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National Romanticism: The Formation of National Movements

Balázs Trencsényi
Michal Kopeček

Chapter III. The Nationalization of Space


Ljudevit Gaj
Traduction de Iva Polak

Texte intégral

1Title: Oglas (Announcement) and Proglas (Proclamation)

2Originally published: Zagreb, Ljudevit Gaj, 1834 and 1835

3Language: Croatian

4The excerpts used are from Dubravko Jelčić, ed., Hrvatski književni romantizam (Zagreb: Školska knjiga, 2002), pp. 155–159.

About the author

5Ljudevit Gaj [1809, Krapina (Northern Croatia) – 1872, Zagreb]: language reformer, journalist and printer. Descendant of a middle-class German-Slovak family which settled in Croatia in the eighteenth century, he finished secondary school in Croatia and undertook university studies (in philosophy and law) in Vienna, Graz, Pest and Leipzig. In his first publication, ‘A short foundation of the Slavic-Croatian orthography’ (Buda, 1830), Gaj proposed a reformed phonetic orthography which became the basis of modern Croatian spelling. In 1834 he obtained royal privilege for publishing Novine Horvatske (The Croatian Newspaper), which reported the latest political events both abroad and in the Triune Kingdom, and for its literary supplement Danica Horvatska, Slavonska i Dalmatinska (The Croatian, Slavonian and Dalmatian Morning Star). The change of the titles to Ilirske narodne novine (The Illyrian National Newspaper) and Danica ilirska (The Illyrian Morning Star) in 1836 signaled the transformation of these journals into the official organs of the Illyrian Movement. In 1838 Gaj established his own printing press, which drove him into long-term financial indebtedness and the opportunistic search for different patrons, such as the Russian Tsar (1838), the Serbian Prince (1846), and the Austrian Emperor (1847). After the establishment in 1841 of the Croatian-Hungarian Party and the Illyrian (from 1843, the National) Party, Gaj helped to reconcile the endeavors of the Croatian conservatives and the Illyrians into a common anti-Magyar (anti-Kossuth) program. During the revolution of 1848 he presented the Croatian liberal ‘National demands’ to Ferdinand V in Vienna, but simultaneously kept contact with the revolutionary center at the University of Vienna. After the revolution he was appointed to the newly-founded Banal Council, participated in parliamentary life and focused on Croatian-Serbian relations. In 1849 he supported the imposed Olmütz Constitution and turned his newspaper into its official organ. During the period of Bach’s absolutism he was still regarded as politically unreliable and was subject to police surveillance because of his secret contacts with Serbia. After the restoration of constitutionalism in 1860 he failed to enter again into political life and participated in the contemporary public sphere only sporadically. Despite the occasional contestation of his merits, Ljudevit Gaj, “the Father of Croatian orthography” and the initiator of the first Croatian newspaper, is regarded as the founder and one of the chief ideologists and political leaders of the Illyrian Movement, also known as the ‘Croatian National Revival.’

6Main works: Die Schlösser bei Krapina [Castles near Krapina] (1826); Kratka osnova horvatsko-slavenskoga pravopisanja [A short foundation of Croatian-Slavic orthography] (1830); Još Horvatska ni propala [Croatia hasn’t perished yet] (1833); Dogodovština Velike Ilirije [A history of Great Illyria] (1846, remained in manu-script); Gedanken zum Ausgleich Croatiens und Slavoniens mit der Regierung [Thoughts on the compromise of Croatia and Slavonia with the government] (1864).


