Myth: Croatia's first President, Franjo Tudjman, a former Communist Yugoslav Army general, and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic were late converts from Communism.
Reatity: Dr. Franjo Tudjman resigned his Army commission in 1961. He became a strong advocate of democracy in Croatia and was imprisoned for his views. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic simply changed the name of his party from Communist to Socialist before the 1990 elections and remained a committed communist.
Franjo Tudjman was born on May 14, 1922, in Veliko Trgovisce in the Zagorje province of Croatia. At the age of nineteen, he joined the Partizans and became a decorated war veteran.
Like tens of thousands of Croatians who fought with the Partizans, Tudjman believed that a new federated Yugoslavia would guarantee the rights of the Croatian nation which had been trampled in Royalist Yugoslavia. The Nazis put a price on Tudjman's head and killed his brother in 1943. Both of his parents were killed by the Communists in 1946.
After the War, Tudjman was sent to the advanced military academy in Belgrade. His exceptional abilities led to his appointment as the youngest general in Yugoslavia. After twenty years of service, he left the army with the rank of major general in 1961 at age thirty-eight.
From 1961 through 1967, Tudjman was the Director of the Institute for the History of the Workers' Movement in Croatia, linked to the Central Committee of the League of Communists. He was a respected member of the Party and held a number of senior political positions.
As director of the Institute, he devoted himself entirely to scholarly work and was appointed professor of History at the University of Zagreb in 1963. He obtained his doctorate two years later, specializing in the history of royalist Yugoslavia from 1918-1941. Although the government would not allow his dissertation to be published, his scholarship was such that he was appointed to the board of the academic and cultural society, Matica Hrvatska. Tudjman published a number of works in the fields of military studies, history, philosophy, and international relations. His 1981 book, Nationalism in Contemporary Europe, foretold the great European upheaval a decade before the tumultuous events of 1991-1995. In 1965, he was elected to Parliament. At forty-three years of age, Franjo Tudjman was one of the most respected men in Yugoslavia: a Partizan hero, retired major general, member of Parliament, Professor of History, Director of the Institute for the History of the Workers' Movement, Editor of the Yugoslav Military Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia of Yugoslavia, and a dozen other powerful positions in the Party, government, and academic community. It was in that year that Secret Police Chief Aleksandar Rankovic began planning for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Liberation War to be observed in 1966.
A part of the celebrations included the dedication of a monument to the "700,000 to 900,000" people who died at the Jasenovac concentration camp. Tudjman, whose Institute had collected the actual number of war deaths in a secret report to be used in gaining war reparations from Germany, knew that Rankovic's figures were inflated by at least ten fold. He was told not to make trouble for Rankovic, Tito, or the Party. Tudjman then suggested that the data from his scholarship be made public. In 1969, the data were made public by Bruno Busic, an associate of the Institute. Busic fled to France where he was murdered by the Yugoslav Secret Police in 1978.