Hamdija Pozderac

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Hamdija Pozderac
Born (1924-01-15)15 January 1924
Cazin, Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Died 7 April 1988(1988-04-07) (aged 64)
Sarajevo, SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia

Hamdija Pozderac (15 January 1924 — 7 April 1988) was a Bosniak communist politician and the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1971 to 1974. He was a vice president of the former Yugoslavia in late 1980s, and was in line to become the president of Yugoslavia just before he was forced to resign from politics in 1987.[clarification needed]

Pozderac was considered one of the most influential and powerful politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the communist era. His removal from the political scene in late 1980s is today considered one of the most controversial events that preceded the Bosnian War. He was removed due to the Agrokomerc Affair of 1987, which the Yugoslav press compared to the American Watergate scandal.[1]

Biography[edit]

Hamdija Pozderac was born in Cazin in Bosnia and Herzegovina to an established family which exerted strong influence in the westernmost part of the Bosnian region of Bosanska Krajina known for its strong resistance to the Fascist regime during WWII. During the Second World War Pozderac joined the (then illegal) Alliance of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia (SKOJ) and the anti-fascist Partisan movement. He held various military and public posts in Bosanska Krajina region during the war and was ordained with several military and public honors. Following the advent of Communist rule, the Pozderac family affirmed its strong position in the Yugoslav politics with Nurija Pozderac and Hamdija's brother, Hakija, both of whom held high positions in the Yugoslav government during and after WWII. Hamdija Pozderac was a close ally of Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia for 27 years.[citation needed]

Education[edit]

Hamdija Pozderac was highly educated, holding a philosophy degree from the University of Belgrade. He studied in Moscow, published several sociological studies, and was a professor of political science at the University of Sarajevo.

Political activity[edit]

His politics centered on his involvement in the Communist Party of Yugoslavia that he ideologically followed. He held various high positions in the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Yugoslavia in 70s and 80s and exerted considerable influence on the politics of the communist party. He was president of the Federal Constitutional Commission of Yugoslavia which he held for nearly 20 years. His political ascendance began with economic revitalization of Bosanska Krajina region, than impoverished region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Pozderac provided the political backing to Agrokomerc at the time small local food manufacturer which would later become one of the largest food manufacturing corporations in former Yugoslavia. Agrokomerc proved to be the key to the economic prosperity of the region.[citation needed]

While his primary goal was economic reform of then impoverished Bosnia and Herzegovina, which he relatively successfully implemented, he also played an important role in confronting nationalists from Serbia through a series of controversial and risky political moves. The reason he is today considered one of the most important Bosnian politicians is his significant role in constitutional amendments in 1970s which recognized Bosnian Muslims as one of the constituent ethnic groups of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Yugoslavia. Although his political orientation was left of center, and while he continually confronted nationalist politics of ethnic groups in former Yugoslavia, he inevitably contributed to the establishment of the process that led to the emergence of the modern Bosniak nation.[citation needed]

A series of political attacks were reportedly staged against him by the Serbian lobby in BiH who tried to discredit and remove him from the political scene. One attempt was made by Vojislav Šešelj in early 1980s, who has learned that one of the students of Pozderac at the University of Sarajevo, plagiarized portions of his dissertation, but was not punished for by Pozderac. Because the student Brano Miljuš, was a high-ranking individual within the Communist party, controversy ensued but Šešelj's efforts were unsuccessful.[2]

Sarajevo process[edit]

Most controversial process however was the so-called "Sarajevo process" in 1983. The Sarajevo process centered on convicting Alija Izetbegović for having written the Islamic Declaration. Pozderac reaffirmed his political opposition to Serbian nationalism and in particular to the politics of Slobodan Milošević, who was allegedly seeking to revert the constitutional amendments of 1970s that awarded the Muslims the status of a constituent ethnicity. The "Sarajevo process" backfired as the Serbian lobby insisted that Bosnia was a "dark vilayet" where all those who oppose the government will be prosecuted and where Bosnian Muslim communists were prosecuting Muslim believers. Others interpreted the "Sarajevo process" as Pozderac's way of removing political amateurs who could end up disrupting the process of Bosnian independence.[3]

Izetbegović would later supersede Pozderac becoming the president of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1990.[4]

Agrokomerc Affair[edit]

Attacks on Pozderac culminated with the "Agrokomerc Affair" that began in 1987. In the 1980s Agrokomerc, one of the leading food manufacturers, was engulfed in questionable banking deals where the corporation issued numerous high interest promissory notes without the proper financial equity. Such practices were reportedly common within the Yugoslavian system. The difference with Agrokomerc was that the director of the corporation, Fikret Abdić, lost the sense of scale as the corporation issued in excess of $500 million in "worthless" promissory notes. The problem became more acute as the press reported on it as the biggest economic affair in former Yugoslavia triggering the 250% inflation rate in Yugoslavia. Pozderac, who contributed to initial growth of Agrokomerc, was indicted of being aware of financial dealings of the Agrokomerc. However such accusations were never proven. The political blow to Pozderac came from Abdić's statement that he was in possession of audio tapes with conversations that would prove Pozderac's involvement in the scandal. While tapes were never actually presented the political pressure on Pozderac culminated in late 1987 at which point he resigned from the politics.[5]

Abdić would later join Alija Izetbegović in 1990 to form the Party of Democratic Action (Stranka Demokratske Akcije, SDA) and win the popular vote for the Bosnian-Herzegovinian presidency in 1990 democratic elections.

Legacy[edit]

Historical significance of Hamdija Pozderac for the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina is today still debated among historians. He is criticized for his ideological following of the communist doctrines and for setting processes that did not honor certain liberties viewed in the western world as the core democratic principles such as the freedom of speech He was also criticized for being a cog of nepotism and although he did not subscribe to that tactic himself he certainly took advantage of it. As a result he was criticized for contributing to the continued presence of Pozderac family on the political scene in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

One however needs to view these issues from the context within which Pozderac operated. Being part of the communist system Pozderac saw political ascendance possible only within the system. If one adds to this the patriarchic nature of the Balkans, his strong leadership was proven to be the only potent power that could make the difference in Bosnia and Herzegovina of the communist era. He was the follower of the conviction that political, legal, philosophical, religious, literary, artistic and other progress is based on the economic progress. He is credited for implementing processes that led the economic revitalization of Bosnia and Herzegovina that contributed to strengthening of the cultural independence and identity of Bosnia within Yugoslav federation.

Pozderac cannot be viewed as a movement leader but as a patient and principled politician who saw the opportunity for change by working within the system.

His legacy certainly can be credited with contributions to the constitutional recognition of Muslims (historically revived as Bosniaks in 1993) as a constituent people within Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with the already recognised Croats and Serbs, and his persistent position in protecting those rights. He has also continually worked on protection of the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina within the Yugoslav federation and while he did begin some processes for which he would be criticized, many consider that without his involvement in the Yugoslav politics at the time Bosnia may have not had the political nor other potency to pursue the independence in the 1990s.[6]

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