- Created on Monday, 17 October 2016 00:00
Writer, ethnographer and politician Đuro Franković / Frankovics György (Fok/Drávafok, 9 February 1945 – Pécs, 9 October 2016) was one of the leading Croatian folklore researchers, thanks to his own literary gift and intellectual curiosity and exceptional diligence in in-the-field research all across Hungary and its European neighbourhood.
He passed away in Pécs recently in his 72nd year, after a short and difficult illness, leaving us with a rich oeuvre of ethnographic study and textbooks, diverse editorial work in books, oral traditions and stage plays and in periodicals and his impressive personal poetic vignettes of youth and maturity. He possessed the irresistible free and easy charm of the rural south and a rough-around-the-edges systematisation he acquired studying history in university in Pannonian towns and cities, from his native Podravina region, Lukovišće and Pécs to the central European metropolis of Budapest. He broadened his insight throughout his life, interacting with folk raconteurs (like Andrija Hideg, the poor narrator, illiterate farmer and fisher from the Hungarian side of the Drava River), and with experts in Pécs, Zagreb, Đakovo, Novi Sad, Belgrade, Ljubljana and Vienna. He worked as a journalist, editor, museum staffer and university lecturer at the faculty of teacher education in Pécs. He took his appearances at folk festivities and expert conferences equally seriously and left us a legacy of noteworthy lexicographical contributions in his country of origin, especially in the Croatian Emigrant and Minority Lexicon (Zagreb, 2015).
Franković's life is very much marked by the watershed moment that saw the first democratic changes in Europe after the fall of the "iron curtain" and the breakdown of the communist regimes in Hungary and Croatia. Đuro Franković was one of the key figures in the social, political and cultural life of an intrepid generation of Hungarian Croatians that had experienced the worst of communist repression on two occasions (the crackdown against the popular Hungarian uprising of 1956 and the suppression of the Croatian Spring movement in 1971). He would join others in the Central European intellectual elite of the 20th century in the peacefully dissolution of the Democratic Federation of South Slavs and the formation of the Federation of Croatians in Hungary, achieving a distinct national and ethnic presence among the majority Hungarian population and the recognition of his own mother tongue, rejecting the many decades of a spurious "Serbo-Croatian Southern Slavic" (i.e. "Jugoslav") identity imposed from above. Historian, writer and diplomat Đuro Vidmarović notes that Đuro Franković was a participant of the founding meeting of the Croatian Democratic Union held in Zagreb on the 24th of February 1990 under the leadership of Franjo Tuđman, who would go on to win the democratic elections held that year and to serve as the first president of Croatia, now liberated from the communist yoke.
Having sensed the pulse of the nation in the turbulence of 1990 in October of that year Franković was among the initiators of the first assembly of the Croatian community in Hungary. Joining him in the organising committee were top activists like Joka Bunjevac, Geza Vlgyi, Joso Ostrogonac, Angelina Šokac-Marković, Štipan Pančić, Antun Mujić, Ernest Barić, Zorica Babić-Agatić, Jolanka Tišler, Dinko Šokčević, Đuro Šarošac and Mijo Karagić. Following on the agreement hammered out at the assembly they convened the first congress in Sambotel (Szombathely) on the 2nd and 3rd of November 1990, which founded the first umbrella association, the Federation of Croatians in Hungary. Đuro Franković was elected as the first president of the federation and Mijo Karagić as its general secretary. On hand as the founding congress were Croatian foreign minister Zdravko Mršić representing Croatian Government, Đuro Vidmarović MP on behalf of Croatian Parliament and Zagreb bishop Đuro Kokša on behalf of the Croatian Conference of Bishops.
The general and well-founded sentiment among experts in the field is that, in the many centuries of cultural interaction between Croatia and Hungary, 1994 was by far the most significant year in the recent history of the indigenous Croatian minority in Hungary. The democratic trends in our northeastern neighbour, home to an estimated fifty thousand Croatians, allowed for the establishment of a Croatian minority self-government.
