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Milica Bakić-Hayden
 Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (1787–1864), reformer of Serbian alphabet and main collector of epic ballads from Ottoman period
ly religious.12 But the logic of such interpretation was not incongruent with the perception of the long term politi- cal prospects: namely, the inevitability of eventual suc- cumbing to the Ottoman might. in such circumstances, the focus on the spiritual meaning of Lazar’s death is at once a “natural” outcome, given the religious background of the authors of chronicles, eulogies, vitae, and the like, but also a desired one, since it preserves the dignity and self-worth of the subdued people. aleksandar Pavlović makes an interesting observation that of approximately fourteen poems about the Prince Lazar and the Kosovo battle found in Vuk’s collection, only one, “Propast carst- va srpskoga” (“The Downfall of the Serbian empire”), con- tains the motif of the choice between heavenly and earthly
kingdoms that came to epitomize the whole Kosovo cy- cle.13 The poem is traced to a blind woman singer from Grgurevci whose singing was recorded in Šišatovac mon- astery in Srem by the heguman Lukijan Mušicki at the request from Vuk.14 The fact that this song was rarely found among the popular singers of tales points to its origin in the clerical circles and their interest to nurture the mem- ory of the martyrdom of Prince Lazar after the so called Great Migration of the Serbs in the 17th century from Ko- sovo and central Serbia north to the area of Fruška Gora, where the relics of Prince Lazar were also carried and kept in the Vrdnik monastery.15
We may similarly see the logic of the emergence of Miloš Obilić’s heroic cult in the context of the reality of the early nineteenth century Serbian uprisings against the Ottomans. That time called for concrete victory on the ground, and hence it was the heroic aspect of Kosovo, symbolized in Miloš’s killing of the Sultan, that was high- lighted. Miloš’s cult has had quite a different development from that of Lazar, partly because Lazar’s historicity—his status as a ruler and his (if only indirect) connection with the ruling House of Nemanjić, as well as his death by be- heading and purported posthumous miracles—provided solid grounds for canonization. Lazar’s epic image does not seem to differ substantially from the one found in oth- er writings devoted to him (eulogies, sermons, žitija). Mi- loš, on the other hand, starts as a nameless hero in most early Serbian manuscripts on the battle, almost exclusive- ly focused on the Kosovo martyr rather than the Kosovo hero. Certainly, there are passing references to the brave knight who stabbed the Sultan to death, but his name is not mentioned until much later. The reason for this is not the chroniclers’ “conspiracy of silence,” but the conven- tion of medieval writing which shows an author’s strict respect for the social status of the individuals written about. Those of lower social ranks are not likely to be mentioned by name even when their deeds are described in detail.16 For the same reason persons of lower social ranks, lack- ing adequate canonical justification could not be intro- duced into the saint’s cults.17 Yet, this is precisely what happened to this Kosovo hero.
13 aleksandar Pavlović, Rereading the Kosovo Epic: “Heavenly Ser- bia” in the Oral Tradition Serbian Studies 23, 1 (2009): 87–89.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid., 89.
16 Noel Malcom, for example, when discussing the battle and the
“myth” of Kosovo and its revival in the 19th century, notes that “the main focus [in these songs] was on Lazar’s fate as a personal hero- martyr, not on the national destiny of the Serbs,” but fails to see that it is simply the basic convention of epic poetry not to sing about “common people” (even if they are its prime creators and dissemina- tors)—but about noblemen and women, who become models of be- havior for the community and personify its values and corporate ide- als. it is the question of genre not of some nationalist ploy. Cf. Noel Malcom, Kosovo (New York 1998) 78–79.
17 See Mihaljčić, Battle of Kosovo, 86–88.
  Djordje Trifunović, Srpski srednjovekovni spisi o knezu Lazaru i kosovskom boju [Serbian medieval manuscripts about prince Lazar and the battle of Kosovo], (Kruševac: Bagdala 1968).

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