Ban Josip Jelacic
He fought Vienna
The stirring monument to Ban Josip Jelacic on Zagreb's main square, Trg Jelacica, testifies to the reverence in which Josip Jelacic was and is held. Yet, in some ways he is an unlikely Croatian hero. First, he was born in Serbia in 1801. Educated in Vienna, the young Jelacic made a name for himself in a daring raid against the Turks in the Serb-dominated Krajina region.
The Illyrian party drafted the popular officer into becoming a ban or viceroy of Croatia in 1848 intending to implement their goal of south-Slavic unity, the unity that Croatia so firmly rejected in 1990. He was able to finally fold Dalmatia and the Krajina region into Croatia, a goal that had long eluded the country. Under Jelacic's leadership, the Sabor (Parliament) allowed the participation of elected as well as hereditary representatives. Feudalism was finally abolished although the peasants remained grindingly poor for many more years.
Far from leading the charge for independence, Jelacic fought for the Habsburgs against revolutionary movements in Hungary and Vienna. Although Having successfully quelled the uprising, Jelacic and the Croatians expected that their demands for greater self-rule would be met by a grateful Austria. It was not the case. A new reactionary government in Vienna clamped down viciously on Croatia, closing the Sabor and suspending the constitution.
Jelacic was embittered by the realisation that he had achieved nothing for Croatia, although he continued as ban with greatly diminished influence in Vienna. The disappointments in his professional life were compounded by the tragic loss of his only child. His health broke under the strain and he died in 1859.
Plans to erect a monument in his honour began almost immediately after his death but it was several years before the money was raised and the statue was cast. Finally, in November 1866 his statue was placed on Trg Jelacica in a splendid ceremony. Tens of thousands of people crowded the square. As the cannons boomed, the crowd shouted over and over `Slava mu!' - hail him! The first death knell for Habsburg rule had sounded.
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