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Ante Starčević

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Ante Starčević
Ante Starčević portrait.jpg
Born(1823-05-23)23 May 1823
Died28 February 1896(1896-02-28) (aged 72)
Resting placeŠestine, Zagreb
Alma materUniversity of Pécs
OccupationPolitician, writer
Political partyParty of Rights (until 1895)
Pure Party of Rights (1895–1896)

Ante Starčević (About this soundlisten ; 23 May 1823 – 28 February 1896) was a Croatian politician and writer. His policies centered around Croatian state law, the integrity of Croatian lands, and the right of his people to self-determination. As an important member of the Croatian parliament and the founder of the Party of Rights he has laid the foundations for Croatian nationalism. He has been referred to as Father of the Nation due to his campaign for the rights of Croats within Austria-Hungary and his propagation of a Croatian state in a time where many politicians sought unification with other South Slavs.



Starčević was born in the village of Žitnik near Gospić, a small town in the Military Frontier within Austrian Empire, to a family of a Croat Catholic father Jakov and Serbian Orthodox mother Milica (née Čorak).[1] Starčević attended elementary school in Klanac. Since the age of 13, he was educated by his uncle Šime Starčević who gave him his first lessons in Croatian and Latin. Šime Starčević was a pastor in Gospić and a well-known writer and linguist. In 1845, he graduated from Classical Gymnasium in Zagreb. During high school, Starčević further improved his knowledge of Latin, German, Hungarian, Greek and Italian. He then briefly continued his studies at the seminary in Senj, but soon moved to Pest in 1845 to attend a Roman Catholic theological seminary he eventually graduated from in 1846.[2] Upon his graduation Starčević returned to Croatia and continued studying theology in Senj. Rather than becoming a priest, he decided to engage in secular pursuits and started working at Ladislav Šram's law firm in Zagreb.[3] He then tried to get an academic post with the University of Zagreb but was unsuccessful, so he remained in Šram's office until 1861 when he was appointed chief notary of Fiume County. He was also a member of the committee of Matica ilirska, a Croatian cultural society connected with the Illyrian movement, in the Historical Society and in the editorial board of Neven, a literary magazine.

In 1861, he was appointed the chief notary of the Fiume (Rijeka) county. That same year, he was elected to the Croatian Parliament as the representative of Fiume and founded the original Croatian Party of Rights with Eugen Kvaternik. Starčević would be reelected to the parliament in 1865, 1871, and from 1878 to his death.

In 1862, when Fiume was implicated in participation in protests against the Austrian Empire, he was suspended and sentenced to one month in prison as an enemy of the regime. When he was released, Starčević returned to Šram's office, where he remained until 11 October 1871, when he was arrested again, this time on the occasion of the Rakovica Revolt. The revolt was launched by Kvaternik, and who had become convinced that a political solution of the type Starčević called for was not possible. While the revolt drew several hundred men, both Croats and Serbs, it was soon quashed by Imperial troops. The Croatian Party of Rights was abolished. Starčević was released after two months in prison.

In his old age, he moved to Starčević House (Starčevićev dom), built for him by the Croatian people in 1895. He died in his house less than a year later, aged 73.[4] According to his wish, he was buried in the Church of St Mirko in the Zagreb suburb of Šestine. His bust was made by Ivan Rendić. On his deathbed, he requested that no monuments be raised to his honor, but his statue was put up in front of Starčević House in 1998.

Ante Starčević's funeral procession, 1896

Political activity

Starčević's political work Iztočno pitanje (English: Eastern Question) published in 1899

After being banned from practising law in 1857, Starčević travelled to Russia where he hoped he would gather support from his country's eastern rival. When this failed, he travelled to France, pinning his hopes on French emperor Napoleon III. While in Paris, he published his work La Croatie et la confédération italienne, considered by some to be the precursor to his Party of Rights' political program.[citation needed] In 1859, the Austrian Empire was defeated in the Second Italian War of Independence, during which time Starčević returned to Croatia. Austria lost control over Italy, and Austria's weakening status in the world paved the way for Starčević's career.[5]

