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Stjepan Radić (May 11, 1871 – August 8, 1928) was a Croatian politician and the founder of the Croatian Peasant Party (CPP, Hrvatska Seljačka Stranka) in 1905. Although he is generally viewed as an obstructionist politician for his party's frequent boycotts of parliament, Radić is credited with galvanizing the Croatian peasantry into a viable political force for the first time.
After World War I he rose to political prominence among Croats for his opposition to merging Croatia with the Kingdom of Serbia without guarantees for Croatian autonomy. On November 24, 1918 he famously urged delegates attending a session that would decide the country's political future not to "rush like drunken geese into fog" — he feared that Croatia would become at best a minor partner within a Serb-dominated state.
However, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was established and the CPP became an opposition party. The party's popularity in Croatia translated into significant electoral support but only among ethnic Croats. Radić still held on to the idea of an independent Croatia, and kept the party out of parliament in protest. This in effect afforded Serbian prime minister Nikola Pašić the opportunity to consolidate power and strengthen his Serb-dominated government. Returning from a trip to the Soviet Union in 1923, Radić was arrested for associating with Soviet Communists and imprisoned for two years. When he was released, he soon reentered politics and became minister of education.
Radić resigned his ministeral post in 1926 and returned to the opposition. This time the environment in parliament had become increasingly unstable and contentious. Radić could himself be very provocative:
- "Our Serbian friends are always reminding us of the price they paid in the war. I would like to invite them to tabulate the costs, so we may square accounts and be on our way."
At the end of 1927, Radić formed an alliance with Svetozar Pribičević of the Independent Democratic Party, the leading party of Serbs in Croatia at the time. The Peasant-Democrat coalition had a real chance to end the Pašić's Radicals' long-time control of the Parliament. Previously they had long been opponents, but the Democrats became disillusioned with the Belgrade bureaucracy and restored good relations with the Peasant Party with which they were allies in the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
On the morning of the 20th June 1928 Radić was warned of danger of an assassination attempt against him and was begged to stay away from the Assembly for that day. He replied that he was like a soldier in war, in the trenches and as such it was his duty to go but he nevertheless promised not to utter a single word.
In the Assembly, Puniša Račić, a radical ethnic-Serb MP from Montenegro, got up and made a provocative speech which produced a stormy reaction from the opposition but Radić himself stayed completely silent. Finally Ivan Pernar shouted "Thou plundered beys". At this Puniša Račić drew out a revolver, shot Pernar and went on to shoot Radić and several other CPP delegates. (source: Zvonimir Kulundžić Atentat na Stjepana Radića/The assassination of Stjepan Radić)
Radić was left for dead and indeed had such a serious stomach wound that he died several months later.
The picture of Stjepan Radić appears on the 200 kuna banknote.
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