The Signpost


The Curious Case of Croatian Wikipedia

Contribute  —  
Share this
By GregorB

After more than a decade as a Wikipedia editor, I still feel excited, even proud, when I see Wikipedia being covered by mainstream media. That coverage sometimes seems sparse to me but you might find the coverage of Croatian Wikipedia is not that sparse, and the feeling is definitely not pride.

On 26 March 2018, a Balkan Insight article titled "How Croatian Wikipedia Made a Concentration Camp Disappear" noted that "with its nationalist sentiments, factual mistakes, lack of academic references and omitted facts about World War II history, Croatian Wikipedia is not a reliable source".[1] Days later, Croatian writer and columnist for Jutarnji list daily, Miljenko Jergović, stated that "since quite a long time ago, one could describe Croatian Wikipedia, without being unjust or exaggerating, as an Ustasha Wikipedia",[2][3] and Jurica Pavičić echoed this sentiment, remarking that the "local [i.e. Croatian-language] Wikipedia is an organ of the Neo-Nazis".[4] Finally, in May 2018, a comprehensive article in Novosti titled "Endehapedia" ("NDH-pedia") argued that, under the leadership of right-wing administrators, Croatian Wikipedia has become "a major source of revisionist mythomania". The article accused the administrators of "using shady sources, falsified quotes, fake accounts, and blocking those who try to fix the content".[5]

This is not the first time serious accusations were leveled against Croatian Wikipedia: there was a major controversy over similar issues in 2013. Back then, the Croatian media provided a number of concrete examples of far-right and grossly unencyclopedic content, but probably the best illustration is the entry on anti-fascism. On 27 August 2013, an IP editor inserted a sentence in the article's intro which translated to English as follows:

The modern-day Croatian word "anti-fascism", in the former Yugo-communist meaning, and in the modern meaning of the Croatian new ideological neo-communist groupthink, actually represents several notions: struggle for communism and Marxism, struggle against capitalism, Titoism with Yugo-Bolshevik genocide against the opponents, development genocide of profitable knowledge, culturocide, genetic, spiritual, moral, and creative disorder, curtailment of all basic human freedoms.

Regrettably, we must warn [Croatian students] that a large part of content of Croatian-language Wikipedia is not only dubious, but clearly falsified, so we therefore urge them to use more reliable sources of information, such as Wikipedia editions in English and other major languages.

Željko Jovanović, Croatian Minister of Science, Education and Sports, September 2013[6]

It came with an inline reference to, a far-right website. (Actually, the entire sentence was copied verbatim from there, including typos.) An edit war ensued, in which one editor repeatedly tried to remove the above content, while the other kept inserting it back. The article was soon fully protected by "Z", an admin. However, "Z" left the problematic content in. The editor who proceeded to complain about this in the article's talk received a snide, single-sentence response from "Q", another admin: "Workers of the world, unite!". "Z" continued editing the fully protected article, even correcting a typo in the above-quoted contentious sentence. That sentence stood for weeks, and was rather unceremoniously removed shortly after Jutarnji list published the article that showcased this example, along with a number of others, and thus initiated a nationwide media controversy.[7]

It did get removed in the end, so Wikipedia's values ultimately prevailed? Apparently not. According to Novosti, "Q" happens to be a contributor to, the source for the quote.[5][Note 1] When he was later asked what he thought about the insertion of the "genetic disorder" sentence in the article on anti-fascism, his reply was:

[...] there is no reason to hide the true state of affairs.

The dissenting editor ended up getting indefinitely blocked, and his removal of the above-quoted paragraph was explicitly listed by "K", the blocking admin, as one of the reasons.

Fast forward to 2018 and entries on Josip Broz Tito and Ante Pavelić, which are examples analyzed in the Novosti article.[5] While Broz is described in his article's intro as "communist leader and dictator [...] 13th in the list of greatest criminals of the 20th century", Pavelić is described merely as "leader and founder of the Ustasha movement and poglavnik of the Independent State of Croatia". In the intro on Pavelić, a number of unsuccessful attempts (some of them reverted by "Z") were made to describe him as "fascist" or "war criminal". Meanwhile, in Tito's entry, an editor tried to change "dictator" to "autocrat", with an inline reference provided. For this, he was given a 30-day block by "Q", with the following explanation:

Something can be factually true, but where there is a number of facts, choosing the less important ones and omitting the more important ones tends to lead to wrong conclusions. According to sources, Tito was both an autocrat and a dictator, and stating only the milder qualification is an unacceptable act, an act of vandalism.

