The Prosvjeta collection presents the role of the strongest cultural and educational society of Serbs in Croatia. The association, in addition to the affirmation of Serbian culture and traditions, also sought to enhance the political status of the Serbian people in the Socialist Republic of Croatia (SRC). Therefore, its actions were characterized as contrary to the regime and the association was at first marginalized and then terminated.
Zagreb Trg Marka Marulića 21, Croatia 10000
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Name of collection
HR-HDA-640. Serbian Cultural Association Prosvjeta (1944 – 1980)
Provenance and cultural activities
The Serbian Cultural Association (SCA) Prosvjeta was established in Glina in 1944, and the materials that constitute this archive began to be gathered as of that date. Prosvjeta was established as one of the Serbian institutions and bodies which began with the establishment of the Serbian Club of Councillors in the Territorial Anti-Fascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Croatia (ZAVNOH). The activities of the Serbian Club of Councillors were continued by the Main Committee of Serbs in Croatia, founded in 1945. The Main Committee of Serbs was formed with the approval of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party as the political representative of the Serbs within in the framework of the National Front (NF) of Croatia, charged with the task of gathering and unifying the Serbs in Croatia.
One of the tasks of Main Committee of Serbs was to elevate Serbian culture through SCA Prosvjeta, whose establishment it encouraged. Prosvjeta also engaged in the protection and development of the national culture of the Serbs in Croatia, worked to increase literacy and the overall enlightenment of the population and helped and promoted every aspect of cultural and scholarly life among the Serbs. The members of the Main Committee of the SCA Prosvjeta were also members of the Main Committee of Serbs in Croatia (Mile Počuča, Stevo Zečević, Bogoljub Rapajić, Dr Bogdan Stojsavljević, Dušan Brkić, Rade Žigić, Stanko Opačić-Ćanica, Nikola Sekulić, etc.). Additionally, a series of Serbian institutions in Croatia were established: the Central Library, the Archive of Serbs in Croatia, the Museum of Serbs in Croatia, the Obilić Serbian Choral Society, a publishing and printing company as well as the newspaper Srpska riječ (Serbian Word).
For a brief time, Prosvjeta functioned as a national cultural institution with very powerful political advocates (Dušan Brkić, Rade Žigić, Stanko Opačić-Ćanica). In addition to their advocacy of the emphasis on Serbian national distinctiveness through the work of Serbian institutions, they also supported dissatisfied Serbian peasants from the impoverished "insurgent" parts of Lika, Banija and Kordun during the "socialist transformation of the village," characterised by compulsory crop purchases and collectivization, and they upheld the thesis of neglect and unequal status of these regions.
Because of their criticism of the government’s agricultural policy, the leading Croatian Serbs, Brkić, Žigić and Opačić, came under attack. After their fall on charges of siding with the Cominform and their resignation from all posts they had held in 1950, the status of Prosvjeta and other Serbian institutions began to change, and they would soon be effectively hobbled or dissolved entirely.
What the aforementioned three individuals, and in fact almost the entire Serbian leadership in Croatia, were seeking was actually to strengthen and affirm Serbian national expression through a variety of national events and Serbian institutions in Croatia. The communist authorities did not want to allow any excessive enhancement or even emphasis on national specificities because the prevailing policy was to suppress tradition in favour of socialist values. Therefore, Serbian institutions were disbanded or merged with other institutions several years after their establishment. Until the termination of the Association, only the newspaper and publishing company survived. Prosvjeta’s activities on the Croatian cultural scene were, therefore, oppositional during this period, because it contradicted the set ideological and political line of the Communist Party, so that the cultural institutions of the Serbs in Croatia were disbanded or their importance was greatly reduced.
The fate of the part of the Archives of Serbs in Croatia is interesting. According to the Acquisitions Log of the Croatian State Archives (CSA) from 1947, Prosvjeta, as mandated by law, handed over the Archive of Serbs in Croatia (106 crates of archival records) which should have been established as one of the departments of the State Archives in Zagreb in 1947. However, that never came about. This information was noted in the documents of Prosvjeta (at its Second General Assembly). The archival records were submitted to the present CSA, but as an archival fund, the Archive of Serbs in Croatia has not been preserved. What happened to it has apparently never been investigated.
The next wave of Prosvjeta’s activity, which was considered anti-regime (although its members never acknowledged it), began in the late 1960s and lasted until the early 1970s. Prosvjeta was trying to restore its influence in Croatia through cultural and educational activities and to partially affirm itself in a political context as well. The expansion of Prosvjeta’s activities at the time was actually counterpart to events transpiring in the framework of the Croatian Spring and the search for Croatian identity within Yugoslavia. Prosvjeta and the central Croatian cultural and literary institution Matica hrvatska cooperated for a time in pursuit of similar aspirations for the affirmation of nationality – both institutions wanted stronger profiles in society, based on emphasis of national distinctiveness. Prosvjeta’s leadership, therefore, referred to specific aspects of Serbian identity and its greater emphasis and recognition in Croatia. Questions pertaining to language and its use in the media and schools were posed, as well as those concerning the "vague and ambiguous position of Serbs in Croatia." The need for a constitutional amendment was also stressed:: one that would guarantee the equal national-political status of the Serbs and the equality of the Serbian language, as opposed to the tendency of purification of the Croatian language, as well as the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in all areas of public life.
Parallel to the aspirations of Matica hrvatska at the time, the authorities decided to stop supporting the work of Prosvjeta. The association was left without funding, and in the early 1970s, it began to shut down. In 1980, the association was formally abolished. Prosvjeta’s archival records are therefore important as evidence of the association’s activities, which were opposed the regime, leading to its abolishment.
