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Yugoslav Ideology: The truth of "Yugoslavism" III/XV

Updated: Mar 24

By Jovan Dučić

First published in Amerikanski Srbobran, 1942


Especially in Serbia our wider circles were long deceived by words which for them had a sibylic, unclear quality to them like Illyrism and Yugoslavism and then with the names of Strossmayer and Rački, which finally became symbolic and legendary, almost saintly and prophet-like. For the Slavic psyche of the Serbian man it seemed that what was murky was also deep. Raised in the cult of heroes from his imperial Middle Ages, these two Catholic priests were for him increasingly interesting, the more incomprehensible they got. Both are almost penetrated among the names of our greatest achievers and reach from a dubious history and spotted literature, then passing through the regime apparatus of our long dictatorships, which is to say through an official patriotism.

What was actually ILLYRISM? And what what tie does it have to our national, Serbian, fate? It is an ideology in the sense of solidarity of South Slavs? A literary movement? Or a political one? Or both?

Illyrism is also called the Croatian Revival; and completely accurately so. But that expression is where one should stop. The Illyrian movement is a purely Croatian matter, internal and local, educational and moral and politically it matters only in it becoming the ember for all other national ambitions of Croats, in a century very important for them, perhaps even great. Illyrism is the forerunner of Storssmayer's movement, wrongly called "Yugoslavism". Wrongly, at least in the Serbian definition of the word. With this movement of Strossmayer's, the Croatian people, very poor and cramped and insignificant in the century before this one, becomes affirmed, which overcame its real importance. But it still had its expression, not without interest, for each historian of the period.

Let us say a few words about Illyrism, which many confuse with Croat "Yugoslavism".

What was Illyrism?

It is known that the name comes from Illyria, the state which Napoleon in his mania to create new kingdoms intended to create on the soil of Teuta's old state of Illyria; a new state and new people, based on certain common traits of theirs. The state created of Slovenia, Croatia and a part of Dalmatia. - This was after his victory at Wagram. But this idea of Napoleon's failed at the first peace conference. The only thing that remained was that the French took great interest in Serbian national poems, of which the contemporary romantic magazine "Le Globe", made a great question and Prosper Mérimée sung Serbian rhapsodies completely in the spirit of our cycles. So-so but in the spirit of our cycles [tran. note: in Serbian epic poetry, a cycle collects all the poems centered around a specific event or in one case person]. So much so that one of his collections "Le Guzle" cause the belief that these were truly the work of a gifted epic people and not a gifted French poet who enjoyed to mystify.

But in Slovenia and especially in Croatia, Illyria remained a great memory. One should know the misery of the people at the time. The first quarter of the XIX century was extremely difficult in unfortunate Croatia. In Dalmatia Croatian people were completely uncared-for, neglected. The entire time of the Venetian rule - which is from 1420 until 1797 - there was not a single school there in the national language. "Si volete Dalmati fedeli tenete li ignoranti", said the Croatian saviours at the time. However, under Napoleon's rule, in only 8 years, Dalmatia, from top to bottom, was strewn with gymanisums (7), girls' schools (14), vocational ones (8), children's ones (19) and ones for priests (4), etc. But this advancement will be cruelly destroyed by Austria when it came to Dalmatia. A local wrote that still in 1870 Dalmatia had 80% analphabets... (Frano Ivanišević, Narodni Preporod u Dalmaciji, Split, 1932). We can see that in 1825. Hungarians enforce Hungarian as the administrative language to Croats and they are fighting for it to remain Latin, not even thinking about their vernacular! But in 1835 Hungarians are there to force Hungarian as the language of schools and make it mandatory. The intent of Hungary this time was to simply turn Croatia into a Hungarian province. - Before the danger of completely disappearing, Croats, in a Napoleonic time of nationalism, started awakening themselves.

But what had truly woken up Croats were the uprisings by Karađorđe and Miloš, which cause admiration in other Slavic lands. In Croatia at the time there were only two visible classes: the Romanised clergy and the Magyarised nobility. In the battle for language, following the priests they demanded Latin; but under increased power of the nobility, helped from Buda, they had to accept Hungarian as the mandatory schooling language .

