Chorwacja w Europie ex occidente lux

Croatia in Europe

Croatia in Europe: Ex Occidente Lux  

Publication: 14 October 2021

NO. 11 2013



In the Croatian capital, Zagreb, the names of streets and other public places always change with the advent of a new political system. This mechanism, as in the other countries of the post-communist region, lays bare a lack of continuity and a fragility of state institutions that render the symbolic imaginarium precariously vulnerable to change.

After the end of the Second World War, with the institution of the people’s rule, “reactionary” symbols disappeared from street names, to be superseded by mythical communist partisan heroes. Likewise, with the latter discredited, their departure from office in 1990 was followed by the reinstatement of some of the old names and the creation of new ones, in line with the programme propagated by the authorities and publicised by the elites advocating a return to the authentic roots of Croatian culture. This programme called forth from the reservoir of the collective imagination the postulate of Croatia’s return to Europe – more precisely, its return from the barbarian Balkans to the fold of civilised Europe. The conviction of the Croats’ European pedigree was transformed into a stance postulating a decisive break with the Balkans and a clean-up of the fallout from the failed Yugoslavia project that ended in the aggression of the Yugoslav People’s Army.

Europe here is equated with the widespread, although simplified image of Western Europe, which has a territorial reach equivalent to that of the Latin civilisation (one is automatically prompted to think of the famous words of Józef Mianowski: “Europe ends where Latin ends”). This is a conception that has many apologists among the Croats. On the Adriatic – as, indeed, on the Baltic – much is made of the region’s centuries-long history of belonging to the Western world. Granted, this has always been a fringe presence, but a presence nevertheless. The fact of peripherality brings with it predestination to the responsible role of border guard, a significant element of which is the notion of being the “last bastion of Christianity”. Importantly, however, the now anachronistic concept of the antemurale had not only an anti-Islam blade (due to the need for defence against the then enemy of Christianity that was Turkey under the Ottomans), but also, in some sense, an anti-Byzantine one, which in the case of the Croats was to shape a mistrustful attitude towards the Serbs. One might say: not “ex oriente”, but “ex occidente lux”.

The vast majority of streets in the heart of Zagreb are named after vernacular heroes, but with the exception of the essentially “stateless” Catholic saints there is an absence of any element of European culture in this respect. There are just three “European” streets, although surprisingly, these are not Western European in provenance (with the exception of the diminutive British Square) but Central European (and relatively close to each other in topographical origin): Warsaw Street, Prague Street and Tomáš Masaryk Street. Yet it would be erroneous to believe that Croatia’s road to Europe – in either cultural or political terms – lay through the Czech Republic or distant Poland. Polish dreamers of a leading role for their country in the post-communist region might have claimed it did in December 2011, when Croatia signed its EU accession treaty during the Polish presidency of the community. For Poland did hold the presidency at the moment of that event, but this was entirely fortuitous, much like a tourist standing at Vienna station holding an empty wallet, when suddenly, out of the blue, a 500-euro banknote falls at his feet. A coincidence, nothing more. Just as Poland played no role in Croatia’s integration with the EU – though it could have! – so (and all the less so) it had no influence on the Europeanisation of its culture – for of course it could not have! Croatia’s culture is rooted in Europe in an entirely different way than Poland’s. It is shaped not only by the Central European idiom familiar to us, but also by the Mediterranean.