As the chief notary in Fiume in 1861, Starčević wrote "the four petitions of the Rijeka county". He pointed out that Croatia needed to determine its relationships with Austria and Hungary through international agreements. He demanded the reintegration of the Croatian lands, the large kingdom of Croatia of old (the medieval Kingdom of Croatia), the homeland of one people, with the same blood, language, past and (God willing) future.[citation needed]

On that ideological basis, he founded the Party of Rights with his school friend Eugen Kvaternik in 1861. That party demanded an independent Croatia independent of Austria and Hungary. Starčević's famous phrase was:"Ni pod Beč, ni pod Peštu, nego za slobodnu, samostalnu Hrvatsku" ("Neither under Vienna nor under Pest", for a free and sovereign Croatia")[6] Starčević was the only parliamentary representative who agreed with Kvaternik's draft constitution of 26 June 1861. He advocated the termination of the Military Frontier and persuaded parliament to pass on 5 August 1861 the decision annulling any joint business with Austria.

He advocated the resolution of Bosnian issues by reforms and cooperation between the people and the nobility. Starčević believed that Bosniaks were "the best Croats",[7] and claimed that "Bosnian Muslims are a part of the Croatian people and of the purest Croatian blood".[8]

From his first writings of 1861, until his last speech, Starčević, for 30 years, has tirelessly tried to prove that the main and lasting thing was to get rid of Austrian intimidation and that for the Croatian people there was no life or happier future "until it's no longer under Austria-Hungary." He took up the hostile stance towards the "mindset called Austria, in which governments and rulers (...) conspired against the peoples." He considered House of Habsburg to be the greatest enemy of the Croatian people.

With the speech he held in the Parliament on 26 June 1861, Starčević initiated the campaign aimed at rehabilitation of Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan.[9]

Starčević saw the main Croatian enemy in the Habsburg Monarchy. He believed in the ability of the Croatian people to govern themselves and that sovereignty grew from the nation, the people, and not from the ruler that governed "By the Grace of God". "God and Croats" was the essence of Starčević's political ideas. Under the influence of the ideas of the French Revolution, he fought against feudalism and advocated for the democratization of political life. In politics, he relied on townsmen, wealthier peasantry, and intellectuals[10]


Starčević was at first a proponent of the Illyrian movement, later he adopted ideological views from the French period such as Nationalism and Liberalism. He developed his personal, as well as Party vies around Croatian nationalism, liberalism in regards to freedom and liberties of peoples and nations, religious pluralism and Parliamentarian Monarchism.[11][12][13] In views of an ideal Croatian state he favored Croatia to be a Liberal, National Parliamentarian Monarchy instead of a Republic,[14] were the people instead of the Church and Aristocracy would be the source of sovereignty for the Monarch.[15]

Literary and linguistic work

Monument of Ante Starčević in Zagreb

Starčević wrote literary criticism, short stories, newspaper articles, philosophical essays, plays and political satire. He was also a translator.

His travelogue From Lika was published in Kušlan's magazine Slavenski Jug on 22 October 1848. He wrote four plays in the period 1851–52, but only the Village Prophet has been preserved. His translation of Anacreon from Ancient Greek was published in Danica in 1853. His critical review (1855) of Đurđević's Pjesni razlike was described by the Croatian literary historian Branko Vodnik as "our first genuine literary essay about older Dubrovnik literature". His opus shows an affinity with practical philosophy, which he calls "the science of life". Josip Horvat said: "His literary work from 1849 to the end of 1853 made Ante Starčević the most prolific and original Croatian writer along with Mirko Bogović."

In 1850, inspired by Ljudevit Gaj, Starčević started working on the manuscript of Istarski razvod, a Croatian document from 1325. He transcribed the text from the Glagolitic alphabet to the Latin alphabet, analysed it and published it in 1852. In the foreword, young Starčević elaborated his linguistic ideas, specifically that the mixture of all three Croatian dialects (Shtokavian, Chakavian and Kajkavian) and the Krajina dialect, with its 600-year history, was the Croatian language. Starčević accepted the etymological orthography and used the ekavian accent for his entire life, considering it the heir of the old Kajkavian. He did not use assibilation, coarticulation nor assimilation, accepted in Croatian orthography since Ljudevit Gaj. His orthography was adopted by the Ustaše regime in Independent State of Croatia.[citation needed] His language is a "synthetic" form of Croatian, never used before or after him, most similar to the Ozalj idiom of Petar Zrinski, whom he probably never read.[16]

