Ľudovít Štúr (October 29, 1815 – January 12, 1856), known in his era as Ludevít Velislav Štúr, was the leader of the Slovak national revival in the 19th century, the author of the Slovak language standard eventually leading to the contemporary Slovak literary language. Štúr was an organizer of the Slovak volunteer campaigns during the 1848 Revolution in the Kingdom of Hungary, and a member of the Diet of the Kingdom of Hungary, as well as a politician, Slovak poet, journalist, publisher, teacher, philosopher and linguist.
This situation did not change until the 1840s, when Ľudovít Štúr became the chief figure of the Slovak national movement.
At the same time, modern nations started to develop in Europe and in the Kingdom of Hungary. But the Hungarians favoured the idea of a centralized state, although the Magyar population numbered only some 40% of the population of the Hungarian Kingdom in the 1780s. This was unacceptable to other nations, including the Slovaks, and they expressed their disapproval.
Ľudovít Štúr expressed his philosophy in one sentence: "My country is my being, and every hour of my life shall be devoted to it." Štúr, a Lutheran, was aware of the fact that Czech, the language of educated Lutherans, was not enough to carry out a national campaign, and that Slovaks, if they were ever to become autonomous and be an effective force against Magyarization, needed a language they could call their own. The central Slovak dialect was chosen as the basis of a literary language. Štúr's codification work was disapproved by Ján Kollár and the Czechs, who saw it as an act of Slovak withdrawal from the idea of a common Czecho-Slovak nation and a weakening of solidarity. But the majority of Slovak scholars, including the Catholics (using Bernolák's codification until then), welcomed the notion of codification. The standard language thus became an important political tool.
Štúr's notions (autonomy of Slovakia in the Kingdom of Hungary, a Slovak Diet, schools etc.) came to fruition simultaneously with the 1848 Revolution in the Kingdom of Hungary, which dealt with the liberation of peasants from serfdom and other national and ethnic issues. Hungarian revolutionaries called for Hungary’s separation from Vienna, but at the same time they wanted to see the Kingdom of Hungary one nation with one language and one educational system. But the desires of the Magyars for a centralized Hungarian state ran contrary to the wishes of ethnic groups in the Kingdom of Hungary, including Slovaks. Slovak and Hungarian revolutionary claims ran contradictory to each other.
In the spring of 1848, Slovak leaders spread their ideas throughout Slovakia. Slovak nationalists, mainly in the progressive western and central Slovakia, joined them. In May 1848, a huge public meeting gathered in Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš (Liptószentmiklós, present Liptovský Mikuláš), where a pan-Slovak program, known as the "Requirements of the Slovak Nation" was proclaimed and accepted. Ethnic Slovaks sought to back this revolutionary manifesto by force of arms. The provisional Hungarian revolutionary government was not willing to accept the Requirements of the Slovak Nation and the situation developed into open hostility between Hungarian and Slovak revolutionaries.
In September 1848, the Slovak National Council was established in Vienna and it forthwith proclaimed the secession of Slovakian territory from Hungary. The so-called September campaign (including 6000 volunteers) took place in western Slovakia. Slovak demands remained unfulfilled. Between November 1848 and April 1849, the armed Slovaks helped the Habsburg king – along with imperial troops in present-day Hungary – to defeat Hungarians and their revolutionary government on Slovak territory (the so-called Winter Campaign or Volunteer Campaigns). In March 1849, Slovaks even temporarily managed to start to administrate Slovakia themselves and they sent a petition (the March Petition) to the emperor. However, in the summer of 1849, the Russians helped the Habsburg king to defeat the revolutionary Hungarians and in November, when the Slovaks were not needed anymore, the Slovak corps were dissolved in Vienna. Then in December 1851, King Franz Joseph abolished the last vestiges of constitutionalism and began to rule as absolute master. Francis Joseph continued his centralistic policies. This came to be known as the period of neo-absolutism. Certain Slovak demands were met, however. In the Slovak counties of the Kingdom of Hungary, the Slovak language was allowed for official communication and was introduced in lower schools, but in higher courts, the Slovaks faced the same Germanisation as all the other ethnicities. Ján Kollár, who became a professor at Vienna University, obtained permission to print Slovak newspapers and was appointed a court adviser.
From 1829–1836, Ľudovít Štúr studied at the prestigious Lutheran Lýceum (preparatory high school and college) in Pressburg and became a member of the Czech-Slav Society, which stimulated his interest in all Slav nations. There was a famous Department of the Czechoslovak Language and Literature of the old Professor Juraj Palkovič at the school, the only such department at a Protestant school of higher education in the Kingdom of Hungary:
In 1831 Ľudovít Štúr wrote his first poems. From January–September 1834, he temporarily interrupted his studies due to lack of finances and returned to Uhrovec, where he worked as scribe with Count Karol Zay. Later that year he resumed his studies, was active in the historical and literary circle of the Czech-Slav Society, was responsible for the correspondence with members of the Society, gave private lessons in the house of a merchant in Pressburg, taught younger students at the Lýceum and established contact with important foreign and Czech scholars. On December 17, he was elected secretary of the Czech-Slav Society at the Lýceum.
