Josip Jelacic

From Academic Kids


Josip Jelačić of Bužim (born 1801 in Petrovaradin, died 1859 in Zagreb; also spelled Jellachich) was the Ban of Croatia between March 23rd, 1848 and May 19, 1859.

Jelačić pursued a successful military career after schooling in the Vienna Theresianum, entering the Austrian army in 1819 as a novice with the rank of a lieutenant. He served in Galicia (1825-1830), and as a captain of a regiment in Italy (1831-1835). In 1841 he was promoted to a colonel and made the commander of the Glina captaincy in the Croatian-Slavonian Military Frontier, where he also fought against the Bosnians (Ottoman Empire) in 1845.

During the Revolutions of 1848 in the Habsburg areas, the Habsburg Empire needed immediate help to battle the revolutionaries in Hungary which aimed to seize power over most of the monarchy and also void Croatia's autonomy. The Austrian imperial court appointed Jelačić as ban in attempt to counter that threat when Emperor Ferdindand V proclaimed him as ban of Croatia on March 23rd, also promoting him to lieutenant-field marshal. The Croatian Parliament sanctioned the decision on March 25th.

The new ban supported the Croatian aims to maintain their autonomy from the Magyars, but he discouraged the pan-Slavist "Illyrian movement" advocated by Ljudevit Gaj and others. Jelačić proceeded to sever all official ties of Croatia with Hungary, and the Austrian imperial court initially opposed this act of disobedience and separatism, declaring him to be a rebel and claiming the Croatian Parliament to be illegal. However, this was superficial, because they used the situation for their advantage given that the Croatian forces under Jelačić were an immediate aid for the imperial army against the mounting threat from Lajos Batthyany's Hungarian rebel forces.

During this period, Jelačić worked with the Croatian political leaders in the Parliament and resisted the vocal opposition from Vienna. He made a memorable proclamation of the abolishment of serfdom and called the elections for Parliament (on May 18, 1848), marking the beginning of a modern age in Croatia. However, by June, it was apparent that the resolution of the problems for the Croatian peasantry would have to wait until the end of the revolution, as Jelačić maintained the institution of the Military Frontier in order to be able to draft more soldiers. This was protested by the people in the region, but ban Jelačić quelched the dissent by summary court-martialing and executing many dissenters.

By September, discord between the Hungarians and the Croatians escalated, and Jelačić declared war, leading a 40,000 strong military force from Croatia into Hungary, crossing the Drava river on September 11. He pursued this military campaign as the Austrian governor of Hungary, until the battle of Pakozd near Buda on September 29, when the Hungarians stopped him, forcing him to sign a three days' truce which amounted to pushing him out of Hungary.

Jelačić's force proceeded to quell rebellion in Vienna and joined field marshal Windischgrätz's forces in retaking control over Budapest. They subsequently fought against the Magyars at Schwechat. During the winter campaign of 1848-49 he commanded, under Windischgrätz, the Austrian right wing, capturing Magyar-Ovar and Raab (Gyor), and defeating the Magyars at Mur. After the recapture of Buda he was made commander-in-chief of the southern army. He pursued the Magyar rebel forces within Hungary and in Vojvodina, until a defeat at Hegyes on July 14, 1949.

After the war the Empire's new constitution stripped the local authorities in Hungary of their political power, but this punishment also affected Croatia despite its assistance to the imperial cause during the revolution. Nevertheless, ban Jelačić implemented the new Constitution (published March 4, 1849), and proceeded to outlaw various newspapers that published anti-Austrian opinions. In 1851, when Alexander von Bach came to power in the Kingdom of Hungary, Jelačić worked under him and made no objections to the Germanization of Croatia. In 1854, Jelačić was awarded with the title count (of Bužim). He remained in office until his death in 1859.

In his time and shortly after, Jelačić was a fairly unpopular figure among the Croatian political elite, including Ante Starčević, Stjepan Radić and others, and especially among the people who suffered losses due to his military campaigns and had little benefit from his economic measures. He was also quite unpopular in Hungary as one of the main thwarters of their national revolution.

The central square of the city of Zagreb is named after Jelačić. The square features a large statue of the ban on a horse, created by Austrian sculptor Anton Dominik Fernkorn. The statue was originally installed on 19 October, 1866 by the Austrian authorities, under protest from the Zagreb councilmen. The statue was removed in 1947, as the new Communist government of Yugoslavia denounced Jelačić as an Austrian collaborator. But, by 1990, the statue was reinstated after Croatia regained independence and Jelačić's historic role was reevaluated.

The picture of Josip Jelačić appears on the 20 kuna Jelačić


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