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Ante Pavelić

Bradina, near Konjica, 1889 – Madrid, 1959, lawyer and politician

After leaving high school Pavelić was admitted to the Faculty of Law in Zagreb and graduated in 1914. In 1915 he was awarded a doctorate in Law. From 1918 he was a member of the leadership of the Croatian Rights Party (HSP). In elections for the Zagreb City Council he became a member, and on behalf of the HSP contacted the leader of the Serb radicals, Nikola Pašić, with the aim of weakening the Croatian Republican Peasants’ Party. From 1927 he was the representative of the Croatian Bloc in the National Assembly, where he spoke out against the policies of the day.

After the leaders of the Croatian Peasants’ Party were assassinated in 1928, he joined the representatives’ club of the Peasant-Democrat Coalition. During the latter half of 1928 he rose to prominence, thanks to several articles which appeared in the weekly party newspaper of the Croatian Rights Party, Hrvatsko Pravo. In these articles, he advocated the establishment of an independent Croatian state. He co-operated with members of the Croatian Rights Party Youth Movement, who were trying to set up an organisation called Croatian Home Defence. Although the public activities of this organisation were banned, a newspaper of the same name was published.

When the Royal Dictatorship Decree of 6 January 1929 was published, he was forced to emigrate (to Vienna, Sofia and Italy), where he probably started the Ustasha Croatian Revolutionary Organisation (UHRO) at the end of 1930, with the aim of bringing down the existing order in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and establishing an independent Croatian state, with the help of Italian Fascists. He declared himself leader (Poglavnik) in 1933 and published the principles of the Ustasha movement. He gathered Croatian politicians and economic émigrés, forming them into combat units in military training camps in Italy and Hungary. He participated in the Velebit Uprising of 1932 and in the assassination of King Aleksander Karađorđević in Marseilles, France, in 1934.

After the assassination he was arrested and imprisoned in Torino, from where he was released in the spring of 1936. At the same time, the Ustasha military camps were disbanded and Ustashas interned in a camp on the island of Lipari.

After the signing of an entente between Italy and Yugoslavia (the Ciano-Stojadinović Treaty) in 1937, the Lipari camp was disbanded and Pavelić was interned in Sienna in Italy.

With the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia on 10 April 1941, the Ustashas took over and organised a new government. Pavelić was declared the Poglavnik (he was not legally elected by the people, as was Hitler), appointed his first government and assumed the roles of President (up to September 1943) and Minister of Foreign Affairs himself. In the organisational and political sense, he based his power on the Ustasha Headquarters, while in the military and security sense, the backbone of his power was the Ustasha Surveillance Service and the Ustasha Militia.

He was a signatory to the Treaty of Rome, ceding most of the Croatian coastline and islands to Italy.

He dealt with internal affairs by exercising terror, passed many Nazi-type decrees, outlawing Serbs, Jews and Roma, and persecuted Croatians harshly if they did not agree with his proclaimed policies of racial purity and carrying out genocide.

He remained loyal to Hitler and his policies to the end (in October 1944 he thwarted a putsch attempt by Vokić-Lorković, the aim of which was to separate the Independent State of Croatia from the influence of the Third Reich, and he negotiated with Chetniks and Slovene Fascists on the creation of a joint Anti-Communist bloc).

He fled Zagreb on 6 May 1945 and emigrated to Argentina via Austria and Italy, where he assumed a false name. He continued to gather fellow émigrés and in 1956 founded the Croatian Liberation Movement (HOP).

He survived an assassination attempt in 1957 and fled to Spain, where he died in 1959.


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