Friday, September 24, 2004

---> Dr. Bogdan Radica: EUGEN KVATERNIK




EUGEN KVATERNIK (1825-1871)

by Dr. Bogdan Radica

"To become actively engaged in political life befits a fool, to hesitate befits a deluded fool. Success depends neither on me nor on us nor on our people alone; therefore neither do I hope nor do I doubt. Regardless of success, I will fulfill my duty insofar as I can".

Dr. Ante Starcevic


"I hate neither Hungary nor Austria and all that I do I do out of immense love of Croatia".

Eugen Kvaternik


During the year 1971 the Croatian people celebrated several significant landmarks in their history, which mark to the highest degree their constant and ceaseless struggle for national and political independence. These celebrations have been held not only in the fatherland but also in all foreign countries where Croats are found today in their worldwide dispersion. Three anniversaries were particularly celebrated: the tercentenary of the conspiracy of our heroes Zrinski and Frankopan; the centenary of the birth of the immortal Stepan Radic and the centenary of the death of the revolutionary Eugen Kvarternik in the tragedy of Rakovica that took place at the beginning of October 1871.

I am deeply grateful to have been invited to make this speech on the occasion of the commemoration of our great historical achievements among which this is of this of Kvaternik’s is quite significant and glorious. Nations, which that celebrate the commemorations of their great men, that are those who have fought for their national and political rights, can never die or be forgotten. Merely to revive the remembrance of those great men and achievements not only shows the respect due to those who have fought and sacrificed their lives for their nation’s place in history, but also repeats ceaselessly the idea of those aspirations expressed in the uninterrupted struggle to be free and independent.

Whenever the time comes for these celebrations, as on the occasion of these gatherings, we also declare that we have now decided that, in this century and revolutionary epoch, their deeds must be brought to fruition by the effort of the contemporary generation. By repeating these commemorations we foster not only devotion to their deeds but continue on with our efforts to realize their achievements, as long as our fatherland Croatia is not completely master of itself, independent and free. In the grandiose undertakings of Zrinski and Frankopan, Eugen Kravernik and Stjepan Radic the point at issue is that, in a sense, the Croatian people have the same aspirations. They have fought ceaselessly these 300 years past for the same lofty ideals of their own state. That feeling of statehood about which we talk today particularly in our country is nothing else than the continuity of those same events which have never been forgotten or lost. It lives deeply embedded in the hearts and minds of those who are most aware of their Croatian identity and who see in it the only guarantee of happiness and well being for the Croatian people. Zrinski and Frankopan, Eugen Kvaternik and Stjepan Radic carried with them this idea of statehood. They dedicated their lives and energies on the altar of Croatian nationality and statehood, so that it will never disappear but will remain for us a pledge to be maintained and fought for.

The historical period in which Eugen Kvaternik originated, grew up and died spans the middle and end of the last century. It was the great European era when finally after the sweeping nationalist revolution of 1848, Europe passed out of the stage of political romanticism into the so-called political realism. After the spring of 1848 that shone with unlimited hope upon our whole land, in southeast Europe and the Balkans, the benighted era of reaction reappeared everywhere on the continent. Metternich had to leave imperial Vienna, the tyranny of Nicholas I was approaching its end, the Ottoman Empire was sickening in decay and becoming a cripple on the Bosporus. Nevertheless the spirit of Metternich prevailed through the narrow-minded spirit of Franz-Joseph and of a great part of the personalities of that time. And in spite of such post-Renaissance reaction, very soon the torn and broken nations of Germany and Italy would succeed in restoring and realizing their national unity in the form of independent states.

Under the guiding influence of Italian unity the political activity of Kvaternik developed during his stay in Italy. That colossal event which occurred in the vicinity of Croatia gave Kvaternik hope that our cause might take shape from the Italian Risorgimento and that in like manner Croatia might separate from Vienna so as to be autonomous from both Austria and Hungary. Kvaternik was born in Zagreb on October 31st, 1825, son of Romuald Joseph Kvaternik, professor of history at the Academy of Law.

Kvaternik’s upbringing was many-sided. He attended the gymnasium and faculty of philosophy in Zagreb and in Rijeka and enrolled in theology at the episcopal seminary in Senj. For two years he studied to be a priest. The study of jurisprudence and pedagogy he completed in Budapest where he obtained diplomas as a teacher and as a lawyer at the end of the year of 1848. The study of theology left on Kvaternik a deep and immeasurable impression. He remained his whole life a convinced and practicing Catholic. (1)

Very early in his life Kvaternik resolved to enter the politics actively. Disappointed in domestic politics, particularly in the clash with the Austrian policies of Franz Joseph, he sought to find a means of realizing Croatian independence outside of Austria and Hungary. Just like his mentor Ante Starcevic, ideologue of Croatia’s Party of Right, young Kvaternik also fell under the influence of France and of her policy of defending and liberating the small European nations.

