The Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Founded in 1861

The Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts was founded in Zagreb on 29 April 1861. Its name at this stage was Jugoslavenska akademija znanosti i umjetnosti, which translates as Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts. This, of course, looks a little confusing today since one immediately thinks, "How could there be a Yugoslavian Academy in 1861 when Yugoslavia did not exist until the 20th century?" The answer is that perhaps a better translation of 'Jugoslavenska akademija znanosti i umjetnosti' would be 'South Slavic Academy of Sciences and Arts'. The name Yugoslavia was later used for the country precisely because it means 'South Slavic'. With this little puzzle out of the way, we will return to the founding of the Academy in a moment, but first let us look briefly at the relevant history of Croatia.

Croatia became part of the Habsburg Monarchy in 1527 but was largely conquered by the Ottomans. In the 18th century, with the Ottomans driven out, Croatia was regained by the Habsburg Monarchy but much of their territory was given to German or Hungary dignitaries. Hungarian was imposed as a language and beginning in the 1820s there was resistance by Croatians. The Illyrianist reformers were largely professional people who sought to promote Croatian interests with unification of South Slavs, the main method being adoption of a common language. The Croatians sided with the Austrians against Hungarian nationalism and only ended up having German culture imposed on them. In 1849 Croatia became a Habsburg crown territory under the emperor Franz Joseph I. The Illyrianist reformers became known as the Yugoslavists arguing for a South Slav state within a federal Habsburg State. One of the leaders of this movement was Josip Juraj Štrossmajer who was the pivotal figure in setting up the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts so we will say a little about this important man.

Josip Juraj Štrossmajer (1815-1905) was born into a Croatian family in Osijek. After studying theology and being awarded a doctorate from Budapest in 1835 and, after being a priest in Petrovaradin, he obtained a second doctorate in Vienna. He became a Hapsburg palace chaplain and then a bishop, inheriting a wealthy diocese. He entered politics as leader of the People's Party, consisting of Illyrianist reformers, in 1860. He argued for a federal system with the Croatian language being that of the administration and the schools. In 1860 he became part of the Croatian legislative assembly and on his recommendation Josip Šokčević was appointed as ban, the head of the assembly, on 19 June 1860. Later that year Štrossmajer presented Šokčević with 50,000 florins to found the South Slavic Academy of Sciences and Arts. He also wrote in a letter to Šokčević that the Academy should [1]:-
... bring together the best minds ... and find a way in which books in the national languages could be produced in the Slavic South; the Academy should also take under its aegis all the areas of human science.
On 29 April 1861, at a session of the Croatian legislative assembly, Štrossmajer formally proposed the setting up of the Academy. The Assembly accepted the proposal and set up a committee to draw up statutes, an organisational structure and a set of aims for the Academy. It took a little while before this was formally approved by the emperor Franz Joseph I, but this finally took place on 4 March 1866. The reason for the delay was that the rules drawn up by the Croatian legislative assembly were not acceptable to the Austrians and they had to be modified in quite a major way before eventually they were approved and officially confirmed in a letter from Franz Joseph I dated 4 March 1866. Only at that time was the Croatian legislative assembly able to formally set up the Academy and they did so proposing the first sixteen members. Bishop Štrossmajer was elected patron and Franjo Rački (1828-1894) was elected the first president.

