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POLITICAL MANEUVERS: STATEMENTS vs. PRACTICE

The Serbian-Croatian Bunjevac Case 

"The Bunjevac question represents a socio-political problem in the Republic of Serbia, which comes from different interpretations of identity of the Bunjevac people from Bačka in Vojvodina. The majority of the Bunjevac ethnonym carriers are deeply divided by that issue into two dominant sides, which can, in the political sense, be regarded as two separate Bunjevac communities. One is composed of those Bunjevac people who interpret their identity as a sub-ethnic group belonging to the Croatian ethnic community and hence to the Croatian nation. Based on that, they represent a part of the Croatian national minority in Serbia. The other community is composed of those Bunjevac people who consider themselves being a separate ethnic community and as such they have been recognized as a separate national minority in Serbia since 2002." Gotal, Mihovil (2016). Bunjevačko pitanje kao simbolički konflikt politika identiteta - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Institutional Repository

Role of the government in the Bunjevac identity dispute - 'Bunjevac Question':  Disputes about the national status and historical origins of the Bunjevci go back to the nationalism wave in the 19th century in Austria-Hungary. The debate revived by the Breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Some Bunjevci in Hungary and Serbia, who are gathered around the Bunjevac National Council (Vojvodina/Serbia), claiming they are an autochthonous ethnic group (Bunjevac nation/tribe/people, www.bunjevci.net/o-bunjevcima), while most of the Bunjevci in the Bačka region identify themselves as a Croatian sub-ethnic group – an integral part of the Croatian national corpus (Izjava Predsjednistva HAZU o hrvatskoj etnickoj skupini Bunjevci), represented by the Croat National Council (Vojvodina/Serbia). Both the Croatian, Hungarian and Serbian authorities do not recognize a distinct Bunjevac/Bunjevci language/nationality. BEC

'Dekret 1945'
Yugoslavia: Order of the Supreme People's Liberation Board of Vojvodina from 14 May 1945, which states that Bunjevci and Šokci should be regarded as Croats, no matter of their self-declaration. (Wikipedia)

Historical context of 'Dekret 1945', Tomislav Žigmanov

'Bunjevac Question', (2018)

Role Serbian government - 'Bunjevac Question', (2013)

Bunjevac National Council, Serbia (2018)  

Bunjevci belong to the Croatian nation, (2013)

Role Serbian government - 'Bunjevac Question', (2019)

Croat National Council, Serbia (2018) 

Bunjevac separatism (Bunjevac National Council) in Serbia: "While Bunjevac separatism is based on the pro-Serbian movement, their interest does not always correspond to the official minority politics of Serbia." Kameda, Masumi (2013). pp.115. Language Ideologies of the Bunjevac Minority in Vojvodina: Historical Backgrounds and the Post-1991 Situation

Extra-territorial (transborder) nation-building practices in Vojvodina. Kin-state activities in Vojvodina by foreign countries as Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia, are increasing people's sense to belong to the country of their ancestors. Serbia, will have to show political maturity to manage its ethnic diversity, problems with state loyalty of citizens, economic migration to escape poverty, and its own conflicting domestic and foreign policy in the context of the planned EU accession. BEC

Open issues between Serbia and Croatia after  'SUBOTICA DECLARATION' (2016)

Committee on the Promotion of Minority Rights in Serbia and Croatia (Serbia, 2018)

What can improve the position of the Croatian minority in Vojvodina? (2019) 

  • Absence of objective evidence based criteria for voluntary self-identification of Bunjevci in relation to population census in Serbia
  • Croatian minority - Bunjevci and Šokci
  • Different theories about the Bunjevac origin
  • Implementation Minority Education Program
  • Minority representatives in parliament/state administration
  • Minority status of Bunjevci and Šokci in Serbia
  • Political-linguistic dispute ' Bunjevac dialect vs. Bunjevac language '
  • Politics of population census
  • Role of the government in the Bunjevac identity dispute - 'Bunjevac Question'
  • Serbian minority in Croatia
  • Stigmatization of Croatian minority in Serbia

'Subotica Declaration' - Serbian prime minister Vučić and Croatian president Grabar-Kitarović (Serbia, 2016)

Croatian president Grabar-Kitarović and Serbian president Vučić in Zagreb (Croatia, 2018) 

Politics of population census

Pseudo-minority status of Bunjevci in Serbia

After the Yugoslav authorities included the category of "Bunjevci" into the census (1991, Milošević Regime), also the Serbian authorities continued to marke Bunjevci as a separate ethnic minority. The number of the total population of Bunjevci is unknown. In Serbia, Bunjevci declare themselves either as Bunjevci or Croats. BEC

