Slovenes and Croatians are the same people


On July 20, 1917, the founding charter of Yugoslavia was signed with the Declaration of Corfu. Representatives of the southern Slavs from the Habsburg Monarchy and Serbia declared that "the united nation of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes" would create a common southern Slav state. After the end of the First World War, the Serbian Prince Regent Alexander Karađorđević solemnly proclaimed the State of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (SHS) on December 1, 1918. The kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro, which had been independent since 1878, united with the countries settled by Slovenes, Croats, Serbs and Slavic Muslims, which until then had belonged to Austria-Hungary. In May 1919, the South Slav Kingdom was recognized under international law at the Paris Peace Conference. In 1929 it became "Yugoslavia" (from South Slavic jug for "south") renamed. [1]

Yugoslavia as an idea

A political entity with this name never existed before the First World War. For centuries, Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim South Slavs, Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks, Montenegrins and Macedonians have lived in various great empires under foreign rule, i.e. under very different political and cultural influences. However, due to linguistic and cultural similarities, there were feelings of kinship and togetherness that can be traced back to the Renaissance. In the 19th century, when Germans, Italians, Poles and other European peoples demanded unity and self-determination, a South Slav nationalism formed. [2]

The pioneers of the South Slav national movement were the Croatian "Illyrists" who became active in the Habsburg monarchy around 1830. They viewed Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins, Slovenes and Bosnians as descendants of a supposedly South Slav indigenous people, the ancient Illyrians, and therefore as members of a community of descent and culture that needed to be revived. Core demands included the creation of a uniform Illyrian, i.e. Croatian or South Slavic literary language, as well as the political unification of Croatia, Slavonia, Dalmatia, Slovenia and Bosnia into an autonomous and progressive "Greater Illyria". Unification ideas were also circulating in the neighboring principality of Serbia, which had become autonomous under Ottoman rule in 1830. With the draft "Načertanije" written in 1844 by the politician Ilija Garašanin, the program arose to make Serbia the "Piedmont" of a cross-border South Slavic (or even just "Greater Serbian") state formation.

Initially, the South Slav idea in Croatia and Serbia was a purely intellectual undertaking. Nationally motivated writers and scholars searched for proverbs, epics and fairy tales to promote the rebirth of the primeval South Slavic people they envisioned. The mainstay of national unity was the development of a common standard language, because in the Croatian countries, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, similar, and in some cases even, the same dialects were spoken. In the Vienna Agreement, the Serb Vuk Karadžić and the Croat Ljudevit Gaj laid the foundations of Serbo-Croatian and Croato-Serbian respectively in 1850. Until after the Second World War, two variants of a common language standard were assumed. Today - more for political than linguistic reasons - a distinction is made between Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin.

In the second half of the 19th century, Habsburg Illyrism became Yugoslavism. Scholars' patriotism turned into a political movement with the aim of establishing a unified South Slav state. The leaders of the movement, the Bishop of Đakovo, Josip Juraj Strossmayer, and the historian and theologian Franjo Rački, claimed that Catholic Croats (and possibly Slovenes as well) and Orthodox Serbs formed one nation despite different denominations. They viewed pre-schismatic Christianity as their historically guaranteed national religion. The southern Slavs were evangelized in the 9th century by the Byzantine Slav apostles Cyril and Method. It was not until the 11th century that the Western (Latin) and Eastern (Orthodox) Churches officially split, thereby initiating the development of different denominational nations.

The Croatian Yugoslavists initially demanded an autonomous South Slav kingdom as the third entity alongside Austria and Hungary within the Habsburg monarchy. Emperor Franz Joseph and his heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand were, however, strictly against seriously considering such "trialism" or at least granting more rights to the southern Slavs scattered across different parts of the empire. [3] More and more nationally active Croatians and Slovenes turned away from the monarchy because of this.

After 1900, Serbian and Croatian politicians began to work together to create an independent Yugoslav state. In contrast, supporters of exclusive Greater Croatian and Greater Serbian nation-state ideas demanded that the medieval kingdoms be restored within their historical limits. This made the question of who Bosnia and Herzegovina belonged to, which once belonged here and there, became virulent. Integrative Yugoslavism dissolved this competition and later even declared the multi-religious country the "heart of Yugoslavia". Scientists, writers, sculptors and painters consequently set about shaping the presented South Slavic nation artistically and literarily, among them the Bosnian writer and later Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić, the Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović and the Serbian geographer Jovan Cvijić. [4]

At the turn of the century, a nationalist mass movement developed from the South Slavic idea, initially only supported by a few scholars. But only the First World War, through which the Habsburg Monarchy irrevocably fell, created the conditions for the foundation of the South Slav state. On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip of the secret organization "Young Bosnia" murdered the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo. As avowed "Yugoslav nationalists", their supporters wanted to destroy Austro-Hungarian rule in order to promote political unification with Serbia. They received the weapons from the Serbian underground organization "Black Hand". [5]

Vienna took the murder as an opportunity to give Serbia an ultimatum that could hardly be fulfilled and to declare war on him a month later. The government in Belgrade, which to this day no authorship of the attack can be proven, has now announced the goal of founding a "strong south-western Slavic state in which all Croats, and all Serbs and all Slovenes will enter". However, Serbia could not permanently withstand the armies of the Central Powers. While the attackers divided the country among themselves, King Peter, his government and the high command of the army, followed by more than 150,000 soldiers and civilians, withdrew to the Adriatic coast in the winter of 1915/16. After the loss-making march through the Albanian mountains, they were evacuated by the Allies to the "life raft" Corfu. [6]

In the meantime, Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian politicians from the Habsburg Monarchy founded the "Yugoslav Committee" in exile in London in November 1914. They declared Serbs, Croats and Slovenes "one and the same people (...) with three different names" and called for a Yugoslav state. While hundreds of thousands of Habsburg southern Slavs were still in the k.u.k. Army fought, the chairman of the committee, the Croatian Ante Trumbić, and the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Nikola Pašić, signed the Declaration of Corfu on July 20, 1917. She announced a constitutional, democratic and parliamentary monarchy under the Karađorđević dynasty ruling in Serbia. While the different folk names, religions, scripts and national symbols should have equal rights, it remained open for the time being how historical, cultural and religious peculiarities of the various South Slavic groups within the presented unit nation would be taken into account.