Nationalism Under the Guise of Patriotism?

Nationalism Under the Guise of Patriotism?


By Medina Malagić – Sarajevo

B&H media today picked up on what was labelled as inappropriate and provocative remarks by the Press Officer of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment of the FB&H Mija Martina Barbarić.

‘’Za dom spremni!!!’ (For the homeland, ready) were the words written on her Facebook profile directed to Željko Jovanović, the Minister of Science, Education and Sport of Croatia. Minister Jovanović condemned the words of Croatian Josip Šimunić, who at the end of last night’s World Cup Playoff match with Iceland took to the microphone and chanted the words ‘Za dom’ several times (for the homeland), to which fans responded with a ‘Spremni’ (ready). Šimunić has been fined and faces suspension by FIFA.

Responding to Minister Jovanović’s disapproval of Šimunić’s chants, Barbarić added  on her Facebook profile ‘fine me too if you dare’, declaring that these words are innocuous and express the love and pride towards the homeland.

Barbarić, who comes from B&H, represented B&H at the Eurovision Song Contest 2004 and now holds a governmental position at the level of FB&H, uttered the words that was the official salute of the Ustaša, a fascist movement in Croatia during WWII that collaborated with the Nazi Regime and was responsible for mass murder and concentration camps.

What Barbarić and Šimunić have in common is that they do not associate this chant with nationalism and hatred, or at least this is what they publicly declare. Is this the manifestation of nationalism but under the guise of patriotism by people like Barbarić, Šimunić and company, or is it simply a misguided way of publicly displaying patriotic pride by people who have chosen to appropriate fascist slogans and symbols from the past?

Dinamo Zagreb football club issued a statement on its official website, in which Šimunić states that ”the thought that anyone could associate me with any form of hatred or violence terrifies me”, and that his statement was ”….driven solely by my love toward my people and my country, and not by hatred and destruction”.

During the conflict in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990’s, such fascist slogans and symbols were resurrected and enjoys its prevalence to this day. What is considered a normal display of patriotism and love for one’s country in countries of the former Yugoslavia is seen by others as a blatant display of fascism. Barbarić used the backlash to the same remarks by Šimunić to indicate the vulnerable position of Croats in B&H and the attitude about Croats. What her and Šimunić’s remarks actually reveal is the blurring of the line between what defines patriotism and nationalism, or rather the way in which patriotism continues to be shaped in this region since the end of the conflicts during the 1990’s. It shows the continuation of the nationalist slogans used in the past, but this time there is an attempt to gloss over the brutal past symbolized through such slogans as a way to rearrange meaning.