In contrast with Starcevic who was influenced by the ideal of the French Revolution and by Napoleon, Kvaternik was deeply devoted to Napoleon III who at that time governed the Second French Empire. Napoleon III, like all the Napoleons, hated Austria because he considered the Habsburg Empire to be one of the most difficult obstacles to the expansion of France. Wherefore Paris became at that time the focal point of all movements for national liberation, not only of Italians, but also Hungarians, Poles, Czechs, Rumanians and Croats.

Not only Adam Mickiewicz and the Polish intellectuals but also Alexander Herzen and other Russian liberals were in Paris. But in the romantic fantasties of the young Kvaternik hovered the nostalgia for Czarist Russia which particularly during the Crimean War in the time of Nicholas I became the enemy of Austria. Nicholas I in order to maintain the spirit of the Holy Alliance had sent his armies to save the Austrian court during the Revolution of 1848. Therefore he felt offended that Austria participated in a war against Russia.

Kvaternik believed that Russia could take steps to protect Croatia in its struggle for freedom. He went to St. Petersburg and Moscow with the intention of acquainting Russia and its Slavophile intelligentsia with Croatia’s intentions. He planned to inspire them for the major struggle of liberating the Slavic nations from the Habsburg domination. Obviously he did not remember the misfortunes of Juraj Krizanci who spend such a long time in Siberia only because of his boundless Croatian idealism he had dreamt of Slavic unity. It seems he paid no attention even to the experience of Ljudevit Gaj who under the same inspiration visited the Slavophiles in Moscow. But it seems to be the fate of all our revolutionary personalities that in certain moments of their activity they should see in Russia their protector. That was a sort of second nature to them that recurred in the intentions and quest of Fran Supilo and Stjepan Radic who, when they were dismayed by Western apathy and cynicism, awoke as out of a dream only to dream again that Russia could help them.

It is crucial that all of them returned not only disappointed but also betrayed in their excessive Slavic romanticism. Kvaternik, in his Russian schemes or as he called them, undertakings, went so far as to become a Russian citizen. He received a Russian passport and, it goes without saying, Russian financial support. This would later harm him in his political activity, particularly at home. (2)

Kvaternik was particularly appreciated and liked by the Russian charge d’affaires in Vienna, Balabin. Once he arrived in Russia, he contacted the Ministry of External Affairs. Then he immediately got acquainted with Russian Panslavists, at firstly with one of the most outstanding of them, Pogodin, who was very pleased with Kvaternik’s idealism. The Russian Panslavists with whom Kvaternik came in contact represented the extreme conservative right, namely the Russian Orthodox reaction. They saw in all Orthodox Slavs their brothers whom they were obliged to liberate from Turkish and Austrian domination. Kvaternik meanwhile experienced very soon the sting of humiliation and mistrust in regard to Orthodoxy. His impression was that in St. Petersburg and Moscow he was not trusted because he was a Catholic.

On the contrary, the mere fact that he was a Roman Catholic who formed a particular style of life out of his belief stood in the way of his success in regard to Russian policy in the Balkans and southeastern Europe. Kvaternik formed this Catholic vision of life in the context of Western culture. He could not at all exchange his Roman Catholic – Western culture for Byzantine Orthodoxy which in the meantime Russia had adopted as her universal mission in the East and in the Balkans as a kind of Panslavic messianism in addition to the Byzantine tradition in which Moscow, that third Rome, was to assume the role of universal hegemony.

Working for the Russian propaganda into which he was drawn first by Balabin and Later by Kunik, he became acquainted with Pogodin and was admitted to the Czarist ministry of external affairs. There he discovered the so-called "secret book" which contained the Russian master plan to conquer not only the Near East but the Balkans and South-eastern Europe as well. The plan for conquest involved not only the political and military factor, but the cultural and the religious too. It consisted in that all Catholic nations of that part of the world would be converted to Orthodoxy and gradually to become Orthodox, as well as all the other nations of Western Europe. In a word, according to that plan the whole of Europe would be converted from Catholicism and Protestantism to Orthodoxy.

Dismayed by this revelation, Kvaternik for whom Catholicism had formed not only his lifestyle but his political convictions as well rejected the plan completely. Indeed through a series of memoranda he spread it as a spectre into all the chancelleries of the major European powers. As a result, after less than a year Kvaternik left Russia deeply disappointed in that land of great mystery and returned in haste to Zagreb, crushed and anxious but full of hope.

