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

Part I,Part II

The question of Dubrovnik (Ragusium/Ragusa)?

I. Derkos and J. Drašković promoted the štokavian dialect of Renaissance and Baroque literature of the Republic of Dubrovnik (Ragusium/Ragusa) as a Croatian one–an act which created among the Croats a national conscience upon the Ragusian cultural heritage as solely a Croatian one. However, a Serbian philologist Branislav Brborić (and many others) is in the opinion that the štokavian literature of Dubrovnik belongs to the Serbian cultural heritage as this dialect was and is a national Serbian language, but not the Croat one. According to his research, there are many Latin-language documents in the Archives of Dubrovnik in which the language of the people of Dubrovnik (the štokavian dialect of the ijekavian speech) is named as lingua serviana, but there is no one document in which this language is named as lingua croata.[1] B. Brborić claims further that for centuries citizens of Dubrovnik had some Serbian national consciousness and perception that their spoken language is Serbian. Among the inhabitants of the Republic of Dubrovnik, there was no Croatian ethnolinguistic consciousness before the Illyrian Movement and before Dubrovnik became included in the Roman Catholic Austrian Empire (Habsburg Monarchy) (from 1815).[2] In other words, from the time of Illyrian Movement, the process of Croatization of Dubrovnik, backed by the Habsburg authority, started.[3] Consequently, all Roman Catholic Serbs from Dubrovnik became the national Croats whose language was proclaimed by the leaders of the Illyrian Movement as a Croat language of the štokavian dialect and the ijekavian speech.[4] Therefore, after 1832, the Croatian national workers considered the people from Dubrovnik exclusively as the Croats and Ragusian history and culture as the Croat ones. Consequently, an anthology of Stari pisci hrvatski (Old Croatian Writers) where many Ragusian writers were published among others was printed in Zagreb from 1869 onwards. Nevertheless, the edition of this collection was criticized by the Serbs as a Croatian policy to appropriate the Serbian cultural heritage of Dubrovnik with the final political aim to include the territory of Dubrovnik, which never was a part of Croatia, into united Greater Croatia within the Austrian Empire or later since 1867, within Austria-Hungary.

Before Dubrovnik alongside with South Dalmatia was included into Croatia in 1945 for the first time in history due to the Communist rearrangement of the inner-territorial structure of Yugoslavia by her federalization,[5] two the most fervent defenders of the Serbian character of Dubrovnik against the Croat-favour claims by the leaders of the Illyrian Movement that this city-state (polis) belongs to the Croatian history and cultural heritage were the Roman Catholic Serb and famous philologist from Dubrovnik – Milan Rešetar (1860–1942) and the Serbian Orthodox priest – Dimitrije Ruvarac (1842–1931).

M. Rešetar concluded, after the extensive research in the Archives of Dubrovnik and as а person who very well knew Ragusan literature, that:

  1. The people from Dubrovnik were and are the ethnic Serbs.
  2. Their spoken and literal language is Serbian because they were speaking and mainly writing in the štokavian [6]
  3. The citizens of Dubrovnik, however, did not call themselves the Serbs since for them the ethnic name Serbian was relating only to those who lived in the Serbian state: as Dubrovnik never was included in Serbia for that reason Ragusan people did not call themselves as the Serbs.
  4. They, however, did not call themselves the Croats too as they did not ever live in any Croatia.
  5. Usually, the Ragusan people understood themselves as Dubrovčani, i.e. as the citizens of the Republic of Dubrovnik (citizenship-identity).
  6. The Serbs and the Croats do not speak the same (Serbo-Croat/Croat-Serb) language.
  7. The Serbs and the Croats are two different peoples.[7]
Illyrian coat of arms used by Croats during Illyrian Movement
Illyrian coat of arms used by Croats during Illyrian Movement