In the block log, the reason given was "vandalism". A similar thing happened when an inline-referenced mention of the World War II Glina massacres was added to the "History" section of the entry on Glina. "Q" removed it, then immediately protected the article. The reason he gave was "frequent vandalism" – once again, a blatantly false statement.

Ante Pavelić was, obviously, not a fascist (at least according to Croatian Wikipedia).

"Z"'s on-wiki quotes include:

Ante Pavelić was not a fascist

There is no tangible evidence of mass executions [taking place in the Jasenovac concentration camp]


[Slovenian writer] Roman Leljak announces the publication of documents [...] about the real number of victims in Jasenovac [concentration camp]. According to him, that number is 1,654, natural deaths included. So much for the accusations by the so-called anti-fascists, the Serbian side, and some random historians who want to smear Croatia and hold it hostage with their lies.

When the claim of 1,654 victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp ended up in the article itself, an editor expressed his disagreement with it in "Z"'s talk page. For this, "Z" gave him a 30-day block. His conclusion:

We have an exact list of people in the camp (which is 18,600), and how many of them died (which is 1,654). All other so-called sources are fabrications and lies.

The trouble here is, of course, that Leljak is a self-styled "researcher" with no academic background or recognition, who is widely associated with Holocaust revisionism.[8][9] Reputable modern-day sources put the number of Jasenovac victims at 80 to 100 thousand.[10][11]

One more rather extreme example of right-wing POV is provided by "K", who added the following content into the Croatian Wikipedia entry on Milan Tepić:

[The Presidency of SFRY] did not consider the fact that he caused the deaths of Yugoslav People's Army conscripts, whom he did not ask if they wanted to die, nor did he look into the eyes of parents, friends and family of these conscripts, whose deaths were caused by his terrorist, lunatic act.

All attempts to remove this text have been reverted – some of them by "K" himself – so the above sentence is still present in the article, more than a year later. Again, voicing disagreement with things like these may not be advisable. In one instance, an editor tried to file a formal complaint against two admins, "Z" and "K", but "K" immediately responded to the complaint by deleting it and giving the editor an indefinite block.

The situation right now is an end result of a decade-long process in which a small group of administrators drove out or silenced all dissenters, either by blocks or attrition. Many editors, including some of the dissenting admins, have left Croatian Wikipedia. Those who haven't abandoned Wikipedia altogether are resigned to edit elsewhere, chiefly at Serbo-Croatian Wikipedia. Since there is no opposition left, change has become impossible without outside intervention. It isn't coming from the WMF, though. They know about the issue, but reportedly have no comment.[12] Back in 2013, Jimbo Wales seemed to be interested,[13] but nothing of substance has changed since.

It is necessary to face the reality: just as there is nothing inevitable about democracy,[14] there is nothing inevitable about Wikipedia's values. Is the Croatian Wikipedia "the sum of all human knowledge," or just a digital dictatorship?


  1. ^ After the publication of this article, "Q" has publicly denied any involvement with content.