In the meantime the question of his return home was not easy. As a Russian citizen he had rejected the Austrian citizenship. Vienna not only knew of his Russian activities but also suspected and mistreated him, considering him a Russian agent and so frowning on his return. Having resigned from his Russian activities, Kvaternik was in major financial difficulties. They would never leave him for the rest of his life.

In one word the tragedy of Kvaternik was always a question of his financial security which tormented and stifled him to the end of his chequered political life. Not that Kvaternik was a rascal; he in a sense lived an ascetic life, neither drinking or smoking, but extremely devoted to his martyred wife Milka who suffered much as the wife of a Croatian political émigré. He dedicated his whole life upon the altar of his nation’s political struggle so that very little time was given over to a normal and orderly life or to any employment liable to afford him peace and security.

Having returned in a short time to Zagreb he found protection nowhere except from Ante Starcevic and his party with which he was connected and enjoyed the closest political ties. But at the same time he met stiff opposition and hatred from all other political groups in Croatia, in addition to the scheming and malevolent of ban Sokevic. Meanwhile he found ban Rauch, although not really a sincere and constant intercessor, one who would back him up in his enterprise at home.

Despite Rauch’s intercession at Vienna that Kvaternik recover his Austrian citizenship and obtain license to practice law, Kvaternik met huge obstacles. He was opposed by Josip Juraj Strossmayer whom he considered when he was in Italy to be the leader of the Croatian cause along with Starcevic; by Mazuranic, the Party of Right, a good part of the Hungarian sympathizers, and even a large part of the prominent people in his own party, one might say all except Ante Starcevic. He had a great sympathy for Kvaternik, admiring his consummate diplomatic skill as representative of Croatia’s independence throughout Europe and particularly in Paris, Turin, Milan and Florence.

Rauch meanwhile merely used Kvaternik as a pawn in his intrigues with Vienna. As a result he was able to revoke in law the banishment of Kvaternik from Croatia. In addition he gave him 100 florins to pay for a brochure which Kvaternik had had printed in Paris to present Croatia’s position on the "Eastern question". He received some financial backing from the archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Haulik.

Despite all of Rauch’s endeavours to entice Kvaternik to work for the "Croatian Unity", a pro-Hungarian newspaper, he did not consent. For he was a man of explicitly independent temperament. He did not wish to become a servant of Budapest merely because he was an enemy of Vienna. In Kvaternik’s vision only a single goal stood out, an independent Croatia from Albania to the Slovenian Alps. But as a result of his stay in Zagreb he obtained the right not only to live in Croatia, but to open a lawyer’s practice.

However, the fall of Rauch sealed Kvaternik’s destiny. He had to go into exile again from which he returned only to die in his last romantic enterprise at the age of 47, in Rakovica in 1871.

In his second exile Kvaternik concentrated his efforts between Paris and Turin looking for first hand assistance from Napoleon III and Cavour. (3) In this enterprise the great Dalmatian Nikola Tommaseo was a great and invaluable use to him.

Nikola was of the Tomasic family of Sibenik and a prominent Italian writer, philologist, poet, social scientist and politician of the Italian Risorgimento. Although a friend of the South Slavs, Tommaseo was a bitter enemy of Czarist Russia and of its penetration into the Balkans, and thereby to the Adriatic, through Panslavism. Though he did not concede to the notion that Dalmatia be annexed by Italy, he nonetheless refused to contemplate it annexation to Croatia. On this question Tommaseo and Kvaternik were permanently at odds (4).

Tommaseo who above all hated Vienna took into consideration Kvaternik’s action and at first got him acquainted with Italy’s great unifier, Count Cavour. Then he was introduced to the other leaders of the Rigorgimento, particularly Guiseppe Garibaldi. Finally, he met a great number of Austrian Slavs and Hungarians who all visited Tommaseo in Paris, Turin and especially Florence.

At the first meeting with Cavour, Kvaternik strove to convince him that Croatians were not guilty of the crimes perpetrated by the Austrian soldiers in the north of Italy, to which Cavour remarked, "Yes, that may be, but no one knows them as Austrians….everyone calls them Croatians". Meanwhile, beside this Cavour recommended Kvaternik to his envoy in Paris, Nigru, through whom he came into contact with the French court, mainly with Prince Jerome Napoleon. With the emperor himself he never came in contact, no matter how he tried.