I. Ruvarac claimed that after the Slavic migrations to the Balkans at the end of the 6th century, the Latin municipality (city) of Ragusium became Serbianized and as a consequence of this process, the city changed its name into a Slavic-Serbian–Dubrovnik (a Slavic dubrava=oak-forest). He refuted the Croatian claims advocated by the leaders of the Illyrian Movement that all inhabitants of Croatia, Dalmatia, Dubrovnik, and Slavonia can be only ethnolinguistic Croats regardless of their religion. However, D. Ruvarac was in opinion that the štokavian dialect is only Serbian national language which was spoken in Serbia, Dubrovnik, Slavonia, Dalmatia, Montenegro, and part of Croatia (the Military Border) by the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Muslim believers. Especially he disapproved a Croatian idea that Slavonia (the region between the rivers of Sava and Drava, today included into the Republic of Croatia) is a part of Croatia because historically it was all the time a separate province with separate provincial name whose inhabitants were speaking the Slavonian language, as it is recorded in many historical documents. However, according to D. Ruvarac, the leaders of the Illyrian Movement proclaimed that the Croatian people and language (i.e., the kajkavian dialect, which was spoken in North-West Croatia only by the Roman Catholics) and the Slavonian people and language (i.e., the štokavian dialect, which was spoken in Slavonia by both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics) as one Croatian-Slavonian people and language, which became soon called by the Croat philologists as only Croatian people and language. Thus, the Slavonians became the Croats and the Slavonian language became, therefore, the Croatian language. For D. Ruvarac, the same philological strategy was implied by the Croatian Illyrians in the case of Ragusian people and their Our or Slavic language (how they usually called their language). The final consequence of such politics by the leaders of the Illyrian Movement was a Croatization of Slavonia and a whole South Dalmatia including and Dubrovnik. D. Ruvarac’s standpoint can be summarized into three basic ideas:

  1. The Serbs are all South Slavs whose mother tongue is the štokavian dialect regardless of their religion.
  2. The Serbian and the Croatian languages, regardless of the fact that they are similar, are, in essence, two separate languages.
  3. The genuine Croats are speaking the kajkavian and the čakavian “languages” (or today recognized as dialects), but not the štokavian one.[8]
Croatian Illyrian Movement Most important actors
Croatian Illyrian Movement Most important actors

According to the leading Slavic philologists from the end of the 18th century and the 19th century (a Serb Dositej Obradović, 1738–1811; Czech Pavel Josef Šafařik, 1795–1861; Czech Josef Dobrovský, 1753–1829; Slovene Jernej Kopitar, 1780–1844; and Slovene Franc Miklošič, 1813–1891), a genuine Croatian national language was only the čakavian, while the kajkavian was originally only the Slovenian national language, but in the course of time the kajkavian speakers who lived in Croatia accepted Croatian national feeling.[9] All opponents of political ideology and national program of the Illyrian Movement (the Serbs and Slovenes), concluded that the thesis of the Illyrian Movement that the Croats are speaking three “languages” (i.e., the kajkavian, čakavian and štokavian dialects as recognized today) should be refuted as a wrong one for the very reason that the leading principle in Europe from the end of the 18th century onwards was that one ethnic nation can speak only one language, but not several of them.[10]

Undoubtedly, I. Derkos’ and J. Drašković’s works and patriotism/nationalism framed the basic idea of the political requirement by the leaders of the Illyrian Movement – a political, linguistic and cultural unification of all “Croatian” lands. However, this idea was inspired by the work of a Croatian nobleman and professional writer of the German origin, Pavao Ritter Vitezović (1652–1713) who was the first among the Croats who advocated the concept of political unification of historical and ethnolinguistic Croatia and promoted the idea that the ancient Balkan people – the Illyrians, who lived in the Central and Western parts of the Balkan Peninsula at the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, were the real ancestors of modern Croats and all Slavs.[11] In other words, he championed an idea that the Croats are descendants of the ancient Balkan Illyrians and that all Slavs originated exactly in the Croats. His formula was: Illyrian = Croat = Slav.


P. R. Vitezović divided the whole world into six ethnolinguistic, historical, cultural and geographical areas, civilizations and cultures:

