Raising Awareness of the Majority-Minority Relationship

Minorities are directly dependent on their country of origin and the relationships of the countries of origin of these minorities with Croatia, and vice versa, illustrate Croatia's relationship with minorities and with Croatians as minorities in other countries.

The interview led by chief editor Jasminka Dulić with CHF director Mijo Marić was published in the September 22 Issue No. 753 print edition of Vojvodina weekly Hrvatska riječ (The Croatian Word). The article is available online at: www.hrvatskarijec.rs

"Almost everything in this world is conceived with the needs of the majority in mind, and to be in the minority – to some degree – is to be a marked person. This is why it is critical above all that we raise awareness of the nature of the majority-minority relationship," says Mijo Marič, the newly appointed director of the Croatian Heritage Foundation. A psychologist, pedagogue and psychotherapist by training, he is certainly well aware of the processes and significance of the formation of national identity and of the mechanisms and processes that form the backdrop of the relationship between majorities and minorities, which have in these parts often been conflictual. These relationships continue to possess conflictual potential, as is evidenced in almost every crisis situation between the domicile country and the country of origin. "Whenever states make these relationships conflictual it is the minorities that suffer," says Marić, "In fact we project the country of origin, with which we are in conflict, onto the minority originating from this country. Politicians should be mindful of their behaviour in these mutual relationships, at least for the sake of the minorities. This is why it is critical that politicians demonstrate maturity, earnestness, understanding and tolerance." The Croatian Heritage Foundation, together with other institutions, continues to hold to its mission of preserving our national and cultural heritage and of preserving the mother tongue and customs of Croatians living abroad.

You assumed the directorship of the Croatian Heritage Foundation on the 18th of July of this year. What will constitute the essence of your programme and work plan? Do you plan to introduce any changes in the work of the CHF?
The Croatian Heritage Foundation has been active for 66 years and in those years of hands-on work and experience it has certainly created very functional content that lives and will live on. We need to stay abreast of the flow of trends, the processes as they unfold, and adapt to them. Along with the customary culture, research and sports content that are a standard component of our programme, we will work to create new ideas, strategies and projects that will attract our emigrants. That we create some great emigrant movement is not to be expected, but I believe profoundly that the nub of the matter is in systematic and persistent activity and in small but constant steps forward. We cannot compete with the great industrial powers on the labour market, but we can take advantage of the time people spend here and the economic potential that is present, as well as the pronounced love of our homeland. This has to be a story shared by those of us here and our emigrants. We need to assure them that Croatia is equally ours and that we can only succeed if we work together.

It is interesting that the CHF mission statement page on the CHF Internet portal has stood empty (under construction) for some time. Does this mean that there are to be changes in the CHF mission statement?
You have quite rightly noticed this. The CHF Internet portal offers a real chronicle of the formation of the Croatian Heritage Foundation mission in the digital era and our systematic adaptations in the use of information and communication technologies in its realisation. Over the past quarter century the CHF has stepped into the digital era, launching its interactive Web portal – with a readership reaching an average of fifty thousand views every month, the HiT-1 Croatian language Internet e-course, and the HrID online classroom for Croatian language study abroad. By searches for the term "učimo" ("we're learning") we see that the site is among the top Google search results. Notable in the CHF's digital repository is the e-version of the Matica monthly magazine, the Croatian Emigrant Almanac and, as of recently, the online Croatian Emigrant and Minority Lexicon, which appeared as the crown of our insight into the phenomenon of the half millennium of Croatian migration. To be perfectly clear – this is currently a technical matter, and our core mission remains to preserve our national and cultural identity and to preserve the mother tongue and customs of Croatians living abroad, including with the application of new technologies.

Estimates put the number of people of Croatian extraction living abroad, in some fifty countries around the world, at 3.5 million. It is often said that this is a great store of potential for Croatia, but that we fail to make the best of it to the benefit of both our emigrant communities and of the country of origin. Do you plan to make some changes in the CHF's policy and programmes with regard to the emigrant communities?
Along with the good practices that have been applied for the past 66 years we will work to adapt to the time in which we live by way of current content, to encourage the state towards a better, more realistic set of standards, to encourage politicians to create the best possible climate, and then business people, domestic and emigrant, will find their interest in investing and in creating a better life for themselves and for us all. The best promoters of returning to the homeland are successful returnees.

Do you plan to perhaps change (improve) the policies and programmes targeted to the indigenous Croatian minority communities in neighbouring countries?
Foreign policy, and thereby policy aimed at the Croatian minority communities in neighbouring countries, falls under the purview of our Government and the Croatian President and, in my humble opinion, they have given the issue great importance. In the frame of this policy and legislation we at the Croatian Heritage Foundation make our contribution through cultural, research, sports and social events and in maintaining and strengthening links with the Croatian minority communities in neighbouring countries.

