Croatian Viewpoint
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The Distortion of Croatian History

Croatian history is still being interpreted by feudal institutions, pan-slavists, or ideologists, most of whom have portrayed Croatia as a slavic nation. But does evidence back up this pan-slavic theory?
This distortion of Croatian history has occurred in three dimensions. Firstly the blurring of chronology results in confusion.
Secondly, by blurring the difference between the slavs of Cyril & Methodius 'Church Slavonic', and the alleged earlier existence of so-called slavic tribes, Croatian history is interpreted from beginning to end within a broad slavic context.
In addition, there is often a failure to explain the difference between the early Byzantine church, the churches using Old Church Slavonic, and the Greek Catholic or Uniate right.
Finally, evidence from some historians has been ignored by pan-slavists. Evidence exists that Croats are not slavs, and that Croats have been in their present geographical homeland since the time of the so-called Illyrians.
Over a decade has passed since Croatian independence, yet it is apparent in conversations, and in books produced for the tourist, that Croatian identity is a contentious issue.
Consequently, if unresolved, this identity issue has the potential to lead Croatia back into a south-slavic aberration. Also, it contributes to the lack of a " ... clearly defined image that has turned more modest European destinations into international hot spots", as noted in the Lonely Planet tourist guide.

The Blurring of Chronology: Examples in Croatian History

An example of the blurring of chronological events in Croatia has occurred recently and I believe this is the same method used to confuse the historical chain of events in earlier centuries also.
Many analyses and documentaries of the recent Serbian aggression in Croatia from 1990 to 1995 have deliberately blurred the chronology of events. To do this they had to ignore the order of events as they actually unfolded on television news or in daily newspapers. The mythology which history will record is that first Croats declared independence, and this caused Serbs to react in self-defense to save themselves, when in fact the opposite was true!
Serbian terrorists began their aggressive ethnic cleansing of Croats in summer of 1990 ("Log Revolution") in the Zadar region, thus forcing Croatia to declare its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, after which the Serbian aggression against unarmed Croatian civilians intensified. To create this false chain of events, exact dates are left out, or just the year, and events are written in a non-chronological order, contrary to evidence at the Hague ad hoc court now revealed by Serbian witnesses against Milosevic.
Another example of blurring exists with the interpretation of events in the first Yugoslavia , originally called the Kingdom of Serbs , Croats and Slovenes. Most historians to date have written that Croats killed the Serbian King Alexander in Marseilles in 1934, but not how King Alexander was part of an anti-Croatian plot, when a Serb shot five Croatian parliamentarians during a session of parliament in Belgrade in 1928. These assassinations made all world headlines at the time.
In the ninth century, the history of Croatia as it unfolded in Dalmatia , has also been blurred. For example the ancient trademark of Zadar is the early-Byzantine style church of the Holy Trinity, which was later renamed St. Donat. The confusion arises when its construction is vaguely described as having occurred in the ninth century. After all, a lot happened in Croatian history during the ninth century.
Indeed, this area of Croatia had passed back and forth between the Western and Eastern Roman empires often. Interestingly, the sphere of interest competition continues to this day as the Archdiocese of Zadar is not a part of any Croatian ecclesiastical province, but still remains under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See. (refer ' Croatia 1994', Beletic Ed., Zagreb ; or 'My Croatia ', Gavran, 1994 Zagreb .)
The Croatian church of St. Donat in Zadar appears Byzantine from the outside, but from inside its western foundations are exposed. For this reason St. Donat church is a symbol of Croatia's orientation
From outside, St. Donat looks Byzantine, but actually this was the style of architecture adopted by the Frankish Emperor Charlemagne (742-814 AD), who had this church (and other churches throughout the Holy Roman Empire of the west) commissioned around 800 AD, whilst in the sphere of the west. Inside St. Donat, a surprise awaits the visitor in the form of two, first-century Roman pillars, various ruins of Latin inscriptions under the church foundations, and an exposed Roman forum stone floor.
In the ninth century the Western-Eastern competition was intensive. The fate of Zadar, and Dalmatia , had been decided in many international treaties over the past two millenia. But sometimes Croatian people took their destiny into their own hands and the year 879 AD was an example. In 879 AD under the Croatian Prince Branimir the St. Donat church, and all Croatia , came under the western Roman Catholic jurisdiction.
By blurring the chain of events that surrounded the church of St. Donat since its construction, and referring simply to the ninth century, one could be left with an incorrect impression about its early ninth century western foundations.

