used without permission, for "fair use" only

Academician Dalibor Brozovic, a renowned linguist, the director of the Lexicographic Institute Miroslav Krleza in Zagreb, the editor-in-chief of the Croatian Encyclopedia, and a member of the European Academy of Sciences:

Arif Purivatra's claim that it is genocide to refer to the Bosnian Language as Bosniak does not make sense; it is greater genocide to refer to the Bosniak language as Bosnian

interview by Zlatko TULIC

Hrvatska Rijec, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, March 25, 2000

Born in Sarajevo, academician Dalibor Brozovic, as he says, whenever he returns to his hometown breaths with full lungs. Nevertheless, years have taken their toll, and the town of his childhood is slowly turning into a pleasant memory. It is interesting that academician Brozovic, although a member of the European and Macedonian Academy of Sciences, never became a member of the Academy of Sciences of Bosnia-Hercegovina (ASBH) based in Sarajevo. However, based on some indications heard during his most recent fortnight spent in Sarajevo, where he promoted the first volume of the Croatian Encyclopedia in the Croatian Cultural Center, Brozovic could become a member of the ASBH before the end of this year. For our magazine Brozovic discussed details of the creation of the new Croatian Encyclopedia, future cooperation with ASBH, role of the HDZU in the cultural and scientific life and, naturally, the unavoidable topic, differences and similarities between Croatian, Bosnian and Bosniak language.

HRVATSKA RIJEC: How does the most recent edition of the Croatian Encyclopedia differ from earlier editions?

BROZOVIC: I have to inform you that there are only two previous editions: one appeared in the 1880's in Osijek (only two volumes were published because of difficult situation at the time), and the work on the second edition began in the 1930's led by Mato Ujevic. The first volume appeared immediately before WWII. Volumes two to five were published during WWII. The Yugoslav authorities destroyed the fifth volume in 1945, so that only a few copies have been preserved and today are a true rarity.

Past Omissions will be Corrected

It is known that the fifth volume contained a lot of high quality and important data. How much of that material will be included in the new Croatian Encyclopedia?

The fifth volume of Ujevic's encyclopedia ends with the word electricity. Now, you can only imagine how much information has been collected during the last fifty years, how many new terms have been created in the scientific and all other sort of communication. The present encyclopedia, the first volume will appear in September 2000, is not based on either of the two previous editions. Of course, some material was not modified with respect to the earlier editions, for example the article about Archimedes and his theorem. However, concerning specialized or newly created areas of technology, history, medicine, biology, there are many new discoveries. Therefore we are not relying exclusively on Ujevic's Croatian Encyclopedia, nor could we do that because it is obsolete. On the other hand, we cannot rely on general encyclopedias published by the lexicographic institute.

Will the new volumes fill in the blanks in already published encyclopedias from the Balkans, in which Croats and their culture are to a good extent marginalized?

We are already collaborating with a series of foreign institutions which work on encyclopedias, for example with the editorial teams of the Slavic encyclopedia, Russian encyclopedia, and we have especially successful contacts with the editorial team of the Italian encyclopedia, which is among the most respected and reliable in the world; then with Macedonian encyclopedia team, which has only started the work on their encyclopedia, and the Bosnian-Hercegovinian team that has only bean to shape the idea of the all-important project. Only time will indicate how successful this cooperation will be in each case. It is important to mention that in this part of the world no one else has even remotely as much collected material as we do. This first and foremost applies to the material pertinent to Croatia, but also to the neighboring countries. In our further work we shall have to make many corrections.

Until now those with interest in Croatia had to seek those data in foreign encyclopedias and there Croat scientists, warriors, poets, artists were declared differently, based on ethnic or regional origin, as Slavonians, Hungarians, Dalmatians, Istrians. There are many Illyrians, Slavs and more recently Yugoslavs, in those books, and very few of them are labeled as they should be, as Croats. Therefore, we shall have to correct all previous omissions.

