Croatia and Central European relations

Apart from its relations with leading European nations and cultures, relations with Central European nations have also been important to Croatia for historical and geographical reasons. Relations between Croats and certain Central European nations have been defined by two main factors – political (statehood) and ethno-cultural (a common Slavic heritage).

Common state frameworks have formed the most intensive factors in Croatian-Hungarian long-lasting (for over thousands of years) relations, and through them, Croatian-Slovak relations, given the fact that modern Slovakia was also part of the Hungarian Kingdom. From the 16th century on, the Czechs and some Poles also lived within the bounds of the Habsburg Empire.

Legends linked to ethnic descent, which connect the Croats with Czechs and Poles, have long existed, but it was in the 19th century that the idea of mutual Slavic roots formed the basis for the development of specific cooperation between leading scolars and artists.

Croatian-Hungarian relations. Given the enduring, close political links between Croatia and Hungary, the Hungarians played a significant role in the cultural formation of continental Croatia, starting in 1094, with the foundation of the Diocese of Zagreb, which for a long time was part of the Ostrogon, then the Kalocsa archdiocese. Through their mediation, the oldest liturgical codices came to Croatia (Agenda Pontificialis, Benedictionale, Sacramentarium), spreading the cult of the venerated Hungarian royals, Ladislaus, Stephen, Emeric and Elizabeth.

Originally, traces of the oldest literary links between Croatia and Hungary were evident in ecclesiastical and courtly literature, and gained strength in the Humanist period (15th century), during the reign of Matthias Corvinus and his heirs, when Croats were members of Hungarian courts or university circles (Ianus Panonnius, the Bishop of Pecs, and Ivan Vitez of Sredna, the tutor of Matthias Corvinus, the sculptors Ivan Duknović and Jakov Statilić, the architect Vinko of Dubrovnik, the miniaturist Julije Klović, and the physician Jakov de Angelis, for example), while the influence of Croatian oral tradition was evident in Hungarian literature and later in the poetry of the Illyrian period (Bálint Balassi). Mutual relations developed through linguistic influences, migratory trends, common rulers or heroes in the wars against the Ottomans, but particularly through familial relationships among the nobility, who often bore a dual cultural identity. So, for example, in the 17th century, Petar Zrinski translated in Croatian the poem The Adriatic Sea Siren, which his brother Nikola originally wrote in Hungarian. Several Croats were installed as leaders in the Kalocsa Archdiocese, and one of them, Adam Patačić, founded the Archidiocesan Library in the 19th century, which is today a public, academic library.

Nikola IV Zrinski
Coat of arms of the Zrinski family
Vlaho Bukovac, Self-portrait
Memorial plate at the U Fleků pub in Prague, where Croatian students from Split in 1911 founded football club Hajduk Split.
Bogoslav Šulek
Pope John Paul II during his first pastoral visit to Croatia in 1994

After the Croato-Hungarian Settlement in 1868, Hungarian periodicals (Vasárnapi Ujság, Hölgyfutár, Szépirodalmi Figyelő, etc.) continued to publish notes, presentations and translations of works of Croatian literature, predominantly by authors such as Ivan Mažuranić, Petar Preradović, August Šenoa, Ksaver Šandor Gjalski, Josip Kozarac and Ivo Vojnović. At the same time, Hungarian works were reviewed and published in Danica Ilirska, Luna and Agramer Zeitung. In Croatia, works by Hungarian literary critics and the literary historian Sándor Petőfi were published, while reviews of Hungarian literature were presented by Mavro Špicer and Miroslav Krleža. Hungarian dramatists also aroused considerable interest (Mór Jokáj, Ferenc Molnár), and their works were performed on Croatian stages, while the plays of Milan Begović were performed in theatres in Kaposvár and Budapest.

A significant role in cultural relations was played by the Chair of Slavonic Studies from 1881 on, and the Chair of Croatian Language and Literature from 1899 to 1939, at the University of Budapest. The philologist Kazimir Grekša, author of Slovnica mađarskoga jezika/Hungarian Grammar/, was professor of Hungarian from 1904 to 1918 at the Zagreb Faculty of Humanities, while Ivan Bojničić was the Hungarian lector there from 1882, becoming professor from 1910 to 1922.

The disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1918 meant that members of the Hungarian minority became cultural mediators between the two nations. They launched literary journals, and in the inter-war and post-war periods, the translation of works by Milan Begović, Slavko Kolar, Miroslav Krleža and Tin Ujević intensified. Thanks to translations by the Hungarian Slavic scholars Zoltan Csuka, Lászlo Hadrovics and Kálmán Dudás, and to translations published in many Hungarian magazines, other major works of Croatian literature became available to the Hungarian public. In theatres, the works of Miroslav Krleža and Ranko Marinović were most often performed. Croatian literature was represented in several anthologies of South Slavic literature, and also in Croatian anthologies, among which the compilation of Zoltan Csuka, Adriai tengernek múzsája (1976) was prominent. Csuka dedicated a large portion of his history of Yugoslav literature to Croatian literature (A Jugoszláv népek irodalmának története, 1963).

