The symposium opened with a lecture by Žana Ćorić, a special advisor covering Croatians in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina with the State Office for Croats Abroad, one of the event organisers
A number of institutions based out of Zagreb and Osijek have joined forces to stage the three-day Migrations and Identity: Culture, Economy, State international symposium. The gathering was initiated and the organisation spearheaded by the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies.
This institute has the longest track record in the country and broader European neighbourhood in the study of internal and outbound migration, ethnic minorities and our diaspora. A part of the first day’s lectures was staged at the Croatian Heritage Foundation building.
The part of the symposium staged at the Croatian Heritage Foundation opened with a lecture by Žana Ćorić, a special advisor covering Croatians in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina with the State Office for Croats Abroad, one of the event organisers. Her presentation covered aspects of what our government and its State Office for Croats Abroad is endeavouring to achieve through its programmes and activities in its efforts to improve the lot of Croatians in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina.
According to Ms Ćorić these efforts include grants provided to youth studying in Bosnia-Herzegovina and a programme through which our government funds research, education, culture and healthcare projects. These are major projects, she added, that are being implemented in partnership with local governments and associations of Croatians in Bosnia-Herzegovina. She also pointed to the Javni poziv (“Public Call”) programme that aims to reinforce bonds between Croatians in the homeland and abroad, including in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Since 2017 Croatia’s government has leveraged budget funds to support the activities of the institutions of the Croatian component of Bosnia-Herzegovina such as the University of Mostar, Mostar’s Croatian National Theatre and the University Clinical Hospital of Mostar. A recent effort saw additional medical supplies provided by Croatia to parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina in which Croatians form the majority component.
Ms Ćorić noted that while these four programmes primarily provide financial assistance, they are not the only types of programmes our government works through. Working with the competent institutions, she notes, amendments have been introduced to the rules covering state exams as they apply to the thousands of pupils who take the exam in Croatia: for these pupils the exam can now be taken free of charge. Ćorić also pointed to the Korijeni (“Roots”) project that aims to create links between youth/pupils in Bosnia-Herzegovina, their peers in Croatia, and among the Croatian diaspora. All of these activities and efforts have as their objective to enhance the status, political equality, and preservation of the Croatian identity and to reinforce the bonds with Croatia, Ćorić underlined, adding that the efforts offer multiple benefits to Croatia, above all in terms of the human potential contribution to the broader economy, research and education. She also noted that this international symposium also featured a number of researchers with roots in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina. Ćorić also pointed to the foreign commerce differential with Bosnia-Herzegovina which sees Croatians in the neighbouring country buying Croatian imports, which boosts employment in Croatia. She also noted the critical and far-reaching security implications of our relationship with Bosnia-Herzegovina, with which we share the longest border and in which the Croatian component of our neighbour is a guarantor of our security in the future.
This is why staunching the outflow of Croatians from Bosnia-Herzegovina is of critical importance noted Matijas Baković of the Croatology department of the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Croatian Studies in his lecture.
There is an evident and massive drop in the size of the Croatian component of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Baković noted, meaning that this identity determinant is even more pronounced. The 2013 census, published in 2016, counted some half million Croatians in the country, but data out of the Croatian Bishops’ Conference points to a current figure of some 350 thousand Croatian Catholics in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Obviously, not all Croatians in the country adhere to the Catholic religion and they remain an aspect of the Croatian identity, Baković explained.
The symposium also discussed the impacts of integration and disintegration processes on Croatians in Vojvodina from the end of the twentieth century to the present day, especially, noted Krešimir Bušić of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, in light of recent controversy concerning the dialect of Croatian spoken among the Bunjevac Croatians.
This is very much a current topic, Bušić noted, especially if we consider the recent developments in Subotica [the leading city in the Vojvodina region] concerning the status of Standard Croatian, i.e., the political manipulation of the issue of the local Croatian Ikavian dialect and efforts to concoct a Bunjevac pseudo-language and its recognition in the administrative sphere. This poses a clear and present danger and would be abused in efforts to carve a Bunjevac pseudo-nation out of the Croatian national corpus, Bušić added.
Bušić further noted that the issue of the Croatian standard was critical when addressing integration processes, in particular as they reflect on the Croatian cultural identity.
By: Maja Raguž