It is doubtless due to this dual presence of the European element that attitudes towards Central Europe in Croatian culture are at best ambivalent. The Croats do not have a bard of Mitteleuropa of the ilk of Miłosz or Kundera. Perhaps this was the reason why Julian Kornhauser attempted to coin the name “Kleinmitteleuropa”, though it did not stick. One of the few writers of any calibre to attempt to tackle Central Europe was the most important author in Croatia in 20th century, Miroslav Krleža. And while he revived the idea of the Slavs’ calling to overcome the antithesis of Byzantium and Rome (in his 1919 essay Hrvatska književna laž [The Croatian literary lie]) by emphasising Croatia’s peripheral location in respect of both East and West, he nevertheless undervalued Central Europe. His vision was crushing, grossly distorted by his dogmatic pacifism and obsessive criticism of tradition formulated from a left-wing perspective. His attack on the “Agram” mentality (“Agram” is the German for Zagreb, and here a symbol of provinciality) was partly a function of his broadly critical stance on Europe, though it must be said that he was well steeped in Europeanness, if only through the modernist idiom. Another outstanding writer, Ivan Slamnig, a distinguished scholar of early literature, accused Croatian culture – probably rather too strenuously – of being preoccupied with Central Europe to the detriment of its contact with the Mediterranean. Slamnig came from Dalmatia, so one has to understand him. He was loathe to exchange the azure of the Adriatic for the muds of Pannonia.

The fact that Croatian culture is torn between Central and Mediterranean Europeanness is a significant element in the landscape of the collective imagination. It is equally important to stress that communism certainly did not bring Croatia closer to Central Europe – to Kundera’s “kidnapped West” – but in fact widened the gap between them. Tito’s brand of communism was completely different to that under the Soviet jackboot. In the words of Dubravka Ugrešić, Central Europe is an artistic construct whose creation “was conditioned above all by the cultural sovietisation of the majority of the Eastern Bloc countries”. As Yugoslavia, and within it Croatia, were not part of that bloc, however, “the Yugo-writer did not take refuge in time under the umbrella of Central Europe. […] How could he have done when he had been brought up in the conviction ever since 1948 that we (we, Yugoslavians) were something quite different from them (Czechs, Hungarians, Poles…)”[1]. Another writer, Slavenka Drakulić, perceived more similarities between Yugoslavia and the Eastern Bloc countries. But it is important to bear in mind that the Central European orientation in Croatian culture is always a risky one. It is risky because it entails orientation towards Hungary, and it was Hungary – citing the unity of the legacy of the Kingdom of Hungary, the Crown of St Stephen – that stood in the way of Croat national integration until the beginning of the 20th century.

And Croatia’s ambivalent attitude towards Central Europe is by no means unilateral. In Krakow, Prague or Budapest – contrary to the conceptions of many influential historians – Croatia is rarely treated as a Central European state. It is usually classified as Balkan, but this qualification is offensive to the Croats. For centuries Croatian eyes have been trained on Rome. Byzantium and Istanbul evoked a sense of alienness, even aversion. The events of the last war – in particular the nationalist policies of Slobodan Milošević thinly veiled as slogans in defence of Yugoslavia – heightened this further. The ultimate disillusionment with Yugoslavia gave rise at that time to frequent depictions of the Serbs as primitive hordes from the East, and support was sought from the civilised (but exceedingly cynical!) West. The negative image of the Balkans that has become entrenched in the stereotypical vision of the world is not of the Croats’ creation, however. It is the product of Western European thought, as Maria Todorova[2] wrote, just like the negative image of Eastern Europe of which Larry Wolff[3] spoke.

And hence escape from the region into which the stereotypes pigeonhole these countries of Central Europe is treated as a priority: as proof of their Europeanness. The Croats shy away from the Balkans, the Poles from Eastern Europe. The historical experience of both nations is full of disappointments. Both have a deeply rooted conviction of their unblemished European pedigree, though their borderland status inevitably engenders extreme and ambivalent attitudes. In the words of Joanna Rapacka, the Croats’ stance on Europe “was characterised by a melange of admiration, envy and bitterness, was an expression of the complex of the rejected child, a child who was always unsure of the legitimacy of his membership of the European family, in spite of his truculent declarations to the contrary”[4].