  1. Germania, which embraced the whole German-speaking world: 1. The Holy Roman Empire of German Nation, headed by Austria, 2. The Kingdom of Sweden (Sweden, Norway, Finland), 3. Denmark, 4. East Prussia, 5. Curonian Isthmus (Kuršių neria) with Curonian Bay or Courish Lagoon (Kuršių Marios), 6. Memel (Klaipėda), and 7. Angliae regnum (Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland).
  2. Italia cum parte Greciae (Italy with the part of Greece) referred to: 1. The Apennine Peninsula, 2. Corsica, 3. Sardinia, 4. Sicily, 5. Attica, 6. Peloponnesus (Morea), 7. The main number of the Aegean and the Ionian islands, 8. Malta, and 9. Crete.
  3. Illyricum, that was: 1. Almost the whole Balkans (except Attica and Peloponnesus with the adjoining islands), 2. Wallachia (Dacia and Cumania), 3. Transylvania, and 4. Hungary.
  4. Hispania, which was composed of: 1. Spain and Portugal, 2. Their European possessions, and 3. Their overseas colonies in Africa, Asia, Latin America with Florida and California.
  5. Sarmatia, that was: 1. A territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (the Republic of Two Nations), 2. Moldavia, and 3. Muscovy (i.e. the Russian Empire).
  6. Gallia, that was France.[12]

A real ideological source for such a division of the whole world was the popular Slavic idea that decisively influenced P. R. Vitezović, who recognized that all Slavs belonged to a single ethnolinguistic community (having the same ethnolinguistic origin). Nevertheless, the traditional idea of the Pan-Slavism was metamorphosed by him eleven years later into the idea of Pan-Croatianism and Greater Croatia. In fact, P. R. Vitezović claimed that all Slavs are the Illyrians who were autochthonous inhabitants of the Balkan Illyricum. For him it was clear that ancient Illyrians have been modern Croats and ancestors of all Slavs. This ideology of Croatian-Slavic ethnogenesis P. R. Vitezović developed in his work Croatia rediviva… (published in 1700) that was just an outline of more ambitious general history of the Croats and Croatia, i.e. entire Slavic population.

In Croatia rediviva… P. R. Vitezović divided a total territory of, according to his opinion, ethnic-historical-linguistic Croatia into two parts:

  1. Croatia Septemtrionalis (Northern Croatia).
  2. Croatia Meridionalis (Southern Croatia).

The boundary between these two Croatias was the Danube River.

Northern Croatia encompassed the entire territories of: 1. Bohemia, 2. Moravia, 3. Lusatia (Łužica or Łužyca in Eastern Saxony and Southern Brandenburg), 4. Hungary, 5. Transylvania, 6. Wallachia, 7. Muscovy, and 8. Poland with Lithuania.[13] The people who were living in Northern Croatia were divided into two groups: 1. The North-West Croats, called as the Venedicos (Wends), and 2. The North-East Croats, named as the Sarmaticos (Sarmatians). The Wends consisted of the Czechs, Moravians, and Sorbs (the Sorabi who lived in Lusatia), whereas the Sarmatians were living in Muscovy, Lithuania, and Poland,[14] i.e., they were the Rus’, Lithuanians and Poles.

P. R. Vitezović found that the ancestors of all Northern Croats – the Wends and Sarmatians – have been the White Croats (Belohrobatoi from the Byzantine historical sources) who lived in the early Middle Ages around the upper Dniester River and upper Vistula River, i.e., in Galicia and a Little Poland. A traditional name found in historical sources for White Croatia was Greater Croatia or an Ancient Croatia. In the time of P. R. Vitezović’s writing of Croatia rediviva… this territory was an integral part of the Republic of Two Nations (the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth).[15]

P. R. Vitezović’s Southern Croatia, or Illyricum (the Balkans), was subdivided into two parts: Croatia Alba (White Croatia), and Croatia Rubea (Red Croatia):

  1. Croatia Alba was composed of: Croatia Maritima (the central and maritime Montenegro, Dalmatia and East Istria), Croatia Mediterranea (Croatia proper and Bosnia-Herzegovina), Croatia Alpestris (Slovenia and West Istria) and Croatia Interamnia (Slavonia with part of Pannonia).
  2. Croatia Rubea consisted of: 1. Serbia, 2. the North-East Montenegro, 3. Bulgaria, 4. Macedonia, 5. Epirus, 6. Albania, 7. Thessaly, and 8. Odrysia (Thrace).[16]

There have been P. R. Vitezović’s frontiers of “limites totius Croatiae” (“boundaries of total Croatia”) settled by the ethnolinguistic Croats.[17] However, P. R. Vitezović recognized that his Greater Croatia and the Pan-Croatian national identity were not unified as a whole. In other words, he acknowledged differences in borders, names, emblems, and customs: “cum propriis tamen singularum limitibus etymo, Insignibus, rebusque ac magis memorabilibus populi moribus”.[18] After all, he believed that these distinctions were of less importance than the common Croatian nationhood of all of these peoples and lands. His apotheosis of the common Croat name especially for all South Slavs (the Illyrians) with regional and historic differences was expressed in P. R. Vitezović’s heraldic manual Stemmatographia… (published in 1701) where he presented all Croatian historical and ethnolinguistic lands in South-East Europe, like Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, etc.[19]       

To be continued

Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.