7During the Josephinian period the impact of the Enlightenment in the Kingdoms of Croatia and Slavonia and the Military Border was limited to school reforms and learned historiographical, literary and philological debates. The latter excluded the majority of the population from its communicative network because of their use of non-vernacular languages such as Latin and German. Still, in order to make the Enlightenment successful as a cultural process, a supra-local discursive network and an institutionalized public sphere had to be established, in which a weekly newspaper was regarded as a proper means for popular enlightenment. The earliest newspapers in the Croatian Kingdoms (launched in Zagreb) were entirely in Latin or German, and it was only in 1792 that the first request was submitted in Vienna for the launching of a Croatian newspaper, with both political news as well as entertaining moral and didactic articles. The project failed probably due to technical difficulties and to the unfavorable conjuncture of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, just as did two subsequent attempts in 1813 and 1818. All three newspapers were launched by commoners and were intended for the Croatian-speaking middle class. “Pleasure” and “utility” were to have been the twin criteria in the choice of appropriate articles. However, the Diet of 1825 in Pressburg (Hun. Pozsony, Slo. Prešporok, today Bratislava) and the proposal to introduce Hungarian as the official language into the Croatian administration and school system intensified the language debate, making it not only a cultural but also a political issue. Despite the existence of the German newspaper and journal in Zagreb, the Croatian reaction to the Magyar proposals stressed the need for an appropriate vernacular medium of communication. The crisis came to a head at the Diet at Pressburg in 1830, when knowledge of the Hungarian language became a statutory requirement for the holding of public office and for practising law. In the same year the young law graduate Ljudevit Gaj offered a solution to the dilemmas of a common Croatian spelling, distinct from the Hungarian spelling used hitherto in writing the Croatian kajkavian dialect. Needless to say, the orthographic uncertainty was also hampering all journalistic and scholarly attempts to establish a broader discursive community. Finally in 1834 privilege was granted for launching Novine Horvatske and its literary supplement, Danica Horvatska, Slavonska i Dalmatinska (‘Danica’ was a reference to the six-pointed ‘Morning Star’—an old iconographic topos in Illyrian ideology, which in Gaj’s days symbolized the coming of day and the disappearance of darkness). The first issue came out in 1835.

8Although learned debate on the standardization of the Croatian literary language had been going on ever since Humanism, it was only in the age of Romanticism that discussion was transferred from the ‘Republic of Letters’ to the broader public sphere. In the case of Croatian, just as in other regional contexts, the Romantic register with its organicist conception of the state and the nation was not limited merely to the cultural sphere, but brought changes in the patriotic, i.e. political discourse, as well. In the early 1830s the young Croatian jurists of the ‘Zagreb Circle’ re-conceptualized the notion of the civic community. Ivan Derkos (1808–1834), one of their spokesmen, in his pamphlet ‘The spirit of the fatherland over its sleeping sons’ (1832), argued in regard to the term ‘fatherland’ (Lat. patria) that apart from the ‘common,’ ‘natural law-based’ and ‘positive law-based’ meanings, a ‘genealogical’ one has been added, defined both as the race (Lat. gens) and the native soil where one is born or from which one descends. The Croatian ‘fatherland’ is thus equated in the Herderian sense with the broader ‘Slavic nation,’ which is understood organically as a living being or a natural unit having its own personality. Such a definition of patriotism put a great emphasis upon the cultivation and perfection of the mother tongue, the spirit of the nation, as a means for achieving the state of happiness, because the perfection of the language advances step by step with the cultivation of the nation itself. Moreover, the cultivation of the national language had been for the first time placed among Croatian municipal rights. A tension emerged in the meaning of ‘nation’, which the majority of the Croatian nobility still understood as a ‘political nation,’ which ranked them within the corporate Hungarian rather than the ethnically separate Croatian nation. In turn, this conceptualization created a dilemma about what language should be regarded as ‘national’, Magyar or Croatian? Due to the ambiguity of the term ‘nation’, which in the feudal system contained not only ethnic but also social connotations par excellence (e.g., exemption from taxation for the nobility), the newly established concept of “nationality” (Cro. narodnost) gained more and more importance, designating one people having its own national culture along with a national language. In order to overcome local patriotisms and cultural particularisms, the Croatian awakeners proposed a virtual reunification of the disintegrated Triune Kingdom (Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia) in terms of their dialects, and the long-desired creation of a single literary language. The semantic limitations of the term ‘Croatian’, which in its kajkavian dialect could be applied only to three counties in Banal Croatia, and which evoked the notion of alliance with the Magyars (Lat. Croata = a privileged citizen of the Croatian Kingdoms, which were component parts of the composite Kingdom of Hungary), prompted Ljudevit Gaj to propose the term ‘Illyrian’ as a discursive construct which would encompass all South Slav dialects and broaden the basis for the new literature. ‘Harmony,’ ‘concord’ and ‘integration’ became the key words in this Illyrian (South Slavic) discourse.