The method of dealing with this borderland status is to exaggerate one’s Europeanness and treat it as a mission. Thus, the Croats have to be the most ardent expressers of Europeanness in order to differentiate themselves sufficiently clearly from the real Balkans – above all the Serbs, whom they accuse in this context of “Balkanising” Croat culture. Whereas Polish culture took shelter under the umbrella of the Central Europe concept, Croatia did not, so it had to devise a different mechanism – and that was anti-Balkanism. This is a paradoxical reaction by its culture, which in the 19th century actively sought communication with its brother Serbs when the Hungarians were perceived as a threat. At that time Croatians turned towards the Balkans to overthrow their oppressors using combined forces. When the postulated Southern Slav political community was implemented in 1918, it soon fell short of expectations, however. The Serbs, who dominated absolutely in the shared state – revealed their true Balkan colours, while the Croats returned to seeking roots in Europe. The nation’s canon of legend was raked over to extract the West European element for proof of its cultural difference. Analogous changes were also made to the urban architecture of Zagreb – although with a time lapse arising from political cycles. From 1866 until 1947 a monument stood on the city’s main square to the national hero Ban Josip Jelačić, who during the Spring of Nations led the troops that quashed the ambitions of the Hungarians, whose nationalism was threatening the Croatian raison d’état. This cast of the imperial general held his sabre pointing north, towards Hungary. In 1947 it was removed from the square by the communists as a symbol of the despised Habsburgs and reaction per se. It was only reinstated in 1990, when – surely not by accident – it was erected the other way around: today the sabre blade points southwards, towards the Balkans and Serbia. Nowadays the Hungarians are the Croats’ European allies.

This sketch take on the Croats’ auto-stereotype on their place in Europe – of necessity much simplified – shows the opinions widely shared by both the elite stratum and ordinary citizens. But are the Croats right to place themselves truly in Europe? This is the wrong question. We may only speculate on how they belong to Europe.

The present-day Republic of Croatia comprises four geographic regions: northern Croatia, around Zagreb, Slavonia (including the former Military Frontier), Dalmatia, and Istria. Moreover, when examined in close-up, each of these regions is revealed to be yet more diverse. Within Dalmatia, for instance, Dubrovnik – if it can be treated as an element of the region at all – should be differentiated from the other parts of the region, the islands from the coast, and the coastal towns from Dalmatian Zagora. Each of these divisions encompasses subdivisions in customs, language and literary traditions.

In the year 1102 the early medieval Kingdom of Croatia – which did not include all of what is today Croatian territory – was erased from the map of Europe at one blow to become part of the Kingdom of Hungary. The union of the Croatian and Hungarian states made loss of political sovereignty inevitable, although under the Arpad and later the Anjou dynasties, the Croat noble and magnate houses retained their characteristic feudal status in certain regions. As such, they exercised power over some territories and took an active part in dynastic disputes and international conflicts. While this precluded the emergence of a single, cohesive legal and administrative organisation that would form the framework for a culture with a homogeneous national element, it did mean that the nobility retained certain bridgeheads of its own identity: its diet (sabor) and the dignity of “ban” (viceroy). In the 19th century, the age of national revival, these were to evolve into a significant element of the emergent cultural imaginarium, and their most synthetic model was the political and legal construct known as the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia.

Over the centuries of what proved to be tragic consequences of the union with Hungary, the Croatian lands came under the political control of various political entities. There were constant battles over the coast until the 15th century, when it fell to Venice; the North was ruled by the Croatian bans as viceroys of the royal and subsequently imperial house, while the East (continental Dalmatia and Slavonia) came under Ottoman Turkey. Each of these protectors, widely considered oppressors, sanctioned a different cultural model in the lands they occupied, which was shaped by local conditions and existing vernacular tradition. These were, respectively, the Mediterranean, the Central European Hungarian-German (ultimately Habsburg), and the Balkan, which had a strong Turkish accent and Serbian cultural influences. Each of these models, although in a different dimension and to differing degrees, influenced the development of the Croats’ national culture. Significantly, in all these regions, as if in enclaves, writing developed in dialects of Croatian that were so distinct as to be classifiable as separate language systems. They had one thing in common, however – though not documented in all genres – their theme: events of significance for the history of Croatia. In the 17th century, in Ozalju, a fortified town of the Zrinski magnate dynasty in the central region of the country, a political and literary grouping was formed that attempted to unite these divergent traditions. Alas, implementation of this project was prevented by the Habsburgs’ insidious decapitation in 1671 of two of its members, Petar Zrinski and Fran Krst Frankopan. It was to be more than two centuries before unity was achieved.

