Nikola Tesla homeland
During the middle of the 19th century, at the dawn of a civil society, the Croatian lands – of Croatia, Slavonia, the Croatian and Slavonian Military Border, Istria and Dalmatia – were disunited and economically neglected. Civil or provincial Croatia and Slavonia belonged to the Hungarian, and Military Border was a seperate territory on its own, detached, and immediately subordinate to the Austrian military administration.
The Military Border was created in the second half of the 15th and during the 16th century, to form a defensive zone for the Kingdom of Croatia and the other countries of the Habsburgs against the Ottomans, as a result of whose increasingly frequent and succeful incursions the Croatian nobility had lost its economic and military strength, and fallen into ever greater dependence on the Habsburgs.Thus at the end of the 16th century started the process in which the Croatian and Slavonian Military Border became an area outside the jurisdiction of the Croatian Parliament and the Croatian ban or governor. The procedures of the Austrian military authorities were suited by the colonising Vlach population that during the 16th century had, in several ways, settled in the ravaged provinces of Croatia. Invoking the Vlach Right that they had enjoyed in the Ottoman Empire and with the act of the Habsburg rulers that confirmed their privileges in exchange for the perfomrance of military service, this new population, in their refusal to acknowledge the Croatian parliament and ban, created the grounds for the separation of the Border - Krajina –territory, not only as a military creation, but also as a territory inhabited by a population with a distinctive social development, different from that in the other lands of the Croats.
During the course of the liberation wars against the Ottomans, whcih resulted in the treaties of Kalowitz (1699) and Požarevac (1718), the major part of the Kingdom of Croatia was set free (parts of the northern coastline, Lika, Eastern Slavonia and Syrmium). This ended the period in which the Military Border existed as a defensive zone for the whole of Centural Europe, and it simply turned into an inexhaustible source of revenues and soldiery which the Habsburg Empire employed in many European battlefields in the defence of its dynastic and politcal interests. The reorganisations that ensued endeavoured to unify and centralise the Border system along the lines of the regular imperial army and to equate their entitlements and obligations, while abolishing the last remains of the Borderers' right to self-government.
In the mid-18th century, the territory of the Croatian and Slavonian Military Border was divided into new units of military government: there were four general commands and 12 regiments, each one of which was divided into 12 captaincies. When the Lika Regiment was founded, headquartered in Gospić, in 1746, the 11th Smiljan Captaincy was also set up.
The basic Border laws of 1807 and 1850 governed all the areas of the social and economic lifeof the Borders, and were aimed at the discouraging any economic and civil initiatives as well as the efforts of the Coatian Parliament to join the Military Border to Croatia proper and to put it under the jurisdiction of the ban and parliament.
In the 19th century the people of the Border lived inside their own extended families, each living in its own compound and with its own land, which with their patriarchal, military and agrarian organisation, were the basis for the civilian and military lives of the Borderers. In the extended family, every member had his or her own military and agricultural duties, which were hard to adjust to each other. There was a very low level of literacy; the population was engaged principally in livestock-raising and agriculture, and there was little in the way of commerce or artisanship. Commercial relationships were practically unknown, revenues were small, and money in short supply. The destinies of male children were predetermined by their birth. Every able male was between the ages of 16 and 60 liable to military service. The only choice he had was between the army and the ministry. This constant liability to call up did not help the develpment of either the economy or education, the main aim of which was to prepare the necessary number of young men for military service and to teach them German – the official language of the Border army and the administration. The professional and intellectual classes were composed of those Borderers who occupied military, civil and religious posts, the confessions being Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Uniate, Jewish and Protestant. The life and organisation of the Orthodox Vlachs was much influenced by the Serbian Orthodox Church , which laid the foundation for the subsequent national formation of the Serbs in Croatia, which would come out particularly in the 1860s.
In the mid – 19th century, as part of the processes in which the administration was modernised and in the efforts that were being made to unify Croatia, the first censuses were taken. According to the statistical and topographic dana assembled at the initiative of the gubernatorial government, in the parish of Smiljan in 1850 there were 2200 Catholics and 1984 Orthodox; in a report from the Catholic parish, there were said to be 2200 Catholics and 808 „Greek-Non-Uniate“. The Smiljan Captaincy, according to the dana from the Geographical Dictionary of 1866 covered 24 villages and 40 hamlets. With 848 houses, in which there was a total population of 8309 persons, 6879 of them Roman Catholic and 1430 of the Greek Orthodox religion.
The Orthodox Parish of the Church os ŠŠ. Peter and Paul was probably formed in about 1764. The size of the size of the Orthodox population in the area around Bogdanić Hill ( the hill at the foot of which the birth house stands) increased after 1838, when Smiljan became the parish centre, in which, from 1852 to 1863, Milutin Tesla, Nikola Tesla's father, served as priest.
When the Croatian and Slavonian Military Border was demobilised in 1873, the Lika Border Regiment ceased to exist, and so, accordingly, sis the Smiljan Captaincy.
With the demobilisation and the introduction of the civil system of government, the population became able to move around outside their own extended families. The intellectuals among them, few though they were, had a crucial impact on the processes of the democrastisation and unification of Croatia.
When the Croatian and Slavonian Military Border was abolished in 1881, and the area was annexed to Civil Croatia and Slavonia, the centuries-long separation of Croatia and Slavonia was at last ended. During these important moments in politics, Tesla was living in Budapest, and was not far off his first invention.