Rački was an ordained Catholic priest and a leading historian, working mainly on Church history, who was a leader in promoting Slavic culture. He became a member of the Croatian legislative assembly in 1861. He shared with Štrossmajer a strong belief in the cultural and political unity of the South Slavs. For them South Slavs, or Yugoslavians, would have included Bulgarians but although the Academy was named Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts, it was firmly based in Zagreb and was a Croatian Academy [1]:-
Under Štrossmayer and Rački, the Academy became an eminent institution of learning, which collaborated with well-established European academies. Strossmayer called the Academy Yugoslav (meaning 'Southern Slav') because he wanted to promote the development of sciences and culture of all the South Slavic nations, including the Bulgarians. The Academy in Zagreb, however, has always been Croatian in its membership and its activities. Besides, soon after the foundation of the Zagreb Academy, the Serbian and Bulgarian Academies were established, so that the idea that the Academy in Zagreb was an institution which could bring together all the South Slavic nations became impracticable. All the publishing activities of Zagreb's Academy have been primarily and permanently focused on the study of Croatian history, culture, language, and natural heritage.
The Academy soon began publishing regular books and journals. Rad began publication in 1867 and all the departments of the Academy contributed to this publication until 1882 when some departments began their own publications. Rad continues to be published to the present day. Another early publication was Ljetopis (Annals) which began publication in 1887; it also continues to be published. Much of the early work of the Academy involved Croatian history and numerous publications on this topic are detailed in [1]. Having the eminent historian Franjo Rački as President was certainly a major factor in this emphasis on history; in fact he served in this role for 20 years.

World War I saw the dissolution of Austria-Hungary and, to avoid partition between the Allies, leaders from Croatia and Serbia discussed creating a South Slavic State. On 1 December 1918 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes came into existence. Although not exactly what the founders of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts had envisaged, nevertheless it was in the same spirit and the Academy in Zagreb continued without any change of name. The new Kingdom did not please everyone and there was a considerable national Croatian movement that saw the Kingdom as too much of a Serbian state. In order to combat nationalism within the Kingdom, it was named Yugoslavia in 1929. Again this had no impact on the Academy in Zagreb.

When World War II broke out in 1939, Yugoslavia declared itself neutral. This, however, did not stop Germany invading in 1941 and they occupied and partitioned the country. Playing on the Croats desire for independence, Germany and Italy set up an independent Croatia in April 1941. Here 'independent' may be thought of as a rather strange term given that the 'independent' Croatia was under occupation by German and Italian troops. At this time the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts changed its name to the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. From 1941 to 1945 there was fighting between Serbs and Croats and a great many lost their lives but with the end of World War II in 1945 Croatia became a republic within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Academy changed its name back to its original one, namely the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.

With the break-up of the Soviet Union beginning in 1989, Croatia held elections in 1990 resulting in a right-wing nationalist government. On 25 June 1991 Croatia declared independence and the Academy again changed its name, this time back to the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

The present Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts has nine Departments: the Department of Social Sciences; the Department of Mathematical, Physical and Chemical Sciences; the Department of Natural Sciences; the Department of Medical Sciences; the Department of Philological Sciences; the Department of Literature; the Department of Fine Arts; the Department of Music and Musicology; and the Department of Technical Sciences. The Articles of the Academy contain the following statements [2]:-

  1. The Academy develops and promotes scientific activity and artistic creativity.

  2. The academy is of particular national importance.

  3. The seat of the Academy is in Zagreb.

  4. The Academy encourages and organizes scientific work and advocates for the achievement of results, develops artistic and cultural activities and cares about Croatian cultural heritage and its affirmation in the world.

  5. The Academy publishes the results of scientific research and artistic creativity.

  6. The Academy provides suggestions and opinions for the advancement of science and art in areas of particular importance to the Republic of Croatia.
The present mathematical work of the Academy in the Department of Mathematical, Physical and Chemical Sciences is mainly on the following topics. There is research on the foundations of mathematics, on elementary and high-dimensional geometry and on topology, especially dimension theory, shape theory and homology theory. There is work on harmonic analysis on classical groups and on general linear groups and their relation to arithmetic. Various generalizations of classical inequalities are studied with applications to mathematical analysis and geometry. Research is undertaken to develop mathematical techniques used in statical, kinematical and dynamical problems arising from architectural constructions. There is also research on the philosophical aspects of natural sciences and mathematics, the relation between mathematics and the arts, and the history of mathematics and other exact sciences with an emphasis on the contribution of Croatian scientists to world's science.

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References (show)

  1. Founding of the Academy, Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
  2. Laws of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Last Updated September 2018