In that period, in the Call for Subscriptions to the Croatian Grammar (8 December 1851) he stated his opposition to the Vienna Language Agreement of 1850 and the linguistic concept of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić. He continued his dispute with the followers of Karadžić in a series of articles published in 1852. His opposition to Karadžić's work was based in utter denial of the Serbs as the nation, their language, their culture and history.[17] He also did not recognize the Serbs, Slovenes, Bosniaks as separate nations or groups, referring to them all as Croats.[18] This was not a popular or widely accepted theory; educated people headed by Strossmayer and Gaj supported Karadžić. It was demonstrated publicly immediately after Karadžić's death – when Croatian Parliament (Sabor) collected a considerable amount of money in order to erect a monument to honor Karadžić in Croatia and the Court chancellor Ivan Mažuranić got the Viennese Imperial Court to financially support Karadžić's widow.[19]

When Srbski dnevnik from Novi Sad published an article saying that "Croatians write in Serbian", Starčević wrote in response: (...) Instead of claiming that the Croats use anything else but the Croatian language, those writers who consider themselves Serbs (or whatever they like) would do well to write in the educated and pure Croatian language, like some of them are already doing, and they can call their language Coptic for all I care. (...) He published the reply as an unsigned article in Narodne novine, the newspaper of Ljudevit Gaj, so the Serbian side attacked Gaj, wrongly attributing the article to him. Starčević subsequently proclaimed he was the author, not Gaj, who cared to maintain good relations with Serbia, distanced himself from his friend.[16]

Starčević was the only Croatian politician from his era respected by writer Miroslav Krleža.[20] Krleža used to compare Starčević's struggles to those of Don Quijote's.[20] For Miroslav Krleža Starčević has been the most intelligent Croatian politician.[21] Krleža, however, did not pay much attention to political aspects of his works.[22]

In 1869, he published an affirmative article on the Ottoman Empire and Islam.[23]


Starčević promoted the "principle of nationality", according to which every nation must have a state. Starčević advocated Croatia's independence from the Austrian Empire and viewed Austria as a "sworn historical enemy",[24] but did not support the use of force. For him, there was only one Croatian state right, which belonged to the Croatian people. This became the central constituent of his ideology.[25] He saw the foundations of the new state in the ideas of the French Revolution,[26] and supported universal suffrage.[24]

Starčević rejected the terms "Illyrian" or "Yugoslav", and insisted on the name "Croatian" for his people.[25] He viewed the Illyrian movement as a tragic error.[26] He considered that there were only two South Slavic nations: Croats and Bulgarians, and envisioned Croatia from the Alps to Macedonia. He called Slovenes as Alpine Croats, Serbs simply as Croats,[25] and Bosnian Muslims as the purest part of the Croatian nation.[27] Some authors, such as Serbian writer Jovan Skerlić, interpreted this as in fact an advocacy of Yugoslavism.[25] Some view Starčević as anti-Serb.[28][29] He called the Serbs an "unclean race" who are "bound together only by a servile nature and should be forced to submit to Croatian political hegemony".[30][disputed ] He also saw Serbdom as an "artificial construct". Political scientist David Bruce MacDonald argues that Starčević's ideas could only justify ethnocide but not genocide because he intended to assimilate Serbs into "good Orthodox Croats", and not exterminate them.[31][undue weight? ]

Starčević fiercely condemned all those who though differently from him.[5] He coined the term "Slavoserb", derived from the Latin words "sclavus" and "servus", for those who function as servants to foreign powers and against their own people. He applied that term to persons such as Ljudevit Gaj, Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer, and Croatian Ban Ivan Mažuranić. It was applied to persons who were both Croats and Serbs.[32] He also pointed out Nikola IV Zrinski and Josip Jelačić as servants to foreigners, and named the participants of the Zrinski-Frankopan Conspiracy as their opposite. He wrote positively about the Serbian Nemanjić dynasty.[24]

