top of page
  • Jeremiah

A Critique of Austrian administration in Bosnia (Debate about the 1910 budget)

Updated: Apr 8

by Petar Kočić

A speech in the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Exalted Sabor!*

Immediately at the start, at a glance, I have to state that I can not accept this budget and that I will vote against it sincerely and joyously. I state that at the beginning because I might change my stripes later and vote for the budget. (Merry noise). I erase the whole first chapter: supreme executive. That executive is completely unnecessary for us and costs us 737 000 crowns. I could be satisfied even with this exalted government of ours, if it was completely in its place. Much richer and happier countries have one central executive, while we have two, one more expensive than the other, one worse than the other. (Merry noise).

Exalted Sabor! What does that expensive government in Vienna serve us for? In previous times, when there was no Sabor, so-so, it could be considered as a control of this government of ours and its survival could be somewhat justified, but today, when there is a Sabor here, its survival is absolutely not justified, because we have no need of that control. That is simply money taken out and in such a manner that not a smallest salary remains in the country, but it is all eaten by the hungry and unfortunate Vienna, I hope it burns down. (Merry noise).

What that supreme government is worth, we heard from the mouth of baron Benko: the Government wanted and proposed this, but the ministry has not yet responded anything. That means that this supreme executive is interfering with the work, prevents advancement and development of state work.

Exalted Sabor! But when the question of advancement, of promotion of administrators comes to mind, the gentlemen of Vienna take too much unto themselves, advancing greatly and rapidly and jump like angry horses over their colleagues in the country, who could better see the needs of this people, as they are closer to it.

I know from my student life in Vienna that these gentlemen are never in the office, and there are 63 of them, with 19 clerks on top of those 63 gentlemen. If this were not a serious forum, I would suggest to hire another 2 clerks, so that there would be a clerk for every 3 workless men.

Exalted Sabor! The budgeting of the real expenses of this executive is truly strange. Of 165 140 crowns, 40 000 crowns are listed items and the remaining 125 000 crowns are "other expenses", so sum them up. This is the same as when servants of the rich and nobility count various small expenses as large sums 80 so lange es geht. Therefore we must say: no more plunder, es geht nicht so mehr, and erase the whole chapter. There are gentlemen among them who should be retired who would not want to come down to impoverished Bosnia and we can give them a full pension. Mr. Petrašek has also gone into retirement; I would beg of him to leave in peace our country, especially our unfortunate forests. (Applause).

This same gentleman brought to us in Bosnia Eisler and Ortlieb, Feltrinelli, Srdić's Steinbeis, Mechtersheimer, etc.

This same gentleman always took part when selling our forests and sold everything of our forests that is best and closest for export, so that in 50 years, when much more is sold - of which I will speak later - we will not have a wooden wedge to sell. I can also say that he was main referent when selling the forests and the minister had to sign his report. I allow that everything could have been proper, but it is not right that he remains the counselor for Bosnian forests; for that reason I implore the exalted Sabor that if we can not remove him, then conclude that no piece of our forest is to be sold while Petrašek is the counselor for Bosnian forests.

I have learned from a friend that the last big complex of Bosnian forests are to be sold by offer, as the deadline is 1. September 1910. and those would be the forests of Ravna Planina, Vrhprača and Javorina, which are to be auctioned away.

It seems to me that here the Sabor should pay great attention and it is my duty to warn of it, it is my duty to my country, my people, myself and my descendants.

Therefore great attention should be focused on Mr Petrašek. Mr Petrašek could be followed into retirement by: two sectional supervisors, six court advisers, two governmental advisers, one financial senior adviser, two mining advisers, a construction adviser, an accounting adviser and one governmental adviser, the senior administrator of auxiliary offices. We could save 228 254 crowns this way, with another 165 140 crowns of real expenses. The savings would then be 383 704 crowns and now we have money for Čabrajić's labourers, my foresters, Džamonja's teachers; therefore, let us erase this and we will have money. (Applause).

This is what I had to say about the supreme executive.

It could be said: these people will then burden the pension fund of our administrators; I admit that, but that is a passing evil, as it is well known that once bureaucrats retire, they lose their health. As soon as he loses power, he loses his health, especially if they do work which is not suited to their organism. The second chapter, exalted Sabor, I am not completely contrarian to, I am only against the chiefs in that chapter. In that chapter of the budget we see a leftover of the old Ottoman administration, that being the vali and the civilian paşa, his second. These positions are not necessary for our country.

