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Promote Proud Croatian Literary History

'International Year of Literacy - 1990'

During the UN International Year of Peace (1986) Croatian people reacted peacefully to considerable provocation. Not only did the message of peace influence the millions of visitors at Medugorje, but the Croatian response to outrageous propaganda has been a peaceful one, in spite of show-trial scenarios, and the manipulation of Croatian history and its economy. During the International Year of Literacy next year, an even greater challenge will present itself to the Croatian nation and its ambassadors of peace.
In the past one thousand years of Croatian history there is a wealth of evidence regarding the issue of literacy. Furthermore many Croatian literary documents are deposited in libraries across the world. There is abundant evidence of Croatian non-ecclesiastical literature, inscriptions and liturgy illustrating a continuity of the written Croatian vernacular, a claim few established nations can make today about their language. The literary tradition of the Croatian people is interwoven into the fabric of their rich and varied culture, testament to the fact that the Croatian nation is indeed an old, civilised, and democratic one.
It is this Croatian literary tradition which comprises the central target for Serbian propaganda. Unlike Russians who acknowledge the existence of other slavonic languages, the Serbs have attempted to blend Serbian and Croatian into one artificial unspoken language in order to assimilate and convert the Croatian population. Whilst Serbian propaganda abroad has had a strong effect the realisation of this dream inside traditional Croatian speaking lands has by contrast not been successful in spite of their aggressive tactics.
Next year the Croatian people have cause for celebration during the International Year of Literacy, and they have a responsibility to bring the evidence of their literary history to the attention of the world as a glorious example of how literacy can record and enhance mankind's development.
Literacy focuses on the written expression of oral culture. The document known as 'Bernardin of Split' in the Cakavian vernacular, in the Latin alphabet, in the year 1495 - a book with editions also in the Stokavian and Kajkavian - illustrates the 'interconnectedness of Croatian writing and language from the early middle ages to recent times. These texts, read in church every Sunday, through the centuries created a widely experienced linguistic sensitivity and shaped the expressive qualities of the language for the whole people'. 1
Thus, literature and literacy have survived great odds across many centuries, written in the vernacular in three dialects according to the location where the writer was born in Croatia .
Sadly to the detriment of mankind in Europe , in the 1970s the Serbs were responsible for the forced closure of newspapers, the old established Croatian publishing house 'Matica Hrvatska', and for the imprisonment of Croats defending their literary history. The walls of dungeons in Yugoslavia , of which the Croatian nation is a part by force, are covered with scribbling in 'blood and excrement' - literary expressions from the depths of the soul of Croatian man written by the only method left for political prisoners in Yugoslavia . II
The International Year of Literacy in 1990 will provide the bankrupt Yugoslav regime with a great opportunity to at least undo damages which it has done to the progress of mankind's written history. Equally, all Croatian parents should stress the importance of a high standard of literacy, including literacy in Croatian if possible. European history cannot be fully understood without this skill.
Not only have spiritual prayers and the liturgy been presented in the Croatian vernacular for several centuries before similar events occurred in Poland, the Ukraine, or Lithuania, but likewise so have the constitutional and legal history in Croatia been written. Around the year 1100 we have the 'Baska Table' composed in Croatian vernacular and written in the distinctive Croatian glagolitic alphabet which retained only a few remnants from Old Church Slavonic, a table which symbolises the beginning of Croatian written literature because of its length.
The legal history of Croatia , preserved in the Croatian language from the year 1288 in the glagolitic alphabet, is known as the 'Statute of Vinodol'. This Vinodol Code is comprised of 77 articles of law about property, contracts, legal procedures, penal law etc., and it was in use in society until the end of the 18 th century. III The Vinodol Code is even more significant for the Croatian nation than the Magna Carta in England (which was written in Latin) because it was written in Croatian. It is not surprising that a Croat, Slavoljub Penkala from Zagreb , invented a special "un-consumable" lead pencil and more importantly patented a pocket-pen-holder which enabled pens of all kinds to be safely carried in a pocket, thus directly promoting literacy and facilitating writing for reporters, students and diplomats in the 20 th century. IV
As for the Serbian language, the late Professor of Slavic Philology at Zagreb University wrote: ". it is well known that the Serbian literary language has had a completely different development from the Croatian literary language . from the first written monuments to the times of Vuk Karadsic . the language of Serbian literature has always been an artificial one {Serbian-Slavonic, Slavonic-Serbian) and has had very little to do with the speech of the Serbian peasant . That was not the case with Croatian literature ." V
Indeed, it was not the case, as ample evidence proves. Documents are preserved in libraries in Croatia , Rome , Leningrad , Moscow , Berlin , Vienna , Budapest , Copenhagen , Istanbul , Paris , New York , Prague , Portugal , Venice , Siena , Cracow , and England ( London , Oxford and Trent ). It is in Trent where the oldest written manuscript in Croatian exists; the 'Kloc' manuscript. VI Ironically therefore, it is unfortunate that my British ancestors hold captive evidence of the Croatian literary history whilst they promote Croatian as a Latin alphabet variant of Serbian.
Nevertheless my British background will not prevent me from appreciating and applauding the magnificent and proud achievements of literacy in Croatian history, and if I were in a position to dedicate the 1990 International Year of Literacy to a single nation I would not hesitate to nominate Croatia .
I hope that the Croatian Studies Foundation will be able to take the initiative to promote the history of literacy in Croatian history, and do its utmost to ensure that this tradition is guaranteed a just and equal future. One of the thirty wise sayings of the bible encourages us never to "move an old boundary mark that your ancestors established." VII Surely this advice refers to literary and spiritual boundaries as well as those marked by rivers. Let us combine the 'democratic initiative' in 1990 with a 'literacy initiative'.
I 'Two Thousand Years of Writing in Croatia ', Katicic, R. & Novak, S.P., SNL, Zagreb , 1987
II 'Political Prisoner No 6769', in Intimate Diary & Reflections', Seks, V., Melbourne , 1989
III 'An Historical Survey of Literary Croatian', Franolic, B., NEL, Paris, 1984
IV 'Op Cit', Katicic & Novak
V 'Op Cit', Franolic
VI 'Op Cit', Katicic & Novak
VII Proverbs 22, Vs 4, 'The Thirty Wise Sayings', Good News Bible, United Bible Societies, London , 1976.
Jean Lunt Marinovic
November, 1989
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