Officers and Gentlemen: The Impress of Tragedy and Violence
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A working cultural assumption that makes any dialogue with the past possible is: features recalled with pride are apt to be safeguarded against erosion and vandalism; those that reflect shame may be ignored or expunged from the landscape. Unlike in the West where history seems to be more or less processed on the basis of working through the problematic, in Croatia - a representative of so-called countries in transition, strange and liminal monuments are being erected in order to signify collective cultural identity and bear witness of times past. There are two examples of crossing the lines between the division pride/shame: two monuments: one to Jure Francetih, and the other to Mile Budak - both convicted criminals of war. This paper argues some of the following topics: what is the point of resurrecting the past in such vein? Why does Croatia have the need to celebrate its dark side of history? Why are the butchers, the representatives of shame and crimes against humanity remembered with pride; at least among some Croatians, still powerful enough to erect a monument and place it in public? Is there something peculiar in Croatian history, or in histories of some Central European countries, that belongs to no other history(ies) and calls for bridging the gap between pride and shame? Is the Croatian collective past in fact past at all? Where is Croatia's place on the map of Europe with such signs of its present times? Using the American geographer Kenneth Foote's ideas and types of remembering (sanctification, obliteration, designation, rectification), the paper explores modes of representing the past and contextualizes them in a broader framework of establishing a productive communication with the present. Using the already mentioned examples and enriching them with a positive one - the example of The Holocaust Museum in Jasenovac, I first asses the current situation in Croatian cultural dialogue with the past (including both ethical and human poles of the binary) and then propose possible venues useful for establishing a constructive cultural dialogue within the newly emerged space of the European Union.
KeywordsEuropean Country Current Situation Cultural Identity Comparative Literature Dark Side
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