If Austria-Hungary needs a troops inspector, a marshal or a feldzeig master, let it pay for it itself; we already pay a lot for the military.

Therefore another 24 000 crowns for the head of he country should be erased, 5652 crowns for the maintenance and lighting of the residence and 5 000 for repairs of the residence. It is not nice that we, as a poor country, light up the residence of a grand gentleman, like the troops inspector, who does not pay even the rent for such a great abode.

Furthermore, I would erase the civilian vice-chief. I do not know whether the exalted chamber will accept this, but the civilian vice-chief is not necessary.

Our four sectional chiefs together in a council could direct this country even without the two chiefs. And the most senior section chief can very nicely represent this government of ours.

My proposal therefore is to erase the vali and his second from the budget and to thus save 68 000 crowns and that, exalted chamber, is quite the sum of money, if you somehow did not know!

Another thing that is still in my head that I have to say, which is that the factors of authority waited for our conclusion to erase the civilian vice-chief, as even before the arranging of the Sabor our vali was named a groupen-inspektor and there was no such position beforehand.

Mr baron Benko stayed in his place, even though it is logical and smart for him to be retired before the Sabor's session; the fact that Mr Benko has remained the civilian vice-chief and no one younger has been appointed proves that the relevant factors intend to end this post, and they have only been waiting for the Sabor to erase this line from the budget.

This way Mr Benko could go into his long-desired pension. There would be no rivalries among the other gentlemen, as there would be no post to be rivals over. Then the government could be skillfully and nicely represented by for example section chief Schek or Mikuli - especially Mr Mikuli since he owns a car. (Explosive laughter).

In this chapter I can also speak about the size of the sum set aside for the printing of the budget, the final accounts and reports about the government. There it is written that 29 000 crowns are to be used for this purpose. we could save money there as well, gentlemen. The reports and final accounts should not be printed in German and Hungarian languages; nor should they be printed in two alphabets, Serbian and Croatian. This is a poor people, so a single alphabet should be adopted in the interest of cultural unification and national austerity. We should save money. Why should we flash it around? We are one people, we have one language, so we should have one script. (A voice: Which one? The Croatian one?) That will be as we will it. We will come to an agreement.

The third chapter covers the Sabor. When the government is being critiqued, we should go over our accounts as well. Whatever we start, let us start from ourselves.

There were sessions of half an hour and then we would go home. We should not waste time, but work and save money. We need to look for savings everywhere. No sinecures should be created - no stipends, because the government will respect our critique even more.

With regards to the fourth chapter of this forecast, I can say that I am completely against the regional government. This is a remnant of the old times. This is an archaic institution and costs our people 282 430 crowns. I do not know what that executive serves for. How much we need that executive we know ourselves, but I will say how the need for regional administration was characterised by a clerk, who said:

"They were established to stop the document going from the county office to the land government for 14 days and conversely, when the document is going back from the land government to be held back for 14 days before reaching the county office". (Laughter). If these regions do not serve to that purpose, I do not know what they do. (Repeated laughter).

We see that in Austrian provinces which are represented in the Imperial council there are no such regional governments. Neither poor Dalmatia, not mountainous Steirerland, nor rich Czechia have such regions. When it is so over there, then I do not know why we should support these regions. I erase those regions and ask for help from the exalted Sabor to have the regions erased.

Under the heading "healthcare" I will not erase anything. I was not as angry with regards to this title as with other sections. I can only remark something here. Under the heading of healthcare there are salaries set aside for 4 doctors in the land hospital. I am not against it, nor do I regret that. It is only that they should not be allowed to have side work; posts should not be given to them, for example, with the financial administration of the ill or at the railways, but let them only do their official duties. (A voice: That's right!). I agree with Mr baron Pitner in this matter, that there is very little space in the hospitals and that our hospitals are lacking in rooms. Additional pavilions should be built and immediately hire a few more doctors; but we can all see that there is no money. I could say this opinion of mine with regards to that - that only the sons of this country be accepted into the hospitals and from other lands of Austria-Hungary only those who suffer from an infectious disease and who need to be operated on. (People's representative Dr Sarić: All ill must be admitted!). I think that we should care, but the priority should be taking care of ourselves and our ill. There are such patients who come from the Monarchy here and get medical services here, even though they could have gone back to the Monarchy and gotten care there, so we could give more attention to our patients.