The State Office for Croats Abroad also looks after the interests of Croatians living outside the homeland. In what aspects do you collaborate and what mission elements are specific to your institution and to the State Office?
The State Office for Croats Abroad is the central authority of the national administration competent in the area of relations between the Republic of Croatia and Croatians living abroad. The Croatian Heritage Foundation operates in accordance with the Croatian Heritage Foundation Act and our Statutes and works closely with the State Office for Croats Abroad. We have shared objectives and, of course, elements in which there is an overlap. The CHF has its own programmes, which it successfully carries out within its organisational units (the departments for culture, for Croatian minority communities, for education, science and sports, for publishing, for emigrant information and so forth), while the State Office in Zagreb provides significant funding for programmes and project for Croatians abroad. We work together on some projects and complement each other's work.

You are a psychologist, pedagogue and psychotherapist by training. Can you tell us what, in terms of psychology, it means to be a minority in a country? It is commonly said that minorities are our wealth, multiculturalism is often invoked and so forth, but few speak of the less appealing and less exemplary matters associated with minority status and inter-ethnic relations. How important is, for example, the nurturing of one's own identity and culture (for example in learning in one's mother tongue) for psychological stability or psychological development? How important is it not to be ashamed and not to hide one's own roots and ethnic affiliation?
Almost everything in this world is conceived with the needs of the majority in mind, and to be in the minority – to some degree – is to be a marked person. This is why it is critical above all that we raise awareness of the nature of the majority-minority relationship. The relationship is processual and there is no "outcome" in this relationship. Its present is predicated by reality, and is a reflection of the past, and the future is predicated on the objective evaluation of the present and the mutual desires and objectives of the majority and minority. What is contained within my national affiliation is my national identity and constitutes a part of my personality. This necessity of a personality is a primary human need. It is the "I"! Along with all the elements I share with the majority I also possess this element of my own, which differs from the majority. Personality is our feelings, needs, opinions, interests, limits and it is good that we express them. In the psychological sense the inability to express personality and identity is frustration. This is why it is important that the majority allows the minority to express its personality, in order that it not develop frustration, as this is the basis for conflict. A failure to resolve conflict creates neuralgic points that will, sooner or later, morph into a dispute. Croatian standards, and the standards of the European Union, oblige us and create a very good groundwork for the actualisation of minorities, and it is up to the majority to achieve this in practice. Minorities are directly dependent on their country of origin and the relationships of the countries of origin of these minorities with Croatia, and vice versa, illustrate Croatia's relationship with minorities and with Croatians as minorities in other countries. Whenever states make these relationships conflictual it is the minorities that suffer. In fact we project the country of origin, with which we are in conflict, onto the minority originating from this country. Politicians should be mindful of their behaviour in these mutual relationships, at least for the sake of the minorities. This is why it is critical that politicians demonstrate maturity, earnestness, understanding and tolerance.

You are the president of the Prsten Association of Bosnian Croats. Judging by the organisation's Internet site one sees that this is a very well organised and successful association that looks to the very concrete needs of Bosnian Croatians, such as the Foundation for pupils and students, its club of entrepreneurs, and its club of researchers. The organisation recently hosted a business forum in Zagreb. Can you tell our readers something more about the work of this association, in other words on what principles it operates and how it is organised? Is there a good work recipe for organisations like this that precludes carping and focuses instead on putting positive change in motion?
The association was founded in 2005 and organised as a non-governmental, not for profit and apolitical organisation and is financed by membership fess, sponsors and the donations of good people. Within the Prsten ("Ring") association no one achieves any kind of material perks, while the social content, providing assistance, creativity and creating connections in the business sector are achieved through the Prsten Foundation, the Founders' Club, the Researchers' Club, the Women's Club, the Youth Forum, the Entrepreneurs' Club, the Scholarship Recipients' Club and in the regional community clubs in Croatia and around the world, wherever Croatians live. The organisation pools a membership of some 3,500 people and some 350 legal entities, with local chapters across Croatia. Each of the segments is autonomous in its activity and in working together makes up the whole of Prsten. The organisation is based on the principle of voluntary membership and activity. Prsten is a bridge between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, a bridge between one nation living in two countries. We have donated some twelve million kuna either as humanitarian aid or as investments in projects for the general good. To date we have provided scholarships for some 120 students covering their full higher education and that much again through part of this education.

And the recipe?
Fill a good idea with good content, being mindful of reality, invest a lot of effort, work, tolerance, with due regard for differences, mutual respect and a capacity to resolve conflict without violence.

Biography
Mijo Marić BA, the new Croatian Heritage Foundation director was born in the village of Gornji Vukšić near Brčko in 1954. He earned degrees at Sarajevo's teacher education academy in classroom curriculum and from the University of Sarajevo's Faculty of Philosophy in pedagogy and psychology. He received four years of training in gestalt psychotherapy from the Institut fur Integrative Gestalttherapie in Germany's Wurzburg. He holds a European psychotherapy certificate (ECP) and a European certificate in gestalt therapy (EAGT). He has worked in schools as a pedagogue, school psychologist and principal and in the professional orientation and selection of school staff. He worked in city hall as the head of the analytics study department. He served as an advisor to the director of the University of Zagreb Student Centre. He served for many years as the director of the Prsten Foundation of the Croatians of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which provides scholarships to pupils and students, and has served for the past three years as president of the Prsten Association of Bosnian Croats.