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TIA Janus

Slavenko TERZIC, Ph.D.
Historical institute of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts



Today NATO is massively and brutally destroying everything existing on Serbian soil. Who is actually the victim of this most horrendous war crime?

By their overall identity the Serbs belong to the European Christian civilization. They settled in South-East Europe, including Kosovo and Metohia, in the 6th century, during the period of massive population resettlement in Europe and Asia called the Great Migration. Social development in Serbia was influenced by different environing cultures and as of the 18th century predominantly under that of Central and Western Europe. The Serbs had their kingdom already in the 11th century and at the beginning of the 13th century they had a developed legal system as a frame work for the civic and church life within, at that time, a developed medieval civilization. The most outstanding document in this regard is Nomocanon by Saint Sava from the beginning of the 13th century, in its time a very modern set of rules governing the civic and religious life. The Serbian Orthodox Church became independent in 1219. The Codex of Emperor Dusan from 1349 ranks very high in European legislature of that time and reflects a high level of legal and social awareness. As such it is one of the most outstanding cultural assets of the Serbian Middle-Ages.

In the 13th, 14th and the 15th century the Serbs had a many developed medieval society with results in cultural and economic field equal to the achievements of the developed European environing countries. Serbian aristocrats possessed numerous medieval palaces, castles and fortresses, most of which were built on the territory of today’s Raska, Kosovo, and Metohia (Svrcin, Pauni, Nerodimlja, Stimlje, Petric, Novo Brdo, Zvecan, Ribnik). Serbian mediveal aristocy had family relaton with many European imperial and royal dynasties, as Byzantin, Bulgarian, French, Italian, German, Russian, Hungarian, Turkish and others. Only in Kosovo and Metohia as a center of Serbian medieval state and society there are over 1.500 Serbian monasteries, churches and other cultural monuments. At that time the Serbs have a developed literature. Their economy is also prosperous (Novo Brdo is the main mining center of the Balkans in the 15th century). Painting was particularly fostered in monasteries, from the 12th to the 14th century. It is in the monasteries of Studenica, Zica, Sopocani, Mileseva, Gracanica, Decani, Patriarchy of Pec, and many others that we have outstanding examples of wall paintings called frescoes. Most of the above mentioned monasteries are under UNESCO`s protection as a part of the world cultural heritage.

Turkish invasion of the South-Eastern Europe had destroyed the Serbian society and its civilization. The same applies to the surrounding Christian societies. The Battle of Kosovo in 1389 means a decisive organized resistance of the Serbian elite to the Turkish invasion. Both the Turkish Sultan Murat and the Serbian Prince Lazar were killed in that battle. In the collective conscience of the Serbs the battle of Kosovo had acquired mythical dimensions as a sacrifice of all Serbs for the freedom of their native country. This aspect has reinforced the Kosovo tradition in Serbian culture as a whole. Since the Turks had destroyed their state during several forthcoming centuries, the Serbs were forced to live under the rule of several Empires: the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy and the Republic of Venice. During the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century the Serbs organized two state and political centers: Serbia and Montenegro. During the 19th and 20th century, the Serbian social thought and Serbian parliamentarism were developing under a decisive influence of the West European liberal democracy.

After two and a half centuries of interruption in the first place due to the Turkish invasion, during the three subsequent centuries the Serbian society was in all respects open to the European influence in the political, cultural and social spheres, providing its own contribution to the overall European civilization. The first Serbian magazine Slaveno-serbski magazin was published in 1768 in Venice and following the example of the European cultural institution Matica Srpska one of the oldest Serbian cultural institutions was founded in 1825. In 1839 the foundation was laid for the University of Belgrade, and in 1842 for Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. The Constitution of Kingdom of Serbia from 1888 guaranteeing equal civic rights to the Jews, was one of the most democratic constitutions in Europe, based on the Belgium constitution.

In all creative spheres the Serbs have outstanding representatives: the great reformer of Serbian culture Vuk St. Karadzic, the famous botanist Josif Pancic, the well-known physicists Mihajlo Pupin, Nikola Tesla, Milutin Milankovic, the famous professor in the USA Paja Radosavljevic, eminent writers Petar Petrovic Njegos, Ivo Andric, Milorad Pavic, the philosopher Brana Petronijevic, geographer and anthropo-geographer Jovan Cvijic, painters Paja Jovanovic, Nadezda Petrovic, Ljuba Popovic, Vladimir Velickovic, film directors Aleksandar Petrovic, Dusan Makavejev, Emir Kusturica, composers, singers and musicians Stevan Mokranjac, Biserka Cvejic, Radmila Bakocevic, Goran Bregovic, Stefan Milenkovic, sport champions Vlade Divac, Aleksandar Djordjevic, Sinisa Mihailovic, Predrag Pedja Mijatovic, Jasna Sekaric.

Along with gradual liberation from the Turks, the Serbian territories became increasingly attractive for the appetites of the European powers, Austria-Hungary in the first place. The efforts of the Serbs to create a modern national state, following the example of the national movements of the Italians and Germans was against the interests and political plans of the Great Powers regarding the Balkans. In order to more easily jeopardize it the Serbian movement was labeled “Great Serbian”. Obstinate efforts of Austria-Hungary and Nazi Germany in the first place to completely govern South-Eastern Europe resulted in a horrendous genocide against Serbian people in the First and the Second World War. The balance of Serbian sufferings in both World wars, when they opposed the aggression of the Central Powers in World War I and the Fascist Powers in World War II amount to 2.5 million assassinated Serbs. For a small people it is an enormous disaster from which the Serbs had not recovered to date. In 1991 he Serbs were for the third time victims of massive crimes. The most intensive ethnic cleansing after World War II was the ethnic cleansing of the Serbs in Croatia in 1995, accompanying the destruction of Republika Srpska Krajina.

To blame the Serbs of today to be the aggressors on the territory which from the early Middle Ages has been the very heart of their political, cultural and spiritual life is more than cynical. The Serbian environment has always been, as is the case today, an example of a multi-cultural and multi-ethnical society, the proof being and exceptionally high development of the political and cultural elite of the Albanian ethnic minority in Serbia and Yugoslavia, which is in all respects above its co-nationals in Albania.

14th April, 1999

Europe and the Serbs