 

"To understand the politics of population census in postconflict countries and salience of the categories imposed through census. By doing so, it seeks to shed light on the mechanisms of identity construction in the post-Yugoslav context.  The article  analyses the categories and the responses to post-Yugoslav censuses, focusing on national, religious, and linguistic identity markers." Bieber, Florian. Social Science Quarterly, 2015. The Construction of National Identity and its Challenges in Post‐Yugoslav Censuses

Absence of objective evidence based criteria for voluntary self-identification of Bunjevci in relation to population census in Serbia: "The legal system of the Republic of Serbia guarantees freedom to declare one’s ethnic background ... . The initial problem arises with regard to the self-identification of Bunjevci ... . ... there are problems with “faking” a particular national minority background in order to benefit from affirmative action measures. In this context, the question can be raised whether there are limits to self-identification, i.e. whether belonging to a particular ethnic group can be based solely on one’s sentiments or is self-identification limited by objective criteria." Self-evaluation Report - Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia – Serbian OSCE Chairmanship, CSO Coalition for the monitoring of Serbia’s OSCE Chairmanship; 5.3.2 Primacy of Voluntary Self-Identification, September 2015, pp. 78. www.helsinki.org.rs/doc/Self-evaluation%20report.pd

  1. Croatian Minority in the Republik of Serbia - Hrvatska manjina u Republici Srbiji: "Pursuant to the law on the Rights and liberty of national minorities (adopted by the Assembly of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, on February 26, 2002), the Croat national minority was guaranteed, for the first time ever, the status of minority. Although they carry several regional and sub-ethnic names (e.g. „Bunjevci“ and „Šokci“), Croats in Vojvodina constitute an integral part of the Croatian people, who in the capacity of an autochthone people reside in the parts of the Srijem of the Vojvodina province, in the Banat and the Bačka region, but also in a significant number in Belgrade. From the historical perspective, this population, in its overwhelming number, has been for centuries an indigenous population." 
  2.  www.parlament.gov.rs/National_Assembly_Speaker_Receives_Bunjevac_Nation.13513.537.html: : "The constituting session of the Bunjevac National Minority Council was held on 14 June 2010 in Subotica. By the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights of the Republic of Serbia document No. 290-212-00-10/2010-06 of 26 July 2010 Bunjevac National Minority Council was entered into the national council register."

In the 1990s it was life threatening in Serbia (Milošević Regime) to declare to be a Bunjevci Croat: "... to declare themselves as Bunjevac in order to avoid being stigmatised as Croats, thus increasing the number of self-declared Bunjevci in the 1990s." Krasniqi, Gëzim; Stjepanović, Dejan. Political Science (2017). Uneven Citizenship: Minorities and Migrants in the Post-Yugoslav Space 

Statements about Bunjevci

  • Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts
  • Croatian Conference of Bishops
  • Government of Croatia
  • Government of Hungary
  • Government of Serbia
  • The Vatican 

Statement of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts│2014: "The Presidency of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, in a session held on 12 September 2014, made the following statement explaining that the Bunjevci Croats form an integral part of the Croatian national corpus. The Presidency of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, one of the fundamental institutions of the Croatian nation and of all the citizens of the Republic of Croatia, among the roles of which belongs the preservation of national identity, made the following statement in a session held on 12 September 2014: The Bunjevci, a Croatian ethnic group, are made up of three branches: the Dalmatian-Herzegovinian branch; the Primorje-Lika branch; and the Danube Region branch. Not encroaching on the right of any individual to express their national affiliation based on their origin, history, traditional culture, customs and language – the western new-Štokavian and Ikavian – the Bunjevci Croats form an integral part of the Croatian national corpus." Statement by the Presidency of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts regarding the Bunjevci Croats (2014). http://info.hazu.hr/files/listanje/glasnk/02/files/assets/basic-html/page55.html 

Statement of the Croatian Conference of Bishops about Bunjevci2014: It is a painful fact that the Croatian minority in Vojvodina is politically divided into Croats and Bunjevci. However, it is unacceptable for the President of Serbia to proclaim that Bunjevci are “an autochthonous people who are neither Croats nor Serbs” and to give them textbooks in the Cyrillic alphabet. This is obviously an attempt to assimilate and denationalize the Bunjevci, in keeping with decades of Greater Serbian policies. Therefore, it is expected that the Croatian authorities will intervene to safeguard that the Croats in Serbia have all the human and minority rights that Serbs have in the Republic of Croatia. Human rights are universal and it is the duty and obligation of those in authority to take care that these rights are respected and implemented. This is especially the responsibility of Croatian authorities in regard to Croats living outside the homeland. IKA - Informativna katolička agencija. 22.09.2014 | 20:24 