By the time Croatian culture was actually united at the beginning of the 19th century, it was multilingual and diverse. Each region had different historical baggage and different traditions towards which they would always gravitate. Multiculturalism is thus an undeniable asset, but one that is so fragile as to sometimes evoke fear of loss of national unity.

The region that in past ages, up to the 18th century, made the most significant contribution to Croatia’s cultural heritage was undoubtedly the Dalmatian coast. It is not even really applicable to speak of the Mediterranean culture “reaching” Dalmatia as it did Poland, for in that part of the world it was already there, as a natural legacy of the ancient tradition. Situated barely a stone’s throw from the Apennine Peninsula, Dalmatia was the first Slav region to see the Renaissance and humanism. Some literary conventions, such as Petrarchism, reached here even before they reached France. In this context it is important to take into account the unique modus vivendi of this region. Dalmatia’s towns were in existence even before the Slavic ancestors of the Croats arrived. In time, the newcomers accepted the heritage of these towns, causing the assimilation over the centuries of some of their former Romanesque inhabitants. This is probably the only example in the history of Slavdom in which the culturally “lower” Slavs succeeded in adopting so fully the legacy of their civilisationally richer predecessors. The Slavicisation process did not call into question the identity of these towns, while the Slavs themselves, despite razing them several times, ultimately adopted the vernacular model, superimposing a new, somewhat modified face on it. The mores of the Dalmatian towns were virtually indistinguishable from those on the opposite shore of the Adriatic. This remains evident to this day, not only in the landscape, but also in the cuisine, everyday life, and architecture.

The culture of Croatia’s towns and cities, above all Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar, is deeply rooted in the distant past. Some of the historic fabric in these places is 2000 years old, and many buildings are prime examples of ancient, early Christian or Renaissance architecture. The finest pieces of Italian Renaissance building in Krakow, while stunningly beautiful, somehow seem out of their natural context. The sun here is not as strong, the climate not as warm. It was in the conditions of the Mediterranean model that the concept of writing was born. On the Croatian coast that writing was in Latin, in Italian, and in the vernacular Romanesque and Croatian dialects. Most Slav writers of the Renaissance were brought up in environments that were at least bilingual, and thus their idiom developed as a unique, natural Romanesque-Slavic syncretism. The continuity of the urban elites was also of some significance, as they had both economic and political, and culturogenic roles. With a few exceptions, the writers in Dubrovnik were all patricians from the dozen or so families who had held power for centuries.

The north of Croatia, although its language as an artistic material never scaled similar heights, was also deeply immersed in Western culture, although its Central European variant. The region around Zagreb was settled by South Croatian noble families who had fled the Turks in the 15th and 16th centuries but retained the memory of their medieval state and their political and legal privileges. The Central European substrate produced a manorial culture and mores in the North that were typical for the noble and peasant model and vastly different from the urban patrician environment on the coast (the exceptions to this were the few towns, among them Zagreb and Varaždin, where the clergy played the dominant culturogenic role). The northern nobility expressed its Croatian identity with all its attributes, while the Mediterranean urban centres tended to limit their patriotism to the walls of the civitas, although they did cherish their country’s legends of the medieval Croatian knights. As this stratum in the North was constantly under threat of Magyarisation (and, indeed, partly succumbed to that threat) and exposed to constant danger from the Turks, it threw all its creative energies into writing in the fields of politics and law, religion, linguistics and, notably, history. Thus although the Renaissance idiom passed the Croatian north by, the functional literature in the local Kajkavian dialect of this region was rich in its fields and contributed to strengthening the sense of belonging to Western culture. Things were slightly different in Shtokavian Slavonia, which until 1699 was occupied by Turkey. The dominant peasant element here was confronted with the European idiom very shortly, however: at the beginning of the 18th century the Franciscan friar Matija Katančić opened up the region to Western Europe by employing a classicist formula in his writing. The rest was accomplished by Baroque architecture. In time, Slavonia was politically subsumed into Croatia (which was still within the Kingdom of Hungary), and Zagreb became a political centre that by the 19th century was strong enough to unite all the regions considered Croatian.