With regards to poultry-raising I would have the following remark: Here there is a amount listed for the maintenance of the register of cattle in those counties on the borders of Serbia and Turkey. This line item was stuffed into this section of the budget. In my opinion, it would fall under the financial section, as this register is in the interest of the joint empire Austria and Hungary. We are here damaged for 42 000 crowns and get nothing in exchange for it.

With regards to the military, I as the representative of the third curia have to mention that based on our economic strength it is very much and almost inhuman to take 10% of the entire budget for the military. We should not be measured with the same measuring stick of Austria and Hungary, because we are a very backwards country, we do not have enough schools and therefore we should not be measured with the same yardstick, because we have completely different cultural circumstances.

Furthermore, with regards to military service I can mention that for us Bosnians and Herzegovinians it is enough to serve for only a short year (Laughter)... because we can learn in three months the discipline and drill and shooting and the other two and three quarters years we do nothing in barracks in Vienna, Pest and Graz. Therefore, a little year of service is sufficient for us.

Besides, it is necessary for our army to serve in the country, so they can be disbanded in harvest-time to help and help with the field work. (Representative Majkić: and to leave our money in the country!).

Here we could make savings, if the military service is reduced to a year, of two and a half million. Although, our military would be reduced to a third; but what does Austria care for us and whether the soldier is at home or in the barracks. Truth be told, our people are brave and know how to spill their blood for another greatly, but unfortunately thye never knew how to do anything for themselves.

Now I have to say a few words about the gendarmerie. When the gendarmerie is mentioned, the executive jumps from all sides and starts praising the institution. I can not praise it, as our people suffered greatly from this gendarmerie, especially at the start of the Austrian administration, when the gendarmes were the ones who had, if you remember, red hats. These were terrible people, true barbarians. I have never in my life seen faces like those. - Since my childhood those nasty and barbarian faces have remained in my memories. Later they disappeared, because they could not be as violent as in the beginning. As much as they are guardians of peace and order they as as much, I claim, the spreaders of immorality in our people. Mister Benko can protect them as much as he wishes, but I am of a firm conviction, I have seen and will list examples that these guardians of peace and order are spreaders of immorality in our country at the same time. I also claim that they perform an espionage duty. I will list only one example that I have lived through. When I came back from Serbia, I came to Gomjenica monastery, where my father lived and one evening I saw a bayonet flashing in the night. What is this, I wondered, went there and found the gendarmes there. I know the men and they honestly told me that their duty was to watch me - an ordinary student, whether I have any great endeavours to bring down Austria, only because I was in Serbia.

Besides that, this budget has a line item which I have not come across in any budget of any country. That, exalted Sabor, is some 11 harambašas.** (Laughter.) I simply can not be smart enough to understand how a legal government feeds 11 harambašas. (Laughter). There are four buljukbašas there, five serdars, three serdar's seconds, four pandurs and eleven, my gentlemen, mountain harambašas.

All, as you can see, some dangerous people! (Laughter.) If the government wants them, let them keep them, but I would suggest for them to be erased.

One can not speak about the political authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina coolly, one can not but get upset. The political authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina were foreign when they got here and for these 30 years have remained foreign and in a foul mood towards our people. This terrorising and oppression by the political authorities has been felt most by our peasants.

I received a letter, which best characterises the position of our people under this new executive. The disappointment with this new administration of our people, especially the peasants, is great; which is something one would not expect from the administration which received two of Balkan's provinces exactly due to those peasants. And these peasants were not just never helped, but it morally and materially pressured and killed them.

I will take the liberty to read his letter to the exalted Sabor, so I hope that after this reading even those who had no love for the peasant will find more love and affability towards him.

The letter says (reading): "I am suffering and petering out in bitter gall and miserable poverty since I am aware of myself. I am in pain, too much pain, my sweet brother and my honeyed summer, and I can not say for sure what it is that pains me. I only feel that my pain is great and dear God himself knows whether there is a cure for it. My strength is all numbed and used up, my soul is empty, dry and wrung out like a squeezed out lemon from the coast.

I work and agonise like a hard repentant from early dawn to the dead of the night; as they say I fall with the star and rise with the star.

In the spring, waddling, hungry and thirsty, in these crags after my plough and soaking every furrow with sweat and tears, I pray to the good and overly merciful God for a good harvest and profit. Over the summer my frozen soul thaws and I shiver and am fearful like aspen leaves over my fields, while in the autumn, when I finish everything in sweat and put it in a dry space, both dragons and crows come after my bloody labours. My soul then starts squealing - squealing like a snake in a fissure, something fogs up my vision and my ears ring. But, as long as it takes me to look on my hungry and naked children, I get a jolt, my strength numbs and I just sigh, cursing my life, my mother and her sinful innards...

