We’re on to Croatian this week, also known as Hrvatski. This is the last Slavic language to be featured in the blog … can you believe it?
REGIONAL HISTORY: The Croats settled in Modern-day Croatia in the 7th century, which at the time was divided into two different regions ruled by dukes: Pannonian Croatia in the north and Dalmatian Croatia in the south. In 925, a ruler named Tomislav united both regions, making Croatia a powerful kingdom, while at the same time battling Venetian forces. About 400 years later, though, Croatia would form a union with the kingdom of Hungary, although Hungary would, in actuality, be in control.
For the next centuries, Croatia was invaded by the Ottoman Empire, which had placed a stronghold on the Balkans. Hungary and Austria were powerless to stop the Turkish onslaught. In 1683, the Treaty of Sremski helped put an end to the Ottoman threat, as the Turks gave back Croatian and Hungarian territories. At the same, the Venetians were still controlling the southern part of the country, brutally.
A major event, both linguistically and history, was a national revival that happened in the mid-1800s. A group of young writers started a “Illyrian movement” that promulgated Croatian identity. Croatian became not just the standard language, but the language of arts (previously it had been Hungarian). Later Croatia joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (aka Yugoslavia) in 1918.
Despite the premise of union among Slavic peoples, the kingdom was in disorder. Problems with Serbian and Croatian desires for autonomy bubbled and continued until WWII. The region became a puppet state of the Germans and Italians, ruled by a ruthless party called the Ustashe, which was responsible for the mass murders hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews and Roma. After the Axis powers lost and the Ustashe fled, Croatia became a socialist republic of Yugoslavia. Despite recurring movements to separate, Croatia left Yugoslavia nearly 50 years later and declared independence in 1991.
WRITING SYSTEM: Croatian uses a Latin alphabet, not a Cyrillic one like several of the other Slavic languages. This is probably due to the fact that Croatia has Catholic roots (Latin) as opposed to an Eastern Orthodox background, which used the liturgical language Old Church Slavonic (with a Cyrillic alphabet). You might have already seen it in the Serbian post:
A a – a as in father
Č č – ch as in church
Ć ć – similar to a soft ch as in ching (no similarities in English)
Dž dž – dg as in fudge
Đ đ – a “jeh” sound
E e – e as in bet
I i – e as in see
Lj lj – an “lyuh” sound as the “lli” in million
Nj nj – an “ng” sound as in “ny” in canyon
O o – o as in long
Š š – sh as in shock
U u – u as in use
Ž ž – su as in pleasure
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I am in love with the way this language sounds! I love the way it rolls off my tongue. I have been saying oprostite (I’m sorry) repeatedly and I believe it’s my favorite word. Croatian sounds exactly like Serbian though, so I’m wondering if this post is a repeat. If so, then the issues of declensions and cases will probably be a factor.
Time now for a REALLY cool video. Enjoy!