Croatia: Themes, Authors, Books


Croat enthusiasm for the unification of the South Slavic lands receded markedly after the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, subsequently renamed Yugoslavia, in 1918. For the majority of Croats the new state did not represent national liberation but a new tyranny under the politically dominant Serbs. Since the Croat Peasant Party of Stjepan Radić (1871-1928) was from the beginning the only political group in Croatia that openly opposed Serbian hegemony, it became the dominant political power in the country. After the assassination of Radić on the floor of Belgrade's National Assembly in 1928 and the establishment of the royal dictatorship in 1929 radical anti-Belgrade options became increasingly audible. On the Left, the Communist Party produced two leading figures – Miroslav Krleža (1893-1981), Croatia's foremost twentieth-century writer, playwright and social critic, and Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980), the Communist general secretary, who would lead the Communist partisans to power in the course of the Second World War. On the Right, the Ustaša (Insurgent) movement of Ante Pavelić (1889-1959), promoted independence through reliance on the Fascist powers.

After the dismemberment of Yugoslavia in April 1941 and the establishment of the Ustaša dictatorship perhaps as many as 120,000 Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and antifascist Croats were killed in the Ustaša camps. For their part, the Communist partisans, who had a strong base in Croatia, used violence to establish themselves in power. After the collapse of the Ustaša regime in 1945, the Communists carried out a carnage of their real or potential enemies, killing as many as 50,000 Croats. These issues seethed during the postwar period and acquired resonance under the prolonged period of Communist dictatorship, which ended with the systemic collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and Croatia's war for independence (1991-1995).

Mathias Flacius Illyricus (Matija Vlačić) (1520-75)

Matija Vlačić (Latin Matthias Flacius Illyricus, German Matthias Flach), from Istria, which he called “mea dulcissima patria” (my sweetest country), was a martyr to the Protestant and Lutheran ideas which he espoused. The first edition of this work was published in Basel in 1567. Vlačić’s great work is one of the basic books of Protestantism, providing a key to the reading of the Bible. Even today, his Clavis Scripturae Sacræ (Key to the Holy Scriptures) is counted among the most authoritative Protestant publications.

  • Clavis scripturae sacrae. (1567; 2nd ed. Jena: J. Ludovici, 1674)


Vinko Pribojević (fl. 1525-32)

A native of Hvar, Dominican Vinko Pribojević, humanist and historian, was the first to express the idea of unity of all Slavs in his work “De origine successibusque Slavorum,” Venice 1532. The work was later translated into Italian and published in Venice in 1595. The first part of Pribojević’s work is devoted to the origin and fame of the Slavs, while the second part gives a short geographic description and history of Dalmatia. The third part is devoted to his native island of Hvar. He delineates its glorious past, its economic and cultural importance and the scientific and military contributions of his countrymen. Pribojević’s ideas, although influenced by Polish historiography, which believed that the cradle of Slavs was in Illyricum, are important because he was the first among the South Slavs who expressed the idea about the great Slavic community of nations. He is considered to be a forerunner of the pan-Slavic idea and the later Illyrian Movement. His work was a source for the history written later by Mavro Orbini.

  • Della origine et successi de gli Slaui (In Venetia: presso Aldo, 1595)


Mauro Orbini (ca. 1550-1611?)

Mavro Orbin was born in Dubrovnik where he lived most of his life. Later scholars referred to the Benedictine don as “a new Dalmatian Thucydides.” During a sojourn in Italy he published “Il regno de gli Slavi,” in which he introduced the concept of a Slavic empire. He tried to present a history of all Slavs, considering them one people, particularly the South Slavs. In his enthusiasm he also included many non-Slavic nations. Orbin placed Slavs as far as Scandinavia, saying that it was their original homeland. He even appropriated Alexander the Great and Aristotle as fellow Slavs! Although not critical in his sources and judgment and therefore not a reliable historian, Orbin provides interesting details about 14th and 15th century life in and around Dubrovnik. “Il regno de gli Slavi” became a source of many new historical and imaginative writings, including Ivan Gundulic’s epic “Osman” (1620). Peter the Great ordered a translation of his work and in 1722 it appeared in St. Petersburg in an abridged version.  

