Pogledaj Full Version : The Pan-Slavic idea and Croatian quest for Statehood

Željko Zidarić
17th-May-2012, 11:21 PM
The Croat experience of independence was rather brief. And it was terminated much earlier than that of their Serb neighbors, whose empire reached its height in the mid-fourteenth century and whose independence was not entirely snuffed out by the Ottoman invaders until the 1450s. The rulers of the Croat tribes in Dalmatia began adopting the title of Dux Croatiae (Duke of Croatia) in the 820s. The greatest among them, Tomislav, who was believed to have ruled from about 910 to 928 (the hard evidence is scanty), seems to have united the various Croat statelets in Dalmatia and Pannonia into one unit that encompassed most of contemporary Croatia and Bosnia. He had himself crowned king, and under him Croatia was sufficiently powerful to warrant an admiring reference in the Byzantine emperor Porphyrogenitus's account of his empire, De Administrando Imperio. Tomislav's big Croatia in the tenth century, like Tsar Dusan's great Serbia in the fourteenth century, was a temporary phenomenon. The Croats were unable to withstand the aggressive attentions of their more powerful Magyar and Venetian neighbors, and in 1102 the Croatian crown passed to the Arpad dynasty in Hungary under a pact by which the Croatian kingdom preserved its separate identity and institutions-above all, its parliaments, known as the Sabor, and a viceroy, known as a ban.

Serbs and Croats, therefore, shared a history of foreign domination. But the Serbs at least remained together in their servitude, under one Ottoman roof. They also had a national church, the Serbian Orthodox Church, founded in the thirteenth century and revived under Ottoman patronage in the 1560s. It was this institution, long after the extinction of the native aristocracy, that preserved the Serbs' strong sense of national identity and ingrained in their collective memory a recollection of a great pre-Ottoman independent kingdom.

The Croats in some ways were in a less favorable position. They did not remain united under foreign rule but were split three ways. The Ottomans ruled over Bosnia, the Dalmatian interior, and the eastern half of Slavonia; Venice ruled the Dalmatian coast (with the exception of the city-state of Dubrovnik); and the Habsburgs ruled a rump kingdom of Croatia after their election to the Croatian crown in 1527, following Hungary's virtual annihilation by the Turks at Mohacs. Nor did the Croats have a national church that could foster memories of their former statehood.

The early Croat rulers, after a brief hesitation in the 870s, took their religion from Rome rather than Byzantium. The popes thereafter frowned on any attempts to impart a national, Slav tone to the church in Croatia, suppressing the use of the native Glagolitic script and the vernacular liturgy, the use of which, with a few exceptions in certain areas, was prohibited in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Much later the Counter Reformation in Croatia would further weaken the national element in the Church, for the Croat Protestants wished to propagate the use of the Glagolitic script and made a conscious attempt to write in a dialect that would be understandable in all the different Croat regions. As a result of the Counter Reformation, the Croats remained under the deracinating influence of bishops loyal first to Rome, and then to Hungary, Venice, or the Habsburgs.

What kept alive a sense of common Croat identity among these separated and subjugated peoples, therefore, was not the Catholic religion.l It was literature and the memory of history sustained by the intellectual elite. During the Renaissance era, Venetian-ruled Dalmatia and Dubrovnik gave birth to influential intellectuals, mostly minor aristocrats and clergymen, Jesuits especially-who kept alive the memory of Croatia and the Croatian language when they composed or translated plays and books from Italian and Latin into the vernacular. No matter that the dialects of Dalmatia and Dubrovnik were different from each other-Dubrovnik used the so-called stokavian while further north, in Split, they preferred cakavian-and that both these dialects were somewhat different from the dialect of Zagreb, capital of the Habsburg-ruled north. They still thought of it as Croatian. When gimun Ko.icic, bishop of Modrus, had the Roman Missal printed in the vernacular in 1532, the title on the frontispiece was Misal Hrvacki (the Croatian Missal), and when Marko Marulic (1450-1524) of Split published the first known vernacular poem in Dalmatia in 1521, the History of the Holy Widow Judith, he put on the title that it had been composed "u versih hr?vacki slozena," "in Croatian verses." The Dubrovnik poet Dominko Zalataric (1555-1610) explained on the frontispiece of his 1597 translation of Sophocles' tragedy Elektra and Tasso's Aminta that it had been "iz vece tudieh jezika u Hrvacki izlozene," "translated from the great foreign languages into Croatian."