9In his programmatic proclamation of 1834, Gaj addresses the broader South Slavic linguistic community, or “the Slavic Nation in the southern parts,” as the potential public: primarily Croats, Serbs, Slovenians and Bosnians, and “other friends of this race and language.” The aim of Danica in 1834 was to publish various contributions, which would serve to provide matter “appropriately enlightening” and “pleasant” as well as “useful and instructive” not only in Croatian, but also in all other Illyrian dialects. The scope of possible topics included primarily literary and historical themes related generally to the “Slavic Nation” and the Croatian Kingdoms. A particular emphasis was to be put upon publishing the things worthy of imitation from the other “nations of enlightened and learned Europe.” The justification for the use of the national language is placed wholly within the European framework: the example of the European nations is invoked in regard to the progress of “the sciences and scholarship,” where it is conditioned by the use of the mother tongue. The collective “we” is identified as the brave “defenders and guardians” of the whole of Europe, armed and keeping guard throughout many centuries in the interest of the “regeneration of the whole of humankind.” Such discursive legitimization should justify the utilization of of the “Slavic mother-tongue,” which is spoken by 80 millions of “Slavic brothers.” The Romantic Pan-Slavic discourse that had been promoted by Ján Kollár, thematizing the redeeming role of Slavs in the history of humankind, is thus placed within the broader discourse of Europe. Within this broader framework, Gaj stresses ‘heroism’ as the peculiar Croatian (Illyrian) cultural identity-trait among other Slavs, a topos since the time of Humanism.

10Gaj’s second programmatic proclamation of 1835 is marked by the clearly ideological transition to the Illyrian or South Slavic title of the newspaper and journal, and the adoption of the urban štokavian dialect as a standard, as well as a rupture with the name Croatian and its kajkavian literary tradition. Since Gaj wanted to address a broader South Slavic literary public, he preferred the neutral and inclusive supra-national historical name ‘Illyrian’ instead of the too narrow and exclusive ‘Croatian,’ and soon changed the titles of his publications into ‘The Illyrian national newspaper’ and ‘The Illyrian Morning Star.’ Gaj thereby adopts the old thesis of the autochthonous, congeneric and unitary Illyrians who once inhabited the Balkan area. In his concept of Illyria Gaj includes Montenegro and Bulgaria, which were left out from the catalogue in the first proclamation. In Gaj’s geographical construct ‘Illyria’ is allegorically represented as a lyre on the lap of the young maiden Europe. Illyria, within the triangle of Shkodra (Srb. Skadar, in Albania), Varna and Villach, is thus the European lyre, and its loosened strings are the discordant South Slav countries which had once shared a common past but were later broken and dismembered by foreign conquerors. The Illyrians should become aware of their common past and start building through the medium of a literary language a national culture which would reflect this shared heritage. This ‘Illyrian’ language, however, was not to be based on a peasant vernacular dialect of štokavian, as in the case of the Serbian philologist Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, but rather on the refined urban štokavian of the former Republic of Dubrovnik. Unlike Karadžić, the Croatian Illyrians needed a broad scientific and political vocabulary which would suit the needs of a developed public life. Consequently, it was Karadžić who would be the main opponent of the Illyrian program among the Serbs, which he refuted as early as in 1836 by the text ‘Serbs all and everywhere’ (Srbi svi i svuda). There he radically rejects the name Illyrian, and extends his concept of Serbianness (one language-one nation) from “Trieste to the River Bojan” in Montenegro, thus renaming the Croatian, Slavonian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin nationalities as Serbs. Such ideological permeation of the language, which, by means of ‘performative naming’ (Bourdieu), ontologically changes the named object (in this case, nationalities), would be the cornerstone of future Croatian-Serbian linguistic clashes.

11Gaj’s proclamations were immediately canonized as the most important cultural manifestos of the Illyrian Movement, alias the Croatian National Revival, until the creation of political parties in 1841. Their significance in the Croatian national canon has remained unimpaired ever since, despite debate as to why the peculiar Croatian ‘national awakening’ had to renounce its national name “Croatian” and unfold under the supranational name “Illyrian” instead.


Announcement (1834)

13Illustrious and the Most Honourable Gentlemen of every Estate and Order of the celebrated Slavic nation of the southern parts, in other words: the Croats, the Slavonians, the Dalmatians, the citizens of Dubrovnik, the Serbs, the Carniolans, the Styrians, the Carinthians, the Istrians, the Bosnians and other Slavs, as well as other friends and patrons of our race and language, I salute you all!

