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Letters: Croatian perspectives

SARAH HELM'S exorbitant and deleterious concoction, "New Ruritania in search of the West" (20 August), full of cheap jokes at the expense of Croatia, could have been largely ignored had the following insults not required correcting:

a) the description of the 500-year-old checker-board shield on the state flag of Croatia as a "symbol of Ustasha Fascists" and

b) the accusation of racism in the sentence: "For no visitor to Zagreb can fail to notice the most startling difference between Croatia and other West European countries - the uniform shade of white Caucasian skin".

All nations cultivate their own brand of nationalism (from my own experience of 40 years in this country), including those in Western Europe which are evoked as a model of democracy. Yet the West can hardly teach Croatia about democracy which was codified there as early as 1280 (the Statute of Vinodol), in 1460 (the Statute of Poljice) and also in the Programme of the Croatian Peasant Party (1904). The four-year-long Ustasha violence was an exception to the above general rule of Croatian history and was the direct result of the imposition on Croatia of the Yugoslav dictatorship by these very Western European powers.

Croatia was not a colonial power in the business of slave trade and genocide of other indigenous populations - the consequences of which shameful actions are now hypocritically turned into an advantage by bragging about a multiracial society.

Paul Tvrtkovic

London SE3