The Pollution of Croatian Language With The Serbian and Its Extinction Was Part of Communist Yugoslavia Agenda

A rather large number of people have messaged me during the past week about my last article regarding the newly proposed Croatian Language Act in Croatia and most asked the question regarding the usage of the Serbian language words mixed with Croatian ones.  

Former Yugoslavia had instilled as its official language the “hybrid” language called Serbo-Croatian (with Cyrillic writing) or Croatian-Serbian (with Latin writing). In this language Serbian and Croatian language words and expressions could be mixed and, hence, cross-contamination of these languages occurred to the point where the Western World thought that there was no, or only minute, difference between the Serbian and the Croatian languages. Between 1945 and late 1960’s the official se of Serbo-Croatian language had crept in where the Serbian language increasingly swallowed the Croatian, threatening extinction of the Croatian language, which had led to concern for the Croatian language to such a high point that in 1967 a group of Croatian linguists, dissatisfied with the recently published dictionaries and spelling rules in which, in accordance with the Novi Sad agreement from Serbia, the language was called Serbo-Croatian/Croatian-Serbian ( and – admittedly very gradually – an effort was made to achieve that Croats speak a language that will only be a local variant of the Serbian language), went on to compose and proclaim a Declaration on the name and position of the Croatian literary language (within Yugoslavia).   The 1967 Declaration included the following wording:

And so it was, when I graduated from the University of Zagreb and started my first job in a public school in Croatia that integrated children with special needs, I was given a choice to use either the Croatian or the Serbian, but not a mixture of the two, in my official capacity as an Educational Psychologist and Pedagogue!  

1) Establish clear and unambiguous equality of the four literary languages: Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian, and Macedonian by constitutional regulation. For this purpose, the wording of the SFRY Constitution, Article 131, should read as follows: ‘Federal laws and other general acts of federal bodies are published in the authentic text in the four literary languages of the people of Yugoslavia: Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Macedonian. In official business, the bodies of the federation must adhere to the principle of equality of all languages of the people of Yugoslavia.’   Adequate wording should ensure the rights of national languages in Yugoslavia.   The current constitutional provision on the ‘Serbo-Croatian or Croatian-Serbian language’ with its impreciseness enables these two comparative names to be understood in practice as synonyms, and not as a basis for the equality of both Croatian and Serbian literary languages, equally among themselves, as well as in relation to the languages of other Yugoslav nations. Such ambiguity enables the Serbian literary language to impose itself as a single language for Serbs and Croats by the force of reality. That the reality is really like that is proven by numerous examples, among them the most recent Conclusions of the Fifth Assembly of the Union of Composers of Yugoslavia. These conclusions were published side by side in the Serbian, Slovenian and Macedonian versions as if there was no Croatian literary language at all or as if it were identical to the Serbian literary language.   The undersigned institutions and organisations believe that in such cases the Croatian people are not represented and are placed in an unequal position. Such a practice cannot in any case be justified by the otherwise undisputed scientific fact that the Croatian and Serbian literary languages have a common linguistic basis.  

2) In accordance with the above requirements and explanations, it is necessary to ensure the consistent use of the Croatian literary language in schools, journalism, public and political life, on radio and television whenever the Croatian population is involved, and that officials, teachers, and public workers, regardless of where they came from, they officially use the literary language of the environment in which they operate.   We submit this Declaration to the Parliament of the Republic of SRH/ Socialist Republic of Croatia, the Federal Assembly of the SFRY/ Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia and our entire public, so that during the preparation of changes to the Constitution, the stated principles will be unambiguously formulated and, accordingly, their full application in our social life will be ensured.”  

Much of the community at large in Croatia continued to speak the so-called Serbo-Croatian/ Croatian-Serbian and particularly so because communist party officials where Serbian language prevailed were in the majority, school and company directors were appointed by the communist party, Yugoslav Army officials holding posts were mainly of Serb nationality.      

