Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina
© by Darko Zubrinic, Zagreb (1995)
The aim of this article is to indicate deep connections between the Croats and Muslim Bosniaks (= Bosnjaci - Muslimani). In order to avoid misunderstanding we shall rather use their descriptional name - Muslim Slavs. The reason is that the Croats in Bosnia are also Bosniaks. Indeed, many of them bear Bosniak as their second name. The meaning of Bosniak is simply - a Bosnian.
In the Zagreb telephone book only (1994/95) you can see a long list of as many as 210 surnames of Bosnjak, with only one Muslim forename, and also more than 30 Bosnjakovic's, with only 3 Muslim forenames.
There is village Bosnjaci in Croatia (4,500 inhabitants prior to 1991, near Zupanja). I did not find any village of a similar name on a map of Bosnia. Also in Hrvatsko Zagorje, near Zagreb, there is a
One can find Croatian families bearing the Turkish second name of Ulama even in the NW of Croatia (Hrvatsko Zagorje). The town of Tuhelj in Hrvatsko Zagorje was given by those Croats who had to escape from the region of the village of Tuhelj in Bosnia, between Kresevo and Konjic, see [Gizdelin, pp 44, 53]. Near Varazdin Breg there is a village of Turcin (= The Turk). Croatian glagolitic priest fra Matija Bosnjak had to escape from Bosnia in front of the Turks with numerous compatriots. He died in the town of Rab, where on his grave the year of his death, 1525, was chiselled in Croatian Glagolitic characters.
Let us start by describing many traces left by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. This civilization, that was present on Croatian soil from the 15th to the 19th century (in eastern parts of former Yugoslavia until the beginning of the 20th century), left a deep imprint. Many Croats converted to Islam. The Muslim Slavs are in great majority of Croatian descent, and constitute now a nation, recognized according to their own wish in 1968 (Muslimani has been the usual name since the beginning of the 20th century). Except in Croatia they live today mostly in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sandzak (a province in the south of Serbia, between Montenegro, Kosovo and Bosnia).
There were many disputes even about the name of "Muslimani", which was defined to have only the national content (i.e. one could have been Musliman without being religious at all, as was the case for example with Raif Dizdarevic, former president of former Yugoslavia; of course, his predecessors were Muslims). On the other hand the term "musliman" (with small m) had the meaning of Muslim exclusively in the religious sense. The way out was to choose an old geographical name Bosniak, which traditionally denoted any citizen of Bosnia - either Croat (as we said, many of them have Bosniak as a surname), or Muslim, or Serb. It is strange that this usurpation of the name of Bosniak has been accepted even in the official Croatia. From this easily follows a complete usurpation of the Bosnian name (usurpation of Bosnian literature, language and of the entire history of Bosnia). Of course, we do not deny the right of Muslim - Bosniaks to call themselves Bosniaks. We would like to indicate that the name of Bosniaks does not refer exclusively to Bosnian Muslims, but to Bosnian Croats too.
See also Vladimir
did not secure the right of autochthony in Croatia.
I recommend the interested reader to consult BEHAR, the journal of the Cultural society of Bosniaks (more precisely: Bosniaks - Muslims) in Zagreb called Preporod, for their views on these very sensitive questions, especially an article by Esad Cimic in No22-23, p.12-15, 1996. The society unites outstanding Muslim intellectuals in Croatia. ``Behar'' was founded in 1900 - its first editor in chief had been Safvet-beg Basagic. It was forbidden during the 70 years' ex-Yugoslav period.
In the 16th century a traveler and writer Marco A. Pigaffetta wrote that almost everybody on the Turkish court in Constantinople knows the Croatian language, and especially soldiers. Marco Pigafetta in his "Itinerario'' published in London in 1585 states: "In Istanbul it is customary to speak Croatian, a language which is understood by almost all official Turks, especially military men."
can also be confirmed by the
1553 visit of Antun
cardinal, and Franjo Zay, a diplomat, to Istanbul as envoys of the
Croat - Hungarian king to discuss a peace treaty with the Turks. During
the initial ceremonial greetings they had with Rustem - pasha Hrvat (=
Croat) the conversation led in Turkish with an official interpreter was
suddenly interrupted. Rustem - pasha Hrvat asked in Croatian if Zay and
Vrancic spoke Croatian language. The interpreter was then dismissed and
they proceeded in the Croatian language during the entire process of
The above two photos are from [Martic].
Piyale Pasha (c. 1515-1578), was a Croatian Ottoman admiral and an Ottoman Vizier. He was also known as Piale Pasha in the West or Pialí Bajá in Spain; Turkish: Piyale Pasa.
of the oldest texts written in Arabica
(which is in fact Arabic script for the Croatian language) is a love
song called "Chirvat-türkisi"
(= Croatian song) from 1588,
written by a certain Mehmed
in Bosnia. This manuscript is held
in the National Library in Vienna. Except for literature Arabica was
also used in religious schools and administration. Of course, it was in
much lesser use than other scripts. The last book in Arabica was
printed in 1941.
Many of the Muslim Slavs in Bosnia-Herzegovina had a strong awareness of their Croatian descent, and even called themselves Muslim Croats, to distinguish from the Catholic Croats. Some of the most outstanding Croatian writers and intellectuals of the Muslim faith in Bosnia and Herzegovina are:
etc. Anybody wishing to study the history of Islamic culture in Bosnia-Herzegovina seriously should consult numerous works of Hamdija Kresevljakovic (1888-1959), an outstanding Muslim Croat, member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb, author of an important monograph about history of Croatian literature in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Biographies of important Muslim Croats can be found in his ``Kratak pregled hrvatske knjige u Herceg - Bosni'' (A short survey of Croatian literature in Herzeg - Bosnia) printed in Sarajevo in 1912. For more information see [Karihman]. It should be noted that the literary and scientific activity of such intellectuals has been severely suppressed during the 70 years' Yugoslav period, resulting that today a very small percentage of the entire Muslim Slav population in BiH and Croatia has the awareness of its Croatian roots.