A great contribution to the advance of Croatian-Hungarian cultural links in recent times has been made by the Chair in Hungarian Studies, established in 1994 at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Zagreb.

Croatian-Czech relations. Croatian-Czech cultural relations can be traced back to the activities of Sts Cyril and Methodius, whose disciples spread Old Slavonic service in the region of present-day Croatia (Žitija Konstantina Ćirila i Metodija), as witnessed by the Glagolitic script used to write the Kijevski listići, the oldest (10th century) Old Slavonic text revised by the Czechs/Moravians, and the Bečki listići, the oldest (11th to 12th century) Old Slavonic liturgical monument to Croatian revision. The first bishop of the Diocese of Zagreb (1094) was Bishop Duh, a Czech by origin, who brought over many clergy and laid the foundations of Zagreb's Cathedral Chapter.

In the mid-14th century, King Charles IV founded the monastery of Emmaus near Prague (Na Slovanech), to which he invited Croatian Glagolitic priests to promote the expansion of Old Slavonic worship. It is said he brought 80 Benedictines (of whom the first was the Croat Ivan Charvat), who remained there until the emergence of Hussitism and the Hussite Wars (1419–36). Many Croatian Glagolitic translations from Emmaus were to exert immense literary and historical significance, as they were the first known translations from one Slavic language into another. During the reign of Charles' son, Sigismund of Luxembourg, Croatian-Czech relations reached their zenith: historical Croatian documents list many Czech clergy in high state and ecclesiastical functions (the Dalmatian Bishop Blaž of Knin, 1354, the church lector of St Peter's in Požega, Petr Moravský, 1361, Bishop Ondřej of Skrad, Bishop Lukaš of Hvar, Ivan Čech, a priest in Zagreb, Canon Jakub Čech of Zagreb, c. 1387), and the Hussite preachers in Zagreb (Dominik and Jan Bohemus), while the powerful Bishop Eberhard of Zagreb, Queen Barbara of Cilli and other prominent Croats commissioned stonemasons from the Czech Parléř family firm and embellished their estates in the Late Gothic style with many fortifications, churches and monasteries, among which the Cathedral and Church of St Mark in Zagreb and the Pauline Monastery in Lepoglava are prime examples.

In the 15th century, many Czech fighters in the war against the Ottomans came to Croatia (Commandant Petr z Myšlína, the Dalmatian-Croatian-Slavonian ban Blaž Podmanický 1470–78 and the military commandant Jan Vitovec). After the Ottoman defeats in the late 16th century, the Croatian border with the Ottoman Empire was strengthened, and more favourable conditions created for the arrival of many Czech priests, particularly at the Zagreb Jesuit gymnasium between 1607 and 1628 (Martin Slabinus, Mikuláš Kučera and Matěj Bernatius), which was the leading educational institution of its time in Croatia.

The manufacturing era in Croatia (18th century) was marked by the increasing immigration of Czech craftsmen, who are mentioned as the directors of the Jesuit (Vojtěch Vilém Veselý), Capitol (Antonín Jandera) and national printing houses in Zagreb (Ivan Křtitel Weitz, who printed Calendarium Zagrabiense).

Croatian-Czech relations intensified during the time of the Croatian Revival and Revolution (1848–49), under the influence of František Palacki and the ideals of Austro-Slavism, which reached full expression at the Slavic Congress in Prague in 1848, convened to some extent as a result of the writings of Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski. Political cooperation also influenced the field of literature, and translations of Czech writers appeared in Danica Ilirska, Vienac and Neven, edited by Josip Praus (1853). Josef Václav Frič was the editor-in-chief of Agramer Zeitung (1873–76) and in 1874 founded the Česká beseda cultural society. As a student in Prague, August Šenoa popularised Croatian literature in the periodicals Národní listy and Zlatá Praha, and became himself one of the most translated Croatian authors in Czech. Among other authors, Silvije Strahimir Kranjčević was prominent; translations of his works appeared in the journal Slovanský přehled, while Ivo Vojnović was the most popular playwright, and his works dominated the Czech stages from the premiere of Equinox in 1897.