Statement of Croatian government│2019: Ministarstvo Republike Hrvatske - Croatian Minority in Republic of Republic of Serbia

Statement of the Hungarian government: "20. In this context, the Advisory Committee notes that persons belonging to the Bunjevci community have repeatedly sought recognition as a separate ethnic group, and not as a part of the Croatian national minority with which they are amalgamated. An initiative launched in 2006 was rejected following an opinion given by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, principally on the ground that the Bunjevci are a part of the Croatian minority with which they share a linguistic affinity. The representatives of the Bunjevci, for their part, emphasise their shared perception of belonging to a group which is different from the Croat population by virtue of its culture and history, and the need to preserve that culture and history. The latest petition of the Bunjevci gathered the required 1,000 signatures and was submitted in 2011 to the National Assembly, only to be rejected again." pp.10. (ACFC/OP/IV(2016)003). ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON THE FRAMEWORK CONVENTION FOR THE PROTECTIONOF NATIONAL MINORITIES 

Statements of the Serbian government 2011, 2013, 2018:

1. (Serbia, 2011): “The Bunjevac people are an autochthonous Slavic people. Today they mostly inhabit the area of northern Serbia – Vojvodina and southern Hungary, more specifically, the area between Baja in Hungary, Sombor and Subotica in Serbia. The Bunjevac people are a Slavic people who, together with the Serbs, defended the borders from the Turkish onslaught onto the north of Europe. They played a key role after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Vojvodina’s joining the Kingdom of Serbia in 1918. The Bunjevac people have been the most exposed to assimilation in their history, and the largest assimilation happened under the communist rule in 1945 when they were joined to the Croatian corps by decree. The Bunjevac people managed to defend themselves from the constant annexation which continues to this day thanks to their language, culture and tradition.” (National Assembly Speaker Prof. Dr Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic receives Bunjevac National Minority Council delegation, Branko Pokornić and Mirko Bajić) National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia | National Assembly. Tuesday, 12 July, 2011. (visited 28.04.2019/11:59)

2. (Serbia, 2013): Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić: "Bunjevci are neither Serbs nor Croats, but indigenous peoples." Tomislav Nikolić Bunjevci su autohtoni narod, ni Srbi ni Hrvati. Tumbas, Nikola. 2013 - YouTube 

3. (Serbia, 2018): “The Serbian authorities are fully committed to the strict adherence to the principle of free self-identification contained in Article 3 of the Framework Convention. In the monitoring cycles completed so far, the Advisory Committee welcomed the consistent position of the authorities not to interfere with the debate on the ethnicity of persons belonging to national minorities, which is reflected in the determination not to arbitrate in the debates on ethnicity and impose no identity on any community of persons belonging to national minorities, which is reflected in the determination not to arbitrate in the debates on ethnicity and impose no identity on any community (86). In this sense, in the Republic of Serbia the freedom of persons belonging to national minorities to decide whether they want to be connected with a particular national minority and to be treated as persons belonging to a particular national minority is a fundamental element of the protection of national minorities based on democratic principles. Moreover, the legal framework and the practice of the authorities in the Republic of Serbia allow for the existence and expression, in various social contexts, of the multiple identity of a person based on the Constitution and international treaties guaranteed freedom of choice and declaring national affiliation.(4.) In parallel, it encourages them to take steps – while maintaining strict neutrality as to outcomes – to promote constructive dialogue between persons identifying themselves as belonging to the Romanian and Vlach national minorities, and between persons identifying themselves as belonging to the Croat and Bunjevci national minorities.” Fourth Report submitted by Serbia pursuant to Article 25, paragraph 2 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities - received on 18 September 2018. pp110-112 

Statement of The Vatican│2014: O Bunjevcima kao dijelu hrvatskoga naroda te nastojanjima srbijanske vlasti da Bunjevce dekroatizira i asimilira – pripremio i govori by Marito Mihovil Letica - Vatikanski radio

"Political pressures on Bunjevci in the Danube region have highly influenced the construction of their multiple identities: under the constant pressure to prove their belonging to Croatian nation, they have adopted specific differential markers of their ethnic and cultural identity. Unlike the Bunjevci in the Danube region, Coastal Bunjevci live in the region inhabited by population of the same nationality and religion, but they differ from the surrounding population historically, socially, culturally and linguistically, and they self-identify primarily in the relation to the population of the town of Senj." Approaches to the Research of the Identity of the Ethnic Group of Bunjevci, Studia ethnologia Croatica, Vol.17. No. 1 December 2005. pp.25-49

Conflict of Interest and EU Integration

Behind the façade ...