If for the purposes of this article we exclude the World War Two period within which the Ustashe took power as they proclaimed n 10 April 1941 the independence of Croatia from any Yugoslavia and insisted on the official usage of pure Croatian language, in the realm of Serbian linguistic pressures, it needs to be pointed out that during the 20th century, from the end of the First World War, Croatia was forced to belong to all forms of Yugoslavia, firstly to the Kingdom headed by Serb Monarchy and then to the communist form of Yugoslavia and both were authoritarian and dictatorial, the latter totalitarian also.   The authoritarian ideologies and their implementation merged into everyday living in Croatia: Serbian hegemony, Serbian monarchist absolutism, Belgrade-centred communism (and socialism). Serb-led Kingdom of Yugoslavia and communist Yugoslavia used language as their political tool, wielding supremacy of the Serbian one over all others that existed within Yugoslavia. This can be characterised as linguistic violence.  

As 94% of Croatian voters voted in May 1991 for independence of Croatia from Yugoslavia it was the time again in Croatia’s history, that alertness to the need of only the Croatian language as official language grew high. Not only would Croatia be liberated from communist Yugoslavia pressures but also its language – that was the ideal. Croatian language words and expressions lost or forgotten during decades of Serbian language pressures in communist Yugoslavia began surfacing in ordinary everyday conversations, in the media and in political speeches and public appearances. It felt like a rebirth of a most beautiful language to most Croats. Dictionaries of Differences between Croatian and Serbian language words were published and became almost bestsellers in many Croatian community circles both in Croatia and in the diaspora.  

After President Franjo Tudjman’s death in December 1999 the former Yugoslav communist party members and operatives took power and, hence, the importance of the Croatian language as the standard official language became a non-importance. Increasingly Serbian language words and expressions crept back into the public domain almost to the same level as before 1967 when the Declaration about Croatian literary language was made and insisted upon within communist Yugoslavia. From year 2000 linguistic violence in Croatia had been at an alarming rise, causing distress in many Croatian citizens. This linguistic violence had been permitted to continue for the past two decades without sanctions or comments of corrective nature from officials.     

Thousands of words in the vocabulary that were used in the public space of Croatia were not part of the standard Croatian language, and they testify that the Croatian speakers in the past times of the former Yugoslavia thus represent grabbing words from the pool that was part of the standard Serbian language, and less from other languages from the neighbourhood and other world languages. For example, Italian, Hungarian, English, Turkish, German, etc.  

A good number of linguists in the Croatian-Serbian language area (not in Croatia!) during the Yugoslav era claimed that Turkisms were in principle part of the standard common Croatian-Serbian language, and that Germanisms were not, which was wrong – the layered Croatian history was not considered nor was the history of the Croatian language. Thus, the policy of communist Yugoslavia exerted pressure related to the history of the Second World War for its own benefit, not Croatia’s.  

And so, for example’s sake, I will list here some words of Serbian language vocabulary I personally noticed, with distress I might add, being used in various Croatian Parliament discussions during April, May, June and first half of July 2023 when I was there and watched on television or internet Croatian Parliament live. Suffice to say I personally was shocked at the volume of Serbian language used there with ease and practically no sanctions or corrections. It took my mind back to the times of former Yugoslavia and the pollution of the Croatian language with foreign words but particularly with the words from the Serbian language. This begged the question: was Croatia not successful in its victory over Yugoslav and Serb aggression to gain independence from Yugoslavia? Of course it was! It must, therefore, insist on its own identity as a nation, which includes the official language. Hence, I became one of many to strongly support the current proposal for a new Croatian Language Act that would introduce standards for official language in all public institutions in Croatia including the parliament.     