In the 20th century, there were several professors of Czech origin at Zagreb University, for example Gustav Janeček, Fran Smetanka, Emil Prašek and Albert Bazala. On the other hand, Prague was one of the academic centres for the Croatian intelligentsia of the time, and among others, the soon-to-be prominent politician Stjepan Radić studied at Charles University. At that time, Prague was a central reference point for Croatian art; Vlaho Bukovac became a professor at the Academy, while Milivoj Uzelac, Vilko Gecan and others became acquainted with expressionist trends. Croatian-Czech relations continued after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, i.e. after the creation of the Republic of Czechoslovakia and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia). Contemporary writers were systematically translated (Jaroslav Hašek, Karel Čapek and Jan Neruda on the one hand, and Tin Ujević and Miroslav Krleža on the other), and their works were performed on Croatian and Czech stages. Anthologies of Czech literature and poetry were published, and articles on Czech literature written by Ivan Esih and Ljudevit Jonke.

In most recent times, cooperation has continued, characterised by intense cultural cooperation, primarily in the translation of literary works, in which Dušan Karpatský and Predrag Jirsak have particularly excelled. Other areas of artistic expression have also been prominent; Jiří Menzel has directed Zagreb theatre productions and performances at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, while the cult theatre group Prague Spring has appeared in Zagreb, as has the dissident resistance group Plastic People of the Universe. One unquestionable factor in mutual cooperation is the Czech Lectorate at the Faculty of Humanities in Zagreb (launched in 1918, and since 1965 an independent study course), and Croatian Language and Literature Studies at Charles University in Prague and Masaryky University in Brno. Members of the Czech minority also nurture their cultural heritage through their societies.

Croatian-Slovakian relations. Croatia and Slovakia shared more or less the same destiny under the multinational Hungarian kingdom from the 12th century right up to 1918, under feudal magnates and the aristocracy, whose estates (such as those belonging to the Erdődy, Frankapan and Keglević families) extended throughout Croatian and Slovakian regions following the accession of the Habsburgs to the Croato-Hungarian throne.

Leading Croatian humanists, such as Ivan Vitez of Sredna and Ianus Panonnius, played a major role in founding the first Slovak university, the Istropolitana in Bratislava (1467), where several members of the Frankapan family were educated, alongside other Croats.

In the early 17th century, the saint-to-be Marko of Križevci was the principal of the seminary in Trnava, and Ostrogon canon and director of the Benedictine abbey of Krásno near Košice. At this time, Juraj Habdelić, Andrija Jambrešić and others also worked at the Jesuit University of Trnava, educating many Croatians engaged in cultural activities, and printing religious books and primers in Croatian. Meanwhile, the Slovak intellectuals Ján Spišák and Ján Porubský participated in the founding of Jesuit study courses in Zagreb in 1608.

Pavel Jozef Šafařík and Ján Kollár exerted an enormous influence on the Croatian National Revival, by promoting the ideas of Slavic communality, while L'udovít Štúr, who advocated the nurture of national identities within the Slavic community, was joined in 1847 by several Illyrianists (Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski, Maksimilijan Prica, Janko Drašković, Stanko Vraz). In Croatia, Bogoslav Šulek, a polymath of Slovak origin, used his work and exceptional activities to promote many revivalist ideas regarding the progress of culture, science and the economy. Thanks to Bishop Stjepan Mojzes, Slovak writers such as Ján Čaplovič and Ján Kollár were published in the pages of Croatian newspapers, while Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer provided material assistance for the founding of Matica Slovačka/Slovak Matrix/ in 1863. At the same time, translations of Croatian folk songs and news of the Illyrian Movement and its representatives were published in Slovakia. Two Slovak clergy, the Bishop of Zagreb, Aleksander Alagović, and the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Juraj Haulik, had an important role in bringing the two nations closer together.

In the first half of the 20th century, representatives of all Slovak literary trends were translated and published in Croatian magazines (Svetozár Hurban-Vajanský, Martin Kukučín, Milo Urban, Peter Jilemnický and Matúš Kavec), while Josip Andrić wrote the first history of Slovak music and published his Slovnica slovačkog jezika/Slovak Grammar/. The Slovak writer Marin Kukučin (whose real name was Matej Bencúr) spent part of his life on the island of Brač and among Croatian émigrés to South America, and wrote about them in his novels. In Slovakia, translations of the works of August Šenoa and Ksaver Šandor Gjalski were popular. On the stage, the works of Ivo Vojnović, Miroslav Krleža and Milan Begović were performed.

Mutual contacts did not diminish in intensity after the Second World War, and continued up to recent times, characterised in particular by cooperation in various spheres of artistic and scholarly expression. Study courses in Slovak language and literature at the Faculty of Humanities in Zagreb have contributed greatly to this, which from 1994 were held within the Departments of Bohemian Studies, Slavonic Studies and Croatian Studies, but in 1997/98 became an independent course, while Croatian Studies are available at Komenski University in Bratislava and Matej Bela University in Banska Bistrica. Prominent individuals, such as the historians Kvetoslava Kučerova or translator expert Jan Janković, have contributed to the promotion of Croatian cultural heritage in Slovakia through scholarly studies and translations. Ludwig Bauer was the author of the first Croatian anthology of Slovak poetry (Crna violina/Black Violin/). In addition, since 2003, a theatre festival dedicated to the works of Miro Gavran has been held in Trnava.

