Friday, 30 September 2016

Language and Politics in Today's Croatia (1979) - JCS 20



In the fall of 1978 Zagreb University Press "Liber" published a volume of 750 pages containing thirty papers dealing with the history of Croatian literature under the title Croatian Literature Within the West European Context.[1] For about two months only a few papers were politically discussed and attacked on Radio, TV, a special symposium[2] and in the Zagreb and Belgrade press.[3]'

In late spring of 1979 a reference grammar of the Croatian literary language[4] compiled by a team of young linguists was recommended by Zagreb daily Vjesnik and then attacked by Dr. Stipe Šuvar, the Secretary for Education in the Socialist Republic of Croatia. In both cases the main issue was not literary criticism or linguistics but the fear of the regime that Croatians might stress too much their national peculiarity to the detriment of their "brotherhood" with Serbs.


We shall first describe very succinctly the volume published by "Liber", and then in more detail Professor Dalibor Brozović's treatise in it.

Following a too short preface, Brozović's article and Eduard Hercigonja's survey of the medieval Croatian literature head the remaining twenty-eight papers, whose length goes from eight to thirty pages. Brozović's article with its seventy-four pages is by far the longest and Hercigonja's with fifty-two pages the second longest. Except for Brozović who deals with language, all other writers deal with the history of various sections of Croatian literature in West European context, hence the title of the collection. After Hercigonja described the oldest Croatian literature "within the frame of Slavic medieval literatures," Vladimir Vratović presents the Croatian latinists within the European context. Following, chronologically the names of outstanding writers or the literary movements, the contributors treated their subjects under these headings: Marko Marulić, Renaissance, Marin Držić, Baroque, Ivan Gundulić, Age of Enlightenment, Illyrian Movement, Ivan Mažuranić, August Šenoa, Realism, Modern, Ivo Vojnović, A. G. Matoš, Vladimir Nazor, Expressionism, Socially Committed Literature, Tin Ujević, Kranjčević and Krleža, Miroslav Krleža, Partisan Literature during World War II, Theater from Moderna to 1941, Prose from 1945 to 1960, Prose from 1960 to 1970, Poetry in the Twentieth Century, and After-War Poetry. Nobody wrote about the literary activity in the Independent State of Croatia from 1941 to 1945. This omission cannot be unintentional.

As we already observed, these papers present the Croatian literature in its relationship with the West, so that the East, especially the Serbs, seem to be ignored. In its editorial Vjesnik deplores that attitude. "Throughout this book one can detect a politically detrimental and unacceptable basic attitude pervading the entire volume: its exclusive orientation towards greater and more developed European literatures, thus isolating the Croatian literature from other South Slavic and Yugoslav literatures. Few are the papers which at least partially deal with the Croatian literature in that context... That way an essential level of the study of our literature in the European context is missing. That very level could have shown how the values of the Croatian literature irradiated beyond the Croatian boundaries. For if at any time and in any place the Croatian literature had any influence (and that is not controversial, we hope), that was and has been first in the Yugoslav spiritual domain."[5] During the above mentioned symposium Slavko Goldstein, the director of the Zagreb University Press, informed the discussants that his Press is in the process of preparing the volume "Croatian Literature in the South Slavic Context". Characteristic is the statement of another discussant, Dr. Ivan Krtalić, a high official in the Department of Education: "Since 1971 the division into 'we' and 'they' has been manifest in Croatian literature. Who are 'we' and who 'they' has never been either written or said, but it seems that we all know them without saying."[6] In reality, national tensions are being constantly suppressed in public, in one way or another, and the main national rivalry (the Serbo-Croatian conflict), if and when discussed, is always dealt with extreme caution through veiled allusions. This is why the very language of the discussants involved is not readily understood by the uninitiated.

Complete article:

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Journal of Croatian Studies, XX, 1979, – Annual Review of the Croatian Academy of America, Inc. New York, N.Y., Electronic edition by Studia Croatica, by permission. All rights reserved by the Croatian Academy of America.
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