Many of these Dalmatian writers dedicated their works to heroes from the northern, Habsburg-ruled kingdom and, in so doing, showed that they still considered themselves members of a Croatian nation that transcended contemporary political boundaries. Zalataric dedicated his plays to Juraj Zrinjski, son of Nikola Subic Zrinjski, the warrior ban of Croatia who had perished in 1566 defending Sziget in Hungary from the Ottoman army for the Habsburgs. The Dubrovnik poet Vladislav Mencetic dedicated his Trublja Slovinska (Trumpet of the Slavs) in 1663 to another member of this celebrated Croatian noble family, in this case Peter Zrinjski, whom the emperor Leopold I had executed in 1671. These poets and writers complimented each other as great Croats when they addressed their baroque epistles to one another. "The Croatian peoples shout that you are the golden crown of which we are all proud," said Nikola Naljeskovic (1510-1586) of Dubrovnik to Ivan Vidali, of the island of Korcula, in an address from the early 1560s. Vidali replied in kind. "You are the glory and fame of the Croatian language," he declared in 1564, in an address that also extolled Dubrovnik-an oasis of Slav liberty between Venice and Turkey-as the "crown of Croatian cities."

The Dalmatian writers of the Renaissance era were pan-Slavs, using the words Croat, Slav, and Illyrian-the latter term borrowed the classical name for the Balkan peninsula-almost interchangeably. As the Ottoman juggernaut rolled over one Croat town after another (by the 1590s the Turks were only a few miles south of Zagreb), they put their faith in a great Slav brotherhood of nations that they hoped would eventually unite to liberate them from humiliating servitude to the sultan and the doge. While they were being enslaved, it was balm to the soul to dwell on the fact that way in the north, and to the east, there existed great independent Slav kingdoms.

For Ivan Gundulic (1588-1638), the baroque poet of Dubrovnik, that Slav liberator was going to be Poland, and it was to Poland that he dedicated his epic poem Osman following the Poles' victory over the sultan at Chocim in 1621.3 After the decline of Catholic Poland, Orthodox Russia took its place as the object of some Croat thinkers' hopes, inspiring Juraj Krizanic (1618-1683), a Jesuit from Karlovac in Habsburg Croatia, to undertake a hopeless and rather bizarre pilgrimage to the court of the Tsar Alexis in the 1680s. Krizanic's Slav internationalism was so indefatigable that even after the suspicious tsar had exiled him to Siberia his enthusiasm did not flag.

There was no tension between a commitment to Illyria and Croatia. It was not a case of either/or but of both/and. Pavao Ritter Vitezovic (1652-1713) of Senj's influential history book Croatia Rediviva (Croatia Reborn), written in 1700, wound the two notions together. Vitezovic identified as Croats all the contemporary Slav inhabitants of what the classically educated generally called Illyria. To be Croatian and Illyrian was as natural as being, for example, Prussian and German in the nineteenth century, or Scottish and British in the same period.

The pan-Slav element in Croat thought was a defense mechanism. The Dalmatian writers knew only too well that they were too puny, divided and few in number, to even contemplate confronting their Venetian or Turkish overlords. They were mournfully aware of the fact that they were a mere scrap of what they once had been, the "reliquiae reliquiarum," as the Croatian Sabor often described the country-a fragment of a fragment of the once-great and famous kingdom of Croatia.

