A Concise History of Serbia 1107028388, 9781107028388

This accessible and engaging book covers the full span of Serbia's history, from the sixth-century Slav migrations

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A Concise History of Serbia
 1107028388, 9781107028388

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A CO NC ISE HISTORY OF SER B I A

This accessible and engaging book covers the full span of Serbia’s history, from the sixth-century Slav migrations up to the present day. It traces key developments surrounding the medieval and modern polities associated with Serbs, revealing a fascinating history of entanglements and communication between south-eastern and wider Europe, sometimes with global implications. This is a history of Serb states, institutions and societies, which also gives voice to individual experiences in an attempt to understand how the events described impacted the people who lived through them. Although no real continuity between the pre-modern and modern periods exists, Dejan Djokić draws out several common themes, including migrations, the Serbs’ relations with neighbouring empires and peoples, Serbia as a society formed in the imperial borderlands and the polycentricity of Serbia. The volume also highlights the surprising vitality of Serb identity, and how it has survived in different incarnations over the centuries through reinvention. Dejan Djokić  is Professor of History at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of three monographs, (co-)editor of four books and recipient of prestigious grants and fellowships from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The British Academy, The Leverhulme Trust, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Columbia University in the City of New York and the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC. He is the founding director of the Centre for the Study of the Balkans at Goldsmiths.

CAM BRIDGE CONCISE HISTORIES This is a series of illustrated ‘concise histories’ of selected individual countries, intended both as university and college textbooks and as general historical introductions for general readers, travellers, and members of the business community. A full list of titles in the series can be found at: www.cambridge.org/concisehistories

A CONCISE HISTORY OF SERBIA DEJAN DJOKIĆ Goldsmiths, University of London

University Printing House, Cambridge cb2 8bs, United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, ny 10006, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, vic 3207, Australia 314–321, 3rd Floor, Plot 3, Splendor Forum, Jasola District Centre, New Delhi – 110025, India 103 Penang Road, #05–06/07, Visioncrest Commercial, Singapore 238467 Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781107028388 doi: 10.1017/9781139236140 © Dejan Djokić 2023 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2023 A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Djokić, Dejan, author. Title: A concise history of Serbia / Dejan Djokić, Goldsmiths, University of London. Description: Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York, ny : Cambridge University Press, 2023. | Series: Cambridge concise histories | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2022025384 | ISBN 9781107028388 (hardback) | ISBN 9781107630215 (paperback) | ISBN 9781139236140 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Serbia – History. Classification: LCC DR1965 .D58 2023 | DDC 949.71–dc23/eng/20220527 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2022025384 isbn 978-1-107-02838-8 Hardback isbn 978-1-107-63021-5 Paperback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate. Every effort has been made to trace the owners of copyright material included in this book. The publishers would be grateful for any omissions brought to their notice for acknowledgement in future editions of the book.

For my mother

C ONTENTS

page viii xi xii xiii xiv xvii

List of Figures List of Maps List of Tables List of Boxes Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations

Introduction 1 1 Migration (up to c.1150)

50

2 Empire (c.1170–1459)

83

3 Borderland (1450–1800)

140

4 Revolution (1788–1858)

204

5 Independence (1860–1914)

275

6 War and Interwar (1914–1944)

332

7 Federation to Fragmentation (1945–1990)

412

8 Ruin and Recovery (after 1990)

464

Further Reading 534 Index 541

vii

FIGURES

1.1 Remnants of the medieval town of Ras, south-western Serbia page 70 2.1 St Sava and St Simeon (Stefan Nemanja), c.1314, King’s Church, Studenica Monastery, south-western Serbia93 2.2 (a) The Sopoćani Monastery (built 1259–70) and (b) The Gračanica Monastery (built 1321)  103 2.3 Alphonse Mucha, The Coronation of Serbian Tsar Stefan Dušan as East Roman Emperor (1926) 113 3.1 The Coat of Arms of the ‘Turkish Empire’, Konrad Grünenberg of Constance (c.1483) 147 179 3.2 Paja Jovanović, Migration of the Serbs (c.1896) 4.1 The Orašac Assembly (1804), a nineteenth-century illustration by an unknown author 217 4.2 Dositej Obradović, lithograph by Anastas 236 Jovanović, 1852 4.3 Vuk Karadžić, lithograph by an unknown author, c.1850237 4.4 Portrait of Prince Miloš Obrenović by Josef Brandt, probably painted in Constantinople/Istanbul, 1835 252 4.5 Princess Persida Karadjordjević (1813–73), consort of Prince Aleksandar. Portrait by Uroš Knežević, 1855261 4.6 Pavle Simić, Serbian National Assembly, 1 May 1848 (1848)266 5.1 Prince Mihailo Obrenović, c.1850 279 5.2 Draga Ljočić (1855–1926), Serbia’s first female doctor296 318 5.3 Serbian peasants from the Belgrade district, Serbia

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List of Figures

5.4 Young girls dressed as soldiers in the Serbian army at a Purim Party, Belgrade, early twentieth century 6.1 Nikola Pašić, Prime Minister of Serbia, 23 July 1914 6.2 Civilians fleeing the Habsburg army invasion of Serbia, c.1914 6.3 A Serbian soldier being shaved in a trench by one of his comrades at the Macedonian front, c.1916 6.4 Zenit, No. 17–18, September–October 1922, cover design El Lissitzky 6.5 Milena Pavlović Barilli, self-portrait, 1938 6.6 King Aleksandar [Karadjordjević] (1888–1934) and Queen Marie of Yugoslavia (1900–61) attend the unveiling of a sculpture on Armistice Day in Belgrade, created as a tribute to France by sculptor Ivan Meštrović, 11 November 1930 6.7 Hitler’s birthday present, 1941 6.8 The Partisan leadership, Jajce, Bosnia, November 1943: Ivo Lola Ribar, Aleksandar Ranković, Milovan Djilas, Tito, Sreten Žujović, Andrija Hebrang, Moša Pijade and Edvard Kardelj 6.9 General Mihailović between two Allied officers, Colonel Bailey and Brigadier Armstrong, eastern Bosnia?, c.1942–43 7.1 (a) Coat of arms of Socialist Republic of Serbia (1947–92). (b) Coat of arms of the Principality of Serbia (1835–82)  7.2 Jovanka Broz, Tito and President Nasser of Egypt, Belgrade, 1961 7.3 Film director Želimir Žilnik and actress Milja Vujanović, the Berlin film festival, 1969 7.4 Post-punk band Šarlo akrobata performing at the Student Cultural Centre, Belgrade, November 1980

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328 347 351 357 374 375

385 395

407

409

423 432 438

448

List of Figures

7.5 Slobodan Milošević faces a crowd of cameramen and photographers on 17 October 1988 in Belgrade prior to the opening session of the party plenum meeting 7.6 Ethnic Albanians pray in front of coffin of a young man killed during demonstrations on 2 February 1990 in Podujevo, Kosovo 8.1 Anti-government protests, Belgrade, 9 March 1991  8.2 Women in Black, anti-war demonstrations, Belgrade, 1992 8.3 Serb reservists return from the Croatian front, December 1991 8.4 Croatian Serb refugees wait for a train in Bijeljina, north-east Bosnia, August 1995  8.5 Citizens of Belgrade queue for free bread distributed by the state, 6 January 1994 (the Orthodox Christmas Eve) 8.6 Vojislav Koštunica and Zoran Djindjić, celebrating election victory, Belgrade, 27 September 2000 8.7 President Aleksandar Vučić walks in front of a 23-metre-tall statue to Grand Župan Stefan Nemanja unveiled in Belgrade on 27 January 2021 (St Sava Day) 8.8 Festival goers leave after day three of the Exit Festival at the Petrovaradin Fortress, Novi Sad, 11 July 2021

x

460

460 473 476 487 499

503 515

526

531

M A PS

0.1 Serbia and its neighbours in 2022page 4 1.1 Probable borders of ‘Baptized Serbia’ and its neighbours, c.950 71 2.1 Serbia under the Nemanjić dynasty, late twelfth to mid-fourteenth centuries 89 3.1 Habsburg Military Border, late eighteenth century 150 3.2 Jurisdiction of the Serbian (Peć) Patriarchate, mid-seventeenth century 174 329 5.1 Serbia’s territorial expansion, 1804–1913 6.1 The formation of Yugoslavia in 1918 361 381 6.2 Yugoslavia’s administrative division, 1929–41 6.3 Axis occupation and partition of Yugoslavia in the Second World War 398 7.1 Administrative and ‘ethnic’ boundaries of Yugoslavia’s republics and provinces, 1945–91  415

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TA BLES

4.1 Population of Serbia, 1815–1874 6.1 Population of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes by ethnicity, 1921

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page 241 363

B OXES

2.1 Raška or Serbia? 6.1 Yugoslavia’s war deaths, 1941–45

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page 85 411

AC K NOWLEDGEM EN T S

I would not have written this book without Elizabeth FriendSmith, my Cambridge University Press editor. Liz commissioned the book, having persuaded me I was the person to write it, and then patiently supported me throughout the manuscript completion, which took longer than either of us had planned. I should like to thank four anonymous readers commissioned by Cambridge University Press for their comments and suggestions on an early outline and the final manuscript. Late Stevan K. Pavlowitch encouraged me to take on the project when I doubted I was up to it, as did Richard Clogg, whose history of Greece remains one of the best books in the series in which this book appears. The original research and writing would not have been possible without the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship for Experienced Researchers that I held at Humboldt University of Berlin in 2015–16. It was at the same institution where I completed the manuscript in 2020–21. Hannes Grandits was a generous host during my both stays at his Chair for South-East European History at Humboldt University, home to a stimulating community of early career scholars and of the Berlin Colloquium for South-East European History, where I presented my research in progress. Hannes read the final draft and made numerous helpful and reassuring comments. Nada Zečević read the medieval and early modern chapters, selflessly sharing her knowledge about pre-modern Balkans and Europe. I am grateful to Veljko Vujačić, whose comments and suggestions improved the introduction and the ‘modern’ chapters. Last but not least, Jasna Dragović-Soso made many helpful suggestions on the final chapter. I should like to thank Lucy Riall, Tom Buchanan and Martin Conway for inviting me to present preliminary thoughts about a

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Acknowledgements

book I had yet to begin writing at, respectively, Department of History and Civilization, European University Institute, Florence and Modern European History seminar at Oxford University. A number of colleagues and friends have encouraged me to write and persevere with this book, shared their knowledge and sources, and helped me understand Serbia in broader contexts. They include, in alphabetical order: Catherine Baker, Mile Bjelajac, Xavier Bougarel, Marie-Janine Calic, Cathie Carmichael, Nathalie Clayer, Dragan Cvetković, Aleksa Djilas, Emir O. Filipović, Christian Goeschel, Vesna Goldsworthy, Dejan Jović, Pieter M. Judson, Predrag J. Marković, Milan Nikolić, Jan Plamper, Christina Pribićević-Zorić, Lucy Riall, late Nobuhiro Shiba, Naoko Shimazu, Peter Siani-Davies, Danilo Šarenac, Ana Stolić, Milan Ristović, Milica Uvalić, late Ljubinka Trgovčević and Tara Zahra. Needless to say, I bear sole responsibility for the book’s content, including any errors of fact or interpretation. Apart from my home and university offices in Berlin and London, most of the research and writing took place at the British Library, London and Staatsbibliothek, Berlin (Berlin State Library) (mainly the West building). I would like to thank the helpful, in their own different ‘London’ and ‘Berlin ways’, staff of these two incredible institutions. I am also grateful to the staff of the Archives of Yugoslavia, Belgrade; Jacob-und-WilhelmGrimm-Zentrum and Zweigbibliothek Fremdsprachliche Philologien (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Centre University Library and Foreign Languages and Literatures Branch Library), both Humboldt University of Berlin; School of Slavonic and East European Studies Library, University College London; and to Wayne Kempton of Archives of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Special thanks to Goranka Matić, Serbia’s foremost photographer, who generously granted permission to use photographs from her private collection, and also to the following persons and institutions for their help in obtaining images reproduced in the book: Simona Benyamini, The Oster Visual Documentation

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Acknowledgements

Center, ANU – Museum of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv; Angelika Betz and Alisa Fowler, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library), Munich; Jelena Jovanović-Simić, Museum of the Serbian Medical Society, Belgrade; Nemanja Kalezić, National Library of Serbia, Belgrade; Slobodan Mandić, Historical Archives of Belgrade; Ivana Pantelić, Institute of Contemporary History, Belgrade; Borislav Radanović, Matica srpska Gallery, Novi Sad; Archimandrite Tihon (Rakićević), Studenica Monastery, Serbia; and Helmut Selzer, Wien Museum, Vienna. History Department at Goldsmiths generously funded image reproduction costs. Jonna, Simon and Lia have been with me for almost as long as this project. I hope they will be pleased when I present them with a copy of the book and thus finally answer Lia’s question ‘Dejan, why did you come home so late?!’, asked repeatedly when I was making the final push. They have provided me with a home at the time I did not think I would find it and have somehow remained with me despite my being at times intolerable while working on this manuscript (at least I would like to think the book was to blame). My family back in Serbia remains the foundation of everything I do, even if they may not always realize how grateful I am to them because I have been so absent for so long. I know that not all of them will like the book. One reader will, I am sure, have no objections – my mother Desanka Djokić (née Obrenović), to whom I dedicate the book. Apart from never failing to provide love and support, she taught me, without perhaps realising it, that we all have one mother and that she is neither the nation nor the state. What an incredible gift, and not just for a historian. Хвала мама.

xvi

A BBREVIA TIONS

DAI

Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando Imperio, Greek text ed. by Gy. Moravcsik, translated by R. J. H. Jenkins, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, 1967

DokKSHS

Dokumenti o postanku Kraljevine Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca 1914–1919, compiled by F. Šišić, Zagreb, 1920

DokSPKS

Dokumenti o spoljnoj politici kraljevine Srbije, vol. VII-2, Belgrade, 1980

ISN

Istorija srpskog naroda, 2nd edn, vols 1–6/II, Belgrade, 1994

VIINJ

Vizantijski izvori za istoriju naroda Jugoslavije, vols 1–6, Belgrade, 1955–1986

xvii

Introduction u

Where Is Serbia? This should be, but is not, a straightforward question. In 2022, an answer depended on whether one ­considered Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence in 2008, a part of Serbia or not. The Belgrade government refused to recognize the independence of its (former) province, and in this it was joined by around 90 other countries, including China, Russia, India, Brazil and five EU member states: Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus. A slightly higher number of countries, including the USA, UK, Germany, France and Italy, recognized an independent Kosovo, but the former province of Serbia remained without a seat in the UN. Whichever view one takes, two things seem undisputable: Serbia no longer controlled Kosovo after 1999, while Kosovo had little control over its mainly Serb-populated north, where around one half of the remaining Kosovo Serbs live today. The problem of Kosovo was not the only reason why the opening question could not be answered easily. Since 1912, Serbia has had at least four different territorial incarnations – not counting the interwar period, when there was no Serbian polity within the framework of ‘first’ Yugoslavia, and the Second World War years (1941–45), because the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia was a German-occupied land, albeit with a local, collaborationist administration. It is often said that an average East-Central European could have lived in several countries without ever travelling anywhere, and this is also true of the Serbs. On 30 October 2013, Politika, Serbia’s

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newspaper of record, reported that Kalina Danilović, a housewife from southern Serbia, died at the age of 113. Because local birth certificates did not survive the First World War, the exact date, and probably year, of Kalina’s birth was not known. It is believed that she married in 1918, aged around 20 and therefore ‘quite late’; the groom was six years younger. Around the same time, the regional media reported the death, in Belgrade, of Slava Ivančević at the age of 117 or 119 (depending on source). If true, Slava – whose recipe for long life allegedly included daily shots of home-made brandy and generous consumption of menthol mints – would have been one of the oldest people in the world at the time of her death. Subsequently the accuracy of these claims has been challenged, but in any case, a person born in Serbia in 1912, on the eve of the Balkan Wars, when Serbia incorporated Kosovo, Macedonia (present-day North Macedonia) and Sandžak, and still alive in February 2008, when Kosovo declared independence, would have been 96 years of age. Even if they never left their place of birth, they would have still lived in eight different countries. If the year of Slava’s birth (1894) was correctly reported, she would have lived in nine countries, spending only the final years of her life in an independent Serbia. She was born in Bihać, present-day BosniaHerzegovina, which in the 1890s was an Ottoman province under the Austro-Hungarian occupation; and she died in Belgrade, as one of tens of thousands of Bosnian Serb refugees during the war of the 1990s, when Serbia was, together with Montenegro, part of ‘rump’ Yugoslavia. The 2006 declaration of independence, from the SerbMontenegrin union, by Montenegro automatically made Serbia an independent country once again, for the first time since 1918. Much has been said about Serb nationalism, which, for all the confusion between Greater Serbian and Yugoslav ‘projects’ during the late 1980s and ‘90s, was able to mobilize powerful support among the population. It was both a destructive and a

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Introduction

self-destructive force that, unlike the nationalisms of the Serbs’ neighbours, did not necessarily seek to create an independent Serbia. Ironically perhaps, Serbia in 2006 in some ways resembled the Austria of 1918 – a former core of a larger, multinational state that became independent by default because everyone else had declared independence after a devastating war. Even without Kosovo, Serbia remains the largest and one of the most multi-ethnic Yugoslav successor states, with a rich and turbulent history and geographically a strategic location as a landlocked country in the central Balkans, or South-East Europe, depending on one’s preference, which exercises varying degrees of influence over Serb communities in neighbouring Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro. Those parts of former-Yugoslavia not in the EU (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia) and Albania have been in recent years termed jointly the Western Balkans – perhaps because the prefix ‘Western’ makes the Balkans sound less ‘Eastern’. However, if joining the EU means leaving the Balkans, then adding ‘Western’ in front of the Balkans is unnecessary since, with the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU in 2007, there is no longer Eastern Balkans. Geography is of course rarely free of political symbolism, and this is perhaps especially true of the Balkans. The Balkans as Europe’s Other, its Orient in the Saidian sense, has become a discipline of its own.1 Serbia borders Bulgaria to the east, Romania to the north-east, Hungary to the north, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to the west, Montenegro to the south-west and Albania/Kosovo and North Macedonia to the south (see Map 0.1). As Serbia’s Balkan neighbours have joined the EU and NATO in recent years, or M. Todorova’s Imagining the Balkans, New York, 1997, is now a classic; cf. M. Bakić-Hayden, ‘Nesting Orientalisms: The Case of Former Yugoslavia’, Slavic Review, 54:4 (1994), 917–31; D. Bijelić and O. Savić (eds), Balkan as Metaphor: Between Globalization and Fragmentation, Cambridge, MA, 2005; V. Goldsworthy, Inventing Ruritania: The Imperialism of the Imagination, New Haven, CT, 1998.

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A Concise History of Serbia

HUNGARY

SLOVENIA Zagreb

Vojvodina

CROATIA Banja Luka

ROMANIA

Novi Sad

Sava R.

Belgrade

A

BOSNIA AND Sarajevo HERZEGOVINA

Srebrenica

ube R. Dan

SERBIA

Kragujevac

M

va R. ora

B

Mostar

A

Novi Pazar

MONTENEGRO

Podgorica

ADRIATIC SEA

ini R. Dr

Prishtina

BULGARIA

KOSOVO Skopje

Tirana

NORTH MACEDONIA

ALBANIA

ITALY

A B

Niš

Republika Srpska Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Disputed

GREECE

map 0.1  Serbia and its neighbours in 2022. Drawn by Joe ­LeMonnier, https://mapartist.com/

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Introduction

exist as de facto western protectorates, it may be possible to imagine that only Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, with its own Serb entity, remain in the Balkans. According to Serbia’s official sources, the country occupies a territory of around 88,500 square kilometres. If Kosovo’s 10,887 square kilometres is taken away, the government in Belgrade controls roughly 77,600 square kilometres, a territory similar in size to the Czech Republic, Scotland and Nebraska. According to the 2011 census, Serbia’s population (not counting Kosovo) was close to 7.2 million people, comparable to Arizona, Bulgaria and Paraguay, and slightly below the size of the population of Hong Kong. In 2019, that figure was estimated at just shy of 7 million according to the country’s Statistics Office. In 1991, Serbia’s population without Kosovo was 8 million. In 2019, the UN estimated that due to emigration the population of Serbia (including Kosovo) will decline by almost 19 per cent between 2020 and 2050. According to another study, Serbia (without Kosovo) has experienced an annual decrease in population of 5.4 per cent per year between 2010 and 2020, due to emigration and low birth rate; if the trend continues, it is projected to shrink to 5.79 million people in 2050 – a decrease of almost 24 per cent since the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991.2 With 18.5 per cent of its population aged 65 or above in 2015, Serbia falls just below the European average of 18.9 per cent, and below countries such as Germany (21 per cent) and Italy, which has the oldest population in Europe with nearly 22 per cent of over-65s.3 T. Judah, ‘“Too Late” to Halt Serbia’s Demographic Disaster’, Balkan Insight, 24 October 2019, https://balkaninsight.com/2019/10/24/too-late-to-haltserbias-demographic-disaster/. Similar or even worse projections exist for other Balkan countries, including EU member states Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania. 3 ‘Population structure and ageing’, Eurostat, June 2016, http://ec.europa.eu/ eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Population_structure_and_ageing. These figures will likely go down once the tragic death toll of the Covid-19 is considered. 2

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Kosovo’s predominantly Albanian population had fought for decades to achieve independence from Serbia, but many ethnic Albanians continue to emigrate, seeking better opportunities elsewhere, even though Belgrade’s rule ended in 1999. More than half of the pre-war Serbian population of Kosovo – ­estimated at c.300,000 – and tens of thousands of Roma have left the ­province since 1999. These trends, combined with declining birth rates in Kosovo – previously the highest in Europe – means that its population is projected to fall from c.1.8 to c.1.66 million by 2050. The main reason for the recent depopulation of the Balkans is therefore not ethnic cleansing, but emigration to the West, often of young and well educated. The migrant crisis in the Balkans exists in more than one form. The arrival of Middle Eastern and African refugees, who seek to reach western Europe through the ‘Balkan route’, presents Serbia with an opportunity to encourage at least some to stay and settle, for example, in its almost depopulated villages. Most would want to continue for more prosperous countries of the EU, but it is possible some might choose to stay, despite rising anti-migrant sentiments following an initial, surprisingly warm reception of migrants by Serbia.4 The capital Belgrade is Serbia’s largest city by far, with close to 2 million people if suburban areas are included. Other main ­cities are Novi Sad, Niš, Kragujevac, Subotica, Leskovac, Kruševac, Kraljevo, Zrenjanin, Pančevo, Čačak, Šabac, Novi Pazar and Smederevo; of these, only the population of Novi Sad and Niš exceeds 200,000 inhabitants. According to the 2011 census (which did not include Kosovo, whose largest city Priština/Prishtina is home to around 200,000 people), slightly over 83 per cent

4

D. Djokić, “Wait, the Serbs are now the good guys?”, openDemocracy, 15 November 2015, www.opendemocracy.net/en/can-europe-make-it/ wait-serbs-are-now-good-guys/, originally published (in J. Plamper’s German translation) in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 27 October 2015.

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of Serbia’s citizens declare themselves as Serbs; the majority, nominally at least, belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church, ­ whose jurisdiction extends into Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo and Montenegro – a legacy of history, as this book shows. Orthodoxy, and a related tradition of slava, or krsna slava, a celebration of a family patron saint arguably specific to the Serbs, are important markers of Serb identity and tradition. The popularity of religiosity and observation of main religious holidays do not necessarily mean that most Serbs are deeply religious or knowledgeable about religion they formally profess.5 Although Serbia is a secular state, the Orthodox church often plays an important symbolic role in the country’s politics, and so it is not unusual to see political leaders – both in government and in opposition – allegedly seeking blessing from the Serbian patriarch or another senior bishop. As will be seen, between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, Serb patriarchs were de facto ethnarchs, that is ‘national’ leaders. In other words, there is a tradition of blurred boundaries between politics and religion. This is even more pronounced in Montenegro, where Orthodox bishops doubled-up as ruling princes between the late seventeenth and mid-nineteenth centuries, while in more recent times, the Metropolitan of Cetinje had played a major political role in the country. The Serbian church has dioceses not just across the Balkans but also in central and western Europe, North America, Australia and South Africa. The Serbs are a Diaspora people, and this is another important layer of their identity – though not to the extent that it is the case with Armenians, Greeks and Jews. Perhaps a better parallel may be made with the Russians. Large Serbian and Serbian-speaking communities live in the former Yugoslav ‘near R. Radić and M. Vukomanović, ‘Religion and Democracy in Serbia since 1989: The Case of the Serbian Orthodox Church’, in S. P. Ramet (ed.), Religion and Politics in Post-Socialist Central and Southeastern Europe: Challenges since 1989, Houndmills, Basingstoke, 2014, 180–211.

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abroad’, and, in smaller numbers, across the globe, because of war, revolution and state collapse. Significant and historically important Serb communities live in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina (1,360,000 or 31 per cent of the country’s population; Bosnia’s Serbs mostly live in its Serb entity Republika Srpska [Serb Republic]),6 Montenegro (178,000 or almost 29 per cent of the total population identified as ethnic Serbs in 2011, but nearly 43 said their mother tongue was Serbian)7 and Croatia (124,000 or 3.2 per cent of total population in 2021, down from 581,600, or 12.2 per cent, in 1991).8 There are perhaps 146,000 Serbs in Kosovo today (close to 8 per cent of the population), down from c.300,000 in 1999, according to Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) estimates.9 Hundreds of thousands of Serbs were displaced during the 1990s wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo; most initially fled to Serbia, where some settled permanently, while many others moved on elsewhere. Large groups of ‘Diaspora’ Serbs live in western Europe (especially in Austria, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland), the United States and Australia, including descendants of earlier generations of political and economic (Gastarbeiter) émigré communities. A smaller number of Serbs has emigrated to Cyprus, Greece, East-Central Europe and Russia. Serbia is an ethnic nation state, despite its constitutional commitment to civic equality of all regardless of ethnic background. Prior to Kosovo’s declaration of independence, ethnic Albanians

[Official Statistics Office, Bosnia-Herzegovina], ‘Popis 2013. u BiH’, www .statistika.ba. 7 Office for Statistics of the Republic of Montenegro, ‘Popis stanovništva, domaćinstava i stanova u C. Gori 2011. g.’, www.monstat.org/userfiles/file/ popis2011/saopstenje/saopstenje%281%29.pdf. 8 State Office for Statistics, Republic of Croatia, ‘Rezultati Popisa 2021’, https://popis2021.hr/. 9 ‘Kosovo: Serbs’, Minority Rights Group, March 2018, https://minorityrights .org/minorities/serbs-3/. 6

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were the largest minority, who made up between 15 and 20 per cent of Serbia’s population. A similar number of non-Serbs lives in the rest of Serbia (without Kosovo). The largest ethnic minority among them are Hungarians (c.250,000, down from c.338,000 in 1991), Slav Muslims (c.200,000, many of whom now declare themselves as Bosniaks), Roma (c.150,000, up from c.91,000 in 1991), Croats (c.60,000, down from nearly 100,000 in 1991), Slovaks (c.50,000), Montenegrins (c.38,000, down from c.118,000 in 1991) and Vlachs (c.35,000), a stateless ethnic group whose language is similar to Romanian. Some 23,000 people declared as Yugoslavs in 2011, down from nearly 315,000 in 1991.10 There is also a small but culturally significant Jewish community, historically strong in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Šabac, Subotica and Zemun. Roughly 75 per cent of 2,500 Serbian Jews are Sephardim and the rest are mostly Ashkenazim. The majority of Serbian Jews live in Belgrade today, joined in recent years by Israeli entrepreneurs and a small number of Orthodox Jews who have moved to Serbia’s capital. Since 2019/20, students enrolled at the Faculty of Philology, Belgrade University, have been able to learn Hebrew. Serbia was widely praised when in 2016 its parliament adopted a law on the restitution of Jewish property lost in the Holocaust and during the communist government in Yugoslavia. Much of the rest of former-Yugoslavia must catch up in this respect.11 Serbs like to describe their country as the crossroads of Europe and this, many believe, explains their historical predicament. [Official Internet presentation of the Government of the Republic of Serbia], ‘Stanovništvo, jezik, vera’ [2011] (www.srbija.gov.rs/tekst/36/stanovnistvojezik-i-vera.php); cf. P. Vlahović, Srbija: Zemlja, narod, život, običaji, Belgrade, 2011. 11 R. Shnidman, ‘Israelis to teach Serbs how to say “shalom”’, The Jerusalem Post, 22 June 2019; ‘Serbia to Extend Restitution to Holocaust Survivors Living Abroad’, Haaretz, 5 April 2017; J. Rock, ‘The Significance of the Sephardic Language as a Source of Cultural Identification in Sarajevo From a Comparative Perspective’, in S. Rauschenbach (ed.), Sefardische Perspektiven, 4, (2020), 121–36, 128. 10

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They see Serbia as a meeting place between East and West, and a country that is at once eastern and western – a metaphor wrongly attributed to a thirteenth-century Serbian saint in the late ­twentieth century (see Chapter 2). Essentially, according to this narrative, Serbia is a defiant victim of the Great Powers’ rivalries and interests. Whatever one’s ideological view may be, the country’s geography and climate have had a major impact on its history. The physical map of contemporary Serbia (without Kosovo) reveals a north–south river axis, formed by the Tisa, Danube, Velika Morava and its subsidiaries Zapadna and Južna Morava. In the west, the river Drina forms natural part of Serbia’s border with Bosnia-Herzegovina; the rivers Danube and Timok flow along the eastern border with Romania and Bulgaria (Map 0.1). Sava, Danube, Tisa and Velika Morava belong to the Black Sea basin, are navigable and connect Serbia with Croatia, Hungary and Romania. The Velika (Great) Morava forms the aquatic spine of the country, before splitting into the Zapadna (West) and Južna (South) Morava. The latter connects Serbia with the Vardar River valley in North Macedonia, and is part of a route that links the central Balkans with the Greek port of Salonica. The Nišava River, in southern Serbia, is part of another aquatic route, towards Sofia and Istanbul, in Bulgaria and Turkey, respectively. River Ibar connects Montenegro, northern Kosovo and south-western Serbia, where it flows into the Zapadna Morava. Kosovo’s largest rivers are Sitnica/Sitnicë, which flows into the Ibar, and Lab/ Llap, while the Beli Drin/Drini i Bardhë dominates a river network in the valleys of Metohija/Rrafshi i Dukagjinit. Serbia is connected to the Adriatic Sea through Montenegro, including via the Belgrade-Bar railway, built after the Second World War. Fertile land in Vojvodina in the north and valleys of the rivers Sava, Mačva and Morava represent the main agricultural regions. The further south one goes, hills and mountains become gradually higher – from Avala, near Belgrade (500 metres above sea

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level) to the Balkan Dinaric Mountain chain in the south-west of the country, where the highest peaks reach above 2,500 metres. The Carpathian–Balkan Mountains extend from Bulgaria into south-east Serbia, where they are known as the Stara planina (Old Mountain). Serbia’s climate is moderate continental, with regional differentiations; the mountainous regions in the south are exposed to sub-Alpine and even Alpine climates. The country has been traditionally rich in forests, as the name of its central region, Šumadija (‘land of forests’) attests. Particularly widespread are oak, pine, beech, willow and poplar trees. Roughly 55 per cent of Serbia’s territory consists of arable land, while around one-third of the country remains covered in forest. The percentage rose significantly after the Second World War thanks to a state-sponsored forestation campaign in socialist Yugoslavia. According to independent Serbian media, illegal cutting of both state- and privately owned forests has been one of the most widespread crimes in post-Yugoslav Serbia. Each year, hectares of forest are lost due to this, but the authorities appear unable to prevent the crime. In the north-east, there is a small desert, the Deliblatska peščara. Serbia’s rivers are rich in fish, including trout and carp, while wolves, bears, wild boars and a type of wild cat can be found in Serbia’s mountains. Serbian farmers typically keep domestic cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, chicken, turkeys and geese; livestock export, especially a local type of pig, was a main source of income in the nineteenth century. The historical presence of eagles, hawks and falcons is evident in many references to the birds of prey in the Serbian epic poetry and heraldic ­symbols. The country’s national symbol today is the Byzantine-style double-headed white eagle with a royal crown, even though ­ Serbia is a r­ epublic with no strong popular support for the restoration of monarchy. At the same time, the krstaš eagle (also known as the Eastern imperial eagle) is nearly extinct, as are several other animal ­species previously common in Serbia. The country’s rivers

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are as polluted as is its air. Some blame the NATO use of depleted uranium ammunition in 1999 for this sorry situation, but Serbia’s environmental record and investment in recycling is dismal. In 2018, the government admitted that it invested only 0.7 per cent of its economic output in the environment (by comparison, other countries in East-Central Europe tend to spend around 2 per cent), citing lack of funds. In January 2020 – before the Covid-19 pandemic reached their country – Serbs went out on streets wearing surgical masks to protest high air pollution, responsible for 175 per 100,000 deaths in the country.

Historical Legacies Nominally at least, Serbia has been set more or less on a pro-western course since the fall of President Slobodan Milošević in October 2000, but the relationship with the ‘West’ remains complicated. Like all its neighbours still not in the EU, Serbia formally wishes to join the Union. It has been a full candidate for the EU membership since early 2012, but the prospects of joining any time soon are bleak and popular support for the EU has been fluctuating. NATO membership in a near future is an even more unlikely scenario, even though Serbia joined the NATO-led Partnership for Peace in 2006. The most powerful military alliance in history waged one war since it was formed in 1949 – against Serbia, in 1999, as discussed later in the book. The government in Belgrade maintains friendly relations with China and Russia – with the latter it also shares Slav and Orthodox Christian identity. Serbia and Russia were the core republics of former socialist federations, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, respectively. However, the Serbian Yugoslav and Russian Soviet experiences were fundamentally different, and not least because unlike Serbia in the case of Yugoslavia, Russia sought independence from the Soviet Union that, unlike Yugoslavia, broke up

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relatively peacefully.12 Serbia, on the other hand, sought to reaffirm both its own ‘sovereignty’ within the Yugoslav federation and, initially at least, to reverse an ever greater decentralization of the country in the late 1980s and at the beginning of the ‘90s. Serbia’s geographic diversity and complex historical legacies are reflected in varied cultural influences: Byzantine, Ottoman, East-Central European and Mediterranean. The Serbs are South Slavs, who speak the Serbian variant of the former Serbo-Croat language, also spoken in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro, and widely understood in North Macedonia and Slovenia (as well as in Bulgaria and parts of Romania bordering Serbia). Modern Serbia, therefore, is also defined by its Yugoslav legacy. In common with the rest of Eastern Europe, Serbia is a post-communist society. Together with much of former-Yugoslavia, Serbia shares the legacies of two Yugoslav conflicts. The first occurred in the 1940s, when the original ‘Yugoslav Wars’ took place within the framework of the Second World War and brutal occupation regimes of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Serbia and Serbs played the central role in the tragic and violent (second) disintegration of Yugoslavia, in the 1990s. Modern Serbia may be said to have been, for much of its existence, a postwar society: following the anti-Ottoman uprisings of 1804–30, after the Eastern Crisis of the 1870s, and in the aftermath of the 1912–18, 1941–45 and 1991– 95/1999 wars. The Balkan Wars of 1912–13 were in some ways a prelude of the ‘Great Balkan War’ of 1914–18, fought within the larger framework of the First World War. Relatively speaking, Serbia may have suffered the highest casualties of all countries fighting in the First World War, losing hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians. During the Second World War in occupied Yugoslavia, around 1 million people lost their lives, roughly V. Vujačić, Nationalism, Myth and the State in Russia and Serbia: Antecedents of the Dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, Cambridge, 2015.

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half of them Serbs. The 1940s war was a complex, multi-layered conflict. One of its key features was a civil war that broke out in western Serbia in 1941 between two ideologically opposed movements, the predominantly Serb Četniks led by a group of former army officers, and communist-led Partisans, whose multi-ethnic leadership also recruited mainly among Serbs in the early years of the war. Deep ideological, regional and generational divisions, as legacies of the wars of the 1940s and ‘90s remain. Following the collapse of Yugoslavia, right-wing and frequently anti-Yugoslav narratives have become louder and more visible; during the regime of Aleksandar Vučić, they have become de facto mainstream. As a result, a strong socialist and social-democratic tradition, which long predates Yugoslavia, not to mention the heroic resistance to Nazism and Fascism among Serbs, has been sadly marginalized. Serbia shares the legacy of communist rule with all its neighbours and the Yugoslav legacy with five of them. Two of Serbia’s neighbours were part of Serbia in the twentieth century: North Macedonia and Kosovo. Montenegro – which had united with Serbia a week before Croats, Slovenes and others joined to form Yugoslavia on 1 December 1918 – remained in a union with Belgrade for further 15 years after the break-up of the Yugoslav state in 1991. Unlike Kosovo’s secession from Serbia following the 1990s Yugoslav war, Macedonia became a separate federal unit, and Macedonians were recognized as a constituent nation of Yugoslavia, at the end of the Second World War. Similarly, it was in 1945 that Montenegro became a republic within Yugoslavia and Montenegrins were recognized as a separate (from the Serbs) nation. While the Serbian government, and many Serbs, still regard Kosovo as a constituent part of their country, nearly half of Bosnia sees itself as semi-adjacent to Serbia. A close and complex relationship exists between Serbia and Montenegro; many Montenegrins identify as Serbs, or at least believe in common historical, linguistic and ecclesiastical ties with the Serbs. A

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canonically unrecognized Montenegrin Orthodox Church was established following the disintegration of Yugoslavia presumably to cement the identity of Montenegrins as a distinct nation. However, the Serbian Orthodox Church remains by far the strongest religious institution in Montenegro, though not without opposition within the country. The Orthodox Church in North Macedonia had been part of the Serbian Orthodox Church from the early decades of the twentieth century until the late 1960s, when the Yugoslav communist government enabled the establishment of a separate church there. Its autocephaly was not recognized by the rest of the Orthodox world, until in May 2022 the Macedonian Orthodox Church was finally granted autocephaly by the Serbian Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Serbian Orthodox Church had previously unsuccessfully attempted to broker an agreement that would have seen the reincorporation of the Macedonian church as a highly autonomous Ohrid archbishopric, whose historical importance is acknowledged within the Serbian church. Whatever its leaders argued, Serbia was involved in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early 1990s, where local Serbs fought to remain in a union with Belgrade, as Yugoslavia was breaking up. One of the main stated reasons for the Bosnian and Croatian Serbs’ refusal to leave Yugoslavia and live in the newly independent states was their fear of becoming a minority in the countries where the Serbs were victims of systematic mass murder, forced expulsion and conversion during the Second World War.13 In addition, most Serbs believe that their enormous suffering in the First World War was inbuilt into the very foundations of the Yugoslav state, and so found it hard to give up on D. Jović, ‘Fear of Becoming Minority as a Motivator of Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia’, Balkanologie, 1–2 (2001), https://journals .openedition.org/balkanologie/674.

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Yugoslavia; they believed in a strong state – whether unitary and centralized or federal. During the Second World War, much of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and parts of northern Serbia were included in the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi German and Fascist Italian puppet state. It was run by the Ustašas, an extreme anti-Serb and anti-Semitic Croatian right-wing organization, which committed a genocide against the Serbs, Jews and Roma, and murdered anti-Fascist Croats and Bosnian Muslims as well. The final Yugoslav war of the 1990s was fought on the territory of Serbia, over the status of Kosovo, initially against ­independence-seeking ethnic Albanian guerrillas and then also against NATO, which intervened militarily on behalf of Kosovo Albanians, who were exposed to systematic violence and murder by Serb forces. The North Atlantic alliance bombed Serbia and Montenegro between late March and early June 1999, when Belgrade finally gave in. Ironically perhaps, a peace agreement was signed in a run-down café ‘Evropa’ (Europe) on the Kosovo– Macedonian border.14 Not counting sporadic bombardment of Bosnian Serb positions by NATO aircrafts in the first half of the 1990s, this was the first time NATO waged a war. Also, it was the first time since the Second World War that German troops, as part of the NATO force, intervened militarily, in an area where its occupation regime had been particularly brutal in the 1940s. NATO’s military and western diplomatic interventions paved the way for Kosovo’s contested declaration of independence in February 2008. To say, therefore, that Serbia’s relationship with its immediate and approximate neighbours – except for Greece and Romania – and with ‘Great Powers’ is difficult would be an understatement. However, as this book will show, Serbs (to the extent that their In a further twist of historical irony, Prime Minister Pašić received AustriaHungary’s declaration of war on Serbia on 28 July 1914 while having lunch in hotel-restaurant ‘Evropa’, in the southern town of Niš. That was the beginning of the First World War.

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and their neighbours’ clearly distinguished ethno-religious identities existed) have also enjoyed long periods of peaceful coexistence and friendly relations with Bosnians, Bulgarians, Croats and Hungarians; even the relationship with Albanians and, prior to the nineteenth century, Ottomans cannot be painted in simplistic colours. Either way, a ­history of the Serbs and Serbia needs to be understood in a regional ­context as this book attempts, while keeping focus on Serbia. Serbia or Serb polities had fought against and had been subjugated by the Byzantine, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Nazi empires. During the Cold War, the main threat to Yugoslavia came from the Soviet Union. As this book shows, the discourses of traditional friendships (Russia, Byzantium/Greece, France, Britain, USA) and traditional enmities (Ottoman Turkey, Austria, Germany, Croatia, Bulgaria, Albanians), popular in Serbia and frequently supported by some outside commentators, are too simplistic. Even those Serbs who describe themselves as western or western-oriented seem insecure about their Europeanness. Serbia’s intellectuals often approach Europe uncritically – depending on their ideology, it is either an unquestionably positive or a negative category, a symbol of progress and modernity or of an alien, Catholic, north-western and ultimately anti-Serb and anti-Orthodox world. Europe/West is therefore at once an ideal and an enemy. Regardless of any regional tensions, many Serbs are sympathetic to Arab, African and Asian countries. This is partly a legacy of the Titoist era, when Yugoslavia was a key member of the Non-Aligned Movement, and partly due to opposition to the US foreign policy in Asia and the Middle East, which presumably reminds many of the NATO military intervention against Serbs in the 1990s. The Serbs suffer from collective traumas (as much as these can be quantified) due to their huge sacrifices as well as victimization in the two World Wars. Leaving aside for the moment the question of their role in the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the wars

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of the 1990s, Serbs have suffered enormously historically. During the twentieth century, they were subjected to pogroms and even periodic threats of extermination (as in the Second World War), even as they also came to occupy dominant political positions in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. Serbia was the only former-Yugoslav republic against which UN sanctions were imposed during the 1990s, and against which NATO intervened militarily. Serbia is also the only formerYugoslav republic that experienced a loss of territory, when Kosovo declared independence. The Croatian and Bosnian Serbs also declared independence in the early 1990s, but even Serbia did not recognize formally their statelets, which were eventually dissolved and reintegrated (into Croatia) and reincorporated (into Bosnia), after international intervention. Stories of epic battles and heroic losses turned into victories are also an integral part of the Serbian national narrative. These include the Battle of Kosovo of 1389, the Great Migration of 1690, the anti-Ottoman wars of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the heroic resistance and enormous suffering in the First and Second World Wars, and the most recent conflicts and international intervention against Serbia. In modern times, Serbs have been responsible for violence against their neighbours, during the nineteenth century, in the wars of 1912–18, in the Second World War (when violence committed by Serbs, especially Četniks, against other Serbs was also widespread) and during the 1990s wars. However, anti-Muslim violence of the nineteenth century or the 1912–13 Balkan Wars is on the margins of historiographic and public debates. Serbia, as a society, has a long way to go in dealing with its role in the break-up of Yugoslavia and the violence that ensued. At the same time, Belgrade bookstores sell eulogies to Radovan Karadžić and General Mladić (Bosnian Serb wartime leaders) alongside books about war crimes committed by Serbs in the 1990s.

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Culture and Society Serbia’s history has not been just a history of conflict and war. One of the main legacies of its turbulent past is a remarkable cultural and social melting pot, while pockets of cosmopolitanism survive throughout the country. A curious visitor to Serbia today would recognize an eclectic mix of Central and East European, Mediterranean and Near Eastern customs and influences – in architecture, cuisine, social interaction, life philosophy and everyday life. Serbia, especially its urban centres, is in many ways indistinguishable from a modern western, consumerist society. This is the legacy of the late nineteenth-century and twentieth-century modernization and the post-communist transition. First supermarkets opened in the 1950s, and today even smaller towns have shopping malls, while card payments are typically accepted even in remote village stores. Privately owned boutiques selling latest, usually Italian or Italian-inspired, fashion have been common since the 1980s. Foreign journalists and visitors have long noted that Serbia’s youth are sometimes indistinguishable in appearance from their trendy western counterparts. Wearing a well-known fashion label and purchasing latest mobile phones is considered essential, even if not many Serbs can easily afford them. They are often forced to buy cheaper copies, sometimes provided by Chinese traders, many of whom settled in Serbia during the 1990s, taking advantage of the friendly relations between Belgrade and Beijing. Not many readers of this book would remember that China threatened to go to war with NATO after the North Atlantic military alliance bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, allegedly due to an error. That said, western commentators sometimes obsess over Russian and Chinese influences in Serbia. Even Belgrade’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic was reported with a focus on Chinese, and to a lesser extent Russian medical aid to Serbia and potential implications on the country’s foreign policy, rather than on lives saved because of the aid.

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Contemporary Serbia is a society of sharp contrasts and contradictions, not unlike other countries that have experienced transition from one-party rule to multi-­party democracy, and from state communism to liberal-­capitalist system. Poverty mixes with prosperity, while abrasiveness and borderline aggressiveness meet extreme hospitality. Some of the coolest and hippest people and places coexist alongside reminders of Ottoman and Yugoslav socialist pasts. Typically, laid-back attitude can be infuriating, even if it often produces surprisingly efficient outcomes. In Serbia (as throughout much of former-Yugoslavia), things frequently function through veze (connections) and exchange of favours, from finding a place in kindergarten and school to enrolling at a university, getting a job, skipping a queue in hospital, all the way to conducting business and politics. Commenting on the same phenomenon in Greece, one historian has argued that this is a legacy of the long Ottoman rule.15 Certainly, cultural affinities between Serbs and other Balkan peoples, including Greeks and Turks, exist. At the same time, many Serbs are attracted by and identify with Italian, and more generally South European, ‘way of life’, especially concerning fashion, food and music. In common with Croats and other South Slavs, the Serbs are as much if not more South European as they are East European – Balkan and Mediterranean Slavs at once, one might say. Serbia is a highly centralized state, with almost all p ­ olitical and economic power located in Belgrade. At the same time, it was the only former-Yugoslav republic with autonomous provinces, Kosovo in the south and Vojvodina in the north. As this book shows, both provinces were in different ways legacies of largescale migrations of Orthodox Slavs (but not just them) between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. Vojvodina’s autonomy today is as fictional as Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo. However,

R. Clogg, A Concise History of Greece, 2nd edn, Cambridge, 2002, 4.

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despite a high degree of centralism, key political decisions concerning ‘ordinary’ people are frequently made locally. For better or worse, town mayors and local businessmen are often the ones who determine ‘when it’s sunny and when it’s cloudy’, as a popular Serbian saying goes. Reality TV programmes and tabloid press (which make their British counterparts appear almost high culture in comparison) are hugely popular. At the same time, excellent theatre plays are sold out months in advance, local playwrights and writers often reach celebrity status that their British counterparts can only dream of, and Serbia’s film and TV series production is arguably the strongest in former-Yugoslavia. In addition to books by local writers, Serbian reading public has access to a wide range of international authors thanks to a remarkably vibrant publishing industry. The Prosveta bookstore – once the location of a bookshop owned by Geca Kon, a Serbian-Jewish publisher murdered by German occupation authorities in 1941 – on the Knez Mihajlova Street in downtown Belgrade even had a dedicated section to Japanese literature and culture. Most Serbian publishers receive state funding, which enables them to survive – one of the legacies of the Yugoslav socialist era. Things have been changing for the worse in recent years, due to budget cuts. Nevertheless, excellent bookshops stubbornly survive on high streets dominated by clothes retailers, betting shops and cassinos, as well as numerous cafes and restaurants. Public libraries throughout the country regularly host poetry readings and book launches. The Belgrade Philharmonic, opened in 1923, is internationally renowned. Serbia is a birth country of acclaimed classical music performers (including violinists Stefan Milenković and Nemanja Radulović) and composers (Isidora Žebeljan, who died in 2020, aged just 53). Belgrade International Theatre Festival (BITEF), founded in 1967 by Mira Trailović and Jovan Ćirilov, has maintained its excellent reputation despite decreasing state funding, alongside other cultural venues such as the

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Yugoslav Drama Theatre, founded in Belgrade in 1947, and the Serbian National Theatre, established in Novi Sad in 1861 (then part of the Habsburg Empire). Indeed, Serbia has a rich cultural scene; practically every town in the country has its own film, theatre or music festival and a literary prize. Museums and galleries are popular, and entry prices are relatively low and sometimes free. ‘High culture’ remains both of high quality and affordable. These are also legacies of socialism and Yugoslavia. A start-up tech industry has blossomed in recent years. This is partly due to young Serbs returning home from the West to set up companies in an environment that allows more time to develop business (outdated laws notwithstanding) than places such as the Silicon Valley. There is also a tradition of internationally recognized technological innovation, at socialist-era ‘Vinča’ and ‘Pupin’ institutes (the latter is named after Mihajlo Pupin, the famous Serb-American scientist and inventor, born in Habsburg Hungary, who taught at New York’s Columbia University). In the early 1980s, Vojislav Antonić invented Galaksija, a ‘Do It Yourself’ personal computer and an affordable Yugoslav answer to Commodore and Spectrum computers that were out of reach of most people at the time. Political isolation and economic restrictions of the recent decades have forced young (and no longer so young) Serbs to learn how to fix and sometimes build their own PCs, so as a result there exists a widespread, self-taught expertise that is arguably superior to that in the more affluent West. In late 2019, slightly over 80 per cent of all Serbian households possessed internet connection (a seven per cent growth in comparison to 2018). This is comparable to neighbouring countries, and only just below the EU average of around 90 per cent in 2020.16 The data is for Serbia without Kosovo, where an even higher percentage of households have internet. ‘Godišnje istraživanje o upotrebi informacionokomunikacionih tehnologija, 2019’, Republički zavod za statistiku,

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Serbia might be described as at once a conservative, patriarchal and modern society, in which atheist values meet religious beliefs, and where many are prepared to turn to fortune tellers and sorceresses to seek solution to their problems. Traditional societal norms coexist, and sometimes mix, with liberal and even semi-anarchic values. Serbia is the birthplace of ‘turbofolk’, a kitschy brand of music that combines elements of the Yugoslavera ‘neo folk’ (symbolized by Belgrade-based, Bosnian-born Lepa Brena, real name Fahreta Jahić), with techno and dance music. It was named by Rambo Amadeus (Antonije Pušić), a richly talented Montenegro-born musician and performer based in Belgrade, who was mocking the genre. Turbofolk music is usually performed by highly sexualized female singers, who also regularly feature in reality shows and help sell the scandal-filled tabloid press (a similar phenomenon in Bulgaria is known as chalga). The veteran of the genre is Svetlana Ražnatović Ceca, the widow of Željko Ražnatović Arkan, Serbia’s notorious gangster and paramilitary leader murdered in 2000 in a Belgrade hotel lobby by a paid assassin. The genre is associated with the extreme nationalism of the 1990s and regional, not only Serbian, macho culture. Paradoxically perhaps, Ceca and other Serbian singers are popular across the Balkans, including in Croatia and Slovenia. Some turbofolk performers have in the meanwhile become gay icons and, in the case of Jelena Karleuša (the wife of footballer Duško Tošić, who once played for Portsmouth and Queens Park Rangers in England), advocates of LGBTQ rights.17 At the same time, an underground culture has been flourishing despite, or perhaps because, more than three decades of political www.stat.gov.rs/sr-latn/vesti/20190920-godisnje-istrazivanje-o-ikt/?a=27&s=; ‘Digital economy and society statistics – households and individuals’, Eurostat, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Digital_ economy_and_society_statistics_-_households_and_individuals. 17 Eurovicious, ‘Queer as Turbofolk’, a 3-part article at www.balkanist.net, September–October 2014.

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and economic crises, wars and international isolation. Yugoslav Serbia was home to a strong post-punk and New Wave scene of the 1980s, which featured groups such as Šarlo Akrobata, Disciplina Kičme (whose London reincarnation Disciplin a Kitschme formed in the 1990s), Ekatarina Velika, Električni Orgazam, Idoli, Obojeni Program and Partibrejkers. The early 1990s saw the emergence of a new generation of grunge and indie rock groups that toured the country collectively under the name Brzi bendovi Srbije (Fast bands of Serbia) – an ironic commentary on President Milošević’s promise to introduce west European-style fast trains. Members of some of the above-mentioned 1980s bands formed a ‘super group’ that in 1991 released an anti-war track and campaigned for peace in Yugoslavia. Belgrade-based Bajaga & Instruktori performed in Sarajevo in July 1991 (during the war in Slovenia) at a concert for peace broadcast by Yutel, Yugoslavia’s first, shortlived independent TV. Music by bands such as Darkwood Dub, Kanda, Kodža & Nebojša, Oružjem Protivu Otmičara and Plejboj provided the soundtrack for anti-Milošević protests of the 1990s. Djordje Balašević, a singer–songwriter, poet and actor, who has been compared to Bob Dylan and Vladimir Vysocky, became the symbol of anti-war and anti-nationalist voices in Serbia. His death in February 2021 from Covid-19 provoked spontaneous scenes of public mourning and grief across former-Yugoslavia unseen since the death of President Tito in 1980. Indeed, with some notable exceptions, pop and rock culture provided a rare space for critical thinking and anti-war, anti-nationalist activism and progressive ideas, channelled through the now defunct Radio B92.18

M. Colin, This Is Serbia Calling: Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio and Belgrade’s Underground Resistance, London, 2001. The B92’s once flagship political show ‘Peščanik’ (Hourglass – the title of a well-known novel by Danilo Kiš) aired for a while as an independent radio programme, before transforming into a website (www.pescanik.net) that publishes critical commentary on topical Serbian and international issues.

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The ‘exit’ from the Milošević era was symbolized by a music festival of the same name held annually in Novi Sad since 2000. The Exit quickly became one of the best music festivals in Europe this century, regularly hosting the world’s premier pop, rock and hiphop artists. It is simplistically thought of as a symbol of a ‘European Serbia’, where a more traditional gathering of brass bands held annually in Guča, western Serbia, is supposed to represent ‘traditional Serbia’, even though it regularly attracts regional and international guests and performers. Acclaimed Serbian-Roma trumpet player Boban Marković and his band are among those regularly playing at Guča, when not performing at venues such as London’s Barbican. Marković has collaborated with classically trained violinist Félix Lajkó (Lajko Feliks), an ethnic Hungarian from Vojvodina known for his work with ‘world music’ acts from around the world. There are numerous other excellent trumpet and brass bands from Serbia whose success probably owes something to the genre-defining music of Goran Bregović. Irish folkrock, sung in a Serbian-accented attempt at Irish pronunciation of English, is hugely popular thanks to veterans of the genre Orthodox Celts and the bands they inspired, such as Irish Stew of Sindidun (the Celtic name for Belgrade dating to third century BC). There is also a rich and diverse hip-hop scene. Among those distinguished for their politically and socially engaged lyrics are Bad Copy, Prti Bee Gee, Marčelo (real name Marko Šelić), Sajsi MC (Ivana Rašić) and Smoke Mardeljano (Miloš Stojanović). A regional variant of Reggaeton and Auto-Tune sound is hugely popular. Kosovo-born Rasta (Stefan Djurić) is arguably the genre’s biggest performer and producer, having founded the successful ‘Balkaton’ label. Belgrade’s club scene is internationally renowned. Once a strip joint, the boat-club ‘20/44’ (the city’s geographic coordinates) is a cult venue that attracts leading local and international DJs, often prepared to waive their fees to play there. One of the club’s resident DJs, Slobodan Brkić (a.k.a. DJ Brka), is a London School of

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Economics graduate and a former advisor to late Prime Minister Djindjić. Belgrade-born Gramophonedzie (real name Marko Milićević) is a world-famous DJ, whose music has featured in the top 10 singles lists around the world. The ‘New Serbian Scene’ of the recent years includes excellent indie and pop-rock acts, including Goribor, Nežni Dalibor, Repetitor, Svi na pod!, Zemlja gruva (featuring Konstrakta and Zoe Kida) and Kralj Čačka (real name Nenad Marić), who is sometimes described as a Serbian Tom Waits. A predominantly collectivist society, Serbia is nevertheless the birth country of some hugely creative and globally renowned individuals. These include conceptual artist Marina Abramović and fashion designers Zoran (Ladičorbić, a reclusive New Yorkbased designer praised as a genius of minimalism) and Londonbased Roksanda Ilinčić (whose clients include the Duchess of Cambridge, Keira Knightley, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump). Abramović may be the best known but is not the only highly accomplished international artist; others include Raša Todosijević, another conceptual artist, painters Mića Popović, Leonid Šejka, Ljubica Sokić, Vladimir Veličković and sculptors Toma Rosandić and Olga Jančić. Serbia is also home to internationally celebrated naïve and marginal artists, notably those based in and near Jagodina, central Serbia and Kovačica, a predominantly ethnic-Slovak village in Vojvodina. Acclaimed twentieth-century writers Ivo Andrić (the only Yugoslav to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature), Miloš Crnjanski, Milovan Djilas, Danilo Kiš, Milorad Pavić, Vasko Popa and Mehmed-Meša Selimović have belonged to and shaped the modern Serbian literature. The same may be said of Branko Ćopić, Bora Ćosić, Dobrica Ćosić (they are not related), Filip David, Oskar Davičo, Mirko Kovač, Borislav Pekić and Aleksandar Tišma, as well as the first post–World War II generation of writers, including David Albahari, Vladislav Bajac, Svetislav Basara and Dragan Velikić, and their literary heirs such as Srdjan Valjarević.

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Meanwhile, Belgrade-born Zoran Živković is a widely translated author of science fiction. Some of these authors came from ethnically non-Serb or mixed backgrounds but wrote in the Serbian variant of the Serbo-Croat language and adopted Serbian culture and identity that did not contradict their other identities nor identification with Yugoslavia. Although male dominated, the Serbian literary scene has produced prominent female writers, poets and playwrights, including Isidora Sekulić, Desanka Maksimović, Vida Ognjenović (who has also been a leading member of the Democratic Party), Milena Marković, Biljana Srbljanović and Radmila Petrović – who, again, represent different generations and literary forms. North American- and British-based writers of Serb origin, Vesna Goldsworthy, Téa Obreht and Charles Simić, a Pulitzer Prize–winning Serbian-American poet, are among internationally renowned contemporary authors who belong to different generations and literary genres. Walt Bogdanich, a celebrated investigative journalist and a three-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, is another well-known Serbian-American. In recent years, Belgrade has re-emerged as a cultural centre of former Yugoslavia. For example, Centre for Cultural Decontamination regularly hosts events featuring participants from across former-Yugoslavia. Belgrade is home to a regional writers’ festival Krokodil, while prominent contemporary Bosnian, Croatian and Slovenian writers regularly publish their books with Serbian presses and in some cases have moved to Belgrade. Internationally renowned scholars of Serb origin are numerous and include economist Branko Milanović and Gordana VunjakNovaković, a professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University. Serbia and the Serbs have made an important contribution to the world cinematography, including award-winning directors belonging to the Yugoslav ‘Black Wave’ of the 1960s and ‘70s (such as Dušan Makavejev, Živojin Pavlović, Aleksandar Petrović and Želimir Žilnik). The ‘Prague School’ group came into the

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limelight in the late 1970s and early ‘80s (Srdjan Karanović, Goran Marković, Goran Paskaljević and Bosnian-born Emir Kusturica). Their contemporary Slobodan Šijan directed several cult films based on satirical plays written by Dušan Kovačević. Srdjan Dragojević emerged in the early 1990s, and was followed by several younger, award-winning directors, including Stefan Arsenijević, Stevan Filipović, Maja Miloš, Oleg Novković and Mila Turajlić. Actors such as Milena Dravić, Bekim Fehmiu, Dragan Nikolić, Ljubiša Samardžić and Velimir-Bata Živojinović achieved international fame during the Yugoslav era, in some cases thanks to the hugely popular Partisan film. Živojinović was particularly popular in China, while Gojko Mitić became a star of East German Western movie production and was popular in the USSR as well. Mirjana Karanović and Jasna Djuričić are leading contemporary Serbian actresses, while Croatian Serb Rade Šerbedžija, a highly respected and popular actor in socialist Yugoslavia, forged a successful international career after emigrating to Britain and then the USA in the 1990s. Meanwhile others, such as London-based Branka Katić, are usually cast in smaller roles of stereotypical East Europeans. Younger Serbian actors Miloš Biković, Milan Marić and Milena Radulović have found success in Russia, while Belgrade-born, Denmark-based Danica Ćurčić is a rising star of Scandinavian cinema and TV. Hollywood directors and actors of Serb origin include Peter Bogdanovich, Karl Malden (i.e. Mladen Sekulovich) and more recently Sovietborn actress and model Milla Jovovich and Canadian-American actress and producer Kata Stanić. Well-known Australian Serbs include transgender model Andreja Pejić and actress and singer Holly Vallance (Vukadinović). Serbia’s sportswomen and men, such as tennis stars Novak Djoković and Monika Seleš (an ethnic Hungarian from Vojvodina) and basketball player Nikola Jokić are historically among the world’s best in the sport in which they have competed. The emergence of Ana Ivanović and Jelena Janković in 2007–2008 as number

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1 female tennis players in the world coincided with Djoković’s rise and made Serbia one of the strongest tennis nations globally for a few years. Serbia’s water polo team has in recent years won Olympic, World and European championship gold medals and is arguably the most dominant ever national team in any sport. Serbia has also produced outstanding men and women national teams in basketball, volleyball and handball. It might be argued that the country’s success in collective sports is largely thanks to the creativity of its hugely talented individuals. Serbian basketball players (such as Radivoj Korać, Dragan Kićanović, Vlade Divac, Aleksandar Djordjević, Dejan Bodiroga and Predrag Stojaković) and coaches (Aleksandar Nikolić, Ranko Žeravica, Dušan Ivković, Božidar Maljković, Svetislav Pešić and Željko Obradović) are historically among Europe’s best. Borislav Stanković, a longtime president of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the world basketball governing body, was arguably one of the most influential executives in international sport. Their success is in many ways the legacy of the ‘Yugoslav school of basketball’, which made Yugoslavia a sport superpower in the 1970s and ‘80s alongside the Soviet Union and the United States.19 (Gregg Popovich, one of the greatest American basketball coaches ever, has Serb roots, as did late Pete Maravich, considered among the most talented basketball players ever). Similarly, Yugoslavia challenged the post–World War II dominance of Soviet chess players. Serbian grandmasters Svetozar Gligorić, Borislav Ivkov, Milunka Lazarević, Ljubomir Ljubojević and Alisa Marić (who served as Serbia’s Minister of Youth and Sport in 2012/13) were among the best in the world. Major football silverware has eluded the country at senior lever, but Serbia won the Youth World Cup in 2015 (by defeating Brazil in the final). The Yugoslav-era international V. Perica, ‘United They Stood, Divided They Fell: Nationalism and the Yugoslav School of Basketball, 1968–2000’, Nationalities Papers, 29:2 (2001), 267–91.

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success of Serbian football teams Red Star and Partizan Belgrade represented the achievement of the Yugoslav football. Serbia’s most popular sport has produced some exceptionally gifted and successful players and coaches, including Radomir Antić, Vujadin Boškov, Dragan Džajić, Vladimir Jugović, Miljan Miljanić, Dragan Stojković, Dejan Stanković, Dragoslav Šekularac, Velibor Vasović and Nemanja Vidić, to mention but a few. Creativity, unpredictability, emotion, and so on have often delivered results, and sometimes puzzled outside observers. Djoković and Jokić, one of the best tennis players of all time and one of the most uniquely talented basketball players in the world, respectively, on the surface appear like two very different personalities and athletes. Djoković combines gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan diet and Oriental meditation with extreme hard work and dedication. Jokić, on the other hand, by his own admission enjoys the Serbian carbs and red-meat-rich diet, has a laid-back attitude and sometimes appears to be out of shape physically. Yet, both have succeeded thanks to a combination of talent, hard work, imagination, improvisation and inat. This apparently typical Serbian emotion, which cannot be easily translated into English, means doing things out of spite and stubbornness, often repeatedly, even if such actions may be counterproductive and self-harming. Both have been nicknamed ‘Joker’ – partly because of their surnames, but also due to their sense of humour, which sets them apart from usually serious and earnest public appearance of many of their fellow countrymen. However, one cannot help but wonder if there is something ‘Balkanist’ in the Joker moniker, especially regarding Djoković. He remains far less popular than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, his greatest tennis rivals from Switzerland and Spain, respectively, despite often outperforming them on court. Even western commentators have noted that Djoković remains un(der)appreciated, and some have wondered if this might be because he is from Serbia.

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In common with other patriarchal societies in South-Eastern Europe, Serbian women are frequently discriminated against, both in public and at home. According to a 2016 study, 46 per cent of women in Serbia have experienced some form of abuse or violence, while every third woman was victim of domestic violence. These figures do not differ much from those in the EU, where every third woman over the age of 15 has been a victim of physical and/or sexual violence.20 Despite this, many women in Serbia have reached the highest levels of their profession, through combination of talent, ambition, survival strategies, sexuality and, inevitably, veze (not necessarily in this order and not always due to all these factors). Ethnic, religious, sexual and other minorities are frequently discriminated, sometimes openly, although many Serbs would say that they belong to a tolerant, non-racist nation. Dragan Maksimović, a well-known Serbian actor, was beaten to death in late 2000 by a group of football hooligans who assumed he was Roma. One of the most talented young Serbian writers today is Meti Kamberi who as a Roma has experienced racially motivated discrimination and violence. On the other hand, Serbian Roma and Muslim folk singers, such as late Šaban Bajramović and Džej Ramadanovski, are hugely popular; the former even has a monument in his hometown of Niš. Not to mention that Bosnian, Croatian and Macedonian folk and pop-rock musicians remain popular in Serbia, regularly performing in sold-out concert arenas in Belgrade. Not unlike in the rest of Eastern Europe, homophobic views are common in Serbia and are frequently publicly expressed by conservative and right-wing politicians and religious leaders. The 2010 pride parade in Belgrade provoked riots and violence T. Ignjatović, ‘Numbers Speak: Violence against Women in Serbia’, Heinrich Böll Stiftung/Gunda Werner Institute, 2017, www.gwi-boell.de/ en/2017/09/11/numbers-speak.

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committed by right-wing groups and football hooligans, resulting in the banning of the march in the following few years. Although recent pride parades have been held peacefully, they require strong police presence to guarantee the safety of the participants. At the same time, Dragojević’s 2011 film Parada, which offers a critical look at the Serbs’ homophobia, received not just international acclaim (winning, for example, the Teddy award at the 2012 Berlinale), but was also a huge hit in Serbia and across former-Yugoslavia, where homophobic views are similarly widespread. Turbofolk, which originated as a music of the nationalist, gangster, macho Serbs, has in recent years brought the LGBTQ community closer to the mainstream. One of the country’s most popular pop singers and Serbia’s only Eurovision Song Contest winner Marija Šerifović is both gay and Roma (and, one might add, has a Muslim-sounding surname). When she was appointed Prime Minister of Serbia in 2017, Ana Brnabić was one of the few female leaders in the world; she is also openly gay and is an ethnic Croat. In 2019, it was reported that Brnabić’s partner gave birth to a baby boy. Serbia’s laws do not recognize samesex marriage and civil partnership, nor are gay couples allowed to adopt. Despite all this, Brnabić is not known as an LGBTQ rights champion.21 Serbs are sometimes perceived from outside as a nation united in its anti-western nationalism. Many authors, both Serbian and non-Serbian, on the other hand, point out that the society has been traditionally divided into the ‘first’ (anti-modern, conservative, pro-Russian) and ‘second’ (modern, liberal, pro-western) Serbia. During the 1990s, some western authors portrayed

C. Baker, ‘The Molitva Factor: Eurovision and Performing National Identity in World Politics’, in A. Dubin et al. (eds), Eurovision as a Cultural Phenomenon, London, 2023, 96–110; B. Bilić, ‘Ana je tu: Figure zazora, klasne privilegije i premijerka Ana Brnabić’, Sociologija (Belgrade), LXII (2020), 378–96.

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the Serbs as perennially associated with violence, as a nation of metaphorical vampires, as one scholar has argued.22 In popu­ lar films and series produced in the West since the 1990s, Serbs have joined, if not replaced, Russians as the stereotypical evil East Europeans. Ironically perhaps, James Bond, the quintessential saviour of the West in this movie genre, was likely modelled on a Serbian World War II spy; another Yugoslav (and a Serb through his mother’s family), may have also inspired Ian Fleming’s famous secret agent.23 Both Serb nationalists and their staunch critics have tended to view Serbia and Serbs as homogenized categories. In reality, there exist visible social, political and cultural differences between the Serbs of Serbia and Serbs of Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro, and between the Serbs of Vojvodina and of central and southern Serbia. Contemporary Serbia unites, not always easily, historical traditions of ‘Ottoman’ and ‘Habsburg’ Serbs. Bosnian and Croatian Serbs are similarly divided by the different imperial legacies, but at a closer look, they also share important historical experiences: both were part of the society of the Habsburg Military Border (discussed later in the book); they also share the victimhood identity (anti-Serb Habsburg pogroms in the First and the Ustaša genocide of the Serbs in the Second World War). Montenegro represents another complex case, for many Montenegrins have identified with the Serbs, while even among those who feel as a separate nation many acknowledge common history and origins with Serbs. Serbian history has been characterized by a remarkable plurality of opinions and regional identities, as this book shows.

T. Longinović, Vampire Nation: Violence as Cultural Imaginary, Durham, NC, 2011. The origin of the ‘vampire’ phenomenon is, incidentally, associated with the Serbs, as discussed later on in the book. 23 D. Popov, Spy/Counterspy, New York, 1974; V. Ivanović, LX: Memoirs of a Yugoslav, London, 1977, 360–61.

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How Unique Is Serbian History? It has been suggested sometimes that anti-modern, anti-western, corrupt and aggressive groups and forces have dominated Serbia’s history since the nineteenth century and that this explains the country’s recent predicament.24 In other words, a direct line may be drawn between Garašanin and Milošević/Vučić – similar to the ‘Mazzini to Mussolini’ or the ‘Bismarck to Hitler’ theses in the Italian and German cases, respectively. So, is there a Serbian Sonderweg, a special Serbian path in history?25 Some key developments in the history of Serbia and the Serbs may indeed appear unique. For example, since the mid-nineteenth century, the Serbs have had adopted several national ideologies, which may be broadly defined as Serbian (including a maximalist, ‘Greater’ Serbian version) and Yugoslav. However, the Croats, and to a lesser degree the Slovenes, have also embraced or wandered between a wider Yugoslav and a more particularistic type of nationalism, which, in the Croat case, also included a ‘Greater’ Croat idea (briefly, and tragically, fulfilled during the Second World War). Not to mention the similarly complex identities of the Bosnian Muslims, Macedonians and Montenegrins; groups which, incidentally, Serbs have generally regarded as part of See, for example, O. Milosavljević, Činjenice i tumačenja: Dva razgovora sa Latinkom Perović, Belgrade, 2010, and U tradiciji nacionalizma ili stereotipi srpskih intelektualaca XX veka o ‘nama’ i ‘drugima’, Belgrade, 2002; L. Perović, Dominantna i neželjena elita: Beleške o intelektualnoj i političkoj eliti u Srbiji (XX–XXI vek), Belgrade, 2016; L. Perović et al. (eds), Srbija u modernizacijskim procesima XIX i XX veka, 3: uloga elita, Belgrade, 2003; D. Stojanović, Kaldrma i asfalt: Urbanizacija i evropeizacija Beograda 1890–1914, Belgrade, 2008. 25 V. Vujačić, Reexamining the ‘Serbian Exceptionalism’ Thesis, Berkeley, CA, 2004, https://iseees.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/2004_03-vuja.pdf, is the best work on the subject; cf. J. Kocka, ‘German History before Hitler: The Debate about the German “Sonderweg”’, Journal of Contemporary History, 23:1 (1988), 3–16; H. Walser Smith, ‘Introduction’, in his edited Oxford Handbook of Modern German History, Oxford, 2011, 1–28; S. Levis Sullam, Giuseppe Mazzini and the Origins of Fascism, Basingstoke, 2015. 24

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a wider Serb nation, an idea which also have had its adherents among many Montenegrins, as already mentioned. Although in some respects these developments are specific to Serbia and Serbs, one should not rush to declare Serbia’s history unique. Germany, Italy and Japan have dealt with their difficult pasts (in the case of Germany especially of the Nazi and communist eras, but increasingly in respect of its imperial past as well) with varying degrees of success and these societies remain divided. Postsocialist transition has revealed deep divisions in countries such as Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. The legacies of civil wars fought in the 1930s and ‘40s in Spain and Greece, respectively, survive. Even in the United States, where a civil war was fought in the mid-nineteenth-century, divisions caused by it are felt to this day. The polarization in American society over the question of racial equality became especially pronounced during the Trump presidency (2016–20). Not to mention the extent to which Brexit has divided the United Kingdom, flared old and created new debates about the legacy of the British Empire. Some, perhaps many, Serbs see themselves as a heroic people who only wage defensive and just wars. The myth of a nation built on resistance against more powerful enemy (Ottomans in 1389 and 1804, Austria-Hungary in 1914, Nazi Germany in 1941, the Soviet Union in 1948 and NATO in 1999) is a strong part of the Serbs’ identity, but a similar, ‘insurrectionary nationalism’ exists elswehere, notably in Poland.26 A related discourse rests on a belief that Serbia selflessly sacrificed its independence for the sake of other South Slavs in 1918 and again in 1945, only to be eventually betrayed and abandoned by them and by Western Allies. In another related narrative, the Serbs are a Diaspora people, forced by a Muslim enemy (Ottomans, Albanians) to leave their spiritual home in Kosovo. Inevitable parallels with the Jews J. Connelly, From Peoples into Nations: A History of Eastern Europe, Princeton, NJ, 2020, ch. 5.

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have been made, and not only by Serbs. When in December 2014 then Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vučić visited Israel, his host and Israeli counterpart Benyamin Netanyahu stated that ‘[t]he friendship between the Jewish and Serbian peoples goes back to thousands of years, to the time of the Roman Republic [c.509–27 BC]’, to which Vučić responded that ‘everything that Prime Minister Netanyahu have [sic] just said about our past has been something very true and yeah, we shared in a way the same destiny’.27 Nobody seemed to mind, or perhaps did not know, that the Balkan Serbs do not appear in ­historical sources before ninth century AD. Orthodoxy and Ottoman heritage, and historic ties with Russia, seemingly place Serbia outside the European mainstream. (Meanwhile, even the most ardent ‘Cold Warriors’ would not deny that Russian art, music and literature are ‘European’ – at least this was true prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022). However, as this book shows, modern Serbian history is also part of European history and Serbian nationalism developed under central and west European influences. Besides, west European history represents just one aspect of Europe’s past. Countries such as Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, today EU and NATO member-states, share the Ottoman and Orthodox historical legacies with Serbia; in addition, Bulgaria and Romania are, like Serbia, post-communist societies. There are certain developments specific to Serbia’s history, certainly within the former-Yugoslav context. For example, 27

Netanyahu also stated that a Serbian Jewish Rabi was the progenitor of Zionism (see Chapter 3) and made a reference to Jewish and Serbian suffering in the Second World War. ‘PM Netanyahu meets with Serbian PM Vučić in Jerusalem’, Belgrade, Tel Aviv, 1 December 2014, https:// embassies.gov.il/beograd/NewsAndEvents/Pages/PM-Netanyahu-meetswith-Serbian-PM-Vucic-1-December-2014.aspx. On the identification with the Jews across Yugoslavia, see M. Živković, Serbian Dreambook: National Imaginary in the Time of Milošević, Bloomington, IN, 2011, ch. 8.

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medieval Serbia was the most powerful and enjoyed independence for the longest time among the South Slav polities (not counting Bulgaria). For a long period, it was part of the Byzantine ‘commonwealth’, but it maintained strong economic and cultural ties with Venice and Dubrovnik, as evident in medieval architecture, for example. Most Serbian kings were canonized by the Orthodox Church; the tradition of holy kings and dynasties may be specific to former-Yugoslavia, but it existed elsewhere – in Hungary and France, for instance. At the same time, medieval Serb rulers sought recognition from both Constantinople and Rome, and some were baptized as Catholics. Even the rich tradition of epic poetry and oral history is not a solely Serb but rather a Balkan phenomenon. This book explores key developments such as large-scale migrations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that made the Serbs a nation of migrants. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that the ‘migrations of the Serbs’ usually involved, in addition to Orthodox Slavs who identified or were identified as Serb, ethnically and even religiously different groups of peoples, including Albanians, Bulgarians and Vlachs. Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, a polycentric, multi-­ layered pre-modern Serb identity emerged, fostered by the Orthodox church and oral tradition. Similar patterns may be observed elsewhere, for example, in the case of Bulgarians, Greeks and Romanians. The nineteenth-century tradition of anti-Ottoman resistance, which anticipated the much better-known Greek revolution, was one of the reasons why Serbia, alone among the future component parts of Yugoslavia, except for tiny Montenegro, enjoyed political independence in the nineteenth century. At the same time, democratic institutions, developed on the French and Belgian models, set Serbia apart from the rest of the South Slav political space, however limited and problematic nineteenth-century Serbia’s democracy had been. The domination of the People’s Radical Party in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has led

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some authors to conclude that Serbia had already then become a one-party state; but such authors seemingly ignore political conflicts between the Radicals, Liberals and Progressives, and between the Radicals, the monarchy and the military, not to mention a rather remarkable freedom of press in Serbia at the time. During the interwar Yugoslav period, there existed a greater political plurality among Serbs than any other Yugoslav group. The Serbs, it might be further argued, also offered the strongest and most sustained democratic opposition to King Aleksandar’s dictatorship, which at the same time relied on the Serb political and military support. As previously mentioned, the Serbs suffered enormous casualties in the two World Wars. Without considering these traumas, one cannot fully understand the modern Serb nationalism. For this reason, it is not easy to draw a direct line between the early twentieth century and contemporary Serb nationalism, as has been done in some centenary-driven histories of the First World War. Early twentieth-century Serbia experienced both economic and political sanctions (as discussed later on), and wars against its neighbours over contested territories it claimed – on equally dubious historical and ethnic grounds as its neighbours. Although the contexts were entirely different, and separated by more than mere passage of time, it is indeed tempting to suggest that these events anticipated Serbia’s predicament of the late twentieth century. In the early 1990s, Serbia came under international sanctions because of its role in the war in Bosnia; at the end of the decade, NATO intervened militarily against Belgrade over its treatment of Kosovo Albanians. A century earlier, Serbia had also become involved in Bosnia. Following the assassination in Sarajevo of the heir to the Habsburg throne on 28 June 1914 by a Young Bosnian student, Austria-Hungary decided to finally eliminate the threat it believed the Serbian and South Slav nationalisms posed to it. However, even the most radical Serbian nationalist of a century ago was in favour of political unification with other South Slavs;

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by contrast, modern Serbian nationalism is characterized by its rejection of Yugoslavia [literally: the land of South Slavs] and Yugoslavism. The Serbs’ geographic dispersion, not entirely reversed by the twentieth century wars, throughout former Yugoslavia is another legacy of history and another key component of the modern Serbian identity. After the Second World War, when Yugoslavia reemerged as a communist-led federation, Serbia was the only Yugoslav republic that was federalized as well, while a large number of Serbs lived in other Yugoslav republics. Alone among the federal republics, Serbia included two autonomous provinces (Kosovo and Vojvodina). It might be argued that there was a strong case for creating autonomous provinces elsewhere, specifically in Croatia and Macedonia, and perhaps in Bosnia and Herzegovina  as well. With the secession of Kosovo, Serbia is also the only former Yugoslav republic that has disintegrated following the break-up of Yugoslavia. During the 1990s wars, Bosnia and Croatia temporarily disintegrated as well, with the secession of Serb entities in these two republics, but eventually re-integrated (albeit partially in the case of Bosnia, whose Serb entity enjoys a wide autonomy). All this was achieved and may have been only possible with outside support. Therefore, some historical developments are specific to Serbia, but it is too simplistic to speak of a Serbian Sonderweg, a single path and inevitable outcomes in the history of Serbia. The existing generalizations about Serbia are not necessarily based on any real understanding of the country’s complex history and ignore an incredibly heterogenous society. For example, during the 1990s, Belgrade was both the centre of the most destructive nationalism in former-Yugoslavia and arguably the most cosmopolitan city in the region. Bosnian, Croatian, Macedonian and Slovenian music were regularly aired on radio and TV channels, including those owned by the state. A number of Sarajevo’s most talented artists such as Muslim-Serb film director Emir Kusturica, Croat-Serb

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musician Goran Bregović and Yugoslavia’s biggest pop star Zdravko Čolić, a Bosnian Serb, moved to or spent significant periods of time in the Serbian capital after the war in Bosnia broke out in Spring 1992. They have been criticized, some more than others, for abandoning their own city, which for three and a half years was exposed to sustained bombardment from Bosnian Serb forces but remain popular regionally and internationally. Despite tensions, Serbia’s sizeable Muslim Slav community continues to live in the Sandžak region (in Raška, the nucleus of the medieval Serbian state), while further north, Vojvodina is home to significant Roman Catholic Hungarian, Croat and Slovak communities. Even after Kosovo’s secession in 2008, Serbia remains one of the most multi-ethnic states in the Balkans. The tradition of religious coexistence in the Balkans is usually, and rightly, associated with Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina more generally. Less well known is a similar tradition in Serbia. For example, the Holy Archangel Orthodox Church and the seat of the Serbian Orthodox patriarchate in Belgrade are in the same street as the Jewish community centre, and just a few hundred meters away from the Synagogue and nearby the Belgrade Mosque. The thirteenth-century Mileševa monastery in south-western Serbia is within a walking distance from a sixteenth-century Ottoman Mosque that holds one of the oldest copies of the Quran in the Balkans. There is no typical Serbian food, there is no specific Serbian look, and there is no uniquely Serbian modern architecture – which makes Serbia a rather typical European country. Yet, in common with the rest of the Balkans, a rich historical legacy survives, despite the wars and destruction that are usually associated with the region. A visitor to Serbia would be able to see Orthodox monasteries, Roman Catholic cathedrals, Ottoman-era mosques and Ashkenazim and Sephardim synagogues. They would be able to enjoy the Hungarian secessionist architecture in Subotica, a mix of Central European architecture (built in the late nineteenth

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Introduction

century to ‘Europeanize’ the city by replacing Ottoman-era buildings) and socialist-era brutalism in Belgrade, and the somewhat chaotic charm of Niš and Pirot or the Oriental feel of Novi Pazar. No Serbian meal begins without meze, a set of starters/tapas style dishes that typically include feta-like cheese, kajmak (clotted cheese spread), ajvar (a dip made up of roasted peppers, and, in some variations, aubergine), pršuta (prosciutto) and proja (corn bread), lepinja or pogača (local versions of flat bread and focaccia, respectively). Boiled or fried eggs, cheese, kajmak, pršuta or slanina (bacon) are traditionally eaten for breakfast, as are kačamak (maize porridge) and popara (bread porridge). Fresh and dried fruit is another essential part of the regional diet. In recent years, Serbia has become one of the world’s greatest producers and exporters of raspberry, with 80–100,000 tonnes exported annually. Šljivovica, loza, dunjevača and viljemovka (plum-, grape-, quince-, apple brandy, often home-made and collectively known as rakija) are drunk as both aperitif and digestif – sometimes during breakfast time, but more commonly later in the day or evening. There is a long tradition of wine making, revived in recent years, especially in eastern and central Serbia and in Vojvodina. Local breweries were first opened in the nineteenth century, by Bohemian beer makers. Beer goes well with Serbian meat-rich diet. Probably the most popular dish is ćevapčići (lit. little kebabs), grilled minced meat sausage-like food similar to Turkish kebabs; a burger version is called pljeskavica. Other types of grilled meat, usually pork, beef and chicken, are also popular, as is pečenje – roast pork, lamb and veal. Chicken, turkey and duck are traditionally eaten as well. Popular dishes also include musaka (Serbia’s version of the ­better-known Greek dish) and sarma (rice and m ­ inced-meat-filled cabbage leaves). Meat and meat-based dishes have not always been consumed as regularly as today, because they used to be unaffordable for most people. Rather like in the case of Latin American countries, the Serb traditional diet has consisted of ­protein-rich beans and corn. The former may be said to have been

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Serbia’s national food, offered in a variety of ways, most commonly as prebranac (baked beans) and pasulj (a thick bean soup), both of which come in a vegetarian version or served with bacon or sausage. The ‘Serbian bean soup’ is a popular dish across ­former-Yugoslavia and in Austria and Germany, countries with large Serbian and former-Yugoslav émigré communities. Other traditional food includes gibanica (cheese-filled pastry) and burek (similar to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern varieties), usually accompanied by jogurt (a slightly thicker type of Turkish and Middle Eastern ayran). These and similar dishes may be found throughout the Balkans and are part of the region’s Ottoman and in some cases Byzantine-Greek and Venetian-Dalmatian legacy and influences. However, there is also a strong Central European influence on Serbians’ diet. Widely eaten pork or veal šnicle are sometimes served rolled, breaded and filled with kajmak; this type of schnitzel is named, for reasons not entirely clear, after Karadjordje, the leader of the 1804 Uprising. Other common dishes include Hungarian-style gulaš (goulash) and paprikaš (paprikash). For a country rich in rivers, fish is not as central as red meat and poultry to the Serbs’ diet, but fish soup and pohovana riba (fried white fish in batter) are popular and typically eaten on Orthodox fast days. Serbia is home to excellent kafanas (traditional restaurants, some of which serve sophisticated, local version of nouvelle cuisine), which often have live music bands. There is a strong café culture. Serbs of all ages love to spend hours in Central European–­looking cafes drinking Italian coffee or turska kafa. Unlike Bosnians and Greeks, many Serbs continue to call the Turkish coffee by its original name, though in recent years there has been a trend of using a neutral name such as ‘brewed’ coffee – probably the final stage of de-Ottomanization of Serbia that started in the nineteenth century, as discussed later in the book. Italian restaurants and fast-food kiosks selling (sometimes excellent) pizza and pasta may be found throughout the country, while Chinese/Asian fast

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food has also become popular. A recent phenomenon is a greater choice for vegetarians and vegans in Serbia’s restaurants, though meat-based offering continues to dominate. The historic hotel ‘Moskva’ in Belgrade, where our imaginary visitor to Serbia might have stayed, symbolizes the country’s rich and complex past particularly well. Its Central European appearance today in fact owes much to the St Petersburg architecture (despite its name). Among other delicacies, the hotel café sells the Moskva šnit (Schnitte), an Austrian-Hungarian-style cake often consumed by Belgraders after servings of ćevapčići or sarma in one of the city’s many kafanas. The hotel is located in the central Belgrade square Terazije (a word of Ottoman Turkish origin) and is reached via the Balkanska Street when approached from the main bus and – until recently – train stations. This run-down uphill street p ­ reserves an Oriental feel, due to the presence of the city’s last surviving craftsmen. It includes an impromptu flea market where local Roma and Middle Eastern migrants sell miscellaneous items that somehow, improbably, seem to find their buyers. Gavrilo Princip and other Young Bosnians lived in this neighbourhood before they made their last journey back home, several weeks before the 1914 Sarajevo assassination. A monument to Princip – unveiled on 28 June 2015 – stands in this part of the city. The Terazije Square also leads to the pedestrianized Knez Mihailova Street, whose early twentiethcentury European architecture and numerous cafes bring Parisian and Viennese flavours to the city. This fashionable street serves as the Belgrade’s promenade and connects the Terazije Square with the Ottoman-era Kalemegdan park and fortress.

When Is Serbia? There can be no continuity of nation, state and even territory between medieval polities associated with Serbs and the modern Serbian state. For most of the timeframe this book covers, no country called Serbia existed. This is a common problem facing

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a historian writing a ‘national’ history. Authors of synthetic histories of Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece and Romania, for example, face similar challenges. As do historians of Italy and Germany, two major European countries that were created in the nineteenth century, and which have long, complex and often controversial histories. My position is presentist by default, but at the same time I try to not read history backwards. I have written a national history in an era in which historians have rightly challenged the national framework and sought to study the past in transnational and global contexts, or to focus on local, micro and personal histories. Writing this book, I have become even more convinced that this is the only right approach to studying the past. History of Serbia and of the Serbs cannot be understood without understanding broader regional and European contexts. At the same time, writing a critical national history remains important, and not least because the history of Serbia is, in my view, frequently misunderstood and misinterpreted, due to presentist simplifications or ignorance. Moreover, nation states arguably continue to offer the dominant form of political organization in the modern world. Their monopoly over territorial rule was reasserted and grew stronger during the ‘migrant crisis’ of 2015 and especially the Covid-19 pandemic, paradoxically as a result of two very global crises. It is sometimes said that each generation writes its own histories. If so, mine was conceived, researched and written during the 1914–18 centenary commemorations, the anxiety caused by the ‘migrant crisis’ and finally the Covid-19 pandemic. The developments of the recent years have shaped my thinking about the past, both consciously and unconsciously, making this book different from previous histories of Serbia. The book stands out in three other respects. First, it is the most complete single-volume history of Serbia, with due consideration given to medieval and early modern periods – most similar books tend to start around 1800, with the important exception of Sima M. Ćirković’s history

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of the Serbs, which however focuses on pre-modern developments. Second, I place Serbia in wider regional and European context. Finally, unlike most other similar works, I have tried to move beyond the history of high politics and diplomatic relations, providing the reader a sense of how some of the events described impacted individuals, both the elites and the ‘ordinary’ people. All this, I believe, makes this book unique among the existing histories of Serbia in any language. My perspective has been also influenced by the wars of the 1990s, though perhaps less so than in the case of my eminent predecessors Ćirković, Stevan K. Pavlowitch and Holm Sundhaussen, whose histories of Serbia appeared during the first decade of the century. My book builds on their work, together with earlier relevant studies, from Leopold Ranke’s pioneering history of the ‘Serbian revolution’, Slobodan Jovanović’s still unmatched work on nineteenth-century Serbia, Andrej Mitrović’s studies on early twentieth-century history, through Traian Stoianovich’s histoire totale and Michael B. Petrovich’s classic two-volume textbook on Serbia between 1804 and 1918, to a monumental, multi-volume History of the Serbian People, written (in Serbian) in the 1980s by crème-de la crème of Serbia’s historiography.28 The reader is presented with my own interpretation of the history of Serbia and Serbs. This is not the definitive account of the Serbian history – no such thing is possible anyway – but it covers a full span of Serbia’s known history, from the sixth century Slav migrations to the present day. The reader should approach the book as a critical synthesis, a mix of analysis and narrative, rather than an encyclopaedia or a chronologically presented list of facts. Similarly, images included in the book are meant to illustrate, not cover all key events and personalities associated with the Serb history. I hope that the reader will be able to learn something new, Full references are provided in footnotes that follow and in the Further Reading.

28

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wish to know more and rethink what they had known about Serbia, even when they may not agree with my analysis, focus and direction. Equally, I have written a book that should be easily accessible even to readers with no prior knowledge of Serbian history. The book traces key developments surrounding medieval and modern polities associated with the Serbs. It is a history of states, institutions and societies that Serbs have helped build and in which they have lived, almost always together with others. While researching and writing the book, I did not consciously seek to unearth common themes and threads that would hold the narrative together. However, several of these may be identified, including migrations; Serbia’s relations with neighbouring empires and peoples; Serbia as a society formed in borderlands and peripheries of larger territorial entities (Byzantine, Ottoman and Habsburg empires, the Iron Curtain, the EU); the polycentricity of Serbia (i.e. more than one Serb centre has existed through history); and a surprising vitality of Serb identity, which in different incarnations through centuries has shown an ability to survive through reinvention. Whenever appropriate, analysis informs narrative and new interpretations challenging conventional wisdoms are offered. The modern period is arguably more relevant for understanding Serbia’s current predicament and we have far more sources about it than about medieval and early modern history. As a historian of the modern era by training, my focus should not be surprising, but the book is much less modern-centric than I had initially envisaged it to be. While researching and writing – numerous versions of each chapter – I kept being ‘pushed’ back to more distant pasts, to find answers and explanations for later events. In the end I gave up, persuaded that a history of Serbia, however concise, should not be merely a history of the modern period. Studying medieval and early modern eras has been challenging and rewarding in equal measure, but it has also been necessary. States associated with Serbs, or at least Serb rulers, existed through the Middle Ages, while Serbs and Serbianized or Serb-identifying

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populations played an important role in the Early Modern history of East-Central and South-Eastern Europe, as one of the peoples living in the Habsburg–Ottoman–Venetian borderlands. Much of our understanding of Serbia’s distant past is steeped in nineteenth- and twentieth-century romantic interpretations of pre-modern history. By studying the earlier history, I am not suggesting an uninterrupted continuity between the medieval and modern Serbias; on the contrary, doing so has I hope enabled me to challenge more convincingly the ‘continuity thesis’ and in the process interrogate and rethink the national framework. To try to understand why Serbia is where it is today, it became necessary to start at the ‘beginning’, or at least ‘the beginning’ about which speculation is possible from what survives of the sources. This allows us to neatly begin our journey with the migration of the Serbs to the Balkans (from an unknown location in East-Central or North-Eastern Europe), which probably occurred in the seventh century as part of wider Slav movements, and to round it up with the current migrant crises – one, better known, concerning Middle Eastern, Asian and African refugees passing through Serbia en route to western Europe; another one caused by a large number of Serbs emigrating to more promising west European and north American destinations, which was only temporarily halted by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The origin, migration and formation of the earliest polities associated with the Serbs in the ninth and tenth centuries inform much of Chapter 1. The following chapter then looks at the rise and fall of the Serb kingdom of Raška within and against the Byzantine imperial framework starting in the late twelfth century, when Grand Župan Nemanja and his sons laid the foundations of a powerful regional dynasty and a state with its own political and religious institutions.29 Medieval Serb rulers first sought to The rulers of Raška were known, between the mid-twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, as grand župans – the overall leaders among župans,

29

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‘enter’ the Byzantine empire and then, in the fourteenth century, to replace it. The fall of the short-lived Serb-Greek empire of Stefan Dušan (king 1335–46, emperor 1346–55) had begun even before the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans gained pace in the late fourteenth century. The Lazarević-Branković despotate, as the most important successor state of Dušan’s empire, lasted for 70 years after the Ottoman victory against a Serb-led coalition at Kosovo in 1389. Post-Kosovo Serbia even prospered politically, culturally and economically for a while, despite being squeezed between the Ottomans from the south, Hungary from the north and Bosnia from the west. Smederevo, Serbia’s last medieval capital, was finally conquered by the Ottomans in 1459, six years after the fall of Constantinople. Keeping with the ‘empire’ theme, Chapter 3 discusses the Serb society under the Ottomans, and large-scale Serb migrations into Hungary and the Habsburg empire as well as towards Venetian-held Dalmatia, between the sixteenth and late eighteenth centuries. During this period, two ‘Serbias’ may be said to have emerged along the Ottoman–Habsburg imperial border, one centred around the Velika Morava valley south of Belgrade, and another north of the Danube, in the lower Pannonian basin of then southern Hungary. Chapters 4 and 5 trace the emergence of the modern Serbian state and nation during the long nineteenth century. Serbia was formed almost by accident, following an uprising in the Belgrade pashalik (a popular name for the sanjak of Smederevo), which began as a Porte-supported rebellion of Christian peasants and merchants against the Janissary misrule. The Great Powers’ rivalry, and Serbia’s aspirations towards and links with large Serb and other South Slav communities in its who governed over smaller territories called župas, first mentioned in Emperor Constantine’s De Administrando Imperio. This word of uncertain origin survives as a toponym and as a surname (e.g. Županič, Župančič, Župan, Župić) across former-Yugoslavia. Župa has also been used to describe administrative and ecclesiastical territorial units in Bulgaria, formerYugoslavia, the Czech and Slovak lands and Poland.

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neighbourhood, eventually led to the recognition of an independent principality in 1878 (kingdom in 1882). This event marked the end of the Ottoman rule, but subsequent wars with the Ottoman (1912) and Austro-Hungarian (1914–18) empires would have profound consequences well beyond the region. Chapter 6 looks at Serbia in the First World War, the formation, and short life, of the interwar Yugoslav kingdom, and the Second World War. Serbia and Serbs emerged from the war, in which they formed two rival resistance movements, experienced collaboration, civil war and genocide to became one of six Yugoslav federal republics in 1945, as discussed in Chapter 7. The new socialist Yugoslavia defined itself in opposition to the Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia of the interwar period. Yet, the ‘Yugoslav Serbia’, and Serbs, as the largest and most regionally dispersed of the Yugoslav nations, represented the core of Tito’s socialist federation. At the same time, Serbia was the only Yugoslav republic that itself was federalized, with the establishment of the provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo. The final Yugoslav crisis began as a constitutional crisis, as Serbia’s leadership attempted to revise the terms of Serbia’s participation in the Yugoslav federation. The last chapter traces the violent break-up of Yugoslavia over the ‘Serbian Question’, and Serbia’s tribulations during the ‘dark’ 1990s, when Serbs tragically sought to ‘right the wrongs’ of the past, through the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. The chapter concludes by looking at the painfully slow transition of the post-Milošević years, and a return to populism, in line with similar developments elsewhere in the world, during the past decade, after a decade-long democratic reform. At the time of finishing the book, Serbia, like the rest of the world, was dealing with the extraordinary challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. As the book was going to print, the war in Ukraine broke out. The future history of Serbia, while unpredictable, will be inevitably shaped by these experiences and the world that emerges out of them.

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1 Migration (up to c.1150) u

Prehistory The lower Danubian plains and the central Balkan region, south of the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers, including the valleys of the Velika Morava, Drina and Timok, and stretching all the way south to the Ibar and Lim Rivers – an area roughly corresponding to the location of modern Serbia – have been populated since the dawn of human civilization. Between 35,000 BC and 25,000 BC, it had been home to human settlements, which combined characteristics of traditional central European societies with new cultures originating in the steppes of southern Russia. Indeed, the oldest human remains in Europe, dating to c.40,000 BC, have been found in Bulgaria and Romania, close to their borders with Serbia.1 Climate changes following the last Ice Age facilitated the emergence around 6700 BC of an advanced culture at Lepenski Vir, near the Danube Djerdap gorge, on the present-day Serbia– Romania border.2 Its inhabitants were fishermen and hunters who kept domesticated animals and cultivated land. They were also capable of producing sophisticated art, including distinctive sandstone anthropomorphic figurines. Towards the end of the Stone Age (c.4800–4400 BC), the population of the central Balkans increased, as evidenced by several new settlements in the

1

ISN, I, 5; W. E. Banks, ‘Puzzling Out the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic Transition’, Nature, Ecology & Evolution, 4 (2020), 775–76. 2 D. Borić, Lepenski Vir: Settlement of the Danube Fishermen, Belgrade, 2015; ISN, I, 10–14.

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Morava valley. One reason for this was the arrival of new settlers, but little is known about them or about the encounters between the old and new populations. Around this time, the Neolithic Vinča culture (c.5700–4500 BC) flourished. This was an advanced agricultural society, which produced pioneered copper metallurgy, practised trade and ­ highly sophisticated artefacts. Mysterious Vinčan symbols have intrigued scholars and the public alike, but they were not a ­proto-orthography, as is sometimes suggested.3 Rich evidence of this civilization, which probably collapsed due to a combination of economic decline caused by over-exploitation of land and raids by other tribes, has been discovered in modern Serbia and the neighbouring countries. During the Copper and Bronze Ages, the area continued to be home to human settlements and to attract migrants from elsewhere.4 Traces of ancient Greek c­ivilization suggest that contacts between the central and southern parts of the Balkan peninsula existed. In the fourth century BC, the empire of Alexander the Great extended to southern regions of present-day Serbia. When the Romans began their conquest of the Balkans in the second century BC, they encountered, among others, the Triballi, Dardani, Illyri (Illyrians) and Scordisci, a Celtic tribe that lived in the vicinity of modern Belgrade. Administrative division of the Roman Balkans changed several times, but much of what is Serbia today was part of Moesia and Moesia Superior between the first century AD and the late third century AD. Further administrative reorganization during the reign of Emperor Diocletian (AD 284–305) created Moesia Prima, which roughly corresponded to modern central Serbia. Pannonia included present-day Vojvodina (northern Serbia), Dalmatia bordered Moesia Prima in the west, 3

A. Palavestra, ‘Izmišljanje tradicije: ‘vinčansko pismo’, Etnoantropološki problemi (Belgrade), 5:2 (2010), 239–58. 4 ISN, I, 15–30.

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Dacia and Thrace in the north-east and east, respectively, while Macedonia laid in the south. Much of what in the twentieth century became Yugoslavia and Albania was part of the Illyricum prefecture created as part of Diocletian’s reforms. Main centres of Roman life on the territory of modern Serbia, and important archaeological sites today, include Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica), Viminacium (near Kostolac), UNESCO-listed Felix Romuliana (Gamzigrad), Singidunum (Belgrade), Horeum Margi (Ćuprija), Naissus (Niš) and Remesiana (Bela Palanka). Two Moesian-born emperors and rivals, Constantine I (b. Naissus, AD 272, r. AD 306–337) and Licinius (b. AD 263, Felix Romuliana?, r. AD 308–324), jointly issued an edict near Milan in AD 313 that ended the prosecution of Christians. In AD 330, Constantine moved the empire’s capital to Constantinople, a city he built on the site of Byzantium, an ancient Greek settlement on the Bosphorus where he had defeated Licinius six years previously. The move to the new capital completed the shift of political and economic power within the empire from west to east, which had already begun under Diocletian. The formal division came in AD 395, the final year of the reign of Emperor Theodosius I (AD 379–395), during which Christianity became the empire’s official religion. While Constantinople prospered as a political, economic and military centre of the Eastern Roman Empire, the power of the Western Roman Empire declined. By early fifth century, the population of Constantinople had outgrown that of Rome, increasing to over 500,000 inhabitants by the end of the century. At this time, the Western Roman Empire succumbed to invasions of Germanic tribes, who adopted the culture and religion of the conquered. Meanwhile, Hellenic culture and Eastern Christianity gave the old Roman imperial framework in the east a new life, transforming it into the polity known in modern times as the Byzantine Empire, or Byzantium. By the time the (Eastern) emperor Justinian I (AD 527–565) conquered

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Rome in AD 536, this once grand city had become a shadow of its former self.5 In 1054, six and a half centuries after the political division of the empire, the Christian church formally split into the Roman Catholic and (Greek) Orthodox branches, with Rome and Constantinople as its rival centres, respectively. The sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 temporarily installed ‘Latin’ rule in Byzantium, which lasted until 1261. The capture of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottoman Turks brought to an end the Eastern Roman Empire – or perhaps transformed it once again, only even more fundamentally than when it transitioned from a Roman to a ‘Greek’ state in the seventh century. The first fall of Constantinople facilitated the rise of medieval Serbia in the early thirteenth century, while the downfall of Byzantium in the fifteenth century coincided with the end of Serbia’s medieval statehood. Indeed, these developments, sketched here very broadly, have had a profound impact on the history of Serbia and the Serbs. The dividing line between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires ran across the Balkan peninsula, through the territory that Serb, Croat and other Slav tribes settled in the sixth and seventh centuries. Originally political, the partition in time gained religious, social and cultural dimensions. These have long outlived the Roman Empire and have contributed decisively to the shaping of identities of, and divisions among, the Southern Slavs, and among the Serbs, who today live on both sides of Theodosius’ old border.