We can document the equivalence of the name of Bosniak and Hrvat during many centuries, until the Yugoslav period (see below). It seems that the final and almost complete national individualization of Muslim Slavs took place only during the tragedy they experienced during the Serbian large-scale aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina in the period of 1992-95 (the aggression against BiH started already in October 1991 by the slaughter of the Croats in the Herzegovinian village of Ravno). This aggression found Muslim officials totally unprepared. Moreover, when Vukovar and the whole of Croatia were bleeding, being systematically destroyed in the second half of 1991, president Izetbegovic declared "This is not our war'', believing naively that the Yugoslav Army and armed extremists would not dare to do the same in Bosnia - Hercegovina. Of course, the national individualization was strengthened also during the tragic conflict with the Croats in 1993, which was one of the well prepared results of the Serbian aggression.
The equivalence of the name of Bosniak and Croat in the early period of the Ottoman occupation of Bosnia is documented by the famous Turkish historian Aali (1542-1599) in his work Knhulahbar, also known as Tarihi Aali. He gave the following description of the properties of Croatian tribe (as he calls it) in Bosnia:
Then follows an
interesting passage describing virtues of the
Croats in Bosnia.
SSto se ticce plemena Hrvata, koje se pripisuje rijeci Bosni, njihov se znaccaj odrazuje u veseloj naravi; oni su po Bosni poznati i po tekuchoj rijeci prozvati [dakle Bossnjaci]. Dussa im je ccista, a lice svijetlo; vechinom su stasiti i prostodussni - njihovi likovi kao znaccajevi naginju pravednosti. Golobradi mladichi i lijepi momci poznati su (na daleko) po pokrajinama radi naoccitosti i ponositosti, a daroviti spisatelji kao umni i misaoni ljudi. Uzrok je ovo, ssto je Bog - koji se uzvisuje i uzdizze - u osmanlijskoj drzzavi podigao vrijednost tome hvaljenom narodu dostojanstvom i ccast njegove sreche uzvisio kao visoki uzrast i poletnu dussu, jer se meddu njima nasilnika malo nalazi. Vechina onih, koji su dossli do visokih polozzaja (u Turskoj drzzavi) odlikuju se veledussjem to jest: ccasschu i ponosom; malo ih je koji su tjeskogrudni, zavidni i pohlepni. Neustrassivi su u boju i na mejdanu, a u drusstvu, gdje se uzziva i pije, prostodussni. Obiccno su prijazni, dobrochudni i ljubazni. Osobito se odlikuje ovo pleme vanrednom ljepotom i iznimnim uzrastom... Bez sumnje Bossnjaci, koji se pribrajaju hrvatskom narodu, odlikuju se kao prosti vojnici dobrotom i pobozznosti, kao age i zapovjednici obrazovanosschu i vrlinom; ako doddu do ccasti velikih vezira, u upravi su dobrochudni, ponosni i pravedni, da ih velikassi hvale i odliccni umnici slave.''
According the documents from the 15th and 16th centuries, Bosnian Muslims in central Bosnia and in Herzegovina called their language Croatian language and called themselves the Croats. Even today there are Bosnian Muslims with the second name Hrvat (= Croat). Islam left valuable written and architectural monuments, like in Spain for instance. Let us mention that Croatia's capital Zagreb has one of the biggest and most beautiful newly built mosques in Europe, although in Turkish time it had none (Zagreb was never occupied by the Turks). For instance in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, there had been several hundred mosques from the Turkish time, out of which only one survived.
Probably the most interesting writings about the life in Ottoman Empire in the 16th century are numerous works published by Bartol Gyurgieuvits (1506-1566), who spent there 13 years as a slave.
In the province of Molise in central Italy there is a small Croatian enclave (about 4,500 people), living today in several villages, inhabited in 15 villages in the 16th century by the Croats fleeing before the Turks. They preserved their ethnic identity and language even today.
Since the 16th century a similar enclave has existed near Bratislava in Slovakia. The largest Croatian community of exiles dating from that period is in the area of Gradisce (Burgenland) in Austria and Hungary. One of the results of this forced migrations is that the most widespread surname in today's Hungary is Horvath, whose meaning is simply Croat. Also the family name Horvat is one of the most widespread in today's Slovenia. The surname Charvat (= Croat) in the present-day Czechia is a remaining of the presence of White Croats on this area since the Early Middle Ages. The family name Horwath and its variations is also very common in Austria (see the telephone book in Vienna). The most famous descendant of Gradisce Croats is without any doubt Joseph Haydn. It is interesting that King Ferdinand I (1515-1564) granted the Burgenland Croats in Austria the right to use Glagolitic Mass, see here.
In Slovenian part of Istria, near Italian border east of Trieste, there is the village of Hrvatini (literally - Croats). Also in Croatian part of Istria, north-east of Zminj, there is the village of Hrvatin. Several Istrian villages have names that are obviously related to those Croats who had to escape before the Turks from the region Lika and Krbava.
Additional information about centuries old Croatian emigration in Czechia and Slovakia can be obtained here:
Today there are several tens of thousands of Croats living in about fifty settlements in the region of Gradisce, i.e. Eisenstadt (about two thirds) and in Vienna (one third). There are 14 Croatian settlements left in Hungary and only four in Slovakia, among them Hrvatski Grob (Croatian Grave) near Bratislava. Specialists estimate that the overall number of Croatian settlements in these regions in the 16th century was as many as 200 to 300! In the 16th century in the area around Bratislava in Slovakia there were about sixty Croatian settlements. See Sanja Vulic, Bernardina Petrovic: Govor Hrvatskoga Groba u Slovackoj, Sekcija DHK i Hrvatkog PEN-a za proucavanje knjizevnosti u hrvatskom iseljenistvu, Zagreb 1999.
In 1722 the Croats in the Hungarian city of Pecuh exiled from Bosnia made 47% of population, in suburbs of Budim (a part of today's Budapest) 80%, and in Siget (Szeged) 53%.
Among descendants of the Croats in Italy we should mention Pope Sixto V (he was the Pope from 1585 to 1590), who spoke Croatian at home.
