The Croatian National Revival Movement (1830–1847) And The Serbs (II)

Part I

The Illyrian  Movement until the creation of political parties (1841)

Certainly, publishing of Lj. Gaj’s Kratka osnova horvatsko-slavenskoga pravopisanja/Die Kleine Kroatische-Slavischen Orthographie in 1830 marked the beginning of the Croatian national revival movement and made Ljudevit Gaj be a leading figure of it. The essential political-national value of the book was that Lj. Gaj proposed the creation of one literal language for all Croats. It was a revolutionary act at that time, which was done, according to Lj. Gaj and other leaders of the movement, for the ultimate political-national purpose, to unify all Croatian population and Croatian lands. At such a way, the Croats and their alleged lands would be united on the language-literal basis that was a crucial precondition for the Croatian political unification in the coming future.[i]

Lj. Gaj and his followers required that the Croatian national language has to be accepted as an official-bureaucratic medium of correspondence in the Triune Kingdom (Dalmatia-Croatia-Slavonia) within the Austrian Empire (former Habsburg Monarchy) instead of the Hungarian, Latin or German. At that time, the official language in Croatia-Slavonia (under the Hungarian administration) was the Latin language. However, at the same time, the Hungarian magnates required that exactly the Hungarian language has to be the only official language in all Croatia-Slavonia, but not the Croatian one as the “Illyrians” wanted.[ii] Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski was the first Croatian politician who openly required (on May 2nd, 1843) that the Croatian language has to become an official one in the Croatian-Slavonian feudal assembly (the Sabor) in Zagreb. Nevertheless, the Hungarian authorities rejected this requirement and at the same time, prohibited the use of the Latin language by the Croatian representatives in the Hungarian feudal parliament (the Dieta), requiring the use of Hungarian as the only official language in the Dieta. The Hungarian Dieta in the same year, even decided that in ten years the only Hungarian language is going to be the official language within the whole territory of the “Lands of the Crown of St. István” (i.e., historical Hungary stretching from the Carpathian Mt. to the Adriatic Sea) including Croatia and Slavonia (these two provinces were parts of Hungary, while Dalmatia has been a part of Austria). This struggle over the language issue in Croatia-Slavonia became the initial bit of fire in Croatia’s society which very soon became politically polarized into two opposite political parties: narodnjaci (supporters of the Croatian national revival movement and Croatia’s independence in relation to Hungary) and mađaroni (pro-Hungarians who required much closer links between Croatia and Hungary, i.e. Croatia’s incorporation into Hungary).

The year 1832 was one of the most important in the whole history of the Croatian national revival movement. Among other things, in this year Ljudevit Gaj asked the Habsburg authorities for the permission to print Croatian national newspaper (hrvatske novine) and wrote in the same year a song “Horvatov sloga zjedinjenje”, which in the following years became, in fact, a Croatian anthem. This anthem became popular under the title that was derived from the very beginning of it: “Još Horvatska ni propala, dok mi živimo.” In the same year, as well, the Croatian assembly (the Sabor) elected Franjo Vlašić for the post of the Governor (the Ban) of Croatia-Slavonia for the period from 1832 to 1840. He chose General Juraj Rukavina Vidovgradski (1777−1849) as the Vice-Captain of Croatia-Slavonia (according to the Croatian historiography – the Kingdom). On this occasion, J. Rukavina gave a speech in the Sabor, but unusually not in the Latin but rather in Croatian-kajkavian language. Here is of the crucial importance the very fact that complete Croatian historiography agrees that it was, in fact, the first speech in the national-Croat language in the Croatian-Slavonian Sabor. However, the speech was in the kajkavian dialect (in fact the language) which Croats shared with the neighbouring Slovenes (Kranjci) but not in štokavian dialect – a language understood by the most prominent and leading international Slavic philologists at that time as exclusively to be the Serbian national language.[iii]

As it was mentioned, Ivan Derkos printed in 1832 one of the most influential books of both the movement and a Croat nationalism – Genij domovine nad svojim sinovima koji spavaju (Genius patriae…), which was the first cultural and national(istic) program of the Illyrian Movement with the final idea to create a single literal language of the Croats, whose literature up to that time was mainly written in čakavian and kajkavian dialects (or languages). Josip Kundek promoted the same idea in his work Rec jezika narodnoga in 1832, where he emphasised the old national glory of the Croats[iv] regardless of the fact that such claim is not very based on relevant historical facts.[v] However, a mature-developed political program of the movement was framed by the work of Count Janko Drašković in the same year of 1832 when he published Disertatia iliti razgovor, darovan gospodi poklisarom zakonskim i buducem zakonotvorcem kraljevinah nasih… However, this manuscript was written in the štokavian dialect, regardless of the fact that J. Drašković was native kajkavian speaker (likewise Ljudevit Gaj too). The work was even printed in the city of Karlovac where kajkavian dialect was spoken, but not štokavian one. The publishing of Disertatia iliti razgovor… exactly in the štokavian dialect, which was and is a national and only spoken language of all Serbs, became a very turning point in the process of developing of the Croat national identity and nationalism with unpredictable consequences on the Croat-Serb relations in the future.