[1] A Yugoslav linguist Ranko Bugarski is in the opinion that in a sociolinguistic sense the dialects are not separate languages, but in a linguistic sense they are. According to him, a “dialect” is a “language” which lost the political battle, while a “language” is a “dialect” that won the political battle. In other words, it is only political decision if one “dialect” will be proclaimed and recognized as a “language”. For him, the most important criteria that create a difference between the “language” and the “dialect” is comprehensibility [R. Bugarski, Uvod u opštu lingvistiku, Beograd, 1996, 238–239]. A Serbian philologist and academic Ljubomir Stojanović (1860–1929) was in the opinion that around 20% of the South Slavic population cannot be exactly classified into one linguistic-national group according to their spoken language because they are speaking “mixture dialects” of two languages. Thus, there are “transitional zones” between the South Slavic languages [Љ. Стојановић, Приступна академска беседа, Београд, 11-I-1896].

[2] Б. Брборић, С језика на језик. Социолингвистички огледи, II, Београд, 2001, 43–44, 68.

[3] About the genesis of the idea of Serbian national identity among the Catholic intelligentsia of Dubrovnik and Dalmatia in the 19th century, see [I. Banac, “The Confessional “Rule” and the Dubrovnik Exception: The Origins of the “Serb-Catholic” Circle in Nineteenth-Century Dalmatia”, Slavic Review. American Quarterly of Soviet and East European Studies, 42 (3), Fall 1983].

[4] П. Милосављевић, Срби и њихов језик: Хрестоматија, Приштина: Народна и универзитетска библиотека, 1997, 13–41, 412–426, 466–476.

[5] It is true that the region of Dubrovnik before 1945 was given to the Province of Croatia (Banovina Hrvatska) within the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in August 1939 according to the agreement reached by a leading Croat politician Vladimir Vlatko Maček and the Yugoslav PM Dragiša Cvetković (both of them have been non-Serbs) but, however, this agreement was never approved by the Yugoslav Parliament and was opposed by all Serbian leading political parties, politicians, church, intelligentsia, and public workers. Nevertheless, the agreement of August 26th, 1939 on Banovina Hrvatska was approved by the Yugoslav Royal Government and, therefore, it was created a kind of a Greater Croatia within Yugoslavia. The banovina was composed of the kajkavian Croatia, the štokavian Slavonia, West Srem, whole Dalmatia with Dubrovnik and huge territories in Bosnia-Herzegovina with a total population of 4,024,601 people (the 1931 census) [S. Srkulj, J. Lučić, Hrvatska povijest u dvadeset pet karata. Prošireno i dopunjeno izdanje, Zagreb: AGM−Hrvatski informativni centar−Trsat, 1996, 101−103]. However, the Serbs composed about 1/3 out of the banovina’s population. The borders of Banovina Hrvatska were created according to the Croat claim that all Roman Catholic štokavian speaking population in Yugoslavia have been the ethnic Croats − a viewpoint inherited from the Illyrian Movement’s ideology.

[6] A spoken language of the people from Dubrovnik was always the štokavian dialect, but their literature was written in four languages: the Latin, Italian, čakavian dialect, and štokavian dialect. The last two were “domestic languages”. The Čakavian dialect was used till the mid-15th century as the most fashionable literal language in the whole Dalmatia besides the Italian and Latin. However, from the mid-15th century, the writers from Dubrovnik mainly wrote in the štokavian dialect that became the language in which the most glorious Ragusan literature (the period of Baroque) was written. According to the most experts on the Slavic literature, probably, the štokavian Baroque literature of Dubrovnik gave the best examples of the Slavic Baroque literature.