The fantasy of belonging to a united Slav people that was as seamless as the robe of Christ (and as phony as the talk of Arab unity in our own time) sustained their hopes during the long centuries of foreign rule. The Croats not only were broken up into several bits but now lived intermingled with large numbers of settlers-the result of the huge demographic changes in the Balkans caused by the Ottoman invasion. In Bosnia, the most peripheral of Tomislav's conquests in the tenth century, the old Catholic populations had been enormously diluted since the sixteenth century by the conversion of a large proportion of the native Slavs. to Islam and by an influx of Serb Orthodox settlers to the barren and war-devastated lands of northwest Bosnia. There the demographic change was so striking that a region known until the early nineteenth century as "Turkish Croatia" had very few Catholic Croat inhabitants at all by that time. Even in the small Habsburg-ruled Croatian kingdom, Catholics increasingly lived cheek by jowl with Serb Orthodox settlers. This was especially so in the long strip of land, bordering the Ottoman Empire, known as the Vojna Krajina (the Military Border), which was governed directly by the Habsburg military authorities and in which the authorities expressly invited Serb refugees to settle. So a notion of Croatness that was designed to appeal to as many Slavs as possible was not merely idealism. It was a very practical response to Croatia's changed demographic reality.

Unable to alter their own destiny single-handedly, the Croats had to wait on the decisions-and armies-of the great powers. In the 1680s, the Habsburgs inflicted a series of stunning defeats on the Ottomans, ending their century-and-a-half rule over Slavonia and driving them, temporarily, from Bosnia as well. In Dalmatia the Ottomans were forced to relinquish control of the interior to Venice. When, in the course of the Napoleonic wars of the 1790s, Venice's Dalmatian empire passed also to the Habsburgs, most Croats found themselves again under one roof for the first time since the Middle Ages. There is no doubt that most Dalmatians wanted union-or as they would have put it, reunion-with the rest of Croatia. This was demonstrated by the great reception the city of Zadar gave the Croat Habsburg general Juraj Rukavina when he entered the city on behalf of the emperor in July 1797.

The Austrians, however, were careful to block the calls for Dalmatia and Croatia to be united into one administrative unit inside the empire, and they tried to foster a separate Dalmatian identity. In spite of this, popular support rose in Dalmatia throughout the century for the narodnjaci (nationals) who supported a reunited Croatia within the Habsburg Empire. Now it was the turn of the richer and more developed northern Croats to pay homage to the patriarchs of the "Illyrian" movement two centuries previously. Nothing could be more symbolic of this attitude of reverence than the great curtain designed in 1895 for the new Croatian National Theater in Zagreb. On it was portrayed a procession of literary worthies, sweeping up towards the figure of Gundulic, who was enthroned against a backdrop of the skylines of Dubrovnik and Zagreb-the former the symbol of Croatia's great past, the latter the hope of the future.

The expansion of the Habsburg Empire solved the greatest problem facing the Croatian nation since the 1500s, being dispersed in three states. And it brought to the forefront the question of Illyria-or, as it became known as in the less classical atmosphere of the 1860s, Jugoslavija, the land of southern Slavs. In the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, the dream of Slav unity had been a comforting fantasy, sustaining the drooping spirits of a defeated nation's thinking classes. By the nineteenth century, Illyrianism was no longer just a vague ambition but a pressing political question. The southern Slavs were no longer all subject to foreign rulers and thus were equal, if only in a common state of subjection. The first quarter of the century saw the creation of small Greek and Serbian principalities; later, a Bulgarian state would join their ranks. These little states all had big ideas. The Greeks dreamed of an empire in Asia Minor, the Bulgarians of Constantinople and Macedonia.

In Serbia, as early as the middle of the century, there were important politicians who talked openly of the impending dissolution of the Turkish empire and the coming battle with Austria over the spoils. The Serbian foreign minister Ilija Garasanin was one such official; in his Nacertanije-an outline of Serbia's foreign policy aims written in the 1840s-he spoke of their determination to reconstruct the great state that had once belonged to Tsar Dugan. "The foundations for building the Serbian empire must therefore be cleared and freed of all ruins and alluvia," he declared. "They must be revealed and then, on this hard and permanent foundation, new building must be undertaken and continued." The famous, though controversial, reformer of the Serbian alphabet, Vuk Karadzic, was another. Looking westwards, he pronounced Croatia a mere geographical expression and its inhabitants "brothers of the Roman law." They did not know that they were Serbs, he admitted, but in time would become Serbs, because they had no other name to adopt.