During the work on the first book of the Croatian Encyclopedia, there were many criticisms; for example, why was Branko Copic included in the Croatian Encyclopedia? Is there a basis for such criticism?

Branko Copic is a fact. For us, the fact of existence of a writer, a Bosnian Serb, is equally important as the existence of a Norwegian or a South African writer, exactly because that is a fact. The Croatian Encyclopedia must be a source of facts, and that is the best way for Croatian affirmation in the world and correction of mistakes. Relatively speaking, the ratio of Croatian entries with respect to general entries in our encyclopedia is higher than in other encyclopedias. The ratio of Croatian and general material is roughly 3 to 7 which is very high for a small state such as Croatia. That gives us an opportunity to give preference to Croatian terms and facts, Croatian historical characteristics. Simplified, that means that between two equally important writers, one a Croat and the other a non-Croat, we would give preference to the Croat writer.

Important Croats Deserve Special Treatment

To what extent will Croats from Bosnia-Hercegovina, and their specific culture, be represented in the Encyclopedia?

As can be seen from the introduction, the new encyclopedia also focuses on Bosnia-Hercegovina. If it is possible to speak of a ranking system, it is as follows: Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, neighboring countries, Europe, America, etc. We will stick to that methodology in the whole edition, until volumes eleven and twelve. The volume twelve will contain additional information dating from the period of the writing of the encyclopedia.

Will the living Bosniaks also be included? What about important writers and politicians who declared themselves as Muslim Croats and gave significant contribution to the Croatian literature and standardization of the Croatian literary standard, for example Safet beg Basagic, Musa Cazim Catic, Ademaga Mesic, Mak Dizdar, Edhem Mulabdic...?

I've already emphasized that writers from Croatia will be given slight preference, but all those that contributed to the Croatian literature and culture in general should definitively find their place between the covers of this edition. Therefore, the writers you've just mentioned, and almost all of them wrote in clear, original, Croatian language, will take a special place in the new encyclopedia. The same is true for persons of Eastern Orthodox religious background who declared themselves as Croatian writers. But, let us consider the second most important edition published by our house: the Croatian Biographic Lexicon. That lexicon covers almost exclusively persons, while the encyclopedia covers terms from, as I've already said, various areas, such as electricity, flora, fauna... The lexicon covers significant Croats regardless of where and when they lived or currently live, then all those who lived in Croatia regardless of their ethnicity, since by living and being active in Croatia they contributed to the development of the Croatian culture and influenced historical events in Croatia. Finally, the lexicon also covers foreigners who are not Croats and never lived in Croatia and who have contributed significant works. So far four volumes have been published and currently we are at the letter G. Persons born before 1945 are included in the hitherto published volumes. After the sixth volume we shall move that limit to 1975.

You are a honorary member of the Croatian Society for Science and Arts in Bosnia-Hercegovina (HDZU) that has initiated the work on the Lexicon of Distinguished Croats from Bosnia-Hercegovina. Have you had contacts and consultations with them?

There have been contacts with the editorial board of the Croatian Biographical Lexicon. That is an ambitious project, we are available and would like to offer assistance. When it is published, the lexicon will also be useful to us for possible additions and corrections in the extra volume, respectively. No matter how thorough a person may be, omissions are always possible. The criteria for inclusion in the Lexicon of Croats must, as far as I know, be somewhat more flexible since it, with respect to our lexicon, covers much larger territory and time and also includes foreigners.

Will you continue to cooperate with the Bosnian Academy of Sciences and HDZU, and even with the Serb Academy of Sciences with headquarters in Banja Luka?

Political circumstances in Bosnia-Hercegovina have led to the founding if HDZU, and that must be clear to everyone. As far as HDZU and ASBH are concerned, we shall cooperate with both institutions.

National Academies are Provincial Institutions

What is your prediction regarding the future relations between HDZU and ASBH?

