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172 years ago today the Croatian language becomes official


The 23rd of October is a significant date in the history of the Croatian language.

On this day, 172 years ago, a decision was passed by parliament to replace Latin and make Croatian the official language. The man who this can be attributed to is Varaždin-born historian, politician and writer Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski.

Kukuljević Sakcinski was the first to make a speech in the Croatian language before the Croatian Parliament, on May 2, 1843. 

The speech daringly promoted the struggle for national liberation, asking for Croatian to become the official language in schools and offices, with its gradual introduction in the public life. He also pointed out the danger of replacing Croatian with other languages. Until then, the language of discourse in the parliament was Latin. The speech caused much agitation. It was not an exception, though.

All his speeches in the parliament and at county assemblies staunchily advocated the freedom and independence of Croatia, so they could be published only in Branislav, an illegal Illyrian magazine printed in Belgrade. On Kukuljević’s urging, the parliament passed the decision to make Croatian the official language in 1847.

Kukuljević Sakcinski became the prefect of Zagreb in 1861, but was removed from political positions in 1867 after becoming loyal to Vienna. He died in Tuhakovec Castle in Zagorje in 1889.

Statue of Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski in Zagreb (Photo credit: Suradnik13 under CC)

It is a little known fact even earlier, in 1806, Vinko (Vincent) Knežević became a general of the kingdom and expressed his appreciation in the Croatian language, and repeated it in 1832 with General Juraj Rukavina.

The flight of the use of the Croatian language in those years was also reflected at the Zagreb Academy. Philosophy professor Matija Smodek worked hard to introduce the mother tongue into higher education. He was soon granted that he could teach “native language” free of charge as an optional subject for those Academy students who wished. His introductory lecture in 1832 is also considered the beginning of the use of the Croatian language at the highest institution in Croatia, HRT reports. 

Vinko Knežević (Photo: Silverije/CC)

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