The list of words or expressions from the Serbian language currently used frequently in Croatian official public places includes the following – set out in the fashion where the Serbian version is put first, then Croatian, then its meaning in the English language (without synonyms):  

Da li – Je li, Jel – Is it, Instovremeno – Istodobno – At the same time, Porodica – Obitelj – Family, Hiljada – Tisuća – Thousand, Štampa – Tisak – Print/Press, Neophodno – Potrebno – Essential,  All months of the year have different nemes in Croatian language from those of Serbian, Muzika – Glazba – Music, Pimena – Dopisi, podnesci – Written Correspondence, Podudaran – Sukladan – Compatible, Pogibija – Stradanje – Suffering, Pojasniti – Objasniti – Explain, Poklon – Dar – Gift, Pokoljenje – Naraštaj – Generation, Pokretan – Pomičan – Ambulant, Oolovni – Trošen – Used, Poništenje – Ukinuće – Abrogation, Prilog – Privitak – Attachment, Glasati – Glasovati – Vote, Pažnja – Pozornost – Attention, Povrjeđen – Ranjen – Wounded, Prema – Po, Spram – To, According to, Momentalno – Trenutačno – Momentarily, Pretežno – Većinom – Mostly, Prethodni – Prijašnji – Previous, Prigoda – Prilika – Circumstance, Prisustvo – Nazočnost – Attendance, Čas – Trenutak – Moment, Avion – Zrakoplov – Aeroplane, Aerodrom – Zračna luka – Airport, Advokat – Odvjetnik – Lawyer, Gvožđe – Željezo – Iron (as in metal), Material – Tvorivo, Gradivo – Matter, Pelcovanje – Cijepljenje – Vaccination, Podesiti – Prilagoditi – Adapt, Pošto – Jer – As, Because, Pristanište – Luka – Port, Prosto – Jednostavno – Simple, Priroda – Narav – Nature, Dopadati se – Sviđati se – Likeable, Maternji – Materinski – Motherly, Gotovo – Skoro – Almost, Ručak – Objed – Lunch, Saučešće – Sućut – Condolence, Strava – Užas – Horror, Suština – Srž – Core, Širom – Diljem – Throughout, Tačka – Točka – Full Stop, Tokom – Tijekom – During, Učestvovati – Sudjelovati – Participate, Ukoliko – Ako – Unless, Upečatljiv – Znakovit – Distinct, Upozorenje – Upozorba – Warning, Utanačiti – Dogovoriti – Agree, Settle, Vrtiti – Okretati – Spin, Zastava – Barjak, Stijeg – Flag, Zavjera – Urota – Conspiracy, Zucnuti – Pisnuti – Utter, Bauljati – Teturati – Stager, Bespotreban – Suvišan, Nepotreban – Surplus, Unnecessary, Čulo – Osjetilo – Sense, Sensory organ, Čuven – Glasovit – Renowned, Ćutati – Šutjeti – Be Silent, …  

The result over the decades of the pollution of the Croatian language in Croatia particularly with the vocabulary and expressions of the Serbian language ones has made the need for an official language in Croatia to be legislated for. That language to be the Croatian one. The continued usage in many public places of the hybrid language that the invented Serbo-Croatian one was, leaves many people in Croatia at a loss and confused and certainly does nothing to cement the victory of the Homeland War in the 1990’s into a Croatian identity. Throughout the past decades when the internet became widely available even the so-called online dictionaries of the Croatian language fail miserably; the Croatian language equivalents of many words are simply not there, but Serbian are! The frequently used by many Google translations cannot be trusted as, more often than not, these are also in line with the extinct and politically concocted Serbo-Croatian/ Croatian-Serbian language. I trust that in line with the passing of the Croatian Language Act during the coming months a much-increased compilation and publication of Dictionaries of Differences between Serbian and Croatian vocabulary will see the light of day, just as they did during 1990’s when Croatia strongly pursued its self-determination, independence, and identity. Ina Vukic              

A Much Needed New Croatian Language Act To Set Standards Of Official Language Use

It is high time that Croatia adopts legislation regarding a tightly and strictly defined official language, as other 178 countries in the world have. The announced delivery of Standards for official and public Croatian language use is crucial to the definition of independent Croatia itself and I trust that the Croatian government will be successful in strict monitoring and checking compliance with Standards at every applicable corner once the newly proposed legislation is passed in parliament.  

