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Eugen Kvaternik (31 October 1825 – 11 October 1871) was a Croatian nationalist politician and one of the founders of the Party of Rights, alongside Ante Starčević. Kvaternik was the leader of the 1871 Rakovica Revolt which was an attempt to create an independent Croatian state, at the time when it was part of Austria-Hungary. In order to get foreign support for his cause Kvaternik visited the Russian Empire, France and the Kingdom of Sardinia. He was also well-known for anti-Austro-Hungarian speeches that he made as member of Croatian Parliament.
Kvaternik was born in Zagreb. He was educated in Senj and in Pest. After the abolition of feudalism in 1848 by ban Josip Jelačić, greater freedom from the Austrian Empire was granted. This encouraged proponents of Croatian independence such as Kvaternik. In 1857, the Austrian authorities forbade him to work as a lawyer, which made him unemployed.
Political and revolutionary activity
In 1858 he decided to leave for the Russian Empire in order to find an ally against the Austrian state. Kvaternik was aware that the Russia felt angry because Austria wasn't involved in the Crimea War. While in Russia, Kvaternik gained its citizenship, but soon realized that he wouldn't get any help. In spring 1859 he left for Torino, and with help of Nikola Tommaso he met with various Italian statesmen and politicians. One of them was Italian prime minister Camillo Benso di Cavour and minister of justice Urbano Rattazzi. Kvaternik succeeded to arrange a meeting with them more easily because the Kingdom of Sardinia was just about to ally with Napoleon III of France to attack Austria.
The Croatian Grenzers saved the Austrian Empire many times. Kvaternik promised that he would get loyalty of the Grenzers to help Cavour in his war against Austria. Kvaternik knew that the Grenzers were unhappy with the Austrian payments to them after the 1848 Hungarian Revolution. He issued an announcement on Croatian language to the Grenzer not to help Austria in their war against the Italians, as the Italians are suffering, as well as Croats, under the Austrian rule. Kvaternik's announcement left a strong impact on them, as the Grenzer had low morale while fighting in the Battle of Solferino. Austrians rushed to sign a peace with the French, thus disappointing the Italians as they couldn't get Venice and as well as Kvaternik who hoped that Austria would collapse.
Nevertheless, Kvaternik believed that the Grenzers would play a significant role in the liberation of Croatia. He continued negotiations with the Italian and Hungarian emigration and offered the Croatian crown to the Prince Napoléon Joseph Charles, the Emperor's causin and son-in-law of Italian King Victor Emmanuel II. After Napoléon refused the crown, he offered it to a Polish noble Władysław Czartoryski, who was both a Catholic and a Slav, like most Croats. Kvaternik and his Italian and Hungarian allies made a plan for Austria's destruction. They would raise simultaneous revolts in both the Croatian Military Frontier and Venice, while Giuseppe Garibaldi would landed his troops in the northern Dalmatia. After that they counted on Hungarian and Romanian help with support of the Sardinian Kingdom and France. They also knew that Russia and Prussian Kingdom wouldn't offer any help to Austria. However, in 1865 the plan was withdrawn as Napoleon of France stopped to giving any help and thus forced Italy on inaction.
In March 1860, Kvaternik claimed to Napoleon of France that Croatia was able to give some 250,000 soldiers if revolted, explaining to him that Croats were able to do so when they fought Hungarians during the 1848 Revolution. A month later, he stated to the Sardinian ambassador Nigra that Croats still hope for the revolution and that they are able to raise some 400,000 men and even liberate Venice. He knew this informations from the secret document that supposed to be sent in Vienna in case of war with the Italians. Kvaternik was, however, more active during his stay in Italy between 1863 and 1865. As he become member of the Croatian Sabor in 1861, Kvaternik become popular amongst those who disliked Austria, and at the same time he was still in contact with the Grenzers. In February 1864 he stated, while in Torino, that he is very influential in Croatia and amongst the Grenzers. In March 1864, he made a revolutionary plan, anticipating creation of the Croatian People's Government and made its seal in Paris and also he started to publish revolutionary newspaper in Geneve. Kvaternik stated that within the Grenzers, there was one armed battalion in each regiment, other battalions were in reserve ready to help the revolt while the rest of the battalions are poorly armed and it's needed to get some 20,000 sabres and same quantity of firelocks and 50,000 rifles with the bayonetts. In April 1864 he claimed to the Sardinian Foreign Ministry that the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia is able to give some 300,000 men and in May he claimed that he is able to transfer the Granzers into the "free Italy" in order to help the revolt.