  1. ^ Milekic, Sven (26 March 2018). "How Croatian Wikipedia Made a Concentration Camp Disappear". Balkan Insight.
  2. ^ Jergović, Miljenko (27 March 2018). "Nazi Wikipedia i Hitlerov napad na Poljsku: kako je moguće da se u hrv. Wikipediji nađe teza da je Hitler Poljsku napao zbog genocida nad Nijemcima" [Nazi Wikipedia and Hitler's attack on Poland: how it is possible for Croatian Wikipedia to claim that Hitler attacked Poland because of genocide against Germans]. Jutarnji list (in Croatian).
  3. ^ Milekic, Sven (29 March 2018). "Croatian Wikipedia Removes 'Polish Genocide of Germans' Claim". Balkan Insight.
  4. ^ Pavičić, Jurica (31 March 2018). "Hrvatska 2018. kao Srbija 1965. Kako je moguće da ta žena plati tu sumu vračari? Još kad sam vidio koga je trebala začarati ta tarot majstorica..." Jutarnji list (in Croatian).
  5. ^ a b c Krnić, Lovro (28 May 2018). "Endehapedia". Novosti (in Croatian).
  6. ^ Tomičić, Tihana (13 September 2013). "Jovanović: Djeco, ne baratajte hrvatskom Wikipedijom jer su sadržaji falsificirani" [Jovanović: kids, do not use Croatian Wikipedia because its content is falsified]. Novi list (in Croatian).
  7. ^ Penić, Goran (10 September 2013). "'NDH nije bila totalitarna, a žrtve u Jasenovcu pobili su partizani': Desničari preuzeli uređivanje hrvatske Wikipedije" ['The Independent State of Croatia was not totalitarian, and Jasenovac victims were killed by the Partisans': Editing of Croatian Wikipedia taken over by right-wingers]. Jutarnji list (in Croatian).
  8. ^ Milekic, Sven (27 September 2018). "Croatian-language Wikipedia: when the extreme right rewrites history". Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso.
  9. ^ Zebić, Enis (21 September 2018). "Hrvatska turneja za negiranje Jasenovca" [Croatian Jasenovac-denial tour]. (in Croatian). Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. According to [Roman Leljak's] media annoucements, he denies that Jasenovac was also a death camp, and reduces the number of victims to several thousand. A book by this denialist and revisionist, which is how reputable scientists call him, will receive promotion in, among other locations, places owned by the Catholic Church [...]
  10. ^ "Jasenovac". The Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  11. ^ "FAQ's". Jasenovac Memorial Site.
  12. ^ Milekic, Sven (23 April 2018). "Wikipedia Ignores Concerns about Croatia Concentration Camp". Balkan Insight.
  13. ^ Wales, Jimbo (30 September 2013). "User talk: Jimbo Wales". English Wikipedia. The things [about the situation in Croatian Wikipedia] that I'm most interested in are allegations of extreme bias and rewriting of history, and of people being blocked for holding opinions different from administrators.
  14. ^ Harari, Yuval Noah (October 2018). "Why Technology Favors Tyranny". The Atlantic.
In this issue
+ Add a comment