Napoleon’s answer made clear the reason why he preferred to receive Lajos Kossuth to Kvaternik. "We know whom Kossuth represents in Hungary; we know that the Hungarian people stand behind him; but we don’t know whom you represent in Croatia!"

Kvaternik went to all these meetings dressed like a romantic in the Illyrian cloak which sometimes looked theatrical. He brought with him numerous memoranda and brochures, especially the "Eastern Question" and the recently published "La Croatie et la Confederation italienne" published in Italian and French. He was not fluent in French. In his conversation with Prince Jerome he offered him (or any other Napoleon) the Croatian throne in order to convince France to destroy Austria and create a Croatian state.

In his attempt in Paris to put the Croatian question on a world level, which he did better than anyone, Kvaternik came in contact with Polish and Hungarian immigrants. Among others he met Lajos Kossuth who had survived the fiasco of 1848 and it seems understood that Hungary was in no position to free itself without collaborating with other nations of the Austrian empire, including Croatia. He had quite changed his opinion and was ready to listen to a Croatian representative.

Kossuth worked out his plan for a central European confederation in which Croatia would be independent but cede to Hungary a corridor to the Adriatic and eventually a port, possibly Rijeka. In Turin and Florence he worked out a plan to instigate a revolution in Austria. Garibaldi, Kossuth, Klapka, Tyrr; not only Italians, Hungarians and Croats, but also Czechs now began with great enthusiasm to form a common plan of attack on Austria.

That invasion was to be worked out so that the volunteers of all nations subject to Austria would disembark at Losinj Mali and Karlobag. From there they were to instigate the revolt first in Croatia, in the direct vicinity of Italy, and then extend it to Hungary and far into Polish territory, involving even Rumania. Kvaternik was mainly anxious that Istria and Dalmatia remain in Croatia and wished to secure this guarantee.

He was afraid of Garibaldi who considered and expected these Croatian lands to belong to Italy. Tommaseo warned him not to trust Garibaldi, that he was not interested in Croatia’s liberation, but in the occupation of the Croatian littoral on the Adriatic for Italy. Garibaldi had already published this view in article in "Il Diritto".

Kvaternik intervened here to refute Garibaldi’s viewpoint, presenting in same journal his counterstatement in which he proved the unquestionable Croatian character of Istria and Dalmatia. Garibaldi at least outwardly concurred. Meanwhile the whole enterprise concerning the disembarkation of troops did not come to any result. Kvaternik already began to publish his "Voice" in Florence. Tommaseo helped him very much in this. Kvaternik read to him every article, every issue published prior to publication. The Florentine typographer Alessandri fabricated Croatian diacritical marks free of charge for him when he learned that it was anti-Austrian. (5) The "Voice" was not only distributed to the Croatian soldiers in Lombardy but was sent home where, as Kvaternik himself remarked, it finally arrived.

All the efforts to cause a disturbance in Austria by outside invasion ended in failure. A great blow to Cavour’s and Garibaldi’s policy was dealt at Villafranci where Napoleon III and Franz-Joseph came to an agreement whereby the Napoleons withdrew from solving the question of the lesser nations which was always a thorn in the side of the Habsburg empire. In addition the death of Cavour, following upon his disenchantment with Napoleon III who abandoned his "realistic diplomacy", left Kvaternik alone and disillusioned. He became a pauper looking for some financial aid from the Italian government.

He obtained it through the intercession of Tommaseo and Garibaldi. But all this was insufficient to keep him and his poor wife abroad. He returned home where one defeat after another awaited him. Among others he was prohibited from election to the Croatian parliament where he intended to continue his political struggle.

During his peregrinations throughout Italy he found a young revolutionary, Ante Rakijas who was organizing the young Croatian rebels for the purpose of instigating revolts and conspiracies. One such revolt was to take place in Krajina where the situation was quite explosive. It reflected in its misery all the obsolescence and inhumanity of the Austrian government’s policy. The starving people were forced by their blood and sweat to maintain those among them who went to swell the ranks of the Austrian army This situation afforded an outstanding opportunity to foster rebellion and not only to liberate Croatia from Vienna but to shatter the Austrian Empire as in 1848. But this dream never materialized.

