Academician Vasilje Đ. Krestić overthrows with this seminal work the myth about Josip Juraj Strossmayer as a great Yugoslav. He unveils Strossmayer’s exclusively greater Croatian policy, underpinning his conclusions with abundant prime-source material.
Krestić notes in his foreword:
“With his religious and political work, Strossmayer marked his times, not only among the Croats, but among the Serbs as well. Both Austrian and Austro-Hungarian diplomats kept a close eye on him, leaving about him batches of archival documents known as Strossmayeriana.
An important topic, extensively analysed and elaborated on, is the relationship of Strossmayer with the Serbs and of the Serbs with Strossmayer. Politically sensitive, this topic has so far not been scientifically thoroughly and extensively examined and presented. Those who dealt with it, except in exceptional circumstances, adapted their writing to daily political needs. They wrote about Strossmayer only in a laudatory spirit, extolling him and his policy. Almost as a rule, his purported advocacy of fraternity and unity, concord between the Serbs and Croats, Yugoslavism and Pan-Slavism were universally praised and glorified. This was repeated as a refrain because the Bishop, with his personality and policy, was embedded in the ideological and political foundations of both the first and second Yugoslavia. This is why he had to be impeccable and exemplary in all respects. If someone dared to write a critical note at the expense of Strossmayer and his policy, he was proclaimed the enemy of Yugoslavism, opponent of Yugoslavia, destroyer of concord, fraternity and unity.
Our work is by no means aimed at denigrating or devaluing his reputation and importance. In terms of his relations with Serbia and the Serbs, we strove to be scientifically objective, without hiding anything and, without any biased inclinations, to present the Bishop as he truly was. To better familiarise readers with Strossmayer and his policy, we have broadened our subject matter with chapters examining the way the Bishop aimed to resolve the Eastern and Austrian Questions, his activities as a Croatocentric and Austrophile, and his treatment, as a senior church dignitary, not only of the Serbs of Orthodox faith, but of Muslims, Jews and Protestants as well. We thus aimed to complete the perception about the Bishop, show what he incessantly worked on, what his intentions, national and religious views and objectives were.
Judging by the facts we presented and conclusions we reached, our writing about Strossmayer differs a lot from hitherto historiographical judgments. We have not sided with the deeply ingrained petty-political beliefs about the Bishop as a great Yugoslav, but have strictly relied on documents, arriving at irrefutable conclusions that he was not a Yugoslav at all, but a Croat, and even more so, a greater Croat. We have also concluded that he was a great, staunch and rigid Roman Catholic, not at all tolerant towards other faiths and churches.
Finally, we wish to inform the reader that this book results from decades-long scientific and research work. We worked on it in stages, by comparatively studying the history of Croatia and the Croats, the history of the Serbs in Croatia, Serbian-Croatian relations and the Yugoslav idea. Owing to such parallel study, the author managed to collect about Strossmayer first-class sources, but also to explicate the logic and all strands of Strossmayer’s and entire Croatian national and religious policy. We present this book to the public, believing it will help assign Strossmayer to the position in our history that he truly deserves”.