Minority politics - divide et impera principle: "Cultural autonomy, reflected in a form of self-government in the areas of education, use of language and media control, establishment of specific associations, foundations, etc. transform into a relevant flow of financial means. In effect, leading a minority council stands for disposal of finances, governing various institutions and controlling minority's media. Therefore the leaders within one minority group are likely to turn against each other, rather then cooperate. The financial and economic benefits may constitute a strong argument for a leadership and influential tools in an impoverished society. Competition there is also very likely to happened, with all of it consequences." Muś, Jan (2013). www.newbalkanpolitics.org.mk/item/Divide-et-impera-principle.Minority-oriented-state-policy-in-the-Balkans#.WQbnwfVOLIU

Serbian state support of the division of the Bunjevac community: "Amongst the population that is identified as Bunjevac, there are some who declare their ethnic and national identity to be Bunjevac, while others declare their nationality to be Croat with Bunjevac as a ‘sub-ethnic identity’. These correspond to two officially recognised (by the Republic of Serbia and the AP of Vojvodina) national councils, both with their seats in Subotica, the Croat National Council and the Bunjevac National Council. Formal recognition and the financial benefits of establishing a national council should certainly not be neglected in this case. National councils not only receive funds from the state/autonomous province but have extensive powers over cultural and educational institutions. By providing structural, formal and financial support, the host state recognises these divisions and arguably sustains them." Stjepanović, Dejan (2013). The Claimed Co-ethnics and Kin-State Citizenship in Southeastern Europe. University of Edinburgh, UK. Published online: 08 Jan 2015. pp.152

Employment patterns in minority organizations and the job market in relation to membership of political parties and citizenship. The membership of a ruling party in Serbia is seen by many citizens as a condition for getting a job or local/government subsidies. Political parties in Serbia, take an interest to have their representatives in the Minority Councils, to ensure paid jobs for its members. In the Serbian Bunjevac community are people who have only economic based motives to declare to be Bunjevac Croat, to ensure access to the EU (labour migration and education within the EU). BEC

"The linguistic and political situation is particularly complex as the majority of those living in the village identify with an ethnic group (Bunjevci) which Croatian nationalists argue to be Croatian, whilst other ethnic Bunjevac activists argue that they constitute an ‘autonomous ethnic group’. Serbian, Croatian and Bunjevac language varieties form part of a mutually intelligible dialect continuum. The issue is particularly relevant at present as the Serbian government has allotted funding for the standardization of the Bunjevac language variety, as well as for school textbooks written in that language variety, a move that has angered some of those who identify as Croatian." Hodges, Andrew (2015). Teaching in Croatian in Serbia: discursive hegemonies and ‘state effects’- web page not accessible any longer (editor 01-03-2019)

Political-linguistic dispute - 'Bunjevac dialect vs. Bunjevac language': "It appears that the concept of standardization, whatever it may mean to the various parties involved, occupies a central position, or – actually – the central position in the Bunyev language debate, for it looks as though it is only thanks to standardization that a speech variety may gain the label of language." Belić, Bojan (2014). изворни научни чланак УДК 81'27(497.113) Bunyev(s): linguistic frontier to be? pp.613

The leadership of the Croat Bunjevci and Croatian minority in Serbia, has presented the 'standard of the Bunjevac dialect' in Serbia, as an attempt to abolish the dialect of Bunjevac Croats from the Croatian cultural heritage (2018). BEC

Language politics and EU integration: "While language peviously had been a means to unite Balkan Slavs, it became an instrument of nationalism wielded by politically motivated actors to widen the division among the ethnicities. Language disputes did not destroy Yugoslavia, but they may hinder recovery and modernization. As each Yugoslav successor state strives toward integration into the European Union, political questions concerning language may polarize domestic politics and inhibit regional cooperation, thereby hampering efforts to carry out needed economic and political reforms." Rice, Eric A. (2010)  Language politics in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia - Calhoun: The NPS

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