Ivan MazuranicIvan Mazuranic
Croatian poet, linguist and politician-probably the most important figure in Croatia's cultural life in the mid-19th century, was born into well to do yeomen family in the northern coastal Croatia. A man of many abilities (he spoke 9 languages, was well versed in astronomy and mathematics; also, his realistic assessment of strengths and weaknesses of Croatia's postion between hammer of Austrian bureaucracy and anvil of Hungarian expansionist nationalism served his country invaluably in times of political turmoil), Mažuranić is best remembered for the "triple accomplishment":
- in his tenure as Croatian ban or viceroy, Mažuranić accomplished transition from semi-feudal legal and economic system of Croatia to modern civil society similar to those emerging in other countries in central Europe.
- his linguistic work is remarkable for its enormous influence. Mažuranić's "German-Illyrian/Croatian Dictionary", 1842 (coauthored with Josip Užarević) is at the very heart of modern Croatian civilization, since in this 40,000 entries dictionary the principal author Mažuranić had coined words that has become commonplace in standard Croatian language-for instance, Croatian words for bank accountancy, rhinoceros or metropolis. He was much more than "language-recorder": "language-shaper" would be better description.
- but, in his native land, Mažuranić is above all the beloved poet of "Smrt Smail age Čengića"/"Death of Smail aga Čengić", 1845, the epic poem full of memorable verses that have become embedded in national memory of his people who cherished it as the treasure of a "Homeric" wisdom prasing such epic virtues like fortitude, fidelity and justice. Based on a minor incident in Bosnia and Herzegovina, when a petty local Muslim tyrant was killed, as an act of retaliation, in an ambush set by local Christian ruffians, Mažuranić's poetry transformed a rather prosaic act of tribal atavistic religious hatred into a hymn celebrating the struggle for freedom- acted out under the hostile forces of fatality. Following the steps of Croatian poets like Kačić and Ivan Gundulic (his chief national influence, whose main epic "Osman" Mažuranić completed), Mažuranić closed the era of Romanticism and of classic epic poetry in Croatian literature.