Ljudevit Gaj

A Croatian linguist, politician, journalist and writer, Gaj was one of the central figures of the Croatian national revival, also known as the pan-Slavist Illyrian Movement, that strove to defend Croatian interests by calling for the unification of all the South Slavs and facilitated through the adoption of a single literary language. Though the Illyrianists failed to win over the other South Slavs, they did succeed in integrating the linguistically and administratively divided Croats within one national movement.

Ljudevit Gaj (1809-1872) was born in the small Croatian village of Krapina, Croatia, which was then in Varaždin County in the Austrian Empire. His family was of German-Slovak descent and lived for several generations in that territory in the Austrian Empire. His original birth name was Ludwig Gay which he used exclusively in his youth.

He started publishing very early; his 36-page booklet on stately manors in his native district, written in his native German, appeared already in 1826 as Die Schlösser bei Krapina. In 1830 Gaj published his Latin alphabet in Buda, "Brief Basics of the Croatian-Slavonic Orthography", which was the first common Croatian orthography book (after the works of Ignjat Đurđević and Pavao Ritter Vitezović). The book was printed bilingually, in Croatian and German. The Croatians used the Latin alphabet, but some of the specific sounds were not uniformly represented. Gaj followed the example of Pavao Ritter Vitezović and the Czech orthography, using one letter of the Latin script for each sound in the language. He used diacritics and the digraphs lj and nj. The book helped Gaj achieve nationwide fame.

Among his non-journalistic writers, in 1833 Gaj wrote the most popular poem of that time, "Još Horvatska ni propala" ("Croatia is not in ruin yet" or "Croatia has not yet Fallen"). It is a famous Croatian patriotic reveille which was set to music by the composer Ferdo Livadić. The song is considered the anthem of the Illyrian Movement, which constituted a great part of the Croatian national revival.

Gaj's story of how the song came about was related in Franjo Kuhač's work Illyrian Songwriters (Ilirski glazbenici). Travelling to Samobor to visit Livadić, Gaj thought to himself, "Croatia has not yet fallen so long as we [revivalists] are alive". At the same time he heard the sound of villagers singing in church. When he arrived at Livadić's house, he already had the words and melody ready. That night they penned several other verses, of which three became the best known and were treated as the unofficial anthem of the Illyrian Movement. [Full lyrics]

The song was first performed publicly on February 4, 1835 in a Zagreb theatre.

Croatian English translation
Još Hrvatska ni propala dok mi živimo,
visoko se bude stala kad ju zbudimo.
Ak je dugo tvrdo spala, jača hoće bit,
ak je sada u snu mala, će se prostranit.

Hura! nek se ori i hrvatski govori!

Ni li skoro skrajnje vrijeme da nju zvisimo,
ter da stransko teško breme iz nas bacimo?
Stari smo i mi Hrvati, nismo zabili
da smo vaši pravi brati, zlo prebavili.

Hura! nek se ori i hrvatski govori!

Oj, Hrvati braćo mila, čujte našu riječ,
razdružit nas neće sila baš nikakva već!
Nas je nekad jedna majka draga rodila,
hrvatskim nas, Bog joj plati, mlijekom dojila.

Hura! nek se ori i hrvatski govori!

Croatia is not doomed as long as we live,
it will rise high when we revive it.
If it's slept this hard and long, it will grow stronger,
if it's so small in its sleep, it will expand.

'Hurrah!' let it resound, spoken in Croatian!

Isn't it high time to raise (the flag?)
and throw away the heavy foreign burden?
Us Croats, we are old too, we did not forget
that we are your true brethren, regardless of the evil.

'Hurrah!' let it resound, spoken in Croatian!

Oh, Croats, dear brothers, hear us when we say,
there is no force that will separate us now!
One dear mother gave birth to us once,
breastfed us Croatian milk, thank God for that.

'Hurrah!' let it resound, spoken in Croatian!

