Novi Sad Agreement

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The Novi Sad Agreement was an attempt by 25 Serbian, Croatian and Montenegrin writers, linguists and intellectuals to build unity across the ethnic and linguistic divisions within Yugoslavia, and create the Serbo-Croatian language standard.

Matica srpska

Sponsored by the Serbian cultural organization's journal Letopis Matice srpske editorial board, talks on the use and acceptability of the Serbian, which uses Cyrillic and is centered on the city of Belgrade (known as the eastern variety of Serbo-Croat) and Croatian (which uses the Latin script, centered on the city of Zagreb, and is known as the western variety of Serbo-Croat) took place in the city of Novi Sad, in the Serbian province of Vojvodina. Two days of discussion from 8 through 10 December 1954, resulted in the signing of the agreement, which laid out ten resolutions regarding the languages and their relations to one another.

The agreement focused on the similarities between the two dialects, and was primarily concerned with reconciling the different dialects for the benefit of a federal Yugoslavia. The agreement stated that groups of linguists and intellectuals from both the eastern Serbian variant and the western Croat variant, would work together towards establishing a single dictionary and terminology.

The agreement also stated that the future language should develop naturally, although it was being forged by political will and pressure from both dialects.[citation needed]

View from Novi Sad of Petrovaradin fortress over the Danube river (August 2005)

The new terminology and dictionary would have its roots in both languages, and the literary journal present at the agreement would have the same content published in both Cyrillic Serbian and Latin-script Croatian. However, many, such as Croatian intellectual Ljudevit Jonke, viewed the agreement as a veiled attempt to have Serbian become the official language of a Federal Yugoslavia, with only a passing nod given to Croat.

As a direct result of the agreement, Matica srpska and its Croatian counterpart Matica hrvatska published an orthography manual in 1960. Although widely praised by all levels of Serbian and Yugoslav party officials and intellectuals, the orthography was roundly criticized by Croatian intellectuals, who saw the work as too Serb-centric. Their criticisms stemmed mainly from an analysis of the case of larger differences between the two languages, claiming that the dictionary favored the eastern variant of the language over the Croatian.

The text of the Novi Sad Agreement[edit]

The ten "Conclusions", or zaključci

  1. Serbs, Croats and Montenegrins share a single language with two equal variants that have developed around Zagreb (western) and Belgrade (eastern).
  2. Officially, the name of the language must make reference to its two constituent parts (i.e. both "Serbian" and "Croatian")
  3. The Roman and Cyrillic scripts have equal status and Serbs and Croats are expected to learn both alphabets in school.
  4. The two accents—ijekavian and ekavian—have equal status in all respects.
  5. The Matica srpska will cooperate with the Matica hrvatska in the production of a new dictionary of the joint language.
  6. Work will proceed on the establishment of a common terminology for all spheres of economic, scholarly, and cultural life.
  7. Both sides will cooperate in the compiling of a joint orthographic manual (pravopis).
  8. Care must be given to the natural development of Croato-Serbian, and no longer should texts be altered from one variant to another.
  9. The composition of a Commission from the pravopis and terminology will be decided by universities in Zagreb, Belgrade, and Sarajevo, the Academies in Zagreb and Belgrade, Matica hrvatska, and Matica srpska.
  10. The conclusions will be made available by Matica srpska to the Federal Executive council (i.e., the federal Yugoslav government), the governments of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, and to the universities, the Matica hrvatska in Zagreb, and to daily papers and journals.[1]


  1. ^ Greenberg (2004, p. 31)