HDZU is a scientific society based on the western model. Scientific societies significantly differ from academies. The former Academy of Sciences of Bosnia-Hercegovina tried to be the real academy, set up based on various similar institutions all over the world. With time it would have definitely reached its goal. However, certain Serb members left at the beginning of the war for Belgrade and cut all connections, while others found a place in the newly founded Serb Academy of Sciences with headquarters in Banja Luka. In my opinion that institution has no future. In spite of war even today ASBH has members from all ethnic backgrounds, naturally only those who stayed behind in Sarajevo. It cannot be said that the present ASBH is exclusively Bosniak and that Bosniaks have the exclusive right to it. Such claims can only refer to its practical and operative justification and its current composition. Either ASBH will survive and be a true scientific institution or it will remain within a provincial framework, as is the case with the Serb Academy of Sciences in Banja Luka, and any possible Croat academy in Bosnia-Hercegovina. In this small territory there is no space for three national academies since, simply, there are not enough high quality experts in any of the three local nations. However, the situation with scientific societies with narrower focus of interest is different. Usually, in every country, scientific societies are established before the founding of an academy.

Since you are a renowned linguist, how you would respond to the claim that the Croat language is today endangered in Bosnia-Hercegovina?

As far as I know, and based on my impressions so far, it is definitely in danger. An analysis of the situation should definitely include the attitude of international officials with respect to the Croat language in Bosnia-Hercegovina, which does not deserve a passing grade. There are several reasons for that and I would emphasize two of them. The first is the use of the term Serbocroatian language which implies certain lack of rigorous approach. For example, at European universities they do not want to pay for two professors who would teach the same subject: that Croatian language has seven cases, as well as the Serbian language, that both of them have five vowels etc. They are aware of that and follow their old habits and old textbooks. Therefore their problem is to accept the situation that would correspond to our interests. That process will go slowly, but it has already started. An increasing number of TV stations and radio station all over the world are broadcasting separate programs - in Serbian and Croatian languages. Another reason for the snubbing of the Croatian language is the spite towards the Croatian state. We have spoiled the Versailles situation so dear to the international community. Newly founded states in Europe were not loud during the winning of their independence, they went through that process somehow quietly. Thus, only the Ukraine and Croatia are today punished because they were the loudest on the political scene, as far as the destruction of the Versailles Europe and supranational states and communities was concerned. And that is not very popular.

Purivatra's Claims are Nonsense

What do you think about the name used for the language of Bosniaks-Muslims? Is the proper term Bosniak or Bosnian language?

Every nation has the right to call its language whatever it wants. We Croats, are the last ones to deny that right to anyone, since we, as very few other nations, have been denied that right for a long time. If Bosniaks-Muslims wish to call their language Bosnian language they have the right to do so; similarly we have the right to call their language Bosniak language since our names for almost all languages are based on the name of the nation using that language. Therefore, Bosniak is the language of Bosniaks. When someone refers to the language as Bosnian language it receives connotations of for example Swiss language, and we all know that such a language does not exist, just as there is no Yugoslav language. The decision to call the language of Bosniaks Bosnian language has political connotations and hidden goals. However, Croats will never agree to make that language the official language of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

However, the term Bosnian language has been accepted abroad. Why?

There is a very simple explanation for that. If in this part of the world one does something that Bosniaks do not like, immediately a lot of noise is made by all Islamic countries, the Arab league... If on the other hand something similar happens to the Serbs, then the French, English, Russians protest. However, if Croats are concerned everyone is quiet. And therefore Serb and Bosniak demands are received better than ours. However, the results of the independence of Croatia will never be lost again. Processes of that sort are slow but they are moving in the desirable direction.

Prof. Arif Purivatra, the president of the Council of the Congress of Bosniak Intellectuals, recently stated that it is genocide to refer to the Bosnian language as the Bosniak language. Would you care to comment?

Of course. I'd like to say to Mr. Purivatra that it is bigger genocide to call the Bosniak language Bosnian.


Translated on July 1 2000
HOME