Illyrian movement
The Illyrian movement also Croatian national revival (Hrvatski narodni preporod), was a cultural and political campaign with roots in the early modern period
Early modern period
In history, the early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages. Although the chronological limits of the period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late portion of the Middle Ages through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions...

, and revived by a group of young Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

n intellectuals during the first half of 19th century, around the years of 1835–1849 (there is some disagreement regarding the official dates). This movement aimed to create a Croatian national establishment in Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 through linguistic and ethnic unity among South Slavs
South Slavs
The South Slavs are the southern branch of the Slavic peoples and speak South Slavic languages. Geographically, the South Slavs are native to the Balkan peninsula, the southern Pannonian Plain and the eastern Alps...


Early modern period

Illyrism first arises in the late 16th century, in the context of the Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

This "Counter-Reformation Illyrism" or "Early Modern Illyrism" was the first revival of the notion of a realm or nation of Illyria since the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans.
This idea, harking back to the Byzantine Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum
Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum
The praetorian prefecture of Illyricum was one of four praetorian prefectures into which the Late Roman Empire was divided.The administrative centre of the prefecture was Sirmium , and, after 379, Thessalonica...

, was a crucial factor in the re-emergence of a national identity in the Balkans.
Illyrism constructed a Christian identity, in opposition to the Muslim Ottoman Empire.

An expression of this were the armorials compiled in the late 16th and the 17th century, which collected historical coats or arms predating the Ottoman conquest. The Fojnica Armorial
Fojnica Armorial
The so-called Fojnica Armorial is an early modern roll of arms of the Balkans...

 goes as far as constructing a fictional "coat of arms of Illyria" and attributing it to the 14th century.
The fiction of an "Illyrian Empire" begins with the so-called "Illyrian Emperors" who once ruled the Roman or Byzantine Empire and who originated on "Illyrian soil". The number of such emperors given in period sources fluctuates between 25 and 59.

Two early representatives of humanist Illyrianism were Georgius Sisgoreus (1444–1509) and Vincentius Priboevius (late 15th century – after 1532), who took as their model humanist Italian historiography.

Blazevic (2010) distinguishes four types of Counter-Reformation Illyrism in the later 16th century:
  • Interconfessional Illyrism, represented by the Ohmućević Armorial (1595), which postulates an "Illyrian Empire", commissioned by Petar Ohmućević, a Spanish admiral of Ragusan origin. Another example is The Kingdom of the Slavs by Mavro Orbini
    Mavro Orbini
    Mavro Orbin was a writer, ideologue and historian from the Republic of Ragusa...

     (before 1611).
  • Franciscan Illyrism is represented by the foreword to "The Flower of the Saints" by Franjo Glavinić (d. 1652), and by the Latin poem "A short account of the glorious nation of the whole Illyrian tongue" (Breve compendium nationis gloriosae totius linguae Illyricae) by Martin Rusić (d. 1660).
  • Curial-Habsburg Illyrism is represented by Ivan Tomko Mrnavić (d. 1637), who wrote about "Illyrian saints" and "Illyrian Emperors".
  • Dalmatian Illyrism arose in the 1660s in the "Illyrian Congregation of Saint Jerome" in Rome, due to Jeronim Paštrić (1615-1708).

19th century

The Illyrian name was revived officially during the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, when the French gave the name Illyrian Provinces
Illyrian provinces
The Illyrian Provinces was an autonomous province of the Napoleonic French Empire on the north and east coasts of the Adriatic Sea between 1809 and 1816. Its capital was established at Laybach...

 to the Adriatic possessions acquired from the Austrian Empire
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

 in 1809. After 1813, when the territories were again included into the Austrian Empire, the Austrians kept the denomination and formed the Kingdom of Illyria
Kingdom of Illyria
The Kingdom of Illyria was an administrative unit of the Austrian Empire from 1816 to 1849. Its administrative centre was Ljubljana and it included the western and central part of present-day Slovenia, the present Austrian state of Carinthia, as well as some territories in north-western Croatia ...