It is interesting to note that in 1603 the Catholic Church placed on Index and banned  “Il regno de gli Slavi” because Orbin had used as his source several authors proclaimed heretics by Rome.

  • Il regno de gli Slavi, hoggi correttamente detti schiavoni (Pesaro: Appresso Girolamo Concordia, 1601)

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Marco Antonio (Markantun) De Dominis (1560-1624)

Markantun (Italianized Marco Antonio) De Dominis was born in Rab in 1560. He was a student of theology, philosophy and natural sciences in Verona and Padua. He became the Archbishop of Split in the year 1602. His life’s work was “De republica ecclesiatica,” in which he set forth with a great display of erudition his theory of the church. The principal note of the book was its insistence on the divine prerogatives of the Catholic episcopate as against the encroachments of the papal monarchy. This work was directed not only against the Papal See and Church administration, but also against some of the Church's teachings. Its central message was that the Church should be reorganized on a federalist basis instead of being strictly controlled from the center. The book was acclaimed throughout Europe as an exceptionally important work of theology and it dealt a severe blow to the authority of the Catholic Church. De Dominis died in a Roman prison in 1624. All his works were placed on the Vatican’s Index of banned books and publicly burned.


  • De republica ecclesiastica libri X (London 1617; reprint, Split: Lamaro, 2003)
  • De repvblica ecclesiastica libri X ... (London: Iohn Bill, 1617) Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
  • A sermon preached in Italian (London: Iohn Bill, 1617) Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

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Giovanni Lucio (Ivan Lučić) (1604-79)

Ivan Lučić (Latin Joannes Lucius, Italian Giovanni Lucio) of Trogir wrote the best work of old Croatian historiography. Lučić was an open-minded historian, who went to source materials without prejudice and who gauged their relative importance. In the middle of the 17th century he wrote that “today Illyricum is divided into Dalmatia, Croatia, Bosnia and Slavonia.” Lučić’s views on the topography of dismembered Croatia were true because they stated the essential unity of this land more accurately than the political realities of that period.

  • De regno Dalmatiae et Croatiae (Vindobonae [Vienna], 1746-48)


Juraj Križanić (ca. 1618- 83)

Juraj Križanić, also known as Yuriy Krizhanich, was a Croatian Catholic missionary who is regarded as the earliest recorded pan-Slavist.

Križanić studied in Zagreb, Bologna, and Rome. In 1647, he arrived in Moscoe with the idea of promoting the union of Eastern and Western churches. His mission failed as his ideas were taken as dangerous, interpreted by the Russians as an attempt to convert them from Orthodoxy to Catholicism. Križanić returned to Russia 12 years later, still seeking to arrange the union of Slavic nations under leadership of the tsar.

After a two-year-long stay in the Russian capital, he was taken into custody and transported to Tobolsk in Siberia. There he lived for 15 years, surviving on a state stipend and working on the treatises On Divine Providence, On Politics, and On Interpretation of Historic P rognostications. In these books, written in his self-devised "Common Slavonic language" a Pan-Slavonic grammar named Grammatitchno Iskaziniye), he set forth a comprehensive program of reforms recommended for the Russian state. His Politics was published by Bezsonov (Russia in the Seventeenth Century, 1859-60- vol. 2 of this title shown on display). His appeal to the Czar to head the Slavs in the fight against the Germans shows a remarkable political foresight. He returned from Siberia in 1676, and after that date little is known of him. He died in 1683 fighting against the Ottoman Turks during the siege of Vienna.

  • The Hungarian Rebellion, or, An historical relation of the late wicked practices of the three counts, Nadasdi, Serini, and Frangepani: tending to subvert the government of his present Imperial Majesty in Hungary, and introduce the Mahumetan : with their arraignment, condemnation, and manner of being executed for the same. Translated by P.A. Gent (London: Printed for William Gilbert at the Half Moon in Pauls Church-yard, and the Sawbridge at the three Flower de Luces in Little-Brittain, 1672)

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Pavao Ritter Vitezović (1652-1713)

To Pavao Ritter Vitezović falls the honor that first among Croatian writers he was able to talk of the renewal of Croatia. He was a true champion of Croatia rediviva. Professor Banac noted, “Vitezović considered all Slavic lands ‘Illyric’ or ‘Croatian,’ therefore the collection naturally contains the coats of arms of the Czech, Polish and Russian lands.”

