U SPLITU 25. RUJNA 2017. [Bogdan Radica: Life and Times. Proceedings of the international scientific conference held in Split on September 25, 2017.] Edited by Ivan Bošković and Marko Trogrlić. Split: Književni krug, 2019. 296 pp. ISBN 9789531634878.
Journal of Croatian Studies, Vol. 52, 2020, pp. 165. – 173.
This valuable book provides the reader not only with the opportunity of learning about Bogdan Radica’s multifaceted life, political orientation, and intellectual interests, but also of knowing about his voluminous writings. There is no doubt that Radica’s literary legacy reflects the tumultuous times he lived through: the two World Wars, the rise and fall of two totalitarian ideologies and their evil empires, his long decades of life as an émigré, and also, toward the end of his life, yet another war which, happily, turned his dream of an independent and free Croatia into a reality.
Besides a short introduction by the editors, the fifteen contributions to the book can be grouped according to the following scopes of inquiry: Radica’s ideological metamorphosis from a young Yugoslav idealist to a supporter of Croatian national independence; the Mediterranean themes that, among others, include his discourses with and writings on interwar French intellectuals, specifically Charles Maurras, and also Radica’s critical reports on Atatürk’s Republic of Turkey; his activities as a political émigré and relationship with the Croatian diaspora at large; and, finally, his views of and contacts with some intellectuals in Croatia.
In “Bogdan Radica: od jugoslavena do hrvatskog nacionalista” (Bogdan Radica, from a Yugoslav to a Croatian Nationalist), Marin Sopta discusses how Radica, as a young intellectual, followed the pro-Yugoslav political program brought forth by some Croatians about the time of his birth. However, Radica followed the path of most of his pro-Yugoslav predecessors and contemporaries by returning to the Croatian national fold after realizing that for the Serbs Yugoslavism was nothing but a cover-up for greater Serbianism. His final transformation occurred in Washington, DC, where as a Yugoslav diplomat he witnessed the dissemination of enormous anti-Croatian falsehoods by his Serb colleagues. As a result, he put his talents in the service of Tito’s cause, hoping that the new Yugoslav state would be the answer to troublesome international issues in the country. However, he quickly realized that he (as many others) was profoundly mistaken in his early appraisal of Tito.
Zdravko Milišić’s “Godina 1945. iz perspektive Bogdana Radice” (The Year 1945 from the Perspective of Bogdan Radica), discusses Radica’s short stay in Tito’s promised land. After a quick visit to his native Split and Zagreb, followed by a short stay in Belgrade, he realized the true nature of Titoism and its communist regime. Radica did not write about theoretical Marxism but recognized its brutal implementation. As a perceptive reporter, he described communism as a modern form of feudalism, in which half-literate dropouts strived to become new aristocrats. However, the new feudalism was much worse than the medieval one, because it was based on pure materialism and it “had shackled human thought, volition, and emotion.” Furthermore, the new “aristocrats” used a simple with- us-or-against-us logic. If they were not with them, people were treated an enemies who had to be silenced, crushed, or eliminated. Even the famous scientist Dr. Andrija Štampar advised Radica when they met in his apartment in Zagreb to speak sotto voce so that “they” didn’t hear their conversation. It seems that in his initial Titoist enthusiasm, Radica was genuinely surprised by the harshness of the Yugoslav regime, as if he had not been fully cognizant of what had occurred in post-Revolutionary Russia. Realizing what was happening, he got out of the country as quickly as possible and returned to America, where he used his literary talents to unmask Tito and his totalitarian regime, and also joined the Croatian patriotic diaspora in its struggle for Croatian freedom and independence.