Discuss this story

@GreenC: I'm not _entirely_ sure what a "fascist website" is, but it does indeed appear to be the case that the Croatia Wikipedia is being (ab)used by people who harbor sympathies, if not inclinations, towards the country's history of fascism. And that is a situation that should alarm each and every Wikipedian worldwide.
The English Wikipedia is not without very substantial de facto censorship. Since the terms of my topic ban forbid me from explaining myself in full, I will link to this preprint of a best-selling book and risk asking why, for example, we don't have an article on short-term interest rates, a topic in the news virtually every day, and the primary means of controlling the cost of labor for well over two thirds of the world's population. EllenCT (talk) 02:44, 31 August 2019 (UTC)[reply]
For articles on short-term interest rates see:
Or Federal funds rate, in which the words "inflation," "employment," and "unemployment" do not occur in the three paragraph "Explanation of federal funds rate decisions" section or anywhere else in the prose. EllenCT (talk) 07:03, 31 August 2019 (UTC)[reply]
At the same time, the WMF's funding also helps facilitate the production and dissemination of the Signpost, and to maintain the transparency that permits the rest of us to discover, monitor, and attempt to respond to the hr.wikipedia editors' activities. Think how much worse things would be if those editors were in full control of the content of a closed-site encyclopedia, and could operate with impunity without being subjected to our established transparency policies. Not only would they be free to revise history however they pleased, but nobody would even know they were doing it. -- FeRDNYC (talk) 00:59, 31 August 2019 (UTC)[reply]
No argument with your basic point - that the Croatian Wikipedia benefits by having its articles published via the WMF servers. I'd guess that its funding (or the funding to the hr user group or chapter) from the WMF pretty much ends there. I'll check. BTW The Signpost gets the same level of benefits from the WMF. Our budget is $0.00. Smallbones(smalltalk) 03:20, 31 August 2019 (UTC)[reply]
meta:Wikimedija Hrvatska was only "active" from 2009-2011 having had only 1 meeting and was closed down according to its by-laws. So I'd guess that it got very little money via that route. I suppose we'd have to check the individual or small scale grants to get more info, but given the controversy surrounding for a fairly long time, any small grants would likely be really small. Smallbones(smalltalk) 03:40, 31 August 2019 (UTC)[reply]
Depiction of Wikimedia Foundation destroying Wikipedia with the Fram ban, Flow, and Media Viewer instead of the more important task of stopping admin abuse. —pythoncoder (talk | contribs) 19:32, 31 August 2019 (UTC)[reply]
Given that Serbo-Croatian Wikipedia is larger and more active than Croatian Wikipedia, I wouldn't be shocked if non-fascist Croatian editors have just decided to edit there instead. signed, Rosguill talk 17:44, 1 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
Yes, the stuff that happens IRL is indeed depressing, because one cannot do anything about it - but when it happens here, it's more than just depressing, to me it is insulting.
The three admins in question know about this article, but they are not coming here to defend themselves. Apparently, they don't think it's necessary, because they are not in any danger. What's worse, I'm beginning to think they might be right. GregorB (talk) 19:54, 1 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
Here[1] is a link to the discussion at hrwiki. To me, the hrwiki community's response to this Signpost article is further indicative of the problems with hrwiki. Response from the admins in question is first ad hominem, then argument from fallacy, then whataboutism. They really aren't helping their case, but at the same time, the reason they can be so arrogant is that they feel they have nothing to fear. If nothing happens as a result of this Signpost article, we may need to consider proposing closure of Croatian Wikipedia because of how poisoned it is. DraconicDark (talk) 20:55, 1 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
...and, whoever takes a look at that discussion, will find I've already been accused of "serving lies and disinformation", compared with Paris terrorists, been called a "mercenary who has to account to his master for the financing" and a "political commissar", associated with a "maniac who threatens with murder and rape" and, finally, being called "Grigorije", and declared an agent who is a part of a Serbian plot against Croatia. I'm not making any of this up. This really defies belief: one would assume that people who are accused of right-wing extremism would know better than to defend themselves in a way that makes the accusations seem even more plausible. GregorB (talk) 22:20, 1 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
Not to go in too much depth in ex-Yugoslav politics, yes the political situation in the region has definitely deteriorated over this decade. E.g. read Aleksandar Vučić#Controversies for an example of what's happening in Serbia. Not to cast a wrong aspersion, the majority of people in ex-Yugoslavia are preoccupied with geting by in the Great Recession which hasn't ended here, not theorising about WWII-era ideologies and vengeances. Most people in Croatia have no qualms watching Serbian and Bosnian TV and listening to Bosnian and Serbian music and vice versa, and very well see the idiocy and insult in expressing national pride by supporting a Nazi puppet state. The sad part is that though these ultra-nationalists are a small minority everywhere in the Balkans, they're unfortunately a very vocal minority. The recession and the worsening global political climate are allowing the voices promising fairy tale future through such ideologies to gain relevance -- or at least letting each such fringe group garner tacit sympathy through the ethnic FUD created by the other fringe groups (I speculate that a substantial amount of frequent editors on hrwiki are going along with and supporting the current admins for fear of those being replaced by an equally far-side group of another political ideology), not unlike the support for white supremacist and Antifa violence in the US.
Croatian Wikipedia is a small project which has been from early on controlled by a handful of admins representing a fringe group, whose gatekeeping policies have for a long time successfully turned away people who don't participate in their worldview. See for example their article on abortion with a number of graphic images and, to drive the example home, the text: "According to statistics, there were 38,500 intentional abortions in Croatia in 1990, and a little over 5,000 in 2004. The large difference can be attributed to higher education and a more informed public" (original Croatian in comment), while the newspaper article cited goes actually focuses on how due to obstructions by a few doctors women seeking abortions in some parts of Croatia have to travel hundreds of kilometres to find a hospital willing and certified to perform one. Croatia was one of the first European countries to legalise abortion (as part of Yugoslavia), and anti-abortion activism in public discourse is a fringe topic in Croatia that is only touched by far-right activists. For more examples of gatekeeping and fringe activism read my old posting on Jimbo's talk page.
I would say the crux of the problem is that hrwiki is a small community with a small number of admins, who effectively only answer to each other. In such an environment one has to be much more mindful of not stepping on their friends' toes, sacrificing newcomers and dissenters, while there's little to no force guiding the community consensus away from fringe and far-side mentality. Exacerbated here by the political ideological side, this problem is likely a common one in wikis with less than 100-150 admins and influential non-admin editors. I think that would be a good starting point to consider when searching for a solution. DaßWölf 07:05, 2 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]