The term "Slavoserbianism" did not refer to the Serbs as a nation, but persons and groups that were "politically servile". The misinterpretation of Starčević's views by the Pure Party of Rights, which split off from Starčević's Party of Rights and was led by Josip Frank, and later by the Ustaše movement, incorrectly implied that Starčević was anti-Serb.[33] Starčević used the terms "breed" and "unclean blood" for "Slavoserbs", for which some labeled him a racist. However, he applied the term based on what he perceived as anti-Croatian actions, rather than someone's ethnic origin.[34] The Croatian-Jewish historian Mirjana Gross writes that Starčević's ideology "did not allow biological racism".[35] The historian Nevenko Bartulin writes that Starčević's views on race were "confused and contradictory because they were in theoretical opposition to his idea of a civic Croatian state", although his "recourse to racial ideas and language is significant to [the] discussion on the development of racial theory in late nineteenth-century Croatia".[36] The historian Ivo Goldstein wrote that those who allege Starčević's racism and anti-Serbianism either falsify or distort his ideological positions. Goldstein also wrote that in modern political terms, Starčević would probably be a kind of progressive or liberal.[24]

According to the historian Sabrina P. Ramet, Starčević "was interested in building up a state of equal citizens (a “citizens' state”) and not in constructing an exclusivist ideology on the basis of either national or religious homogeneity".[37] According to the historian Jozo Tomasevich: "Despite his many exaggerations, inconsistencies, and gross mistakes of fact, Starčević was by far the most important political thinker and ideologist in Croatia during the second half of the nineteenth century".[38] He also wrote that "with respect to both independence and anti-Serbianism, the Ustashas cannot be taken as the heirs to Starčević's ideology."[33] Goldstein writes that the Ustaše tried to portray Starčević as their forerunner and founder, but were completely different from Starčević, and writes: "The NDH had nothing to do with Croatian political traditions or previous political conceptions (not even those of Ante Starčević). There is a huge difference between Ante Starčević and Ante Pavelić, in fact an abyss, in every sense."[24] According to writer and journalist Marcus Tanner, Starčević was "grossly misinterpreted" by those that later claimed to be his followers, and that it is "hard to imagine him bestowing approval on Pavelić’s Nazi puppet state".[39] The historian Sabrina P. Ramet echoes this reflection.[37]

Starčević and the Catholic Church

Order of Ante Starčević, decoration of Croatia for contribution and development in creation of Croatian state and Croatia statehood idea

Starčević espoused secularist views: he advocated the separation of church and state, and argued that faith should not guide the political life, and that the insistence on religious differences is harmful to the national interests. He sharply criticized the Roman Catholic clergy in Croatia due to the fact that it sided with his political opponents. He saw the Croatian Catholic clergy as servants of foreign masters who were instrumental in enslaving and destroying Croatian people on behalf of Austrian and Hungarian interests. At the same time, Starčević was not an atheist: he believed that a civilized society could not exist without faith in God and the immortal soul, which is why he saw atheists as untrustworthy.[40]

He and the bishop of Đakovo, Josip Juraj Strossmayer, disagreed about Croatian politics. Strossmayer was sympathetic towards panslavic unity of South Slavs (future Yugoslavia). Starčević, on the other hand, demanded an independent Croatian state and opposed any solution that would include Croats within some other multi-ethnic country. According to Starčević, the possible union of Croats with other South Slavs had no future because of greater Serbian expansionism.[citation needed] Rivalry between Starčević and Strossmayer has been described in the travel writing book Vidici i putovi (Sights and ways) by Antun Gustav Matoš.


Croatian writer Antun Gustav Matoš wrote a tractate about him. In it, he proclaims Starčević as the greatest Croat and the greatest patriot in the 19th century. He also describes Starčević as the greatest Croatian thinker.[41] For his political and literary work, Starčević is commonly called Father of the Nation (Otac domovine) among Croats, a name first used by Eugen Kvaternik while Starčević was still alive. His portrait is depicted on the obverse of the Croatian 1000 kuna banknote, issued in 1993.[42]

Many streets and squares are named after Starčević; in 2008, a total of 203 streets in Croatia were named after him, making him the sixth most common person eponym of streets in the country.[43] There are also schools named after him. Most right wing parties in Croatia claim his politics as their legacy.