A unique feature of the Croatian model, then, is the marked division into the political centre (the North) and the cultural and literary centre (in the South). The uniting of this duality into a single whole taking into account all the circumstances of their differences came to pass in the 19th century, but it never obliterated these differences. Happily, the South remains the South and the North the North.

The north of the country retained Latin as its official language longer than anywhere else in Europe – until the mid-19th century. It served as a weapon in the fight first against Germanisation and later against Magyarisation. This manoeuvre was effective in that with the demise of Latin, there was a homogeneous Croatian language ready and waiting for use, based on a single one of the dialects – Shtokavian (the Chakavian and Kajkavian dialects remained regional idioms). This dialect was also used by the Serbs, which sanctioned the Balkan orientation of Croatian culture. Indeed, this was a natural consequence of the actions of the Vatican, which particularly in the period of the Counter-Reformation saw the Croats as a useful tool in implementing its policy of converting schismatics. The adoption of the Shtokavian dialect as the basis for the literary language was an opening up to the East supported by the Church. It would not have been possible if not for the presence in Croatian culture of the construct of the Kingdom of Slavs, or the Kingdom of Greater Illyria, that existed alongside the political entity that was the Kingdom of Croatia. The former, unlike the latter, had no physical designatum. It was entirely a mythical construct, but one that was strong enough to bring Croatian culture into a common state with the other Southern Slavs. Both these concepts, the Kingdom of Croatia and the Kingdom of the Slavs, co-existed, at times competing, at times mutually supplementary. In order for their full synthesis to be possible, however, the tension between them had to be overcome, and this was ultimately achieved in the 18th century by a writer and historiographer from the Zrinskis’ circle, Pavao Ritter Vitezović. Today we know that this project not only failed, but had a tragic aftermath. Moreover, the Yugoslavian idea that was the natural consequence of that synthesis and is today seen as erroneous and utopian, took Croatia into the Balkans, and as such turned it away from its true European face.

The Balkan idiom, while awkward, and often passed over, is nevertheless an undeniable element of the Croatian cultural mosaic. It is linked with the cultural influences of Oriental (above all Turkish) and Eastern Orthodox (above all Serbian) models. Some Croatian ideologies, in fear of Balkanisation, unanimously – although entirely unjustly and inaccurately – identify with the Balkans all that is non-Western, i.e. both Serbian and Turkish. This is so widespread that it was even officially propagated by the authorities of the independent state in the 1990s. Even the cult cinema “Balkan” in downtown Zagreb changed its name to “Europa” following the collapse of Yugoslavia. Most school history or Croatian language textbooks include in their introduction the canonical formula: Croatia is a Mediterranean and Central European country. The Balkans symbolise alienness and the Orient.

The Franciscan Order in Bosnia – the only representative of the Catholic Church in this region under the Turkish occupation – was distinguished in the service of writing in Croatian and instrumental in uniting the Southern Slavs. Although it did not fulfil the proselytising role the Vatican had envisaged, it nevertheless spread the Western cultural idiom and Catholic writing in Ottoman Bosnia. This writing was not particularly ambitious, as it was aimed above all at ordinary people, but it put down its Latin roots in this inaccessible and heterogeneous country. One writer who grew out of the Catholic culture steeped in its Franciscan element was the Nobel laureate Ivo Andrić. Thus, the Franciscans were a Croatian – and more broadly Western – bridge into the Balkans, and, whether or not by design, brought Oriental and Orthodox elements into its culture. The popular literature of the Catholic Croats was largely rooted in Shtokavian territory, where they had direct contact with adherents of other confessions. As such, then, it is both thematically and formally close to Serbian culture. Joanna Rapacka even claims that this type of writing, which drew on folk motifs, was the only idiom linking all the Croat lands until as late as the 19th century[5]. Ivan Meštrović, an eminent Croatian sculptor born towards the end of that century, recalled on several occasions that folk songs about Serbian heroes were sung in his childhood home. True Europeans accused him of exposing the folk idiom; true Croats held overuse of the Serbian idiom against him. These were in many cases the same people – for Europeanness here is a synonym for Croatianness.

