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Stjepan Radić (11 June 1871 – 8 August 1928) was a Croatian politician and the founder of the Croatian Peasant Party (CPP, Hrvatska Seljačka Stranka) in 1905. Radić is credited with galvanizing the peasantry of Croatiamarker into a viable political force. Throughout his entire career, he was opposed to the union and, later, Serb hegemony in the first Yugoslaviamarker and became an important political figure in that country. He was assassinated by a Montenegrin Serb politician, Puniša Račić (who represented a Montenegrin constituency) in the parliament: an act which further alienated the Croats and the Serbs.


Lead up to the first Yugoslavia

Stjepan was born in Trebarjevo Desno, near Sisakmarker, Croatiamarker (then Austria-Hungary). After World War I he rose to political prominence among Croats for his opposition to merging Croatia with the Kingdom of Serbiamarker without guarantees for Croatian autonomy. On 24 November 1918 he famously urged delegates attending a session that would decide the country's political future not to "rush like drunken geese into fog" — he feared that Croatia would become at best a minor partner within a Serb-dominated state.

Under the pressure from the Great powers (British Empire, Francemarker, United Statesmarker), as well as honouring the secret deals that were struck between the Entente and the Kingdom of Serbiamarker, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker was established and two representatives of Radić's party (by then named the Croatian Common-people Peasant Party) were appointed to the Provisional Representation which served as a parliament until elections for the Constituent could be held. The parties representatives, however, decided not to take their seats.


On 8 March 1919 the central committee passed a resolution that declared that "Croatian citizens do not recognize the so called Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenesmarker under the Karađorđević dynasty because this kingdom was proclaimed other than by the Croatian Sabormarker and without any mandate of the Croatian People." The full statement was translated into French and sent abroad and provoked a decision by the government to arrest Radić along with several other party members.

He was to be held some 11 months until February 1920, just before the first parliamentary elections of the Kingdom of SHS, which were held in November. The result of the November was 230,590 votes, which equaled to 50 seats in the parliament out of 419. Before the first sitting of parliament, after a massive rally held in front of 100,000 people in Zagrebmarker, Stjepan Radić and the CCPP (which after the rally changed the party's name to CRPP - Croatian Republican Peasant Party) held and extraordinary meeting, in which a motion was put forward and voted on that the CRPP will not be part of parliamentary discussions before matters are first resolved with Serbia on the matters of governance, the most sticking issues being the minorisation of the Croatian people and the overt powers of the King with the central government in Belgrademarker.

The new Constitution

On 12 December 1920, the Parliament of SHS had their first sitting, without the representatives of CPP (50 representatives) and the Croatian Party of Rights (2 representatives). On the 28th of June 1921, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Vidovdanski ustav, or Vidovdan Constitution)was made law after a vote of 223 representatives out of the present 285, the total number representatives in the parliament being 419, which is only 53.2% of the possible votes, or if looked at the number of present representatives it is a more impressive 78.24%. The representatives turnout and subsequent vote is quite poor considering that it was a constitutive parliament, which was supposed to have created the new constitution.

In the next parliamentary elections, which were held in March 1923, the stance of Stjepan Radić and the CPP against the central government managed to turn into extra votes. The results of the election were, 70 seats or 473.733 votes, which represented the majority of the Croatian vote in Northern and Southern parts of Croatia, as well as the Croatian votes in Bosnia, as well as Herzegovina.

Again imprisoned

Radić still held on to the idea of an independent Croatia, and kept the party out of parliament in protest. This in effect afforded Serbian prime minister Nikola Pašić the opportunity to consolidate power and strengthen his Serb-dominated government. Returning from an unsanctioned overseas trip in 1923 in which Stjepan Radić visited England (for 5 months), Austriamarker (5 months) and the Soviet Unionmarker (2 months). upon his return in 1924, Radić was arrested in Zagreb and sentenced for associating with Soviet Communists and imprisoned. The trip was used for the purpose of internationalising the plight of Croatians in the Kingdom of SHS.

After his release, Stjepan Radić soon reentered politics, but this was not without problems. On 23 December, the Serb dominated central government declared that the political party CRPP was in contravention of the Internal security law of 1921 in the infamous Obznana declaration, and this was confirmed by King Alexander on 1 January 1924, thus arresting the CRPP executive on 2 January 1925, and finally arresting Stjepan Radić on 5 January.

After the parliamentary elections in February 1925, the CRPP even with its whole executive team behind bars, and with only Stjepan Radić at its helm, CRPP managed to win 67 parliamentary with at total of 532,872 votes. Even though the vote count was higher than the previous election, the gerrymandering by the central government ensured that CRPP received less parliamentary seats. In order to increase his negotiating power the CRPP entered into a coalition with the Democratic party (Demokratska stranka), Slovenian peoples party (Slovenska ljudska stranka) and the Yugoslav Muslim Organisation (Jugoslavenska muslimanska organizacija).

