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Schaffarik in his history of the Slavic Language and Literature enumerates, on Dobrovsky's authority, the Croatians or Croats as a distinct branch of the great Eastern Slavic stem. Later researches however have identified them, to a certain extent, with the other Southern Slavi or Illyrico-Servians, with whose language theirs is essentially the same. The recent political events, and their struggles against the Hungarians, have made the Croats in our days again the subject of some interest and curiosity, There is however such a confusion in the early history of this race; such a change of names, boundaries, and constitutions; such a contradiction between the accounts of ancient writers and the experience of modern times; that it would require a long historical exposition to give to the reader a clear view of their relation to each other and to their Slavic brethren. For such an exposition there is no room in these pages.[30]

The subject becomes far simpler if we consider the Croats only in respect to their language, as it prevails among them at the present time. Here they do not appear as a distinct race; but still are divided into two portions. One, in Military Croatia, comprising the military districts of Carlstadt and Varasdin, and also the Banal Border, speak the Dalmatian-Servian dialect with very trifling variations; the other, in Provincial Croatia, i.e. the provincial counties of Agram, Kreutz, and Varasdin, approach nearer to the Slovenzi or Vindes, whose language will be the subject of our next section.[31] The dialect of this latter division of the Croatians forms indeed, in a certain measure, the transition and connecting link between the Dalmatian-Servian and the Vindish languages.

We have mentioned above,[32] that the Croatians adopted a system of writing different from that of the Dalmatians. The earliest documents of their literature are of the sixteenth century, and all belong to the history of the Reformation. Here also the new doctrines found minds willing to receive them; and as several of the magnates, among whom is the illustrious name of Zriny, were also their supporters, there was no difficulty in establishing a press, in order to diffuse the new light with greater speed and certainty. In the course of the last half of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries, a large number of Croatian books, catechisms, postillae, etc. were printed. One of the warmest champions of the Reformation was Michael Buchich, curate of the island Murakoz, who publicly adopted the Calvinistic confession, and endeavoured to spread abroad his own, convictions by sermons and writings. Persecuted by the bishops, condemned by synods, he and his followers found some protection in the Christian tolerance of the emperor Maximilian II. But the successors of this prince thought otherwise; and the most powerful of the Hungarian noblemen took arms for the defence of the Romish religion. At the diets held in 1607 and 1610, destruction was sworn to the new doctrines and to their adherents; and all steps were taken for the fulfilment of the oath.

In the middle of the seventeenth century, all Croatia had reverted to Romanism. From that time onward, for more than fifty years, there was not a thought of cultivating the language of the people; all books were again written in Latin, and are so mostly even to the present day. The first who interested himself anew for the foundation of a national literature, was Paul Ritter, of Vitezovich, ob. 1713, who procured a printing office to be established by the estates, and himself wrote several books in the Croatian language. A few writers followed his example; but the activity of the press was, and is now, almost exclusively devoted to the printing of the ordinary catholic books for spiritual edification and religious instruction. The Gospels are extant in the Croatian dialect; but not the whole Bible. Most of the Croats, however, are able to read and understand the books of their Dalmatian neighbours.[33]

The idea of a union among the Illyrico-Servians in respect to orthography and literature, was principally favoured by the Croatians, and indeed originated among them. Here Dr. Gaj and Count Janko Draskovich, who endeavoured to interest the Illyrian ladies in the subject, by a patriotic address, had their residence. The events of our own days have taught us, how in general the feeling of Slavic nationality, in opposition to the Magyar nationality, was roused among the Croatians; for although all the different Slavic tribes scattered throughout Hungary—Slovaks, Ruthenians, and Servians—participated in them, yet that feeling was strongest among the South western Slavi; who united, as is generally known, to elect Jellachich as their Bann.