The following contributions have a common Mediterranean theme: Vinko Grubišić, “Oko priprave Sredozemnog povratka Bogdana Radice” (On Preparing the Publication of Bogdan Radica’s Mediterranean Return), Irma Kovačić, “Fantazije i razum Sredozemlja: ‘Vječni Split’ Bogdana Radice (Fantasies and the Sense of the Mediterranean: Bogdan Radica’s Eternal Split), Tonko Maroević, “Sredozemlje—hrvatsko pročelje (Uz knjigu Bogdana Radice Sredozemni povratak)” (The Mediterranean as the Façade of Croatia: On Bogdan Radica’s Book The Mediterranean Return), and Ivan Bošković, “Jedan grad—dva portreta, ‘Vječni Split’ Bogdana Radice i ‘Splitski triptih’ Davora Velnića” (One City, Two Portraits: Eternal Split by Bogdan Radica and The Split Triptych by Davor Velnić). Radica was fortunate to receive an excellent primary and secondary education in his native land and then, as a student, reporter, and embassy press attaché, he had the opportunity to live in various Mediterranean countries, where he met a number of leading European intellectuals of the time. Good luck aside, it was due to his talents, inquisitive mind, curiosity, hard work, persistence, and knowledge of several languages (including modern Greek) that he was able to achieve high intellectual standards and great accomplishments.
The authors who deal with Radica’s Mediterranean themes give an excellent survey of his interviews of and writings on well-known personalities, such as Kostis Palamas, Konstantinos Kavafis, Kostas Ouranis, and Eleftherios Venizelos in Greece; Miguel de Unamuno, Eugenio d’Ors y Rovira, and José Ortega y Gasset in Spain; Giovanni Papini, Benedetto Croce, Gaetano Mosca, Guglielmo Ferrero (Radica’s father- in-law), and Gabriele D’Annunzio in Italy; Charles Maurras in France, and many others. Radica’s primary focus of interest in the Mediterranean world is not its geographic fragmentation, diversity, political, or socio- economic history, but its Greco-Roman-Christian intellectual heritage, a cradle of Western Civilization that cherishes human dignity, rationalism, individualism, and republicanism, as well as a Christian view of life. When he moved to America, he continued to be Mediterranean-centered, or one might say he saw his new country as a worthy recipient and defender of the ideals deeply rooted in the Mediterranean basin. His temperamental native city of Split is close to his heart, as are the Adriatic coast and Croatian culture as a whole, which amply share in the Mediterranean intellectual heritage Radica cherished so dearly.
Two more contributions in the book deal with Radica’s Mediterranean reflections. The first is a critical essay by Edi Miloš and Charlotte Nicollet, “Bogdan Radica i Charles Maurras,” which offers an excellent overview of Radica’s attraction to Paris as the quintessence of Western (Greco-Roman- Christian) values, specifically drawn from his dealings with Charles Maurras, the French writer, poet, critic, and leader of the monarchist political movement Action française. Radica is drawn to Parisian and other Mediterranean intellectuals out of a desire to find meaningful answers to the troubles facing the agonizing Europe in the 1930s. The second, Anđelko Vlašić’s “Bogdan Radica i Republika Turska između dva svjetska rata” (Bogdan Radica and the Republic of Turkey Between the Two World Wars), presents an analysis of Radica’s reports written during his visits to Turkey in 1930. While other reporters were singing the praises of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his revolutionary modernization, Radica remained a skeptic because he saw that such a sociopolitical and even civilizational transformation was too radical, superficial, and unacceptable to most Turkish citizens. Recent events in the country have shown that Radica’s observations were accurate.
Five presentations published in this book focus not only on Bogdan Radica’s activities as a political emigrant and his relationship with fellow compatriots, but also shed light on the wider history of Croatian émigré activism. Two articles in the book are authored by Wollfy Krašić, a young historian who is establishing himself as a leading expert on the history of Croatian emigration. In the first article, “Nastanak, rad i gašenje prvog Hrvatskog narodnog vijeća” (The Founding, Work, and Dissolution of the First Croatian National Council), he presents a clear, concise survey of the efforts among the Croatian emigrants to create a unified front in the post-World War II struggle for independence. An activist organization, the United American Croatians (UAC) was established in 1946 and in the same year a Croatian Congress was held in Chicago, where about two thousand Croatian patriots gathered, including Vladko Maček, president of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS). There were high expectations that Maček would lead the joint efforts for freedom. However, he was not willing to step up to the occasion out of concern that the multi-factional Congress might not be so acquiescent to his wishes and that it might even overshadow the role of his party. The UAC and some others, however, continued the quest for unity, and as a result, the Croatian National Council (HNV) was formed in 1962. However, the HSS and those who followed Ante Pavelić as their leader boycotted the HNV, both claiming that they alone had the legitimacy to be the voice of the Croatian people. As a protagonist of unity, Radica supported the efforts of the UAC and in the 1970s he was among the leading members of the newly formed Croatian National Council.