All this is know about Rakovica is contained in the official report of the high command to the Ministry of War prepared by the commander Grancie Mollinary and sent from Zagreb to Vienna on October 25th, 1871. The report is highly detailed but I will excerpt from it only the essentials contained in the original. Already by the beginning of October 1871, it was known from different sources that people were gathering to discuss the preparation of a revolt. All efforts to quell the revolt met with difficulties because the majority of officers and soldiers sent to suppress the outset of the insurrection went over to the rebels. So when one of the lieutenants, Bozicevic, went on his way to Rakovica, he met at once some rebels led by two mounted riders dressed as sergeants. When the lieutenant’s message reached the rebels requesting them to disband, Rakijas, the master of the guard, answered that they be left in peace because "our task is to eliminate all Hungarian and Austrian sympathizers and I myself who carry the true Croatian flag will shoot all who resist me". He was a most able colleague of Kvaternik’s and later was designated by him to be minister of war.

In the meantime the report continues, "a crowd of rebels about 400 strong and excited by drink approached the recruits. Rakijas ordered them to surrender and shot one round from a revolver at corporal Dimitri Grkovic who was preparing to resist…Then the rebels fell in with the recruits and went on to Rakovica…"

All this took place between October 8th and 9th during which it was rumoured in Krajina "that the Croatian nationalists are coming, that the government has indeed sent against them a squadron of recruits" but all in vain since already many units had joined the rebels. Hardly a quarter of an hour later lieutenant Lulic saw a mass of soldiers dressed and armed entering the town.

Thinking that the squadron of recruits and the mounted sergeant were returning with the flag that had been wrested from the rebels, the lieutenant approached the crowd and was addressed by the sergeant who turned out to be Rakijas. He shouted: "If you are Croatian join up under our flag". Seeing his error, the lieutenant wished to retreat but was prevented on the spot by force with Rakijas crying out that he would shoot and that the lieutenant was under arrest together with three officers and a clerk from the town registry. Then they were jailed in the registry office by a rebel sentry. Whereupon the prisoners saw Kvaternik coming up in a cabriolet and heard him haranguing the crowd who hailed him. The speech was approximately in this vein: "We have been withering way for 300 years under Swabian (German) tyranny. Today no more. We will ourselves be masters in the sanctuary of our own homeland".

The imprisoned officers were then brought out on the street before Kvaternik. There they found major Rasic and his adjutant who had hastened to Rakovica upon hearing the news from Lieutenant Bozicevic, only to fall at once into the hands of the rebels. The major tried to restore them to order and obedience, considering them to have forsaken their duty, but was prevented under threat of violence and told to keep quiet by Rakijas wielding a revolver and announcing that the major and his adjutant were under arrest.

Major Rasic then presented the imprisoned officers to Kvaternik who, when it was explained to him that they were the officers of the town registry, told them, "You are as of today relieved of your functions. Tell your fine friends the same, that they may not become a head shorter". Upon hearing this the crowd began to acclaim him and hailed him. Then someone was heard to say, "It is about time this situation stopped. Throughout the whole summer they plagued us with labour and suffering, besides which we must pay such high taxes that we cannot afford anything anymore. They torment us so much, these officials".

Kvaternik announced to major Rasic that the purpose of the insurrection was to make Croatia quite independent and added that the rebellion was spreading throughout Croatia and Dalmatia…the rebels then moved on to Rakovica’s church and the priest Bozovic held mass. Whereupon Rakijas also held forth before the people saying that from now on the differences in nationality and religion were non-existent (alluding to the co-operation between Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats, since Orthodox Serbs were taking part in the insurrection with the Croats. Author’s note).

That afternoon the rebels broke into the military stores in Rakovica where they found uniforms and weapons for 350 to 400 men, but no rifles. These had been distributed already to the soldiers on the frontier to keep at home, in accordance with existing regulations. Immediately afterwards the rebels under Rakijas’ leadership began to move in different directions while the army was mustering its forces.

In the course of those days the Austrian army under its officers began to mobilize its men not only on the whole military frontier but even as far as Zagreb, in order to contain and crush the rebellion. "The rebels who were about 300 strong" the report states "came with half that number into the village of Dreznik, leaving the rest at several points around the area as reserves". As a result of the efforts to keep the people from joining the rebels, they had retreated in the direction of Rakovica. Nonetheless one part of the rebels succeeded in breaking through to Plaski where they recuperated their forces once more when a part of the army joined them there. They entered the town under the leadership of corporal Cuic on horseback armed with a rifle and a revolver and of Rakijas toting the national flag and acclaiming "long live liberty". Twenty men walked in the rear and after them came Kvaternik in a calash protected by a rearguard of twenty or thirty men. Kvaternik then in a speech outlining future freedom made scathing remarks about the emperor and his officialdom.

