Croatian Viewpoint
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Once The Whole World Knew Of The Croats!

Historical evidence of Croatia, Croatian people and the Croatian language are scattered throughout the pages and maps of both ancient and more recent history.
  • The French king, for example, created an elite Croatian regiment, "Le Royal Croate", and from "les cravates" neckties came to be known as 'cravats' in the 18th century.
  • European cartographers recorded Bosnia as "Turkish Croatia" up until the 19th century.
  • In Istanbul Croatian was the 'second' language and language of 'diplomacy' for centuries.
  • In America, Nikola Tesla recorded his birthplace as Croatia, as did tens of thousands of others in 19th century.
While the word Croat became engraved in history all around the globe, the opposite was occurring in the once great Croatian kingdom itself. The educated classes were gradually replacing the Croatian culture and identity with artificial descriptions such as Slav or Illyrian.

So How Did Croats Become 'South Slavs'?

Pan-slavism had spread into Croatia as a legacy of Saints Cyril & Metodius, and Illyrianism from the previous Greek, and then Roman name given to the Croatian region. According to the late Prof. B. Franolic, during the counter reformation period in Croatia, "Guided by the work of Jesuits both at home and abroad, literary creation expressed broad doctrines advocating unification of the South Slavs and reunion of the Eastern Christians with Rome".
For most of its history the Pontifical College of St. Gerome in Rome was known as the Pontifical Illyrian College of St. Gerome, until the recent recognition of Croatia in the late 20th century. This institution had been a great influence on Jesuits such as Bartol Kasic who published the book "The Structure of the Illyrian language in Two Books" in the 17th century, although today, ironically, amongst Croats he is known as the "father of Croatian linguistics".
The Franciscan Andrija Kacic-Miosic also produced a 'best seller' book in 1756 entitled 'Pleasant Conversation of Slavic Peoples'. These authors and others played a key role in the development of the shokavian dialect and they were true believers in the concept of 'slavic' peoples. Croatian clerics such as B. Kasic and J. Krizanic who had traveled to Russia, were followed in later centuries by the powerful Illyrian and south-slav political activism of the Bishops Vrhovac, Racki and Strossmayer within the Hapsburg empire to unite so-called 'south slavs'.

The Politicalization Of South Slavism

During the last half of the 19th century pan-slavists were able to take power because the majority of rural Croatian people had been ineligible to vote in the feudal system. Professor Margaret Macmillan who lectures at the University of Toronto in her book, 'Peacemakers: The Paris Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War' is the granddaughter of former 1918 British Prime Minister Lloyd George. Macmillan states that, "The Peace Conference, contrary to what many people have believed since, did not create Yugoslavia; that was done by the time it met. ... The creation of Yugoslavia was primarily a byproduct of domestic politics which already existed before the Paris Peace Conference. ... Seventy years later the powers were equally unable to prevent its disintegration." The so-called 'first' Yugoslavia was eventually recognized internationally in 1919, with England being one of the last powers to recognize it in June 1919.
Russia was also a factor in Croatian 'south slav' politics as noted in 'The Rough (travel) Guide to Croatia',. "Strossmayer ... (concluded) ... that an independent Yugoslav (which literally means 'South Slav' in Croatian and Serbian) including all Croats and Serbs and supported by Russia, would be the best solution. ... exiles formed the 'Yugoslav Committee' in Paris in order to lobby foreign governments ... the political leaders of Austria-Hungary's Serbs, Croats and Slovenes formed the National Council in Zagreb ... declared their independence from Budapest and Vienna."
In the same theme, the life of Bishop J. G. Strossmayer is described in detail by I. Sivric. This book describes Strossmayer's correspondence with the 19th century Russian idealist, philosopher and Christian slavophile, V. S. Soloviev. Sivric writes, "Regardless of how ardently he (Strossmayer) loved his nation and what sacrifices he performed for it, the welfare of the Church and the realization of her mission in the world had the priority over that of his nation ... the main goal of the life of the Bishop was to reconcile the Eastern and Western Church ... His diocese, one of the richest in Europe ... All this wealth ... extended as far as Paris, France, ... (where) ... unlimited funds (given) by Strossmayer for his (Louis Leger, professor at the Sorbonne) ... publications dealing with South Slav problems."
The problem with Ante Starcevic, for Strossmayer, was that Starcevic stood in the way of 'south slav' unity because he did not accept the invented Serbian claims to all the pre-existing Croatian Orthodox churches and peoples in Croatia. Sivric describes Strossmayer's shocking reaction to the illness of Starcevic as recorded in his correspondence to Racki "I do not know if one should wish him (Starcevic) to be dead because he poisoned our youth". But it wasn't only Starcevic, now known as the 'Father of the Croatian Nation' who was criticized.
Macek describes the opposition to Radic in detail in his book, 'In the Struggle For Freedom' as follows. "In its persecution of the Croatian Peasant Party, the government had the strong support of the great majority of the intelligentsia, the middle classes, and above all, of the Catholic clergy. ... Why, ... The answer is that it was the instinctive defense of the educated classes who could not and would not accept the despised peasants as their equals, let alone permit them a decisive role in national politics. Before long, the priests were denouncing the party from their pulpits ... "