At the time, a young student, by descent a German from Krapina, as Ferdo Šišić found out, Ljudevit Gaj, spent a lot of time in Graz and Pest in the company of Serbian youth, enraptured by the uprisings and just as much by Serbian National Poems, which Vuk Karadžić had published at the time. The Serbian language which the students spoke and with which Vuk wrote, enraptured Ljudevit Gaj, so much so that he thought about the sad state of affairs of the vernacular in Croatian areas. Therefore an idea was born in him that Croats should take Serbian literary language as their literary language, which is to say by the pattern set by Vuk's folk poems. Croatian speech in Zagorje was kajkavijan and on the islands čakavijan [tran. note: names for different dialects]. Gaj therefore thought up that Croats should accept Serbian štokavijan. This speech was already used in Dalmatia and Slavonia, because Serbs lived there for the past few centuries. This acceptance of Serbian štokavijan, thought Gaj, would unite Croatian areas. And as the entirety of Dubrovnik's literature was written in Serbian štokavijan, the same kind used for Vuk's Serbian poems, the adoption of Serbian literary language would mean annexing Dubrovnik for Croatia, not leaving it to the Serbs. That is when "Hrvatski List" with a literary addition was founded.

This is the main work of Illyrism.

Just so there is no confusion, it is necessary to say that Croats did not perform this moral transformation without great spiritual reasons, taking a foreign literary language as their own (which is surely without precedent among all the peoples). In the kajkavian dialect (which again Slovenians consider their own), Croats had not written much of importance. In čakavijan dialect, which is the only one in philology considered indisputably and purely Croatian, they could not go far, as it showed no possibility of further development. The proof is that the old Croatian manuscript of Vinodolski zakon [tran. note: Vinodol laws, written in 1288] represents exactly the same language that the residents of Vinodol speak today. - Later Rački would have the intention to print a "reading book" for his people, with the Medieval Serbian literary monuments, Žitija [tran. note: Hagiographies], in it, so that due to a lack of its own sources Croatian could get certain classical patterns.

But the Croats did not accept Serbian štokavijan without a certain resistance. "Croats introduced themselves the štokavijan language, even though it took and still does a lot of effort as it is far removed from the from the domestic vernacular" (Vežić, Neven, 1855; Milosavljević, II, 28). They did not even receive the language of Serbian national poems without protest. Miškatović writes to Jagić: "They hope to resist if we have the grammar and orthography separate from the Serbian one (Jagić, Spomeni mojega života, 62). To present day, as one of our writers says, the linguistic line, which is to say the Croatian moral continent, went like a border of štokavijan towards the north-west, following the river Kupa and bent along the river Čazma towards Drava! Already in "Danica" in 1847, Croatian writer A. Tkalčević says that "real Croats live across Kupa". - Even I. Kukuljević himself writes that "Croatian language lies once Sava is crossed and especially Kupa..." (Archive, IX, 318; Đerić 158). - If Croats had not taken Serbian štokavijan, but stayed with kajkavian, they would have traded all those insults with their western neighbours in the common kajkavian language instead of, to our misfortune, they trade those insults of theirs today with us in štokavijan...

Serbs themselves did not exactly easily let go this appropriation of their literary language, the language of national epics by the Croats, without it being denounced as unauthorised plagiarism. Jagić, the greatest Croatian philologist, writes: "It should be naturally understood that I found it funny when the Serbian side reproached Croats (precisely the Illyrians between 1834 and 1848) that they have unjustly appropriated the Serbian language as their own - instead of rejoicing at that concentration, which was awoken and supported by literature from Dubrovnik" (Jagić, Spomeni, II, 247). With regards to the note about the literature of Dubrovnik, we will bring forward a piece of information to demonstrate how Croats themselves did not consider the literature of Dubrovnik as their own. Their professor of general history at the University of Zagreb, the learned Natko Nodilo, wrote: "In Dubrovnik, if not from the start, then since records exist, Serbian was spoken, whether it be among the commoner or the nobility; as much at home as in public spaces. It is true that the records of various councils were in Latin and chances are that under the Doges of Venice and for their sake, something was discussed in councils in Venetian and with various languages. But in the municipality, free form Venetians, the discussing language is Serbian" (Rad, 65, 117). - Taking Serbian štokavijan, like the Illyrians had done, was therefore also annexing Dubrovnik (which they will finally achieve politically, even with an accord with the Serbian opposition in 1939).

