The unique name that Ante Starčević takes in Croatian national and national history tells a lot about his role, given that we attach him to the famous title – Father of our Homeland.
Why do we consider him „The father of our Homeland“ and how did he get this excellent title?
Ante Starčević is a Croatian politician, publicist, and writer. He has been called the chief ideologist of Croatian nationalism throughout his life. He is the founder and leader of the most significant political organization of that period – the Croatian Party of Rights, which advocated the independence of the Croatian state outside the Habsburg Monarchy.
He deserved this title for his consistent advocacy for Croatian state independence and the defense of historical state law.
Due to the idea that Croatia should regulate its relations with Austria and Hungary through international treaties, in 1861, he founded the Party of Rights with Eugen Kvaternik, a friend from his school days, which represents the idea of full national freedom and state independence.
He had a diverse public scope of work, and his written oeuvre was very extensive. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy, worked in a law office of Lavoslav Šram, was a great notary of Rijeka County, a Member of Parliament and a publicist. He began writing poems, plays, essays, travelogues, satirical articles, and letters, with most of his oeuvres comprised of scholarly and political debates, assembly speeches, and political reviews and commentaries. In lexicon and comprehensive notes, he is usually referred to as statesman, writer, and philosopher.
The father of the homeland was born in 1823, in Veliki Žitnik near Gospić. He was taught Croatian and Latin by his uncle who was a pastor, and already then famous linguist and defender of the Croatian language, Šime Starčević. He studied Latin, German, Hungarian, Greek and Italian in Zagreb, and after graduating from the Classical High School, he went to seminary in Senj and to study theology in Pešta.
After passing the exam in philosophy and liberal arts, he is promoted to doctor of philosophy. By giving up the priesthood, his struggle for a free and sovereign Croatia begins.
In Parliament, he was the most vocal supporter of Croatian independence, firmly opposed to administrative and state ties with Austria and Hungary, thus building the foundations for the Party of Rights. From his first writings to his last speech, Starčević tirelessly argued that the most crucial thing for Croatia was to get rid of Austrian slavery, and considered the Habsburg Monarchy, the greatest enemy of the Croatian people.
He was imprisoned several times during his struggle, and after the Kvaternik uprising, the Party of Rights was dissolved. In the second half of the 19th century, no one argued so strongly against the role of the church in the social and political life of Croatia, which is why churchmen called him a rebel and an Antichrist. He believed that the church was overtaking the Croatian people and that the religious division between Catholics and Orthodox was conducive to widening national discord. Under the influence of the French Revolution, he fought against feudalism and pursued the democratization of political life, relying on civic classes, wealthier peasantry, and intelligence. Starčević was the most consistent supporter of democratic people’s rights and political freedom.
As a writer, Starčević appeared in 1845 in Danica and he became one of the most famous prose writers of the Croatian revival. He wrote four plays, of which only one is preserved, and in the 1950s Starčević studied literary monuments and, on the task of Ljudevit Gaj, prepared a detailed Glagolitic manuscript for printing. He has written in the Serbian daily and the Belgrade newspaper and has dealt with translation, literary criticism and political satire.
Starčević was in favor of introducing ekavica, which is the speech of the Kajkavians and part of the Chakavians, to differentiate the Croatian language from the Serbian language, which at that moment seemed to completely take over the ekavica.
As a political leader and chief ideologist of Croatian nationalism, he has been called the Father of our Homeland for a lifetime. Ante Starčević died in Zagreb in 1896 and was buried in the cemetery of St. Mirko in Zagreb in Šestine, among peasants. Although he wanted a modest funeral, more than thirty thousand people came to his last farewell. The monument to his tomb was made by sculptor Ivan Rendić and erected in 1903.
One of his glorious thoughts about Croats and their flaws is worth mentioning: We Croats have two national flaws from which all our misfortune springs: “We trust everyone without thinking, and we easily forget all the bad things others do to us.”