In 1836, Štúr wrote a letter to the important Czech historian František Palacký, where he stated that the Czech language used by the Protestants in Slovakia had become incomprehensible for the ordinary Slovaks, and proposed the creation of a unified Czechoslovak language, provided that the Czechs would be willing to use some Slovak words – just like Slovaks would officially accept some Czech words. But the Czech were unwilling to accept this, and so Štúr and his friends decided to introduce a completely new Slovak language standard instead. On April 24 of that year, the famous trip to Devín Castle (Dévény, now part of Bratislava) by the members of the Slovak national movement took place, led by Štúr as the vice-president of Czech-Slav Society. The beginning of his group's extensive efforts on behalf of national awareness are linked to this visit to the ruins of Devín Castle, woven about with legends of the past with reminders of Great Moravia. The members of the Czech-Slav Society swore here to be true to the national cause, deciding to travel around Slovakia to drum up support for their ideas. At the castle, they also adopted additional Slavic names (e.g., Jozef Hurban became Jozef Miloslav Hurban, etc).
From 1836–1838, as deputy (non-stipendiary assistant) for Professor Palkovič, Chair of the Czechoslovak Language and Literature at the Lyceum, where he was previously student, he taught history of Slavic literature. He continued to write poetry and under his leadership, the number of members of the Czech-Slav Society was constantly increasing. In this year, a poem of Štúr's was published in printed form for the first time: Óda na Hronku ("An ode to Hronka"). In April 1837, the Czech-Slav Society was prohibited due to student commotion at the Lyceum. One week later Štúr founded the Institute of the Czechoslovak Language and Literature, within which the activities of the Czech-Slav Society continued. In that year he continued to write articles for newspapers and journals, including Tatranka, Hronka, Květy (Czech), Časopis českého musea, Danica (Croatian) and Tygodnik literacki (Polish).
In 1840, he returned to Bratislava via Prague and Hradec Králové (Königgrätz), where he spent some time in the house of the publisher Jan Pospíšil. From October, he was once again working as deputy for Professor Palkovič at the Department of the Czecho-Slav Language and Literature at the Evangelic Lutheran Lyceum, teaching courses of grammar and Slav history, and continuing his activities at the Institute of Czechoslovak language.
During 1841–1844, Štúr was co-editor of Palkovič's literary magazine Tatranka. In 1841, he started activities aimed at publishing a Slovak political newspaper. He wrote defensive and polemic texts as well as his Starý a nový věk Slovákov ("The old and the new age of the Slovaks"), written in Old Czech and published in 1935 (in Slovak only in 1994). On August 16, 1841, Štúr and his friends ascended Kriváň (a symbolic mountain in Slovak culture), an event that is now commemorated by annual excursions to its summit. In 1842 he initiated the first Slovenský prestolný prosbopis, a Slovak petition to the Royal Court in Vienna requiring the government to stop national persecutions by the Hungarians in Slovakia. His application for a licence to publish a newspaper was turned down in the same year.
In July of that year, his defensive work Die Beschwerden und Klagen der Slaven in Ungarn über die gesetzwidrigen Übergriffe der Magyaren ("The complaints and grievances of the Slavs in Hungary about the illegal misfeasances of the Hungarians"), which editorial offices in the Kingdom of Hungary had refused to publish, was published in Leipzig, Germany. From July 11–16, at the parish house of J. M. Hurban in Hlboké (Luboka), the leaders of the Slovak national movement – Štúr, J. M. Hurban and M.M. Hodža – agreed on how to codify the new Slovak language standard and how to introduce it to the public. On July 17, they visited Ján Hollý, an important writer and representative of the older Bernolák Slovak language standard, in Dobrá Voda (Jókő) and informed him about their plans. On October 11, although the committee did not find anything illegal about Štúr's activities, Štúr was ordered to stop lecturing and was removed from the function of deputy for Prof. Palkovič. However, Štúr continued to give lectures. On December 31 he was definitively deprived of the function of deputy for Prof. Palkovič. As a result, in March 1844, 22 students left Pressburg in protest; 13 of them went to study at the lyceum in the town of Levoča (Lőcse). From 1843–1847, Štúr worked as a private scientist. In 1844 he wrote Nárečja slovenskuo alebo potreba písaňja v tomto nárečí ("The Slovak dialect or the necessity to write in this dialect"). On May 19, 1844 a second Slovenský prestolný prosbopis was sent to Vienna, but had little influence. But in 1844 other Slovak authors (often Štúr’s students) started to use the new Slovak language standard. On August 27, he participated in the founding convention of the Slovak association Tatrín, the first nation-wide association. On August 1, 1845, the first issue of Slovenskje národňje novini ("Slovak National Newspaper"; published till June 9, 1848) was published. One week later, its literary addendum Orol Tatranský ("The Tatra Eagle"; published till June 6, 1848) was also published. In this newspaper, written in the new Slovak language, he gradually shaped a Slovak political program. He based this on the precept that the Slovaks were one nation and that they therefore had a right to their own language, culture, schools, and particularly political autonomy within Hungary. The projected expression of this autonomy was to be a Slovak Diet. Also that year, his brochure Das neunzehnte Jahrhundert und der Magyarismus ("The 19th century and Magyarism"), written in German, was published in Vienna.
