If there's one thing that riles most Croats, it's when foreigners
lump them in with "the Balkans." They want to be seen as Western and
Now, with the death of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman late
Friday night, they'll get the chance to pursue that course for their
Mr. Tudjman - a prominent figure in the breakup of Yugoslavia and
subsequent violence in Bosnia - will always be remembered by
compatriots as the "father of independent Croatia" and the
nationalist general who liberated Croatian territory from Serbian
"Let us not suppress our sorrow or hold back the tears for the
great man," said Interim President Vlatko Pavletic on Saturday.
Thousands of Croats stood in mile-long lines over the weekend to pay
their last respects. Church bells across the country will toll for
10 minutes today, as three days of public mourning end with a state
Yet, Tudjman's legacy is mixed, and many Croats feel he stayed in
power too long. They blame his authoritarian style and "crony
capitalism" for stunting Croatia's evolution into a market-based
democracy. His actions cost the country crucial Western financial
support and caused a rapid decline in its once-high living
standards. To the chagrin of Western-oriented Croats, Croatia is
near the back of the pack of those striving for European
The leading opposition figure, Ivica Racan of the Social
Democrats, says it's time for a fresh start. "Now, after Tudjman, we
must try to resolve the economic and social crisis, to strengthen
parliamentary democracy, and guarantee human rights and freedom of
the media. Our message is: Croatia must go on," Mr. Racan told
Popular Foreign Minister Mate Granic is seen by analysts as most
likely to win presidential elections, which must be held by Feb. 9.
Croatians also are due to vote for a new parliament on Jan. 3.
Of greater interest to the West is the impact Tudjman's passing
will have on the tenuous peace next door in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Tudjman was one of three leaders who signed the Dayton peace accords
ending the Bosnian conflict in December 1995. The other signators
were Serbian [now Yugoslav] President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian
Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic.
Tudjman routinely flouted the terms of the Dayton accords. He
clearly tolerated, at times even encouraged, the intransigence of
Bosnian Croats who seek to create a mini-state within Bosnia. He
also had been accused of harboring suspected war criminals and
hindering the return of Croatia's ethnic Serb refugees.
"Most any change is for the better," says Patrick Moore, senior
Balkans analyst for Radio Free Europe in Prague. "Croatians realize
they're at a horrible dead end and must get back to European norms.
This means a more open society and, above all, meeting their
obligations to Dayton. …