Croats - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Since the socialist revolution of 1945, no social classes have been officially recognized, but there are distinguishable social strata. The class of large landowners and industrialists was discredited after World War II, making wealth only a minor marker of social class. Instead, occupations associated with education and with access to power (as in the case of the bureaucratic elite) have become a major basis of social stratification. Differences in the Standard of living and in subjective evaluations of status exist Between the agricultural and industrial population, that is, between the rural and urban populations. Since the 1970s the difference has been diminishing because of secondary urbanization of rural settlements, on the one hand, and deteriorating quality of life in the cities, on the other. A trend toward stratification on the basis of wealth has developed, since the sector of private artisans, entrepreneurs, merchants, services, and professions is gaining strength again. Considerable social mobility is secured through the educational system, which is open to everyone. Yet, many social routes are also open through informal personal networks and loyalties, such as those based on familism and localism.

Political Organization. From 1945 to 1991, Croatia was one of six federal republics that made up the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. After the death of Marshall Tito in 1980, it elected a delegate to the board of the "Presidency"—the collective head of the Yugoslavian state—and a number of delegates to the Federal Assembly, the supreme body of government. As a federal state within Yugoslavia, Croatia had its own government, of which the parliament (Sabor) and the president of its executive council were the supreme bodies. A multiparty political system was reestablished in 1990. The nationalist Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won the parliamentary elections that year, taking the majority of seats in the Sabor and having its leader indirectly elected president of Croatia. The new government declared the independence of Croatia in October 1991, amid civil war and aggression from Serbia. Regional and political reform is pending. Croatia is still divided into 115 communes (opčina), each comprising a number of villages and hamlets. Their population varies in size and density. Communes are clustered into 10 municipalities, each with a major urban center. The division reflects historical, cultural, economic, and administrative divisions so that regional identity and loyalty remains strong. A significant portion of rural-urban migration takes place within municipalities, oriented toward Regional urban centers. Each opčina has an assembly and its executive council and president. There are also boards which take care of schools, health services, public roads, and the local economy; offices for tax collection, vital statistics, and urban planning; and courts and police. An opčina center also has secondary schools and religious establishments.

Social Control. Under the former system, a strong mechanism of social control, both institutionalized and ideological, was the League of Communists, which, although formally separate from the state, exerted influence at all levels of social organization. Preceding the elections of 1990, there was a proliferation of alternative movements (ecological movements, initiatives for democratic reform, new women's movements, agitation for human rights, etc.), creating considerable social impact and causing a concomitant weakening of the ideological grip of the league. In 1990, the league was renamed the Socialist party and became oppositional after the elections. A number of other movements were transformed into political parties at the same time. Informally, gossip and personal alliances on the basis of kinship and common local origin remain strong means of social control.

Conflict. Dominant values regarding conflict and warfare are ambivalent, because of the complex history of Croatia: historical border areas (the mountainous zone) emphasize fighting for freedom and undefeatable frontierspeople, while areas of historical feudal states with a tightly controlled Population place more value on passive resistance, mediation, clever avoidance of imposed duties, and outwitting opponents in inconspicuous ways. Under the Yugoslav system, courts were formally independent from the legislative and executive branches of government, but politics had influenced them greatly nevertheless. Courts were organized on five levels: communal, regional, state, federal, and supreme courts. In addition to regular courts, there were mediating agencies of different kinds, for business conflicts (e.g., "Social Defense of Self-Management") or for private matters (e.g., obligatory counseling with a social worker before divorce). Reform of the judicial system is pending.


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