Anti-Cyrillic Graffiti depicting the U symbol of the Ustashe
Anti-Cyrillic protests in Croatia were a series of protests in late 2013 against the application of bilingualism in Vukovar, whereby Serbian and the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet were assigned co-official status due to the local minority population. The implementation of this decision became mandatory after the 2011 Croatian census, according to which Serbs in Vukovar comprise more than one-third (34.8%) of Vukovar's total population. Signs in the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet had been put up as the Constitutional Act on the Rights of National Minorities mandates bilingual signs in any area where more than one-third of the population belongs to an ethnic minority. This decision became subject of intense agitation by, among others, Croatian war veterans and many ordinary citizens who believe that due to events, particularly the Battle of Vukovar, the city should have been excluded from the application of the law on minority rights, although protests and vandalism have occurred in other towns and cities (i.e. Split, Dubrovnik, etc). The Serbs of Croatia are a minority group that have the narrowest usage of right to bilingualism among all national minorities in Croatia.
The Group called HQs for defense of Croatian Vukovar initiated protest rallies on 2 September, as soon as the placement of the signs written in both the Latin and the Cyrillic scripts began in Vukovar. With protests in Vukovar, in April 2013 there were also organized protests in Zagreb's main square with around 20,000 participants. Parallel protests were held in Tovarnik,Bogdanovci,Lovas, and Nuštar. A number of signs in the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet were torn down, others were smashed with hammers, and protesters clashed with the police, leaving four police officers slightly injured. Some of supporters not directly connected to the protesters organized actions of writing pro-fascistUstaše graffiti on the Orthodox Church of the Holy Annunciation in Dubrovnik and in Zadar.
On 12 August 2014 Constitutional Court of Croatia decided that referendum proposal on the restriction of the use of minority languages in such a way to increase the required proportion of total population to 50%, is unconstitutional. City Council of Vukovar was required to regulate the use of minority language in its statute within a year after court decision.Government of Croatia was required to define legal mechanism for cases when the representative bodies of local self-government does not implement the obligations under the Law regarding minority languages. National authorities competent for implementation of laws on minority languages were instructed not to implement Law in the City of Vukovar by use of coercive measures until Government of Croatia fulfill its obligation.
In April 2015 United Nations Human Rights Committee urged Croatia to ensure the right of minorities to use their language and alphabet. Committee report stated that particularly concerns the use of Serbian Cyrillic in the town of Vukovar and municipalities concerned. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić said that his country welcomes the UN Human Rights Committee's report.
The local civic society The city, that's us too suggested that the dispute could be resolved by putting on the right side of the entrance to local government buildings a sign in Croatian Latin script, and on the left side a sign in the languages and scripts of ethnic minorities living in Vukovar.
Croatian PresidentIvo Josipović joined in the condemnation of the events in Vukovar, saying that an added effort must be invested to prevent violence and tensions. “We have the law which goes toward full respect of the national minorities. All relevant political parties in Croatia took part in passing this law,” Josipovic said.
Former Croatian President Stjepan Mesić claimed the protests in Zagreb were not ... a democratic expression of different opinions, but of intolerance... The appearance of people in military uniforms at such place ... clearly violate state law. If we consider publicly and unambiguously imposed threats that they will by using force prevent implementation of duties that every citizen and every institution is obligatory to do by Constitution, Sunday gathering at main square look like blow to the constitutional and legal order of our country.
Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusić said that Croatians “must and can” obey Croatian laws and said that government must stand firm on the minorities legislation.
Dragan Crnogorac, president of Joint Council of Municipalities, expressed concern and regret over events in Vukovar and rest of Croatia. He said that these events create a negative atmosphere directed towards the Serbian community and the Cyrillic alphabet. In this way, they undermines everything that has been achieved in previous years in building tolerance and cohabitation among Serbs and Croats.
Bojan Glavašević, son of Croatian reporter Siniša Glavašević, killed by Serb paramilitaries after the Battle of Vukovar, said that use of his father's voice at the protest in Zagreb was inappropriate and that the name of his father was being used for political marketing. He said everyone has a right to peaceful protest, but condemned hate speech on the protests.
26 NGOs in Croatia sent a joint letter to Pope Francis, voicing concern about the stance of Croatian Cardinal Josip Bozanić and several bishops who publicly demonstrated their opposition to bilingualism in Vukovar. The NGOs highlighted that the bishops' statements do not contribute to peace and reconciliation, but rather lead to further deepening of conflicts.
The Coalition of Serbian Refugees from Croatia, which represents many Serbs who fled Croatia at the end of the war in 1995, said the protests were another example of violations of minority rights in Croatia.
European Commission spokesperson Dennis Abbott said that European Union has no intention of interfering in the dispute over Cyrillic signs in Vukovar. He reminded the belligerents that respect for cultural diversity and minority rights is enshrined in fundamental documents of EU, but that jurisdiction in these matters are under every member state.
On 21 August 2015 Council of Europe, prompt by Vukovar City Council decision to amend the city statute in such a way as not to provide bilingual signs in Latin and Cyrillic scripts at official town buildings, institutions, squares and streets, stated that this institution strongly regrets the removal of signs in minority languages through vandalism or pursuant to formal decisions aiming at limiting the presence of minority languages in the public and urges all relevant public authorities in all States Parties to fully implement the provisions of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
22 October: Removed bilingual signs from Employment Service buildings in Vukovar.
19 October: Removed bilingual signs from State Administration buildings in Vukovar.
12 October: Removed bilingual sign from Vojnić municipality building.
12 October: Removed bilingual sign from Biskupija municipality building.
11 October: Three bilingual signs destroyed at the Udbina municipality building.
8 October: An unknown offender removed bilingual sign from Prosvjeta building in Zagreb.
7 October: A group of Croatian war veterans removed bilingual signs from three buildings in Vukovar.
23 September: The president of the Coordination of Associations of Croat Returnees sprayed Cyrillic inscription on Pension insurance building in Vukovar.
16 September: An unknown offender removed bilingual sign from Krnjak municipality building.
13 September: Monument for Serb victims from war destroyed in Golubić.
5 September: Local HQs for defense of Croatian Vukovar established in Slunj; around 100 protesters gathered in support of the removal of bilingual plaques in Vukovar. The mayor of Slunj distanced himself from them as unnecessary and serving the political ends of the organizer(s).
^Jakšić, Božidar (8 October 2013). "Knjigocid u Hrvatskoj: Hronika sramnog vremena". www.slobodnaevropa.org. Radio Free Europe. Retrieved 9 May 2018. Dragoceno je svjedočanstvo, koje navodi autor, izjava ministra finansija Republike Hrvatske Borislava Škegra iz 1997. godine da će se sredstvima državnog proračuna finansirati biblioteke da iz knjižnih fondova izbace knjige na srpskom i sličnim jezicima“, objašnjava Jakšić.