The Croat intellectuals of the nineteenth century were disappointed by the rise of an expansionist and rather belligerent Serbian nationalism. However much they railed against the Habsburgs or the Hungarians, they had taken it for granted that they lived in an infinitely more civilized and progressive state than their Illyrian brothers and sisters, who had spent the previous four centuries under the Ottomans, and they were surprised to find out that the newly independent Serbs now looked down on them. They did not like it when their Illyrian sympathies were interpreted as an admission that they did not really exist as a nation. Yet this was just how Vuk Karadzic did interpret it. "Clever Serbs," he said, "both Orthodox and Roman Catholic admit they are one nation," in "Serbs All and Everywhere," written in about 1836. "Only those of the Roman Catholic Church find it difficult to call themselves Serbs, but they will probably get used to it, little by little, because if they do not want to be Serbs, they have no other choice...."

The traditional yardstick of Serb identity was membership in the Serbian Orthodox Church. Karadzic took the more modern and secular yardstick of language in order to work Catholics and Muslims into his particular Serbian tapestry. Slavs who spoke a language that resembled Serbian were Serbs. Slavs who called themselves Croats were deceiving themselves: "I would say that this name belongs rightly first and only to the cakavci," he said, referring to the inhabitants of several Dalmatian islands where the local dialect used ca for the word "what," as opposed to the more widespread "sto". Even the inhabitants of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and its hinterland were Serbs. According to Karadzic this area was more truly known as upper Slavonia, not Croatia, and the local dialect was not a national speech at all but a "transitional" speech between Slovene and Serb. Garasanin and Karadzic were not, of course, the sole voices of nineteenth-century Serbia. In the last quarter of the century, Serbia became a virtual vassal of Austria-Hungary, the absolute opposite of what Garasanin had counseled. As for Karadzic, he was a persona non grata in the new Serbian state, where the powerful Church hierarchy deeply disapproved of both his reforms to the Cyrillic alphabet and his secular brand of nationalism, which seemed to place no special emphasis on the Orthodox faith. But what was increasingly typical of Garasanin and Karadzic among their contemporaries in Serbia was the assumption that Serbia was destined to absorb its smaller and weaker Slav neighbors.

The Croats did not drop their Illyrian, or Jugoslav, program, however. Again, this was not only idealism, but the result of a profound pessimism concerning their abilities to confront their enemies on their own. In the nineteenth century, these enemies were no longer the sultan or the doge but Hungarians, who from the 1790s with increasing energy and resolution pursued a policy of forcing the Hungarian language into Croatia's schools and official institutions, in spite of the fact that most Croats felt this violated the terms of their relationship with Hungary under the historic pact of 1102.

In 1848 Austria went to war and invoked the intervention of Russia in order to quash the Hungarians' revolutionary separatism. But in 1867, after the disastrous defeat at Sadowa at the hands of Prussia, Austria was too weak to resist the Hungarian demands for what was virtually a state within a state, and the subsequent division of the empire into two halves had enormous ramifications for the empire's smaller nationalities. Austria had become Austria-Hungary, and great Hungary gained a free hand over the Croats, the Serbs of Vojvodina, the Slovaks, and the Romanians of Transylvania.

With that development Croat hopes of winning a greater degree of home rule disappeared, as did the hope of uniting Croatia and Dalmatia into one unit inside the empire; for while Croatia passed into the Hungarian half of the empire, Dalmatia remained inside "Austria"-the lands represented in the Vienna parliament. In both halves of the empire, Croats again found themselves in need of allies. In Dalmatia, the Austrians favored the small Italian-speaking elite in the towns-the legacy of centuries of Venetian rule. In Croatia proper, Hungary built up the local Serb minority as a counterweight to the Croats. The prevailing opinion of Croat leaders such as Juraj Strossmayer (1815-1905), the bishop of Djakovo, was that Croats needed to keep their national movement as broadly based as possible in order to frustrate the Austrian and Hungarian policy of divide and rule. But not everyone in Croatia was happy with Strossmayer's irenical approach to the Serbs and with the direction that Illyrianism was taking Croatia. It was clear to these more skeptical spirits that Hungary's divisive tactics in Croatia in the last decades of the century were succeeding only too well and that despite what the Illyrians said about Slav brotherhood, the local Serb Orthodox population (which then comprised about 25 percent of the population) increasingly perceived its interests as quite separate-even antagonistic-to those of their Catholic Croat neighbors.