The folk element that today evokes such discomfort was dominant in Croatian culture in the 1830s, in the period of its codification. The founding myth of Croat integration was that of the existence of an earlier Slav community. The idealised vision of a common linguistic and ethnic root of all Slavs temporarily won out over the real civilisational differences arising out of belonging to two very different cultures – that of the East and that of the West. As a result, a strong Slavophile code with marked anti-Western qualities emerged within the main stream of national revival known as Illyrism. This reaction of the culture – paradoxical inasmuch as it surfaced after centuries of belonging to Slavia Romana, was a natural consequence of the adoption of Herder’s conception of Slavdom as the foundation for the ideology of the union. Slavic culture, portrayed in this context as pure and idyllic, was presented as the antithesis of the rotten West, and Orthodoxy was frequently held up as a lost ideal to be rediscovered. This surfeit of Western culture and eagerness to consume folk culture as an emanation of Slavicness – a phenomenon dubbed by Maria Bobrownicka “the narcotic of myth” – was short-lived, however. Croatian culture soon adjusted its world view and emerged as Yugoslavism – a concept that was still community-based, but with the aim of bringing together the Southern Slavs in a church union. Thus, a strong Occidentalism, combined with the Latin tradition, remained the foundation of Croatianness without calling into question the Slavic orientation. No wonder, then, that the Serbs considered the activity of Croatian Yugoslavists, among them the well-known bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer, to be nothing other than another brand of Croatian clerical nationalism. Antipathy toward Croats was reinforced by the Croatian Party of Rights, and above all its leader, Anto Starčević, who made no secret of his radical anti-Serbism and refuted the pan-Slavic orientation in favour of underscoring the independence, pure Croatian element. This was the genesis of the legitimacy of the modern nation’s pro-statehood ideologem, and of the synthesis of the noble and folk idioms that had hitherto existed in parallel.

It should therefore be unsurprising that in the communist Yugoslavia, the folk element propagated Serbian and Croatian unity, yet questioned, at least in the socialist realist period, elite culture (which was often treated as a symptom of a bourgeois mentality). The Yugoslavian model was not only about propaganda glorifying the people’s revolution ideologem, but also about seeking communication between Serbs and Croats. Thus, it was sufficient to magnify the role of folklore in Croatian culture to bring it closer to Serbian culture. The folk code became an ideal mechanism for the propagation of both communism and Yugoslavism. Croatia’s declaration of independence and its exit from Yugoslavia in the 1990s – with all its violent and dramatic consequences – thus called forth from the cultural reservoir a natural antidote: the pro-European and in these conditions anti-folk discourse. For folk culture, in particular that strain of it considered eastern, was tantamount to Serbian culture.

Not everyone felt this need to purge the culture of its Balkan patina, however. Ivan Lovrenović, for instance, a Croat from Sarajevo and the propagator of the idea that the Bosnian Croats had a distinct micro-identity, claimed with horror that Croatian culture is possessed by the “idea of a fictional purity”[6]. He also noted a certain inconsistency. In the 1990s, when Croatian forces were attempting to subordinate part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the state ideology was characterised by contempt for Balkan culture – the same culture, he said, to which the Bosnian Croats undeniably belonged.

In spite of these dilemmas, the various modes of Europeanising the Croatian identity never developed a strong anti-Slav outlook such as was cultured in Poland, for instance. Indeed, in the 19th century Croatian Slavophiles such as Bishop Strossmayer expressed their regret at Polish Russophobia, which reduced to naught their dreams of a union of all the Slavs. Strossmayer is known to have said: “Poles are Poles. Least of all Slavs.”