Croats never could get used to the idea that they are a small people in Europe, barely historical. They hide and deform even that which the rest of the world knows. The famous historian from XVI century Dubrovnik Mavro Oribini, a priest in that town, in his famous History [tran. note: The Realm of the Slavs] presents as the only known national history the story of the Nemanjić and other Serbian Medieval dynasties (Hrebeljanović, Mrnjavčević, Vojnović - Altomanović, Kosača and Balšić), even putting into the coat of arms of Nemanja [tran. note: founder of the Nemanjić dynasty] all the coats of arms of other Yugoslav units, among them the Croatian coat of arms. Describing far and wide the history of Serbs, with information which to this day have not been denied, Orbini, under the title History of Croats, has only three pages of fogginess in his book! And speaking of how Croats used to offer aid to Dubrovnik against the Vojnović princes of Herzegovina, Orbini writes that the residents of Dubrovnik answered as follows: "But you are from a land very far away..." "Voi siete dal paese molto lontani..." (Orbini, Il regno de gli Slavi, Pesaro 1601, 395). This is what Gundulić and his fellow citizens knew about their national history and what they knew about Croats.

Croats never had their own national poems. Serbs are a nation of gusle, while the Croats are a nation of tambura [tran. note: different kinds of string instruments]; and while Serbs developed their famous epics, Croats developed their witty ditties. The Roman church itself banned Croats from having national poems. It did not aid national movements anywhere else; because in its eyes unity was only possibly through unity of faith, not state. Already the great and learned Pope Innocent III stated at the 1199 council in our own Duklja [tran. note: Latin name Dioclea] that state and church do not go well together. This is why Cyril and Methodius, after being canonized in Rome have only in our time, under Leo XIII, been celebrated as saints, but were not accepted as the teachers of Slavs and the inventors of the Cyrillic script! - Kukuljević writes that the Bishop of Zagreb Petrović forbade national verses. And Vjekoslav Jagić writes that the Church already in the Middle Ages persecuted the singing of national poems, not only by introducing Church chants, but also by issuing bans against them (Rad 1876, 37). This explains why Croats never had any love for national poems nor created them.

A Yugoslav who follows the regime or another ignoramus of national questions would say that a joint literary language, thus "achieved" between Serbs and Croats, would still bring some sort of political solidarity, rapprochement, a feeling of something shared. But that Yugoslav would not say that someone who stole his coat or cigarette case was only standing in solidarity with him! - It is not only this. It should be well kept in mind that the Serbian štokavijan was supposed to serve the Croats not only to have a nice and logical language but to gradually use it to gather all the other speakers of štokavijan, that is to say Serbs, around Zagreb as the main štokavijan cultural centre... The proof is that a well-known Illyrian, Ivan Derkos, immediately demanded the grouping of all speakers of štokavijan around his cultural centre of Zagreb. And old graf Janko Dašković especially called forth Bosnia into that circle around Zagreb, not mentioning Serbia or any other štokavijan Orthodox lands. And when Ban Jelačić was installed as Ban in 1848, in the presence of Serbian Patriarch Rajačić and then both were ceremoniously carried around the triumphal arch on the hands of the crowd, that too was connected to the aspirations of Croats to impose themselves as the centre for Vojvodina, first a national one, later a religious (unionist) one.

This is the other face of Illyrism.

This is Illyrism, for which countless of our ignoramuses claimed persistently to the Serbian people that it was a movement of Yugoslav solidarity, which after 1848 will also become "Yugoslavism", the supposed movement of brotherhood, the standard bearer of the unification of South Slavs, that is a road to a single state, which would of course be called Yugoslavia. Completely to the contrary. What comes will show that Strossmayer's "Yugoslavism" was something completely different from what it later represented itself as. Serbs, as per their habit to dig into the matters of others and because they always regard all political ideas either provincially or partisan or finally from the side of the regime, have not proven to have understood this movement to this day. And often they did not want to sufficiently understand it. Serbs from Croatia, who came as politicians to Belgrade, did not feel how much damage to both sides, both for Serbs and Croats, could come exactly from when a national ideology is built on an untruth and as such is built into the foundations of the state only as an illusion, as a scientific hypothesis. One needs to be a true believer to hold that all the misfortunes, which in 23 years of its existence were experienced by Yugoslavia, would not have happened if "Yugoslavism", a thing unreal and invented, did not quickly become the official patriotism of our worst regimes, a bureaucratised idea, which was not defended by neither the church, nor school, but the police and the law on protection of the state.

Translated by Books of Jeremiah

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