Bogdan Radica Nina Radica (Ferrero Lombroso) and Bogdan
Krašić’s second article, “Hrvatska akademija Amerike—pogled iz jugoslavenskog kuta” (The Croatian Academy of America: A View from the Yugoslav Angle), is based on the Yugoslav secret police files that unveil how the notorious UDBA perceived the Croatian Academy of America (CAA), which was founded in New York, in 1953. Although a scholarly, non-partisan institution, the activities of the CAA and its members, including Bogdan Radica, Karlo Mirth, Jere Jareb, Mate Meštrović, and others, were under the surveillance of the Yugoslav communist regime. Their clandestine contacts with some of the opposition intellectuals in Croatia became known to the regime because one well-known intellectual (code-named Forum), who was their guest in New York, was an UDBA agent. He befriended some CAA members, including Radica, and was able to hear their views and ideas with regard to Croatia and its future. The available UDBA documents indicate that the communist regime viewed the academic institution CAA and the democratic cultural journal Hrvatska Revija (Croatian Review) as dangerous, and also responsible for the increase of “counterrevolutionary, separatist, anti-self-management, chauvinist activities among Croatians abroad.” Albert Bing’s “Bogdan Radica i kultura neslaganja (osvrt na djelovanje u Hrvatskoj reviji)” (Bogdan Radica and the Culture of Disagreement: A review of his Activity in Hrvatska revija), explores how Radica, by his deep democratic beliefs, as expressed in many of his writings, especially in the Hrvatska Revija, contributed greatly to an open discussion among different Croatian cultural and political émigré segments. He disagreed with those who advocated for the struggle for Croatia’s statehood by any means, regardless of ideological content. For him the only acceptable kind of state was one that would be genuinely democratic and an expression of the will of its free citizens. Radica cultivated a spirit of tolerance and democracy based on his life experience, active involvement in the Croatian diaspora, and the open dialog he held with those who disagreed with him. Furthermore, he appreciated Vladko Maček’s democratic and humanist spirit, but did not accept Maček’s reasoning that Croatians should wait for a miracle, hoping that somehow a democratic faction among the Serbs would rise and create an opportunity to make a reasonable compromise between the Croats and Serbs in a common state. From his personal experience, Radica had no doubt that for Serbs of all stripes and persuasion a greater Serbia was the ultimate goal, and nothing less.
Stjepan Matković, “Iz emigrantske korespondencije Bogdana Radice: dopisivanje s Antom Smithom Pavelićem i Pavlom Ostovićem,” on Radica’s correspondence with fellow émigrés Ante Smith Pavelić and Pavle D. Ostović, sheds light on Radica’s written communication with two of his friends and former colleagues from the royalist Yugoslav diplomatic service. Smith Pavelić’s father was the head of the delegation that in 1918 surrendered the historic Croatian national statehood to the Karagjorgjević dynasty, which most likely secured a privileged position for the son. At the end of World War II Smith Pavelić, after a short stay in Switzerland, settled in Paris, while Ostović spent some time with Ivan Meštrović in Syracuse, NY, and then settled in Montreal, Canada. Both Smith Pavelić and Ostović remained pro-Yugoslav in their political orientation. The latter, in his book The Truth about Yugoslavia, even concluded that Tito was the only viable alternative for Croatians. Radica’s patriotic activism did not diminish the liberal democratic views he always stood for, while for his two friends (and many others), Yugoslavism was proof to the world that they were broad-minded democrats, not to be accused of narrow- minded nationalism.
