“Ready for the Homeland” in Croatian media: Commemorations, victory, and foundation
This article analyses the media discourse surrounding the WWII fascist salute Za dom spremni (ZDS) in the aftermath of two national commemorations that took place in Croatia in spring 2020: Jasenovac and Operation Flash (Bljesak). In spring 2020 Zoran Milanović, the newly elected President of Croatia, adamantly criticized the presence of the salute, associated with the collaborationist Ustaša regime, at the two commemorations, calling for its removal and ban. This led to heated reactions from war veterans and politicians who considered Milanović’s actions unacceptable and offensive towards the memory and legacy of the 1990s war, which triggered a wider debate regarding Croatia’s post-war national identity. The object of the analysis is the discourse surrounding the salute as it emerges in opinion pieces published in weekly and daily newspapers in April, May, and June 2020. With the salute becoming an increasingly prominent part of negotiating national identity and tailoring political agendas, investigating how it is justified, disapproved or otherwise challenged in the media is an aspect that deserves more attention. Relying on insights from discourse studies, the article sheds light on various statements that (de)legitimize the salute and consequently particular actors and actions associated with it. With the help of semiotics of culture wider signification tendencies and dominant discourse(s) upon which the national selfdescription has been built are identified. The article contributes to scholarship on hate speech and contested symbols in the post-Yugoslav space and their (mis)uses in societies struggling with traumatic legacies.