Page 710 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 710

Dimitrije Djordjević
with the remains of Stefan, The First-Crowned King of Serbia. it was finally deposited in Ostrog Monastery in Montenegro.91
at the end of November 1915, the king, the Serbian supreme command, and the officials of government, who were assembled in Peć, decided to retreat over the alba- nian mountains toward the adriatic coast where they ex- pected the support of the Western allies. at the last mo- ment, Vojvoda Živojin Mišić, the flamboyant army com- mander, tried to change the decision and proposed to the remaining army commanders in Peć a counter-offensive from Kosovo. as in 1389 the alternative would be to win or to perish. after several meetings and painful delibera- tions, his proposal was not accepted. Soldiers were or- dered to destroy all weapons which could not be carried by hand, and the army started its tragic exodus over al- bania.92 This time the Serbian state survived and became the main factor in the creation of Yugoslavia in 1918.
The tradition of Kosovo went through various modi- fications and interpretations to meet the needs of the mod- ern epoch. History was not only called upon to justify and legalize the emancipation of the national state, but also to be an instrument in domestic and foreign politics. The Kosovo myth had to be adapted to the interests of the rul- ing dynasties and the rising state establishment as well as to the interests of the developing social classes and groups.
although the Kosovo myth, based on martyrdom, in- justice, and hope, incited the 1804 insurgents to fight the Ottomans, the tradition of the pre-Kosovo state of the Nemanjić was more attractive to the rebels. The latter sym- bolized the ascent of statehood, while Kosovo marked its collapse. During the 1804–1813 uprising, the cult of Ste- fan, the First-Crowned King, overshadowed the cult of Prince Lazar, the victim. Much later, the writer Djordje Maletić (1816–1888) assigned to King Stefan the central place in his historical play, “The Death of emperor Mi- chael,” because Stefan was “more suited to our times.” With the strengthening of Serbia and the enlargement of the national program, the cult of Stefan was replaced by the cult of emperor Dušan. at the same time, the patriarchal village democratized the past. in the oral epic poetry jev- rosima, the mother of King Marko, is found washing the laundry while the wife of King Vukašin prepares food for the masons.
History and the Kosovo tradition were exploited to support the monarchical system in nineteenth century Serbia and Montenegro. The Kosovo heritage was appro- priated by both the Karadjordjević and Obrenović dynas- ties in Serbia in their bitter rivalry over the rule of the country. in the official press, Miloš Obrenović’s native vil-
(Beograd, 1981), pp. 403–406; see also Savo Skoko and Peter Opačić, Vojvoda Stepa Stepanović (Beograd 1981), pp. 521–524; Savo Skoko, Vojvoda Radomir Putnik, vol. ii (Beograd, 1984), pp. 279–280.
lage of Srednja Dobrinja was compared with Ribnica, where Nemanja was born. according to Čedomilj Mijatović in 1889, “The oak in Takovo was the witness of the ancient glory as well as of the downfall of the Serbian state, but it also witnessed the illustrious moment when [Miloš] Ob- renović unfolded the standard of liberation.” The Obre- nović dynasty was often compared with the Nemanjić. in the 14 (26) October 1888 decree calling for the new con- stitution, King Milan reminded his countrymen that “on the restored throne of the glorious Nemanjići now sit the scions of the people’s dynasty of the Obrenović.”93 To con- firm this connection, King Milan in the company of the queen and his young son frequently visited Ravanica mon- astery.94 a book distributed to excellent students as an award at the end of the school year proclaimed the Obre- nović goal of restoring the ancient realm of the Nemanjić: “it will accomplish Serbian hopes to reach the borders of ancient Dušan’s empire.”95
The more the dynasty was in crisis, the more the ref- erences to Kosovo and the Old Kingdom were utilized. after King Milan abdicated, a poem entitled Kraljevka, written by Milan Kujundžić, was presented to the king’s heir in 1889, on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the Battle of Kosovo. The poem observed that “the doors of Žiča opened to the new monarch.” in 1900, however, af- ter the marriage of King aleksandar to his mother’s lady in waiting caused a break between the king and his father, supporters of former King Milan were quick to allude to the differences between the mighty emperor Dušan and his feeble heir Uroš.
Both conservatives and liberals modified the Kosovo myth in accordance with their needs. The conservatives called for a centralized, authoritarian establishment ca- pable of concentrating national energies to fulfill the “Ko- sovo message.” Domestic dissent was equated with the treason of Vuk Branković. The conservatives heralded the slogan, “internal schism provoked the downfall of the me- dieval state.” it goes without saying that the majority of the military supported the conservatives. The defeat at Kosovo was the best proof of the disastrous effect that domestic strife could have on national unity. Only a dis- ciplined, well-organized, and supplied army would be able to “heal the wounds of Kosovo.”96 The cult of Kosovo was strongly upheld in the army: the twelfth infantry regiment was named after Prince Lazar.
93 “King Milan’s Proclamation,” Srpske novine, No 225 (14 October 1888), cited in Branič—Časopis za pravne i državne nauke, edited by Djordje Nenadović, No 17–18 (Beograd 1888), pp. 628–631.
94 “Kralj Milan sa svojim sinom u Ravanici,” in Spomenica Vidov- danske proslave u manastiru Ravanica kod Ćuprije 1389–1939, edited by Bora Nikolić (Ravanica, 1939), pp. 120–122.
95 Dj. Vrbavac, Nemanjići i Obrenovići ili uporedjenje dva svetla perioda iz naše prošlosti (Beograd 1900), p. 7.
96 Speech of Colonel jovan Mišković on 15 june 1889, in Otadžbi- na, vol. 88 (1889), XVi-XXXViii.
Dragnić-Todorović, The Saga of Kosovo, p. 111.
92 Vojvoda Živojin Mišić, Moje uspomene, preface by Savo Skoko,

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