Croatian-Polish relations. The first Croatian-Polish contacts were linked to the tradition of the ancient homeland of the Croats in White Croatia, in present-day Poland, as recorded in the 10th century by the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. These contacts were renewed during the reign of the Croato-Hungarian King Louis I of Anjou, who was also crowned King of Poland in 1370, and increased when Louis II Jagiello ascended the Croato-Hungarian throne in 1516. At that time, leading Croatian scholars often spent time in Poland (Stjepan Brodarić, brothers Trankvil and Franjo Trankvil Andreis, and Antun and Mihovil Vrančić), and many Croatian students enrolled at the University of Cracow. Toma Budislavić was the personal physician of Bishop Petar Myszkowski, whose court was one of the humanist centres of Poland at the time. Budislavić was later ennobled by King Stjepan Batory and given the title of Royal Physician. It is assumed that the library he brought back with him on his return to Dubrovnik was used later by Mavro Orbini and Ivan Gundulić (known in Poland as the 'Illyrian Homer') to acquaint themselves with Polish matters. Gundulić celebrated the Polish victory at Khotyn (1621) in his work Osman, while Jerolim Kavanjin and Andrija Kačić Miošić, among others, wrote about the great victory of John Sobieski over the Ottomans near Vienna in 1683.

Closer relations were engendered during the entire period of the Polish elected kings. Nobles from Dubrovnik and Bay of Kotor resided at the court of the last Polish king, Stanislav II August Poniatowski, who also corresponded with Ruđer Bošković.

Cultural relations intensified during the Croatian National Revival in the early 19th century, as recorded in the patriotic song written by Ljudevit Gaj, Još Hrvatska nije propala/Croatia has not yet fallen/, which was a paraphrase of the Polish national anthem Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła. Adam Mickiewicz, in the newspaper La Tribune des peuples, of which he was the editor, published articles by Croatian authors. Translations of Polish writers from the pens of revivalists such as Ljudevit Gaj, Stanko Vraz, Ivan Mažuranić and Petar Preradović were published in Neven, while August Šenoa promoted Polish literature in Vienac, which influenced the widening of Polish writing circles and their Croatian translators. In theatres, plays by Alojzy Feliński and Aleksander Fredro were performed frequently. A speech by Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski in Croatia at the Croatian Sabor in 1843 aroused the interest of the Polish public, and his poems were also translated.

In the second half of the 19th century, literary links strengthened in terms of Slavic cooperation. In 1896, a selection of Yugoslav literature was published in Warsaw (Obraz literatury powszechnej), while the influence of Croatian folk poetry was evident in literature. In 1905, the magazine Świat słowiański began to be published in Cracow, and among its contributors were Stjepan Radić, Julije Benešić and Branko Vodnik. In 1912, the Towarzystwo Słowiańskie society was founded. Polish centres for Slavic Studies also influenced Croatian-Polish relations – the Warsaw Society of Friends of Science and the Slavonic Studies Department of the Main School in Warsaw. The Cracow Slavonic Studies Centre developed at the University of Cracow and the Cracow Scientific Society (later the Academy of Sciences and Arts), where Marian Zdziechowski, whose study of the Croatian National Revival reflected the high level of interest in Croatian studies, was active.

In the early 20th century, in the newly formed states of Poland and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia), Polish-Yugoslav friendship societies were established to promote cultural and scientific connections, though the literary sphere was still dominant. Thus, the plays of Ivo Vojnović, Milan Begović, Milan Ogrizović and Miroslav Krleža were performed frequently and reported on in many Polish publications (Kultura słowiańska, Ruch słowiański, Przegląd Polsko-Jugosłowiański, Gazeta literacka). In 1925, a Slavonic Studies department opened at the University of Cracow, where Kazimierz Nitsch, Tadeusz Lehr-Spławiński and others were actively involved. At the same time, the circle of those who knew the Polish language and literature increased, among whom the lexicographer and translator Julije Benešić was prominent. He worked in the Polish Lectorate at the University of Zagreb and in the Croatian Lectorate at the University of Warsaw, where he started the Biblioteka Jugosłowiańska. Finally, the Polish Lectorate (1919) became the Department of Polish Language and Literature Studies at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb in 1965/66, the result of many centuries of Croatian-Polish cultural and scientific connections.

Pope John Paul II, a Pole by birth, displayed particular affection for Croatia on many occasions. During his pontificate, Croatia achieved independence and welcomed him on three pastoral visits. In one of his speeches to Croatian pilgrims, he referred to their joint Slavic roots, saying, 'You speak of White Croatia, your ancient homeland, which is now exactly where my birthplace is.'