Franjo Tudjman, a Communist general who became modern Croatia's founder and first president, was buried at the national cemetery here today in a solemn celebration of his role in helping the country attain independence and ethnic unity.
A crowd estimated at more than 100,000 lined the capital's rain-slick streets to watch the funeral cortege pass from the presidential palace to Mirogoj cemetery, where numerous Croatian officials and a thin diplomatic corps waited silently for hours. The United States, as well as most European governments, were represented only by their ambassadors or lower-ranking government officials to signal their disapproval of Tudjman's human rights policies, particularly his treatment of minority Serbs, and his efforts to annex parts of neighboring Bosnia that have ethnic Croat majorities.
Tudjman, 77, died Friday following a lengthy bout with cancer, ushering Croatia into a period of political transition. Parliamentary elections are to be held Jan. 3, and the election of a new president must now take place within 60 days.
Three days of national mourning drew to a close this evening, and the parliamentary campaign is slated to begin officially on Tuesday morning. But Tudjman's ruling Croatian Democratic Union already has tried to capitalize on patriotic sentiment associated with the president's death by plastering the capital with large placards depicting a smiling Tudjman holding a baby and emblazoned with the slogan, "Everything for Croatia."
Ivan Aralica, a writer who was close to Tudjman, delivered a speech at the grave site that was resonant with national pride and other themes the ruling party is expected to repeat in its fight to retain control of parliament. He said Tudjman had established that small nations should be treated as the equal of larger ones and had proven that a balance must be struck between international integration and national identity.
These words seemed designed to soothe an audience aware that Tudjman's authoritarian style of rule and nationalist policies had kept Croatia from becoming a candidate for membership in any major European institution, including the European Union and NATO, and had caused it to be shunned by many foreign governments. Aralica insisted in his remarks that Tudjman had respected political pluralism and human rights.
Vlatko Pavletic--the parliament speaker named interim president when Tudjman became incapacitated in the weeks before his death--similarly depicted Tudjman's achievement of leading Croatia's violent separation from the Yugoslav federation earlier this decade as a triumphant reward for a small nation with a leader who refused to buckle to pressure from stronger forces.
Pavletic, a senior figure in the Croatian Democratic Union, highlighted Tudjman's role in uniting the two Croatian factions that emerged during World War II--those sympathetic to Nazi Germany and those allied with the Communist Partisans led by Tito. He said Tudjman had accomplished this partly by "doing away with false Croatian history" on the numbers of Jewish and Serbian victims of Croatia's World War II Nazi-installed regime.
Many of those in the crowd of mourners described their deep respect for Tudjman but also noted his government's mixed record of political and economic accomplishments. Marin Mrcela, 60, a retired electrical worker, noted that "certain people got rich while our sons were dying" in the warfare in Croatia and Bosnia between 1991 and 1995 that followed the breakup of the Communist-led Yugoslav federation. He said that after the fighting, some of these people had sneaked into the government and "used it for their advantage."
Some members of Tudjman's party said they were at the cemetery not so much because of his achievements in government but because of his role in Croatian history. "I came here to see the burial of the man who made the dream of my ancestors come true . . . a man beyond the policies of his party," said Silvija Milosevic, 30.
In a hallmark of the sort of elaborately choreographed pageantry that Tudjman loved, six fighter jets buzzed the cemetery as sirens blared throughout the city and a choir sang the national anthem. Then a tenor serenaded the assembled throng with an aria from an opera by Nikola Subic Zrinski that celebrated the life of a Croatian patriot who was beheaded for rebelling against the authority of the Ottoman Empire.
Few tears were in evidence in the crowd as generals wearing long gray coats studded with gold braid bore Tudjman's wooden casket past saluting members of the Croatian military's seven professional brigades--including all those that participated in Operation Storm, an August 1995 offensive to drive separatist Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia, and Operation Flash, a May 1995 offensive to recapture Serb-held lands in the western Slavonia region.
CAPTION: Six presidential guards ceremoniously fold the Croatian flag over Tudjman's casket during burial at Mirogoj cemetery.
CAPTION: A young boy lights one of thousands of candles left in Tudjman's memory at a Zagreb square.
CAPTION: Croatian soldiers salute as honor guard member passes carrying a cross bearing Tudjman's name.
CAPTION: Tudjman's son Miroslav watches as his mother weeps into the Croatian flag that had covered her husband's casket.