Page 379 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
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aged by the long centuries of Ottoman rule and the spirit of the Kosovo epic, Serbians were to understand that the no- blest of acts was to kill the foreign tyrants. Njegoš’ “Moun- tain Wreath” in itself had an enormous influence on the Ser- bian national movement in the decades following its pub- lication in 1847, and was of special importance among those Serbs who remained rural and uneducated. in Nje- goš’ hands the legacy of the Kosovo martyrdom was trans- formed into a compelling, positive force determined to eliminate the foreigner from all South Slav lands.
During the 19th century, the spirit of Kosovo also found new expression in the talents of Serbia’s dramatists, poets, and painters, who were attracted to the artistic possibili- ties embodied in the national legend. inspired by the wars for liberation, the theme of Kosovo reached the Serbian stage in the first half of the 19th century. Sima Milutinović Sarajlija wrote the first play on the subject of Kosovo. His Tragedija Obilić was crafted in 1827 and finally published in Leipzig in 1837. This was followed by five other Kosovo dra- mas: Miloš Obilić ili Boj na Kosovu by jovan Popović in 1827; Car Lazar by isidor Nikolić in 1835; Car Lazar by Matija Ban in 1858; Miloš Obilić by jovan Subotić in 1866; and Lazar by Miloš Cvetić in 1889.10 apparently, the public expected to find characterizations in these dramas which mirrored their understanding of Kosovo from the epic and the legendary tale. in a critique of all five works written in 1890 Milan jovanović protested the poetic license of his nation’s dramatists:
The titans of Kosovo, who should amaze the public from the stage as they did five centuries ago from the stage of world history, have in the course of several decades become miser- able pygmies in the hands of our dramatists They... exert all their strength to cover up the absence of their goals with ornate but hollow phrases 11
Kosovo also became a favorite theme for some of Ser- bia’s 19th century painters. inspired by the nationalism of the early part of the century, the Romantics found popular subjects in the heroes and events of the Battle of Kosovo. They portrayed Lazar as a strong, vital, secular emperor whose image could evoke sentiments of pride in the popu- lation of a revolutionary age. among those who chose some aspect of the Kosovo tradition for their canvas were Petar Čortanović, his son Pavle, Pavle Simić, Novak Radonić, Djura jakšić, adam Stefanović, and the Croatian painter, Ferdo Kikerec. Later in the century the first generation of Serbian realists showed little interest in the heroes of Ko- sovo; but among the second generation of realists Kosovo was a subject in works by Paja jovanović, ivan Rendić, Mar- ko Murat, Djordje Krstić, and Uroš Predić, who in 1917 paint- ed the famous Kosovo Maiden, now part of the permanent collection at the National Museum in Belgrade.
10 See Milan jovanović, “Pogled na dramsku leteraturu o Kosovu,” Glas kraljevske srpske akademije, XViii (Belgrade, 1890), pp. 1–117.
11 Ibid., p. 117.
The Kosovo Legacy
While the spirit of Kosovo encouraged the struggle for independence and was an important source of inspiration to Serbs throughout the 19th century, the road to complete liberation would not be easy. Many of the Serbian lands, including Kosovo, remained under foreign control during most of the 19th century. Prince Njegoš certainly reflected the impatience and the desires of many in his constant de- mands for vigilance and continued sacrifice against the Ot- tomans.12 in the Vojvodina newspaper Napredak (Prog- ress), 50 years after the revolution, an article expressed frus- tration over the relative lack of progress in the unification of Serbia and hinted that the problem resulted from a lack of understanding of the spirit of Kosovo:
“Our successes have been small Half of the Serbian na- tion still remains in Kosovo chains An indifference toward our basic responsibilities is the main shortcoming and the most harmful sickness of our people Even the most power- ful and bloody examples cannot cure us from this disease... and today we put little effort into knowing our Miloš”13
and in a lecture in Novi Sad in 1872 emil Čarka ob- served that things would have been much better in Serbia if its leaders had demonstrated the same devotion to the ethos of Kosovo as its common fold had:
If everything had been decent among us after Kosovo as it was with the common people, we would be much more pro- gressive today But everything—theocracy, aristocracy, and bureaucracy—failed us Only the common folk remained truthful to their task Only they preserved the testament of Kosovo 14
in 1876, Serbia found itself at war with the Porte on be- half of its fellow Slavs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The fail- ure of this South Slav insurrection guaranteed that Serbia would exist at the mercy of the big powers for the rest of the century. Thus, by the time of the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo in 1889, Serbia was under austrian influ- ence and her plans for unification were necessarily thwarted.
The first suggestion for a 500th anniversary celebration was made in 1886 in the Novi Sad newspaper Zastava (The Banner). Nothing came of the first appeal, however, and near the end of 1888 Zastava suggested that the Serbs in Ruma should organize a celebration since Ruma was near Vrdnik where Prince Lazar’s remains were preserved. Fi- nally on january 1, 1889, Zastava announced that a formal committee had been organized in Ruma for the Kosovo commemoration.15
Belgrade newspapers immediately protested this devel- opment and demanded that any celebration be held in lib-
12 Cf. M. Kašanin, “Kosovska bitka i naša umetnost,” Pravda, No 12, 441 (june 28,1939), p. 6; Nenad Simić, “O liku kneza Lazara,” Glas- nik Srpske pravoslavne crkve, 6 (1958), pp. 100–109.
13 “Na Vidovdan,” Napredak, 17, 70 (16 june, 1864), p. 1.
14 emil Čarka, “Kako smo bili, kako smo sade, i kako treba da bu-
demo” (Novi Sad, 1872), p. 7.
15 Veljko Petrović, “Petstogodišnjica Kosova pre pedeset godina”, Politika, 36, 11160 (28 june, 1939), p. 4.

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