
Needless to say, any mention of such days during May History season is opportunity for supporters of WW2 winners and losers to attack each other, treating any celebration or memorial service of such dates as unforgivable crime against historical memory and hundreds of thousands of innocent victims. Another ingredient of a debate, which tends to increase in intensity with each passing year, is discreet involvement of government and establishment media whose commentators tend to suggest - although not with much vigour and conviction - that modern Croatia has evolved out of "tragic ideological differences of 20th Century" and became "modern European liberal democracy".
Unfortunately, May History season of 2009 coincides with local elections which means that ruling HDZ party will shift to the right and give tacit blessing to the expressions of righteous right-wing anger over "evil Communists butchering innocent Croatian patriots" at the end of WW2. One of such examples happened during 2007 parliamentary elections campaign when Ratko Maček, while discussing mass graves in Slovenia, briefly mentioned that Tito and his Partisans murdered 450,000 people - which is probably on the same levels of historical accuracy as Serbian claims of 1 million Serbs butchered in Jasenovac.
This time, the major theme of May Games season is "discovery" of a mass grave in Huda jama in Slovenai, where remains of hundreds, probably thousands people have been found. This isn't something of a news in Slovenia - where it was, predictably, already used in their own Left vs. Right struggle. However, in Croatia it created sensation despite the fact that nobody knows whose remains were in that pit. Until proper investigation - for which few people have some palpalbe interest - is conducted, the mass grave could be filled with remains of Croatian Ustashas, Slovenian Home Guard, Russian anti-Communist volunteers (Circassians), Serbian Chetniks, Wehrmach soldiers or - which is probably most likely - mix of all above.
Faced with outrage over Partisan crimes, Mladen Bajić, Prosecutor General of Croatia launched high-profile investigation against alleged perpetrator. The name of a target shows how serious this investigation is going to be. Simo Dubajić, Partisan commander who took part in massacre and in early 1990s publicly bragged about "killing Ustashas" as born-again Serb nationalist only to express remorse in 2006 tell-all book, is 86-year old man at deathbed in Belgrade. If that man ever goes on trial - which is, based on the state of his health, highly unlikely - the public perception is going to be as pathetic and anti-cathartic as 1986 process that former Yugoslav authorities had against Andrija Artuković, Pavelić's minister of internal affairs, who was condemned to death only to have his execution postponed due to senility. And even if Serbia allows its citizen to be extradited, it is very possible that jurisdiction dispute with Slovenia (where crimes actually took place) would further complicate already bad relations between two countries.
That doesn't mean that there won't be any trial. In absence of government reacting against Communist crime, few enterprising individuals gathered in Croatian Cultural Movement (Hrvatski uljudbeni pokret) are announcing their brand of vigilante. After creating their own self-appointed Lustration Court, they are going to picket homes of old Partisans and Communist-era officials allegedly involved in Bleiburg massacre and "other crimes against Croatian people" and demand that the accused come out and "publicly express regret". Needless to say, most people associated with their movement used to belong to the far right of Croatian politics in 1990s. Their crusade, if put in practice, is most likely to resemble burning crosses and other acts of extremist intimidation in American South.
In normal circumstances, all this could be brushed away as inevitable election season folklore. In these economic conditions, however, exploiting ideological divisions for the purpose of short-term political gain might have same disastrous long term consequence as in 1930s.