Burgenland Croats

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Burgenland Croats (Croatian: Gradišćanski Hrvati, German: Burgenlandkroaten, Burgenland-Kroaten) are ethnic Croats in the Austrian state of Burgenland. Although an enclave hundreds of kilometres away from their original homeland, they have managed to preserve their culture and language for centuries. According to the estimation, the total number of Burgenland Croats is 50,000.


The Burgenland Croats were given landrights by the Austrian Crown during the Turkish wars (1533-1584). This gave the Croats refuge and also provided Austria with a buffer zone between Vienna and the Turks in the South and East. The Croats fled the Turks from the riverland areas of Gacka, Lika and Krbava, Moslavina in Slavonia and an area of present day Northern Bosnia near Tuzla. Because many villages had been pillaged by the Turks, the Crown gave the new settlers land rights and independent ecclesiastic rights. As the Croats had been driven from their homes and farms, they were happy to take up the offer granted by the Kaiser. They subsequently stayed and the present day Burgenland Croats are direct descendants from these settlers.

The Burgenland Croats also developed their own orthography during the counter-reformation, however, assimilation soon followed with the language being banned from use in churches and schools.

After falling under Hungarian rule in the Dual Monarchy, liberal laws regarding ethnicity enabled them to rekindle their language and heritage. However, when a 1900 census revealed that only 18.8% of the population of Burgenland spoke Hungarian, drastic measures of Magyarization were taken, thus revoking many individual and community rights. The Burgenland Croats were also persecuted by Austro-German nationalists after World War I and by the Nazis during World War II and were exposed to attempts of assimilation.

The Croats gained minority status in the Austrian Treaty of Independence of 1955. Since then they and their culture have undergone somewhat of a renaissance with the language being taught at schools and spoken in Church where there is a large enough minority.


The Burgenland Croats speak Burgenland Croatian. This dialect is mutually intelligible with standard Croatian; however, Burgenland Croatian includes phrases no longer used in standard Croatian as well as certain phrases and words taken from German and Hungarian. Names are often written according to Hungarian orthography due to Magyarisation during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Nearly all Burgenland Croats are fluent in German.

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