, which comprised mostly the Slovene Lands
Slovene Lands
Slovene Lands or Slovenian Lands is the historical denomination for the whole of the Slovene-inhabited territories in Central Europe. It more or less corresponds to modern Slovenia and the adjacent territories in Italy, Austria and Hungary in which autochthonous Slovene minorities live.-...


In 19th century Europe, liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 and nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 were ideologies which came to the forefront of political culture. In Central Europe, where the Habsburg Empire had long asserted control over a variety of ethnic and cultural groups, nationalism appeared in a standard format. The beginning of the 19th century "was the period when the smaller, mostly Slavic nationalities of the empire - Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Ukrainians - remembered their historical traditions, revived their native languages as literary languages, reappropriated their traditions and folklore, in short reasserted their existence as nations." This revival of national heritage encompasses the Illyrian Movement in Croatia.

In 1813, the bishop of Zagreb Maksimilijan Vrhovac
Maksimilijan Vrhovac
Maksimilijan Vrhovac was the bishop of Zagreb. He was one of the ideological architects of the Croatian national revival. Vrhovac is well-remembered for his tireless work to collect the nation's spiritual treasure and spread the access to books among the Croatian people...

 issued a plea for the collection of "national treasures" (Poziv na sve duhovne pastire svoje biskupije), thereby heralding the national revival movement.

Just as Croatia felt nationalistic stirrings at this time, so did its larger neighbors, Hungary and Austria. Croats were uneasy with rising Hungarian nationalism, which pursued reduction of the Croatian autonomy and increased Magyarization
Magyarization is a kind of assimilation or acculturation, a process by which non-Magyar elements came to adopt Magyar culture and language due to social pressure .Defiance or appeals to the Nationalities Law, met...

. In order to preserve their autonomy, Croats pursued a deepening of their culture and a revival of their heritage.

In the beginning of the 1830s, a group of young Croatian writers gathered in Zagreb
Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. It is in the northwest of the country, along the Sava river, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain. Zagreb lies at an elevation of approximately above sea level. According to the last official census, Zagreb's city...

 and established a movement for national renewal and unity of all South Slavs within the Habsburg Monarchy. The city of Zagreb had become an important center of political, economic, and cultural activity, so it was the center of the movement. Count Janko Drašković
Janko Draškovic
Janko Drašković was a Croatian national reformer, politician and poet. He was a member of the Drašković family, one of the oldest Croatian noble families.-Biography:Janko Drašković was born in 1770 in Zagreb...

 published his Dissertation in 1832, a pamphlet that later came to be considered the political, economic, social and cultural program of the movement, as it promoted the native language as official, more autonomy from central government, and better education and enlightenment for the common people.

The most important focus of the new Illyrians was the establishment of a standard language as a counter-weight to Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

, and the promotion of Croatian written literature and official culture. Ljudevit Gaj
Ljudevit Gaj
Ljudevit Gaj was a Croatian linguist, politician, journalist and writer. He was one of the central figures of the Croatian national reformation, also known as the Illyrian Movement.-Origin:...

 was instrumental in providing the foundation for the flourishing of the Croatian literature. Gaj was in fact the leader of the movement as a whole in the beginning for eight or nine years, at which point the leadership changed hands. Gaj was largely responsible for writing the Croatian orthography and grammar (Kratka osnova horvatsko-slavenskog pravopisanjaBrief basics of the Croatian-Slavonic orthography), which was necessary before a literary movement would be successful.


The most influential writers within the movement were Ivan Mažuranić
Ivan Mažuranic
Ivan Mažuranić was a Croatian poet, linguist and politician—probably the most important figure in Croatia's cultural life in the mid-19th century...

 and Petar Preradović
Petar Preradovic
Petar Preradović was a Croatian poet of Serb origin.- Biography :Preradović was born in the village of Grabrovnica , which was part of the Austrian Military Frontier, in Serbian Orthodox family of Jovan Preradović and Pelagija Preradović. He spent childhood in Grubišno Polje, were his father was...

. Mažuranić contributed his epic Smrt Smail-age Čengića during this time, and Preradović published love lyrics.

Other notable literary contributions were made by Antun Mihanović
Antun Mihanovic
Antun Mihanović was a notable Croatian poet and lyricist, most famous for writing the national anthem of Croatia, which was put to music by Josif Runjanin and adopted in 1891. Klanjec, his birthplace, holds a monument to him and a gallery of his works.Mihanović studied law and worked as a military...