The Illyrian Kingdom

Croatian south-slav politicians in the former Austro-Hungarian empire stigmatized political alternatives for Croatian independence, such as Starcevic's Party of Rights, or Radic's Peasant Party - and they left nothing to chance, working to build a south-slav foundation, creating,
  • (Illyrian)"People's Party" (the legacy of the Illyrian Movement: Narodna Stranka, 1841)
  • "Illyrian" literary society (Matica Illyrska, 1842);
  • Standardized Serbo-Croat language (Vienna Agreement 1850);
  • 'Yugoslav Academy of Arts & Sciences' (1866);
  • Constituent status for Serb immigrants to Croatia (1867).
The influence of the British who at Versailles were described by M. MacMillan as "only a handful of specialists or cranks" had been overshadowed by the emergence of Russian or Soviet power. Croatian politicians such as Supilo, Smodlaka, Trumbic and other true believers such as the sculptor Ivan Mestrovic and all of the upper class did not support the idea of a Croatian independent state. Thus a 'Croato-Serbian' political coalition took power, the forerunner to the 'National Council of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs' in Zagreb and the declaration of the first south-slav state there.
As for the 'Yugoslav Committee' in London in exile, its mission was to lobby for support abroad, and to unite with independent Serbia, resulting in the Corfu Declaration. The Yugoslav Committee ultimately worked as representatives of the 'National Council' in the creation of the 'Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes'.
The Yugoslav Committee in 1917

The British Scapegoats

Many Croatian authors have minimized the role of Croats and magnified the role of foreigners, mainly the British, in the creation of the first Yugoslav state, citing British writers such as Evans, Gladstone or Seton-Watson. However I have shown that this south slav state was the product of influences closer to home, from the Italian peninsula or from France or Russia.
If not for Napoleon there would have been no 'enlightenment' in any newly created Illyrian provinces, or Illyrian Kingdom, and considering the lethal legacy of this Illyrianism, namely Yugoslavia, it would seem that the British did not defeat the French soon enough!
Croatian authors such as Percela & Guldescu (1), Omrcanin (2), Grubusic (3), Vitez (4), or Cic (5), who have self-censored part of their history, have had an influence on some authors of non-Croatian origin such as the late American M. McAdams (6) or the Australian L. Shaw (7). These and others took Croatian authors at face value, myself included. Although I majored in communist political systems including communist Yugoslavia at university it was a long time before I questioned the origins of the first south-slav state. In fact, before Croatian independence, it was deemed by supporters of a free Croatia that anything written against Croats was Yugoslav propaganda.
Vesna Drapac in 'Constructing Yugoslavia A Transnational History', in 335 pages has done little more to enlighten readers about the Croatian pan-slav politicians contribution to Yugoslavism other than to briefly say, "Discussions about South Slav unity (as opposed to the independence of, for example, the Serbs or Montenegrins) were Croatian in origin. Ljudevit Gaj ... was a leading proponent of the Illyrian movement ... Illyrianism, influenced by Pan-slavism, also sought greater understanding between South Slavs on cultural and linguistic grounds. The Croatian liberal Bishop of Djakovo, Josip Juraj Strossmayer (1815-1095) ... became one of the South Slav ideal's most illustrious advocates. He was known as a founding father of Yugoslavia. ..."  
Drapac instead focuses on quotations of British travel writers in Croatia in the 19th century who she alleges, “informed the creation of Yugoslavia ... (that Yugoslavia) … became what outsiders willed it to be, from its foundation ... was constructed, promoted and sustained by a combination of international and transnational forces." ... (and she argues that) ... "the history of Yugoslavia is inherently transnational in the sense that it cannot be understood in isolation ... (that Yugoslavia's) ... actual form was profoundly shaped by what outsiders had imagined it should be from at least the second half of the nineteenth century ... that the story of Yugoslavia is not a story about Europe's backyard but about Europe itself".