So is this an issue simple within the articles about politics? Or is this a systemic issue across much of the content? Do people have proposals for improving the situation? Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 14:23, 2 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]

@Doc James: I would say the issue is very much a systemic problem. It's mostly found in articles about history and politics, (which are written from a far-right, Croatian nationalist, anti-Serbian point of view backed by questionable sources), but because any attempts to remove the bias in articles are countered by the admins, and all dissenting editors were forced out a long time ago, it has become ingrained in all levels of Croatian Wikipedia, including in page patrolling and the requests for adminship process. In regards to proposals for improving the situation, I will point you to this discussion on Meta-Wiki, where a proposal to resolve this issue is being discussed. DraconicDark (talk) 15:13, 2 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
The problem is a small insular group. Which is not unique to Wikipedia. Any sort of democratic process typically in the judicial side of things would help. Once the judicial is corrupted so goes everything else, the first thing dictators do is stack the courts with cronies. Perhaps some sort of world-court for Wikipedia with judges elected from other language-wikis, that is able to take cases like this. -- GreenC 15:41, 2 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
@Doc James: I agree with DraconicDark's assessment. Hot spots of grossly unencyclopedic content are largely related to Croatia in World War II, notably including the Holocaust revisionism. There are also strong currents of anti-Serbian and anti-LGBT sentiment. As for the solutions, they will be discussed on Meta (very likely in a new RfC). Judging by the reactions of the article's subjects,[2] these solutions will have to be of highly involuntary nature. GregorB (talk) 16:59, 2 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
How about simply shutting that particular language WP? Its rulers would presumably copy its contents to a new, defiantly independent and ethnically cleansed wiki and roll along, no longer posing a problem anymore for WMF and WP. Jim.henderson (talk) 20:25, 2 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
That's also one of the options discussed on Meta right now. I'd say that would be fair game if all else fails. There are surely less drastic solutions to be tried first. GregorB (talk) 20:33, 2 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]

The truth is that the internal battle over has been lost in 2013 or so. That was the last time a big chunk of the community mobilized to revoke the admin status of these three incriminated admins. And all three votes were lost by a fairly slim majority. The consequences were the medial decimation of, a bunch of ppl left and the project fell in terms of number articles created that and the next year b4 2004 and 2005 (years immediately after was started). And this discussion is also one of the consequences. So, we are in fact debating a battle which is internally already lost. So the only way forward is an intervention or to shut down the project. Guess the only positive thing for the croatian public if it want's to inform itself on their native language is the „luxury“ of having 3 more wikipedias on your native language, so google search levels out things (coz it puts the other 3 wikis on top, behind and, i guess, the impact from the perspective of the public is somewhat limited.

