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St. Vitus’ Day (Vidovdan), History, Memory
Bogoljub Šijaković
In the historical self-consciousness of the Serbian people, St. Vitus’ Day (Vidovdan) 1389 has an axiomatic meaning: it is that powerful historical event which in a
very real way judged the flow of Serbian history and sym- bolically marked its understanding (all later Vidovdans draw from it their supplementary meaning). Vidovdan (St. Vitus Day) is a real event of mythic strength (not in any way myth as function), in the sense that it is a historic event which gives us an orientation of values and point of reference in which we see a suprahistoric meaning. as such an event, Vidovdan has an actionable potential of meaning through history which represents a cornerstone in the identity of the Serbian people. On the foundation of a knightly and sacrificial Vidovdan were built the ideals of Vidovdan eth- ics, namely justice and humanity, self-sacrifice and suffer- ing, repentance and forgiveness, patience and generosity, which are really the ethics of Christian culture, and there- fore the ethic of the Sacrifice. (This ethos is reflected in hagiographies, and in the popular epics of Njegoš, Marko Miljanov, etc.)
The Vidovdan sacrifice is witness of a total and radical realism which confronts us with a brutal concretization of history. Sacrifice is the sublimation of history. The histori- cal truth is not logical or universal but rather eventful and unique. a highly sacrificial event bears the meaning of the presence of holiness and gives sense to a historical period, becoming the truth of the historical period. a readiness for sacrifice, of course, does not mean glorifying sacrifice as a value in and of itself, because the value of the sacrifice is in its purity and aim—the Resurrection. The meaning and purpose of history must be the salvation and augmenta- tion of life, otherwise our survival in the passage of physical time would remain meaningless. The Vidovdan of Kosovo and jasenovac are exclusive sacrificial paradigms which make it possible for us to understand events as our history. The history of a people is also that which they see in their own history. Our view on our own history makes it possi- ble for us not only to endure historical brutality but also to understand and accept history. For the Serbian people who are small in number but aspire to be great by character, history is already due to that—a suffering. Sacrifice is the most important memory which illumines that which took place in history. Sacrifice and suffering (namely the experi-
Saint Vitus, northwest bay, church of the Virgin Hodegetria, the Patriarchate of Peć, ca. 1335

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