It is estimated that until the 18th century there were about two million Croats who had been either exiled or taken as slaves to Turkey. Among the Bosnian Catholics there was a large number of Cryptocatholics, i.e. those who were secretly Catholics at home, and ``Muslims'' out of it. Children were circumcised, but secretly baptized as well.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is full of very interesting, mysterious tombstone monuments called stechak (the older names are bilig = sign, mramor = marble, priklopnik or priklopnica = folding). The most famous collection is in Radimlja in Herzegovina:
Here are a few stechak monuments in the vicinity of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia:
In the middle stechak one can see a lily, which is a very old symbol of Bosnia. In Croatia there are also numerous stechak monuments. Some of them are even near the towns of Knin, Karlovac (Generalski stol), and in Slavonia, near the towns of Pozega and Pakrac.
Even today Croatian women in some parts of Bosnia tattoo their hands with Christian symbols and stechak ornaments. This very old custom, used exclusively among Catholic Christians, had a special meaning in the period of the Ottoman occupation. In this way, by wearing indelible signs of their Christian religion, the forced conversion to Islam has been prevented. However, the custom itself is much older. For example, a Greek historian Strabo (1st century BC) mentions tattooing among inhabitants of this area. For more information see an article by Ciro Truhelka: Die Tätowirung bei den Katholiken Bosniens und der Hercegovina (published in Wissenschaftliche Mittheilungen Aus Bosnien und der Hercegovina, herausgegeben vom Bosnisch-Hercegovinischen Landesmuseum in Sarajevo, redigiert von Dr. Moriz Hoernes, Vierter Band, Wien 1896).
Bosnian Catholic Croats tattoo their hands and other visible parts of body with Christian symbols (usually with a small cross), like brow, cheeks, wrist, or below neck. This can be seen even today, not only in middle Bosnia, but also among exiled Bosnian women living in Zagreb.
Katarina Vukcic-Kosaca (1424-1478), the last Queen of Bosnia, ardent Catholic, wife of the Bosnian King Stjepan Tomasevic (1461-1463), is still one of the most beloved personalities among the Croats living in Bosnia. When Bosnia fell under the Ottoman rule in 1463, her two children (a boy and a girl) had been taken to slavery and educated in the spirit of Islam, her husband decapitated. She managed to escape to Dubrovnik, and then to Rome, where she had been deeply involved in the humanitarian activity of the Franciscan community (Aracoeli) becoming Franciscan Tertiary herself, to help Bosnian Croats under the Turkish rule.
The above portrait of Katarina Kosaca, Bosnian Queen, was made by Giovanni Bellini, held in the Capitol Gallery of paintings in Rome.
She built a church of St. Katarina in a picturesque Bosnian city of Jajce (totally destroyed by the Serbs in 1993). Despite her very difficult position, she had always been treated as a Queen of Bosnia in official circles. Tormented by the tragedy of her homeland, lawful Queen Katarina bequested her Bosnian Kingdom to pope Sixto IV and Holly See in 1478 ("...in case that my islamised children are not freed and returned to Catholic faith"). Her grave in the Aracoeli church in Rome had a Croatian Cyrillic inscription until 1590 (with the coat of arms of the old Bosnian Kingdom and of the Kosaca family), when it had been replaced by translation into Latin. Even today, after more than five centuries, Croatian women wear black costumes in some parts of Bosnia in remembrance to her tragic life and kindness towards poor people. Beatified.
The seat of Bosnian kings in 14th and 15th centuries was Bobovac, about 50 km north of Sarajevo. Its walls were about 1100 meters long. Many documents are preserved mentioning Bobovac. It fell under the Turks in 1463, which meant the fall of mediaeval Bosnian state.
After the catastrophic defeat of the Serbs in the Kosovo field in 1389, on whose side both Croatian forces from Bosnia and Albanian troops had also participated, Serbia became a vassal state to the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
Among the most tragic events in the history of the Croats were the Turkish occupation of Bosnia in 1463, and the catastrophic defeat of Croatian defenders in the battle with the Turks on the Krbavsko polje (Krbava field in today's Lika) in 1493. The slaughter of the Croatian nobility greatly reduced the economic power of the Croatian lands for the centuries to come. It was described in the "Second Novi Glagolitic breviary" by rev. Martinac in 1494 (see a column from this breviary on the photo). Marko Marulic wrote his famous Prayer against the Turks. An extensive collection of dozens of speeches "against the Turks" (Orationes contra Turcas) from the middle of the 15th century to the end of the 16th century can be seen in [Gligo], on 650 pp. Several of these speeches have been delivered by Croatian noblemen, writers and clergy in front of Popes, as well as in front of high dignitaries of various European states.
speeches are important and indelible historical
fact. They do
not have to have any influence on good contemporary relations between
Croatian and Turkey. D.Ž.
In the 16th century the Turks started settling down Serbian population in the emptied regions previously inhabited by the Croatian Catholics. The representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church had the privilege to collect taxes from the Croatian Catholics. In this way the Serbs wanted to include the Catholics into the Orthodox Church, which was under the control of the Turks (the residence of the Serbian Patriarch was in Constantinople in present-day Turkey).
Let us mention by the way that the animosity of the Orthodox Christians against Catholics was strengthened first in Greece and then in Serbia after the Crusaders had occupied Constantinople and formed the Latin Empire (1204-1261).
Before the Turkish penetration in the 15th century there were 151 Catholic churches in Bosnia, about 20 Catholic monasteries, and not a single Serbian Orthodox church. Several Catholic orders were present in Bosnia: Benedictines, Paulines, and above all Franciscans. Immediately after the arrival of the Turks a large number of Serbian Orthodox churches was built up, many of them on the ruins of Catholic churches. Under the pressure of the Serbian Clergy many Croatian Catholics had to convert to the Serbian Orthodox Christian faith. And the religion was one of the decisive factors in the national affiliation of the people in Bosnia.