[7] M. Решетар, Aнтологија дубровачке лирике, Београд, 1894; М. Решетар, “Најстарији дубровачки говор”, Годишњак Српске краљевске академије, 50, Београд, 1940; M. Rešetar, “Die Ragusanischen Urkunden des XIII–XV. Jahrhunderts”, Archiv für slawische Philologie, XVI Jahrgang, Wien, 1891; M. Rešetar, “Die Čakavština un deren einstige und jetzige Grenzen”, Archiv für slawische Philologie, XVI Jahrgang, Wien, 1891. However, during the time of royal Yugoslavia (1918–1941), M. Rešetar corrected his stand upon the Serbs and the Croats and their languages. Namely, under the strong influence of the official policy of “the integral Yugoslavism”, M. Rešetar became an advocate of an idea that the Serbs and the Croats were and are speaking the same language, and therefore they belong to the same people who just have two names (see more in [В. Новак, Антологија југословенске мисли и народног јединства, Београд, 1930]). Nevertheless, M. Rešetar two years before he died, returned to his original idea that the Serbs and the Croats are two different peoples who spoke two different languages and that Ragusian literal heritage belongs definitely to the Serbs, but not to the Croats.

[8] Д. Руварац, Ево, шта сте нам криви!, Земун, 1895. This book is important as the author is dealing with the ethnolinguistic division between the Serbs and the Croats.

[9] Д. Обрадовић, “Писмо Харалампију”,  Живот и прикљученија, Нови Сад, 1783; P. J. Šafařik, Slowansky narodopis, Praha, 1842; P. J. Šafařik, Serbische Lesekörner, Pest, 1833; P. J. Šafařik, Geschichte der slawischen Sprache und Literatur nach allen Mundarten, Buda, 1826; J. Dobrovský, Geschichte der böhmische Sprache und Literatur, Wien, 1792/1818; J. Kopitar, Serbica, Beograd, 1984 (reprinted sellected works); J. Kopitar, “Patriotske fantazije jednog Slovena”, Vaterländische Bläter, 1810; F. Miklošič. “Serbisch und chorvatisch”, Vergleichende Gramatik der slawischen Sprachen, Wien, 1852/1879.

[10] See, for instance [A. Петровић, “Шта смо ми, шта ћемо бити, како ћемо се звати?”, Српски народни лист, № 24, 25, 26, 1839; Ђ. Николајевић, Српски споменици, Београд, 1840].

[11] On the ancient Balkan Illyrians, their culture and history, see [A. Stipčević, The Illyrians: History and Culture, Noyes Press, 1977; J. Wilkes, The Illyrians, Oxford UK−Cambridge USA: Blackwell, 1992].

[12] P. E. Ritter, Anagrammaton, sive Laurus auxiliatoribus Ungariae liber secundus, Vienna, 1689, 69–117.

[13] P. Ritter, Croatia rediviva: Regnante Leopoldo Magno Caesare, Zagreb, 1700, 10.

[14] P. Ritter, Croatia rediviva: Regnante Leopoldo Magno Caesare, Zagreb, 1700, 10.

[15] On the present-day Ukraine as a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, see [A. Blanuca et al., Ukraina: Lietuvos epocha, 1320−1569, Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos centras, 2010]. On the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, see in [M. Jučas, Lietuvos Didžioji Kunigaikštzstė: Istorijos bruožai, Vilnius: Nacionalinis muziejus, 2016].

[16] P. Ritter, Croatia rediviva: Regnante Leopoldo Magno Caesare, Zagreb, 1700, 32.

[17] P. R. Vitezović, Mappa Generalis Regni Croatiae Totius. Limitibus suis Antiquis, videlicet, a Ludovici, Regis Hungariae, Diplomatibus, comprobatis, determinati, 1:550 000 (drawing in color), 69,4 x 46,4 cm., Croatian State Archives, Cartographic Collection, D I., Zagreb, 1699.

[18] P. Ritter, Croatia rediviva: Regnante Leopoldo Magno Caesare, Zagreb, 1700, 32; P. Ritter, Stemmatographia, sive Armorum Illyricorum delineatio, descriptio et restitutio, Vienna, 1701.

[19] P. Ritter, Croatia rediviva: Regnante Leopoldo Magno Caesare, Zagreb, 1700, 32; P. Ritter, Stemmatographia, sive Armorum Illyricorum delineatio, descriptio et restitutio, Vienna, 1701; I. Banac, “The Insignia of Identity: Heraldry and the Growth of National Ideologies Among the South Slavs”, Ethnic Studies, 10, 1993, 223–227.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply