Nationalism in Croatian Transition to Democracy: Between Structural Conditionality and the Impact of Legacy of History and Political Culture


Nationalism has marked the democratic transition of many post-communist
societies, including Croatia. It showed its liberal character by fostering democratic change and achieving national independence, but it also manifested itself as exclusive ethnocentrism, which considerably slowed down the democratization process and imposed itself as its main characteristic. The author challenges the view that ethnocentrism as inherent characteristic of the so-called Eastern (ethnic) nations, which are consequently undemocratic and prone to ethnic conflicts, while the liberal character is attributed as inherent to nationalism of Western (civic) nations. Besides the explanation of various aspects of nationalism in Croatia, the author draws attention to its primary structural and contextual conditionality, particularly highlighting the framework of political unfreedom and limited modernization during the communist period and specific conditions of democratic transition characterized by process of nation-state establishment and the war of independence. Here nationalism appears as an expression of patriotism and political identification, but also as a response to social, political and value discontinuity and particularly as reaction to external
aggression. The author denies its inherency, since it is not some “innate” cultural trait, but a social phenomenon that is dominantly caused by the social and political context. Nationalism in the period of democratic transition in Croatia, despite its undoubtedly ethnocentric manifestations, in essence still was liberal. After the war and renewed processes of democratization there was a significant decline of ethnocentrism and strengthening of liberal features of nationalism.

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