The border between Middle Age Bosnia and Croatia was on the river Vrbas, not on Una. The lovely town of Jajce (on river Vrbas) was in Croatia, as well the town of Bihac. The territories enclosed by three rivers - Sava, Una and Vrbas - bore the name of the Turkish Croatia in the European literature of 18th and 19th century. The name was given by the Turks, and it was accepted by Austrian, Italian, German and Dutch cartographers. It was only in 1860 that upon insistance of the Valachian part of the population the name of Turkish Croatia was abolished in favor of the new name - Bosanska Krajina (Bosnian Frontier). This name appears on maps for the first time in 1869.
KROATIEN, depicted with light
green border in the middle of the
Franjo Glavinic (1585 - 1652), Croatian Franciscan born in Istria, whose parents were noblemen exiled from Bosnian Kingdom (Glamoc), wrote several important books, among which we cite
He has discovered very old and important muniment from 1288 which mentions Stipan from old Dubrovnik, Bishop of Modrus, written in the Glagolitic Script. Here Old Dubrovnik is a town which existed in Middle Bosnia, north of Sarajevo, founded by merchants from the famous Dubrovnik. Old (Stari ) Dubrovnik had existed also after the fall of Bosnia under the Turks in 1463 (nahija Stari Dubrovnik).
See also Pavao Andjelic: Stara bosanska zupa Vidogosca ili Vogosca [PDF], Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja BiH u Sarajevu, Arheologija, XXVI, 337-346.
Photo from Bernardin Matic: Gospa Olovska, drugo preuredjeno izdanje, Svjetlo rijeci, Sarajevo 1991.
The territory between Una and Vrbas (former Turkish Croatia) has been ceded to the Serbian entity by the Dayton agreement in 1995. Truly a great success of Milosevic and his apprentices Karadzich and Mladich. The area itself, as well as the fertile region of Bosanska Posavina along the right bank of the Sava river (now also within the Serbian entity), had a large Muslim and Croatian majority in 1991. The region has been almost completely cleansed from the Croats and Muslims that lived there for centuries. A part of cleansing was the so-called "humanitarian exchange of population'' under the auspices of the international community that was not willing to put pressure on Karadzic and Mladic. The European officials describe this as a "compensation'' for the disappearance of the Serbian para-state in Croatia during the Flash and Storm operations.
The Serbs living in Bosnia came with the Turks mostly as assisting Turkish troops. It should be emphasized that these Bosnian Serbs were originally Valachies (Vlachs) from Montenegro and northern Albania. In fact they were non-slavic nomads - Protoromans and romanized Balkan Celts and Illyrians, who accepted the Serbian Orthodox faith (there were also Catholic Valachies in Croatia, croatized after 16th century). Later, under the influence of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Bosnia, they became Serbs. They had been fighting on the Turkish side until the decline of the Turkish Empire started. Their enclaves in present day Croatia follow roughly the border of the Turkish Empire in the medieval Croatia.
Completely destroyed sanctuary of Podmilacje (on the left) and a damaged church near Jajce, after Greater Serbian aggression on BiH (photos by [Cakic-Did])
These migrations led to further complications. Counting on these Serbian settlers as a military aid, the Austrian kings supplied them with privileges. This meant that parts of the Croatian territory were not completely under the Croatian jurisdiction and the Croats felt them as intruders within their state. This was the beginning of the so-called Krajina (`Military Frontier'; "Bosnian Krajina" appeared much later), whose complete and systematic ethnical cleansing from Croats and from everything reminding on their existence was finished during the Serbian aggression 1991-1995. Here we see the beginning of the drama in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Krajina region in Croatia has been liberated during the Flash and Storm operations in the summer 1995.
us continue our story on the history of medieval Bosnia. The tax
blood (devshirma) was the most
tragic for Bosnian Catholics. It
meant that every three or four years 300 to 1000 healthy boys and young
men had to be taken by force to Turkey, converted to Islam and educated
for military profession or religious disciplines. Some desperate
mothers even mutilated their children trying to save them.
After the arrival of the Turks the states of Bosnia and Albania, which had been previously Catholic, became more and more islamized. Moreover, in the same time in Bosnia the Serbian Orthodoxy, supported by the Turks, was spreading. The Jews exiled from Spain (Sefards), who arrived to Bosnia in 1492, were accepted by the Turkish state and exempt from the tax in blood, but not from paying taxes to the Serbian Church.
It is also interesting to note that the language which the Turkish court in Constantinople officially used to communicate with the Balkan Slavs was Croatian. Many islamized Croats were present at the Turkish court as writers, officers, even grand viziers.
Two clearly visible Croatian Coats of Arms of Croatian troups at the 1526 battle at the Mohac field (Hungary) against the Turks. By the courtesy of Josip Sersic and Mijo Juric, Vienna, 2009. The photo below is a detail, to see larger drawing, click on it.
The city of Vienna, capital of Austria, has been attacked by the Turks already in 1529. Among defensive forces Croatian troups participated under their flag. See encircled below, left of the Stephanusdome, the famous Vienna Cathedral.
Croatian defensive forces under their Croatian flag in Vienna in 1529, during the first Turkish siege of the city. I express my deep gratitude to Josip Sersic and Mijo Juric, Vienna, for this information.
For more details see Croatian Coat of Arms.
During the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, a Croatian village called Krowotendörfel, placed immediately near the city walls, has been destroyed, and since then it does not exist any more. The meaning of its name is precisely Croatian Village! Its position corresponded to contemporary Spittelberg near the Hofburg palace. For more details see [400 Jahre Kroaten in Wien]. Other names of Krowotendörfel can also be encountered in the literature:
Among defenders of Vienna in 1683 was a renowned Croatian theologist and ecumenist panslavist Juraj Krizanic, who was assasinated during the Turkish seige.
1526 the disastrous defeat of
Hungarian and Croatian army took place in the Mohac
southern Hungary. Let us mention by the way that since 1991 this area
has offered refuge to 45,000 exiles, mostly Croats from Serbia and
occupied parts of Croatia.
Here is a document depicting cut off heads of Croats killed after the battle at Petrinja near Zagreb in 1592:
The 1592 defeat of Croatian-Habsburg army near Brest was celebrated in Constantinople by showing 29 charriots with 172 captured dignitaries, 600 cut off heads, and 23 captured flags.
