Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski (29 May 1816 – 1 August 1889) was a Croatian historian, politician and writer, most famous for the first speech delivered in Croatian before the Parliament. Considered a renowned patriot, Kukuljević was a proponent of Illyrian movement and avid collector of historical documents, primarily those for his work in Croatian historiography and bibliography.
Kukuljević was born in Varaždin. He completed his secondary education in gymnasiums in his hometown and in Zagreb. He went to the Military Academy of Krems. As a student, Kukuljević started writing in German. In 1833, he joined the army and became an officer in Vienna three years later. He met Ljudevit Gaj and joined the Illyrian movement in 1837. He was ordered to move to Milan in 1840. In 1842, he resigned from his military duties and returned to Croatia, joining the political fight against Magyarization and censorship. He became one of the leaders of the Illyrian movement.
The political activity of Kukuljević can be separated into two periods: until 1850 and from 1860 to 1867. The gap from 1851 to 1860 was caused by the absolutism instituted by Minister Bach, which repressed political life in Croatia. In the first period, he was a partisan of the liberation of Croatia from Austria and Hungary, an uncompromising ideologue promoting revolutionary actions to achieve the unity of the South Slavs. Believing that the South Slavs can be delivered and unified only by force of arms, he lobbied among the Croats and Serbs at the Military Frontier. Swayed by his personality, the frontiersmen asked for the freedom and unity of the South Slav peoples in their People's Requests of spring 1848, referring to him as their inspiration.
Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski was the first to make a speech in the Croatian language before the Croatian Parliament, on May 2, 1843. The speech daringly promoted the struggle for national liberation, asking for Croatian to become the official language in schools and offices, with its gradual introduction in the public life. He also pointed out the danger of replacing Croatian with other languages. Until then, the language of discourse in the parliament was Latin. The speech caused much agitation. It was not an exception, though. All his speeches in the parliament and at county assemblies staunchly advocated the freedom and independence of Croatia, so they could be published only in Branislav, an illegal Illyrian magazine printed in Belgrade. On Kukuljević's urging, the parliament passed the decision to make Croatian the official language in 1847.
He became the chief judge of the Varaždin County in 1845. During the Revolutions of 1848, Kukuljević was among the radical democrats. Under his influence, the ban Josip Jelačić convened the Croatian Parliament on June 5, 1848, opposing the explicit imperial order. Kukuljević also initiated the Slavic Congress in Prague.
But the revolutions were crushed; imperial oppression set in. Kukuljević was removed from politics and kept under police surveillance. In the 1850s, his outlook radically changed. The second period of his political activity was the complete opposite of his early anti-Austrian and freedom-loving sentiments. After he became the prefect of Zagreb County in 1861, he was loyal to Vienna, implementing policies targeted against Croatians and the South Slavs and hounding his former friends who remained faithful to their Illyrian ideals.
After the Compromise of 1867, he was removed from political positions and retired. He was later again elected to the Sabor. He died in Tuhakovec Castle in Zagorje and was buried in Zagreb.
Despite the sharp turn in his later political career, the early patriotic and historical poems of Kukuljević had a major influence on the patriotic sentiments among the Croats. He founded the Society for Yugoslavian History, edited the magazine called Arhiv za Povjesnicu jugoslavensku (Archive for Yugoslavian History), and published valuable historical monographs. Kukuljević's efforts earned him the title of the "father of modern Croatian historiography".
Kukuljević collected and published many source texts related to the history of Croatia. He wrote a lexicon with 800 artists' biographies. He is considered a pioneer of Croatian scientific bibliography.
Due to financial problems, Kukuljević was forced to sell his enormous library, numbering 12,000 volumes, which was acquired by the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Zagreb. One of manuscripts from his library is a tragedy, Skanderbeg, written on the basis of Andrija Kačić Miošić's work.
O Skenderbegu... Zanimljivo je istaknuti da je Ivan Kukuljević-Kacinski na osnovi pevanja fra Andrije Kačića-Miošića napisao tragediju pod naslovom Skenderbeg koja se u rukopisu čuva u Arhivu HAZU [About Skanderbeg... It is interesting to emphasize that Ivan Kukuljević-Kacinski, on the basis of songs of friar Andrija Kačić-Miošić, wrote a tragedy titled Skanderbeg which manuscript is kept in Archive of HAZU
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