ZAGREB, 11 December 2018 – A four-meter-high monument to the first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman was unveiled Zagreb on Monday, on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of his death.
The statue, which was is located on the intersection of Vukovar and Hrvatske Bratske Zajednice streets connecting old and new Zagreb was created by sculptor Kuzma Kovačić.
President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović attended spoke at the ceremony. Here address in full below.
“For 19 years, the tenth of December has been a date of special significance for the entire Croatian people and all of our citizens. On that day, the first President of the sovereign and independent Republic of Croatia Dr. Franjo Tuđman passed away. And for just as many years, the residents of Zagreb, and all Croatian people, have awaited the moment when a monument to him would be raised in the capital city of Zagreb.
Today is also Human Rights Day. Dr. Franjo Tuđman knew that the ideal of fundamental human rights cannot be fully realized in a nation that is not free. Even in his youth, he was motivated and led by this ideal. Inspired by it, he jointed the anti-fascist movement, but soon after the war he realized that the new State had not ensured the human, social and national ideals for the Croatian people.
Having suffered great war and post-war misery, divided by ideological divisions and burdened with unjust stigmas, the Croatian people had been sentenced to a second-rate position in the former State. Many Croats were not at peace with this, but there were few who had a clear vision of the solution to the Croatian issue, and even fewer were those who knew how to shape and implement it in real life.
But Franjo Tuđman knew! He was exposed to political and judicial persecution for pursuing this goal, but he knew that without sacrifice, nothing great could be achieved. He had the courage to go abroad and seek support of the Croatian diaspora for the project of national reconciliation in as early as the sixties, and in the eighties he sought support for the project of building an independent State. But the key to his success was not only in his willingness to sacrifice for these ideas, but also in the belief that small nations such as Croatia have the right to great ideas and the ability to implement them.
As a historian, he recognized the signs of the times that heralded the end of the failed Yugoslav project. He also knew that the key historical opportunity, when it arrives, must not be missed because this would mean the political and even the biological disappearance of the Croatian people from the pages of history. And when Croatia was attacked and dragged into an unwanted war, not for a moment did he lose hope or waver in the pursuit of his goals.
Although he experienced his people’s tragedies with great pain, he believed that a nation struggling in a just war of defence could not lose. But when Operation Storm finally secured Croatia’s freedom and independence, he did not arrogantly triumph. He came to Vukovar with an extended hand of reconciliation and peace.
Dr. Franjo Tuđman not only loved his people but knew them well. He knew how to keep our shortcomings at bay and how to, figuratively speaking, multiply our historical minuses, so that in the end Croatia would profit. On the other hand, he directed our virtues, united different mentalities and pooled national energies to achieve the goal of national liberty and State independence.
He knew that the Croatian issue cannot only be resolved in Croatia, but also outside Croatia, and firmly believed that, with God’s help, as he would often put it, the key to the ultimate success was in the communion of Croats and all patriots, regardless of their faith or ethnic background. In addition, he was a man of decisive will, who did not lose himself in futile criticism and unproductive theorizing. He realistically assessed the circumstances and maneuvered when required, never losing sight of the fundamental goal – a free and independent Croatia. Having founded the Croatian Democratic Union as a means of its realization, he drew on the values and lessons from the legacy of Croatian princes and kings, the families of Zrinski and Frankopan, of prominent figures such as Gubec and Radić, Strossmayer and Starčević, the Croatian left and right, all the while looking for elements of national synthesis. And he embedded all of this in his great literary work, and then in the first Croatian Constitution.
Great historical achievements are always the work of a people, but they are not achievable without individuals who shape common goals and values. And at this, Dr. Franjo Tuđman was extraordinary, great and unique, consistent and dignified, both as a visionary, political and military strategist and statesman.
The first Croatian President is therefore inscribed in our history as a great among the greats. He has indebted us for many centuries and it is our duty, and at the same time a privilege and an honour, to pay tribute to his memory. The way in which we do this speaks above all of our self-respect.
But our first President certainly would not want this or any other monument to be merely an expression of our indebtedness to him. Such an attachment would be completely contrary to the significance of his personality: enormous work energy, unwavering faith in the Croatian people, and a creative and dynamic understanding of history. He did not view or build the Croatian State as a return to a “better yesterday”, but for the future.
As a Croat and a European, he wanted it to be a framework for freedom and a means for preserving our tradition and identity, international emancipation, for building a just society and consolidating moral values in the spirit of the Christian civilization. His exclamation, “We have our Croatia!” in his speech after the Republic of Croatia became a member of the United Nations, was not only a statement of historical fact but of permanently accepting the task of the joint and individual responsibility of each of us for the future and the development of Croatia and the Croatian people.
Therefore, instead of competing in downplaying or magnifying Tuđman, it would be much more productive to again actualize and reaffirm the essential values of his legacy and build them into the political foundations for the further advancement of the Croatian State and society. This is all the more important because Croatia, and Europe as a whole, faces challenges that require patriotic individuals with a clear political vision and consistency, and who are willing to sacrifice.
The Croatian people loved their President. They knew how to express this in his lifetime, in the days when they parted with him and since then over the years. His words are permanently inscribed in our nation’s soul: “Always and everything for Croatia, and our only and eternal Croatia – not for anything.” These words remain for yesterday, today and tomorrow. Let the monument in the Croatian capital of Zagreb be a lasting seal and testimony to this.”
In the morning hours, President Grabar-Kitarović laid a wreath at the tomb of the first Croatian President Dr. Franjo Tuđman at the city cemetery Mirogoj on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of his death.
(Text: Ured Presjednice)