Ljudevit Gaj and his orthographyFor the matter of better understanding the research-issue, it has to be noticed that the so-called (ex) Serbo-Croat language (an official title for the common standardized language of the Serbs and Croats at the time of both former Yugoslavias including and the present-day Bosniaks and Montenegrins) is divided into three basic dialects according to the form of the interrogative pronoun what: kajkavian (what = kaj), čakavian (what = ča), and štokavian (what = što). At the time of the Illyrian Movement, the kajkavian dialect was spoken in the north-western parts of Croatia proper (around Zagreb and Karlovac), the čakavian in the northern coast area and the islands of the eastern Adriatic shore (the Istrian Peninsula, area around Zadar, Rijeka, Split) and the štokavian within the area from the Austrian Military Border/Vojna Krajina (today in Croatia) in the north-west to the Šara Mt. (on the border between Serbia’s autonomous province of Kosovo-Metochia and the Republic of North Macedonia) in the south-east. The štokavian dialect (spoken in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the biggest part of present-day Croatia) is divided into three sub-dialects (the ekavian, ijekavian, ikavian) according to the pronunciation of the original Slavic vowel represented by the letter jat.[vi]

J. Drašković’s manuscript, anyway, became not only an extensive (national, cultural, and political) program of the Illyrian Movement, but at the same time, what is of the crucial importance, and an extensive program of the Croatian people as a nation.[vii] His call for the creation of a Greater Illyria (but in fact of a Greater or united Croatia, composed by Croatia proper, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Austrian Military Border, a Dalmatian city of Rijeka/Fiume, Dalmatia, Srem, Slavonia, Montenegro, and Slovenia) on the basis of alleged Croatian state’s rights (iura municipalia) became an official program of the Illyrian Movement. Simultaneously, J. Drašković supported I. Derkos’ idea of creation of the common literal language for all Croats, but differently from I. Derkos, Count J. Drašković proposed only the štokavian dialect (spoken at that time by all Serbs and an only minority of Croats)[viii] as the standardized language of the Croatian literature. This language he called as the Illyrian and accepted at the same time the so-called “Illyrian theory” upon “Croatian” (in fact, the South Slavic) ethno-linguistic origin according to the old “Croatian” (in fact, the South Slavic) tradition especially from Dalmatia.

A fact is that the Dalmatian and particularly the Ragusian (Dubrovnik) humanists in the 16th century accepted the old domestic Slavic thought and tradition that all Slavs (the Western, Eastern and Southern) originated in the Balkans and the Lower Danube region and that the South Slavs are autochthonous inhabitants of the peninsula. More precisely, the entire Slavic population had their own forefathers in the ancient Balkan Illyrians, Macedonians, and Thracians. Principally, the ancient Illyrians were considered as the real ancestors of the Southern, Eastern and Western Slavs. Consequently, according to this belief but also and written mediaeval sources,[ix] the Eastern and Western Slavic tribes emigrated from the Balkans and the Lower Danube region and settled themselves on the wider territory of Europe from the Elbe River in the west to the Volga River in the east.[x] However, the South Slavs remained in the Balkans – the peninsula that was considered as the motherland of all Slavonic peoples.[xi] Subsequently, all famous historical actors originated in the Balkans were appropriated as the members of the Slavic race like Alexander the Great of Macedonia, Aristotle, St. Jerome (Hieronymus), Diocletian, Constantine the Great, SS. Cyril and Methodius, etc.

This theory traced back among the Roman Catholic South Slavs (today understood by the Croat historiography and ethnology as the ethnolinguistic Croats) to the humanist from Dalmatian city of Šibenik (at that time part of Venice), Juraj Šižgorić (Georgius Sisgoritius, 1420−1509), who wrote a short history of his native city in 1487 (De situ Illyriae et civitate Sibenici). In this work, the author stressed that the ancient Balkan Illyrians (aborigines of the western and the central regions of the peninsula) have been real ancestors of the modern Croats (and the rest of the South Slavs). According to his (wrong?)[xii] opinion, St. Jerome, a native from Dalmatia, was a Croat who invented the first Slavic alphabet–Glagolitic one.