There were also great changes afoot in the areas of culture and education in which Franković took an active part. The most significant change saw Croatian (elementary and secondary) schools formed as the previous and specious "Croatian-Serbian" and "Serbian-Croatian" monikers were scrapped. The same process was reflected among various associations and institutions, including museums and in museum collections and radio and television shows, now produced by Croatian editorial staff and studios and the Croatica media centre in Budapest. A Croatian theatre house was also established in Pécs. Also in the 1990s we saw the termination of the former miscellany Ethnography of the Southern Slavs and the first volume of the Ethnography of Hungarian Croatians, with Đuro Franković, a recognised ethnographer and tireless collector of the folk traditions of our people, serving as its editor. This publication continues to be published in the frame of the eminent ethnologist Ernö Eperjessy's Ethnography of National Minorities in Hungary.
The high points of Franković's work and editorial skills is best evaluated in the uniform representation of descriptions of individual branches of our ethnic community, for example in Ethnography volumes 4/1997 (p. 139), 5/1998 (p. 145), and 6/1999 (p. 181). He penned original papers on the religious life and music of Croatians in Pécs, on the mythical poetry and ballads of Hungarian Croatians, the paper All Nations Blossom in their Own Language, on the midsummer St John's Day festivities, on the reports of missionary Bartol Kašić from southern Hungary under Ottoman rule and on education in Pécs after the Ottoman occupation. The Ethnography of Hungarian Croatians is lauded by specialists in the field as the only publication of its kind in the Croatian communities abroad that systematically and regularly published papers in the field of ethnic anthropology, focused on identity, tradition and the life in general of the indigenous Croatian minority in Hungary. Franković has pooled top figures in Hungarian ethnology and folklore studies and related research disciplines. From this fact it is evident that Franković's editorial concept is harmonised with the methodological orientation applied by the authors. The core of the approach is interdisciplinary: from ethnology (covering customs, beliefs, economics, societal life, family histories, folk piety) and folklore studies (almost all forms of oral literature), to history, especially culture history (including the history of education), linguistics (researching, for example, vocabulary through the impact of the Hungarian on the Croatian language, nicknames, bilingualism, local/native dialects etc.). Specialists laud Franković's work in papers that treat the issue of inter-ethnic communication in everyday life, which is related to the issue of the study of identity, one of the key topics of contemporary ethno-anthropology.
In conclusion, the synthesis of the enduring value of Franković's work is best seen on the pages of his brilliant two-volume textbook Narodopis (Ethnology, 2001), in which he describes our minority communities, from various sub-ethnic and dialect groups, that live in smaller and larger enclaves from the meeting of the Hungarian, Austrian and Slovakian borders, along the border with Austria and Croatia, all the way to the Bačka region in the south of Hungary (which ethnologists, linguists and people from related fields usually group into seven large or twelve small ethnic enclaves), on the basis of ethnographic and dialectological characteristics. According to Đuro Franković these are Gradišće (Burgenland) Croats, Mura River region Croats, Drava River region Croats, Bosniaks, the Šokac group, the Bunjevac group and the Danube River region Croats. This textbook reflects in illustrations and words the wealth of differences among the Croatian minority enclaves in Hungary and the values of the native nation. Franković has published over five hundred original scientific papers, a dozen books and several textbooks, and has edited the Pogledi (Views) journal of culture and social studies of Hungarian Croatians. He saved from oblivion and prepared the printing in 2003 of the literary and stage work of dissident Antun Karagić.
Franković's work remains a permanent feature of the creativity of Croatians in Hungary. We are proud that Đuro Franković, born in the southern Hungarian village of Fok/Drávafok near the Drava River, worked as a contributor with Matica magazine and the Croatian Emigrant Almanac. His work and great warmth as a person will forever inspire us in nurturing the Croatian cultural and ethnic identity in the European family of nations our two countries are a part of.
Text by: Vesna Kukavica