Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dobrodošli u EU, Hrvatska

It means Welcome to the EU, Croatia, just to be sure

In two days, Croatia will become the 28th member state of the European Union. I think it is positive news for Europe and Croatia's parameters justify its membership because they don't differ too much from those of Slovenia, so far the only post-Yugoslav EU member state.

Vinetou and Old Shatterhand, two most famous Americans, on a lake in the Plitvice Lake Region, Croatia

The European Parliament has already welcomed Croatia as well: by creating a Facebook web page with a huge coat-of-arms of the puppet fascist state of Croatia during the World War II. ;-) Nice. This shows how much understanding the EU has for its citizens and nations.

Croatia has been a part of Yugoslavia (with one name or another) between 1918 and the early 1990s when the federal state violently decayed. Before that, it belonged to the Roman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and other empires. Whenever I had to think about their wars against the Serbs, I just couldn't fully understand the tension as they speak the same language, really.

Now I learned that it's not just the religion – Croatia is mostly Roman Catholic. Their ethnic (I really mean biological, genetic) origin may actually be Iranian, not Slavic (Serbs are surely Slavs) and it can make some difference. If you think about the contemporary Iran, you may find it genuinely ironic when you realize that the more Iranian part of the Yugoslav nation is the most Roman Catholic one, the most Western one, in a sense.

Croatia is a top tourist destination for us. Almost every Czech has been vacationing there at least once. I have been there about 4 times. The Croatian economy is based on services, including tourism. The GDP per capita is $18,000 or so, about 3/4 of the Czech figure. Their current president and prime minister are left-wing. The economy isn't doing too well, with the unemployment near 20%, about 2% annual GDP drop, and so on (I would probably blame many things on their excessively high salaries), but these are temporary details. I am confident that in the medium and long run, it is pretty much a healthy economy.

Their currency is one kuna, which means "marten" (both in Croatian and Czech), because in the Middle Ages, marten pelts were used as banknotes. One euro is about 7.5 kunas. So kuna is still over 3 korunas which isn't too tiny and it means that they still actively use the fractions. 1/100 of a kuna is called a lipa (in Czech: lípa; it's actually our national tree) which means a linden lime tree.

I think that the Croats are friendly. Financially, they probably prefer German tourists who spend somewhat more money than the Czechs but the times when a Czech tourist would be assumed to be a nomad who eats his own sandwich in the middle of a road and spends nothing belong to the past. The Czech and Croato-Serbian languages sound familiar to one another, they use similar roots. However, sometimes the similarity is deceiving. The meanings of similar words may be slightly different as well as completely different.

For example, "plivat" means "to spit" in Czech but "to swim" in Croatian (to swim in Czech is "plavat"). Also, perhaps more seriously, "cura" [tsura] is a girl, a babe, a neutral or positive word for a young woman in the Croatian language. The closely related word "coura" means a "slut" in Czech. The Czech tourists and their Croatian hosts are usually aware of these basic traps and they make fun out of them. If you think about the diversification of the meaning of the word "c[o]ura" that had to occur in the past, it probably means that there had to be a moment in one of the two countries' history when it was either normal for a young girl to be a slut or when being a slut was viewed as a positive thing by the society (at least the part of the society that had power over the mutation of the meaning of similar key words). Otherwise the meaning of the world couldn't have drifted in this way. Do you agree? ;-)

Czechia's T-Mobile, a telephone service operator, produced about a dozen of TV commercials in the most recent year that play games with various Croatian words known to Czechs. For example, there's a town (and/or name) Zadar in Croatia that sounds like "zadara", a Czech word meaning "for free". So a group of ski jumpers wants to "call Zadara" (call Mr Zadar or call for free) and they do lots of crazy things. The Yugoslav languages sound a bit funny to us. The more Southern related languages may sound more funny to the people in the North – something that the Poles who find the Czech language immensely entertaining know very well. I don't claim that Polish doesn't sound funny to us but there's some sense in which more Southern languages sound more similar to a child speak.