After Prosvjeta was dissolved, its archival records were transferred to the CSA, where have been kept ever since, archivally organised and accessible for use. The records are treated as public and free to use, with the exception of the restrictions pertaining to documents containing personal information in compliance with the Archives and Archival Institutions Act (Article 21).
Description of content
The collection includes a variety of archival records as well as publications, but not all are relevant to the topic of cultural opposition. In 2014, the archival fund was archivally arranged and the finding aid was created. Units relevant to the study of cultural opposition, in this case activities with a national character that the regime did not deem in compliance with default ideological norms, can be found in the minutes and materials of the association’s governing bodies. They are located in the following units: 1. Establishment and termination of Prosvjeta (1.2. Documents on the termination of the Association), 3. Governing bodies of the SCA Prosvjeta (3.1. General Assemblies; 3.1.1. First major annual assembly of the Main Committee of Serbs in Croatia and the SCA Prosvjeta, 3.1.2. Second major annual assembly of the SCA Prosvjeta, 3.1.3. Third major annual assembly of the SCA Prosvjeta , 3.1.11. Eleventh annual assembly of the SCA Prosvjeta ) 3.3. Minutes to meetings of the Executive Committee, 1967-1971, 3.4.1. Sessions of the Main Committee in 1971 and 8. Correspondence with the authorities and administration, other institutions, organizations and members.
Although the records are sporadic on actions concerning opposition to the regime (although the main protagonists of events never considered themselves the opposition), they document the efforts of the strongest cultural society of Serbs as a constituent nation in Croatia, for its stronger affirmation through the struggle to assert their specific national character in culture, media, education and science, which was not limited to the cultural level, as it entered the realm of politics as well.
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): unknown quantity
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): unknown quantity
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- Decision of Secretariat of the Interior on the deletion of SCA Prosvjeta from the register of associations and a Note on the decision of Svetozar Zec
- Document excerpt from the discussion of the meeting of the Executive Committee of the SCA Prosvjeta in Zagreb in March 1971
- Letter of the State Budget and Funding Committee on the termination of funding for the SCA Prosvjeta
- Minutes of the SCA Prosvjeta meeting and and its Conclusions (Executive Committee and the Commission on Conclusion)
- parts are closed to the public
Bilandžić, Dušan. Hrvatska moderna povijest, Zagreb: Golden marketing 1999.
HR-HDA-1220. Centralni komitet Saveza komunista Hrvatske, Politbiro CK SKH
HR-HDA-1231. Republička konferencija Saveza socijalističke omladine Hrvatske
HR-HDA-640. Srpsko kulturno društvo "Prosvjeta"
Moačanin, Fedor. "Muzej Srba u Hrvatskoj." Historijski zbornik 1-4 (1948), 217.-221.
Petranović, Branko. Historija Jugoslavije 1918.-1988., treća knjiga, Socijalistička Jugoslavija 1945.-1988. Beograd: Nolit, 1988.
Radelić, Zdenko. Hrvatska u Jugoslaviji 1945. – 1991. od zajedništva do razlaza, Zagreb: Hrvatski institut za povijest [etc.], 2006.
Roksandić, Drago. Srbi u Hrvatskoj. Od 15. stoljeća do naših dana. Zagreb: Vjesnik, 1991.
Sirotković, Hodimir, editor. Zemaljsko antifašističko vijeće narodnog oslobođenja Hrvatske. Zbornik dokumenata 1943. Zagreb: Institut za historiju radničkog pokreta, 1964.
Sirotković, Hodimir, editor. Zemaljsko antifašističko vijeće narodnog oslobođenja Hrvatske. Zbornik dokumenata 1944. Zagreb: Institut za historiju radničkog pokreta, 1970.
Spehnjak, Katarina. "Prilog istraživanju Srpskog kulturno-prosvjetnog društva "Prosvjeta" 1945.-1950." Časopis za suvremenu povijest 1-2, no. 22 (1990), 111–129.
Spehnjak, Katarina. Javnost i propaganda: Narodna fronta u politici i kulturi Hrvatske 1945 – 1962. Zagreb: Hrvatski institut za povijest, 2002.
Šarić, Tatjana, Vojnović, Branislava, Records inventory, HR-HDA-640 SKD "Prosvjeta", Zagreb: Hrvatski državni arhiv, 2014.
Šarić, Tatjana. „Kulturna politika vlasti u NRH – primjer Matice Hrvatske 1945. – 1952.”. Master's thesis, Sveučilište u Zagrebu, 2008.
Šarić, Tatjana. „Srpsko kulturno društvo „Prosvjeta" u socijalizmu – prilog uz sedamdesetu godišnjicu osnutka”. Arhivski vjesnik no. 57 (2014), 307.-331.
Škiljan, Filip. „Djelovanje SKD "Prosvjeta" od 1944. do 1971. godine“, in: Međunarodni znanstveni skup Srpsko-hrvatski odnosi u 20. veku : zbornik radova, editor Gavrilović, Darko, Sremska Kamenica, 2009. 49.-60.
Škiljan, Filip. „Kongres Srba u Hrvatskoj u rujnu 1945. godine,” in: Nacije, države i dijaspora na prostoru bivše Jugoslavije: zbornik radova, ur. Gavrilović, Darko Sremska Kamenica, 2009.
Višnjić, Čedomir. Partizansko ljetovanje: Hrvatska i Srbi 1945. – 1950. Zagreb: Srpsko kulturno društvo "Prosvjeta", 2003.
Vojnović, Branislava, organizer. Zapisnici Politbiroa Centralnog komiteta Komunističke partije Hrvatske 1945. – 1952., svezak II. Zagreb: Hrvatski državni arhiv, 2006.