Let The Debate Begin

Gradually the hidden chapter of Croatian history is coming to light, although Macek's book, in hindsight did shed some light on the era, as did Katicic and Novak in 'Two Thousand Years of Writing in Croatia' in 1987. Also, M. Kovacevic writes in 1994 that, " ... the Croatian-Serbian coalition was founded in 1905, which fought for the union of Croatian lands, ... the political independence of Croatia and the union of South Slavic nations, after their candidates won a majority in the Parliament in 1906 (and kept the situation unchanged until 1918) ..."
For the first time L. Boban's book, 'Croatian Borders - 1918 to 1993' gives us a detailed chronology and maps of how Croatian politicians, along with some Slovenes or Serbs, formed the first south-slav state. Let the debate begin.
In this context Croatian people may discover a disturbing pattern -- that their Croatian politicians are willing participants or even the ideological vanguard in rapprochement with Serbia today. Today it's the Croatian cultural, ecumenical and political leaders who are again laying the foundation for an unconditional 'reconciliation' process with the recent aggressor, Serbia. Of course Serbia has always had allies in the West, but it's equally true that Serbian intransigence has been punished by western governments more than once in the past. In contrast, Russia as Serbia's enduring ally has always given unconditional support for Serbia's aggrandizement. In spite of everything you will rarely hear Croats blaming Russian pressure or influence for the creation of any Yugoslav state. Let the Debate Begin.
A century ago the majority of Croatian people had no say, and illiteracy was common, but today there is no excuse for such political naivety. So, with impunity, Croatian civilians have good reason to be shocked and traumatized by the activities of the Croatian government as they witness,
  • the unconditional handover of their patriotic generals to the Hague ad hoc court, in effect making self-defense a crime, contrary to the UN Charter;
    [ NOTE: On 15 April 2011 to the shock of the entire Croatian nation their generals were wrongly sentenced at the Hague, Ante Gotovina - 24 years; Mladen Markac - 18 years -sentence to be appealed. ]
  • A premature military and economic rapprochement with the Serbian leadership whilst the Serbian war criminal Mladic, and others are still at large;
  • Investment in pro-Yugoslav projects in various Croatian regions, for example in relation to Tito in Kumrovec, or the denial of Croatian ancestry of Nikola Tesla or Jankovic Stojan in Grcki Islam;
  • Application to be a member of the EU, without a referendum in Croatia.


Croatian political history of the 19th and early 20th century had almost disappeared into a black hole along with the genocide of Croatian people, just maybe because Croats have been self-censoring it, rather than because foreigners were responsible for it. Two decades after independence, the vast majority of Croatian people are horrified at the apparent anti-Croatian activity of their own government but instead of blaming Europe, Britain or America for treachery, Croatian people should scrutinize their own political history. Using the quotations above I have argued that foreigners, in particular the British, did not create 'south-slav' nationalism - their travel writers, journalists, and politicians described it, and in the absence of any alternative national political culture in Croatia, they had to deal with it, during a period of political change and violent upheaval in European history.  
Jean Lunt Marinovic
April 2011


(1) In their 'Operation Slaughterhouse', 1995, Percela and Guldescu, briefly describe the "romantic nationalism" of Liudevit Gaj, Racki or Strossmajer, or the "romanticist nationalism" of the Yugoslav "Exile Committee" as if these factors were of minor significance.
(2) Omrcanin, in 'Diplomatic & Political History of Croatia', 1972, presents a chronology of key events and documents in Croatia's centuries' long history but he omits 50 years of history between the Hungarian Nagodba in 1868 and the already created Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1918.
(3) In 'Years of Terror', 1976, Grubusic Ed., omits 19th century political activity in Croatia, the Serbian-Croatian Coalition, or the 'Yugoslav Committee'. Instead, in 'Years of Terror' it is alleged that, "all the various peoples making up this great power (Austrian empire) proclaimed their own independent states ... Versailles peace did not bring about justice for all nations ... they (Paris and London) assisted the Serbs in the annihilation of the young Croat state, in the occupation of Croatia and Slovenia and in setting up a kingdom ... on 1.12.1918. In this way the independence of the Croat people was crushed ..."
(4) In 'Adriatic Coast of Croatia and the Mediterranean', 1971, Vitez discusses the 19th century out of chronological sequence without mentioning Strossmayer or others. In the immediate pre-WWI period a Yugoslav-slavistic struggle is described, "rised by a part of the Croatian clergy and some members of the Croatian parliament ... (and how) ... "Supilo, together with his colleagues, Dr A Trumbic and sculptor I. Mestrovic, created an idea about the unity of the South Slavic nations into a common state ... (a) ... funny Croat-Serbian coalition inside the Croatian Parliament ... (led by) ... "Svetozar Pribicevic".