The Croatian landscape is pretty. Croatia controls most of the Adriatic Sea's coastline that belonged to Yugoslavia. There are the Plitvice lakes and other cool things, too. Last night, they were airing the last "Vinetou and Old Shatterhard" movie from the series shot by Germany and others in 1968 or so. Some of the picturesque scenes claiming to be North America (including the image at the top) were shot in the Plitvice Lake Region of Croatia. The movies are based on novels about native Americans written by Karl May, a German author. As kids, we would probably name Vinetou (an Apache) and Old Shatterhand (his pale-skinned "brother") to be the two most famous Americans. I have always been amazed that almost no one knew these two guys in the U.S.! ;-)

The EU membership may tame some problems of Croatia that result from their location in the Balkans and from the hot temperament associated with the nations that live there. On the other hand, the increase of diversity and common sense that Croatia (and its 4.3 million citizens) brings may dilute some ultracentralization, Soviet-like tendencies in the EU and countries like mine may be gaining a new natural ally in various questions that matter. Slovenia hasn't really played this role because this nation seems to be obsessed with the right behavior that the EU overlords will like (I mean that the Slovenes have been a bit like swots). I am sure that the Croats are less opportunist and submissive.

Dobrodošli u EU, Hrvatska.

Croatia is great but there can only be one country that wins the most important discipline. Czechia has safely won the Bloomberg tournament searching for the most vice-prone nation in the world. With 64.5 points, it was well ahead of Slovenia at 58.8 and others such as Australia, Armenia, Bulgaria, and Spain. The subdisciplines were alcohol, drug use, cigarette consumption, and losses in gambling over GDP. Too bad that other disciplines such as the divorce rate, out-of-wedlock births, the working womanhours of prostitutes per capita, and so on weren't included because our hegemony would be even more striking. ;-)

More seriously, I am surely not a typical representative of my nation in those things but I do view this high score as correlated with the atheism and the "true freedom" that exists in Czechia. Whether you find it a blasphemy or not, smoking, drinking, sniffing, and gambling are usually not lethal and they even increase the sense that "life is worth living" for those who do such things. I think that in most countries beneath us, such ideas are taboo.

On the opposite side of the table, you find Zambia. Would you prefer to live in Czechia or Zambia? Paradoxically enough, the drug-civil-war-stricken Mexico was among the 5 least vice-prone countries, too.


  1. Croatia will also bring continuity in the EU by bringing 300,000 unemployed into the community ;).

  2. Cmon Lumo, cura is related to our "dcera" I guess ;)

  3. So when Miloslav Vlk, the archbishop emeritus of Prague, spends his holidays in Croatia, does he choose Vrh on the island of Krk? Who stole the Czech and Croat vowels, anyway? I suspect the Italians ;)

    Yes, welcome to the EU, dear crustaceans. But don't join the euro and don't hijack any airplanes.

  4. Right, Shannon it's near 20% over there, maybe more than you say.

    But I don't believe that the EU is so close that the unemployed people are shared by the whole EU. They're still being paid and taken care of by the individual nation states, right?

  5. Right, it's kravata in Czech. I actually read it on Wikipedia when I was preparing this text but forgot about this point, thanks for adding.

  6. Right, unless they change country and move to the most unemployed-friendly one ;-)

  7. Hi Lubos,

    on an unrelated topic: perhaps you've already noticed that John Cook has published his paper:

    Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature.
    DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024

    I was actually surprised that the results show a much smaller hysteria among people than I had expected...

  8. They probably have indo european roots. Kore was a young girl in ancient greek ( there are statues called Kore ), and means daughter in modern greek. Kouros was a young man ( there are statues ) in ancient greek.

  9. Dear Petar, I understand that the Serbs have suffered and Croats have been far from saints. But your presentation of the history is lopsided.

    Croats were at most small disciples of the Germans - and even Germans have been forgiven. In fact, they're the most popular large nations among most contemporary polls. Croats have been suppressed in various ways as well. For example,Yugoslavia was arguably controlled by the Serbs.

    Cannot you just draw a thick line behind the history? It's not a good idea to revive all the past wars all the time.

    In particular, I don't think that a person should be "prosecuted in Haag" just by saying than an ethnic problem will be solved when the percentage of a population drops below 3%.