Political situation in Austria-Hungary
After the dual monarchy was created in 1867, Germans and Hungarians become the most influential people in the monarchy, leaving the Slavic peoples in an unprivileged position, namely Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Serbs and Slovenes. Prussian ambassador in Vienna, General Schweinitz reported that the Czechs are making great effort to destroy the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy and that Germans and Hungarians are fearing that the Monarchy would approach the Russian Empire. Hungarians were also aware that Emperor Franz Joseph was counting on Russian help to revenge his defeat in Königgrätz from 1866. Indeed, Czechs' effort to crush the Monarchy were so strong that they overthrown the dualist government of Alfred Potocki. After Potocki's removal, Franz Joseph named Karl von Hohenwart new Minister-President of Cisleithania. Hohenwart advocated federalism and collapse of the dualist policy. Main opponents of Hohenwart's policy were the Hungarian nationalists, namely Prime Minister of Hungary Gyula Andrássy and his government. It was Franz Joseph's greatest mistake that he didn't remove Andrássy at the beginning. However, Franz Joseph had in plan to deal with the Hungarians once he solved the problem with the Czechs. After that, Austria-Hungary entered a fierce political struggle. Hohenwarth was dealing with the Czechs, while Friedrich von Beust, the foreign minister and chairman of the joint government, dealt with Andrássy. Hohenwarth, nevertheless, was successful at the beginning. In September 1871, the Emperor recognized the Czech Kingdom and promised that he will crown himself as King of Czechs in Prague. It was the first sign that dualist policy would collapse in favour of federalism. As Andrássy was disappointed by this move, he forced von Beust to give a memorandum against Hohenwarth to the Emperor in October, however, the Emperor continued to give his thrust to Hohenwart.
Preparations for the Rakovica revolt
While in Torino, Kvaternik met Ante Rakijaš in June 1864. Rakijaš was a former military cadet who deserted the army. His father had also problems with the army. Rakijaš was educated in Graz in Austria and emphasized himself as a Croatian nationalist. He was Kvaternik's main assistant. In November 1864 both of them planned a revolt that would occur in spring 1865. Because of that, Rakijaš made a false passport and moved from Torino to Ancona, where he waited for a chance to enter Dalmatia. At the beginning of 1865 he went to isle Brač, from where he went to Split and later to Sinj, from where he went to Knin. In Knin, Rakijaš started to advocate an uprising. However, not just he failed to gather men, but he was also arrested and sentenced to eleven months in prison in Zadar. Because of Rakijaš's arrest, Kvaternik realized that their plan for a revolt had failed, so he also returned to Croatia. But just as he arrived to Zagreb, he was soon forced to flee as he was a Russian citizen, and as such he was dangerous to the authorities. His expulsion was ordered by Ban Josip Šokčević, who hated him as well as members of the Party of Rights; Šokčević was advised to do so by Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer. After Austria was defeated by Prussia in the Battle of Königgrätz in 1866 and after Franz Joseph I of Austria was crowned as Hungarian king in 1867, Kvaternik got amnesty from the Austrian Emperor and approval for his return. Ban Levin Rauch also gave him Austrian citizenship and permitted him to work as a lawyer. As of then, Kvaternik worked as a lawyer and also dealt with history. He published his book "Eastern Question and the Croats" in two volumes. Kvaternik was also involved in publishing activities; between 1868 and 1870 he wrote for the magazine "Hrvat" (the Croat), and in 1871 he was publishing an official newspaper of the Party of Rights "Hrvatska" (Croatia).