Slavs and Avars Very little is known of the earliest history of the Serbs except that their arrival in the Balkans, and on the historical scene, was 5

G. Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, transl. from German by J. Hussey, 2nd ed., Oxford, 1968, 27–28, 45; B. Ward-Perkins, ‘Old and New Rome Compared: The Rise of Constantinople’, in L. Grig and G. Kelly (eds), Two Romes: Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity, Oxford, 2012, 53–80, 54.

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almost certainly closely connected with Slav and Avar migrations to east-central and south-eastern Europe in the sixth and seventh centuries. Protected by the Carpathian Mountains from the curiosity of classical scholars and with no written language, and therefore no documents, of their own, the early Slavs – their society, identity and religious beliefs – are shrouded in mystery, as are the circumstances surrounding their migration. Slavs began to raid Byzantium’s northern frontier during the reign of Emperor Justin I (AD 518–527). Their incursions intensified during the reign of his successor, Justinian, gradually turning into permanent settlements in the second half of the sixth century. At the time the empire was exposed to invasion by central Asian nomads, most probably of Turkic origin, it became involved in a conflict between the Germanic Gepids and Lombards, while in the south it had to deal with a threat posed by the Persians. During Justinian’s reign, Byzantium suffered a devastating plague epidemic, which further weakened its defences. All these factors helped the Slav penetration, probably from more than one direction, of the empire’s fortified frontier along and south of the lower Danube.6 Crucial for the success of the Slav migrations may have been the emergence of the Avars around this time. This semi-nomadic tribe, which may have usurped the name of an enemy that forced them out of their central or east Asian homeland, appeared in central Europe in the second half of the sixth century, initially as a Byzantine ally. The Avars defeated the Germanic tribes, forcing the Lombards to move to modern Italy (where they would in turn defeat Byzantine colonies there and establish a powerful 6

F. Dvornik, The Slavs: Their Early History and Civilization, Boston, 1956, ch. 1; B. Ferjančić, Vizantija i Južni Sloveni, Belgrade, 1966, 13–15; VIINJ, I; J. V. A, Fine Jr, The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, Ann Arbor, MI, 1991 (first publ. 1983), ch. 2; ISN, I, 109–24; D. Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth: Eastern Europe, 500–1453, London, 1971, ch. 2.

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kingdom) and subjugated the Turkic and Slavonic tribes whom they encountered. By the late sixth century, they had established a powerful tribal confederation in central Europe. During the two and a half centuries of its existence, the Avar khaganate was a major European power that rivalled the Byzantine and Frankish Empires. Indeed, with Slav and Persian help, the Avars nearly captured Constantinople in 626.7 The relationship between the Avars and Slavs was complex. The former probably subjugated the latter, yet at times they seem to have been allies. In the late sixth century, the Slavs, possibly together with the Avars (Byzantine sources did not always distinguish between them), penetrated deep into the Balkan peninsula. They captured Singidunum, Viminacium and other fortifications of Roman Moesia and besieged Salonica. In the 580s, the Slavs held much of northern Greece and reached as far south as the Peloponnese. The earliest sources describe the Slavs as tall, red haired and relatively peaceful farmers, skilled at navigating rivers, using boats they made themselves. However, they were also, or eventually became through encounters with the Avars and Byzantium, tough and mobile warriors who carried with them light arms and equipment.8 After the mid-sixth century, Slav incursions into the Balkans ceased to be driven purely by looting and pillaging. While the Avars tended to return to their central European base following military campaigns south of the Danube, the Slavs increasingly remained behind, colonizing the Balkan interior that was largely depopulated after the collapse of the imperial frontier on the Danube. It was likely as part, or in the aftermath, of these migrations and

7

W. Pohl, The Avars: A Steppe Empire in Central Europe, 567–822, transl. from German by W. Sayers, Ithaca, NY, 2018. 8 VIINJ, I, 29–30 (for Procopius’ description of the Slavs); Ferjančić, 18–19; S. M. Ćirković, The Serbs, transl. from Serbian by V. Tošić, Oxford, 2004, 11; Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth, 5.

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military expeditions that Serbs and Croats appeared in the Balkans, in the first half of the seventh century.9 This is an educated guess because no surviving contemporary sources about Slav and Avar migrations mention the Serbs and Croats. Byzantium may not have ‘made’ the Slavs in an effort to make sense of the numerous, previously unknown tribes that appeared on its Danube frontier, as one historian has suggested, but the Slav–Byzantine encounters undoubtedly had had a profound impact on both sides.10 In the Balkans, distant ancestors of modern Serbs (as well as Bulgarians, Macedonians and Montenegrins) would come under the direct political, cultural and religious influence of Constantinople and would form part of the ‘Byzantine commonwealth’. On the other hand, distant ancestors of modern Croats and Slovenians, who settled to the west of the border that divided the Roman Empire in 395, ultimately came under the influence of the ‘west’: politically this meant the Franks, Venice, Austria and Hungary, and ecclesiastically it meant Rome. Modern Bosnia and Herzegovina lay somewhere in the middle of this fault line, but it is important to keep in mind that borders between ‘east’ and ‘west’ remained fluid through the Middle Ages (and really into modern times). Medieval Serb polities included both Eastern Orthodox (in the hinterland) and Roman Catholic dioceses (on the coast of Montenegro and south Dalmatia), while some Serb rulers were baptized as Catholics. In Bosnia and Hum (later Herzegovina), a local, possibly heretic Christian church co-existed with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, while medieval Croatia had been exposed to Byzantine political and cultural influences as well. 9

ISN, I, 109–10. F. Curta, The Making of the Slavs: History and Archaeology of the Lower Danube Region, c.500–700, Cambridge, 2007, and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages (500–1300), 2 vols, Leiden, 2019, I, ch. 5.

10

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The exact location of the Slavs’ pre-Balkan homeland remains a matter of debate. Some scholars have suggested that the area between the Polish Vistula/Wisła River and the Pripet/Pinsk Marshes in s­outhern Belarus and north-west Ukraine was the likely Slav Urheimat, while others have argued that it extended into north-eastern parts of modern Germany.11 A comprehensive study of human genetics points at the middle basin of the Dniester/ Dnieper River, in modern Ukraine and Belarus, as a region with the highest concentration of a ‘Slav gene’.12 Byzantium referred to Slav settlements that sprang up on the territory it now controlled only nominally (with the exception of fortified garrisons) as Sclavinias (Sklaviniai). The exact number of these settlements is not known, nor do we know what, if any, cultural, linguistic and proto-ethnic differences existed between them.13 Sclavinias were established near rivers, in nearby forests and close to main roads, probably in areas abandoned by local population that had fled the invading foreign tribes. (This pattern was partly repeated when the Ottomans swept the Balkans in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, forcing Orthodox Slavs, Vlachs and Albanians to flee into mountains or to migrate north and west, as discussed later in the book.) The Slav tribes eventually mixed, both among themselves and with non-Slavs, as historians, archaeologists and linguists have long suspected and as more recent studies of human genetics seem to confirm.14

11

Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, 25–27; Ferjančić, Vizantija i Južni Sloveni, 6; Dvornik, ch. 1; cf. Curta, The Making of the Slavs. 12 K. Rębała et al., ‘Y-STR Variation among Slavs: Evidence for the Slavic Homeland in the Middle Dnieper Basin’, Journal of Human Genetics, 52:5 (2007), 406–14. 13 Ćirković, The Serbs, xviii, 10–12, and Rabotnici, vojnici, duhovnici: Društva sredjevekovnog Balkana, compiled and ed. by V. Djokić, Belgrade, 1997, 171–84; cf. N. Budak (ed.), Etnogeneza Hrvata, Zagreb, 1996. 14 D. Marjanović et al., ‘The Peopling of Modern Bosnia-Herzegovina: Y-chromosome Haplogroups in the Three Main Ethnic Groups’, Annals

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South Slav words for the people of the empire, the Greekspeaking ‘Romans’ (Grci, from Latin Graeci) and for imperial and royal titles (car, from Caesar; kralj, from Carolus), point at an initial interaction with Latin-speaking ‘Romans’ of the east Adriatic towns. Roman coins dating to this time have been found in the Balkan hinterland, which suggests that the early contacts, probably established through trade, were not limited to the coastal areas. The Slavs would have encountered ancestors of Vlachs, seminomadic shepherds possibly of Dacian origin, whose language was heavily influenced by Latin and Greek, depending on their geographic location. Slav migrants also reached the remote mountains of modern Albania, where the local population was possibly of Illyrian origin and had largely remained, unlike the Vlachs, outside direct external influences. Even before the Slav migrations, groups and individuals with ethnically mixed or ambiguous identities were formed. The movement and mixing of peoples continued and polyethnic identities certainly existed following the arrival of the Slavs.15 Ancient Slavs cultivated land, kept domesticated animals and knew how to preserve and store food. Their pre-Christian beliefs are little known, except that, in common with the Indo-European tradition, they worshiped gods of thunder, ­ lighting, heaven, the underworld, fire and rivers.16 Names of some Slav deities are preserved in toponyms (Triglav, the largest mountain in Slovenia; Veles, a town in North Macedonia,

of Human Genetics, 69:6 (2005), 757–63; C. Carmichael, A Concise History of Bosnia, Cambridge, 2015, 3–4. 15 T. Stoianovich, Balkan Worlds: The First and Last Europe, Armonk, NY, 1994, 131–33; cf. K. Kaser, Hirten, Kämpfer, Stammeshelden: Ursprünge und Gegenwart des balkanischen Patriarchats, Vienna, 1992. 16 V. Čajkanović, Mit i religija u Srba, Belgrade, ed. by V. Djurić, Belgrade, 1973, and Stara srpska religija i mitologija, ed. by V. Djurić, Belgrade, 1994; H. Lovmjanjski [Łowmiański], Religija Slovena, transl. from Polish by B. Rajčić, Belgrade, 1996.

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Volos in Greece and Velenje in Slovenia) and personal names (Vesna, Vid, Perun – all three are Serb personal names today). Dabog, the Slav god of the underworld, was worshiped by the Serbs, who also believed in nymph-like creatures, vile (s. vila), not dissimilar to the Norse Valkyrie. One of the key characters in Serbian folk tradition is Vila Ravijojla, a ‘blood sister’ and protector of Marko Kraljević, a Dionisius-like hero of Balkan folk legends (based on the fifteenth-century Serbian King Marko – see Chapter 2). Like other Indo-European peoples, the Slavs believed in the existence of demonic creatures. In Serb tradition, these include veštice (witches), vukodlaci (werewolves), drekavci (lit. ‘screechers’, similar to the Scandinavian Myling) and, most infamously, vampiri (vampires). The word vampire may be of uncertain origin etymologically, but the phenomenon is associated with the Serbs, and more broadly the Balkans, due to the popularity of Bram Stoker’s gothic horror novel Dracula (1897). In 1725, the Viennese press had reported of a case of vampirism in Serbia (as the Austrian-occupied Belgrade province was called at the time), causing something of a sensation across Europe.17 By the beginning of the Middle Ages, the Slavs had become one of the dominant groups in south-eastern Europe, together with the ‘Romans’ (Greeks and Greek-speaking peoples of the empire), Avars and Bulgarians – another central Asian people who had migrated to the eastern and central Balkans in the late seventh century. These tectonic changes led to further mixing and unmixing of populations, to assimilation and forced population movements. An example of the latter was the exodus in 762 of a large number of Slavs from the Bulgarian–Byzantine borderlands to northern Anatolia. Contemporary sources talk of over 200,000 Slav refugees, which, if correct, means that large parts 17

J. Nowosadtko, ‘Der “Vampyrus Serviensis” und sein Habitat: Impressionen von der österreichischen Militärgrenze’, Arbeitskreis Militär und Gesellschaft in der Frühen Neuzeit, 8:2 (2004), 151–67.

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of south-eastern Europe were effectively depopulated. At the same time, this forced migration increased an already significant Slav presence in Asia Minor, where Byzantine emperors had previously settled Slav migrants.18 Following a catastrophic defeat by the Franks in the early ninth century, the Avar confederation broke up for good. The Bulgarian polity survived, but, after a period of conflict between Bulgars and Slavs, its rulers eventually adopted the language and culture of their Slav subjects. The lack of a strong central authority – traditionally seen as a weakness by historians – or a leader such as the Avar khan Bayan, the Frankish king Clovis or the Bulgarian khan Krum, may have been in fact beneficial for the Slavs. They established sustainable agrarian society, arguably militarily weaker a self-­ than that of the Avars and Bulgarians, but more durable in the long term. Slav settlements attracted lower, non-military classes among Avars, Bulgarians and other non-Slavs who mixed with and adopted the identity of the Slavs.19 By the late ninth century, the Slavs (or their leaders at any rate), including Serbs, accepted Christianity, from both Constantinople and Rome, depending on their geographical location. This was a complex process that went hand in hand with the development of the Old Church Slavonic language and the spread of literacy.

Origin of the Serbs Several decades earlier, the Serbs appeared in the historical record for the first time. According to the Frankish Annals, in 822, Duke Liutewid (Ljudevit in the modern spelling) of Pannonian Slavs – probably Croats, but not named as such in the text – sought refuge among neighbouring Serbs after his stronghold 18

Ćirković, The Serbs, 14; Ostrogorsky, 168. P. J. Geary, The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe, Princeton, NJ, 2002, ch. 5.

19

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Siscia (Sisak in modern Croatia) came under attack by the Franks. Ljudevit’s host was one of several unnamed ‘dukes’ of the Serbs, ‘a people that is said to hold a large part of Dalmatia’. This was a reference to the ancient Roman province of Dalmatia, which extended deep into the western Balkan interior, from the eastern Adriatic coast to the valleys of the Ibar and Sava Rivers. Can we take this as a clue about the extent of the Serbs’ political rule in the first half of the ninth century? Or did Ljudevit seek refuge in a small Serb outpost in present-day south-eastern Croatia, as some historians have speculated?20 According to the Annals, Ljudevit ‘treacherously murdered’ his Serb host, only to be himself assassinated by a rival Slav/Croat leader the following year.21 The earliest account of the Serbs in the Balkans is therefore also the first known record of the relations between the ancestors of Serbs and Croats. Other medieval sources similarly point at a close interaction between Serb and Croat tribes.22 The origin of Serbs, the location of their pre-Balkan homeland and when and under what circumstances they migrated to the Balkans are matters of much speculation due to the lack of sources.23 Even the meaning of the word ‘Serb’ is unknown. Some scholars believe that it is non-Slav in origin (just like the

20

T. Živković, ‘The Origins of the Royal Frankish Annalist’s Information about the Serbs in Dalmatia’, Spomenica akademika Sime Ćirkovića, Belgrade, 2011, 381–98; cf. N. Klaić, Povijest Hrvata u ranom srednjem vijeku, Zagreb, 1971, 211; R. Novaković, Gde se nalazila Srbija od VII do XII veka, Belgrade, 1981. 21 The quotes from the Annals: Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories [late 8th-early 9th centuries], transl. by B. W. Scholz and B. Rogers, Ann Arbor, MI, 1972, 111, 113. 22 DAI, 123–60; Mas’ūdi, From the Meadows of Gold, transl. by P. Linde and C. Stone, London, 2007, 15–16; ‘The Russian Primary Chronicle’, transl. and intro. by S. H. Cross, Harvard Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature, 12 (1930), 77–320, 138. 23 T. Živković, De conversione Croatorum et Serborum: A Lost Source, Belgrade, 2012, 47.

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word ‘Croat’). One theory is that name ‘Serb’ is derived from a Caucasian word ‘Ser’ or ‘Sur’, which means ‘man’ (Ser-bi/Sur-bi ­meaning ‘people’); another theory is that its Indo-European root (ser-, serv-) means to ‘guard’ or ‘protect’ (land or a herd of domesticated animals).24 There are suggestions that original Serbs and Croats were of Iranian–Sarmatian origin but were later Slavicized, while other historians have maintained their Slav origin. Either way, the Serbs (and Croats) had been Slavs prior to their settlement in the Balkans or became Slavicized at some point relatively soon thereafter.25 It is plausible, but cannot be proven, that there is a link between the Balkan Serbs and Serboi, a tribe which had lived between the Caucasus and the Volga River and which is mentioned in the works of Pliny the Elder (first century AD) and in Ptolemy’s Geography (second century AD). The Serboi lived near, and may have been part of, Soubeni, or Slavs, who occupied a vague area north of the Black Sea, in ancient Sarmatia. Contemporary Greek-language sources also refer to Choroatos in the lower Don valley, in the proximity of the Serboi; this was either a people, a person or a place name, possibly connected to Balkan Croats, who first appear in historical sources as Croats in the late ninth century.26 Although contemporary accounts about Slav migrations do not mention Serbs and Croats, it is generally assumed that the two 24

Stoianovich, Balkan Worlds, 124–25; N. Županič, ‘Značenje nekih starih geografskih i etničkih imena na balkanskom poluostrvu’, Etnolog (Ljubljana), 5–6 (1933), 98–112, 103–104. 25 The Iranian–Sarmatian origin of Croats and Serbs: Dvornik, 26–28; Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, 56–57; Serbs as Slavs by the time of their Balkan migration: Ćirković, The Serbs, xviii, 10–12, and Srbi u srednjem veku, Belgrade, 1995, 12; Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth, 60. The Slav origin thesis was developed by nineteenth-century philologists and linguists, such as eminent Croatian scholar Vatroslav Jagić (1838–1923). Fine (56) also allows for this possibility. 26 Ćirković, The Serbs, ch. 1; Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, 56; Stoianovich, Balkan Worlds, 125.

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peoples settled in south-east Europe as part of these, or related, population movements.27 The most detailed and the earliest surviving account about the arrival of the Serbs and Croats in the Balkans and their subsequent history is a tenth-century text ascribed to Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (913–59). De Administrando Imperio (On governing the empire) was what today might have been called a policy guide, which the emperor wrote for his heir. Constantine used written documents available to him and he likely also had knowledge of the Slavs’ own historical accounts, preserved in oral tradition. Written some three centuries after the Slavs’ arrival in the Balkans, by emperor of an empire that sought to reassert control over the region, the text must be approached with extreme caution. Historians have long analysed and contextualized Constantine’s work, wondered about sources on which it drew and questioned its reliability. At the same time, they have not been able to write about the period without relying on it.28 With these caveats in mind, it is worth looking at Constantine’s account of the origin of Serbs, their migration to and their early history in the Balkans. According to Constantine, Croats and, shortly after them, Serbs migrated to south-eastern Europe on invitation by Emperor Heraclius (AD 610–640).29 Heraclius’ reign, incidentally, marked the beginning of the empire’s Hellenic turn, politically and culturally, so if Constantine was correct, the Serbs and Croats settled at the periphery of the Eastern Roman Empire at the time it was transitioning into the Hellenized Byzantium.30 Heraclius 27

Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, ch. 2. VIINJ, II; Živković, De conversione. 29 DAI, on the Serbs: 153–60; on the Zahumljani, Travunjani, Konavljani, Pagani (all of whom Constantine describes as Serbs) and Dukljani (whose origin is unspecified): 160–65. For Croats see 147–53. A separate chapter is dedicated to (Roman) Dalmatia, which also discusses Croats, Serbs and other Slavs, 123–47. 30 Ostrogorsky, 106–107. 28

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was recruiting allies against the invading Avars, possibly during the 626 siege of Constantinople, and it is in this context that his invitation to the Croats and Serbs may be understood. However, it is just as probable that Serbs and Croats came uninvited, as part of an Avar–Slav invasion. Writing at the time when the empire had de facto lost control of the Balkan interior to Bulgarians and Slavs, Constantine might have projected tenth century political ambitions on the seventh century events he was describing. In all likelihood, he was familiar with the Serbs’ myth of origin, or at least with what the Serbs or those who had contacts with them believed was their earliest known history. According to it, Balkan Serbs ‘descended from unbaptized Serbs, also called “White”’, who lived in the neighbourhood of ‘White Croatia’ (the Croats’ pre-Balkan homeland) and the Frankish state. After an unnamed Serb archon (ruler) bequeathed the land to his two sons, one of them led part of the people on a long journey south, while the other brother remained in ‘White Serbia’ with the rest of the tribe. Initially, Heraclius granted the Serb migrants land ‘in the province of Thessaloniki’. At some later point, they decided to return home, but upon crossing the Danube changed their mind once again. This time they settled in the western Balkans, in ‘what is now Serbia and Pagania and the so-called country of the Zachlumi and Terbounia and the country of the Kanalites’, that is the lands which ‘had been made desolate by the Avars’.31 The location of ‘White Serbia’, whose existence (just like that of ‘White Croatia’) seems to be confirmed in other sources,32 can only be guessed. According to Constantine, the Serbs called their pre-Balkan home Boïki (Bojki, Bojka), which, scholars have speculated, could have been located in Bohemia, in the modern Czech Republic, or in present-day Saxony, in Germany, where to this

31

DAI, 154–55; cf. Ćirković, Srbi u srednjem veku, 13, 15; ISN, I, 141–45. Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, 56–58.

32

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day a people called Serbs live.33 The connection, if any existed, between the ancestors of the Balkan Serbs (Srbi) and of the Serbs (Serby/Serbja) of Lusatia (Łužica/Łužyca, Lausitz) in Saxony, where they are known as Sorben (Sorbs), is indeed potentially intriguing. The Lusatian Serbs first appear in historical records during a conflict with the Avars c. AD 631. Under the leadership of Dervan, they then joined a vast, mainly Slav confederation that stretched across the modern Czech Republic, Slovakia, parts of Austria and Slovenia, under the leadership of a Frankish merchant Samo (d. 658). Samo’s ‘empire’ emerged in the 620s out of a rebellion against the Avars, which, if it had not been instigated by Heraclius’ diplomats, certainly suited the Byzantine emperor.34 Could the Lusatian Serbs be the descendants of those Serbs who in Constantine’s account remained north, in ‘White Serbia’? Some historians have speculated, not implausibly, that Dervan was that brother who stayed behind in the Serbs’ pre-Balkan homeland. According to this hypothesis, Byzantium established contact with the Serbs (and with the Croats) via the Franks, whose king Dagobert I (c.629–634) had exchanged embassies with Heraclius in 629/30. Following the migration to the Balkans of part of the tribe at some point between the late 620s and early 630s, the remaining Serbs joined Samo’s confederation.35 The 33

Ćirković, The Serbs, xvii, Srbi u srednjem veku, 12; V. Ćorović, Istorija srpskog naroda, Belgrade, 2013, 56; Dvornik, 27; Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth, 59; VIINJ, II, 46–47; Županič, 102–103. 34 Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth, 59–60; G. Stone, Slav Outposts in Central European History: The Wends, Sorbs and Kashubs, London, 2016, 6. 35 T. Živković (Južni Sloveni pod Vizantijskom vlašću, 2nd edn, Belgrade, 2007, 198–99), builds on an earlier suggestion by R. H. J. Jenkins, a British Byzantologist, and translator of De Administrando Imperio, that Dervan might have been one of the two Serb brothers mentioned by Emperor Constantine. Obolensky (The Byzantine Commonwealth, 59) indirectly makes the same point. This theory, and more generally Constantine’s account of the migration of the Serbs and Croats, is rejected by Curta (Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, I, 70).

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Balkan and Lusatian Serbs thus may descend from a single tribe, but it is s­imilarly possible that more than one tribe shared the Serb name. In any case, the latter, who today number just around 60,000 people, are a surviving reminder of a larger Slav presence in northern Europe in the Middle Ages. This tiny Slavonic nation is linguistically and culturally closest to the neighbouring Czechs and Poles, and its members belong to the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches. They refer to their better known, more numerous and predominantly Eastern Orthodox Balkan cousins and namesakes as ‘southern Serbs’.36 In its main features, the Serbs’ myth of origin resembles the myth of origin of other peoples, including the Croats. Even if some of it was based on actual events, differences would have likely already occurred between the two groups of Serbs by the time the migration of the southern branch was complete or soon afterwards. The migrants would have lost (through death and desertion) some old and gained new members (mercenaries, slaves, brides), who would have adopted the identity of the dominant group. Following their settlement in the Balkans, the Serbs mixed with other Slav and non-Slav peoples who lived in their vicinity; sometimes they took leadership of neighbouring groups; in other cases, they were assimilated by others.

The Formation of the First Serb/South Slav Polities The process of political consolidation of a previously fragmented space eventually took place, as Sclavinias gradually disappeared through merger or conquest by more powerful groups such as the Serbs and Croats. This is most likely how the first Serb or Serb-led 36

For the Lusatian Serbs see J. Brankačk and F. Mětšk, Geschichte der Sorben: Von den Anfängen bis 1789 (vol. 1 of a multi-volume series edited by J. Šołta), Bautzen, 1977; Dvornik, ch. 11; Stone, Slav Outposts.

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polities and tribal confederations were formed. Nominally part of Byzantium, they exercised a large degree of self-rule. Names of the old Slav tribes were mostly forgotten by the eleventh century. In some cases, Slav and Slavicized tribes took their name from a geographic location or an ancient place name in the area where they settled, so ‘memory’ of some Sclavinias survives in toponyms. In other cases, old names were preserved in titles of medieval Serb rulers.37 Like other medieval Europeans, the Serbs were likely brought together by the notion of common origin, although group membership was not acquired solely through birth. A ‘core’ people, in this case Serb, would have preserved, shared and projected its identity onto surrounding groups and individuals. Slavs assimilated their Bulgarian conquerors, Avars incorporated Slavs, who may have been later re-assimilated by Slavs or by Slavicized Bulgarians and so on. Similar examples could be found throughout Europe. For example, the previously mentioned Lombards incorporated Gepids, Alamans, Saxons, Goths, Romans and even some Bulgarians. The modern French are named after the Germanic Franks, and so on.38 Multiple identities existed also, so one could be both an Avar and a Slav, a Bulgarian and a Serb. Proto-ethnic boundaries, so far as they mattered, were not and could not be static, especially at times of frequent migrations. It is therefore safe to assume that early Serbs 37

Ćirković, Srbi u srednjem veku, 30–31. For example, the title of Stefan Vladislav (1234–43) was ‘King of all the Rascian land and Duklja, Dalmatia, Travunija and Zahumlje’. The Serbian Orthodox Church today includes a bishopric of Zahumlje-Herzegovina and the Littoral, while the full title of Serbian Metropolitan Amfilohije (1991–2020) was Archbishop of Cetinje, Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, of Zeta, Brda (the Highlands) and Skenderija, and the Exarch of the Holy Throne of Peć. A senior cleric within the Metropolitanate holds an honorary title of Bishop of Dioclea (i.e. Duklja). 38 P. J. Geary, ‘Ethnic Identity as a Situational Construct in the Early Middle Ages’, Mitteilungen der Anthropologischen Gesellschaft in Wien, 113 (1983), 15–26, 20.

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possessed a complex, fluid and ‘polyethnic’ identity. Group boundaries were more permeable and peoples inside them less homogenous than usually thought. Pre-modern nations emerged, evolved and sometimes disappeared. Not unlike modern nations, medieval group identities, including those of Serbs and other South Slavs, were constructs of situations and contexts.39 In any case, between their assumed migration to the Balkans and the time Emperor Constantine wrote his text, the Serbs would have undergone a significant transformation, or ethnogenesis, a hard-to-explain phenomenon, perhaps because it is rarely observable by contemporaries. For that reason, any talk about an ancient Serb – and, similarly, Slav – homeland is purely an academic matter. According to Emperor Constantine, direct descendants of the archon40 who brought the Serbs to the Balkans continued to rule the Serb (and possibly neighbouring) tribes until the tenth century. The first one of them known by name was Višeslav (or perhaps Vojislav), whose reign historians have dated to around AD 780. A combination of military power and diplomatic skill of early Serb leaders, the support they allegedly enjoyed in Constantinople, which in the ninth century sought allies against the Bulgarians and Arabs, facilitated the emergence of a Serb or a Serb-led confederation under Vlastimir (c.831–850).41 Constantine called this polity ‘Baptized Serbia’, presumably to distinguish it from then still unbaptized Serbs of ‘White Serbia’.42 39

Geary, ‘Ethnic Identity’ and The Myth of Nations, passim; W. Pohl, ‘Conceptions of Ethnicity in Early Medieval Studies’, in L. K. Little and B. H. Rosenwein (eds), Debating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings, Oxford, 1998, 13–24, 16–17. 40 VIINJ, II, 50n. Greek-language sources used archon and Latin-language sources dux when referring to the early Serb and other South Slav rulers, but we do not know the Slav equivalents from this time. 41 DAI, 153–54; Ćirković, The Serbs, 14–15. 42 Northwestern Slavs (collectively known as Wends), long resisted attempts by Germanic kings and missionaries to convert them to Christianity, partly because it would have amounted to their subjugation by the Germans.

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De Administrando Imperio includes an account of a battle between Vlastimir’s sons and heirs Mutimir, Stroimir and Gojnik and Bulgarian Khan Boris, which took place in 853 or 854.43 After the Serbs prevailed, they released prominent Bulgarian prisoners, including Boris’ son Vladimir. In a gift-exchanging ceremony that followed, the Serbs presented their erstwhile enemy with two slaves, two falcons, two hunting dogs and eighty furs. This spectacle, if not the battle itself, took place ‘at the frontier at Rasi’. Whether this referred to the fortified town of Ras or to the surrounding area, it seems that in the mid-ninth century, the political centre of the later Serb principality of Raška (Rascia) was situated on the Bulgarian–Serb frontier (Figure 1.1). Therefore, much of what is modern central Serbia was part of the Bulgarian polity at the time. This, then, was the easternmost border of ninth-century Serbia (Map 1.1). Its northern frontier is not known, but it likely did not cross the river Sava. It extended from the valleys of the Ibar and Lim westwards across the river Drina, into present-day Lusatian Serbs were finally conquered in 963 and the majority were Germanized thereafter. However, Boso of St Emmeram (968–70), the first bishop of Merseburg (a town in modern Germany near Halle an der Saale, in Lusatia) was a Slav speaker, like his immediate successors. A. P. Vlasto, The Entry of the Slavs into Christendom, Cambridge, 1970, 142–54. These north-western Slav or Slav-speaking ‘apostles’ may have therefore performed a similar role as Cyril and Methodius (see below). 43 DAI, 155; VIINJ, II, 51n. No other record of the battle survives. A ninth century golden seal featuring an Orthodox-style cross and inscription, in Greek and Old Slavonic, ‘God, protect Stroimir’, was purchased in 2006 by the Serbian government at an auction in Germany. The stamp, now displayed at Belgrade’s Historical Museum, is believed to have belonged to Stroimir, the ninth-century co-ruler of the Serbs. Munich’s Gorny & Mosch auction house acquired the seal from a private collector in Germany, but no further details were provided. Reportedly it sold for €20,000 – a modest price for what the Serbian media somewhat sensationally presented as a proof of Serbia’s statehood in the ninth century. T. Živković, ‘The Golden Seal of Stroimir’, Istorijski časopis (Belgrade), LV, 2007, 23–29.

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figure 1.1  Remnants of the medieval town of Ras, south-western Serbia, an area where, or in whose proximity, the first Serb polity in the Balkans formed in the late eighth or early ninth century (Michael Runkel/ robertharding/Getty Images)

Bosnia, until it reached Croat and Croat-controlled lands in modern Dalmatia and western Herzegovina. (As already seen, the Frankish Annals suggest a similar territorial extent of early medieval ‘Serbia’.) At this time, Bosnia was probably a župa situated in the Bosna River valley, and smaller in territory than the modern state of that name. After the collapse of Časlav’s state in the second half of the tenth century, discussed in the following text, the history of Bosnia would develop separately from the history of the Serb polities that formed to its east. Not much is known about the Bosnian history during this period. Parts of modern Bosnia were included in the eleventh century Croat kingdom; by the late twelfth century, if not earlier, Bosnian Slavs created a separate territorial organization of their own, despite a period of Hungarian rule, about which little is known as well. Hum (Herzegovina) would remain part of the Serbian state until the

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HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE

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IJA PA GA N Dubrovnik LJE C ZAHUM VUNIJA SE TRA A DUKLJA

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BLACK SEA Constantinople

AEGEAN SEA Athens

MEDITERRANEAN SEA Probable borders of ‘Baptized Serbia’and its neighbours, c. 950

map 1.1  Probable borders of ‘Baptized Serbia’ and its neighbours, c.950. Drawn by Joe LeMonnier, https://mapartist.com/ based on a map originally published in Sima M. Ćirković, The Serbs, Oxford: Blackwell/ Wiley, 2004, p. 13

second half of the fourteenth century, when it was taken over by Bosnia, but retained its own regional identity (see Chapter 2).44 As mentioned earlier, according to Emperor Constantine, following their arrival in the Balkans, the Serbs also settled in the 44

S. M. Ćirković, Istorija srednjevekovne bosanske države, Belgrade, 1964, 39–40, 350n, ch. 4.

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lands known as ‘Pagania [Narenta], and in the so-called country of Zachlumi [Zahumlje], Terbounites [Travunia or Travunija] and the country of the Kanalites [Konavljani]’. Constantine claimed that his contemporary Mihailo of Zahumlje originated from the Litziki (Lędzianie in modern Polish) tribe, who at that time were still pagan and lived near the Wisła River in southern Poland. Did Mihailo descend from a different Slav tribe than his people, whom Constantine described as ‘Serbs from the time of that prince who claimed the protection of Emperor Heraclius’? Bordering these polities was ‘the country of Diocletians’ (named after an abandoned Roman settlement Dioclea/Duklja), the identity of whose population is not specified by the Byzantine emperor.45 This omission would in modern times cause much polemic and controversy concerning the origin of the Montenegrins. It is almost certain that Duklja, just like the surrounding territories, was settled by Slavs following their migrations and that they mixed with non-Slavs, like elsewhere in the Balkans. An eleventh- and twelfth-century polity called Zeta, which grew out of a župa of the same name, emerged roughly in the area where Constantine’s tenth century Duklja had been situated. Zeta would be associated with the Serbs and with the South Slavs more generally, and sometimes even with the neighbouring Croats, by contemporaries and by later historians. However, Zeta’s distinct (from Serb settlements in the hinterland) status within the thirteenth- to fourteenth-century Serbian state would be preserved.46 Whatever the identity of these medieval South 45

DAI, 161–65. For various interpretations (and sometimes speculations) about the identity of the population of Duklja/Zeta and the other South Slav polities in the early Middle Ages see N. Budak, ‘Identities in Early Medieval Dalmatia’, in I. H. Garipzanov et al. (eds), Franks, Northmen and Slavs: Identities and State Formation in Early Medieval Europe, Turnhout, 2008, 223–41; S. M. Ćirković, Živeti sa istorijom, compiled & ed. by V. Djokić, Belgrade, 2020, 298–302; VIINJ, II, 63n; Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, 202–203; Istorija

46

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Slav tribes and polities may have been, modern concepts of nationhood should not be projected back to a pre-modern era. The earliest Serb and South Slav settlements were formed in river valleys, suitable for agriculture and water transport. Nearby hills and mountains offered additional source of food and shelter in the event of enemy attack. Specifically, Constantine’s ‘Baptized Serbia’ was formed in the valleys of Ibar and Lim Rivers, Pagania was situated between the rivers Cetina and Neretva, Zahumlje between the Neretva and the hinterland of Dubrovnik/Ragusa, Travunija between Zahumlje and Boka Kotorska and Konavle, and Duklja in the valleys of the rivers Zeta and Morača.47 There existed through the Middle Ages varying degrees of political, economic and cultural links between these lands. The balance of power shifted from one territory to another, until in the late twelfth century Raška assumed the leading role and kept it for some two and a half centuries. The popular view of two medieval Serb states, Zeta and Raška, as predecessors of modern Montenegro and Serbia, respectively, is a nineteenth century construct meant to serve the idea of a union of the two principalities as they were emerging out of the Ottoman rule. A power struggle among Vlastimir’s sons apparently followed the victory over the Bulgarians. Mutimir eventually prevailed, but after his death around 890, his nephew Petar, the first known Serb with a Christian name, emerged as the new Serb ruler. Petar had previously lived in exile among the Croats, who provided him shelter from a political conflict back home.48

Crne Gore, Titograd [Podgorica], 3 vols, 1967, I, 292; Klaić, Povijest Hrvata; and Novaković, Gde se nalazila Srbija. For contemporary Byzantine sources see Skylitzes, A Synopsis of Byzantine History, 811–1057, transl. by J. Wortley, intro. by Jean-Claude Cheynet and B. Fusin, notes by Cheynet, Cambridge, 2010, and Anna Komnene, The Alexiad, transl. by E. R. A. Sewter, ed. P. Frankopan, London, 2009. 47 Similarly, the earliest Croat or Croat-led settlements formed in the valleys of rivers Cetina, Drava and Sava. 48 Ćirković, The Serbs, 15; cf. DAI, 156–57.

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The Serbs’ western neighbours were on the ascendancy around this time, having successfully resisted both Byzantium and the Franks. Under Tomislav (c.910–928), about whom very little is known from contemporary sources, the Croats repelled attacks by the Bulgarians and the Hungarians. Dimitrije Zvonimir (1075–1089) received a royal crown from Pope Gregory VII (who also crowned Mihailo of Duklja, as the ‘King of Slavs’ – see the following text). Croatia extended over a large territory that stretched from Slavonia in the north to Dalmatia in the south, including parts of Bosnia.49 The Croat state ceased to exist as an independent polity in the late eleventh century, when it came under the Hungarian rule, formalized as a union of two crowns in 1102. The Croats’ association with Hungary, and from the first half of the sixteenth century Austria, would last until 1918, when together with Serbs and Slovenians (descendants of those Slavs who lived to the northwest of Croats), they formed Yugoslavia – the Land of the South Slavs.

Spread of Christianity Emperor Constantine’s claim that the Slavs had adopted Christianity following their migration only later to return to pagan beliefs seems unlikely. For at least two centuries after their migration, most Slavs and Slavicized peoples remained pagan. A mid-tenth-century Arab chronicle, referring to events of the previous century, described ‘a Slavic people called Serbs, who were much feared’ and with ‘no particular religious affiliation’, who allegedly burned themselves alive upon the death of their chieftain and ‘immolate his horses’, customs which resembled ‘those of 49

Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, ch. 8, and When Ethnicity Did Not Matter in the Balkans: A Study of Identity in Pre-Nationalist Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia in Medieval and Early-Modern Periods, Ann Arbor, MI, 2006, chps 1 & 2; Goldstein, Croatia, 18–19; Klaić, Povijest Hrvata, chps 6 & 7.

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the Indians’.50 Circumstances surrounding the conversion of the Serbs to Christianity are not known, but it is possible to reconstruct the context in which it happened. Having defeated the Arabs in 863, Byzantine Emperor Michael III (842–867), known as the Drunkard, turned his attention to the Slavs. Three years earlier, the Russians had reached the walls of Constantinople, while (by now mostly Slavicized) Bulgarians controlled large parts of the Balkans.51 Christian missionaries from Constantinople and Rome had been competing to convert the predominantly Slav population of eastern and south-eastern Europe but without any significant success until that point. Both sides understood that through Christianity they would be able to strengthen their influence among the Slavs and, in the case of Byzantium, hopefully regain control of the Balkans. Byzantine strategy of keeping South Slav rulers in check, by giving them imperial administrative titles and allowing them to collect tribute from eastern Adriatic towns previously paid to the emperor, was effective up to a degree only. At the same time, Slav leaders understood the importance of adopting Christianity, the religion of the ‘civilized world’. Bulgarian rulers moreover hoped that the Christian church would unite a society where divisions between the Bulgars and the Slavs had still existed.52 Keen to avoid interference from Byzantium, the Bulgarians sought to ‘import’ Christianity from the geographically distant Franks. For the same reason, Rastislav of Moravia, a polity squeezed between the Franks and the Bulgarians and outside the Byzantine sphere of influence, asked Constantinople to send missionaries to his realm. Byzantium responded by dispatching brothers Cyril and Methodius, missionaries from Salonica fluent in a local Slav vernacular, which at the time would have been comprehensible to other Slavs.53 Mas’ūdī, 16. 51 Ostrogorsky, 227–28. R. J. Crampton, A Concise History of Bulgaria, 2nd edn, Cambridge, 2005, 12–14. 53 Ostrogorsky, 229; cf. Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth, 83–101. 50 52

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Byzantium realized that to finally convert the Slavs, it had to make the New Testament and Christian liturgies understandable to them. To that effect, Cyril and Methodius designed the first Slav alphabet based on Greek letters. This was Glagolitic; later it was ‘updated’ to Cyrillic, whose modern versions are used today by most Orthodox Slavs, including the Serbs. The conversion of the Slavs to Christianity, therefore, was closely linked with the spread of literacy. The Old Church Slavonic, as the written Slav language became known, was based on the language spoken by the Slavs living in Greek Macedonia, which was linguistically close to the language spoken by Serbs and other South Slavs. By the second half of the twelfth century, a (non-standardized) Serb redaction of the Old Slavonic emerged.54 Despite their initial reluctance to accept Christianity from Constantinople, Bulgarians were eventually left with no choice. In 864, Khan Boris – the same Bulgarian ruler whose army had been defeated by the Serbs ten years previously – became Christian and added ‘Michael’ to his name, in honour of the Byzantine emperor of the same name. Several years later, possibly in the early years of the reign of Emperor Michael’s successor Basil I (867–86), the Serb leaders followed suit. Vlastimir was possibly born a pagan, but his grandson Petar, born between 870 and 874, was given a 54

In 2021, Czech archaeologists published what they believe is evidence of the earliest writing system among the Slavs: an inscription, in ancient Germanic runes, on a cattle bone dating c. AD 600. This would suggest that some Slavs at least had used an alphabet well before the invention of the Glagolitic – a claim first made by a ninth-century Bulgarian monk, but previously rejected by scholars. It could also shed further light on early German–Slav encounters and possibly also on the pattern of Slav migrations. (Macháchek et al., ‘Runes from Lány (Czech Republic): The Oldest Inscription among the Slavs’, Journal of Archaeological Science, 127, March 2021). Either way, Glagolitic remained in use in some parts of Croatia until the early modern era and remains an important symbol of Croat identity today, despite the Croats’ preference for Latin and general rejection of Byzantine legacy and of Cyrillic as a ‘Serbian’ alphabet.

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Christian name.55 It is not known to what extent, and how fast, the new religion spread beyond the elites. Many ‘ordinary’ people probably remained pagan or combined pre-Christian and Christian beliefs and customs for a while, at least privately.56 Byzantium competed with Rome over the baptism of the Slavs in the coastal regions of the Eastern Adriatic and in Croatia, but ultimately Roman Christianity took a hold there. After the schism between Rome and Constantinople was completed in 1054, the line of division between Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy ran across territories populated by the South Slavs. Croats became Roman Catholic, while the Serbs of the hinterland eventually adopted Orthodoxy as their main religion, but Roman Catholic presence remained strong in the towns of Duklja and Zahumlje. The situation in Bosnia was even more complex: in addition to the Catholics and Orthodox, there was also a native church that kept many early Christian features and used Slavonic liturgy. It was also tolerant of and possibly adopted a Manichean Christian heresy, rejected by both the Orthodox and the Catholic churches (see Chapter 2). Cyril and Methodius, the ‘apostles of the Slavs’, are celebrated today as saints by both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic church. Their home city of Salonica had once been home to large Ottoman-era Jewish and Muslim communities, almost erased during the first half of the twentieth century. It is generally less known that in the early Middle Ages, the city and the s­ urrounding area had a significant Slavophone community (which survives to this day, albeit as a small, officially unrecognized group in ­present-day Greece).57 Because of the work of Cyril and Methodius 55

VIINJ, II, 49–50n. Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, 141–42; Vlasto, The Entry of the Slavs, 207–26. 57 A. Karakasidou, ‘Cultural Illegitimacy in Greece: The Slavo-Macedonian “Non-Minority”’, in R. Clogg (ed.), Minorities in Greece: Aspects of a Plural Society, London, 2002, 122–64; M. Mazower, Salonica, the City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430–1950, London, 2004. 56

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and their disciples, Salonica, or Solun as the Slavs call it, occupies a special place in the history of the Serbs, and other Slavs.

The Decline of ‘Baptized Serbia’ and the Rise of Duklja/Zeta Taking advantage of a leadership crisis in Byzantium, where following the death of Emperor Leo VI in 912 an internally divided regency ruled in the name of minor Emperor Constantine VII – the future author of De Administrando Imperio – Simeon of Bulgaria (893–927) vastly expanded his realm, which included the ‘Serb lands’, and stretched all the way south to Greece. In August 913, Simeon’s army reached the walls of Constantinople. To his ­surprise, the Bulgarian leader was invited in by the imperial regency. In an unprecedented ceremony, Patriarch Nicholas crowned him ‘Emperor of Bulgarians’ – though not of ‘Romans’, that is as a co-ruler with Constantine VII, which must have been Simeon’s ultimate aim.58 Simeon’s death in 927 enabled Časlav – the grandson of Stroimir and half Bulgarian through his mother’s side – to re-establish the Serb polity, with the help of Byzantium. This would be a short-lived success, as it turned out. Časlav’s defeat and death at the hands of Magyars (Hungarians) in 960 marked the end of ‘Baptized Serbia’.59 A central Asian people who had recently settled the Pannonian plains to the north of the South Slavs, in the last major population movement of the Migration Period, the Magyars cut off, together with Germanic Austrians and Latin Romanians, the Southern from the Western and Eastern Slavs. In 1102, Croatia and soon thereafter Bosnia came under the control of the Hungarian Árpád dynasty. 58

Ostrogorsky, 262–63. Ćirković, The Serbs, 18–19; Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, 159–60; P. Stephenson, Byzantium’s Balkan Frontier: A Political Study of the Northern Balkans, 900–1204, Cambridge, 2000.

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For nearly a century after Časlav’s death, there is little information in the surviving sources about the Serbs of the Balkan interior, but ‘memory’ of the old Serb polity was preserved in the Byzantine administrative system created under Emperor Basil II (976–1025). A strategos Serbias governed the theme (province) of Serbia from his seat in Sirmium (modern Sremska Mitrovica, northern Serbia).60 Further south, Mihailo, the ruler of Zahumlje mentioned in De Administrando Imperio, extended his rule over Travunija and Duklja. He maintained religious links with Rome and friendly relations with Byzantium and other neighbours. During a Bulgarian– Croatian war of 926, Zahumlje remained neutral.61 In the second half of the tenth century, Duklja came out of the shadows previously cast by Mihailo’s Zahumlje and Časlav’s Serbia. Under Jovan Vladimir, who enjoyed good relations with Emperor Basil II, Duklja expanded into Zahumlje, Travunija and the lands in the hinterland previously held by Časlav. It initially kept good relations with Byzantium’s main Balkan rivals, the Bulgarians. Things changed in 997, when Samuilo of Bulgaria (976–1014) conquered this South Slav polity and imprisoned its ruler. In control of a large territory in present-day Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia, Samuilo proclaimed himself tsar (emperor) the same year.62 According to a medieval chronicle of uncertain credibility, Samuilo’s daughter Kosara married Jovan Vladimir. He was reinstated as a Bulgarian

60

Ćirković, The Serbs, 19, 21–22; Ostrogorsky, 132–35. Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, 154–55. 62 In Yugoslav and Macedonian historiography, Samuilo is considered a Macedonian tsar and his state a Macedonian empire, in spite of Samuilo and despite contemporary sources. This is not the place to discuss the Bulgarian–Macedonian historical controversies, which in 2022 threatened to harm North Macedonia’s already distant prospects of joining the EU, due to Bulgaria’s demands that the former Yugoslav republic acknowledges its Bulgarian roots. For Samuilo’s state, see Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, ch. 6, and Stephenson, 58–77. 61

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vassal and ruled Duklja until 1016, when Samuilo’s successor imprisoned and publicly beheaded him outside a monastery in Prespa (present-day North Macedonia). A cult of Jovan Vladimir as a martyr and saint, whose relics allegedly performed miracles, developed soon afterwards, anticipating a trend of saintly Serb rulers in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.63 Bulgaria’s supremacy in the Balkans came to an end in 1014 when Samuilo’s army was handed a crushing defeat by Byzantium. Having de facto lost much of the Balkans to the invading Slavs in the sixth and seventh centuries, having barely resisted the Avar and Bulgarian threat and the emergence of the South Slav polities in the ninth and tenth centuries, Byzantium had under Basil II ­re-­established control of the Balkan peninsula – albeit for a relatively short period of time, as it turned out. Following Basil’s death in 1025, his vast empire, which stretched from the eastern Adriatic to the northern Caucasus, faced serious challenges. Internally, a conflict over the succession followed the death of the emperor. Turkic Pechenegs raided the Balkans, penetrating, and possibly settling in, the previously virtually inaccessible Albanian mountains. Rebellions broke out in Duklja and Bulgaria against a tax increase and, in the case of the latter, appointment of a non-Slav archbishop of Ohrid. In 1042, Vojislav of Duklja defeated the imperial army at Dyrrachium (Durazzo, Durrës in modern Albania).64 In the ensuing period, Duklja extended, or reimposed, control over the neighbouring South Slav lands, including the territory once ruled by Časlav. The political centre of Vojislav’s state was 63

Ćirković, The Serbs, 20; Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, 193–94; Ist. C. Gore, I, 382. Jovan Vladimir’s relics are kept in a monastery in Albania, whose Orthodox believers venerate him today. Similarly, the Serbian Orthodox Church commemorates St Jovan Vladimir on 22 May (the date of his death) and considers him the first Serbian saint. The medieval Dukljan ruler is also the patron saint of the Montenegrin port town of Bar. 64 Ostrogorsky, 323–26; Ist. C. Gore, I, 385–87. Skylitzes’ Synopsis (384–90), offers a contemporary Byzantine account of these events.

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in Ston, near Konavle and Ragusa (Dubrovnik). An emerging power, Duklja fought for supremacy in the region with Byzantium and Bulgaria. In the early 1070s, it supported a rebellion against the Byzantine Empire that had broken out in Skopje (the capital of modern North Macedonia) but failed to take over the uprising. This may have prompted Vojislav’s successor Mihailo to seek allies in the West. In 1077, the pope’s emissary crowned Mihailo the ‘King of Slavs’, who then married off his son and heir Konstantin Bodin to a Norman princess. The Normans had at the beginning of the decade conquered Byzantine stronghold of Bari in southern Italy, just across the Adriatic from Duklja. At this time, Duklja’s political centre had moved further south along the eastern Adriatic coast, to Bar (Antivari) and the area around the lake and town of Skadar (Shkodra/Scutari), on the modern Albanian–Montenegrin border. From around this time, Duklja would be increasingly referred to as Zeta and Zahumlje as Hum. After he had succeeded his father, Konstantin Bodin secured from the pope, in the second half of the 1080s, the ‘upgrade’ of the Bar bishopric into archbishopric. This was a further example of the decline of Byzantium’s influence, at the expense of Rome in this case, and a blow to Dubrovnik, whose archbishop had hitherto exercised jurisdiction over the bishops of Bar.65 Closer links with Rome did not necessarily mean an absolute loyalty to the Catholic cause among the Southern Slavs. In 1095, Count Raymond de Toulouse’s crusading army came under repeated attacks by Dalmatian Slavs, their passage not being made any smoother by the fact that they were able to communicate with ‘Latin’ population of eastern Adriatic towns. Exhausted and with supplies running low, they were received by ‘the king of the Slavonians [Konstantin Bodin] at Scutari [Shkodra, in modern Albania]’. There ‘[t]he Count swore friendship with him and gave him a large tribute, so that the army might buy or seek necessaries 65

Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans, 211–16; Ist. C. Gore, I, 397; Ostrogorsky, 346.

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in security.’ In turned out, however, that no food was available and, in any case, Bodin’s men attacked the Crusaders. Raymond’s army was forced to retreat towards the presumed safety of the imperial frontier at Dyrrachium.66 An internal conflict combined with a recovery of Byzantium led to the erosion of Zeta’s power by the early twelfth century. This would eventually pave way for the emergence of Raška. 66

R. d’Aguiliers, Historia francorum qui ceperint Jerusalem, https://sourcebooks .fordham.edu/source/raymond-cde.asp; cf. J. Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades, 2nd edn, London, 2013, 65–66.

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2 Empire (c.1170–1459) u

Raška Things did not look promising for the future founder of the Serbs’ longest-lasting dynasty when in 1172 Grand Župan Nemanja of Raška (c.1166–96) was defeated by a Byzantine army of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (1143–80). Manuel, who had led successful campaigns in the Balkans earlier on in his reign, had gathered a large army against ‘[that] satrap of the Serbs, [an] inordinately insolent [and] mischievous fellow who deemed meddlesomeness to be shrewdness’, as Byzantine sources described Nemanja, whose men had frequently raided imperial garrisons. The Serbs suffered a heavy defeat at an unknown location in Raška and their leader was captured alive.1 Half-naked and humiliated, Nemanja fell on his knees in front of the emperor’s feet and begged for mercy. Manuel spared his life but took him to Constantinople as a slave and a war trophy. Nemanja’s humiliation and Manuel’s triumphant return to the imperial capital was depicted in mosaics displayed in imperial palaces and at least one church in Constantinople. These, no longer surviving, images were created soon after the events they depicted and served as a powerful propaganda tool, reminding the emperor’s erstwhile and potential enemies of his might. A contemporary Byzantine 1

D. Obolensky, ‘Sava of Serbia’, Six Byzantine Portraits, Oxford, 1988, 115–16; cf. J. Kinnamos, Deeds of John and Manuel Comnenos, transl. by C. M. Brand, book VI, New York, 1976, 215. I have used Obolensky’s translation of the original source in Greek, which differs slightly in style from Brand’s translation.

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source describes the moment when the enslaved Serb leader was shown one of the mosaics: He [Nemanja] surveys with his eyes those decorations that represent your [Manuel’s] feats, cunningly wrought for the sake of remembrance by the hands of painters – those that concerned himself as well as the other [paintings]. Here [he was] represented arousing his people to rebellion, elsewhere as a man-at-arms or a horseman, elsewhere placing his hand upon his sword, repeatedly ranging his army in the open, planting ambuscades, being defeated by your forces, filling the hard trodden plain with his fugitives, and finally being enslaved. Seeing these paintings, he agrees with everything and approves of the visual feast. In one respect only does he chide the painter, namely that the latter has not called him a slave in all the scenes of triumph, that the appellation ‘slave’ has not been coupled with the name Neeman [Nemanja].2

The victory over the Serbs in 1172 was part of Manuel’s successful campaign to restore and consolidate the imperial power in south-eastern Europe. Around the same time, Byzantium had also waged successful campaigns against the Arabs, Seljuk Turks and Venice, while in Hungary a pro-Byzantine King Béla III (1172– 96) came to the throne. The reader will recall that Hungary had previously taken control of Croatia-Slavonia and Bosnia, while Bulgaria had ceased to be a threat following its catastrophic defeat by Emperor Basil II. Through his military and diplomatic victories, Manuel effectively extended the empire’s influence, albeit indirectly, into the rest of the Balkans and parts of central Europe. This would be a short-lived success. In 1204, Constantinople would be captured by the crusaders – an event which facilitated the rise of Raška, as it would turn out.

2

Eustathius of Thessalonica, ‘Speech addressed to Emperor Manuel I’, reproduced in C. Mango, The Art of the Byzantine Empire, 312–1453: Sources and Documents, Toronto, 1972, 225.

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Empire (c.1170–1459)

Situated in present-day south-western Serbia (near modern Novi Pazar) and north-eastern Montenegro, between the valleys of the Ibar and Lim Rivers, the territory of Raška was either the nucleus of or situated in the proximity of the original long-term Serb settlement in the Balkans. A Serb polity called Raška (Rascia in its Latin form) appears in the surviving sources only in the twelfth century; its name originally probably meant ‘the province of Ras’, that is the territory in the vicinity of the previously mentioned fortified town of the same name. This region had been incorporated into Zeta (Duklja) in the eleventh century but enjoyed a degree of self-rule similar to that of Hum (Zahumlje), which had also come under Zeta’s control. Around 1083, Vukan (whose title is not known) governed Raška as Konstantin Bodin’s vassal.3 Box 2.1 Raška or Serbia? Historians tend to use Raška/Rascia and Serbia synonymously, but it should be noted that Nemanjić rulers typically called their realm the ‘Serb lands’ rather than ‘Serbia’. They also distinguished between the hinterland, that is Raška, and the ‘Littoral’ or ‘Maritime lands’, that is Zeta, Hum and the coast of Montenegro and south Dalmatia. In Latin language sources, and on some coins printed by the Nemanjić kings, the Serb rulers are ‘Rex Rasciae’ or ‘Rex Serviae’. Different titles are used after the proclamation of the Serb–Greek Empire by Stefan Dušan (Nemanjić) in the mid-fourteenth century, as discussed in the following text. Latin-language sources usually referred to Serbia

3

ISN, I, 197–210; J. V. A Fine Jr, The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest, Ann Arbor, MI, 1994, ch. 1; J. Kalić, ‘Naziv Raška u starijoj srpskoj istoriji (IX–XII vek)’, Zbornik Filozofskog fakulteta (Belgrade), XIV–1 (1979), 79–91; D. Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth: Eastern Europe, 500–1453, London, 1971, 219–21. Vukan’s title: S. M. Ćirković, Srbi u srednjem veku, Belgrade, 1995, 49; cf. S. Novaković, ‘Vizantijski činovi i titule u srpskim zemljama XI–XV veka’, Glas SKA (Belgrade), LXXVIII (1908), 178–279.

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A Concise History of Serbia as ‘Rascia’ (sometimes spelled ‘Rassia’ or ‘Rassa’) or as ‘Servia’, and sometimes as ‘Sclavonia’ (the land of the Slavs). On the other hand, Byzantine sources typically used the name Serbia (Σερβία) for the Serb polity, but rarely Raška. Contemporary Serbian sources written in Greek tended to follow this tradition.4

The rule of Vukan’s nephew and successor Grand Župan Uroš I (c.1112–45) coincided with the decline of Zeta and the expansion of Hungary into the western Balkans. The nature of the Hungarian–Serb relations during this period is not known except that close contacts existed. Around 1130, Jelena, daughter of Uroš I, married the son and heir of King István II (1116–31) in what was the first dynastic marriage between the Hungarian and Serbian ruling families. The name of the Serb ruler appears to have been derived from the combination of Hungarian ‘Úr’, meaning ‘lord’, and a Slav suffix ‘oš’, which suggests that close links between the rulers of Raška and Hungary had been established already during Vukan’s rule.5 In the late 1140s, armies of the Second Crusade (1145–49) and Byzantium clashed with the Hungarians and Serbs. In 1150, Emperor Manuel defeated Grand Župan Uroš II (c.1145–62) and forcibly resettled some of the population of Ras to modern Bulgaria and other parts of the empire. Uroš II remained in power as a Byzantine vassal, but his rule was challenged by his brother Desa. Desa eventually prevailed, possibly with the help from Hungary, but was then deposed in 1165 by Byzantium. Emperor

4

M. Dinić, Srpske zemlje u srednjem veku, compiled by S. M. Ćirković, Belgrade, 1978, 33–43; S. Dušanić-Marjanović, Vladarska ideologija Nemanjića, Belgrade, 1997, 42–59; S. Dimitrijević, Srednjovekovni srpski novac, Belgrade, 199; K. Jiriček, Istorija Srba, 2 vols, Belgrade, 1952, I, ch. 1; Kalić, ‘Naziv Raška’.

5

Jiriček, Istorija Srba, I, 138; J. Kalić, ‘Grand Župan Uroš II of Rascia’, Balcanica (Belgrade), XLVII (2016), 75–96; T. Živković, ‘Jedna hipoteza o poreklu velikog župana Uroša I’, Istorijski časopis (Belgrade), LII (2005), 9–22.

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Manuel enslaved the defeated Serbian ruler and publicly humiliated him in Constantinople6 – just like he would do to Nemanja several years later. It was after this event that Nemanja first appeared in sources, as one of the younger brothers of Grand Župan Tihomir. The background of Raška’s new ruling family is unknown. They may have been originally from Hum and could have been related to the previous rulers of Raška and Zeta. Nemanja was born in Zeta around 1113 and baptized according to Roman Catholic rites, after his father had fled there, probably from Raška. At some point between 1166 and 1168, Nemanja defeated Tihomir to become Raška’s grand župan, apparently to the emperor’s displeasure. Nemanja may have been an ally of Venice at this time; his ‘capital’ Ras was rebuilt in the image of ‘western’ fortified towns of that era.7 In the following decades, Raška under Nemanja, who would be eventually released from captivity by Byzantium, became the most dominant South Slav polity in this part of the Balkans. The balance of political power thus once again shifted from the lands close to or on the Adriatic coast to those in the hinterland. Following Emperor Manuel’s death in 1180, Bulgarians, Hungarians and Serbs turned against Byzantium once again. During the following decade, the ruling family of Raška significantly expanded their territory. Nemanja took control over Zeta, ‘the fallen land of his grandfathers’; previously ruled by his cousin, this former kingdom was given to Nemanja’s eldest son Vukan. To the west of Zeta lay Hum, which was ruled by Nemanja’s elder brother Miroslav – best known today for gospels he commissioned in the 1180s, which represent one of the oldest surviving documents written in the Serbian recension of the Old Church Slavonic. (To the north of Hum was Bosnia, 6

F. Curta, Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages (500–1300), 2 vols, Leiden, 2019, II, 656–58. 7 Ibid, 659; cf. M. Popović, Tvrdjava Ras, Belgrade, 1999.

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ruled independently from the Serbs by Ban Kulin, Miroslav’s brother-in-law). The Serb polity also included the town of Kotor/ Cattaro, and stretched further into south Dalmatia, all the way to Dubrovnik/Ragusa. The Serbs besieged Dubrovnik and may have temporarily captured it in 1185; the conflict ended the following year, possibly after a Norman intervention, following which the city-state paid a tribute to Nemanja and was granted trade concessions in the Serb lands. Nemanja’s realm at this time also included the hinterland of the lake of Skadar/Scutari, the area around Prizren and Kosovo Polje and Skopje. Raška extended its territory to the north as well, into the Zapadna Morava valley (present-day western Serbia), ruled by Nemanja’s brother Stracimir. Thus, in the late twelfth century, the grand župan and members of his immediate family controlled a large territory that included present-day south-western Serbia, Montenegro, eastern Herzegovina, south Dalmatia and parts of Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia (Map 2.1).8 Much of modern central, eastern and northern Serbia was at this time part of Byzantium, Bulgaria and Hungary. A successful Bulgarian–Vlach revolt resulted in the restoration of the Bulgarian Empire in Târnovo in 1185. Byzantium’s control of the region was thus reduced to fortified towns and garrisons scattered across the Balkans. When the army of Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor (1155–90) and one of the leaders of the Third Crusade (1189–92), passed through the region on their way to the Holy Land in summer 1189, it encountered a frosty reception from Byzantine representatives. (The English and French armies of King Richard the Lionheart and

8

Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans, 7–9; ISN, I, 258–59; Sveti Sava [St Sava], Žitije Svetoga Simeona Nemanje, in Sveti Sava: Sabrana dela, ed. and compiled by Lj. J. Georgieska, Belgrade, 2003, 163–87.

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1196 (at the abdication of Stefan Nemanja) 1355 (at the death of Stefan Dušan)

map 2.1  Serbia under the Nemanjić dynasty, late twelfth to ­mid-­fourteenth centuries. Drawn by Joe LeMonnier, https://mapartist .com/, based on a map originally published in Michael B. Petrovich, A ­History of Modern Serbia, 1804–1918, New York: Harcourt Brace ­Jovanovich, 1976, 2 vols, vol. 1, p. 4

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King Philip Augustus, respectively, travelled by sea). By contrast, the Serbs offered a friendly welcome, sensing an opportunity to further weaken Byzantium.9 Indeed, Nemanja’s reemergence following the humiliation and enslavement by Emperor Manuel seemed complete when in July 1189 he received Frederick Barbarossa in Niš (modern south Serbia). The Holy Roman Emperor had ‘wisely sought the friendship of the rebel chieftains’ in the Balkans, Steven Runciman tells us in his classic work on the subject,10 but the interest was mutual. Nemanja, who had several months earlier established contact with Barbarossa, received the emperor and his suite with greatest honours and a concrete offer: the Serbs would provide 20,000 soldiers and acknowledge the supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire in exchange for its recognition of Raška’s current and future territorial gains at the expense of Byzantium. Marriage between a son of Nemanja’s elder brother Miroslav and a daughter of a prominent member of Barbarossa’s court was also discussed. Ultimately, however, the Holy Roman Emperor was keen to reconcile with Byzantium. His death the f­ollowing year put an end to these plans in any case.11 Nemanja’s ambitions suffered an even greater blow in 1190 when a large army of Byzantine Emperor Isaac II (Angelos, 1185– 95, 1203–04) defeated the Serbs at an unknown location near the Morava River. Byzantium recovered the strategically important strongholds of Niš, Skopje and Prizren, but allowed the Serbs to keep the rest of their territory. This event is traditionally considered by historians as the beginning of Serbia’s medieval independence. Unlike later battles, such as the one at Kosovo in 1389,

9

J. Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades, 2nd edn, London, 2013, 142–43; A History of the Crusades, London, 1971, 3 vols, III, 12–13; cf. Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades, ch. 8. 11 ISN, I, 256–58; S. M. Ćirković, The Serbs, transl. from Serbian by V. Tošić, Oxford, 2004, 32.

10

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the 1190 Morava battle represented a political victory despite a military defeat. Isaac’s description of ‘Serbia’ as ‘the subject to the empire since ancient times’, represented a political statement rather than reality on the ground. Nemanja remained in power, while Byzantium de facto treated Raška as a separate polity and an ally, even if it may have formally considered it a vassal territory. To cement a newly found piece, a marriage was arranged between Isaac’s niece Eudokia and Nemanja’s second son Stefan.12

The Kingdom and the Church The change of emperor in Constantinople in 1195 had a direct impact on Raška. After Isaac was violently deposed by his brother Alexios III Angelos (1195–1203), Nemanja abdicated in favour of Stefan (grand župan 1196–1217, king 1217–28), the son-in-law of the new Byzantine emperor. Nemanja’s eldest son Vukan, who as such should have succeeded the throne, was given Zeta, Hum and the coastal land in south Dalmatia, effectively as a consolation price. In some cases, future heirs to the Serbian throne would rule Zeta as ‘junior kings’, in recognition of Zeta’s old royal status. The first dynastic marriage between the Byzantine and Serb ruling houses gave Raška a status arguably higher than whatever form of independence from Constantinople it may had achieved in 1190. Stefan (Nemanjić) received the title of sebastocrator (‘venerable ruler’) – at the time one of the highest Byzantine titles after basileus (emperor) and usually reserved for members of the imperial family. Byzantine emperors had previously, between the tenth and twelfth centuries, regarded South Slav rulers as their

12

A. Simpson, ‘Byzantium’s Retreating Balkan Frontiers during the Reign of the Angeloi (1185–1203)’, in V. Stanković (ed.), The Balkans and the Byzantine World Before and After the Captures of Constantinople, 1204 and 1453, Lanham, MD, 2016, 3–22; V. Stanković, ‘Rethinking the position of Serbia within Byzantine Oikoumene in the Thirteenth Century’, in ibid, 91–102; ISN, I, 259–60.

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subordinates and local ‘patricians’ at best. However, in the late twelfth century, the ruling house of Raška was accepted into the imperial family, an acknowledgement that the Serb polity was an important and independent factor in regional affairs.13 Zeta and Hum included Roman Catholic bishoprics, while Raška was under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox bishop of Ohrid (modern North Macedonia). Upon moving to Raška from Zeta, where he was born, Nemanja allegedly ‘received the second baptism from bishops and archpriests in the middle of the Serb land’, according to his son and biographer, King Stefan. The likelihood of the second baptism was small, although Nemanja would fully embrace Orthodox Christianity in his adult life, while donating generously to both the Catholic and the Orthodox churches. The dynasty he founded would become one of the greatest patrons of the Orthodox church in Eastern Europe. This played an important role in constructing the image of the Nemanjićs as a ‘holy dynasty’, analogous with Byzantine and Hungarian traditions, but with some specific Serbian features. In any case, Stefan Nemanjić did not regard his father’s alleged dual baptism as something unusual or problematic, but instead thought the presence of Roman Catholic priests at Nemanja’s christening was a ‘fortunate thing’.14 Orthodoxy and Catholicism coexisted in medieval Serbia, which in the thirteenth century may have been a de facto dual Orthodox–Catholic polity. Lines of division between the two branches of Christianity had not yet fully formed anyhow and, despite their later rivalry, the idea of a union of the two churches lived on through the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period – admittedly more in the west than in the east.

13

S. M. Ćirković, ‘Srbija i carstvo’, Glas SANU, Odeljenje istorijskih nauka (Belgrade), 10 (1998), 143–53, 146; VIINJ, II, 76–78. 14 Stefan Prvovenčani [King Stefan the First Crowned], ‘Žitije svetoga Simeona’, in Stefan Prvovenčani, Domentijan, Teodosije, edited by Lj. J. Georgievska, Novi Sad, 2012, 41–67, 42.

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figure 2.1  St Sava and St Simeon (Stefan Nemanja), c.1314, King’s Church, Studenica Monastery, south-western Serbia (Studenica Monastery Archives)

Following his abdication, Nemanja withdrew to an Orthodox monastery at Studenica (to the north of Raška’s capital Ras, in modern south-western Serbia), which he had founded six years previously. Like other Orthodox churches and monasteries built in Serbia during this era, the Studenica bears a ‘Latin’ imprint of its Dalmatian and Venetian architects, providing a powerful visual testament of the Orthodox–Catholic coexistence in medieval Serbia (see Figure 2.2). With a marble church of Virgin Mary at its centre, the monastery represents the foundational piece of the future cult of the Nemanjić dynasty. It is one of the most important Serb religious sites and has been listed since 1986 as a UNESCO world heritage site.15 Nemanja (now known as monk Simeon) and his wife Grand Županess Ana, who joined a female convent, followed in the steps 15

Dušanić-Marjanović, Vladarska ideologija, and Sveti kralj: Kult Stefana Dečanskog, Belgrade, 2007; J. Erdeljan, ‘Studenica: An Identity in Marble’, Zograf (Belgrade), 35 (2011), 93–100.

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of their youngest son Rastko, arguably one of the most remarkable personalities in medieval Eastern Europe.16 Born in or around 1174, Rastko was not content with life as the ruler of Hum that his uncle Miroslav vacated for him, temporarily, as it turned out. Of rebellious nature, unsurprisingly perhaps for a teenager, Rastko fled to Mt Athos around 1191, apparently after a fateful encounter with a Russian Athonite monk.17 The father and the son eventually reconciled and in 1198 they rebuilt an abandoned monastery of Chilandari (Hilandar in its Serbianized form) on Mt Athos, with a permission from Constantinople. Initially a small brotherhood consisting of 10–15 monks, Hilandar represented the Serb addition to Byzantine, Bulgarian, Russian, Georgian and southern Italian monastic communities at the Holy Mountain. An example of continuity between the Middle Ages and the modern era, the monastery is today home to some 50 monks and a library of over 20,000 titles, including rare Old Slavonic and Greek texts. Rastko later adopted Sava as his monastic name, after St Sabbas the Sanctified, a fifth-century Cappadocian–Syrian monk. He would be canonized by the Orthodox church after his death. He is best known as the founder of the Serbian Orthodox church (see the following text), but Sava is also considered the first original author in Old Church Slavonic in Serbia and on Mt Athos, as well as the first known traveller from the Balkans to the Middle East. He made two pilgrimages to the Holy Land

16

Obolensky, ‘Sava of Serbia’; cf. F. Curta, ‘Angel on Earth and Heavenly Man: St. Sava of Serbia’, in D. Ostrowski and C. Raffensperger (eds), Portraits of Medieval Eastern Europe, 900–1400, London, 2018, 91–99. No critical biography of St Sava exists in Serbian. 17 Monk Domentijan, Sava’s pupil and biographer/hagiographer, claims that Rastko was seventeen when he chose monastic life – this was, incidentally, the minimum age required to become a monk. Domentijan, Žitije Svetog Save, in Sveti Sava, Sabrani spisi, compiled and ed. by D. Bogdanović, Belgrade, 1986, 9, 438n; cf. R. Novaković, ‘Povodom podataka o Rastkovom boravku u Zahumlju’, 31–32.

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(in 1229 and 1234), spending some time at the Holy Laura of St Sabbas, his patron saint, near Jerusalem. Finally, Sava’s political skills may have contributed to the end of a dynastic conflict in Serbia, fought at the beginning of the thirteenth century by his brothers Vukan and Stefan. The acquisition of Zeta in the late twelfth century encouraged Raška’s rulers to think of themselves as inheritors of the royal crown that Mihailo had received from the pope in 1077. Indeed, Vukan may had begun to style himself as a king while his father was still alive. He increasingly behaved as an independent ruler and pursued direct contacts with the Holy See and Catholic Hungary – unsurprisingly for an ambitious prince whose subjects included a significant Roman Catholic population. Vukan competed with Dubrovnik over the control of the Catholic dioceses in Zeta and Bosnia, and with his brother Stefan over the supremacy in the Serb lands. In summer 1199, just months after Nemanja’s death, Vukan secured the reinstatement of the Bar archbishopric by Pope Innocent III. To further weaken Dubrovnik, which also claimed ecclesiastical jurisdiction in neighbouring Bosnia, where his Hungarian allies sought to re-establish control, Vukan wrote to the pope to accuse Bosnia’s Ban Kulin of protecting heretics. Meanwhile, Stefan too sought to establish closer links with the pope. After his separation from Eudokia in 1200 or 1201, Byzantium’s influence in Raška weakened. The divorce caused a scandal, with both sides accusing each other of infidelity. After a particularly bitter row, Stefan ordered that his wife be stripped of all clothes and thrown out of their residence. Eudokia made her way to Constantinople with Vukan’s help, a development that may have contributed to the growing rift between the brothers. After the Orthodox church granted the divorce, Stefan was free to marry Anna Dandolo, granddaughter of Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice; future Serbian King Stefan Uroš I was born in this marriage. Eudokia too remarried, twice. One of her future husbands was Alexios V Doukas, briefly the Byzantine emperor

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in 1204, just months before the empire was occupied and partitioned by the Fourth Crusade, led by, among others, Enrico Dandolo.18 Ironically, an early thirteenth century charter issued by the Serbian Žiča monastery includes Stefan’s order that any man who expelled his wife would be required to take her back or face excommunication from the church and other form of punishment as seen fit by the wife’s family. Exceptions were made if the wife was caught in infidelity.19 Simultaneously with strengthening links with the Catholic ‘west’ through his new marriage, Stefan established regional alliances in Bosnia and Bulgaria to counter Vukan’s connections with the Roman Catholic Church and with Hungary. A conflict between supporters of the two brothers, which had a regional dimension, broke out around 1201. It brought anarchy and poverty to Serbia; reportedly, people fled the country due to violence and hunger. It also led to foreign intervention. With Hungary’s military support, Vukan defeated his brother in 1202. Clearly regarding Vukan as his vassal, Hungarian King Imre (1196–1204), who was himself engaged in a conflict with his brother, began to style himself King of Serbia (Rex Serviae).20 This was exactly a century after Hungary had incorporated Croatia after a ‘merger’ of the two crowns. Since Hungarian kings also claimed the crown of Bosnia, Imre may be considered a proto-Yugoslav king of sorts. Byzantium, meanwhile, faced a renewed threat from the Crusaders and had to deal with a rebellion in southern Macedonia and Thessaly. The armies of the Fourth Crusade (1202–04) captured Constantinople in April 1204. They burnt and pillaged the city, and temporarily brought down the Eastern Roman Empire. This in turn enabled Bulgaria to play a more prominent role in 18

Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth, 239–40. E. Levin, Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900–1700, Ithaca, NY, 1990, 171. 20 ISN, I, 268–69. 19

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regional affairs, at the expense of Hungary and the ‘Latin’ empire in Constantinople, whose army Bulgarians defeated in 1205. It is not known why Stefan was able to ultimately prevail over Vukan, but the support he enjoyed in Bulgaria may help explain the outcome of the Serb dynastic conflict. Family politics may have also contributed to the end of the Serb ‘civil war’. Sava acted as a peacemaker, leaving his brothers little choice but to cease hostilities to attend a reburial of Nemanja’s relics at Studenica that took place either in 1206 or in 1207. According to a legend promoted by the Orthodox church, during the ceremony, Nemanja’s relics released ‘holy oil’ (myrrh), a divine intervention that brought about the reconciliation between the brothers.21 Sava’s diplomatic skills offer a more plausible explanation for the end of the dynastic war, which saw Stefan retain the throne, and Vukan, who had in the meanwhile become a Catholic, return to his more modest position as the ruler of Zeta. This was the first known example among Serbs of a reburial of an eminent individual whose original resting place was abroad; several other medieval – including Sava and Prince Lazar (see the following text) – and modern personalities would have their relics transferred to different resting places.22 Firmly in power, Stefan fulfilled his old ambition when in 1217 he received a royal crown from Pope Honorius III (1216–27). To his people, he became known as Prvovenčani (the First Crowned). That the Serb ruler sought the royal recognition from Rome and not the ‘Latin’ empire in Constantinople suggests that the latter was never able to exert domination over the Balkans following the defeat by Bulgaria.23 In the meanwhile, three Byzantine states ‘in exile’ were established in Epirus, Nicea and Trebizond. A complex political game, 21

ISN, I, 270–71; Ćirković, The Serbs, 35. See K. Verdery, The Political Lives of Dead Bodies, New York, 1999. 23 Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth, 240.

22

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in which the Bulgarians, Russians and Serbs recognized the patriarchs of Nicea (1204–61) as legitimate ‘leaders’ of the Orthodox Christianity – which also implied their acknowledgement of the political rulers of Nicea as inheritors of Byzantinium – led to the recognition of autocephaly of the Orthodox church in Raška in 1219. The same year Sava, whose considerable political skills played a major role in these developments, was consecrated by exiled Patriarch Manuel I and Emperor Theodore I Laskaris as the first Serbian archbishop.24 Thus, just over a decade following the dynastic war, Serbia became a kingdom with its own church and with international support both in Rome and in the exiled Byzantium. That Raška’s first king and the first head and founder of its church were brothers made the relationship between the state and the church especially close. Sava institutionalized this secular–ecclesiastical partnership in a legal codex in which he combined Byzantine/Roman law with old Slav custom laws. St Sava’s Nomokanon served as both the church and the state law in medieval Raška, until it was superseded by Stefan Dušan’s Code in the mid-fourteenth century, as discussed in the following text.25 Despite the political links with Rome, Serbia would continue to gravitate towards Orthodoxy in the decades that followed. Foundations of a dynasty that had begun with Nemanja’s emergence just a few decades previously were firmly laid. Sava played a major part in promoting the cult of his father – known as St Simeon Mirotočivi (the Myrrh-flowing) – as the patron saint of the Nemanjić dynasty. Most Nemanjić rulers would become saints, a tradition specific to the Balkans but which, as already mentioned, existed elsewhere in medieval Europe – for example in Bohemia, Hungary, Russia and France. Rather than being 24

Ibid, 240–41; ISN, I, 317; B. Ferjančić and Lj. Maksimović, ‘Sava Nemanjić and Serbia between Epiros and Nicaea’, Balcanica (Belgrade), XLV (2014), 37–54. 25 ISN, I, 322–24.

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formally canonized, it seems more likely that the Nemanjićs became saints through emergence of their cults, promoted by the church and hagiographies written by their successors and followers. Two such hagio­graphies, written in the Serbian recension of the Old Slavonic by Sava and his brother Stefan, represent the beginning of medieval Serbian literature.26 It has been often said that Serbia has through its history been a meeting place between East and West, at once eastern and western, largely because of the events of the early thirteenth century. The authorship of this metaphor has been even falsely ascribed to St Sava in the twentieth century. Medieval Serbs considered their country to be in the west – not out of some desire to escape the east (which to them had positive connotations anyway), but simply because they lived to the west of Constantinople, thought of as the centre of the civilized world.27 The marriage of King Stefan’s eldest son Radoslav to Anna, daughter of Theodore Angelos of Epirus, secured good relations with at the time the most powerful Byzantine ruler in the wake of 1204. After Theodore took over Salonica and proclaimed himself emperor in 1224, Stefan Radoslav (1228–c.1234) became co-ruler of Raška with his ailing father. All Nemanjić, and several post-Nemanjić, rulers added Stefan (Stefanos, ‘the crowned one’ in Greek) to their name. Bulgaria’s victory over Theodore in 1230 increased internal pressure on Radoslav from a rival party led by his younger brother Vladislav (1234–43). The son-in-law of the Bulgarian tsar, Vladislav prevailed thanks to Bulgaria’s support. A correlation between dynastic marriage and foreign policy was another recurring theme of the medieval Serbian history – like elsewhere in Europe at the time. Ageing 26

D. Kalezić, ‘Sveti Sava kao književnik’, in Sveti Sava: Spomenica povodom osamstogodišnjice rodjenja, 1175–1975, Belgrade, 1977, 255–87. 27 S.M. Ćirković, ‘Sveti Sava izmedju istoka i zapada’ in Ćirković (ed.), Sveti Sava u srpskoj istoriji i tradiciji, Belgrade, 1998, 27–37.

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Sava approved Vladislav’s succession and withdrew into monastic life, having previously chosen his own successor. Making his way back from the second pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Sava visited Bulgaria, but fell ill and died there in January 1236. The following year, his remains were transferred to Serbia, or possibly smuggled out of Bulgaria by Vladislav, and reburied at the Mileševa monastery.28 A Mongol invasion temporarily swept away Hungary and brought much damage to parts of Serbia in the early 1240s. It also coincided with the emergence of a complex web of rivalries and alliances that led to another dynastic conflict. There followed interference into Serbia’s domestic affairs by Bulgaria, Hungary and rival ‘Greek’ states of Nicea and Epirus. As a result, Stefan Vladislav was replaced by his younger brother Stefan Uroš I (1243–76). (All Nemanjić rulers would henceforth be given names ‘Stefan’ and ‘Uroš’ – a symbolic reminder of Byzantine and Hungarian influences in medieval Serbia.) Stefan Uroš I began his long reign by installing his henchmen as provincial governors, often at the expense of family members who had sided with the deposed king. He also put his younger brother – the fourth and youngest son of Stefan the First Crowned – in charge of the Church, as Archbishop Sava II (1263–71). This was possibly an attempt to build on the symbiosis between the state and the church that marked his father’s reign. King Uroš was half Venetian, and his marriage to Helen, who was of French origin, further strengthened the ‘western’ influence at the Serbian court. Within two generations, the old ruling house of Raška had transformed due to dynastic marriages into a truly international, multiethnic family with relations to Byzantine, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Venetian and French ruling houses and noble families.

28

D. Popović, ‘Mošti Svetog Save’, in ibid, 251–66.

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As Byzantine Empire was restored in 1261, Stefan Uroš I clashed with Dubrovnik and had to deal with an unrest in Hum. During the 1260s Serbia established closer relations with Hungary, to the extent that it may have been its vassal at some point during this period. When Uroš married off his son Dragutin to Katalin, daughter of Hungary’s King István V (1270–72), the heir to the Serbian throne became a ‘junior king’ of Hungary. Dragutin received land from his father-in-law in Mačva, Braničevo (both present-day Serbia) and north-western Bosnia. This enhanced his prestige among local magnates and boosted his personal ambition. Supported by Hungarians and Cumans (a nomadic Turkic people related to the Pechenegs, who appeared in Hungary following the Mongol invasion), and joined by his mother, Queen Helen, and younger brother Milutin, Dragutin deposed and exiled Uroš in 1276. A guilt-ridden King Stefan Dragutin (1276–82) interpreted a serious horse-riding incident in 1282 as a divine punishment for deposing his father. This led him to abdicate in favour of Milutin, though he kept the territory he had received from his father-in-law. Late thirteenth-century Serbia was a de facto confederation of three realms. Hungarians referred to Dragutin’s realm as the ‘Kingdom as Serbia’ and to the land controlled by new King Stefan Milutin (1282–1321) as ‘Rascia’ (though in Byzantine sources it was ‘Servia’); meanwhile, the Queen Mother ruled in Zeta and the coastal regions. This, however, did not mean that all three members of the Serb triumvirate were equally ambitious and powerful. Milutin waged successful military campaigns against Byzantine emperors Michael VIII (1259/61–1282) and Andronikos II (1282–1328) of the House of Palailogos, extending his kingdom into modern North Macedonia and parts of Albania. He also successfully repelled Hungarian, Bulgarian and Mongol attacks from the north and east. After the death of the Queen Mother in 1314 and of Dragutin two years later, Milutin brought under his control the ‘Serb lands’, becoming one of the most powerful rulers in south-eastern Europe.

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Serbia’s Byzantine Turn? It is usually suggested that during Milutin’s long reign, the Nemanjić state completed its ‘Byzantine turn’.29 Serbia’s military expansion into Macedonia was followed by the adoption of Byzantine court rituals and fresco paintings. Milutin’s endowment, the Gračanica monastery (Figure 2.2), is seen as a symbol of Serbia’s moving away from the old Rascian church architecture towards Byzantine-style churches, but it was in fact more of an exception than a rule.30 Milutin may have increasingly looked towards Byzantium, but he kept contacts with the papacy, while at the same time seeking to usurp Byzantium when not making alliances with it.31 Indeed, foreign policy of the Nemanjić rulers rarely followed a single path. Roman Catholic archbishoprics in Serbia’s coastal regions, specifically Bar and Kotor, both in modern Montenegro, remained important centres of Catholicism in the fourteenth century (and would remain so during the Ottoman period).32 Their jurisdiction extended over Serbian Catholics living in the old Raškan hinterland, who were mainly of Albanian and Dalmatian origin. Meanwhile, merchants from Dubrovnik and Kotor ensured that trade with Venice, including export of silver and gold, continued to flourish regardless of any political and ideological changes in late thirteenthand fourteenth-century Serbia.33 29

V. Stanković, Kralj Milutin (1282–1321), Belgrade, 2012, 6–7. S. Ćurčić, Gračanica: King Milutin’s Church and Its Place in Late Byzantine Architecture, University Park, PA, 1979; cf. B. Pantelić, The Architecture of Dečani and the Role of Archbishop Danilo II, Wiesbaden, 2002, and ‘The Last Byzantines: Perceptions of Identity, Culture, and Heritage in Serbia’, Nationalities Papers, 44:3 (2016), 430–55, 442. 31 M. Al. Purković, Avinjonske pape i Srpske zemlje, 1305–1378, Požarevac, 1934. 32 A. Molnár, Confessionalization on the Frontier: The Balkan Catholics between Roman Reform and Ottoman Reality, Rome, 2019. 33 S. M. Ćirković, et al., Staro srpsko rudarstvo, Novi Sad, 2002; Ćirković, ‘The Production of Gold, Silver and Copper in the Central Parts of the Balkans 30

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figure 2.2  (a) The Sopoćani Monastery (built by King Stefan Uroš I in 1259–70) (imageBROKER/Michael Runkel/Getty Images) and (b) the Gračanica Monastery (built by King Milutin in 1321), both UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Chris McGrath/Getty Images). The monasteries are representative, respectively, of the ‘Raška school’, distinguished by domed churches with rectangular ­foundations and Gothic features, and the ‘Serbian–Byzantine’ style architecture, ­characterized by churches built with square foundation and multiple domes adjoining the main dome.

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Milutin’s five marriages marked his reign perhaps as much as his military campaigns. On paper, church marriage in medieval Serbia was regulated by a relatively strict set of canons, but like in Byzantium, these were not necessarily always adhered to. As already seen, marriage could be, and was, broken by those in position of power. Even ‘ordinary people’, it seems, often lived ‘in sin’, and the pre-Christian tradition of ‘stealing’ one’s future bride from her family survived into the modern era.34 The Nemanjić kings, like their counterparts across Europe, married young, and they sometimes married multiple times, often with underage female members of foreign dynasties (there were also examples where older brides were engaged to underage male princes). The wives of King Milutin give a good indication of Serbia’s foreign policy in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Byzantine, Hungarian and Bulgarian princesses, respectively, succeeded his first wife, who was probably of Serb descent and who gave birth to his eventual successor, Stefan Uroš III Dečanski (1322–31). When in late 1298 Milutin’s army made advances towards Salonica, a Byzantine envoy arrived with a peace offer: cessation of hostilities, exchange of hostages and prisoners, and, for good measure, a Byzantine princess as wife to Milutin. Despite an influential war party close to the Serbian court, which saw looting and pillaging as a profitable exercise, advocating the continuation of the military campaign, Milutin accepted the proposal.35 After Emperor Andronikos’ sister Eudokia, the widow of a late emperor of Trebizond, refused to marry the Serbian king, Andronikos offered Milutin his favourite daughter Simonis (Simonida in Serbian tradition), who was just five years old. Milutin was 46 at the time, six years senior to his father-in-law. The child bride was from the Thirteenth to the Sixteenth Century’, in H. Kellenbenz (ed.), Precious Metals in the Age of Expansion, Stuttgart, 1981, 41–69; Purković, Avinjonske pape, 4. 34 Jiriček, Istorija Srba, II, 11–12. 35 M. Laskaris, Vizantiske princeze u srednjevekovnoj Srbiji, Belgrade, 1928, 61.

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practically exchanged together with prisoners in no man’s land, ‘in the middle of the Vardar River’, in Spring 1299; to make the spectacle even more surreal, Milutin handed over his fourth wife Ana, daughter of former Bulgarian Tsar Georgi Terter I (1279–92), together with Byzantine hostages, to symbolically mark the break with Bulgaria. This was followed by a lavish ceremony hosted by the emperor at Salonica, which lasted several days. The Serbian king and his suite were showered with expensive gifts. As the emperor’s son-in-law, Milutin was entitled by Byzantine customs to call Andronikus ‘lord and father’ (‘gospodin i roditelj’), an honour and opportunity the Serbian king seized upon.36 Andronikos’ wish to neutralize the threat from the north and Milutin’s ambition to become a member of the imperial family contributed to the Byzantine–Serb alliance. Legal loopholes were found to overcome obstacles posed by the king’s previous marriages and the age of his latest bride during discussions that involved the patriarch of Constantinople. It was agreed that the marriage would not be consumed until Simonida turned 12, which at the time was considered maturity.37 While the Serbs threatened the Byzantine Empire from the north, a new rival had appeared in the south. During and in the aftermath of the Byzantines’ efforts to wrestle Constantinople back from the ‘Latin’ rule several decades previously, Turkish tribes descending from the House of Osman appeared in western Anatolia. By the late thirteenth century, the Ottoman Turks, as they became known, established a permanent presence on restored Byzantium’s southern frontier. In 1302, they laid siege to Nicea, the former Byzantine

36

I have used a Serbian translation of contemporary Byzantine accounts of these events. VIINJ, VI, Belgrade, 1986; the prisoners exchange and the wedding celebration: 55–56, 168–71. 37 It is suspected that Milutin did not fulfil the obligation concerning the consummation of marriage, which could explain why Simonida was unable to bear children.

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capital.38 Ten years later, Andronikus was forced to seek help from Milutin as Ottoman raids intensified.39 The possibility of one of Simonida’s brothers succeeding the Serbian throne never went beyond discussion stage (partly because, it seems, the Byzantine princes did not want to live in Serbia) but contributed to another dynastic conflict. Milutin defeated his eldest son and rival Stefan, blinded and expelled him, together with his wife Teodora (daughter of Bulgarian Tsar Smilets, 1292–98) and two children, Dušan and Dušica. They lived in exile in Constantinople between 1314 and 1321, under the emperor’s protection. Dušan, the future Serbian king and emperor, therefore learned Byzantine customs and way of life during his childhood. The exiled members of the royal family were allowed to return shortly before Milutin’s death in 1321, after it had emerged that Stefan had been able to see after all. This alleged ‘miracle’ secured him enough support to defeat local pretenders to the throne. Crowned Stefan Uroš III, ‘in Christ God pious King of the Serb Lands and the Littoral’ the following year, he hired a Roman Catholic priest from Kotor to build a memorial to his reign – one of the most significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries, situated near Dečani (modern Kosovo). Stefan Dečanski (as he became known) married for the second time in the mid-1320s, aged around 40. Maria Palaiologina, his 12-year-old bride, was the niece of John Palaiologos, the governor of Salonica. A victory over Bulgaria at Kyustendil in 1330 further strengthened Serbia’s position as both Byzantium’s key ally and rival in the Balkans. After Queen Maria bore children, questions over succession were raised once again. From his base in Zeta, Dušan rebelled against his father in early 1331. Dubrovnik’s attempts to mediate in the Serb dynastic conflict failed; aided by local magnates, Dušan ultimately prevailed and seized the throne in August. The following 38

H. İnalcık, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300–1600, transl. by N. Itzkowitz and C. Imber, London, 2013, ch. 1. 39 VIINJ, VI, 184–88.

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month, he was crowned in one of the Nemanjićs’ royal residences, near modern Uroševac/Ferizaj, in Kosovo. In addition to the high clergy, which conducted the coronation, members of the Sabor, a sort of a state council in medieval Serbia made up of local magnates, attended the coronation. The deposed king died in prison later that year, under suspicious circumstances. Dušan suppressed internal revolts in Zeta and northern Albania, where local magnates demanded greater reward for supporting him during the dynastic conflict. He temporarily lost territory in Dalmatia (Pelješac and Ston) to Dubrovnik and parts of Hum to Bosnia but managed to recover these later. Like his father and grandfather, Dušan married into the Bulgarian ruling house (his bride Jelena was sister of Tsar Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria, 1331–71), ensuring the eastern neighbour’s alliance. The Serbian king defeated Hungarians in the north to reclaim parts of Mačva, once held by Dragutin. The weakening of Byzantium, due primarily to a dynastic conflict between the houses of Palaiologos and Kantakouzenos, following the sudden death of Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos (1328–41) in June 1341, facilitated Serbia’s expansion deep into the Byzantine territory in the southern Balkans. During this period, foreign mercenaries, including Byzantine and Bosnian knights, joined Dušan’s army.40 With Hungarians defeated, Bulgaria no longer a threat, and Byzantium on retreat, Dušan’s ambitions grew. He discussed marriage between his five-year-old son and heir Uroš with a sister of Emperor John V Palaiologos (1341–76; 1379–90/91) and began to style himself čestnik Grkom. This hard-to-translate term meant that Dušan now considered himself a member of the Byzantine imperial inner circle. As already seen, ever since the early thirteenth century, the Nemanjić kings had understood the importance of joining the imperial family and thus ‘entering the empire’. Just over a century 40

ISN, I, 512–23.

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and a half after Manuel I had humiliated Nemanja, one of Nemanja’s direct descendants threatened to usurp the imperial throne. Serbia’s territorial expansion in the thirteenth and the first half of fourteenth centuries was financed by a burgeoning economy. Rich minefields were exploited thanks to imported Saxon mining expertise, while the ports of Bar and Kotor facilitated trade with Venice and Dubrovnik. Meanwhile, economic exchange with Byzantium, Bulgaria and Hungary also grew. After the 1204 fall of Constantinople, Serbia’s rulers began to mint coins. This brought them prestige and earned them a place in Dante Alighieri’s hell as plagiarists and forgers – alongside the kings of Norway and Portugal – due to the resemblance between the Serbian dinari and Venetian grossi. Byzantium had previously enjoyed a monopoly in the region on the coin minting, and even the Bulgarian Empire did not have its own currency. Foreign currencies continued to circulate in medieval Serbia, but the dinar retained a stable exchange rate from the early thirteenth century through to the mid-fourteenth century: 1 gold coin (ducat) was typically exchanged for 24 dinars.41

The Serb–Greek Empire It was the Easter Day 1346, but the ceremony taking place in Skopje (Skoplje in Serbian), an ancient Roman town and capital of the tenth-century Bulgarian Empire (and of present-day North Macedonia), was more about birth than resurrection. Briefly held by Nemanja in the late twelfth century and conquered by Milutin a century later, Skopje was chosen by Dušan as his new capital. (Previously, his main seat was in Prizren, modern-day Kosovo; as was the case with other European medieval dynasties, the Nemanjićs had more than one residence). Skopje was almost certainly seen as a temporary capital until the ultimate 41

Ćirković, The Serbs, 56–57.

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prize – Constantinople, the Emperor’s City – could be secured. Dušan was crowned ‘Tsar (Emperor) Stefan of the Serbs and Greeks’ by Joanikije (archbishop 1338–46; patriarch 1346–54), the new Patriarch of Serbs and Greeks, in the presence of the Bulgarian Patriarch, the Archbishop of Ohrid, and a high delegation of Athonite monks.42 The new Serb patriarchate would be based in Peć (Peja in modern Kosovo), although some early patriarchs may have resided elsewhere. From Byzantium’s point of view, there could have been only one original imperial designation (basileus ton Romaion – Emperor of the Romans). Constantinople had traditionally rejected external claimants to the Roman imperial title, including Charlemagne and Bulgarian tsars. After initially appearing to ignore the Skopje coronation, the patriarch in Constantinople placed an anathema on the self-proclaimed emperor and refused to recognize the Serb patriarchate. Members of the Serbian clergy spoke against Dušan’s imperial ambition after his death, which suggests that one of the few Nemanjićs not to have been canonized may not have enjoyed unanimous support inside the Serbian church. However, even before the Skopje coronation, Dušan had been seen by many as the most important regional ruler and an emperor-in-waiting. After he had taken over Serres in Autumn 1345, Athonite monks began to mention the Serbian king in their services second only to the Byzantine emperor. Around this time, Dušan informed the Venetian doge that he was now the ruler of ‘almost whole of the Roman Empire’ and signed a monastery charter as ‘King of Serbia and Romania [Roman Empire]’. In January, he let Venice and Dubrovnik know of his decision to proclaim himself emperor, having previously secured support from Serb magnates and elders. The maritime states officially welcomed the news and sent emissaries to Dušan’s coronation. 42

Joanikije’s background is little known, but it appears that he had been a high official at Dušan’s court before he was appointed archbishop. M. Al. Purković, Srpski patrijarsi srednjega veka, Düsseldorf, 1976, 55.

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In a Latin transcription of a correspondence between Dušan and the Venetian doge two years later, the Serb ruler is described as ‘Stefanus dei gratia grecorum Imperator’. The omission of the ‘Serbs’, but a reference, elsewhere in the text, to the ‘Romanorum’, in a correct Byzantine form, suggests that the Venetians at this point effectively regarded Dušan as a Byzantine emperor.43 Following his succession in 1331, Dušan had signed off royal charters as ‘Stefan, by the grace of God king of all Serb land and the littoral’ (Stefan, po milosti Božjoj kralj vse srbske zemlje i primorske). As already stated, all Nemanjić rulers bore the name ‘Stefan’, from Greek ‘Stefanos’ (the crowned one), but the title structure invoked ‘Latin’, that is western, tradition (i.e. ‘by the grace of God’, from dei gratia, followed by territory as the basic principle of the title). This was another important example of a dual ‘Greek–Latin’ tradition in medieval Serbia that clearly survived well into the fourteenth century. It was only after 1346 that Dušan and his heir Uroš adopted a universalist, Byzantine titular style (‘Emperor of Serbs and Greeks’). In some documents, however, Dušan was signed as ‘Emperor and Autocrator of Serbia and Romania [Roman Empire]’, which represented a hybrid Byzantine–western titular style. Aged 38, Dušan was at the height of his powers, and his sight was set firmly on Constantinople, the city of his childhood. His confidence may have been boosted by the longevity of the Nemanjić dynasty. In 1346, the ruling house of Serbia had been at the throne for nearly 200 years, while Byzantium, Bulgaria and Hungary had all experienced a change of dynasty 43

‘Emperor Stefan Dušan writes to Doge Andrea Dandulo agreeing to extend the treaty between Venice and the King’s maritime city of Kotor for another three years’, date before 1 April 1348. Serbian Medieval Documents in the State Archives of Venice, 1348-04-01 taq_Stefan_Dusan, in: http://monasterium.net: 8181/mom/SerbMedDocsInVenice/1348-04-01_taq_Stefan_Dusan/ charter.

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in recent times. Dušan was the first Serb to assume the imperial title – something that would have been unthinkable at the time of Nemanja and his immediate successors. The early Nemanjić kings, in common with other neighbouring rulers, had believed the God chose emperor from among the ‘Romans’ only. The end of the civil war in Byzantium and the coronation of Dušan’s ally-turned-enemy John VI Kantakouzenos (1347–54) as co-emperor following the marriage of his daughter to John V Palaiologos meant the Serbian tsar had another powerful adversary in Constantinople. During the civil war, John Kantakouzenos had recruited Ottoman Turkish support; he now sought their help against the Serbs. At the same time, in 1351, Dušan established contact with Ottoman ruler Orhan. The potential Serb–Ottoman alliance was however prevented by Byzantines, who assassinated Orhan’s envoy on his way to meet the Serbs.44 After taking over Epirus and Thessaly in the late 1340s, Stefan Dušan’s empire extended as far as Salonica (Map 2.1). The Serb advance was facilitated by an anti-Byzantine rebellion in Thrace led by Vojvoda (Duke) Momčilo (Momchil in Bulgarian), a brigand and a mercenary of Bulgarian origin who had once been Dušan’s ally. He then switched allegiance and was given the title sebastocrator by Emperor John Kantakouzenos, albeit at a of ­ time when Byzantine rulers were issuing titles much more readily than it had been the case previously. In charge of a small army of 300 cavalry and 500 footmen consisting of Bulgarians, Serbs and Vlachs, in 1344, Momčilo proclaimed his own state in Xanthi (modern north-eastern Greece). He was eventually defeated and executed by Byzantines, but became a legendary hero of Balkan folk tales, together with his Pegasus-like horse Jabučilo, comparable to previously mentioned Kraljević Marko and his horse Šarac.

44

ISN, I, 550–52; S. Novaković, Srbi i Turci XIV i XV veka, Belgrade, 1893, 72–96; Ostrogorsky, 499–552.

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Medieval Society The rapid expansion under Dušan meant that several legal systems co-existed in Serbia in the mid-fourteenth century. In an aim to create a single system, albeit in line with the Byzantine law, Dušan issued his own legal code in 1349 (reissued in 1354). The ‘Law of Pious Emperor Stefan’, in Serbian tradition known as Dušanov zakonik, combined traditional and contemporary Byzantine law (specifically the so-called Justinian’s Code and Blastares’ Sintagma), with elements of the Serbs’ own laws, in particular St Sava’s Nomokanon. It includes an account of the reign of the ‘Grand Emperor Stefan’, whose coronation represented an act of divine grace – an obvious allusion to Roman/Byzantine emperors, beginning with Constantine the Great. The Zakonik is considered one of the most important medieval documents produced by the South Slavs, and it also gives a valuable insight into Serbia’s society at the time.45 Apart from signalling his ambition to rule from Constantinople, Dušan’s imperial title indicated another layer of duality in medieval Serbia, in addition to the previously mentioned Orthodox–Catholic one. No longer predominantly Slav for some time now, the Nemanjić realm included a significant Greek and Greek-speaking population in its southern regions, as well as Albanians and Vlachs. In other words, as far as ethnicity mattered at the time, fourteenth-century Serbia was a multi-ethnic polity that included both Slav and non-Slav populations, and whose ruling house was truly cosmopolitan. It was also a polity where central power was delegated to local lords who recognized, and sometimes challenged, the overall authority of the king/emperor. Their ethnic background is not always known, but they all became ‘Serbian’ in the nineteenth century, when Romantic writers discovered Serbian Middle Ages. 45

Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans, 314–17; ISN, I, 557–65; cf. Zakonik cara Stefana Dušana (1349 i 1354), ed. and transl. into modern Serbian N. Radojčić, Belgrade, 1960.

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figure 2.3  Alphonse Mucha, The Coronation of Serbian Tsar Stefan Dušan as East Roman Emperor (1926) (Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images). One of twenty paintings belonging to Mucha’s ‘Slav Epic’, which depicts major events in Slav history. Note that Mucha ‘promoted’ Dušan to a Byzantine (East Roman) emperor, an error made perhaps due to artistic license, which Dušan would have likely approved.