Earlier in the nineteenth century, the Orthodox of Croatia had seemed content with a Croat identity; indeed, the Habsburg Croat regiments in northern Italy that had gained such a fearsome reputation contained many Orthodox soldiers. During the year of revolutions in 1848, the question of whether Croats were Catholic or Orthodox was fairly irrelevant, so that when the strongly Illyrian patriot Josip Jelacic was installed as ban of Croatia in that year in Zagreb, it was the head of the Serbian church, Metropolitan Rajacic, and not the Catholic Archbishop, Haulik of Zagreb, who presided at the ceremony. The Metropolitan's benediction then had included an invocation to Jelacic "to protect the august House of Austria, sweet liberty, our nationality, and the common good of the Truine kingdom [of Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia]."

Only a generation later, the assumption that there was a common nationality among Serbs and Croats and that all Serbs wished to protect the "august House of Austria" or the "Triune kingdom" would have sounded very anachronistic. By the turn of the century, the Orthodox subjects of the Habsburgs thought of themselves simply as Serbs and, like Garasanin and Karadzic, confidently anticipated the day when a reinvigorated Serbia would come and claim the land as its own. One reason for this change in attitude was that the young Serbian state was expanding and developing, and it became a much more powerful focus for the loyalty of all the Orthodox subjects of the Habsburgs than it had been a few decades earlier. In the 1860s the last Ottoman garrison was driven out of Belgrade. In the 1870s Serbia nearly doubled in size, at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, and-symbolically important-graduated from a mere principality, theoretically loyal to the sultan, to being a fullfledged kingdom. Serbia's growing power and self-confidence changed the terrain on which Serbs and Croats now met. The Serbs had at no stage been more than half-interested in Croat intellectual talk of Illyria or Jugoslavia. Now they became less so, as the tantalizing project of restoring Dusan's great empire loomed up before their imagination.

Towards the end of his life even Strossmayer, the inspiration and financier of the whole Jugoslav movement (he poured much of his own money into founding a Jugoslav Academy of Art and Science in Zagreb in the 1860s), became thoroughly disillusioned with the business of trying to build cultural and political ties with the Serbs. No man had done more in his generation to realize the dream of the Illyrian poets and writers of an earlier age and to hold out the hand of friendship. Yet by 1885 he was so alarmed by the rise of an exclusive Serbian nationalism that he was pleased when the Serbs were crushed in their brief war with Bulgaria. "The idea of resurrecting Dusan's kingdom is insane," he fumed. The Serbs, he declared, were now "crushing the idea of a Croatian state. We should pray now that they see that the grave they were digging for others they were preparing first of all for themselves."

The beneficiary of this disillusionment with the Illyrian project was Strossmayer's archrival for the loyalty of Croatia's youth, Ante Starcevic. Starcevic (1825-1896) came from much the same intellectual Illyrian background as Strossmayer. Strossmayer had been a protege of the great Illyrian ban Jelacic; Starcevic was the son of Orthodox mother and a Catholic father, and his uncle Sime Starcevic, a Catholic priest, had shown his strongly Illyrian sympathies during the brief Napoleonic occupation of Dalmatia by compiling a "French-Illyrian" dictionary. Starcevic and his supports, especially the radical nationalist Eugen Kvaternik, invested many of their hopes in Napoleon III, the godfather of the Italian Risorgimento and patron saint of national unification movements everywhere. In Starcevic, Vuk Karadzic met his match, or his mirror image. Karadzic saw Serbs "all and everywhere" on the basis of speech. Starcevic saw Croats everywhere as well, or at least from the Adriatic all the way to Bulgaria, not on the basis of speech but of history-the historical framework of the Croatian state of the tenth century at its greatest extent, under King Tomislav. This was the state that he was convinced the Croats had a historical right to, and his political party was naturally named the Stranka Prava (the Party of Rights), by which he meant the party of the Croatian state's rights. Like the French revolutionaries, to whom he owed many of his ideas, Starcevic was a secular nationalist who placed great emphasis on this concept of statehood-the Croatian state-and he insisted that all those living within the borders of this state were Croat citizens. The various religions and convictions of the people on the ground were of no more consequence to him than they were to Karadzic. Like Karadzic, he would have said, "They have no choice." It took a good deal of creative thinking to make sense of this fantasy state, which existed only in the imaginations of his followers, known as rightists, or pravasi. This was especially so when it came to Bosnia, where the Catholic proportion of the population had dwindled by the nineteenth century to only a fifth of the whole. Starcevic's pravasi met the Serbs' challenge to Bosnia head on, insisting that Bosnian Muslims were not only Croats but the most Croat of all Croats! In fact, they were the very blossom of Croatia, because they had not been corrupted by the dead hand of Austria. Their Islam was inconsequential-in a sense, it was a badge of innocence. As for the Serb Orthodox, who by the nineteenth century formed the largest ethnic group in Bosnia, they were dubbed Orthodox Croats, in spite of the fact that they now almost all thought of themselves as Serbs, pure and simple.

