Flags Symbolizing Hatred

Now that I am researching Ante Pavelić for a history class assignment, I finally investigated a question I’ve had for a long time- what does the Croatian flag mean and how is it connected with the country’s fascist government from World War II?  When it comes to history of the former Yugoslavia, it is truly impossible not to let biases affect research.  Until now, I never thought about how much living in Serbia and making friends with Serbs affect my views on certain issues.  I heard a comment from a Serbian friend that the checkerboard pattern on the Croatian flag symbolizes fascism and lazily, I never doubted it.

 

The current flag of Croatia

It’s not really my goal here to give a history of nationalism in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, or the history of Yugoslavia from 1929 onward, so please excuse me as I leave out plenty of details. Most importantly, I want to stress that during World War II, the Independent State of Croatia was a Nazi puppet state led by Ante Pavelić and his Ustasha regime. Pavelić greatly admired Benito Mussolini, and used ethnic-cleansing tactics like Hitler to eliminate non-Croats.  With 26 concentration camps, the Ustasha party especially targeted Serbs, but also killed Gypsies and Jews.  In Jasenovac (the largest camp) alone, up to 200,000 Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and political prisoners were killed, resulting in a mini holocaust, specifically Balkan, that most people do not even know took place.

 

The flag of the Independent State of Croatia during 1941-1945, the Ustasa flag.

The checkerboard pattern on the Croatian flag was in fact used during the fascist era, but the shield actually dates back several centuries.  Croats claim the checkerboard shield is one of the oldest symbols in Europe.  Whether or not this is true, it certainly dates back long before Croats were exterminating Serbs in Jasenovac.  However, when Yugoslavia broke apart in the 1990s and nationalism raged from all sides, the Croatian flag was used militantly and conjured up its World War II meaning for Serbs once again.  On the opposite side, as Serbs destroyed villages and raped women in Bosnia and Croatia, they wrote their own historic shield and slogan all over the place- Само слога Србина спасава/Samo sloga Srbina spasava (meaning’Only Unity Saves the Serbs’).  I saw the C C C C slogan written all over the region when I traveled this summer.  This slogan means “Greater Serbia,” Milosevic and utter destruction for Bosnians and Croats.

 

Flag of Serbia, with the acronym for the slogan in the crest.

 

Само слога Србина спасава/Samo sloga Srbina spasava (Only Unity Saves the Serbs)

Without attempting any groundbreaking conclusion, I ponder the symbols found today in the former-Yugoslavia, and how they perpetuate memories of a bloody past for all parties involved.  A small part of me respects pride for national history, but mostly I am saddened by the messages the flags imply.  These symbols and flags may mean the beginning of a nation for one country, but for a neighbor- they hurtfully mean genocide and destruction.  Visual symbols make a huge impact on people.  Idealistically, I wish Croatia and Serbia would change their flags for a new era…to find new symbols for a peaceful future. Realistically, I know that the countries of the former Yugoslavia prefer to live in the past.

Look here to see the evolution of Croatia’s flag throughout history.  Notice the use of the checkerboard pattern in 1848-1852, and 1860-1918.

Advertisements
    • Danica
    • February 2nd, 2010

    Hey friend, this “I saw the C C C C slogan written all over the region when I traveled this summer. This slogan means “Greater Serbia,” Milosevic and utter destruction for Bosnians and Croats.” it’s not correct, C C C C means: Only Unity Saves the Serbs. It’s in Serbian, in cyrilic. Only correct slogan for “Greater Serbia” is: (in cyrilic) Велика Србија or (in latinic) Velika Srbija, but it’s not so often slogan on the street and in Serbia.

    Best regards!

      • Christine
      • February 2nd, 2010

      Zdravo, Danica! Kako si? Da li govoris srpski jezik? Hvala za informacije!
      I am aware of the literal translation of Само Слога Србина Спасава, and the history of the slogan, but I do think it means something different for Serbia’s neighbors after the wars in the 1990s. Similarly, the Croatian flag is also an old symbol used by Croats long before tensions with Serbia, but since World War II, the Serbs consider it a fascist symbol. This is the way I see the situation…and I find symbols and their meaning very interesting. I guess you don’t agree with my interpretation, but I appreciate your opinion. I hope you keep reading! Hvala puno!