And in spite of the disillusionment with Yugoslavia, Slavicness is a subliminal presence in Croatia, although invariably accompanied by the anti-Balkan discourse, which is not a marginal cultural phenomenon, but takes various guises. Within certain conservative codes it is present in sharp relief, while in left-wing codes it is camouflaged under the slogan of rationalism. In all cases, however, it is formulated out of the sense of superiority characteristic of the Western pedigree. In defiance of the Europeanising postulates, folk culture in various forms, above all popular music – which is considered un-European – roams the former Yugoslavia like the Tito relay on Youth Day in its time. Mass culture, then, is a field, often covered up out of embarrassment, where the similarities between various cultural codes show up in abundant clarity.

Croatian culture grew up on the borderline of a number of different civilisations and ethnic groups, and within several different political realities. This deceptive similarity to Polish culture may provoke erroneous conclusions of a general nature, however. According to Witold Gombrowicz, Poland is “a country between East and West, where Europe is gradually tailing off, a transition country, where East and West weaken each other. Hence a country with weakened form… None of the major processes of European culture really churned Poland up, neither the Renaissance, nor the religious conflicts, nor the French revolution, nor the industrial revolution; only muted echoes ever reached here.”[7] And although Croatia is also a country between East and West, it is between a different East and a different West, and hence the transitional nature of the Croatian model is also different. Croatian culture was formed under the direct influence of the Mediterranean model, and some regions experienced the Renaissance in all its fullness. What is more, it is a far more heterogeneous culture than Poland’s – partly, although not only, due to the lack of any extended period of state organisation with a national denomination in this region. From the Polish perspective, then, the phobias that haunt Croatian culture in connection with the threat of Italianisation or Magyarisation must seem rather surprising. Croatian Catholicism is also different from its Polish equivalent. Somehow, on Croatian soil, Zbigniew Herbert’s words “I am a Roman Catholic, but more Roman than Catholic”[8] ring truer than in Poland.


[1] Dubravka Ugrešić, The culture of lies, trans. Celia Hawkesworth, London 1998, p. 35.

[2] Maria Todorova, Bałkany wyobrażone, trans. Piotr Szymor, Magdalena Budzyńska, Wołowiec 2008.

[3] Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe. The Map of Civilisation on the Mind of the Enlightenment, Chicago 1994.

[4] Joanna Rapacka, Śródziemnomorze, Europa Środkowa, Bałkany, Kraków 2002, p. 371.

[5] J. Rapacka, op. cit.

[6] Ivan Lovrenović, Bosanski Hrvati. Esej o agoniji jedne evropsko-orijentalne mikrokulture, Zagreb 2002.

[7] Witold Gombrowicz, Testament, Warszawa 1990, p. 26.

[8] Jacek Trznadel, Hańba domowa. Rozmowy z pisarzami, Lublin 1990.

About authors

Maciej Czerwiński

A Doctor of Philosophy in Slavic Languages and Literatures, a translator and a researcher at the Jagiellonian University, Krakow. He specialises in the languages, cultures and literatures of former Yugoslavia, and deals with such disciplines as semiotics, historical discourse analysis, sociolinguistics and stylistics of literary and non-literary texts. He studied at the Jagiellonian University where he received his doctoral degree in 2004. He conducted part of his PhD research at the Faculty of History at Yale University where he was a Visiting Assistant in Research (2003). Recently, he has published the books Semioza gatunku – semioza stylu (2011) and Semiotyka dyskursu historycznego. Znaki i kody w chorwackiej i serbskiej syntezie dziejów narodu (2012). His papers have been published in journals such as Studia z Filologii Polskiej i Słowiańskiej, Pamiętnik Literacki, Pamiętnik Słowiański, Stylistyka and in numerous southern Slavic magazines. His essays and reviews have been printed in periodicals such as Tygodnik Powszechny, Znak and Dwutygodnik. He co-edited the bilingual reprint of the book, Kraków Zagrzebiowi (2011), originally published in 1881. He is a member of the editorial staff of the Croatian philologist journal, Fluminensia.


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