For Croatia and her political and public landscape where ethnic minorities, particularly the one that was instrumental in the waging of brutal and genocidal Serb aggression against Croatia and its independence from Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, by using the language and expressions from the language of the foreign country they or their ancestors have come from, have polluted the Croatian public space to such a profound degree that their public speaking often causes pain and hatred.  

Hence, what seems important to me is that the provisions on the official and public use of the Croatian language should finally also solve the issue of speaking minority languages in the Croatian Parliament. Because, almost every day we witness the fact that members of only one minority does not speak Croatian in the Croatian Parliament and that is Serb minority. Of course, that part of Serb minority in Croatia in parliament is not the part of Serb minority that fought arm in arm with Croats in 1990’s to defend Croatia from Serb aggression, but the part that was active in the aggression and its dirty politics. Since Croatia has other minorities What would happen if the Hungarians, Czechs, Albanians or Italians elected into the Croatian parliament to represent their ethnic minority followed the Serb example? Unless official language is legislated for Croatian public space may end up a chaotic marketplace instead of the official body representing the country.  

Public consultation and public submissions have in Croatia regarding the government’s proposal for the new Croatian Language Act is afoot during August 2023. This is the first time that Croatia should get its own law on the Croatian language, and the government wants to enact it because almost all EU members have some kind of legislation on their language. As the ruling HDZ/ Croatian Democratic Union party points out, the Act aims to protect and encourage the development of the Croatian language, as well as ensure its freedom. There will be a Council that will take care of the Croatian language, and its ranks will include university representatives. Also, the Law states that teaching in schools is in the Croatian language and that at least half of the content of Croatian language subjects in schools should be directly focused on language topics.  

“This law is a new step forward in the survival and development of the Croatian language through all these centuries, and it should be understood as a pledge for the preservation and development of the Croatian language in the future,” noted early August 2023 Croatian Minister for Science and Education Radovan Fuchs. He noted that, given the amount of media interest in this Act in recent months, he wants to clearly point out that the Act is not a language police, does not prescribe a language norm, does not contain misdemeanour provisions, has no penalties and is not repressive. “The law is not purist, as many want to present it, but on the contrary, it is a law that should ensure the development of the Croatian language in line with the times and all social circumstances, and at the same time do what is the basic intention, which is the protection and development of the Croatian language,” he emphasised.  

The proposed law is set to regulate the standard Croatian language in public use. And this is very needed as any use of written language or spoken in the Croatian public domain such as government departments, documents, shop names, television, other media … will be required to use original Croatian language words rather than Serbian ones as it occurred in the long extinct Serbo-Croatian language, which is regretfully and annoyingly still used by few in Croatia and around the world.  

The law regulates the standard Croatian language in public use. The place in written culture where the highest standard reigns is – science! Science uses the linguistic minimum, and literature the maximum. The law regulates the minimum, not the maximum. In the scientific language, terminology should be nurtured and the standard should be carefully preserved and developed. And that standard differs from the Serbian language because it contains the history of the entire Croatian culture in encounters with Western and other cultures. The law does not prescribe anything here either, but provides a framework for nurturing standards.“  

Given that Standards to be applied in practice as prescribed pursuant to specific laws by the  government are the backbone of the rule of law in any fully functional democracy it is very pleasing to see that Standards in practice are being considered for enforcement in Croatia. They are and have been the measuring stick for audits, checks and balances a democracy and rule of law require. I do hope Croatia will succeed in enforcing those Standards, otherwise why have them at all!?  