In “Bogdan Radica i proljećarska emigracija” (Bogdan Radica and the Post-Croatian–Spring Emigration), Ivo Banac presents an analysis of how Radica viewed the Croatian political emigrants of the 1970s. In December 1971, Tito and his Communist Party lieutenants crushed the liberal prodemocratic reformist movement in Croatia, which resulted in mass imprisonments, purges, and job losses. Thousands of young Croatians fled to the West, including Bruno Bušić, who escaped after serving a two-year prison sentence. Radica was supportive and exuberant about the Croatian national movement and condemned Tito vigorously for his actions, which silenced Croatia for the three next decades.
With a new wave of young emigrants, many of whom were well- educated, Croatian political activism abroad was rejuvenated. However, the new generation brought with it new ideas, views, and approaches regarding the role of Croatians abroad in the struggle for state independence. For them the breakup of Yugoslavia was the primary aim. That “prison of nations” was the main problem for Croatians and other non-Serbs who lived there. The communist ideology was considered secondary and, after all, an international issue. On the other hand, for most of the older emigrant generation who had never lived under Titoism, the issue of communism was as important as Yugoslavism, and for some even more crucial. The clash of the two views was inevitable. Furthermore, the newly arrived younger generation felt that Croatian exiles should not be docile and wait for some miracle to happen, but take action against Yugoslavia and its regime.
At first, Radica was fascinated by the newcomers and their uncompromising patriotism, although they had grown up and had been educated under Communism. The new revolutionary spirit of the newcomers, however, did not fit his democratic values and peaceful political activism. Although critical of their views and actions, Radica continued to communicate openly with the younger émigrés.
Two articles published in this volume deal with Radica’s views and contacts with intellectuals in Croatia. In the first, “Bogdan Radica o Krleži i krležijanstvu” (Bogdan Radica on Krleža and Krležism), Stipe Kljaić points out Radica’s critical views of Miroslav Krleža, the famed Croatian writer. The two men were on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum: one was a Western liberal and an active Croatian patriot, the other a life-long Marxist and Tito’s acolyte. By reminding Krleža that he was a powerful social, political, and cultural critic in the interwar period, who after 1945 put his talents in the service of the Yugo-Communist regime, Radica wanted to entice him to make a bold move and become a dissident, to strip naked Tito’s regime, and to show the world that the Croatian wish for freedom was justified. Krleža, however, preferred to keep his lifestyle of a servant of the communist bourgeoisie rather than becoming a dissident hero. The second article, by Ivan Mužić, “Svjetonazor Bogdana Radice izražen u susretima i korespondenciji s Ivanom Mužićem,” on Radica’s worldview as revealed in his meetings and correspondence with Ivan Mužić, presents a personal account of Mužić’s visits to Radica’s residence in Italy and their written communications. Special emphasis is given to Radica’s positive views and comments on the author’s historiographical writings. Radica greatly appreciated Mužić’s divergence from the official Yugoslav historiography as framed by Yugoslav Communist ideologues. Although Mužić reported his visits to Radica to the “proper” authorities, he was later accused of having contacts with “enemies of the state.”
The book Bogdan Radica, život i vrijeme (Bogdan Radica: Life and Times) is a valuable contribution to our understanding not only of Bogdan Radica but also of the history of Croatian émigrés, and the turbulent twentieth century in which he lived. Some points, however, should be clarified for the sake of those who did not know Bogdan Radica in person. Namely, all the authors in the book correctly emphasize Radica’s adherence to liberalism. But his liberalism was not the liberalism of the twenty-first century, anxious to deconstruct its own European heritage. Furthermore, Radica kept his religious tradition and his mother’s faith in God’s unlimited love and mercy close to his heart. He did not write about it, but by regularly attending mass at the Croatian parish in New York, with his wife Nina, he practiced his personal faith and adherence to a Christian and Croatian heritage that he cherished dearly. Moreover, Radica was a man of the people. He was one of the few Croatian intellectuals in the diaspora who had living contact with the people and the Croatian community where he lived. He felt he was one of them, and they loved him for it.
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