In August 1847, at the 4th convention of the Tatrín association in Čachtice (Csejte), Catholics and Protestants "definitively agree to use only the newly codified Štúr language standard". On October 30 that year, he became a deputy for the town of Zvolen (Zólyom) in the Hungarian Diet in Pressburg. From November 17, 1847 to March 13, 1848 he gave five important speeches at the Diet, in which he required the abolishment of serfdom in Hungary, the introduction of civil rights and the use of the Slovak language for teaching in elementary schools. The Diet met only until April 11, 1848 due to the 1848 revolution.
In May that year, he was one of the authors of the official petition Žiadosti slovenského národa ("Requirements of the Slovak Nation"). The Žiadosti slovenského národa was publicly declared in Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš, with Janko Francisci as the reader. In it, the Slovaks demanded autonomy within Hungary, a proportional representation in the Hungarian Assembly, the creation of a Slovak Diet to administer their own region, where Slovak would become the official language and educational institutes from elementary schools to universities would use Slovak. They also called for universal suffrage and democratic rights – e.g., freedom of the press and public assembly. They requested that peasants be released from serfdom and that their lands be returned to them. But on May 12, the Hungarian government issued a warrant on the leaders of the Slovak movement: Štúr, Hurban and Hodža. The persecuted Štúr arrived in Prague on May 31. On June 2 he participated in the Slavic Congress there.
On June 19 he went to Zagreb, Croatia, because the Slavic Congress was interrupted by fighting in Prague, and becomes an editor of the Croatian magazine Slavenski Jug. With financial support from some Serbs, he and J. M. Hurban started to prepare an uprising against the Hungarian government. The "Slovak Uprising" occurred between September 1848 and November 1849. In September 1848 Štúr travelled to Vienna and participated in the preparations for the Slovak armed uprising. On September 15–16 the Slovak National Council, the supreme Slovak political and military organisation consisting of Štúr, Hurban and Hodža (as politicians) and the Czechs B. Bloudek, F. Zach and B. Janeček (as military experts), was created in Vienna. On September 19 in Myjava (Miava), the Slovak National Council declared independence from the Hungarian government and called on the Slovak nation to start an armed uprising. But the Council only managed to control the surrounding Slovak region.
Štúr, Hurban and others met in Prague on October 7 to discuss further proceedings concerning the uprising. Upon returning to Vienna in November, Štúr and Slovak volunteers – on one of the so-called Volunteer Campaigns – traversed northern Slovakia from Čadca (Csaca) up to Prešov (Eperjes) until March in 1849. On March 20, he participated in a deputation that visited the Austrian king, in the Czech town of Olomouc, presenting him requirements concerning the Slovak nation. From March until June, Štúr – along with Hurban, Hodža, Bórik, Chalúpka and others – negotiated in Vienna about a solution to the Slovak requirements. But on November 21, 1849 the Slovak volunteer corps was officially demobilized in Pressburg, and the disappointed Štúr retreated to his parents' home in Uhrovec.
In October 1851 he participated in meetings in Pressburg concerning a reform of the codified Slovak language standard. The reform, involving mainly a transition from the phonetic spelling to an etymological one, was later introduced by M. M. Hodža and Martin Hattala in 1851–1852, but Štúr, among others, also participated in the preparations. The result of this reform was the Slovak language standard still used today, with minor changes.
In Modra in 1852, Štúr finished his essay O národních písních a pověstech plemen slovanských ("On national songs and myths of Slavic kins"), written in Czech and published in Bohemia the next year. In addition he wrote his important philosophic book Das Slawenthum und die Welt der Zukunft ("The Slavdom and the world of the future"), written in German, published in Russian in 1867 and 1909 (published in German in 1931; in Slovak in 1993). Among other things, he recapitulated there the events that brought the Slovaks in their disconsolate situation at that time and suggested as a solution to cooperate with Russia, thus basically passing from his Slovak national idea to pan-Slavism.
In 1853, his platonic girlfriend, Adela, died in Vienna on March 18. He also went to take care of his ill mother in Trenčín, before she died on August 28. The only compilation of his poetry, Spevy a piesne ("Singings and songs") was also published in Pressburg that year. On May 11, 1854 he held a speech at the unveiling of the Ján Hollý monument (Ján Hollý having died in 1849) in Dobrá Voda; he had also written a poem in honour of that man.
On December 22, 1855 Štúr inadvertently shot and wounded himself during a hunt near Modra. In the last days of his life, he was mainly supported by his friend Ján Kalinčiak. On January 12, 1856, Ľudovít Štúr died in Modra. A national funeral was held there in his honour.