Suddenly a large body of Austrian soldiers surrounded the insurgents. Lieutenant Lulic in his report described the final debacle. He said among other things that "the soldier Trobjevic with a few men" approached Bach and Kvaternik and began to fire at the carriage, all the time crying "Long live the emperor!…When lieutenant Lulic arrived in the street both Bach and Kvaternik were dead…and Rakijas also fell while riding at the head of the procession.". It was October 11th, 1871.

The salient facts of this revolt are outlined in a report to baron Mollinary. "The general impression to be drawn is that they will be neither subject to the emperor not to Hungary; that they have been long enough under this yoke. Similarly in the village of Dreznik the conviction prevails that they will all join the rebellion, willing sacrificing their property to the end that they may liberate themselves from that yoke and that regime. They believe that the soldiers will not shoot on their own people."(6)

As commander of the military frontier Mollinary was afraid that the Croatian soldiers on the frontier would not fight against their own people. So he asked for help from the Hungarian army and on October 10th, trainloads of Hungarian soldiers began to arrive. Apparently Kvaternik also learned of this and not being in Rakovica, decided to return there in order to be closer to Bosnia. But a certain Kosanovic betrayed his destination to the enemy so that he was ambushed and killed together with his nearest colleagues by a volley of gunfire.

So ended in a bloody and awful debacle Kvaternik’s ultimate dream, his last and tragic undertaking. He hoped from Rakovica to liberate the whole of Croatia from the Austrian and Hungarian yoke and to give it the form of a sovereign and independent state from the Albanian foothills to the Slovenian Alps. He and his comrades, the rebels and their sympathizers, died in a glorious but tragic death worthy of romantic heroes. For many years, until the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, nobody knew even so much as the location of his grave, covered somewhere in a trench by the highway.

Meanwhile he dreamt to avenge Zrinski and Frankopan, is not buried in the cathedral of Zagreb beside them, although slain by that same enemy of our people "epitaph without inscription" as was noted by A. G. Matos concerning his premature grave, epitomizes significantly all the greatness of Kvaternik’s magnanimity but deplorable destiny.

So much for his life! A life at first glace poetic, full of emotion and pathos. The kind of life with which all the romantics of his generation identified. In a sense the life of a genuine revolutionary about whom it would be possible, even after Nehajev, to write the most enigmatic, but also the most interesting, biography.

That Kvaternik was not just a romantic of the revolution, consumed by it, the great majority of his realistic notions on Croatian politics in the context of the politics of his times bears witness.
Kvaternik’s main and basic thoughts, his major historical projects and plans, his ardour for getting things done, how did he define them? Many of them were contained in his books, pamphlets, brochures, memoirs, memoranda, articles and finally in many letters sent out to the greatest statesmen and personalities of his time.

His letter and texts were written in French, with which he was as familiar as any other revolutionary of that century in Europe. His diary, on the other hand, was written in Croatian. He inserted Latin quotations in his French texts, demonstrating his erudition not only in theology, but also in Roman history. It is also evident from his works that he was versed in modern European culture. What was significant about him was that he was very familiar with the social, economic, political and historical circumstances in Croatia as well as in that part of the world in which Croatia was situated.

That part of his work no Croatian social scientist writing in a foreign language, neither before him nor after him, has been able to surpass. He was a born propagandist, or as one says today, "public relations man". He knew how to reach everyone successfully wherever it was necessary to consider Croatia and its interests.

He could be terrible in the defense of Croatia. When in 1859 the play "Les Croates" was to be shown in Paris at La Gaité Theatre he threatened to send word to the Croatian soldiers in Italy to kill every Frenchman whom they came upon, if the French authorities let the play be shown. The Croats in the play were ridiculed like the Cossacks represented in a previous play that had been a tremendous success. As a result the play was cancelled from the program and never shown.

Kvaternik drew hope from the decay of the Austrian and Ottoman empires and imagined the establishment of a great independent and sovereign Croatian state stretching from Albania to the Slovenian Alps. He foresaw the need to check the growth of Panslavism, of a Russo-Byzantine Orthodox empire on the Adriatic. He imagined such a Croatia, Catholic and westernized, to be the surest defense against this factor, as well as against German and Hungarian expansion on the Adriatic, and also to be the main gateway to Italian independence.

This project of his Cavour and Napoleon III above all understood, aware that for the smaller nations on the Mediterranean no freedom or independence could exist under the tutelage of the Habsburgs or the Romanovs or the Ottomans. Kvaternik after all his experiences, at first in Russia and then with Vienna and Budapest, came to the conclusion that Croats could be neither free nor independent except in their own state. Centuries of Croatia’s bloody experiences with the Habsburgs and Hungarians convinced him that Croats would never find true satisfaction and happiness until they created their own state.