Fascinated from an early age by the idea of a single southern Slavonic race, Gaj became the champion and founder of what was to be called the Illyrian movement, believing that the south Slavs were the immediate descendants of the ancient Illyr nation. After creating the Illyrian Club at the University of Graz, Ljudevit Gaj established the first Croatian newspaper in 1834, the "Croatian, Slovenian, and Dalmatian Newspaper". He thus succeeded where fifteen years before Đuro Matija Šporer had failed - that is, in obtaining an agreement from the royal government of the Habsburg Monarchy to publish a Croatian daily newspaper. Thereafter, he was known as an intellectual leader and quickly distinguished himself by becoming the foremost authority on the Serbo-Croatian language at the University of Graz.

On January 6, 1835, Novine Horvatske ("The Croatian News") appeared, and on January 10, it got the literary addition Danica Horvatska, Slavonska i Dalmatinska ("The Croatian, Slavonian, and Dalmatian Daystar"). It was a big progress in realizing the idea of marking Croatian literature as being unique. The "Novine Horvatske" were printed in the Kajkavian dialect until the end of that year, while "Danica" was printed in both the Shtokavian and Kajkavian dialects.

In early 1836 the publications' names were changed to Ilirske narodne novine ("The Illyrian People's News") and Danica ilirska ("The Illyrian Morning Star"), respectively. This was because the historians at the time hypothesized that Illyrians had been Slavic and were the direct forefathers of the present-day South Slavs [a.k.a. Yugo-slavs].

Renamed "The National Illyrian Newspaper" in 1836 and combined with two literary journals he founded, Gaj set about standardizing a Serbo-Croatian literary language. Choosing the Stokav dialect, one of the three most important dialects of the language spoken by Serbs and Croatians, he sought in an all-encompassing drive to unify the southern Slavic peoples. A gifted agitator with great personal magnetism and initially a liberal (only later becoming a conservative supporter of the Habsburg dynasty), Gaj's efforts were very successful within the Croatian intellectual community, leading to the preeminence of the Illyrian Movement as a cultural force during the years prior to 1848.

In 1848, Gaj was part of the early provisional nationalist triumverate of Croatia. One of the leaders of the newly created National Assembly, he helped to write their "National Demands". A close advisor of Jellacic, he headed the political section of the Ban's Council. Still, Gaj differed with Jellacic over relations with Serbia. Gaj wanted to create a southern Slavic kingdom with Serbia at the center, a plan he had been cultivating since 1842. Most of his time spent on the council was directed toward this end.

Gaj's political career ended abruptly on June 7, 1848 after the "Miloš affair" became public. Gaj had arrested the Serbian Prince Miloš Obrenović (1780-1860), a Serbian peasant revolutionary who became prince of Serbia (1815–39 and 1858–60), as a matter of foreign policy talks with Serbia. Miloš accused Gaj of attempting to extort money (current rumors were of an amount of around 7000 forints). Even though the accusations were never confirmed, the scandal ended Ljudevit Gaj's career in politics.

Brian Smith (edited as noted)


  • Juraj Krnjevic. "The Croats in 1848" Slavonic and East European Review December, 1948. 106-114.
  • Stephen Gazi. A History of Croatia New York: Philosophical Library, 1973.
  • Francis H. Eterovich. Croatia; Land, People, Culture Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970.
  • Elinor Despalatovic. Ljudevit Gaj and the Illyrian Movement New York: Columbia University Press, 1975.
  • Barbara Jelavich. History of The Balkans Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.


  • Encyclopedia of 1848 Revolutions - http://www.ohio.edu/chastain/dh/gaj.htm
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Još_Horvatska_ni_propala

Ljudevit Gaj (1809-72)

  • Kratka osnova horvatsko-slavenskogo pravopisaňa ... od L.o.G. / Kurzer Entwurf einer kroatisch-slavischen Orthographie

 Gaj  Pravopisana_cover  Pravopisana_title  Pravopisana_2_3
 Pravopisana_4_5  Pravopisana_6_7


  • http://orbis.library.yale.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?SC=Author&SEQ=20060512131001&PID=17986&SA=Gaj,+Ljudevit,+1809-1872.

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