A legendary Croatian military commander Nikola Jurisic (born in the town of Senj, 1490-~1545) managed to stop sultan Sulejman the Magnificent (or Great) in 1532 near the town of Köszeg (Güns) at Austrian and Hungarian border. Nikola Jurisic had about 700 Croatian soldiers, the Turks about 32,000 people. The Turkish onsloughts lasted for three weeks. The aim of sultan Sulejman was to occupy Vienna. It is interesting that two years earlier Nikola Jurisic visited sultan Sulejman in Constantinople as a deputy of King Ferdinand.
Nikola Zrinski Junior (1620-1664), a Croatian statesman and writer, described in his epic ``The siege of Siget'' the heroic death of his grandfather Nikola Subic Zrinski in 1566, which entered all the historical annals of the 16th century. With his 2500 brave soldiers, mostly Croats, he was defending the fortress of Sziget in southern Hungary against 90,000 Turks.
The Turkish troops were under the sultan Sulejman the Great and supplied by 300 cannons. It took them a month to defeat the Croatian soldiers, who all died a terrible death in the final battle. Despite his promise, the King Maximillian Habsburg did not help Nikola Subic Zrinski. Historians say that the Turks had almost 30,000 dead.
Cardinal Richelieu, the famous French minister at the court of King Lui XIII, wrote the following: A miracle was necessary for the Habsburg Empire to survive. And the miracle happened in Sziget. The above mentioned epic was written in the Hungarian language. Though written by the Croat, it is regarded to be one of the greatest achievements of the early Hungarian literature. See also here (in Croatian).
Ivan Zajc has composed the opera Nikola Subic Zrinski, which is very popular in Japan, especially its tune "U boj, u boj!" (on this web page you can listen to a Japanese choir singing this song in Croatian!).
It is not widely known that in the 16th century the town of Bihac was Croatian capital. Hasan-pasa Predojevic, an islamized Croat, occupied Bihac in 1592. About 2000 people were killed and 800 Croatian children taken to slavery and educated in the spirit of Islam. A real turning point which meant the beginning of the fall of the Ottoman expansion to Croatian historical lands (and to Europe) was a defeat of Hasan-pasa Predojevic in a battle at Sisak near Zagreb in 1593, which echoed in the whole of Europe.
Ban (Viceroy) Petar Zrinski (1621-1671) and Fran Krsto Frankapan (1643-1671), both outstanding as statesmen and writers, are among the most beloved figures in the history of Croatia. They had a great successes in liberating the areas occupied by the Turks. However, the Viennese Military council, instead of supporting them to free the rest of the Hungarian and Croatian lands, signed a shameful peace treaty with Turkey, by which the liberated territories had to be handed back to the Turks. The result of the rebellion against Vienna was a cruel public decapitation of Zrinski and Frankapan in Wiener Neustadt near Vienna in 1671. The remains of these two Croatian martyrs were buried in the Cathedral of Zagreb in 1919.
It is interesting that, while in prison from 18th April 1670 to 30th April 1671, Fran Krsto Frankapan translated Molier's "George Dandin" into Croatian, written in Paris in 1669, ie. only two years earlier. This was was its first European translation. Frankopan is the author of very famous Croatian verses Navik on zivi ki zgine posteno (Forever he lives who dies honorably).
The letter sent by Petar Zrinski to his wife Katarina (in Croatian) just a day before his death is one of the most deeply moving texts ever written in the Croatian language. It was very soon translated and published in
His wife Katarina, also an outstanding poetess, was imprisoned by general Spankau in a monastery in Graz, where she went insane and died in extreme poverty. Even the son of Peter and Katarina - Ivan Antun, the last of the Zrinski's, was imprisoned in Graz, solely because he belonged to this outstanding noble family. He died after 20 years of prison in Schlossberg in Graz out of pneumonia. For more details see [Bartolic].
Ana Katarina Frakapan translated a prayer book (Putni tovarus) from German into Croatian language (Heruatczki jezik) and published in Venice in 1661:
Vsega Hervatczkoga i Szlovinskoga osrzaga... - Of the entire Croatian and Slavonian state...
These six centuries old noble Croatian families died out and their property was robbed. It should be stressed that both Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankapan went to Vienna voluntarily, where they have been arrested. During the trial they defended themselves claiming that only Croatian Parliament (Hrvatski Sabor) can try them. In their burgs they had a considerable collection of books and works of art, which after confiscation are held in Austria (many of them in Austrian National Library). A period of the influence of the absolutistic Viennese politics had started.
Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan (1825-1871), by Dr. Vinko Grubisic
Map dedicated to Petar Zrinski, ban of Croatia. The map was created at the workshop of Joannes Blaeu in Amsterdam as an addition to the work by Ivan Lucic, "De Regno Dalmatiae et Croatiae libri sex", Amsterdam, 1666. Blaeu had inserted the map in Atlas Maior in 1667, and dedicated it to the Croatian ban Petar Zrinski (bottom of the map, in the middle):
To the most illustrious and noble lord, Prince Peter of Zrin, the ban of the Kingdom of Dalmatia, Croatia and Slavonia, hereditary ban of the Littoral, hereditary captain of the Legrad fortress and Medimurje peninsula, master and hereditary prince of Lika, Odorje, Krbava, Omis, Klis, Skradin, Ostrovica, Bribir etc.., Master of Kostajnica and the sliver mine at Gvozdansko, councillor and chamberlain to his anointed imperial majesty, master Ioannes Blaeu dedicates this map.
Zrin-Frankapan heritage in Croatia: 126 fortresses, castles and bourgs
On Jaunary 13th 1578, after three months of continuous attacks of several thousand soldiers, led by Ferhad pasha, the Turks managed to enter the fortress of Gvozdansko. To their surprise, this time they entered the fortress without any resistence from Croatian side. And upon entering, they saw an amazing scenery: all Croatian defenders (50 soldiers, and 250 peasants and miners with wives and children) were lying dead, frozen in the snow. The soldiers were with arms in their hands. Ferhad pasha was so shocked by what he saw, that he asked a Catholic priest to be found, so that currageous defenders could be burried according to their tradition. The Croatian crew refused several previous Turkish offers to leave the fortess for unoccuopied part of Croatia. They had to struggle not only aginst the Turks, but also against famine and extreme coldness. This is one of the most celebrated events in the military history of Croatia.