In 1696 Vitezović appealed to the estates of the realm of Croatia, asking to be supplied with reproductions of coats of arms and information on families and various regions in view of his plan to publish a work entitled De Aris et Focis Illyricorum. The fruits of this appeal appeared in his book of heraldry, Stemmatographia, Sive Armorum Illyricorum Delineatio, Descriptio, et Restitutio, published in Vienna (1701). The second edition appeared in Zagreb in 1702.

  • Banac, Ivo. Grbovi: biljezi identiteta (Zagreb: Grafički zavod Hrvatske, 1991)

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This book by Professor Ivo Banac of the Yale Department of History gives an historical analysis of Croatian heraldry. It also contains a facsimile edition of the first major work on Slavic heraldry by Pavao Ritter Vitezović.

Alberto Fortis (1741-1803)

Augustinian monk, natural scientist and traveler, Alberto Fortis, visited Dalmatia in 1771-1774 and later in 1779-1783. The result of his visits was a two-volume travelogue with descriptions of Dalmatia, its people, their national customs, folk literature and particularly folk songs. Among others he recorded the best-known folk poem “Hasanaginica” in Croatian and in an Italian translation. The “Viaggio in Dalmazia” was later translated into other European languages. It is believed that Goethe translated “Hasanaginica” into German from the 1778 Berne edition.

  • Viaggio in Dalmazia (Venezia: Presso Alvise Milocco, all’ Apolline, 1774)

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Josip Juraj Strossmayer (1815 –1905)

Strossmayer was a notable bishop, benefactor and a politican supported the union of all south Slavic peoples under the aegis of the Habsburgs, and promoted religious unification through the use of the Slavonic rite both in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Strossmayer founded the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1867 in Zagreb. The academy was renamed the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts after the fall of Yugoslavia in 1991.

  • Statue of Strossmeyer by Ivan Meštrović (1926), Strossmayer Square, Zagreb


Ante Starčević (1823-96)

Ante Starčević was a Croatian politician in the times of the Austrian Empire. Starčević co-founded the Croatian Party of Rights in 1861. The "Party of Rights" was named after the Croatian national and ethnic rights that he vowed to protect. Starčević called for greater Croatian autonomy and self-rule. He opposed both Austrian and Hungarian attempts to deny Croatians their political aspirations for self-governance. His fervent patriotism would subsequently earn him the title of Father of the Nation.

  • Iztočno pitanje (Zagreb: Hrvatsko pravo, 1899)

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Stjepan Radić (1871-1928)

Stjepan Radić, Croatian politician, founded in 1905 the Croatian Peasant Party. In 1918 he opposed the union of Croatia with Serbia, Montenegro, and Slovenia (later Yugoslavia), fearing Serbian centralism.

After World War I, he rose to political prominence among Croats for his opposition to merging Croatia with the Kingdom of Serbia without guarantees for Croatian anatomy. On November 24, 1918 Radić famously urged delegates attending a session that would decide the country's political future not to "rush like drunken geese into fog" — he feared that Croatia would become at best a minor partner within a Serb-dominated state, which later proved to be true.

Radić dominated Croatian politics, and fought for a federal state structure within Yugoslavia and for Croatian autonomy. He vigorously fought against Serbian domination. On the morning of June 20, 1928, Radić was warned of the danger of an assassination attempt against him and was begged to stay away from the Assembly for that day. He replied that he was like a soldier in war, in the trenches and as such it was his duty to go. In the Assembly, Puniša Račić, a member of the Serbian People's Radical Party, drew out a revolver and shot Radić and several other Croatian delegates. Radić suffered a serious stomach wound and died shortly after.