Croats are Not Slavs

History is written that in 881 AD, two years after 879 and Branimir, that the Old Church Slavonic and glagolitic alphabet was spread by Cyril & Methodius in Croatia . Evidence exists however that the glagolitic alphabet had already been traced to documents from earlier centuries in the west and in Croatia . Perhaps therefore the missionaries were simply spreading a pre-existing alphabet but giving new meaning to it.
Historical events easily become misinterpreted and this has been working well for pan-slavists and advocates of the creation of yet another Yugoslavia or south-slavia.
For example, three centuries after events took place, in the tenth century Constantine VII, Porphyrogenitus, 905-959AD, recorded in his De Adminisrando Imperio, that Croats and slavs arrived in Croatia in the seventh century. Is Porphyrogenitus merely assuming that Croats are slavs or vice versa because of the existence of Church Slavonic? According to the uniates in the sub-Carpathian mountains, slav is just a word which means 'blessed' in the liturgy, and this has nothing to do with the alleged existence of a slav race!
Is there any evidence of a link between the old Church Slavonic slavs, and the alleged existence of slavic tribes in earlier centuries on the European continent? Slavs aren't mentioned in the bible, nor do they appear on genuine antique maps. Scholars of the slav issue do agree on one thing, and that is that the origin of slavic tribes is unknown.
Croats do appear on ancients maps and inscriptions however! But in books for tourists we usually receive the pan-slavic interpretation, and these books are not only written by foreigners! Lonely Planet begins with a decent introduction but if text is examined region by region, it appears that only "slavs" settled there.
But why criticize Lonely Planet until Croatian historians can arrive at some consensus. For example, in "A Concise Atlas of the Republic of Croatia" by the Miroslav Krleza Lexicographical Institute, Zagreb Croatia 1993, it is written: "The Croats are a Slavic nation ... science has still not fully explained the origin or the meaning of the name Croat ... " (page 86) Why don't these authors mention however, that no scientist knows the origin of the so-called 'slavic tribes'?

Illyrian or Croatian Tribes

The word Illyrian simply means 'tribe' in Greek. The name Hrvat or Haravati (Croat/Croats in Latin form of word) has been recorded at the tomb of Darius I (521-486 BC), and therein one can find no mention of the word slav. According to Mato Marcinko, in "My Croatia , the Land and Its History, Zagreb 1994, "... Groups of Croats probably started coming to the region ( Croatia today) since the beginning of the second millennium BC while larger groups arrived around the year 1200 BC, at the same time or a little later than the arrival of the Illyrians. Herodotus, who lived and traveled in the fifth century BC noted that there were Croats along the Adriatic coast, in places where they have been living ever since."
The pan-slav theorists would have us believe that no invaders could assimilate the Illyrians until the so-called barbarian Croatian tribes from the Carpathian mountains suddenly were able to do so from the seventh century AD upon their arrival. Yet, in contrast, not even today, are the English able to assimilate the Celts, one example of many in history. When alternative theories are introduced it is probable that the Croats and Illyrians, or the Croatian Illyrians, spoke the same Indo-European language, and that it was possibly even known as the Croatian language.
It is likely that some Croats who arrived in the seventh century joined other Croats already well established there (We have the later example of how some of the Bosnian Croats went to the Zadar and Lika region after the Ottoman advance and joined other Croats already there.) The Croatian national costume today in the Zadar and Lika region still includes a red hat with black spiral embroidery and fringe which dates from the Illyrian tribe, the Japodi, as noted in the book " Croatia " by Dubravko Horvatic, Zagreb 1992.
The influence of pan-slavism is also evident at the Zadar Archeological Museum . There, in a framed exhibit on the wall, it is written in my English language that after the arrival of the Croats in the seventh century, Croats allegedly "... learned from the native population to be seafarers, fishermen and made themselves familiar with the seaman vocabulary". But, isn't it logical to assume that the Croats described by Herodotus sailed to their present homeland by a sea route as did other groups at the time?

A Clarified Croatian Image in the West

I have given examples of the blurring of Croatian identity, and have tried to counteract misconceptions with balanced evidence. Should we believe only Porphyrogenitus who wrote 300 years after the event, or must contemporary evidence from Herodotus or Darius I be given objective consideration?
Tragically, this historical confusion has led to Croatian political division, territorial loss, persecution, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and the exodus of generations of Croatian people. One of the oldest Kingdoms in European history is a shadow of itself today with one of the smallest populations of nations in Europe
Today some foreign politicians are interchanging the word Yugoslav with the word Balkan, in their attempt to forge a new grouping of nations which would include Croatia with most nations of the former Yugoslavia . However the potential danger still occurs, because many Croatian historians and institutions fail to see that a description of themselves as slavs is causing confusion. Therefore, perhaps foreign politicians should not be blamed for failing to understand that if Croats describe themselves as slavs who live in southern Europe, why most Croats are offended if outsiders see them as south slavs, and see no problem in the creation of another Yugoslavia ?
Although Croats should not have to extricate cultural ties with the Slavonic liturgy introduced in the ninth century, they need to be aware of the dangerous implications of pan-slavism. In the future they could place more emphasis on their ties with western European development. This new focus can be created through exhibits, statues, and more balanced and objectively written tourist and history books.
Croats have taken their political destiny into their own hands, and now they must take their image into their own hands also. Like other nations, Croats must work to avoid misconceptions. It is up to Croatian people themselves to establish a clear identity in order to avoid dire political consequences for the sake of future generations.
Jean Lunt Marinovic
January 2003
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