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"The Triple Myth" is Stella Alexander's seminal 1987 biography of Croatia's World War II-era Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac. A difficult subject, as anyone familiar with Yugoslavia knows, precisely because he has been shrouded in myths for decades, myths that are rooted in the same conflicts that made the fighting of World War II and the 1991-95 wars in Yugoslavia so atrocious. "The Triple Myth" is not pro- or anti- Croat or Serb, but a careful study of a controversial figure. Alexander's Stepinac is neither saint nor monster, but a "brave man, of piety and intelligence but with a blinkered world view". Stepinac's story, and the myths it evoked, have been fundamental to the development of modern Croatia. The book was recommended to this reader by both Croat and Jewish scholars in Zagreb as the most balanced examination of his life.
The "triple myth" of the title conveys the fact that Stepinac was manipulated to a variety of ends. There was the communist myth (that he was a separatist Croat who sought to undermine Tito with allegiance to the Vatican and fascism), the Serb myth (that he was responsible for the slaughter and expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Serbs), and the Croat myth (that he was a saint who championed Croatian independence and saved thousands from death at the hands of the fascists). Like all effective myths, these are blends of fact, fiction, and propaganda. They appeal to those predisposed to believe them and have metastisized into "facts" for those who still fight these battles. Thus the myths, and the prejudices that underlie them, continue to wield tremendous power. Stepinac was born to a prosperous farming family in 1898 and was once engaged, but his fiancee called it off due to his excessive piety.Read more ›
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