In the book 'In the Defence of Justice', Vitez explains that the Italian's alleged "inherited right" contributed to the censoring of Croatian identity, "...Frequently in Italy is used the name Illyrians to designate the Croats." and that it is in this way that Croats came to be known as Slavs from Illyria rather than Croats from Croatia - Italian influence on one hand, together with the so-called Slavic creation of Cyril & Methodius. (Note: Research shows however that use of the word Illyrian in Rome was supported and encouraged by the Croatian elite.)
(5) In 'How Yugoslavia was created' on his website, in Chapter 4: 'Summary of A History of Croatian Enemies', Cic concludes, from the writings of pro-Serbian English writers such as Evans in 1877, "from the book 'Illyrian Letters' that the British had conceived this plan hundreds of years earlier ..." (Note: I have underscored 'hundreds' for emphasis.)
(6) Unlike Croatian authors McAdams does not shy away from offering readers some details about the creation of the first Yugoslav state. This book was welcomed by those interested in justice for Croatian people when it appeared during the Serbian siege on Croatia in the early 1990s. However, it has since come to my attention that McAdams was incorrect to state that, "The Yugoslav National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs was organized in Zagreb on October 15, 1918. This twenty-eight member Council was self-appointed, not elected. ... This is the body so often cited as having 'asked' to join Yugoslavia." (Note: I have underscored 'not elected' for emphasis - in actual fact they had been elected and belonged to the political coalition of Serbs and Croats -- as elected representatives at the Sabor -- within the former Hapsburg territories.)

McAdams then does go on to say that it was at the Congress of the Croatian Peasant Party, not at the parliament where Peasant Party representatives voted for a "Neutral and Peasant Republic of Croatia" -- so clearly this had nothing to do with the Sabor.
(7) In 1973 another book appeared in the English language which, it cannot be stressed enough, had a great influence on those of us who relied on information in English at the time. The Australian, L. Shaw in 1973, 'Trial by Slander' gives some details about the activities of the Croatian Peasant Party but also left many important pieces out of the puzzle. (Note: In this way, readers could be forgiven for believing that the proclamation of the 'Peasant Party' in Croatia was the official parliamentary position at the Sabor, and that the proclamation of the 'National Council' was the un-elected position.)


Baletic, M., Ed., Croatia 1994, INA-Konzalting, Zagreb, 1994.
Boban, L., Croatian Borders: 1918-1993, Skolska Knjiga, Zagreb, 1993.
Bousfield, J., The Rough Guide to Croatia, Penguin Group, 5th Ed. 2010.
Cerovac, I., Hrvatski Politicki Leksikon, Worldwide, London, 1988.
Cic, Emil, The History of Croatian Enemies, 4.
Drapac, V., Constructing Yugoslavia, a Transnational History, Palgrave Macmillan, NY, 2010.
Franolic, B., An Historical Survey of Literary Croatian, Nouvelles Editions Latines, Paris, 1984.
Grubisic, S., Years of Terror, HRS.
Katicic, R. & Novak S.P., Two Thousand Years of Writing in Croatia, Sveucilisna Naklada Liber, Zagreb, 1987.
Kovacevic, M., 'History', chapter in My Croatia The Land & Its History, DMD, Zagreb, 1994.
Macek, V., In the Struggle for Freedom, USA, 1957,
MacMillan, M., Peacemakers: The Paris Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War, London, 2001.
McAdams, M.C., Croatia Myth and Reality, Croatian Information Service, Arcadia, 1992.
Omrcanin, I., Diplomatic and Political History of Croatia, Dorrance & Co., Philadelphia, 1972.
Prcela, J., & Guldescu. S., Operation Slaughterhouse, Dorrance & Co. Pittsburg, 2nd Ed., 1995.
Rude, G., Revolutionary Europe 1783-1815, Fontana Press, London, 1964.
Shaw, L., Trial By Slander, Harp Books, Canberra, 1973.  
Sivric, I., Bishop J. G. Strossmayer: New Light on Vatican I, Ziral, Chicago, 1975.
Vitez, V., Adriatic Coast of Croatia and the Mediterranean, Melbourne, 1971.
Vitez, V., In the Defence of Justice, 1970.
Westwood, J. N., Endurance and Endeavour: Russian History 1812-1980, Oxford University Press, London, 2nd Ed. 1981.
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