    • Slavisa
    • March 8th, 2010

    Hi i am from Republic od Srpska ( I am serb).Само Слога Србина Спасава means Only Unity Saves the Serbs… Don`t play smart if you dont know .

    (P.S. : sorry for my Englsh..if there are mistakes)

    • Oscar
    • March 8th, 2010

    That’s exactly what the post says. Read below the picture.

    • Ivana
    • August 3rd, 2010

    “This slogan means “Greater Serbia,” Milosevic and utter destruction for Bosnians and Croats.”

    The be blunt this is inaccurate. I appreciate the idea that symbols are open to interpretation, but this is too far of a stretch. Your interpretation is quite liberal (that’s putting it kindly) and frankly, I don’t understand where it derives from. Only unity saves the Serbs is a call for Serbian unity, it was originally meant to evoke a “let’s focus on us” mentality, whereas you’re interpreting it as foreigns who are unfamiliar with the region often do.

    There is a distinct difference between a call for unity to unite a population and a call to unite against another population. The CCCC symbol evokes the former and unfortunately you have misinterpreted it as evoking the latter.

    • Stefan
    • October 15th, 2010

    You are all wrong. That four C on serbian coat of arms just in people means “only unity save serbs” . Originaly, it is taken from Byzantium empire long time ago. Byzantium empire have 4B, which represents Βασιλεὺς Βασιλέων
    Βασιλεύων Βασιλευόντων. Just go on google and search about it, my english is not so god so i can explain it right.

    • Christine
    • October 17th, 2010

    Stefan, I will repeat the same comment that I posted above. I am aware of the literal translation of Само Слога Србина Спасава, and the history of the slogan, but I do think it means something different for Serbia’s neighbors after the wars in the 1990s. Similarly, the Croatian flag is also an old symbol used by Croats long before tensions with Serbia, but since World War II, the Serbs consider it a fascist symbol. This is the way I see the situation…and I find symbols and their meaning very interesting. I guess you don’t agree with my interpretation, but I appreciate your opinion. I hope you keep reading! Hvala puno!

    PS – You might want to read my second post on this topic.
    https://christinebednarz.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/samo-sloga-srbina-spasava/

  1. Hey there, I just found out of this blog today and I think it’s great. I am very interested in the Balkans but my young age (17) and background (Venezuelan-Canadian) don’t really let me know much.
    Now about the flags, I think the case is similar to the Swastika and Nazism; the logo was there before but now people see them symbolizing that.
    I also agree that the Balkanic countries should change their flags and seek for peace. The problem as you said and as my Serbian and Bosnian friends make it look is that they’d rather live in the past, and I understand (but not agree with) them after so much suffering.
    Anyways, keep up the good work because I am going to stay tunned for more from this blog.
    Adios.

      • Christine
      • November 8th, 2010

      Thanks so much for reading. Age doesn’t matter, and you are very insightful for 17. It is true that many people in Bosnia still live in the past. Symbols like these remind them…. Please keep reading and let me know if I can recommend any books or resources. Take a look on my links page for now. I appreciate your comments! Pozdrav.

    • vesnaturalic
    • November 12th, 2012

    Hi Christine. My name is Vesna and i was born during the war in Bosnia. I think it is very nice that your have taken so much interest in our history, this makes me so happy. Not everyone knows what happened there, and it was not so long ago…I think it is important to educate people on things like this, so we can help each other as many Bosnian children still need help, and Croatian and Serbian..One thing i will warn you about, be careful with your content as many of us are still heart broken. Thank you. And goodluck with your Blog i wish you luck.

  1. January 4th, 2010
  2. January 31st, 2010
  3. January 2nd, 2011

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: