Cultural identity


The ideas of German romanticism arrived in Serbia via the Czechs and the Slovaks. Serbian culture in the 19th century was marked by the uprising, Vuk Karadzic and the folk songs as the three connected phenomenon with the widest European reverberations.

Vuk’s era was marked by the armed struggle and resistance. The battle for a national language, phonological spelling and for folk-based literature represented a cultural revolution between the two social-political revolutions; the Serbian and the revolution in Europe in 1848, which also reached the South Slav nations. The period between the appearance of Vuk and the first major victory in 1847 brought progress in all cultural spheres. Schools were founded, along with printing houses, bookshops, associations of scholars and theaters. In the process of approaching Europe, patrons appeared. The expansion of political and literary periodicals proved to be especially influential. Up to 1813, Serbs did not have any regular newspapers. In that year in Vienna, Dimitrije Davidovic and Dimitrije Frusic launched Novine serbske, (The Serbian Newspaper) and in 1834 they received permission to launch them in Belgrade.

Having published four books which signified a triumph for the literary language based on the national language, Vuk’s translation of the New Testament, Njegos’ Gorski Vijenac and Branko Radicevic’s poems and Djuro Danicic’s philological discussion A War For the Serbian Language and Spelling, romanticism became the main characteristic and stylistically dominated the entire era.

Vuk applied Adelung’s principle, “Write as you speak” consistently and to the very end. After a literary agreement was reached on March 28, 1850 in Vienna amongst the most eminent Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian writers and individuals from the cultural and scientific fields concerning the joint Serbo-Croatian literary language, Serbian and Croatian authors started using it. Four years after Vuk’s demise in 1868 the new spelling was officially introduced.

Romanticism in Serbian culture was closely connected with its national liberation strivings. The consequence of this connection was a turning towards the past, which was the main motive and subject of the poets, painters and theater repertoire. The followers of romanticism recognized in the nation a specific natural community whose unity was based on family connections and the language. They perceived nationality as the very essence of a nation. These beliefs contained elements of not only Serbian unity, but were wider still of a Slav and Yugoslav community. The Pan-Slavic emotions peaked prior to the revolution in 1848. After the revolution was crushed during the fifties and sixties, Pan-Slavism was replaced by nationalism and the Slav feeling by Serbian patriotism.

In the larger cities where young Serbs studied, they founded pupil clubs, which became the center points of the political and cultural life of those young people. From such clubs emerged during a session of the youth assembly in Novi Sad in 1866 the “United Youth of Serbia,” a movement that was subsequently transposed into Serbia and other territories where Serbs lived. The basis of this youth movement was the ideas of liberation and unification of the Serbs.

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