A dead dic­ta­tor, his rust­ing boat and a fight for his­tory

Daily Messenger - - International -

RIJEKA: In a Croa­t­ian port sits a boat built to carry ba­nanas from Africa to Italy, that laid mines for Nazi Ger­many and was sunk by Al­lied planes be­fore it was sal­vaged as the per­sonal yacht of a globe-trot­ting com­mu­nist leader.

Josip Broz Tito and the state he led - Yu­goslavia - have long passed into his­tory, and the boat, the Galeb (Seag­ull), was left to rust in a cor­ner of Rijeka’s once mighty docks. Now, with Rijeka ready­ing to be­come Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture in 2020, city au­thor­i­ties have se­cured Euro­pean Union money to re­store the 117-me­tre (384-feet) boat as a mu­seum, just as de­bate in Croa­tia rages over the life and deeds of the man who graced the pink mat­tress in the front port-side cabin. If the Galeb was a sym­bol of Tito’s pres­tige on the world stage – a com­mu­nist leader wel­come in ports West as well as East – its restora­tion is part of Croa­tia’s own tor­tured process of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with its 20th cen­tury his­tory. To con­ser­va­tives in Croa­tia, Tito – who was born in what is to­day Croa­tia to a Croat fa­ther and Slovene mother – was a to­tal­i­tar­ian dic­ta­tor: to look fondly on him means to be nos­tal­gic for a shared fed­eral state that de­nied Croats their own un­til they forged one in a 1991-95 war.

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