See also


  1. ^ Tanner, Marcus (2001). Croatia: A Nation Forged in War (2nd ed.). Yale University Press. p. 102. ISBN 0-300-09125-7.
  2. ^ Hrvatska misao: ... page 133 –
    Tadanji biskup senjski, Mirko Ožegović, pošalje ga u sjemenište u Budimpeštu, gdje je Ante uz bogoslovne nauke slušao filozofiju i slobodne znanosti. Posto je položio stroge ispite u filozofiji i slobodnim znanostima bio je već 1846. promoviran na čast doktora filozofije.
    Translation: The then bishop of Senj, Mirko Ožegović, sent him to a theological seminary in Budapest, where Ante – in addition to theology – attended philosophy and liberal arts classes. After passing the strict exams in philosophy and liberal arts, he was awarded a doctorate in 1846.
  3. ^ Starčević, Ante (1999). Izabrani politički spisi. Zagreb: Golden marketing. p. 17. ISBN 953-6168-83-9.
  4. ^ Matković, Stjepan (December 2011). "Starčevićev dom u vihoru rata: pravaške uspomene iz doba Nezavisne Države Hrvatske". Časopis Za Suvremenu Povijest (in Croatian). 43 (3): 827–861. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  5. ^ a b Goldstein, Ivo. Croatia: A History. C. Hurst & Co., London, 1999.
  6. ^ Novi Bjelovarac
  7. ^ The Bosnian Muslims: Denial of a Nation – Francine Friedman – Google Boeken
  8. ^ Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Second World War – Enver Redžić – Google Boeken
  9. ^
  10. ^ Goldstein, Ivo. Croatia: A History. C. Hurst & Co., London, 1999.
  11. ^ ABM, Monarhizam kao ideologija i pokret u, Obnova magazine, no 8, p: 86
  12. ^ Ante Starčević, Vladavina; Republika ili Monarhija, Izabrani spisi (1943), p: 445-448
  13. ^ Author: Leo Marić, Name: Made in Europe? Europski utjecaji na hrvatski nacionalizamAnte Starčević, svojim političkim spisima redovno rabi podjelu političkih sustava na monarhije, republike i despocije, pri čemu je on sâm zagovornik ustavne monarhije., (3.3.2019.),
  14. ^ Ante Starčević, Vladavina; Republika ili Monarhija, Izabrani spisi (1943), p: 447
  15. ^ Ante Starčević, Vladavina; Republika ili Monarhija, Izabrani spisi (1943), p: 447-448
  16. ^ a b Lika i Ličani u hrvatskom jezikoslovlju, (Lika and Its People in Croatian Linguistics), Proceedings of the Scientific Symposium of Days of Ante Starčević Archived July 17, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ NARODNE NOVINE, br. 221, Zagreb, 1852.
    Gde su pisci, gde su pisma toga naroda srbskoga? Gde je taj jezik? Pravo rekuć pisalo se s malom iznimkom — u kirilici do jucer jezikom cerkvenim, a gospodo Hervat je prie imao i svoju cerkvu i u njoj svoj jezik, nego li se za Srbe znalo.
    Translation: Where are the writers, where are the alphabets of Serbian people? Where is that (Serbian) language? To tell the truth – they wrote (with a small number of exceptions) in Cyrillic in the language of Church, until yesterday – but, gentlemen, the Croat had his church and language before any knowledge about the Serbs.
  18. ^ "Od Triglava po Solun žije len jeden národ, – národ chorvatsky" translation: "From Triglav to Thessaloniki lives one nation,- only Croats"
    Kako stoje tako zvani „Srbi?" Gospodo to je jedini puk, koi nezna nisam samcat kako mu je ime. Upitajte g. Safafika, nebi li znao za jos koi takov puk. Kažite mi, gospodo i s g. Safafikom, ima li se govoriti: Srb, ali Srbin, ali Srbljin, ali Srbalj, ali Srbianac, ali Srbljanin itd
    Translation: What was known about so-called "Serbs"? Gentlemen, they are the only people which do not know their own (people) name. Ask Mr. Safarik would he know a people of such kind. Tell me, gentlemen along with mr. Safarik – how we should say: Srb, or Srbin, or Srbljin, or Srbalj, or Srbianac, or Srbljanin etc.