 (notably Horvatska Domovina which later became Our Beautiful Homeland), Stanko Vraz
Stanko Vraz
Stanko Vraz was a Croatian-Slovenian poet. He Slavicized his name to Stanko Vraz in 1836.-Biography:...

 (satiric lyrics), Ljudevit Vukotinović (romantic lyrics), Dimitrija Demeter
Dimitrija Demeter
Dimitrija Demeter was a Croatian writer and dramatist....

 (prose, notably Grobničko polje, and drama), Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski
Ivan Kukuljevic Sakcinski
Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski was a Croatian historian, politician and writer. Most famous for the first speech delivered in Croatian before the Parliament, this patriot and cultural figure did some pioneering work in Croatian historiography and bibliography...

 (prose), Antun Nemčić (prose and itineraries). There was also the first notable itinerary Pogled u Bosnu by Matija Mažuranić
Matija Mažuranic
Matija Mažuranić , was a Croatian writer.Travelogue writer, brother of more noted Ivan, the writer of Smrt Smail-age Čengića. He attended a German school in has native town, where he was trained to became a blacksmith...


After the government allowed the publishing of newspapers in Croatian in 1834, the new Illyrians issued the first Croatian newspaper, "Novine hrvatsko-slavonsko-dalmatinske", in 1835, establishing Croatian journalism
Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

. The paper was edited by Ljudevit Gaj and it also had a literary magazine "Danica
Danica may refer to:* Denmark, whose Latin name is "Danica"* Danica , a personification of the Morning Star in Slavic mythology* Danica , people with the given name Danica...

" attached, both of which printed in Gaj's "National print" (Narodna tiskara). These literary successes "ultimately won intellectual, linguistic, and educational...independence for Croatia."

In 1836, the papers were renamed to use the Illyrian name (Ilirske novine, Danica ilirska). In 1838, Janko Drašković
Janko Draškovic
Janko Drašković was a Croatian national reformer, politician and poet. He was a member of the Drašković family, one of the oldest Croatian noble families.-Biography:Janko Drašković was born in 1770 in Zagreb...

 helped found a reading room in Zagreb which served as a meeting place for the first "Illyrians".

In another cultural success, in 1846 the composer Vatroslav Lisinski
Vatroslav Lisinski
Vatroslav Lisinski was a Croatian composer.Lisinski was born Ignaz Fuchs to a German Jewish family...

 wrote the first opera in Croatian
Croatian language
Croatian is the collective name for the standard language and dialects spoken by Croats, principally in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina and other neighbouring countries...

, "Ljubav i zloba" (Love and malice).

The Illyrian movement, while concentrating on Croatian lands, was quite nationally inclusive, as it included many non-Croats. For example, Petar Preradović was an ethnic Serb, as was Josif Runjanin
Josif Runjanin
Josif Runjanian or Josip Runjanin was a Serb composer from Croatia, most notably known for composing the melody of the Croatian national anthem and of the Serbian patriotic song "Rado Srbin ide u vojnike"...

, Stanko Vraz was an ethnic Slovene, and Dimitrija Demetar was an ethnic Greek or Aromanian


In 1840, the Illyrian movement suffered an internal setback when Stanko Vraz
Stanko Vraz
Stanko Vraz was a Croatian-Slovenian poet. He Slavicized his name to Stanko Vraz in 1836.-Biography:...

, Joakim Rakovac and Ljudevit Vukotinović split off from the movement due to creative differences in poetry. In 1842 they started publishing their own literary newspaper named Kolo.

More importantly, the movement was not well received by Hungarians and pro-Hungarian nobility. In 1843, the use of the Illyrian name was banned.

Struggles in Croatian Sabor were so harsh that they caused unrest on Zagreb streets. On July 29, 1845, violent conflict causing bloodshed took place on Marko's square, later known as the "July victims
July victims
The July victims were members of the Croatian People's Party who fell victim to a crackdown by the Austrian Imperial Army on July 29, 1845.With the restoration of the Zagreb County, local elections were held around the Croatian capital Zagreb. When it was announced that the Hungarian-allied...