That is how my life and days pass, and I will last until I can, such is the justice under this new administration and law.

In the old times, under the Turkish courts and Turkish, let's call it justice, one could somehow get by. God be merciful on me, God gave better as well. There was profit in everything... everything there was plenty of. Aga left something behind and the empire did not go overboard and suppress all the down time. There was also for us, let's say peasants, even more justice. If sometimes it was not right by us in the town and in courts, the towners would feel wronged in the village and mountains, where kosovica passes judgement, so it was somehow even and tied to one another.

I tell you, my kin, one could nicely live and get spoiled, but since this damned and black occupation,*** damn it, it all made us wear black. Some pale people in black clothes and black coats spread out like ants on our land and poisoned our lives and land. The harvests started getting weaker, our stores started failing, and some damnation and faithlessness went into the people. The Empire hit us with hard taxes and the vladikas set their kamilavikons to the side and separated themselves from the people. And our faith faltered. The world froze unto itself. Everyone is tired of this black ukopacija and dark justice. Everyone is up, everyone looking for some justice: priest and the monk, bey and aga, owner and artisan, and the Empire, may our torment await it at Judgement Day, gives something to everyone. Only we, the peasants, forgotten and far away, slowly wither, rot and die in torment. And we thought about getting up, moaning in pain, but our strength always gives out and our tongues cut short and a black darkness and quiet closes up above us. Malice has corroded us, poverty killed us, great injustice murdered us, so we nap like cattle with worms. We are weak, we are powerless, we are without skills.

Under Turkish courts there was between us smart people with free hearts. Many went to the paşas' and veziers' divan and could wisely and freely spin yarn. When Austria came, we got totally terrified and broke up like a herd of sheep when wolves chase it. We lost our hearts and lost our smarts as well. Our tongues got tied together, so we can't speak two words between us.

Men who once could hold wise conversations with paşas and veziers at the divan, today these men get their words stuck in their throats when they start speaking down in the court with that bare-chinned child, which all shines and is eager from the Swabian contractions. (Laughter). Judge me, says I, by the justice of God and man. - Judgements are not, he says, in our Empire based on justice, but on the paligraphs. When it would judge based on justice, it would not rule over nineteen regions and seven-eight faiths and laws for so many hundreds of years! - At that speech, my tongue tied itself in knots and not a word came out of me. I can see he spake the truth and it can't be otherwise."

(Warned by the president of the Sabor to not read any further, Kočić continued): Just one more little line. (Laughter - he reads): "That is the way of the court and the road. From all sides the frost and ice hit us and we wilt and fail like late crops from cold. We are blind while have eyes, crazy and silly while we have smarts and in irons without chains. What more, my sweet brother" - and mister president - (Laughter) - "and my honeyed summer, do I need to stretch it out and list any more! I will only say more that our peasants' life is only a, as they say, long dirge of sorrow and bitterness, the greatest suffering and hard trouble."

This is a short matter, a letter.

Among other important things which our political authorities have at their disposal, I will touch on one which is very important, I could say the most important, the relation between the serfs and agas. The relations until now between serfs and agas have become unbearable, especially for the serfs. There are no legal provisions and those that have been given out in that respect are all crippled, unclear, insufficient and weak, to the extent that it is terrifying to think how it could hold up until today. It is not necessary, as the majority knows, it has no practical value to historically observe the development of this question... (Warned by the president that it has no connection to this special debate, Kočić continued):

I do not know, mister president, and I will not be opposed, but this falls before the political authorities. (A voice: This falls under politics). I will only, if you will not let me speak, find a way to speak on this matter and that will be when agriculture is on the agenda. But for now I will only say this which concerns the agas and serfs: I have heard and I know that the government has its own serfs. I ask of you gentlemen, to conclude that at least the government should not have its own serfs, but to have them written out, to have those people freed. This was my remark on the topic of governmental serfs, if I am not allowed to speak of other serfs. With his I conclude my speech.

(An ovation in the chamber and voices: Long life!)

* Tran. note: Sabor is the name for the Parliament

** Tran. note: harambaša was the leader of a band of outlaws

*** Tran note: originally "ukopacija", which is both an corruption of the word for occupation and can be understood to be a funeral Translated by Books of Jeremiah

527 views0 comments
bottom of page