  10. You're welcome, Sašo. I just decided to find when Croats began to use diacritics including letters like Š. It's here

    Gaj's 1835 alphabet was based on Jan Hus' Czech alphabet proposed in Orthographia Bohemica, 1406 or 1412.

    Some other nations using the Latin alphabet clearly need more than 420 years to appreciate how good idea this actually is.

  11. These are so intriguing similarities but in physics speak, Kore-dcera looks like a 1.5-sigma signal to me. ;-) I wouldn't bet much that this theory is actually valid.

    Kouros for a young man actually counts as counter-evidence because dcera/coura are all staunchly feminime, it's really the point of the words.

  12. I meant the roots of the original comment: "cura", and the "coura". That has higher standard deviations.

  13. nevertheless, dear Lubos, it is not easy to bury old feuds, they keep appearing in the newer generations. For example you must know of the enmity between Greece and Turkey over the centuries. You might not know that Greece has been a staunch supporter for Turkey to enter the EU, because it is true what you say that a line has to be drawn at some point and coexistence of neighbors is for the good of both nations.
    But in our news there were two disturbing actions by the present Turkish government: The have started reversing the museum status of old churches which with the Ottoman occupation had become mosques and turning them again into active mosques. The Aghia Sophia is an example where muslim leitourgies have restarted, and another church also of historical interest in another city.

    As an agnostic I worry most about what will happen to the iconography which had been partly destroyed and then covered up with islamic doodles, and since 1922 (the peace treaty year) were slowly revealed in all their glory. Islam forbids images in mosques :(. Of course Greeks, mainly following their orthodox faith will be upset,. All the national reconciliations from watching Turkish serials in our greek TVs (they are cheaper in this economic crisis then making new greek ones) goes down the drain.

  14. Dear Anna, the vitriol in the historical relationships surely matters, but so does the nations' current attitudes.

    Germans of various kinds have ruled the Czech lands and kept us as 2nd class citizens for a big portion of it, especially in 1939-1945 when they also caused death of 300,000 Czechoslovaks, but except for a part of the very old generation, no one hates Germans. In the same way, the mainstream Germans don't hate Czechs although they could also invent reasons, like the expulsion of Germans after the war.

    Russians occupied us in 1968, ending hopes for freedom. Yet, we don't hate them. There are positive relationships and this holds on both sides, too.

    Slovakia was eating lots of subsidies in Czechoslovakia, we turned them from an agricultural underdeveloped province - in Kingdom of Hungary - to a modern industrial country. They were not grateful at all, screaming that they were oppressed, and one may invent all such things. But Czechs obviously find Slovaks the most lovable foreigners, and vice versa. The divorce was a velvet divorce.

    It's also about your desire to build a future that doesn't repeat the vitriol in the past. It's about recognizing that the status quo we inherited is an acceptable approximation to a fair compromise and attempts to "refine" this approximation are bound to create more losses than benefits. This is an observation that must be done not only about the other nation, your former/current foe, but also about your own nation.

    So obviously the argument that we don't want to piss off Germany is an argument, not the final or omnipotent argument, but an argument nevertheless. The same thing holds in the opposite direction, despite the different flavor of the possible negative sentiments. So some Czechs are criticizing other Czechs for pissing off Germans in ways that don't bring anything good at all; and the same holds for Germans criticized by other Germans for pissing off Czechs in ways that are counterproductive for the total.

    If this reasoning isn't widespread in Greece and Turkey at all, it's no surprise that the relationships continue to be bad. You must simply draw a thick line behind the history and even more importantly, try and enjoy the positive - economic etc. - interactions. It's really the mutual economic dependence - mostly but not only trade and investments - that creates the incentives to nurture the relationships.

  15. Plitvice Lakes is one of the most world beautiful places

  16. Lubos, thanks for the nice and informative article about my homeland. Incidentally, the whole Iranian connection has been proven to be genetically bogus - Croatians are, unsurprisingly, a combination of people who have been in the region perhaps 10000 years, and a significant, but not completely predominant, Slavic component. Also, Czech girls on the Croatian coast are well renowned for their beauty :-) Did not know about the cura/cura dichotomy, as personally I unfortunately had no close contact with these beauties :-(

  17. don't know the original roots, but kurva in Croatian is a prostitute....