". Even still, Hungarian officials were unable to crush the movement.
On October 23, 1847, Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski
Ivan Kukuljevic Sakcinski
Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski was a Croatian historian, politician and writer. Most famous for the first speech delivered in Croatian before the Parliament, this patriot and cultural figure did some pioneering work in Croatian historiography and bibliography...

 spoke in Sabor in favor of introducing Croatian
Croatian language
Croatian is the collective name for the standard language and dialects spoken by Croats, principally in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina and other neighbouring countries...

 as the official language instead of Latin, and the deputies subsequently unanimously voted in favor of that proposition.

The movement practically ceased to exist due to the Revolutions of 1848
Revolutions of 1848
The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations, Springtime of the Peoples or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. It was the first Europe-wide collapse of traditional authority, but within a year reactionary...

. In 1849, the Emperor Francis Joseph
Franz Joseph I of Austria
Franz Joseph I or Francis Joseph I was Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, King of Croatia, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Galicia and Lodomeria and Grand Duke of Cracow from 1848 until his death in 1916.In the December of 1848, Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria abdicated the throne as part of...

 imposed a new constitution, all political dissent was censored, and the Danica went out of print.


The movement's plea for unity among the Slavs, particularly South Slavs, also found supporters among prominent Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 of the time, most notably Vuk Stefanović Karadžić
Vuk Stefanovic Karadžic
Vuk Stefanović Karadžić was a Serbian philolog and linguist, the major reformer of the Serbian language, and deserves, perhaps, for his collections of songs, fairy tales, and riddles to be called the father of the study of Serbian folklore. He was the author of the first Serbian dictionary...

, the reformer of Serbian language
Serbian language
Serbian is a form of Serbo-Croatian, a South Slavic language, spoken by Serbs in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and neighbouring countries....

. Ljudevit Gaj had, in fact, appealed to Serbia (along with Dalmatia and Russia) for moral and financial support given their ethnic and cultural connections.

In 1850, a small group of Illyrian and Serbian representatives signed the "Vienna agreement" which in effect proclaimed the southern Shtokavian dialect
Shtokavian dialect
Shtokavian or Štokavian is the prestige dialect of the Serbo-Croatian language, and the basis of its Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, and Montenegrin standards...

 to be the standard, common language of Serbs and Croats, with Serbian Cyrillic and Croatian Latin alphabet as equal letters. The agreement was the basis of standardizing the Serbo-Croatian language
Serbo-Croatian language
Serbo-Croatian or Serbo-Croat, less commonly Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian , is a South Slavic language with multiple standards and the primary language of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro...


Assessment and criticism

The Illyrian movement was the first and most prominent Pan-Slavic
Pan-Slavism was a movement in the mid-19th century aimed at unity of all the Slavic peoples. The main focus was in the Balkans where the South Slavs had been ruled for centuries by other empires, Byzantine Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Venice...

 movement in Croatian history.

The Illyrian movement was successful in its goals for culture. "Where there was no precedent for nineteenth-century concepts like Czechoslovak or Illyrian nationhood these projects failed. Nationalism took hold insofar as it built on existing realities, historical, linguistic or social." The period of the Illyrian movement is today referred to as the "Croatian national revival
Romantic nationalism
Romantic nationalism is the form of nationalism in which the state derives its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs...


The movement formed the basis for a common Serbo-Croatian language, and it fostered support in Croatia for the later creation of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918. However, in its ultimate goals of creating an Illyrian state, the movement failed. This failure of the idea to achieve Serbian-Croatian unity was apparent with the occurrence of the bloody Yugoslav wars
Yugoslav wars
The Yugoslav Wars were a series of wars, fought throughout the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995. The wars were complex: characterized by bitter ethnic conflicts among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia, mostly between Serbs on the one side and Croats and Bosniaks on the other; but also...

. Furthermore, increasing Croatian nationalism back-fired on pan-Slavic ideals because a Croatian identity evolved and superseded the "Illyrian" hopes.

External links

  • Scrinia Slavonica Vol.6 No.1/2006 Role of Slavonian Franciscans in the national movement of the Danubian Croats during the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century
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