By: Jasmina Kovacevic-Cavlovic

The Croatian Minority in Slovakia

Croatian-Slovak Ties

The Bratislava Region (12K)

The Bratislava Region

The generally friendly and good relations between Croatia and Slovakia, which formally began with their independence from Communist state creations, have in fact, begun much earlier. This closeness was founded on the centuries old ties between the Croats and Slovaks, which developed with the start of their joint existence in this part of Europe. Arriving to Bratislava from their ancestral homeland in the mid sixteenth century, the Croats of Slovakia came to a historically and culturally similar region. In the period prior to the battle of Mohacs in 1526, the Croatian nobility and middle-class settled here. These sporadic settlers were the precursor to a systematic settling of Croatian peasants during the sixteenth century. Researching the genealogy of émigré Croats in Slovakia, Dr. Kvetoslava Kucerova in the book "Hrvati u srednjoj Evropi" (Matica Hrvatska, Matica Slovenská, Zagreb 1998) divides three stages of immigration on the territory of Slovakia: the first stage is the 1540's that strengthens the Croatian settlers of the 1530's, with 1548 as the year of culmination; the second stage is in the 1550's which sees a noticeable start in 1552 and 1553 and the third stage which lasts from the 1560's to the 1570's. Following this, a portion of the Croatian population arrived in the region of Zahoria to build new homes, and then spread north and east. This means organized groups of immigration, which during the entire sixteenth century and later, were followed by the immigration of Croats from Austria, Hungary and Moravia. Extensive reasons for the migration are hard to find. But, the most irrefutable reason can be found in this historical context: the invasion of the Ottoman Turks on Croatian territory. With the fall of Kostajnica in 1556 into Turkish hands, denotes the beginning of an organized immigration of Croats. However, this in any event the initial cause for immigration was followed by distinct economic or rather social motives. Aside from that, individual waves of migration were cause by military raids or rather the social situation in Croatia. A number of historian and ethnographers have worked to determine the region of their ancestral homeland from where these Croatian settlers came from. Research shows a large possibility that the Croatian population moved from Medimurje, the Kupa river region, Posavlje, Podravina and a portion from the Croatian littoral. The majority of the settlers originate from Slavonia, from the Sisak region, Kostajnica, Krizevac, Koprivnica, Kladusa, Slunj, Primislje and Krstinje.

The Croatian population could be divided into three territorial regions: the region of Zahoria to Skalice; the Danube river region - the environs of Bratislava, Cunovo, Jarovce and the region of the Little Carpathians. This territorial division in the above mentioned regions is highlighted by different dialects of the individual Croatian settlements in Slovakia. Croats in Devínska Nova Ves (Cr. Devinsko Novo Selo) are Cakavian speakers, and in Chorvátsky Grob (Cr. Hrvatski Grob) are Kajkavian-Ikavian speakers. For the first group it is believed that they came from the Croatian coastal regions and these others from the Kostajnica region. The Croatian Cakavian speakers settled west of Bratislava, along the Austrian-Slovakia border, and the Kajkavians east of it. The Croatian Cakavians brought to Slovakia with them the Glagolithic Mass from their homeland. The largest Croatian village is Devínska Nova Ves. Croatian is spoken in all the houses in the village, even though the language has come under the influence of the Slovak language. The population of Zahoria speaks a language similar to the language spoken among the people settled in the Burgenland region of Austria. A large possibility that the reason for this lies with the simultaneous arrival of Croats in some parts of the Burgenland or rather Slovakia. There are several references that the Croats in Zahorska Bystrica were there as early as 1529. In the years from 1561-1562, one Cannonical visitor wrote that the population of Zahorska Bistrica is Croatian with their own Glagolithic priest who celebrated Holy Mass in Croatian. It's no wonder that the Croats of Zahorska Bystrica have long preserved their national identity and the Croatian language.

At the end of the sixteenth and during the seventeenth centuries, the Croats were spread out so that specific Croatian settlements became Slovakized or Magyarized. What we want to emphasize now with the following historical piece is the arrival of Croats to Devín in the middle of the sixteenth century. Devín, especially Devínska Nova Ves was distinguished with a dense settling of Croats who came from but the immigration from Burgenland, Hungary and Moravia. The work of the Croatian priests had an influence in preserving the Croatian language, Croatian national consciousness and cultural practices: customs, traditional costumes, dances and songs.

