The political dimension of the Croatian Hawk
The bearers of the Hawk ideas in Croatia were largely urban liberals. Societies were formed in the cities for the most part, but the leadership of the movement was well-aware of the situation in Croatian lands at the time, specifically that the majority of the population was agrarian and so the movement emphasized efforts in rural areas claiming that it was the peasant that was “the foundation of the people”.
Any Croatian or Slav could be a member of the movement, regardless of their class or station. The societies exclusively used the Croatian language, but a common question arose on the possibility of others becoming members of the societies, largely Jews, Germans or Hungarians. The leadership of the movement largely left that question up to individual Hawk societies, nevertheless insisting that the societies must take into account the need to preserve the “Croatian and Hawk character” of the societies.
The leadership of the movement was largely composed of active members of the National Party, the Croatian Rights’ Party and, in the beginning of the 20th century, the Croat-Serb Coalition and the “New Course” political movement. They advocated for the unification of South Slavic lands within the Austro-Hungarian Empire and, later on, for the establishment of an independent South Slavic nation. This latter goal was not communicated publicly, as it would have made it impossible for the movement to gain support from the existing government.
The movement’s function was explicitly political and ideological. The motto of the Croatian Hawks was: “In our right arm, strength, In our hearts, resolve, In our thoughts, our homeland.”. Everything was subordinate to the homeland, something that clearly marked the movement’s political stance. Official statements on political neutrality were demanded by the laws that allowed the Croatian Hawk to be registered as a physical exercise society, but its activities nevertheless turned the Croatian Hawk into a popular movement.