Upon the proclamation of the empire, Dušan’s son Uroš (b. 1336, emperor 1355–71) became king, de facto in charge of the ‘Serb lands’, while the new emperor focused mainly on the ‘Greek lands’. There were also autonomous feudal fiefdoms, typical of European medieval states. The Serbian tsar, whose court now fully resembled that of an Eastern Roman emperor, granted Byzantine-style titles to magnates ruling in the ‘Greek lands’ of the state. He made his halfbrother Simeon Uroš (1326–70), the eldest son of Stefan Dečanski and Maria Palaiologina, a despot and gave him territory in Epirus, while close allies Despot Dejan and Branko Mladenović were proclaimed sebastocrators and given land in Velbužd/Kystendil and

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Ohrid, respectively. One of the last Byzantine empresses came from Sebastocrator Dejan’s dynasty (the Dejanović Dragaš family), while Branko Mladenović’s descendants, the Brankovićs, would rule over the fifteenth-century Serbian despotate, a successor state to Dušan’s empire (see the following text). By contrast, magnates based in the ‘Serb lands’ of the empire usually kept the old Slav titles such as knez and župan.46 Contemporary sources, among them Dušan’s Code, paint the Serbian Empire as a complex, heterogeneous society that consisted of different social, religious and ethnic groups. At the top of the social pyramid was the royal and imperial family, followed by nobility (vlastela), clergy and professional soldiers. Professionals such as bakers, butchers, builders and tax collectors (sometimes recruited from among the priests) formed another social group known as ‘public workers’ (sokalniks). Next in the hierarchy were free peasants (sebri). Svobodniks (free men) were former serfs denied hereditary rights and thus membership of the sebri. Serfs, or unfree peasants, and persons of low birth (kmeti, meropsi) were at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Less visible were underground individuals and groups such as pagan shamans and magicians (often of Vlach origin) and members of the Bogomil heresy.47 A  dualist religious movement which had originated in tenth-century Bulgaria, the Bogomils had initially attracted significant following among the peasantry because they opposed tax payments and military service. Like their fellow dualists in northern Italy (Patarins) and southern France (Cathars or Albigensians), with whom they had contacts, the Bogomils were suppressed throughout the Balkans, including Serbia. Only in Bosnia was a Christian heresy, which 46

Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans, 309–14; ISN, I, 531–33, 537. T. Stoianovich, Balkan Worlds: The First and Last Europe, Armonk, NY, 1994, 152–53; Ćirković, Srbi u Srednjem veku, 135–62; Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans, 314–19; cf. Zakonik, 89–144. For social divisions in earlier Serb/ South Slav polities, see S. M. Ćirković, ‘Počeci socijalne hijerarhije u Srba’, Godišnjak za društvenu istoriju (Belgrade), 1:3 (1994), 223–35.

47

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came from the ‘west’ via Dalmatia, tolerated and may have even been part of the official, Bosnian church.48 Several ethnic groups belonging to the recognized Christian churches co-existed in medieval Serbia as Dušan’s Code attests: Serbs, Greeks (‘Romans’), Vlachs, Albanians, Saxons (miners from Saxony and their descendants) and ‘Latins’ (a vague term, which referred to Roman Catholic communities, mainly traders and merchants from Dalmatia).49 No distinction in status was made between Serbs and Greeks. However, Dušan’s preference for ‘Greek’ legal customs and culture, as well as a focus on the ‘Greek’ lands of his realm, revealed the Serbian ruler’s ambition to replace Byzantium with his Greek–Serb Empire.50 Ethnic and social belonging was determined by birth and kinship, but it was not necessarily fixed, and it could have been changed because of marriage, adoption or initiation. Prohibitions of marriage between members of different estates (e.g. between Vlachs and sebri) found in medieval sources suggest that these occurred and that societal borders were permeable.51 This was true of the Balkans generally, not just medieval Serbia. An early fifteenth-century church chronicle describes a certain Vonko, the conqueror of Arta (a town in Epirus, modern north-western Greece) in 1400, as Servalvanitovoulgarovlachos, a Serbo–Albanian–Bulgarian Vlach.52 48

Dž. Dautović, ‘Crkva bosanska: Moderni historijski tokovi, rasprave i kontroverze’, Historijska traganja (Sarajevo), 15 (2015), 127–60; Y. Stoyanov, The Hidden Tradition in Europe: The Secret History of Medieval Christian Heresy, London, 1994; cf. S. M. Ćirković, Rabotnici, vojnici, duhovnici: Društva sredjevekovnog Balkana, compiled and ed. by V. Djokić, Belgrade, 1997, 214–39. 49 Stoianovich, Balkan Worlds, 153. 50 G. C. Soulis, The Serbs and Byzantium during the Reign of Tsar Stephen Dušan (1331–1355) and His Successors, Washington, DC, 1984, 81. 51 N. Isailović, ‘Legislation concerning the Vlachs of the Balkans before and after the Ottoman conquest’, in S. Aslantaş and S. Rudić, et al. (eds), State and Society in the Balkans before and after [the] Establishment of Ottoman Rule, Belgrade, 2017, 25–40, 30–31. 52 Stoianovich, Balkan Worlds, 132.

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Further mixing, between Serbs/Slavs, Vlachs and Albanians, and conversion from Christianity to Islam occurred following the Ottoman conquest of Serbia in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Large population movements, mostly of Christians, fleeing into Hungary and Austria would become a central feature of Serb history in the late Middle and Early Modern Ages. The arrival of Jews from Spain and Portugal in the late fifteenth century made the Balkans even more heterogeneous. Serbian medieval society was patriarchal and conservative, but some laws, influenced by the Roman/Byzantine legal tradition, were surprisingly liberal. For example, while child adoption was allowed, couples with daughters were forbidden from adopting male children, to protect the daughters’ inheritance rights.53 Heterosexual church marriage was protected and divorce discouraged.54 However, as already seen, exceptions were regularly made when it came to Serbia’s rulers and, presumably, other powerful individuals; moreover, among ‘ordinary’ people, formal marriage may not have been so widespread in the Middle Ages. Infidelity was considered a serious sin, even greater in cases where a married woman had an affair with an unmarried man than the other way around.55 History of sexuality has not received sufficient attention among scholars of medieval Serbia. Dušan’s Code forbids ‘bride stealing’, a custom which survived into the modern era. A magnate guilty of this act was to have both arms and his nose cut off; a lower-class man engaged in stealing a bride from an upper-class family was to be hanged.56 Men who committed rape were given an opportunity to marry the victim if her family agreed; that way the woman would be compensated for losing her virginity and the church would approve such marriage despite the premarital consummation, and the perpetrator would be spared severe 53

Levin, 199; Jiriček, Istorija Srba, II, ch. 1. Zakonik, 90. 55 Ibid, 105. 56 Ibid, 104.

54

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punishment. Where victim of rape was a married woman, the ­perpetrator would have to compensate the victim’s husband.57 Medieval Serb laws prohibited ‘unnatural sex’, including incest, which was defined broadly and included sexual relationship between a monk and a nun, regarded as brother and sister in Christ. Sodomy and homosexuality were forbidden, but laws were relatively relaxed, especially when compared to Roman Catholic societies of the same era. Dušan’s Code (in common with similar Russian legal documents) fails to list homosexuality among punishable sins. Certain forms of same-sex relationships that did not include penetration were considered less sinful. Anal sex was a sin comparable to infidelity among heterosexuals and to bestiality. But masturbation between members of the same sex was a less serious sin: a typical punishment, according to a Dečani monastery document, would have been a ban on communion for up to two years. When it came to penetrative sex between men, according to another church source, the ‘passive’ partner was considered a greater sinner than the ‘active’ one. Kissing another man was punishable with 40 days of fasting and praying, a penalty comparable with that issued to men and women caught kissing each other outside marriage. Lesbian sex, on the other hand, was not considered an especially great sin. The Orthodox church, it would appear, was more concerned with men behaving in a feminine way. Cross-dressing was forbidden among clergy, as it was associated with pagan customs. By comparison, the predominantly Roman Catholic Dubrovnik introduced death penalty for sodomy in 1474. This was a response to the fear of the spread of homosexuality by the Ottomans, allegedly infamous for engaging in the practice. This stereotype would survive into the modern era, including in nineteenth-century Serbia.58 57

Levin, 298–99. Ibid, ch. 4; S. Bojanin, ‘Homoseksualnost u srednjevekovnoj Srbiji’, in J. Blagojević and O. Dimitrijević (eds), Medju nama: Neispričane priče gej i

58

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Bestiality was considered another serious sin. According to a Dečani monastery document, a sexual act with a mammal carried a heavier fine than that with a bird – most probably because compensation to owners of mammals was higher. Serbian priests, in accordance with the Orthodox tradition, were allowed to marry, but even among the men of fate marriage apparently did not automatically mean an end to sinful acts. One medieval Serbian source describes the case of a priest who, convinced that a large number of birds flying above his church was a sign from above, confessed to his flock that he had abused a domestic animal. The guilt-­ridden priest explained that his wife had been refusing sex allegedly because the church recommended abstinence from ­ desire. According to this account, the birds then attacked the priest’s wife and killed her – not exactly a subtle message who was to be blamed for the husband’s deviant behaviour.59

The Last Emperor and New Pretenders The empire of Stefan Dušan, who came to be known as ‘the Mighty’, lasted barely two and a half decades. It began to fragment soon after the emperor’s untimely death in 1355, with the emergence of several ‘successor leaders’ (vlastela, or velikaši in the popular tradition).60 A year after Dušan’s death, his half-brother Simeon Uroš Palaiologos proclaimed himself ‘Emperor of the Serbs and Greeks’; in reality, he ruled over a much smaller territory in Epirus and Thessaly. Emperor Stefan Uroš, known in the Serbian tradition as ‘the Weak’, was unable to prevent his uncle’s lezbejskih života, Belgrade, 2014, 22–39; V. Jovanović, ‘Homoseksualnost i srpsko društvo u 19. veku’, in ibid, 40–59; B. Krekić, Dubrovnik: A Mediterranean Urban Society, 1300–1600, Aldershot, 1997, 337–45. 59 Levin, 222. 60 Ćirković, Srbi u Srednjem veku, 163–66; R. Mihaljčić, Kraj srpskog carstva, Belgrade, 1975; M. Šuica, Nemirno doba srpskog srednjeg veka: Vlastela srpskih oblasnih gospodara, Belgrade, 2000.

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secession, nor to do much about the increasing fragmentation of the state due to the rise of competing magnates. These included Župan Vukašin Mrnjavčević (c. 1320–71) of Prilep (modern North Macedonia) and his brother Uglješa (not known-1371). In 1365, Uroš granted Vukašin a royal and Uglješa a despot’s title and land in Serres (modern Greece). To what extent the young emperor was pressurized into making these concessions and to what degree the alliance with the powerful Mrnjavčević brothers suited him is not known. Some sort of a joint rule between Emperor Uroš, the Empress Mother, King Vukašin and Despot Uglješa was established across the crumbling empire. Vukašin probably planned to usurp the Nemanjić dynasty. After he was crowned king, he proclaimed his son and heir Marko a ‘junior king’ and corresponded with Dubrovnik directly, sometimes without any reference to Uroš.61 Not much is known about the role played around this time by Sebastocrator Dejan, once Dušan’s powerful ally, whose granddaughter Jelena Dejanović Dragaš married Manuel II Palaiologos (1391–1425) and gave birth to the last two Byzantine emperors.62 Old ‘Serb lands’ of the Nemanjić realm similarly fragmented into several loosely connected and mutually competing feudal fiefdoms, ruled by magnates who coined their own money and had little regard for the emperor’s authority. These included Sebastocrator Branko’s son, Vuk Branković (c. 1345–97), who ruled over modern Kosovo, parts of Montenegro and North Macedonia; Djuradj I Balšić, the ruler of Zeta (r. 1362–78), in modern Montenegro; Župan Nikola Altomanović (c. 1348–76), whose lands were in western Serbia and eastern Herzegovina; and Prince (Knez) Lazar

61

The legendary Kraljević (Junior King) Marko of Serbian and Balkan folk tales is based on this Marko. 62 Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans, 363–64; ISN, I, 574, 583–84, 587–88. Vukašin is the inspiration for ‘King Vukasan’, the main character of ‘Day of the Doomed King’ (1965), a science fiction story by Brian Aldiss, a celebrated British author of the genre.

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(c. 1329–89), who from his stronghold Kruševac ruled over an area that roughly corresponds to modern central Serbia. In September 1371, Vukašin and Uglješa were killed in a battle against Ottoman Turks at the Marica River (which flows through modern Bulgaria and Greece). Vukašin’s heir Marko became an Ottoman vassal, and in any case his small kingdom centred around Prilep could not have hoped to hold together a rapidly disintegrating Serbian Empire. The sense of a political vacuum was further exacerbated by the death of heirless Emperor Uroš later that year. The Nemanjić imperial crown, as already mentioned, was claimed by Dušan’s half-brother, about whose rule little is known except that it never extended beyond his local base in northern Greece. With Uroš’s death, the Serbian Empire, and indeed the Nemanjić dynasty, formally came to an end. One of the most remarkable and long-lasting regional dynasties of their time thus went quietly and unceremoniously. Despite apocalyptic connotations associated with the end of empires and powerful dynasties, they sometimes simply disappear, or transform into another state. In the case of Serbia, several realms claimed the Nemanjić legacy, most notably the fifteenth-century Serbian despotate, about which more will be explained in the following text. The Nemanjićs were skilled rulers, able to negotiate a balancing act between competing foreign powers, in particular Byzantium, Bulgaria and Hungary. Domestically, the close, at times literally familial, relationship between the crown and the church ensured the survival of the dynasty (if not of all its rulers, many of whom had been murdered or violently deposed) and a powerful ideological tool of the rulers’ cults promoted by the church. They also understood the importance of economy for maintaining political power. The exploitation of mines and trade with Venice and Dubrovnik funded the Serbs’ medieval rulers and their frequent military campaigns. Dynastic marriages provided another important route to securing regional alliances and improving Serbia’s international position. The Nemanjićs

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appear to have had a sense of their place in the history of the Serbs, though it is unclear how much they knew about the ­earlier centuries. Nearly the same passage of time separated them and those Serbs who migrated to the Balkans in the seventh century as it separates our society in the early twenty-first century from the era of Nemanja and St Sava. It was with the rise of Raška in the late twelfth century that Serb medieval history can be followed through more or less verifiable sources (although the existing historiography still contains gaps and unsatisfactory answers – at least to questions this author posed while researching this book). Medieval Serbia was in many ways a typical European medieval state, but with its own features: the cult of the Holy Nemanjić dynasty, and especially of St Sava; a hybrid Romanesque–Greek architecture; and a local variant of the Old Slavonic language in which a nascent Serbian literature was written. This medieval ‘civilization’ is long gone, but its legacy may be traced in present-day Serbia and parts of former-Yugoslavia, including Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and North Macedonia. It is just one among several, sometimes overlapping, layers of the past – including Byzantine, Ottoman, Habsburg and Yugoslav legacies – that have shaped Serbia’s history. * Regional leaders who sought to fill the power vacuum created by the end of the Nemanjić dynasty and the fragmentation of the Serbian Empire included Ban Tvrtko, the ruler of neighbouring Bosnia (1353–91). A great grandson of King Dragutin (Nemanjić) through his mother’s side, Tvrtko’s claims on the vacant Nemanjić throne had been prompted above all by military conquest. In the early 1370s, he established strategic alliances with two powerful Serbian magnates, Prince Lazar and Vuk Branković. Lazar and Tvrtko, supported by Hungary, defeated in 1373 Nikola

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Altomanović and together with Branković and Djuradj I Balšić partitioned the Altomanović fiefdom. Tvrtko’s state now incorporated parts of the former Nemanjić kingdom, in Hum and south-western Raška, including, significantly, the monastery of Mileševa, St Sava’s resting place. Territorial, symbolic and family ties to the Serbian ‘sacred dynasty’ boosted Tvrtko’s ambition. He either ordered the creation of or modified an earlier genealogical tree of the Nemanjić family, showing his place in it.63 A self-proclaimed successor of the Nemanjić dynasty who sought to ‘revive’ the old kingdom and the ‘sacred dynasty’ by transferring its political centre to Bosnia, Tvrtko likely saw an opportunity to further emancipate his realm from the control of the Kingdom of Hungary. The Bosnian ban clearly did not regard King Marko nor any of late Emperor Dušan’s relatives as worthy of the Serbian royal title, so in 1377, he was crowned the King of Serbs and Bosnia. The location of the coronation and the denomination of priests who conducted the ceremony are not known but have been a matter of controversy due to the highly politized modern debates about the origins of Bosnia and Bosnians, so tragically manifested during the war of the 1990s. In a Nemanjić-style charter, written in Cyrillic, Tvrtko informed Dubrovnik in 1378 that he went to the Serbian land wishing and wanting to restore the throne of my fathers. And having gone there, I was crowned with the God-granted wreath to the kingship of my forefathers, so that I should be Stefan, faithful in Jesus Christ and God-appointed King of the Serbs and Bosnia and the Littoral and the Western Regions.64 63

E. O. Filipović, ‘The Most Noble and Royal House of Kotromanić: Constructing Dynastic Identity in Medieval Bosnia’, Südost Forschungen, 78:1 (2019), 1–38; M. Vasiljević, ‘Nastanak srpskih rodoslova i letopisa kao posledica političkih i društvenih promena, Inicijal: Časopis za srednjovekovne studije (Belgrade), 3 (2015), 95–117. 64 Cited in S. M. Ćirković, ‘The Double Wreath: A Contribution to the History of Kingship in Bosnia’, Balcanica, XLV (2014), 107–43, 120; cf.

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Historians have speculated, not unreasonably, that the coronation took place at the Mileševa monastery located in the ‘Serbian land’ that Tvrtko had recently conquered.65 There are also plausible alternative arguments that the ceremony took place elsewhere and that the clergy involved may have belonged to the local Bosnian church.66 Either way, religious and identity boundaries were far more permeable in the Middle Ages than they are today and in any case modern projections on Tvrtko’s identity are problematic and ahistoric. We know from surviving sources that the new king styled himself Stefan Tvrtko, in the Nemanjić tradition retained by the subsequent Bosnian kings, who too would be crowned as the kings of ‘Serbs and Bosnia’. Dubrovnik and Venice formally acknowledged Tvrtko as Rex Rascie, and the former even paid him a tributary traditionally reserved for Serb rulers. The exploitation of rich silver mines in Srebrenica, previously (and subsequently, in the fifteenth century) belonging to Serbia, contributed to Bosnia’s prosperity at this time. However, Tvrtko never exercised control over the core lands of the former Nemanjić realm. This is perhaps the reason why Serb magnates such as Lazar and Vuk Branković, who had their own political ambitions to fill the power vacuum created by the end of the Nemanjić dynasty, did not seem to mind the Bosnian ruler’s Serbian pretensions. After Bosnia further expanded its territory in the south-west, Tvrtko added Croatia and Dalmatia to his title in summer 1390, less than a year before his sudden death at the age of 52. Some E. O. Filipović, Bosansko kraljevstvo: Historija srednjevjekovne bosanske države, Sarajevo, 2017, and ‘The Most Noble’, 18–19. 65 Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans, 393. 66 D. Lovrenović, ‘Proglašenje Bosne kraljevstvom 1377. (Pokušaj revalorizacije)’, Forum Bosnae (Sarajevo), 3–4 (1999), 228–87; M. Brandt, S. M. Ćirković, S. Džaja and D. Lovrenović, Šest stoljeća od smrti bosanskog kralja Tvrtka I, Odjek (Sarajevo), Oct 1991, 7–9.

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early twentieth-century authors regarded him as a de facto ­proto-Yugoslav king, because he was the first South Slav ruler who brought together the central regions of future Yugoslavia and because his royal title ‘united’ Serbs, Croats and Bosnia.67 The 1990s Sarajevo government adopted Tvrtko’s fleur-de-lis for its coat-of-arms, in hope that the medieval Bosnian king would be acceptable to Bosnian Serbs and Croats as much as to the country’s Muslims (Bosniaks). Another reason for adopting the medieval symbols may have been to point out a long history of Bosnia’s statehood at a time when many of its citizens, as well as neighbouring Serbia and Croatia, disputed it. Although Serbs tend to believe that Tvrtko was a Serb, while Croats might typically claim he was in fact a Croat, only Muslims/Bosniaks accepted the new state symbols associated with medieval Christian Bosnia (these symbols have been since abandoned). In a further irony, as a symbol of the House of Anjou, whose members were the Hungarian kings in the fourteenth century, the fleur-de-lis was a reminder of medieval Bosnia’s vassal status vis-à-vis Hungary. Tvrtko was not alone in seeking legitimacy in the old Nemanjić state among the magnates based in what is today BosniaHerzegovina. From around 1449, the head of the powerful Vukčić-Kosača family began to style himself Vojvoda of St Sava (later Herceg, from German Herzog, which like Vojvoda translates as Duke in this context). Following Tvrtko’s death, the VukčićKosačas assumed greater power in Hum – the region where, as we have seen, Sava Nemanjić had once ruled and near his resting place at the Mileševa monastery. The choice of title by the Vukčić-Kosača duke testified of the continued significance of the cult of St Sava and perhaps of the Nemanjić dynasty more generally. In a letter to King Alfonso V of Aragon (1416–58, from 1442 also Alfonso I of Naples), the duke sought the royal approval of his possessions, including the Mileševa monastery, which, he was 67

V. Ćorović, Istorija Jugoslavije, Belgrade, 1933, 209–10.

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keen to emphasize, contained the relics of ‘a saint capable of great miracles’.68 That he referred to an Orthodox saint and monastery in a letter to a Roman Catholic king did not seem to have concerned Vukčić-Kosača. During his life, he was a Roman Catholic and a member of the Bosnian church; he spelled his name as Stefan (Serbian spelling) and Stjepan (and sometimes Stipan – Bosnian and Croatian spellings), possibly depending on circumstances. Indeed, Vukčić-Kosačas were regional magnates whose members belonged to more than one branch of Christianity and who eventually converted to Islam. Their family history, while by no means unique in this respect, encapsulates well the region’s complex history and the absurdity of modern nationalist claims on medieval personalities and polities. The family founder Vuk was one of Stefan Dušan’s key military commanders; his son, Vojvoda Vlatko fought at the Battle of Kosovo alongside Prince Lazar (see the following section). Other ancestors were linked with Dalmatian Croats. Herceg Stefan/Stjepan collaborated and clashed with rival South Slav magnates, with Bosnian kings, Serbian despots and with Dubrovnik and Venice; by contrast, his relationship with the Ottomans seems to have been mostly good. Hum subsequently became known as Herzegovina after him.

The Battle of Kosovo, 1389 The most important Serb ruler to emerge in the postNemanjić era was Lazar Hrebeljanović. Remembered in popular tradition as ‘Tsar’ (Emperor), in reality Lazar chose to keep his 68

S. M. Ćirković, Stefan Vukčić-Kosača i njegovo doba, Belgrade, 1964, 106–108; Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans, 578–79. The involvement of the kings of Aragon and Naples in Balkan and Central European politics is complex and does not concern us here, except that King Ladislaus of Naples (1377–1414), who unsuccessfully attempted to claim the throne of Hungary during a dynastic conflict there in which Tvrtko and Lazar became involved, granted the title of ‘Herzog’ to one of the Duke’s predecessors.

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more modest title of Knez (Prince). Nevertheless, he too added the Nemanjić ‘Stefan’ to his name and in the tradition of the old dynasty styled himself ‘Autocrator (Samodržac) of the Serb lands’. Unlike Tvrtko, Lazar was not a Nemanjić by blood, but he was related to the ‘sacred dynasty’ through marriage. Princess Milica, Lazar’s wife, was a direct descendant of Vukan, Nemanja’s original heir. As a generous patron of the Orthodox church, Lazar enjoyed the support of and exercised influence among its clergy. He appears to have played a key role in securing the recognition of the Peć Patriarchate by Constantinople and in the appointment of his ally Spiridon I (1380–89) as the new Serb Patriarch. Lazar likely saw himself as the true heir of the old dynasty, which is also evident in Nemanjić-style charters he issued in the 1380s. He further strengthened his position by allying himself with powerful regional rulers such as Tvrtko and marrying off his daughters to local magnates such as Vuk Branković and Djuradj II Balšić of Zeta (r. 1385–1403). Lazar was the progenitor of the Lazarević line of princes and despots who ruled over Serbia between 1389 and 1427, when members of the Branković family succeed them. But it was Lazar’s death at Kosovo in 1389, and the legend that developed afterwards, that make him one of the most significant figures of Serbia’s Middle Ages, alongside Nemanja, St Sava and Stefan Dušan. Few sources about the Kosovo battle exist, but it is possible to broadly reconstruct the context in which it took place and some key facts. Following the victory against King Vukašin at Marica in 1371, Ottoman raids into the Serb territories continued, but not without resistance. Lazar’s army defeated an Ottoman expedition near Paraćin in 1381. Five years later, the Ottomans sacked the Gračanica monastery, setting its large library on fire, but were unable to penetrate deeper into Lazar’s state. They were then defeated at Bileća in 1388 by Vojvoda Vlatko Vuković, who was, as we have seen, an ally of both Tvrtko and Lazar. Around the same time, Lazar and Tvrtko became involved in a dynastic conflict in Hungary as supporters of King Sigismund (1387–1437).

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Meanwhile, Sultan Murad I (1362–89), together with his sons Bayezid and Yakub, assembled a large army that likely included troops recruited in southern parts of Stefan Dušan’s former empire. A Christian alliance led by Lazar included Vuk Branković and King Tvrtko. Lazar’s other son-in-law, Djuradj II Balšić was on friendly terms with the Ottomans at the time and thus it is unlikely his troops took part in the Kosovo battle. Tvrtko did not participate personally either but sent Vlatko Vuković and his men instead. The two armies clashed at Kosovo Polje, the Field of Black Birds (Fushë Kosovë in modern Kosovo), on 28 June 1389. Both Lazar and Murad were killed in battle and both sides suffered heavy casualties. Initially, a Christian victory had been reported in contemporary sources, fuelled by Tvrtko’s dispatches to Dubrovnik and Italian cities later that summer in which he claimed he had defeated the Ottomans. The most likely outcome was an Ottoman victory, certainly in the long run. Rather than going on to occupy Lazar’s state, the Ottomans withdrew from the battlefield to settle a power struggle between the late sultan’s sons, in which Bayezid came out victorious, and to deal with a revolt in Anatolia. It is possible that this contributed to the belief that Lazar’s Christian coalition had won. With the defeat of the most powerful of Serbian princes, and Byzantium and Bulgaria also on a backfoot, the Ottoman domination of south-eastern Europe seemed inevitable. In the event, it had to be put on hold, and not only due to the Ottoman internal affairs.69 69

S. M. Ćirković, ‘Stare i nove kontroverze o knezu Lazaru i Srbiji uoči Kosovske bitke’, Zbornik Matice srpske za istoriju (Novi Sad), 1990, 7–17; T. A. Emmert, Serbian Golgotha: Kosovo, 1389, Boulder, CO, 1990; Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans, 406–13; ISN, II, 42–44; W. S. Vucinich and T. A. Emmert (eds), Kosovo: Legacy of Medieval Battle, Minneapolis, MN, 1991. It is unlikely, as is sometimes suggested, that Lazar commanded a broad coalition that, in addition to his and Vuk Branković’s armies and reinforcements from Bosnia, included Albanians, Bulgarians, Czechs, Hungarians, Germans and Vlachs. R. Radić, Klio se stidi, Belgrade, 2016, 45–51.

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The Despotate When the army of new Sultan Bayezid I (1389–1403) returned to the Balkans several years later, it encountered strong resistance in Hum and Wallachia. Ottoman Christian vassals now included troops provided by late Prince Lazar’s son and heir Stefan (Lazarević, prince 1389–1402, despot 1402–27), who may have been only 12 in 1389, and his mother, and de facto co-ruler, Princess Milica. As part of a new relationship between Serbia and the Ottoman state, Lazar and Milica’s daughter Olivera, aged around 17, was married off to Bayezid in 1390. Remembered in the Serbian tradition as Lazar’s tragic widow, Milica was a capable leader in her own right. Despite the personal tragedy, she displayed courage, wisdom and political skill needed in the challenging period that followed the Kosovo battle. Eventually, Milica withdrew into a monastery, leaving the country to her son. Prince Stefan was among Ottoman vassals who fought at the 1395 Battle of Rovine (present-day Romania) against the Wallachians. Others included Konstantin Dejanović Dragaš and King Marko. Whether or not Marko prayed for the Christian victory even if it meant his own death, as claimed in a contemporary source, both he and Dragaš were killed in the battle.70 Not all Serb magnates fought and died as Ottoman vassals. Vuk Branković, who survived the Kosovo battle, and who continued to rule over his realm that included Kosovo, joined a large Christian coalition led by Hungary, which now represented the ‘bulwark of Christianity’ and included Wallachian, Venetian, Bulgarian, Croatian, French and English troops. The Christian coalition was defeated by the Ottomans at Nicopolis, Bulgaria, in 1396. Branković died as an Ottoman prisoner the following year, but is

70

Konstantin Filozof, Žitije despota Stefana Lazarevića. Stare srpske biografije XV i XVII veka, 11, edited and adopted into modern Serbian by L. Mirković, Belgrade, 1936, 67.

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ironically portrayed in the Serbian folklore as a Judas-like figure who betrayed Lazar at Kosovo. The ‘treason’ discourse probably predates the Kosovo battle and may have something to do with Vuk’s alleged refusal to fully embrace Lazar’s overlordship among the Serbs, and his subsequent rivalry with Princess Milica. According to a legend, which emerged soon after 1389, Lazar opted for a Jesus-style sacrifice and a heavenly kingdom, instead of accepting Ottoman vassalage for his earthly realm, offered to him by St Elijah on the eve of the battle.71 In further irony, Stefan Lazarević contributed to the Ottoman victory at Nicopolis as the sultan’s vassal, while his uncle’s death opened the door for the take­over of the Branković lands. Stefan kept a balancing act between the Ottomans, Hungarians and Byzantines, and dealt with internal opposition led by his younger brother Vuk Lazarević. In 1402, he fought bravely at the Battle of Ankara but was unable to prevent the Ottoman defeat at the hands of Tamerlan’s Mongol army. Nevertheless, the Serbian prince received a hero’s welcome in Constantinople and a despot’s title from Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos (1391–1425); at the time, this was the highest Byzantine title after emperor. The Serb ruler now styled himself ‘by God’s mercy, Lord of all Serbs, Despot Stefan’72 – a hybrid western–Byzantine title, in the old Nemanjić tradition. Known as Stefan the Tall, he was a physically imposing and good-looking man, with striking blue eyes. His bravery and erudition earned him respect and even friendship with the Ottoman sultan, the Hungarian king and the Byzantine emperor. The Genovese governor of the island of Lesbos, in modern Greece, 71

Emmert, Serbian Golgotha; M. Šuica, Vuk Branković: Slavni i velmožni gospodin, Belgrade, 2014; cf. I. Čolović, Smrt na Kosovu polju: Istorija Kosovskog mita, Belgrade, 2016. 72 ‘Povelja manastiru Mileševi’, reproduced in Despot Stefan Lazarević, Književni radovi, ed. and compiled by Dj. Trifunović, Belgrade, 1979, 164–65.

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apparently offered him a choice of his daughters. One of them, Helen, caught Stefan’s eye, but it appears the marriage did not last long, and it certainly produced no heir. The despot was a man of culture who loved to read and write, though he was apparently not a great fan of music. He translated Greek texts into Serbian, while his ‘Letter to love’, a powerful poem that laments the conflict with his brother Vuk, is considered a classic of medieval Serbian literature. Stefan was also a shrewd politician who understood how to employ art in the service of politics. He founded the Resava monastery (also known as Manasija), located in p ­ resent-day central Serbia. The monastery architecture and frescoes were meant to provide a symbolic link between the Nemanjić and the Lazarević realms. Manasija also housed a large library and the influential ‘Resava school’ of transcribing, translating and illuminating manuscripts, which contributed to the development of the medieval Serbian language and literature.73 A key member of the despot’s entourage was Konstantin the Philosopher, a Bulgarian refugee who wrote Despot Stefan’s biography. Following in the tradition of earlier Serb rulers, Stefan Lazarević donated generously to churches and monasteries. He also encouraged the cult of his father, whom the Serbian Orthodox church began to promote as a saint soon after the Kosovo battle. Thus, he styled himself in some documents as ‘Stefan, son of Holy Prince Lazar’.74 At the same time, he was a member of a knight order founded by Hungarian King Sigismund, the future Holy Roman Emperor (1433–37). Contemporary Germanlanguage sources referred to him as ‘Duke of Serbia, also called Despot’ (‘herßog auß Servien, gennant despot’) and ‘Despot of the

73

B. Cvetković, ‘Portret despota Stefana u Resavi: istoriografija i ikonografija’, Srednji vek u srpskoj nauci, istoriji, književnosti i umetnosti, XI, Despotovac, 2019, 179–211; M. Pantić (ed.), Resavska škola i despot Stefan Lazarević, Despotovac, 1994. 74 Despot Stefan Lazarević, Književni radovi, 135.

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Rascians’ (‘Despot zu Ratzen’), in further evidence that Serbia and Raška continued to be used synonymously.75 Some contemporaries believed that Stefan either attended or sent a delegation to the Council of Constance (1414–18), which discussed the schism within the ‘western’ church (the conflict between Rome and Avignon and Jan Hus’ reforms), though this seems unlikely.76 Despite being Ottoman and Hungarians vassals, Stefan Lazarević and his nephew and successor Djuradj Branković (the son of Vuk Branković and Mara Lazarević) extended and consolidated Serbia’s borders following the late fourteenth-century debacles at Marica and Kosovo. At its greatest extent, the Serbian despotate included Lazar’s original lands in modern central and south-western Serbia, Balšić’s realm in Zeta and Vuk Branković’s land in Kosovo, as well as Belgrade (which Stefan made his capital), Mačva and eastern Bosnia, including the important silver mine in Srebrenica. The Serbian despots also owned land in southern Hungary gifted by Hungarian kings, and which would become a place of refuge for Serb nobility and clergy following the Ottoman conquest in the late 1450s. The despotate maintained close relations with Dubrovnik, an important economic partner that provided a direct link to the Italian city states. In terms of political and economic significance and its territorial extent, the Lazarević-Branković despotate matched the ­thirteenth-century Nemanjić kingdom. For the first time since the disintegration of Stefan Dušan’s empire, Serbia was a unified polity. Without the Ottoman conquest of the western Balkans, it is possible that Serbia’s statehood would have continued beyond the fifteenth century.

75

Reisen des Johannes Schiltberger aus München in Europa, Asia und Afrika von 1394 bis 1427, Munich, 1859, 53. 76 ISN, II, 95; cf. M. Al. Purković, Knez i despot Stefan Lazarević, Belgrade, 1978, 143–47.

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Shortly before his death in 1427, Despot Stefan interfered in a struggle for the Ottoman throne, but backed a losing party. The consequence was a temporary invasion of Serbia by the army of new Sultan Murad II (1421–44, 1446–51). Hungary was another key power and ally, whose influence under Sigismund had extended into Bohemia and the German lands. The rapidly shrinking Byzantine Empire also remained a factor in regional affairs. In 1414, marriage was arranged between Stefan’s nephew and heir, 37-year-old Djuradj Branković (c.1377–1456) and 14-year old Irene Kantakouzene – the ‘Damned Jerina’ of the Serbian folklore. Djuradj succeeded his heirless uncle in 1427, but in exchange for Hungary’s recognition of him as the ruler of Serbia he had to hand over Belgrade to the Hungarians. Djuradj built a new capital city on the Danube, Smederevo. With its large library containing titles in Greek, Latin and Old Slavonic, Smederevo was also Serbia’s cultural centre. Today, it is a city in central Serbia and one of the largest surviving medieval fortresses in Europe. In order to secure Serbia’s southern borders, Djuradj arranged in 1428 the engagement between his elder daughter Mara and Murad II. The marriage took place only in 1436, due to Mara’s young age (she was 12 at the time; see Chapter 3). Djuradj also married off his younger daughter Katarina to Count Ulrich von Cilli (Ulrik Celjski), a Central European magnate whose base was in modern Slovenia, another political marriage designed to strengthen Serbia’s standing in the ‘west’. In 1429, Djuradj Branković received the despot’s title from Emperor John VIII Palaiologos (1425–48). Raised in Byzantine-Hellenic culture, Despot Djuradj was the last significant medieval Serb ruler. He welcomed Balkan Christian refugees, sometimes intervening personally to secure release from Ottoman captivity of eminent Byzantine citizens, including members of Irene’s Kantakouzenos family and scholars and artists. At the same time, Djuradj was a pragmatic politician who kept links with Roman Catholic states

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and seemed somewhat ambivalent on the question of the church union – though not quite as ambivalent as John VIII Palaiologos, who supported the union at the Council of Florence in 1439.77

Economy in Late Medieval Serbia The disintegration of Stefan Dušan’s empire, which had begun soon after the emperor’s death and therefore before the Ottoman conquest, inevitably brought economic uncertainty. By this time but a loose confederation of sometimes mutually competing mini-states, Serbia was hardly an attractive market in the late fourteenth century. Merchants from Dubrovnik complained in 1371 (the year of the Serbs’ defeat at Marica) that because of the crisis ‘in Raška due to rifts among the barons, we cannot, and we dare not trade there to the extent that we traded in the past.’ The vast majority of Serbia’s exports went via Dubrovnik to Italian city states, mostly Venice, but also as far south as Sicily. By contrast, only a small percentage of exports went to Byzantium and Hungary. Serbia benefited from the Venetian–Genoese Wars of the second half of the fourteenth century, which caused the price of silver to rise significantly. Nearly a ton of silver was exported to Venice every year between 1426 and 1432 through the Kabužić (Caboga) brothers of Dubrovnik. Serbia also exported over half a ton of silver mixed with gold during the same period. Novo Brdo (present-day Kosovo) was Serbia’s main mining centre, followed by Srebrenica (modern Bosnia). According to Bertrandon de la Broquière, a Burgundian knight who passed through Serbia in 1433, Novo Brdo yielded for Despot Djuradj 200,000 ducats annually. Franciscan John of Capistrano wrote to the pope in 1455 that the new master of Novo Brdo, Sultan Mehmed II the 77

N. Zečević, ‘Prvi brak despota Leonarda III Toko’, ZRVI (Belgrade), XLIII (2006), 155–73; cf. ISN, II, 247.

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Conqueror (1444–46, 1451–81), received an annual income of 120,000 ducats from the mines alone. This was still a significant figure, but it suggests, in line with other sources, a decline in the exploitation of Serbian mines under the Ottomans. While the despots enriched themselves through the exploitation of mines, their subjects whose livelihoods depended on mining were forced to seek loans during ‘barren’ periods, until new mineral deposits were reached, causing something of a debt crisis in fifteenth-century Serbia. Miho Lukarević, a wealthy merchant from Dubrovnik, kept a list of 1,200 individuals from Novo Brdo and the surrounding area whom he loaned money between 1432 and 1438. The despot carried out a monetary reform in 1435 to address the issue, devaluing the state currency to approximately 35–40 dinars for 1 Venetian ducat (the previous exchange rate was 24:1).78 Despite a challenging economic environment, domestic trade increased in the first half of the fifteenth century, judging by several towns and settlements that acquired the status of a marketplace (trg). Such market towns included Zaslon (present-day Šabac, western Serbia), Zvornik and Srebrenica (both in modern eastern Bosnia), which hosted annual fairs, a tradition borrowed from Byzantium. Textile industry, including production of woolen cloth and silk, was developed under the influence from Dalmatia and Italy. During the 70 years between the Battle of Kosovo and the Ottoman capture of Smederevo in 1459, medieval Serbia managed to survive and even prosper despite a difficult predicament. As the main successor to the Nemanjić kingdom and empire ideologically, culturally and spiritually, the Lazarević–Branković 78

Ćirković, ‘The Production of Gold’, 42–43 and The Serbs, 52–53, 93, 95. John of Capistrano fought against Ottomans at Belgrade in summer 1456 as a member of János Hunyadi’s army (see the following text). He died the same year of plague and was later canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

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despotate became something of a regional political, economic and cultural centre. Serbia was able to ‘reinvent’ itself in the aftermath of the defeat at Kosovo in part due to ‘fresh blood’ provided by refugees from Bulgaria and Byzantium who were fleeing the Ottomans. Rather than an aspiring and territorially almost constantly expanding regional power of the Nemanjić era, the Serbia of the despots shifted between Ottoman and Hungarian vassalage (sometimes it was perhaps symultaneously an Ottoman and a Hungarian vassal state), managing to preserve a level of self-rule and influence regional affairs. Within decades, Serbia transformed from an aggressive and expanding, if short-lived, Serb–Greek Empire to one of the last enclaves of the ByzantineSlav civilization in the first half of the fifteenth century.

The Fall of Smederevo Squeezed between the Ottomans and the Hungarians, as well as the Bosnians who sought to retake Srebrenica, the despotate’s predicament was becoming increasingly difficult by the late 1430s. The Ottomans captured Smederevo – temporarily, as it turned out – in August 1439, after a six-week-long siege. Despot Djuradj and his family had previously fled to Hungary, but the city’s defenders put up a fight, surrendering only after they had run out of food. After the 1444 Peace of Szeged Serbia was restored, albeit as Hungary’s vassal state. Soon after, János Hunyadi (c.1406–56), a Transylvanian noble of Hungarian or Vlach origin – who as Sibinjanin Janko is a hero of the South Slav epic poetry – raised a large army that included Serbian troops. However, the Christian coalition was defeated by the Ottomans at Varna (Bulgaria) in November 1444 and again at Kosovo four years later. The (second) Ottoman victory at Kosovo forced Hunyadi, in the meanwhile proclaimed the Regent of Hungary, and his ally Skanderbeg (born Gjergj Kastrioti into a mixed Albanian–Slav family with origins in present-day Kosovo), to abandon the battle. Despot

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Djuradj, who had recognized Hunyadi’s rival Ladislaus as the King of Hungary, was formally neutral but may have informed his son-in-law, Sultan Murad II, about Hunyadi’s movements. With Hunyadi defeated and on the run, the Serbs captured him, but agreed to release him in exchange for financial compensation for damage caused by the Hungarian troops in Serbia.79 It is possible that the two Kosovo battles ‘merged’ in popular memory; if so, could the myth of the ‘Branković treason’, associated with Djuradj’s father Vuk, have something to do with the despot’s betrayal of Hunyadi?80 In any case, Djuradj Branković is portrayed in the romantic historiography as a positive, if ultimately tragic figure, associated with last meaningful attempts to resist the Ottomans and preserve the Byzantine-Orthodox tradition of medieval Serbia. After taking Constantinople on 29 May 1453, Mehmed the Conqueror set out to complete the conquest of the Balkans. His 1456 Serbian campaign was largely successful, but Smederevo and Belgrade repelled the Ottoman attacks. The news was welcomed across Christian Europe, and there was a short-lived hope that Byzantium might be restored under Thomas Palaiologos, brother of the last emperor, Constantine XI (the grandson of Serbian magnate Konstantin Dejanović Dragaš). A plague epidemic claimed Hunyadi’s life in August that year, leaving Djuradj without a key ally (the two men had in the meanwhile made up). Sensing the inevitable, the despot transferred all his movable assets to a family estate in southern Hungary (Bečej, present-day northern Serbia), before his death in December 1456, at the age of 80. Members of the Branković, Lazarević and Balšić families also sought refuge further south, in the Venetian-held eastern Adriatic and in

79

ISN, II, 263–65; J. Held, Hunyadi: Legend and Reality, New York, 1985; O. J. Schmitt, Skanderbeg: Der neue Alexander auf dem Balkan, Regensburg, 2009. 80 N. Malcolm, Kosovo: A Short History, London, 1998, 61–62.

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Dubrovnik. There they were granted citizenship and in some cases property and other privileges befitting their status.81 Following the untimely death in January 1458 of Djuradj’s son Lazar, the son-in-law of Thomas Palaiologos, Smederevo was left leaderless and divided among pro-Ottoman and pro-Hungarian factions. The city’s military commander Mihailo Andjelović sided with the former, perhaps not surprisingly considering that Ottoman commander Mahmud Pasha, a Muslim convert, was his brother (see the following text and Chapter 3). Facing the choice of Ottoman or Hungarian rule, many Serbs seem to have preferred the former. The Ottomans were known for being relatively tolerant of other religions, while an alliance with Hungary might have led to the church union with Rome and the full absorption of the Serb realm into Hungary. Late Lazar Branković’s daughter Marija was hurriedly married off to Stefan, son and heir of Bosnia’s King Tomaš.82 The Bosnian prince and heir to Tvrtko’s old throne was dully proclaimed despot of Serbia in late March 1459.83 Not surprisingly perhaps, this did little to prevent the Ottoman capture of Smederevo on 20 June, which marked the end of medieval Serbia. At the time of frequent political changes 81

In addition to the South Slavs, Venice provided shelter also to Albanian, Greek and Vlach magnates fleeing the Ottoman conquest. N. Zečević, ‘Sub umbra protectione et fauore nostro: Urban inclusion in the Eastern Adriatic through Venetian concessions of citizenship, nobility and salvus conductus (14th–15th c.)’, in F. Sabate (ed.), Ciutats mediterrànies: l’espai i el territory, Barcelona, 2020, 171–80. 82 In the Nemanjić tradition introduced in Bosnia by Tvrtko, all Bosnian kings were named Stefan. In some South Slav sources, their name was given a different spelling (Stjepan, Stipan or Štefan – this is not unlike different English spellings of this same name, Stephen/Steven); in Latin-language sources, they were usually called ‘Stephan’. For the sake of consistency and in order to avoid confusing the reader too much – but certainly not because of what would be an anachronistic attempt to Serbianize medieval rulers of Bosnia and Herzegovina – I have decided to stick with ‘Stefan’. 83 Filipović, Bosansko kraljevstvo, 218; cf. Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans, 568–76.

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and border shifts, and despite an atmosphere of gloom and doom that followed the fall of Constantinople, surviving Smederevo inhabitants possibly did not anticipate the Ottoman rule to last very long. Rumours circulated for a while that exiled Serb aristocracy and their Hungarian hosts plotted to restore the despotate.84 In the event, Ottoman rule over medieval Serbia lasted between three and a half and nearly five centuries, depending on the region, with short periods of Habsburg occupation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when ‘Serbia’ would be formally restored, as discussed in Chapter 3. Defenders of Smederevo surrendered after guarantees had been given by the Ottomans that the despot and despotess would be allowed to leave unharmed for Bosnia. Seeking to secure help before the impending Ottoman invasion, King Tomaš had previously reaffirmed his belonging to the Roman Catholic church (although formally a Catholic, he may had belonged also to a heretic type of Bosnian Christianity). Following Tomaš’s death in 1461, his son and heir Stefan (Tomašević) came to the throne. The last king of Bosnia and technically the despot-in-exile of Orthodox Serbia received a royal crown from Pope Pius II’s envoy. At a ceremony in Jajce, his last residence, Stefan was crowned ‘by grace of God, King of Serbs, Bosnia, Littoral, Hum, Dalmatia, Croats, etc.’85 (Jajce was the place where nearly 500 years later, in 1943, foundations of Tito’s federal Yugoslavia would be laid, as discussed later in the book). Bosnia was finally conquered by the Ottomans in 1463 (not counting eastern Bosnia that had come under the Ottoman control with the fall of Serbia). The unfortunate King and Despot Stefan Tomašević was killed, having had the dubious privilege of being the last ruler of both medieval Bosnia and Serbia – almost 84

S. M. Ćirković, ‘Smederevska tvrdjava na početku turske vlasti’, in M. Spremić (ed.), Pad Srpske despotovine 1459. godine, Belgrade, 2011, 287–90. 85 Filipović, Bosansko kraljevstvo, 229.

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certainly not the way in which his ancestor Tvrtko had imagined the union of the two crowns.86 Queen Marija avoided capture and death by fleeing to Dubrovnik. In another irony of history, the Ottoman army was led by Mahmud Pasha Andjelović, the Serbian-born Muslim convert and conqueror of Serbia and Bosnia, whose brother Mihailo had served as the last military commander of Smederevo. Hum, increasingly referred to as Herzegovina, was taken by the Ottomans two decades later. The mountains of Zeta (in modern Montenegro) held on for a little longer under the Crnojević family, until in the late fifteenth century the Ottomans conquered – though never fully incorporated – this remote and largely inaccessible territory. The coastal regions of the former Serbian realm had come under the control of Venice. A few kilometres up north, the maritime Republic of Dubrovnik remained independent, often taking advantage of a rivalry between Venice and the Ottoman state, until it was abolished by Napoleon in 1808. Four years earlier, a peasant uprising had broken out in the Ottoman sanjak of Smederevo (better, if erroneously, known as the Belgrade pashalik), and within a few years the Serb ‘revolutionaries’ would end the centuries-long Ottoman rule in the province. Romantic and liberal-nationalist ideas of that era helped intellectuals and revolutionaries, Serb and non-Serb alike, and neighbouring empires to imagine this area as a restored Serbia. In reality, more than mere passage of time separated the emerging nineteenth-century Serbian state and the medieval realms associated with the Serbs. 86

The line of succession of Bosnian kings after Tvrtko is not always straightforward, except that they all likely belonged to the Kotromanić family – whose origins, incidentally, are similarly obscure. Filipović, ‘The Most Noble’.

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3 Borderland (1450–1800) u

The Ottoman Conquest The Ottoman conquest of the Balkans in the fourteenth and ­fifteenth centuries was a prolonged and complex affair achieved through a combination of warfare and diplomacy. The political fragmentation and symbolic weakening of Byzantium and other large Balkan Christian states, notably Stefan Dušan’s empire, caused by the rise of local feudal landowners, facilitated the Ottoman expansion. Mutually divided and hostile regional rulers sometimes sought Ottoman support and would plead allegiance to the sultan in exchange for help against local rivals. By the mid-fourteenth century, the Ottomans had established a permanent presence in the Balkans, though not yet the firm control that would be in place a century later. Ottoman victories against Byzantium at Gallipoli and Adrianople in the 1360s enabled them to move on the Serb magnates in Macedonia, whom, as we have seen, they defeated at the Marica River in 1371. After successful campaigns in Anatolia and the Balkans (at Kosovo) in the late 1380s, achieved with the help of Christian allies, the Ottoman Empire, established by Murad I in 1362, extended its control in the Balkans through a network of vassal principalities.1 Initially, vassalage could be secured in exchange for a yearly tribute, which with time increased, sometimes drastically; for 1

D. Howard, A History of the Ottoman Empire, Cambridge, 2017, ch. 1; H. İnalcık, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300–1600, transl. by N. Itzkowitz and C. Imber, London, 2013, chs 1–2; G. Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, transl. from German by J. Hussey, 2nd ed., Oxford, 1968, ch. 8.

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example, Dubrovnik’s annual tribute to the Ottomans rose in 1471 from 3,000 to 8,000 ducats.2 In addition to payment, vassals were expected to provide troops and give public oath of allegiance to the sultan, but being an Ottoman vassal was still far preferable for Balkan magnates to militarily defeat, subjugation and death or exile. As the Ottoman power grew, vassals, whose loyalty was often questionable in any case, became dispensable. The capture of Constantinople in 1453 by Mehmed the Conqueror was part of a wider Balkan campaign during his second reign, which removed local intermediaries and imposed direct Ottoman rule. The Ottoman expansion was also facilitated by a lack of unity in the wider Christian world. Avignon-based Popes Innocent VI (1352– 62) and Gregory XI (1370–78) failed to organize anti-Ottoman crusades. Rome (where Gregory XI moved towards the end of his papacy) conditioned any support for Byzantium by the latter’s acknowledgement of the supremacy of the western church. It was within this broader context that we should understand the fall of medieval Serbia in 1459. The political fragmentation of Balkan Christian states was contrasted by strong, central power exercised by Ottoman sultans, who also possessed superior armies. In the eyes of Balkan peoples, Ottoman Turks inspired a mix of fear and admiration. Christian converts in the service of the sultans could not fail to notice excellent military organization and tactics of their new rulers.3 A better regulated and more favourable Ottoman tax regime must have also appeared attractive to the Serbian and other south-east European peasantry, previously often left to the mercy of their Christian landowners. No territory called ‘Serbia’ formally existed within the Ottoman Empire. This should not be interpreted as an attempt 2

I. Božić, Dubrovnik i Turska u XIV i XV veku, Belgrade, 1952, 189. Konstantin Mihailović, Memoirs of a Janissary, ed. by S. Soucek, transl. by B. Stolz, Princeton, NJ, 2011, 93–95.

3

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by the conqueror to eradicate the identity of the conquered. Medieval Serbs rarely called their country ‘Serbia’ in any case, as we have seen. The former Serb state included several administrative districts (sanjaks, elayets, vilayets, pashaliks). The Ottomans initially referred to these lands after the names of former Serbian magnates (e.g. ‘the Branković land’, after Serbia’s last ruling family). Central and northern parts of the former Serbian despotate, including modern eastern Bosnia (Srebrenica and Zvornik), came under a single sanjak administered from Smederevo, Serbia’s last capital. After the Ottomans captured Belgrade from the Hungarians in 1521, the Smederevo pasha moved there, and the province, which in addition to Belgrade now included the Mačva region, became known colloquially as the Belgrade pashalik. Mačva was then added around 1530 to a recently formed sanjak of Zvornik, which at the time existed separately from the Bosnian sanjak. As the Ottoman Empire expanded into central Europe, borders of its internal provinces changed. At the end of the sixteenth century, after the capture of Bihać (modern western Bosnia), a Bosnian elayet was formed, which for a time stretched from modern Croatia to Kosovo. This was a purely administrative region whose establishment did not necessarily imply a continuity with the pre-Ottoman Christian polity of the same name.4 The Ottoman Empire was organized also according to the system of millets, non- and cross-territorial communities based on confessionalism. The Eastern Orthodox belonged to the Rum (Roman) millet, but the existence of distinct Orthodox Albanian, Bulgarian, Greek, Serb and Vlach communities within the millet was recognized. There were also separate Armenian and Jewish (consisting of different branches of Judaism) millets. Although the Ottoman Muslim community is often seen as a millet on its own, the Muslims 4

H. Šabanović, Bosanski pašaluk, Sarajevo, 1959; E. Miljković-Bojanić, Smederevski sandžak, 1476–1560, Belgrade, 2004; cf. N. Malcolm, Bosnia: A Short History, London, 1994, ch. 4.

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were organized according to different structures, which included askeri (the military) and reaya (tax-paying flock).5 The Ottoman state ensured that Muslims remained privileged members of the society, while non-Muslims were subjected to discriminatory laws and tax regime, so one should not romanticize the millet system. At the same time, it compared favourably to the way many Christian empires dealt with subject ethno-religious groups.6 Decades that followed the fall of Smederevo in 1459 were characterized by frequent conflicts between the Ottomans and Christian coalitions led by Hungary, the only regional power apart from Venice that appeared capable of resisting the Ottoman expansion. Northern parts of the former Serbian despotate and southern flanks of the Hungarian kingdom (which included north-eastern Bosnia) often changed hands until in 1521 the Ottomans, since recently ruled by Suleiman I the Magnificent (1520–66), captured Belgrade, a major fortified city on the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers. The modern capital of Serbia (and in the twentieth century of Yugoslavia) had been under Serbian control for relatively short periods of time, during the reigns of King Dragutin and Despot Stefan, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, respectively. Most of the remaining Serb nobility, joined by surviving soldiers and some civilians, fled to the north of Belgrade, in southern Hungary, where Serb despots had previously acquired land. This geographically undefined territory in the lower Danube, with a visible, possibly majority in some regions, Serb population became known as Rácság (Hungarian for ‘Serbhood’). Other Serbs and Orthodox populations that sometimes identified with Serbs found refuge in Venetian-held coastal towns of the Eastern Adriatic. Meanwhile, some ancestors of modern Serbs joined the Ottoman army, while others were forcibly resettled, often as far 5

K. Barkey and G. Gavrilis, ‘The Ottoman Millet System: Non-Territorial Autonomy and Its Contemporary Legacy’, Ethnopolitics, 15:1 (2016), 24–42. 6 D. Lieven, Empire: The Russian Empire and Its Rivals, New Haven, CT, 2001, 151.

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south as Asia Minor. Istanbul’s Belgradkapı (Belgrade Gate) and the Belgrad Ormanı (Belgrade Forest) are reminders of these forced population movements, which did not stop with the conquests of Suleiman the Magnificent. A group of Gallipoli Serbs, settled there in the late seventeenth century by the Ottomans, either from central Serbia or, perhaps more likely, ‘Rácság’, ‘returned’ to southern parts of Serbia and Yugoslavia during the Greek–Turkish population exchanges of the early twentieth century. Less than a century later, their descendants mostly identified as (Yugoslav) Macedonians, possibly as a result of socialist Yugoslavia’s nationality policy, discussed later in the book.7 After the fall of Belgrade, the Ottomans claimed another decisive victory, at Mohács (present-day southern Hungary) in 1526. Most of the Hungarian and Croat nobility, including King Lajos II (1516–26), perished in the battle. Those who survived accepted the authority of the Habsburg monarchy, but southern, central and eastern regions of the Hungarian kingdom (including large parts of medieval Croatia) would be under the direct or indirect (through local vassals) Ottoman control over the following century and a half. The Ottoman legacy in Europe therefore spreads beyond Balkan Muslim and Orthodox Christian communities, onto the Serbs’ Catholic neighbours, the Croats and Hungarians. In Hungarian and Croatian tradition, Mohács occupies a place not dissimilar to that of Kosovo in the case of Serbs. The Ottoman expansion meant that once again most Serbs lived in a single empire. The Peć Patriarchate, never formally abolished, had technically ceased to exist and its jurisdiction had been passed on to the Ohrid archbishopric following the Ottoman conquest of what was left of the Serbian empire. As discussed later, the patriarchate was re-established in 1557, during the viziership of Sokollu Mehmed Pasha (third vizier from 1555, 7

R. Tričković, ‘Galipoljski Srbi i Jagodina’, Istorijski časopis (Belgrade), 29–30 (1982–83), 129–42.

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grand vizier 1565–79), who as a young Janissary took part in the Battle of Mohács and the 1529 siege of Vienna. There was a strong South Slav presence among Ottoman officials and soldiers in Hungary. For example, the old Hungarian capital Székesfehérvár became under Ottoman administration known as Istolni Belgrad, from a South Slav translation of the city’s original name (The Capital White City). Apart from a handful of Albanians, Hungarians, Vlachs, Roma and Tatars, most Ottoman soldiers (both Muslim and Christian) and administrators stationed in the city came from Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Bulgaria, and therefore spoke mutually intelligible South Slav vernaculars. Balkan men of fighting age were recruited as martolosi, soldiers tasked with defending Ottoman border towns. Their number was significant. In Ezstergom, Hungary’s former capital captured by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1543, more than one-third of the city’s 3,000-strong garrison were South Slav speakers. They received regular salary and, in some cases, a timar (tax-­generating land). This created a small number of Orthodox Christian landowners in Ottoman-held Hungary.8

‘Serbia’ in Western Imagination Ironically perhaps, the Ottoman expansion into central Europe brought ‘Serbia’, or rather ‘memories’ of it, closer to western attention. Initially, ‘Serbia’ and ‘Rascia’ had been preserved in the titles of exiled despots in Hungary. They then entered the imagination of foreign travellers, diplomats and artists such as Hans Holbein the Younger, a sixteenth-century German painter, whose

8

D. J. Popović, Srbi u Vojvodini, 3 vols, Novi Sad, 1957, I, 207–209; Marc’Antonio Pigafetta, Itinerario da Vienna a Constantinopoli, Padua, 2008 (orig. published in London, 1585), 99; M. Vasić, Martolosi u jugoslovenskim zemljama pod turskom vlašću, Sarajevo, 1967.

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The Ambassadors depicts a globe with Serbia on it.9 When in early sixteenth century Venetian Marc’Antonio Pigafetta travelled from Belgrade to Niš, across present-day central Serbia, he referred to the area as ‘Rascia’, whose towns were populated by a mixed Muslim–Christian population.10 Reporting a century later on the war between the Ottomans and the army of Bethlen Gábor, the Prince of Transylvania (1613–29) and briefly in 1620–21 the King-elect of Hungary, London’s Weekly News listed ‘Rascia’ and ‘Servia’ among the lands held by the ‘Turkes’.11 Indeed, in the late seventeenth century, western Europe followed closely news from the ‘Vienna War’, celebrating Christian victories against the Ottomans. When in September 1688 the ‘imperial army’ took Belgrade, ‘the Capital City of Servia, considerable for its largeness, and situation on a Hill, near the Danube and Save, which renders it very strong, and convenient for Trade’, the Te Deum (a fourth-­ century Latin Christian hymn) was sung in the Regensburg cathedral (modern Germany). This was done ‘with the Solemnity usual on the like occasions’, according to an official British report.12 Learned Europeans of this era tended to use archaic names for geographic regions, but travel accounts provide some evidence of pre-modern identification as Serbs among the local population. Hans Dernschwam (1494–1568/69), a sixteenth-­ century Bohemian traveller through what is today central Serbia described the ‘Wendish’ (Slav) population he encountered as ‘Serby’ or ‘Ratzen’ (Rascians), and referred to the territory south of Belgrade as ‘Seruia’.13 When Evliya Çelebi (1611–82), a celebrated Ottoman traveller, passed through the same area a century 9

St. K. Pavlowitch, Serbia: The History behind the Name, London, 2002, 14n. Pigafeta, Itinerario, ch. 3. 11 Weekly News (First series), no. 33, 26 May 1623. 12 The London Gazette, issue 2387, 1–4 October 1688. 13 Hans Dernschwams Tagebuch einer Reise nach Konstantinopel und Kleinasien (1553/55), nach der Urschrift in Fugger-Archiv Herausgegeben und Erläutert, von Franz Babinger, Berlin and Munich, 1986, 5–10. 10

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figure 3.1  The Coat of Arms of the ‘Turkish Empire’, ­Konrad Grünenberg of Constance, Das Wappenbuch Conrads von ­Grünenberg (The Armorial of Conrad von Grünenberg, Knight and Citizen of Constanz) (c.1483). Bavarian State Library, Munich/BSB-Hss Cgm 145, p. 72. The figure combines the arms of C ­ onstantinople, the House of Palaiologos, the ‘Greek Empire’ (Byzantium) and the ‘Serbian Empire’ (the wild boar’s head at the bottom of the image). Next to the coat of arms of Serbia is that of ­Byzantium, consisting of a cross and four Greek letters ‘B’, in m ­ odern times adopted as the ‘Serbian cross’ with four Cyrillic letters ‘S’.

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later, he credited, sometimes wrongly, medieval Serb kings and despots as founders of towns and settlements he visited. His information most likely came from the local population.14 Foreign visitors regularly commented on Belgrade’s strategic location and its importance for European–Asian trade and commerce. Some offer early examples of stereotypical, ‘Orientalist’ views. Thus, for example, a seventeenth-century British traveller wrote that ‘[…] Servia being a fruitful and pleasant Country consisting of Plains, Woods, and Hills, which might afford good Metals, not without stout Men, good Horses, Wines and Rivers, if it were in the Christians [sic] hands of the temper of those in the western part of Europe, it might make a very flourishing Country.’15 Writing a century and a half later, even a writer as sympathetic to the Ottomans as English traveller Julia Pardoe observed how Ottoman troops garrisoned at the Belgrade fortress were few in number and looked ill-equipped to defend the city. ‘The position of this extensive fortress is most imposing; seated as it is upon the banks of two noble rivers. Its appearance is very formidable, and had it been bestowed upon a European power, it must have proved a dangerous present; but its noble outworks and stately walls are crumbling to decay, and in its present state it is scarcely more than a colossal feature in the landscape.’16

Military Border Following their defeat at Vienna in 1683, the Ottomans were pushed back all the way to the lower Danube. By the end of the 14

E. Čelebi [Çelebı], Putopis: Odlomci o jugoslavenskim zemljama, transl., ed. and compiled by H. Šabanović, Sarajevo, 1967, 59–70. 15 E. Brown, A Brief Account of Some Travels in Hungaria, Servia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Thessaly, Austria, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, and Friuli, etc, London, 1673, 40. Italics in original. 16 The City of the Sultan and Domestic Manners of the Turks, in 1836, London, 1838, 3 vols, III, 302, 307.

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century, a more or less stable Habsburg–Ottoman border was established on the Danube, with Belgrade as the northernmost Ottoman outpost. During the previous two centuries, tens of thousands of Orthodox Christians – Serbs, Vlachs, Albanians, Greeks and Bulgarians – migrated into the lower Danubian plains, partly depopulated due to the Austrian/Hungarian–Ottoman wars. After Vienna granted ‘privileges’ to Serb settlers in 1538, the Austrian Military Border (which extended into the territories of Habsburg Hungary) was formally established in 1580. Apart from the Habsburgs, the Ottomans and the Venetians also recruited the local populations into their armies; the Serbs, therefore, became guardians of three imperial powers: the Habsburg and Ottoman states and Venice. A long strip of territory, starting in the Croatian–Slovenian linguistic frontier, continuing through north-western Bosnia and Croatia, and stretching into southern Hungary and the Romanian Banat, the Military Border was populated by Christian peasant-soldiers and their families (both Orthodox and Catholics, from Bosnia, Dalmatia and Serbia). It acted as a buffer zone between the Austrian and Ottoman Empires and was perceived by many as a ‘Bulwark of Christianity’ (Map 3.1). In reality, frequent trans-border contacts existed, between Serbs on both sides of the frontier, between Christians and Muslims, and between Catholic and Orthodox Christians inside the Military Border.17 In the early seventeenth century, the Military Border was home to around 60,000 Orthodox Christians, of whom at least 20,000 were soldiers. From 1727, the peasant-soldiers became owners of the land they farmed, which provided them with livelihood during peace time; at time of war, they received salary and were allowed a share of the booty. This sometimes created tensions 17

ISN, III-1, 467; G. E. Rothenberg, The Military Border in Croatia, 1522–1749, Chicago, 1960, and The Military Border in Croatia, 1750–1888: A Study of an Imperial Institution, Chicago, 1966.

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map 3.1  Habsburg Military Border, late eighteenth century. Drawn by Joe LeMonnier, https://mapartist.com/, based on a map originally ­published in John R. Lampe, Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a ­Country, ­Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 28

between local Roman Catholic feudal landowners and Orthodox free peasants. Despite these dramatic events and seemingly constant warfare during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in some ways, not much changed on the ground following the Ottoman conquest. The Serbs remained a frontier people living between a large EuroAsian empire and Roman Catholic states of central Europe and, in the south, the Adriatic, where Venice had established control.

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They continued to live in an imperial borderland fought over by rulers (Ottoman Sultans and Habsburg Holy Roman Emperors) who claimed, for different reasons, to be successors of Roman rulers. The memory of pre-Ottoman Serbia survived, in church sermons, in oral accounts of the local population and in records left by foreign travellers. Gradually, contours of a Habsburg ‘Serbia’ appeared north of the Danube and Sava. The Serbs became a migrant people, fleeing frequent wars brought about by the Ottoman expansion and the resistance offered by the states and peoples of central Europe. Together with the refugees, memories and symbols of old Serbia shifted further north and west.18 The Orthodox church de facto inherited the legacy of the medieval Serb state. It kept and maintained old churches and monasteries founded by members of the Nemanjić, Lazarević and Branković families and other regional magnates; it built new places of worship (sometimes replicas of the old ones) in southern Hungary, which housed relics of medieval Serb saints brought there by refugees. Remote mountains of Montenegro, scattered monastic communities of the former Nemanjić state and the Hilandar monastery on Mt Athos were the other places where the ‘historical memory’ of the old Serbian kings, emperors and despots, of St Sava, of the Kosovo battle, and of mythical heroes such as Kraljević Marko, survived. The memories of medieval Serbia were preserved, imagined and re-imagined as they passed on from generation to generation. Ottomans brought with them a different culture, religion and a new civilization. Yet break with the past is rarely instant and complete. For instance, the institution of knez and knežine – local, village autonomies, survived the disappearance of the Christian states and the establishment of the Ottoman rule. Initially, the knezes did not need to convert to Islam to do well under the new regime. One of the most prosperous local leaders in the 18

S. M. Ćirković, The Serbs, transl. from Serbian by V. Tošić, Oxford, 2004, xxi–xxiv; Pavlowitch, Serbia, ch. 1.

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late fifteenth-century Smederevo sanjak was an Orthodox Vlach, whose timar consisted of eight villages and an annual income of over 10,000 akçe (Ottoman silver coins, minted, among other places, in former Serbian mines of Novo Brdo, Rudnik and Plana).19 Knezes were sometimes responsible for tax collection and in return enjoyed certain privileges. The number of these local leaders was not insignificant, although it differed from region to region. In 1479, twenty years after the fall of the despotate, Christians outnumbered Muslims (85 to 64) among the sipahis (owners of timars) of the Smederevo sanjak and it appears not much changed over the next half a century.20 The knezes represented a de facto small aristocracy; indeed, some were members of the surviving, pre-Ottoman nobility.21 According to Ottoman documents dated 1485, two Christian landowners in the Peć nahija (an administrative region in the Ottoman Empire) may have been related to Ivan Crnojević, a fifteenth-century ruler of Zeta. According to the same sources, there were at the time 12 Christian timars in this nahija and three Christian timars in the neighbouring Skadar/Shkodra nahija.22 In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, there were 27 Christian sipahis out of 170 timars in ‘Vuk’s vilayet’ (an area roughly corresponding with modern Kosovo, named by the Ottomans after Vuk Branković). At the same time, there were 50 Christian sipahis in Bosnia, out of around 190. Christians living in towns frequently retained 19

S. M. Ćirković, ‘The Production of Gold, Silver and Copper in the Central Parts of the Balkans from the Thirteenth to the Sixteenth Century’, in H. Kellenbenz (ed.), Precious Metals in the Age of Expansion, Stuttgart, 1981, 41–69; Ş. Pamuk, A Monetary History of the Ottoman Empire, Cambridge, 2000, 34, 37. 20 ISN, III-1, 70–74; E. Miljković, ‘The Christian sipahis in the Serbian lands in the second half of the 15th century’, Beogradski istorijski glasnik, I (2010), 103–19. 21 ISN, III-1, 72–73. 22 B. Djurdjev, Postanak i razvitak Brdskih, Crnogorskih i Hercegovačkih plemena, Titograd [Podgorica], 1984, 60–62.

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their previous occupation. In Novo Brdo, for example, only one light arms manufacturer was a non-Christian around this time. Eventually, the Christian landowning nobility disappeared through conversion to Islam and emigration. Some, like members of a powerful Bakić family, fled to southern Hungary (they provided the last Serbian despot-in-exile). Ottoman ‘Serbia’ was a complex border society in which societal roles and responsibilities were clearly defined. Sipahis, regardless of their religion, were obliged to provide troops for the pasha when required. Previously mentioned martolosi were Christian soldiers tasked with securing the empire’s borders and fortifications; vojnuci were responsible for horse grooming, atmandžije and dogandžije looked after hawks and falcons, respectively, used for messenger service. There were also those in charge of food production and supply, while infantry and river navy (azapi) sometimes included Christians. In addition to regular army, the Ottomans made use of mercenaries, who were often deployed against hajduks (brigands). Delije, first introduced in Serbia by Bosnian-born Bali-beg Jahjapašić in the early sixteenth century, were a light cavalry and bodyguards for Ottoman ­officials, known for their bravery allegedly bordering with m ­ adness (deli means ‘mad’ in Ottoman Turkish).23 Meanwhile, towns and urban settlements in Ottoman ‘Serbia’ became (or remained) multicultural, attracting Slav and non-Slav traders and merchants, including Greeks, Tsintsars (Hellenised

23

ISN, III-1, 75–76. From around 1990, the most fanatical Red Star Belgrade football fans started calling themselves Delije. Many were Serbian nationalists, while some would join paramilitary groups engaged in erasing Muslim and Ottoman heritage in former Yugoslavia, but the irony was apparently lost on them. Similarly, fans of Partizan Belgrade – whose members were jailed for vandalizing Belgrade’s Bajrakli mosque in 2004 (as a retaliation for Albanian nationalists’ attacks on Serb churches and monasteries in Kosovo) – include a group called Janjičari (Janissaries), infamous for its links with organized crime.

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Vlachs), and, following their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in the late fifteenth century, Sephardim Jews. Although traditionally a loyal Ottoman millet, some Jews joined the Serb/Christian migrations north. Many chose to settle in Zemun (Semlin), a town just north of Belgrade that was home to an important Ashkenazy Jewish community.24

Conversion to Islam Why, under what circumstances and how many Serbs and other Balkan Christians converted to Islam is hard to establish, but key developments are known. Conversions did not occur at the same time or due to a single factor. Sometimes they were forced, at other times voluntary. Particularly controversial was the Ottoman practice of devşirme, whereby Christian boys were taken from their families, converted to Islam and trained as members of elite Janissary units. Having their children taken away was undoubtedly a tragic experience for those affected. It represents something of a collective trauma and a key negative narrative about the Ottoman rule in the Balkans. Among the Serbs, the practice is known to this day as the danak u krvi (blood tax). It seems, however, that not all children were taken forcibly, nor from a cradle, as is popularly believed. Parents would sometimes accept that Janissary service offered better prospects for their sons, and probably also for the whole family. Numerous Ottoman pashas and grand viziers were Albanian, Greek and South Slav converts, recruited originally through the devşirme.

24

Paternal ancestors of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, born in 1860 in Pest (modern Budapest) lived in Zemun. Herzl’s father and grandfather were taught by Yehuda Alkalai, Zemun’s Sephardim rabi, who is considered a precursor to Zionism. The 2005 postmodern novel Pijavice (Leeches) by David Albahari, a Canadian-based Serbian-Jewish writer born in Peć, Kosovo, explores the history of Zemun Jews.

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When as part of his ‘Serbian campaign’ Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror laid siege to Novo Brdo in late April 1455, he faced a stiff resistance from defenders of Serbia’s most important mining centre. The town surrendered on 1 June, after a 40-day siege and sustained bombardment. Prominent citizens were lined up and executed (by decapitation) on the spot; others were enslaved, while boys were recruited for the Janissary corps, allegedly on the sultan’s personal order. Only miners, whose labour and expertise were necessary for the continued exploitation of the mines, were spared. Janissary recruits included Konstantin Mihailović and his two brothers. It is possible that Konstantin, as a boy-soldier, had already fought alongside Ottomans, in the siege of Constantinople no less, as a member of Despot Djuradj’s vassal army. Following his capture, Konstantin converted to Islam and probably became a Janissary. He was one of many local converts who fought loyally, and bravely, for the sultan. So long as they converted to Islam, even former slaves could reach high military ranks if their conduct on battlefield merited it. Aware, like others must have been, that Ottoman service was meritocratic and offered greater opportunities for promotion than service in Serbian or other Christian armies, it is not difficult to understand why Konstantin accepted the new predicament and apparently did not attempt to dessert. It was only after he was captured by Hungarians that he denounced Islam and re-adopted his Christian Serb identity. In his later years, he wrote a memoir that became a popular read in Renaissance Europe. The Ottoman Empire encouraged the Islamization of the population living in southern parts of the former Serbian state after the Christians of the northern parts joined the enemy during frequent wars against the Hungarians and Austrians. They believed, not unreasonably, that the conversion would ensure loyalty of local population. Consequently, during the early decades of Ottoman rule, a large number of Christians from Raška and Hum (Herzegovina) converted to Islam, in the old heartland

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of the Nemanjić state and in the area around the Mileševa monastery, the resting place of St Sava.25 The Ottomans’ success rested on their ability to integrate the peoples of the empire, not necessarily only through conversion. Converting non-Muslims to Islam and adding them to and mixing with the Turkish and other Muslim peoples would, the Ottomans hoped, strengthen the empire and facilitate its expansion. Konstantin Mihailović compared the Ottoman state to a sea – a dense and salty water that required periodical addition of fresh water (a metaphor for Christian converts) in order to spread. The belief that the empire could only survive through inclusion, not exclusion, of Muslims and non-Muslims alike, may help explain why the Ottomans were able to maintain their vast state for so long.26 The inclusivity and tolerance had its limits though. Non-Muslims remained discriminated, both formally and in practice. Although Christians were admitted into the army, they could only reach the highest positions if they converted; similarly, Muslim women were treated preferentially in sultans’ harems than non-Muslim women. Christians and Jews lived in segregated urban quarters and were only allowed to wear dark-coloured (black, brown or navy blue) clothes in public. The conversion was often a pragmatic choice made by non-­ Muslim subjects of the sultan. Many Serb livestock traders and other merchants doing business with coastal towns in Montenegro and Dalmatia during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were recent converts. It was similar with craftsmen in Serbian towns, some of whom converted to Islam during the early decades of the Ottoman rule and continued to practice their trade as before. For them, one can assume, life did not fundamentally change after the collapse of the Serbian state and the establishment of the 25

ISN, III-1, 38. T. Krstić, Contested Conversion to Islam: Narratives of Religious Change in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire, Stanford, CA, 2011, 51–52.

26

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Ottoman rule. Sometimes converting to Islam was done en masse, in villages where the local knez became a Muslim and others simply followed.27 In such cases, one can assume that the example of others, peer pressure and fear of becoming a minority, must have been an important factor behind decisions to abandon the Christian faith – sometimes perhaps only formally. Balkan Muslim converts have been traditionally perceived as traitors, or, in the case the devşirme, as victims. However, they were not merely passive agents, and many had had a profound impact on the political and cultural life of the empire. Among them was previously mentioned Grand Vizier Sokollu (Sokolović) Mehmed Pasha. Born around 1505, he had been aged between 16 and 18 when he became a Janissary. The Ottomans were especially interested in boys and young men from eminent Christian families. The Sokolovićs were one such family. They had already given at least two Ottoman pashas, brothers Deli Husrev (c.1495–1544) and Lala Kara Mustafa (c.1500–80). Young Mehmed, whose birth name was Bajo, had been studying at the thirteenth-century Mileševa monastery (founded by King Vladislav Nemanjić and the resting place of St Sava, as previously mentioned), possibly to become a monk like one of his uncles. As such, he was an outstanding candidate for devşirme. The Ottomans regarded educated Christian boys highly for their leadership qualities. Moreover, converting a monk, or a potential monk, added an additional sense of satisfaction for a proselytizing Muslim. Whether Bajo’s family, and families of other boys and children taken into the devşirme, accepted their son’s fate, perhaps aware of the likely benefits for the rest of the family, or tried to resist it is not known and remains a matter of some controversy.28

27

ISN, III-1, 38. Krstić, 68–72; R. Samardžić, Mehmed Sokolović, Belgrade, 1993, 15–22. Mehmed Pasha and a bridge he built on the river Drina near Višegrad, on the Bosnian–Serbian border, are central characters of Ivo Andrić’s classic novel The Bridge on the River Drina, 1945.

28

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The South Slav presence at the Porte was such that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Serbian (or rather a South Slav vernacular) was one of the empire’s diplomatic languages, for example, used in communication with Dubrovnik.29 When Pigafetta visited Buda (modern Budapest) in the sixteenth century, he claimed that he could speak ‘Croatian’ with the pasha and his soldiers, and that it was similar in Constantinople.30 Ottomans of Bosnian and Serbian origins may not have called the language ‘Croatian’, but they and the South Slavs from Croatia and Montenegro spoke a mutually intelligible language. Mahmud Pasha Andjelović (Mahmūd Pāşa Angel-zāde), whom the reader will recall was the conqueror of Serbia and Bosnia, was another prominent Balkan convert. One of the most celebrated Ottoman military commanders of his time, he was born in Novo Brdo or Kruševac around 1420 to a Serb mother and a Greek refugee father – no less than son of the last Angeloi ruler of Thessaly who had emigrated to Serbia in the late fourteenth century.31 Mahmud Pasha’s elder brother Mihailo Andjelović commanded the Smederevo garrison in the late 1450s. Kidnapped by the Ottomans as a child, while fleeing from Novo Brdo to Smederevo with his mother (who converted to Islam together with her young son), Mahmud became a Janissary and a pasha who distinguished himself during the siege of Constantinople and of the Serbian town of Ostrovica (believed to be Konstantin Mihailović’s home town). Made grand vizier in late 1454 or early 1455, Mahmud Pasha led the Ottoman expedition in Serbia. He then moved on to Bosnia, where he defeated, for the second time, unfortunate King Stefan (Tomašević). Ottomans are often portrayed 29

O. Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, Belgrade, 2007, 78. Pigafetta, Itinerario, 37. 31 T. Stavrides, The Sultan of Vezirs: The Life and Times of the Ottoman Grand Vezir Mahmud Pasha Angelović (1453–1474), Leiden, 2001, 73–100; H. Šabanović, Književnost Muslimana Bosne i Hercegovine na orijentalnim jezicima, Sarajevo, 1973, 39–43. 30

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in traditional historiography as an Asian, alien people, but such narratives ignore that at one level the Ottoman–Serbian and Ottoman–Bosnian wars of the mid-fifteenth century were fratricidal wars, in some cases quite literally. A patron of arts and culture and a noted poet and writer celebrated for his style, Mahmud Pasha was not just a skillful soldier and politician. He published under a pen name ‘Adni (of Eden). Indeed, Serb and other South Slav converts to Islam made an important contribution to Ottoman culture and scholarship but remain notable by their absence from histories of Serbia and the Balkans. Hüseyin bin Sefer, also known as Tuği Çelebi (died sometime during the reign of Murad IV, 1623–40) was a Belgrade-born son of Christian converts. As a Janissary, he took part in Ottoman campaigns in Anatolia and Persia, but is best remembered for his historical work on the tragic reign of young Sultan Osman II (1618–22), murdered by rebelious Janissaries. The same subject attracted another Ottoman historian of South Slav background, Ibrahim Peçevi (1574–1650), a descendant of provincial commanders of Bosnia. Born in Pecs, Hungary, Peçevi was raised as an orphan by his maternal uncle Ferhad Pasha (of the Sokolović/Sokollu family that gave Mehmed Pasha). Following his retirement from the Ottoman army, Peçevi settled in Budapest where he spent the last years of his life writing history books.32 Ibrahim ibn Iskandar was another prominent Ottoman of South Slav origin. Born in Bosnia and educated in Istanbul, he spent much of his adult life in Belgrade, in the second half of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Munīrī Belgrādi (Ibrahim’s pen name), was a cleric, teacher and judge who wrote important works on geography, history, religion and poetry (sadly, no poems by him survive). By the time of his death around 32

G. Piterberg, An Ottoman Tragedy: History and Historiography at Play, Berkeley, CA, 2003, 45–46.

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1617, towards the end of the reign of Sultan Ahmed I (1603–17), he had become known around the empire as a distinguished man of letters. His fellow Belgraders remembered him long after his death. When Evliya Çelebi visited Belgrade in 1660, he witnessed people paying respects to Munīrī Belgrādi’s tomb.33 There were other examples of prominent men of letters among Serbian and Balkan converts. For example, Užice, a town in western Serbia, was home to at least two important seventeenth-century Ottoman poets, Tābıt (Sabit Užičanin) and Ğārī Çalabi Užičawī (Džari Čelebi Užičanin).34 * Not much is known about the early encounters between the Ottomans and the local population, but they may not have been as traumatic for the latter as usually assumed. The Ottoman expansion into the region and seemingly radical ruptures with the past that it caused tend to overshadow the misrule by Christian lords in the decades preceding the arrival of Ottoman Turks. Indeed, initially at least, ethnic Turks appear to have left a positive impression on Balkan Christians. Popular tradition remembers them as noble, brave and ascetic people (although not so self-disciplined when it came to smoking and drinking coffee), and as elegantly dressed men who carried sparkling clean light weapons. Turkish houses typically had beautiful and tidy gardens, often with an artificial spring. The ‘bad guys’ of the popular Serbian and South Slav tradition tend to be local converts to Islam and ‘Arabs’ – it appears that the Christians distinguished between ethnic Turks and other Muslims from Asia.

33

Čelebi, Putopis, 91; Šabanović, Književnost Muslimana, 193–201; M. Popović, Poznice, Belgrade, 1999, 7–29. 34 Šabanović, Književnost Muslimana, 331–33.

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The Ottoman relative tolerance of the Orthodox church was in contrast with pressures on Balkan migrants in Hungary and Venice to accept the supremacy of Rome and the Catholic dogma. South Slav epic poetry includes examples of sultans respecting and even financing Christian churches and monasteries. Even a poorest Muslim could rise high within the hierarchy (whether through meritocracy or corruption is beside the point); as an old Serbian saying states: ‘Svako Ture može vezir biti’ (Every Turk [i.e. Muslim] can become a vizier). Similarly, oral poetry provides examples of Christian/Serbian women marrying Muslims, but without an obligation to convert. Muslim husbands respected their Christian wives’ tradition, in some cases making donations to the Orthodox church.35 However, the religious tolerance had its limits, and Muslim women were forbidden from marrying non-Muslims. Such tolerance of another religion came from the Qur’an, but at the time when Ottoman rule in the Balkans was still being established marrying into local aristocracy also carried obvious political advantages. Although married to Sultan Murad II, Despot Djuradj’s daughter Mara remained an Orthodox Christian. So did, it appears, her sister Katarina who, the reader will recall, married Count Ulrich von Cilli, a Roman Catholic noble from present-day Slovenia. After the sultan’s death in 1451, Mara left the Ottoman court, choosing to live in Serres (modern Greece), on a land given to her by the new sultan, Mara’s stepson Mehmed the Conqueror. Despite being approached by twice-widowed Emperor Constantine XI (Palaiologos), himself Serb through his mother’s side, Mara, aged just 33, opted to live as a single woman. Her sister Katarina moved in with her after the death of her husband in Belgrade in 1456. In a history dominated by strong male personalities, the example of the Branković sisters offers a refreshing contrast. They played an important part in the regional affairs – first as brides in 35

D. J. Popović, O Hajducima, Belgrade, 1930, I, 18–20, 31.

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political marriages and then, after they were widowed, as independent political actors. For example, their diplomatic skills and contacts were required by both sides during the Ottoman– Venetian war of 1463–79. Mara also mediated between the Porte and Ragusa (Dubrovnik), and helped her brothers claim their inheritance in gold, kept in Ragusan safes. The former sultana was indeed a woman of considerable wealth and influence. In 1459, the year Smederevo fell to the Ottomans, she purchased a monastery near Salonica. Self-styled Lady Empress Mara (gospodja carica Mara), she was addressed by the ever-courteous Ragusans as Imperatrice Mare.36

Society and Economy Town population in Ottoman ‘Serbia’ was mixed, with Muslim, Christian and Jewish quarters. Belgrade and Smederevo remained key fortresses close to the border with Hungary/Austria. In some cases, old, fortified towns lost in significance. Other medieval political and economic centres, such as Prizren (present-day Kosovo), retained their previous importance and even prospered. Once Stefan Dušan’s capital, Prizren was a thriving economic regional centre that in the late sixteenth century had ten Christian and eight Muslim mahalas (quarters) and a small community of Sephardic Jews, who sought refuge in the Ottoman Empire following their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in the late fifteenth century. Local craftsmen mostly carried on business as usual. Christians would have included Serbs, Albanians and a small number of Roman Catholics from Dalmatia, while the Muslim population consisted of Albanian, Turkish and Serb speakers. 36

M. St. Popović, Mara Branković: Žena izmedju hrišćanskog i islamskog kulturnog kruga u 15. veku, Novi Sad, 2014 (first published in German, 2010). Known in the Ottoman tradition as Mara Despina Hatun, Mara Branković is played by a popular Turkish actress Tuba Büyüküstün in the Netflix series Rise of Empires: Ottoman (2020).

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A more visible Sephardic Jewish presence in the Smederevo sanjak is recorded only from the mid-sixteenth century, but it quickly gained a foothold there, especially in trading centres and in mining regions of eastern Serbia.37 From early sixteenth century, Roma begin to appear in Ottoman censuses in the territory of what used to be Serbia. They often worked as blacksmiths and as a semi-nomadic group belonged to a separate tax and administrative system, not tied to a specific territory. This was similar but not identical to a millet, because Roma were both Christian and Muslim. While Roma were discriminated against, their status in the Ottoman Empire nevertheless compared favourably to the treatment of Roma in central and west European states.38 Goods were transported by road (old Via Militaris and Via Ignatia) or by boat – the Danube, Sava and Morava Rivers were all navigated. The exploitation of mines continued, albeit at a slower pace than in medieval Serbia. Surviving trade regulations offer an insight into the everyday life. Anyone wishing to sell goods at the Kruševac market, in Prince Lazar’s old capital, had to pay both entry and exit fees, set depending on quantity of goods for sale and identity of merchants. Christians were required to pay slightly more than Muslims, although traders from Dubrovnik continued 37

S. Katić, ‘Uloga Jevreja u otvaranju i razvoju rudnika Kučajna i Majdanpek u drugoj polovini XVI veka’, Godišnjak za društvenu istoriju, 8:1–2 (2001), 7–17, 9–10. There is some evidence of Jewish presence in tenth century Belgrade (when the Bulgarians and Byzantines wrestled for the control of the city fortress), while fourteenth-century Serbia expanded into previously Byzantine-held territory that included Romaniote (Greek) Jews, who would later merge with the Sephardim. M. S Mirč, ‘Jevreji na Balkanskom poluostrvu i u staroj srpskoj državi do dolaska Turaka’, Jevrejski almanah (Belgrade), 1957/58, 49–58. 38 Z. Bárány, The East European Gypsies: Regime Change, Marginality and Ethnopolitics, Cambridge, 2002; E. Marushiakova and V. Popov, Gypsies in the Ottoman Empire, Hatfield, 2001; O. Zirojević, ‘Cigani u Srbiji od dolaska Turaka do kraja XVI veka’, Jugoslovenski istorijski časopis (Belgrade), 1–2 (1976), 67–78.

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to enjoy a privileged status they had secured in medieval Serbia.39 With the expansion of the Ottoman state under Suleiman the Magnificent in the Middle East, the Serbs lived in a vast empire that stretched from Baghdad to Belgrade and Budapest. Serb and other Orthodox Balkan merchants, as well as their Ragusan Roman Catholic counterparts, benefitted from new trade routes that connected the Middle East with western Europe. Often dressed in Muslim attire, they took their trade as far as Lyon, France’s financial centre in the sixteenth century.40 Mid-seventeenth-century Belgrade, the seat of the Smederevo sanjak, was a prosperous, cosmopolitan city on the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers. According to Çelebi, it could be reached after ‘12 days on foot from Salonica’. Belgrade’s Muslims were ‘local converts to Islam’, and the city’s population included Serbs, Greeks, Armenians, Jews and Roma. A major commercial centre, between 5,000 and 6,000 loads of goods each year arrived in Belgrade from Anatolia, Ottoman Syria, Egypt and Lebanon; the goods were distributed further into European parts of the empire or exported across Europe, including Hungary, Venice, Bohemia, Poland and Sweden. Belgrade’s landscape was dominated by mosques; there were probably between 70 and 80 of them, but only one remains today. Çelebi also found nine Greek, Armenian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Jewish places of worship, and eight Muslim medrese (schools). Belgrade was known for its beautiful gardens, including the one that once belonged to late Munīrī Belgrādi. The city was home to numerous traders, merchants and craftsmen, and Muslim, Christian and Jewish alike. It seems that Belgraders, whose good health (evident apparently in their ‘rose cheeks’) and widely famous good looks (especially of ‘Latin [?] and Serbian women’), 39

Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, 71–75. T. Stoianovich, ‘The Conquering Balkan Orthodox Merchant’, Journal of Economic History, 20:2 (1960), 234–313, 238.

40

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coexisted in relative harmony. Their everyday communication was eased by the city’s lingua franca – not Turkish, Arabic or Greek, but a South Slav vernacular. According to the famed Ottoman traveller, the city’s Muslims spoke ‘Serbian, Bulgarian and Bosniak’, while ‘the Belgrade reaya and eminent citizens (bereaya) were all Serbian’. Çelebi noted that Serbian language was similar to, but recognizable from, the languages spoken in the neighbouring Bosnian and Bulgarian elayets, and that Serbs were ‘an old Christian people’ with their own history.41 Ottoman Turkish nevertheless was the language of administration, while Arabic was used during the Muslim prayer. In trade, Greek would have been used as well. Such multilingualism was neither new – it had existed in the region since Roman times – nor specific for this part of the empire. If towns had mixed, though predominantly Muslim population, countryside was mainly populated by Christian Slavs and Vlachs. Distant descendants of Saxon miners who had settled in medieval Serbia had been assimilated by local Christian populations by this time. Much of the interior of the Belgrade pashalik was covered in forest and this more sparsely populated area was probably predominantly Orthodox and Slav, that is ethnically and religiously less mixed than territory further south. Šumadija, the land of forests, would be the birthplace of modern Serbia in the nineteenth century. The period following the establishment of the Ottoman rule in the Balkans witnessed increased social mixing between Orthodox Slavs and Vlachs. Distinctions between Slav farmers and Vlach shepherds may have begun to blur already in the late Nemanjić era. The Vlachs sometimes adopted South Slav languages, names and identities, while Orthodox Slavs often became ‘socially Vlach’ – that is semi-nomadic shepherds, having abandoned their previous 41

Čelebi, Putopis, 83–94; H. Šabanović, ‘Urbani razvitak Beograda od 1521. do 1688’, Godišnjak grada Beograda, 17 (1970), 5–41.

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lifestyle of land-cultivating farmers due to the disruption caused by the Ottoman conquest. Meanwhile, some Vlachs served as Ottoman tax collectors or caravan guards. Many Orthodox Christian Slavs and Vlachs fled to Dalmatia or the Croatian Military Border in the late sixteenth century. In Hungary, Orthodox parishes often consisted of mixed Serb, Vlach, Romanian and Greek communities.42 Prior to Ottoman–Austrian wars of the eighteenth century, which left Ottoman ‘Serbia’ largely depopulated, foreign travellers noted that land around Niš and in Kosovo was better cultivated than that in northern parts of the former despotate, which, as mentioned, was mainly covered in forest. Using primitive, medieval tools, Christian farmers mainly cultivated wheat, oat, barley, spelt, rice, onion and cabbage. Today essential to the Serbian diet, beans, corn, pepper and tomato were introduced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, while potato became a staple food only in the nineteenth century. Peasants made most out of chestnut, walnut, cherry, apple, pear and plum trees. Plums (šljive) were distilled to make a strong brandylike drink šljivovica, Serbia’s national drink today (but also common throughout the Balkans). Vineyards were to be found in the valleys of the Morava and Timok Rivers and in Metohija, where monastic communities produced, and sold, their own alcoholic beverages. Pigs, sheep and goats were kept for meat and, in the case of the latter two, wool. A special tax was paid on domestic animals, including cows and horses. Hunting and fishing were widespread, for domestic and commercial use: markets sold fresh, 42

Stoianovich, Balkan Worlds, 152; Popović, O Hajducima, 9–10; O. KatsiardiHering, ‘Southeastern European Migrant Groups between the Ottoman and the Habsburg Empires: Multilateral Social and Cultural Transfers from the Eighteenth to the Early Nineteenth Centuries’, in H. Heppner and E. Posch (eds), Encounters in Europe’s Southeast: The Habsburg Empire and the Orthodox World in the 18th and 19th centuries, Bochum, 2012, 135–62; L. Wolff, Venice and the Slavs: The Discovery of Dalmatia in the Age of Enlightenment, Stanford, CA, 2002.

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dried and smoked meat and fish (especially popular were carp, catfish and sturgeon). Honey and honey-based liqueur, medovača, were also widely produced. Visitors to the Kruševac market in the early 1530s could expect to buy a wide selection of products, ranging from wheat, oat, rice, butter, milk, cheese, honey, salt, oil, olives, eggs, vegetables and fruit, to fish, meat, wine, to clothes and firewood and livestock. The Ottomans introduced coffee and tobacco to the Balkans. By the early seventeenth century, coffee houses – kahve-hane (predecessors of popular Serb kafane, which today typically serve food and alcohol) – became widespread throughout the region. In support of a decree by Sultan Ahmed I, ordering the closure of coffee houses, so that people would have more time to prey, Munīrī Belgrādi wrote against the use of coffee, wine, opium and tobacco.43 Villages were home to a patriarchal Christian society, increasingly isolated from more cosmopolitan urban areas. Agrarian, self-sustainable communities that produced their own clothes and food formed. The clothes were made from rough, usually woollen cloth, and included men’s trousers with skinny lower leg, known as čakšire (from Turkish çakşır); men’s headgear consisted of šubare, hats made of lamb or sheep wool and Ottoman-style fezes; šajkače, soft wool military-style caps that are regarded as a national symbol of Serbia today were introduced in the nineteenth century. Women wore long skirts and white cotton shirts embroidered with woollen, coloured patterns; headscarves on women signified marriage, while unmarried women tended to display hair, which was usually plaid. Women’s jewellery was made of copper and glass of different colours, less frequently silver. Both men and women wore opanci, laceless leather moccasins that typically 43

A. Fotić, ‘The Introduction of Coffee and Tobacco to the Mid-Western Balkans’, Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 64:1 (2011), 89–100, 90–91; E. Boyar and K. Fleet, A Social History of Ottoman Istanbul, Cambridge, 2010, 190.

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had horn-like toe endings. Christians and Jews were not allowed to wear silk, fur and turbans, although foreign travellers noted examples of rule-breaking, possibly in acts of defiance.44 Tightly knit communities and extended families formed the core of the peasant society. Kinship was extremely important, as was kumstvo (sworn kinship) and pobratimstvo (sworn brotherhood). Another important concept was gostoprimstvo, or hospitality. Mostly illiterate, the Serbian reaya45 kept a rich oral tradition. Fairy tales and fables were told from generation to generation, as were legends about medieval kings and events, both real and fictional. Historical figures such as Kraljević Marko were given supernatural powers, resembling ancient Greek heroes. In other cases, mythical, Bible-inspired qualities were attributed to medieval rulers, most notably in the form of Jesus-like Prince Lazar and Vuk Branković, whose alleged treason at Kosovo was an obvious reference to Judas. Miloš Obilić, the alleged assassin of Sultan Murad I at Kosovo about whom no historical record exists, was another popular folk hero with powers like those of Achilles. Obilić was especially popular in Montenegro, and among some Albanian tribes. The cult of St Sava spread beyond Christian communities, or possibly survived in the tradition of formerly Christian converts to Islam. Not all epic poetry was about Kosovo and about fighting the Ottomans. ‘Banović Strahinja’ is a beautiful poem about love, loyalty and sacrifice. It tells the story of a Serb nobleman who forgives his wife’s infidelity with a Turkish man – seen as both a personal and a betrayal of the whole nation – despite pressure from her family and the society to punish her. Muslims from Bosnia, Sandžak and the Albanian regions also possessed their own epic tradition, which shared many features with

44

Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, 91–93. A. Fotić, ‘Tracing the Origin of a New Meaning of the Term Re’āyā in the Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Balkans’, Balcanica, XLVIII (2017), 55–66.

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the tradition of Orthodox Slavs from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the surrounding lands.

Brigands and Rebels Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century travellers observed that banditry was widespread in present-day central Serbia, around Via Militaris, which the Slavs called the ‘Carigradski drum’, or the Road to the Tsar’s City (Constantinople). The Ottomans were forced to hire local ‘barefoot Rascian boys carrying clubs’ to help defend the caravans from frequent robbery attempts.46 In reality robbers and murderers, sometimes feared and hated because they brought danger to the locals and took their food, the hajduks are remembered in popular tradition as the Balkan version of Robin Hood, as defenders of the poor and exploited against the rich and more powerful foreign oppressors. They became national heroes in retrospective imagination, but most probably were local actors, who sometimes operated across the region, on different sides of the imperial borderlands.47 Further north, in modern Vojvodina, ‘Tsar’ Jovan Nenad, celebrated in modern times as a Serbian national hero whose tall statue stands in the centre of Subotica, was an outlaw of uncertain origin. His numerous, multi-ethnic following of Serb, Hungarian, Vlach and Bulgarian poor, homeless and desperate hailed him as a messiah and saviour. Variously referred to as the ‘Black Man’, ‘Niger’, ‘Der schwarze Mann’ (due to his dark complexion, enhanced by a visible ‘black’ scar or birth mark) and ‘Tsar Jovan (Ivan)’, he appeared around the time of Hungary’s defeat at Mohàcs in 1526. Claiming to be a descendant of Byzantine emperors or of Serbian despots (depending on source or perhaps 46

Popović, O Hajducima, 106–107; R. Tričković, Beogradski pašaluk, 1687–1739, Belgrade, 2013, 125–54. 47 See E. J. Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels, London, 2017 (first publ. 1959).

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occasion), he commanded a large army of between 10,000 and 14,000 soldiers and cavalry. This enabled him to play a major role during a power struggle in Hungary between Ferdinand, the Habsburg King of Hungary from 1526, and John (János) Zápolya, the Count of Transylvania who claimed the Hungarian throne. Taking advantage of the conflict between Ferdinand and Zápolya, Jovan Nenad established a short-lived ‘empire’ in Subotica/ Szabatka and the surrounding area in modern Vojvodina. He set up a quasi-court and had a personal guard of around 600 men. Although at that time a Croatian noble held the Serbian despot’s title, it was the mysterious Jovan Nenad whom Hungarian Serbs regarded as their ‘tsar’. ‘A robber, named Niger, of the Rascian family was corrupted by Ferdinand’, as were ‘Despotus Rasciae’ and two other local magnates, reported an envoy of English King Henry VIII in July 1527.’48 Jovan Nenad was assassinated by Zápolya’s supporters in summer 1527, after deciding to join Ferdinand’s camp. Remnants of his defeated and leaderless army quickly dispersed, many choosing to flee across the border to the Ottoman Empire.49 Starina Novak was another sixteenth-century rebel and a legendary hajduk of the Balkan folklore (which may have mixed him with an earlier hajduk Novak from Bosnia).50 Born in eastern Serbia either in 1520 or in 1530, Novak had been a Muslim convert in his youth, before establishing himself as a leader of Christian brigands. In the 1590s, Starina Novak fought alongside Wallachian voivod Michael the Brave against the Ottomans. He was captured by the Ottomans in 1601, who tortured and burnt him alive. An Orthodox priest shared his destiny, and it was with 48

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, arranged and catalogued by J. S. Brewer, London, 1872, IV-II, doc. 3239, 1473. 49 ISN, III-1, 142–44; D. J. Popović, Vojvodina, Novi Sad, 1939, I, 189–201, and Srbi u Vojvodini, I, 133–50. 50 ISN, III-1, 263–69; R. Samardžić (ed.), Starina Novak i njegovo doba, Belgrade, 1988.

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him that Novak allegedly spoke Serbian during his last moments. Modern nationalist discourses describe Novak as a national hero who fought against ‘Turkish’ and, in the case of Romanians, Hungarian ‘oppression’. In reality, he was a transnational brigand, able to speak several Balkan languages. His small, ‘multinational’ army included Albanians, Bulgarians, Serbs and Vlachs. Depending on circumstances, Novak’s men fought both against and for the Ottomans and the Hungarians.

Restoration of the Peć Patriarchate Unlike the state, the Serbian church survived the Ottoman conquest, although not without significant human and material damage and loss of property. In the territory of the Smederevo sanjak, the church was left alone and enjoyed a de facto autocephalous status.51 However, further south, in old Raška and what is today Kosovo (a territory that was divided into several sanjaks), things looked very different. When Prizren fell in 1455, the monastery of the Holy Archangels, founded in the early 1340s by Stefan Dušan, was pillaged and looted, including the grave of the late emperor. Some churches and monasteries were turned into mosques, while the Dečani monastery lost almost all its 180 hectares of land. The Peć Patriarchate effectively came to an end around 1463, following the death of Patriarch Arsenije II. The jurisdiction of its southern eparchies passed over to the Ohrid archbishopric. Prior to the Ottomans’ arrival, there had been around 1,300 monasteries, churches and other buildings owned by the Serbian church in Kosovo and Metohija alone; early sixteenth-century Ottoman sources list only around 50 Orthodox places of worship in the same area.52 Yet, the church also enjoyed certain 51

B. Djurdjev, Uloga crkve u starijoj istoriji srpskog naroda, Sarajevo, 1964, 111–12; Miljković-Bojanić, Smederevski sandžak, 273. 52 Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, 82–83.

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privileges under the Ottomans and its status gradually improved. The Orthodox clergy was sometimes allowed to collect tax from the Christian reaya, including among Roman Catholics in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which contributed to Orthodox–Catholic tensions there.53 The eparchies in the remote mountains of modern Montenegro continued to function mostly independently. In the early 1490s, the first printing house in south-eastern Europe was founded at the Cetinje monastery, just several decades after Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. Montenegrin clergy helped preserve memory of the medieval Serbian state and church. Indeed, the church played a central part in the political life of the tiny clan-based society that between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries functioned as a theocracy, under Orthodox prince-bishops (vladikas). The Peć Patriarchate was restored in 1557 mostly thanks to Sokollu Mehmed Pasha. Since 1551, the Beylerbey (governor-­ general) of Rūm-ėli (land of the Romans) – the Ottoman name for the Balkans – the future grand vizier remained attached to his native region, even though his parents and siblings had also converted to Islam and joined him in Constantinople. Unsurprisingly, Mehmed Pasha’s identity was complex, though, to be sure, he was not a crypto-Serb patriot. He communicated in his mother tongue with representatives of Dubrovnik, the Adriatic city state close to the Pasha’s native Herzegovina. His roots may have also eased his contacts with the Serbs of southern Hungary, which proved helpful during the Ottoman military campaigns there. At the time, two key political personalities in the struggle for the Hungarian throne, which continued after Zápolya’s death in 1540, were fellow South Slavs: Peter Petrovics, a Hungarian landowner of Serb origin and Queen Isabella’s ally and relative, and Bishop Juraj Utješenović, a Croat-Venetian cleric and statesman who acted as

53

Ibid, 83–84, 140.

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regent in the name of minor John (János) II Sigismund, Zápolya’s successor. A sense of a shared language and regional identity must have eased their own communication and their dealings with Mehmed Pasha. In some ways, the complex Austrian–Hungarian– Ottoman relationship during this period was a South Slav affair. The pasha obviously saw benefits in allowing the Serbs – one of the largest Orthodox communities in the empire and good soldiers the Ottomans needed for their European campaigns – to run their own church affairs. He had kept or re-established contacts with the Mileševa monks and consulted them regarding the restoration of the Peć Patriarchate. The new Patriarch Makarije (1557–71) was Mehmed’s close relative. Makarije’s two immediate successors were also chosen from the same family.54 Therefore, it might be said that the restoration of the Peć Patriarchate in mid-sixteenth century was a family affair. (It is not known whether these developments had anything to do with the fact that the then Ottoman grand vizier Damat Rüstem Pasha (1555–61) was another South Slav convert – probably of Dalmatian Croat origin – who supported the re-establishment of the Serbian church.) Keeping key political and religious institutions within the same family was reminiscent of, but coincidental to, early thirteenth-century Serbia, when the state and ecclesiastical leaders came, as we have seen, from within the Nemanjić family. Mileševa, St Sava’s resting place, and a place where future Mehmed Pasha received his first education, provided further symbolic links between the two eras. Serb patriarchs retained spiritual jurisdiction and regulated family law over their large congregation. Due to the Ottoman expansion and Orthodox population movements, the Peć Patriarchate extended over a territory larger than ever before, or since, including parts of Hungary, Dalmatia, Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Albania (Map 3.2). Peć was obliged

54

ISN, III-2, 41–53; Samardžić, Mehmed Sokolović, 121–34.

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map 3.2  Jurisdiction of the Serbian (Peć) Patriarchate, ­mid-seventeenth century. Drawn by Joe LeMonnier, https://mapartist.com/, based on a map originally published in Michael B. Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, 1804–1918, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976, 2 vols, vol. 1, p. 11

to pay a considerable tax to the sultan – 100,000 akçe in the late sixteenth century. An economic crisis that hit the empire around the same time forced the Serbian church to sell some land and property to fulfil its duties. However, the Patriarchate was able to fund the renovation and rebuilding of old churches and monasteries. The ‘Serb–Turkish idyllic’, as one historian described half a century of influence of ‘Islamized Serbs’ at the Porte, came to an

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end when the last Sokolović grand vizier was succeeded by Sinan Pasha (1580–96), who was of Albanian origin.55

The Serbs and European Wars, Sixteenth to Seventeenth Centuries When in 1593 the Austrian–Ottoman ‘Long War’ broke out, Pope Clement VIII (1592–1605) called on the Romanian principalities, Poland and Russia to join an anti-Ottoman Christian coalition. A peasant rebellion broke out in southern Hungary, in areas with significant Serb population. The insurgents captured several towns, including Vršac/Versec. In neighbouring Ottoman Bulgaria, Starina Novak’s hajduks pillaged Sofia. The Serbian church supported the rebellions and, in some cases, provided leadership.56 It had preserved the cult of St Sava and encouraged rumours, at the time when Messianic beliefs were widespread in Europe, about Sava’s resurrection to lead the liberation of Balkan Christians. Reportedly, the belief in miraculous, healing powers of St Sava’s relics was not uncommon among Balkan Muslims either. In response, Sinan Pasha ordered in 1594 or 1595 the removal of the relics from the Mileševa to a hill near Belgrade where they were burnt. (Today this is an affluent Belgrade neighbourhood dominated by a monumental Temple of St Sava.) It was probably partly in response to these events that the Serb Orthodox population in the neighbouring Habsburg Empire was granted in 1597 the so-called ‘Vlach privileges’ by Ferdinand II of Austria (1590– 1637, Holly Roman Emperor, 1619–37). Ultimately, however, nothing came out of the pope’s calls for another crusade nor did a Balkan-wide uprising materialize. The war officially ended in

55

D. Roksandić, Srbi u Hrvatskoj, Zagreb, 1990, 23. ISN, III-2, 69.

56

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1606 with a peace agreement in Zsitvatörök (Žitavská Tôňa in ­modern Slovakia).57 The peace in central Europe would not last long however, as the Thirty Years’ War broke out in 1618.58 Initially a religious conflict within the Holy Roman Empire, between supporters of a staunchly Catholic Ferdinand II and his Protestant opponents, it eventually transformed into a global war. The combatants involved Britain, Denmark, France, Hungary, northern Italy, the Low Countries, Poland, Russia, Spain and Sweden, as battles were fought across Europe, in Africa, the West Indies and the Indian and Pacific oceans. The war claimed perhaps more than twelve million lives – a greater relative loss of population in Europe than in either of the World Wars of the twentieth century – before finally ending in a series of peace treaties signed in Westphalia in 1648. During this time, Europe came to know, and fear, Emperor Ferdinand’s Croat light cavalry. Similar in some ways to hussars, only more brutal and impetuous, the Croat regiments included Orthodox Serbs from the Military Border.59 In a war characterized by violence and a high number of casualties, the ‘Croats’ arguably stood out, although Cossacks and Swedes were similarly feared. Daniel Friese, who as a 12-year boy survived the destruction of the German Protestant city of Magdeburg in 1631, later recalled that an enemy soldier who took pity on his family warned his father: ‘if you want to get out with your children leave immediately, for the Croats will be here in an hour and you and your children will scarcely survive.’60 Ultimately the Croat regiments’ 57

ISN, III-1, 247–54; Roksandić, Srbi, 23; Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, 114–19. 58 P. H. Wilson, Europe’s Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years’ War, London, 2009; M. Rady, The Habsburgs: The Rise and Fall of a World Power, London, 2020, ch. 13. 59 E. Bauer, Hrvati u Tridesetogodišnjem ratu, Zagreb, 1941, 19, 28–29. 60 H. Medick and P. Selwyn, ‘Historical Event and Contemporary Experience: The Capture and Destruction of Magdeburg in 1631’, History Workshop Journal, 52 (2001), 23–48, 40.

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best known legacy belongs to the world of fashion – the French cravate was named after a piece of red cloth the ‘Croats’ typically wore around neck.61 The Thirty Years’ War was entering its later stages when in early 1642 Francesco de Leonardis, a Catholic missionary from Dalmatia who served as Archbishop of Bar (Antivari), secured an audience with Serbian Patriarch Pajsije (1614–47). The Ottoman Empire stayed out of the war, but a separate battle for the souls of Orthodox ‘Schismatics’ continued on its territory. Leonardis had previously secured support among the high Orthodox clergy in Montenegro for the church union but failed to get the same commitment from the patriarch. Pajsije nevertheless maintained contacts with Rome, and with Moscow and Constantinople, seeking financial and political support, to prevent the rumoured reincorporation of the Patriarchate of Peć into the Ohrid archbishopric. Leonardis was impressed with the Kosovo-born patriarch, who was elected by his archbishops and acted independently from Constantinople. The patriarch resided in ‘a very large monastery [in Peć], together with around 60 monks and as many novices’. The walls of the patriarchal church were painted with frescoes of medieval Serbian kings, despots and the church founder St Sava. Relics of Serbian saints, prominently displayed in coffins made of cypress wood and decorated with ivory, offered a reminder of the past glories.62 The Serb patriarchs increasingly assumed the role of quasi-­ national leaders, sometimes even adopting secular titles such as the ‘Lord of the Serbs’ (gospodin Srbljem), while the territory under their jurisdiction was referred to as the ‘Serb Land’ in Ottoman sources.63 The Serbian church was de facto a political and cultural

61

Pavlowitch, Serbia, 18. ISN, III-2, 73–85; Molnár, Confessionalization on the Frontier, ch. 8; J. Radonić, Rimska kurija i južnoslovenske zemlje od XVI do XIX veka, Belgrade, 1950, 145–85; Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, 143–44. 63 Tričković, Beogradski pašaluk, 41–42. 62

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institution that preserved, if not actually invented, the Serb historical tradition. For example, Pajsije wrote hagiographies of King Stefan the First Crowned and Emperor Uroš, contributing to their cults as Orthodox saints; this may have been partly in response to the burning of St Sava’s relics. The territorial jurisdiction of the Serbian church under the Ottomans meant that ‘memory’ of the Nemanjić kings and emperors, of Prince Lazar and the Kosovo battle, and of the Lazarević–Branković despotate, reached well beyond the borders of the medieval Serbian state. Pajsije’s successor Gavrilo maintained simultaneous contacts with Rome and Moscow, causing divisions among the Serb clergy. Following a visit to Russia in 1653, the patriarch was falsely accused by bishops opposed to him of allegedly advocating Russian intervention against the sultan. Gavrilo and one of his allies among the bishops were executed by Ottoman authorities, while the Metropolitan of Montenegro went into hiding fearing for his life. In 1655, Serb bishops elected Patriarch Maksim, an Ottoman loyalist who broke off all contacts with Rome and Moscow. The pro-Ottoman line was initially maintained by Maksim’s successor Arsenije III (1674–90/1706), Montenegroborn and allegedly a descendant of Zeta’s old ruling house of Crnojević (the surname he spelled Čarnojević). However, things would soon change dramatically.

The Great Migration Traditionally ‘remembered’ among Serbs as a central ‘national’ event, the Velika Seoba (Great Migration – Figure 3.2) is better understood not as a single mass exodus but as a number of population movements – of Balkan Christians, generally north of the Danube and Sava Rivers, and Muslims – which took place in the backdrop of the Vienna War (1683–99). The war, fought between the Ottomans on one hand and the Habsburg monarchy, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Venice and Russia

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figure 3.2  Paja Jovanović, Migration of the Serbs (c.1896). (Wikipedia). A descendent of Serb refugees in Hungary, Pavle-Paja ­Jovanović (sometimes spelled Paul Ioannowitch or Ioannowits, 1859–1957), is regarded as the greatest Serb romantic painter. His Migration of the Serbs is one of the most recognizable artworks in Serbian history, responsible for the popular perception of a single, mass exodus led by Patriarch Arsenije. In addition to paintings on Serbian historical themes, Jovanović produced a series of Orientalist paintings following his late nineteenth-century travels in the Balkans and the Near East. It is generally less known that his oeuvre includes portraits of Emperor Franz Josef and communist leaders Stalin and Tito.64

on the other, had a profound impact on the Serbian history. The Ottoman state was at its peak, stretching deep into Europe, close to Kiev in the east and Vienna in the west. This meant that rather than at an imperial periphery, the Serbs at this time lived in central parts of ‘Turkey-in-Europe’. The Ottoman defeat at Vienna in September 1683, after a two-month siege of the city failed, represented a turning point, because it halted and then reversed the Ottoman expansion in Europe. 64

P. Petrović, Paja Jovanović. Sistemski katalog dela/Catalogue raisonné, Belgrade, 2012.

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When the war broke out, Patriarch Arsenije was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. En route he visited the grave of Despot Uglješa, who, the reader will recall, was killed at Marica in 1371, in a decisive battle that paved the way for the Ottoman expansion into Europe. It is not known, however, if the patriarch was invested at this stage in the collapse of the Ottoman state. Three years later, Grand Vizier Süleyman Pasha (Murvetović, Montenegroborn, like Arsenije, and called Sarı in Ottoman Turkish because of his blond hair) invited the patriarch to Adrianople (Edirne). He asked the patriarch to help prevent an anti-Ottoman uprising of Orthodox Christians, pointing out that the outcome of the war would equally affect the Ottoman state and the ‘Serb Land’ within it.65 Over the next several years, Christian armies pushed the enemy all the way south to Macedonia. They were helped by internal Ottoman divisions and renegades such as Yeğen Osman Pasha of the newly formed Belgrade pashalik (which included the Smederevo sanjak and what was left of the sanjak of Srem). A precursor of late eighteenth-century rebel Janissaries, Yeğen Osman turned against the sultan, as his men abandoned the defence of Belgrade and instead pillaged and burnt Smederevo, eventually abandoning it to the enemy. The former capital of the Serbian despotate thus surrendered without resistance on 13 August 1688, nearly 230 years after it was captured by the Ottoman army led by a Serb convert, Mahmud Pasha Andjelović. There was something symbolic in the fact that the Habsburg army that entered Smederevo was led by Captain Nestorović Deak. Like most of his troops, he was a descendant of Serb refugees in Hungary.66 The following year, a Siena-born Habsburg general  Piccolomini led a successful offensive into Kosovo. Perhaps up to 20,000 Serb and Albanian volunteers joined his troops, which originally

65

Tričković, Beogradski pašaluk, 42–43, 50–51.

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numbered between 6,000 and 7,000 men. Upon entering Prizren, Stefan Dušan’s old capital, Piccolomini and his men were ­accompanied by Pjetër Bogdani (c.1630–89), the Roman Catholic archbishop of Skopje and ‘administrator of the whole Kingdom of Serbia’. Bogdani, who was born into a local Albanian family, claimed to descend from a fourteenth-century magnate Bogdan, who received land from ‘Emperor Stefan of the Nemanja family’. It is unlikely that Patriarch Arsenije was in Peć to witness the entry of the victorious Christian army there three centuries after the (first) Kosovo battle. He had previously fled to Montenegro, from where he issued calls on Balkan Christians to join the anti-­ Ottoman campaign. Albanian Catholic leaders made similar pleas, and there were hopes (unfounded, it turned out) that a Balkanwide anti-Ottoman uprising would break out.67 During the fighting, Orthodox churches and monasteries were looted and damaged, including the Peć Patriarchate and the Gračanica monastery. The violence did not affect Christians only. With the withdrawal of Ottoman troops, many local Muslims fled to Bosnia, as the victorious army killed civilians and burned and pillaged mosques and Muslim shops and houses. The wheel of fortune would soon turn again. An outbreak of plague decimated Piccolomini’s army and claimed the general’s life (and Bogdani’s). In early 1690, Ottoman troops, reinforced with Tatars, won a decisive battle near Kačanik/Kaçanik (an area in modern Kosovo associated with Albanian resistance to twentieth-century Serb and Yugoslav rule). Engaged in another conflict, against France, Austria was unable to send reinforcements, so remnants of its Balkan expedition retreated in panic. Local Christian population was left at the mercy of returning Ottomans seeking revenge. 67

Ibid, 68–69; cf. ISN III–1, 491–529; Malcolm, Kosovo, 141; O. J. Schmitt, ‘Ottoman Albania and Kosovo, Albanians and Serbs, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries’, in J. R. Lampe and U. Brunnbauer (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Balkan and Southeast European History, London, 2020, ch. 1.

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Patriarch Arsenije issued an appeal for help to the tsar, but no aid arrived, as Russia too was fighting on two fronts, due to a border dispute with China in the Far East. Ottoman reprisals were harsh. Contemporary sources, including an Italian account, describe brutal violence against the Serbs of Kosovo by Tatars and Bosnian Muslims.68 Men, women and children were randomly killed or taken to slavery, while by now mostly deserted Christian villages were set on fire. Monasteries and churches were looted and damaged; monks and priests who did not manage to flee were executed. The poor and the welloff alike joined columns of refugees, making their way towards Habsburg-held Belgrade. Their numbers swelled as they approached the city. People carried what they could and what they had. Sometimes it was just a few personal belongings, and in other cases more. In addition to a considerable amount of money, Stevan Todorović, a soap maker from Požarevac (modern eastern Serbia), took his entire soap-making equipment and a small plum brandy distillery, another source of income. He was hoping to settle in Belgrade but was soon forced to abandon all his belongings and flee north, ending up as a penniless refugee in Buda.69 Lifeless bodies, victims of disease and hunger, lay across ‘Serbia’. There were reports of starved people eating dead animals and even dead human bodies. Refugees fled in groups and sometimes whole villages were uprooted. There was panic and fear and whatever hope these unfortunate people had, had been placed in reaching the safety of Hungary. Belgrade’s population swelled by tens of thousands of refugees. City streets were full of desperate and homeless, living skeletons whose faces turned dark due to hunger, according to eyewitness reports. Whether the patriarch personally led the exodus, as maintained in the Serbian 68

S. Bizzozero, La sagra lega contro la potenza ottomana: successi delle armi imperiali, polacche, venete e moscovit, Milan, 1690–1700, cited in Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, 164–65. 69 ISN III-1, 530–35.

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tradition, or not, is a moot point. The church, from the patriarch and the high clergy down to local priests, provided leadership, both real and symbolic, to a desperate people on the move – even when the refugees were not Serbs or even Orthodox.70 The reprisals went on for around three months, stopping only in March 1690 on the orders from Constantinople. Concerned that there would be no one left to farm the land, the Porte declared a universal amnesty, demanding in exchange only declarations of loyalty to the sultan. Some of those who had not yet crossed the Danube and the Sava decided to stay, but most refugees never returned. Among those who remained or returned were elderly, unable or unwilling to start a new life in a foreign country and preferring to die at home. In response to the arrival of a large number of mainly Orthodox Christians from the neighbouring empire, in August 1690, Leopold I of Austria (Holly Roman Emperor, 1658–1705) issued ‘Privileges to the Illyrian [in this context Orthodox Serb] nation’. The migrants were guaranteed freedom of religion, the use of the Old Style (Julian) calendar and autonomy for the Serbian church, including its right to appoint bishops and other clergy. The patriarch’s request that the refugees should settle in a geographically compact area and be allowed to elect secular leadership was rejected. In the sense that their autonomy therefore was not territorial, but mainly ethnoconfessional, the position of the Serb Orthodox community in the Habsburg monarchy resembled that of their millet in the Ottoman Empire. Initially, the newly arrived refugees were forbidden from moving to towns and cities. They sometimes built their rural settlements and lived in underground houses (zemunice). Large religious gatherings were allowed but required special permission and could only be held in the presence of authorities.71 70

Ibid; cf. Malcolm, Kosovo, 158–59. Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, 188–96.

71

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By early Autumn 1690, Belgrade was practically deserted, most of its inhabitants and refugees having fled to southern Hungary. (Belgrade Muslims had fled previously and were yet to return.) Last people were evacuated by boats across Danube on 6 October 1690, two days before Belgrade once again came under the Ottoman control. Columns of refugees, some on horses and cattle carts, many others on foot, moved slowly into the unknown. A large refugee column that was making way towards central Hungary via Slavonian towns of Vukovar, and Osijek (both in modern Croatia) included monks from the fourteenth-century Ravanica monastery near Ćuprija (present-day Serbia). Forced to flee on foot, the monks carried with them ‘relics of holy among Tsars, Serbian Prince Lazar’, the founder of the monastery. A Ravanica monk Stefan later recalled the ‘pillaging and displacement (raseljavanje) of the Christian people and all Serbian land’. After 40 days of walking, the monks reached ‘some place above Buda called Sent-Andreja’ (Szentendre in Hungarian). In Buda, they had seen Patriarch Arsenije, together with ‘a few bishops, many monks, and many people from all Serb lands, males and females.’ Another eyewitness, abbot Ćirilo of Hopovo, a sixteenth-century monastery built at Fruška Gora by descendants of the Branković despots, wrote that ‘all Serb land fled towards Buda’. He compared the fate of the Serbs to that of the Jews: ‘Just like Moses, who led the Israelites across the Red Sea carrying with him the bones of Joseph, Patriarch Arsenije was now leading the Serb people across the Danube, together with relics of saints.’72 In search of safety, the refugees went to areas they hoped would remain unaffected by fighting, settling in some cases as far as Szentendre and Veszprém (Sent Andreja and Vesprem in Serbian, respectively), towns situated north-west of Budapest, and Komárno (Komoran), in modern Slovakia. Danger, however,

72

ISN, III-1, 534; Tričković, Beogradski pašaluk, 41–78.

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did not come just from the Ottomans bent on revenge. Smiljana Miloševa, a young girl at the time of the migration, recalled how Christian hajduks raided a refugee column that included her family.73 Hiding nearby, she watched the brigands strip her parents of all clothes in search of money and valuables. When one of the robbers spotted her, he demanded to know if she had any money hidden and started beating her, but she was saved by another man who told the attacker that hitting young women brought bad luck. Patriarch Arsenije may have used a figure of speech when he wrote in 1690 to the imperial authorities about the sorry state of his people, fleeing ‘naked and barefoot’ from the Ottoman terror. Smiljana’s story shows that sometimes this was literally the case, even if Ottoman soldiers were not the only culprits. An approximate number of refugees who fled Ottoman ‘Serbia’ around this time is difficult to establish. Similarly, it is not known how many people lost their lives, either in combat or due to hunger and disease, but this figure was certainly high. Nor is establishing the identity and place of origin of the refugees straightforward. People had been on the move prior to and regardless of the main exodus of 1690 due to the fighting and banditry. The Orthodox Slavs of Serbia, Montenegro, Herzegovina and Bosnia were joined by Vlachs, Albanians and Bulgarians in their migration towards the perceived safety of Hungary. In November 1690, Patriarch Arsenije informed the authorities that he had reached Buda together with more than 30,000 men, women and children. Shortly before his death in 1706, Arsenije wrote to Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I (1705–11) stating that over 40,000 people had fled with him. Some contemporary reports suggested that around 40,000 refugees passed through Belgrade alone on their way to Hungary. Other sources talked of ‘37,000 families’ who found themselves as refugees, while a Dutch report from 1696 claimed that the ‘Patriarch of the Rascian nation’ 73

Popović, Srbi u Vojvodini, I, 317–18.

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placed ‘30,000 soldiers’ at the disposal of the Habsburg monarch.74 Historians have not been able to reach a consensus. One authority on the subject concluded that in total between 60,000 and 70,000 r­efugees – from Kosovo, Sandžak, Montenegro and central Serbia – may have crossed into the Austrian empire ­ around this time, in several mass movements of people.75 It seems safe to say that at least 30,000 people fled across Danube and Sava in 1690 alone.76 Whatever the real figure, the Orthodox population of the former Serbian realm had been significantly reduced by the late seventeenth century. The regions of Kosovo and Metohija seemed particularly affected. Near Priština, around 360 villages were burnt and destroyed during the latest conflict, while in Prizren only 5 Christian households remained after 1690.77 Out of approximately 200 villages recorded prior to 1690 in this area, twothirds no longer existed (or had a different name) a century later. Those who abandoned their homes for good were replaced by newcomers moving from the mountains of Albania, Montenegro and Herzegovina. However, not everyone had left, while some returned after a temporary exile, taking advantage of the Ottoman amnesty and unable to settle in the new environment. With the depopulation of much of the central Balkans, the society established in the wake of the Ottoman conquest was effectively destroyed. With Buda lost to the Habsburgs, the Ottomans created a new pashalik with Belgrade as its seat. A militarized frontier province designed to protect the empire from the north, the Belgrade pashalik included the sanjaks of Smederevo and what was left of the sanjak of Srem, while its pasha had military jurisdiction over the neighbouring sanjaks of Niš and Kruševac. 74

Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, 171. Popović, Srbi u Vojvodini, I, 318–20. 76 ISN, III-1, 535–36; Pavlowitch, Serbia, 20; Tričković, Beogradski pašaluk, 77n. 77 ISN, III-1, 531; Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, 167–69. 75

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In the following decade, the pashalik will be exposed to frequent raids by Christian hajduks based in southern Hungary; their exploits would be sometimes attributed to medieval Serb heroes in the popular tradition.78 Amidst preparations for a military campaign against the Habsburgs in 1691 – where he would be killed in the battle of Slankamen (present-day Serbia) – Grand Vizier Fazıl Mustafa Köprülü Pasha, who was an ethnic Albanian, installed Bishop Kallinikos (Kalinik in Serbian, 1691–1710), a Phanariot Greek, as the new Patriarch of Peć. For a while, there existed two rival Serbian churches. Arsenije initially set up his patriarchate-in-exile at the sixteenth-century Krušedol monastery, the endowment of Despot Djuradj Branković’s descendants. An important symbolic link with the old despotate was thus established. Eventually, the patriarch moved to Sremski Karlovci, which became the religious and cultural centre of the Habsburg Serbs. Numerous Serb monasteries were built at the nearby Fruška Gora Mountain, sometimes known as the ‘Serbian Mt Athos’. The Hilandar monastery and the Cetinje Metropolitanate, whose bishops styled themselves ‘Exarchs of the Peć Patriarchate’, were the other church centres that functioned as ‘keepers of memory’ of medieval Serbia. Kallinikos unsuccessfully reached out to Arsenije, among other reasons to reclaim medieval icons, saintly relics and other valuables the retreating clerics took with them. A number of bishops continued to recognize Arsenije as the sole legitimate patriarch. One of them, Danilo I Petrović Njegoš (1697–1735) of Montenegro, kept links with the Russian Orthodox Church and travelled to Sremski Karlovci rather than Peć to be officially installed as Metropolitan. A self-proclaimed ‘Vojvoda of the Serbian land’,79 78

Tričković, Beogradski pašaluk, 132–37. ‘Danil vladika cetinjski Njegoš, vojevodič srpskoj zemlji’ was how he described himself in a note written following the purchase of a gospel he would donate to the Peć Patriarchate. ‘Jedan zapis vladike Danila’,

79

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Danilo displayed political ambition as well. He established a theocratic dynasty of prince-bishops who ruled over Montenegro until the mid-nineteenth century. Danilo is one of the principal characters of the Montenegrin epic poem Mountain wreath, written by his nineteenth-century successor, Petar II Petrović Njegoš (1830–51), the last of the prince-bishops. The poem, dedicated to Karadjordje Petrović, leader of the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottomans (see Chapter 4), tells a fictional story of the mass killing of Montenegrin Muslim converts. It recalls the spirit of Prince Lazar, Miloš Obilić and the Kosovo battle, but also of fifteenth-century Albanian hero Skanderbeg. The poem, not surprisingly, gained additional meanings during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, when local Muslim communities were exposed to ethnic cleansing and s­ ystematic mass murder (as discussed in Chapter 8).80 Following Arsenije’s death in 1706, Kallinikos remained the sole, though not undisputed, Serb patriarch. Metropolitan Danilo’s successor Vasilije claimed for himself the title of ‘exarch of the Serbian [patriarchal] throne’,81 thus keeping the Nemanjić legacy in Montenegro, if mainly symbolically. Shortly before his death in 1710, Kallinikos acknowledged the Metropolitan of Sremski Karlovci as the ‘exarch of the Serb patriarchate’, an important step 12 March 1732, Zbornik dokumenata iz istorije Crne Gore (1685–1782), compiled by J. M. Milović, Cetinje, 1956, 104. Ivo Banac (The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics, Ithaca, NY, 1984, 272) believed Danilo’s ambition was to politically unite all Serb lands. See ibid, 274–76, for the Serb tradition in early modern Montenegro. 80 A. B. Wachtel, ‘How to Use a Classic: Petar Petrović Njegoš in the Twentieth Century’, in J. R. Lampe and M. Mazower (eds), Ideologies and National Identities: The Case of Twentieth Century Southeastern Europe, Budapest, 2006, 131–53. 81 Vasilije’s full title was ‘The Metropolitan of Montenegro, Skenderija and Littoral and Exarch of the Serbian [Patriarchal] Throne’. See his letters to a Venetian governor (provedadore) of 10 and 13 July 1755, Zb. dok. ist. C. Gore, 243–44.

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towards reconciling the church.82 After a former Metropolitan of Skopje spent just a year on the patriarchal throne, a Serb from Raška was chosen as the next patriarch. Mojsije Rajović (1712–26) styled himself ‘Patriarch of all Serb and Bulgarian [lands] and all Illyria’. He inherited an indebted institution, which forced him to seek financial help from the Habsburg Serbs.83 The Austrian–Ottoman war continued for nearly a decade following the ‘Great Migration’. Prince Eugen of Savoy’s army that halted the Ottoman advance at Zenta (Senta in modern Serbia) in 1697 included a 10,000-strong Serb militia. They launched a successful counteroffensive, pushing the enemy back to Bosnia where they temporarily occupied Sarajevo, bringing much destruction to the city and its inhabitants. Under terms of the 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz (Sremski Karlovci), which ended the 15-year-long conflict, the Habsburgs kept Hungary and Croatia, while the Ottoman state regained Serbia, Banat and Bosnia. New population movements followed, this time of Muslims fleeing Croatia and Hungary mainly to Bosnia. But it was the Christian and much smaller Jewish population of the Belgrade pashalik that suffered most, as it was reduced by the early eighteenth century to approximately oneeight of its pre-war size. Using Ottoman sources, historian Radmila Tričković estimated that before the war up to 144,000 ‘male heads’, or 36,000 tax-paying households, lived in the pashalik. By 1704, that figure was reduced to approximately 18,000 Christian and Jewish tax-paying ‘male heads’. If correct, this would mean that the number of deaths caused by war, hunger and disease was extremely high, and the total number of refugees, including those who left prior and after the ‘Great Migration’ of 1690, was indeed considerable.84 82

The Serbian Orthodox Church today recognizes Kallinikos as patriarch from 1691, apparently accepting the decision made by Constantinople in the aftermath of the Great Migration. ‘Serbian Archbishops and Patriarchs’, http://arhiva.spc.rs/eng/church.html. 83 Tričković, Beogradski pašaluk, 258–59. 84 Ibid, 185.

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* On the eve of the war, a Serb from the Arad County (in modern Romania) claimed to be a descendant of the Branković despots. He called on Orthodox Christians to join the anti-­Ottoman campaign and pledged to restore the Serbian despotate. He was well-educated and multilingual and came from an eminent Transylvanian Serb family. Conveniently, his name was Djordje Branković.85 Moreover, Sava II, Orthodox Metropolitan of Transylvania, was his elder brother. Sensing an opportunity to mobilize the Serbs for the war against the Ottomans, Leopold I acknowledged Branković as a descendant of the Serbian despots but gave him a more modest title of a count and stopped short of promising the restoration of Serbia. Count Branković raised a small army, which joined other militias mobilized by Habsburg Serb leaders answering the emperor’s call to mobilization. Following Austria’s defeat, Leopold no longer needed Branković, whose contacts with Russia and with a prince of Transylvania whom the emperor mistrusted were used as an excuse to arrest him. While in prison (where he would die in 1711), the unfortunate would-be despot wrote a 2,000-page chronicle of Serbian and Balkan history. Not surprisingly, the main aim of the book, which was published in five volumes, was to prove its author’s relation to the Branković line of despots. A romanticized account of Serbia’s past, it was widely read among literate Serbs and thus probably contributed to creating the ‘knowledge’ of medieval Serbia. Djordje Branković also wrote a short history of South Slavs in Romanian.86 85

Djordje (George) was the modernized spelling of Djuradj, the name of the fifteenth-century despot belonging to the Branković dynasty. 86 Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, 173–78; cf. J. Radonić, Grof Djordje Branković i njegovo vreme, Belgrade, 1911; Djordje Branković, Hronika Slovena Ilirika, Gonje Mezije i Donje Mezije, transl. from Romanian by S. Bugarski, intro. by J. Redjep, Novi Sad, 1994.

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During his imprisonment, Djordje was elected ‘despot’ in 1691 by an assembly of prominent Habsburg Serbs who believed the privileges granted to them by Leopold I the previous year entitled them to choosing a political leader of their own. This may have been the only case of an elected imprisoned despot, but the Renaissance tradition of elected monarchs existed in early modern east-central Europe (most famously in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth). The imperial authorities refused to recognize Djordje as despot; instead, they appointed a Habsburg Serb officer as a Vice-Vojvoda of the Serbs. This would be the ‘legal’ basis for the proclamation of Vojvodstvo Srbija, Duchy of Serbia, or Vojvodina, by a revolutionary assembly of the Hungarian Serbs in 1848, as discussed in Chapter 4.87

Habsburg Serb Society How did the local population north of the Danube and Sava view Serb and other Balkan refugees? Not surprisingly, with much prejudice and stereotyping, as in the case probably of all migrations throughout history. An official Hungarian report of 1699 described the newcomers as semi-nomadic, ‘wild, forest people’, skilled with weapons but not used to hard work. Both men and women were prone to drinking and arguing. ‘This schismatic people’, the report went on, ‘has a king-like leader they call patriarch, but whom we refer to as the Serbian (Rascian) archbishop’. His people follow him everywhere, ‘like bees follow their honeybee’. A more sympathetic account is found in Cardinal Imre Csáky’s 1718 letter to Emperor Charles

87

Ćirković, The Serbs, 144, and ‘Vom Land des Despoten zum Land des Vojvoden’, in Živeti sa istorijom, 273–86. Vice-Vojvoda Jovan Monasterlija (1691–1706) was born in the 1860s in modern Slovakia, where his family, which may have been of Serb-Vlach origin, had emigrated from the Ottoman Balkans.

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VI (1711–40). The cardinal correctly concluded that the Serbs’ apparent semi-nomadic habits were formed due to a history of forced migrations. This was also the main reason why the Serb migrants were unable to completely trust their environment and why they often lived in shelters and dugouts. Serb peasants led modest lives, many were poor, but should not be looked down upon. An intelligent and, in their own way, educated people, they professed utmost loyalty to their ‘church-king’ and his bishops; although they were religious Orthodox people, the Serbs had shown great tolerance towards the Roman Catholics, cardinal Csáky concluded in his letter.88 Once they were permanently settled in the Habsburg monarchy and restrictions on their movement were lifted, many Serbs moved in search of better opportunities. Despite the prejudices they encountered, descendants of Orthodox refugees eventually became an integral part of urban settings in southern Hungary and in Croatia-Slavonia. They found themselves living alongside Hungarians, Germans, Jews, Greeks, Tsintsars, Croats, Romanians and Slovaks, among others. They usually spoke several languages, and some became wealthy and well-educated, while many forged successful military careers in the imperial army. At the same time, another society in which Serbs and those who identified with Serbs, formed in the Military Border, where different rules and values applied. The Habsburg Serbs’ identity – as with any group ­identity – was not homogeneous and it evolved, gaining new layers in the Habsburg imperial context. The Habsburg monarchy allowed the Serbs (and other ethno-religious groups) to foster their separate tradition. Towns with significant Serb population included Újvidék/Novi Sad, Pancsova/Pančevo and Becskerek/ Bečkerek (since 1945 Zrenjanin) – all in modern Serbia – as well as Karlstadt/Karlovac, Eszék/Osijek and Vukovár/Vukovar (Croatia) and Temesvár/Timișoara/Temišvar (Romania). The rise of the 88

Popović, Srbi u Vojvodini, II, 28–30.

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Habsburg Serb middle class would be arguably as important for the emergence of the modern Serbian state and nation in the nineteenth century as the 1804 peasant rebellion in the Belgrade province. As a trans-imperial people, the Serbs established a group identity (or perhaps identities) that transcended state borders before they became a modern nation in the nineteenth century. Their migrations meant that Serbs were divided by the border between the Ottoman and Habsburg empires, which they frequently crossed, both legally and illegally. The migrations also led to even greater contacts with non-Serbs, including Roman Catholic and Muslim populations of Croatia-Slavonia, Dalmatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, who spoke the same, or very similar language as the Serbs. It was in this borderland between two very different empires that both the Serbian nation and the ideology of the South Slav unity (Yugoslavism) would be born in the nineteenth century, as discussed later on.89 Habsburg Serbs were affected by, and sometimes became involved in the Austrian–Hungarian rivalry. Eager to preserve privileges granted by Leopold I, they would side with Vienna during the Rákóczi uprising against the Habsburg rule in Hungary (1703–11). However, when another anti-Habsburg rebellion broke out in 1735, Orthodox peasants joined their Hungarian counterparts. Vienna quickly defeated the rebels with the help of troops from the Military Border, many of whom were Serbs. Serb frontiersmen and women were on the move again following the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), a European conflict over the issue of succession of Maria Theresa (1745–65). Several thousand Orthodox officers and soldiers, together with their families, were settled by Empress Elizabeth (1741–62) in 89

D. Rusinow, ‘The Ottoman Legacy in Yugoslavia’s Disintegration and Civil War’, in L. C. Brown (ed.), Imperial Legacy: The Ottoman Imprint on the Balkans and the Middle East, New York, 1996, 78–99.

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Russia’s own military frontier, near the border with Poland, in present-day Ukraine. The Serb settlements were named ‘New Serbia’ and ‘Slav Serbia’. Local population viewed the newcomers with suspicion, as agents of Moscow, but eventually the settlers would assimilate into the local Slav population.90 Meanwhile, the language and culture of Habsburg Serb communities became increasingly exposed to Russian influences. In response, the authorities financed publication of religious and secular texts in the Serbian, rather than the Russian, variant of the Old Slavonic and controlled the import of books from Russia. This resulted in the lessening of Russian influence among Habsburg Serbs in the late eighteenth century. At the same time, Serb students attended Austrian, Hungarian and other central European universities, bringing back to their community the ideas of Rationalism and Enlightenment. Venetian-held Dalmatia represented another destination for Orthodox refugees fleeing war and violence, mostly from modern Montenegro and Kosovo. Large population movements towards the Adriatic coast occurred during the Cretan War between the Ottomans and Venetians (1645–69) and continued through the eighteenth century. Important Orthodox South Slav cultural and religious centres were established in the towns of Dalmatia and Istria and in Trieste.91 Orthodox migrants also settled in the Dalmatian hinterland. Some of them joined uskok brigands who socially resembled the hajduks of the Balkan interior.92 By the

90

Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, 190–93. The eighteenth-century Serb frontier society provides inspiration for one of the most celebrated Serbian novels, Miloš Crnjanski’s Seobe (Migrations), which consists of two parts, published in 1929 and 1962, respectively. The second part deals with the migration to Russia. 91 ISN, III-1, 92–99, IV-2, 7–66. 92 C. W. Bracewell, The Uskoks of Senj: Piracy, Banditry and Holy War in Sixteenth Century Adriatic, Ithaca, NY, 1992. See also D. Roksandić, Triplex Confinium, ili o granicama i regijama hrvatske povijesti, 1500–1800, Zagreb, 2003.

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1750s, around 40,000 Orthodox Serbs (who were often referred to as Morovlachs, regardless of whether they were of Vlach origin or not) lived in Dalmatia, mostly in rural areas where Venetian authorities had settled them, but there were also prosperous Serb communities in the coastal towns of modern Croatia.93 Small but influential urban Serb communities were formed in Zagreb and ‘civil Croatia’ – or rather what was left of it following the Ottoman conquest and the creation of the Habsburg Military Border. As relatively prosperous and educated town dwellers, successful traders, merchants and bankers, they resembled Croatian Jews in terms of social status and as a small non-Catholic minority (the two groups sadly shared a similar fate during the Second World War). In the seventeenth century, Venice represented the main ally of Orthodox Christian clans of Montenegro (Monte Nero – Black Mountain – was the name given to the mountains in the hinterland of old Zeta because of their dark appearance when observed from the sea). Led by Metropolitan Danilo (of the Petrović Njegoš clan, 1697–1735), Montenegrins established closer contacts with Russia in the early eighteenth century,94 but maintained links with the maritime republic. When another Ottoman–Venetian conflict broke out in 1714, Venice paid ‘salaries’ to Montenegrin clan leaders engaged in combat against the Ottomans. It also provided shelter for around 2,000 refugees, mostly women, children and elderly.95

New Migrations and the Abolition of the Patriarchate Following another Austrian–Ottoman war (1716–18), Belgrade and present-day central Serbia once again came under the 93

Ćirković, The Serbs, 183–88; N. Moačanin, Town and Country in the Middle Danube, 1526–1690, Leiden, 2005; Roksandić, Srbi; Wolff, Venice and the Slavs. 94 Ćirković, The Serbs, 185. 95 G. Stanojević, ‘Jedan Mletački platni spisak Crnogorskih glavara iz 1715. godine’, Istorijski zapisi (Titograd [Podgorica]), 4 (1960), 785–88.

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Habsburg rule, under the terms of the Treaty of Passarowitz/ Požarevac.96 The Austrians appointed an imperial governor of ‘the Kingdom of Serbia’ and Emperor Charles VI (1711– 40) added ‘King of Serbia’ to his long list of titles. He might have also claimed the Serbian crown on the ground of being simultaneously the King of Hungary, whose monarchs, as mentioned previously, claimed the title Rex Serviae in the thirteenth century. In 1718, the Habsburgs also extended and consolidated their control over parts of Hungary and Romania, in the newly established Banat of Temesvár, a melting pot made up of Romanian, Serb, Croat and other populations, including newly settled Germans.97 Recruiting centres across ‘Serbia’ enlisted men of fighting age for service in the Austrian army. In order to fight the brigandry, the new authorities introduced local police, the pandours, which recruited some former hajduks who thus effectively ‘legalized’ their control of the Belgrade–Paraćin road in what is today central Serbia. It was during this period that Belgrade became an important centre of ‘Serb’ life, thanks above all to the activities of Habsburg Serbs. Closer links were established between the Sremski Karlovci and Belgrade Metropolitanates, as the former raised funds to open Serbian schools in Belgrade. Further down south, Niš replaced Belgrade as a major Ottoman fortress on the border with the Habsburg empire, while the Niš pashalik became a de facto new ‘military border’. The number of Orthodox Christians living in Niš increased from around 10,000 to 17,500. This was due to both an amnesty that encouraged refugee return and to the arrival of fresh migrants from territories further south, namely Kosovo and the

96

Tričković, Beogradski pašaluk, 263–306. K. Roider, ‘Nationalism and Colonization in the Banat of Temesvar, 1718– 1778’, in I. Banac et al. (eds), Nation and Ideology: Essays in Honour of Wayne S. Vucinich, Boulder, Co, 1981, 87–100.

97

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Sandžak of Novi Pazar, where Christians were being pushed out by Muslim Albanians and Slavs.98 In 1737, thousands of Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Albanians from Kosovo and Sandžak responded to Emperor Charles’ call to rise against the Ottomans. An insurgency had been secretly planned between Vienna, Serbian Patriarch Arsenije IV (1725–48) and Catholic Albanian clan leaders, but ultimately it came to nothing. Reinforced by troops from Bosnia, the Ottomans easily defeated the rebels and pushed towards Belgrade. Like his (indirect) predecessor and namesake, the Serb patriarch led another wave of refugees, Slavs and Albanians, to southern Hungary. Under the terms of the Belgrade Treaty of 1739, the Austrians withdrew north of the city. The old Ottoman–Habsburg border, with Belgrade as the northernmost Ottoman city, was thus re-established. The Ottomans supported the appointment that same year of Joannikios (Joanikije) III, a Phanariot Greek, as the new patriarch at Peć (Serbian patriarch 1739–46; ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople, 1761–63). Vienna meanwhile recognized exiled Arsenije IV as the Patriarch of Sremski Karlovci, so once again two rival Serb church centres existed for a while.99 Arsenije’s death in 1748 ended this duality. In 1766, Constantinople abolished the Peć Patriarchate, which thus ceased to exist as an independent church organization for the second time in its history. A period of turbulence followed the restoration of the Ottoman rule over ‘Serbia’ in the late 1730s. Muslims and Christians alike rebelled against higher taxes introduced by the Belgrade vizier. 98

Zirojević, Srbija pod turskom vlašću, 228; Tričković, Beogradski pašaluk, 307–72. 99 As is the case with Kallinikos, who replaced exiled Arsenije III, the Serbian Orthodox Church today recognizes Joanikije as the Patriarch from 1739, the year Arsenije IV went to exile. During his enthronement at the St Sava Temple in Belgrade in February 2021, new Serbian Patriarch Porfirije held a crosier that had belonged to Arsenije IV. Porfirije’s full title is His Holiness the Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, and Serbian Patriarch.

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The Janissaries’ mistreatment of Christian peasants continued to cause population movements towards the Habsburg lands. There was also immigration, mainly of Muslims from neighbouring Bosnia, who tended to settle in urban areas. Rural population decreased further, as whole areas became depopulated due to the war and post-war violence. According to Ottoman sources, out of 1,546 registered villages in the Smederevo sanjak, nearly three quarters were listed as ‘abandoned’ or ‘long deserted’ in 1741.100 Things were about to get even worse before they would briefly improve. Another war, this time between the Habsburg and Russian empires against the Ottoman state, broke out in 1768. Russian Empress Catherine II the Great (1762–96) called upon the Balkan Christians to rise against the sultan. The Ottoman defeat in 1774 did not bring a ‘liberation’ of ‘Serbia’, but it was nevertheless significant. According to terms of the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (modern Bulgaria), Russia was now to act as a protector of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire. The sultan was simultaneously symbolically acknowledged as the leader of Muslims living outside the Ottoman Empire. Russia’s main aim was to re-incorporate the Crimean Peninsula and secure passage of its ships through the Straits. It would nevertheless exercise considerable political and cultural influence among the Orthodox Balkan peoples, including the Serbs. On the other hand, it is important to keep in mind that the Serbs living outside of the Ottoman Empire continued to be exposed to central and west European influences.

Enlightenment Austria, Hungary and the Italian cities channelled Romantic, nationalist ideas that reached educated Habsburg Serbs in the eighteenth century. They included Zaharije Orfelin (1726–95), 100

Ćirković, The Serbs, 176.

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a Venice-based Serb Renaissance man and polymath born in Vukovar (modern Croatia). In 1761, Orfelin published ‘A cry for Serbia’, a poem that lamented the Serbs’ loss of independence in the Middle Ages and their subjugation to foreign rule. His contemporary Dositej Obradović (1739–1811) was among the most important South Slav Enlightenment thinkers and later also the first education minister in Serbia’s revolutionary government. Born Dimitrije Obradović in Ciacova/Čakovo (modern Romania), he joined a Serb Orthodox monastery at Fruška Gora and took a monastic name Dositej. Having grown disillusioned with monastic life, he took teaching posts in Dalmatia, Trieste and Vienna, whence after a six-year stay he left for western Europe. In 1782, aged around 43, ‘Demetrius Obradovics aus Serbien’ enrolled at Halle University to study philosophy with Johann August Eberhardt (1739–1809).101 Following his studies, he lived briefly in London, where he learned English and tutored and translated from classical Greek and Latin. A plague on the wall of a house in Clements Lane where he lived in 1784, placed by Yugoslav government-in-exile during the Second World War, is a testament to his London stay. Obradović understood the Serb nation as a community based on common language rather than on confession, thus anticipating the work of Vuk Karadžić, discussed in the next chapter. Because they spoke the same or mutually comprehensible vernaculars, he regarded as members of a single nation South Slav inhabitants of Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro and Dalmatia. This brought him in conflict with the Orthodox church, which did not imagine Serb nation outside of Orthodoxy. Indeed, Obradović and the so-called Jozefinci (‘Josephinites’) – mostly younger 101

H. Zundhausen [Sundhaussen], Istorija Srbije od 19. do 21. veka, transl. from German by T. Bekić, Belgrade, 2009, 95–98; cf. The Life and Adventures of Dimitrije Obradović, Who as a Monk Was Given the Name Dositej, Berkeley, CA, 1953.

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liberal-nationalist Serbs who called upon Emperor Joseph and Empress Catherine the Great to intervene against the Ottoman Empire – clashed with conservative and traditionalist circles, some of whom were close to or came from within the Orthodox church. This anticipated both the generational conflicts of ­nineteenth-century Serbia and more generally political and identity debates between, broadly speaking, conservatives and liberals that have continued into the twenty-first century, albeit under changing circumstances and in different contexts. However, the church also fostered progressive ideas and in the eighteenth century it attracted highly educated individuals such as Archimandrite Jovan Rajić (1726–1801), considered the first historian of Serbia. Born in Sremski Karlovci into a mixed Bulgarian–Serb family of modest means, Rajić attended Jesuit and Protestant schools in Hungary prior to making a journey – almost entirely on foot – to the Russian Empire, where he studied theology and liberal arts in Kiev. His biography resembled in some key respects that of Hristifor Žefarović (c.1690–1753), another learned South Slav whose identity was both Bulgarian and Serbian (and who was born in what is today North Macedonia). Žefarović travelled widely, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, was recognized as an important ‘humanist’ in Central Europe and died in a monastery in Moscow. His Stemmatographia (Vienna, 1741), commissioned and funded by Patriarch Arsenije IV, contains engravings of medieval Serbian and Bulgarian rulers and saints. Inspired by Croatian ‘Slav revivalists’, it contributed significantly to the imagining of the Serbian Middle Ages in the modern era and therefore to the emergence of Serbian as well as Yugoslav national ideas in the nineteenth century.102 Like Obradović and Žefarović, Rajić travelled widely – across the Austrian, Ottoman (including Mt Athos) and Russian empires. He too became an Orthodox monk, at the age of 46, after 102

ISN, IV-2, 166–81.

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settling back home following his travels. He would then spend years researching and writing the first scholarly (by standards of the day) history of Serbia – in fact a history of the Serbs, Croats and Bulgarians, whom Rajić regarded as the ‘same-blooded’ nation. Mixing romantic-nationalist (Serb and South Slav history as a continuous struggle for independence) and transnational (Serb history studied in a regional context) ideas, the book was published in Vienna in 1794–95, with the financial support from Metropolitan Stefan Stratimirović of Sremski Karlovci (1790– 1838). Essentially an update of the previous history ‘bestseller’ by Djordje Branković, the book remained for a while the standard reading for educated Serbs. Rajić, who also published literary works, was regarded highly by his contemporaries, although not necessarily by later literary critics.103 Significantly, these men of letters recognized that Serbs lived scattered around south-eastern Europe and that they were part of a larger group of linguistically and culturally related peoples. The South Slav communities may have been separated in some cases by political and confessional boundaries, but this kind of divisions and identity markers were increasingly rejected in this age of Enlightenment and Revolution. They could not have known that they anticipated arguably the most important intellectual and political questions of the modern Serbian history: the relationship between the Serbs of Serbia and other Serb communities, between the Serbs and other South Slavs, and more broadly between the Serbs and (the rest of) Europe. The Serb Enlighteners belonged to the broader European intellectual trends of their era, as did their intellectual heir Vuk Karadžić. They force us to rethink the relationship between the Enlightenment and Orthodoxy among the Serbs, and other Balkan Orthodox, traditionally seen as two

103

J. Skerlić, Istorija nove srpske književnosti, Belgrade, 2006 (first publ. 1914), 44–49.

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disconnected worlds, and they also encourage us to see Serbian history as part of wider history of Europe.104 The mostly illiterate peasant population on both sides of the imperial frontier could not have read Rajić’s history and the Romantic writings of Orfelin and Obradović, nor could they have read hagiographies of medieval Serbian rulers and saints. Where and as much as it existed, their sense of group identity and a place in history was fostered through the previously discussed oral tradition, which recalled Serbia’s medieval independence and a tradition of resistance against the ‘Turks’. Similar themes were recalled in religious sermons. Moreover, churches and monasteries built by the Nemanjić kings and post-Nemanjić princes and despots and relics and frescoes of medieval Serbian saints served as visual ‘reminders’ – for those who understood them as such – of the pre-Ottoman ‘Serb civilization’. When the Serbs’ ­religious-political centre shifted north of the Danube and Sava, Habsburg Serbs built replicas of medieval monasteries or their modern, Baroque-style versions.105 This contributed to the creation of a proto-national Serb identity by the late eighteenth century that transcended the Ottoman– Habsburg border. How widespread the idea of a Serbian nation and its medieval ‘Golden Age’ had been beyond the church and 104

P. M. Kitromilides (ed.), Enlightenment and Religion in the Orthodox World, Oxford, 2016, specifically for Serbia the contributions by Bojan Aleksov, Marija Petrović and Nenad Ristović, and Kitromilides, ‘The Orthodox Church and Modern State-Formation in South-East Europe’, in W. van Meurs and A. Mungiu-Pippidi (eds), Ottomans into Europeans: State and Institution-Building in South-East Europe, London, 2010, 31–50; cf. M-J Calic, The Great Cauldron: A History of Southeastern Europe, transl. from German by E. Janik; first publ. in German in 2016, Cambridge, MA, 2019, 201–202, passim. 105 N. Makuljević, ‘Migrations and the Creation of Orthodox Cultural and Artistic Networks between the Balkans and the Habsburg Lands (17th–19th Centuries)’, in O. Katsiardi-Hering and M. Stassinopoulou (eds), Across the Danube: Southeastern Europeans and Their Travelling Identities (17th–19th C.), Leiden, 2017, 54–64.

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educated circles is hard to say, despite the existence of rich oral tradition.106 The ‘Serb’ identity also appears to have had some appeal beyond ‘core’ Serb communities, as those who came to identify with Serbs ethnically, culturally and confessionally included non-Serb and non-Slav individuals and groups. (Just like some Serbs adopted identities of non-Serb and non-Slav peoples due to mixing and migration.) At the same time, both Serb and non-Serb elites seemed unsure how to call the people who identified as Serbs: simply Serbs or ‘Slavonic-Serbs’ (Slaveno-Serbi) or perhaps the ‘Illyrian nation’ (not to mention various regional names and archaic terms referring to medieval Raška). As mentioned previously, educated Serbs were aware of linguistic, ethnic and historical ties between the Serbs and other South Slavs and with the Slavs more generally. They sometimes imagined links with Balkan peoples of the classical era, even though these had disappeared from historical sources long before the arrival of the Slavs in the region. Without the misrule of renegade Janissaries and sustained intercommunal violence in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a rebellion of Serb peasants, initially supported by ‘legal’ Ottomans before it transformed into a ‘national revolution’ with the help from Habsburg Serbs, may not have broken out. Consequently, the modern Serbian state may not have formed – or at least not when, and where, it did. 106

J. Connelly, From Peoples into Nations: A History of Eastern Europe, Princeton, NJ, 2020, 130–56; R. Detrez, ‘Pre-national Identities in the Balkans’, in R. Daskalov and Tch. Marinov (eds), Entangled Histories of the Balkans: National Ideologies and Language Policies, Leiden, 2013, 13–65.

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Fateful Encounters Nemenikuće was a predominantly Christian village located just south of Belgrade. It formed part of a timar belonging to an Ottoman agha, a ‘young, blonde, tall man, with a pot-marked face […] who was so good he could have been a Christian’, recalled Nemenikuće-born Milovan Vidaković (1780–1841), the author of the earliest Serbian novels. One of six siblings raised by a widowed farmer Stefan Vidaković, Milovan was born and spent his childhood in the village. Milovan’s uncle had fled to Hungary following a dispute with one of the agha’s men, but generally the relationship between the Muslim agha, who married a local woman, and the Christian villagers was good. In common with many other inhabitants of the Smederevo sanjak, the Vidakovićs were ancestors of refugees – in this case Herzegovinians who had settled in ‘Serbia’ in the late seventeenth century, at the time of the population movements discussed in the previous chapter. This was a patriarchal society that functioned according to a long-established set of norms and customs specific to the region. As heads of extended households (zadruge or kuće), elder men usually had the final say on family matters, but collective decision-making based on consensus was practiced.1 Although sometimes romanticized

1

M.-J. Calic, Društvena istorija Srbije, 1815–1941, transl. from German by R. Gašić, Belgrade, 2004, 48–57; N. Mišković, Bazari i bulevari: Svet života u Beogradu 19. veka, transl. from German by R. Gašić, Belgrade, [2010], 106–24; St. K. Pavlowitch, ‘Society in Serbia, 1791–1830’, in R. Clogg (ed.), Balkan

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as pre-modern peasant democracies, it was indeed possible for individual voices to be heard and considered in these traditional households. Thus, Milovan’s sister refused to marry a wealthy elder man, who came to ask for her hand having been given permission by the girl’s father and grandfather. Vidaković’s claim that this man was Koča Andjelković (1755–88), the future hero of the Austrian–Ottoman war, has been disputed by scholars.2 Not far from another Ottoman periphery to the east of the Balkans, a very different encounter took place in Spring 1787. Catherine the Great and Joseph II met in Sevastopolis (Sevastopol), a port city in Crimea, recently built by Catherine’s lover Prince Potemkin. Russia had occupied and then annexed Crimea in 1783, causing perhaps 100,000 Muslim Tatars to flee to the Ottoman Empire.3 On the way to Sevastopolis (the name of which was meant to recall classical Greek presence in the area), Catherine’s yacht passed under a triumphal arch that bore the inscription ‘The Way to Byzantium’ – one of Potemkin’s many creations aimed to please the empress who dreamt about the ‘restoration’ of the ‘Greek Empire’. It was to be located roughly in modern Greece, Bulgaria, and North Macedonia and given to her young grandson Konstantin Pavlovich (1779–1831), rather obviously named after Constantine the Great. The Russian empress and Austrian emperor plotted the partition of Ottoman European possessions, although Joseph was mainly interested in Poland and in securing Russian support in an event of Austria’s war against Prussia.4 The imperial rendezvous in Crimea and the Great

Society in the Age of Greek Independence, London, 1981, 137–56; O. SrdanovićBarać, Srpska agrarna revolucija i poljoprivreda od Kočine krajine do kraja prve vlade kneza Miloša, 1788–1839, Belgrade, 1980. 2 P. Popović, Milovan Vidaković, Belgrade, 1934, 8; cf. M. Vidaković, Uspomene, Belgrade, 2003. 3 D. Lieven, Empire: The Russian Empire and Its Rivals, New Haven, CT, 2001, 15. 4 L. S. Stavrianos, The Balkans since 1453, London, 2000 (first publ. 1958), 192–94; cf. D. Howard, A History of the Ottoman Empire, Cambridge, 2017, 226–27; P. Bushkovitch, A Concise History of Russia, Cambridge, 2011, 133.

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Powers’ rivalry set in motion events that would directly affect the lives of the people of the Smederevo sanjak. A long conflict between the Ottoman state and the Janissaries, which had begun during the reign of Sultan Mahmud I (1730–54) – one of the reasons why the Ottoman Empire was perceived as internally weak, and not only by Catherine and Joseph – would also have a profound impact on the history of the Serbs. Pushed out of the core regions by Mahmud’s western-inspired military reforms, formerly elite but now mostly ill-­disciplined Janissaries moved to remote parts of the empire, including the Balkans, where they frequently terrorized Christian population (through raids, raised taxes, arbitrary executions) and clashed with local Ottoman authorities. With the backing of Britain and Prussia, and hoping to retake Crimea, the Ottomans declared war on the Russian Empire in August 1787. Ideally, they would have liked to also overturn the 1774 Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, which, as we have seen, formally made Russia the protector of the Ottoman Orthodox. Austria meanwhile closely monitored developments in the Balkans, looking for an opportunity to retake Belgrade and the strategic Morava valley, the aquatic spine of the Smederevo sanjak. There, rebel Janissaries clashed with the Belgrade pasha, large Muslim landowners and Christian peasants. The latter were exposed to growing taxation demands and requests to surrender personal weapons, which led to frequent skirmishes. An Austrian spy reported that ‘Serbia’ was in a state of anarchy. This seemed to ring true in January 1788, following public execution of a group of Serbs accused of treason for their alleged pro-Austrian activities, which led to an escalation of violence in the province. Sensing an opportune moment, Vienna declared war on the Ottoman state the following month.5 5

ISN, IV-1, 355–64; S. Novaković, Tursko carstvo pred srpski ustanak, 1780– 1804, Belgrade, 1906, 57–58; D. Pantelić, Vojno-geografski opisi Srbije pred Kočinu krajinu od 1783. i 1784. god, Belgrade, 1936.

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The conflict that broke out in February 1788, and would go on until August 1791, was the fourth Habsburg–Ottoman war of the past century (1683–99; 1716–18; 1739; 1788–91). This time, it took place in the backdrop of the Russian–Ottoman war in the east and the French Revolution in the west, but once again much of the fighting took place in what is today Serbia. It may be argued that the century of Habsburg–Ottoman conflict had had a more profound impact on the Serbian history than the previous two and a half centuries of Ottoman rule. Memories of the temporary ‘restorations’ of ‘Serbia’, albeit within the Habsburg imperial framework, lived on among the local population; as did the legacy of violence and forced population movements. In the late eighteenth century, present-day central Serbia was a sparsely populated area, covered in forest. The mass emigration of Christians into the Habsburg monarchy was somewhat offset by the arrival of Orthodox Slavs from neighbouring Ottoman provinces, who helped maintain a clear Christian majority in the sanjak. While Muslims had also emigrated, many, mostly from Bosnia, had also moved into the Smederevo sanjak in the eighteenth century. They would feel increasingly uncertain about their future, despite, or perhaps because, they belonged to the ruling minority, and the vast majority will depart from Serbia in the decades that followed.6 Back in early 1788, as news reached Nemenikuće that Janissaries were pillaging and burning Christian villages, the Novakovićs and their neighbours sought shelter in a nearby forest. As the fighting escalated, they set on a longer journey, along the well-established route to the Habsburg Monarchy. Christian

6

M. B. Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, 1804–1918, New York, 1976, 2 vols, I, 21; Š. Hodžić, ‘Migracije muslimanskog stanovništva iz Srbije u sjeveroistočnu Bosnu izmedju 1788. –[sic] 1862. godine’, Članci i gradja za kulturnu istoriju istočne Bosne, II, Tuzla, 1958, 65–143, 65; cf. J. Cvijić, La péninsule balkanique: geographie humaine, Paris, 1918, chs 10–12.

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peasants abandoned their homes in a hurry, taking with them only what they could. Sometimes this included domestic animals – sources of food and income and, perhaps, sentimental reminders of the home they may never see again. Refugee columns passed by deserted villages, vineyards and orchards, tree branches bowed under the weight of unpicked apples, pears and plums. Some changed their mind, unable to leave and apparently preferring to risk their lives rather than start afresh in exile. Many others left never to return, joining a sizeable Serb diaspora in Hungary and Austria. Echoing the abbot of Hopovo during the ‘Great Migration’ a century earlier, Milovan Vidaković compared Serb refugees to ‘Israelites fleeing to Egypt’.7 However, the Danube and the Sava Rivers were no Red Sea. Just like during the previous centuries, the movement of peoples and goods continued despite frequent fighting. This ensured that the border between the two seemingly very different empires, and between large Serb communities on the two sides of the frontier, was not a pre-modern Iron Curtain.8 Once they reached the apparent safety of southern Hungary, refugees of fighting age were recruited by Habsburg officers of Serb origin, the Orthodox clergy and traders and merchants, whose networks of contacts extended on both sides of the border. The latter included Koča Andjelković. A farmer from Panjevac, a village on the banks of the Velika Morava River near Jagodina, he too hailed from a family of migrants, whose origins were probably in modern Kosovo. Koča made his fortune through livestock export, but marriage to a woman from a well-off family helped too9 – and must have gone some way towards compensating for the earlier romantic rejection, if Vidaković’s version of events is to be trusted. 7

Vidaković, Uspomene, 43–44. St. K. Pavlowitch, Serbia: The History behind the Name, London, 2002, 26. 9 D. Pantelić, Kočina Krajina, Belgrade, 1930, 16–18. 8

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Andjelković was quickly promoted to the rank of captain in Major (later Colonel) Mihailo Mihaljević’s ‘Serbian’ Freikorps. Lack of food and fear of Ottoman reprisals made the mobilization of the peasants difficult, but Andjelković’s pre-war reputation and contacts helped him overcome these obstacles. Consisting mainly of Habsburg and Ottoman Serbs, Kapetan Koča’s 10,000-strong militia quickly gained control of the countryside south of Belgrade. Low morale among the Ottoman troops due to food shortages, irregular wages and internal conflicts contributed to Koča’s success, though his troops did not manage to capture any towns. This allowed the Ottoman troops to regroup and launch a successful counter­offensive. Hit by hunger and desertion, and with no aid from Austria forthcoming, the Freikorps were forced to retreat. Andjelković’s men, however, continued to raid Ottoman garrisons in ‘Serbia’, until their leader was captured and publicly executed near the modern Serbian–Romanian border in September 1788. The war that continued for three more years is remembered in the Serbian tradition as Kočina Krajina (Koča’s War).10 The peace agreement signed in Svishtov (modern Bulgaria) in August 1791 re-established the Ottoman sanjak of Smederevo. The Habsburgs’ sense of loss was heightened by the death, the 10

The legend of Kapetan Koča survives to this day and was fostered in both royalist and socialist Yugoslavia. Panjevac was renamed Kočino Selo (Koča’s Village) in the 1930s. Several decades later, a popular Yugoslav comic book series featured a two-part issue on Kapetan Koča and his military campaign against the Ottomans. The series was best known for its main characters, World War II–era Partisan children-soldiers Mirko and Slavko, but it also featured other historical Yugoslav and pre-Yugoslav resistance leaders and historical events. An old oak tree just outside Kočino Selo, on the left bank of the Velika Morava River, where Andjelković allegedly recruited his troops, still stands. It has been a stateprotected ‘monument of nature’ since 1958. This was a place where the author of this book and his younger sister were sometimes taken as children in the late 1970s and early 1980s. An ideal spot for a break in nature and a ‘history lesson’ from grandparents, retelling the story they had themselves once heard on the very same spot (our paternal grandmother was born and grew up in the village). A good example perhaps of how oral history works in practice.

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previous year, of Emperor Joseph II and of Field Marshal von Laudon, the military governor of Habsburg-occupied Serbia. (In 1792, Sultan Selim III (1789–1807) finally ceded the Crimea and the surrounding territory near the Black Sea to Russia). There was a familiar post-war pattern. Ottoman reprisals against Christians caused further emigration to the Austrian Empire. Probably only a general amnesty granted by the sultan prevented another mass exodus of Orthodox Serbs. The amnesty also caused a sense of resentment among some Muslims when former Freikorps fighters returned to start or resume the profitable livestock trade. The war of 1788–91 anticipated the ‘Serbian revolution’, or the First Serbian Uprising, the beginning of which is traditionally dated to 1804. Andjelković had belonged to the same, emerging social class of prosperous farmers and livestock traders who would lead the 1804 insurgency, having had their privileges taken away by the Janissaries. Frequent warfare and forced population movements of the eighteenth century disadvantaged settled farmers but encouraged more entrepreneurial among them to start dealing in livestock, especially pigs, that found customers in neighbouring Habsburg-held Hungary. In the late eighteenth century, the trade between Ottoman ‘Serbia’ and central European markets boomed, forcing the authorities to employ 62 staff at the Zemun border crossing to oversee the import of livestock. Towards the end of the century, 160,000 pigs and 4,000 cattle annually were exported from Ottoman ‘Serbia’ into central Europe. In 1777–86, Hungary imported on average 1,300,000 francs worth of pigs annually from the Ottoman Empire, mainly from Serbia. The Treaty of Svishtov allowed free trade between the Habsburg and Ottoman states, boosting the economy and the standard of living of Christian farmers in the Smederevo sanjak. In the 1790s, most Christians in the province owned between 20 and 200 pigs, but the richest among them possessed even more. Karadjordje

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Petrović, who would lead the 1804 uprising, apparently owned 300 pigs, 3,000 sheep, 70 cattle and 16 horses.11

The First Serbian Uprising, 1804–13 Post-war reforms introduced by Selim III improved the position of the Balkan peasantry, but it was the appointment, as the Belgrade vizier, of Haji Mustafa Pasha in 1793 that would prove especially popular among the local population. The new pasha expelled the Janissaries and fully restored the autonomy of Serb village communities (knežine). The knezes (village leaders) resumed their role as tax-collecting intermediaries between the Christian peasantry and Muslim landowners. The highest-ranked knezes were known as obor-knezes (sing. obor-knez), from German ober (upper, higher) and Slav knez. They were essentially Christian chiefs of nahije (pl. from nahija – a word of Turkish origin meaning district); this linguistic mix perfectly captured the historical legacies in what was soon to become modern Serbia. The Christians nicknamed Haji Mustafa Pasha ‘srpska majka’ (the Serbian mother). If public opinion surveys existed at the time, he would have been well ahead of Leontije (Leontius), a not especially popular Phanariot Greek Metropolitan of Belgrade. Further concessions followed, including permission to (re-)build churches and, crucially, the right to bear light arms. Made in order to help defend the province from Janissary raids, the decision would have profound consequences. It enabled village leaders and other prosperous Christians to keep menservants, who acted, if necessary, as armed bodyguards.12 11

M. Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije, 1790–1918, Belgrade, 1989, 2 vols, I, 93; T. Stoianovich, ‘The Conquering Balkan Orthodox Merchant’, Journal of Economic History, 20:2 (1960), 234–313, 282–83. 12 ISN, IV-1, 402–19; R. Zens, ‘In the Name of the Sultan: Haçi Mustafa Pasha of Belgrade and Ottoman Provincial Rule in the Late 18th Century’, International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 44:1 (2012), 129–46.

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Fiercely loyal to their masters, the momci (‘bachelors’, ‘lads’) were provided with weapons, clothes, food and share of the booty (which sometimes included Christian women kidnapped as would-be brides for the momci). Numbers varied, but prominent Serbs employed up to 50 momci and were able to recruit additional men when required.13 Aleksa Nenadović, the obor-knez of the Valjevo nahija in western Serbia, could apparently mobilize around 1,800 men.14 Members of these peasant militias, employed by the pasha against the Janissaries, often had prior combat experience, as veterans of the 1788–91 war and/or as former brigands. The main source of instability in the Belgrade province was the western Bulgaria). neighbouring sanjak of Vidin (modern north-­ There, Pasvanoğlu Osman Pasha (1758–1807) effectively created a breakaway statelet in the early 1790s, which in addition to Janissaries attracted demobilized Muslim veterans and brigands, collectively known as kirjalis or yamaks, as well as Christian rebels and adventurers.15 The former included Muslim refugees from ‘Serbia’ who sought to force their way back into the province; among the latter was Rigas Pheraios (1757–98), a Greek writer and revolutionary of Vlach origin, and a certain Nedeljko Popović, probably a Habsburg Serb who served as Pasvanoğlu’s bazirgân-pasha, or ‘finance minister’.16 In November 1801, together with a Greek teacher and a friend of Pasvanoğlu’s, Popović delivered to Napoleon the pasha’s offer 13

L. Ranke, History of Servia and the Servian Revolution, from original mss. and documents, transl. from German by Mrs Alexander Kerr, London, 1847, 68–69, 119; Stoianovich, Balkan Worlds, 166. 14 Prota Mateja Nenadović, Memoari, Belgrade, 2001 (originally publ. 1893), 37. 15 R. Zens, ‘Pasvanoğlu Osman Paşa and the Paşalik of Belgrade, 1791–1807’, International Journal of Turkish Studies 8:1–2 (2002), 89–104. Kirjalis sometimes included Christians, and were in any case ‘multi-ethnic’, consisting of Albanians, South Slavs and Turks. 16 Smederevo refugees: Zens, ‘Pasvanoğlu’, 91; Pheraios: R. Clogg, A Concise History of Greece, 2nd edn, Cambridge, 2002, 28–29. Popović: Novaković, Tursko carstvo, 383. Pheraios was captured and killed by Haci Mustafa’s men in Belgrade, where a street is named after him today.

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of an alliance against the sultan. The French were about to settle their differences with the Ottoman state, so nothing came out of the proposed collaboration.17 However, while the Porte deployed its troops against the French, the defence of the Smederevo sanjak was left solely to Haji Mustafa’s men, commanded by his son, and Serb peasant militias. The Janissaries captured Belgrade in December, executed the pasha and abolished the Christian privileges. Four Vidin Janissaries, who called themselves dahis (dahije, dayis),18 were the real rulers of the sanjak even after a new pasha sent by the Porte arrived in Belgrade the following year. The dahis, Mehmed Foça-oğlu, Küçük-Ali, Aganli-Bayraktar and Mülla Yusuf, divided the province into their own fiefdoms and kept closer ties with Vidin than with Constantinople. As it would turn out, the province would never be again fully incorporated into the Ottoman state, although not in the way the dahis would have imagined. They raised local taxes, oppressed the Christians and clashed with Muslim sipahi landowners. Initially at least, the conflict ignored supposedly deep religious divisions and it had elements of a local, ‘civil’ war. Küçük-Ali was born into a Djevrlić family of the Rudnik nahija in western Serbia,19 and at least two other dahis were probably also Balkan-born. Late Haji Mustafa Pasha was a Greek Muslim from Plovdiv (modern Bulgaria), while Pasvanoğlu’s father was from Tuzla, in north-eastern Bosnia. As the Ottoman control of the Balkans faced a near collapse, loyalty often shifted and crossed ethno-confessional boundaries. Apart from Belgrade and Vidin, a semi-­autonomous province of Ioannina, which included parts of modern Greece and Albania,

17

Novaković, Tursko carstvo, 383–85. Probably after the deys of North Africa, Muslim rebel soldiers who around the same time clashed with the Ottoman authorities there. Ranke, 66. 19 Miloš Obrenović, who would lead the Second Uprising and become the prince of autonomous Serbia, came from the same region. 18

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was established under Ali Pasha, an ethnic Albanian.20 Following the dahis’ takeover, Albanian and Bosnian Muslim Janissaries and kirjalis moved to ‘Serbia’, attracted by opportunities for quick profit at the expense of Christians and Muslim landowners, thus making the predicament of the local population even more difficult.21 From their Serbian base, the dahis raided nearby Ottoman provinces. Thus, for example, Aganli-Bayraktar’s men looted and pillaged Muslim property in eastern Bosnia, apparently with little regard for the lives of their co-religionists. By contrast, aforementioned Aleksa Nenadović enjoyed a good relationship with the Muslims of Srebrenica, the previously mentioned mining town situated just across the river Drina from his knežina in western Serbia. ‘I want you to raise your army, and Turks from all towns [in the sanjak] will join us too, so that we can fight your friend Haji-bey and burn down Srebrenica’, Aganli-Bayraktar told Nenadović. The latter protested, aware of the likely tragic consequences for the Bosnian Muslim population, especially after the dahi instructed him to provide his momci with plenty of rakija (a strong type of local brandy) to drink before battle.22 Meanwhile, friends of late Haji Mustafa, well-off Muslims and Christians, who included Petar Ičko, a Hellenized Vlach from Belgrade, plotted to overthrow the dahi regime from their temporary exile in Zemun.23 Contacts existed also with Habsburg Serb and other South Slav merchants, who controlled trade in the lower Danube and who would provide food and weapons in exchange for livestock. In January 1804, Montenegrin Prince-Bishop Petar I Petrović Njegoš (1784–1830) 20

Ali Pasha probably spoke little Turkish and made Greek the language of his ‘court’. Although he fought loyally against Napoleon, the pasha effectively ruled over his own mini state in which a Greek Ottoman culture prospered. Howard, A History of the Ottoman Empire, 234. 21 V. Ćorović, Istorija srpskog naroda, Belgrade, 2013, 602. 22 Nenadović, Memoari, 37–38. 23 Ćorović, Istorija srpskog naroda, 603–604; Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije, I, 97–98.

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informed the abbot of the Dečani monastery in Kosovo that he was ready to send troops in aid of the Belgrade Serbs.24 In the end, a rebellion broke out across the province in February 1804 in response to a massacre of prominent Christians ordered by the dahis. Sources vary, but over the course of several days in late January and early February between 70 and 150 knezes, livestock merchants and Orthodox priests were executed, apparently in an attempt by the dahis to prevent a rebellion. The ‘slaughter of the knezes’, as the event is known in the Serbian tradition, caused both fear and anger. People fled to hills and mountains in anticipation of further violence; some joined hajduk bands; others simply hid. According to popular tradition, desperate and homeless among the reaya called upon surviving leaders to resist the dahis’ terror. The latter had little choice anyway, as their lives and livelihoods were threatened. Uncoordinated resistance broke out across the sanjak. In the central region of Šumadija, the insurgency was led by the previously mentioned wealthy pig farmer Djordje Petrović (1762–1817). Known as Karadjordje (Black George), either for his dark complexion or for his temper or perhaps both, his background and career resembled that of Koča Andjelković: both men were first-­generation migrants (Karadjordje’s parents were born in Montenegro), both came from humble backgrounds but became successful livestock traders, and both served in the Austrian Freikorps in 1788–91. After the war, Karadjordje returned home to take advantage of the amnesty. Before ‘legitimizing’ his business, he spent some time with the band of Stanoje Glavaš, a well-known hajduk from Šumadija who clashed with both the Ottomans and Serb knezes, whose property his men looted. Karadjordje also fought against Vidin Janissaries as a bölükbaşı 24

Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, I, 26; T. Stoianovich, ‘The Segmentary State and La Grande Nation’, in E. D. Genovese and L. Hochberg (eds), Geographic Perspectives in History, Oxford, 1989, 256–80, 270–72.

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(buljubaša in Serbian, an Ottoman military rank equivalent of ­captain) in the Serb militia loyal to Haji Mustafa Pasha.25 It was Glavaš whom an assembly of around 60 prominent Serbs – disguised as a wedding party – held in the village of Orašac on 14 February 1804 (Candlemas according to the Julian calendar) initially asked to lead the insurgency.26 Glavaš, however, thought himself unsuitable due to being a hajduk, so the choice then fell on Karadjordje. A little bit of all at once – a respected farmer-trader, a war veteran and a former hajduk, Karadjordje’s humble origins were also likely to appeal to ‘­ordinary’ people mistrustful of the wealthy knezes. If things were to go wrong, the knezes could always place the blame on a former brigand thus hopefully protecting them and the people from reprisals. Karadjordje too initially expressed reservations about his suitability for leadership, due to his short fuse and bad temper, but such qualities were deemed necessary for the task by the assembly. The new leader swore an oath in front of a local priest, giving the occasion a sacral dimension. (Figure 4.1). The same day the insurgents burnt a nearby road inn (han), killing or expelling its Muslim staff. This was the symbolic beginning of the First Serbian Uprising. Road inns were burnt elsewhere in the early stages of the insurgency, as relatively easy targets symbolic of the Ottoman rule. They had been typically built through forced labour (kuluk) of the Christians, including apparently Karadjordje himself. In retrospect, these acts anticipated large-scale anti-­ Muslim violence and destruction of property, but for the time being no suggestion was made that Christians and Muslims could not coexist.27 25

R. Ljušić, Vožd Karadjordje, Belgrade, 2000, 2 vols, I, 35–36; Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, I, 31. 26 Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije, I, 98–99. 27 Ibid, 99; Pavlowitch, Serbia, 30; Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, I, 29–31; Ranke, 127; cf. B. Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 1804–1920, Seattle, WA, 1986, ch. 2.

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figure 4.1  The Orašac Assembly (1804), Karadjordje standing in the m ­ iddle, holding a banner. A nineteenth-century illustration, unknown author (Wikipedia)

The myth of Black George, a fearless hero who defied the ‘Turks’, spread quickly. It probably had something to do with millenarian beliefs, common throughout Europe at the time and with a long history among Serbs, as previously mentioned. A seventeenth- or eighteenth-­century (depending on source) Montenegrin prophet Stanj Šćekić foretold the appearance of a man of dark complexion somewhere between the rivers Lim (northern Montenegro, near Karadjordje’s ancestral home) and Danube (therefore in the Smederevo sanjak), to bring ‘the long era of troubles to an end’ and liberate ‘many Serbians’. A series of natural phenomena in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries only added to widespread expectations of the arrival of a messiah, St Sava, Kraljević Marko or perhaps a new hero-liberator. Several decades later, a woman in Kosovo told Ami Boué, a Vienna-based geologist and traveller, that ‘Christians here await Prince Miloš

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[Obrenović, Karadjordje’s successor – see below] like a messiah, to liberate us at last from our oppressors’.28 Initially Karadjordje’s influence did not extend beyond Šumadija. To the west, in the Valjevo nahija, prota (protoiereus or archpriest) Mateja, son of late obor-knez Aleksa Nenadović, sought help from Austrian/Hungarian officials and prominent Habsburg Serbs, who, however, instructed him that as an Ottoman subject he should negotiate with the ‘Turks’. In an attempt to coordinate the resistance, Prota Mateja travelled to Šumadija in late March 1804, but failed in meeting Karadjordje. ‘Black George knows not how to write, nor does he have a secretary, but he is good at fighting the Turks’, Karadjordje’s men told the visitor before instructing him to go back, mocking the priest’s attempts to correspond with potential allies.29 As much as they detested the dahis’ rule, ‘ordinary’ people were often unwilling or afraid to fight. A combination of financial incentives, forced mobilization and manipulation on part of rebel leaders was used to boost up the ranks. Prota Mateja, whose word as a clergyman carried a certain weight, told exaggerated stories of Karadjordje’s victories and manipulated both Christians and Muslims into joining the rebellion by persuading a local Muslim to pretend to be the sultan’s envoy. The belief that ‘the tsar [sultan] was with us’ encouraged those otherwise fearful of the Janissaries and sceptic about armed resistance to join the ranks. According to Vuk Karadžić, one of the main chroniclers of the 28

The sightings of comets of 1781, 1797 and 1807; strong thunderstorms on 14 January (OS) 1801, on the eve of St Sava’s Day, the eclipse of the moon on the same day in 1804 and of the sun two weeks later. Stoianovich, Balkan Worlds, 168–70. Could have Šćekić heard about the teachings of Sabbatai Zevi (1626–76), an Ottoman Jewish prophet and a self-proclaimed messiah who spent the last years of his life in Ulcinj (present-day Montenegro)? On Zevi see M. Mazower, Salonica, the City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430–1950, London, 2004, 71–74. Boué cited in V. Stojančević, Miloš Obrenović i njegovo doba, Belgrade, 1966, 332. 29 Nenadović, Memoari, 59–60.

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rebellion, the insurgents had to reassure the Christian peasantry until as late as 1806 that their fight was not against the Ottoman authorities.30 A series of rebel victories led to Austrian-mediated peace talks in May 1804 in Zemun, which failed when no guarantees for the withdrawal of the Janissaries could be given by the Belgrade pasha.31 The Serbs then communicated their demands to the Porte through church channels and simultaneously approached Russia’s diplomatic representatives in Constantinople. They sought a kind of autonomy enjoyed by the Greek Ionian islands and the Danubian principalities, in both cases guaranteed by the Russian tsar. Meanwhile, they continued to acquire weapons from Habsburg Serbs, often in exchange for livestock or with money earned through the sale of pigs. Habsburg authorities turned a blind eye to arms and men-in-arms illegally crossing the border, as volunteers from Hungary and the Military Border joined the insurgents. Reinforcements came also from Montenegro, Bosnia– Herzegovina and other neighbouring provinces; the volunteers included a handful of Bulgarians and Greeks.32 At this time, the insurgents enjoyed support from regular Ottoman troops in Bosnia. By summer 1804, they had all but defeated the enemy, despite Pasvanoğlu sending supplies as well as 1,000 kirjalis commanded by Kosançali Halil Agha (in the Serbian tradition known as Gušanac-Alija – another local Muslim, whose family hailed from Gusinje, on the modern Albanian–Montenegrin ­border). When the dahis attempted to flee to Vidin, they were captured at Ada Kale, a Danubian island, and executed in early August – either by Karadjordje’s men or regular Ottoman troops, depending on source, but in any case, with the approval of the Porte. 30

Karadžić quoted in D. Djordjević, Ogledi iz novije balkanske istorije, Belgrade, 1989, 18; cf. Nenadović, Memoari, 48–53, 98–99. 31 Nenadović, Memoari, 64–65. 32 Ibid, 47–48; Djordjević, Ogledi, 148–49.

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It seemed as if the rebellion was over, and that peace and order would be restored in the province. However, Bekir Pasha, the sultan’s envoy who had previously suppressed a revolt of Bosnian ayan (local notables), considered the Serbs’ demand for autonomy guaranteed by Austria as unacceptable because it would have violated the Ottoman sovereignty. The kirjalis, who held the Belgrade fortress, then kidnapped the pasha, agreeing to release him only after the insurgents paid a ransom. A tense, un­­official truce followed as the winter approached.33 Continuing their search for an empire-protector – in their view only another emperor could speak to the sultan directly – the Serb insurgents sent a delegation to Russia that, after several weeks of travelling, reached St Petersburg in early October. Having listened to what they had to say, Prince Adam Czartoryski, a Polishborn Russian Foreign Minister, told his guests that ‘Serbia is far away from Russia, and anyway we are friends with the Turks.’ He gave them some money, symbolic gifts and a piece of practical advice: choose a leader and elect a government so that Russia and other countries would know who represented the Serbs (which suggests that Karadjordje had not yet been accepted by all insurgents as their leader).34

33

D. Djordjević, Istorija moderne Srbije, 1800–1918, Belgrade, 2017, 53; Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije, I, 106; Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, I, 34; cf. Zens, ‘Pasvanoğlu’, 102–103. One hundred and ten years later, during the July 1914 crisis, the Serbian government rejected the presence of Austrian inspectors investigating the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, pointing out, not unreasonably, that this would have violated the country’s sovereignty. The outcome would be the outbreak of the First World War, discussed later on in the book. 34 V. St. Karadžić, ‘Pravitel’stvuiushchi soviet Serbskii’ za vremena Kara-Djordjijeva, ili otimanje ondašnjijeh velikaša oko vlasti, Vienna, 1860, 1; cf. Nenadović, Memoari, 88–92. Karadžić, ever the linguist, complained that instead of the Russian word soviet the Serbian equivalent vijeće should have been used when the first revolutionary government was established later on.

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Despite failing to negotiate an agreement with the Ottoman officials and to secure support from either Austria or Russia, the insurgents refused to give up weapons unless their autonomy was restored, and the Janissaries were banned from returning to the province. As a result, by early 1805, the conflict transformed from a civil war between the renegade Muslims and the Christians and Muslims loyal to the Sultan into a war between Christian rebels and the Ottoman state. As the Serb insurgents won important battles during the summer, the sultan declared jihad and deployed troops from Bosnia, but these failed to crash the rebellion. The fighting continued simultaneously with unsuccessful attempts to find a diplomatic solution. Austria and Russia, and increasingly also France, became involved. In August–September 1806, it appeared that a peace agreement was within reach, after the sultan met with previously mentioned Belgrade merchant Petar Ičko and gave verbal assurances of autonomy for Serbia in exchange for an annual tribute. Then another Ottoman–Russian war broke out in late December, over the status of the Danubian principalities. Karadjordje’s men captured Belgrade the same month and, encouraged by Russia, demanded full independence. Pasvanoğlu’s death in January 1807, at the age of 69, removed another powerful enemy. Except for two Ottoman garrisons, the whole sanjak of Smederevo was now under the insurgents’ control. Thus, in less than three years, more than three centuries of Ottoman rule, interrupted by short periods of Habsburg occupation, was effectively over. The Ottoman rule would be re-established, but only temporarily as it would turn out. Because of the profound political and social changes that followed, the rebellion has been described by Leopold Ranke, and subsequent historians, as a revolution.35 According to traditional historiography, medieval Serbia had been restored in the early nineteenth century under Karadjordje’s

35

Ranke, op. cit.; R. Ljušić, Tumačenja Srpske revolucije, Belgrade, 1992.

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leadership. However, neither he nor other rebel leaders saw themselves as successors of the medieval kings, emperors and despots, even when tradition of resistance against the Ottomans was recalled by the insurgents. Heraldic symbols of medieval Serbia, mostly invented in Central Europe and Dalmatia in the previous centuries, were circulated by Habsburg Serbs, as ‘visual reminders’, alongside saintly relics and church frescoes, of Serbia’s medieval ‘golden age’. However, the rebel leaders did not know where Serbia was supposed to be. Out of twelve obor-knezes who formed the first revolutionary government (the soviet – see the following text), only four were literate. When in 1807 Hajduk Veljko Petrović, a Robin Hood–type brigand from eastern Serbia, informed the soviet of his intention to occupy a territory near the Timok River (in present-day eastern Serbia) and thus extend Serbia’s borders, the ‘ministers’ did not seem to know where this region was. Even educated Serbs and ‘national revivalists’ and church leaders in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were not always sure where the Serbs lived, nor indeed which groups and individuals living in ethnically and religiously mixed Serbo-Croat speaking space of the central and western Balkans should be considered Serb.36 A Russian diplomatic mission headed by Konstantin Rodofinikin (c.1760–1838), a Tsarist diplomat of Greek origin, arrived in Belgrade in August 1807. Russia’s ‘ambassador’ was given one of the best houses in the city, Küçük-Ali’s former residence. However, the relationship between Rodofinikin and Karadjordje was marked by tension and mistrust. The Serb leader suspected the Russian envoy of plotting with rival Serb leaders to limit his power, and it did not help that Rodofinikin established a close relationship with Metropolitan Leontije, a fellow 36

Ćirković, The Serbs, 181; Djordjević, Ogledi, 19, 145; ISN, V-1, 12–14; M. Popović, ‘Vuk medju Ilirima’, in Kovčežić: Prilozi i gradja o Dositeju i Vuku, 6, Belgrade, 1964, 5–18, 5.

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Greek whom the Serbs generally mistrusted.37 Rodofinikin’s diplomatic manners, dress and way of life were alien to the proud, but crude and illiterate insurgents, in a similar way that they found educated Habsburg Serbs’ dress and manners eccentric and foreign to them. One example was Rodofinikin’s failed attempt to introduce a tradition of tea drinking. The custom never took off among the rakija consuming Serb rebels, not even after the Russian mixed tea with rum.38 Some sort of dual Ottoman–Serb government had been established previously in the main towns of the province, but by late 1806, inter-communal relations worsened. Things were not helped by a poor harvest, as Muslims and their property were attacked by Christians; many fled as a result, mostly to eastern Bosnia. When the insurgents captured Belgrade in December 1806, they pillaged the city for two days, killing or forcibly converting many Muslims, but Jews and Christians suspected of loyalty to the ‘Turks’ were targeted as well.39 Despite being promised safe passage, around 250 Ottomans, including Suleiman Pasha, who had been trapped in the Belgrade fortress during the winter, were massacred in early March 1807. Adult Muslim men were killed in other places, too, and only those who converted to Christianity were spared.40 Meanwhile, Muslim women were raped, made mistresses and forced to convert to Christianity (which for those born into

37

G. Jakšić, Evropa i vaskrs Srbije (1804–1834), Introduction by É. Haumant, Belgrade, 1933 (4th revised edn), 117–19; Ljušić, Vožd Karadjordje, I, 195–96. 38 Ljušić, Vožd Karadjordje, I, 147–48 & II, 267–70. Russian officials therefore inspired the formation of the first Serbian government and attempted to tackle the problem of alcoholism among the Serbs. So much for national stereotypes. 39 Ljušić, Vožd Karadjordje, I, 169; cf. S. Bandžović, ‘Muslimani u Smederevskom sandžaku: progoni i pribježišta’, in M. Arnautlić (ed.), 150 godina od protjerivanja muslimana iz kneževine Srbije, Orašje, 2013, 9–49; Hodžić, ‘Migracije muslimanskog stanovništva’. 40 Ljušić, Vožd Karadjordje, I, 172; Ranke, 114.

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Christian families would have been the second forced conversion). Some of them married Serbian men, which if anything offered protection. Turban-wearing Serb leaders therefore did not just resemble their enemy visually, but often behaved like the dahis. One of Karadjordje’s commanders kept his own haram, despite already being married to a Christian woman.41 Contemporary accounts mention unmarked graves of Serb ‘deserters’ shot by the rebels; Serb and other Orthodox town population was mistrusted by Karadjordje’s men for their ‘Ottoman appearance’ and suspected of collaboration with the ‘Turks’. Similarly, Jews, known as the ‘Turkish people’ (turski ljudi) for their loyalty to the Ottoman state, were victims of violence, plunder and even murder, which forced many to flee the city. The attacks ceased only after the Russians and Karadjordje’s Jewish contacts in Zemun intervened on behalf of remaining Belgrade Jews.42 * In May 1807, Sultan Selim III was overthrown by the Janissaries, while Napoleon’s army made gains against Russia. An Ottoman– Russian truce that followed extended to Serbia. With the help from Habsburg Serbs, the rebels went about organizing a government and rule of law over the territory they controlled. That same year saw the establishment of district magistrates followed by, in 41

Ljušić, Vožd Karadjordje, II, 267. It seems that polygamy was practised unofficially among Serbs. An early twentieth-century Serbian ethnographer recorded stories of Koča Andjelković’s two wives: one from Serbia and another one from southern Hungary (S. Mijatović, Belica (Naselja i poreklo stanovništva), Srpski etnografski zbornik, LVI (Belgrade), 1948, 166n). Miloš Obrenović openly kept in mistresses, which in one instance led to tragedy when Princess Ljubica Obrenović shot one of her rivals, knowing she would avoid punishment because she was pregnant at the time. Miloš allegedly fathered several illegitimate children and continued to keep mistresses even at an advanced age while in exile. 42 B. Hrabak, Jevreji u Beogradu do sticanja ravnopravnosti (1878), Belgrade, 2009, 225–26.

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1811, the creation of the Grand Court (Veliki sud). Meanwhile, the soviet underwent a ‘reshuffle’ at the beginning of 1811 and now was comprised of six ministries – of war, defence, foreign affairs, finance, justice and education. Karadjordje presided over the new governing body but kept the overall military command as well. His official title now was the ‘supreme leader’ (vrhovni vožd – another Russian term), although his power was kept in check by the soviet and the rival obor-knezes and vojvodas.43 The newly introduced portfolio for education was held by Dositej Obradović, albeit for a few months only; the first education minister in Serbia’s history died in April 1811. Obradović had moved to ‘liberated’ Serbia four years earlier. Approaching 70 and well-travelled, he must have seen Belgrade as a small, Oriental town. He initially stayed with a wealthy Serb kafana owner (and Karadjordje’s fellow former Freikorps veteran), whose cellar was well stocked with food and wine, something that Obradović appreciated. Karadjordje, who during peacetime resided in Topola, a village in Šumadija, sent his eldest son Aleksije (1801–30) to live with and study under Dositej. Previously dressed like any other Serbian peasant boy, Aleksije now wore ‘European’ clothes provided by Rodofinikin. Following the death of their landlord, the tutor and his pupil moved to the Russian ‘embassy’, much to the chagrin of Austrian envoys, who competed with the Russians for influence in Serbia. Many Serbian leaders, including Karadjordje, were illiterate, but they understood the importance of education. The Ottoman 43

Verhovni serbskoga naroda vožd (Supreme leader of the Serbian people) was one of the versions of his title, but in the early years of the rebellion he was more of a military commander than a political, let alone ‘supreme’, leader. Karadjordje, or rather his secretaries, signed a letter to the Austrian emperor of 18 January 1807 as servischer Ober Commandant, sammt den Ältesten der Nation. In French, he was Commandant en chef de nation Servienne, but the French referred to him simply as Général (which he was not). Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije, I, 99; Ljušić, Vožd Karadjordje, II, 256.

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sanjak of Smederevo was an overwhelmingly peasant and illiterate society in which the only education available to Christian boys was that offered in Orthodox monasteries. It was therefore quite remarkable that by 1808 revolutionary Serbia had 50 secular elementary schools as well as the Belgrade Grand School, founded by Dositej. Within a year from opening in 1808, the Grand School moved to a larger house to accommodate a growing number of pupils. A three-year long education included classes in history, geography, mathematics, Serbian and German languages, law, church singing, fencing and gun shooting. Among those attending the Grand School was Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (1787–1864), a 20-year-old administrative employee of the revolutionary government. Within several years, Karadžić would emerge as the most important linguist, folklorist and cultural historian of his era, not just among the Serbs.44 Educated and educating Habsburg Serbs were active on both sides of the imperial border. A Serb gimnazija (lycée) opened in 1810 in Novi Sad (then southern Hungary) thanks to a donation by a wealthy Serb businessman. It quickly became a prestigious institution, attracting, among others, eminent Slovak linguist Pavel Šafárik, who in the 1820s served as the school’s master. The teaching staff included Milovan Vidaković, who had in the meanwhile become the author of the first Serbian novels – ­popular romances inspired by similar German-language literature and classical Greek and medieval Serb legends. Vidaković’s work came under criticism from Vuk Karadžić for its low artistic value and for being written in archaic Serbian. The books, however, sold well among Habsburg Serbs, even after Vidaković’s Bohemian lifestyle and an alleged homosexual affair with a pupil

44

St. K. Pavlowitch, Božid’art: istorije života, dela i okruženja Božidara Karadjordjevića, pariskog umetnika i balkanskog kneza (1862–1908), transl. by Lj. Mirković, Belgrade, 2012 (first publ. in French, 1978), 18–21.

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cost him his job in 1824.45 For all their differences, it is unlikely either Vidaković or Karadžić would have become men of letters had they not ended up as refugees in the Habsburg Monarchy. The first modern theatre performances in Serbian were staged in 1813 in Pest (modern Budapest) thanks to Joakim Vujić, a Hungarian Serb who would establish Serbia’s first theatre in Kragujevac 21 years later. It was also in Pest where wealthy Habsburg Serbs founded in 1826 the Matica srpska, a cultural association that ‘from the very beginning aimed at presenting Serbian culture to Europe and at enlightening the people’. The Matica, the first such Slav cultural organization, later moved to Novi Sad with the financial support of Sava Popović Tekelija, one of the richest Serbs at the time. It remains there today, as a statefunded, oldest Serb cultural institution that preceded by over two decades the founding in Belgrade of the Serbian Learned Society, the predecessor of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.46 Tekelija, an Arad-born and Pest-based (in modern Romania and Hungary, respectively) merchant and lawyer, had sent financial aid to the Serb rebels and advocated their cause abroad. In June 1804, he urged Napoleon to support the creation of a large Serb or South Slav state that would act as a buffer against Austria and Russia. ‘The Serbian uprising so far is in fact an act of brigandage and endless bloodshed’, Tekelija wrote to Napoleon, ‘but with the right support and guidance the Serbs would make an important contribution to European politics’. The future state would unite the ethnically and linguistically kindred population that lived between modern Slovenia in the north-west, the Adriatic in the south and the Black Sea in the east. Tekelija acknowledged the existence of religious divisions but believed these would be eventually overcome. ‘[I]f during the French revolution a desire and enthusiasm for freedom and equality 45

Popović, Milovan Vidaković, 210–49. For a brief history of the Matica srpska see its website: www.maticasrpska .org.rs/en/matica-srpska/.

46

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could unite the Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans and Jansenists [a branch of Catholicism]’, Tekelija wrote, ‘would it not be possible that nationalism would similarly lead to the unification of the Serbs and to weaken religious fanaticism, removing the questions of faith by focusing on the issues of nationalism and fatherland?’47 * Subsequent events anticipated the ‘western’ approach to the ‘Serbian question’ throughout the nineteenth century. When the Russian–Ottoman truce expired in 1809, the fighting returned to Serbia once again. The insurgents repelled the enemy attacks and launched counteroffensive in several directions, hoping to draw fellow Orthodox populations into the war and waiting to receive further outside help. Karadjordje sent an emissary to Napoleon after later that year a war broke out between Austria and France. In its essence, the envoy’s message echoed Tekelija’s letter. The rebel leaders wished ‘to confide [Serbia’s] destiny to the puissant protection of Great Napoleon’ and invited the soldiers of La Grande Nation to Serb garrisons. The messenger was too late, however, as peace had been concluded between France and Austria before he was able to present the proposal. Then in February the following year, the Serbs informed the French that they would agree to an armistice with the Ottoman Empire providing France would guarantee Serbia’s borders and acknowledge Karadjordje as a hereditary ruler. In return, Serbia would provide the French Illyrian Provinces cheap supplies of livestock and food and ensure the restoration of the Belgrade cotton route, diverted elsewhere by war. A loan of 1.5 million francs was also requested. If France did not respond to the proposal, Serbia would be forced to seek protection from Russia. The French noted but did not act. Napoleon assured Austrian

47

S. Tekelija, Opisanije života moga, Belgrade, 1989, 137–38.

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Foreign Minister Prince Metternich of his opposition to Russia extending its influence in the region through Serbia; the best way of preventing this would be to preserve the territorial integrity of the Ottoman state.48 The priority for the ‘west’ was to maintain the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, but if that were to become impossible, the Russian influence must be minimized, either through political control (Serbia after 1878) or occupation (Bosnia in 1878) by Austria. Thus, Karadjordje’s attempt to exploit the Powers’ rivalry failed. It would not be the last time Serb leaders attempted to profit from it, with varying degrees of success. The French Revolution and the establishment of Napoleon’s Illyrian Provinces boosted the idea of the Sava-Kupa commercial system and by extension of the concept of a large Illyrian/South Slav state. When an autonomous Serbian principality was established in 1829/30, the ‘Napoleonic option’ was no longer there. Serb elites would seek other solutions to the ‘Serbian question’ from the 1840s, while never abandoning the idea of collaboration with other Balkan peoples. It may be argued that the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918 saw the return to the original idea.49 Meanwhile, the war against France forced Russia to conclude peace with the Ottomans. Article 8 of the Bucharest Peace Treaty, signed in May 1812, envisaged a limited autonomy for Serbia within the Ottoman Empire and amnesty for the insurgents. When the Serbs eventually learned of the terms of the Treaty, they ‘rejected’ it at an assembly convened in Kragujevac in January 1813. Demands to surrender weapons and allow the return of Ottoman soldiers and administrators were deemed unacceptable. Serbia was now alone against a large empire determined to retake the breakaway province.

48

Stoianovich, ‘The Segmentary State’, 275–77.

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Karadjordje had just over 40,000 lightly armed men under his command. He proposed to the Ottomans a ceasefire, to buy some time, and pleaded with Vienna and St Petersburg to allow his people to migrate to Russia via Austria. Migration – like several times before (and since) – seemed like the only way to survival. But these were desperate pleas made in desperate times and they fell on deaf ears. As Ottoman troops marched on during the summer and early autumn of 1813, they set whole villages on fire, killed or enslaved civilians, raped women and destroyed or looted Christian property. Made up mostly of Albanian and Bosnian Muslims, the Ottoman expedition force ruthlessly and quickly crushed the short-lived revolutionary state. People hiding in hills and forests and columns of refugees moving northwards once again dominated the regional landscape. In late October, with Belgrade about to fall, Karadjordje and his family, together with Metropolitan Leontije and Rodofinikin, crossed the Danube to the safety of Zemun. It is estimated that around 100,000 refugees may have fled to the Austrian Empire during this time.50 In retrospect, the Treaty of Bucharest was not quite the complete disaster for the Serbs it seemed in late 1813. It was the first international guarantee of Serbia’s autonomy. When the Principality of Serbia achieved full autonomy in 1829, it would be based on the Treaty.51 * Upon crossing the border into the Habsburg Monarchy in October 1813, Karadjordje and Aleksije (seen as heir apparent?) were placed in a separate quarantine from the other refugees, and were eventually transferred to Graz, in Austria. The defeated Serb leader and the veteran of Austria’s lost war of 1788–91, Karadjordje was given accommodation and salary equivalent to an Austrian colonel but 50

Pavlowitch, Božid’art, 22.

51

Jakšić, Evropa, chs 14–15, Article 8: 407.

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was effectively kept under house arrest. Running out of money and patience, Karadjordje wrote to the Graz military commander on 31 March 1814, asking for financial help and to be allowed to be reunited with the rest of his family. Aleksije, who wrote the letter, signed it in the name of ‘Djordje Petrović, Lieutenant General of His Imperial Majesty the Tsar of all Russia and holder of the Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Anna’. If Karadjordje hoped to impress his hosts with his honorary Russian titles, he failed. The Habsburg authorities cited the 1739 Treaty of Belgrade, which obliged them to prevent any subversive activities originating in their territory against the Ottoman Empire, and there was an additional pressure from Austrian and Hungarian merchants who demanded financial compensation from Karadjordje for damages their businesses suffered because of the rebellion. Meanwhile, the Russians hoped to persuade the exiled Serb leader to accept Article 12 of the Treaty of Bucharest. The Treaty awarded Bessarabia to Russia, and it was there that Karadjordje, reunited at last with his family, was transferred in late October 1814. It was also there that he established contact with Philiki Etairia, a secret Greek revolutionary organization. His pleas to Tsar Alexander I (1801–25) to be allowed to return to Serbia and relight the insurgency were rejected. In the immediate aftermath of the Napoleonic wars and the 1814–15 Congress of Vienna, there was little appetite among the Powers for another war. The Russian authorities planned to send Karadjordje further east, but in June 1817, he secretly returned to Serbia with the help of his Greek contacts.

Language of the Nation The 1813 defeat erased Serbia from the political map of Europe, where it had briefly reappeared as a breakaway Ottoman province (having previously been ‘re-established’ by Austria in the eighteenth century). Within several years ‘Serbia’ will appear on a cultural map

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of Europe, in no small part due to activities of Vuk Karadžić. Having joined the rebellion against the dahis in 1804 as a 17-year-old in his native western Serbia, Karadžić left for Sremski Karlovci, in southern Hungary, the following year in order to study. As already mentioned, he then continued his studies in Belgrade under Dositej Obradović, while simultaneously working as an employee of the revolutionary government. Young Vuk showed a greater affiliation for books than guns even before due to an illness he lost all function of his left leg. During the 1813 debacle, Karadžić, together with tens of thousands of his compatriots, fled to the Austrian empire, eventually reaching Vienna. There he met Jernej Kopitar (1780–1844), an ethnic Slovene who worked as a librarian and a censor for publications in Greek and Slavonic languages at the imperial court. Impressed by Vuk’s talent for languages and knowledge of South Slav folklore and customs, Kopitar encouraged Karadžić to study Serbian grammar and language and to publish oral poems he had already collected.52 The ambitious and bright Serbian refugee needed little encouragement. Building on the work of another Serbian language reformer, and under the influence of Kopitar and German linguists, he simplified the Serbian Cyrillic, introducing a 30-letter phonetic alphabet, in use today across former-Yugoslavia. Karadžić published two volumes of Serb/South Slav oral poetry in 1814–15 in Vienna (at the time of the peace congress there following the Napoleonic wars). In 1818, the first Serbian–German– Latin dictionary compiled by Karadžić appeared. It was followed by a short Serbian grammar, which Karadžić published in 1824 in Leipzig in German translation by Jacob Grimm (1785–1863), one of Europe’s most eminent philologists and folklorists. Thanks to Grimm, Karadžić caught attention of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832). Vuk visited the celebrated German poet 52

I. Merchiers, Cultural Nationalism in the South Slav Habsburg Lands in the Early Nineteenth Century: The Scholarly Network of Jernej Kopitar (1780–1844), Munich, 2007, 251.

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at his home in Weimar in October 1823. As he walked slowly due to his lame leg upstairs to Goethe’s study, a large standing statue of Juno, a Roman goddess of fertility and state, and the great man himself greeted Vuk. Pointing at Grimm’s letter of recommendation, a review of Karadžić’s Grammar and a German translation of a Serbian folk poem collected by Vuk, Goethe told his visitor: ‘You see, this is not the first time you are under my roof; you have been here a while.’ They went on to have a long discussion during the rest of the day – ‘the greatest day of my life’, Karadžić wrote to Kopitar.53 A largely self-taught Vuk took difficult and sometimes literally painful steps to meet Goethe, arguably the greatest representative of the European culture of his era. It was as if Serbia, for centuries under Ottoman rule, was being admitted into (western) Europe, a Serbian literary scholar noted.54 Karadžić, who was soon to receive an honorary doctorate at Jena, one of the oldest German universities, befriended in Vienna a young German historian on sabbatical from his duties at Berlin University. Leopold Ranke, subsequently regarded as the founder of critical historio­graphy, was fascinated with the destiny of small nations in the Ottoman Empire, including the Serbs, whose rebellion preceded but was much less known than the then ongoing Greek War of Independence. Karadžić provided source material for, and may have de facto co-authored, Ranke’s Die Serbische Revolution, the first scholarly history of Serbia, published in Hamburg in 1829. The Serbian and South Slav oral poetry and gusle (a signle-stringed instrument) players – such as Bosnian-born Filip Višnjić – became modern-day Homeric figures known and

53

Kopitar i Vuk, ed. and compiled G. Dobrašinović, Belgrade, 1980, 149–52; M. Popović, Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, 1787–1864, Belgrade, 1964; D. Wilson, Life and Times of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, 1787–1864: Literacy, Literature and National Independence in Serbia, Oxford, 1970. 54 H. Zundhausen [Sundhaussen], Istorija Srbije od 19. do 21. veka, transl. from German by T. Bekić, Belgrade, 2009, 100.

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admired by educated Europeans thanks above all to Karadžić. He became a celebrity within central European intellectual circles, and it may be said that his work contributed to a certain level of Serbophilia that at the time existed among educated Europeans, albeit on a much smaller scale than the early nineteenth-century Helenophilia. Prior to the French Revolution and German Romanticism, nation was usually understood as a concept based on a special legal status, at least in that part of Europe. In the case of the Serbs, this translated to the status and privileges of the Serbian church, both in the Ottoman and in the Habsburg Empires, and so pre-­ modern ethnicity came to be closely associated with religion. Serb Enlightenment thinkers of the late eighteenth century moved beyond this by pointing out linguistic and cultural ties among the South Slavs, as discussed in the previous chapter. It was through the activities of Karadžić and his prominent central European supporters that Serbs were introduced to the modern concept of the nation as a community of people who spoke the same language. At the same time, educated Europeans came to know the Serbs as a nation with its own language, culture and history. Most Serbs spoke, and speak, a dialect of Serbo-Croat known as štokavski, also spoken by many Croats, including those living in Dubrovnik where a rich South Slav literary tradition developed under the influence from Venice. In addition to Serbia and parts of Croatia, štokavski was also spoken in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Montenegro. A significant part of historic Croatia though was populated by speakers of distinct čakavski and kajkavski dialects (the latter of which is close to the Slovenian language). The founding fathers of Slavonic linguistic studies, including Czech Josef Dobrovský, Slovak Šafárik and Slovene Kopitar, believed that all štokavski speakers were Serbs. They disregarded confessional differences between the štokavski speakers (who included Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Muslims), in line with the liberalnationalist ideas of this era. Karadžić accepted this thesis.

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Moreover, his interest in the Volksgeist (the spirit of the people) was inspired by the work of German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803). Meanwhile, the Serbian church maintained that Serbs can only be Orthodox Christian. Traditional Habsburg Serb intellectuals and writers similarly rejected or were slow to accept Karadžić’s ideas and his language reform. During the early decades of its existence, the official journal of the Matica srpska was published in slavenoserbski, an archaic form of Serbian influenced by Russian. For cultural-symbolic and political reasons, both the main cultural organization of the Habsburg Serbs and the Metropolitanate of Sremski Karlovci rejected Karadžić’s promotion of the Serbian language as it was spoken by the people, not how it was meant to be spoken or how it may have been spoken once. Vuk, however, gained followers among younger Serb and other South Slav intellectuals.55 Indeed, and paradoxically perhaps, Karadžić was arguably better received among proto-Yugoslavist Croats than by many of his fellow Serbs. Known as ‘Illyrians’, a group of Croat intellectuals developed in the late 1820s and early ‘30s the first Yugoslav programme, largely in response to Magyarization policies by Hungarian authorities in Croatia-Slavonia. Essentially, they argued that Serbs and Croats, although separated by religion, belonged to one nation because they spoke the same language. The mainly kajkavski-speaking Illyrians switched to the štokavski dialect to strengthen their argument. While uncomfortable with Karadžić’s ‘all štokavski speakers are Serbs’ thesis (which he later modified), the Illyrians published his work and that of his disciples. The Illyrians proposed a ‘neutral’ Illyrian moniker for the language and the people, which Karadžić and most Serbs rejected as artificial, that is not used by the people. Nevertheless, ‘Serb’ and ‘Croat’ positions on the language and national questions in the mid-nineteenth century 55

Ž. Mladenović, Vuk Karadžić i Matica srpska, Belgrade, 1965.

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figure 4.2  Dositej Obradović, lithograph by Anastas Jovanović, 1852 (Wikipedia)

were not as removed as it may seem today, and in many ways Vuk Karadžić brought them closer together. Karadžić experienced financial problems throughout his life, and his difficult relationship with Prince Miloš and the Serb Orthodox church did not help. Yet, he continued to work tirelessly and travelled across the region, collecting ethnographic data

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figure 4.3  Vuk Karadžić, lithograph by an unknown author, c.1850 (Wien Museum, Inv.-Nr. W 3354, CC0, https://sammlung .wienmuseum.at/en/object/396039/)

and spreading his ideas to those willing to listen. They included Prince-Bishop Petar Petrović II Njegoš of Montenegro – among the first South Slav authors to accept Karadžić’s reform, despite also being a high Orthodox cleric. Karadžić’s linguistic reform was eventually adopted in the second half of the nineteenth

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century, and his work was celebrated almost universally across former-Yugoslavia until the disintegration of the country in the 1990s. He remains the central figure in the modern history of Serbia, as important to its emergence as Karadjordje and Miloš Obrenović. Without Karadžić, the standard languages spoken today in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia might have been different. The Serbo-Croat ‘disintegrated’ together with Yugoslavia, but it remains the same language, and Serbs, Croats and others do not require a dictionary or an interpreter to understand each other. Its standardization by Karadžić and other prominent South Slav linguists in Vienna in 1850 anticipated Yugoslavia by nearly 70 years. The Vienna agreement also decreed that Cyrillic and Latin would be equal alphabets of the language spoken by the Serbs and Croats. For this reason, the Serbo-Croat was among rare biglossial world languages. Even though Cyrillic has in recent years become Serbia’s official alphabet, it has not replaced Latin. Despite later politicized readings of Karadžić’s work, his language reform and his understanding of the nation were in line with progressive, liberal European ideas of his era.56

The Second Serbian Uprising, 1815–30 The Serbia from which Karadžić and Karadjordje fled in 1813 ­initially resembled scenes from a horror film. Dead bodies lay outside Belgrade’s Kalemegdan fortress all the way to the Terazije square. Stench of human flesh and fear of violence kept people away, leaving stray dogs to roam freely the city’s abandoned streets. People continued to die after the war was over, initially from hunger and then from an outbreak of plague in Spring 1814. In April–May, between 10 and 15 plague-related deaths were 56

Popović, Vuk, 326–38, and ‘Vuk medju Ilirima’; Sundhaussen, Istorija Srbije, 98–108.

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recorded daily in Belgrade alone. Towns across Serbia were abandoned, as people moved to countryside, afraid of infection. The epidemic reached its peak in mid-July when the number of daily cases in Belgrade alone approached 80.57 The plague notwithstanding, an amnesty issued by the Porte encouraged exiled Serbs to return. They included Glavaš, now employed in the Ottoman service to help maintain order. Tensions remained high, however, leading, in Autumn 1814, to a short-lived rebellion in western Šumadija led by Hadži-Prodan Gligorijević, a veteran of the First Uprising. (Gligorijević fled to Bessarabia and would later join the Greek War of Independence). A more sustained resistance broke out roughly in the same area the following April. It subsequently became known as the Second Serbian Uprising. In reality, it was a 15-year-long chess game between Miloš Teodorović Obrenović (c.1780–1860), the oborknez of the Rudnik nahija, the Belgrade pasha and the Porte. Like Karadjordje, Miloš hailed from a family of Montenegrin migrants. Although not among the main leaders of the First Uprising, he was close to Karadjordje – the two men were kumovi (sing. kum), a sworn kinship, and Serbian equivalent of best man and godfather combined. With the collapse of Karadjordje’s state, Miloš did not flee abroad. An arch pragmatist, a skilled and patient politician with a strong survival instinct, he stayed out of the failed 1814 rebellion and may have even helped suppress it. He used a combination of military force or threat of force, negotiation and bribery to secure concessions from the Ottomans, starting with the restoration of the pre-1804 local autonomy, which he personally negotiated in 1815 with Marashli Ali, the new pasha of Belgrade. In ‘domestic’ affairs, Miloš controlled nascent political institutions, trade and economy. In the process, he removed potential rivals, including Karadjordje, who was assassinated, together with a Greek aide, on Miloš’s orders in 1817, soon after secretly 57

M. Gavrilović, Miloš Obrenović, Belgrade, 1908, 3 vols, I, 72–74.

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crossing into Serbia. Miloš wanted no part in what he thought would be another grand failure and he certainly did not wish to share leadership with anyone. His rejection of a Balkan-wide revolution also meant that he was content, initially at least, for the former Smederevo sanjak to remain within the Ottoman framework, so long as it enjoyed self-­government under his and his heirs’ rule. That same year Miloš was recognized by the Porte as a hereditary prince of Serbia, an act that ipso facto acknowledged the autonomy of the province. Miloš personally delivered Karadjordje’s severed head to the Belgrade pasha as proof of his loyalty; it was then sent on to Constantinople and placed on public display. Just over six centuries after Grand Župan Nemanja, the founder of first independent medieval Serb polity, had been publicly humiliated in Constantinople (see Chapter 2), the head of the first leader of modern Serbia was displayed there with similar purpose – to demonstrate the empire’s victory over unruly barbarians from the periphery. The real winner, however, turned out to be Miloš. Besides eliminating his main rival among Serbs, he demonstrated to the Porte that he, rather than the pasha, was in control of the Belgrade province, at least when it came to Serb affairs. Indeed, Miloš fully controlled parallel Serb institutions that were established alongside the Ottoman ones as part of the agreement to restore the Christians’ autonomy. This was the beginning of a ‘dual government’ in what was not Serbia yet but was no longer simply the sanjak of Smederevo either. It was a sort of a two-state solution for the ‘Serbian question’ in this Ottoman province. There were frequent tensions and periodic outbreaks of limited violence, but this should not obscure peaceful coexistence and everyday interactions between Christians, Muslims and Jews, between South Slavs, Greeks, Turks, Tsintsars, Vlachs and Armenians, and between local and international traders and merchants. During the period of the ‘dual government’, Serbia’s

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Population

1815 1833* 1840 1847 1854 1861 1874

401,350 678,192 (increase of 276,842) 828,895 (+ 150,703) 928,648 (+ 99,753) 998,919 (+ 70,271) 1,118.646 (+ 119,727) 1,353,890 (+ 235,244)

*Includes the population of the six new districts. Source: Miloš Jagodić, Naseljavanje kneževine Srbije, 1861–80, ­Belgrade, 2004.

‘Christian’ capital was in Kragujevac. Belgrade remained the Ottoman seat until the last pasha left in 1867. Most Serbia’s Muslims lived in towns, around half of them in Belgrade. In 1818, their number was estimated at 5,000 households (2,500 of which in Belgrade) that probably amounted to at least 15–20,000 people.58 The total population of the province around this time was c.400,000 (see Table 4.1). Karadjordje’s assassination marked the beginning of nearly a century-long feud between the Karadjordjević and Obrenović families, whose male heirs would alternate on the Serbian throne during the nineteenth century.59 It was the first major political assassination in Serbia’s modern history, but it would not be the last. It marked the beginning of a ‘tradition’ of conflict between 58

Ibid, II, 256. It finally ended in 1903, when the last Obrenović king and queen were brutally murdered by a group of army officers. Karadjordje’s grandson Petar returned from exile to be crowned the following year, as the new, and last, as it turned out, king of Serbia; in 1918, Petar I became the first Yugoslav king. He did not play part in the conspiracy against Aleksandar Obrenović, but the officers involved in the 1903 regicide included a grandson of Karadjordje’s murdered Greek aide.

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previously close friends and kumovi in the Serbian politics, infamously demonstrated again in late- and post-Yugoslav Serbia, when Slobodan Milošević eliminated his former political mentor Ivan Stambolić, first politically and then physically (see Chapters 7 and 8).

Autonomous Principality Unsurprisingly, Miloš’s rule resembled that of an Ottoman pasha, the only sort of government he had been familiar with. In some ways, he was more authoritarian than his Ottoman ‘predecessors’. He collected tax (out of which he paid a tribute to the sultan and bribed Ottoman officials), acted as a supreme judge in the principality, often interfered in personal lives of his subjects and treated his employees as de facto slaves. This led to several failed rebellions. After a major revolt of 1826 was suppressed, Miloš ordered that its leaders be executed, but allowed the peasants who participated to pillage and loot his property. Winning over and keeping people on his side, in addition to being feared by them, was the recipe for his long rule. Although he was unquestionably the leader of the Serbs of the Belgrade province, Miloš was not a Serb nationalist, at least not in the modern meaning of the word. Like Karadjordje, he did not see himself as a successor of the ancient kings and despots, although he did express an occasional interest in Serbia’s medieval history. His daily routine included early morning prayer, in which no reference whatsoever was made to St Sava or any other medieval Serb saint.60 Moreover, Miloš never let Sultan 60

Gavrilović, Miloš Obrenović, II, 702–703, and chs 36–38 for more details about Miloš’s private life, including his extramarital affairs. See also Pirh [Otto Dubislav von Pirch], Putovanje po Srbiji 1829, transl. into Serbian by Dragiša J. Mijušković, Belgrade, 1899, 63–71; cf. G. Stokes, ‘The Absence of Nationalism in Serbian Politics before 1840’, Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism, 4:1 (1976), 77–90.

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Mahmud II (1808–39) doubt his loyalty. Not only did Serbia regularly pay the annual haraç (tax) to the Porte, but it had stayed out of the Greek Revolution, which broke out in 1821. Similarly, several years later, Miloš would not support a rebellion of Bosnian Muslim beys opposed to the imperial reform. Indeed, the Serb leader offered military support and food to the Ottoman army; only food was accepted – and paid for. The Serbian prince even acted as a mediator between the two sides and at one stage the Porte communicated with the Bosnians through Miloš’s office.61 As part of the dual administration, Miloš set up a People’s Office (Narodna kancelarija), a successor to the old soviet. This de facto government was made up of obor-knezes and presided over by the prince, who soon established an absolute control over the body. The People’s Office doubled-up as a supreme court for the Christians, while its ‘foreign’ section included the Turkish Office, staffed by local Muslims, Greeks and Serbs fluent in Ottoman Turkish. The office mainly served for the communication with the Porte. Interpreters were usually not required when it came to communicating with local Ottoman authorities, who typically spoke Serbian or a related South Slav vernacular. Not unusually for a society that had developed within an empire, Serbia’s inhabitants, regardless of their ethno-religious background, could converse in more than one language. Habsburgborn Nićifor Ninković, who joined Karadjordje’s rebellion in 1807, spoke German, Hungarian and Serbian; after the collapse of the First Uprising, he spent some time in Constantinople training to be barber, where he also learned Ottoman Turkish, Greek and Vlach. While his biography and range of languages may have been atypical, Ninković’s ability to converse in more than one language was by no means unique. He frequently mixed Serbian and Ottoman Turkish and sometimes Greek and Vlach 61

Gavrilović, Miloš Obrenović, III, ch. 18; M. Marinković, Turska kancelarija kneza Miloša (1815–1839), Belgrade, 1999, 46–48.

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in everyday communication with Christians, Muslims and Jews he encountered in Belgrade and Kragujevac, where he served as Miloš’s personal barber in the 1820s.62 By keeping in check domestic rivals and controlling the local trade, Miloš became the richest man in the principality and possibly beyond. This in turn enabled him to bribe Ottoman officials in Belgrade and Constantinople. Another Russian–Ottoman war, of 1828–29, ended in victory for the former. The September 1829 Treaty of Adrianople (Edirne) essentially confirmed a convention, signed between the Ottoman and Russian Empires three years previously in Akkerman (Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi in modern Ukraine), which, among other things, provided for the restoration of Serbia’s autonomy in its 1813 borders. Mahmud II issued a hattı şerıf (charter) the following month, fulfilling the treaty obligations concerning Serbia, whose autonomy within the Ottoman Empire was to be guaranteed by Russia. (In addition to Serbia, Greece, Moldavia and Wallachia were also granted autonomy under the terms of the treaty; however, Greece became fully independent the following year, while Russian troops entered the Danubian principalities and practically ended the Ottoman rule there). Announcing the news to a hastily elected assembly in Kragujevac in February 1830, Miloš took much of the credit for Serbia’s autonomy and used the language of the new era: ‘It has been a full fourteen years since I have opened the imperial gate and have worked constantly to gain for our beloved Fatherland the rights that shall pass to us and to our posterity and that shall last forever as long as there is a Serbian race.’63 Two more hattı şerıfs followed in 1830 and 1833, extending Serbia’s autonomy to include the right to have an army, judiciary, 62

N. Ninković, Berberin kneza Miloša, Belgrade, 2016. Cited in Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, I, 126. See also Gavrilović, Miloš Obrenović, III, 478–96; Jakšić, Evropa, the Akkerman convention: 321–22, 407–408, the Treaty of Adrianople: 336, 409.

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health and postal service. The 1830 hattı şerıf was issued in time to be read at an assembly convened on 12 December (21 November OS) 1830 – St Andrew’s Day, the anniversary of Karadjordje’s victory at Belgrade in 1806 and the Karadjordjević family slava (family patron saint day). Miloš therefore symbolically linked his diplomatic success, which formally ended the Second Serbian Uprising, with one of Karadjordje’s major military victories during the First Serbian Uprising. The 1833 charter finally provided for the incorporation of the six adjacent districts into the Serbian principality promised by the 1826 Akkerman Convention (see Map 5.1).64 In exchange for the autonomy, Serbia was to pay the Porte an annual tax (haraç) of 2,300,000 Ottoman kuruş (approximately £33,000), silver coins that replaced akçe in the eighteenth century. This was a reduced figure that Miloš secured through bahşiş, an Ottoman custom that essentially amounts to bribing, of Ottoman administrators and even the sultan himself. The tax was to be paid in the Ottoman currency, which would continue to lose its value, rather than in the more stable Venetian ducat. To provide some context, Miloš spent over 1.4 million kuruş on bahşiş in 1829, and another 1.2 million in 1833. He was able to afford this because the tax he collected from his Christian subjects far outweighed the annual tax paid to the Porte. According to a British report, in 1837, the head tax brought in £150,000, while the haraç that year amounted to £21,900.65 Meanwhile, the ever-growing Ottoman government expenditure – due to the costs of the 1828–29 war against Russia and of the Tanzimat (administrative reform) – reached 400 million kuruş (7 million Venetian ducats) by the end of the 1830s; this was up from 18 million kuruş (2 million ducats) government expenditure of the late eighteenth century. The 64

Jakšić, Evropa, 411–18. For full details see Gavrilović, Miloš Obrenović, III, parts 2 & 3. 65 M. Palairet, The Balkan Economies, c. 1800–1914: Evolution without Development, Cambridge, 1997, 88.

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near bankruptcy of the Ottoman state – prevented by loans from Armenian, Greek and Jewish bankers from Constantinople – undoubtedly suited Miloš’s agenda.66 Meanwhile, the Belgrade Metropolitanate was allowed to appoint its own clergy independently from the Patriarchate in Constantinople.67 Thus, the direct Ottoman-Phanariot control of the Serbs of the Belgrade province ended at the same time, in 1829/30. The departure of remaining Muslim sipahis during the 1830s facilitated Miloš’s agrarian ‘revolution’. As part of the deal with the Porte, remaining Muslim population – p ­ erhaps around 15,000 people – was to evacuate the principality, apart from those living in the garrisons. It is estimated that 40–50,000 Muslims lived in the sanjak of Smederevo prior to the 1804 uprising, out of perhaps less than 400,000 people. The principality became a land of small Christian peasant households, and while the prince ruled over his subjects through fear, he was also popular, having abolished both the direct Ottoman rule (1829) and serfdom (1835). The lure of free land and tax privileges for the peasantry made Serbia a small oasis of freedom in south-eastern Europe. It also transformed it from a land of emigration to one of immigration, at least as far as non-Muslims were concerned. Serbia was a frontier society whose agrarian reform led to a land grab and exploitation of nature resembling in some ways contemporaneous developments in America’s Wild West. Meanwhile, Miloš invested his personal fortune in Austrian banks and Romanian property. A small, prosperous middle class formed, but the prince prevented the emergence 66

Serbia’s haraç: Ćirković, The Serbs, 191; Gavrilović, Miloš Obrenović, III, 483–84; Miloš’s bribes: Stojančević, Miloš Obrenović i njegovo doba, 252–53; Ottoman government expenditure: Ş. Pamuk, A Monetary History of the Ottoman Empire, Cambridge, 2000, 189. One sterling pound exchanged for 69 kuruş in 1829, while two years later it was 80 kuruş. Ibid, 191; Constantinople bankers: Howard, A History of the Ottoman Empire, 249–51. 67 Gavrilović, Miloš Obrenović, III, 497–504; Dj. Slijepčević, Istorija Srpske pravloslavne crkve, Belgrade, 2012 (first publ. in 1986), II, 207–10.

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of a wealthy land-owning elite similar to Romanian boyars who might have threatened his position.68 The emigration of Muslims radically changed urban life and reduced the population of Serbia’s towns. Belgrade needed around 80 years to reach its 1780 population figure (perhaps around 20,000 people); similarly, towns such as Užice, known as the ‘Little Istanbul’ due to its minaret-laden landscape, underwent a rapid social-ethnic transformation. Muslims would remain in Serbia’s main towns until the 1860s, but their life had by then increasingly evolved around the remaining Ottoman garrisons. Meanwhile, around 665,000 Eastern Orthodox from Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Sandžak, Vojvodina and Macedonia immigrated into Serbia in 1834–74.69 During this period, the population of Serbia rose from close to 680,000 to over 1,350,000 people (Table 4.1). The principality also attracted non-Serb migrants, including Christians and Jews from the Habsburg and Romanian lands. The arrival of Ashkenazim Jews meant that Serbia’s Sephardim were no longer the predominant Jewish group. Meanwhile, Serb population in Hungary in the mid-­ nineteenth century was estimated at close to 900,000 (up from 750,000 in 1821). This figure does not include the population of the Military Border in Croatia-Slavonia, where, according to a Habsburg census, around 340,000 Orthodox/Serbs lived in 1843 (out of a total population of c.735,000; the rest were mostly Catholics/Croats). Meanwhile, Hungary’s Serbs migrated south, to present-day Vojvodina or into the Serbian principality. Thus,

68

Gavrilović, Miloš Obrenović, III, 464–81; J. R. Lampe and M. R. Jackson, Balkan Economic History, 1550–1950, Bloomington, IN, 1982, 111–14; Palairet, Balkan Economies, 85–88; Pavlowitch, Serbia, 34–35. 69 Immigration number: Calic, Društvena istorija, 48; Belgrade population: Mišković, Bazari, 172; cf. H. Sundhaussen, Historische Statistik Serbiens, 1834–1914: Mit europäischen Vergleichsdaten, Munich, 1989.

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for example, the Serb population of Szentendre decreased by one-third by the early 1840s, while in 1839, there were only 50 Serbs living in Esztregom, previously home to a sizeable Serb community.70 * In 1837, a plague that had allegedly originated in Egypt reached Niš and Pirot – in present-day Serbia but then Ottoman towns just south of the Serbian principality. With less than twenty qualified doctors and a handful of poorly equipped hospitals, Serbia sought assistance from the experienced medical staff of the Zemun quarantine.71 Within a short period of time, field hospitals and quarantines were built near border crossings and military-style trenches were dug along the entire border with (the rest) of the Ottoman Empire. Meant to prevent illegal entry and spreading of the virus, these measures in practice reinforced Serbia’s physical separation from the Ottoman state – as well as from Serb communities south-east of the border. This impacted trade and human 70

Ćirković, The Serbs, 194–97; Z. Djere (Györe), ‘Skica promena etničkog sastava stanovništva na tlu današnje Vojvodine 1526–1910. godine’, Istraživanja (Novi Sad), 15 (2004), 105–23. The Military Border population figure: G. E. Rothenberg, The Military Border in Croatia, 1750–1888: A Study of an Imperial Institution, Chicago, 1966, 125. The numbers fluctuated through the nineteenth century, depending, among other reasons, on the deployment of military regiments. Serbian and Croatian historians have sometimes disagreed over the numbers, identity and inter-communal relationship of the frontier population. See, for example, a debate between Vasilije Krestić and Mirko Valentić in Časopis za suvremenu povijest (Zagreb), 15:3 (1983), 119–68. 71 In late eighteenth century, around 20,000 people crossed 18 border crossings/quarantines along the 1,800-kilometres long Habsburg–Ottoman border. Nobody was exempt from quarantine rules, not even diplomats, but these border crossing facilitated rather than hinder trade and population movements. See J. Pešalj, ‘Monitoring Migrations: The Habsburg-Ottoman Border in the Eighteenth Century’, PhD dissertation, Leiden University, 2019.

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traffic, after a large number of Christians had fled to Serbia following a recent anti-Ottoman rebellion in Pirot.72 Despite strict quarantine measures, first cases of the ‘eastern plague’ were reported in Serbia in summer 1837. The virus was brought in via infected Ottoman soldiers on their way to the Belgrade garrison. They were allowed to enter Serbia after a compulsory stay at a border quarantine, despite several soldiers reporting feeling unwell; it turned out a quarantine doctor seconded from Zemun failed to detect plague symptoms. The plague reached central Serbia, but further spread of the infection was prevented thanks to Stefan-Stevča Mihailović, a capable Jagodina district chief and the future prime minister of Serbia (see the next chapter), who immediately placed infected civilians and the Ottoman soldiers in isolation.73 The presence of the latter offered a reminder of Serbia’s vassal status; that the Ottoman military and civilian administration were obliged to obey strict quarantine rules, apparently much to the annoyance of the Belgrade pasha, testified of Serbia’s high degree of autonomy. Local population and foreign traders were affected by the closure of Serbia’s borders, but their objections fell on deaf ears. Wealthier Serbs moved to country houses or to the safety of Habsburg Hungary, which caused resentment and a near-rebellion among those with no means to seek social distancing and no connections to exit quarantine. It appears the northern border was less strictly observed. English traveller Julia Pardoe was able to briefly cross to Belgrade from Zemun

72

V. Stojančević, Knez Miloš i istočna Srbija, 1833–1838, Belgrade, 1957, 188–89. 73 D. Dedić, Kuga u Jagodini 1837. godine, Jagodina, 2009, www.arhivja .org.rs/images/kuga_u_jagodini_1837.pdf; B. Kunibert [Cuniberti], Srpski ustanak i prva vladavina Miloša Obrenovića, 1804–1850, transl. from French by M. R. Vesnić, Belgrade, 1901, 506–17; Stojančević, Knez Miloš i istočna Srbija, 85–99.

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in the middle of the epidemic thanks to a permission by the Ottoman authorities.74 The epidemic lasted three months and claimed 230 victims (out of 283 confirmed cases), an extremely high death rate but a relatively low figure in total. In comparison, reportedly nearly twothirds of the inhabitants of Niš died from the disease. Bartolomeo Cuniberti, Miloš’s Piedmontese doctor, may have exaggerated when he claimed that the Serbian prince saved Europe from the plague. However, the swift measures implemented by the Serbian authorities almost certainly prevented the spread of the virus into Belgrade, Bosnia and Hungary. The epidemic provided Miloš with an opportunity to reaffirm his authority domestically and demonstrate the degree of Serbia’s independence from the Porte. As the Covid-19 pandemic showed, major epidemics tend to lead to strengthening of state control over territory and over lives of citizens, and it was no different in Serbia of the late 1830s.75

The Fall of Prince Miloš A major rebellion against Prince Miloš’s rule, which even his wife and brother supported, had broken out in early 1835. Several thousand people gathered outside the prince’s residence in Kragujevac demanding a constitution, which they understood as a guarantee that Miloš’s powers will be limited, and their own land and property protected. The prince was forced to give in.76 74

The City of the Sultan and Domestic Manners of the Turks, in 1836, London, 1838, 3 vols, III, 301–309. 75 While Miloš’s rule, as suggested above, resembled that of an Ottoman pasha, when it came to immigration, he behaved more like a Habsburg. The Austrian empire, like Miloš’s Serbia, welcomed immigration, but of nonMuslims. This also explains why Serb/Orthodox refugees had been able to settle in the Austrian and Hungarian lands in frequent, and frequently large migratory movements, as already disccused. 76 Pavlowitch, Serbia, 36–41.

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Drafted by Dimitrije Davidović, Miloš’s Habsburg Serb secretary and an admirer of the French constitutional system, Serbia’s first constitution was adopted on 15 February 1835. It happened to be the anniversary of the Orašac assembly that, as mentioned previously, elected Karadjordje as the leader of the uprising in Šumadija. The konštitucija was a liberal document, inspired by French and Belgian constitutions; it envisaged a power share between the monarch and an elected people’s assembly. A third stake holder was to be a council of elders, a remnant of the 1829 hattı şerıf, retained perhaps to appease the Ottomans. The Ottoman-era serfdom, however, was abolished, making Serbia a land of free peasants. The constitution would be suspended after only two weeks (although the abolition of the serfdom stood) because it was opposed by almost everyone, including the three empires most closely involved in Serbia’s affairs, none of which incidentally had a constitution at the time. The Porte disliked the fact that an autonomous province adopted a constitution on its own, and a highly liberal one at that; its liberalism was the main reason Austria and Russia, which especially detested the French influence, were also opposed to the constitution. Miloš gladly took the opportunity to suspend a legal document he did not want in the first place.77 In June the same year, the prince was invited to Constantinople for talks, his first trip outside Serbia. Sultan Mahmud II arranged for a welcome full of respect for the Mir-i Sirb (Emir of Serbia), as the Ottomans usually addressed Miloš. The two sides exchanged generous gifts; Mahmud II awarded Miloš a medal, an expensively framed portrait of the sultan, which the Serbian prince would wear with pride. The visit left a deep impression on Miloš, who prolonged his stay to two and a half months, fascinated by life in the imperial capital and keen to learn more about Great Power diplomacy.78 77

S. Jovanović, Političke i pravne rasprave, Belgrade, 1932, 2 vols, I, 9–12. M. Aydin, ‘Istanbul Visit of the Serbian Knez Miloš Obrenović’, in M. Ünver (ed.), Turkey and Serbia: Changing Political and Socio-Economic

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figure 4.4  Portrait of Prince Miloš Obrenović by Josef Brandt, probably painted in Constantinople/Istanbul, 1835 (Wikipedia). Note the framed portrait of Sultan Mahmud II on Miloš’s chest.

Following the examples of Austria and Russia, Britain and France opened consulates in Serbia in the second half of the 1830s. Because the pro-constitution opposition enjoyed Russia’s Dynamics in the Balkans, Istanbul, 2018, 33–46; Gavrilović, Miloš Obrenović, III, 511–43; Marinković, Turska kancelarija, 46–48.

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support, the British and the French backed the autocratic prince.79 This would not be the first time that foreign powers interfered in Serbia’s domestic politics, nor that their interests abroad contradicted their self-confessed values at home. The Porte and Russia, which respectively exercised sovereignty over Serbia and guaranteed its autonomy, supported ‘Defenders of the Constitution’, as the oligarchs who opposed Miloš became known. Finally in late 1838, a new Constitution was drafted in Istanbul by Serbian, Russian and Ottoman experts. It confirmed the hereditary rights of the Obrenović family; the monarch’s power was to be limited, though not by a people’s assembly, but by a 17-member council of elders. As Stevan Pavlowitch put it succinctly: ‘The Porte had been anxious to limit Miloš’s powers, to reduce his influence in the European provinces more generally, and to please Russia. The “Turkish” constitution – as it was called in Serbia – introduced government by prince-in council. Russia and the notables were the winners. Miloš was the loser.’80 He abdicated in June 1839, after several tense months and after nearly 25 years in power. Miloš Obrenović would spend almost two decades in exile, living off his Romanian estate, until another political crisis resulted in his triumphant, if short lived, return.

Defenders of the Constitution Sixteen-year-old Mihailo Obrenović (1839–42, 1860–68) became the new prince after his elder brother, and the original heir, Milan died from an illness within weeks following Miloš’s abdication. Due to Mihailo’s age, a three-man regency was appointed, consisting of Miloš’s younger brother Jevrem Obrenović (1790– 1856), Toma Vučić Perišić (1787–1859), a veteran of the Second 79

St. K. Pavlowitch, Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Serbia, The Hague, 1961. Pavlowitch, Serbia, 37.

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Uprising, and Avram Petronijević (1791–1852), another one of Miloš’s former secretaries, who now also served as first minister. The regency competed with the exiled prince who continued to exert a significant influence through his supporters at home. In 1842, Vučić Perišić masterminded a palace coup forcing Mihailo to abdicate, ending, for the time being, the Obrenović rule in Serbia. With the approval of the Porte, Karadjordje’s younger son Aleksandar was invited to return to the country and take the throne (his elder brother Aleksije had died in 1830). During Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjević’s reign (1842–58), the real rulers of the country were the Defenders of the Constitution (or Constitutionalists). They built a modern, centralized state bureaucracy and set an ambitious foreign policy, with Serbia as the core of a future independent Serb or South Slav state. The state bureaucracy was built largely by educated Habsburg-born Serbs, who represented the country’s only intelligentsia. The foreign policy was envisaged with the encouragement from exiled Polish and Czech nationalists and was inspired by German and Italian unification movements. Ilija Garašanin (1812–74), interior minister between 1842 and 1852, and briefly prime minister and foreign minister in 1852–53 (he would again serve as foreign minister in the 1860s), played a key role in both home and foreign affairs.81 Domestic reforms carried out by the Constitutionalists may be seen as the third phase of the Serbian revolution (the first two being Karadjordje’s insurgency and the emergence of the autonomous principality under Miloš, respectively). The reforms rested on the ideas of progress and modernity, understood by Serbia’s elites as synonymous with the emancipation from the Ottomans as well as from Miloš’s autocratic rule. Ironically, as mentioned later, around this same time the Ottoman rulers sought to modernize the empire. 81

This section draws on S. Jovanović, Ustavobranitelji i njihova vlada (1838–1958), Belgrade, 3rd rev edn 1933 (1st publ. 1912), which remains the best study of the Constitutionalist regime.

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The Constitutionalists faced an enormous challenge, worked under budget limitations and lacked qualified cadres. Nevertheless, they achieved a considerable success in the domestic affairs, if not quite fully meeting their ambitious goals. Among their key achievements were the regulation of land ownership and trade, a judiciary reform, modernization of the police and the country’s postal service, and an improved road network. However, by the end of the 1850s, there were still only around 1,200 kilometres of roads in the whole of the country. Nascent industrialization was felt mainly in Belgrade and areas bordering the Habsburg ­monarchy – partly thanks to the navigation of the Danube and Sava, where an Austrian steamboat company operated from the 1830s and 1840s, respectively. In rural areas, things changed slowly following the radical land reform of the 1830s. In 1844, Serbia’s first Civil Law (inspired by the Austrian equivalent) was adopted, while two years later the country’s first Supreme Court was established. The legal reform, however, was undermined by a shortage of qualified personnel. For example, in the mid-1840s, three regional court chiefs were illiterate, ten of them could barely read, only three had more than elementary education and only one was a lawyer. At the same time, courts were overworked, partly due to slow and inadequate expertise and partly because people frequently sued each other, enjoying the newly won rights, and sometimes simply out of inat (that allegedly Serbian character trait discussed in Introduction). Garašanin hoped to solve the problem by granting greater powers to the gendarmerie, but this encouraged police brutality and corruption. Meanwhile, the peasantry was burdened by debt as loan sharks profited from a slow regulation of the banking system. There were complaints that Habsburg-born Orthodox bishops lived in luxury, while village priests behaved arrogantly and immorally. All these factors contributed to the loss of popularity of the Constitutionalists, despite the benefits and progress they brought.

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There was a feeling that Miloš’s personal autocracy had been replaced by an autocracy of state bureaucracy. The 1838 Constitution regulated trade, but it did not bring benefits to all of Serbia’s citizens. Like Ottoman sultans and pashas, Miloš appreciated the loyalty and good business relations with Jewish merchants and traders. The Constitutionalists, on the other hand, introduced discriminatory regulations concerning freedom of movement and trade of Serbia’s Jews, favouring their Christian competition. Things would change in 1878, when Serbian Jews would receive equal citizen rights. In the meanwhile, discriminatory measures by the Constitutionalists did not seem to discourage the immigration of Habsburg Jews, as their numbers steadily grew. Around 1,800 Jews lived in Belgrade in the late 1850s (around 10 per cent of the city’s population), up from 1,500 in the early 1830s.82 Well-paid and smartly dressed civil servants became a symbol of the Constitutionalist regime. Everyone wanted to become one or to know one, for such connections (veze – see Introduction) promised certain privileges. Habsburg-born civil servants tended to be more professional and less corrupt, perhaps because they did not have close friends and relatives in Serbia. This made them unpopular, and complaints could be heard about the domination of the ‘Germans’ (nemačkari), as they were pejoratively known. Even Metropolitan Petar of Belgrade (1833–59), a Croatian-born Serb, was dismissed as a ‘foreigner’ by his critics. State schools employed Habsburg Serb teachers, but the government set out to create a ‘native’ educated elite. From 1839, state scholarships were awarded to brightest young men – and eventually women, too – to enable them to study, initially usually Law, in Austria, France and Saxony. The number of scholarships rose each year as Paris soon became the main destination for Serbian

82

Mišković, Bazari, 174–75.

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students.83 A vibrant, small group of young Serbs educated abroad, collectively known as ‘Parisians’ (parizlije) brought back ideas of progress and change. Belgrade’s Grand School (not to be confused with Dositej Obradović’s school of the same name) opened in 1863; in 1905, it became Belgrade University. Paradoxically, one of the Constitutionalists’ major achievements – the creation of a ‘native’ educated class – was also to prove to be their undoing. * Ilija Garašanin, according to historian Slobodan Jovanović, ‘always had a plan and a programme, like a typical European bureaucrat of his era.’ Despite his bureaucratic crudeness and lack of personal life due to an almost complete immersion in politics, Garašanin had charisma and a sense of humour. A tall, physically imposing man and a decisive politician, he proved popular with the liberal-nationalist youth. A self-educated representative of the older generation, Garašanin bridged the generational gap between the Old Men (starci) and the ‘Parisians’. While he never really got on with the ‘Germans’, he could at least work with them. Vučić Perišić, meanwhile, was more effective communicating with the masses; above all a man of action, he would practically retire from politics during periods of relative stability.84 Garašanin’s foreign policy motto was: ‘neither with Russia, nor with Austria, but with the western powers, above all France’. His Francophilia made him a natural ally of Prince Czartoryski and his transnational network of agents, established after the failed Polish revolution of 1830–31. As Russia’s foreign minister Czartoryski had in 1804 largely dismissed Serb overtures, as we have seen; several decades later, as a Polish exiled leader, he envisaged Serbia as 83

Ibid, 93–94; Lj. Trgovčević, Planirana elita: O studentima iz Srbije na evropskim univerzitetima u 19. veku, Belgrade, 2003. 84 Jovanović, Ustavobranitelji, 96, 327, 330–36.

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a key member of a future Europe made up of smaller, independent states that would keep in check Austrian and Russian imperialisms. In 1844, František Zach, Czartoryski’s Czech agent in the Balkans, drafted a plan for the creation of a large South Slav state around Serbia. Garašanin edited the document – which remained unknown to public until the early twentieth century – and turned it into a plan (known as Načertanije) to create a large state that would bring together Serb communities across the Balkans into a modern version of Stefan Dušan’s empire. Like Czartoryski, Garašanin established a network of agents, mainly in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where his contacts extended beyond the Orthodox population when communication with Bosnian Franciscans was established.85 Not all South Slav initiatives came from Belgrade or Paris. In addition to the Illyrian group in Zagreb, Serb-feeling Roman Catholics from Dalmatia also advocated cooperation with Serbia. Ethnic, historical and religious ties with Montenegro would give birth to plans – popular in both Montenegro and Serbia – for the unification of the two ‘Serb states’.86 Garašanin’s work was subsequently interpreted by historians as ‘Greater Serbian’ or ‘pan-Yugoslav’, depending on author and context. He was above all interested in Serbia and the Serbs but understood the importance of cooperation with neighbouring peoples and friendly Powers. In line with many of his compatriots, especially the young liberals, Garašanin believed that Serbia’s borders were unjust and

85

Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije, I, 460–84; P. N. Hehn, ‘The Origins of Modern Pan-Serbism: The 1844 Načertanije of Ilija Garašanin’, East European Quarterly, 9:2 (1975), 153–71, and ‘Prince Adam Czartoryski and the South Slavs’, The Polish Review, 8:2 (1963), 76–86; R. Ljušić, Knjiga o Načertaniju: Nacionalni i državni program Kneževine Srbije (1844), Belgrade, 2004; D. Mackenzie, Ilija Garašanin: Balkan Bismarck, New York, 1985, 42–61. 86 I. Banac, ‘The Confessional “Rule” and the Dubrovnik Exception: The Origins of the “Serb-Catholic” Circle in Nineteenth-Century Dalmatia’, Slavic Review, 42:3 (1983), 448–74; D. Vujović, Ujedinjenje Crne Gore i Srbije, Titograd [Podgorica], 1962.

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that, like other European nations, the Serbs too should be able to unite and live in a free and independent state. Garašanin’s ideas developed not in isolation but were influenced by European trends of his era; this was true even of his somewhat contradictory and romantic dream about the resurrection of medieval Serbia, which was neither a nation state nor did it overlap territorially with nineteenth-­century plans for a Greater Serbia or Yugoslavia. Garašanin saw Hungary and the Polish and Czech exiles as allies against Austria and Russia, respectively; he did not regard the Ottoman state as the main threat to Serbia’s aspirations. Among the Powers it was France, and among national unification movements the Italians and the Germans who provided the inspiration for the Serbian politician. There, old divisions created by religion and history were to be overcome by loyalty to the nation, and this, too, was Garašanin’s hope for the Serbs and the South Slavs.

A Society Transformed As already seen, under Miloš’s leadership, Serbia had transitioned from an Ottoman sanjak to a tributary principality that was also increasingly understood as a Christian Serb state. In the place of the departed Muslims came mainly Christian immigrants attracted by the promise of free land.87 In the process, Serbia became less and Bosnia more Muslim, something that remains insufficiently acknowledged in historiography. Similarly, while much has been written about the importance among Serbs and other Balkan Christians of oral tradition of the ‘Turkish yoke’ and the Christians’ resistance against the ‘Turks’, a similar tradition – of battles against the Empire, Janissaries and rebel Christians and 87

Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije, I, 78–79; V. Stojančević, ‘Tursko stanovništvo u Srbiji pred Prvi srpski ustanak’, Zbornik za društvene nauke (Novi Sad), 13–14 (1956), 127–34, 132; M. Jagodić, Naseljavanje kneževine Srbije, 1861–1880, Belgrade, 2004, 28.

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the suffering of local Muslims – existed among the Muslims of Bosnia, many of whom were refugees or descendants of refugees from Serbia. Contemporary accounts show that Serbia’s Muslims feared the brutality of Karadjorde and his men.88 Ottoman firsthand accounts of the Serbian Principality are similarly, and understandably, laced with bitterness and fear, though some sympathy existed for Prince Aleksandar and the Constitutionalist regime among Belgrade’s remaining Ottomans.89 When Melek Hanım arrived in Belgrade in 1847 with her husband Kıbrıslı Mehmed Emin, the newly appointed Pasha of Belgrade, she found a shrinking ‘Turkish’ community of perhaps 500 families, who lived on Ottoman state support, ‘in consideration of the prosperity they had formerly enjoyed, and which the Serbians had monopolized.’ Belgrade Muslim women had paler skin and hair than the women of Constantinople; married women tended to use strong make-up and dye their hair dark, presumably to look more ‘Turkish’. They were also more religious than the new pasha’s wife, who drunk alcohol and did not mind eating from a table that included pork dishes at dinners hosted by Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjević (Iskender-bey, as the Ottomans called him) and Princess Persida (Figure 4.5). Melek Hanım found the Belgrade Ottoman fortress a depressing place, with no gardens and with poor supplies during winter months when the rivers and roads were frozen. She used her business acumen to help the locals, and in the process boost her finances. The monotony of everyday life was interrupted by an incident following the murder 88

Ljušić, Vožd Karadjordje, II, 272; H. Kamberović, Husein kapetan Gradaščević (1802–1834): Biografija, Gradačac, 2002, 12. 89 M. Marinković, ‘Srbija prve polovine XIX veka u Istoriji čudnovatih dogadjaja u Beogradu i Srbiji Rašida Beogradjanina i memoaru Ibrahima Mansur-Efendije’, Zbornik Matice srpske za istoriju, 61–62 (2000), 179–86. E. A. Aytekin, ‘Belgradî Raşid and his Vak’a‐i Hayret‐Nüma: A Local Muslim Perspective on Dual Administration in Belgrade During Serbian Autonomy’, in S. Aslantaş et al. (eds), Belgrade, 1521–1867, Belgrade, 2018, 315–26.

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figure 4.5  Princess Persida Karadjordjević (1813–73), consort of Prince ­ leksandar. Portrait by Uroš Knežević, 1855 (Wikipedia). Note Persida’s A oriental dress. Born into the prominent Nenadović family in western Serbia (the previously mentioned Prota Mateja was a close relative), Persida was just 17 when she married Karadjordje’s younger son Aleksandar, six years her senior, in Khotyn, Bessarabia (then Russia, today Ukraine), where exiled members of the Karadjordjević family lived at the time. Persida played a prominent role in the social and cultural life of mid-nineteenth-century Belgrade. After Prince Aleksandar was deposed in 1858 (see below), they emigrated to Timișoara (Romania). The princely couple had 10 children, six of whom lived into adulthood. King Petar I of Serbia (and Yugoslavia) was their eldest surviving son.

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of a Christian by a Muslim in summer 1848. The perpetrator escaped justice with the help of the Belgrade Ottoman authorities. Christians demonstrated outside the fortress and tensions threatened to get out of hand. Things calmed down thanks to those in positions of power – the prince, the pasha and his wife all appealed for peace and worked together to resolve the crisis.90 Not all Belgrade Muslim women were strict believers and not all lived on state support. Some survived on the edge of the society, trying to make the most out of the dual government. A wellknown Belgrade courtesan Bula Nesiba, who as a 2-year Christian child Katarina was converted to Islam following the fall of the city in 1813, fell foul of the Ottoman law in 1830. She avoided being expelled from the city by converting back to Orthodoxy. As a Christian, she was now outside the reach of the Ottoman legal system and was allowed to stay in Belgrade. In what may have been the case of a (presumably) attractive young woman playing on macho instincts of two powerful male rivals, Kata Nesiba, as she became known, had Prince Miloš personally intervene on her behalf with the Belgrade pasha. Following this, she continued to entertain a religiously mixed clientele until the Serb authorities eventually expelled her from the city in the 1840s, before she was able to re-convert to Islam.91 Kata Nesiba was one of approximately 150 Belgrade prostitutes in the first half of the nineteenth century. Her story is in some ways symbolic of this transitional period. Other courtesans 90

[Melek Hanım ] Thirty Years in the Harem, or, The Autobiography of MelekHanum, Wife of H. H. Kibrizli-Mehemet-Pasha, I, London, 1872, 138–49; cf. I. Ćirović, ‘[An] Ottoman Woman, Agency and Power: Melek Hanım in Belgrade 1847–1848’, in Aslantaş et al. (eds), Belgrade, 1521–1867, 363–82. 91 I. Janković, Kata Nesiba: Istinita i ilustrovana istorija jedne beogradske bludnice i njene borbe za ustavna prava, 1839–1851, illustr. by V. Mihajlović, Belgrade, 2014, and ‘Opšte bludnice: Prostitucija u Beogradu u prvoj polovini 19. veka’, God. za društv. ist, 22:2 (2015), 25–51; cf. V. Jovanović, ‘Prostitucija u Beogradu tokom 19. veka’, God. za društv. ist, 4:1 (1997), 7–24.

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included former haram women, sex slaves imported from the Austrian Empire, and local Christian women, sometimes married or widowed, driven to prostitution by poverty. At politically sensitive times, Ottoman and Serbian authorities would arrest or temporary remove from Belgrade well-known troublemakers and prostitutes. A common cause of tension and physical conflict between the Christians and Muslims was jealousy and competition for women – not surprisingly perhaps considering that at the time Belgrade men outnumbered women (60 to 40 per cent in 1834 and 62 to 38 per cent fifteen years later). This was mainly due to the immigration pattern that saw single men moving to Serbia in search of jobs.92 Unsurprisingly, women – rather than their male ‘clients’ – tended to be blamed for disturbing ‘public morality’. Thus, in January 1838, an army captain and commander of the prince’s guard asked the (Christian) police to prevent prostitutes from approaching and seducing his soldiers. Two years later, the Belgrade authorities received a request from the head of the Orthodox church in Serbia to expel from the city a well-known prostitute. The Belgrade police files include records of sexual violence against under-age girls and reports of ‘seduction and sodomy’ of young boys. Sexual violence was not uncommon in the countryside either. Most inmates of a late nineteenth-century female-only prison in Požarevac were women who killed men – often their husbands or other family members – after they had been abused and maltreated.93 Old Muslim communities were not the only victims of Serbia’s nascent modernization. A rapidly growing population, due to immigration and birth rates higher than anywhere else in Europe 92

Mišković, Bazari, 173. M. Jovanović et al. (eds), Živeti u Beogradu, 1837–1841: Dokumenta uprave grada Beograda, Belgrade, 2003, 449–53; M. A. Popović, Zatvorenice: Album ženskog odeljenja Požarevačkog kaznenog zavoda (1898), Belgrade, 2017.

93

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bar Hungary and Russia (45 per 1000; in preindustrial western Europe the birth rates reached 30 per 1000), created the need for additional arable land that could only be created by deforestation.94 The forests of Šumadija gave birth to modern Serbia – first as shelter and source of food for the insurgents, then as additional land their partial destruction created in autonomous Serbia. As geologist and travel-writer Ami Boué shrewdly observed, the Ottomans might have defeated Karadjordje’s rebellion if they had slaughtered pigs rather than men and if they had burned the forests, which provided food for the pigs95 – and shelter for the rebels, one might add. The modernization also created smaller households and opened prospects for people willing to move to towns. This resulted in decline, if not quite the end of extended families that had formed the nucleus of the Balkan society during the pre-modern era. In the mid-1830s, Serbia, like the rest of the Balkans, remained a predominantly agricultural society. Out of around 700,000 population, which lived on a territory of 38,000 square kilometres, the urban population numbered only 50,000 people, of whom possibly around one-half lived in Belgrade. Many towns were in fact semi-rural societies, and their population remained diverse even as the Muslims were departing. In addition to Serbs, there were Jews, Greeks, Tsintsars (Hellenized Vlachs), Roma, Armenians and others; many would assimilate, even while preserving their old identity.96 After the 1878 Congress of Berlin, Serbian Jews were fully emancipated, as the newly independent Balkan states were obliged to grant full citizen rights to their minorities. This encouraged further immigration of Ashkenazi Jews from neighbouring AustriaHungary, who joined a long-established Sephardim community in Belgrade and several other towns. Roma continued to enjoy a separate status they had gained in the Ottoman Empire but were 94

Calic, Društvena istorija, 49; Palairet, Balkan Economies, 98–103. Pavlowitch, Serbia, 32. 96 Ibid, 34; Mišković, Bazari, 172–73.

95

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finally fully integrated into the Serbian legal and tax system in 1884, when the nomadic communities were obliged, formally at least, to settle down. Regardless of whether they remained semi-nomadic or not, most Roma continued to be treated as de facto second-class citizens. On the other hand, because they were not regarded as ‘Turks’ by either Serbs or Ottomans, Muslim Roma were not included in the diplomatic agreements between the Serbs and the Ottomans, sanctioned by the Powers, which regulated the departure of Muslims from Serbia.97

The Serbs and the 1848 Revolution The Hungarian revolutionary manifesto of March 1848 triggered declarations demanding civic and religious freedoms, independent schools and use of their own language by several Serb groups in Habsburg Hungary. In the countryside, Orthodox peasants rebelled against large landowners. On 12–14 May (1–3 May O.S.) 1848, a Serb assembly was held in Sremski Karlovci (Figure 4.6). It was attended by the church and political leaders and various other ‘people’s representatives’. The assembly proclaimed a Duchy of Serbia (Vojvodstvo Srbija, today better known as Vojvodina), and elected as the vojvoda (duke) a Habsburg Serb army Colonel Stefan Šupljikac (1786–1848), who accepted his new rank only after the emperor’s approval (but died several months later from an illness). The deputies also proclaimed Metropolitan Josif Rajačić the ‘Serb Patriarch’. Amid declarations of loyalty to ‘our Emperor and King and Father Ferdinand’, those present also recalled Serbia’s ‘glorious past’. The legality of the assembly

97

I. Janković, ‘Pravni status Roma u Kneževini Srbiji’, Pravni zapisi (Belgrade), VII:2 (2016), 297–323, and ‘Socijalni status Roma u Kneževini Srbiji’, God. za društv. ist, 24:1 (2017), 7–24. The position of Roma was worse in neighbouring Romania, where they were kept as slaves in some cases. By contrast, slavery was not legalized in modern Serbia.

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figure 4.6  Pavle Simić, Serbian National Assembly, [Novi Sad] 1 May 1848 (1848). The Matica srpska Gallery, Novi Sad, GMS/U 2873

was supposed to be based on the ‘privileges’ issued by Emperor Leopold I to their ancestors following the ‘Great Migration’, and on the (largely symbolic) continuity with the Serbian despotate, which ‘transferred’ to southern Hungary following the Ottoman conquest in the fifteenth century.98 Meanwhile, young liberal-nationalist activists assumed a greater role. They introduced mass politics to Habsburg Serbs, by campaigning across southern Hungary and agitating for the ‘national cause’. To what extent their messages resonated among ‘ordinary’ Serbs is not known. Only a small, educated elite could read written proclamations, but by going 98

Ćirković, The Serbs, 196–203; Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije, I, 485–596; ISN, V-2, 45–108; cf. I. Deák, Lawful Revolution: Louis Kossuth and the Hungarians 1848–1849, New York, 1979; P. M. Judson, The Habsburg Empire: A New History, Cambridge, MA, 2016, ch. 4.

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to the people the national agitators hoped to bring the nation to them. Savka Subotić, one of the first feminists among Hungarian Serbs, aged 14 during the Revolution, later recalled how liberals wore specially made hats that featured Serbia’s tricolour flag and the following written message: ‘Long live SerbSlavjan, Vojvoda Stefan!’.99 Among them was a young lawyer and journalist Svetozar Miletić (1826–1901), the future leader of the Hungarian Serbs who would briefly serve as the mayor of Novi Sad. Serbia officially remained neutral. It sent financial aid to Hungary’s Serbs and volunteers crossed the border to join Hungarian Serb revolutionary units, but Vučić Perišić declared that the country had no business across the border. Concerned that his Načertanije plan would stand no chance without the Hungarian support, Garašanin urged Prince Aleksandar to resist the nationalists’ calls for Serbia to intervene on behalf of Hungarian Serbs. He need not have worried. Aleksandar was revolutionary and knew that his rivals, the exiled a counter-­ Obrenovićs, supported the Hungarian Serbs and Croats. Prince Mihailo was in Novi Sad at the time, while Prince Miloš travelled to Zagreb to meet with Croat ‘Illyrians’, where he was briefly detained on Serbia’s request. However, not everyone within Serbia’s establishment was opposed to the Hungarian Serb revolution. A high-ranking member of the Constitutionalist government resigned to join Serb volunteers in southern Hungary. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Empire officially protested because of Serbia’s aid to the Hungarian Serbs, but secretly hoped for the unification between Vojvodina and Serbia, which would have meant the restoration of the Ottoman sovereignty over the lower Pannonian plain.100

99

S. Subotić, Uspomene, ed. by A. Stolić, Belgrade, 2001, 43. ISN, V-1, 276–77.

100

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The prospect of revolutionary changes and in particular the Hungarian nationalism encouraged Serb–Croat cooperation. In March 1848, Ljudevit Gaj of the Illyrian Party in Zagreb approached Serbia for financial support, while at the same time Hungarian Serbs sought to establish closer ties with Croatia, within the Habsburg Monarchy. Meanwhile, General Josip Jelačić (born in what is now Novi Sad, Serbia) was elected in Zagreb as the new Ban (governor) of Croatia. This medieval title, and the Sabor (Assembly), provided symbolic links with the eleventh-­ century Croatian kingdom. Serb Patriarch Rajačić gave personal blessings at Jelačić’s inauguration. The government of Lajos Kossuth rejected the South Slav revolutionary proclamations. The Hungarian patriotism was in full swing, boosted by figures such as poet and revolutionary Sándor Petőfi (real name Alexander Petrovics), whose mother, like Kossuth’s parents, was Slovak, while his father may have been of Serb descent.101 In June, there were armed clashes between local Serb militias and Hungarian troops. The Hungarians sent a loyalist descendant of Patriarch Arsenije III to mediate in the conflict and a 10-day ceasefire was agreed. However, a Russian offensive against the Habsburg state in July led to renewed fighting in southern Hungary. This time Serb refugees fled south, closer to or into Serbia. Those from wealthy families, such as Savka Subotić, found it hard to live without the comfort they had been used to, even though Savka’s temporary exile in Zemun was not comparable to the experiences of earlier Orthodox refugees who 101

R. A. Kann, A History of the Habsburg Empire, 1526–1918, Berkeley, CA, 1974, 381. Petőfi’s romantic-nationalist poetry inspired nineteenth-century Hungarian Serb poet and painter Djura Jakšić, who as a 16-year-old fought in the 1848 revolution, and Jovan Jovanović Zmaj, a hugely popular poet, born into a Serbianized Vlach family in Novi Sad. B. Aleksov, ‘Jovan Jovanović Zmaj and the Serbian Identity between Poetry and History’, in D. Mishkova (ed.), We, the People: Politics of National Peculiarity in Southeastern Europe, Budapest, 2009, 273–305.

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fled in the opposite direction. The fear of losing home, however, was real and it must have triggered cross-­generational traumas of these descendants of migrants. When a fellow refugee from Novi Sad told Savka’s mother in a crying voice that ‘we will all become homeless and beggars as not even a stone has been left intact in our town [Novi Sad]’, everyone sat in silence for a while.102 In the meantime, Garašanin instructed Serbia’s envoy in Constantinople to draft a plan for the creation of a Serbian vice-kingdom within the Ottoman Empire. According to the proposal, the Porte would extend the Serbian hattı şerıfs of 1829–33 to Bosnia, Herzegovina, Albania, ‘Old Serbia’ (Raška and Kosovo), Macedonia and Bulgaria, creating a large, self-­governing Balkan kingdom under the sultan’s suzerainty. The Porte rejected the proposal, but Garašanin’s agents across the Balkans, and especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, continued to propagate closer ties of these regions with Serbia. At the same time, Serbia’s nationalist youth called for the liberation of the Serbs living under ‘foreign rule’ and for an internal liberation from Serbia’s authoritarian regime; František Zach travelled to Cetinje where he was received warmly by Prince-Bishop Njegoš; there was a talk of a Serb–Bulgarian union. The Habsburg Serbs’ hopes of territorial autonomy received a boost when in late 1848 the Habsburg Monarchy turned against Hungary. A joint Croat–Serb army commanded by Jelačić marched on Pest, and Vienna recognized the self-­proclaimed ‘Duchy of Serbia’ and its Patriarch. For a brief period, two ‘Serbias’ existed on the Habsburg– Ottoman border: a highly autonomous Principality of Serbia to the south and the revolutionary, self-proclaimed Duchy of Serbia to the north of the border. Hungary’s defeat ended, for the time being at least, its quest for independence. At the same time, the Hungarian Serb position was weakened, partly due to

102

Subotić, Uspomene, 45–46.

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internal divisions between the military, the political leaders and the church, but mainly because the Habsburgs had no intention of supporting Serb autonomy now that the Hungarians were defeated. In November 1849, Vienna proclaimed the ‘Duchy (Vojvodstvo) of Serbia and the Banat of Temesvár (Temišvar)’ as a new crownland. It had a mixed Serb–Romanian–Hungarian– German population, its autonomy was little more than symbolic and it was abolished anyway in 1860.103

The St Andrew’s Assembly Serbia remained out of but was not unaffected by the Crimean War, fought in 1853–56 by the Ottoman Empire, France and Britain against Russia. The 1856 Paris Peace Treaty, which ended the war, provided for a collective guarantee of Serbia’s autonomy by Russia, Austria, Britain, France, Prussia and Sardinia (later Germany and Italy, respectively). The Treaty also granted Serbia free Danube navigation rights, which helped the principality’s nascent industrialization.104 Internally, Prince Aleksandar hoped to marginalize the Council and establish a personal regime, but could not achieve this without Garašanin and Vučić Perišić, two oligarchs who enjoyed popular support. The trouble was that the prince deeply disliked both politicians. The feeling was mutual, and Francophile Garašanin and Russophile Vučić Perišić also mistrusted each other. Then in late September 1857, news broke out of a plot to assassinate Prince Aleksandar. It was masterminded by Stefan Stefanović Tenka, president of the Council, and Cvetko Rajović, president of the Supreme Court. It transpired that Prince Miloš funded the conspiracy, but unbeknown 103

ISN, V-1, 274–77. Ćirković, The Serbs, 211; Jovanović, Ustavobranitelji, 280; cf. Č. Antić, Neutrality as Independence: Great Britain, Serbia and the Crimean War, Belgrade, 2007.

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to the exiled Obrenović prince, the conspirators planned to ask the Powers to install a foreign monarch in Serbia following the removal of Aleksandar Karadjordjević. Death sentences for the conspirators were overturned due to an intervention by the Porte, which sent a high official to investigate the crisis on behalf of the guaranteeing Powers. The Ottoman envoy concluded that the public opinion had turned against the Karadjordjević prince after the elderly conspirators were publicly humiliated and tortured, and that it would be therefore best if they received life sentences instead. The conspirators would be pardoned after the fall of Prince Aleksandar and the Constitutionalist regime in 1858, and Rajović would even briefly serve as prime minister. Personally not involved in the plot, Garašanin and Vučić Perišić had sought to remove Aleksandar by other means. In Garašanin’s mind that could be only achieved through a people’s assembly, and in this he was supported by the nationalist youth on whom the 1848 revolutionary ideas had made a strong impact. Unlike the earlier Serbian state scholars, who were above all interested in studies, the ‘48 generation was all about action. The leading representatives of the revolutionary generation were liberals Jevrem Grujić (1827–95), Vladimir Jovanović (1833–1922) and Jovan Ristić (1831–99), who would play a major part in the Serbian politics during the subsequent period. Educated in newly established Serbian schools, where they studied Vuk Karadžić’s ethnographic-­ historical work, and at French and German universities, where they were introduced to liberal ideas of that era, these young men believed in the historical greatness of the Serbian nation. They wanted to end both the Ottoman sovereignty over Serbia and what they perceived as similarly oppressive regime of Prince Aleksandar and the Constitutionalist oligarchs. Encouraged by Garašanin, the young liberals began a campaign for elections for a people’s assembly.105 105

Jovanović, Ustavobranitelji, 316, 358–63.

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The elections were called for 15 November (O.S.) 1858, after Garašanin received reports from district chiefs that there was a popular mood for change. Candidates opposed to Prince Aleksandar, not all of whom were necessarily pro-Obrenović, won in the majority of electoral districts. The new assembly, set on removing the prince, convened on 30 November in a Belgrade brewery (because there was no permanent parliament building), on St Andrew the First Called – ironically, the Karadjordjević family slava (patron saint). Dramatic arrival of people’s deputies from across the country contributed to a revolutionary atmosphere. Accompanied by priests and peasants, tall, warrior-like men riding white horses descended on the city; dressed in colourful folk costumes and carrying guns and sabres, they resembled South Slav folk heroes rather than Serbia’s first parliamentarians. Vučić Perišić was dressed like one of Karadjordje’s early nineteenth-­century insurgents, in contrast to Garašanin’s west European appearance.106 The Porte welcomed the elections outcome and sent its representative to the assembly – who turned out to be a friend of, or may have been bribed by Miša Anastasijević, the assembly chairman. This wealthy businessman lobbied for his son-in-law Djordje Karadjordjević (the son of Karadjordje’s first-born son Aleksije) to succeed the throne.107 Meanwhile, Garašanin might have fancied himself as Serbia’s Napoleon III, whom he had met and greatly admired. A tense two-month period followed, during which the prospects of the princely palace being stormed and rumours of a military coup forced both the embattled prince and the deputies who called for his abdication to seek safety in the city’s Ottoman garrison. The prince then abdicated in late December, but the crisis was not over yet. Masses gathered to defend the assembly – 106

Ibid, 378–85; A. Radenić, Svetoandrejska skupština, Belgrade, 1964. Djordje’s younger son was Paris-based artist Božidar Karadjordjević (1862– 1908), known among friends as ‘Bijou d’art’. See Pavlowitch, Božidart.

107

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from ‘defenders of the Constitution’ – but were kept under control by the police, commanded by previously mentioned Stevča Mihailović. Meanwhile, Garašanin controlled the army, but nobody seemed to control another armed group of around 600 momci (lads) who roamed freely the streets of Belgrade, answering only to gazda (boss) Filip Stanković. A merchant, debt collector, gambler and womanizer, Stanković behaved like a hajduk chief. It emerged he was in Miloš Obrenović’s pay, but was tolerated by the liberals, who ultimately gained upper hand over the Constitutionalists.108 The ‘people’s revolution against the bureaucrats and loan sharks’, as Slobodan Jovanović described the events of late 1858, may be seen as the fourth and final phase of the Serbian revolution. It had begun in 1804 with Karadjordje’s uprising, was followed by Miloš-led ‘second uprising’ and agrarian revolution, before the Constitutionalists deposed the prince at the beginning of their ‘bureaucratic revolution’ and continued the transformation of the society of the former Smederevo sanjak. It is therefore ironic that the ‘anti-bureaucratic revolution’ resulted in a reactionary outcome – not unlike the 1848 revolution in neighbouring Hungary, incidentally (and, not unlike Slobodan Milošević’s ‘anti-bureaucratic revolution’ of the late 1980s, discussed in Chapter 7). Despite all the liberalism of the politicians who brought down the Constitutionalists, and despite the presence of republican ideas among those seeking changes, the Assembly asked aged Prince Miloš to return and within days the Porte approved him as Serbia’s new-old prince. As another historian put it, ‘[i]n a small-scale analogy to the French National Assembly of 1789, the St. Andrews’ skupština set both Prince Alexander and Ilija Garašanin packing. But instead of establishing a republic, the Liberal leaders and assembly could think of nothing better to do

108

S. Jovanović, Druga vlada Miloša i Mihaila (1858–1868), Belgrade, 1923, 5.

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than recall old Prince Miloš to the throne.’109 The establishment of a republic, however, may not have been realistic at the time and not only because, strictly speaking, Serbia remained part of an empire. After the end of the short-lived French Second Republic in the early 1850s, the only European republic at the time of the St Andrew’s Assembly was Switzerland, a federal republic only since 1848. In any case, Miloš’s second reign would be short lived. He died in September 1860, aged around 80. Serbia’s prince once again became Mihailo – now 37, married to a Hungarian countess and set on leaving his mark on the history of Serbia and the Balkans. 109

G. Stokes, Politics as Development: The Emergence of Political Parties in Nineteenth-century Serbia, Durham, NC, 1990, 8.

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Ottoman Departures On 16 September 1861, Christians and Muslims in Serbia ­celebrated, respectively, the 38th birthday of Prince Mihailo, his first since returning to the country just under a year earlier, and the beginning of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year, and one of four sacred months when warfare is forbidden. Felix Kanitz, a Hungarian Jewish traveller and scholar, witnessed the celebrations while walking in central Belgrade that evening with a group of Serbian friends. ‘In 1861 Belgrade was still the Eldorado of most peculiar contrasts’, Kanitz recalled. Around 6pm streetlamps were turned on in the Christian part of the town. Sound of music could be heard mixed with shouts ‘Long live [the prince]!’ … At the same time the Sahat kula (clock tower) at the [Ottoman] fortress announced 12 midnight according to the Turkish time. Sound of bells had hardly stopped when cannon shots, fired at exact intervals, marked the beginning of the festival of Muharram, the birthday of Muhammad, Allah’s great prophet. Fifteen minarets in the [Muslim part of] town and the fortress were lit at the same time as if by a magic wand, while at the same time pyramid-, star-, coat-­of-arms- and letter-shaped lights were switched on at the Great Market in honour of Prince Mihailo’s birthday. It was like a scene from a fairy tale, only spoiled somewhat by a full moon.

A military orchestra and a children’s choir performed in honour of the prince, while Christians and Muslims sat together outside a stand ‘built for the occasion by an opportunistic Persian’ – chatting, drinking tea, lemonade and sherbet (an Ottoman Turkish

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soft drink) and smoking Oriental-style pipes. After a muezzin’s call for prayer, the only Muslims left on the streets were members of the Ottoman police, but Christians continued to party uninterrupted.1 Kanitz describes a multicultural Belgrade where two main groups, typically depicted as antagonistic towards each other, celebrated jointly and simultaneously, with mutual respect and taste for Ottoman-era refreshments. Even more remarkable is that this seemingly idyllic scene took place less than a year before an incident in the city led to armed clashes and provoked a major international crisis. Five years later, Serbia’s last Ottomans would depart from the de facto independent and increasingly national state. Kanitz was likely unaware of less than idyllic relationship between Ottoman soldiers and Christian population in smaller garrison towns, but for all periodic tensions and incidents, the two main communities had coexisted more or less peacefully during the ‘dual government’. Prince Aleksandar and the Constitutionalist regime had enjoyed a relatively good relationship with the Ottomans, and even Prince Mihailo, who adopted a more nationalist course upon returning to the throne, established a cordial relationship with Alı Rızâ, the last Pasha of Belgrade. The polyglot, Paris-educated pasha and his Greekborn, half-French wife Meira, who had a taste for music and arts, were well-integrated members of the Belgrade high society, attending and hosting salons and dinner parties for the local

1

F. Kanic [Kanitz], Srbija: Zemlja i stanovništvo, od rimskog doba do kraja XIX veka, transl. from German by G. Ernjaković, 2 vols, Belgrade, 1985, I, 39–41. The translation of the quoted text into English is mine; cf. N. Mišković, Bazari i bulevari: Svet života u Beogradu 19. veka, transl. from German by R. Gašić, Belgrade, [2010], 189–90. As part of the ‘dual government’, discussed in the previous chapter, streets of towns were patrolled by both Ottoman and Serbian police. For different ‘time zones’ in the Ottoman Empire, see A. Wishnitzer, Reading Clocks, Alla Turca: Time and Society in the Late Ottoman Empire, Chicago, 2015.

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nascent aristocracy and foreign consuls. Alı Rızâ Pasha took Serbian l­anguage classes; his teacher was Matija Ban, a Catholic Serb from Dubrovnik and a Yugoslav activist who had moved to Belgrade in the 1840s. Meanwhile, Meira became a close friend of Anka Konstantinović, Prince Mihailo’s first cousin, and Margarita Ban (Matija’s wife), who was also of Greek origin. This was a small, cosmopolitan group of Belgrade’s ‘upper class’, in which women played an important, increasingly emancipated role. It resembled similar social gatherings in central and west European capitals – but also elsewhere in the Balkans and in Constantinople, where foreign diplomats and western-educated Ottomans brought modern ideas and customs during the reigns of sultans Abdülaziz (1861–76) and Abdülhamid II (1876–1909).2 It is important though to take a nuanced view of cross-­ communal relations. The late Ottoman era witnessed an increased polarization of inter-confessional relations, especially between Christians and Muslims. The two main communities in the Serbian principality lived in their own, largely separate worlds. At the same time, there was a greater blurring of traditional boundaries established by the ever-evolving millet system.3 The scene Kanitz described was perhaps possible only in a highly autonomous Serbia. For all the tolerant nature of the Haji Mustafa Pasha regime of the late eighteenth century, such joint celebrations among different communities with seemingly equal rights would have been unthinkable in the Ottoman sanjak

2

M. Kokanović Marković, ‘Ženski umetnički saloni Anke Obrenović i Mejre (supruge Ali Riza Paše): Nova uloga žene u društvu’, Muzika: Časopis za muzičku kulturu (Sarajevo), 21:1 (2017), 28–43; P. D. Dimitrijević-Stošić, Posela u starome Beogradu, Belgrade, 1985; E. Boyar and K. Fleet, A Social History of Ottoman Istanbul, Cambridge, 2010, ch. 8; cf. G. Sluga, The Invention of International Order: Remaking Europe after Napoleon, Princeton, NJ, 2021. 3 N. Clayer, ‘Religious Pluralism in the Balkans during the late Ottoman Imperial Era: Towards a Dynamic Model’, in R. Murphey (ed.), Imperial Lineages and Legacies in the Eastern Mediterranean, London, 2016, 101–14.

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of Smederevo. In that sense, Kanitz was probably right that ‘[t]he festive mood was respected by both sides, but many elderly Muslims could not forget the good old times when the [Christian] reaya was obliged to give way and bow in front of every turban’.4 Serbia’s new, more nationalist course vis-à-vis the Ottoman authorities had begun during Miloš’s brief second reign (1858–60). Having lost none of his political instinct, the elderly prince used nationalism to appease the Liberals and discredit the Turkophile Constitutionalists. But it was Miloš’s heir and successor Mihailo who during his own second reign (1860–68) set Serbia on collision course with the Ottomans. Mihailo’s main goal was Serbia’s independence. The ambitious Serbian prince wanted to go one step further than his father, the architect of the country’s autonomy. Unlike Miloš, an illiterate autocrat, Mihailo was an enlightened despot whose vision of Serbia was as an enlarged, independent and modern state. He looked up to Napoleon III (French president, 1848–52, emperor 1852–70), a supporter of the Italian and Romanian unification movements. An English priest and traveller, who was granted audience with Mihailo, later wrote how he expected to meet a Balkan prince who would talk about liberating his country and fighting the ‘Turks’. Instead, he was received by a well-read, polyglot prince in a rather modest study with little furniture but full of books, documents and maps. Mihailo talked, ‘in perfect French’, about education and economy and was curious to know the Englishman’s impressions of his country.5 The nationalist Liberals approved Mihailo’s foreign policy but opposed his domestic autocratic rule. The prince marginalized the National Assembly (Narodna skupština – one of the Liberals’ greatest achievements), the Council and the Supreme Court. 4

Kanic, 41. Rev. W. Denton, Servia and the Servians, London, 1862, 233–35. Benjámin Kállay, Austro-Hungarian consul-general in Belgrade, similarly noted Mihailo’s excellent French. Dnevnik Benjamina Kalaja, 1868–1875, ed. by A. Radenić, Belgrade/Novi Sad, 1976, entry for 20 April 1868, 25.

5

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figure 5.1  Prince Mihailo Obrenović, c.1850 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Mihailo pushed through a law on the ‘people’s army’, which burdened Serbia’s budget and alarmed the Ottomans. Most Liberals were marginalized or went to exile, as the prince found allies

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among his old enemies, the Constitutionalists, now known as the Conservatives. This resulted in Garašanin’s appointment as prime minister (1861–67). Garašanin shared Mihailo’s vision of Serbia as a South Slav Piedmont, independent from Russia and Austria, and believed that Serbia needed to unite with Habsburg and Ottoman Serbs and other Balkan peoples. It was around this time that he coined the doctrine ‘The Balkans to the Balkan peoples’.6 A French colonel was brought in to serve as Serbia’s war minister, while František Zach, Prince Czartoryski’s Czech agent, was tasked with training the Serbian army officers. Within a short period of time, Serbia, a country of 1,250,000 million people, built an army of 90,000 soldiers and could mobilize further 60,000 men. The Ottomans and the Austrians took notice. Serbia possessed the largest army in the Balkans, but in reality it was a poorly equipped and trained militia-type force.7 The militarization of Serbia contributed to growing tensions between the Christians and Muslims in the principality. After an incident at a water fountain queue in Belgrade in June 1862, Ottoman soldiers murdered a Serbian boy; during the ensuing violence, a Serb dragoman (interpreter) and three gendarmes were also killed. Several days of armed clashes followed, during which the Ottomans bombarded the city from the fortress. The damage was relatively small, mainly because Ottoman guns were outdated. However, there was a real danger of a full-blown war, and the Powers called a peace conference in Istanbul. The Serbian delegation, headed by Jovan Ristić, requested the withdrawal of the remaining Ottoman troops from Serbia. The Ottomans on their part demanded that Serbia reduced its army. France and Russia supported the Serbs, while Austria and Britain sided with 6

S. Jovanović, Druga vlada Miloša i Mihaila (1858–1868), Belgrade, 1923, 63–86, 89–92, 210–11; M. B. Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, 1804–1918, New York, 1976, 2 vols, I, 215–16. 7 Jovanović, Druga vlada, 304–15.

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the Ottomans. In the end, a compromise solution saw the remaining Muslim civilians (between 3,000 and 7,000, depending on source) leave Serbia, while two smaller Ottoman garrisons were abandoned. In return, Serbia agreed to reduce its army to a size deemed acceptable by the Ottomans – and Austrians. The departure of Muslim civilians did not go without resistance, especially in Užice, home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the principality. In the end, with the Serbian army threatening to intervene, Serbia’s last Muslim civilians left, mainly for eastern Bosnia. There they initially lived in refugee camps, before eventually integrating into the new environment.8 The departure of Serbia’s Muslims during the nineteenth century was regulated by the Powers, and by the Ottoman and Serb authorities, as we have seen in the case of the early 1830s hattı şerıfs. In some ways, it anticipated the infamous 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which made the Greek–Turkish population exchange compulsory. The modern international legal framework designed to protect minorities living in newly emerging nation states was developed in the nineteenth century. The Concert of Europe – that is the balance of power established at the 1815 Congress of Vienna – ‘fashioned, apportioned, and reconstituted states, devoting a good part of its energy to the regulation of majority-minority dynamics in the Ottoman Empire and various states formed from its gradual “retreat from Europe”’.9 It was also during this period,

8

Mišković, Bazari, 189–216; cf. A. D’Alessandri, ‘The Muslim Question in Serbia 1862: Bombardment of Belgrade and the Newborn Kingdom of Italy’, in V. G. Pavlović (ed.), Italy’s Balkan Strategies (19th–20th Century), Belgrade, 2014, 29–44; Lj. P. Ristić, ‘The Bombing of Belgrade (1862) and the Cession of Fortresses to Serbia (1867) in British Politics’, in Aslantaş et al. (eds), Belgrade, 1521–1867, Belgrade, 2018, 407–26. 9 U. Özsu, Formalizing Displacement: International Law and Population Transfers, Oxford, 2015, 32–33; cf. M. Mazower, Governing the World: The History of an Idea, London, 2012; A. D. Moses, The Problems of Genocide: Permanent Security and the Language of Transgression, Cambridge, 2021, esp. Introduction.

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and in relation to the ‘Eastern Crisis’, that the Powers attempted to manage humanitarian crises caused by forced population movements.10 Taking advantage of an anti-Ottoman rebellion in Crete and Austria’s defeat against Prussia in 1866, Serbia managed to ­eventually negotiate the full withdrawal of Ottoman troops from its ­territory. In two highly symbolic acts, Prince Mihailo first travelled to Istanbul in early 1867 to personally thank Sultan Abdülaziz – a grace-saving gesture meant to imply the sultan’s suzerainty. Then on 19 April, Alı Rızâ Pasha handed over the keys of the Belgrade and three other Ottoman fortresses to Mihailo and the Serbian army for ‘safekeeping’, before leaving the city on 24 April. ‘Around 11:00am virtuous Alı Rızâ Pasha, who had ­hitherto commanded all Turkish garrisons in Serbia, departed from the city in the prince’s car’, reported Serbia’s Official Gazette. He was given a guard of honour by the Serbian army, while a ­military orchestra played as he boarded a ship at the Sava River, in the presence of Serbian gendarmerie in festive uniforms. By early May 1867, the last Ottoman soldiers left. Serbia continued to pay an annual tribute to the Porte and to fly the Ottoman state flag over the Belgrade fortress, but for all intents and purposes it was now an independent state.11

10

D. Rodogno, Against Massacre: Humanitarian Interventions in the Ottoman Empire, 1815–1914, Princeton, NJ, 2012; cf. J. Manasek, ‘Empire Displaced: Ottoman-Habsburg Forced Migration and the Near Eastern Crisis, 1875– 1878’, PhD dissertation, Columbia University, New York, 2013. 11 The citation from Srbske novine (Official Gazette) in Kokanović Marković, 32. See also Jovanović, Druga vlada Miloša i Mihaila, 204–209; Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, I, 316–19; Ristić, ‘The Bombing of Belgrade’; S. Rajić, ‘Belgrade and the City Question [of] 1866/1867 in the Confidential Correspondence of [the] Foreign Office’, in Aslantaş et al. (eds), Belgrade, 1521–1867, 423–36. Between leaving Belgrade in 1867 and his death in Autumn 1876, Alı Rızâ was the vali (governor) of Ottoman villayets in Anatolia, Libya and, briefly in 1876, Herzegovina.

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Serbia’s Balkan Alliances It seemed as if the 1860s was to be the decade when the national liberation movements of the 1840s would finally succeed. Following Garibaldi’s defeat of the Kingdom of Naples, a united Kingdom of Italy, under Vittorio Emanuelle I (1861–78) was proclaimed in March 1861, shortly after the first Italian parliament convened in Turin. Prussia’s victories against Austria (1866) and France (1871) led to the proclamation, in Paris in January 1871, of the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm I (1871–88) and Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1871–90). Later that year, Italy completed its unification by finally incorporating Rome (minus the Vatican). Austria’s defeat against Prussia forced Vienna to grant Hungary a de facto independence. The 1867 Ausgleich (Compromise) transformed the Habsburg Monarchy into a dual, Austro-Hungarian Empire. A Hungarian–Croat compromise followed, but it could not prevent the revival of the Yugoslavist politics in Habsburg Croatia. In 1866, Josip Juraj Strossmayer, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Djakovo, and Franjo Rački, a cannon and historian, founded the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb – the first time the word ‘Yugoslav’ was used officially.12 Meanwhile, Prince Mihailo dreamed of creating a large South Slav state, which in addition to Serbia would include Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Bulgaria. Serbia, as the 12

The Academy was renamed the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1941, and then again in 1991, the original name having been restored between the end of the Second World War and the (second) end of Yugoslavia. For nineteenth century Yugoslavism, see I. Banac, The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics, Ithaca, NY, 1984; A. Djilas, The Contested Country: Yugoslav Unity and Communist Revolution, 1919–1953, Cambridge, MA, 1991, ch. 1; M. Gross, ‘On the Integration of the Croatian Nation: A Case Study in Nation Building’, East European Quarterly, 15:2 (1981), 209–25; D. Rusinow, ‘The Yugoslav Idea before Yugoslavia’, in D. Djokić (ed.), Yugoslavism: Histories of a Failed Idea, 1918–1992, London, 2003, 11–26.

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only ‘free’ South Slav state, and the only one with its own political institutions and a relatively modern army, was to be at the core of a future ‘Yugoslavia’, with Mihailo, naturally, its ruler. The Serbian ruler’s ambitious vision should be understood in the context of the era, which saw the creation of several independent or quasi-independent (in the case of Hungary) nation states.13 Contacts were made, via Vuk Karadžić, with Montenegro’s new prince, Nikola, who like Mihailo, ascended to the throne in 1860. Serbia also provided shelter and funds to Bulgarian revolutionary Georgi Rakovski. Bulgarian revolutionary publications were printed in Belgrade, while Rakovski’s ‘Bulgarian Legion’ joined Serbian forces during the 1862 clashes with the Ottomans in Belgrade. (The Legion would be disbanded soon and Rakovski would move to Bucharest). Close contacts were also kept with Hungarian Serbs, who had seen the abolition of Vojvodina in 1860, and with Strossmayer and Croat Yugoslav activists. Meanwhile, Serbia’s and Montenegro’s agents operated in Bosnia-Herzegovina.14 There was a hope that this predominantly Serbo-Croat speaking Ottoman province with around 40 per cent Orthodox population could be joined to Serbia. When in 1867 Napoleon III told Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Count Andrássy that in the event of the collapse of the Ottoman rule in the Balkans, Bosnia should go to the Habsburg Empire (this idea had circulated previously, as discussed in Chapter 4), the Hungarian politician allegedly responded that ‘the ship is full’, and that Bosnia should be instead joined with Serbia. Andrássy’s thinking was based on three not unreasonable premises: first, from Hungary’s point of view, too many Slavs had already lived in the Dual Monarchy; second, in exchange to 13

G. Jakšić and V. J. Vučković, Spoljna politika Srbije za vlade kneza Mihaila: Prvi Balkanski savez, Belgrade, 1963. 14 ISN, V-1, 286–301; cf. R. J. Crampton, A Concise History of Bulgaria, 2nd edn, Cambridge, 2005, 75–76.

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receiving Bosnia, Serbia would be obliged to abandon any plans for uniting with Habsburg Serbs and Croats; and third, Russia’s influence would weaken because of what would amount to a Habsburg–Serb ‘compromise’. It is very likely that Andrássy conveyed the same m ­ essage to Mihailo Obrenović when they met the same year at the Serbian prince’s Hungarian countryside house. When in Spring 1868 Benjámin Kállay arrived in Belgrade as the new Habsburg consul-­ general, his aim was to bring Serbia to Austria-Hungary’s camp, by ­offering Belgrade the whole or part of Bosnia-Herzegovina.15 Austria-Hungary also saw Serbia as its main trade partner in the Balkans, and it was for that reason that it wished to see a new railway linking Belgrade with southern Balkans, as Kállay told Prince Mihailo in April 1868.16 Mihailo Obrenović was a liberal-nationalist, in the nineteenthcentury sense of the word, and he may have been a South Slav patriot, but he was not a Pan-Slav. He asked Kállay why the Habsburg Monarchy was so afraid of Pan-Slavism. When the Habsburg consul responded that it was Pan-Russianism rather than Pan-Slavism he was concerned about, Mihailo explained that the Pan-Slavism would ultimately fail over the question of language – because the Slavs did not speak the same language they could not unite into a single nation. The main reason the Serbs harboured sympathies for Russia, Mihailo explained, was because it was the only Great Power that came to their aid during the anti-Ottoman uprisings. Now that Serbia’s autonomy is 15

I. D. Armour, Apple of Discord: The ‘Hungarian Factor’ in Austro-Serbian Relations, 1867–1881, West Lafayette, IN, 2014; Jovanović, Druga vlada Miloša i Mihaila, 218–24; cf. R. Okey, ‘A Trio of Hungarian Balkanists: Béni Kállay, István Burián and Lajos Thallóczy in the Age of High Nationalism’, Slavonic and East European Review, 80:2 (2002), 234–66. 16 Dnevnik Benjamina Kalaja, entry for 28 April 1868, 29–30; cf. J. R. Lampe and M. R. Jackson, Balkan Economic History, 1550–1950, Bloomington, IN, 1982, ch. 4.

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collectively guaranteed by the Powers what good has it brought the country, Mihailo asked rhetorically.17 Andrássy and the Habsburg foreign office would several years later abandon the ‘Bosnia to Serbia’ plan, but the idea apparently continued to circulate in western diplomatic circles. In 1871, British ambassador to Constantinople asked Serbia’s diplomatic representative there if Belgrade would consider abandoning its quest for full independence in exchange for being allowed to unite with Bosnia-Herzegovina within the Ottoman framework. The Serbian diplomat answered positively.18 This, of course, resembled similar proposals by Garašanin and Ristić, discussed in Chapter 4 and in the following text. It is possible – while being sensitive to different contexts and circumstances – to make an analogy with Serbia’s Yugoslav politics in the twentieth century. During the century, various Serb leaders opted for a state framework that would bring together most Serbs living in the western Balkans, even if it meant abandoning the idea of a smaller, independent Serbia. Back in the mid-1860s, Mihailo did not think Serbia could wage a successful war against the Ottomans without its Balkan allies, and he certainly did not want to declare war on Austria, despite calls from the Liberals and the nationalist youth to join Italy and Prussia in 1866. Among those in favour of war was ­ liberal Vladimir Jovanović, whom Mazzini had written to encourage the Serbs to join the Italian struggle against the Habsburgs. Jovanović, who at the time lived in exile in southern Hungary, joined forces with Svetozar Miletić, Jevrem Grujić, Jovan Jovanović Zmaj and others in advocating a Serb or South

17

Dnevnik Benjamina Kalaja, entry for 28 April 1868, 29–30. Hristić to Ristić, Pera [a district of Istanbul], 13 April 1871, Pisma Filipa Hristića Jovanu Ristiću (1868–1880), compiled by G. Jakšić, Belgrade, 1953, 56–59; cf. S. Rajić, Spoljna politika Srbije: Izmedju očekivanja i realnosti, 1868–78, Belgrade, 2015.

18

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Slav unification in which Serbia was to play the role of Piedmont in the Italian unification. In summer 1866, they formed in Novi Sad the ‘United Serbian Youth’, inspired by similar Italian and German organizations.19 Serb liberals advocated the liberation of all European nations and their unification into some sort of United States of Europe of which a united Serbian or South Slav state would be a member. Nineteenth-century Serbian nationalism had its own specific features, but it was influenced by and developed within the wider European context. Usually neglected in literature on Serbia is the tradition of federalism and pan-­ Europeanism – and of republicanism and socialism, as discussed in the following text. It is tempting to ponder how different the history of Southeastern Europe, and indeed the world, would have been if Serbia had united with Bosnia-Herzegovina in the nineteenth century, in which case Montenegro likely would have joined the union as well. Similarly, one might wonder if the South Slavs, including Croats and Slovenes, and possibly Bulgarians, had united in the 1860s or 1870s, whether a common national identity would have formed in this hypothetical Yugoslavia, like it did in Italy and Germany. There, regional, linguistic, historic and, in the case of the latter, religious differences were not necessarily 19

Jovanović, Druga vlada Miloša i Mihaila, 227–41. See also G. Stokes, Legitimacy Through Liberalism: Vladimir Jovanović and the Transformation of Serbian Politics, Seattle, WA, 1975. Vladimir Jovanović named his son Slobodan (Freedom) and daughter Pravda (Justice), introducing these names to the Serbs (only Slobodan took off). Slobodan Jovanović would become one of Serbia’s greatest historians, jurists and literary critics, famed for his writing style which did not obscure his sharp analytical skills. His work on nineteenth-century Serbia, which informs much of this chapter, remains unmatched. Jovanović briefly served as prime minister of London-based Yugoslav government-in-exile during the Second World War. He died in 1958, as an émigré in London, having been also born in exile, in 1869 in Novi Sad, where his father had fled due to political differences with Prince Mihailo.

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lesser than those that existed among the South Slavs (they remain to this day, but so do the countries, unlike Yugoslavia). And what would have happened with Bosnia’s Muslims in either of these imaginary scenarios? Would they have been expelled and exposed to violence, like local Muslim population had been in Serbia and Greece, and later also in Bulgaria and Montenegro? Or would have the awareness of the kinship between Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim Slavs in Bosnia and Serbia, and differences between ‘our Turks’ and ‘real’ Turks and non-Slav Muslims, which some Serb advocates made at the time, eventually prevailed?20 Mihailo’s ‘Balkan programme’ clearly did not follow a s­ingle thread; like Garašanin’s Načertanije it was incoherent and self-contradictory. There existed, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, concurrent, sometimes contradictory and conflicting ideas about a unified Serb or South Slav state. This was not necessarily unique to the Serbs – similar trends may be observed in the case of Croats, Greeks and indeed German and Italian unification movements. In October 1866, Serbia and Montenegro signed a pact at Cetinje that envisaged their unification and a joint action to liberate ‘the Serbian people from the Turkish yoke and to unite them in one Serbian state’, under Prince Mihailo. However, there was a rivalry between the two ruling houses. Nikola suspected Mihailo wanted to marginalize the Montenegrin dynasty. A peace agreement between Prince Nikola and Ottoman Omer Pasha Latas, an 20

E. Hajdarpašić, Whose Bosnia? Nationalism and Political Imagination in the Balkans, 1840–1914, Ithaca, NY, 2015, 207–16. When Yugoslavia was eventually created in 1918, attempts were made to integrate Muslim South Slavs into a supranational and secular Yugoslav nation. Indeed, it was in Yugoslavia, albeit not until the late 1960s, that Bosnia’s Muslims were recognized as a distinct nation. See X. Bougarel, Islam and Nationhood in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Surviving Empires, London, 2018, and, by the same author, ‘Bosnian Muslims and the Yugoslav Idea’, in Djokić (ed.), Yugoslavism, 100–14.

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ethnic Serb convert to Islam, signed in 1862, had in turn aroused suspicion in Belgrade about the Montenegrin ruler’s motives.21 The relationship with the Bulgarians also hit the rocks when in April 1867 Bulgarian revolutionaries convened in Bucharest to declare as their aim the creation of a ‘Yugoslav Empire’ around a large Bulgarian entity that would incorporate Macedonia and Thrace. From Serbia’s point of view, this represented a departure from a previous plan for a united Serbo–Bulgarian state and Orthodox church. Later that year, Mihailo secured alliance with Greece, the only independent Christian Balkan state at the time and the only one with a navy and western support. This was a coup for Belgrade, but like with the Bulgarians, rivalry over Macedonia put a spanner in the wheels of the Greco–Serb alliance. In February 1868, a pact was signed between Serbia and recently united Romania, which, like Serbia, enjoyed internationally guaranteed autonomy within the Ottoman state.22 Ultimately, however, these initiatives came to nothing, because the Serbian prince was assassinated several months later. The aforementioned English traveller had noted that Mihailo liked to walk or drive together with Princess Julia with very little security. ‘Certainly no sovereign in Europe maintains less state, or dispenses so thoroughly with guards as Prince Michel’, the Englishman wrote.23 On 11 June (29 May O.S.) 1868, Mihailo, 21

Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, I, 323–34; D. Vujović, Ujedinjenje Crne Gore i Srbije, Titograd [Podgorica], 1962, 25–26. Omer Pasha (1806–71) was born Mihajlo Latas (and therefore was the namesake of his contemporary Mihailo Obrenović) in a Serb Orthodox family in the Habsburg Croatian Military Border. He later converted to Islam and distinguished himself in the Crimean War and in crushing both Muslim and Christian rebellions against the sultan in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nobel Prize–winning, Bosnia-born Yugoslav writer Ivo Andrić’s novel Omerpaša Latas (1977) was published in 2018 as a New York Review of Books classic: Omer Pasha Latas: Marshal to the Sultan, in Celia Hawkesworth’s translation and with an introduction by W. T. Vollmann. 22 Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, I, 326–28. 23 Denton, 233.

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by now estranged from his wife, was picnicking at the Topčider park with his cousin and lover Katarina, and a small party that included Katarina’s mother Anka Konstantinović and one of Garašanin’s sons, who was the prince’s adjutant. They were ambushed by a group of assassins who shot Mihailo and Anka (who tried to protect the prince). Mihailo had some powerful enemies, including the Liberals and supporters of exiled Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjević, and he was not exactly popular among the Habsburgs and the Ottomans either. However, while the assassins were quickly arrested and tried, the question who was really behind the assassination remains unanswered.24 Mihailo’s Balkan alliances anticipated the events of 1912–13, when regional pacts, against the Ottoman Empire, and rivalries, over Macedonia, led to two Balkan Wars. The union between Serbia and Montenegro was not achieved until late November 1918, just days before their unification with the Habsburg South Slavs into the new Yugoslav state. Ironically, this was done under the rival Karadjordjević dynasty – by then the Obrenovićs would be extinguished and the Petrovićs exiled. Childless Mihailo was succeeded by his 14-year-old nephew Milan (prince 1868–82, king 1882–88). A two-men regency was appointed to rule in Milan’s name until he came of age. The regents, Milivoje Blaznavac (1824–73) and Jovan Ristić, were rather different in terms of personality and ideology. Blaznavac was ambitious, French- and German-educated; unlike his fellow liberalnationalist ‘Parisians’, Blaznavac’s ideology was pragmatism.

24

ISN, V-1, 301; Jovanović, Druga vlada Miloša i Mihaila, 262–64; G. Stokes, Politics as Development: The Emergence of Political Parties in Nineteenth-Century Serbia, Durham, NC, 1990, 131–45. The Habsburg authorities investigated a possible role played by Prince Aleksandar, who lived in exile in Hungary, but could not prove his complicity in the conspiracy. I. D. Armour, ‘Hungary’s Failed Bid to Control Serbia: The Trial of Alexander Karadjordjević, 1868–1871’, International History Review, 31:4 (2009), 740–70.

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He married Katarina Konstantinović, an old flame, after Mihailo’s death. The marriage and rumours about him being Prince Miloš’s illegitimate son made Blaznavac one of the most powerful men in the country. Indeed, many believed he might attempt to seize the throne. Ristić, educated mainly in Berlin, was a liberal-nationalist who had also enhanced his social status through marriage to a woman from a wealthy and politically well-connected family. He earned reputation as an exceptionally skilled diplomat while serving as Serbia’s envoy in Constantinople during the negotiations over the Ottomans’ withdrawal.25 Mihailo had de facto suspended the 1838 Constitution and marginalized the National Assembly, after the revolutionary events of 1858 gave it a more prominent role. A new constitution was promulgated in 1869. It reconfirmed and extended hereditary rights of the Obrenović dynasty, while preventing the return of the exiled Karadjordjević family; the assembly became the legislative body, responsible for new laws and amending old ones, jointly with the prince. The constitution fell short, however, of establishing a parliamentary government, as the ministers were not responsible to the assembly. Finally, the 1869 Constitution introduced a near universal male suffrage, enabling all tax-paying males to vote in elections. It was a compromise between advocates of a genuine people’s assembly (Ristić) and state bureaucracy (Blaznavac). It also meant that the old political conflict dating back to the 1850s was revived.26

Nascent ‘Europeanization’ The departure of Ottoman troops in the 1860s, and more generally of ‘Turkish’ population, was understood as inseparable from 25

S. Jovanović, Vlada Milana Obrenovića, Belgrade, 1934 (2nd, revised edn), 3 vols, I, 1–33. 26 Ibid, 106–10, 133–34.

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Serbia’s modernization, as the country gradually adopted, sometimes superficially, ‘European’ values and appearances. Ironically perhaps, the last Ottoman pasha of Belgrade and his wife were an integral part of the early modern social life among the upper classes, as already mentioned. What is generally unacknowledged even in anti-nationalist historiography focusing on Serbia’s relationship with Europe is that the Ottoman Empire too had sought to modernize and ‘Europeanize’ at around the same time, which in some cases led to resistance from anti-reform Muslims, in the Balkans and elsewhere.27 The National Theatre building in Belgrade (opened in 1869) is a good example of these ‘European’ trends in architecture. Newly built hotels, cafes and restaurants, and guilds and professional associations’ buildings (some of which remain in the Knez Mihailova and nearby streets in downtown Belgrade) also followed ‘European’ models. This was mirrored in private life. Middle and upper classes hosted private parties, where guests would play music, dance, recite poetry and read prose – not unlike similar social gatherings in ‘western’ Europe, introduced by returning students and foreign diplomats. Women, usually daughters and wives of the rich and powerful, played a major role in the ‘Europeanization’ of the social life, and so this process is also associated with the beginnings of the emancipation of women and the arrival of first feminist ideas in Serbia.28 The ‘return’ to Europe meant moving away from the Ottoman era. Serbia’s urban spaces were increasingly ‘freed’ of any obvious reminders of this past, though this was not fully achieved as 27

F. F. Anscombe, State, Faith, and Nation in Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Lands, Cambridge, 2014, ch. 4; Howard, A History of the Ottoman Empire, ch. 6. 28 N. Božinović, Žensko pitanje u Srbiji u 19. i 20. veku, Belgrade, 1996; Kokanović Marković, ‘Ženski umetnički saloni’; Lj. Trgovčević, ‘Žene kao deo elite u Srbiji 19. veka: Otvaranje pitanja’, in L. Perović (ed.), Srbija u modernizacijskim procesima XIX i XX veka, II: Položaj žene kao merilo modernizacije, Belgrade, 1998, 251–68.

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Ottoman-era houses and cobbled streets survived well into the twentieth century.29 In agreement with the Porte, which was not always respected, abandoned mosques, some of which had been damaged or destroyed during the wars of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, were not to be demolished but simply left abandoned. This was a sad ultimate faith for most Muslim religious shrines and many other objects that testified of the Ottoman civilization across the Balkans. Rural areas were less affected by the nascent modernization, but there, too, change slowly took place. A British journalist who travelled through Serbia in the 1890s was struck by ‘the unmistakeable [feel of the] Orient’ of the southern regions joined to Serbia in 1878 (see the following text); these parts felt like ‘a different country’ in comparison to the northern regions that had become autonomous in 1829.30 There the countryside had been predominantly Christian even prior to the 1804 insurgency. The departure of Muslims, who lived mainly in urban areas, had a major impact on Serbia’s society, as discussed previously. Some smaller towns (varošice, pl. from varošica – after város, the Hungarian word for town) in central Serbia (Bagrdan, Batočina, Ražanj) lost their Oriental urban or semi-urban

29

A. Kadijević, ‘Arhitektura: Okvir privatnog života u srpskim zemljama od početka 19. veka do Prvog svetskog rata’, in A. Stolić i N. Makuljević (eds), Privatni život kod Srba u 19. veku, Belgrade, 2006, 251–58; N. Makuljević, Umetnost i nacionalna ideja u XIX veku: Sistem evropske i srpske vizuelne kulture u službi nacije, Belgrade, 2006; Mišković, Bazari, op. cit. See also M. Jovanović, ‘Bourgeois Worlds and Urban Nightmares: The Post-Ottoman Balkan City through the Lens of Milutin Uskoković’s Newcomers’, Journal of Urban Cultural Studies, 5:2 (2018), 187–206. 30 H. Vivian, Servia: The Poor Man’s Paradise, London, 1897, 264. Novels by Bora Stanković and Stevan Sremac, classic nineteenth-century Serbian writers, offer an excellent insight into a Serbian-Ottoman society in transition following the departure of the Ottomans from present-day southern Serbia. Their most popular works have been adapted for stage and screen in recent years, drawing record audiences.

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character following the emigration of Muslims in the early nineteenth century; subsequently, they transformed into large Christian villages. There was indeed something contradictory in the ‘return to Europe’ and the ‘restoration of Stefan Dušan’s empire’ narratives. Similarly, the ‘rediscovery’ of Serbia’s medieval ‘greatness’ and Byzantine Orthodox heritage seemed to ignore that for long periods of time medieval Serbia was in conflict with Byzantium, as discussed earlier in the book.31 Typically perhaps for a society in transition, nineteenth-century Serbia – not yet post-Ottoman, and not yet quite ‘European’ – was full of contradictions, as it searched for its place in a Europe of large, competing empires often hostile to the emerging nation states.

Socialists and Radicals During the 1870s, socialist ideas were brought to Serbia by returning students, just like liberalism had been imported in the 1850s by the likes of Grujić, Ristić and others. The main socialist thinker was Swiss-educated Svetozar Marković (1846–75). Born in Zaječar, eastern Serbia, into a teacher’s family, Marković spent his formative years in Jagodina and Kragujevac, before going abroad to study at the Zurich Polytechnic. There he became familiar with and was influenced by the work of Russian socialist and nihilist Nikolay Chernishevsky (1828–89) and poet and philosopher Nikolay Nekrasov (1821–78). Like in the case of Serbian liberal nationalism introduced by the ‘Parisians’, Marković’s was a socialism with a local flavour. He and his followers believed Serbia could avoid the industrialization and capitalism of the western

31

A. Ignjatović, ‘Byzantium’s Apt Inheritors: Serbian Historiography, NationBuilding and Imperial Imagination, 1882–1941’, Slavonic and East European Review, 94:1 (2016), 57–92.

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style and instead build a society based on farming cooperatives and village communes.32 Socialist ideas may have failed to spread widely among the largely illiterate peasantry but had a profound impact on young intellectuals. The new generation responded to Marković’s call for a critical engagement with traditional secular and religious institutions. Their role model was Bazarov, a fictional hero of Russian writer Ivan Turgenev’s 1862 novel Fathers and Sons. A new culture of debate spread across the country. Town streets seemed invaded by slim and pale young nihilists with long, messy hair and compulsory glasses (worn regardless of one’s eyesight). These young men walked in groups and appeared constantly engaged in argument and debate, refusing to wear ties and take school exams, rejecting tradition and authority.33 Serbian socialists promoted women’s rights and it is not surprising that young, educated women became attracted by their ideas. Draga Ljočić (Figure 5.2) was the first woman who attended lectures at Belgrade’s Faculty of Philosophy in 1871, before moving to Zurich to study medicine. Born into a Serbianized Tsintsar family from Šabac, she married Raša Milošević, another follower of Svetozar Marković and one of the founders of the Radical Party (see the following text). Ljočić graduated in 1879 – having interrupted her studies during the 1876–78 wars, when she joined the Serbian army and earned the rank of Lieutenant – to become the first Serbian-born woman with a university degree and a doctor’s title. Despite her qualifications, she had to wait two years after graduating to get a job, as a ‘doctor’s assistant’. First female students graduated in Serbia in 1891. This was ahead of Austria-Hungary

32

L. Perović, Srpski socijalisti 19. veka: Prilog istoriji socijalističke misli, 3 vols, Belgrade, 1985–95, and Pera Todorović, Belgrade, 1983; W. D. MacLellan, Svetozar Marković and the Origins of Balkan Socialism, Princeton, NJ, 1964; Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, II; 375–79. 33 Jovanović, Vlada Milana, I, 260–62.

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figure 5.2  Draga Ljočić (1855–1926), Serbia’s first female doctor (Museum of the Serbian Medical Society, Belgrade)

(1897) and Germany (1900), and comparable to Greece (where women were finally allowed to study in 1890) and the Ottoman Empire (1894), but behind France (1863), Switzerland (1867) and Sweden and the UK (both 1873). Europe generally lagged the

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USA, where already in 1833 female students were admitted to study Medicine at Oberlin College.34 Also belonging to Marković’s circle were Anka and Milica Ninković, sisters from Novi Sad, then in southern Hungary, who moved to Kragujevac to live near their political role model. Alarmed by what he called ‘communist ideas’ and horrified by the prospect of ‘foreign’, female revolutionaries, Prime Minister Danilo Stefanović (the brother of Stefan Stefanović Tenka, leader of the failed conspiracy against Prince Aleksandar discussed in the previous chapter), ordered the deportation of the sisters from the country.35 The government intimidated and harassed socialists and their sympathizers, who included members of the Orthodox clergy. In 1874, Marković was arrested on charges of ‘igniting a revolutionary spirit’. Upon his release, he left Serbia for Trieste, to seek cure for tuberculosis, but died there in February 1875, aged just 28. Marković wrote prolifically during his short life and reached wider audiences through newspapers and journals his associates and he published. These included a scholarly journal Rad (Work) and a political magazine Oslobodjenje (Liberation). One year after Marković’s death, Serbia’s first workers’ demonstrations broke out in Kragujevac, home to an arms factory with 600 employees. The workers were joined by others, and one of the strike leaders was a local priest. The demonstrators displayed

34

Božinović, Žensko pitanje; A. Stolić, Sestre srpkinje, Belgrade, 2015; Lj. Trgovčević, Planirana elita: O studentima iz Srbije na evropskim univerzitetima u 19. veku, Belgrade, 2003, 190. After Paris, Zurich became the most popular destination for Serbian students of both sexes; nearly one half of Serbian students in Zurich were women; only around 5 per cent of Serbian state scholars were women in 1882. Most Serbian female students were socialists and feminists. 35 Jovanović, Vlada Milana, I, 354, 417; I. Pantelić, ‘Milica Ninković’, in F. de Haan et al. (eds), A Biographical Dictionary of Women’s Movements and Feminisms, Budapest, 2006.

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a red banner and, the authorities claimed, called for the establishment of the republic and the ‘commune’. Fearful that Serbia was going through its own Paris Commune moment, the prime minister sent in the army that brutally supressed the ‘Red Banner’ (Crveni barjak), as the event became known. Journalist and campaigner Pera Todorović, a close collaborator of Marković, avoided a prison sentence by enlisting to fight in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where a Christian rebellion had been going on for almost a year.36 The failed ‘communist revolution’ in Serbia alarmed conservatives elsewhere, or perhaps presented them with an opportunity to point at Serbia’s instability. Gabriel von Rodich, a Habsburg army general and governor of Dalmatia (and, incidentally, an ethnic Serb from the Military Border), had in early 1876 lobbied Montenegro’s Prince Nikola against an alliance with Belgrade (see the following section). Rodich cited the ‘Red Banner’ ‘revolution’ as one of the reasons why Montenegro should stay away from Serbia.37 The ‘Eastern Crisis’ overshadowed the emergence of socialist ideas in Serbia. Marković’s legacy, however, lived on. In 1881, his followers formed the People’s Radical Party. One of its founders was Nikola Pašić (1845–1926), also born in Zaječar and Zuricheducated. In less than a decade, Pašić’s organizational skills and Todorović’s political journalism would transform this mostly intellectual, urban group of young men into Serbia’s first modern political party and a de facto peasant movement. Apart from the Radical Party, Marković’s ideas would influence a small but influential Social-Democratic Party of Dimitrije Tucović. The SocialDemocrats helped form the Communist Party of Yugoslavia in 1919, as discussed later. Three most important political 36

ISN, V-1, 375–76. For the Paris Commune see J. Merriman, Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune, New York, 2014. 37 H. Grandits, The End of Ottoman Rule in Bosnia: Conflicting Agencies and Imperial Appropriations, London, 2022, 140.

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parties in Serbia’s history – the Radicals, the Democrats and the Communists – could trace their origins back to Serbia’s first socialist thinker.38

The Eastern Crisis The peasant rebellions in Herzegovina and Bosnia of summer 1875 were initially seen as spontaneous, local disturbances likely to be short-lived. It soon became clear that they were neither entirely spontaneous nor local. The legacy of the crisis went well beyond the region and lasted long after the 1870s.39 As mentioned previously, most of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina spoke the same language that was spoken in Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia. The linguistic unity, however, was contrasted by a confessional heterogeneity: in a country of around 1,300,000 people, in 1879, 39 per cent were Muslims, of whom perhaps 7,000–10,000 were large 38

Upon coming to power in Yugoslavia in 1945, the Communists renamed Jagodina (one of Marković’s home towns) to Svetozarevo; only Tito and a very few Party members had places named after them. In 1948, exiled youth members of the Democratic Party (which was also founded in 1919 by, among others, a liberal and pro-Yugoslav break-away faction of Pašić’s Radicals) established in Paris the Oslobodjenje group, in honour of Marković’s journal of the same title. Under Desimir Tošić’s leadership, they advocated the democratization of Serbia and Yugoslavia. Tošić’s political mentor and a key member of the Oslobodjenje, Democrat politician Božidar Vlajić (1888– 1974) was married to Zorka (d. 1949), a daughter of Draga Ljočić and Raša Milošević. See Nesentimentalni idealisti: Desimir Tošić, Božidar Vlajić i uvodnici časopisa Naša reč (Paris-London, 1848–1990), ed. and compiled by D. Djokić, Belgrade, 2013, 34. 39 H. Grandits, ‘Violent Social Disintegration: A Nation-Building Strategy in Late-Ottoman Herzegovina’, in Grandits, N. Clayer and R. Pichler (eds), Conflicting Loyalties in the Balkans: The Great Powers, the Ottoman Empire and Nation-Building, London, 2011, 110–34; cf. M. Ekmečić, Stvaranje Jugoslavije, 1790–1918, Belgrade, 1989, 2 vols, I, 273–99; B. Jelavich, The Establishment of the Balkan National States, 1804–1920, Seattle, WA, 1986, ch. 10; St. K. Pavlowitch, A History of the Balkans, 1804–1945, London, 1999, 108–14; L. S. Stavrianos, The Balkans since 1453, London, 2000 (first publ. 1958), ch. 21.

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landowners (some of whom were of ethnic Turk and other non-Slav background but had been Slavicized by then). Around 43 per cent of Bosnia’s population was formed of Orthodox Christians, the majority of whom were peasants. The land that they toiled was owned by Muslims who would typically receive between one-third and one half of the crop. A small number of Orthodox belonged to a prosperous urban elite of merchants and traders, while others were clergymen, teachers and intellectuals. Roman Catholics, most of whom lived in predominantly rural areas of western Herzegovina and central Bosnia, made up around 18 per cent of the population. A small and prosperous Jewish ­community of less than 3,500 people lived mostly in urban centres such as Sarajevo, Mostar, Banja Luka and Travnik. The ­landowners tended to be Muslims while most sharecropping peasants were Christian; of the latter, around 74 per cent were Orthodox and 21 per cent Roman Catholic.40 The relationship between the Muslim landowners and Christian farmers was complex and by no means as mutually hostile as traditionally portrayed, though not always harmonious either. There was a clear sense of social and religious hierarchy and the relationship usually deteriorated during periods of political and social upheavals. Serbian (and other South Slav) intellectuals and political leaders – as well as ‘external’, Habsburg, Ottoman and Russian ‘actors’ – had long been aware of the linguistic, cultural and ethnic similarities of the population of the western Balkans. The South Slav ‘Great Ideas’, such as the plans of Garašanin and Prince Mihailo, have been already discussed. With all this in mind, it is not hard to understand why, once the Herzegovinian and Bosnian 40

Population figures for 1879: R. J. Donia, ‘Bosnia-Herzegovina under Austria-Hungary: From Occupation to Assassination’, in J. R. Lampe and U. Brunnbauer (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Balkan and Southeast European History, London, 2020, ch. 14, 135; sharecropping peasants and Muslim landowners: Pavlowitch, A History of the Balkans, 107; cf. Stavrianos, The Balkans, 397.

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uprisings broke out, it was likely that Serbia would get involved, even though it risked being occupied again by Ottoman troops. Serbia’s leadership was initially undecided over what to do when the disturbances started in Herzegovina in June 1875. The government was formally neutral, on the advice of both AustriaHungary and Russia, yet it did not prevent volunteers from Serbia from joining the rebels. The nationalist liberals agitated for war, although Ristić initially tried to revive an old idea as a diplomatic solution to the crisis: Serbia and Montenegro would unite with Bosnia and Herzegovina, respectively, and remain under Ottoman suzerainty as tributary principalities. The idea was rejected by everyone, and it especially upset Prince Nikola, who thought no ruler of Montenegro could ever willingly accept vassal status. Meanwhile, Prince Milan, soon to turn 21, had his priorities elsewhere. When the rebellion broke out, he was abroad, wooing 16-year old Natalie Keshko (1859–1941), a Florentine-born daughter of a Bessarabian-Russian army officer and a Moldavian princess. The young couple would marry several months later. Upon returning to the country, Milan spoke against the war, for which the nationalist youth labelled him ‘Vuk Branković’, the alleged traitor at the 1389 Battle of Kosovo. Just weeks earlier he had been hailed as a ‘king’ by the same youth which had hoped Milan would revive the medieval Serbian kingdom. Convinced it was only a matter of time before Serbia entered the war, patriotic Serbs from southern Hungary flocked into Belgrade. They hoped to witness a historic moment, but were shocked by the Serbian capital’s semi-Oriental appearance and dusty roads with ox-driven cars. In Slobodan Jovanović’s words, ‘armed against hot May weather with sun-shielding umbrellas and handheld fans, [these central European men and women] looked more like carefree tourists than Kosovo avengers’, even if they talked war louder than the locals.41 As the violence continued in 41

Jovanović, Vlada Milana, II, 2–3.

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Bosnia and Herzegovina and stories spread – some real, others exaggerated or invented – of massacres of Orthodox Christians by Ottoman regular army and paramilitaries, it increasingly became clear that Serbia would not stay out of the conflict. To make things worse from Milan’s point of view, exiled Petar Karadjordjević, late Prince Aleksandar’s son, joined Christian volunteers in Bosnia. Although Petar fought under a nom de guerre, the news of his participation in the war quickly spread. Petar’s popularity in Serbia unsurprisingly alarmed the Obrenović camp.42 In the end, Serbia’s troops entered Bosnia on 17 June 1876, officially under the pretext or ‘restoring order’ and preventing further spread of violence. The insurgents welcomed them by declaring the unification of Bosnia with Serbia. Serbia, however, was hardly able to annex Bosnia, despite the support for the idea among some sections of the local population. It went to war against a superior enemy unprepared, and under pressure from the nationalist opinion. The Serbian army – in reality a peasant militia – was poorly trained and equipped. Nevertheless, it consisted of 125,000 troops, divided into four ‘armies’, the largest of which was commanded by Russian General Chernyayev, one of around 600 (mostly) Slavophile officers who came to Serbia against the wishes of the Russian government and the tsar. Chernyayev was given the Serbian citizenship; his and the presence of international volunteers, mercenaries and adventurers, including Italian garibaldini, gave hope that Serbia was not fighting alone.43 Belgrade’s only ally was tiny Montenegro, which agreed to enter the war in exchange for 40,000 ducats. This was a considerable sum that represented more than half of Serbia’s state reserves. Greece and Romania stayed out of the conflict, arguing that the treaties concluded with Mihailo were no longer valid following 42

Jovanović, Vlada Milana, I, 428–55, 489–90. D. MacKenzie, The Serbs and Russian Pan-Slavism, 1875–1878, Ithaca, NY, 1967; Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, II, 380–401.

43

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the assassination of the Serbian prince. Serbia placed hopes in a rebellion in Bulgaria and Russia’s military intervention. The former never materialized, not even after the ‘Bulgarian horrors’ that shocked western European public. The latter eventually took place, but only following Serbia’s defeat in February 1877. Technically still an Ottoman province, there was a real danger that Serbia might once again be occupied by the sultan’s troops. Chernyayev’s exaggerated claims that the whole of Russia was behind him were tragically exposed as Ottoman bashi-bazouks (irregulars) and Circuasians spread terror, burned villages and massacred civilians. Meanwhile, Russian ‘liberators’ increasingly looked like ‘occupiers’. At the beginning of the crisis, Serbian towns were full of gallant Russian officers who drunk French wine and charmed the locals, especially young women. Now drunk Cossacks and Russian adventurers were refusing to pay restaurant bills, frequently got involved in fist fights and harassed local women.44 Meanwhile, Austria-Hungary and Russia decided against intervening militarily though they sought ways to prevent the Ottoman occupation of Serbia and Montenegro. The Habsburgs set their sights on Bosnia-Herzegovina and Russia on Bulgaria. Russian Foreign Minister Gorchakov communicated this to Serbian diplomats, but they chose to listen to Count Ignatyev, Russia’s pro-war ambassador in Constantinople, who encouraged the South Slav principalities to confront the Ottomans. By interfering indirectly in the events in the Balkans, AustriaHungary and Russia demonstrated a disregard for Ottoman sovereignty. Soon they would intervene more directly. Under pressure from its Slavophile public, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire in April 1877. A victory was won by January the following year, but not before Serbia had rejoined the war under Russia’s pressure. This time the Serbian army performed well.

44

Jovanović, Vlada Milana, II, 69–70.

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Only a desperate fight by Ottoman soldiers recruited locally, among ethnic Albanians, and diplomatic pressure on Belgrade by Austria-Hungary, prevented Serbia from taking over Sandžak (that is the old Raška region) and Kosovo. In June 1878, Serbia, Montenegro and Romania were recognized as independent states by the Powers that convened in Berlin to end the Balkan crisis. As part of the deal, Serbia and Romania were obliged to grant full citizenship rights to their Jewish communities; Serbia also agreed to build a railway, which was Austria-Hungary’s condition. The two regions most affected by insurgency and fighting, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bulgaria, formally remained Ottoman. However, Austria-Hungary was to occupy Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sandžak, a decision incidentally made on 28 June,45 while Bulgaria (and Eastern Rumelia) was granted autonomy within the Ottoman Empire. The Habsburg occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina was justified on the grounds that the Ottomans were unable to keep peace there; however, the Ottoman rule had been largely restored, and there was little fighting in Bosnia during the Russo-Ottoman war of 1877–78.46 Demands for autonomy by an Albanian nationalist committee that convened in Prizren was by contrast ignored by the Congress of Berlin (which preceded by a few years the Berlin Conference of 1884, sometimes known as the ‘Scramble for Africa’). Serbian foreign minister Jovan Ristić was in the German capital during the congress, though Serbia, like the other Balkan principalities whose destiny was being decided, was not invited to take part. He was, however, remembered by Ranke, the author of the first scholarly history of Serbia and Ristić’s former professor at

45

Ironically, since this was not only the anniversary of the 1389 Kosovo Battle but also the date on which a Young Bosnian assassinated the heir to the Habsburg throne in Sarajevo in 1914, an event that sparked the First World War, as discussed in the next chapter. 46 Grandits, The End of Ottoman Rule, 252.

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Berlin University. The 83-year-old historian sent a telegram congratulating Ristić on his country’s independence. When Ristić returned to Berlin the following year, this time as prime minister, he met with Ranke. ‘His hair resembled moss, he dressed shabbily, but had lively and light eyes.’ The grand old historian congratulated him again on Serbia’s independence and added that liberty represented the ‘source of life and progress’.47 The 1878 Congress of Berlin achieved its main aims: it prevented a total collapse of Ottoman rule in the Balkans, and it blocked Russia’s attempt to control the region via an independent ‘Greater Bulgaria’, created by a short-lived treaty between the Russian and Ottoman empires signed in San Stefano in March the same year. Austria-Hungary’s occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and of the Sanjak of Novi Pazar (Sandžak) also prevented, for the time being at least, the expansion of Serbia and Montenegro into the South Slav provinces that were now only nominally Ottoman; moreover, it strengthened the defence of Austrian-held Dalmatia against the Italian and South Slav irredenta, something the Habsburg military commanders had been concerned about for decades.48 Finally, the Congress of Berlin made sure Serbia and Montenegro did not share a border, making their potential union less likely. Thus, the Congress also prevented the creation of a ‘Greater Serbia’. Newly independent Serbia nevertheless extended its ­territory (Map 5.1) by some 11,000 square kilometres, to a total of 48,600 square kilometres; its population increased to 1.7 ­million – up by perhaps 350,000 inhabitants of the newly acquired Niš– Pirot–Vranje triangle. At least 70,000 Muslims, and a smaller

47

J. Ristić, ‘Leopold Ranke i oslobodjenje Srbije’, Glas SKA (Belgrade), XXXI, 1892, and Diplomatska istorija Srbije za vreme srpskih ratova za oslobodjenje i nezavisnost, 1875–1878, 2 vols, Belgrade, 1896, I, 184–254. 48 J. Schindler, ‘Defeating Balkan Insurgency: The Austro-Hungarian Army in Bosnia-Hercegovina, 1878–82’, Journal of Strategic Studies, 27:3 (2004), 528–52, 529.

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number of Bulgarian Christians, from the new regions departed, pushed out or encouraged to leave. The former included nearly 50,000 ethnic Albanians as well as Muslim Slavs, ethnic Turks and Circassians. Meanwhile Orthodox Christian refugees from Kosovo and Montenegro emigrated to Serbia, effectively replacing the departed Muslims. Kosovo Serbs would continue to leave and settle in Serbia in the years that followed.49 This informal exchange of populations meant that post-1878 Serbia became ethnically more Serbian, and Kosovo more Albanian. The agrarian question was one of the key issues facing the Serbian government. As before, the land previously owned by large Muslim landowners was divided into smaller parcels (between three and four hectares) and given to Christian peasants, many of whom were recent immigrants. Serbia’s budget was spent on the war and even though it no longer paid the annual tribute to the Porte, this time it could not afford to finance the newly freed peasants by paying off the departed Muslim landowners (even though it was obliged to do so by terms of the Congress of Berlin). When an attempt to make the peasantry compensate the former landlords failed, the state settled the debt in full in 1882. It then made the peasants compensate the state in payments made in instalments over the following 15–20 years. Unlike in the 1830s, the land did not come free, and the cost of independence was especially felt by the people of the new regions.50 There was a feeling among nationalists that the outcome of the Berlin Congress concerning Bosnia-Herzegovina was a national 49

M. Jagodić, ‘The Emigration of Muslims from the New Serbian Regions 1877/1878’, Balkanologie, 2:2 (1998), https://journals.openedition.org/ balkanologie/265; Pavlowitch, Serbia, 65; cf. K. Karpat, Ottoman Population, 1830–1914: Demographic and Social Characteristics, Madison, WI, 1985, chs 3 & 4; N. Stefanov, Die Erfindung der Grenzen auf dem Balkan: Von einer spätosmanischen Region zu nationalstaatlichen Peripherien: Pirot und Caribrod 1856–1989, Wiesbaden, 2017, ch. 3. 50 Jagodić, ‘The Emigration of Muslims’; Jovanović, Vlada Milana, II, 248–49.

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catastrophe similar to the defeat at Kosovo in 1389. Some, like Ristić, hoped that when its final status is discussed, Serbia would be able to ‘rescue’ Bosnia from the Habsburgs. This is perhaps the reason why the National Assembly, except for two nationalist youth deputies, received the news of Austria-Hungary’s occupation of the neighbouring province without much protest. In a country where the Ottoman rule was still in living memory, the newly won independence and the territorial expansion in the south was deemed by many as a success, the disappointment over Bosnia notwithstanding.51 Meanwhile, the Habsburg occupation was met in BosniaHerzegovina by armed resistance by Muslim and Orthodox Serb guerrillas, who, sometimes jointly, fought against the occupation forces for another several years. The Austro-Hungarian army undertook a major counter-insurgency campaign to fully occupy the province that had rebelled against the Ottomans and did not seem to want to be under the Habsburgs either.52

Party Politics Ristić was appointed the prime minister for the second time in October 1878, but resigned two years later, due to his opposition to Austria-Hungary’s increasing interference in Serbia’s affairs.53 A lawyer and politician Milan Piroćanac (1837–97) formed a new government dominated by young politicians–intellectuals in their 30s and 40s, including historian Stojan Novaković (1842–1915, education), Čedomilj Mijatović (1842–1932, finances and foreign affairs) and Milutin Garašanin (1843–98, Ilija Garašanin’s son, as 51

Jovanović, Vlada Milana, II, 227–28; Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, II, 399–400. 52 M. Ekmečić (ed.), Otpor austrougarskoj okupaciji 1878. godine u Bosni i Hercegovini, Sarajevo, 1979; Schindler, ‘Defeating Balkan Insurgency’. 53 Ristić to Hristić, Belgrade, 2 October 1880, in Pisma Jovana Ristića Filipu Hristiću, 280–81.

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interior minister). Known as the Progressives, they represented liberal-minded younger intelligentsia and would become one of two main political parties formed during the emergence of modern party politics in Serbia.54 Parliamentary elections held in November 1880 were largely free and fair. They resulted in a catastrophic defeat for the old liberals, who won only 7 out of 128 seats, but represented a triumph for the radicals, who secured 76 seats. When Prince Milan objected to the appointment of Nikola Pašić as deputy president of the new National Assembly, parliamentary deputies elected on the radical list grouped around their leader. This marked the birth of Serbia’s first modern political party, soon to be officially named the People’s Radical Party. The Radicals were the new party of the people, who replaced the out-of-touch old liberals. Pašić was a capable leader and organizer and probably the first politician in Serbia who understood the importance of having a party programme and a vision for the country. The Radicals reached out to people by opening party branches across the country. A poor orator who anyhow spoke very little (which fuelled rumours about his family’s alleged Bulgarian origins), Pašić left his political opponents and allies alike guessing his thoughts or his next move. In a largely illiterate society and in an era before the mass media, he was nevertheless easily recognizable by his long beard, which also made him look like a wise old man and a mistic, even before he grew old. He was totally dedicated to politics, married late (to a daughter of a wealthy Serb from Trieste) and lived a quiet family life. Pera Todorović, on the other hand, was the man of the people, a dandy and a hedonist. In 1881, he looked older than his 29 years, due to spending years in exile and suffering from a liver disease. Always well dressed and groomed, with 54

The section that follows draws on Jovanović, Vlada Milana, II, 306–453; V. Kazimirović, Nikola Pašić i njegovo doba, 1845–1926, 2 vols, Belgrade, 1990, I, chs 2–4; and Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, II, 415–33.

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a cylinder, glasses (which he wore as a fashion statement), dark beard and tight hand-gloves, Todorović was an attention seeker, a party fanatic and a political actor; contemporaries suspected he was a morphine user and a homosexual. The independence may have been followed by the birth of modern politics in Serbia, but it did not result in political stability. The main domestic dispute was over foreign policy. Following the Congress of Berlin Serbia became a de facto Habsburg satellite. Prince Milan and the Progressives supported the proHabsburg foreign policy, but the Radicals strongly opposed it. A trade agreement between Serbia and Austria-Hungary signed in June 1881 – which Ristić had rejected, but his Progressive successor approved of – turned Serbia, in the Radicals’ view, into a colony of an empire that, to make things worse from their point of view, had also occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina. The trade agreement was followed by a secret convention, obliging Serbia to give up territorial pretensions in Bosnia. In exchange, AustriaHungary would curb any anti-Obrenović activities on its territory and support Serbia’s potential territorial expansion in Ottoman Kosovo and Macedonia. Around this time, Prince Milan removed Metropolitan Mihailo of Belgrade, a nationalist with links to Russia and pro-Serb agitators in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Initially, only Milan and Foreign Minister Mijatović knew about the secret convention. When it became public in 1893, the pro-Radical public accused the Obrenović camp of betraying national interests. However, Milan’s pro-Russian critics had been unaware of Russia’s tacit approval of Austria-Hungary’s expansion into Bosnia and its de facto control over Serbia; Russia’s focus was on Bulgaria. Nominally independent Serbia thus had little choice, regardless of Milan and the Progressives, but to effectively turn into a Habsburg satellite. During winter 1882/83, the government introduced compulsory primary education (at the time less than 10 per cent of Serbia’s population was literate) and compulsory military

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service, as part of a reform designed to introduce a modern army based on conscription. From the point of view of Serbia’s peasantry, both these measures meant taking away from farming duties able-bodied young men and as such were not welcomed. This boosted the Radicals’ support across the country. As part of the secondary education reform, a greater emphasis was given to studying the Serbian language and natural sciences. German became the main foreign language, at the expense of Latin and classical Greek. Although History was not specially affected by the reform, it became the most popular subject thanks to a textbook on general history written by a Belgrade lyceum teacher, an old liberal formed intellectually during the 1848 Revolution. The textbook interpreted history as a conflict between the monarch and the people and glorified the French Revolution. Unbeknown to the government, Serbia’s youth was therefore taught to oppose the prince and favour a revolution. Meanwhile, the construction of the Belgrade–Niš–Vranje railway opened doors to large foreign capital in Serbia. It resulted, however, in a major scandal when the investor – L’Union Générale, a French company run by Vienna-based Paul Eugène Bantoux (1820–1904) – was given the contract without public competition. A National Assembly deputy accused the government of corruption, citing a recent example of bribes being used to gain a contract for railway construction in Wisconsin, USA. Then news of the investor’s bankruptcy broke out in January 1882. France and Austria-Hungary agreed to bail out the government in Belgrade by forming a new society for the construction and exploitation of Serbian railways, which significantly reduced the government’s debt. Arguing their position was untenable, Piroćanac and Garašanin Jr handed in their resignations, but Milan begged them to reconsider. They agreed on the condition that Serbia was elevated to a kingdom. Romania did the same the previous year, but the thinking here was to take away public attention from the

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scandal rather than necessarily follow the neighbour’s example. The government counted on the power of patriotic sentiment. Milan, on his part, welcomed the suggestion as an opportunity to increase his civil list; he owed money to Bonteux and had also made some poor stock investments. Austria-Hungary supported the idea, and Russia had no objections. On 22 February 1882, Serbia was elevated to a kingdom. National celebrations followed, with guns firing from the Belgrade fortress, as towns across the country were hastily decorated; schoolchildren danced on streets above all excited because there was no school that day. The new king hosted a reception for the political leaders, and even the Radicals toasted to his health. The honeymoon would not last long, however, as old political battles soon resumed and intensified. Milan’s first foreign trip as king was to Vienna in October 1882. He was almost assassinated upon his return to Belgrade, by widow of the brother of late socialist Svetozar Marković – an army colonel and a Radical supporter who had been executed on Milan’s orders. Parliamentary elections of September 1883 were the first elections contested by political parties, but the campaign felt more like a run up to a civil war. The peasantry was further alienated when in the summer the government ordered livestock branding. The election results brought a resounding victory for the Radicals, who secured two-thirds of the National Assembly seats. The Progressive government accepted the defeat, but not the king, who simply ignored the results and appointed an old liberal as prime minister. The new premier ordered an immediate surrender of personal weapons, hoping to prevent violence, but achieved exactly the opposite. In October, a peasant rebellion broke out in the Timok area of eastern Serbia, Pašić’s home region and a Radical stronghold. Peasants clashed with the gendarmerie, as local priests, teachers and Radical politicians provided leadership. In late 1883, eastern Serbia resembled Šumadija and western Serbia of early 1804. Just like in the case of the anti-Ottoman

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uprising, it turned out the revolt had not been as spontaneous as it had seemed at first. Pašić and the Radicals played a major part in inciting and organizing the rebellion, which was brutally suppressed by the army. Nearly 100 rebel leaders, many of them Radicals, were sentenced to death, and over 600 received prison sentences. Pašić fled to Bulgaria but was sentenced to death in absentia.55 An ill-advised war against Bulgaria two years later marked the beginning of the end of Milan’s turbulent reign. The Plovdiv coup of September 1885, which led to the unification of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia (within the Ottoman empire), was planned by Russia and Bulgarian nationalists. Milan feared that Bulgaria, territorially now larger than Serbia, would take over Macedonia with Russia’s assistance. The government agreed that Serbia must intervene, but the public was unenthusiastic; in the meanwhile, Pašić campaigned against the war from his Bulgarian exile. Hoping to avoid a regional war, Austria-Hungary attempted to secure a territorial compensation for Serbia in western Bulgaria, an idea supported by Britain and Germany, but crucially not by Russia.56 Milan was neither a Serb nationalist nor a Pan-Slav patriot. His thinking was more pragmatic: he saw the war an opportunity to prevent Bulgaria’s hegemony in the Balkans and to earn him a personal glory, perhaps to compensate for the political and financial scandals and his growing unpopularity. Serbia declared war on Bulgaria in early November 1885. Bypassing experienced Serbian officers, the king placed himself at the head of an invading army of 50,000 troops. On 7 November, the Serbian army suffered a catastrophic defeat at Slivnica, losing over 2,200 men, 55

Kazimirović, I, ch. 5; G. Stokes, Politics as Development: The Emergence of Political Parties in Nineteenth-century Serbia, Durham, NC, 1990, ch. 8. 56 Jovanović, Vlada Milana, III, 230–31; Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, II, ch. 8.

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including 49 officers (Bulgaria’s casualties, around 1,800 men, were also significant). Milan pondered abdication, as Bulgarian troops crossed into Serbia. After a heavy battle in which both sides suffered heavy losses (Serbs 1,258 and Bulgarians 1,112 men), the Bulgarian army captured Pirot. Serbia’s invasion of Bulgaria thus not only failed spectacularly, but it also led to the enemy counteroffensive and temporary occupation of parts of Serbia. Belgrade was saved a complete humiliation by Austria-Hungary that forced Bulgaria to cease hostilities and withdraw its troops from Serbia.57 Fresh elections were held in September 1887, and once again the Radicals triumphed, winning 87 seats in the parliament, to the Liberals’ 59 seats. This resulted in a Radical-dominated government, but rather than any Radicals, two non-party figures and army colonels were appointed as prime minister and foreign minister, respectively.58 Milan and Natalie were by now estranged, and the king no longer hid from public his lover, who happened to be the wife of his personal secretary. The church reluctantly granted the royal couple a divorce in October 1888. A new, more liberal constitution was adopted before the end of the year, which appeased the Radicals and repaired the king’s damaged reputation somewhat. He remained set on abdicating, however. It was a decision he hid from the public more successfully than his love affairs. Having ensured that a regency, headed by elderly Ristić, would safeguard the throne for his 13-year-old son Aleksandar and managed to wipe most, if not all his debt, Milan abdicated in the presence of a mostly unsuspecting audience of Serbian politicians and foreign diplomats. Milan read his abdication letter in front of Orthodox priests holding a bible, a cross and a candle, while a royal guard 57

I. D. Armour, ‘“Put Not Your Trust in Princes”: The Habsburg Monarchy and Milan Obrenović of Serbia, 1881–1885’, Canadian Slavonic Papers, 56:3–4 (2014), 201–37; cf. Jovanović, Vlada Milana, II, 318–21. 58 Jovanović, Vlada Milana, III, 372–83, 409.

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carrying the national flag stood next to them. At the end of what a contemporary described a piece of political theatre of which the Belgrade National Theatre would have been proud, Milan knelt in front of his young son, addressed him with ‘Your Majesty’ and swore allegiance to the new king. Milan was only 35 years old and he looked forward to a life of luxury abroad with his mistress. A bon vivant, whose turbulent marriage and affairs made him a regular feature in European press, Milan Obrenović was the inspiration for Terence Rattigan’s 1953 play The Sleeping Prince and for the character played by Laurence Olivier in Prince and the Showgirl (1957), opposite to Marylin Monroe.59

Nation, Society and Economy Serbia came out of the 1876–78 wars both as a loser and as a victor. Despite the disappointment over Bosnia, the independence, combined with the territorial gain in the south at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, provided a sense of national pride. The year 1878 was understood by many in Serbia as the renewal of statehood lost in 1459. Consequently, the Ottoman rule, although it lasted over three centuries (not counting short periods of the Habsburg occupation), was seen as a temporary interruption of Serbia’s statehood – the dark ages that were finally over. It was in this context that the 500th anniversary celebrations of the Kosovo Battle took place in June 1889. As the anniversary approached, political differences between the main parties were put aside for the sake of a joint commemoration. The original initiative to mark the anniversary came 59

V. Goldsworthy, Inventing Ruritania: The Imperialism of the Imagination, New Haven, CT, 1998, 47; cf. Kraljica [Queen] Natalija Obrenović, Moje uspomene, transl. from the French original by I. Pavlović, ed. by Lj. Trgovčević, Belgrade, 1999. Ironically, young Milan laid the foundation stone for the Belgrade National Theatre in August 1868, in what was one of his first public appearances as prince.

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from Vojvodina; a series of events was planned to take place across Serbia, culminating with a ceremony at the Serbian Academy, which was presided in 1889 by Čedomilj Mijatović. In his address, Mijatović argued that ‘[a]n inexhaustible source of national pride was discovered at Kosovo [in 1389]. More important than language and stronger than the Church this pride unites all Serbs in a single nation’.60 In 1876, Serbia’s declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire had referred to the ‘mission of Kosovo’, while Prince Nikola of Montenegro proclaimed that ‘[u]nder Murad I the Serbian empire was destroyed – now during the reign of Murad V it has to rise again!’61 It was only at the time of the 500th anniversary of the battle that St Vitus’ Day became Serbia’s national holiday.62 In 1896, a British visitor to Belgrade attended a memorial service for the fallen at the Kosovo Battle at the Cathedral of St Michael the Archangel. The service was conducted by Metropolitan Mihailo, who had in the meanwhile returned to his old post following Milan’s abdication. Present also were King Aleksandar and Prince Nikola: Metropolitan Michael stepped on to the ambo, a low circular platform consisting of three steps, and delivered a vehement political speech, 60

Cited in T. A. Emmert, Serbian Golgotha: Kosovo, 1389, Boulder, CO, 1990, 129. Mijatović would later serve as Serbia’s minister in London. See his The Memoirs of a Balkan Diplomatist, London, 1917. For a sympathetic biography, see S. G. Markovich, Grof Čedomilj Mijatović: Viktorijanac među Srbima, Belgrade, 2006. 61 Cited in D. Djordjević, ‘The Tradition of Kosovo in the Formation of Modern Serbian Statehood in the 19th Century’, in W. S. Vucinich and T. A. Emmert (eds), Kosovo: Legacy of Medieval Battle, Minneapolis, MN, 1991, 309–30, 317–18. 62 I. Čolović, Smrt na Kosovu polju: Istorija Kosovskog mita, Belgrade, 2016; D. Djordjević, ‘The Role of St Vitus Day in Modern Serbian History’, Serbian Studies, 5:3 (Spring 1990), 33–40; M. Ekmečić, ‘The Emergence of St Vitus Day as the Principal National Holiday of the Serbs’, in Vucinich and Emmert (eds), Kosovo, 331–42.

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Whether every Serb shared the Metropolitan’s sentiments is difficult to know, but the Kosovo mythology had a wider appeal and did not just fuel dreams of a revived Serbian empire. The 500th anniversary of 1389 was also commemorated in Croatia, despite restrictions imposed by the Habsburg authorities, concerned about manifestations of Serb–Croat solidarity and Yugoslav nationalism. A leading Zagreb daily newspaper had several issues seized for containing articles about the Kosovo Battle, but on 27 June 1889, it managed to publish the following lines: ‘we Croatians – brothers by blood and by desire with the Serbs – today sing: Praise to the eternal Kosovo heroes who with their blood made certain that the desire for freedom and glory would never die. Glory to that people who gave them birth.’64 During a symposium held at the Yugoslav Academy in Zagreb, Franjo Rački, the Academy president, stated that the event was convened as part of the institution’s mission to study ‘all important developments from the past of the Croatian and Serbian people’.65 A theatre performance about the Kosovo Battle staged in the Dalmatian town of Split was interrupted by the police, but a Croatian actor travelled to Belgrade to play Prince Lazar in another play on the theme. Meanwhile, a Czech pan-Slav organization sent to Belgrade a wreath across which the following was written: ‘The Czech Nation. 1389. +27/6 1889. From Ashes to Greatness.’, while a Russian newspaper wrote: ‘Not to praise the memory of Kosovo in Russia means treason to Slavic ethnic feeling.’ At the same time, the Russian embassy 63

Vivian, Servia, 209–10. Cited in Emmert, Serbian Golgotha, 128. 65 My emphasis – note the singular form. F. Rački, ‘Boj na Kosovu: Uzroci i posljedice (Čitao u sjednici filologičko-historičkoga razreda jugoslavenske akademije znanosti i umjetnosti dne 15/27 lipnja 1889.), Rad JAZU (Zagreb), XCVII, 1889, 1–68. 64

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in Vienna commemorated the anniversary with the help from Serbian and Croatian cultural organizations.66 In the late nineteenth century, Serbia’s art – painting, poetry and literature – moved from religious and other ‘anational’ themes to ‘painting’ the nation. The Serbian Middle Ages were ‘discovered’ by Habsburg-born Serbian artists in parallel with their discovery by historians. Events surrounding the early nineteenth-century uprisings, which gave birth to modern Serbia, were also the subject of the art in service of the nation.67 At the same time, the greater public interest in the Kosovo Battle contributed to the birth of critical historiography in Serbia. On the 500th anniversary of the Battle, archimandrite and historian Ilarion Ruvarac published a critical study on Prince Lazar, which led to a fierce polemic between the new generation of historians led by Ruvarac and the older, romantic authors. Another historian, Ljubomir Kovačević, demonstrated that there was no evidence that Vuk Branković had been a traitor in 1389 (see Chapter 2).68 By the end of the nineteenth century, Serbia’s population grew to around 2.5 million, due to a high birth rate (in rural areas 40 per 1,000) and continued immigration of Orthodox Christians from Bosnia, Montenegro and Macedonia. The country’s economy also grew. For example, the grain produce doubled between the 1860s and the late 1890s. The main source of income remained livestock export to the Habsburg Monarchy – to Hungary and further into central European markets. Meanwhile, Serbia’s exports to Habsburg territories that would later form Yugoslavia (Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia) amounted to 2 per cent or less prior to 1914. Mainly thanks to livestock trade, Serbia’s export 66

Emmert, Serbian Golgotha, 129–30, 208n. Makuljević, Umetnost i nacionalna ideja; cf. V. Grmuša, ‘Creating Art Song in the South Slav Territories (1900–1930s): Femininity, Nation and Performance’, PhD dissertation, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2018. 68 See B. Mitrović, Nastanak moderne istorijske discipline u Srbiji i Bugarskoj, Novi Sad, 2017. 67

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figure 5.3  Serbian peasants from the Belgrade district, Serbia (Photograph by Vico Mantegazza, L’Illustrazione Italiana, Year XXX, No 15, April 12, 1903, via Getty Images)

value tripled between the s­econd half of the 1830s and second half of the 1850s (i.e. during the Constitutionalist regime); it then nearly quadrupled by the end of the century. As a result, industrialization remained slow and limited to a few urban centres. In late nineteenth century, only 14 per cent of Serbia’s population lived in towns of 2,000 or more people.69

A Critical Decade, 1903–14 King Aleksandar’s reign was marked by his attempts to impose an authoritarian rule and by his unpopular marriage to Draga Mašin (née Lunjevica), a divorcee perhaps 12 years the king’s senior, with something of a reputation. When one government minister warned the king, he dismissed it as a malicious rumour.

69

J. R. Lampe, Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country, Cambridge, 1996, 56–57.

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‘Do you know any of these alleged past lovers?’, Aleksandar asked. ‘Yes, Your majesty. Me.’, came the reply. The wedding went ahead amid resignations by ministers and protests from within the church. The royal couple was unable to have children, and rumours began circulating about Draga’s alleged plot to install her brother as heir to the throne. The pro-Habsburg king’s disregard for constitution and democratic procedures and the queen’s unpopularity sealed the fate of the unfortunate royal couple. They were assassinated in the early hours of 11 June (29 May O.S.) 1903 by a group of army officers, who included Capt Dragutin Dimitrijević-Apis, Col Mašin, Draga’s former brother-in-law and Lt Col Naumović (the direct descendant of Karadjordje’s Greek aide, killed on Miloš Obrenović’s orders – see Chapter 4). The conspirators enjoyed the support of several politicians who had turned against the king. The regicide took place on the 35th anniversary of the assassination of Prince Mihailo, but this was probably a coincidence and, in any case, should be understood in the context of an era when political assassinations were frequent rather than some allegedly inherent Serbian tradition. Nevertheless, the European public was shocked, and Britain and the Netherlands broke off diplomatic relations with Serbia until the conspirators were removed from positions of power. This finally happened on the third anniversary of the regicide, although the military continued to play a role in Serbian politics, to the detriment of the country’s fragile democratic institutions.70 Quite apart from the change of dynasty, 1903 represented a turning point in the Serbian and South Slav history more broadly. Petar Karadjordjević’s coronation was scheduled for September 70

S. Jovanović, Vlada Aleksandra Obrenovića, 3 vols, 2nd edn, Belgrade, 1934– 35; Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, II, ch. 9; D. Vasić, Devetstotreća (Majski prevrat): Prilozi za istoriju Srbije od 8. jula 1900 do 17. januara 1907, Belgrade, 1925.

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1904, in the centenary year of the uprising led by his grandfather. As if to announce a new era in Serbia’s history, the coronation-­ related celebrations were dominated by pan-South Slav manifestations, with artists and intellectuals from Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Bulgaria joining their Serbian counterparts. For all its Piedmont-inspired political ambition, Belgrade became a South Slav cultural centre. The country’s intellectuals and liberal-minded politicians responded enthusiastically to Yugoslavist ideas and ideals, even though the political mainstream remained mostly Serbo-centric.71 Feelings of ‘ordinary’ people vis-à-vis Yugoslavism, while harder to gauge, were likely complex. Many supported the nationalist narrative about Serb liberation and unification with neighbouring provinces. On the other hand, Belgrade preferred international to national cultural offerings in the city, including theatre and musical performances. Meanwhile, pan-Yugoslav cultural events became common, as Habsburg South Slav intellectuals and artists frequently visited the Serbian capital and, in some cases, moved there. They included the Slovenian ethnogeographer Niko Županič, Croatian poets Tin Ujević and Antun Gustav Matoš and celebrated sculptor Ivan Meštrović. Arguably the best-known advocate of Yugoslavism at the time, Meštrović had famously, and controversially, exhibited at the Serbian pavilion at the 1911 Rome Expo, despite being a Croat from AustriaHungary, which had its own pavilion. Meštrović would design the ‘Kosovo avenger’ medal awarded to Serbian soldiers who took part in the modern battle for Kosovo (during the Balkan Wars, discussed in the following text). His major, and never completed, project was inspired by the Kosovo battle and was called 71

D. Stojanović, Kaldrma i asfalt: Urbanizacija i evropeizacija Beograda 1890– 1914, Belgrade, 2008; D. Tošić, Jugoslovenske umetničke izložbe 1904–1927, Belgrade, 1983; Lj. Trgovčević, Naučnici Srbije i stvaranje Jugoslavije, 1914–1920, Belgrade, 1987.

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the Vidovdan [St Vitus’ Day] Temple. Meanwhile, in April 1914, Belgrade marked the 250th anniversary of the Zrinski-Frankopan uprising against Habsburg rule, an important Croatian (and Hungarian, incidentally) historical event.72 Not quite the ‘golden age of democracy’ in Serbia as traditionally claimed, the country nevertheless seemed to enter an era of greater political freedoms.73 The new king, who had previously translated John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, stayed out of party politics. Serbia had a democratically elected parliament and government, and there was a lively political debate facilitated by free press. The political scene was dominated by aging Nikola Pašić, who had in the meanwhile become a conservative statesman. In 1904, younger members of the Radical Party broke away to form the Independent Radical Party. Together with Croat and Slovene democrats and liberals, they established the Democratic Party in Sarajevo in 1919, which competed for power with the Radicals during the 1920s. In 1903, the Socialist-Democratic Party, Serbia’s first workers’ party, was founded by a group of young socialists, including Radovan Dragović, Dragiša Lapčević, Triša Kaclerović and Dimitrije Tucović. They had contacts with Bulgarian and Croatian socialists and social-democrats, and collaborated with Karl Kautsky, the leader of Germany’s Social-Democrats. Tucović played a prominent role at the Eighth Congress of the Second International held in Copenhagen in 1910, when he publicly criticized the Austrian Social-Democrats’ support of Habsburg 72

Lampe, Yugoslavia, 94. O. Popović Obradović, Parlamentarizam u Srbiji od 1903. do 1914. godine, Belgrade, 1998; D. Stojanović, Srbija i demokratija 1903–1914, Belgrade, 2003, and ‘Serbia’s Promise and Problems, 1903–1914’, in Lampe and Brunnbauer (eds), The Routledge Handbook, ch. 11; H. Zundhausen [Sundhaussen], Istorija Srbije od 19. do 21. veka, transl. from German by T. Bekić, Belgrade, 2009, 225–42; cf. D. T. Bataković, ‘Storm over Serbia: Rivalry between Civilian and Military Authorities (1911–1914)’, Balcanica (Belgrade), XLIV (2013), 307–56; Djordjević, Istorija moderne Srbije, 311–15.

73

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imperialism in Bosnia. He was equally vocal in his opposition to Serbia’s expansionist wars of 1912–13 and the anti-Albanian oppression in Kosovo. Building on Svetozar Marković’s work, the Serbian Social-Democrats promoted a Balkan federation as an alternative to nation states.74 Unlike either Austria-Hungary or Russia, at the time Belgrade’s main foe and ally among the Powers, respectively, early ­twentieth-century Serbia was a parliamentary democracy. As we have seen, the country abolished serfdom in the 1830s, well before Habsburg, Russian or Ottoman empires did so. For all its faults and weaknesses, Serbia’s democracy developed out of a long struggle between political groups and institutions that had through much of the nineteenth century fought against authoritarian princes and kings. The interference by army officers connected with the 1903 regicide destabilized the country and contributed to a three-way conflict between the government, the military and the crown. This situation was not unique to Serbia. Civilian and military ­authorities clashed elsewhere in the early twentieth century, including in France (the Dreyfus Affair), the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary.75 In foreign policy, post-1903 Serbia orbited towards Russia and France. This, and Serbia’s overtures to and appeal among the Habsburg Serbs and other South Slavs, made the relationship with Austria-Hungary especially difficult and at times bordering on military confrontation. It was also in 1903 that Benjámin Kállay and Károly Khuen-Héderváry, long-serving, authoritarian and 74

I. Avakumović, History of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, Aberdeen, 1964, I, ch. 1; D. Lapčević, Rat i srpska socijalna demokratija, Belgrade, 1925; N. M. Popović, Dimitrije Tucović: Njegov život i rad, Belgrade, 1934; J. Robertson, ‘Imagining the Balkans as a Space of Revolution: The Federalist Vision of Serbian Socialism, 1870–1914’, East European Politics and Societies and Cultures, 31:2 (2017), 402–25. 75 C. Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, London, 2013, 214–25.

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capable imperial ‘viceroys’ of Bosnia-Herzegovina and CroatiaSlavonia, respectively, died.76 The relaxation that followed in Croatia enabled the emergence of Croat–Serb political ­cooperation. A Croat–Serb Coalition was formed in late 1905, winning, the following year, elections for Croatia’s Sabor. The Coalition included the Serb People’s Independent Party and the Serb People’s Radical Party, two main Habsburg Serb parties, and their two Croat counterparts: the Croatian Party of Rights and the Croatian People’s Progressive Party. The fifth coalition partner, the Social-Democratic Party of Croatia-Slavonia, had an ethnically mixed membership. The ‘New Course’ brought about by the Coalition is sometimes seen – not unjustifiably, but not without simplification either – as a third phase in the near-century-old Yugoslav Idea. It had begun, as we have seen, with the Illyrians in the 1830s, was revived by Strossmayer and Rački in the 1860s, and gained a new life through a political movement that talked about a union of the South Slavs within the Habsburg Monarchy, while increasingly looking towards Belgrade. One of the leaders of the Coalition was Ante Trumbić, a Croat from Dalmatia, the future leader of the wartime Yugoslav Committee and the first foreign minister of Yugoslavia.77 In Bosnia, the annexation crisis of 1908–09 (and indirectly the concurrent Young Turkish revolution in the Ottoman Empire) radicalized the nationalist youth, especially though not exclusively among the Eastern Orthodox. According to the 1910 Habsburg census, Orthodox Serbs made up 43.5 per cent of Bosnia’s population, Muslims 32.5 per cent and Catholic Croats 76

Lj. Aleksić-Pejković, Odnosi Srbije sa Francuskom i Engleskom, 1903–1914, Belgrade, 1965; A. Mitrović, Prodor na Balkan: Srbija u planovima AustroUgarske i Nemačke, 1908–1918, Belgrade, 1981; W. S. Vucinich, Serbia between East and West: The Events of 1903–1908, Stanford, CA, 1954. 77 N. J. Miller, Between Nation and State: Serbian Politics in Croatia before the First World War, Pittsburgh, PN, 1997; cf. M. Gross, Vladavina Hrvatsko-srpske koalicije, 1906–1907, Belgrade, 1960.

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22.8 per cent (the decrease of Muslims from nearly 40 per cent in 1879 was due to their emigration to the Ottoman Empire following the Habsburg occupation). A local assembly enjoyed limited autonomy and was representative of the numerical strength of the three main ethno-religious groups, while agricultural reforms were being gradually introduced. However, Ottoman-era serfdom survived until the First World War, longer than anywhere else in Europe – an important but often overlooked reason for the radicalization of the South Slav youth in Habsburg Bosnia. Three quarters of all Bosnia’s serfs were local Serbs, which made them resentful and more likely to look towards Serbia.78 Meanwhile, an uprising against the Ottoman rule in Macedonia had broken out in summer 1903 (the St Elijah Day, or Ilinden, Uprising). It was organized by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), a militant group engaged in guerrilla activities and political assassinations. The rebels were crushed brutally by an Ottoman force recruited mainly among local Albanians. At the same time, an often-violent rivalry between Bulgarian, Greek and Serb agitators, educators, priests and paramilitaries went on. They all claimed Macedonia on competing historic and equally dubious ethnic grounds; each side hoped their own Orthodox church would prevail among the local Christian population. The hope was to assimilate the local Slavs, many of whom seemed nationally indifferent, even if linguistically they were closest to Bulgarians. A separate Macedonian ethnic identity had also begun to develop, at least among some intellectuals. Did the Ilinden insurgents fight for a Macedonian state or for unification with Bulgaria, then still an autonomous Ottoman province? The debate continues to this day, among scholars as much 78

H. C. Darby, ‘Bosnia and Hercegovina’, in S. Clissold (ed.), A Short History of Yugoslavia, Cambridge, 1966, 71; V. Dedijer, Sarajevo 1914, 2nd edn, 2 vols, Belgrade, 1978; Donia, ‘Bosnia-Herzegovina’, in Lampe and Brunnbauer (eds), The Routledge Handbook; V. Masleša, Mlada Bosna, Sarajevo, 1964, 31.

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as among political leaders of Bulgaria and North Macedonia.79 In 2020, Sofia blocked the beginning of North Macedonia’s EU accession talks until Skopje acknowledged the (allegedly) Bulgarian origins of the Macedonian ethnicity and language. Their rivalry over Macedonia notwithstanding, Serbia and Bulgaria, where Russia continued to exercise strong influence, concluded a customs union in 1905, an event that prompted a ban on Serbia’s exports by Austria-Hungary. The Dual Monarchy was concerned about the impact of the Serb–Bulgarian reconciliation on the regional balance of power and how it might influence Habsburg South Slav politics. Because Serbia’s main export was hogs, the customs war became known as the ‘Pig War’. The economic sanctions did not destroy the Serbian economy, as Belgrade reached out to new markets thanks to developing the meat processing industry. In 1911, the ‘Pig War’ ended with the signing of a new trade agreement between the two countries on more favourable terms from Serbia’s point of view.80 When AustriaHungary annexed ­Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908 (an act that Russia did not oppose), Pašić and the Radical government were against war despite pressure from the nationalist public and elements within the military to intervene. The government’s aim remained the creation of a large Serbian state that would include Bosnia, but it was aware that without Russia’s support, or any other powerful allies, Serbia would be no match for the Dual Monarchy.81 This undermined the government’s position as officers involved in the 1903 regicide attempted to interfere in the country’s politics. Anti-Habsburg sentiments grew, not surprisingly given that many

79

Lampe, Yugoslavia, 91–92; K. Brown, Loyal unto Death: Trust and Terror in Revolutionary Macedonia, Bloomington, IN, 2013. 80 D. Djordjević, Carinski rat Austro-Ugarske i Srbije, 1906–1911, Belgrade, 1962; M. Palairet, The Balkan Economies, c. 1800–1914: Evolution without Development, Cambridge, 1997, ch. 10; Sundhausen, Istorija Srbije, 230–42. 81 Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, II, 554–61.

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genuinely believed that Austria-Hungary annexed a ‘Serb land’. When a decade earlier a British visitor asked a group of Serbian schoolchildren ‘what they knew about Bosnia’, one boy replied at once that the inhabitants were Servians, but were unfortunately under the government of Austria for the present. He added that the religion was partly Orthodox and partly Muhammadan, but that Bosnian Muhammadans were equally of Servian race and Servian patriotism. It is evident that love of country and a pride in the national idea are early instilled into the young Servian’s mind.82

Bosnia-Herzegovina was a source of Serb–Croat competing claims and mutual tensions; a Bosnian Muslim national identity was also beginning to shape, even if some Muslim intellectuals identified as Croats and, less frequently, Serbs. The rivalry over Bosnia, not necessarily paradoxically, was also an argument in favour of Yugoslavia. The understanding of the nation as a community of speakers of the same language was not a South Slav invention, but it influenced Serb, Croat and other regional nationalisms. At the time when Italy and Germany united because of a common ethnicity – and in both cases following wars against the Habsburg Monarchy – it should not be surprising the South Slavs aimed to do the same. For all the nationalist Serb and South Slav rhetoric, it is not hard to understand why many wondered why Bosnia-Herzegovina should form part of a German–Magyar governed empire rather than of a South Slav nation state, considering that the population of the province was overwhelmingly South Slav and Serbo-Croat speaking. The Ottoman defeat against Italy in Libya in 1911 and the continued instability in Macedonia encouraged those wanting to see the end of the Ottoman rule in southern Balkans to act. They included Russian ministers in Belgrade and Sofia, who facilitated a Serbian–Bulgarian pact in March 1912. A three-way partition 82

Vivian, Servia, 194; cf. C. Jelavich, South Slav Nationalisms: Textbooks and Yugoslav Union Before 1914, Athens, OH, 1990.

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of Macedonia was discussed, in acknowledgement of Greek claims there. The two countries were then joined by Greece and Montenegro and in a stunning joint offensive that began in October quickly defeated the Ottoman army. Officially the war ended in May 1913 with a peace treaty signed in London, but effectively it had been over in a month.83 As the triumphant Serbian army entered Kosovo, there were reports of collective hallucination among soldiers believing they were marching next to Prince Lazar and medieval Serbian knights who fought at Kosovo in 1389.84 Serbia sought to secure access to the Adriatic Sea by occupying northern Albania, but Serbian, and Montenegrin, troops were forced to withdraw by Austria-Hungary, which pushed for the creation of an independent Albanian state. Feeling short-changed by Serbia and Greece over the territorial share of Macedonia, Bulgaria declared war on its erstwhile allies in June 1913. Romania and the Ottoman Empire now joined the Serb–Greek–Montenegrin alliance which, unsurprisingly, defeated a seriously outnumbered Bulgarian army. A peace treaty signed in August in Bucharest ended the Second Balkan War. Bulgaria had to accept a smaller part of Macedonia (Pirin), while Greece and Serbia received much larger shares, respectively the Aegean and Vardar Macedonia. (The latter is the present-day independent country since 2019 called North Macedonia). The Ottomans restored control over Edirne/Adrianople and the surrounding area. Romania gained southern Dobrudzha/Dobrogea at the expense of Bulgaria, while Albania was created as an independent state. The main victor, in the short term at least, was Serbia. It doubled-up in territory, gaining around 40,000 square 83

K. Boeckh and S. Rutar (eds), The Balkan Wars from Contemporary Perception to Historic Memory, London, 2017; R. C. Hall, The Balkan Wars, 1912–13: Prelude to the First World War, London, 2002; M. N. Todorova, Scaling the Balkans: Essays on Eastern European Entanglements, Leiden, 2018, 510–34. 84 T. Judah, The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, New Haven, CN, 1997, 71.

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figure 5.4  Young girls dressed as soldiers in the Serbian army at a Purim Party, Belgrade, early twentieth century (The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot, courtesy of Dr. Rephael Fiazza, Israel)

kilometres of land; in addition to Vardar Macedonia, Serbia received much of Kosovo and Sandžak. The rest of ‘Old Serbia’ went to Montenegro, which also significantly enlarged its territory and now bordered Serbia (Map 5.1).85 As a result of the territorial expansion, Serbia’s population grew from 2.9 million to 4.5 million people. Because most of the new inhabitants were Muslim Albanians and Slavs and Orthodox Macedonian Slavs, Serbia could no longer be seen as an ethnically homogenous nation state. Not that it ever was, but cultural Serbianization seemed a natural course of action to Serbian elites, as alternative nationalisms were not developed in the conquered territories that the elites regarded as historically Serbian (through their being part of the medieval Serb state and under the jurisdiction of the Serbian patriarchate until late eighteenth century).

85

M. Jagodić, Novi krajevi Srbije, 1912–1915, Belgrade, 2013.

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Independence (1860–1914) Mitrovica Pancevo ˇ Danube R Zemun . Kladovo Belgrade Šabac Požarevac Loznica Porecˇ Orašac Valjevo Rudnik Negotin Takovo Kragujevac Zajecar ˘ Užice ˇˇ Cacak Paracin ´ ´ Požega Gurgusovac Karanovac Deligrad (Knjaževac) (Kraljevo) Aleksinac Raška Niš Pirot Kuršumlija Novi Pazar Leskovac Pec´

Vranje

Priština Prizren

HUNGARY BOSNIA

1804 1833 MONTE- 1878 NEGRO

ALBA N I

Skopje

Kumanovo

Veles Debar

BULGARIA

1913

Štip

Kicevo ˇ Kruševo Prilep Ohrid Bitola

A

ITALY

ROMANIA

Tetovo

Pashalik of Belgrade Acquired in1833 Gained at Congress of Berlin 1878 Acquired in Balkan Wars 1913

GREECE

map 5.1  Serbia’s territorial expansion, 1804–1913. Drawn by Joe LeMonnier, https://mapartist.com/, based on a map originally published in Michael B. Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, 1804–1918, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976, 2 vols, vol. 2, p. 400

Early twentieth-century Serbia was home to between 6,000 and 7,000 Jews. The majority belonged to the Sephardim and Ashkenazim groups (the former settled in the Ottoman Empire in the late fifteenth century after their expulsion from Spain and Portugal; the latter emigrated to Serbia mostly from Austria-Hungary during

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the nineteenth century). There was a small number of Mizrahim, who lived in the newly acquired, formerly Ottoman territories. Having been granted full citizenship rights in 1878, Jews played a role in the creation of the modern Serbian society and occupied a prominent place in the country’s arts and cultural scene. By the early twentieth century, they had been fully integrated, many declaring themselves ‘Serbs of Moses’ faith’, and regarding Serbian to be their mother tongue. Meanwhile, philosemitism developed among Serbs, especially during and after the Balkan Wars and the First World War, in which around 600 Jewish officers and soldiers fought in the Serbian army, of whom 150 lost their lives.86 AntiJewish prejudice and antisemitism have existed in Serbia, including in some Orthodox Church circles and among conservative intellectuals. However, antisemitism was neither as widespread nor as deeply rooted as it was in Central Europe, and no pogroms took place in Serbia, unlike in Poland and the Russian Empire. The cost of victory was high, around 30,000 dead and thousands of wounded.87 At the same time, the territorial enlargement went hand in hand with an enhanced prestige among the Habsburg South Slavs, as leaders of the Croat–Serb Coalition and Bosnian Serbs publicly celebrated Serbia’s victories. A Yugoslav state was now seen as an attainable goal, especially among nationalist organizations in Serbia and radicalized youth in Bosnia and Croatia. Meanwhile, Bosnia’s Muslims understandably remained apprehensive. Memories of the expulsion of Serbia’s Muslims in the nineteenth century were ‘refreshed’ by news of violence against southern Balkan Muslims during the Balkan Wars. Particularly violent were clashes between the Serbian army and ethnic Albanian guerrillas, who resisted the incorporation into Serbia 86

Spomenica poginulih i umrlih srpskih Jevreja u Balkanskom i Svetskom ratu, 1912–1918, Belgrade, 1927, 4. 87 D. Šarenac, ‘The Forgotten Losses: Serbian Casualties from the Balkan Wars 1912–1913’, Analele Universităţii ‘Ovidius’ din Constanţa, seria Istorie, 10–11 (2013/14), 85–102.

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and instead sought to join the newly created Albania. Atrocities were committed during both Balkan Wars, by all sides. Foreign correspondents – Trotsky among them – reported about practices that towards the end of the century would become known as ‘ethnic cleansing’. The atrocities of the Balkan Wars were evoked by some scholars, political analysts and journalists in the wake of the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia as events that anticipated the ethnic violence of the 1990s. Curiously, the atrocities of the 1941–45 period were rarely mentioned in this respect, even though they had a greater causal significance for setting a precedent for ethnic cleansing – if nothing else than for the simple reason that they had left an imprint on the collective memory of still living political actors and their nationalist followers who played a key role in the 1990s.

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6 War and Interwar (1914–1944) u

The Sarajevo Assassination and the July Crisis In early August 1914, a tall, dark-haired young man boarded one of the last England-bound ferries to leave the port of Ostend before Germany’s invasion of Belgium. Just days earlier, Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia, an event that marked the beginning of the First World War. The man had a dual, Austro-Hungarian and Serbian citizenship. Born in 1887 in Donji Poplat, an Orthodox Serb village in Habsburg-occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dimitrije Mitrinović became involved in student politics in Mostar and Sarajevo. He wrote the first South Slav Futurist manifesto before moving to Munich in 1913 to study art history under Heinrich Wölfflin. The young Herzegovinian quickly stood out among his peers and before long mixed with Kandinsky, Klee and collaborated with the Blue Rider and Blut-Bunt artistic groups. Erich Gutkind, a German-Jewish philosopher known for pacifist and mystic views, became a friend and an important intellectual influence. Gutkind’s family sheltered Mitrinović in Berlin before he could escape to Britain via Belgium.1 Mitrinović’s fear for his safety in Germany, which declared war on Serbia a week after Austria-Hungary, was not hard to 1

P. Palavestra, Dogma i utopija Dimitrija Mitrinovića: Počeci srpske književne avangarde, Belgrade, 1977; N. V. Petrović, Dimitrije Mitrinović, Windsor, Canada, 1967; A. Rigby, ‘Dimitrije Mitrinović (1887–1953)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2008; cf. V. Dedijer, Sarajevo 1914, 2nd edn, 2 vols, Belgrade, 1978; M. Martens, U požaru svetova: Ivo Andrić – jedan evropski život, transl. from German by V. Fröchlich, Belgrade, 2020, 32–42.

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understand. Anti-Serb demonstrations and riots erupted in Bosnia and Croatia and elsewhere in the Habsburg Monarchy as the news of the assassination spread. The authorities did not organize the riots but did little to prevent propaganda or indeed acts of anti-Serb violence. Prominent Serbs, and sometimes other South Slavs known for their pro-Serb, pan-Yugoslav views, were arrested; their property, schools and churches were damaged or destroyed, while the use of Serb Cyrillic was banned in Bosnia-Herzegovina. By the end of July, up to 5,500 Serbs had been arrested and interned, and, depending on source, between 700 and 2,200 of these died during the war of maltreatment. During summer 1914, around 460 Serbs were executed, some by the Schutzkorps, a militia composed mainly of local Muslims and Croats. In Trebinje (one of the hotspots of the 1875 Herzegovinian uprising), 103 Serbs were hanged without trial between late June and August 1914; a further 82 were hanged in the village of Zubci near the border with Montenegro. There were other cases of public executions of Serb civilians throughout the region by the paramilitaries. Perhaps as many as 5,200 Serb families from eastern Bosnia were expelled to Serbia.2 However, there was another reason for Mitrinović’s sense of urgency in summer 1914. Even his closest friends in Germany were unaware that he had been involved in the revolutionary South Slav youth politics. Mitrinović belonged to the milieu of Young Bosnia, an informal revolutionary youth group named after Young Italy. He was the author of a 1912 document that called for ­resistance – as a form of cultural and political action rather than ­violence – to Austro-Germanization, Magyarization 2

Figures from I. Banac, The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics, Ithaca, NY, 1984, 367n, and for Trebinje and Zubci: C. Carmichael, ‘Culture, Resistance and Violence: Guarding the Habsburg Ostgrenze with Montenegro in 1914’, European Review of History, 25:5 (2018), 705–23, 712; cf. Dedijer, Sarajevo 1914, II, 11–12 & ch. 15; A. Mitrović, Srbija u Prvom svetskom ratu, 2nd edn, Belgrade, 2004, 18–32.

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and Italianization of the South Slavs. It also rejected the servility of older generations, demanded the abolition of large estates, aristocracy and serfdom, and the unification of the Habsburg South Slavs with Serbia and Montenegro. The document is considered the political manifesto of Young Bosnia. Like most Young Bosnians, including Gavrilo Princip, Franz Ferdinand’s assassin, Mitrinović grew up in a predominantly peasant Serb Orthodox environment, where oral tradition was an important part of life. Stories of major historical events and resistance to the Ottomans were passed on through generations. This was also a society profoundly shaped by the previously discussed Eastern Crisis of the 1870s – a society where local, regional and global politics met with such a profound impact. The revolutionary Bosnian youth read and debated intensely, despite, or perhaps because, being surrounded by a sea of illiteracy. Mitrinović’s early political influences included Mazzini, Masaryk and Marx, as well as Russian anarchists, narodniki, and socialists. Among those whom Mitrinović influenced was young Ivo Andrić. Born in 1892 into a Roman Catholic family in central Bosnia, the future author of The Bridge on the Drina and the 1961 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature also belonged to the Young Bosnia milieu. Unlike his school friend Bogdan Žerajić, who committed suicide after a failed attempt to assassinate the Habsburg governor of Bosnia in 1910 and was found with a copy of Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin’s history of the French Revolution, and unlike the eight years younger Princip (who visited Žerajić’s grave the night before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand), Mitrinović did not advocate terrorism and revolution to achieve the Yugoslav unity. Instead, he preferred cultural and political action, resistance through publications and public lectures. Both Mitrinović and Princip, however, belonged to a transnational ‘network’

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of revolutionaries, nationalists, anarchists and socialists. The emphasis on the Young Bosnians’ Serb (rather than Yugoslav) nationalism and on their apparent obsession with Serb mythologized past has been a feature in centenary-driven best-selling histories of the First World War. In reality, things were rather more complex.3 * In a move unlikely to calm the existing tensions in the region, the Austro-Hungarian authorities organized military manoeuvres in Bosnia, with a central manifestation taking place in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 attended by Archduke Franz Ferdinand, as inspector general at the manoeuvres. Present were also his wife Duchess Sophie and senior political and military officials, including General Oskar Potiorek, Bosnia’s Habsburg governor. The events of that day in Sarajevo would forever change the course of history. They are well-known and so require only a summary. Following an unsuccessful attempt at the archduke’s life by a Young Bosnian (a local high school student), his friend Princip found himself unexpectedly presented with an opportunity to assassinate Franz Ferdinand, accidentally also killing Duchess Sophie. Security measures were surprisingly lax, but both youths were immediately arrested together with most of their accomplices. Only one of them, Muhamed Mehmedbašić, managed to escape across the porous Habsburg–Montenegrin border; he would also be arrested, before escaping from a Montenegrin 3

Dedijer’s Sarajevo 1914 remains invaluable for an understanding of the origins and history of Young Bosnia. See also P. Palavestra, Književnost Mlade Bosne, Belgrade, 1994 and M. Vojinović, Političke ideje Mlade Bosne, Belgrade, 2015; cf. C. Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, London, 2013; J. Zametica, Folly and Malice: The Habsburg Empire, the Balkans and the Start of World War One, London 2017.

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prison. A wider revolutionary network, with a central cell in Sarajevo, was soon discovered. Princip and two other Young Bosnians had recently been in Serbia. As far as can be ascertained from sources, it was there that they decided to assassinate the archduke and approached for assistance a secret society known as the ‘Black Hand’. Previously, rogue members of the Serbian army began to interfere directly with the country’s politics after the Bosnian annexation crisis, which led to a civil–military conflict in Serbia.4 The key figure in the ‘military party’ was Lieutenant Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević-Apis, in early 1913 promoted to the head of the army intelligence and later on to the rank of colonel.5 Apis was one of the leaders of the Unification or Death secret society (called by its opponents the Black Hand). This m ­ ilitant–nationalist group was formed in 1911 by officers and politicians involved in the earlier conspiracy against King Aleksandar and Queen Draga. The Black Hand had close links with another nationalist organization, the National Defence. Broadly speaking, these two organizations advocated the creation of an enlarged Serb state at the expense of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires but were not averse to collaborating with pan-Yugoslav groups and individuals. Ljubomir Jovanović-Čupa, the editor of journal Pijemont (Piedmont) and the main ideologue of the Black Hand, was openly pro-Yugoslav. Apis too had not been opposed to the idea of South Slav unification.6 Like Young Bosnia, the Black Hand was exposed to international influences – its programme

4

M. B. Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, 1804–1918, New York, 1976, 2 vols, II, 554–62. 5 D. T. Bataković, ‘Storm over Serbia: Rivalry between Civilian and Military Authorities (1911–1914)’, Balcanica (Belgrade), XLIV (2013), 307–56, 332; D. MacKenzie, Apis: The Congenial Conspirator. The Life of Colonel Dragutin T. Dimitrijević, Boulder, CO, 1989, ch. 10. 6 S. Jovanović, ‘Apis’, in Moji savremenici, Windsor, Canada, 1962, 399–459, 440.

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and statute drew inspiration from Italian, German and Russian secret revolutionary organizations, and appears to have had contacts with the Young Turks and the German military.7 The Black Hand rituals and symbols were also influenced by Free Masons, of whom Jovanović-Čupa and possibly Major Vojin Tankosić, another key figure in the organization, had been members. Indeed, many European revolutionaries at the time, including Garibaldi, had been Free Masons.8 Members of the nationalist organizations in Serbia increasingly believed the government was incapable of fulfilling Serbian ‘national goals’ and began to challenge its authority, especially in the newly acquired territories in Kosovo and Macedonia.9 The civil–military conflict caused the fall of the government in early 1914. It probably also led to King Petar stepping aside, citing old age and illness; his son, Crown Prince Aleksandar, reigned in his name as regent. Aleksandar would also clash with the Black Hand, while his autocratic tendencies created tensions with the Pašić government. The civil–military conflict, by no means unique to Serbia, needs to be considered when the events of May– June 1914 are analysed. As does the wider political context. The Serbian government indirectly supported South Slav leaders in Austria-Hungary, who increasingly viewed Serbia as a South Slav Piedmont following the Balkan Wars.10 The Habsburg authorities attempted to discredit the leaders of the Croat–Serb Coalition, especially the Serbs, in two staged trials for high treason, but in the process only humiliated themselves and strengthened the 7

Dedijer, Sarajevo 1914, II, 198–202. Bataković, 325; L. Riall, Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero, New Haven, CT, 2007, 42. 9 Jovanović, ‘Apis’, 404–406. 10 Serbia probably did more for the creation of Yugoslavia than Piedmont for the unification of Italy. S. Malešević, ‘The Mirage of Balkan Piedmont: State Formation and Serbian Nationalisms in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century’, Nations and Nationalism, 23:1 (2017), 129–50. 8

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resolve of the growing Serb–Croat front.11 Belgrade, however, was careful not to provoke the neighbouring empire and give it excuse to accuse Serbia of endangering its territorial integrity. Following the Balkan Wars, the Serbian government simply was not in a position to wage another war, let alone against a more powerful and hostile neighbouring empire.12 That was, in brief, the context in which the Austro-Hungarian army organized military manoeuvres in Bosnia in June 1914. Tensions between Serbia and Austria-Hungary and between at least some elements of the local population and the imperial authorities, the existence of the nationalist revolutionary organizations in an era when political assassinations were common, in addition to the date chosen for the visit to Sarajevo of the heir to the Habsburg throne, all combined for a high-risk setting. As A. J. P. Taylor noted, ‘If a British royalty had visited Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day at the height of the Troubles, he, too, might have expected to be shot at.’13 Yet, the day began in festive mood on both sides of the Serb– Habsburg border. ‘For the first time since Kosovo, Serbia celebrated St Vitus Day as a day of Resurrection of Serbdom’, Jovan Jovanović, Serbia’s minister in Vienna later wrote. He was referring to the outcome of the Balkan Wars, which saw Serbia and Montenegro incorporate the ‘core’ territories of the medieval Serbian state. ‘[M]any Serbs and Croats, especially from Dalmatia, went to Kosovo, and across Serbia people swam in a [sea of] patriotic fervour’, Jovanović wrote, revealing the presence of Yugoslavist ideals. When a choir sang the Croatian national anthem outside a restaurant in central Belgrade, passers-by 11

Clark, The Sleepwalkers, 87–90; cf. R. W. Seton-Watson, The Southern Slav Question and Habsburg Monarchy, London, 1911, chs 9 & 10. 12 Dj. Stanković, Nikola Pašić i jugoslovensko pitanje, Belgrade, 2 vols, 1985, II, 11–12. 13 A. J. P. Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848–1918, Oxford, 1971 (first publ. 1954), 520.

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broke into a spontaneous applause, according to an eyewitness.14 Meanwhile, the Viennese went to the nearby Baden spa to celebrate the Feast of St Peter and St Paul (which fell on 29 June) and enjoy good weather. ‘The day was mild, there was not a cloud in the sky above the spreading chestnut trees, it was a day to feel happy.’, Austrian Jewish writer Stefan Zweig remembered.15 Also on his way to joining the celebrations in Kosovo was Prime Minister Pašić. In midst of a campaign before forthcoming parliamentary elections, called for 14 August, it was at the Lapovo train station in central Serbia that he learned of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo around midday.16 Both Serbia and Montenegro immediately halted Kosovorelated manifestations and sent condolences to Vienna, condemning the murder publicly and in confidential communication. Montenegro’s official description of the assassination as ‘a mindless terrorist act [carried out] by isolated daydreamers’ was endorsed by Serbia’s envoy in Vienna, who in a telegram to the Belgrade foreign ministry described it as ‘an isolated act [carried 14

J. M. Jovanović, Borba za narodno ujedinjenje, 1914–1918, Belgrade, 1935, 19; cf. D. Djokić, ‘Serbia, Sarajevo and the Start of Conflict’, in A. Sharp (ed.), 28 June: Sarajevo 1914–Versailles 1919. The War and Peace that Made the Modern World, London, 2014, 10–29. Jovan M. Jovanović, who during the interwar period led the Agrarian Party, was known by his nickname Pižon (French word pigeon in its Serbianized form). There was also a Ljubomir Jovanović-Patak (Duck), not to be confused with Ljubomir JovanovićČupa (A messy haired one), the Pijemont editor. It is indeed something of a Serbian tradition to give politicians a nickname: Pašić was known as Baja, Ljuba Davidović as Ljuba Mrav (Ant) and Čika (Uncle) Ljuba, while King Petar I was called Čika Pera (Uncle Pete). During the Second World War, Dragoljub-Draža Mihailović was Čiča (an Uncle or an Old Man), which incidentally was similar in meaning to one of Tito’s nicknames, Stari (Old Man). More recently, Slobodan Milošević was widely referred to as Sloba. 15 S. Zweig, The World of Yesterday, London, 2011 (first published in German, 1942), 237–38. 16 M. Cornwall, ‘Serbia’, in K. Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War, 1914, London, 1995, 55–96, 56.

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out] by two national fanatics’.17 Zweig recalled that in Baden music stopped and people promenading seemed disturbed as the ‘unexpected news passed from mouth to mouth’, though ‘there was no special shock or dismay to be seen on the faces of the crowd, for the heir to the throne had not by any means been popular.’18 The initial reaction by Serbia’s leadership to the news from Sarajevo was typical of Belgrade’s position over the next few weeks: it condemned the assassination, distanced itself from the perpetrators and was careful not to antagonize Austria-Hungary.19 It could do and did little about the general sense of jubilation – mixed with a sense of anxiety – among the Serbian public, though it did appeal for public restraint. Jovan Jovanović sent repeated warnings from Vienna that an inflammatory tone of the Serbian press was not helpful and only served to fuel Austro-Hungarian propaganda that portrays the assassination as an act planned in, if not by, Serbia. Soon after the news of the assassination reached Serbia, the government proclaimed that it was prepared to put on trial any person found in the country who was involved in the assassination, but in reality did little to carry out a full-scale investigation.20 Austria-Hungary did not make any specific requests up until it delivered its ultimatum to Serbia on 23 July, nearly a month after the assassination. Until then, the Serbian government had hoped it would be possible to avoid war. In July, Serbia’s politicians were engaged in the campaign for the elections (which would never take place), while business and trade links between citizens of the two 17

Jovanović to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Serbia, Vienna, 29 June (16 June O.S.) 1914, DokSPKS, VII-2, 423; Novica Rakočević, Crna Gora u Prvom svjetskom ratu, 1914–1918, Podgorica, 1997 (first publ. 1969), 26. 18 Zweig, 238–39. 19 Jovanović to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vienna, 30 June (17 June O.S.) 1914, DokSPKS, 430; cf. Mitrović, Srb. u prv. sv. ratu, 11–12. 20 Jovanović to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vienna, 29 (16) June and 30 (17) June 1914, DokSPKS, 422, 429.

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countries went on as usual. Serbia’s military was hardly any more prepared for war, relying on outdated defence plans in an event of attack by Austria-Hungary. Meanwhile, Vojvoda (Field Marshal) Radomir Putnik, the chief-of-staff of the Serbian army was on holiday in Gleichenberg, an Austrian spa.21 Indeed, many of Europe’s leaders, including Kaiser Wilhelm and Habsburg and Russian diplomats in Belgrade went on holiday in July. The predominant sentiment in Vienna and Budapest was that Serbia was to be punished not just for the murder of Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie but also for the Serbs’ aggressive, anti-Habsburg nationalism. Its 10-point ultimatum to Belgrade was created to be rejected. It blamed Serbia for not accepting the annexation of Bosnia. It claimed that the assassination was planned in Belgrade, where the assassins received financial support, training and weapons (which was correct, except that the government was not involved), and that Serbia’s border officials secured a safe passage for the assassins, which was correct, although, again, this was done without the approval and knowledge of the government in Belgrade. The Dual Monarchy demanded of Serbia to ban all publications that spread anti-Habsburg propaganda, to dissolve the National Defence (no reference to the Black Hand was made) and remove all military personnel who were involved in activities against Austria-Hungary. Points 5 and 6 demanded of Serbia to agree to the participation of Austro-Hungarian officials in the suppression of anti-Habsburg activities inside Serbia and a full joint investigation of all persons involved in the conspiracy who are to be found on Serbia’s territory, respectively. Because these two points demanded presence of foreign investigators in Serbia, they were deemed, not just by Serbia, as impeding the country’s sovereignty if accepted.22 As the Habsburg army began to move towards the border with Serbia, Regent Aleksandar asked Tsar Nicholas for Russia’s help. 21

Jovanović, Borba za narodno ujedinjenje, 22; Mitrović, Srb. u prv. sv. ratu, 56. Mitrović, Srb. u prv. sv. ratu, 58–67.

22

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The government informed the British minister in Belgrade that Austro-Hungarian demands ‘were such that no government of an independent state could ever comply fully’ and hoped Britain might influence Austria-Hungary to modify its position. Edward Grey, the British Foreign Minister, and Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, agreed with Serbia’s assessment of the ultimatum as extremely harsh, but neither Britain nor other potential allies were able to exert much influence on Vienna.23 The Serbian cabinet worked on the text of the reply almost nonstop. The document, authored by Pašić and Stojan Protić, was drafted in good time, but its French translation was not finished until just before the d ­ eadline.24 While the cabinet was in session, Serbian public waited impatiently and anxiously. Foreign journalists and spies descended on Belgrade, as all sorts of rumours spread and newspapers published sensationalist stories, though press reporting was more moderate than previously. There was a sense of anxiety and fear, and there was hope that Russia will come to the rescue, though the latter ‘did not have any influence on Serbia’s reply’, Jovan Jovanović recalled.25 The tsar’s reply to Belgrade’s plea arrived two days after Serbia had responded to the ultimatum. Indeed, Serbia’s decision-making was more independent from St Petersburg than it is often assumed and in any case Russia’s support was by no means certain in summer 1914.26 According to Baron Giesl von Gieslingen, Austro-Hungarian minister in Belgrade, Pašić delivered the reply five minutes before the deadline. ‘His extremely intelligent eyes looked drearily serious’, Giesl recalled, adding that Pašić told him in imperfect German that his government accepted some demands and as for the rest its 23

Clark, The Sleepwalkers, 456; Jovanović, Borba za narodno ujedinjenje, 25–27; Mitrović, Srb. u prv. sv. ratu, 60. 24 Mitrović, Srb. u prv. sv. ratu, 63–64. 25 Jovanović, Borba za narodno ujedinjenje, 26. 26 Cornwall, ‘Serbia’; Vasilij N. Štrandman [Basil de Strandman], Balkanske uspomene, Belgrade, 2009.

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hopes rested with the ‘loyalty and chivalry of you [Giesl] as an Austrian General’. Giesl left Belgrade almost immediately, his and his staff’s luggage already packed, but not before breaking off diplomatic relations with Serbia. In expectation of an imminent attack on Belgrade, the government set off for Niš, some 240 kilometres south of the capital. The army headquarters moved to Kragujevac (the nineteenth-century capital located in central Serbia), albeit without the chief of staff, who was still in Austria-Hungary.27 Serbia’s reply was measured carefully, its tone in stark contrast to the combative language of the ultimatum. The Belgrade government accepted all demands, but claimed it did not understand fully point 5, while as regards point 6, it was prepared to accept it so long as it did not contravene international law or domestic judiciary, in effect rejecting these two demands. The reply ended with a note stating that ‘[t]he Royal Government considers it to be in the interest of both parties not to hurry in deciding this matter’, adding that it was prepared ‘in the event that the Imperial and Royal Government is not satisfied with this reply’, to either bring the dispute ‘before the International Court in the Hague’ or to ask for the mediation by ‘the Great Powers’ that assisted in solving the post-annexation crisis in March 1909.28 The Serbian response was so well put together that Alexander Musulin von Gomirje, one of the authors of the ultimatum, described it as ‘[t]he most brilliant specimen of diplomatic skill’ he had ever seen.29

27

Mitrović, Srb. u prv. sv. ratu, 64. In a gentlemanly act, the Habsburg authorities arranged for a special train to transport Vojvoda Putnik back to Serbia after the war had been declared. Putnik promptly assumed the command of the Serbian army and oversaw its successful defence and counterattack in August–September. 28 Mitrović, Srb. u prv. sv. ratu, 66; Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, II, 617. 29 Clark, The Sleepwalkers, 464. Musulin’s family hailed from an Orthodox Serb village near Gomirje, in the Croatian Military Border. Because his ancestors converted to Catholicism, this branch of the Musulins ‘became’ Croats. In any case, Baron Musulin von Gomirje was one of many Habsburg South

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Kaiser Wilhelm now believed there was no longer any reason for war and that Austria-Hungary should call off military mobilization. Serbia followed Russia’s advice and withdrew its forces from the border with the Dual Monarchy into the hinterland, although full mobilization was still carried out.30 In neighbouring Montenegro, the government in Cetinje cabled Belgrade following an emergency session on 24 July, to say Russia’s advice should be followed, but that in any case Montenegro stands with Serbia, as ‘her [Serbia’s] destiny is our destiny too.’ Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war arrived in Niš at around lunchtime on 28 July. Written in French, it was cabled by ordinary telegraph service via Bucharest. According to some eyewitnesses, Pašić received the telegram while having lunch at a restaurant called Evropa (Europe). Not sounding the least surprised, he allegedly said: ‘Austria has declared war on us. Our cause is just. God will help us.’31 King Nikola proclaimed that ‘Our Serbian People will emerge from the tribulation that has been imposed on us and secure a bright future. My Montenegrins are already at the border, ready to die for the defence of our independence.’32 Hours later, Belgrade was bombarded, while cries of ‘Serbien muss Sterbien’ (‘Serbia must die’) could be heard through the Dual Monarchy. Exactly one month after the Sarajevo assassination, the Great War had thus begun, which neither Serbia nor Austria-Hungary would survive. The latter disintegrated, its South Slav territories joining Serbia and Montenegro in the new, Yugoslav state that was formed on 1 December 1918; in the process, Serbia and Montenegro ceased to exist as independent Slavs – including Orthodox Serbs – who identified with and served the empire loyally. His mastery of the French was one, though not the only, reason why he was asked to draft the ultimatum. Zametica, Folly and Malice, 543. 30 ‘Manifest kr.[aljevske] srpske vlade’, Belgrade, 25 (12) July 1914, DokKSHS, 1. 31 Mitrović, Srb. u prv. sv. ratu, 5, 68; Petrovich, A History of Modern Serbia, 618. 32 ‘Proklamacija crnogorskoga kralja Nikole’, Cetinje, 7 August (25 July) 1914, DokKSHS, 6–7; cf. Rakočević, 32–34, 46.

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countries. Serbia’s wartime losses were possibly higher than that of any other country, relatively speaking, and Serbia suffered more than any other part of future Yugoslavia. The invading Austro-Hungarian troops, which included South Slav conscripts, committed atrocities and war crimes. Between 3,000 and 4,000 civilians were executed in the region of Šabac in the early stages of the war; there were instances of torture and rape, destruction of religious and cultural sites and killing of domestic animals, vital for the human survival in this predominantly agricultural society. Some 50,000 civilians were confined to concentration camps (40,000 in Austria-Hungary, the rest in Serbia), not counting tens of thousands of prisoners of war (PoWs). Meanwhile, Belgrade and other Serbian towns were indiscriminately bombarded. Many individuals had shrapnel wounds that led to the rapid spread of infectious diseases and is probably linked to the terrible spread of typhus. When Bulgarian troops moved into Serbia in Autumn 1915, they too committed crimes against civilians, targeting priests, teachers and women. By October 1915, the population of Belgrade shrunk to 7,000–12,000 from the pre-war total of nearly 82,500 due to death, arrest (including many intellectuals), forced r­ esettlement and fleeing, either abroad or to countryside.33 33

J. Knežević, ‘Reclaiming Their City: Belgraders and the Combat against Habsburg Propaganda through Rumours, 1915–18’, in S. Goebel & D. Keene (eds), Cities into Battlefields: Metropolitan Scenarios, Experiences and Commemorations of Total War, London, 2011, 101–18, 102; J. R. Lampe, Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country, Cambridge, 1996, 109; J. Lyon, Serbia and the Balkan Front, 1914: The Outbreak of the Great War, London, 2015; B. Mladenović, ‘The Bulgarian Occupation Regime in Serbia 1915–1918 in the Light of Austro-Hungarian Documents’, Tokovi istorije (Belgrade), 3, 2020, 11–26; M. Pisarri, Sul Fronte Balcanico: Guerra e crimini contro la populazione civile in Serbia tra il 1914 e il 1918, Novi Sad, 2019; Pavlowitch, Serbia, 100; R. A. Reiss, How Austria-Hungary Waged War in Serbia: Personal Investigation of a Neutral, Paris, 1915; cf. J. E. Gumz, The Resurrection and Collapse of Empire in Habsburg Serbia, 1914–1918, Cambridge, 2009.

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According to a recent study, Serbia lost 162,172 soldiers and officers (the figure includes those who died on battlefield, in military hospitals and in prisoner-of-war camps, but not around 8,750 losses suffered in the 1917 Toplica Uprising). There were around 29,500 disabled Serbian army veterans (this was 45.4 per cent of all Yugoslavia’s ‘war invalids’). Tens of thousands of civilians also died during the war, many from typhoid fever. Another recent study estimates a population decrease in Serbia at around 525,000 (nearly 314,000 in the territory of pre-1912 Serbia) for the period 1911–21 – due to war, disease (typhoid fever, Spanish flu) and emigration. Pre-1912 Serbia, according to the same study, lost 17.2 per cent of its male and 3.9 per cent of its female population during the decade. Demographic losses for the same period may have been as high as 1,152 million people.34 Material damage was just as devastating. Serbia’s agriculture, industry and mines were exploited by the occupation authorities, with no plans for development or for linking them to Habsburg territories in 34

Military losses: M. Bjelajac, ‘Ratni gubici Srbije u Prvom svetskom ratu: Kontroverze oko brojeva’, Tokovi istorije, 1, 2021, 41–84. (I am grateful to Dr Bjelajac for helping me calculate the total figure from a detailed overview of Serbian, Entente and Central Powers’ estimates he provides); population decrease and demographic losses: M. Jagodić and O. Radonjić, ‘Pyrrhic Victory: The Great War and Its Immediate Consequences for Serbia’s Economy’, in I. Vujačić and M. Arandarenko (eds), The Economic Causes and Consequences of the First World War, Belgrade, 2015, 219–35, 224; disabled veterans: J. P. Newman, Yugoslavia in the Shadow of War: Veterans and the Limits of State-building, 1903-1945, Cambridge, 2015 and ‘Forging a United Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes: The Legacy of the First World War and the “Invalid Question”’, in D. Djokić and J. Ker-Lindsay (eds), New Perspectives on Yugoslavia: Key Issues and Controversies, London, 2011, 46–61; Lj. Petrović, Nevidljivi geto: invalidi u Kraljevini Jugoslaviji, 1918–1941, Belgrade, 2007, 119–21; Spanish flu: V. Krivošejev, Epidemija španske groznice u Srbiji 1916–1918, Novi Sad, 2020. The official Yugoslav figures produced for the Paris Peace Conference talked of 402,435 military and 845,000 civilian casualties – the total of 1,247,435 dead would have represented 28 per cent of Serbia’s pre-war population, but these figures were inflated.

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figure 6.1  Nikola Pašić, Prime Minister of Serbia, 23 July 1914 (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector Getty Images)

the west. Livestock decreased significantly (e.g. horses by over 50 per cent and sheep by over 35 per cent) due to requisition by the occupation authorities and death. Out of 450 industrial facilities in pre-1912 Serbia, only 95 still existed in 1919, of which just a few were functional. Before their withdrawal, the occupation forces blew up bridges and railways, while in Belgrade residential homes were vandalized.35

Between Serbia and Yugoslavia Pašić’s coalition government informed in early September 1914 its diplomatic representatives in London, Paris and Petrograd that ‘our aim is to create, out of Serbia, a powerful south-western Slav state that would include all Serbs, all Croats and all Slovenes.’ Serbia’s ‘Yugoslav war aim’ was made public in December, when

35

Jagodić and Radonjić, 227–31; Lampe, Yugoslavia, 109–10.

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the National Assembly convened in Niš proclaimed that Serbia fought ‘to liberate and unite all our unliberated brethren: Serbs, Croats and Slovenes’ into one state.36 It was around this time that Mitrinović started working at the Serbian legation in London. He may have arrived in Britain penniless, but he was not without contacts. He communicated with Prince Kropotkin, a fellow Slav émigré in Britain, mixed with the Bloomsbury set, and contributed to the New Age – an influential publication, albeit with a declining circulation, edited by Alfred Orage – writing on world affairs under a pseudonym. After New Age, came New Britain and New Europe, chairmanship of the British branch of the Adler Society, and finally New Atlantis, Mitrinović’s own utopian-philosophical circle, whose members continued to meet long after his death in 1953. He was buried at London’s Highgate cemetery, not far from Marx, one of his early influences. Around the same time, Tito’s Marxist government exonerated Colonel Apis and celebrated Princip and the Young Bosnians for their pro-Yugoslav and socialist views – an excellent example of how contemporary events, and regime needs, influence interpretations of the past. However, Mitrinović and his role in the creation of Yugoslavia has been largely forgotten. As part of his job at the Serbian legation, he became involved in proYugoslav propaganda activities and helped organize exhibitions of Yugoslav artists in Britain during the war, including Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović, who was a member of the London-based Yugoslav Committee. Formed in Florence in late 1914, before relocating to London the following year, the Yugoslav Committee was led by 36

D. Djokić, ‘From Salonica to Belgrade: The Emergence of Yugoslavia, 1917–1921’, in J. R. Lampe and U. Brunnbauer (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Balkan and Southeast European History, London, 2020, ch. 19, and, for more details, Nikola Pašić and Ante Trumbić: The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, London, 2010, and Elusive Compromise: A History of Interwar Yugoslavia, London, 2007.

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Dalmatian Croat politicians Ante Trumbić and Frano Supilo. The Committee received financial support from the Serbian government, but their relations were often strained due to disagreement over the nature of a future union. Moreover, the Committee’s propaganda was directed not only against Austria-Hungary but also against Italy, Serbia’s ally. Prime Minister Pašić believed the Yugoslav unification should be led by Serbia, not counting Bulgaria the only independent South Slav state other than its close ally, Montenegro, which capitulated in early 1916. Trumbić and Supilo, on the other hand, preferred an equal union, albeit of unequal partners. Unlike the Habsburg Slav lands, Serbia was an independent country and unlike the Yugoslav Committee, the Serbian government had the democratic legitimacy, an army and powerful allies among the allied governments. The Committee included distinguished South Slav political and intellectual personalities, including Meštrović and Serbian-American scientist and Columbia University professor Mihajlo Pupin. In April 1915, Britain, France and Russia promised Italy Dalmatia and Istria in exchange for entering the war on the side of the Entente. When they found out about the secret London Treaty, both the Serbian government and the Yugoslav Committee ‘rejected’ and campaigned against it. The allies had not informed Serbia of their negotiations with Italy but envisaged a ‘compensation’ for Serbia in Bosnia and Serb Orthodox majority parts of Croatia. Later that year, the Entente ‘offered’ Serbia, through Petrograd, Bosnia-Herzegovina in exchange for surrendering the Serbian share of Macedonia to Bulgaria, which would result, it was hoped, in Bulgaria joining the allies. Serbia rejected the offer. It is sometimes suggested that the secret diplomacy of 1915 amounted to a green light by Serbia’s allies for the creation of, after the war, a Greater Serbia. According to this narrative, the Serbian leadership sacrificed ‘national interests’ for Yugoslavia out of a sense of duty and loyalty towards the other South Slavs. Serbia could not have rejected the London Treaty since it was not

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privy to its signing. As for the proposed Bosnia–Macedonia swap, in August 1915, Macedonia was part of Serbia, unlike BosniaHerzegovina. The Pašić government was essentially being asked to surrender a territory it controlled (and for which it had fought in the Balkan Wars) in exchange for the lands Austria-Hungary had recently annexed and for which it was, as we have seen, prepared to risk major regional and international confrontations (in 1878, 1908 and 1914). Secret diplomacy was common during the war – for example, in 1916, the Entente promised Romania the Banat region, parts of which were claimed by Serbia, so Bucharest would enter the war on its side. Such promises depended very much on the war’s outcome, which nobody could have predicted in 1915 or 1916. Although Italy ended up on the victors’ side, it did not receive all the territories it had been promised in London. This was partly because Serbia, and through Serbia the other South Slavs as well, was among the victors in the war, and partly because the US President Wilson was opposed to secret treaties and instead favoured national self-determination. At the same time, if Serbia had been against the South Slav unification, it likely would have been allowed at the end of the war to incorporate all or some of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Vojvodina and Serb-populated parts of the former Croatian Military border. Among the Powers, Italy for one would have been in favour because it would have paved a way to Rome annexing Dalmatia, Istria and parts of Slovenia. It is hard to imagine that Montenegro would have stayed out of a union with an enlarged Serbia, regardless of any opposition from Italy. However, even such a Greater Serbia would have been a de facto smaller Yugoslavia, with large Muslim Slav, Macedonian Slav, Bosnian Catholic and ethnic Albanian, Hungarian and German minorities. After it won heroic victories at Cer and Kolubara in August and November–December 1914, respectively, and managed to hold on for a year and a half, the Serbian army finally gave in to

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figure 6.2  Civilians fleeing the Habsburg army invasion of Serbia, c.1914 (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

the superior enemy. In October 1915, Bulgaria joined AustriaHungary and Germany in a concerted attack on two fronts. Facing a total defeat during winter 1915/16, the army, together with members of the government, the King’s family and some civilians, crossed the mountains of Montenegro and Albania to reach Greece, still a neutral country. Some within the Serbian leadership believed the army should face the superior enemy at the site of the 1389 Kosovo Battle and perish there like Prince Lazar and his knights did. Common sense prevailed and the army set off on an epic journey instead. It took with them thousands of Habsburg army prisoners of war, including a young Croatian writer Mile Budak, the future minister in the Second World War Croatian government. Budak later wrote an autobiographical novel describing the experience. In one scene, starving Serbian soldiers and their prisoners, walking skeletons virtually indistinguishable from each other, sat around a dead horse and shared whatever meat was left of the unfortunate animal.37 37

M. Budak, Ratno roblje: Albanski križni put austrougarskih zarobljenih časnika, Zagreb, 1991 (first publ. 1941), 128.

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Following the retreat, during which tens of thousands died of starvation, cold, disease or fighting Albanian guerrillas and brigands, the Serbian government-in-exile and most of the army reached Corfu in early 1916. Around 120 National Assembly deputies who retreated together with, or as members of, the army, convened in exile. Serbia may have been occupied, but its exiled government had at its disposal a parliament and an army. It was an exhausted force, reduced by one half to less than 150,000 surviving soldiers and officers, but nevertheless an army. After Serbia’s defeat, Pašić unofficially adopted a ‘minimalist’ aim, of restoring and possibly extending Serbia, before eventually uniting with the other South Slavs. At the same time, Regent Aleksandar, Pašić’s coalition partners, the Independent Radicals and most Serbian intellectuals maintained a ‘Yugoslav line’. Rather than seeing this as the lack of ‘national unity’, lamented by nationalists, Serbia’s politics during the Great War showed a remarkable capacity for plurality and d ­ ifference of opinion. During the First World War, the myth of the medieval Kosovo battle proved useful to the Entente propaganda in which Serbia’s history was viewed exclusively in terms of a heroic struggle against tyranny (Ottoman Turks, Hungarians, Austro-Germans, Bulgarians – all, of course, the Entente wartime enemies). On the anniversary of the battle in 1915 and 1916, British and French schools offered lessons on Serbian history, while a Kossovo Day Committee was formed in London by Elsie Inglis, R. W. Seton-Watson and Arthur Evans of the London Times among others. In early July 1916, Anglican priests prayed for Serbia and its dynasty, joined by Archimandrite Nikolaj Velimirović of Žiča monastery, the first Orthodox Christian to preach at St Paul’s Cathedral. (In 2016, Serbian Patriarch Irinej (2010–20) held a service at the Cathedral jointly with Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury (since 2013), to mark the centenary of the event). Velimirović would later take part in liturgies at New York’s St John the Divine, the largest Gothic cathedral in

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North America, where on 16 June 1918 a special service was held to mark ‘the Kossovo Day’ – as both a Serbian national day and a day dedicated to the South Slavs ‘and other oppressed nations’. US sculptor Malvina Hoffman (a pupil of Rodin and an admirer of Meštrović) had previously visited the Gračanica monastery in Kosovo, and upon her return lit candles she brought back from the monastery during ‘a special service of thanks­giving on 15 June, Kossovo Day, attended by 5,000 Yugo-Slavs and directed by Reverend Howard C. Robbins, then Dean of the Cathedral, and one of the most loyal and devoted friends of Yugo-Slavia throughout the war.’38

The Corfu Declaration An emphasis on wartime disagreements between the Serbian government and the Yugoslav Committee in the existing literature tends to overshadow equally important examples of mutual understanding on key issues such as a common goal to create a Yugoslav state under the Serbian dynasty, and a somewhat exaggerated claim that all South Slavs spoke the same language. Members of the Yugoslav Committee argued that Serbs, Croats and Slovenes were and had always been one nation, kept apart only by divisions imposed by their foreign rulers. However, they also believed that, 38

M. Hoffman, Heads and Tales, New York, 1936, 126. Three quarters of a century later, on 28 March 1994, the New York Newsday reported: ‘The Episcopal bishop of New York yesterday dedicated Palm Sunday services and a new sculpture at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to victims of the killing in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bishop Richard Grein also asked churchgoers to remember the Jewish victims of the Holocaust during World War II and the Armenians who were slaughtered by the Turks in the early part of the century.’ Thus, it might be said that St John the Divine Cathedral – where, incidentally, funeral services were held, in 1935 and 1943, respectively, for Mihajlo Pupin and Nikola Tesla, two great American-Serb scientists – symbolizes the highs and the lows of Serbia’s history and of its standing in the West, on both ends of Yugoslavia.