  • Govori u Hrvatskom saboru (Zagreb: Narodne novine; Dom svijet, 1996)

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Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980)

Josip Broz Tito was born in Kumrovec, Croatia. During the First World War he was conscripted in the Austro-Hungarian army. In 1915, he was sent to the Eastern Front to fight against Russia. In April, his battalion fell into Russian captivity. In the spring of 1918, Josip Broz applied for membership in the Russian Communist Party.

In 1936 the Comintern sent Tito back to Yugoslavia from Moscow to purge the Communist Party there. In 1937 he became secretary general of the Yugoslav Communist Party. During this period he faithfully followed Comintern policy, criticizing Serbian domination of other Yugoslav nationalities.

On April 6, 1941, Axis forces attacked Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav Communists were among the first to organize a resistance movement. On April 10th, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia met in Zagreb, naming Tito the chief of the military committee. As the leader of the communist resistance, the Croatian Tito united the various nationalities of Yugoslavia in their fight against the Germans and their quisling regimes. During the early stages of the Second World War, the western Allies did not support the partisans. However, in 1943, the Anglo-Americans changed their policy and supplied the partisans with airdrops of arms and medical equipment. Tito’s forces won the war for liberation in 1945 and he became the leader of post-war Yugoslavia.

In 1948, Tito was the first Communist head of state to defy Stalin's leadership. This brought him much international recognition, but also caused a rift with the Soviet Union. Initially, Tito's rule was a dictatorship. The Communist Party won the first post-war elections under unfair conditions. It conducted espionage and assassinations as well as politically motivated trials and imprisonment. Tito did, however, consolidate the country that was gravely impacted by war and temporarily suppressed the nationalist sentiments of the peoples of Yugoslavia.

For a period in the 1960s and 1970s, Tito's model of market socialism improved the Yugoslav standard of living. Yugoslavs were permitted to travel easily to Western Europe or other countries, bringing in money to support the economy.

Tito died on May 4, 1980. Tito will be remembered as a leader of strong convictions who successfully defied both Hitler and Stalin.

Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980) was born in Kumrovec, Croatia. A metal worker by profession, he became a member of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia and Slavonia in 1910. During the First World War he was conscripted in the Austro-Hungarian army and was sent to the Serbian and Eastern fronts. Captured by the Russians in April 1915, he greeted the Bolshevik seizure of power and became a member of the South Slavic section of the Bolshevik party in the spring of 1920.

Having returned home from Soviet Russia in October 1920, he became a member of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ) and worked as a trade union organizer. Having served as the political secretary of the KPJ’s Zagreb organization in 1928, he was arrested and confined to prison for five years. Upon release in 1934, he was coopted into the KPJ Politburo and sent to Moscow. In 1936 the Comintern sent Tito back to Yugoslavia to head the party’s domestic work. He became the secretary general of the KPJ in 1939 and stabilized the faction-ridden party organization through a series of internal purges.

After the Axis occupation and partitioning of Yugoslavia in April 1941, Tito led the Communist resistance – the Partisans. Contrary to the Moscow line that stressed cooperation with the government-in-exile and its exponents on ground, Tito opted for the Communist seizure of power appealing to the constituent nationalities with promises of a postwar federal state free of fratricidal slaughter and Serbian domination. On this basis he won the support necessary for a successful guerrilla struggle that attracted the support of the Western Allies in 1943. Tito’s Partisans won the war for liberation in 1945 and he became the leader of post-war Yugoslavia.

Ironically, after a period of extensive terror and Sovietization of Yugoslavia, Tito was the first East European Communist leader to defy Stalin's leadership. This brought him much international recognition, but also caused a rift with the Soviet Union. As a result Tito presided over the construction of an alternative Communist model, built on the single-party dictatorship, but modified by the workers’ self-administration in production, introduction of modified market economy, nonaligned foreign policy, and extensive home-rule in the federal units. For a period in the 1960s and 1970s, Tito's model seemed quite successful, but his restrictions against the steady democratization of the system contributed to its ultimate collapse, eleven years after his death in 1980.


  • AVNOJ u Bihaću, Jajcu i Beogradu (Beograd: "Borba", 1983)
  • Political Report of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (Beograd, 1948)
  • The National Question. Translated by Karolina Udovički and Kordija Kveder (Beograd: Socialist Thought and Practice, 1983)

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