A famous Ragusian humanistic “poeta laureatus” Ilija Crijević (Aelius Lampridius Cervinus, 1463–1520), for instance, knew that the inhabitants of his born-city were of both the Roman and Slavic origins as he pointed it in his poem Oda Dubrovniku (“Ode for Dubrovnik”). Crijević in his work Super comoedia veteri et satyra et nova, cum Plauti apologia (“Apology for Plaut”) called the language of the ordinary people from Ragusa/Dubrovnik as “stribiligo illyrica” (“Illyrian solecism”), or as “scythica lingua” (“Scythian language”), following the tradition that ancient Slavs are called among other ethnic names and as the Scythians or Sarmatians. These two old Indo-European Iranian people lived during the time of the ancient Greeks and the Romans on the territory of present-day Southern Ukraine and Russia (from the Volga River to the Danube River) and became in the Middle Ages synonyms for the Slavs.[xiii] In the song Qui proavi solio et patrueli culmine regnas, written for Bohemian-Hungarian King Władysław II Jagiello (the King of Bohemia, 1471–1516 and the King of Hungary, 1490–1516), I. Crijević considered East Adriatic littoral as the “Illyrian coast”.[xiv] His contemporary, priest Mavro from Dalmatia, in his Glagolitic Breviary from 1460 indicated the town of Salona nearby Dalmatian city of Split as the birthplace of SS. Cyril and Methodius, who were, in fact, the brothers from Salonika. Moreover, these two “apostles of the Slavs”, according to the priest Mavro, were descendants from the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and Pope St. Gaius: “V Dlmacii Soline grdě. roistvo svetago Kurila i brata ego Metudie. ot roda Děokliciêna cěsara. i svetago Gaê papi”.[xv]

A half a century later this Šižgorić’s idea of the Illyrian origin of the Croats and subsequently all Slavs (the Southern, Eastern and Western) was further developed by a Dominican friar from Dalmatian island of Hvar – Vinko Pribojević in his public lecture De origine successibusque Slavorum given in the city of Hvar in 1525 and published in Venice in 1532. For him, a Greek philosopher Aristotel, Macedonian King Alexander the Great, Roman Emperors Diocletian and Constantine the Great, St. Jerome, SS. Constantine (Cyril) and Methodius were Illyrians, i.e. the Slavs. V. Pribojević was also the first to claim that three brothers, Czech, Lech, and Rus, were expelled from the Balkans and consequently became the founders of Bohemia and the Czechs, Poland and the Poles and Russia and the Russians and the other present-day Eastern Slavs (in fact the Rus’). Likewise, V. Pribojević, Mauro Orbini, a Benedictine abbot from Dubrovnik who wrote an extensive history of Serbia (and in the lesser extent of Croatia and Bulgaria) under the title Il regno degli Slavi (published in Pesaro in 1601), saw the Slavs everywhere[xvi] and the Illyrians as “the noble Slavic race”. For him, the soldiers of Alexander the Great were the Slavs who spoke: “the same language which is today spoken by the inhabitants of Macedonia” (the Muscovite Annals expressly state that the Rus’ are of the same race as were the ancient Macedonians). Finally, M. Orbini advocated the idea that the first Slavic alphabet, popularly called Bukvica, i.e. the Glagolitic script (for him second Slavic script – Cyrillic was invented by the saintly brothers from Salonika – Cyril and Methodius), was invented by St. Jerome, who was a Slav (the Illyrian), “since he was born in Dalmatia”.[xvii] M. Orbini repeated the old Dalmatian theory that three Balkan Slavic tribes, led by the brothers Czech, Lech and Rus’, moved northward and established the three new Slavic states – Bohemia (first ruled by Czech), Poland (first ruled by Lech) and Russia (first ruled by Rus’). For Orbini, modern Czechs, Poles and Russians likewise all South Slavs originated in the Balkan Illyrians.

Greater Croatia of Croat Illyrians
Greater Croatia of Croat Illyrians

However, a century later, Croat Pavao Ritter Vitezović (of the German origin like Ljudevit Gaj) went one step further: he claimed in 1700 and 1701 that all Slavs had common progenitors in the ancient Illyrians who were, in fact, the ethnolinguistic Croats.[xviii] P. R. Vitezović’s main programmatic idea upon the unification of “all Croatia” (totius Croatia) became a century later an official political program of the leaders of the Croatian Illyrian Movement.[xix]   

It is important to notice that St. Jerome (Hieronymus) from Dalmatia was as well appropriated as a Slav and later on exclusively as a Croat. Consequently, the Latin-language Bible, which was written by St. Jerome and used by all Catholic Slavs in Europe was recognized by Dalmatian Catholics as the achievement of the Slavic Croat. Moreover, St. Jerome was unjustifiably proclaimed as an inventor of the oldest Slavic alphabet – the Glagolitic one, named as “Jerome’s script” and subsequently this font became appropriated by the Croats as their own original and national characters that became used and by the other Slavonic peoples.

