Croatian Language Project Elevated To Cultural Heritage Status

Dr Drago Stambuk
Photo: Pixsell

Language is much more than a device for communication. Language holds irreplaceable cultural significance, ancestral memories, and heritage, unique knowledge and traditions. Language presents us with a way of asserting a person’s or nations identity or distinctiveness from another. For anyone who knows the oppression and suppression of the Croatian language through history, particularly during Yugoslavia times when it was maliciously and politically immersed throughout the world as being the same as the Serbo-Croatian concoction, this article will have a special significance. But for all, the matter is of national and sovereigntist importance.

After more than 35 years of authorship and promotion of the ‘Golden Formula of the Croatian Language, ča-kaj-što, the Croatian Ministry of Culture has put this project on the list of intangible cultural heritage.

Most part of the interview by portal with Dr Drago Stambuk, Croatian physician, poet, essayist and a diplomat, published on 28 December 2019, follows in translation into English by Ina Vukic.

“The golden formula restores the Croatian language to itself and strengthens it from the inside, counting on the wholeness of its luminous lexical and other reserves, providing guidance, separating it from Gaj’s / Vuk’s intentions and decontextualising it from the Illyrian code and defending it from geopolitical encroachments,” said Dr. Drago Štambuk for portal with whom we spoke regarding the Decision issued by the Committee for the Intangible Heritage of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, which, after more than 35 years of authorship and promotion, proclaims it a cultural property, the protected National List of Intangible Heritage.

The writer, doctor and long-time diplomat Dr. Drago Stambuk is currently the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Croatia to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Commission for the Intangible Heritage of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia adopted at the end of November the Decision declaring the “Golden Formula of the Croatian Language ča-kaj-što” a cultural property and placing it on the protected National List of Intangible Heritage. How did it come about and what does it mean for the Croatian language? In this way, did the Croatian language receive legal protection through the Law on the Protection of Cultural Property and without the Law on Language?

Dr. Drago Stambuk: For me personally, but even more so for the Croatian language, culture, identity, and even politics (one that cares about national interests), this is big news, of capital importance. Almost all my life, since early childhood, I have been thinking about intra-Croatian language integration and a kind of Croatian koiné or a mixture that would be a lingua franca for the entire Croatian people.

The golden formula of the Croatian language ča-kaj-što, as I called it long ago, is the pivotal equation under which all three sections or stylisations of the Croatian language are formed: čakavica, kajkavica i štokavica; underneath it is to reflect on the past, present and future of the Croatian language. It is the key to Croatia’s better destiny and national, it is not an exaggeration to say – survival. The three interrogative pronouns are written with valence dashes of henna in the H2O living water molecule, with which I compared it in my application to the Ministry of Culture and its Intangible Heritage Commission. In it, two smaller hydrogen atoms represent the Čakavica and Kajkavica stylisations (I do not call them dialects because this name has become worn over time; I restore their dignity and respect). I was rejected twice, and for the third time, it finally came to an end – both the unanimous understanding of the members of the Commission and a superior political understanding of the significance of the Golden Formula for the Croatian people. I am grateful to the members of the Commission who, over time, have underlined the importance of the Formula with its ardent advocates. Croatia is a complex country, with three linguistic idioms, three scripts, oppressed and trampled upon for centuries, so what I call, repositioning relations with the Croatian language in recently acquired freedom, strengthens and unites the homeland in the best and most noble way possible. The golden formula seeks out and finds a balance between the stylisations, osmotically enriches them and exchanges the substance that builds the Croatian language. It is curative, so I might call it panacea, since it has entire open wounds and closes tectonic lines within the Croatian language. Thus, Croatian can only be understood in relation to ča and kaj, while Serbian što is Serbian language. The Croatian language is threefold in its nature, and ča-kaj-što is the most important mantra to be taught in schools and through it to reach more linguistic potency. We are building our language gradually and sensitively, because it would not be good, which I do not want, for the Croats to become illiterate overnight. The aforementioned small door solution introduces the Law on Language, a kind of law that portrays Croatian as possible and necessary by giving it a centripetal, gathering power under the headquarters of the Golden Formula and looking into its more certain future. Can you explain why the Golden Formula ča – kaj – što of the Croatian language is important for the development of the Croatian language?

Dr. Drago Stambuk: I have answered this in part; the basic thing is that the Golden Formula restores the Croatian language to itself and strengthens it from the inside, counting on the wholeness of its luminous lexical and other reserves, providing guidance, separating it from Gaj’s / Vuk’s intentions and decontextualising it from the Illyrian code and defending it from geopolitical encroachments. Next year (2020), on August 7th, 30th regular Croatia rediviva ča – kaj – što will be held in Selce, Brac. You founded it in 1991 on the idea of ​​the trinity of the Croatian language. How did it evolve, and can you draw some interest? What is the preparation for the Jubilee Croatian Poetry Review?

Dr. Drago Štambuk: The Pan-Croatian linguistic-poetic review of Croatia rediviva ča – kaj – što (so I call it in its completeness) that I founded in my native Selce in Brac in the war-palindromic year 1991, the Greater Serbian aggression against us, it resisted with the tool that is most valuable to us, and that is the Croatian language and its poetic word. Over time, it initiated and inspired the emergence of numerous other similar shows throughout the Čakavica, Kajkavica and Štokavica linguistic territories. Croatia rediviva has sparked a real revolution. So recently, one presidential candidate has formed the basis of a party (in a row) of Čakavian, Kajkavian and Štokavian; this is by no means accidental. The golden formula of ča – kaj – što is already established and is hovering over Croatia, refining our insights on what our language is, or better – what it is like to us and the language to be. Every five years, laurelled poets whose verses are engraved on marble slabs of the Wall of Poetry (also called the Altar of Croatian Poetry), I anthologise in the Proceedings of the Olive Wreath; five of them have already been printed, and after the 30th event we will receive the sixth one. Olive wreaths testify to the richness and indulgence of the Croatian language, its unique triple-polymorphic nature. I also intend to add a linguistic symposium dedicated to the Golden Formula of the Croatian ča – kaj – što language to the Jubilee Festival, and we will also invite all living olive-bearers (poeta oliveatus holders of title); I am also arranging cooperation with the Croatian National Theatre in Split…




  1. Ina, Happy New Year!

  2. The Post Stated — “Language is much more than a device for communication. Language holds irreplaceable cultural significance, ancestral memories, and heritage, unique knowledge and traditions. ”

    My Response — Since we live in a human world threatened by robotic replacement, how does “Computer Language” fit into this perspective?

  3. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  4. Lovely post

  5. This sounds like good news, Language is so important and especially those important to our cultural heritage.. Much like the Welch language is to the Welch or the Scottish Gaelic, it must be kept alive..
    Many congratulations in all that you undertake to help preserve and illuminate others to your culture Ina..
    I have learned such a lot more about Croatia through reading your posts..
    Have a blessed New Year my friend.. May it be filled with joy, ( especially via the tiny new feet ) As you continue your mission to enlighten the world..
    Love and Hugs.. Sue <3

  6. Ina, this is a very positive post. I am happy to learn that Croatia’s language is established as heritage to be protected. One’s language is a stem of one’s cultural identity.
    Happy New Year! <3

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