We know the names of four captains that led the defense of Gvozdansko:
By the 1699 peace treaty in Srijemski Karlovci, the region between the rivers Una and Vrbas was named Turkish Croatia (Turska Hrvatska, Croazia Turca). According to the decisions of the Berlin Congress in 1878 (by which the Habsburg Monarchy obtained a mandate to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina), for the first time was a settlement on the right side of the river Una called Bosnian Dubica (Bosanska Dubica), and the name of Bosnia was extended to the region between the rivers Una and Vrbas.
By the end of the 17th century some of the occupied parts of Croatia and Hungary were liberated from the Turks. The Serbs joined Austrian forces (composed mostly of Croats), hoping to get a full freedom. However, the Austrian forces were defeated near Skopje in Macedonia. The Turks managed to regain most of the lost territories, and then a very difficult period for Serbian people started. Fearing the revenge of the Turks, in 1690 Kosovian Serbs (37,000 families) left for present day Vojvodina, a very fertile region, the part of which between the rivers Sava and Danube was a Croatian territory and Hungarian to the north of the Danube. Actually, the exodus of Serbs included even Budapest. Most of the Catholic monasteries in Vojvodina became the `property' of the Orthodox Church, whose aggressiveness made interconfessional relations very tense. The emptied territories of Kosovo were then populated by the islamized Albanians. Today the official Serbia quite unjustly claims an equal right to both Kosovo and Vojvodina.
The penetration of the Ottoman Empire to Europe was stopped on Croatian soil, which could be in this sense regarded as a historical gate of European civilization. Since 1519 Croatia has been known as Antemurale Christianitatis in Western Europe. The name was given by Pope Leo X.
The Croats endured the greatest burden of this four century long war against the Turks. The most tragic fact in this war was that many islamized Croats had to fight against the Catholic Croats. It is interesting to note that the city of Zagreb and nearby Sisak despite many attempts were never occupied by the Turks, though they came as far as Vienna in 1683. Budapest for instance was in the hands of the Turks for 160 years.
It is in the 17th century that the following very condensed description of the Croatian tragedy was given by Pavao Vitezovic (1652-1713), a writer: ``Reliquiae reliquiarum olim inclyti Regni Croatiae'', i.e. ``Remains of remains of ancient glorious Croatian Kingdom''. Indeed, throughout its long and difficult history its territory has been reduced to the shape of a flying bird.Medjugorje, which is in the area inhabited by Croats. During the last ten years it was visited by millions of pilgrims.
Bombed by Greater Serbian aggressors in 1992.
The earliest mention of a Catholic bishopric in Bosnia dates from 1089 (i.e. from the 11th century). It was called Bosnian Bishopric, and its center was in Vrhbosna (today's Sarajevo).
Deep traces were left by the Bosnian Franciscans, present on Bosnian soil since 1291 (only 80 years after the foundation of the Franciscan order). They were beloved by people, for being educated and humble, for keeping the national and religious identity of the Croats. In 1376 they had 35 Catholic monasteries and about 400 missionaries (the Fojnica (Hvojnica) monastery is on the photo on the left; on the right is the famous Visovac monastery on the Krka river, founded in 1445 by Bosnian Franciscans from Kresevo, middle Bosnia; shelled by the Serbs in 1991). In Turkish time, by a special Charter (Ahdnama, 1463) from the Sultan, the Bosnian Franciscans and their Croatian Catholics had a guaranty to live in peace and freedom in his Empire. However, in reality it was rather different. Three Franciscan bishops in Bosnia had been killed by the Turks despite ostensible protection: in 1545, 1564, 1701, not to mention priests and ordinary people. From 1516 to 1853 a decree was issued by the Turks that Catholics are not allowed to build new churches, but only to repair those built before 1463.
Kraljeva Sutiska (or Kraljeva Sutjeska = Royal Gorge)
old and contemporary inscriptions in Croatian
Even some of Catholic
churches built before 1463 were
transformed into Muslim mosques (for example in Foca, Bihac, Jajce,
Srebrenica, etc.). So in 18th century only three monastic Catholic
churches were left (in Fojnica, Kraljeva Sutiska and in Kresevo), and
two small churches (in Podmilacje and Vares), see [Gavran,
IV, p. 103.
An outstanding European intellectual of his time was Georgius Benignus (Juraj Dragisic, ?1454 - 1520), a Croat born in Bosnia, in the town of Srebrenica.
Today the richest library in Bosnia-Herzegovina is in the Franciscan monastery of Mostar (bombed by the Serbs in 1992). The most famous Croatian Franciscan is St. Nikola Tavelic (born in Sibenik about 1340-1391), a missionary in Bosnia and Yerusalem, a martyr whom Pope Paul VI proclaimed a Saint in 1970. We should also mention another Franciscan-capuchin, St. Leopold Mandic (1866-1942), who was a forerunner of today's Ecumenism.
Bosna Srebrena (Bosnia Argentum)
We know that in the region of north-eastern Bosnia, to which also the city of Srebrenica belongs, there existed a large number of Catholic churches and six Franciscan monasteries. This witnesses about deeply rooted Catholic tradition in this area before the Turkish occupation in the second half of the 15th century.
i.e. monasteries that we know to have existed before the Turkish occupation of Bosnia in 1463.
Just for comparison, immediately before the Serbian aggression that started in 1991/92 Bosnian Franciscans had altogether 25 monasteries (three of them outside of Bosnia - Herzegovina: two in Belgrade and one in the Kosovo region).
This list is for sure not complete, but it tells us already enough. It is clear that Catholic churches in Bosnia were much more numerous than Franciscan monasteries. According to the Turkish census of population in Bosnia from 1570 even the city of Foca on the river Drina had Catholic majority at that time. The ethnic and religious picture of Bosnia - Herzegovina has changed especially drastically in the 17th and 18th centuries in favor of Muslims and Orthodox Christians.