  19. ^ Parlamentarna povjest kraljevina ... Page 153
    ...Na predlog dvorskog kancelara Ivana Mažuranića dozvoli Njeg. Veličanstvo Vukovoj udovici znatnu novčanu podporu, koja ju je spasila od najveće materijalne biede.
    Translation: On the Court chancellor Ivan Mažuranić's proposal, his Majesty granted considerable financial support to Vuk's widow, which saved her from the greatest material misery.
    ... Namjeravalo se takodjer Vuku podići spomenik te je izmedju ostalih i biskup Strossmayer poklonio u tu svrhu 1000 for., a Metel Ožegović 500 for. no skupljen novac ostade njegovoj udovici u ime podpore.
    Translation: The intention was to erect a monument honoring Vuk, too – on which occasion – and among others, Bishop Strossmayer contributed 1000 forints for that purpose, and Metel Ožegović gave 500 forints – but the collected money was given to his widow on account of financial support to her.
  20. ^ a b Miroslav Krleža o hrvatskoj historiografiji i hrvatskoj povijesti
  21. ^ Krleža, Miroslav (1975). Panorama pogleda, pojava i pojmova. Oslobođenje.
  22. ^ Starčević, Ante (1999). Izabrani politički spisi. Zagreb: Golden marketing. p. 15. ISBN 953-6168-83-9.
  23. ^ Krleža, Miroslav (1975). Panorama pogleda, pojava i pojmova. Oslobođenje.
  24. ^ a b c d e "IVO GOLDSTEIN RAZBIJA MIT KOJI SE PROVLAČI OD DRUGOG SVJETSKOG RATA Kako su desni ekstremisti izmislili vezu između Ante Starčevića i Ante Pavelića" [IVO GOLDSTEIN BREAKS THE MYTH FROM THE SECOND WORLD WAR How right-wing extremists invented the connection between Ante Starčević and Ante Pavelić]. Jutarnji list. 29 April 2018.
  25. ^ a b c d Tomasevich 2001, p. 3.
  26. ^ a b Goldstein 1999, p. 75.
  27. ^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 335.
  28. ^ John B. Allcock; Marko Milivojević; John Joseph Horton (1998). Conflict in the former Yugoslavia: an encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-87436-935-9. Starcevic was extremely anti-Serb, seeing Serb political consciousness as a threat to Croats.
  29. ^ Mulaj, Kledja (2008). Politics of Ethnic Cleansing: Nation-state Building and Provision of In/security in Twentieth-century Balkans. Lexington Books. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-73911-782-8.
  30. ^ Carmichael, Cathie (2003). Ethnic Cleansing in the Balkans: Nationalism and the Destruction of Tradition. Routledge. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-13447-953-5.
  31. ^ Macdonald, David Bruce (2002). Balkan Holocausts?: Serbian and Croatian Victim Centered Propaganda and the War in Yugoslavia. Manchester University Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-71906-467-8.
  32. ^ Tomasevich 2001, pp. 3-4.
  33. ^ a b Tomasevich 2001, p. 347.
  34. ^ Gross 1973, p. 204-205.
  35. ^ Gross 1973, p. 206.
  36. ^ Bartulin 2013, p. 39.
  37. ^ a b Ramet 2006, p. 83.
  38. ^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 4.
  39. ^ Tanner 2001, pp. 106-107.
  40. ^ Markus (2009), p. 842–843
  41. ^ Starčević, Ante (1999). Izabrani politički spisi. Zagreb: Golden marketing. p. 13. ISBN 953-6168-83-9.
  42. ^ 1000 kuna Archived 2009-05-11 at the Wayback Machine. – Retrieved on 30 March 2009.
  43. ^ Letica, Slaven (29 November 2008). Bach, Nenad (ed.). "If Streets Could Talk. Kad bi ulice imale dar govora". Croatian World Network. ISSN 1847-3911. Retrieved 2014-12-31.


External links