The execution of Zrinski and Frankopan left in him a particularly unpleasant impression that pursued him constantly, even when in April 1871 he had Radovica on his mind. Although he failed to establish a Croatian state, in any case he dedicated his whole life to this end. For this not only do we appreciate and respect him but we express our entire gratitude on the occasion of the anniversary of his tragedy.

The principles on which Kvaternik based his policies with regard to Croatia we find in one of his most notable speeches delivered in 1861 in the Croatian parliament. We excerpt the most significant passage in it…"that the people of the Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia with their manifest parliament, in accordance with their king, come to a constitutional agreement in order to establish relations with Hungary and Austria according to their advantages and interests on the basis of their ancient constitutional rights, in the spirit and according to the conditions of the times, and fix them in the new constitution. In order to achieve this end, this goal so important on which depends our whole future, I propose as the basis of a better future: a) a bilateral agreement for the settlement of relations between the Austrian crown and the state of Croatia; b) a defensive alliance with the state of Hungary".

Kvaternik requested that the king be crowned in Zagreb, the capital of the Triune Kingdom. He deemed it impossible to ignore Austria since it was a "fait accompli". But he requested that in international relations the Austrian emperor rule over the whole Croatian state exclusively as constitutional and legitimate king. The Kingdom of Croatia was to be independent from the crown as well as autonomous and sovereign in relation to other states, kingdoms and territories of the Habsburg dominions. Therefore in the title of the king had to be inserted "king of the whole Croatian Kingdom".

The crown and kingdom of Croatia were to be free and independent in relations to the crown and state of Hungary, but were to enter into a political alliance with the nations of the crown and state of Hungary for the purpose of successfully defending their liberty and constitution. Kvaternik went on to ask that in Zagreb a "royal state council" be set up with plenipotentiary powers. The first president of the state council would sit in Vienna as a deputy of the constitutional king of Croatia and of the people of the Triune Kingdom and not as an Austrian minister. However, he would be in touch with and equal to the Austrian ministers of war, of external affairs, of finance and of commerce.

Without the consent of the Croatian parliament no decision on war and peace could be brought about, nor could young men be conscripted. The state council was to be exclusively responsible to the people through the Croatian parliament. The king’s degree would not be valid without the signature of the first president of the state council.

According to article 54, "the people of the Triune Kingdome of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia rests on the guarantee of a better future, according to the following conditions of the constitution:

  • Upon the oath of the king and guarantee of the crown
  • Upon its own parliament
  • Upon the responsible parliament of the supreme government at home
  • Upon the people’s own army
  • Upon a defensive alliance and an alliance of friendship with the Hungarian nation
  • Finally, if possible, upon the procurement, in collaboration with the Hungarian parliament, of the guarantees of the major European power; and in case of the settlement of a general European conflict, to take into consideration this constitution". (7)


In a sense Kvaternik aimed to raise the status of the Triune Kingdom in the Habsburg monarchy to a level on a par with Hungary and to pass from dualism into triplicity. Had the Habsburgs been far-seeing, they could have avoided the First World War and their collapse and today a multinational commonwealth would have been established in that part of the world. Primarily this would have presented the expansion of fascism in Italy, of nazism in Germany and finally of imperialistic Soviet Russian communism.


Kvaternik’s keen and fantastic vision foresaw everything more than 100 years in advance, at a time when great empires were coming to an end. In one of his publications printed in Florence under the title "The First Voice: Seven words bringing the pain of the Cross to our whole brave Croatian people! Our situation in Europe", he foresaw the inevitable clash of the worlds and Croatia’s role as the bulwark in that clash. (8) On this occasion he had drawn his inspiration from the well-known verses of Preradovic in the poem "The plain of Grobnik":


There will be a conflict of two worlds
In all probability;
On the bulwark we stand, a squadron;
Ours is the first battle.


That clash indeed came, at first in the Great War and in the Second World War. The Croatian nation was indeed the bulwark of that tragic historical turning point during these two world conflicts that shattered the foundations of our civilization and brought in their wake profound change and revolution. Confronted with the historical development evolving out of these two conflicts the Croatian people paid with their blood their conflicting loyalties imposed upon them by the interests of other greater powers.