A legislated official Croatian Language is very much needed in Croatia, in the environment where frequent deviations from it have been tolerated for decades now, especially since the death of the first President Franjo Tudjman in ate 1999. Serbian language expressions, words, as used during the former Yugoslavia times as part of the former so-called Serbo-Croatian language have since then somehow crept even into official communications unsanctioned or tolerated and this needs to cease. Croatia must have its own language in all official and public communications prescribed by the law.  

In effect, given that every fully functional democracy in the world has thoroughly legislated for its official language it is high time Croatia does that also.  

„The time when Serbian linguists declare Dubrovnik literature based on the Štokavian dialect as Serbian cultural heritage, is a matter of cultural aggression. Therefore, the Croatian Language Act is needed today, just as the Declaration on the Name and Position of the Croatian Literary Language was needed in 1967. Genius loci – the spirit of the place – is embedded in the Štokava standard of Dubrovnik literature. And that spirit and that place are not part of Serbian literature or culture. Even this appropriation of the Štokavian dialect and Dubrovnik literature speaks of the need for the Law on the Croatian Language. The law refers only to the standard Croatian language created through the historical development of the linguistic minimum, and not to the various individual, local, functional, unofficial, languages and idiolects that make up the maximum of the Croatian language as an identity phenomenon throughout the centuries. It is the Croatian Language Act and – period!“ Wrote Dubravka Oraic Tolic in her Vecernji List article on 16 August 2023.

It is expected that this proposed Croatian Language Act will reach the voting stage in the parliament during the coming Croatian Autumn/Winter and to my view it is also a law that will protect fundamental human rights, because no one in Croatia should be at a disadvantage because they only know Croatian. Having been in Croatia many times during the past two decades I have personally often wondered how the people who do not speak Serbian, English etc can at all understand much of the wording and expressions used in public space such as advertisement on public television, billboards on the side of the roads, etc. They cannot understand them without the help of an interpreter or foreign language dictionary. Also, as said above, this Act will protect the standard Croatian language as one of the official languages of the European Union, and the identity of the Croatian people will be protected.  

Briefly about the proposed Croatian Language Act:  

• determining the basic rules for the official and public use of the Croatian language  

• systematic and professional care of the Croatian language,  

• similar laws exist in other members of the European Union  

In Croatia, the Croatian standard language called “Croatian language” and the Latin script are in official use.  

The Croatian language in its totality and integrity is a fundamental component of Croatian identity and Croatian culture, which are parts of European identity and European culture.  

• contains a list of priority goals and measures

• covers issues of public and official use of the Croatian language:

‒ its social roles

‒ legal position

‒ promotion of its use

‒ improvement of language technologies

‒ development of terminology

‒ promotion and improvement of learning    

After the text of the Draft Proposal for the new Croatian Language Act was published, both supporters and opponents of the legal regulation of the language issue joined the public debate. Supporters are many from all walks of life while opponents are not as numerous but are rather politically vicious with the intention to smear the official language as a nationalistic, ultra nationalistic move even, and both sarcastically and cynically claim that only true Croats will be able to speak, write and read Croatian. As was to be expected, unfortunately, Yugoslav and pro-communist media such as have in relation to this new Croatian Language law already started spinning lies that talk of some revival of the Ustasha laws (World War Two). portal journalist Boris Abramović made quite an effort to make fun of the very idea of the Law by using some outdated and newly created words, using bad root spelling.  

The supporters of the proposed new Croatian Language Act all realise, I am sure, that Croatia like 178 other countries in the world, needs to and must have a standardised official language that will be used by the government, taught in schools, used in law courts, in parliament, mainstream media, on public buildings and transport… The only relevant conclusion to the opponents’ political spin such as that in is that it is high time Croatia told the world that the Serbo-Croatian language had died many decades ago officially, became extinct and no former communist Yugoslavia apologetic should be given the space to deny Croatia what it earned with its own blood in the 1990’s Homeland War – and that is the absolute right to its own identity that includes its own official language. Ina Vukic   

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