FRANJO TUĐMAN – A Political Biography: Partisan, General, Historian, Dissident and First President of Croatia

Objavljeno: 14/06/2023

Franjo Tuđman usually has been portrayed as a Croatian nationalist and an authoritarian leader who conspired with Slobodan Milošević to destroy Yugoslavia in 1991, but Sadkovich describes a complex and ambitious individual who began life in a small town in the Croatian Zagorje, discovered Marxism as a student in Zagreb, fled to the mountains to join the artisans, then moved to the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade, where he began to write history and became the youngest general in the Yugoslav army before returning to Zagreb in in 1961 as a historian to direct the newly created Institute for the History of the Workers’ Movement in Croatia. It was as a historian that he challenged the regime’s version of history and broke with the League of Communists and joined the movement for reform known as the Croatian Spring. By 1973, he had become a dissident, by 1984, a nationalist imprisoned for his writings, by 1989, of the Croatian Democratic Union, and by 1990, president of Croatia.

In the first eight chapters, Sadkovich discusses Tuđman’s intellectual and political evolution through 1989 and the role played by his interest in history, which reinforced his identity as a Croatian intellectual and provided him with the “objective realities” and “historical truths” he needed to challenge those who supported the Party’s version of Yugoslavia’s history. The final chapter offers “tentative answers” to questions regarding Tuđman’s tenure as president of Croatia during the Yugoslav wars of succession. He was often misunderstood because he spoke like a historian when he should have acted the statesman, and his defense of Croatia’s people, culture, and reputation seemed to many to be aggressively nationalist. But Sadkovich argues that rather than an authoritarian nationalist intent on creating a “greater Croatia,” Tuđman was a patriot who believed that, as a “small nation,” Croatia needed to be independent to preserve its identity, and that, if it was to survive, it had to join and support organizations like the European Union and the United Nations.

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