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Ivan Mažuranić.
Ivan Mažuranić (August 11, 1814 – August 4, 1890) was a Croatianmarker poet, linguist and politician—probably the most important figure in Croatia's cultural life in the mid-19th century.

Mažuranić was born into a well-to-do yeoman family in Novi Vinodolskimarker in northern coastal Croatiamarker. He became a man of many abilities: he spoke 9 languages and was well versed in astronomy and mathematics.

His realistic assessment of strengths and weaknesses of Croatia's position between the hammer of Austrianmarker bureaucracy and the anvil of Hungarianmarker expansionist nationalism served his country invaluably in times of political turmoil. Mažuranić is best remembered for the "triple accomplishment"—contributions in economics, linguistics, and poetry.

Mažuranić's portrait is depicted on the obverse of the Croatian 100 kuna banknote, issued in 1993 and 2002.

Politics and economy

Mažuranić was the first Croatian ban not to hail from old nobility, as he was born a commoner. He was a member of the People's Party.

He accomplished the Croatian transition from a semifeudal legal and economic system to a modern civil society similar to those emerging in other countries in central Europe.

Mažuranić has modernized Croatia's educational system by forming a public school network and reducing the importance of denominational schools; a process seen by some later Serbian ideologues as an intentional blow to the integrity of Serbdom in Croatian lands. Others consider this to have been a necessary step in modernization and secularization of Croatian society.


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-entry dictionary the principal author Mažuranić had coined words that have become commonplace in standard Croatian—for instance, Croatian words for bank accountancy, rhinoceros, sculptor, ice-cream, market economy, high treason or metropolis. He was much more than "language-recorder"; "language-shaper" would be a better description.


But, in his native land, Mažuranić is above all the beloved poet of Smrt Smail age Čengića—"The Death of Smail aga Čengić", 1845. This epic poem is full of memorable verses that have become embedded in the national memory of his people, who cherished it as the treasure of a "Homeric" wisdom praising such epic virtues as fortitude, fidelity and justice.

The tale is based on an assault in Montenegromarker, when a petty local Muslim tyrant was killed, as an act of vendetta, in an ambush set by Montenegrins. Mažuranić's poetry transformed a rather prosaic act of tribal revenge into a hymn celebrating the struggle for freedom—acted out under the hostile forces of fatality.

Ljutit aga mrko gleda

Gdje se silom divit mora

Silan arslan gorskom mišu.

The angry aga glumly glances

As he, the mighty lion, is forced

To admire the mountain mouse.

Following in the steps of Croatian poets like Kačić and Ivan Gundulić (his chief national influence, whose main epic Osman Mažuranić completed), Mažuranić closed the era of Romanticism and of classic epic poetry in Croatian literature.



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