14With the highest permission of the Holy Emperor and King His Majesty FRANCIS I, from the beginning of the next year 1835 in Zagreb the national newspaper, divided into two separate parts, will be published under the title[s] The Croatian Newspaper [and] The Croatian, Slavonian and Dalmatian Morning Star.—Part one, or the so-called The Croatian Newspaper, will contain, in a more general manner, all the most recent political occurrences, that is to say, important changes in all the countries of the world, and, more specifically, all the special events and decrees in the country, or in other words, the most recent events in the Triune Kingdom of Dalmatia, Croatia and Slavonia. And this part, containing clear explanations of all foreign words, will be published twice a week, each time in four pages. The other part, namely, The Croatian, Slavonian and Dalmatian Morning Star, published once a week in The Croatian Newspaper in four pages as a separate supplement, will not only be in Croatian, but also in various other Illyrian dialects. It will contain all sorts of entertaining and amusing issues, not only appropriately enlightening and pleasant, but also useful and instructive. [This includes] general knowledge about our Slavic nation that should especially be remembered: from its history and events, from its written records and books. In short, everything about the Croats and their Illyrian brothers, from the ancient to the current estate of all Slavic people, that is worth studying and knowing. Our newspaper will write in the most careful manner about matters in our dear Triune Fatherland taken from appropriate sources. That is, stories of ancient Illyrian and Croatian life and everyday existence, about their county magistrates, princes, viceroys, kings and knights, as well as learned and famous men. [It will also include] discussions about previous systems of government, about the fortunes and misfortunes of our ancestors, about our ancient towns, settlements, important places and ancient tribes. Various folk and other patriotic poems will be attached thereto; especially poems reflecting domestic affairs, as well as valuable poems from other languages.

15We shall make a special effort to mention noble and important matters of benefit, which set an example and should be appropriated from other nations of enlightened and learned Europe – namely, events relevant to domestic and foreign governance.

16Almost all European nations have progressed so far in science and scholarship that they publish books and newspapers in the mother tongue that are not only read at the courts of the mighty, but are also read and respected in common households. Is it not, then, high time that we, like our famous ancestors, the defenders and guardians of the whole of Europe who always kept guard courageously and under arms for so many centuries in the interest of the regeneration of the whole humankind, that we, I reiterate, also speed our efforts to enlighten and, in a worthy manner, take pride in our dear Slavic mother tongue, which exults in an abundant vocabulary and delightful pronunciation, and which represents our natural link to eighty millions of our Slavic brothers?

17There is no better way to achieve this noble goal faster than with the help of a national newspaper which has been rendered possible by the true fatherly mercy of our Holy Emperor and King and His confidence invested in us; because in one and the same Morning Star, the political segment covering recent events from around the world, and various pleasant and useful doings of Croatian-Slavic patriots, will be intertwined in a single garland in a manner which, we venture to say, will enable our national newspaper to compensate adequately for the unfortunate lack of patriotic books, as much as this is possible.

18Hence, we place patriotically our intention discussed here in brief, which we plan to achieve with the assistance of numerous learned men, in the dear embrace of true patriots and the rest of mankind, and of the friends of our nation and fatherland. [...]

19Zagreb, 20 October 1834

Proclamation (1835)

  • 1 A strong and cold northerly wind on the Adriatic Sea.

20Europe appears like a seated maiden, and a mere glance at this image reveals that the maiden is holding a three-cornered lyre pressed to her breasts. Far back in the past, this lyre used to produce the most pleasurable authentic sound when soothing winds made its still harmonious strings vibrate.—But a strong wind from the south and the west arose suddenly, followed by the violent bora1 from the east and the north; the strings were loosened and harmony of the precious sounds was gone.

  • 2 Ger. Villach, in Austria.

21This lyre of Europe is Illyria stretching in the triangle between Shkodra, Varna and Belak.2 The loosened discordant strings of this lyre are: Carinthia, Gorizia, Istria, Carniola, Croatia, Slavonia, Dalmatia, Dubrovnik, Bosnia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Lower Hungary.—Now that everyone longs for unity, the best thing to do is to wish that all discordant strings of the European lyre become in tune again, so that the delights of their calming sounds can celebrate the eternal youth of this seated maiden. Can we even start thinking about achieving this great goal when every string is trying to be in accord with a foreign tune?—Let us stop plucking our individual strings, let us reassemble the lyre into a single harmony, because there is only one lyre, though each of its strings has shifted to some extent from its authentic natural sound.—Let us open the ancient book of our nation that holds the former dear sounds of the lyre that have sprung from the Slavic spirit, and let us reconstruct therefrom the harmony of the beloved lyre of Europe, Illyria.— Those who understand the truth and reason of this simile, will inevitably become aware and convinced of the necessity to create a uniform scholarly and literary language. [...]

22[...] Since our national newspapers are to be written in the spirit of the above simile for all brothers of Great Illyria, we intend to replace all special or particular titles not reflecting true patriotic love and unity with our ancient and famous historical and universal name. Therefore, from the beginning of the year 1836, our newspaper, the basis of which remains the same, will no longer be published under the particular title of The Croatian Newspaper, but under a more generic name common to all South Slavs:

23The Illyrian National Newspaper. [...]


1 A strong and cold northerly wind on the Adriatic Sea.

2 Ger. Villach, in Austria.


Iva Polak (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2007

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