Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Artists, Navigators, Popes, Scientists... “Croats”

(Taken from the journal “La voce del popolo”, No. 3404, March 15, 2012.)

Here we go again. The list of famous people who have distinguished themselves in various fields of human knowledge being passed off as Croats increases. The brigade of great names includes: the explorer Marco Polo (Marko Polo), the architect Giorgio Orsini (Juraj Dalmatinac), the philosopher Francesco Patrizio (Frane/Franjo Petrić, Petrišević or Petrišić – the counterfeiters have not yet agreed on the final version of his name), the scientist Ruggiero Giuseppe Boscovich (Ruđer Bošković), the businessman Andrea Lodovico Adamich (Andrija Ljudevit Adamić) and still many others, including a pontiff: Sixtus V! The remaining men – who we do not mention because we could fill pages –, just like the above listed, have all been shamefully officially croatized.

One Way Reasoning

On the other hand, paper is patient. It is sufficient that a person is born on the soil which now belongs to Croatia, or, in some cases, who simply arrived from other shores, and they are passed off as “Croatian”. There is no shame, we are now faced with a brazenness that knows no limits. Even those who fought for Italianity, in some cases, are now grotesquely called “Croats”, especially if the last name is not proper “Tuscan”. Or they use the label “talijanaš”, i.e. a renegade of the Fatherland who joined another nation. This formula also serves to diminish the contribution of the autochthonous Italian component of these territories. This whimsical reasoning, however, is only applied one way. Nobody, for example, would dare to define as “Austrian” or “German” a nineteenth-century man of prominence such as the Bishop of Djakovo, Msgr. Josip Juraj Strossmayer, who is considered one of the fathers of the Croatian nation. The scholars of other countries have other historiographical problems to deal with instead of this stupidity.

Havoc and Looting: the Bajamonti Case

The Adriatic region, due to its heterogeneous nature, can not be classified “sic et simpliciter” as Croatian: that is unhistorical and has no foundation. The counterfeiters on duty have disrupted the onomastics of family names; the newly-coined Slavic names are a mess made by those who despise and literally plundered a legacy that does not belong to them, by passing it off as their own. Giulio Bajamonti in the meantime has been renamed “Julije” and is presented as a “Croatian” encyclopedist. By what right do they arrogate the power to assign an identity to a person who in the first place was a native of Spalato of Italian culture? In the second half of the nineteenth century another great man of the Diocletian city, the mayor Antonio Bajamonti, speaking at the Diet of Zara against the attacks of those who set out to decapitate the Dalmatian Autonomist Party, said: “We'll be Slavs tomorrow too, but never Croats.”

Identity Defined in Advance

By this we mean that it makes no sense to attribute a priori the identity of people of the past. They belong to a dimension that is not ours and, consequently, to grasp it, we must immerse ourselves in the context of a given historical age. Otherwise we would have to speak of the historical “Turk” Herodotus and the “Russian” philosopher Immanuel Kant because they were born, respectively, in Halicarnassus (now in Turkey) and Königsberg, former East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, a city of the Russian Federation).

Only a few years ago in Nafpaktos (Lepanto) they held a ceremony and a plaque was posted – in Croatian, Greek and English, but not Italian – in honor of those who, under their breath, some identify as a “Croatian victory” and in memory of dead Croats. The issue had been proposed and addressed already a few decades before, even in academia, on the 400th anniversary of the 1571 naval battle in the waters of the Gulf of Patras.

The Victory of Lepanto

The imposing military deployment of the Holy League was comprised of soldiers, sailors and rowers. That there were also some Croats among them is undeniable; the Republic of Venice had recruited thousands of men from every corner of its possessions. But to speak, however, of “Croatian galleys” captained by Croats – with mangled slavicized names, of course – is simply absurd. The homage was to the thousands of Istrians, Dalmatians and Bocchesians involved and/or killed. According to nationalistic logic, these men were all "Croats”, without distinction; not even a mention of the participation of the Italians of those same regions. They do not exist apparently.

Sixtus V

Now there is much talk about the supposed Croatian origin of Pope Sixtus V, born Felice Peretti. Scholars who have worked seriously on archival sources have long demonstrated the inconsistency of this thesis. Despite this, there are still certain environments, sometimes religious, as with the Institute of St. Jerome of the Illyrians, and sometimes cultural, as with the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, who refuse to give it up. They always announce breakthroughs and flaunt the existence of documents, which, of course, have never been presented nor published.

Santorio, Absolutely Not Svetina

The last strange discovery was another load of nonsense: that of the alleged “Slovenian” origin of Santorio Santorio, dubbed “Svetina” by certain men who pen imaginitive tales attempting to pass him off as a Slav. But failing in their clumsy operation, without a shred of evidence, they cunningly escape or hide behind generic and pathetic statements. Now in the “Croatian Pantheon” they wish to add a Pope. We await the next boastful farce.