It is important to mention one more settlement near Devín. Dubravka now a part of Bratislava was founded by the Croats in 1571 during the third stage of Croatian immigration. The Croatian identity was preserved, followed by the nurturing of the Croatian language transformed this place into a meeting place for most of the Croats in Slovakia. Today, however, the older generation of Dubravka speaks Croatian. The above could also be applied to the city of Skalice. The evidence for the existance of Croatian roots as well as something specific of this region is a document from 1569 in which Skalice was founded by an agreement of the majority of Croats, the builders and first inhabitants of this city.

The Danube region of Bratislava was also distinguished by the economic and social intersection of the Croatian settlers. With the elevation to an envious social status, the majority of the Croats succumb to assimilation. National consciousnees and custums slowly died out in the Slovak areas, and finally the Croatian language died. Of the Croatian settlements from the sixteenth century; Cunovo, Jarovce (Cr. Hrvatski Jandrof) and Rusovce (Cr. Rosvar) must be mentioned.

In the region beneath the Little Carpathians the settlements of Velika and Mala Senkvica, Chorvátsky and Slovensky Grob sprouted up. Together they show Croatian national consciousness in the above-mentioned settlements, is their centuries old existence. The sands of time have so that these Croatian settlements have become Slovakized preserving more or less the Croatian less or rather culture and tradition. The results of the research show that the Croatian population spread out very quickly in the sixteenth century and in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries gradually assimilated. Opposite of our other co-nationals who immigrated to Austria, Italy or Hungary, the Croats of Slovakia did not have the means for strengthened national ties. Similar surroundings, especially religion and culture brought about a gradual merging with the Slovak people. However, this process of assimilation was particular. Indeed, the Croats in the cities quickly became Slovakized, Germanized of Magyarized. But in the villages they helped preserve the Slovak ethnos. If fact, in some areas, the Croats put pressure on the older German population and that importantly strengthened the Slovak ethnos.

In the eighteenth century, the majority of the Croatian settlements lose their national identity. Croatian is preserved the longest in Devínska Nova Ves and Chorvátsky Grob. Cunovo and Jarovce, which were attached to Czechoslovakia in 1945 from Hungarian patronage, have remained the most expressly Croatian villages. German and later Hungarian attempts at assimilation gave birth to a vigorous resistance of these Croatian villages and the strengthening of the national orientation of the Croats.

A general observation in the period of the 450 plus years of the existence of Croats in Slovakia, there were no fierce disagreements or fundamentally controversial situations. In fact, the Croatian population merged with the local population of Slovak origin into one, linguistically distinct, but a thoughtful kindred segment. This is how the historically congruent role of today's Slovak-Croat corpus was and today is an example of co-existence of the Slovak majority and the Croat minority.

Migratory movements in the eighteenth century brought Slovaks into Croatia. Overall, for similar reasons, the Slovak minority in their new homeland rose to a satisfactory position. Both minorities, the Croats in Slovakia and the Slovaks in Croatia, are a major factor in the centuries old Croatian-Slovak friendship. A Croatian-Slovak friendship society has existed as long as the young Republic of Slovakia. The initiative for its organization came a day after its creation [an independent Slovakia], and was founded on May 28, 1993. The following year in 1994, a Slovak-Croatian friendship society was founded. Both work and cooperatively with each other for the development of Croatian-Slovak and Slovak-Croatian friendship. Acquaintances state that the Croatian-Slovak friendship society is one of the most active in Croatia. Of its main activities, the fostering of Croatian-Slovak cooperation in the field of language and literature occupies a major place. Additionally, in the realization of local programs, they work with a number of governmental and non-governmental agencies, bodies, academic, artistic, economic, cultural and other agencies and media. From many and multi-leveled activities, literature evenings, honorably celebrate important anniversaries, academic and expert cooperation, publishing activities and the promotion of books, meetings and cooperation with other friendship societies.