As for the history, as a long term Serbian wiki editor, looking back i can say that the main difference why hasn't gone the road, although it also struggled vehemently with the same issues in the mid and late 00's, is that from the start had a local Wikimedia branch who recruited a core of non-biased admins onto the project, so politics never prevailed. U, ofc, have still POV articles but no1 will stop u editing them acc. to the guidelines. So since the temptation of politics got overcome the project is thriving in terms of popularity in public and new editors. In conclusion, yes, because the Wikimedia Language committee decided early on that u can have 4 wikis on the same language (granting each identity it's own wikipedia (but also delegitimizing in the public's eyes)), hr.wikipedia very much has public legitimacy for it's existence. It's just the ruling cadre that needs to get booted out and the project will very fast be back on track. --Ivan VA (talk) 02:52, 5 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]

Serbian Wikipedia unfortunately has some problems of its own in the political department: e.g. the page on abortion, or the conspiracy theory opening the article on Srebernica massacre. I do agree that srwiki stands a better chance of correcting these on their own than hrwiki due to the extent of gatekeeping on hrwiki. DaßWölf 15:06, 9 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
@Daß Wölf:Tnx fot the input, but, tho, i've never heared so far that the abortion article is somewhat controversial on, unlike Srebrenica. Most of the medical articles are quite good on, @Doc James: is perhaps familiar with it coz he cooperated with two of the quite active editors contributing on that field (Dcirovic and Intermedicibo) in translating stuff. I'll ask some of the two to look that article up. The Srebrenica massacre article is an other can of worms. It is badly written and has got POV, but mainly because there is no serious editor who is eager to get thoroughly, in depth, with the subject. It's somewhat a sysphean venture because the number of references is exorbitant (from the fake ones to the real ones). Unfortunately most editors who go to that article are just interested in the medial sensation and the political hype surrounding it, and not into serious editing. So if u wanna give it a try, u're most welcome. I'm atm tied to writing the article about the Ferhadija mosque, so i won't be on that article any time soon. But the main difference to is that there is no admin abuse. I've some time ago written an article on some ARBiH medal, it almost made it into the good article status/front page. So, u certainly can edit „controversial” articles on, but (as, i guess, on any wikipedia version) u have to know what u are doing. --Ivan VA (talk) 12:48, 12 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
Yes, it seems that the abortion article stands up better on another review. I was mostly concerned because of the concealed pro-life advocation link on top of the External links section and the graphic abortion pictures that are also present in the hrwiki article (I suppose both were translated from an older version of the enwiki article).
Re: Srebrenica, there's unfortunately a common pattern in political articles everywhere that the editors with the most interest and tenacity tend to also have the most WP:INVOLVEMENT, what from political COI, what from promoting fringe political views. I have little interest in editing this kind of articles even on enwiki, but I believe that article should definitely be tagged in some way. In future it would be a good idea to create ARBCOMs not just on hr but in other sh WPs too, or an inter-sh ARBCOM, to deal with the promotion of fringe/conspiracy politics. DaßWölf 12:34, 13 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
Anyhow. Amazingly, on Croatian Wikipedia they have something called "List of irregularities at English Wikipedia", which is a subpage of "Kafić", Croatian version of "Village Pump" I suppose - as a subpage it's obscured from passing-by outside editors' view, and obviously serves as a sort of forum for collecting reports and preparing an organized approach and acting in unison toward articles, edit-wars, disputes, on English Wikipedia. Cheers.--౪ Santa ౪99° 21:22, 18 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
  • @GregorB: sorry to hear that, though the action by "K" reinforces what you said about the Croatian wiki is probably accurate. It is anti-intellectual, reliant on physical brute force (blocks) to eliminate ideas, opinions and people they don't agree with. It violates core Wiki principals of multiple POVs among other things and raises questions if Croatia is a Wikipedia or something else. -- GreenC 18:29, 24 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
  • Thanks. It's worth noting here that - if nothing else - this is as severe and blatant violation of WP:COI (WP:INVOLVED, to be precise) as it gets. This alone would instantly end any enwiki admin's career. GregorB (talk) 20:25, 24 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]

@GregorB:It's disgraceful. Banana republic stuff, really. For others who might read this, he got blocked on an accusation that he conspired with the serbian government against the „croatian (political) cause (?!?)” which, apparently, is a part of. McCarthyism stuff and alike. Insane. I really don't know why WMF doesn't do something against this absurdity. --Ivan VA (talk) 13:43, 30 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]


The Signpost · written by many · served by Sinepost V0.9 · 🄯 CC-BY-SA 4.0