Friday, August 28, 2015

The Croatian-Slovene Peasant Revolt Of 1573

It only lasted 12 days, from 28 January to 9 February, 1573. In addition to the usual miserable living conditions to which most peasants in the 16th-century Holy Roman Empire were subjected, a particular cause of this revolt was the particularly unpleasant rule of Baron Ferenc Tahy in Hrvatsko Zagorje north of Zagreb. After several complaints to the Emperor from the Baron's subjects went unanswered, they banded together with peasants in Styria and Carniola, took to arms and demanded an end to the rule of nobility in the region, to be replaced by a council of peasants which would report directly to the Emperor.

3000 peasants were killed in the 12 days of fighting. After that, many more were executed or maimed. The peasant leader Matija Gubec was publicly tortured and killed on the 15th of February.

As I say, this peasant uprising does not seem to be widely-known in the West. The one-volume histories of the world of JM Roberts and HG Wells don't mention it,

nor does the article on Croatia in the 1972 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Only one peasants' revolt is mentioned in Roberts' index, the English one of 1381, can we all say "Out of touch!" loudly in unison, boys and girls? although in his passage on Luther Roberts mentions how Luther was at pains to distance himself from peasant uprisings. Wells at least has several different references to peasant uprisings in his index. The 1972 Britannica has one article on peasant uprisings during and after WWI, and an article on the English peasant uprising of 1381, and that's it. Shockingly, it has no articles at all whose title begin with "Revolt" or "Revolution." Okay, Britannica, you don't have to draw us a picture, we get the picture!

So how did I find out about this revolt in 1573 of Croatian and Slovene peasants? I just happened to stumble across this book while searching the Internet for examples of 16th-century letters written in Latin: Gradja za poviest hrvatsko-slovenske seljačke bune god. 1573, the sources used by the 19th-century Croatian historian Franjo Rački to write his history of the uprising.

It contains documents, mostly letters, which were sent or made public between 1 February 1573 and 9 December 1574. All of the documents are written either in German or Latin, none at all in Croatian or Slovene. All good tyrants know that if you want to keep an entire ethnic group down, it's important to keep them from writing in their own language. I've been able to find no evidence at all of written Croatian as early as the 1570's. Rački published this book of sources in 1875. According to the 1972 Britannica, which has an article on the Serbo-Croatian langugae, but no articles on Serbo-Croatian literature, or the Croatian language or Croatian literature, it had only been a few decades before that one common and widely-accepted written form of Croatian had been forged.

There are no records in this volume of peasant communications to Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian II regarding their plans for a peasant government which would be answerable only to him, with no interference by aristocrats. There is no sign that Maximillian ever heard of such plans on the part of the rebelling peasants. However, there are quite a few letters back and forth between Maximillian and various German and Croatian nobles who were instrumental in crushing the rebellion. The Emperor is particularly effusive in his praise of Juraj Drašković, Archbishop of Zagreb and Imperial Viceroy of Croatia, who in addition to his other titles and honors was to be appointed a Cardinal by Pope Sixtus V in 1585.

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