From the fertile joint existence of the Slovak and Croatian peoples blossomed a series of joint ideas and activities. Of Bishops in the Zagreb Diocese, or Archdiocese, it is important to mention the Slovaks: Ivan Sipuski, Alexandar Alagovic, and Juraj Haulik. The Slovaks such as Stefan Moyses and Bogoslav Sulek assisted with the Croatian national revival. From the other side, the Croats Ivan Vitez (1) and Jannus Pannonius (2) contributed to the founding of the Academie Istropolitane in the fifteenth century.

It is also important to mention the especially fertile cultural and literary cooperation among the Slovaks and the Croatians during Ljudevit Stur's and the Illyrian movements. The relations between Ljudevit Stur and the head of the Illyrian movement, Ljudevit Gaj, gave particular distinction in this cooperation. Gaj, during his visit to Bratislava in 1833, promoted the well-known song Jos Hrvatska Ni Propala. Even though it was written in Vienna, this song was brought to life in Slovak-Croatian circles in Bratislava. The cooperation between Stur and Gaj continued through Stur's equal association if the Illyrian Movement and announcing literary supplements in Danica Ilirska. In the informing of Croatians with the Slovak national movement, Danica Ilirska has a noticeable role in the national rebirth of the Slovaks.

The traditionally strong ties between the Croatian and the Slovak peoples was followed by cooperation at a state level. The long suppressed cooperation during the Independent State of Croatia and the independent state of Slovakia, when Croatian-Slovak cultural ties were strengthened. The promoter of these ties was the Croatian-Slovak society founded in 1941 in Zagreb and the Slovak-Croatian society founded in 1942 in Bratislava. The then Croatian-Slovak cooperation assumed different manifestations: and was carried out on a wide range; from an exchange of artwork to the rotating organization of cultural weeks, and cooperation with higher schools, academies and libraries. Amicable political relations and cooperation were continued in 1945 in the framework of the new Communist countries. The similar positions of Croatia in Yugoslavia and the Slovaks in Czechoslovakia preordained their continued joint destinies. The collapse of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia allowed the new democratic countries further ties. Conditions were created for different international cooperation with the establishment of diplomatic ties between Croatia and Slovakia. Similar historical positions, and developing interests allowed the creating of bilateral agreements - such as agreements for culture, intellectual and academic cooperation in 1995. The above-mentioned agreement has clauses, which relate to the activities of the Croatian and Slovak minorities in both countries. Additionally in 1999, Croatia sent to Slovakia a Croatian drafted agreement for the bilateral protection of minorities. Also with the creation of independent countries, created an improved situation for both national minorities in both countries.

The Croats in Slovakia belong to a group that in the constitution of the Republic of Slovakia is listed as a national minority or ethnic group, in which according to the constitution, the rights of both groups are equalized. In reports according to national structure, Croats in Slovakia are listed as "others."

The members of the Croatian minority in Slovakia, some 3,000 Croats, today live in four Croatian villages: Devínska Nova Ves (Cr. Devinsko Novo Selo) Chorvátsky Grob (Cr. Hrvatski Grob) Cunovo and Jarovce (Cr. Hrvatski Jandrof). Official statistics from Slovakia in 1921 does not list the number of Croats in these places. Moreover, the official statistical report relies on the numerical results of the census from 1991. According to it, only 998 inhabitants of the above mentioned places declared themselves to be Croatian. The Croatian Cultural Alliance of Slovakia, founded in its first congress in May of 1990 in Jarovce, is an umbrella organization which represents Croatian cultural associations in Cunovo, Devínska Nova Ves, Chorvátsky Grob, and Jarovce, and since 1996 the Young Croatians club in Jarovce. The alliance has 1,200 members, it its activities however, up to 4,000 admirers of Croatian culture participate as well. Its work can be summarized as follows:

  • participate in the realization of institutional and financial conditions for the renewal and development of Croatian culture in Slovakia;
  • to promote uniting of nations and peoples and the overcoming strict national tendencies and prejudices;
  • to support the creation of conditions for the free use of mother languages, promotion of Croatian culture, its transmission, preservation and development.

