Illyrian Movement

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Illyrian Movement


a sociopolitical and cultural movement during the 1830’s and 1840’s in Croatia and Slavonia and, to some extent, in other Yugoslav lands. It was prompted by the development of capitalist relations in the context of decaying feudalism and the formation of the Croatian nation (natsiia, nation in the historical sense). The movement was led by the liberal nobility and the intelligentsia that was associated with it.

The guiding idea of the Illyrian movement was the thought of a “Great Illyria,” which according to the concept of Croatian national figures would include all the South Slavic and, to some extent, non-Slavic, regions. The ideologues of the Illyrian movement, regarding the population of these areas as a single people descended from the native inhabitants of ancient Illyria, the Illyrians, set forth as the main goal of the movement the amalgamation of the literary language of the Southern Slavs, regarding this as the prerequisite for their future political unification. The organized national struggle began in Croatia and Slavonia in 1835, when L. Gaj, one of the Illyrian movement’s leaders, began publishing the first political newspaper in Croatian, Novine horvatske, with the literary supplement Danica Horvatska, Sla-vonska i Dalmatinska (from 1836, Ilirske narodne novine and Danica Ilirska). Gaj formulated the immediate tasks of the Illyrian movement—the struggle for the development of the Croatian national culture and language, which the ideologists of the movement attempted to represent as common to all Southern Slavs.

The Illyrian movement became political in nature in the early 1840’s. There were various trends within it. The right wing, headed by Count J. Draskovic, represented the interests of the conservative part of the ruling class. The liberal current (L. Gaj, I. Kukuljevic-Sakcinski, and L. Vukotinovic) was the leading trend; it reflected the interests of the landlords who were becoming bourgeois and the prosperous commercial-industrial bourgeoisie. In the 1840’s the liberals demanded the autonomy of Croatia and Slavonia within the Kingdom of Hungary and the introduction of Croatian as the official language; at the same time, they strove for the political reunification of the Croatian lands, above all Croatia, Slavonia, the Military Frontier, and Dalmatia. The liberals came out for the abolition of the corvée and the implementation of other bourgeois reforms. Shortly before 1848 the bourgeois-democratic current, of which the lawyer S. Vrbančic was a representative, began to mature. In 1841 the Croatian-Hungarian Party, a pro-Hungarian group that favored the union of Croatia and Slavonia with Hungary, took shape in Croatia and Slavonia.The struggle between the supporters of the Illyrian movement and the pro-Hungarian elements reached the point of armed clashes. At first, the Austrian court provided some aid to the Illyrian movement, but in 1843 the Austrian government took measures to restrict it, fearing a rapprochement of the South Slavic peoples and the intensification of Croatian-Hungarian conflicts.

A new stage in the bourgeois-nationalist struggle in Croatia and Slavonia began in 1848; it was waged under the slogan of the political unification of the South Slavic peoples of the Hapsburg Empire and their autonomy within the empire. There was also a tendency favoring the merger of the Southern Slavs into an independent state. The victory of the counterrevolution in the Hapsburg Empire signaled the downfall of the Illyrian movement.

The Illyrian movement played an important role in the development of Croatian culture and literature, which the figures in the movement portrayed as South Slavic. The defense of the distinctiveness of Croatian culture in the struggle against attempts at Germanization and Magyarization was to the credit of the figures in the movement. In Foundations of the Vocabulary of the Illyrian Slavic Dialect (1836), V. Babukic established standards for the national literary language that were subsequently adopted by the press, writers, and scholars. Printing presses, reading rooms, and, in 1845, the subdepartment of Croatian language and literature at the Zagreb Academy were established. In 1847, Croatian was recognized as the official language in Croatia and Slavonia. During the Illyrian movement, a national Croatian literature emerged. It was characterized by the romantic celebration of the past of the “Illyrians,” the treatment of historical subjects, and the use of folklore (the patriotic songs of L. Gaj, S. Vraz, and P. Preradovic; the narrative poems of I. Mazuranic and D. Demeter; and the historical novellas of L. Vukotinovic and I. Kukuljevic-Sakcinski).


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.