Thus, this first written Slavic language (named by the scholars the Old Church Slavonic), and devised in fact by Constantine (Cyril) and Methodius in the middle of the 9th century,[xx] became appropriated by the Croats in the Middle Ages and later on as a Croatian national and indigenous literal language. This belief founded an ideological doctrine in the later centuries for the claiming that all people (i.e. the Slavs) who used this language virtually belonged to the Croat ethnic community. In the late medieval period, following a popular tradition about him, St. Jerome has been assumed as a spiritual progenitor of the Croats who translated a Hebrew and Greek holy writing (sacre scripture) to both Latin and Slavonic languages.[xxi] Even the Roman Catholic Church accepted this popular opinion that St. Jerome was a founder of the Slavonic literacy.[xxii]

Obviously, the ideological foundations of the 19th century-Croat national revival movement (Illyrian Movement) were the old South Slavic tradition but supported by the historical sources as well, of the Balkan-Illyrian origin of all Slavs. However, the 19th century-Croat Illyrians arbitrary understood all Slavic Illyrians in fact as the ethnic Croats and, therefore, entire South (Balkan) Slavic populated territories and their historical-cultural inheritance as of the Croats. Subsequently, as the greatest portion of the South Slavic inhabited territories at the Balkans were populated by the štokavian language speakers who composed as well as the biggest portion of the South Slavs, for the Croat Illyrians it was logically and even politically correct to chose exactly the štokavian as a new standardized national language for all Croats who were just hidden under the common South Slavic ethnic name of the Illyrians. However, this choice brought the Croats to direct political conflict with the Serbs who were only štokavian speakers and all Serbs have been (and are) only the štokavians contrary to the Croats who at the time of the Illyrian Movement were as the majority the kajkavians (as all Slovenes) and very tiny minority as the štokavian speakers.

To be continued


[i] M. Moguš, Povijest hrvatskoga književnoga jezika, Zagreb: Nakladni zavod Globus, 1993, 138−140

[ii] B. Šulek, Hrvatski ustav, Zagreb, 1883, 80.

[iii] П. Милосављевић, Срби и њихов језик: Хрестоматија, Приштина: Народна и универзитетска библиотека, 1997. However, the Croatian historiography claims that those leading Slavic philologists developed their system of classification of the Slavonic languages on the “arbitrary” and falls basis [I. Perić, Povijest Hrvata, Zagreb: Krinen, 1997, 161].

[iv] D. Pavličević, Povijest Hrvatske. Drugo, izmijenjeno i prošireno izdanje, Zagreb: Naklada P.I.P. Pavičić, 2000, 247.

[v] On imagined and self-proclaimed glorious Croat history with megalomania projections for the future, see [В. Б. Сотировић, “Хрватска ‘правашка’ историографија и Срби”, Serbian Studies Research, 4 (1), Novi Sad, Serbia, 2013, 173−188].

[vi] V. Dedijer, History of Yugoslavia, New York, 1975, 103; B. Jelavich, History of the Balkans: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983, 304–308. See more in [R. D. Greenberg, Language and Identity in the Balkans, Oxford−New York: Oxford University Press, 2008].

[vii] J. Šidak et al., Hrvatski narodni preporod-Ilirski pokret, Drugo izdanje, Zagreb, 1990, 210.

[viii] Б. Брборић, O језичком расколу. Социолингвистички огледи I, Београд, 2000, 324; Б. Брборић, С језика на језик. Социолингвистички огледи II, Београд, 2001, 321–326.

[ix] J. Anisimov, Rusijos istorija nuo Riuriko iki Putino. Žmonės. Įvykiai. Datos, Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos centras, 2014, 19−21.

[x] About the western borders of the Slavic extension in the early Middle Ages, see [Engel J. (redactor), Großer Historischer Weltatlas. Zweiter Teil. Mittelalter, München, 1979, 36].

[xi] Историја народа Југославије, Београд, 1960, 224−227.