Representatives of the alliance and the free use of the Croatian language in the above-mentioned Croatian places. Another important activity is the care in the development of knowledge of the Croatian language. An important role in that direction is with language workshops for school children, which in 1998 was organized for a sixth time. The language workshops have influenced the beginning of extracurricular classes for Croatian in Chorvátsky Grob, Cunovo, Jarovce and partially in Devínska Nova Ves.

The activities of the Croatian Cultural Alliance are founded on the conclusions of the general congress of Croats in Slovakia, which is held every other year. Certain programs are taken from the agreement signed between the Minister of Culture for Slovakia and the Croatian Cultural Alliance. This previously mentioned agreement solidifies criteria and methodologies for the allocation of financial support. This way, the Alliance receives monetary resources for their program and projects for Croatian cultural performances. Currently, the most important project is the founding of a museum of Croatian culture in Devínska Nova Ves. In 1995, among the ethnic institutions in Slovakia, the Croatian Alliance had an allocated amount of 1,100,000 SKK of which 84.9% or 933,727 SKK (about 46,700 DEM). In terms of actual amount, among ten ethnic institutions it [The Croatian Cultural Alliance] was in sixth place after the Hungarians, Romis, Ruthenian-Ukrainian, Ruthenian revival and Carptho-Germans, but in front of the Czechs, Moravians, Bulgarians and Jews. From the previously mentioned financial support, the Alliance holds as an annual celebration, a festival of Croatian culture in Devínska Nova Ves.

In Devínska Nova Ves the Croatian cultural society, the Rosica choir and orchestra, and the Grbarcijeta folklore groups are active. A Croatian cultural society has been founded in Chorvátsky Grob, and the Chorvatanka choir is also active there. The Croatian cultural society and Cunovsko Jato are active in Cunovo. Jarovce is the headquarters for the Croatian cultural society and the Klub Mladi Hrvatov, and the group Melodija and a male choir are active here as well. The ripe activities of the Croats in Slovakia are supplemented with publishing activities. The magazines Novosielski Glas in Devínska Nova Ves and Magazin in Jarovce are published.

In this overview it is important to state how the rights of the citizens - members of the Croatian minority in Slovakia are in accordance with the important European standards for the protection of minority rights. A small number of our national minority have equal opportunities in education and participation in cultural, communal and economic life, state administration, and activities of a public nature via the majority population.

The active inclusion of the Croatian Cultural Alliance in the activities of the administration of state, especially in the fields of culture, partially in education, currently and gradually in the economic sphere, the Croatian minority is supported as an integral recognized portion of Slovak society. This loyalty does not prevent however, our co-nationals in the creating of specific requests as a national minority. Also with a constructive and well-meaning attitude our people have created a moral legitimacy in the solution to their question of status. In spite of five hundred years of assimilation, the actual and just expectations of the Croats in Slovakia that the Republic of Slovakia will recognize them as a national minority and in accordance with that treat them in statistical reports or rather with the practical realization of promised minority rights.

Source: Hrvatsko Slovo "Hrvatska Manjina u Slovackoj" Godina V./Broj 238 Zagreb, Petak, 12. Studenoga 1999.

Translated and edited by Marko Puljic

Original article in Croatian can be found at Hrvatsko Slovo's website .

Translator's Footnotes:

1. Ivan Vitez od Sredne (1405 Sredna near Krizevci - 1472 Esztergom, Hungary) a Croatian Humanist, and Archbishop of Eszetergom. Studied Law in Italy, where he also gained knowledge in the fields of Physics, Astronomy, and Alchemy. He participated in the education of Matthias Hunyadi (Corvinus) who later became King of Hungary and Croatia. He was promoted to the King's Chancellary and quickly became the Primas of Hungary. He was interested in natural knowledge and the study of it. He founded the academy and scriptorium in Budim and the university in Bratislava. As the instigator of a rebellion against Matthias Hunyadi from 1471-1472, he was stripped of his authority and his property. He fell ill shortly thereafter and died.

2. Jannus Pannonius (Ivan Cesmicki) nephew of Ivan Vitez and renowned Croatian Latinist. For a complete overview on him and his career, click here .

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