1658 a Franciscan Ivan
from Foca sent a
the Pope in the Vatican for permission to use Croatian language, "as
was allowed to all priests in the province of Dalmatia" (...come pure
concesta a tuti gli sacerdoti della provincia di Dalmazia), meaning of
course the Croatian
Glagolitic liturgy. See [Strgacic],
franciscan monastery of Plehan
with the accompanying
church have been completely destroyed in 1992., using two tons of
explosive, during Greater Serbian aggression on Bosnia - Herzegovina
(1991-1995), see [
Photo from www.plehan.ch
Very valuable library, museum and historical archives in Plehan have been burnt down. For more information see Project Plehan, Plehan - a Beacon for Croatians in Bosnia, an interview with Fra Mirko Filipovic in Glas Koncila, and Bosna Srebrena.
A well known fact from the history of Bosnia (as well as recent) is that successes in the defense of the Croatian territories from Turkish onslaughts were followed by savage reprisals over the remaining Croatian Catholics in occupied areas (in today's Bosnia - Herzegovina and parts of Croatia). In this way many Catholic churches and monasteries disappeared and large ares in Bosnia had been emptied from the Croats. Especially infamous was gazi Husref - Beg, army leader of sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (16th century).
In this way the emptied areas had been populated by Muslim and Valachian settlers. Catholic churches were transformed into mosques like in Srebrenica, nearby Zvornik on the river of Drina, and in many other places.
important and interesting phenomenon
of Bosnian history are Krstyans,
members of the mysterious Bosnian
Church - a Christian religious
sect. Krstyans are also known under
the name of Good Christians (Dobri Krstyani). According to studies of fra Leon Petrovic,
reports of Hungarian clergy to the
Pope in 13th century about the "heresy" of Bosnian Krstyans were
unfounded. The "heresy" of Bosnian Krstyans was invented by church
authorities in Budim in order to subjugate Bosnia to Hungary first in
ecclesiastic, and then in political sense. This policy succeeded to
separate Bosnia from the Dubrovnik
Archbishopric (which was also accused for "heresy"!), and to attach it
to the Hungarian Archbishopric in Kalocsa in 1247. Several crusades
against Bosnian "heretics" had been undertaken in the 13th century.
According to recent investigations, their overall number in the 15th
century was already small compared to the Catholic population in Bosnia
(Turkish sources recorded only 700 Krstyans in 1468/69, see [Gavran,
IV, p. 101). They all disappeared with the
fall of Bosnia under Turks in 1463.
It is interesting that they had institutions of their own that they called hizha (house), while the bishop of the Bosnian Church was did (= grandfather), both typically Croatian names, in dialectal use even today. They were never called ``hristjans'' or ``hrischans'', as would be the case if they were of the Serbian provenance. The institution of "did" existed also in old Croatian Kingdom, until its union with Hungary in 1102.
Another important and well documented fact regarding Krstyans in Bosnia is that liturgical books of the Bosnian Church had been transliterated from the Croatian Glagolitic sources into Croatian Cyrillic (Bosancica). Thus Krstyans are very closely related to the Croatian Glagolitic tradition.
There is no doubt that the oldest phase of the Bosnian and Herzegovinean literature was Glagolitic. Numerous Cyrillic manuscripts were translated from older Glagolitic books. This can be seen for instance in the Mostar Evangelistary from the 14th century, written by Mihajlo Grk, held in the Archive of the Serbian Academy in Belgrade. The last three glagolites in Bosnia died in 1834.
The last known glagolitic priest in Bosnia was Jakov Čotić (1727-1807), nicknamed Jako Čota, who lived in Kupres (Rastično). See Glas koncila, 6. June 2010.Here is an interesting monument from central Bosnia with inscription for which it is difficult to decide is it Croatian glagolitic, cyrillic, or something else:
It is interesting that in 1390, Jadwiga, the Polish Queen and her husband Wladyslaw Jagiello (Vladislaus Jagiello), founded a Glagolitic monastery under the invocation of The Saint Cross. It was established in Kleparz, the quarter of Krakow. Glagolitic liturgy existed there for about 100 years. Queen Jadwiga's mother was the princess Elzbieta Bosniaczka, that is, Elizabeth of Bosnia.
One of undoubtedly Croatian linguistic characteristics in Bosnia is a very widespread use of the ikavian dialect (an amazing literature has been written in the ikavian version of the Croatian language, since the time of Marko Marulic in the 15th century, and also earlier by Glagolitic scribes). Even today many Croats in Istria, Dalmatia, Gorski Kotar, Slavonia, Baranja use it, as well as the Croats in Austria (Gradisce area), Hungary and Yugoslavia (Srijem, Backa). Many traces of its use can be heard also in Bosnia, both among the Croats and Muslims, despite intensive serbization of the language in the period of 1918-1991.
Much more information regarding ethnic and religious history of the Croats in Bosnia, Slavonia and Srijem, and their migrations until the 17th century, can be found in an important monograph [Zivkovic].
The ikavian dialect is spoken also in Slovakia, Ukraine and Bielorussia, which is a consequence of the common history and very probably of the common roots with the Croats in the early Middle Ages. Croats are ethnically also very close to the Czech and Polish people.
In the vicinity of Zadar (in Ravni Kotari)
there are two neighbouring villages bearing surprising names, unique in
the world, which witness about extremely complex history of Croatia:
According to the investigations of academician Veselko Karaman there are more than 300 names in the history of the Croatian literature in Bosnia - Herzegovina. The earliest known Bosnian writer in general is Matija Divkovic (1563-1631), a Bosnian Franciscan, educated in Italy. He published his books in the Croatian Cyrillic (Bosancica).
The earliest cultural institutions in Bosnia - Herzegovina were organized by the Croats, including the most important one: the Archeological Museum (Zemaljski Muzej) in Sarajevo (opened in 1888; bombed during the Serbian aggression in 1992-95). Especially important contributions to our knowledge of the early history of Bosnia had Ciro Truhelka (1865-1942), since 1906 a director of the Archeological Museum. He was collaborator of Croatian Encyclopaedia.