Return to the parliament

Immediately after the parliamentary elections in March 1925, the CRPP changed the party name to Croatian Peasant Party (Hrvatska seljačka stranka). With the backing of the coalition partners, the CPP made an agreement with the major conservative Serbian party - the People's Radical Party (Narodna radikalna stranka), in which a powersharing arrangement was struck, as well as a deal to release the CPP executive from jail. The CPP had to make certain concessions like recognising the central government and the rule of the monarch, as well as the Vidovdan constitution in front of the full parliament on 27 March 1925. Stjepan Radić was made the Minister for Education, whereas other CPP party members obtained ministerial posts: Pavle Radić, dr. Nikola Nikić, dr. Benjamin Šuperina and dr. Ivan Krajač. This powersharing arrangement was cut short after the passing away of the president of the Peoples Radical Party, Nikola Pašić, on 10 December 1925.

Radić soon resigned his ministerial post in 1926 and returned to the opposition, and in 1927 entered into a coalition with Svetozar Pribićević, president of the Independent Democratic Party, a leading party of the Serbs in Croatia. The Peasant-Democrat coalition had a real chance to end the Radicals' long-time stranglehold control of the Parliament. Previously they had long been opponents, but the Democrats became disillusioned with the Belgrade bureaucracy and restored good relations with the Peasant Party with which they were allies in the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. With this arrangement, Stjepan Radić managed to obtain a parliamentary majority in 1928. However, he was not able to form a government. The Peasant-Democrat coalition was opposed by some of the Croatianmarker elite, like Ivo Andrić, who even regarded the followers of the CPP as "...fools following a blind dog..." (the blind dog being Stjepan Radić).

Assassination in the parliament

With the power of the Radical Party now weakened, and the Peasant-Democratic coalition not being able to form a government, the environment in the parliament had become increasingly unstable, contentious and provocational on ethnic lines. Provocations and accusations flew on both sides, in one such session Radić answered one of the provocations with the following:

"Our Serbian friends are always reminding us of the price they paid in the war. I would like to invite them to tabulate the costs, so we may square accounts and be on our way.". Death threats and threats of violent beatings were made against Stjepan Radić in parliament, without any intervention by the president of the Assembly (Parliamentary speaker). On the morning of 20 June 1928, Radić was warned of the danger of an assassination attempt against him and was begged to stay away from the Assembly for that day. He replied that he was like a soldier in war, in the trenches and as such it was his duty to go but he nevertheless promised not to utter a single word.

In the Assembly, Puniša Račić, a member of Serbian People's Radical Party from Montenegromarker, got up and made a provocative speech which produced a stormy reaction from the opposition but Radić himself stayed completely silent. Finally, Ivan Pernar shouted, "thou plundered beys" (referring to accusations of corruption related to him). At this, Puniša Račić drew out a revolver, shot Pernar and went on to shoot Radić and several other CPP delegates. Radić was left for dead and indeed had such a serious stomach wound that he died several weeks later at the age of 57. His burial was massively attended and his death was seen as causing a permanent rift in Croat-Serb relations in the old Yugoslavia.
Assasination in Belgrade

What exactly happened to Puniša Račić is still contested. One version states that he was sentenced to 20 years of house arrest and later pardoned by the Serb authorities while another contends that he was sentenced to 20 years of hard labour and freed by the invading Nazis in WWII. He led a low-profile life during the Nazi occupation of Serbia and was captured tried and sentenced to death by Serb partisans in 1945.

Following the political crisis triggered by the shooting, in January 1929, King Aleksandar Karađorđević abolished the constitution, dissolved parliament, and declared a royal dictatorship, changing the country into the first Yugoslavia and oppressing national sentiments.

Radić is buried in the Mirogojmarker cemetery in Zagreb.


Radić's violent death turned him into a martyr and he was turned into an icon of political struggle for the peasantry and the working class, as well as an icon of Croatian patriots. The iconography of Stjepan Radić was later used not only by his successor Vladko Maček, but also by other political options in Croatia: right wing or left wing.

The Ustaše used the death of Stjepan Radić as proof of Serbian hegemony, and as an excuse for their treatment of Serbs, however many leading CPP figures were imprisoned or killed by the Ustashe to whome they were political opponents. The Partisans on the other hand, used this as a recruiting point with CPP members who were disillusioned with the Independent State of Croatiamarker, and latter had one brigade named after Antun and Stjepan Radić in 1943.

The image of Stjepan Radić was used extensively during the Croatian Spring movement in the early 1970s. There are many folk groups, clubs, primary and secondary schools which bear the name of Stjepan Radić. Many Croatian cities have streets, squares in his name and statues of Stjepan Radić are common. His portrait is depicted on the obverse of the Croatian 200 kuna banknote, issued in 1993 and 2002.

In 1997, a poll in Croatian weekly Nacional named Stjepan Radić as the most admired Croatian historic personality.


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