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like other national ideas, ‘the idea of Southern Slav unity was modern in its essence’, and that it demanded ‘clear self-consciousness, a wide mental outlook, and an enlightened intelligentsia.’39 Another overlooked unifying factor was the belief in a moral superiority of their cause. They viewed themselves as representatives and advocates of liberal-democratic values, which included national self-determination – just like their western allies, but unlike their main enemies, the Habsburg and German empires and Bulgaria (whose monarch, incidentally, styled himself tsar – or emperor). When in May 1917 South Slav deputies in the Austrian parliament called for autonomy within the Habsburg Empire, Trumbić issued an appeal to the British parliament, dismissing the declaration as unrepresentative and the Reichsrat (Austrian parliament) as an undemocratic institution. The May declaration accelerated talks between the Serbian government and the Committee, leading to their meeting at Corfu that summer and a joint statement that ‘this three-named [Serb-Croat-Slovene] people of ours is one according to blood, spoken and written language, the feelings of unity and continuity and compactness of territory in which it lives’. The Corfu Declaration included another important statement: ‘[…] the authorised representatives of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes […] demand on the basis of the principle of free national determination that the [Yugoslav nation] be wholly liberated […] and united in a free, national and independent state…based on modern and democratic principles.’40 This was one of the arguments deployed by the Yugoslavs at the Paris Peace Conference (see the following text). The nineteenth-century visions of a greater South Slav state, formed around Serbia, did not stand a chance mainly because of the

39

‘Idea of Southern Slav Unity’, Southern Slav Library (London), 5 (1916), 17. ‘Krfska deklaracija od 20. (7.) jula 1917’, DokKSHS, 96–99. My emphasis; cf. K. St. Pavlowitch, ‘The First World War and the Unification of Yugoslavia’, in D. Djokić (ed.), Yugoslavism: Histories of a Failed Idea, 1918–1992, London, 2003, 27–41.

40

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lack of support of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires and most other Great Powers. Such visions were simply not compatible with the ‘Concert of Europe’ nor how the Powers imagined the Eastern Question should be resolved. Things would change following the 1912–18 wars, which saw the end of both Ottoman and Habsburg rule in the Balkans, while the idea of a South Slav union gained a powerful supporter in the United States, which entered the war in April 1917. The Yugoslav agitators’ argument that Serbs, Croats and Slovenes were members of a single ethnic nation fitted President Wilson’s ideology. At the same time, Russia, Pašić’s main ally but somewhat sceptical of a Serb–Croat union, had exited the war following the 1917 revolutionary turmoil.

From Salonica to Belgrade A three-way political struggle from before the war between Prime Minister Pašić, Regent Aleksandar and Colonel Apis came to a head in late 1916. The first two put on hold their differences to remove Apis, who may or may not had been conspiring against one or both. Accused of plotting to assassinate the regent, the Black Hand leader and several other members of the organization were executed after a hasty trial in Salonica in June 1917, prompting the fall of the coalition government. Serbia’s reputation among the Allies suffered as a result of what was obviously a show trial, and there were also suspicions that the whole affair was arranged to facilitate a separate peace between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. Despite competing visions of Yugoslavia, evolving views and reversals among the South Slav leaders, all key political actors supported a Yugoslav union by late 1918: Serbia’s government, the regent, and opposition parties, the South Slav emigres in London, Croatian, Slovene and Serb political leaders in Austria-Hungary, and Montenegro’s political emigration. To be sure, the idea of a Serb-dominated centralized Yugoslavia was close to Pašić’s heart,

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and it was probably also how many Serbs understood Yugoslavia, consciously or not. However, the pro-Yugoslav Serbian opposition and Serbian intellectuals included federalists and republicans, making it difficult to view the Serbian politics as a united front.41 Although Yugoslav nationalism was largely a secular project, it received support from the main religious groups, Serbian Orthodox dioceses and the Roman Catholic Church in Habsburg South Slav regions. Muslims from Bosnia-Herzegovina were on the margins of Yugoslav unification, but their intellectuals supported cooperation, and sometimes identified with Croats and/ or Serbs. Muslims from Kosovo, Macedonia and Sandžak fought in the Serbian army, having been mobilized after Serbia took over these regions in 1912–13. The Jewish community of future Yugoslavia also supported the creation of the new state that brought Ashkenazim and Sephardim together as Yugoslavs. Recuperated and rearmed by the French and the British, Serbian troops had taken back a small part of Vardar Macedonia before the end of 1916, but this came at the heavy cost of 4,000–5,000 killed and wounded at the Battle of Kajmakčalan/Kaimaki. The Serbian and Bulgarian armies subsequently dug in behind trenches usually associated with the Western front. For about a year, the Balkan front remained relatively quiet, so much so that Georges Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister, mockingly described the Allied troops in Macedonia, mainly French and Serbian, as ‘gardeners of Salonica’. The brutality of the Bulgarian occupation inside Serbia provoked a short-lived uprising in the southern Toplica region in February 1917. One of the leaders of the rebellion was Kosta Pećanac, a Četnik (Serb guerillas) commander who had prior to the war fought the Ottomans and Bulgarians in Macedonia.42 The breakthrough came in mid-September 1918. 41

Lj. Trgovčević, Naučnici Srbije i stvaranje Jugoslavije, 1914–1920, Belgrade, 1987. 42 A. Mitrović, Toplički ustanak: Mesto u srpskoj istoriji, Belgrade, 1993.

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figure 6.3  A Serbian soldier being shaved in a trench by one of his comrades at the Macedonian front, c.1916 (Topical Press Agency/ Getty Images)

Under the command of French General Franchet d’Espèray, the Serbian army, British and French units, many of them from Africa and India, and Greek and Italian divisions pushed back and defeated combined Bulgarian, Austro-Hungarian and German forces. In early October, the Serbian troops were in southern Serbia and Kosovo, and on 1 November, Belgrade was liberated. The army then pushed the enemy out of Vojvodina, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro and rushed to the eastern Adriatic to prevent Italian occupation of contested territory in Dalmatia, Istria and Slovenia.

The Serb–Croat–Slovene Kingdom Meanwhile, Habsburg South Slav political representatives formed a National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs in Zagreb on 8 October 1918. Three weeks later, and one day after AustriaHungary sued for peace, on 29 October, the Council proclaimed

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the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, a transitional polity independent from Austria-Hungary and on its way to unification with Serbia and Montenegro. Statements of support came from Ljubljana, Sarajevo and Novi Sad. It might be said that with this act, Zagreb rejected the May Declaration and began implementing the Declaration of Corfu. On the same day, the Croatian Sabor (Assembly) and ban (Governor), two medieval institutions preserved under the terms of the 1102 Pacta conventa with Hungary, and a similar arrangement with Austria in 1527, severed all ties with Budapest and Vienna. The Sabor recognized the supreme authority of the National Council, in the process dissolving itself and the office of the ban. An independent Croatia had thus existed for a matter of minutes, between the proclamation of independence from Austria-Hungary and the decision to enter the new, Slovene–Croat–Serb state, as an important step towards a full Yugoslav union. Serbia gave up its sovereignty by entering the union with the Slovene–Croat–Serb state on 1 December 1918, as had Montenegro, whose pro-Serb leaders proclaimed the unification with Serbia a week previously, but Croatia too gave up its centuries-old institutions. Previously, representatives of the Serbian government, the National Council and the Yugoslav Committee met for talks in Geneva in early November. The Serbian opposition also took part, siding with the Habsburg Yugoslavs and against Pašić over the question of the nature of the union. A joint declaration promised a union of equal partners, but it ultimately came to nothing due to its rejection by both the Serbian parliament and the National Council. Ironically, the greatest threat to Yugoslav territorial ambitions was posed by two of Serbia’s wartime allies, Romania and Italy. The dispute with Romania and Hungary over the Banat region would be settled by its partition at the Paris Peace Conference – mainly between Yugoslavia and Romania, with only a small part going to Hungary. The disputed region saw disturbances and violence between various military units loyal to newly created states and

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Béla Kun’s communist republic. A short-lived ‘Serb–Hungarian Baranja–Baja Republic’ was proclaimed in Pečuj/Pécs in August 1921, under the presidency of Petar Dobrović, a Hungarian Serb modernist painter. Serb/Yugoslav army occupied parts of Hungary before withdrawing after the Peace Conference.43 In Autumn 1918, Italian forces sought to occupy the eastern Adriatic, as promised in the secret Treaty of London. The Yugoslavs claimed same territory on the nationality principle and cited Croatian historical ‘state rights’. As Italian troops advanced towards central Croatia and Slovenia, the army of the Slovene– Croat–Serb state, hastily assembled from former members of the disbanded Habsburg army and police, issued a plea for help to the Entente. The Serbian High Command responded by sending troops to the contested territories. The capture of Ljubljana by Italians was only prevented by a unit made up of former prisoners of war commanded by a Serbian officer. Rijeka/Fiume and the Bay of Kvarner/Carnaro was defended by the Second Battalion of the 50th Serbian Infantry Regiment. Only the presence of allied troops prevented an outbreak of a war between Italy and Serbia/the South Slavs. Serbian troops were greeted as liberators, but the level of support among Croats and other non-Serbs for a union with Serbia is hard to estimate. Several contemporary sources suggest that support existed among ‘ordinary people’ for some sort of a South Slav union. Most people, however, were probably indifferent to what kind of state they would live in as long as it brought peace, stability and relative prosperity. After four years of war and at the time when there was widespread hunger, uncertainty prevailed in the South Slav regions of the rapidly dissolving Habsburg Empire. In late 1918, Trumbić was in Paris but urged the National Council to press ahead with the unification with Serbia, given the 43

I. J. Lederer, Yugoslavia at the Paris Peace Conference: A Study in Frontiermaking, New Haven, CT, 1963, 100–103; Prota S. Mihaldžić, Dnevnik, ed. by D. Njegovan, Novi Sad, 2000, 172–73; A. Mitrović, Jugoslavija na Konferenciji mira, 1919–1920, Belgrade, 1969.

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grave situation in his native Dalmatia. When in mid-­November Regent Aleksandar conveyed to the National Council Serbia’s desire to start talks about unification, the Zagreb deputies responded with enthusiasm. The only dissenting voice came from the Croatian People’s Peasant Party, but its leader Stjepan Radić was in a small minority, and not opposed to some sort of a South Slav union. Meanwhile, predominantly Serb municipalities in Bosnia-Herzegovina also pushed for the unification, while on 25 November representatives of Hungarian Serbs proclaimed the unification of Vojvodina with Serbia – the only act of union still in place today. Italy supported the Albanian, Macedonian and Montenegrin guerrillas opposed to the creation of Yugoslavia or, in the case of some Montenegrins, to what they believed was the occupation of Montenegro by Serbia. Supporters of exiled King Nikola rose in arms against the Podgorica Grand National Assembly of the Serb People in Montenegro, which had proclaimed Montenegro’s union with Serbia on 26 November. The proclamation cited Wilsonian principles of national self-determination and historic and ethnic unity with Serbia and Serbs; it was to be the last phase in a centuries-long struggle to (re-)unite two Serb states. The Podgorica deputies saw Montenegro’s merger with Serbia as a step towards a broader South Slav union. They were supported by both the Montenegrin communists and the Orthodox church. In anticipation of the restoration of a united Serbian Orthodox Church, and echoing the decisions of the Podgorica Assembly, the Metropolitanate at Cetinje declared on 16 December 1918 that ‘the Archiepiscopal Council of the autocephalous church in Montenegro unanimously decided to unite with the independent Holy Orthodox Church in the Kingdom of Serbia’.44 44

I. Avakumović, History of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, Aberdeen, 1964, 48n; R. Radić, Život u vremenima: Patrijarh Gavrilo (Dožić): 1881–1950, Belgrade, 2011, 127.

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HUNGARY

AUSTRIA

CR

AUSTRIA- HUNGARY

ITALY

TIA-SLAVONIA OA

BOSNIADA HERZEGOVINA LM KINGDOM AT IA OF ADRIATIC SERBIA KINGDOM SEA OF MONTENEGRO

Post 1918 borders of Yugoslavia Austro-Hungarian lands Hungary Austrian lands Croatia (associated with Hungary) Bosnia-Herzegovina (Austrian-Hungarian condominium)

ALBANIA

GREECE

map 6.1  The formation of Yugoslavia in 1918. Drawn by Joe LeMonnier, https://mapartist.com/, based on a map originally published in Stevan K. Pavlowitch, Yugoslavia, London: Benn, 1971, p. 49

After a 48-hour journey through war-damaged country, Zagreb delegates arrived in Belgrade at the end of November, to formally seek the unification with Serbia. They were received by Regent Aleksandar at 8:00 p.m. on 1 December 1918 in a temporary residence near the Terazije Square in central Belgrade. Present also were three Serbian government ministers (but not Prime Minister Pašić, who was away), and Vojvoda (Field Marshal) Mišić, chief of staff of the supreme command of the Serbian army. The National Council’s address stated that Slovenes, Serbs and Croats, who had temporarily created their own state, decided to unite with

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Serbia on the principle of national self-determination in a unified kingdom under the Karadjordjević dynasty and a modern, democratic government. The address ended with cheers for King Petar, Regent Aleksandar, the ‘whole, united Serbo–­Croat– Slovene people’, and a ‘free, united Yugoslavia’. Aleksandar duly responded by announcing, in the name of his father King Petar, ‘the unification of Serbia with the lands of the independent State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs into a united Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.’ Later that month, the Serbian skupština convened to endorse the act of union and in the process dissolve itself. The new kingdom was informally called Yugoslavia, until in 1929 it became its official name. A provisional Serb–Croat–Slovene National Assembly (also called the skupština) and a government were set up, taking into account regional and party representation. The Radicals were considered the largest party, but due to a conflict with the Regent, Pašić did not become the first Yugoslav prime minister – that honour went to his party comrade Protić. Trumbić, not a member of any political party, was appointed Yugoslavia’s first Foreign Minister. He would spend much of the following year and a half in Paris, as Pašić’s deputy in the Yugoslav peace delegation. A 294-member provisional parliament convened on 1 March 1919 on the basis of regional representation. Pre-1912 Serbia had 84 deputies, Kosovo and Macedonia 24, Montenegro 12, Vojvodina 24, Bosnia-Herzegovina 42, Croatia-Slavonia 60, Dalmatia 12, Istria 4 and Slovenia 32. As the largest South Slav group (see Table 6.1), it should not have come as a surprise that Serbs formed a majority in the interim representation, but complaints about Serb over-­ representation were nevertheless heard, and were not unjustified. Centralism prevailed eventually, following prolonged parliamentary debates and backroom deals. The Democrats (newly formed by the Independent Radicals, members of the Croat–Serb Coalition and Slovene liberals) and Pašić’s Radicals were the largest parties in the November 1920 elections for a Constituent

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War and Interwar (1914–1944) Table 6.1  Population of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes by ethnicity, 1921 Total population Total number of South Slavs, of which:* Serbs (incl. c.200,000 Montenegrins) Croats Slovenes Bosnian Muslims Macedonians

11,985,000 9,835,000 (82% of the total population) 4,813,000 (40.1%) 2,797,000 (23.3%) 1,020,000 (8.5%) 740,000 (6.2%) 465,000 (3.9%)

Largest non-South Slav ethnic minorities: Germans Albanians Hungarians

512,000 (4.3%) 484,000 (4%) 472,000 (3.9%)

Source: B. Kočović, Etnički i demografski razvoj u Jugoslaviji, od 1921. do 1991. godine, 2 vols, Paris, 1998. *Kočović’s figures are estimates as the 1921 population census recorded language and religion only.

Assembly, with 92 and 91 seats, respectively (out of total 419 seats). The rivalry between the two parties was set aside to advocate a centralist constitution they both preferred. Meanwhile, alternative proposals were tabled, including from Serb federalists and republicans. Communist deputies initially took part in parliamentary sessions, before boycotting the vote on constitution. Sima Marković (1888–1939), a Serb Social-Democrat and one of the founders of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, shouted ‘Long live the Soviet republic!’, to which other deputies responded with ‘Long live the King!’. During the 1920s, when the Party functioned illegally following its ban by the authorities in the wake of the assassination of a Democract defence minister by a communist in July 1921, Marković represented ‘right fraction’, which advocated a federal Yugoslavia; the ‘left fraction’ supported the then Comintern line that as the creation of the ‘bourgeois’ Versailles peace Yugoslavia should dissolve; this

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changed from the mid-1930s when Yugoslavia came to be seen by Moscow as an important member of the ‘Popular Front’. With most Party leaders either in Yugoslav prisons or in Soviet exile, factionalism continued into the late 1930s, until Cominternbacked Tito was appointed in Moscow the new general secretary of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. Marković and other rival leaders, such as Montenegro-born Petko Miletić (1897–c.1940), disappeared in Stalinist purges in the Soviet Union.45 Back in 1921, the Democrat–Radical alliance only succeeded in pushing through their centralist proposal thanks to the support of Muslim deputies from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia, in exchange for political and economic concessions. The vote was 223 for and 35 against, with 161 abstentions. Without the boycott by the third and fourth largest political parties, the Communists (58 seats) and the Croatian Peasant Republican Party (50), respectively, the centralist proposal would not have won a clear majority and it might well have been rejected. The vote took place on 28 June, the anniversary of the 1389 Kosovo Battle and of the 1914 Sarajevo assassination, and exactly two years after, the peace treaty with Germany signed at Versailles. Thus, from the very beginning, the Yugoslav Kingdom was associated with the central Serbian historical event and with the consequences of the 1914 assassination. Parallel to preparing for elections for the constituent assembly, the interim Yugoslav government needed to assemble a delegation for the peace conference that began in Paris in January 1919. Initially accepted by the conference as a delegation of the Kingdom of Serbia due to Italy’s opposition to the Yugoslav (and Serb-Montenegrin) union and the other Allies’ reluctance to accept recent Habsburg subjects (and in one case a former Austrian 45

A. Djilas, The Contested Country: Yugoslav Unity and Communist Revolution, 1919–1953, Cambridge, MA, 1991, chps 2 & 3; M. Djilas, Memoir of a Revolutionary, transl. by D. Willen, New York, 1973.

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minister, now the leading Slovene member of the Yugoslav team), the delegation also suffered from internal rivalries. Pašić, who was the head of the delegation, and Trumbić, his deputy and Foreign Minister in the provisional government, nonetheless managed to put their differences aside, largely because they, and other delegates, shared a common goal: the international recognition of the Serb–Croat–Slovene Kingdom in the borders the South Slavs claimed on ethnic, historic and geopolitical reasons. The delegation was not without some major advantages. Many of the territories it claimed had a South Slav majority, much of this territory was also under the control of the Serbian/new Yugoslav army, and Serbia’s war effort counted for considerable international prestige. Among sympathetic allies, and ­citing the Wilsonian principle of national self-determination, the Yugoslavs had some powerful weapons with which to counter the rival claims of their neighbours, especially Italy. Pašić’s reputation meant that it did not matter much that the Yugoslavs were the only major delegation not led by a head of state or government; on the other hand, having to consult the government in Belgrade for all key decisions slowed down the delegates’ work. By the time the delegation left Paris in July 1920, it had secured international recognition of the country and most of the territories it had originally claimed. The one exception was the dispute with Italy over the eastern Adriatic, which was eventually mostly resolved in Rapallo in November 1920, to the full satisfaction of neither side. On the surface at least, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (as Yugoslavia was officially known between 1918 and 1929) was a prototype ‘successor state’ to the Habsburg monarchy. It was burdened by a complex pre-war legacy, including a delayed (certainly in comparison with western Europe and North America) and regionally uneven modernization. Its population had suffered unprecedented losses through violence and disease during the wars of 1912–1918, and infrastructure was seriously damaged. The violence, albeit on a smaller scale, continued into

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the 1920s, like it did elsewhere in post-war Europe.46 Yet, the new state appeared politically and economically viable, and despite considerable challenges its future seemed relatively bright. As did the future of the new international order created in Paris, of which Yugoslavia was to be a key European member. Yugoslavia was not created in Versailles, as has been sometimes claimed. The fate of the interwar Yugoslav state, however, would increasingly depend on the fate of the Versailles settlement, the first major treaty that mentioned the Serb–Croat–Slovene state and thus effectively amounted to its international recognition. The peoples of what became Yugoslavia fought on different sides during what, for Serbia at least, was a six-year war (1912– 18). It would be too simplistic to reduce this conflict to ethnicity. Many Serbs fought loyally in the Habsburg army, while some Croats and Slovenes joined the Serbian army, which also included non-Serbs from Kosovo, Sandžak and Macedonia. Nevertheless, Yugoslavia needed to reconcile a society that was in some ways divided before it could be united. Both the unification process and the interwar politics were dominated by Serbs from pre-1912 Serbia. To them it was natural that Serbia should dominate, since it alone possessed a government, state bureaucracy, parliament based on universal (male) suffrage and an army, capable of securing the country’s borders before the peace delegation could achieve Yugoslavia’s diplomatic recognition in Paris. The complex constitutional debates have been discussed, and while centralism was a Serb-preferred form of government, Pašić’s 1921 Constitution did not provide for Serbia’s domination over Yugoslavia in the way Bismarck’s Constitution enabled Prussia’s dominance of the federal German Empire 50 years earlier. While there was an 46

D. Tasić, Paramilitarism in the Balkans: Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Albania, 1917–1924, Oxford, 2020; cf. R. Gerwarth, The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, New York, 2016; P. M. Judson, The Habsburg Empire: A New History, Cambridge, MA, 2016, ch. 8, Epilogue.

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expectation that Macedonian Slavs would be assimilated into the Serbian ‘tribe’, and possibly Bosnian Muslims too, no such plans existed for Croats and Slovenes.

Society, Economy, Culture Difficulties surrounding the formation of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1920 were not unlike those experienced by the South Slav political leaders during the same period. The church was a successor of the Peć Patriarchate, abolished in 1766, but it was also a new institution that brought together the long-established Orthodox centres in Belgrade, Cetinje and Sremski Karlovci (and Ohrid, which had been claimed by the Bulgarian church). This complex legacy was partly acknowledged in the title of the modern Serbian patriarchs – Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and the Serb Patriarch. There was an expectation that a Montenegro-born bishop would become the head of the Serbian church, because the head of state was from Serbia. Similarly, Bosnian bishops pushed for their own candidate, but in the end Serbia-born Metropolitan Dimitrije of Belgrade was elected as the first modern Serb patriarch (1920–30). In some ways, his election mirrored the political domination in Yugoslavia of Serbs from Serbia. The Serbian Orthodox Church was a national (that is Serb) rather than state (Serb–Croat–Slovene/Yugoslav) church. Its clergy welcomed the creation of Yugoslavia, among other reasons because for the first time since the late sixteenth century, most of its believers lived in a single state. On the other hand, unlike in the kingdom of Serbia, there was no state religion in Yugoslavia. The Serb–Croat–Slovene kingdom was in the eyes of its creators and advocates the state of the Yugoslav nation, which consisted of three ‘tribes’ (Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) and three faiths (Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Sunni Islam). Thus, Muslim Slavs of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sandžak

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were implicitly acknowledged in the official discourse that, as the original name of the state implied, explicitly recognized Serbs, Croats and Slovenes only.47 Integrating a largely South Slav-populated area but often without a sustained history of previous political and economic unity was going to be a major challenge under the best of circumstances. Formerly Habsburg Slovenia, Croatia-Slavonia and Vojvodina had experienced a rising external trade and beginnings of industrialization in the early twentieth century; to a lesser degree, the same was true of Dalmatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Meanwhile, Serbia had also seen growth of its exports, mainly of livestock, and nascent industrialization. (However, this applied mostly to pre-1912 Serbia, which had no time to integrate fully the newly acquired territories in the south). Austria-Hungary was Serbia’s main trading partner, but only 1 per cent of that trade was with Habsburg Croatia. Thus, as John Lampe has shown, the Serb–Croat axis, key to Yugoslavia’s success, had to be built without a prior history of economic cooperation. To make things worse, when it was created, Yugoslavia possessed four railway networks, five currencies and six legal systems and custom unions. Particularly damaging for trust building between Belgrade and Zagreb was a disagreement over the rate at which the defunct Austro-Hungarian currency should be exchanged for the new Yugoslav dinar. The compromise rate of 5:1 satisfied almost nobody, as the former Habsburg citizens of the new state demanded the 1:1 exchange rate, while Serbia’s economic experts initially suggested 10:1.48 47

Radić, Život u vremenima, 113–16, and ‘Religion in a Multinational State: The Case of Yugoslavia’, in Djokić (ed.), Yugoslavism, 196–207, 197. 48 J. R. Lampe, ‘The Two Yugoslavias as Economic Unions’, in Djokić (ed.), Yugoslavism, 182–95, 184–85, and ‘Unifying the Yugoslav Economy, 1918–1921: Misery and Early Misunderstandings’, in D. Djordjević (ed.), The Creation of Yugoslavia, 1914–1918, Santa Barbara, CA, 1980, 139–56; J. R. Lampe and M. R. Jackson, Balkan Economic History, 1550–1950, Bloomington, IN, 1982, 278–322.

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Once again, the question of land redistribution arose in the aftermath of the 1912–18 wars. In addition to redistributing land previously owned by large landowners, the interwar Yugoslav state sought to alter the demographic picture in territories that Serbia did not have the time to fully incorporate after the Balkan Wars – in present-day Kosovo and North Macedonia. This was to be done under the cover of the agrarian reform, as emigration of Muslim nonSlavs from the southern territories to Turkey was encouraged. It was also welcomed and facilitated by the newly created Turkish nation state, which sought to populate depopulated parts of Anatolia – where Greeks and Armenians had once lived – with Balkan Turks and peoples of ‘Turkish culture’ (a label flexible enough to include Albanians, though not necessarily Muslim Roma). At the same time, the Yugoslav government sought to replace departed ethnic Turks and Albanians with Slavs: Serb and Montenegrin war veterans were given a priority, but all South Slavs, including Bosnian Muslims, were encouraged to colonize Kosovo and parts of Macedonia. As previously mentioned, Yugoslavia was understood by its creators as the nation state of the South Slavs – Orthodox, Catholics and Muslims. The ‘colonization’ went on throughout the interwar period, but the process was slow and ultimately it failed, partly because of the reluctance of colonists to move to an area where local population was hostile to newcomers. A formal agreement about the resettlement from Yugoslavia to Turkey of around 200,000 Yugoslav ‘Turkish’ families was signed in 1938, but it was never implemented due to the outbreak of the Second World War the following year. The exact number of those who left and those who settled, as well as those who returned, often without notifying the authorities, is hard to establish, though an ethnic Albanian majority in the territory of modern Kosovo and parts of North Macedonia was maintained despite the departure of many.49 49

V. Jovanović, ‘In Search of [a] Homeland? Muslim Migration from Yugoslavia to Turkey, 1918–1941’, Tokovi istorije, 1–2 (2008), 56–67;

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If the lack of previous economic cooperation between Serbia and Croatia and problems posed by the agrarian reform created a challenge to the new Yugoslav state, what to say about obstacles facing the country’s military, tasked with integrating members of until recently mutually belligerent armies? The new Yugoslav army was built on the Serbian army, whose prestige in 1918 was considerable. It included officers from four different armies and military traditions: Austro-Hungarian, Montenegrin, Russian (many ‘White Russian’ officers and soldiers were given asylum in the newly created kingdom) and Serbian. There were in total 3,500 former Serbian officers, 2,590 officers from the former AustroHungarian army (many of whom were ethnic Serbs), 469 from the former Montenegrin army and 12 Russian Tsarist officers. The Serbs, Montenegrins and Russians fought against the AustroHungarians, but only the Serbian army emerged victorious from the war; Montenegro capitulated in 1916, and Russia exited the war the following year. The language of command in the new army was Serbo-Croat, but with military terms from the Serbian army predominating. This was not surprising, since Croatian and Slovenian military terms were associated with the defeated Habsburg army, but it was bound to make the new army appear essentially Serbian rather than Yugoslav. In addition, Serbian and Montenegrin tradition of anti-Ottoman and anti-Habsburg ‘liberation wars’ and resistance was especially promoted by the new army.50 The heroism of the Serbian army in the First World War was rightly celebrated, but it was also mythologized, contributing to E. Pezo, ‘“Re-Conquering” Space: Yugoslav Migration Policies and the Emigration of Non-Slavic Muslims to Turkey (1918–1941)’, in U. Brunnbauer (ed.), Transnational Societies, Transterritorial Politics: Migrations in the (Post-)Yugoslav Region 19th-21st Century, Munich, 2009, 73–94; cf. Z. Janjetović, Deca careva, pastorčad kraljeva: Nacionalne manjine u Jugoslaviji, 1918–1941, Belgrade, 2005. 50 M. Bjelajac, ‘The Military and Yugoslav Unity’, op. cit, and his numerous works on the subject published in Serbo-Croat.

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a public perception that unsurprisingly failed to fully account for the complexity of Serbia’s Great War. Thus, for example, out of some 10,000 Serbian soldiers who formed the defence of Belgrade in 1915, perhaps as many as 1,500 were Sandžak Muslims and Kosovo Albanians. Thousands of Christians and Muslims who fought in the Serbian army came from the ‘new territories’, that is Kosovo, Sandžak and Macedonia, and most of them were ancestors of modern Albanians, Macedonians and Sandžak Muslims/ Bosniaks. Members of a small Jewish community contributed disproportionally to the Serbian officer corps in 1912–18. The contribution of the Serbian Roma went beyond morale-boosting music performances in military orchestras; many fought bravely and lost their lives, despite having to deal frequently with discrimination from their fellow soldiers and officers. At the same time, Habsburg Serbs served in the imperial army and many fought at the Serbian front. The Dual Monarchy’s lack of trust in the Serbs, however, meant that, unlike in the case of other nationalities, there were no predominantly Serb regiments. Nevertheless, in the case of some units, Serbs made up between 27 and 56 per cent of officers and soldiers. Thousands of them died as loyal Habsburg soldiers but were absent from Serbian commemorative rituals and memorials. The integration into the society of many war invalids (c.77,000, of whom c.29,500 were Serbia’s veterans), many of whom fought in different armies, posed a major challenge. These marginalized narratives form part of interwar Yugoslavia’s complex history and, more generally, the history of post-war memory and commemoration in twentieth-century Serbia.51 However, 51

A. R. Miletić and D. Šarenac, Izmedju diskriminacije i neplanirane integracije: Albanci i Bošnjaci u srpskoj uniformi, 1914–1918, Novi Sad, 2021; D. Šarenac, ‘A View of the Disaster and Victory from Below: Serbian Roma Soldiers, 1912–1918’, Social Inclusion, 8:2 (2020), 277–85; Newman, Yugoslavia in the Shadow of War and ‘Forging a United Kingdom’; Petrović, Nevidljivi geto; G. Vasin, ‘Prečanski Srbi u Velikom ratu’, Tragovi (Zagreb) 2:1 (2019), 52–77; cf. O. Manojlović-Pintar, Arheologija sećanja: Spomenici i identiteti u Srbiji, 1918–1989, Belgrade, 2014.

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Croatian and Slovene historical events and figures were celebrated by the new army and, until 1929, when all ‘particularistic’, including Serbian, symbols were banned, Croatian and Slovenian military flags and regiments existed. The Serbs dominated in the officer corps, but as years went by and new, Yugoslav-educated officers arrived, this imbalance was being addressed. Serb generals formed an absolute majority (in 1924 only 4 per cent of all generals were non-Serbs; in 1936, the figure rose to 6.5 per cent), but junior officers were more evenly spread, especially in the late 1930s. They included Zvonimir Vučković, an ethnic Croat who served in the Royal Guard when the Yugoslav government signed adherence to the Tripartite Pact in 1941. Together with two other young officers – a Serb and a Slovene, incidentally – Vučković went over to Greece, to join a struggle against Italian invasion, rather than serve in an army that was allied to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. By the time the three men encountered the nearest Greek troops, news of a military coup reversing the 25 March act had reached them, so they returned to Yugoslavia. Soon afterwards, Vučković joined Colonel Mihailović (see the following text). Had it not been for the Second World War, it is likely that eventually the army would have included considerably more non-Serb officers, including generals. (However, the problem of Serb and Montenegrin over-representation among army officers existed, and was never fully resolved, in socialist Yugoslavia as well.) As for the Yugoslav navy, the picture was almost reversed: in early 1941, non-Serbs made up 82.41 per cent (or 567 out of 688) of all officers and admirals.52 At the same time, the preference among artists and intellectuals was for a Yugoslav cultural ‘synthesis’ rather than domination of one ‘national’ tradition over another. Despite being the most 52

St. K. Pavlowitch, ‘How Many Non-Serb Generals in 1941?’, East European Quarterly, 16:4 (1983), 447–52.

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optimistic adherents of Yugoslavism, the country’s intellectuals recognized that a common Yugoslav culture had to be created for the sake of national unity. Previously mentioned Croat sculptor Meštrović was arguably the best known but not the only representative of this ‘synthetic’ Yugoslavism. His sculptures combined Croatian ‘western’ style with Serbian ‘eastern’ themes. Ivo Andrić, another Croat and Roman Catholic like Meštrović, but born in Bosnia, where he had become an adherent of a Yugoslav union prior to the First World War, wrote his best novels in Belgrade during the Second World War. By then, he had consciously switched to writing in the Serbian ekavski standard of the SerboCroat language.53 Interwar Belgrade was an important centre of modern art, home to leading Yugoslav modernists such as Marko Ristić, Dušan Matić and Stevan Živadinović-Vane Bor, who were well received and collaborated with their counterparts in Croatia and Slovenia. Brothers Ljubomir Micić and Branko Ve Poljanski (Micić), Serbs from Croatia, published avant-garde journal Zenit in Zagreb and Belgrade in the 1920s. They too explored East–West cultural encounters, engaged with their European counterparts, including Romanian-French Tristan Tzara, one of the central figures of the Dadaist movement, and Soviet avant-garde artist El Lissitzky.54 Meanwhile, Vojvodina was home to French-educated impressionist 53

A. B. Wachtel, ‘Ivo Andrić, Ivan Meštrović and the Synthetic Yugoslav Culture of the Interwar Period’, in Djokić (ed.), Yugoslavism, 238–51, and Making a Nation, Breaking a Nation: Literature and Cultural Politics in Yugoslavia, Stanford, CA, 1998; M. Janićijević, Stvaralačka inteligencija medjuratne Jugoslavije, Belgrade, 1984; P. Troch, Nationalism and Yugoslavia: Education, Yugoslavism and the Balkans before World War II, London, 2015, 51–138. 54 M. Božović, ‘Zenit Rising: Return to an Avant-Garde’, in R. Gorup (ed.), After Yugoslavia: Post-Yugoslav Cultural Spaces and Europe, Stanford, CA, 2013, 135–48; Ljetopis SKD Prosvjeta (Zagreb), no. 1, 1996, ed. Č. Višnjić; J. Milojković-Djurić, Tradition and Avant-Garde: The Arts in Serbian Culture between the Two World Wars, Boulder, CO, 1984.

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figure 6.4  Zenit, No. 17–18, September–October 1922, cover design El Lissitzky (Lazar Markovich Lissitzky, 1880–1941), courtesy of The National Library of Serbia

Sava Šumanović, widely considered one of Serbia’s greatest painters, but almost unknown outside former-Yugoslavia. Together with Branko Popović, Petar Dobrović, Veljko Stanojević, Jovan Bijelić,

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figure 6.5  Milena Pavlović Barilli (also spelled Barili, 1909–1945), self-­ portrait, 1938 (Wikipedia). During the late 1930s, Pavlović Barilli travelled in western Europe, meeting Cocteau and Breton among others, before moving permanently to New York. She was born in Požarevac (eastern Serbia, ­incidentally also the hometown of Slobodan Milošević, the future Serb leader), during a short-lived marriage between Italian composer Bruno Barilli, one of the signatories of the 1925 Fascist Manifesto (an act that he allegedly regretted afterwards) and Danica Popović, a pianist and a direct descendant of Karadjordje Petrović. Milena studied fine arts in Belgrade and is today considered one of Serbia’s most important modernist painters. In New York, she married a US officer and illustrated the Vogue magazine covers before dying in a horse-riding accident in March 1945, aged just 36.

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Milan Konjović, Toma Rosandić and Dragiša Brašovan, Šumanović belonged to the Oblik (Form) group of painters, sculptors and architects founded in Belgrade in 1926. They declared as their main goal the promotion of modernism in Yugoslavia, in line with latest European trends.55 Milena Pavlović Barilli was another Serbian modernist painter who achieved international fame, ­notably in the United States where she spent the last years of her tragically short life.56

Serb–Croat Contests and Compromises Practically all elections and major political decisions during the interwar period were impacted by the relationship between the Serbs and the Croats. Barely a year after the promulgation of the 1921 Vidovdan Constitution, the Democrats’ leader Davidović began to call for a compromise with the Croatian Peasant Republican Party, which boycotted the National Assembly. Although he was unable to find a common ground with Radić, Davidović and Democrat ministers resigned from Pašić’s government in December 1922 due to disagreements over the government’s ‘Croat politics’. Fresh elections, called for March, turned into a referendum for or against the revision of the Constitution, to allow for a greater decentralization of the country, the Croats’ main demand. The Radicals won 108 seats in a 313-seat parliament, 17 more than in 1920, and the Croatian Peasants emerged as the second largest party in Yugoslavia with 70 seats. The Democrats’ call for a compromise earned them an election defeat: from being the largest party in the country in 1920 with 92 parliamentary seats, three years later they were down to just 51 deputies. Despite some contacts with the Democrats, Radić briefly formed 55

M. B. Protić, Srpsko slikarstvo XX veka, Belgrade, 2 vols, 1970. Šumanović was killed, aged 46, by Croatian fascists in 1942. 56 I. Subotić et al., Milena Pavlović Barili: Pro Futuro, Belgrade, 2010.

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a ‘Federalist bloc’ with the Slovene People’s Party (also known as the Clericals) and the Yugoslav Muslim Organization and continued to negotiate with Pašić’s Radicals. He also sought support abroad for his cause – including in the Soviet Union, which at the time called for the dissolution of ‘Versailles Yugoslavia’. Political alliances and rivalries in Yugoslavia continued to shift. Despite winning the 1923 elections, Pašić was forced to resign in July 1924, paving the way for Davidović to form a government together with the Slovenes and (Bosnian) Muslims. Radić supported, but did not join the governing coalition, partly because of King Aleksandar’s opposition. The Democrat–Slovene–Muslim government lasted only 100 days; it was essentially brought down by Radić, who caused a ministerial resignation. Pašić once again became prime minister, this time forming a coalition government with Svetozar Pribićević’s Independent Democrats. Davidović’s move away from strict centralism led to a split within the Democratic Party in 1924. Pribićević, formerly one of the leaders of the pre-war Croat–Serb Coalition and one of the leading Democrats, broke away to form the Independent Democratic Party, whose leadership remained Serb–Croat, though its electorate was mainly Croatian Serb. The new government ordered Radić’s arrest on suspicion of harbouring separatism, but internal disagreements within the governing coalition led to fresh elections in February 1925. Radić was able to campaign from prison, and his party again did well, winning 67 seats (down by just three seats). The Radicals triumphed with 147 seats, close to 50 per cent of the parliament. The Democrats’ divisions showed: Davidović won 31 seats and Pribićević 21. The Slovenes and Muslims lost three seats each since the previous elections, securing 21 and 15 deputies, respectively. Radić, who had the backing of most Croats, wanted to talk to his Serb counterpart. The problem was there was no such figure, as Serb politics was much more pluralistic than Croat (and indeed Bosnian Muslim and Slovene). Following the Radicals’ convincing election

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victory, Pašić came close enough to being the Serb r­ epresentative, and in a major U-turn, Radić and the Croatian Peasant Party (having dropped ‘Republican’ from the party name) ended the boycott of the parliament and publicly accepted the monarchy on 27 March 1925. This paved the way to the Croatian Peasants entering government for the first time, in July 1925, which in turn prompted Pribićević’s resignation. The following month, the Croatian Peasant Party organized millennial celebrations of the Croatian medieval kingdom. King Aleksandar and Queen Marija visited Zagreb where they were greeted by Radić with enthusiasm he had previously reserved for verbal attacks on Belgrade. When the royal couple’s second son was born two years later, he was named Tomislav, in honour of the medieval Croatian king. It seemed in the mid-1920s that a Serb–Croat question was finally resolved. Instead, things would take a turn for the worse. Pašić and Radić, two strong personalities, clashed in the government, leading to the resignation of the elderly prime minister in April 1926. Pašić died, at the age of 81, in December that year, allegedly after a bitter row with the king. His successor was unable to hold the cabinet together, so new elections were called for September 1927. The fourth – and last ever Yugoslav democratic elections, as it turned out – resulted in another convincing victory for the Radicals, who now won 112 seats in the National Assembly. The Croatian Peasants and the Democrats once again came second and third, with 61 and 59 seats, respectively. The Radicals formed a coalition government with the Slovenes and Muslims, supported by several ‘dissident’ Democrats. Davidović and most of the party remained in opposition. Formerly bitter rivals, Radić and Pribićević reconciled, to form the opposition Peasant–Democratic Coalition – a de facto Croat–Serb coalition and the longest lasting political alliance in Yugoslavia’s history. This, unfortunately, did not lead to a greater political stability in the parliament. Heated debates between the Radical and Peasant–Democratic deputies culminated on 20 June

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1928, when a Radical deputy from Kosovo shot dead two Croatian Peasant Party members and mortally wounded Radić (who died on 8 August from complications caused by the removal of the assassin’s bullet). The assassin allegedly aimed at Pribićević as well but missed. Radić’s funeral has been retrospectively seen by some as a funeral for Yugoslavia. The Peasant–Democrat deputies left for Zagreb and for a while it seemed as if the country was on the brink of a civil war. That it did not happen was thanks to both Belgrade and Zagreb appealing for calm. The Croat–Serb coalition, which Radić helped form, continued to play a major role in Yugoslav politics during the 1930s, under his and Pribićević’s successors (the leader of the Croatian Serbs died in his Czechoslovak exile in 1936). Following a failed experiment with Anton Korošec, the Slovene Clericals’ leader, as prime minister (the only non-Serb premier in interwar Yugoslavia), on 6 January 1929, King Aleksandar dissolved parliament, abolished the Constitution, banned all ‘sectarian’ political parties and proclaimed his personal dictatorship. Like Polish dictator Marshal Piłsudski, three years previously, Aleksandar blamed political parties for the crisis in which the country found itself and identified himself as the saviour of the national unity. ‘Blind political passions have begun to misuse the political system … to such an extent that it has become a hindrance to any fruitful work in the State …’, Aleksandar proclaimed. ‘It is my sacred duty to preserve the unity of nation and State by all means.’57 It was the Orthodox Christmas Eve, and Aleksandar may have hoped that because of the holiday the Serbs at least will not follow the news over the next few days. He had shown a tendency 57

‘Royal proclamation abrogating the Constitution and dissolving the Parliament of the Serb-Croat-Slovene Kingdom’, Belgrade, 6 January 1929, Yugoslavia through Documents: From Its Creation to Its Dissolution, compiled by S. Trifunovska, Dordrecht, 1994, 190–91.

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to interfere in politics throughout the 1920s, but he was aware of opposition to authoritarian monarchs in Serbia’s recent history. In the event, Serb politicians would pose arguably the strongest resistance to the dictatorship during the second interwar decade. Initially, however, ‘ordinary’ people seem to have welcomed the royal proclamation, tired of constant bickering among politicians and frequent elections. Vladko Maček, Radić’s successor as the Croatian Peasants’ leader, even issued a statement welcoming the royal act, because it abolished the centralist Constitution. The dictatorship was perceived as a temporary measure, until the crisis is resolved and the country stabilized – this may have been the reason why Yugoslavia’s democratic allies, France and Britain, did not object to Aleksandar’s dictatorship. In October, the country was officially renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, while nine new administrative provinces cut across old historical borders. The banovine (the reader will recall the medieval South Slav title ban, also used in Austria-Hungary) were introduced to address Croat demands for decentralization, were named after major rivers, and, in one case, the sea. Water was meant to symbolize unity, but critics pointed out that while economically the new administrative division did not make much sense, it nevertheless ensured a Serb majority in five provinces; Croats were a majority in two, while the northernmost Dravska was a de facto Slovenia. The changes appeared mainly cosmetic, as the bans were appointed by the king and the country seemed even more centralized than it had been under the democratically elected governments prior to 1929. During the 1920s, local politics in Bosnia and Croatia (and Slovenia) had been able to find space for autonomous activity. This would be the case again in the second half of the 1930s, when the dictatorship was gradually de facto abandoned. Aleksandar believed, probably genuinely, that the South Slavs were members of a single nation. Like the intellectuals, he realized that most people had not yet developed a common identity and hoped his ‘Yugoslavizing’ dictatorship imposed from above would create the

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AUSTRIA HUNGARY

DRAVSKA Ljubljana

Zagreb

Novi Sad Belgrade

Banja Luka

VRBASKA Zadar (Zara)

PRIMORSKA

ADRIATIC SEA

ROMANIA

DUNAVSKA

SAVSKA

DRINSKA

Sarajevo

MORAVSKA

Split

ZETSKA

Niš

Cetinje Skopje

ITALY Boundaries of Banovine 1929 Banovina of Croatia 1939 Italo-Yugoslav frontier 1918-1941

VARDARSKA ALBANIA

GREECE

map 6.2  Yugoslavia’s administrative division, 1929–41. Drawn by Joe LeMonnier, https://mapartist.com/, based on a map published in Dejan Djokić, Elusive Compromise: A History of Interwar Yugoslavia, London: Hurst, 2007, p. xv

Yugoslav nation. To achieve this, the regime was prepared to use coercive measures if necessary.58 The king was supported by some Serb intellectuals. Thus, poet Jovan Dučić welcomed the renaming of the country because it emphasized the ‘sameness of the people’s blood and ideals’. Although the Serb name was consigned to history, according to Dučić, Serbia had ‘abandoned neither her past nor her glory’ but 58

I. Dobrivojević, Državna represija u doba diktature kralja Aleksandra 1929–1935, Belgrade, 2005; C. A. Nielsen, Making Yugoslavs: Identity in King Aleksandar’s Yugoslavia, Toronto, 2014; Troch, Nationalism and Yugoslavia, 190–213.

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had instead adopted a name ‘which is better suited for the development of her history and ideals.’ After Aleksandar’s assassination (see the following text), Miloš Crnjanski, arguably the best Serb writer of his era, eulogized the ‘martyred king’, who had not only united the Serbs, but had an equal compassion for the national liberation from foreign oppression of Croats and Slovenes.59 Other Serb intellectuals remained in opposition to the dictatorship. Like the interwar Serbian politics, the Serb intellectual scene during the period was pluralistic and often fostered lively debates. What was common to most, however, was that the majority were pro-Yugoslav and propagated the modernization and ‘westernization’ of the Serbian and Yugoslav society.60 Aleksandar’s Yugoslavism from above failed for a variety of reasons, and not only because, unsurprisingly for a dictatorship, it relied on oppression of political opponents, including Serb opposition politicians, but above all Communists and Croatian and Macedonian nationalists.61 To non-Serbs, especially Croats, Aleksandar’s regime was too Serbian, not only in practice but symbolically. At the same time, Aleksandar’s measures meant that for the first time since 1817, when Prince Miloš secured basic autonomy for Serbia within the Ottoman state, no territory named Serbia existed. Many Serbs came to reject the dictatorship, too, and not only because it put an end to parliamentary democracy, which they claimed to have achieved in their pre-Yugoslav kingdom. From the mid-1930s onwards, the Serbs increasingly began to complain that their history and identity were being sacrificed for a wider Yugoslav ideal, and yet 59

V. Vujačić, Nationalism, Myth and the State in Russia and Serbia: Antecedents of the Dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, Cambridge, 2015, 206. 60 B. Prpa, Srpski intelektualci i Jugoslavija, 1918–1929, Belgrade, 2018; cf. Janićijević, Stvaralačka inteligencija. 61 Dobrivojević, Državna represija; Nielsen, Making Yugoslavs, ch. 5; V. Jovanović Slike jedne neuspele integracije: Kosovo, Makedonija, Srbija, Jugoslavija, Belgrade, 2014.

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they were being accused by Croats and others of manipulating Yugoslavism to Serbianize the country.62 Although he abolished political parties, Aleksandar understood that his dictatorship needed political support. He filled government posts with ‘dissidents’ from the major parties, including the Croatian Peasant Party, except for the Slovene Clericals, whose leader Korošec entered the government, thus lending the Slovene support to the royal dictatorship. The first prime minister of the new political era was, however, a non-party figure – General Petar Živković. He did not enjoy a particularly high reputation within the army nor among the politicians, and that was not necessarily because of his widely rumoured homosexuality. Živković was seen as the king’s lackey, and even a British diplomat sympathetic to Aleksandar expressed serious reservations about the choice for the prime minister.63 The army was seen as a key pillar of the royal dictatorship and not surprisingly there were tensions between civilians and military in non-Serb, especially Croat areas. However, there were also exceptions. In the early 1930s, General Panta Draškić, a Serb from Serbia and commander of the Varaždin garrison in northern Croatia, clashed with a corrupt local administration, made up of ethnic Croats who enjoyed General Živković’s support. As a result, Draškić, who had been associated with the Black Hand and was thus not part of Živković’s clique, was transferred to eastern Serbia. He received a hero’s farewell from the local population in Varaždin, both from pro-Yugoslav democratic opposition and from those who might be considered Croat nationalists and separatists. (In one of many ironies of Serbian and Yugoslav history, Draškić would briefly join the Serbian quisling government in 62

D. Djokić, ‘National Mobilization in the 1930s: The Emergence of the “Serb Question” in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia’, in Djokić and Ker-Lindsay (eds), New Perspectives on Yugoslavia, 62–81. 63 The National Archives, Kew, FO 371/13706, Kennard to Chamberlain, Belgrade, 14 January 1929.

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the early 1940s, at the time when Živković was with the Yugoslav government-in-exile).64 King Aleksandar lacked time to carry through his project or perhaps reform it. He was assassinated, together with Louis Barthou, French Foreign Minister, in Marseille in October 1934, while on a state visit to France, but there are indications that he had pondered about his approach to Yugoslavia’s national question prior to what turned out to be his last trip. The assassin was a member of the Macedonian Internal Revolutionary Organization, the organizers were Ustašas, an extremist Croatian group formed after the introduction of the dictatorship, and the sponsor was Mussolini’s Italy. During the 1930s, Italy and Hungary provided refuge and military training for several hundred Croat Ustaša extremists. In total, Yugoslavia had existed for some 70 years, but it was only during the five years of Aleksandar’s dictatorship that the state attempted to create the Yugoslav nation. Tragically, the king never came as close to uniting the nation as in his death. His death turned into a mass mourning across the country and, temporarily at least, led to the rise of Yugoslav patriotism. The arrival of the king’s dead body in the Croatian port of Split was witnessed by thousands of people who came to pay their last respects. It is hard to say to what extent the king was genuinely mourned and to what extent his murder caused alarm and fear, not so much of Serb retribution as of possible Italian invasion. Similar scenes took place along the king’s last train journey from Split to Belgrade (as a symbolic, performative act, this anticipated a train journey carrying the dead body of President Tito across Yugoslavia 46 years later – see the next chapter; in both cases, the Yugoslav state would not outlive its dictator by very long). 64

P. Draškić, Moji memoari, Belgrade, 1990; V. Huzjan, ‘Život generala Kraljevine Jugoslavije u Hrvatskoj: Panta Draškić u Varaždinu’, Historia Varasdiensis: Časopis za Varaždinsku povjesnicu, 2 (2012), 175–84. For Živković’s later political career, see Djokić, Elusive Compromise, ch. 4.

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figure 6.6  King Aleksandar [Karadjordjević] (1888–1934) and Queen Marie of Yugoslavia (1900–61) attend the unveiling of a sculpture on Armistice Day in Belgrade, created as a tribute to France by sculptor Ivan Meštrović, 11 November 1930. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images). Seen walking behind the royal couple is Prince Pavle (Paul), the future Prince-Regent of Yugoslavia (1934–41)

With the act of 6 January 1929, Yugoslavia had joined a growing list of dictatorships and authoritarian countries in Europe. However, the dictatorship in Yugoslavia was relaxed and partially abandoned under a three-man regency led, and dominated, by Prince Pavle (Paul), Aleksandar’s first cousin, who reigned in the

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name of 11-year-old King Petar II. By 1936, all Balkan countries had turned into dictatorships, while Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were well on the way to establishing a political and economic hegemony in southern and central Europe and north Africa. By contrast, the second half of the 1930s saw a partial return to democracy and a lively and pluralistic political debate, especially among Serb parties and leaders. As the Spanish Civil War (in which, incidentally, many Yugoslav volunteers took part on the Republican side)65 announced a final confrontation between the conflicting ideologies, Yugoslavia moved in a direction away from dictatorship, towards a partial restoration of democracy. Meanwhile, central European Jews fleeing the growing antisemitism at home saw Yugoslavia as an attractive refuge. Many moved to Belgrade following the Nazis’ coming to power in 1933; they stayed initially in the city hotels until their money run out or until local Jews took pity and helped them find jobs.66 Interwar Belgrade was a place of contrasts, in which modern and Ottoman-era fashion, cultures and values coexisted, while feminism, liberalism and socialism challenged traditional norms. It had also welcomed ‘White’ Russian refugees and as the capital of Yugoslavia it attracted people from all parts of the country. All this added new layers of identity and cosmopolitanism the city has never completely lost.67 The partial democratization of domestic politics in the second half of the 1930s may be explained by Yugoslavia’s origins, and by Serbia’s pre-1918 liberal tradition. The departure from the democratic promise of its early days, and, in foreign policy 65

V. Pavlaković, Yugoslav Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, Belgrade, 2016. E. Pawel, Life in Dark Ages: A Memoir, New York, 1995; cf. I. Rochlitz, Accident of Fate: A Personal Account, 1938–1945, Waterloo, ON, 2011. 67 J. Babović, Metropolitan Belgrade: Culture and Class in Interwar Yugoslavia, Pittsburgh, PA, 2018; R. Gašić, Beograd u hodu ka Evropi: Kulturni uticaji Britanije i Nemačke na beogradsku elitu, 1918–1941, Belgrade, 2005; M. Jovanović, Doseljavanje ruskih izbeglica u Kraljevinu SHS, 1919–1924, Belgrade, 1995; R. Vučetić, Evropa na Kalemegdanu, Belgrade, 2003. 66

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a shift towards Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, meant that the Yugoslav leaders were abandoning one of Yugoslavia’s two main foundations, liberal democracy (the second was the national self-determination of the South Slavs). The foreign policy change had been overseen by Milan Stojadinović, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister (1935–39) and leader of the Yugoslav Radical Union (JRZ) – in fact a coalition of a Stojadinović-led faction of the Radical Party, the Slovene People’s Party and the Yugoslav Muslim Organization formed in summer 1935. In May that year, formally banned political parties were allowed to take part in elections and gave the government list a close run. The opposition received just over 1 million and the government 1.7 million votes, which prompted the change of prime minister and opened the doors for Stojadinović. An economist by training, he stabilized the country’s currency (dinar) and reduced budget deficit; within a few years, the ­government appeared to have revived the economy, which had s­ uffered during the world financial crisis of the early 1930s. In terms of foreign trade, like all other East-Central European ­countries, most of Yugoslavia’s export and import in the second half of the 1930s was with Germany; after the Anschluss of 1938, these figures further increased, and Nazi Germany now bordered Yugoslavia. Thus in 1939, 47.7 per cent of Yugoslavia’s imports came from Germany (and Austria), while nearly 32 per cent of its exports went the other way. By contrast, the same year, 10.6 per cent of exports and 11.7 per cent of imports were with Fascist Italy, another one of Yugoslavia’s aggressive neighbours. Meanwhile, trade figures between Yugoslavia and north-western Europe were 21.6 per cent (exports) and 11.6 per cent (imports). Around this time, Yugoslavia became an important player in the international opium trade.68 68

Lampe, Yugoslavia, 182; V. Jovanović, Opijum na Balkanu: Proizvodnja i promet opojnih droga 1918–1941, Zagreb, 2020.

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Stojadinović made a half-hearted and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to bring Maček into the government. The Croat leader had a better rapport with Prince Pavle, whose own relationship with Stojadinović was an uneasy one. The prime minister had adopted image of a fascist dictator and did not hide his admiration for Mussolini. His supporters, young men wearing green shirts, greeted him as ‘Vodja’ (Leader), but this practice was abandoned when it emerged that opposition supporters would shout ‘Djavo’ (Devil), which when repeatedly said sounds identical to ‘Vodja’. This was a simulation of fascism not uncommon in interwar EastCentral Europe. It was designed to manipulate and create popular support for an essentially conservative regime, thus thwarting potential opposition, but these regime parties lacked the dynamism of fascist movements.69 The main opposition to the government ‘coalition-party’ was a two-tier Serb–Croat opposition: the Peasant Democratic Coalition, with its electoral base in Croat and Croatian Serb areas, contested the elections of December 1938 together with Serbia’s United Opposition, made up of Davidović’s Democrats, the remaining leadership of Pašić’s Radical Party, and the Agrarian Party, led by Jovan Jovanović, who had been Serbia’s minister in Vienna in 1914. General Živković’s formerly government Yugoslav National Party also joined the opposition. The Serbian parties had their differences – the Radicals were conservative, the Agrarians mostly social-democratic, while the Democrats were a party of the liberal centre; to varying degrees, they had all moved towards federalism. In early 1933, Davidović issued a political manifesto that included a request for the federalization 69

D. Djokić, ‘“Leader” or “Devil”? Milan Stojadinović, Prime Minister of Yugoslavia (1935–39), and his Ideology’, in M. Rady and R. Haynes (eds), In the Shadow of Hitler: Personalities of the Right in Central and Eastern Europe, London, 2011, 153–68; cf. A. Janos, East Central Europe in the Modern World: The Politics of the Borderlands from Pre- to Postcommunism, Stanford, CA, 2000, ch. 4.

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of Yugoslavia, with autonomies for Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and ‘a fourth [unit], between these communities, in the transitional Serb-Croat zone’. Davidović did not spell it out, but he clearly meant Bosnia. Only a return to democracy and some sort of decentralization, the Serb opposition parties believed, would solve the Croatian question. The Independent Democrats, a de facto party of Croatian Serbs, shared this belief. Davidović proposed, and the others accepted, that Maček should lead the joint opposition list. The Croat leader was received by enthusiastic crowds of Serbs in Belgrade (perhaps around 100,000 people came to greet him) that he visited during the election campaign in 1938. At the same time, Stojadinović’s support among the Serbs had been weakened after a clash, the previous year, with the Serbian Orthodox Church over the signing of a Concordat with the Holy See. Designed to regulate the position of the Roman Catholic Church in Yugoslavia, the text of the Concordat was almost identical to the one that the Kingdom of Serbia had previously signed, but the Serbian church now objected that the Yugoslav state favoured the Roman Catholic church. When Patriarch Varnava (1930–37) died during the demonstrations, (unfounded) rumours spread that he was poisoned by the government. Violent clashes between the demonstrators and the gendarmerie became known as the ‘Bloody Procession’. The opposition failed to win the December elections, but it gave the government an even closer run than in 1935. The Maček–Davidović list received 1.3 million votes, while the Stojadinović–Korošec–Spaho list won only 300,000 more votes. Another list was headed by Dimitrije Ljotić, Serbian fascist whose support extended among some Croats and Slovenes, but it didn’t win enough votes to earn a single seat in the parliament (it faired similarly in 1935). The election results indicated that many ‘ordinary’ people supported a return to democracy and a solution to the ‘Croat question’ – the two main aims of the democratic

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opposition. Because of the government’s pressure on the electorate to vote for its list, at a time when ballots were not secret, the opposition’s success was considerable. At the same time, it was similarly difficult to vote for the government in Croat majority areas, where the Croatian Peasant Party activists, including the paramilitary Peasant Guard, intimidated voters. A mild- (some thought cold-) mannered, art-loving and Oxford-educated Prince Pavle did not get on with Serb politicians – in government and opposition alike. They thought he was ‘too English’, and to him they probably appeared ‘too Balkan’. If Pavle was underestimated by his opponents, it was to their disadvantage. The prince-regent swiftly removed Stojadinović, following the relatively poor election result, replacing him with Dragiša Cvetković, an unremarkable former mayor of Niš, who nevertheless proved able to reach out to Maček. Unbeknown to his Serb coalition partners, the Croat leader had secretly kept contact with the Royal Court. This should not have come as a surprise: like his predecessor Radić, Maček was interested in making a deal with whomever represented most Serbs; if no political party was able to make such a claim, perhaps the monarchy could? The Peasant Party leader believed that ‘Croat question comes first and foremost … the question of dictatorship, civil liberties and political freedoms comes second, even if it is of the utmost importance.’ Moreover, Maček had never hidden his respect for the prince-regent. Cvetković and Maček, with Prince Pavle’s blessing, reached an agreement in late August 1939 to create an autonomous Croatian banovina within Yugoslavia. Cvetković remained prime minister and Maček was appointed his deputy. The Serbian opposition felt betrayed, and some of its voters turned towards a growing movement for the creation of a ‘banovina of the Serb lands’ (basically all of Yugoslavia apart from Croatia – in some scenarios without its Serb-majority areas – and the Dravska banovina, or Slovenia). This would have been de facto a Greater Serbia. Serb grievances

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in the late 1930s Yugoslavia were channelled through publications by the Serbian Cultural Club, an informal intellectual group that came up with the slogan ‘Strong Serbdom for a strong Yugoslavia’. However, many prominent Serbs rejected this idea and were highly critical of the Serbian Cultural Club.

The Second World War: Partition, Resistance, Collaboration The Cvetković–Maček ‘compromise’ was reached just days before the Second World War broke out, following Germany’s invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939. Yugoslavia’s attempts to remain neutral proved unsustainable after its main western ally France was defeated in 1940. Britain, another ally, was unable to send military support, although it encouraged Prince Pavle to refute Berlin’s advances. By March 1941, the prince-regent and his government felt they had no choice but to sign adherence to the Tripartite Pact (concluded the previous year by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan).70 Keen to remove any obstacles for a planned invasion of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany offered Yugoslavia a seemingly attractive deal. Unlike Rome, Berlin did not have territorial claims against Yugoslavia at this time. Mussolini had in the meanwhile declared war on Greece, one of Yugoslavia’s only two friendly neighbours; the other one, Romania, had been ideologically already in the Axis camp. Inside the country, Maček was among those in favour of giving in to Germany and Italy’s requests because he feared Croatia would be most exposed to an Italian–German invasion, which seemed inevitable unless the Yugoslavs backed down. Prime Minister Cvetković and Foreign Minister Cincar Marković travelled to Vienna on 25 March to sign Yugoslavia’s 70

P. Hadži-Jovančić, The Third Reich and Yugoslavia: An Economy of Fear, 1933–1941, London, 2020.

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adherence to the Pact. The signing ceremony took place at the Belvedere Palace (the place where 27 years previously Franz Ferdinand and Sophie Chotek began what turned out to be their final journey, to Sarajevo). Two days later, after the news from Vienna reached Yugoslavia, the regency and the government were deposed by a group of Serbian officers of the Yugoslav Airforce, amidst popular protests against the Tripartite Pact in Belgrade and across Serbia (and elsewhere in Yugoslavia, including Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Skopje and Split). The British did not organize the coup, as is sometimes believed, but they welcomed the news. As seen, they had unsuccessfully tried to persuade Anglophile Prince Pavle to join the British camp and they had also financed several Serb groups and individuals known to be opposed to the Axis, but who ultimately played no part in the coup. The new government was formed by General Dušan Simović, one of the Putchist officers and a non-party figure. After some hesitation, Maček agreed to remain as deputy prime minister. Cvetković was interned, while Prince Pavle was allowed to leave for Greece; he would spend the war in Kenya and South Africa, living under British surveillance. (Stojadinović would similarly spend the war exiled on Mauritius, then under British administration). Seventy-two-year-old historian and jurist Slobodan Jovanović, another non-party figure, was appointed as the second deputy premier. The government was representative of all the major political parties, except for the Serbian ‘section’ of the JRZ. Its composition was meant to demonstrate the national unity and show democratic credentials of the new cabinet; it confirmed its commitment to the 1939 Agreement. Despite rejecting the Tripartite pact on 27 March, Yugoslavia did not declare its allegiance to Britain – not that the British sent military aid to the Yugoslavs either. Confusingly, the new government attempted to reassure the Axis that it would honour all international commitments, including the Vienna agreement, hoping perhaps to buy some time until ‘traditional’ allies came to the rescue. With

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diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union established less than a year earlier, a treaty of the Soviet–Yugoslav friendship was signed on 5 April. None of this mattered anyway. Furious with the events in Belgrade of 27 March, Hitler immediately decided to attack and destroy Yugoslavia at the same time as Greece, which Mussolini’s Italy had been unable to defeat following an invasion the previous Autumn.71 In his order to the German military to begin the ‘Operation Punishment’ – a land and air invasion of Yugoslavia, which began in the early hours on 6 April 1941, with the Luftwaffe bombardment of Belgrade – Hitler blamed the Serbs for the Belgrade coup and for the 1914 Sarajevo assassination. They were to be punished not just for rejecting the Tripartite Pact but also for causing the First World War, the outcome of which, not only in Hitler’s mind, was responsible for Germany’s post-war predicament. The Führer’s Austrian roots, and of his many officers and soldiers who took part in the invasion and occupation of Yugoslavia, meant that it seemed as if 1941 became 1914 all over again; except that in place of the Habsburg Monarchy stood Hitler’s Nazi Empire.72 Belgrade, previously proclaimed an ‘open city’, was bombarded indiscriminately for three days; an estimated 5,000 people died and 50 per cent of the city’s residential area was destroyed. The 870,000 invading Axis troops outnumbered the Yugoslav Army (600,000 soldiers and officers). There were instances of heroic resistance, especially in southern, eastern and northern parts of the country, but poorly armed and hit by desertions, especially in predominantly Croat regiments, the Yugoslav Army capitulated on 17 April. Sources differ, but around 375,000 (perhaps up to 400,000), Yugoslav officers and soldiers, mainly Serbs and 71

St. K. Pavlowitch, Hitler’s New Disorder: Yugoslavia in the Second World War, London, 2020 (first publ. 2008), 12–17. 72 Ibid, 17–18; cf. B. Petranović, Srbija u Drugom svetskom ratu, 1939–1945, Belgrade, 1992; J. Tomasevich, War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration, Stanford, CA, 2001.

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Montenegrins, were imprisoned; many were taken to labour camps in Germany and Italy.73 Two members of the cabinet – a Slovene leader and a minister from Montenegro – were killed during the short April war. The rest of the government (apart from Maček, who resigned and stayed in Croatia) and the king fled the country. By July, they reached London, where other allied governments and heads of state had also found exile. Maček rejected the Axis offer to lead a quisling Croatian state, and issued a call to the Croatian people to obey the new authorities. These were led by Ante Pavelić, leader of a small, extreme nationalist and fascist Ustaša organization who was installed by Berlin and Rome as Croatia’s Leader (Poglavnik). This was on 10 April – a full week before the Yugoslav Army capitulated. Maček spent much of the war under de facto house arrest, as leader of a party that participated in the exiled Yugoslav government, but many of whose members joined the new regime, including the Ustaša extremists, and later also the Communistled resistance. Satellite Croatia incorporated Bosnia-Herzegovina and stretched into Vojvodina, including Zemun, just across the Danube from Belgrade. Large parts of Dalmatia, however, went to Italy. Within days, the Ustaša introduced racial laws targeting Serbs, Jews and Roma, banned Serbian Cyrillic and the Orthodox Church, and nationalized Serb and Jewish businesses. The Ustaša regime rounded up Serbs (citing a law on the protection of the state), Jews and Roma (in their cases citing racial laws) and sent them to concentration camps, the largest and most notorious of which was Jasenovac – the only camp in Europe solely administered and ran by a native fascist regime. At least between 80,000 and 90,000 people (and possibly up to 130,000, but certainly not

73

Petranović, Srbija, 108–10; cf. Velimir Terzić, Slom kraljevine Jugoslavije 1941, Belgrade/Ljubljana/Titograd [Podgorica], 2 vols, 1983, II, 472.

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figure 6.7  Hitler’s birthday present, 1941. Just three days after the capitulation of Yugoslavia on 17 April 1941, Adolf Hitler celebrated his 52nd birthday, on board of train Amerika, stationed on the Vienna–Graz railway, near the modern Slovenian–Austrian border. Among the birthday presents was a commemorative plaque taken from Sarajevo, part of the newly established Independent State of Croatia, which reads: ‘At this historical spot Gavrilo Princip announced freedom on St Vitus Day 15 (28) June 1914’. The party guests included Count Ciano, Italy’s Foreign Minister, Hungarian leader Admiral Horthy and Bulgaria’s King Boris III, all of whom took part in the destruction and partition of Yugoslavia. The photo was taken by Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s official photographer (Bavarian State Library, Munich/Hoff-35336).74

700,000 as sometimes claimed), including thousands of children, were killed at Jasenovac. The vast majority (63 per cent) of the victims were Serbs, followed by Roma and Jews (each group around 15 per cent) and anti-Ustaša Croats and Bosnian Muslims. While most Jewish and Roma victims in satellite Croatia were killed at 74

M. Bazdulj, ‘Srećan rodjendan, gospodine Hitler: Priča o jednoj fotografiji’, Vreme (Belgrade), 31 October 2013.

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Jasenovac, the majority of Serbs were killed elsewhere, in a series of mass executions across Bosnia and Croatia.75 Serbia in roughly its pre-1912 borders and the agriculturally rich Banat region were placed under direct German occupation as the ‘Territory of the Military Commander, Serbia’. It was the only part of invaded Yugoslavia that was placed under direct military occupation. Its territory, according to German sources, was around 51,100 square kilometres, and its population slightly over 3.8 million, the vast majority of whom were Serbs, with less than 150,000 ethnic Germans as the largest minority.76 The rest of Yugoslavia was incorporated by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and three Axis-allied neighbouring countries: Albania, Bulgaria and Hungary. In August 1941, the German occupation authorities formed a Government of National Salvation under General Milan Nedić – a veteran of the First World War who had been sacked from a pre-war government as minister of army and navy due to his pro-German views. This was a local, quisling administration without popular legitimacy and it enjoyed limited power. It was 75

D. Cvetković, ‘Koncentracijski logor Jasenovac i njegova uloga u uništavanju naroda NDH – izračun mogućeg broja žrtava na temelju djelomično revidiranog popisa iz 1964. godine’, in A. Benčić et al. (eds), Jasenovac: manipulacije, kontroverze i povijesni revizionizam, Jasenovac, 2018, 171–220; T. Dulić, ‘Mass Killing in the Independent State of Croatia, 1941–1945: A Case for Comparative Research’, Journal of Genocide Research, 8:3 (2006), 255–81; I. Goldstein, Jasenovac, Zaprešić, 2018; I. Mrkalj, ‘Jedan od spašenih iz glinske crkve: Dvije izjave Paje Vorkapića iz 1945’, Ljetopis SKD ‘Prosvjeta’ (Zagreb), vol. 23, 2019, 192–214; M. Radanović, ‘Zločini 3. bojne 1. ustaškog obrambenog zdruga na području Stare Gradiške i Bosanske Gradiške krajem 1943. i početkom 1944.’, Tragovi, 2:1 (2019), 123–96, and, as editor, Pokatoličavanje Srba u Nezavisnoj Državi Hrvatskoj, Zagreb, 2020; Tomasevich, War and Revolution, ch. 9; R. Yeomans, Visions of Annihilation: The Ustasha Regime and the Cultural Politics of Fascism, 1941–1945, Pittsburgh, PN, 2012, and, as editor, The Utopia of Terror: Life and Death in Wartime Croatia, Rochester, NY, 2015. 76 Petranović, Srbija, 111n. The territory of pre-1912 Serbia was around 48,500 square kilometres.

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established partly to tackle resistance, but some of its German masters were unconvinced by its usefulness; they hoped that calling Nedić’s administration a ‘government’ would help him command greater respect among the local population. The gendarmerie and a small military force under Nedić’s command were largely ineffective in fighting the resistance and became increasingly demoralized as the war went on. An influx of Serb refugees from Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo created additional problems and added to a sense of powerlessness. The Serbian quislings blamed the Communists, Jews and the Yugoslav government-in-exile for what was quickly turning into a national catastrophe. The quisling administration nominally recognized King Petar II, even though he too was in exile with the government, and tried, but mostly failed, to recruit support within the Serbian Orthodox Church, which remained loyal to the exiled king and the government. The First World War still fresh in memory, many Serbs harboured pro-French and pro-British sentiments; they now became even more anti-‘Swabian’ (a common slang word for Austrians and Germans), due to what was one of the most brutal occupation regimes anywhere in Hitler’s Europe. Several uncoordinated resistance hotspots appeared on the map of occupied Yugoslavia during summer 1941: in Serb-populated areas of Bosnia and Croatia (i.e. the Ustaša-run satellite Croatia); in western Serbia and in Montenegro. These were all areas with tradition of resistance to occupation and places where in 1941 Orthodox population was exposed to extreme violence. The story of the resistance in Serbia, and more broadly Yugoslavia, is complex and remains controversial. In short, two movements, initially not always mutually easily distinguishable, emerged in western Serbia. One formed around a group of army officers led by Colonel (later General) Dragoljub-Draža Mihailović, while the other one was organized by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, whose leadership moved from Zagreb to Belgrade at the beginning of the war. Mihailović’s men, better

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GERMANY ITALY

Maribor Ljubljana

HUNGARY Zagreb

Subotica

ROMANIA Osijek

INDEPENDENT STATE Banja Luka OF CROATIA

Novi Sad

Belgrade

Tuzla

Zenica

ADRIATIC SEA

Sarajevo

Split

Mostar

Kragujevac TERRITORY OF THE MILITARY COMMANDER IN SERBIA (German Occupation) Niš

Podgorica

Annexed by Hungary Annexed by Germany Occupied by Germany Annexed by Bulgaria Annexed by or a Protectorate of Italy

BANAT

Priština Prizren Skopje

ALBANIA

GREECE

map 6.3  Axis occupation and partition of Yugoslavia in the Second World War. Drawn by Joe LeMonnier, https://mapartist.com/, based on a map originally published in Stevan K. Pavlowitch, Yugoslavia, London: Benn, 1971, p. 116

known as the Četniks, did not represent a coherent movement; it is better, instead, to think of several, loosely connected, predominantly Serb armed groups, whose tactics sometimes differed from region to region. They were broadly united in their desire to restore the Yugoslav monarchy, ideally with an enlarged Serbia within it. Initially at least, most Četniks were loyal to the cause of Allies like Britain and France, and hostile to Germany. The Četniks were also anti-Communist; that encouraged them to seek accommodation with the enemy to engage the Communist-led Partisans, even though most of them initially were also Serbs. Various Četnik

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groups collaborated with Italians to fight the Croatian forces and protect Serb civilians in the Independent State of Croatia. The Italians and the Ustašas were nominally allies, but there was no love lost between them; the former sometimes protected Serb villagers from Ustaša attacks and clandestinely armed Serb rebels, who then used the weapons to fight the Partisans and massacre non-Serb civilians (e.g. Muslims in eastern Bosnia), sometimes in retaliation for massacres of Serb civilians. Some Četnik commanders only formally recognized Mihailović’s leadership, due to the legitimacy he provided as minister in the London-based government-in-exile from January 1942. Sometimes collaboration took place against Mihailović’s wishes, at other times with his tacit agreement (and, it should be said, sometimes with the knowledge of the exiled government and the British). Previously mentioned Zvonimir Vučković, one of Mihailović’s most loyal commanders, witnessed the independence of Bosnian Četniks, who were mostly preoccupied with local, ‘Bosnian’ affairs and challenged Mihailović’s authority. Živko Topalović, leader of a small pre-war Socialist Party (and briefly a member of the collective leadership of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia following its foundation in 1919), who joined Mihailović in late 1943, recalled how even in Serbia village commanders often acted independently.77 Like most guerrilla and resistance movements, the Partisans were also initially decentralized, but they had a strong leadership epitomized in Josip Broz Tito, the general secretary of the Communist Party. Tito’s closest circle included Serbian communist Aleksandar Ranković and a revolutionary and writer from

77

St. K. Pavlowitch, ‘Reserve Infantry Lieutenant Rapotec’, in his Unconventional Perceptions of Yugoslavia, 1940–45, Boulder, CO, 1985, 67–106; Ž. Topalović, Srbija pod Dražom, London, 1968, 34; cf. M.-J. Calic, A History of Yugoslavia, West Lafayette, IN, 2019, 134; Z. Vučković, Sećanja iz rata, London, 1980, 140.

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Montenegro Milovan Djilas. Together with Djilas, Ranković and Edvard Kardelj, a Slovene communist theoretician, Tito had prior to the war reorganized and revitalized a party that was nearly extinguished in Stalinist purges and Yugoslav police raids. The Partisans were well organized, disciplined and they appealed to a broader spectrum of the society, including women, youth and intellectuals who were critical of the old regime. Finally, they were also more willing to fight – one might add regardless of the consequences for the local civilian population – than the Četniks. During the early months of the uprising in Serbia, both Četniks and Partisans resembled nineteenth-century peasant militias, focused on defending their homes, but the latter possessed an ideologically driven leadership that quickly transformed the peasants into revolutionaries. On 21 December 1941 (Stalin’s birthday), the Partisans’ First Proletarian Brigade was formed in eastern Bosnia. Its 1,200 soldiers came from Serbia and Montenegro; its commander was Koča Popović (1908–92), an eminent surrealist poet from Belgrade, the Communist Party member and a veteran of the Spanish Civil War.78 While the Četniks were predominantly royalist, the Partisans, or at least the communists among them, were opposed to the pre-war political system and bourgeois society. At the same time, they recalled the Serbian tradition of resistance against the Ottomans, including the Kosovo Battle, and this was not merely done to attract Serb recruits.79 The two groups initially collaborated. Together, in Autumn 1941, they liberated parts of western Serbia, including the town of Užice. The resistance was 78

Petranović, Srbija, 184; M. C. Wheeler, ‘Pariahs to Partisans to Power: The Communist Party of Yugoslavia’, in T. Judt (ed.), Resistance and Revolution in Mediterranean Europe 1939–1948, London, 1989, ch. 4; cf. J. Batinić, Women and Yugoslav Partisans: A History of World War II Resistance, Cambridge, 2015. 79 Vujačić, Nationalism, Myth and the State, 225; cf. M. Djilas, Wartime, transl. by M. B. Petrovich, New York, 1977; R. Čolaković, Kazivanje o jednom pokoljenju, 3 vols, Sarajevo, 1966.

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undoubtedly aided by the fact that the best German troops had already departed for the Eastern Front, following the beginning of the invasion of the Soviet Union in late June. Nevertheless, the short-lived Partisan–Četnik cooperation, in Serbia and elsewhere in occupied Yugoslavia, showed that the Yugoslav resistance would have been even more effective if it could have remained united.80 News of the resistance had in the meanwhile reached London. The British and the Yugoslav government-in-exile sent William Hudson, a South African-born engineer with first-hand knowledge of pre-war Yugoslavia, and two Yugoslav Army officers to establish contact with Mihailović. The mission submarine landed at the Montenegrin coast, and Hudson and his companions arrived in Užice in late October, by when the short-lived alliance between the Četniks and the Partisans was almost over.81 Their ideologies were incompatible and so were their tactics. Tito, convinced in a quick Soviet victory, wanted to continue to actively engage the enemy and at the same time carry out a Bolshevik-style revolution. Mihailović, on the other hand, preferred to maintain low-level resistance until the Allies landed in the Balkans. Having witnessed enormous Serb sacrifices in the First World War, he feared a national catastrophe amidst news of mass murder of Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia by the Ustašas and the brutality of the German occupation regime in Serbia. On 21 October, German soldiers shot nearly 2,800 Serb, Jewish and Roma civilians, including schoolboys, rounded up with the help of local collaborators, in Kragujevac. Just a few days earlier, around 2,250 civilians and hostages were executed in Kraljevo. Sources differ, but at least 20,000 and perhaps as many as 35,000 80

Pavlowitch, Hitler’s New Disorder, 53-67; Petranović, Srbija, 228–44. S. Trew, Britain, Mihailović and the Chetniks, 1941–42, London, 1998, 51–58; H. Williams, Parachutes, Patriots, and Partisans: The Special Operations Executive in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945, London, 2003, 56–65.

81

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people were executed in German reprisals in Serbia in October– December 1941.82

The Holocaust in Occupied Serbia Among those executed in Kragujevac were members of Filip David’s family. Today, a well-known Serbian-Jewish writer, David was born in the town in 1940 and together with his p ­ arents and a younger brother survived the war in a series of near-­miraculous escapes and help from non-Jews, including a friendly German officer; a whole Serb village in Vojvodina hid David, his mother and brother, while his father fought in the Partisans. However, most of David’s extended family perished, including 45 relatives murdered in Sarajevo by the Ustašas.83 A small number of Serbian Jews managed to flee before it became too late. Jaša and Rašela Almuli, a brother and sister from a prominent Belgrade Sephardim family left the city together with their cousin Mirko Davičo and several friends on 6 April, following the first wave of the Luftwaffe bombardment. A journey nearly 600 kilometres long, made mostly on foot, took them to a small Montenegrin town in the Bay of Kotor. There they stayed in a holiday resort for poor Jewish children that Jaša and Rašela’s mother Sofija had been running. Soon the whole family was in Montenegro – apart from Jaša’s older brother, who as officer of the Yugoslav Army had been captured and sent to a camp for prisoners of war in Osnabrück, Germany. The Wehrmacht spared 82

W. Manoschek, Holokaust u Srbiji: Vojna okupaciona politika i uništavanje Jevreja, 1941–1942, transl. from German by A. Eremija, A. Kovač, T. Kovač and A. Mošić, Belgrade, 2007, 157–70. 83 David’s semi-autobiographical, award-winning novel The House of Remembering and Forgetting, London, 2017 (transl. from Serbian by C. Pribićević-Zorić, Introduction by D. Djokić) describes some of these events. See also his testimony in J. Almuli, Živi i mrtvi: Razgovori sa Jevrejima, Belgrade, 2002, 133–45.

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Jewish officers of enemy armies because they fell under the relevant Geneva Convention concerning PoWs. Back in Italianoccupied Montenegro, Jaša, Rašela and Mirko as members of the Communist Party helped organize the resistance in July but were later captured by Italians together with another 200 Jews. Jaša believed that this may have saved their lives. After a short period of time spent in a camp in Albania, they were transferred to Ferramonti in southern Italy. Conditions were harsh but lax in comparison to Nazi- or Ustaša-run camps. Inmates were allowed to read, paint and move more or less freely. Being Jewish seemed less dangerous than being a Communist. When Mirko was found out as a prominent Yugoslav Party member, he was handed over to the Ustašas. As Italy’s collapse approached in late summer 1943, Jaša and Rašela escaped from the camp and fled to Palestine, via Spain. Jaša returned to Yugoslavia the following year to rejoin the Partisans, as a member of the Agitation and Propaganda unit run by Djilas.84 Mirko’s brother Oskar, also a prominent communist, was one of the most celebrated Serbian and Yugoslav poets. The Holocaust in occupied Serbia sits on the margins of a vast English-language literature on the Second World War, perhaps because it does not fit into the pattern of the systematic killing of Eastern European Jewry.85 It was the Wehrmacht, the regular German army, that carried out the majority of the killing of Jews, and other civilians, in Serbia, not the SS Einsatzgruppen, as was the case in occupied Poland and parts of the Soviet Union. German army officers in Serbia were sometimes former Habsburg 84

Jaša Almuli’s testimony, in ‘Mi smo preživeli’: Jevreji o Holokaustu, 2, Belgrade, 2003, 356–69; cf. A. Alcalay, The Persistence of Hope: A True Story, Newark, DE, 2007, 162–75; M. Ristović, U potrazi za utočištem: Jugoslovenski Jevreji u bekstvu od holokausta 1941–1945, 2nd edn, Belgrade, 2016. 85 C. R. Browning, Fateful Months: Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution, New York, 1985; Manoschek, Holokaust, 171–86; cf. Ž. Lebl, Dnevnik jedne Judite: Beograd, 1941, Gornji Milanovac, 1990; M. Pisarri, The Suffering of the Roma in Serbia during the Holocaust, Belgrade, 2014.

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army personnel who had already fought against the Serbs in the First World War. Their hostility towards the local population therefore required little encouragement from Hitler, himself a former Habsburg soldier, and the leadership in Berlin.86 Serbian collaborators such as Dimitrije Ljotić shared National-Socialist values, including antisemitism. They and their supporters were complicit in the Holocaust. Serb quisling police helped identify and round up local Jews, but it was the Germans, not the Serbs, who carried out the arrests and the killing. At the same time, in addition to many bystanders, there were ‘ordinary’ Serbs who risked their lives to protect and shelter their Jewish neighbours. The killing of Serb, Jewish and Roma hostages was carried out as part of a policy of reprisals for acts of resistance. Most hostages were Serbs, often peasants caught in areas where there was resistance activity. Jews and Communists – sometimes there was no distinction in the eyes of the occupier – were particularly targeted. Serbs would sometimes survive when no Communist connection could be established, but such escape routes rarely existed for the Roma and certainly not for the Jews. Initially, Jews were used for slave labour, but from August 1941, Jewish men aged 16–60 were sent to the Topovske Šupe camp in Belgrade, where they were executed in October and November together with Serb and Roma hostages. Remaining Jews – women, children and the elderly – were then sent to the nearby Sajmište (the pre-war Belgrade Fair, technically in the territory of the Independent State of Croatia) and executed, sometimes in a specially designed gas van, between late March and early May 1942. Several other camps were established throughout occupied Serbia, including in the Banjica district of Belgrade, which in addition to Jews and Roma, held Serbs suspected of being Communist or supportive of Mihailović and the government-in-exile. The German occupation authorities in 86

B. H. Shepherd, Terror in the Balkans: German Armies and Partisan Warfare, Harvard, MA, 2012; Manoschek, Holokaust.

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Serbia did not merely take part in the Final Solution – by carrying out a systematic murder of Jews independently of Berlin they had anticipated it by several months. Believing – wrongly, as it turned out – that all the Jews were exterminated, they proclaimed Serbia ‘free of Jews’ in May 1942. Between 11,000 and 13,600 out of perhaps 16,000 Jews in German-occupied Serbia perished during the war, including over 1,000 Central European Jews stranded in Yugoslavia when it was invaded. Out of 82,000 Yugoslav Jews, only 15,000 survived.87

Serb Civil War By the end of summer 1941, three principal, mutually antagonistic ‘native’ groups emerged in German-occupied Serbia: the Communist-led Partisans, the Četniks of Colonel Mihailović and quislings loyal to Nedić, Ljotić and Kosta Pećanac. To make things more confusing, Pećanac’s men were also called Četniks. He was the leader of the First World War uprising in southern Serbia who during the interwar period oversaw an organization of Četnik veterans, former paramilitaries who fought against the Ottomans and Habsburgs in the early twentieth century. Pećanac fought against both the Partisans and Mihailović’s men and was killed by the latter in 1944. Following the collapse of resistance in western Serbia, Tito and Mihailović both fled to Bosnia. Mihailović stayed in eastern Bosnia with his ‘illegal Četniks’, looking for an opportunity to return to his original base. Some of his men joined Nedić’s troops; these were the so-called ‘legalized Četniks’, apparently a 87

Browning, Fateful Months; D. Cvetković, Od Topovskih šupa do Sajmišta: Kvantitativna analiza Holokausta u okupiranoj Srbiji, Belgrade, 2020; M. Koljanin, Nemački logor na Beogradskom sajmištu, 1941–1944, Belgrade, 1992; M. Ristović, ‘Jews in Serbia during World War Two: Between “the Final Solution to the Jewish question” and “the Righteous among Nations”’, in M. Fogel et al., Serbia: Righteous among Nations, Zemun, 2010, 260–85.

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tactical move made to preserve men and arm them at the same time. Četnik and Partisan groups also operated further south, in Sandžak and Kosovo, where local Muslim and ethnic Albanian collaborationist guerrillas formed. A brutal occupation regime was in place in Bulgarian-occupied parts of eastern Serbia. In Vojvodina, the resistance against German, Hungarian and Croat occupation was mainly Serb and communist-led.88 During winter 1941/42, Tito led the Partisans’ retreat from western Serbia to western Bosnia and the Croatian Krajina, in the former Military Border. There the Partisans recruited among local Serbs who had fled the Ustaša terror, although some joined local Četniks. As a result, until the second half of 1943, the Partisans were a predominantly Serb force, but their leadership was multi-ethnic. Gradually, Tito’s resistance attracted large numbers of Croats and Bosnian Muslims, while in Slovenia the local Communists took over a multi-party resistance movement. Another major difference between the Partisans and Četniks, apart from their ideology and tactics, was that the Partisans were able to attract followers among all Yugoslav groups. Unlike them, the Četniks remained almost exclusively Serb.89 The Partisans considered Mihailović their most dangerous ‘internal’ enemy and in March 1943 proposed a ceasefire to the Germans so that they could engage Četnik forces. The proposal was rejected by Berlin.90 On 29 November 1943, the second session of the Anti-Fascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ, the Partisans’ revolutionary government 88

The complex situation in occupied Yugoslavia is best explained in Pavlowitch, Hitler's New Disorder, and Petranović, Srbija, 117–309; for a reassessment of the Bulgarian occupation of Serbia see G. Nikolić, ‘Pirotska gimnazija i pirotske prilike, 1941–1944’, Pirotski zbornik, 43 (2018), 1–52. 89 M. J. Milazzo, The Chetnik Movement and the Yugoslav Resistance, Baltimore, MD, 1975; Pavlowitch, Hitler’s New Disorder, 91–103. 90 Djilas, Wartime, 229–45; W. R. Roberts, Tito, Mihailović, and the Allies, 1941–1945, New Brunswick, NJ, 1973, 106–12.

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figure 6.8  The Partisan leadership, Jajce, Bosnia, November 1943. Left to right: Ivo Lola Ribar, Aleksandar Ranković, Milovan Djilas, Tito, Sreten Žujović, Andrija Hebrang, Moša Pijade and Edvard Kardelj (Keystone/ Getty Images)

and assembly) convened in Jajce, in liberated territory in central Bosnia (and, the reader will recall, the last residence of medieval Bosnian kings). The AVNOJ declared that post-war Yugoslavia will be a federal republic, thereby denouncing the king and the government-in-exile, whose war minister was Mihailović. Mihailović answered with a congress convened in a western Serbian village Ba on 27 January 1944 (St Sava’s Day). Previously mentioned Socialist leader Topalović, who had recently joined Mihailović, drafted a declaration that proposed a post-war Yugoslav federation, consisting of Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, under the Karadjordjević dynasty. It was too little too late. The proposal was not likely to gain much support among non-Serbs – not least because it was held on a date associated with the Serbian history and church. Mihailović had previously sidelined his original political advisors, Stevan Moljević, a lawyer involved with

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the Serbian Cultural Club before the war, and Dragiša Vasić, once a left-wing republican writer who later also joined the SCC. Moljević had proposed in summer 1941 the creation of an ethnically homogenous Greater Serbia, in response to Ustaša massacres of the Serbs. This was not the Četniks’ official programme, but Mihailović’s thinking at the time appeared to be along similar lines. In December 1941, shortly after the collapse of the uprising in western Serbia, he told his commanders that they fought for a ‘Great Serbia within Great Yugoslavia’.91 In the short term, the Četniks’ main enemies were Croats and Bosnian Muslims who were slaughtering Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia, and Communist-led Partisans – Serbs and nonSerbs alike. In medium term, the Četniks intended to engage German, Italian and other foreign occupiers with the Allies’ help. Četniks committed atrocities against non-Serb civilians, especially in Bosnia and Croatia, but also against Serb Communists and civilians suspected of being pro-Partisan. They also engaged in collaboration with the enemy, for different reasons as already explained. The Četniks, if we can talk of a single movement, were therefore not a resistance comparable to the Partisans, as their apologists have argued. At the same time, Mihailović should not be equated with Nedić and Ljotić, let alone Ustaša leader Pavelić. Neither Mihailović nor other Četnik commanders adhered to a racial ideology comparable to that of the Serb quislings and Naziinspired Ustašas. Moreover, they lacked state structure to carry out systematic and organized extermination of racially undesirable elements, like the Ustaša-run Croatian state did. Finally, the Četniks were pro-Allied and favoured the restoration of Yugoslavia after the war. In their vision, the Serbs would dominate the post-war Yugoslav state as a reward for their sacrifices and as 91

Petranović, Srbija, 214–17; M. Vesović and K. Nikolić (eds), Ujedinjene srpske zemlje: Ravnogorski nacionalni program, Belgrade, 1996, 46–47 (Mihailović’s directive), 190–95 (Moljević’s memorandum).

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figure 6.9  General Mihailović between two Allied officers, Colonel Bailey (to Mihailović’s left) and Brigadier Armstrong, eastern Bosnia?, c.1942–43 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

a security against future ‘treason’ by Croats and other non-Serbs. The Ustašas meanwhile were an anti-Yugoslav and anti-Allies, as well as anti-Serb, anti-Semitic, anti-Roma and anti-Communist movement.92 By Spring 1944, Mihailović had been de facto abandoned by his British allies, while the government-in-exile was hopelessly divided and ineffective. Many in German-occupied Serbia probably remained loyal to the embattled general and the exiled king, but during the summer, Mihailović’s predicament would rapidly deteriorate. The allies fully switched their support to Tito, and in September 1944, King Petar was forced to remove Mihailović

92

N. Bartulin, The Racial Idea in the Independent State of Croatia: Origins and Theory, Leiden, 2014; Djilas, The Contested Country, ch. 4; Vujačić, Nationalism, Myth and the State, 218–20; Yeomans, Visions of Anihilation.

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from the government and call upon the Yugoslavs to join Tito’s resistance. Meanwhile, Partisan units were making their way into Serbia from the west, while the Soviet Red Army was advancing from the east. The Serb (and Montenegrin) civil war between royalists and communists broke out in 1941 in occupied Serbia, Montenegro and eastern Herzegovina. It then became in some ways a civil war between the pro-Mihailović and pro-royalist Serbia and mainly Croatian and Bosnian Serb Partisans, both of whom also fought against local collaborators. The Serb participation in the Partisan movement in satellite Croatia made the success of the communist-led resistance there possible, but tensions between the mainly Croat leadership and local Serb fighters escalated in summer 1943. A group of prominent Croatian Serb Partisans objected that revolutionary institutions had not been representative enough of the Serbs, whose contribution to the resistance and sacrifice had been disproportionately high. They reached out to local Četniks to organize a joint Serb resistance against the Ustaša and the Germans. Nothing came out of this, but the ‘dissidents’ were later arrested and tried by the Croatian Communist Party for treason. Five of them were shot dead and several others received sentences of various length following the so-called Kordun Trial.93 This incident anticipated tensions between Croat and Serb communists in socialist Croatia after the war. The victory of the Partisan People’s Liberation Army in Serbia was confirmed by the liberation of Belgrade, with the help from the Red Army, on 21 October 1944, three years after the temporary liberation of Užice and the German reprisals against civilians in western Serbia. Mihailović was not defeated yet, but his war had been lost even if he was yet to realize it.

93

Č. Višnjić, Kordunaški proces: Fragmenti iz historije nestajanja, Zagreb, 1997.

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War and Interwar (1914–1944) Box 6.1 Yugoslavia’s war deaths, 1941–45 The official figure in socialist Yugoslavia (1,709,000 war deaths) was subsequently revised: 1,014,000 – according to Bogoljub Kočović; 1,027,000 – according to Vladimir Žerjavić; or between 890,000 and 1,200,000 – according to Srdjan Bogosavljević.94 Yugoslavia’s death toll (c. 1 million in a country of some 16 million people in 1941) represents the highest loss relative to country population after the Soviet Union and Poland. Around one half of all Yugoslav victims. were Serbs, perhaps as high as 58 per cent, according to Bogosavljević. Some 155,000 people perished during the war in the territory of what would become Socialist Republic of Serbia. According to Tomislav Dulić, between 15.9 and 20 per cent of all Bosnian and Croatian Serbs were killed during the war in the Independent State of Croatia; by comparison, 10 per cent of the Muslims, 5–6 per cent of the Croats, and 76.5 per cent of the Jews perished in satellite Croatia (and possibly a similarly high proportion of Roma). In Bosnia-Herzegovina alone 292,000–308,000 people were killed, of whom 216,000–229,000 were Serbs (72.3 per cent of all victims). In addition, it is estimated that around 200,000 Serbs were expelled, and a similar number was converted to Roman Catholicism in the Independent State of Croatia.95

94

B. Kočović, Žrtve Drugog svetskog rata u Jugoslaviji, London, 1985; V. Žerjavić, Gubici stanovništva Jugoslavije u Drugom svjetskom ratu, Zagreb, 1989; S. Bogosavljević, ‘The Unresolved Genocide’, in N. Popov and D. Gojković (eds), The Road to War in Serbia: Trauma and Catharsis, Budapest, 2000 (first publ. in Serbian in 1996), 146–59. 95 Dulić, ‘Mass Killing’; cf. M. Bergholz, Violence as a Generative Force: Identity, Nationalism, and Memory in a Balkan Community, Ithaca, NY, 2016; Cvetković, ‘Koncentracijski logor Jasenovac’, and Od Topovskih šupa, 12; R. M. Hayden, ‘Mass Killings and Images of Genocide in Bosnia,1941–5 and 1992–5’, in D. Stone (ed.), The Historiography of Genocide, London, 2008, 487–516.

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7 Federation to Fragmentation (1945–1990) u

Federal Serbia in Federal Yugoslavia Like in 1918, the Yugoslavia of 1945 was created by the Yugoslavs rather than the Great Powers; like in the aftermath of the First World War, the post–Second World War Yugoslav state would not have been possible without its acceptance by the victorious Allies. The new government and its ideology were not imposed by the Soviets, as was the case elsewhere in Eastern Europe. It was, almost uniquely, a largely domestic affair, due to the victory of the People’s Liberation Army, although the Soviet and AngloAmerican aid to the Partisans was significant. The post-war establishment of the Communist-dominated (and soon exclusively Communist) government was a complex process, albeit one that was facilitated by the popularity of Tito and the Partisans, and also by their control of the army and the police and intimidation of political rivals.1 The question remained, however, how to integrate Serbia and more broadly Serbs, many of whom identified, or were identified with the interwar Yugoslav kingdom and its wartime government-in-exile, which had included General Mihailović as war minister. Finding an answer to it was part of a complex post-war reconciliation process. New Yugoslavia was going to be almost everything the old Serb-dominated Yugoslav state was 1

M. K. Bokovoy, C. Lilly and J. Irvine (eds), State-Society Relations in Yugoslavia, 1945–1992, New York, 1997; M.-J. Calic, A History of Yugoslavia, West Lafayette, IN, 2019, chs 10 & 11; M. Djilas, Rise and Fall, transl. by J. Loud, San Diego, 1985; J. R. Lampe, Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country, Cambridge, 1996, chs 8 & 9.

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not; above all, it was to be a communist one-party state and a federal republic rather than a centralized monarchy that experimented with both liberal democracy and royal dictatorship, before reverting to a quasi-democratic and quasi-federal system in its final years. The outcome of the war represented for the Serbs both a victory and a defeat. On the one hand, the liberation and restoration of Yugoslavia, in no small part due to the Serb (and Montenegrin) contribution to the Partisan movement, was an outcome that most Serbs welcomed. On the other hand, the end of the war also represented the defeat of Mihailović and the abolition of a monarchy and political parties that had become synonymous with modern Serbia. Deep ideological divisions among the Serbs created during the war have not fully healed to this day. Although the Serbs and more broadly South Slavs had fought against each other in the First World War, and even though the Central Powers’ occupation forces in Serbia committed mass massacres of civilians, the civil war and occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941–45 was more brutal, as discussed in the previous chapter. At least 155,000 people died in the territory of newly established federal Serbia, the majority in German-occupied Serbia and Vojvodina, which had been effectively ‘partitioned’ by Croatia, Hungary and Germany. It was also an ideologically fundamentally different conflict due to the racial and genocidal nature of violence in the 1940s. Proportionally, Yugoslav Jews and Roma suffered most, but because of their size and role in the creation of Yugoslavia, the Serb and Croat losses in what was the first Croat– Serb war in history were arguably more significant when it came to the region’s future (not forgetting proportionally comparable losses suffered by Bosnian Muslims and even higher Montenegrin losses). In other words, it was remarkable that in 1945, Yugoslavia was restored after such a brutal inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic war among the South Slavs, in particular in the Independent State of Croatia. It is debatable whether this could have been achieved without the victory of the Communist-led Partisans.

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A further obstacle to post-war reconstruction was posed by a ­ evastating material destruction. Three and a half million peod ple were left homeless by the war; tens of thousands in poorest, mountainous areas such as the largely Serb-populated Krajina, site of some of the worst ethnic violence during the war, faced starvation. It did not help that road infrastructure and most motor vehicles had been destroyed or damaged, making delivery of food extremely difficult. Around 15 per cent of pre-war housing had been destroyed, including nearly 290,000 peasant households. Almost all of Yugoslavia’s mines, some 40 per cent of industrial plants and over 50 per cent of livestock and agricultural equipment had been either destroyed or damaged.2 The Party’s position on the ‘Serb question’ had been complex already prior to the Second World War. On the one hand, the Serbs’ historic role in creating Yugoslavia was unquestionable; ditto Serbia’s socialist tradition, inbuilt into the foundations of the Communist Party. Moreover, their geographically dispersed position and numerical size made the Serbs central to Yugoslavia’s stability and unity. At the same time, Serbia and the Serbs were associated with the ‘imperialist Versailles peace treaty’, the interwar hegemony of their ‘bourgeoisie’, and with the exiled king and government, not to mention Mihailović’s Četniks. Yugoslavia’s new leadership had been aware of the difficulties and challenges regarding the position of Serbia and the Serbs in new Yugoslavia. It might be argued that this question was probably never fully resolved. It certainly appeared that way in the 1980s, when the country’s internal federal boundaries (see Map 7.1), including their origin and their ‘fairness’, were at the centre of heated political debates, especially in Serbia. The question of Serb borders was also key to the wars of the 1990s, as discussed in the next chapter. The borders of federal units were drawn on combination of historic and ethnic criteria and political decision-making; while not 2

Figures are from Calic, A History of Yugoslavia, 171, and Lampe, Yugoslavia, 239.

