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International Mother Language Day: Croatian declared official language 175 years ago 

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International Mother Language Day, declared by UNESCO in 1999, is marked on 21 February.  On today’s occasion, we look back at when the Croatian was declared an official language.

Croatian was declared the official language instead of Latin almost 175 years ago on 23 October 1847.  It was put into use in parliament a year later in in 1848.

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.

Croatian declared official language 174 years ago

Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski statue in Zagreb (Photo: Silverije/CC BY-SA 3.0)

All his speeches in the parliament and at county assemblies staunchly 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. 

The aim of International Mother Language Day is to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world, 


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