The first literary periodical "Bosanski prijatelj" (Bosnian Friend) in Bosnia and Herzegovina appeared in the middle of the 19th century. It was edited by Ivan Franjo Jukic in Zagreb.
Two Bosnian missionaries are among the most important representatives of Croatian Africanistics:
Among important persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina, let us mention also
Saving the famous Sarajevo Haggadah (Jewish Bible) in 1941. The Sarajevo Haggadah surpasses all the known Haggadas in the world, and is considered to be the most valuable Hebrew illuminated manuscript in the world.
About 50,000 books have been stolen from the library of the Sarajevo Theological Faculty during the Greater Serbain aggression on BiH. About a half of the books of lesser importance have been returned to the Faculty by the Serbs. For example, the important Bosniensia Collection is still not returned. Stolen books from various Croatian and BiH libraries can be seen in various second hand bookshops in Belgrade. Many of these plundered books have been sold to individuals from western European countries.
Very important cultural society of Croats in BiH is Napredak (meaning "progress"; not to be confused with Progress, which is the name of the cultural society of Serbs in BiH). Napredak was founded in 1902 and existed continuously until 1949, when the communist Yugoslav rule dissolved the society and its numerous offices and branches, and confiscated the entire movable and immovable property (buildings, libraries, books, cars, schools, bookshops, stationer's, bookbinderies, etc). The official 1949 document mentions even confiscation of "eventual organizations of Napredak not mentioned in the document". And Napredak was also the proprietor of cultural and historical collections, choirs, brass orchestras, student dormitories, etc.
The following list of offices and branches that have been dissolved by communist ex-Yugoslavia in 1949 shows clearly the power of Napredak, see [Maric, Pregled..., pp 357-359]:
Croatian national costumes from
Croatian woman with grand-daughters exiled from Kraljeva Sutjeska, living in Udbina, Lika
We mention that in 1936 Napredak had as many as 151 branches with over 20,000 members. Among outstanding members and collaborators of Napredak were:
One of the greatest Croatian kajkavian poets is Dragutin Domjanic, whose roots are according to the family tradition from Bosnia. The poem below has been published in 1928 on the occasion of the assassination of Stjepan Radic, Croatian politician, in the Yugoslav parliament in Belgrade.
The building of Napredak in Sarajevo; note Croatian Coat of Arms; photo taken in 2008.
Dr. fra Leon Petrovic, assasinated by Yugoslav communist partisans in 1945 without trial.
The anthem of Napredak was written by a Croatian lexicographer Bratoljub Klaic, and composed by a famous Croatian cellist Rudolf Matz:
Among 6,300 stipendists of Napredak were two young BiH Croats:
Another stipendist of Napredak was academician Ivo Padovan, president of Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Zagreb. It is important to mention that the Napredak schools (and not only schools) were open also to Muslims, Serbs and Jews. Napredak was revived in 1990 with the advent of democratic changes in ex-Yugoslavia.
The society Hrvatska Zena - Croatian Woman (dealing with education, humanitarian and social aid); both photos are from the town of Banja Luka, the second one is from 1938, when a branch of this society was opened (see [Maric, Orlovic]).
Hunger among Bosnian children, 1918 (see [Maric, Orlovic])
Playing harmonica in Banja Luka, 1920s or 30s (see [Maric, Orlovic])
Kristian Krekovic: Portrait of Gabrijel Jurkic from 1938.
Tamburitza orchestra in Bugojno, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the first half of 20th century, directed by a nun. Note that there are many girls. Source [Antun Lucic ed.]
Mixed tamburitza orchestra from the Franciscan Convent of Kresevo, 1908.
Here you can see a lovely example of Bosnian genius in civil engineering:
I am not joking. As I have said, Bosnia and Herzegovina has two Croats as Nobel prize winners:
BIJELI PUT - White path, Slobodan Lang
Difficult historical conditions, relations with very different civilizations, left deep traces on Croatia and Bosnia - Herzegovina. One of the consequences is the unusual geographical shape of present day Croatia. Note that its mainland is not connected (there is a narrow passage along the Neretva river, where the territory of Bosnia - Herzegovina enters the Adriatic sea, thus cutting the Croatian soil in two - an interesting remain of the former Turkish Ottoman rule). It is little known that until 1949 Bosnia - Herzegovina had another entrance to the Adriatic sea in the region of Sutorine (between Prevlaka peninsula and Herceg Novi), which is today in Montenegro. Today quite unjustly the New Yugoslav state claims the right to Croatian Prevlaka.
Pope John Paul II visited Bosnia and Herzegovina twice (1997, 2003), and three times Croatia (1994, 1998, 2003). During his apostolic visit to Banja Luka in 2003 he beatified Ivan Merz (1896-1928), Bosnian Croat born in that town.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is full of natural beauties. But be careful: the country is polluted with mines.
The largest cave in BiH is Vjetrenica (wind cave; vjetar = wind), placed near the village of Ravno, not far from Dubrovnik. It appears under this name for the first time in 1461 in the minutes of the Dubrovnik Senat. However, this famous cave was known already to Plinius the Elder (1st century AD), who mentioned it in his Natural History (Gaius Plinius Secundus: Naturalis Historiae, in 2, 115). The cave, as well as the nearby village of Ravno, deserve to be seen (25 km NW from Dubrovnik).
Also a famous Dubrovnik 15th century scholar Benedikt Kotruljic mentions this cave near Popovo not far from Dubrovnik, with miraculous wind: at the entrance the air is colder in the summer than in Italy in the winter. The cave is mentioned in his book De Navigatione, 1446 (in Chapter XXXXVIII, ie. Ch XLVIII), which is the first manual on navigation in the history of Europe.
- Huseinbeg Gradascevic (1802-1834)
Personal Coat of Arms of Kristian Krekovic, composed of centuries old Coat of Arms of Bosnia (a lily), also centuries old Croatian Coat of Arms, and of Coat of Arms of Peru, drawn in 1952 during his stay there; see Amigos del Museo Krekovic, Palma de Mallorca, Spain