The Croatian people even today still pay with their blood their destiny, scattered as they are all over the globe. Their sense of destiny and of countless sufferings is still today the same as Kvaternik imagined in his vision of Croatia. And in his "First Voice" published in 1859 in Florence, Kvaternik denotes in the following manner the significance of the Croatian nation’s struggle: "On the eve of this near and decisive moment it is necessary for the nation to speak from the heart in order to inspire the unanimity of our thoughts and aspirations with unfailing courage. Let us purpose is to liberate our people from the hated Swabian yoke. For only disloyalty, perfidy, indifference and dishonesty subject us to it. Our goal is to free ourselves from under Turkish hoof, to protect our property wherever we are living and to make concessions to all who are ready and willing to help us. Our enemies are innumerable and various, it is true, but this is as it should be since our opportunities and the general climate are much more favourable. We are not alone against everyone, as it once was, but will have many friends in the future against our foes. So we are only precursors of a better future for our friends and ourselves. We are the bulwark of a world struggle as we have always been these past thirteen centuries. We will see that it is so.


"And for such a position as we have – one in which Croatia constantly finds itself – what do we have the right to expect? That the Croatian nation has the indisputable right to use all possible means to liberate itself from this humiliating position and take measures for the future against all foreign domination liable to be impose upon us intentionally under any pretext whatsoever.
It follows that the Croatian nation has the "diplomatic" right "guaranteed" in written agreements to consider null and void these written conditions which our enemy has not respected himself while ruthlessly and treacherously forfeiting, indeed rendering void, his obligations to us. Our endeavour must be pure and blameless in the face of the insincerity of those who govern in the monarchy and to whom the symbols of the monarchy ought to mean something".


And finally, in one romantic sentiment, which moved him to a pitch of intensity, Kvaternik encouraged his fellow Croats, calling to battle anew: "Brave people! By your patience forge your weapons, sharpen your Croatian swords and knives, and fill the cartridges of the future Croatian freedom. But do not waste time, however. Aye! Leaders and officers of Croatia let some plan of the future struggle for the national liberation be etched in your minds and spirit. Great are our mountains, great our people; let some plan of the future struggle for the national liberation be etched in your minds and spirit. Great are our mountains, great our people; let them be the groundwork of your plans. And you, our beautiful and glorious patriotic women! Borrow the example of our great and eminent ladies Vladislava Nelipic, Jelena Zrinski, Katarina Frankopan, Baba Nidic and many more. Accomplish today only that which one could expect from your tender being. Provide for your wounded husbands, children, fathers, bothers and fiancés. Furnish them with gaiters, lint and other military equipment. On the day of national reckoning your love for your country will be measured according to what you contributed on the altar of your fatherland.


Aye! Red will be your wedding feast; liberty will be our fiancée who requires much from us but knows from whom she asks:


Croats! God be with you."



EPITAPH WITHOUT AN ORNAMENT:


Here lies the giant
Our shame and disgrace
In what was he wrong?
Because he was alone.
That grey falcon
His fatherland’s flame
Even now he lives
And is our leader.
He rots in the trench like crimson carrion
He who was once Eugen the First
Our Kingdom and freedom.
And by his side a sore grisly wound
Rebellious, evil, unwept
On Bach’s cloak, the Necromancer’s pupil.


Antun Gustav Matos

------------------------------------

FOOTNOTES

  1. Milutin Cihlar Nehajev, Rakovica. On the 60th Anniversary of the Death of Eugen Kvaternik. Edited by Dr. Blaz Jurisic. Issue printed by Mitica Hrvatska, Zagreb, 1932, pp. 23-24. A very important notice by Dr. B. Jurisic on Kvaternik’s life.
  2. Cherubin Sergvic, Prvo Progonstvo Eugena Kvaternika, (First Exile of Eugen Kvaternik), 1818-1860. Supplement to the latest Croatian history. From his Diary. Croatian educational pamphlet for the benefit of the Klub "Cirilo-Metodskih Zidara", Zagreb, 1905, p.5
  3. Sergvic, op.cit., p. 105
  4. Bogdan Radica, Risorgimento and the Croatian Question, Tommaseo-Kvaternik, Journal of Croatian Studies, vol. 5-6 (1964-65). In this work are the contained all papers, letters and documents of Kvaternik that have been found by the author in the archives of Nikola Tommaseo located in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence.
  5. Radica, op.cit., p.40
  6. Nehajev, op.cit., p. 292. B. Jurisic explains that Nehajev did not solve "the riddle of Rakovica" because of his death and that Dr. Jurisic translated the Mollinary report. On the basis of that translation I have summarized the main events so far as it was possible in a limited speech.
  7. Nehajev, op.cit., pp. 116-118
  8. "The First Voice", I had the fourtune to discover together with Kvaternik’s letters in the Tommaseo archives in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence. I published it in a work already cited, Risorgimento and the Croatian Question, in photostatic form on p. 143.

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