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Federation to Fragmentation (1945–1990) Hungarian, 1.9 Montenegrin, 2.5 Yugoslav, 5.4* Macedonian, 7.7

Other, 3.9 Serb, 36.3

Albanian, 7.7 Slovene, 7.8

HUNGARY

AUSTRIA

Croat, 19.7

* Yugoslavs are persons who listed themselves as such in the 1981 census. They are dispersed across the country.

Ljubljana

SLOVENIA

Muslim, 8.9

Zagreb

CROATIA

Vojvodina (autonomous province)

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Belgrade

SERBIA

Sarajevo

ADRIATIC SEA

MONTENEGRO

ITALY Albanian Bulgarian Croat Hungarian Macedonian

ROMANIA

Montenegrin Muslim Serb Slovene No majority

Kosovo (autonomous province)

MACEDONIA

ALBANIA

based on municipality data from 1991 census

GREECE

map 7.1  Administrative and ‘ethnic’ boundaries of Yugoslavia’s ­republics and provinces, 1945–91. The ‘ethnic’ map is based on 1991 census data. Drawn by Joe LeMonnier, https://mapartist.com/ based on a map from The Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas, Austin https:// maps.lib.utexas.edu/maps/europe/yugoslav.jpg

ideal, they made more sense than their critics suggested. The new republic of Slovenia gained additional territory in Istria, though not the coveted port city of Trieste, which following a prolonged international crisis over its status went to Italy. Although the Slovenes

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pointed out that many of their compatriots remained outside the borders of Yugoslavia (in Austria and Italy), they had good reasons to be satisfied with the re-emergence of Yugoslavia. It was with the creation of the Serb–Croat–Slovene kingdom in 1918 that Slovenes were for the first time in history mentioned in a state name; moreover, for the first time, a university offering classes in Slovenian was established in 1919. (The University of Ljubljana was called the ‘King Aleksandar University’ for most of the interwar period.) In 1945, for the first time in history, a political entity called Slovenia had been established, bringing together most Slovenes. Croatia also became a republic, albeit within the Yugoslav federation, for the first time in its history; thus, in some ways, Stjepan Radić’s old demands – republicanism and federalism – were finally met, albeit in a very different context. The borders of the Croatian republic resembled those of the historic Kingdom of CroatiaSlavonia and Dalmatia, which also meant that it was geographically smaller than both the Independent State of Croatia and the 1939 Croatian banovina. (Re-)integrating Croatia, the only quisling state on the territory of occupied Yugoslavia, whose regime was responsible for genocide against Serbs, Jews and Roma, was another major challenge.3 The authorities (correctly) emphasized the Croats’ contribution to the Partisan victory and (also correctly) refused to blame the whole nation for the crimes of the wartime Croatian state. Moreover, they (wrongly) equated Pavelić and Nedić and introduced a false symmetry between the Ustašas and Četniks. Tito understood that Serb support for the exiled monarchy and Mihailović’s defeated ‘movement’ was not inconsiderable and that while many Croats had rejected Pavelić, they had not necessarily abandoned the idea of Croatian statehood. New Yugoslavia needed to avoid the interwar Serb hegemony and 3

D. Jović, ‘Reassessing Socialist Yugoslavia, 1945–90: The Case of Croatia’, in D. Djokić and J. Ker-Lindsay (eds), New Perspectives on Yugoslavia, London, 2011, 117–42.

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Croat separatism, so Serbs and Croats, as the two largest Yugoslav nations, would be kept on a tight leash. This was to be achieved in several ways, beginning with drawing boundaries of the two republics in such a way that it would prevent them from dominating the others, or indeed each other. The question ‘Where was Serbia?’ had been posed before, most recently in 1939, following the Cvetković–Maček agreement. Tito’s Partisan movement offered its answer at the second session of the Anti-Fascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia (AVNOJ) held in Jajce on 29 November 1943. By then, the contours of the post-war Yugoslav federal borders had begun to emerge. In the run up to the second AVNOJ session, Moša Pijade, a senior member of the Party, who hailed from a Belgrade Jewish family, proposed at a Central Committee meeting that Serb-populated areas in Lika, Banija and Kordun be granted autonomy within Croatia after the war. Pijade, whom Milovan Djilas thought of as the greatest Serb patriot within the Party leadership, had even prepared maps and statistics to illustrate his proposal. The meeting acknowledged the key part played in the resistance by Croatian Serbs. What was left unsaid, but was undoubtedly obvious to all, was that the Serbs had also suffered enormously in the Ustaša-run Croatia and that autonomy would be both a reward and a future protection against Croat domination. Pijade’s suggestion was considered but quickly rejected by Aleksandar Ranković, the leading Serb in the Party, who thought there was no need to demarcate every municipality between the two very close peoples. Tito, apparently relieved that he, as halfCroat, did not have to reject Pijade’s proposal, agreed. He added that future internal divisions in Yugoslavia will be purely administrative and not some ‘bourgeois borders’.4

4

M. Djilas, Wartime, transl. by M. B. Petrovich, New York, 1977, 356; B. Petranović and M. Zečević (eds), Jugoslovenski federalizam: tematska zbirka dokumenata, 2 vols, Belgrade, 1987, I, 796–77n & II, 164–65n.

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Another far-reaching decision was made at this time regarding the future status of Bosnia-Herzegovina – again, an area where Serbs were in a plurality and where they were the victims of the Ustaša genocide. During the early stages of the war, according to Djilas, it had been assumed within the Party leadership that Bosnia would become an autonomous province within Serbia. If this had happened, Serbia’s old ambition, previously thwarted by the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires, would have been finally realized, within the Yugoslav framework. Gradually, however, the Party leaders, especially those from Bosnia, including Serbs, came to believe that making Bosnia-Herzegovina a full republic within Yugoslavia would be the best way of minimizing the Serb–Croat rivalry.5 (This echoed, but was independent from Ljuba Davidović’s 1933 proposal). The 1943 AVNOJ congress declared that Yugoslavia would be a federation after the war, but no firm decisions had been made regarding future federal borders. Djilas recalled Ranković informing Tito in January 1944 that Bosnian comrades wanted a republic, and Tito agreed that this would be for the best. Ironically, considering that he would be perceived as a defender of Serb rights in socialist Yugoslavia (as discussed in the following text), Ranković played an important role in decision-making that Serb nationalists would later consider as being to their detriment. It was the other way around regarding Vojvodina, which was initially envisaged as a separate Yugoslav republic after the war. Ultimately, however, Serbian communists, including those from Vojvodina, thought it should be constituted as an autonomous province within Serbia.6 Some Croat Party members unsuccessfully 5

B. Petranović, Srbija u Drugom svetskom ratu, 1939–1945, Belgrade, 1992, 528–29. 6 V. Unkovski-Korica, ‘World War II and the National Question: The Origins of the Autonomous Status of Vojvodina in Yugoslavia’, Europe-Asia Studies, 68:10 (2016), 1712–35; cf. V. Petsinis, National Identity in Serbia: The Vojvodina and a Multi-Ethnic Community in the Balkans, London, 2020.

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argued that parts of Vojvodina included in the Independent State of Croatia should remain within post-war Yugoslav Croatia. Paradoxically, and in some ways resembling the developments in interwar Yugoslavia, Serbia, unlike Croatia and Slovenia, was without its own Communist Party branch and without its AntiFascist Council (likely a direct transposition of the Soviet principle that the largest nation does not need its own party or republic). This changed at the end of the war when Tito effectively united the Communist Party of Yugoslavia by creating the Serbian and fully incorporating the Croat and Slovene branches. The Yugoslav communists had for long time opposed Serb-dominated ‘Versailles Yugoslavia’ – nobody more so perhaps than the Croatian communists, as Andrija Hebrang, the Croatian Communist leader, proudly told the founding congress of the Anti-Fascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Serbia in Belgrade in November 1944. ‘Long live free democratic Serbia! Long live new Yugoslavia – a fraternal union of equal peoples!’, Hebrang told the delegates.7 Meanwhile, Montenegro was established as a separate republic. However, by effectively reversing the late November 1918 Podgorica Assembly decision to unite with Serbia, the Communists did not adopt the position of the original opponents of the union, the so-called ‘Greens’. The supporters of King Nikola, who had at the time identified as Serbs, objected to the way the union was carried out, because it ended Montenegro’s statehood and abolished its dynasty.8 During the Second World War, some ‘Greens’ advocated a separate Montenegrin nation and collaborated with the Italians and even the Ustašas. The Yugoslav Communist position on the ‘Montenegrin question’ was that Montenegrins and

7

Petranović, Srbija, 530–34, 688–707; D. S. Petrović, Konstituisanje federalne Srbije, Belgrade, 1988, 202–203. 8 I. Banac, The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics, Ithaca, NY, 1984, 270–91.

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Serbs shared history and ethnic roots, but, due to historical circumstances, the former had developed a distinct national identity. The historic ties between Serbia and Montenegro, and Serbs and Montenegrins, were explicitly acknowledged by the two republics sharing a flag – a red, blue, white tricolore of the old kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro with the addition of a red star in the middle. The other Yugoslav republics had their own, distinct flags, while the Yugoslav state flag also differed from the flags of the federal republics. By the time of the first population census in post-war Yugoslavia, which now recorded nationhood (nacionalnost) rather than religion and language as was the case in the interwar period, there were 426,000 Montenegrins, the majority of whom (342,000) lived in Montenegro. In reality, probably little changed: most Montenegrins likely continued to have both Montenegrin and Serb identities, just like they did before the war. Intelligentsia, army officers and veterans of the Partisan struggle would have also felt a sense of a Yugoslav identity.9 On the other hand, most Macedonian Slavs never felt they belonged to the Serbian nation. This was recognized by the new Yugoslav government, which established a Macedonian republic and recognized a separate – from both Serbs and Bulgarians – Macedonian nation. Serbia became a de facto federation within federation, with the autonomous province of Vojvodina and autonomous region of Kosovo and Metohija established within its new borders. The Serbs also stood out as the nation most widely dispersed throughout the country. In 1948, over 6.5 million people declared themselves as Serbs (41.5 per cent of the total population of Yugoslavia), but

9

M. Djilas, ‘O crnogorskom nacionalnom pitanju’, Borba (Belgrade), 1 May 1945. Djilas later wrote invaluable historical works on Montenegro, notably: Land without Justice, New York, 1958, and Njegoš: Poet, Prince, Bishop, New York, 1966 (both translated by M. B. Petrovich); the census figure: Pavlowitch, Serbia, 159.

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only slightly over 3.8 million lived in ‘inner’ Serbia – or what was left of Serbia without the autonomous areas, a territory roughly corresponding to the pre-1912 Serbian kingdom.10 To summarize, the new authorities reversed Serbia’s 1912– 13 territorial gains, either completely (Macedonia) or partially (Kosovo), but Vojvodina was attached to Serbia as an autonomous province. Montenegro, which entered Yugoslavia on 1 December 1918 in union with Serbia, was proclaimed a separate republic and Montenegrins were declared a separate nation, albeit one that shared historical and ethnic roots with the Serbs. The historic Sandžak region was ‘divided’ by Serbia and Montenegro, although plans for its autonomous status had been considered and then abandoned.11 An additional challenge, from the new government’s point of view, was posed by the status of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Gavrilo had publicly supported the 27 March 1941 Belgrade coup, comparing the defiance and sacrifice of the Yugoslav Army officers to the Serbian knights who fought the 1389 Kosovo Battle; as we have seen, these were also the sentiments that were shared by at least some Serb communists and their sympathizers. The Patriarch was almost immediately arrested, then released, by the German occupation authorities; he supported Mihailović and King Petar II and refused to collaborate with General Nedić. Gavrilo spent much of the war in incarceration at a monastery near Belgrade, before being sent to Dachau, together with previously mentioned Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović. The Patriarch returned to the liberated country, while Velimirović, who was a controversial figure, due to allegations of antisemitism and links with Ljotić, opted to remain in exile. (He was canonized by the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2003.) Several Serbian bishops and 10

St. K. Pavlowitch, Serbia: The History behind the Name, London, 2002, 159. K. Morrison and E. Williams, The Sandžak: A History, London, 2013, chs 10 & 11.

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many lower clergy were killed during the war, while hundreds of churches and monasteries had been demolished or damaged, ­especially in the Independent State of Croatia. Because its heroic stand and its sacrifices in the war were undeniable, the Serbian church could not be easily dismissed as ‘collaborationist’.12 The ‘restoration’ in 1945 of Serbia – albeit as a federal unit within communist Yugoslavia – was significant symbolically. Unlike Croatia, no Serbia had existed in interwar Yugoslavia, which led to Serb complaints in the late 1930s. The future republican borders had begun to emerge already during the war, sometimes in form of liberated territories created around main resistance centres (Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro), or in areas populated by a single Yugoslav nation (Slovenia). The last one to form in this sense was Serbia, where between late 1941 and autumn 1944, there was relatively little Partisan activity. This did not mean, however, that the Partisans were ignorant or hostile to Serbian history. As previously mentioned, main events and figures from Serbia’s past were recalled during and after the war, and not only to attract popular support. Just like in late 1918, a provisional Yugoslav government was formed in 1945, with Tito as prime minister. Milan Grol (1876– 1952), Davidović’s successor as the Democratic Party leader and formerly a minister in the government-in-exile, returned to the liberated country to take up the post of a deputy prime minister. He resigned within months, after being marginalized by Communist and pro-Communist ministers. Grol attempted to revive political pluralism in the country by forming an opposition coalition between the Democrats and what was left of the old Radical Party. In the end, due to intimidation by the authorities, he boycotted 12

R. Radić, Verom protiv vere: Država i verske zajednice u Srbiji 1945–1953, Belgrade, 1995, and Život u vremenima: Patrijarh Gavrilo (Dožić): 1881–1950, Belgrade, 2011; Djilas, Wartime, 427–28; cf. K. Buchenau, ‘The Serbian Orthodox Church’, in L. N. Leustean (ed.), Eastern Christianity and Politics in the Twenty-First Century, London, 2014, 67–92.

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(b)

figure 7.1  (a) Coat of arms of Socialist Republic of Serbia (1947–92). (b) Coat of arms of the Principality of Serbia (1835–82). (Wikipedia). Note that the traditional ‘Serbian cross’ was de facto preserved in the coat of arms of socialist Serbia, as it is easy to visualize it between the four Cyrillic letters ‘C’ (S). These are popularly believed to stand for Samo sloga Srbina spasava (‘Only unity saves the Serbs’), a slogan attributed to St Sava, but in reality invented in the second half of the nineteenth century (see Figure 3.1). The new coat of arms also preserved the oak tree branch that featured in the nineteenth-century version, as a symbol of Šumadija, an area that gave birth to modern Serbia. The symbolic link with nineteenth-century Serbia is further emphasized by the years ‘1804’ and ‘1941’, highlighting the importance of, and drawing direct parallels between, the First Serbian Uprising and the uprising in German-occupied Serbia. Considering that royalist Četniks had described their own rebellion in 1941 as the ‘Third Serbian Uprising’, and hailed General Mihailović as new Karadjordje, the symbols of socialist Serbia offer an example of the Yugoslav communists’ feel for Serbia’s past, rather than their rejection of it, as it is popularly believed. The references to Serbia’s historical symbols and events may be also said to demonstrate the communist leadership’s aim to usurp the Karadjordjević dynasty as ‘true’ representatives and leaders of the Serbian nation.

the November 1945 elections and soon withdrew from politics. Dragoljub Jovanović, the interwar Agrarian leader accused by the old Yugoslav regime of collaborating with the Communists and a veteran Serbian Republican Jaša Prodanović were similarly forced out of politics. Interwar political parties banned during the

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royalist dictatorship had been eventually allowed to resume their activities and take part in the 1935 and 1938 elections. A decade later, no party was officially banned, but they were de facto abolished by a combination of violence and intimidation.13 The relaxation of the dictatorship – if not its abolition – in the second half of the 1930s had been partly due to the ideological origins of the post–World War I Yugoslav state. Similarly, the introduction of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in the mid-1940s was inseparably linked with the ideological foundations of new Yugoslavia. Together with a small number of loyal followers, General Mihailović remained at large at the end of the war. Hunted by the Communist secret police, he was finally captured in March 1946. His show trial and execution during the summer was one of a number of similar court proceedings of individuals accused of collaboration and considered as potential opposition rivals of the new government. Among them was elderly London-based Professor Slobodan Jovanović, sentenced in absentia to 20 years of hard labour as former prime minister of the government-in-exile that had included both Mihailović and Grol. Once again, the agrarian question became an important issue, and once again it was closely connected with nation-building. In the shadow of much better-known expulsion of millions of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia and Poland (two other restored Slav countries), around 500,000 Yugoslav Germans were ‘ethnically cleansed’ (the German community in neighbouring Romania suffered the same fate).14 Their land in Vojvodina, Yugoslavia’s agricultural hub, was distributed mainly to settlers from Herzegovina and Montenegro. Thus, the old migratory 13

V. Koštunica and K. Čavoški, Party Pluralism or Monism: Social Movements and the Political System in Yugoslavia, 1944–1949, Boulder, CO, 1985. 14 Z. Janjetović, ‘The Disappearance of the Germans from Yugoslavia: Expulsion or Emigration?’, Tokovi istorije, 1–2 (2003), 73–89; cf. C. Mezger, Forging Germans: Youth, Nation, and the National Socialist Mobilization of Ethnic Germans in Yugoslavia, 1918–1944, Oxford, 2020.

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pattern, of Orthodox refugees from the Balkan hinterland settling in the lower Danubian plain in aftermath of mass violence, was repeated, albeit in a different context. As a result, the 1948 population census registered 52 per cent Serbs in Vojvodina – an increase of around 14 per cent when compared to pre-war estimates.15 Vojvodina Hungarians were as numerous as the departed Germans, but did not suffer the same fate, even though members of the community were similarly involved in brutal occupation. This was mainly because a communist government was being established in Hungary, Yugoslavia’s northern neighbour. In the south, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo were spared for similar reasons, but perhaps up to 350,000 ethnic Italians from Istria and Dalmatia were forced to move to Italy after the war. As in the aftermath of the First World War, Italy and Yugoslavia disagreed over the border demarcation in north-eastern Adriatic, and it took them a while to eventually reach an agreement.16 The establishment of regional autonomies in Serbia’s north and south therefore had been driven by both internal (keeping Serbia in check) and external factors (good neighbourly relations with communist Hungary and Albania). Moreover, Kosovo and formerly Serbian Macedonia were established within Serbia and Yugoslavia, respectively, as potential ‘bridges’ towards Albania and Bulgaria – another neighbouring country with a communist government after the war. The late nineteenth-century socialist plans for a Balkan federation and Prince Mihailo’s Balkan alliances of the 1860s were thus updated as Tito’s vision of a Yugoslav-led Balkan federation. As the Greek communists continued to fight a civil war against royalists (in Greece’s own version of the Partisans versus the Četniks 15

Pavlowitch, Serbia, 163. S. Mišić, Pomirenje na Jadranu: Jugoslavija i Italija na putu ka Osimskim sporazumima iz 1975, Belgrade, 2018; cf. P. Ballinger, History in Exile: Memory and Identity at the Borders of the Balkans, Princeton, NJ, 2003.

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conflict), there was a possibility that Greece too would join a future Balkan federation. Greece’s communist stronghold was in northern parts of the country, in ‘Slavophone’ Greek Macedonia, and there appeared to be more than mere ideological links between the Yugoslav and Greek communists.17

The Tito–Stalin Split and the Djilas Affair Stalin initially encouraged Tito to absorb Albania, whose communist resistance had been organized by the Yugoslavs. At the same time, the Soviet leader increasingly felt uneasy with Tito’s ambition and independence. The Yugoslav leader was unquestionably a Stalin loyalist, but he saw himself – and just as importantly was seen by others in Eastern Europe – as the most important communist statesman after Stalin. Yugoslavia indeed stood apart from the other communist regimes in the making because it possessed a large, confident army and a party whose popularity was boosted by the victory over both internal and external enemies during the war. Tito’s Partisans, and not the Soviets, whose military support in the final stages of the war was important but arguably not decisive, were the liberators of Yugoslavia. Keen to respect the infamous October 1944 ‘percentages agreement’ with Churchill about a shared Soviet–British influence in the Balkans, which in Yugoslavia was to be 50-50 and in Greece 90-10 in Britain’s favour, Stalin thought Tito was moving too fast. Demonstrating a good knowledge of the recent Serbian and Yugoslav history, and allegedly acting on behalf of the Soviet Party Central Committee, Stalin sent a warning to Tito in a letter dated 27 March 1948 – the seventh anniversary of the Belgrade 17

In addition to sending aid to their Greek comrades, the Yugoslavs sheltered a large number of refugees. M. Ristović, Eksperiment Buljkes: Grčka utopija u Jugoslaviji (1945–1949), Belgrade, 2007; cf. R. Clogg, A Concise History of Greece, 2nd edn, Cambridge, 2002, 134–42.

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coup. When the following month the Soviets demanded that their diplomats attend a trial of two Yugoslav party members, a high-ranking Serbian communist official compared this to the Austrian-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia in July 1914. Continuing with historical analogies, Moscow expelled Yugoslavia from the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform, which de facto succeeded the Communist International, or Comintern) on 28 June 1948. The Kosovo Battle anniversary was of course also the anniversary of the Sarajevo assassination and of the Versailles Treaty. The Yugoslavs were shocked at first. The Communist Party of Yugoslavia was a founding member of the Cominform and Belgrade the first seat of the organization (after the Soviet– Yugoslav split, its headquarters moved to Bucharest). The conflict, despite some post factum interpretations encouraged by the official Yugoslav historiography, was not ideological. It was essentially a power struggle between Stalin and Tito, and geopolitical interests were just as important. In the geopolitical context, when the USA had a nuclear bomb and Soviets did not, and when Stalin needed to consolidate his power in Eastern Europe’s ‘People’s Democracies’, opening the Greek front was not in Moscow’s interest. Yet, the confrontation with Belgrade took everyone by surprise but Stalin and his closest circle. Western intelligence agencies initially thought the whole thing was staged. Once it became clear the split was real, it had profound consequences that reached well beyond Yugoslavia.18 Stalin’s confidence that Yugoslav communists’ sense of loyalty to him would bring down Tito proved to be misplaced. It probably saved Yugoslavia from a military invasion, because the Soviet

18

J. Perović, ‘The Tito–Stalin Split: A Reassessment in Light of New Evidence’, Journal of Cold War Studies, 9:2 (2007), 32–63; St. K. Pavlowitch, ‘La crise Yougoslave et ses consequences sur L’Europe orientale’, in Coll. [ectiff], L’Europe de l’Est et de l’Ouest dans la Guerre froide, 1948–1953, Paris, 2002, 83–97.

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leader did not think it would be needed. When he realized he was wrong the momentum had gone and the timing was bad anyhow. Stalin was not prepared for a confrontation with the West an intervention in Yugoslavia would have likely provoked. Yet, he was not completely wrong in his assessment of the situation, as it soon emerged that some Yugoslav communists supported the Cominform resolution. Support for Tito’s wartime movement, especially among the Serbs and Montenegrins, had in some cases merged with older pro-Russian sentiments. How many of them genuinely supported Moscow in 1948 and how many were innocent victims of Tito’s own Stalin-style purges are hard to say, but Montenegrins and Serbs were disproportionately represented among those arrested in Yugoslavia following the Cominform resolution. Many were sent to Goli otok (Barren Island), Yugoslavia’s gulag off the coast of Croatia. There were some high-profile victims of the purges, including Hebrang and Sreten Žujović, a leading Serb Party member; a senior army general was shot while attempting to flee to Romania, while several Croatian Serb communists were arrested, some perhaps as belated victims of the Kordun Trial.19 The purge of domestic enemies accused of collaboration had only just finished, and it felt as this was the second round. The political conflict with the Soviet Union, which could have yet turned into a military confrontation, boosted the party ranks as Yugoslav patriotic feelings grew. It was caused by a siege mentality as four of Yugoslavia’s (and all of Serbia’s external) neighbours – Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania – were members of the Soviet bloc. The breakup with the Cominform represented a serious economic blow: in 1948, nearly one half of Yugoslavia’s imports came from the Bloc, the following year the figure was down to 14 per cent and in 1950 no imports came 19

I. Banac, With Stalin against Tito: Cominformist Splits in Yugoslav Communism, Ithaca, NY, 1998.

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from the Soviet Union and its satellites; it was similar regarding the country’s export. Western economic aid, however, eventually arrived to provide a lifeline. Especially generous was the United States, which, together with its allies, looked to support a country whose conflict with Moscow exposed cracks in the Soviet bloc that had until recently appeared monolithic.20 This was the main reason why the aid was not conditional upon democratization (which would half a century later feature in American and Western European dealings with post-communist countries in transition to democracy, including Serbia). Between 1950 and 1953, the United States alone provided Yugoslavia with grants and other aid worth $620 million, which amounted to three-­quarters of all western aid the country received during this period. In addition, the United States sent military aid, including weaponry, for an army that by 1951 had grown to 600,000 soldiers, or by as much as 50 per cent in just three years. Meanwhile, Yugoslavia almost doubled its military budget, from 9.4 per cent in 1948 to 16.7 per cent in 1950. Despite the Party leadership’s attempts to diversify the officer corps, it became even more dominated by Serbs and Montenegrins during this period. This problem was ‘inherited’ from the interwar period, but the Second World War recruitment patterns were even more critical. It would be never fully resolved.21 Western aid stabilized the Yugoslav economy but did not reverse a north–south divide that resembled that of Italy. Keeping in mind regional disparities within the north and the south, the former included Slovenia, north-western Croatia (and later, with the development of tourism, Dalmatia), Vojvodina and most of ‘inner’ Serbia. The economically less developed ‘south’ included Bosnia-Herzegovina, the 20

Lampe, Yugoslavia, 253–54. Ibid, 257–60. For the army, see J. Gow, Legitimacy and the Military: The Yugoslav Crisis, London, 1992; M. Hadžić, Sudbina partijske vojske, Belgrade, 2001.

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Croatian Krajina region (which had a Serb majority or plurality) and parts of Dalmatia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia’s southern regions, including Kosovo. Therefore, Yugoslavia’s economic disparities of the 1950s developed neither along internal administrative borders nor along boundaries between the main ethnic groups (to the extent that these could be drawn).22 A constitutional law of 1951 introduced the workers’ self-­ management and effectively superseded the Soviet-inspired 1946 Constitution.23 The dictatorship of the proletariat, which had ensured that enemies of the people – both real and imagined – were removed and the party rule firmly established, was declared over. The constitutional reform set the Yugoslav communists on their own path to state socialism, both in domestic and in foreign policies. To emphasize the ‘true faith’ of their ideology, and thus turn tables on the Soviets who accused the Yugoslavs of betraying Marxism, the Communist Party was renamed the League of Communists of Yugoslavia – an obvious reference to Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. The rapprochement with the Soviet Union became possible only after Stalin’s death in March 1953, but it did not mean Yugoslavia’s break with the West. Yugoslavia entered a Balkan pact with Greece and Turkey, though it would ultimately not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), formed in 1949, of which Greece and Turkey were members. The thaw in relations with Moscow further strengthened Belgrade’s special position internationally, which would come to the fore through the Non-Aligned Movement, discussed in the following text. New Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s historic visit to Belgrade in late May 1955 – just days after the formation of the Warsaw 22

Lampe, Yugoslavia, 276–84, 336; Pavlowitch, Serbia, 168; cf. V. UnkovskiKorica, The Economic Struggle for Power in Tito’s Yugoslavia: From World War II to Non-Alignment, London, 2016. 23 D. Rusinow, The Yugoslav Experiment, 1948–1974, Berkeley, CA, 1977, 62–70; Unkovski-Korica, The Economic Struggle, ch. 3; S. L. Woodward, Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War, Washington, DC, 1995, ch. 2.

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Pact, the Eastern bloc’s answer to NATO – was symbolic of the reconciliation between the two countries, although Yugoslavia would not join the Warsaw Pact either. Khrushchev’s acknowledgement that Stalin was wrong in 1948 was a major boost to Tito’s and Yugoslavia’s international standing. The restoration of trade with the Soviet bloc boosted Yugoslavia’s economy further, while western aid, which in the words of one historian ‘kept Tito afloat’, continued to arrive.24 By the early 1950s, Milovan Djilas gradually grew disillusioned with the way Yugoslavia and other socialist states were developing. He published a series of articles calling for an end of the Party monopoly and a move towards ‘democratic socialism’. The articles initially received support from both the party rank and file and the public, but Djilas was accused of ‘revisionism’ by Tito and the Party leadership in January 1954; only Mitra Mitrović, his ex-wife and a high Serbian communist official, and Vladimir Dedijer, a revolutionary and a historian, stood by Djilas. He was stripped of all functions and the following year resigned from the Party. In 1957, while in prison, Djilas’ most important book, The New Class, was published in the USA. This powerful critique of communist bureaucracy made him the most significant communist dissident in Eastern Europe. In total, he spent 12 years in prison: nine years in socialist Yugoslavia and three years in interwar Yugoslavia, as a member of the illegal Communist Party.25 Djilas was arrested after criticizing the (second) Soviet intervention in Hungary in 1956. Yugoslavia initially condemned the 24

L. Lees, Keeping Tito Afloat: The United States, Yugoslavia and the Cold War, University Park, PA, 2007; S. Rajak, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union in the Early Cold War: Reconciliation, Comradeship, Confrontation, 1953–1957, London, 2013. 25 Djilas, Rise and Fall; S. Clissold, Djilas: The Progress of a Revolutionary, Hounslow, 1983; V. Stanić, ‘Milovan Djilas, 1953–54: Izmedju revolucije i slobode’, Tokovi istorije, 3–4 (2008), 251–78; cf. D. Djokić, ‘Britain and Dissent in Tito’s Yugoslavia: The Djilas Affair, ca. 1956’, European History Quarterly, 36:3 (2006), 371–95.

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figure 7.2  Jovanka Broz (née Budisavljević, 1924–2013), Tito and President Nasser of Egypt, Belgrade, 1961 (Photo by Keystone-France/ Gamma-Rapho Getty Images). A Croatian Serb Partisan and a nurse whom Tito had married discreetly in the early 1950s, Jovanka’s fashion sense and striking looks had drawn comparisons to Jackie Kennedy, as Tito and Jovanka mingled with world leaders and Hollywood celebrity.

Soviet invasion of its northern neighbour, but ultimately supported a major Soviet invasion in early November 1956, following a revolution that temporarily brought down the communist government in Budapest. The Yugoslavs had briefly sheltered Imre Nagy, Hungary’s reformist communist leader, in their embassy in

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Budapest. Nagy was subsequently arrested, tried and executed by his Moscow-chosen successors.

Non-alignment In early September 1961, Belgrade hosted the founding conference of non-aligned countries.26 The city was chosen as a neutral venue, to avoid rivalry between Africa and Asia. Since both world wars had broken out in Europe (and the spark for the First World War was lit in the Balkans), it was, it might be said, symbolic that foundations of a new movement seeking to contribute to world peace should be laid at this continent, and in Yugoslavia. Usually associated with the ‘Balkan wars’ of the 1990s and worst violence ‘since the Second World War’, Serbia’s capital city had just three decades earlier hosted a global initiative to prevent another world war that the world seemed to be facing. The Suez crisis and the Hungarian Revolution had barely ended when the building of the Berlin Wall began in August 1961. This triggered a partial mobilization of the US army, which in turn was followed by the resumption of Soviet nuclear testing, announced on the eve of the Belgrade summit. The conference took place following a diplomatic ‘offensive’ by Tito, which saw a series of meetings with leaders of Ghana, Egypt, India and Indonesia, among others. The Yugoslav foreign ministry was headed at this time by Koča Popović, the previously mentioned surrealist poet and veteran of the Spanish Civil War and of the Yugoslav Partisan war. Yugoslavia’s engagement with the ‘Global 26

D. Bogetić and Lj. Dimić, Beogradska konferencija Nesvrstanih zemalja 1–6. septembra 1961: Prilog istoriji Trećeg sveta, Belgrade, 2013; T. Jakovina, Treća strana Hladnog rata, Zaprešić, 2011; N. Mišković et al. (eds), The Non-Aligned Movement and the Cold War: Delhi-Bandung-Belgrade, London, 2014 cf., D. Djokić, ‘Reframing Nonalignment: Tito, Sukarno and the 1961 Belgrade Conference’, in M. Phillips and N. Shimazu (eds), Cold War Asia: A Visual History of Global Diplomacy, Cambridge, forthcoming 2023.

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South’ dated back at least to the escalation of the Korean war in 1950, which Belgrade feared may have anticipated a Soviet intervention against Yugoslavia. Tito was received warmly on his travels to Africa and Asia, as a fellow national-liberation leader and revolutionary. Apart from Tito’s personal ambition as a world statesman, the conflict with the Soviets forced the Yugoslav leadership to develop a new set of policies and seek fresh alliances. These were shaped by the notions of ‘workers’ self-management’ at home and ‘active peaceful co-­existence’ and ‘non-alignment’ abroad, which helped Belgrade extend its influence globally. The Yugoslavs felt confident enough to send peace-keeping troops to the Middle East in the 1950s and ‘60s – an opportunity to promote the Titoist version of socialism and sell Yugoslavia’s military expertise and weapons. But there was also a bona fide sense of solidarity and sympathy with African and Asian countries that had recently emerged from foreign imperial rule. This resonated in a country with a history of resistance to the Ottoman, Habsburg and Venetian rules; more recently, the Yugoslav communists fought Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Soviet Union. It was in this context that one should understand the rehabilitation in Yugoslavia in the 1950s of the Black Hand and the Young Bosnians, which had an additional benefit of discrediting late King Aleksandar and Nikola Pašić, who played the key roles at the Salonica Trial. Also important may have been the influence of Moša Pijade, once a contributor to Pijemont, the Black Hand organ.27 The Belgrade conference represented the first large gathering of mainly African and Asian leaders at an international summit in Europe to discuss main global issues, rather than merely watching the Powers decide their destiny. Similarly, Belgrade had never hosted an event of such magnitude. The Yugoslavs felt empowered that for once they were not mere spectators or marginal 27

D. Mackenzie, The Exoneration of the ‘Black Hand’, 1917–1953, Boulder, CO, 1998, 185–86.

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players at international congresses that have had profoundly shaped their destinies.

Society and Culture By the early 1950s, Serbia seemed content in Yugoslavia. Economically, it was doing well, although Kosovo remained the poorest part of the country. In 1953, the GDP of central Serbia (i.e. without its provinces) was 91 (as a percentage of the Yugoslav average) per capita, and of Vojvodina and Kosovo it was 94 and 43, respectively. By comparison, Slovenia’s GDP that year was 175, that of Croatia 122, Bosnia 83, Montenegro 77 and Macedonia 68. During the following 35 years, the GDP of central Serbia and Vojvodina continued to rise and that of Kosovo to lag behind. The figures for central Serbia, Vojvodina and Kosovo in 1971 and 1988 were 96/118/32 and 101/119/27, respectively. While Kosovo’s GDP continued to decline, that of Vojvodina nearly caught up with Croatia’s GDP in 1988 (127). Slovenia was well ahead of the rest of the country, with 203 per capita GDP that year.28 Yugoslavia’s resistance to Stalin reminded some Serbs of acts of defiance against more powerful enemies that characterized their history, or at least the romantic interpretations of Serbia’s past. An Anglo-Irish visitor to Yugoslavia in the early 1950s was told by proud Yugoslavs that the world was divided into the east, west and Yugoslavia.29 This was before the emergence of the Non-Aligned Movement and was meant to suggest Yugoslavia’s independence and a special place in global politics, a narrative that would resonate among many in Serbia today. Yugoslavia’s, and Serbia’s, capital Belgrade and other urban centres were feeling the benefits of industrialization and modernity, even if people still lived in poverty 28

Lampe, Yugoslavia, 336. H. Butler, ‘In Europe’s Debatable Lands’, Balkan Essays, ed. by C. and J. Agee, Belfast, 2016.

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in parts of Serbia until at least the late 1960s. Serbia was home to Yugoslavia’s car industry (Zastava Kragujevac, which from the mid-1950s produced Fiat-licensed vehicles and from the late 1970s Yugoslavia’s own car, Yugo), and in the 1950s and ‘60s Elektronska industrija Niš began mass production of radio and TV sets. Western influences in popular culture were also felt, while nascent consumerism was boosted by the opening of first supermarkets in Serbia and Yugoslavia during the 1950s.30 New Belgrade, an entirely new town across the Sava River from the old city, was built after the war. It was an excellent example of a modern, functioning urban development, whose brutalist architecture did not differ much in style from western modernist trends. Similar building developments sprang up across the country. Meanwhile, from the late 1960s, a number of monuments to the Second World War were unveiled across Serbia and Yugoslavia, some of which represented the finest achievements of the country’s modern architecture as well as powerful visual tools of the official memory culture.31 A rich and diverse art scene formed as well, with modernist tendencies challenging previously dominant socialist realism already in the 1950s. Petar Lubarda and Mića and Vera Popović belonged to Informel and Leonid Šejka and Olja Ivanjicki to Mediala – Serbia-based groups of modernist artists.32 The following decade saw the emergence of an exceptionally talented 30

P. J. Marković, Beograd izmedju Istoka i Zapada, 1948–1965, Belgrade, 1996; P. H. Patterson, Bought and Sold: Living and Losing the Good Life in Socialist Yugoslavia, Ithaca, NY, 2012; R. Vučetić, Coca-Cola Socialism: Americanization of the Yugoslav Culture in the Sixties, Budapest, 2018; cf. A. Simić, The Peasant Urbanities: A Study of Rural-Urban Mobility in Serbia, New York, 1973. 31 M. Stierli, V. Kulić, et al., Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980, New York, 2018; B. Le Normand, Designing Tito’s Capital: Urban Planning, Modernism, and Socialism in Belgrade, Pittsburgh, PA, 2014. 32 L. Merenik, Umetnost i vlast: srpsko slikarstvo, 1945–1968, Belgrade, 2010; M. B. Protić, ‘Painting and Sculpture in the Twentieth Century’, in P. Ivić (ed.), The History of Serbian Culture, 2nd edn, Belgrade, 1999, 295–320.

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group of conceptual and performance artists in Serbia, which included Marina Abramović, Katalin Ladik, Era Milivojević, Neša Paripović, Zoran Popović, Raša Todosijević and Gera Urkom, who achieved international recognition and, in the case of Abramović, fame. Around the same time, the New Yugoslav Film (better known as the Black Wave cinema, initially called thus by its ideological critics), which included Serbian directors Dušan Makavejev, Živojin Pavlović, Aleksandar Petrović and Želimir Žilnik, gained international fame. The Yugoslav authorities did not respond well to the new film production that challenged the official aesthetic and socialist values. The youngest of the ‘Black Wave’ directors, Žilnik won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale for his debut film Early Works (1969), starring Milja Vujanović (1945–2005), a former Miss Serbia who gained critical acclaim for her role in the film, but later became a well-known astrologist (see Figure 7.3). Žilnik was born in 1942, in a Nazi concentration camp in Niš, then Germanoccupied Serbia. His Serbian Communist mother had been taken prisoner there and was executed when Želimir (whose name means ‘he who wants peace’) was just three months old; his Slovene Partisan father was killed in 1944. Raised by his maternal grandparents, Žilnik’s survival may be said to had symbolized the victory of a multinational, multicultural, anti-fascist Yugoslavia. However, as an engaged intellectual, he clashed with the Yugoslav authorities in the 1960s and ‘70s. (He later became a prominent critic of Serbian nationalism and the wars in former-­Yugoslavia, while his recent films deal with the ‘migrant crisis’ in Serbia and central Europe). Makavejev’s W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971), a surreal film about communism, sexuality and liberty, and about Wilhelm Reich, an Austrian Jewish-American psychoanalyst (and a member of the Communist Party of Germany in the 1930s), was banned in Yugoslavia. Like other films by Makavejev, it achieved critical acclaim abroad. Indeed, it may be said that the international success of the Black Wave placed Yugoslavia on the map

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figure 7.3  Film director Želimir Žilnik and actress Milja Vujanović, the Berlin film festival, 1969 (Getty Images)

of world cinema.33 For example, in 1967, Petrović’s film I Even Met Happy Gypsies won the Cannes Festival Jury Prize. It starred 33

G. De Cuir, Yugoslav Black Wave: Polemical Cinema in Socialist Yugoslavia (1963–1972), Amsterdam, 2019; D. J. Goulding, Liberated Cinema: The Yugoslav Experience, Bloomington, IN, 1985; P. Levi, Disintegration in Frames: Aesthetics and Ideology in the Yugoslav and Post-Yugoslav Cinema, Stanford, CA,

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Bekim Fehmiu (1936–2010), a Sarajevo-born Kosovo Albanian who studied and lived in Belgrade, together with his Croatianborn Serb actress Branka Petrić (b. 1937) and their sons Uliks and Hedon, who also became actors. Fehmiu was the first Yugoslav to play in popular Hollywood productions and in Italian films and series. The Albanian–Serb tensions and the war of the 1990s, discussed later, left Fehmiu emotionally deeply injured, and may have contributed to his suicide in 2010. Shortly before his death, he published, in Serbian, a best-­selling memoir – an insightful and moving account by one of the country’s biggest film stars and a member of a national minority whose elite at least identified with Yugoslavia.34 Fehmiu paved way for other successful Belgradebased Kosovo Albanian actors, Faruk Begolli (1944–2007) and Enver Petrovci (b. 1954). Both left Belgrade in the 1990s for Priština/Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo.

The Return of the ‘National Question’ Discreet attempts by the Yugoslav leadership during the 1950s to create a common Yugoslav identity through raising class consciousness and solidarity among the ‘working people’ did not take on. By the mid-1960s, the ‘national question’ – ­previously thought to have been solved by the creation of federal Yugoslavia – had re-emerged. This is not the place to analyse all its complex ­facets; what follows is a brief discussion, focusing on Serbia and the Serbs.35 2007; V. Sudar, Portrait of the Artist as a Political Dissident: The Life and Work of Aleksandar Petrović, Chicago, 2013. 34 Blistavo i strašno, Belgrade, 2 vols, 2001–2010. 35 For more details, see P. Shoup, Communism and the Yugoslav National Question, New York, 1968; Rusinow, The Yugoslav Experiment, and Yugoslavia: Oblique Insights and Observations (selected and ed. by G. Stokes), Pittsburgh, PA, 2008; cf. S. P. Ramet, Nationalism and Federalism in Yugoslavia, 1962–1991, Bloomington, IN, 1992.

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The 1963 Constitution was socialist Yugoslavia’s third, if the 1951 Constitutional Law is taken into account. It was also the country’s first Constitution that introduced a genuine federal system. The political decentralization, however, made the disparity between republican and ‘ethnic’ boundaries more obvious (see Map 7.1). By gaining greater powers, the republics further divided those Yugoslav nations that lived in more than one republic. As the largest and geographically most widely dispersed of Yugoslavia’s constituent nations, the Serbs were most obviously affected by the decentralization. Meanwhile, the devolution of the previously centralized economy enabled industrially most developed republics Slovenia and Croatia to begin to introduce elements of market economy. Generally speaking, by the mid-1960s, there emerged a conflict between those in favour of decentralization, symbolized by the Slovene party leadership, and Edvard Kardelj in particular, and those who sought to keep a status quo, symbolized by Aleksandar Ranković. Ranković was in charge of the federal interior ministry and secret police. Although he was not Serbia’s advocate in the federation, the different political and economic options represented by Kardelj and Ranković came to be perceived as a conflict between Slovenia and Croatia on the one hand and Serbia on the other.36 This was a simplistic and often retrospective reading of the conflict in Yugoslavia, but perceptions often matter even when they are not grounded in facts. Tito had turned 70 in 1962. On the occasion of his 60th birthday, he had told an American journalist that he did not consider retirement because he had been given a mandate by the party and the people and therefore had a duty towards them. Little appeared to have changed 10 years later, although his main focus 36

Calic, A History of Yugoslavia, ch. 13; Lampe, Yugoslavia, 284–91; St. K. Pavlowitch, Yugoslavia, London, 1971, ch. 6; Ramet, Nationalism and Federalism, ch. 6.

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now seemed to be the Non-Aligned Movement and world politics more generally. The conflict at home came as a distraction and after he appeared initially to side with the centralists, Tito ultimately backed the decentralists. Ranković was dismissed in 1966, under likely false accusations that the secret police had bugged Tito’s home. Unlike Djilas, who after his dismissal continued to criticize the regime through publications and interviews abroad (which, as already mentioned, earned him a lengthy prison sentence), Ranković would go quietly. Because he favoured a tighter federation and the interior ministry under his leadership kept a strict control over predominantly Albanian-populated Kosovo, his fall from grace was perceived by many, both non-Serbs and Serbs, as a defeat of Serb nationalism, even though there is no evidence of Ranković being a Serb nationalist. Nevertheless, since he came to be seen as standing up to the anti-centralists and came to be associated with ‘the Serbian cause’, his funeral in 1983 was attended by an estimated 100,000 people and represented a show of Serb frustration with the direction Yugoslavia had taken. Ranković’s fall coincided with a series of important developments. With the state and party support, but without the endorsement of the Serbian Orthodox Church, a separate Macedonian Orthodox Church was established in July 1967. It claimed legitimacy on two grounds: history and ethnicity. The Ohrid archbishopric, the seat of the new church, was older than the Serb archbishopric established in 1219 under St Sava, and its importance was acknowledged by the Serbian church. Ohrid had been abolished by the Ottomans in 1767, but it was restored by, and within, the new Serbian Orthodox Church in 1920, as one of its key eparchies. The declaration that proclaimed the Macedonian church referred to a long struggle for independence of the Macedonian nation, finally achieved in socialist Yugoslavia. This was a bitter blow for the Serbian Orthodox Church that had been preparing to celebrate the 750th anniversary of its own autocephaly,

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and which in 1967 discreetly marked the 750th anniversary of the establishment of the Nemanjić kingdom by Sava’s elder brother Stefan the First Crowned, also a Serbian Orthodox saint. The Serbian and other autocephalous Orthodox churches refused to recognize the Macedonian church (this changed in May 2022, as mentioned in Introduction), but a feeling persisted among some Serbs that following a territorial fragmentation of the ‘Serb lands’ within socialist Yugoslavia, the authorities now turned on the Serbian church, as one of the defining markers of Serb national identity. Following the purging of Montenegrin-Serb Djilas and Serb Ranković, only Slovene Kardelj remained of Tito’s ‘three musketeers’. It was perhaps easy to forget that leading Serbian communists retained the highest positions of power, and that Ranković’s fall created space for younger and more liberal (by standards of a oneparty communist state) leadership in Serbia. At the time of Tito’s conflict with Ranković, Koča Popović was appointed Yugoslavia’s deputy president. He was succeeded as the country’s foreign minister by Marko Nikezić (1921–90), another prominent Belgradeborn communist politician, who came from a mixed Serb–French family. In 1968, Nikezić was appointed the chairman of the League of Communists of Serbia, while Latinka Perović (b. 1933), a young communist from Kragujevac (and an eminent historian today), became the General Secretary of the Serbian League of Communists. Meanwhile, Mijalko Todorović (1913–1999), who hailed from a village near Kragujevac, was a member of the very top leadership of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in the late 1960s and served as president of the Yugoslav People’s Assembly in the early ‘70s. The appointments of Nikezić and Perović coincided with ­student demonstrations at the University of Belgrade in June 1968 and with the emergence of a younger group of neo-­Marxist philosophers, who demanded changes and criticized the party bureaucracy for its inefficiency. These developments mirrored student protests across Europe and neo-Marxist political trends more generally. Serbia’s ‘68-ers would play a prominent

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role in the politics of late- and post-Yugoslav Serbia, including Dragoljub Mićunović (b. 1930), the first president of the renewed Democratic Party in 1990. Demonstrations had also broken out in Kosovo-Metohija. Despite the state’s efforts to distribute its economic resources fairly, the region remained the poorest part of Yugoslavia, with the highest level of illiteracy. Demands there by the ethnic Albanian majority crystalized into calls for elevating the region into a republic, which in practice would have meant independence from Serbia within Yugoslavia. By November 1968, violent clashes between demonstrators and the police broke out, amid calls for the unification with Albania by some protesters. The federal government responded by allowing import and distribution of school textbooks from Albania (published in a southern Albanian dialect not spoken by Yugoslav Albanians). Moreover, a university was established in Priština with classes in Albanian; this made Kosovo Albanians a national minority with a university in its own language, a rare if not unique case. Kosovo Albanians were to be also allowed to fly the flag of Albania, considered by many to be the national flag of all Albanians. This was a significant concession in a country where politics of symbols mattered enormously. In further attempts to meet ethnic Albanians’ demands, the Autonomous Region of Kosovo and Metohija became the Autonomous Province of Kosovo. Kosovo now enjoyed the same status within Serbia as Vojvodina and received additional funds to boost its struggling economy. The Serb-sounding Metohija (a Byzantine Greek word for monastic estates) was dropped from the province’s name. Ethnic Albanians were not the only minority in Yugoslavia, and indeed Serbia, whose language, culture and tradition had been acknowledged and protected. Ethnic Hungarians, most of whom lived in Vojvodina, were guaranteed primary and secondary education in Hungarian, and TV and radio news were broadcast daily in the languages of the main minorities. Bilingual street names

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and road signs were introduced in areas with significant nonSouth Slav population, in Vojvodina, Kosovo, as well as Dalmatia and Istria, where members of the Italian minority lived. During the 1970s, Serbs had been emigrating from Kosovo, mostly to ‘inner Serbia’, as their numbers in the province continued to shrink. By 1981, the Serbs and Montenegrins made up only 13.2 per cent of Kosovo’s population, down from 27 per cent just 20 years previously. This was due to a high birth rate among Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serb emigration. The latter occurred for a variety of reasons, not only because of Albanian oppression as the Serbs argued, and not simply because of better economic opportunities elsewhere, as Kosovo Albanians suggested.37 Either way, Serbs from less developed parts of Bosnia and Croatia also tended to migrate to ‘inner’ Serbia, as did many Montenegrins. As a result, percentage of Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina declined in the post-war period, from around 44 per cent in 1948 to 32 per cent in 1981. In the meanwhile, tens of thousands of Serbs and other Yugoslavs went abroad in search of work, as part of a growing Gastarbeiter community in western Europe.38 The revolutionary 1968 also saw student demonstrations in Zagreb, as part of broader Croatian demands for greater cultural, linguistic and political autonomy. The so-called Mass Movement led to tensions between the majority Croat and minority local 37

M. Blagojević, ‘The Migrations of Serbs from Kosovo in the 1970s and 1980s’, in N. Popov and D. Gojković (eds), The Road to War in Serbia: Trauma and Catharsis, Budapest, 2000 (first publ. in Serbian in 1996), 212–46. 38 Kosovo figures, Bosnian and Croatian Serb and Montenegrin emigration to Serbia: Pavlowitch, Serbia, 181–82; Gastarbeiter: V. Ivanović, Geburtstag pišeš normalno: Jugoslovenski gastarbajteri u SR Nemačkoj i Austriji 1965–1973, Belgrade, 2012; B. Le Normand, ‘The Gastarbajteri as a Transnational Yugoslav Working Class’, in R. Archer et al. (eds), Bringing Class Back In: The Dynamics of Social Change in (Post) Yugoslavia, Aldershot, 2016, 38–57; cf. S. Bernard, Deutsch Marks in the Head, Shovel in the Hands and Yugoslavia in the Heart: The Gastarbeiter return to Yugoslavia (1965–1991), Wiesbaden, 2017.

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Serb population, still traumatized by their wartime suffering in the Independent State of Croatia. Croatia’s own liberal party leadership did not condone, but was ambivalent in its criticism of, Croat nationalist demands. They were eventually replaced by Tito, as he threatened to send in the army against anyone who posed a danger to the country’s unity and its ‘socialist order’. The Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) was thus tasked with defending both Yugoslavia’s borders and territorial integrity and its Titoist socialist system. Tito’s thinking should be understood in the broader international context, particularly the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia during summer 1968. Similarly, his decision to replace, in 1972, Serbia’s liberal and non-nationalist leadership was an attempt to restore a symmetry between the Serbs and Croats, for the greater good of Yugoslavia’s stability, even if the political situations in Croatia and Serbia differed at the time. This decision would have a profound impact on the history of Serbia and Yugoslavia, as it weakened moderate and reform-minded forces among Serbian communists.39 Tito at first rejected calls for greater decentralization, but then a new, even more decentralizing Constitution followed in 1974. It essentially completed the decentralization drive that had begun a decade earlier and transformed Yugoslavia into a loose federation of six – or perhaps eight, if Serbia’s provinces are counted – mini party states. In 1981, around 4.9 million Serbs lived in ‘inner’ Serbia, but some 3.3 million lived outside it: 1.3 million in Vojvodina and Kosovo and nearly 2 million in other Yugoslav republics, mostly in Bosnia and Croatia. The decentralization of Yugoslavia thus appeared to further separate different Serb communities. The same process similarly separated Bosnian Croats from Croatia. Nevertheless, strong links between the republics 39

S. Djukić, Slom srpskih liberala: Tehnologija političkih obračuna Josipa Broza, Belgrade, 1990; cf. A. Batović, The Croatian Spring: Nationalism, Repression and Foreign Policy Under Tito, London, 2017; H. Klasić, Jugoslavija i svijet 1968, Zagreb, 2012.

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remained and Yugoslavia continued to function as a unified state. It is tempting to compare the opposition among Serbs to the 1974 Constitution, Yugoslavia’s last, as it turned out, to the Croat resistance to Yugoslavia’s first, centralist Constitution of 1921. However, Serbian party delegates would not be allowed to ‘boycott’ the parliament. Crucially, Serbian cadres accepted the 1974 Constitution even as they later tried to revise it.40 Serb complaints about the political developments in Yugoslavia had begun in the 1960s. Responding critically to Albanian demands in Kosovo, and indirectly also to developments in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, Dobrica Ćosić (1921– 2014), a popular writer and a Partisan veteran, and historian Jovan Marjanović (1922–81) were expelled from the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Serbia in May 1968. Ćosić became a leading member of an informal group of critical intellectuals who were both defenders of human rights and free speech and of Serb ‘national’ rights in Yugoslavia, in particular in Kosovo. This was an eclectic group of writers, philosophers, poets, painters and film directors, whose ideas ranged from neo-Marxism, liberalism, Yugoslav centralism and Serb nationalism. They signed petitions and published samizdat pamphlets. Some of them kept contact with Yugoslavia’s leading dissidents Milovan Djilas and Mihajlo Mihajlov (1934–2010), an academic who had been arrested in 1965 for publishing a book deemed by the Yugoslav regime as critical of the Soviet Union. Three years after the Ćosić-Marjanović ‘affair’, Mihailo Djurić (1925– 2011), a prominent philosopher and a member of the Serbian Academy, was sacked by Belgrade University and imprisoned

40

M. Jovičić, ‘Ustavnopravni položaj srpskog naroda u jugoslovenskoj federaciji’, in A. Djilas (ed.), Srpsko pitanje, Belgrade, 1991, 117–30; D. Jović, Yugoslavia: A State that Withered Away, West Lafayette, IN, 2009, ch. 3; V. Vujačić, ‘Institutional Origins of Contemporary Serbian Nationalism’, East European Constitutional Review, 5:4 (1996), 51–61.

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for criticizing constitutional amendments and other government policies he considered detrimental to the Serbs. The clampdown on critical thinking continued after the fall of Serbia’s ‘liberals’. In 1973, young film director Lazar Stojanović was imprisoned for his graduation film in which he apparently compared Titoism to Stalinism and Nazism. Then a group of ‘morally politically unsuitable’ philosophers of the Belgrade University – Zagorka Golubović, Trivo Indjić, Mihailo Marković, Dragoljub Mićunović, Nebojša Popov, Svetozar Stojanović, Ljubomir Tadić and Miladin Životić – were suspended. They belonged to Praxis, a Yugoslav Humanist Marxist group that emerged at Zagreb University. The Praxis published academic journals and organized summer schools at the Croatian island of Korčula, which attracted such eminent international participants as Ernst Bloch, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Jürgen Habermas, Henri Lefevbre and Shlomo Avineri.41 The Serbian and Yugoslav dissidents’ work was closely followed by the emigre journal Naša reč, published in London by Desimir Tošić (1920–2008) and once young members of the pre-war Democratic Party. They were joined by Aleksa Djilas (b. 1953), Milovan’s son, who during the 1970s and ‘80s studied abroad. The Serb democratic emigres, whose unofficial mentor was Božidar Vlajić (1888–1974), one of the leading members of the pre-war Democratic Party, campaigned for a democratic alternative to the communist government in Yugoslavia, together with their Bosnian (Adil Zulfikarpašić), Croat (Ilija Jukić, Branko Pešelj), Slovene (Nace Čretnik, Ljubo Sirc) and ‘declared’ Yugoslav (Vane Ivanović) colleagues. Their publications were smuggled into the country and

41

J. Dragović-Soso, ‘Saviours of the Nation’: Serbia’s Intellectual Opposition and the Revival of Nationalism, London, 2002, ch. 1; Jović, Yugoslavia: A State that Withered Away, 115–23; N. J. Miller, The Nonconformists: Culture, Politics, and Nationalism in a Serbian Intellectual Circle, 1944–1991, Budapest, 2007.

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figure 7.4  Post-punk band Šarlo akrobata performing at the Student ­ ultural Centre, Belgrade, November 1980 (Photo by Goranka Matić) C

illegally photocopied and distributed. Their impact on the Yugoslav and Serb politics was modest, but symbolically important.42 An excessive focus on nationalism in the existing literature fails to account for such a rich and heterogeneous intellectual scene in Serbia and Yugoslavia and among democratic émigré circles. Subsequent events in Serbia tend to overshadow the fact that

42

A. Djilas, Iz emigracije: Izabrani članci, intervjui i dokumenti, 1980–1990, Belgrade, 2009; V. Ivanović, Demokratska Jugoslavija: Diskusija o jednom nacrtu, London, 1970, and Yugoslav Democracy on Hold, Rijeka, 1996; V. Ivanović and A. Djilas (eds), Demokratske reforme, London, 1982. Milovan Djilas was among the contributors to the volume, one of rare instances he was able to publish in his native language after 1954. In 1983, Aleksa Djilas and Ivanović published in London the first book about human rights in Serbo-Croat; cf. M. Galić, Politika u emigraciji: Demokratska alternativa, Zagreb, 1990; G. Suhadolnik, Ključnih pet: Intervjui sa članovima Demokratske alternative, Ljubljana, 1990; M. Lakićević, Desimir Tošić: Izmedju ekstrema, foreword by L. Perović, Novi Sad, 2020; Nesentimentalni idealisti: Desimir Tošić, Božidar Vlajić i uvodnici časopisa Naša reč (Paris-London, 1848–1990), ed. and compiled by D. Djokić, Belgrade, 2013

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Belgrade was the centre of critical, liberal thinking in Yugoslavia in the 1970s and early ‘80s. They can also easily distract from important cultural developments in socialist Serbia. For example, Tito’s death in 1980 coincided, and at the time largely overshadowed, the emergence of an exceptionally rich music scene in Serbia, and across Yugoslavia. While the Slovenian band Laibach eventually achieved international fame, Belgrade was home to several hugely talented and influential New Wave and post-punk bands mentioned in the introduction.43

The Death of Tito – and After When Kardelj died in 1979, Tito was 87; with Djilas and Ranković long out of politics, the Yugoslav president appeared alone and detached from the rest of the country, enjoying a demigod status. Rumours circulated about Tito’s separation from his much younger third wife Jovanka. Even though he had visibly aged, Tito remained as active as ever, leading the Yugoslav delegation at the Non-Aligned summit in Havana in summer 1979 and then making a tour of Kosovo in the autumn. By January 1980, however, his health deteriorated to the extent that he was sent to the Ljubljana Clinical Centre for treatment of leg gangrene. He never left the hospital. Tito’s death on Sunday, 4 May, was mourned by almost all Yugoslavs and by much of the world; his funeral in Belgrade later that month was attended by the largest number of world leaders in history. The party proclaimed that after Tito there was to be nobody but Tito, but since someone had to run the country, the president for life had been replaced after his death by a collective, rotating presidency of eight elderly representatives of the six republics and Serbia’s two provinces. Serbia’s turn came in 1982–83, when Petar 43

J. Bousfield, ‘40 Years after the New Wave: The Story of the Music that Changed Yugoslavia’, The Calvert Journal, 2 Feb 2021, www.calvertjournal .com/features/show/12495/yugoslav-new-wave-1980s-music-40-years-on.

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Stambolić (1912–2007) served as the president of the presidency. After Vojvodina’s representative, another Serb Radovan Vlajković (1924–2001), came the turn of Kosovo. Sinan Hasani (1922–2010), an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo, became president of Yugoslavia in 1986–87. Previously, Cvijetin Mijatović (1913–93), a Serb from Bosnia, had served as the president of the presidency (1980–81). Used to Tito’s 35-year-long leadership, most Yugoslavs probably did not know the names of their rotating presidents during the 1980s. In the years after Tito’s death, the Federal Executive Council (government) assumed a greater prominence mainly due to it having to deal with economic crisis in which the country found itself. Between 1982 and 1986, the post of the federal prime minister was held by Milka Planinc (1924–2010), an economist born in Dalmatia into a mixed Croat–Serb family. She was the only female prime minister in the history of Yugoslavia. Despite introducing a programme of ‘economic stabilization’ (communist Yugoslavia’s term for austerity), Planinc was popular and respected. Her strict and tough appearance, probably necessary in a traditionally male-dominated establishment and society, earned her the nickname of Yugoslavia’s Iron Lady, in reference to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Planinc’s contemporary. She secured western loans (including from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) and pushed through the Yugoslav assembly a series of measures including the dinar devaluation, tighter currency issues and interest rates’ rise. In December 1981, before Planinc took over, the Yugoslav National Bank had a debt of $19 billion. Although the foreign debt was not reduced, the Planinc government managed to turn a deficit on the country’s current account to a small surplus for 1983 and secure further credits for 1984.44 However, tight repayment loans put pressure on the government, whose economic policies were increasingly challenged by republican leaderships. Planinc stood 44

Lampe, Yugoslavia, 325–27.

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down in 1986, to be replaced by Branko Mikulić, a Croat from Herzegovina. Serb critical intellectuals, such as those gathered around the Writers’ Association of Serbia and the Praxis philosophers, became increasingly active in the early 1980s. The regime began to talk of ‘a united opposition’ in Serbia and attempted to curtail it. In 1981, Serbian poet Gojko Djogo was arrested for publishing a collection of poetry that metaphorically alluded to the authoritarian nature of Titoism. Intimidation, arrests and publication bans followed. In April 1984, the Serbian police raided an apartment in Belgrade and arrested 28 intellectuals and dissident activists who attended a lecture by Milovan Djilas, organized as part of an illegal ‘Flying University’. Six of those arrested were tried: four former ’68-ers (Pavluško Imširović, Vladimir Mijanović-Vlada Revolucija, Milan Nikolić and Dragomir Olujić-Oluja), journalist Vladimir Milić-Mića Doktor and Gordan Jovanović, an art history student.45 Milovan Djilas was immediately released, but a renewed propaganda campaign against him and his son Aleksa, who worked closely with pro-democracy Serb and Yugoslav emigres in Britain, followed.46 The internationally celebrated dissident was regularly visited by western journalists, but lived under surveillance in his apartment in downtown Belgrade, unable to publish in his home country even when the clampdown on the opposition eased in the second half of the decade.47 Other critical intellectuals managed to publish their work despite censorship, and in some cases received major national literary prizes. This was one of contradictions and paradoxes of Yugoslavia’s socialism. Most historians were unable, or unwilling, to challenge the official historiography, but authors of historical fiction such as Ćosić, who wrote bestselling novels about Serbia in the First World War, started to promote Dragović-Soso, ‘Saviours’, 53–63. 46 Djilas, Iz emigracije, 61–66, 291–96. D. Doder, The Yugoslavs, New York, 1978, 177–95.

45 47

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non-­communist interpretations of Serbian history. In 1984, Ćosić founded the Committee for the Defence of Freedom of Thought and Expression, which campaigned on behalf of dissidents across Yugoslavia, not just Serbs. As the decade went on, the significance of federal institutions further decreased at the expense of the republics and provinces. An important exception was the JNA, which was never federalized. The army budget and its size had been cut because of economic austerity, but it was still a powerful force with around 180,000 troops in the mid-1980s, two-thirds of whom were conscripts. The remaining third was made up of career officers and non-­ commissioned officers, almost all of whom were party members and around 60 per cent of whom were Serbs (not counting 8 per cent Montenegrins).48 Like the Partisans, out of whom the People’s Army grew out, and like the interwar Yugoslav Army, the JNA never managed to overcome the Serbs’ over-representation in its membership. Non-Serbs were better represented among the high officer corps, and ‘ethnic key’ was used in officer recruitment. The Serbs’ and Montenegrins’ over-­representation in the lower officer corps and among soldiers could be explained by socio-­economic and historic factors, rather than by a deliberate policy. Tito and the army leadership opposed introduction of ‘ethnic units’, even when it was suggested that those might encourage officer recruitment among under-represented nations and nationalities. While Tito had been alive, it did not matter much that Yugoslavia after 1974 had become a loose federation. Even prior to his death arguments for the revision of the Constitution could be heard among the Serbian leadership. They pointed out that while representatives of Kosovo and Vojvodina could veto the Serbian assembly decisions, the republic had no such powers visà-vis the provincial assemblies. Moreover ‘inner’ Serbia had no

48

Lampe, Yugoslavia, 345.

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parliament of its own.49 Already in 1977, the Serbian leadership raised the issue with Tito and Kardelj.50 Four years later, Serbia’s Constitutional Court put forward proposals for the restoration of some sovereignty of the republic over the provinces, but the Kosovo Albanian leadership thwarted such attempts. These discussions were soon overshadowed by a crisis that broke out in Serbia’s southern province in April 1981. What started as a student demonstration at Priština University over poor quality food at the university canteen quickly transformed into mass demonstrations among ethnic Albanians who demanded republican status for the province. Local Serbs felt threatened and were probably only somewhat reassured when the police intervened to brutally suppress the protests. If Kosovo were to become a republic, this would have not just deeply upset Serb sentiments, but it would have also effectively reversed the post–World War II raison d’être of socialist Yugoslavia as a South Slav federation. According to the 1974 Constitution, Yugoslavia was both a community based on the Brotherhood and Unity of its ‘nations and nationalities’ and a ‘socialist federal community of working people’; but only the constituent nations had the right to ‘their own republic’.51 Moreover, if the federal status quo was changed, the Albanians of Macedonia and Serbs of Croatia could have opened the question of their status within these two republics. As the

49

This was a constitutional paradox somewhat comparable to the contemporary British case. There, Westminster is the UK parliament and no separate legislature for England exists, unlike for Scotland and Wales. 50 For Serbia’s position in the late 1970s and ‘80s Yugoslavia, see Jović, Yugoslavia: A State that Withered Away, chs 5 & 6. See also his and N. Vladisavljević’s chapters in M. Pavlović et al. (eds), Slobodan Milošević: put ka vlasti, Belgrade, 2008, and N. Vladisavljević, Serbia’s Antibureaucratic Revolution: Milošević, the Fall of Communism and Nationalist Mobilization, Basingstoke, 2008, ch. 2. 51 Ustav Socijalističke federativne republike Jugoslavije, Belgrade, 1974, Preamble, I.

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decade progressed, Serb–Albanian relations worsened, impacting the whole country because the status of Kosovo within Serbia became inseparable from the status of Serbia within Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, Serb intellectuals and the Orthodox Church began to voice their concerns over the status of Kosovo, home to numerous medieval monasteries and churches, including the seat of the Patriarchate of Peć.52 In May 1985, a group of academicians of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgrade began drafting a memorandum on Serbia’s position in Yugoslavia. It was an unfinished document leaked to the press in September 1986. It caused a sensation, and not a little criticism, including from Serbia’s leadership. The academicians protested that Serbia and more broadly Serbs were disadvantaged in Yugoslavia that was dominated by an anti-Serb coalition of republican elites (Slovenian, Croatian and so on), who had a vested interest in a decentralized Yugoslavia. They called upon the Serbs to unite to protect their status and rights. The signatories represented a small percentage of the Academy’s membership (and did not include Ćosić, contrary to the popular belief), but the document generally resonated with intellectuals dissatisfied with the Serb position in post-1974 Yugoslavia.53 52

E. Biberaj and St. K. Pavlowitch, The Albanian Problem in Yugoslavia: Two Views, London, 1982; Dragović-Soso, ‘Saviours’, ch. 3; N. Malcolm, Kosovo: A Short History, London, 1998, chs 6 & 7; Pavlowitch, The Improbable Survivor: Yugoslavia and Its Problems, 1918–1988, London, 1989, 78–93 ; cf. B. Horvat, Kosovsko pitanje, Zagreb, 1988. 53 Eighty-eight-year-old academician Vaso Čubrilović, who had as a teenager belonged to Young Bosnia, was among those who opposed the Memorandum. For more on this document and its impact, see A. H. Budding, ‘Systemic Crisis and National Mobilization: The Case of the “Memorandum of the Serbian Academy”’, Harvard Ukrainian Studies, 22, (1998), 49–69; and Dragović-Soso, ‘Saviours’, 177–95; cf. K. Mihailović and V. Krestić, ‘Memorandum SANU’: Odgovori na kritike, Belgrade, 1995. See also R. Halili, ‘We, Sons of the Nation: Intellectuals as generators of Albanian and Serbian national ideas and programs’, in A. Pavlović et al. (eds), Serbian-Albanian Relations: Figuring Out the Enemy, London, 2019, ch. 8, and other contributions in this edited collection.

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In 1987, Slovenian intellectuals published a similarly nationalist document in the journal Nova revija, which irritated the leadership of the JNA. The Serb–Albanian contest would be overshadowed for the time being by a conflict between Serbia and Slovenia, and between Slovenia’s nationalist-liberal youth and the army top brass. The Slovenes not only resisted Serbian calls for tightening up the federation but sought to loosen it up further; calls for a reform of the Titoist system and even the end of one-party state alarmed the army generals. The People’s Army was the only centralist institution in the country; it was also increasingly looking like the last bastion of Titoism. The breakdown of the Belgrade–Ljubljana axis, which some scholars have argued had kept Yugoslavia together, would have profound impact on the fate of the country.54 The mid-1980s saw the emergence of new, younger leaderships across Yugoslavia. In Serbia, Ivan Stambolić (1936–2000), a technocrat who came from a powerful communist family, as a nephew of previously mentioned Petar Stambolić, became the head of the League of Communists in 1985. His rise, and that of his protégé Slobodan Milošević (1941–2006), took place during internal party contests in which the new generation prevailed. In 1986, Stambolić became Serbia’s president, while Milošević took over the party leadership. Despite being critical of the Academy’s memorandum, Stambolić had not been particularly popular among the leaderships of the other federal units. He had been calling for the modification of the 1974 Constitution, which he felt disadvantaged Serbia. He sought a dialogue, political negotiation and compromise with other Yugoslav leaders; confrontation and radicalization were not on his agenda. When Milošević turned against Stambolić in 1987, he was initially supported by other Yugoslav leaders – not because Milošević was a liberal reformer as some 54

Dragović-Soso, ‘Saviours’, ch. 4; Ramet, Nationalism and Federalism, chs 9 & 10; Woodward, Balkan Tragedy; cf. M. Zečević, Na istorijskoj prekretnici: Slovenci u politici jugoslovenske države, 1918–1929, I, Belgrade/Ljubljana, 1985.

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western media initially perceived him, but because he was considered a more orthodox communist who would curtail both the liberal and the nationalist intelligentsia. Milošević’s counterparts across Yugoslavia soon found out, to their and everyone else’s loss, that they had seriously underestimated him.

Milošević’s ‘Anti-Bureaucratic Revolution’ A law graduate from Belgrade University and a successful banker prior to entering high politics in the mid-1980s, Milošević was married to his childhood sweetheart Mirjana Marković (1942– 2019). He was not a typical Serbian politician, in that he was a private, family man who appeared modest and disinterested in acquiring personal wealth (unlike some members of his immediate circle). He was inseparable from his wife and had a soft spot for his errand children. Sloba and Mira, as they became known in the 1990s, came from different social backgrounds, but were united by family tragedies. His parents moved from Montenegro to Serbia at the beginning of the Second World War; both worked as teachers, and his mother was a member of the Communist Party. After the war, they divorced, following which Milošević’s father, who had a theology degree and taught Russian language, returned to Montenegro. By contrast, Mira came from a well-known Serbian Communist family. Both her parents were prominent Partisans. Her father Moma Marković was a war hero and a member of the Central Committees of the Serbian and Yugoslav communist parties after the war. Her uncle Dragoslav-Draža Marković (1920–2005) was one of the leading Serbian and Yugoslav communist politicians; he served as president of Serbia in the 1960s and ‘70s, and was the chairman of the presidency of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in 1983–84. Mira’s mother died during the war, under somewhat unclear circumstances. Sloba’s parents committed suicide when he was an adult. Mira’s support and ambition are often credited for Milošević’s political career,

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but without his close friendship with Ivan Stambolić, Milošević might not have entered high politics. In 1984, Milošević was elected the chairman of the Belgrade party. As already mentioned, two years later, he was promoted to the head of the Serbian party, following in the steps of his mentor Stambolić, who became president of Serbia. The real turning point in Milošević’s rise to prominence came during a visit to Kosovo in April 1987, where local Serb representatives had protested the majority Albanians’ discrimination. They wanted to speak with Stambolić, but he sent his right-hand man instead, even though there is no evidence that Milošević had expressed much interest in the ‘Kosovo question’. Later on, it emerged that Milošević had been manipulated by local Kosovo Serb leaders, who demanded his protection from the predominantly Albanian police. The police used excessive force (as Yugoslavia’s police generally did), but Milošević was not aware that Serb demonstrators had previously thrown stones at the police to provoke a violent reaction. Milošević’s response – ‘Nobody should dare beat you!’ – was spontaneous and novel. It was made as he was surrounded by an angry civilian mob that claimed they were under attack by armed policemen. According to eyewitnesses, only very few people could hear Milošević’s historic words amidst all the noise and tension. The scene was filmed and broadcast by the Serbian state television and across Yugoslavia. By the time Milošević returned to Belgrade that evening, the whole country was familiar with what he had said. Almost instantly he became a Serb national hero. The event would mark Milošević’s rise, which would cause the split within Serbia’s League of Communists, the outcome of which was the removal of Stambolić’s moderate faction.55 55

P. Ristanović, Kosovsko pitanje 1974–1989, Novi Sad, 2019, 470–72. There is a fair amount of literature on Milošević, including L. J. Cohen, Serpent in the Bosom: The Rise and Fall of Slobodan Milošević, Boulder, CO, 2001; A. Djilas, ‘A

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Milošević established control over the party at the Eighth session of the League of Communists of Serbia in September 1987.56 The faction that went down with Stambolić included Dragiša Pavlović (1943–96), who had succeeded Milošević as the head of the Belgrade party, and a 39-year-old politician and historian Ljubinka Trgovčević, who had previously received a prize for a book on the role of Serbian intellectuals in the creation of Yugoslavia in the early twentieth century (which remains a standard work on the subject).57 Milošević was perceived as a modern, energetic politician in touch with the people, but this was not necessarily a generational conflict. His supporters included Dušan Čkrebić (1927–2022), who had preceded Ivan Stambolić as president of Serbia, and generals Nikola Ljubičić (1916–2005), formerly a long-serving Yugoslav defence minister (1967–82) and Serbian president (1982–84), and Petar Gračanin (1923–2004); the latter replaced Stambolić as Serbia’s president (1987–89), having previously retired from active service. Milošević secured a majority support within the party in the late 1980s (and for a period also enjoyed almost unanimous support from nationalist intelligentsia and the church), but his political programme was opposed by veteran communists Draža Marković (despite the family connection) and Petar Stambolić. From early on, Milošević was also opposed by liberal intellectuals and dissidents, but in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, he enjoyed the overwhelming support of the Serb (and Montenegrin) public.

Profile of Slobodan Milošević’, Foreign Affairs, 72:3 (1993), 81–96; S. Djukić, Milošević and Marković: A Lust for Power, Montreal, 2001; A. LeBor, Milošević: A Biography, London, 2003; V. Vujačić, ‘Slobodan Milošević: Charismatic Leader or Plebiscitarian Demagogue?’, in V. Tismăneanu et al. (eds), World Order after Leninism, Seattle, WA, 2006, 107–26; cf. L. Silber and A. Little, The Death of Yugoslavia, London, 1995, ch. 2. 56 Pavlović, et al. (eds), Slobodan Milošević; S. Inić, Put u bespuće: odgovori Ivana Stambolića na pitanja S. Inića, Belgrade, 1995. 57 Naučnici Srbije i stvaranje Jugoslavije, 1914–1920, Belgrade, 1987.

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Although they would occupy the same, liberal-­democratic and anti-nationalist political ground in the 1990s, the Stambolić faction was not, in the late 1980s, an ally of Serbia’s critical intelligentsia and opposition politicians. The same may be said of the Serbian communist ‘liberals’. The political conflicts of the early 1970s and the late 1980s took place within the party and among communists, although they had a profound impact on the Serbian and Yugoslav society at large. Second, the Milošević– Stambolić conflict in 1987 only subsequently came to be identified as a turning point. At the time it happened, it was seen as just yet another intra-party conflict that were not uncommon in Yugoslavia at the time. Workers, once the main pillar of the self-management of the working class, were being told in the late 1980s to join the struggle for the ‘self-management’ of the Serb nation. National grievances turned out to be an effective way of neutralizing discontent among workers protesting the rising cost of living. On one occasion in October 1988, Milošević addressed a large rally of workers who came to protest the deteriorating standard of living but decided to return to work after hearing Milošević’s speech. In the words of a Serbian journalist, ‘people arrived as workers and left as Serbs’. Scholars continue to debate the extent to which the workers were manipulated and to which extent they represented active agents during this crucial period of nationalist mobilization in Serbia.58 When Milošević returned to Kosovo, on the 600th anniversary of the Kosovo Battle on 28 June 1989, he entered the Pantheon of Serbian national heroes (at least for a period). Milošević flew in a helicopter to deliver the second key speech of his career. 58

G. Musić, ‘“They Came as Workers and Left as Serbs”: The Role of Rakovica’s Blue-Collar Workers in Serbian Social Mobilizations of the Late 1980s’, in R. Archer et al. (eds), Social Inequalities and Discontent in Yugoslav Socialism, London, 2021, 132–54.

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figure 7.5  Slobodan Milošević (right) faces a crowd of cameramen and photographers on 17 October 1988 in Belgrade prior to the opening ­session of the party plenum meeting (AFP via Getty Images)

figure 7.6  Ethnic Albanians pray in front of coffin of a young man killed during demonstrations on 2 February 1990 in Podujevo, Kosovo (Photo: Michel Gangne/AFP, via Getty Images)

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Symbolically, he appeared to be the resurrected Prince Lazar, descending from havens to lead his people at Kosovo again. Indeed, Milošević made a direct comparison between 1389 and 1989. Addressing a crowd of several hundred thousand Serbs and Montenegrins who gathered from all over the country and the world, he proclaimed that 600 years after the Kosovo Battle the Serbs again faced major battles. These were not armed battles yet, but such a scenario could not be discounted, he told the excited crowd. Other Yugoslav leaders present at the event watched uncomfortably from the sides. Under the guise of the so-called anti-bureaucratic revolution, Milošević pushed his agenda to restore Serbia’s sovereignty over the provinces, and to extend his influence in Montenegro, where pro-Serb sentiments and solidarity with Kosovo Serbs were strong. Milošević, whose family came from Montenegro, was hailed as a national hero in Serbia’s ‘sister republic’. The leaderships of Vojvodina and Montenegro resigned under popular pressure, but Milošević organizationally supported their mass demonstrations. Protests in Kosovo by ethnic Albanians were violently suppressed by the police and the federal army. The Yugoslav federal system now became an advantage, as Belgrade suddenly controlled four out of eight votes in the collective presidency (Serbia, Vojvodina, Kosovo and Montenegro). As the French marked the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, the Serbs and Montenegrins celebrated the 600th anniversary of the Kosovo Battle. East Europeans were about to topple communism by a mix of liberalism and nationalism, but in Serbia, Milošević had pre-empted and co-opted many of the social grievances through his populist appeals. His ambition initially seemed to become a new Tito, but since his popular appeal derived from his partial espousal of the Serbian nationalist cause, his brand of ‘Titoism’ was bound to be less attractive to conservative communist elites of other republics, notably Croatia. Ten years younger than Gorbachev, 48-year-old Milošević successfully played on an

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image of a fresh, reform-minded politician who modernized the country as the old, Partisan generation was leaving the scene. His two Montenegrin protégés, Momir Bulatović (1956–2019) and Milo Djukanović (b. 1962) belonged to an even younger generation. (The latter was still in power, as president of Montenegro, in 2022, having previously sidelined Bulatović and used Montenegrin nationalism to cement his power and lead the small republic to independence in 2006, as discussed in Chapter 8). Yugoslavia’s international significance had diminished as the end of the Cold War approached. The foreign aid had dried out, and a series of economic stabilization packages could not prevent high inflation and food shortages in the late 1980s. Then Ante Marković, a Bosnian Croat technocrat who served as Yugoslavia’s last prime minister, introduced economic reform that paved the way to the establishment of a free market. Marković stabilized the Yugoslav dinar and quickly improved the standard of living of the Yugoslavs in 1989–90. However, his reformist government was undermined by the three key republics: Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. When he contested republican elections in 1990 with his own party, Union of Reformist Forces of Yugoslavia, Marković was defeated by nationalist parties even in Bosnia, his native republic, where he had enjoyed more support than anywhere else in the country. He might have fared better at federal democratic elections, but these were never held in the end. Much has been said about the rise of Milošević and Serb domination of Yugoslavia, but in addition to Marković, other Croats occupied key positions in the country. Stipe Šuvar (1936–2004) was head of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in the late 1980s, while Budimir Lončar (b. 1924) served as Yugoslavia’s last foreign minister. However, pro-Yugoslav politicians were increasingly marginalized not just by Milošević but across Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav state had become dependent on the survival of socialism, and the party’s federalization had weakened the state to the point of fragmentation. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the state

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could not survive for long the party’s collapse at its last congress of January 1990 held in Belgrade. The exit of Slovenia’s delegates, followed by those from Croatia, brought the congress, and the party, to an end. The simultaneous centrifugal and centripetal forces that pulled the country’s federal units in different directions soon caused rupture and fragmentation.

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8 Ruin and Recovery (after 1990) u

Serbia in Transition In late September 1990, a new Constitution was promulgated in the Serbian parliament. Calls by opposition for elections for a constituent assembly before a new, democratic constitution could be agreed were ignored by the ruling party in a bid to cement the changes that had taken place during the ‘anti-­bureaucratic revolution’ of 1988–89. The autonomies of Vojvodina and Kosovo and Metohija (the full name of the southern province had been restored) became largely symbolic. This was ostensibly in response to the Serbian people’s demand to ‘reunite’ Serbia. Parallel to this, there was increasingly a sense that not just Serbia but all Serbs within Yugoslavia should unite, especially if the federation were to disintegrate. As cries of ‘We are one people’ could be heard across Germany, which was on the way to reunification, similar sentiments were expressed by many Serbs at the same time across increasingly disunited Yugoslavia. ‘Hey Serbia of three parts, once again you shall be one’, was a popular slogan at the time.1 There was a confusion, not only among the Serbs, whether the complex 1974 Yugoslav Constitution provided for the right to self-determination of the constituent nations or republics or perhaps both. The Serbian leadership appeared also to be confusing ethnic nationalism, Yugoslav socialism and the opposition’s demands for western-style democracy to which the society apparently was to 1

In original:Oj Srbijo iz tri dela, ponovo ćeš biti cela.

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transition.2 The 1990 Constitution defined the Republic of Serbia as a ‘democratic state (država) of all its citizens, based on freedoms and rights of men and citizens, on rule of law and social justice’. The description of a federal unit as a ‘state’ was presumably meant to emphasize Serbia’s renewed ‘sovereignty’. However, as mentioned previously, the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution already had defined ‘the socialist republic’, the core unit of federal Yugoslavia, as a ‘state based on the sovereignty of the people and government of and self-­management by the working class and all working peoples’.3 The prefix ‘socialist’ was now dropped, though not yet the red star and other communist-era symbols. The League of Communists of Serbia became, in July 1990, the Socialist Party of Serbia (significantly, not the Serbian Socialist Party). Members of the 250-seat National Assembly and president of the republic were to be elected for a mandate of 4 years in free, democratic elections. The country’s government was to be directly responsible to the parliament. The definition of Serbia as a civic, rather than ethnic, state was appropriate, since less than two-thirds of its citizens (counting Vojvodina and Kosovo) identified as Serbs in 1991. According to the last Yugoslav population census held that year, around 8.5 million Serbs lived in Yugoslavia, which amounted to 36.2 per cent of the country’s 23.5 million people. Serbia’s population was just under 9.8 million people, out of which there were 6.4 million Serbs (over 5 million in ‘inner’ Serbia, around 1.15 million in Vojvodina and some 200,000 in Kosovo); there were also 1.68 million ethnic Albanians, living mostly in Kosovo, 345,000 ethnic Hungarians and 107,000 Croats in Vojvodina, around 237,000 Muslims, who lived mostly in the Sandžak region (which the 2

A. H. Budding, ‘Nation/People/Republic: Self-determination in Socialist Yugoslavia’, in L. J. Cohen and J. Dragović-Soso (eds), State Collapse in South-Eastern Europe: New Perspectives on Yugoslavia’s Disintegration, West Lafayette, IN, 2007, 91–130; R. M. Hayden, Blueprints for a House Divided: The Constitutional Logic of the Yugoslav Conflicts, Ann Arbor, MI, 2000, Part 1. 3 Ustav Republike Srbije, Belgrade, 1990, Article 1; Ustav Socijalističke federativne republike Jugoslavije, 1974, Article 3. My emphasis.

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Serbs increasingly referred to by its old name Raška) and 140,000 Montenegrins, about half of whom lived in ‘inner’ Serbia. There were also 318,000 self-declared Yugoslavs. At the same time, around 2.1 million Serbs lived outside of the Republic of Serbia, mainly in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1.37 million) and Croatia (580,000). In Montenegro, less than 60,000 declared as Serbs, but it is safe to assume that a considerable number among around half a million declared Montenegrins across Yugoslavia (380,000 of whom lived in Montenegro) also espoused a Serb identity. Finally, another 91,000 Serbs lived in Slovenia (47,000) and Macedonia (44,000). More people than ever before – 700,000 – declared as ‘Yugoslavs’ in the last Yugoslav population census. In addition to over 300,000 in Serbia, there were significant numbers of Yugoslavs in Bosnia (240,000) and Croatia (105,000) as well.4 Many were urban elites, children of mixed marriages, but quite a few would have been of Serb origin or had had a Serb identity as well as a Yugoslav one. At the same time, as the largest and also the most geographically dispersed Yugoslav group, the Serbs believed they stood most to lose from a disintegration of Yugoslavia, especially if it were to be carried out along the internal borders of socialist republics. The discrepancy between these borders and the geographical dispersal of Serbs across several republics contributed to their national homogenization. Serbia was increasingly defined as a Serbian nation state – perhaps especially among prospective Serb minorities in Croatia and Bosnia.

4

R. Petrović, ‘The National Composition of Yugoslavia’s Population, 1991’, Yugoslav Survey (Belgrade), 33:1 (1992), 3–24. (See also Map 7.1). Figures for ethnic Albanians are an estimate, since many of them boycotted the census. Ironically, the number of people who declared as Yugoslavs, and who as such were officially counted as ‘nationally undeclared’, had never been as high as on the eve of the break-up of the Yugoslav state; there were more Yugoslavs than Montenegrins, one of the official Yugoslav nations.

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Apart from Milošević’s Socialists, and not counting a plethora of small parties and ‘groups of citizens’, two other main political parties contested the Serbian elections in December 1990 – the first multi-party elections since the quasi-democratic Yugoslav elections of 1938, and first in Serbia since 1912, when Nikola Pašić’s People’s Radical Party won 84 out of 160 seats in the National Assembly.5 The Serbian Renewal Movement stood on an anti-­communist platform; Milošević and the Socialists were perceived by many in Yugoslavia as poorly disguised communists. It campaigned for democracy, restoration of the Karadjordjević monarchy and rehabilitation of Mihailović and his wartime movement. The party leader Vuk Drašković (b. 1946) was a charismatic former communist ­journalist-turned-writer of best-selling historical novels that portrayed the Serbs’ past in romantic-nationalist tones. Drašković would soon moderate his views and he would speak against war, but in 1990, as Slovenia and Croatia seemed set on leaving the federation, he called for the reorganization of Yugoslavia into separate, possibly loosely connected nation states. In such a scenario, Serbia would incorporate the ‘Serb lands’ across Yugoslavia. Further to the right of Drašković were several marginal, extreme right, militant groups, including the Serbian Četnik Movement of Vojislav Šešelj (b. 1954). Sarajevo-born Šešelj once held a lectureship in politics at the university there, before he was expelled from the Communist Party and imprisoned in the mid-1980s for his nationalist writings. He moved to Belgrade later on, and transformed his ‘movement’ into the Serbian Radical Party, one of Serbia’s largest political parties during the 1990s. The centre ground was occupied by the Democratic Party. Its leader was Dragoljub Mićunović (b. 1930), a philosophy professor 5

All election results in Serbia since 1990 cited in this chapter are taken from the Dokumentacioni centar Vreme, Belgrade, www.vreme.com/vreme/ kako-smo-birali/; cf. R. Thomas, Serbia under Milošević: Politics in the 1990s, London, 1999.

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whom the reader will recall took part in the 1968 demonstrations at Belgrade University, and who was a moderate and respected veteran of Serbia’s dissident scene of the 1970s and ‘80s. Surrounding Mićunović was the crème de la crème of Serbia’s liberal-democratic intellectuals, politicians and activists. Such a concentration of strong-minded individuals with different views on the ‘Serb question’ would lead to the departure of key founding members during the 1990s and the creation of several new political parties. In a society apparently set on reversing the wrongs of the communist era, the Democrats were the only major political organization that claimed a continuity with an interwar party: the Democratic Party of Ljuba Davidović and Milan Grol. Such claims were not unfounded. Apart from championing democracy and dialogue with the other Yugoslav nations, values that resembled those of the original Democrats, a direct link was provided by Desimir Tošić, who had been in the late 1930s president of the Democratic Party youth section. As mentioned previously, Tošić had together with much older Božidar Vlajić (during the interwar period a close associate of Davidović and Grol), campaigned for the democratization of Serbia and Yugoslavia with other eminent, pro-democracy Serb and Yugoslav emigres: Vane Ivanović, Branko Pešelj, Adil Zulfikarpašić and later Aleksa Djilas, the son of dissident Milovan Djilas. Tošić returned to the country from London in 1990, aged 70. Although he served as a vice president of the Democratic Party and a deputy in the parliament of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia-Montenegro) during the 1990s, Tošić was above all a public intellectual who provided a critical voice for democracy until his death in 2008.6 Another eminent

6

A. Djilas, ‘Patriotski antinacionalizam Desimira Tošića’, foreword to Tošić, Snaga i nemoć: Naš komunizam, 1945–1990, Belgrade, 1998; D. Tošić, Stvarnost protiv zabluda: Srpsko nacionalno pitanje, ed. by A. Djilas, foreword by St. K. Pavlowitch, Belgrade, 1997; M. Lakićević, Desimir Tošić: Izmedju ekstrema, foreword by L. Perović, Novi Sad, 2020.

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Democrat, and another returnee from London, was Borislav Pekić (1930–92). One of Serbia’s most celebrated modern writers, Pekić had as a teenager joined Grol’s Democrats after the Second World War, before the party was de facto banned, but died prematurely not long after returning to Belgrade. The Democrats offered a liberal-democratic and a pro-­Yugoslav platform but, perhaps worried that they would be left behind by their main rivals, they too stated that if some nations were to leave Yugoslavia, the Serbs should seek ways to keep as many of their co-nationals as possible in a united state. Ideologically close to the Democrats, or in some cases further to the left of them, were several small anti-war, civic parties and individuals. They included the United Yugoslav Democratic Initiative (UJDI) and the Serbian branch of the Alliance of Reformists, led by former prime minister Ante Marković. The ‘left’, however, was dominated by Milošević’s Socialist Party, which appealed to old communists, new nationalists and ‘ordinary’ people who believed Milošević sought peace and the preservation of Yugoslavia or at least the protection of Serbs across Yugoslavia. Unlike western journalists, who travelled to Belgrade to interview him, not many in Serbia and Yugoslavia seemed to remember or to want to be publicly associated with Milovan Djilas. Approaching 80, he was probably too old to return to politics full time, and it is unlikely he would have wanted to. However, Djilas’ political experience and wisdom, not to mention democratic credentials abroad, would have been invaluable for the young and confused Serbian democracy. One of rare public figures who appreciated Djilas was Tošić, but he too was a marginal voice, even within his own party.7 The parliamentary and presidential elections were held simultaneously in early December 1990. The turnout was high, with almost 7

M. Djilas, Raspad i rat: Dnevnik, 1989–1995, Belgrade, 2022; Lakićević, Desimir Tošić, 686–738.

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71.5 per cent of the nearly 8 million registered voters taking part. However, the majority of Kosovo Albanians boycotted the elections. The Socialist Party, which controlled the media and possessed superior resources, won convincingly, receiving over 2.32 million votes (slightly over 46 per cent of all votes cast, and nearly 33 per cent of eligible voters), which amounted to 194 seats in the 250-seat parliament. Drašković’s Renewal Movement came second with slightly under 800,000 votes (19 seats), while the Democrats were third with nearly 375,000 votes (seven seats – one seat less than several ‘groups of citizens’ received together). Slobodan Milošević did even better than his party in the presidential elections, which were held simultaneously, receiving over 3,285 million votes (more than 65 per cent of the vote). Drašković came distant second again, with just under 825,000 votes (16.4 per cent). Ivan Djurić, an international authority on Byzantine history and a prominent anti-nationalist intellectual, stood as a joint candidate for Marković’s Reformists and the UJDI. Although he received just 277,000 votes (5.52 per cent of the vote), this was enough for a third place. Like the rest of Yugoslavia, Serbia was a secular republic, but the Serbian Orthodox Church, previously semi-visible during the Titoist era, had around this time emerged as a de facto ‘state church’. Almost in parallel with the parliamentary and presidential elections in late 1990, the Serbian Orthodox Church elected its new spiritual leader.8 On 1 December 1990 (co-incidentally, the almost forgotten anniversary of the formation of Yugoslavia in 1918), ailing Patriarch German (1958–90) was succeeded by Patriarch Pavle (1990–2009). At the time the Bishop of Raška and Prizren, a symbolically important eparchy that includes Kosovo, Pavle’s election was nevertheless unexpected. Several other senior bishops had come to prominence for their vocal 8

According to the Serbian Orthodox Church tradition, its patriarch is chosen by the Holy Spirit, from a short list drawn following the bishops’ vote.

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championing of ‘Serb rights’ in Yugoslavia; following an initial support for Milošević, they called on their flock to vote against him and the Socialist Party, whom the church saw as poorly disguised communists. Senior bishops supported nationalist Serb leaders across Yugoslavia (and would continue to do so during the war), but the new patriarch was considered a moderate. He spoke at the anti-government pro-­democracy demonstrations in 1991 and again in 1996/97. During the 1990s, the church played an important political role. It backed the creation of a united Serb state on the territory of former-Yugoslavia, but it was more heterogenous internally than is usually believed.9 Milošević would remain in office – first as president of Serbia, then of Yugoslavia, 1997–2000 – for nearly nine more years, but he would never again enjoy such support. He had come to power during Yugoslavia’s institutional crisis of the late 1980s, on the strength of Serbian nationalism, to which he never subscribed, as witnessed by his repeated refusal to make any symbolic concessions to the wartime Četnik movement or the monarchy. He reluctantly abandoned the communist platform and only Montenegro, ruled by his cronies, allowed multi-party elections as late as Serbia. Slovenia led the way, with democratic elections there taking place in early April, shortly followed by Croatia. A mix of former communists and democratic opposition took power in Ljubljana, where Milan Kučan, a reformed Communist became the first president of independent Slovenia. In Croatia, the elections were won by the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union. Franjo Tudjman, the CDU leader, became Croatia’s first 9

M. Djordjević, Kišobran patrijarha Pavla: Kritika palanačkog uma, Belgrade, 2010; R. Radić and M. Vukomanović, ‘Religion and Democracy in Serbia since 1989: The Case of the Serbian Orthodox Church’, in S. P. Ramet (ed.), Religion and Politics in Post-Socialist Central and Southeastern Europe: Challenges since 1989, Houndmills, Basingstoke, 2014, 180–211; M. Tomanić, Srpska crkva u ratu i ratovi u njoj, Belgrade, 2001; V. Perica, Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States, Oxford, 2011.

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non-communist president. This former army general turned nationalist dissident was infamous for his controversial publications that relativized and minimized the Ustaša violence against the Serbs, Jews and Roma. The Socialist Party of Serbia was the successor to the old League of Communists, but it was also in some ways a new party that emerged from the ‘anti-bureaucratic’ revolution with a fresh membership, attracted by the party’s blend of quasi-communism and Serb nationalism. Milošević was neither a charismatic leader nor a dictator, but an autocrat who manipulated the Serbian politics to establish a hybrid regime that was never fully democratic, yet it was not openly dictatorial either. His Socialist Party dominated Serbian politics throughout the 1990s together with several allied parties, one of which was formed by Milošević’s wife Mirjana Marković, a sociology professor who remained true to her Marxist roots. Some described the political system in Milošević’s Serbia as a ‘multi-party dictatorship’, or a ‘demokratura’ (a hybrid word combining demokratija and diktatura).10 The opposition and free speech were tolerated so long as they did not seriously threaten the ruling party and its allies. Thus, Drašković was beaten up by police and arrested, while free press was frequently under attack from the government. On 9 March 1991, several hundred thousand people came out on the streets of Belgrade to demand independent state media, a greater freedom of speech and more democracy (Figure 8.1). Such a large group of protesters unsurprisingly included people with different political views. When it became clear that the police could not control the demonstrators, who included Drašković, the Democratic Party leaders, students, intellectuals and workers, the Serbian president sought support from the federal army,

10

N. Popov, ‘Zbrka oko opozicije’, Republika (Belgrade), No. 197, 16–30 September 1998.

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figure 8.1  Anti-government protests, Belgrade, 9 March 1991 (Photo by Goranka Matić)

which sent tanks to central Belgrade against unarmed demonstrators. The protests were put down and there were two casualties. This was the first, but unfortunately, not the last time the Yugoslav People’s Army intervened against civilians during the final Yugoslav crisis (the Army had been previously deployed against Kosovo Albanian demonstrators in the 1980s). Protests were revived on 28 June, this time boosted by parents concerned for their sons serving in Slovenia, where the war had just broken out, but the regime held on. Further major protests would break out a year later, in summer 1992. Ironically, perhaps, the last days of Yugoslavia were also marked by the country’s sporting success. For the first time, one of its football teams – Red Star Belgrade – became a European champion, after defeating Olympique de Marseille, the champions of France, in a game played in the Italian town of Bari in May 1991; Red Star then went on to defeat Colo-Colo of Chile, the champion of South America, in Tokyo in December, becoming officially the world’s

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top soccer team. Despite the club’s communist origins, symbolized by its name, and although its best players included a Montenegrin, a Croat, a Macedonian, a Bosnian Muslim and a Romanian Serb, the Red Star success was hailed by its supporters as a victory for Serbia. The previous year, a Dinamo Zagreb–Red Star Belgrade game was interrupted due to fan violence. Subsequently, it has been described as the symbolic beginning of the Yugoslav war. The ‘takeover’ of the club’s militant fans, known as the ‘Delije’ (see Chapter 3), by Željko Ražnatović Arkan, a gangster and formerly an assassin for the Yugoslav secret services, was significant for two reasons. Arkan managed to turn the fans’ opposition to ‘communist’ Milošević (and their support for opposition leader Drašković), into their championing of the ‘Serb cause’ in Yugoslavia. Second, he later recruited members of a paramilitary unit, which carried a campaign of terror in Croatia and Bosnia, from among football hooligans. (Croat paramilitaries too were recruited among militant football fans).11 Somewhat overshadowed by all this was a similarly impressive basketball success. In late June 1991, as the war in Slovenia broke out, the Yugoslav men’s team won the European championship played in Italy. The same group, consisting mostly of Croat and Serb players, had won the basketball World Cup in Argentina the previous year. The post-game celebrations were marred when a Serbian player threw away a Croatian World War II–era flag brought onto the court by a member of Argentina’s Croat diaspora. Then in April 1992, Red Star’s major rival, Partizan Belgrade, became the European basketball club champion. Because of the war in Yugoslavia, Partizan played its ‘home games’ in a suburb of Madrid. After UN sanctions (see the following text) were lifted in 1995, Serbia (which together with Montenegro made up a ‘small’ Yugoslavia), continued to have success in basketball, volleyball and

11

R. Mills, The Politics of Football in Yugoslavia: Sport, Nationalism and the State, London, 2018.

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water polo, winning gold medals at Olympic, World and European tournaments.

The Serbs and the Disintegration of Yugoslavia In 1991, there existed significant support in Serbia and among the Serbs for the Yugoslav People’s Army and the war ‘for Yugoslavia’, or perhaps for the ‘Serbian people across Yugoslavia’, or for a ‘Greater Serbia’, even if nobody seemed to really understand what it all meant. The mobilizing power of the Serbian nationalism remained strong in the early 1990s, but it was a nationalism that lacked a clearly formulated programme. At least some Serbian volunteers going to fight, sometimes on weekends, in Croatia and Bosnia were driven by the prospect of looting and pillaging nonSerbs’ property. It is therefore hardly surprising that most Serbs were not sure who and what they were fighting for, or indeed whether Serbia was even involved in a war.12 At the same time, small, but culturally influential pockets of resistance to war and nationalism formed in Belgrade and other urban centres. They included organizations such as the Belgrade Circle and the Women in Black (Figure 8.2), while rock musicians held concerts for peace across the country. As the war in Croatia escalated in Autumn 1991, many young Serbs sought to avoid being mobilized. In Belgrade alone it is estimated that tens of thousands of men dodged draft or deserted. Pockets of cosmopolitanism, tolerance of minorities (ethnic, religious, sexual) and resistance to nationalism survived across Serbia, and 12

J. Dragović-Soso, ‘Rethinking Yugoslavia: Serbian Intellectuals and the “National Question” in Historical Perspective’, Contemporary European History, 13(2) (2004), 170–84; A. Pavković, ‘The Serb National Idea: A Revival 1986–92’, The Slavonic and East European Review, 72:3 (1994), 440–55, and ‘From Yugoslavism to Serbism: The Serb National Idea 1986–1996’, Nations and Nationalism, 4:4 (1998), 511–28; M. Todorova, ‘Is There Weak Nationalism and Is It a Useful Category?’, Nations and Nationalism, 21:4 (2015), 681–99.

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figure 8.2  Women in Black, anti-war demonstrations, Belgrade, 1992 (Photo by Goranka Matić)

former-Yugoslavia.13 Intercommunal relations deteriorated during the 1990s, and there were periodic violent incidents and intimidation of ethnic Albanians in central Serbia, the Muslims of Sandžak and the Croats of Vojvodina, including forced expulsion and even murder. However, large-scale ethnic cleansing and mass murder of non-Serbs were carried out in contested territories, which were

13

V. P. Gagnon, The Myth of Ethnic War: Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s, Ithaca, NY, 2004; R. Lučić, ‘Dead Heroes and Living Deserters: The Yugoslav People’s Army in Valjevo, Serbia at Outbreak of War 1991’, Nationalities Pap