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Thomas a. emmert
transfer of Lazar’s remains from Vrdnik to Ravanica. Čedo- mir Mijatović got the idea for the transfer while he was on a tour of Serbia with Prince Milan in 1874. Because of the possibility of conflict with the monks of Vrdnik and with the Hungarian government, Milan was not particularly in- terested in the idea. in 1880, however, the Hungarian gov- ernment indicated that it would not oppose the transfer if the Serbian government first secured the approval of the Vrdnik monks. Mijatović sent the Serbian poet Milorad Popović Šapčanin to Vrdnik with an offer of a yearly pay- ment amounting to twice the revenue generated in Vrdnik from an average year of pilgrims. This idea was criticized openly in a letter to the Serbian press from Danilo Meda- ković, an interpreter with the Russian legation, who argued that the removal of Lazar’s bones from Vrdnik would lead to the Magyarization of those Serbs living in Hungary. He believed that the presence of Lazar’s remains sustained the Vojvodina Serbs in their patriotism. The Belgrade newspa- pers, which were subsidized by the Russians, sided with Medaković, and Mijatović was convinced to give up his idea at that time.30
a decade later Mijatović argued again for the transfer of Lazar’s remains and suggested that such an act might give Serbia a renewed sense of unity and bring an end to her political problems:
“if the interests of our people are what is in question, then it is far more important that thousands of Serbs from Montenegro, Dalmatia, Herzegovina, Bosnia, Old Serbia, and Macedonia come to the center of Serbia on Vidovdan than go to the Kingdom of Hungary... Gathered around the body of the Kosovo martyr, we might be ashamed of our political disorder. We might feel that the ties which bind us together as one and the same people are older, more important and more sacred than the ties of party.”31
Nothing came of Mijatović’s appeal.32 Throughout the late 19th century the spirit of Kosovo was evoked on each anniversary of the battle, and priests and politicians alike reminded their people of the obligation to avenge Kosovo and unify Serbia. Until the beginning of the 20th century, however, any hope that Serbia would play the role of a “South-Slavic Piedmont” was frustrated by the actions of the big powers.
The turn of the century seemed to bring with it a new, more intense desire to alter the status quo and not only in Serbia but throughout the Balkans. Many young people
30 Čedomir Mijatović, Memoirs of a Balkan Diplomatist (London 1917), pp. 224 ff.
31 Čedomir Mijatović, “Prenos kostiju cara Lazara”, Branik, 7, 69 (27 june, 1891), p. 2.
32 Two years before he died, Mijatović still took up his pen in the cause of Kosovo memorials. He suggested that Lazar’s wife, Milica, and the legendary “maiden of Kosovo”, who brought water to the dy- ing and wounded Serbian soldiers after the battle, should be pro- claimed saints. See Č. Mijatović, “Ko je kosovska devojka”, Vreme, 10, 2910 (1 February, 1930), p. 3; Mijatović, “Caricu i kosovsku devojku treba proglasiti svetiteljkama”, Vreme, 10, 2889 (2 january, 1930), p. 1.
living under Habsburg or Ottoman rule were especially frustrated by the factionalism, chauvinism, and narrow- mindedness of their fathers and leaders, which made unity and effective action against foreign tyranny impossible. One such youth who channeled these concerns into the works of this creative genius was ivan Meštrović, the most im- portant Croat and South Slav sculptor of the 20th century.
Meštrović tended sheep as a teenager in Dalmatia, where he learned to read the epic poetry of the Serbs in Cyrillic and was profoundly influenced by the ideas of freedom and liberation expressed in the epic of Kosovo. The centu- ries-long struggle of the South Slavs against foreign op- pression became a dominant theme in his early sculpture.33 Between 1905 and 1910, he studied sculpture in Vienna and Paris and spent his summers on the Dalmatian coast in Split. One summer night Meštrović sat with some intel- lectuals and artists in the People’s Square in Split and lis- tened to the dramatist ivo Vojnović read from his recent play on the tragedy of Kosovo, Smrt majke Jugovića (The Death of the Mother of the jugovići). Soon after that Meš- trović developed the idea for a monumental temple in hon- or of the Kosovo heroes: “What i had in mind was an at- tempt to create a synthesis of popular national ideals and their development, to express in stone and building how deeply buried in each one of us are the memories of the great and decisive moments in our history... i wanted at the same time to create a focus of hope for the future, one which stands out in the countryside and under the free sky.”34 Meštrović hoped that the monument would serve as a symbol of the suffering and hopes of all South Slavs. He envisioned a monumental gate with triumphal arches, a central building with a cupola, and a belfry whose columns would be representations of the Kosovo heroes. Under the cupola was to stand an enormous statue of Miloš Obilić. He anticipated that like the medieval cathedrals, this mon- ument would involve the collective efforts of several gen- erations.35
Meštrović’s obsession with the Kosovo temple contin- ued until World War i, by which time he had completed several of the Kosovo figures. The emotional impact of this work encouraged the art historian josef Strzygowski to sug- gest that there could certainly be trouble for the Habsburg empire if “Meštrović’s fellow nationals understand his mes- sage and if his art awakes in them new ideas of unity.”36
While the years of war eventually ended in the creation of a South Slavic state, the tragedy of those years and the problems of the post-war period turned Meštrović away from his faith in the spirit of Kosovo. He discovered that the appeal of Kosovo was not universal, and his search for a new inspiration led him to Christianity. “it was thinking about these ideas,” he said, “that brought me back to bibli-
34 Duško Kečkemet, Ivan Meštrović (Zagreb 1970), pp. 1ff.
35 Ibid., p. 12. 36 Ibid., p. 13. Ibid., p. 18.

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