Meanwhile, Rakijaš was released from prison and went to Zagreb where he closelly cooperated with Kvaternik. Rakijaš soon moved to Karlovac and was employed as a police officer with Kvaternik's help by captain Fabiani, a supporter of the Party of Rights. The Grenzers would be in Karlovac on every Friday, which Rakijaš used to explain them the political situation. Croats were disappointed by creation of the dual monrachy in 1867 and with the Croatian-Hungarian Agreement in 1868, nevertheless they were pleased with unification of the Military Frontier with rest of Croaita. However, the people of the Military Frontier feard the Hungarian influence and higher taxes. Kvaternik also had a friend who lived in Rakovica who was also a supporter of the Party of Rights, Petar Vrdoljak. He also advocated anti-Austrian-Hungarian policy.
In May 1871, Kvaternik wasn't elected to the Sabor, so in October he abandoned his party's aim of only using political resistance and launched the Rakovica Revolt, just when the Austria-Hungary was in the process of federalization. Kvaternik believed that once he started the revolt, the unhappy Grenzers would also join him. His goal was the liberation of Croatia and unification of its lands. He planned to proclaim the Croatian People's Government once he meets with the Granzers, after which he would arm the people from the Slunj, Ogulin and the Isle regiments and Rakovica was just between those three regiments. Then he planned to move towards Ogulin and Karlovac from where he would go to Zagreb where he would for a second time proclaim the liberation and to ask the European countries for their recognition and protection. His claim was supported with the fact that Austria-Hungary was isolated at the time without any political ally.
In October 1871, Kvaternik left Zagreb and met with Rakijaš in Karlovac and went with him to Broćanac, where he arrived on the evning on 7 October. The revolutionaries held a meeting in Broćanac and formed the transitional Croatian People's Government and Kvaternik was named president. Petar Vrdoljak was named minister of interior, Ante Rakijaš was named minister of defence and Vjekoslav Bach, a lawyer from Zagreb, was named minister of finance. Rade Čuić, another revolutionary, was named commander of the ustaše (uprising), a commander of the armed forces respectively, while Ante Turkalj was named prefect of the Ogulin region. The next day, on 8 October on Sunday, Kvaternik launched the revolt. With some 200 Grenzers Kvaternik moved towards Rakovica with noted Croatian flag. He was accompanied by Bach. The building of their government supposed to be in house of a merchant, Ivo Vučić, a local from Rakovica. As they arrived they arrested those Grenzer who opposed to joined them and took their arms. Immediately they started to organize the revolt. The nearby villages also joined them, including Broćanac, Brezovac, Mašvina, Plavća Draga and Močila.
The revolt, however, ended unsuccessfully and Kvaternik was executed.
"I hate neither Hungary nor Austria and all that I do I do out of immense love of Croatia." - Eugen Kvaternik
- Šišić 1926, p. 8.
- Jozo Tomasevich, War and Revolution in Yugoslavia: 1941 - 1945, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2001, S.348
- Lars-Erik Cederman, Emergent Actors in World Politics: How States and Nations Develop and Dissolve, Princeton University Press, 1997, S.207
- Ljiljana Šarić, Contesting Europe's Eastern Rim: Cultural Identities in Public Discourse, 2010, S.100
- Šišić 1926, p. 5.
- Šišić 1926, p. 9.
- Šišić 1926, p. 10-11.
- Šišić 1926, p. 14.
- Šišić 1926, p. 12.
- Šišić 1926, p. 13.
- Šišić 1926, p. 13-14.
- Šišić 1926, p. 16-17.
- Šišić 1926, p. 19-20.
- Šišić, Ferdo (1926). Kvaternik (Rakovička buna) (in Croatian). Zagreb: Tisak Hrvatskog štamparskog zavoda.
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