Serbs in the Eyes of Croats

  • Ivor Sokolić
Part of the Memory Politics and Transitional Justice book series (MPTJ)


To be Croatian, is not to be Serb. To be Croatian, is to be Catholic, not Orthodox Christian. For many, including participants in this study, Croatian identity is constructed in opposition to its “other”, the Serbs. This “other” is defined significantly by the memory and narrative of the Homeland War. This chapter explores these constructions, links them to representative data and examines their implications. Serbs have come to embody the collective guilt of the Serbian state and the suffering of Croatia. The Orthodox Christian Church is seen as aggressive, as opposed to the forgiving Catholic Church. The implications for the Serb minority are significant. They are defined in terms of security. Language rights, exemplified by the battle over Cyrillic signs in Vukovar, are seen as a threat to the Croatian nation and state. The result is that Serbs are tolerated, but their rights are consistently curtailed.


  1. Babić, D. (2010). Etnonacionalizam i rat u Hrvatskoj: Teorijski aspekti i istraživanje međunacionalnih odnosa u lokalnim zajednicama [Ethnonationalism and war in Croatia: Theoretical aspects and investigation of interethnic relations in local communities]. Zagreb: Plejada.Google Scholar
  2. Banjeglav, T. (2012). Conflicting memories, competing narratives and contested histories in Croatia’s post-war commemorative practices. Politička Misao, 49, 7–31.Google Scholar
  3. Bellamy, A. J. (2003). The formation of Croatian national identity: A centuries-old dream? Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Brentin, D. (2016). Ready for the homeland? Ritual, remembrance, and political extremism in Croatian football. Nationalities Papers (web). Available at Scholar
  5. Casanova, J. (1994). Public religions in the modern world. London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  6. Council of Europe, Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. (2016, May 30). Fourth opinion on Croatia adopted on 18 November 2015.Google Scholar
  7. Croatian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Census 2011. Available at
  8. Dugandžija, N. (2006). Od nacije do reakcije: Nacionalne manjine i nacionalni agnostici (From nation to reaction: Ethnic minorities and ethnic agnostics). Zagreb: Srpsko kulturno društvo “Prosvjeta”.Google Scholar
  9. Fishman, J. A. (2006). Do not leave your language alone: The hidden status agendas within corpus planning in language policy. Mahway: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  10. Goldstein, I. (2003). Hrvatska povijest [Croatian history]. Zagreb: Novi Liber.Google Scholar
  11. HAZU. (2007). HAZU o hrvatskom jeziku u europskim integracijama [HAZU on Croatian in European integration]. Available at Accessed 11 Apr 2016.
  12. Horvat, R. (2009). Hrvatski identitet [Croatian identity]. Zagreb: Matica Hrvatska.Google Scholar
  13. Human Rights Watch. (2018). World report 2018. Available at
  14. Ilišin, I. (2011). Vrijednosti mladih u Hrvatskoj [Values of young people in Croatia]. Politička Misao, 48, 82–122.Google Scholar
  15. Ipsos Puls. (2012, January). Izbori 2011 [Elections 2011].Google Scholar
  16. Jakelić, S. (2010). Collectivistic religions: Religion, choice, and identity in late modernity. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  17. Joseph, J. E. (2004). Language and politics: National, ethnic, religious. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jović, D. (2009). Croatia after Tudjman: The ICTY and issues of transitional justice. Chaillot Paper, 116, 13–27.Google Scholar
  19. Jović, D. (2017). Rat i mit: Politika identiteta u suvremenoj Hrvatskoj [War and myth: The politics of identity in contemporary Croatia]. Zagreb: Fraktura.Google Scholar
  20. Kolstø, P.l. (2011). Strategies of symbolic nation-building in west Balkan states: Intents and results. University of Oslo. Available at
  21. Kordić, S. (2010). Jezik i nacionalizam [Language and nationalism]. Zagreb: Durieux.Google Scholar
  22. Koren, S. (2011). “Korisna prošlost”? Ratovi devetesetih u deklaracijama hrvatskog sabora [“Useful past”? The wars of the ninites in the declarations of the Croatian Sabor]. In Cipek, T. (Ed.), Kultura sjećanja: 1991. Povijesni lomovi i svladanje prošlosti [Culture of memory: 1991. Historical breaks and overcoming the past] (pp. 123–156). Zagreb: Disput.Google Scholar
  23. Langston, K., & Peti-Stantić, A. (2014). Language planning and national identity in Croatia. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Leutloff-Grandits, C. (2016). Post-Dayton ethnic engineering in Croatia through the lenses of property issues and social transformations. Journal of Genocide Research, 18, 485–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. MacDonald, D. B. (2002). Balkan holocausts? Serbian and Croatian victim-centred propaganda and the war in Yugoslavia. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Narodne Novine. (1996). Zakon o općem oprostu [Law on general pardon NN 80/96]. Available at
  27. Oakes, L. (2001). Language and national identity: Comparing France and Sweden. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pavlaković, V. (2008). Red stars, black shirts: Symbols, commemorations, and contested histories of World War Two in Croatia. Seattle: The National Council for Euroasian and East European Research.Google Scholar
  29. Pavlaković, V. (2014). Fulfilling the thousand-year-old dream: Strategies of symbolic nation-building in Croatia. In P. Kolstø (Ed.), Strategies of symbolic nation-building in south eastern Europe (pp. 19–50). Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  30. Peskin, V., & Boduszynski, M. (2003). International justice and domestic politics: Post-Tudjman Croatia and the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Europe-Asia Studies, 55, 1117–1142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Prcela, F. (2009). Polog katoličkoga u Hrvatskom identitetu [The role of Catholicism in Croatian identity]. In R. Horvat (Ed.), Hrvatski identitet [Croatian identity]. Zagreb: Matica Hrvatska.Google Scholar
  32. Ramet, S. P., Clewing, K., & Lukić, R. (2008). Croatia since independance: War, politics, society, foreign relations. München: R. Oldenbourg.Google Scholar
  33. Richter Malabotta, M. (2004). Semantics of war in former Yugoslavia. In B. Busch & H. Kelly-Holmes (Eds.), Language, discourse and borders in the Yugoslav successor states. Buffalo: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  34. Schäuble, M. (2014). Narrating victimhood: Gender, religion and the making of place in post-war Croatia. Oxford: Barghahn.Google Scholar
  35. Sells, M. (2003). Crosses of blood: Sacred space, religion, and violence in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Sociology of Religion, 64(3), 309–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Smith, A. D. (1991). National identity. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  37. Spiering, M. (1999). The future of national identity in the European Union. National Identities, 1, 151–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Subotic, J. (2015). Genocide narratives as narratives-in-dialogue. Journal of Regional Security, 10, 177–198.Google Scholar
  39. Štiks, I. (2010). Uključeni, isključeni, pozvani: Politike državljanstva u postsocijalističkoj Europi i Hrvatskoj. Politička Misao, 47(1), 77–100.Google Scholar
  40. Tajfel, H. (1978). Social categorisation, social identity and social comparison. In H. Tajfel (Ed.), Differentiation between social groups: Studies in the social psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 61–76). London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  41. United Nations, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). (2015, April 30). Concluding observations on the third periodic report of Croatia.Google Scholar
  42. Zambelli, N. (2010). A journey westward: A poststructuralist analysis of Croatia’s identity and the problem of cooperation with the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Europe-Asia Studies, 62, 1661–1682.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivor Sokolić
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GovernmentLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUK

Personalised recommendations