Croatian politics in the latter half of the nineteenth century revolved around a contest of ideas between the followers of Strossmayer, who still advocated Illyrian solidarity and rapprochement with the Serbs, and the followers of Starcevic. Strossmayer became quite bitter in his old age about Starcevic's success in weaning the hearts and minds of the coming generation in Croatia away from him. But in World War I it was Starcevic's project that foundered and Strossmayer's that appeared to triumph. The notion of a great independent Croatia simply could not survive the outbreak of a world conflict that brought home to the Croats just how small and dependent upon others they were for their very survival as a nation.

"The only chance for Croatians lies in the total defeat of Austria-Hungary but without causing its dissolution" was the gloomy prognosis of the leader of the Croatian peasants party, Stjepan Radic. Victory would leave Hungary invincible and more high-handed than ever with its minorities. Defeat was still more terrifying, for in the secret treaty of April 1915 in London, which the Croats soon found out about, the Entente powers offered Dalmatia to Italy, and Bosnia and much of Croatia to Serbia, in order to win them over and keep them on their side.

Faced with a threat that was, in a way, as calamitous as the Ottoman invasion, a new generation of Dalmatian intellectuals resolved to take action. Led by Ivan Mestrovic, Ante Trumbic, and Frane Supilo-an internationally famous sculptor, a former mayor of Split, and a journalist, respectively-they set up the Jugoslav Committee in 1915 as an organization dedicated to ensuring that the Great Powers did not succeed in consigning Croatia to another partition. Since Croatian independence seemed a hopeless prospect, they were determined at least to secure union for the whole of Croatia with their Slav neighbors in Serbia, on terms that approximated as much as possible the Illyrian ideal of freedom in diversity. It was fortunate for them that by the end of the war, the kind of secret diplomacy once practiced by the British and French was no longer in favor and that under Woodrow Wilson, America was forthright in championing the self-determination of nations. The Jugoslav Committee was also fortunate in that 1917 found the Serb leadership at their lowest ebb, in exile on Corfu and in despair of achieving a great Serbian state. The Jugoslav advocates were thus able to persuade the Serb leaders to line up-rather reluctantly-behind the idea of a common state of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. They succeeded in a sense, for it was the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes that inherited Dalmatia (or most of it), not Italy.

Beyond that, however, they were to be disappointed. They had never been Illyrian, or Jugoslav, at the expense of their own Croatian identity any more than the seventeenth-century Dubrovnik poets had been. Yet the Croats were incorporated with a certain amount of force into a centralized state that, though it officially adopted the name Jugoslavia in 1929, was really an extension of Serbia.

Source: Marcus Tanner (http://books.google.ca/books?id=omTot25fpkcC&pg=PA47&lpg=PA47&dq=The+Croat+experience+of+independence+was+rather +brief.+And+it+was+terminated+much+earlier+than+th at+of+their+Serb+neighbors&source=bl&ots=iwrOaypic7&sig=GWmf0GFgvrhNX8VKh5ji2DZ9oiI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=h3q1T5HsCMjogAeGvaUS&ved=0CFoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=The%20Croat%20experience%20of%20independence%20w as%20rather%20brief.%20And%20it%20was%20terminated %20much%20earlier%20than%20that%20of%20their%20Ser b%20neighbors&f=false)

Source: The Vidovdan Hydra (http://www.freewebs.com/index44/croatsandpanslavism.htm)