The foundation of the Old Church Slavonic Institute was laid in Krk in 1902 when the Old Church Slavonic Academy was established. In January 1928 it merged with the Croatian Theological Academy of Zagreb, becoming its Old Church Slavonic Department. Monsignor Svetozar Ritig PhD, was appointed as the new Department's chairman. In 1939, Monsignor Ritig submitted his resignation as chairman, hoping for the better conditions some time later to resume this work. He was able to reestablish the Old Church Slavonic Academy when he was the president of the Commission for Religious Affairs within the Government of the People's Republic (PR) of Croatia. The Academy was reestablished on September 15, 1948 at the meeting of the Society of Clergy of Croatia, held in Rijeka. It was decided that the Academy's headquarters would be in Zagreb. The president of the PR of Croatia delegated Monsignor Ritig as its director.
Monsignor Ritig, in his capacity as President of the Commission for Religious Affairs, suggested to the president of the PR of Croatia to change the name of the Old Church Slavonic Academy into the Old Church Slavonic Institute. On March 18, 1952, the president of the PR of Croatia Vladimir Bakarić signed a decree establishing the Old Church Slavonic Institute with the mission to collect, organize, and analyze the Old Church Slavonic, the Old Croatian and other sources and materials needed to produce and publish scholarly dictionaries, monographs, and miscellanies and to establish, in addition to a specialized library, a collection of prints of all more significant Glagolitic sources, as well as of those written in other scripts, located outside Zagreb's libraries and archives, or abroad.
Monsignor Ritig was to remain the Institute's director until the end of his life. He donated the greater part of his personal library to the Library of the Old Church Slavonic Institute. After he died at the behest of the Institute's Council, his name was included in the Institute's name. From July 25, 1961 its full name became the Svetozar Ritig Old Church Slavonic Institute.
In 1977, a law was passed integrating the Svetozar Ritig Old Church Slavonic Institute, along with the Institute of Language Studies and Institute of Folklore Studies, into the Institute of Philology and Folklore Studies. Thus, what had been three independent institutes began to function within a single institute as three autonomous departments. In 1991, the department of Folklore Studies met the legal requirements for status as an institute of its own and became independent with the new name: Institute of Ethnology and Folklore. The other two branches remained together as autonomous scholarly units with somewhat modified names: the Institute of the Croatian Language and the Old Church Slavonic Institute, within the larger institute which received the name: Croatian Philological Institute.
By Trade Court order on January 20, 1997 the two departments of the Croatian Philological Institute separated and since then the title of the institute is: Old Church Slavonic Institute (Staroslavenski institut). Monsignor Svetozar Ritig was able to obtain from the Republic Commission for Religious Affairs space for the Old Church Slavonic Academy in a building at 11 Demetrova Street (the Balbi Palace) which was built at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century, and the institute has remained there ever since.
Directors of the Old Church Slavonic Institute:
- 1952 - 1961 Svetozar Ritig
- 1961 - 1967 Vjekoslav Štefanić
- 1967 - 1978 Anica Nazor
- 1978 - 1986 Biserka Grabar
- 1986 - 2005 Anica Nazor
- 2005 - 2017 Marica Čunčić
- 2017 - Vida Vukoja
The Work of the Old Church Slavonic Institute
Old Church Slavonic Institute has been devoted to the research of the Croatian language and literature from the time of the first centuries development of the Croatian language and literature when the Croats in their principality, and later in their kingdom, participated with other European peoples in establishing the historical, political, spiritual and civilization foundations of the contemporary Europe. The scholars of the Old Church Slavonic Institute therefore study the medieval period of the Croatian language and literary culture.
These studies started in the 18th century, developed more profoundly at the end of the 19th and in the first half of the 20th c., and fully flourished in the second half of the 20th century mainly due to the work at the Institute.
The Croatian medieval language and literary culture have a significant Latin part. Latin was the first literary language in Croatia. The Croatian vernacular literature has been written in three scripts: Glagolitic, Latin and the Croatian Cyrillic. Out of this rich Croatian cultural history the Old Church Slavonic Institute investigates the Croatian Glagolitic heritage. Its roots are in the common Slavic culture, based on the 9th century missionary work of the Byzantine teachers from Thessaloniki, the holy brothers Constantine-Cyril and Methodius. Through centuries the fruits of their endeavour underwent numerous developmental phases of the European medieval Christian spirituality and creativity, until the quality and richness of its texts reached the highest levels of the Western Christian literary civilization in the late Middle Ages.
Thus Croatian vernacular Glagolitic heritage joined the Croatian Latin literature which had always kept the pace with the contemporary Europe. Numerous studies in the Old Church Slavonic Institute devoted to the Croatian Glagolitic heritage during the last decades have proved such a development of the Croatian medieval culture, and many medieval topics and even entire literary corpora are studied in collaboration with medievalists of Western European universities and institutes.
The continuation of research, more profound and wider study of the Croatian Church Slavonic language, the Glagolitic paleography and the Croatian mediaeval literature has a significant place in a long-term development of the Croatia’s cultural profile among other European nations because that culture is one of the first and the most important guardians of the Croatian national, historical and cultural identity. In the same time, together with the Latin heritage, it is a witness of the Croatia’s centuries long participation in the cultural development of the history of Europe up to the present days.
In a half of a century existence the Old Church Slavonic Institute has created a specialized library, collection of prints and microfilms of almost all important Glagolitic manuscripts the originals of which are kept in various institutions in Croatia and around the world. The publication activities include the following publications: Slovo 1 (1952) - 59 (2009) and Radovi 1 (1952) – 9 (1988), facsimiles and transliterations of the Glagolitic codices, fragments and printed Glagolitic books. The results of the research of the Croatian Glagolitic heritage have been published in many scientific books and journals.
The following important segments of the Croatian Glagolitic heritage are investigated: language, paleography and literature.