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Thomas a. emmert
 Prince Lazar,
painting by Vladislav Titelbah, 1900, Museum of Kikinda
The highly moralistic society of the Serbian village is clearly reflected in the epic tradition. Such virtues as cour- age, honor, justice, and respect for tradition were funda- mental to the ethos of the village and the epic. This was a society which refused to accept the right of any man to rule another; thus we discover in the epic the glorification of those brave men who fought against tyranny. Miloš Obilić, the assassin of Murad, represented the ideal hero who sac- rifices himself in order to strike a blow against tyranny. The epic interpreted sacrifice for the good of society as the no- blest of virtues and inspired the Serbs to countless struggles and sacrifices in the cause of liberation. The legendary tra- dition of Kosovo encouraged brigandry and revolutionary acts against the Ottomans throughout the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.
By the late 18th century as the spirit of revolution found an echo in the Balkans, Serbs were ready to utilize the pow- erful psychological factor of Kosovo in the struggle for lib- eration and unification. The Serbs of the Vojvodina gave the cult of Lazar a kind of national character and warmly embraced the written legend of Kosovo which was embod- ied in the 18th century Priča o boju kosovskom (Tale about the Battle of Kosovo). as we have seen, this legendary ac-
count of the battle appears to have originated in the south in the general area of Montenegro, the Bay of Cattaro, and Dubrovnik. it came north during the migrations and was copied and widely disseminated during the 18th century. in this way a society found inspiration for its national awak- ening in the legendary tale of its medieval past.
Destroying tyranny, liberating the land of all foreign control, and reuniting all Serbs in one strong state were primary goals among Serbs in the 19th century. The Serbian Revolution of 1804–1815 created a new Serbian society and was a partial fulfillment of that age-long dream of avenging Kosovo and liberating Serbia.6 Perhaps the best exemplar of this revolutionary spirit and one of the greatest inter- preters of the Kosovo ethic was the prince and poet Petar Petrović-Njegoš, ruler of Montenegro during the second quarter of the 19th century. For Njegoš life consisted of war against the Turks, and the spirit and memory of Kosovo dominated his actions and writings. Njegoš was himself a product of the Dinaric highlands, that rugged, barren land which produced a unique people. The Yugoslav anthro- pologist jovan Cvijić in his study of the social psychology of the South Slav peasantry argues that the people from these highlands demonstrated a unique personality which he labeled the “violent dinaric type.”7 Miloš Obilić dis- played some of the characteristics of the Dinaric type, and the mountain peasants of Njegoš’ time remembered the personal sacrifice of the Kosovo assassin in the experiences of their own revolutionary environment.
in his most important work, the epic poem Gorski vi- jenac (Mountain Wreath), Njegoš gave expression to this heroic element in the folk tradition of his own people as he paid tribute to the memory of Kosovo.8 in the poem the word “Kosovo” (along with “God“) is mentioned most often, while Miloš Obilić is referred to no fewer than 12 times.9 it was this epic poem, in fact, that helped to give the final shape to the image of Obilić as the pure, Christian hero— the symbol of freedom. Njegoš message was clear. encour-
6 in 1809, the leader of the first Serbian revolution in 1804, Kara- djordje, observed: “Twice the hopes of Kosovo Christians were dashed that they would once again govern their own lands. But now that almost all Slavic lands of the Ottoman empire have been liber- ated, we hope that the hour of freedom will soon dawn for Kosovo as well. and there will perhaps still be bloody wars for the sake of this important piece of land, for whoever has Kosovo, that one will be the lord of the Balkan Peninsula.” Cf. V. Klaić, “Kosovo,” Obzor, No iii (13 May, 1889), p. 2.
7 Cf. jovan Cvijić, Govori i članci (Belgrade, 1921), Vol. 1, pp. 237– 243; Cvijić, Balkansko poluostrvo i južnoslovenske zemlje (Belgrade, 1966), pp. 361–436; Cvijić, “Studies in Yugoslav Psychology,” Slavon- ica Review (December 1930), pp. 368–384.
8 Cf. the study by Nikolaj Velimirović, Religija Njegoševa (Bel- grade, 1921).
9 Gorski vijenac (Belgrade, 1947); The Mountain Wreath of P P Nye- gosh, tr James W Wiles (Westport, Ct: Greenwood Press, 1970). See also ivo andrić, Njegoš kao tragični junak kosovske misli (Belgrade, 1935), p. 5; and Vladimir Dedijer, Sarajevo 1914 (Belgrade 1966), p. 421 (The Road to Sarajevo, Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 1966).

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