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Poglavnik of the Independent State of Croatia
Standard of the Poglavnik of NDH.svg
Ante Pavelic portrait in uniform.jpg
Ante Pavelić
StyleHis Excellency
ResidencePoglavnik's Palace
Formation10 April 1941
First holderAnte Pavelić
Final holderAnte Pavelić
Abolished8 May 1945
Dictionary of Fausto Veranzio (Faust Vrančić) named Dictionarium quinque linguarum, published in 1595, mentions word Poglavnik as "Dalmatinian" (Croatian) word (5th from top in 4th column)

Poglavnik (pronounced [pǒɡlaːʋniːk]) was the title used by Ante Pavelić, leader of World War II Croatian movement Ustaše and of the Independent State of Croatia between 1941 and 1945.

Etymology and usage[edit]

The word was first recorded in a 16th-century dictionary compiled by Fausto Veranzio[1] as a Croatian term for the Latin word princeps.[1]

According to the Dictionary of the Croatian Language compiled by Vladimir Anić and the Croatian Encyclopedic Dictionary the word comes from the adjective form "poglavit", which can be loosely translated as "first and foremost" or "respectable, noble, honorable". The adjective is in turn a compound of the Croatian prefix "po-" and the Proto-Slavic word stem "glava" (head).

Because it was used by the fascist regime, the title (which had originally meant "head" or "chief" but was rarely used before the 1930s) is never used today in its original sense as it became synonymous with Pavelić and took on negative connotations after World War II.[2]

Other etymologically closely related words used in modern Croatian are "poglavica" (translated as "chief", used to identify tribal leaders) and "poglavar" (translated as "head of state", sometimes used for monarchs or elected heads of state).

Political role and context[edit]

Ante Pavelić first began using the title of "Poglavnik" when it was prescribed as the official title for the supreme leader of the Ustaše movement in the organization's founding charter in 1930, while he was in exile in Italy. The organization (whose name at the time meant simply "rebels" in Croatian but which also lost its original meaning in modern usage), was organized as a movement which sought to create an independent Croatian nation-state by means of armed struggle at the time when Croatia was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Following the 1941 invasion of Yugoslavia and the establishment of the puppet state called Independent State of Croatia (commonly referred to by its Croatian-language initialism NDH), the title continued to be used for Pavelić, and its meaning was taken to have evolved into "the supreme leader". The title is therefore usually compared and considered equivalent to other titles of ethno-political leadership used at the time such as Führer (used by Adolf Hitler, which was itself modeled after Benito Mussolini's title Duce). As a result, "Poglavnik" is sometimes translated as "Führer" in English-language sources.[3]

Legally, the exact role of the person carrying the title and its function were never officially stipulated in the constitution or in any other piece of legislation passed during NDH's existence. From May 1941 to October 1943 NDH was formally a kingdom[4][5] and its formal head of state was King Tomislav II, an Italian Prince who was made King.[6][7][8] so Ante Pavelić (and by extension the title of "Poglavnik") was de facto the country's Prime Minister. Following Italy's exit from World War II in September 1943, Pavelić took on the role equivalent to head of state, while Nikola Mandić was officially appointed Prime Minister of NDH. Thus, from September 1943 until the state's dissolution on 8 May 1945, the title can be taken to mean Head of State.

Regardless of the official role of the title, Pavelić had unlimited authority to pass decrees and appoint government ministers throughout the existence of NDH. Since the state ceased to exist in 1945, the title was never claimed by any successor. It continued to be used informally as a nickname for Pavelić during his post-war exile until his death in Madrid in 1959, and has become synonymous with him ever since.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b http://www.hrcak.srce.hr/file/95656 Archived 2016-10-23 at the Wayback Machine (in Croatian)
  2. ^ "poglavnik". Hrvatski jezični portal (in Croatian). Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  3. ^ Cetin, Onder (February 2010). "1941 Resolutions of El-Hidaje in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a Case of Traditional Conflict Transformation" (PDF). European Journal of Economic and Political Studies: 76. OCLC 664122357. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-23.
  4. ^ Hrvatski Narod (newspaper)16.05.1941. no. 93. p.1.,Public proclamation of theZakonska odredba o kruni Zvonimirovoj (Decrees on the crown of Zvonimir), tri članka donesena 15.05.1941.
  5. ^ Die Krone Zvonimirs, Monatshefte fur Auswartige Politik, Heft 6(1941)p.434.
  6. ^ Sainty, Guy Stair. "Royal House of Italy". European royal houses.
  7. ^ Hrvoje Matković, Designirani hrvatski kralj Tomislav II. vojvoda od Spoleta. Povijest hrvatskotalijanskih odnosa u prvoj polovici XX.st. (Designated Croatian king Tomislav II. Duke of Spoleto. History of Croatian-Italian relationships in first half of the 20th century), Zagreb 2007.
  8. ^ Avramov, Smilja (1995). Genocide in Yugoslavia. p. 238.