[xii] According to Jovo Bajić, St. Jerome was a Serb [Ј. Бајић, Блажени Јероним. Солинска црква и Србо-Далмати, Шабац: Бели анђео, 2003]. A Croat archaeologist don Frane Bulić claimed that he was born in Bosansko Grahovo (West Bosnia) – a region before 1995 populated by the Serbs. Nevertheless, St. Jerome was an Illyrian and therefore, according to the “Illyrian” theory of the Slavic origin, a South Slav.

[xiii] Hammond, Historical Atlas of the World, Maplewood, MCMLXXXIV, 3, 5; Westermann, Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte, Braunschweig, 1985, 11, 14–15, 22–23, 24;  J. Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans. A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, Ann Arbor, 1994, 25−26. About a homeland of the Indo-Europeans, see [M. Gimbutas, “Primary and Secondary Homeland of the Indo-Europeans”, Journal of Indo-European Studies, 13, 1985, 185–202; P. J. Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans. Language, Archeology and Myth, London, 1989; W. G. Davey, Indo European Origins, 2009; C. Watkins, The American Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011].

[xiv] C. Tadin, „Elio Lampridio Cerva“, Rivista Dalmatica, 3 (6), 1903, 265–278; M. Franičević, Povijest hrvatske renesansne književnosti, Zagreb, 1983, 310−313; I. Banac, Hrvatsko jezično pitanje, Zagreb, 1991, 29.

[xv] M. Pantelić, „Glagoljski brevijar popa Mavra iz godine 1460”, Slovo, XV–XVI, 1965. 94–149; I. Banac, Hrvatsko jezično pitanje, Zagreb, 1991, 9.

[xvi] A. Schmaus, “Vincentius Priboevius”, Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, 1953, 254.

[xvii] M. Orbini, Kraljevstvo Slovena, Beograd, 1968, CXLII–CXLIX.

[xviii] Eq. Pavlus Ritter [Pavao Riter Vitezović], Croatia rediviva; regnante Leopoldo Magno Caesare, Zagreb, 1700. About historical development of the Slavic idea among the Croatian Baroque writers, see [J. Šidak, “Počeci političke misli u Hrvata – J. Križanić i P. Ritter Vitezović”, Naše teme, 16, 1972; T. Eekman, A. Kadić (eds.), “Juraj Križanić (1618–1683): Russophile and Ecumenic Visionary, The Hague, 1976].

[xix] Lj. Gaj, “Horvatov Szloga y Zjedinjenye”, Danicza Horvatska, Slavonska y Dalmatinzka, 7. 1. 1835. About the problem of ideas of national identification of the South Slavs from the 16th to the 19th centuries, see in [I. Banac, “The Insignia of Identity: Heraldry and the Growth of National Ideologies Among the South Slavs”, Ethnic Studies, 10, 1993, 215–237]. About the ideological origins of the Illyrian Movement, from the Croat viewpoint, see in [N. Stančić (ed.), Hrvatski narodni preporod, 1790–1848: Hrvatska u vrijeme Ilirskog pokreta, Zagreb, 1985].

[xx] J. Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans. A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, Ann Arbor, 1994, 302.

[xxi] V. Štefanić, “Tisuću i sto godina od moravske misije”, Slovo, XIII, 1963, 34–36.

[xxii] However, many of the ancient and early mediaeval historical sources are using the term Illyrians as a synonim for modern ethnic-name of the Serbs and claiming at the same time St. Jerome from Dalmatia that was in fact of a Serb ethnic origin. There is a visible tendency, based on the sources and tradition, among contemporary Serbian historians and ethnologists to claim that the Serbs are the oldest Balkan (indigenous) people, and even more that the original name for all Slavs has been – the Serbli. On this question, see, for instance, in [О. Луковић-Пјановић, Срби…народ најстарији, I−III, Београд, 1994; Б. Влајић-Земљанички, Срби староседеоци Балкана и Паноније у војним и цивилним догађајима са Римљанима и Хеленима од I до  X века, Београд, 1999; Д. Јевђевић, Од Индије до Србије. Прастари почеци српске историје. Хиљаде година сеобе српског народа кроз Азију и Европу према списима и цитатима највећих светских историчара, Београд, 2000 (reprint from 1961, Rome); М. Јовић, Срби пре Срба, Краљево, 2002; J. Бајић, Блажени Јероним, Солинска црква и Србо-Далмати, Шабац, 2003; Ј. И. Деретић, Д. П. Антић, С. М. Јарчевић, Измишљено досељавање Срба, Београд: Сардонија, 2009; М. Милановић, Историјско порекло Срба. Друго допуњено и проширено издање, Београд: Вандалија, 2011].

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