Sunday, June 29, 2014

Престолонаследник и Принцеза на Видовдан на отварању комплекса Андрићград у Републици Српској June 28, 2014 / Serbian Crown Prince and Crown Princess at St. Vitus Day opening of Andricgrad in Republika Srpska

www.royalfamily.org
June 28, 2014

Њихова Краљевска Височанства Престолонаследник Александар II и Принцеза Катарина присуствовали су данас отварању Андрићграда, јединственог пројекта српске, али и европске и светске културе на обали Дрине крај Вишеграда у Републици Српској.

 
Његова Светост Патријарх српски Г. Иринеј, уз саслужење Његовог Високопреосвештенства Митрополита загребачко – љубљанског и целе Италије Г. Порфирија, Преосвећене Господе Епископа захумско – херцеговачког Г. Григорија, аустралијско – новозеландског Г. Иринеја, канадског Г. Георгија, новограчаничког и средњезападноамеричког Г. Лонгина,стобијског Г. Давида, монаштва и свештенства Српске Православне Цркве, у јутарњим часовима служио је Свету архијерејску литургију и освештао Храм Светог Цара Лазара и косовских мученика. Поред Краљевског Пара Литургији је присуствовао и Њ.Е. г-дин Милорад Додик, председник Републике Српске, Њ.Е. г-дин Станимир Вукићевић, амбасадор Србије у Босни и Херцеговини, многе угледне званице из земље и иностранства, и велики број верника. Патријарх Иринеј је одликовао Њ.Е. г-дина Милорада Додика, председника Републике Српске и г-дина Емира Кустурицу, иницијатора и идејног творца пројекта изградње Андрићграда орденом Светог Краља Милутина.
 
По завршетку Литургије, г-дин Емир Кустурица, члан Крунског савета, провео је Њихова Краљевска Височанства и друге важне госте кроз Андрићград. Затим је Краљевски пар присуствовао прослави Славе Војске Републике Српске у манастиру Добрун.
 
У поподневним часовима званично је отворен Андрићград. Свечаности су присуствовали и Њ.Е. г-дин Александар Вучић, председник Владе Србије, Њ.Е. г-дин Ивица Дачић, први потпредседник Владе и министар спољних послова Србије, Њ.Е. г-дин Никола Селаковић, министар правде, Њ.Е. г-дин Александар Вулин, министар рада, запошљавања, борачких и социјалних питања, Њ.Е. г-дин Велимир Илић, министар без портфеља задужен за ванредне ситуације, Њ.Е. др Горан Мутабџија, министар образовања и културе Републике Српске, г-дин Матија Бећковић, члан Српске Академије наука и уметности и члан Крунског савета, и многи други угледни гости.
 
Увече ће бити отворена и два студентска дома у Андрићграду, а биће одржан и концерт бенда „Забрањено пушење“, промовисана књига „Сарајевски атентат – повратак документима“ аутора Мирослава Перишића, у издању Андрићевог института и Архива Србије, и биће приказан филм „Атентат, Сарајево 1914“ аустријског редитеља Андреаса Прохаске.
 
 



 












 
Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine attended today the opening of Andricgrad, a unique project of Serbian, but also European and World Culture on the banks of the Drina River near Visegrad in Republika Srpska.
 
His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, together with Bishops from Republika Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and the Diaspora, officiated a Holy Liturgy with His Eminence Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana and whole Italy Porfirije, Their Graces Bishops Grigorije of Zahumlje and Herzegovina, Irinej of Australia and New Zealand, Georgije of Canada, Longin of New Gracanica and Mid West America, Bishop David of Stobi and consecrated the Church of St. Tsar Lazar and Kosovo Martyrs. Beside the Royal Couple, Liturgy was attended by HE Mr. Milorad Dodik President of Republika Srpska, HE Mr Stanimir Vukicevic, Ambassador of Serbia to Bosnia and Herzegovina, distinguished guests from the country and abroad, and lot of faithful. Patriarch Irinej decorated HE Mr Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska and Mr Emir Kusturica who initiated and designed building of Andricgrad with order of St. King Milutin.
 
After the Liturgy, Mr Emir Kusturica, the world famous film director and member of the Crown Council, guided Their Royal Highnesses through Andricgrad together with other important guests. Their Royal Highnesses then attended celebration of St. Patron’s Day (Slava) of the Army of Republika Srpska at Dobrun Monastery.
 
In the afternoon Their Royal Highnesses attended official opening of Andricgrad. This ceremony was also attended by HE Mr Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister of Serbia, HE Mr Ivica Dacic, deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, HE Mr Nikola Selakovic, Minister of Justice, HE Mr Aleksandar Vulin, Minister of Labour, employment, veteran and social affairs, HE Mr Velimir Ilic, Minister without portfolio responsible for emergency situations, HE Dr Goran Mutabdzija, Minister of Education and Culture of Republika Srpska, and many other distinguished guests.
 
In the evening two students dorms will be opened, and “No smoking orchestra” will have a concert. The Book “Sarajevo assassination – back to documents” by Miroslav Perisic, published by the Andric Institute and Archives of Serbia will be launched, as well as “Das Attentat: Sarajevo 1914” film by Austrian director Andreas Prochaska.
 
The programme of the whole day ceremonies was designed by Mr Emir Kusturica, and realized by director Milan Neskovic.
 
 
 
 
*****
 
If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at heroesofserbia@yahoo.com
 
*****
 

THE TOWN THAT EMIR KUSTURICA BUILT [ANDRICGRAD] / "Financial Times" [UK] June 27, 2014

Financial Times
By Peter Aspden
June 27, 2014

A century after Gavrilo Princip fired the fatal shot in Sarajevo, the Serbian film director explains why the extraordinary town he has built is a ‘symbol of pacifism’ .

On the Gavrilo Princip mural, the slogan
(partly missing in the photo above) reads:
‘Our shadows will be wandering through Vienna,
strolling through the court, frightening the lords’
©Matt Lutton/Boreal Collective

One hundred years ago today [June 28, 1914], a 19-year-old Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, ambushed and assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in the streets of Sarajevo, an event that triggered the beginning of the first world war.
 
The details of the killing read like farce: another attempt on the archduke had failed earlier in the day and his car had taken a wrong turning before encountering Princip, whose two shots also killed Franz Ferdinand’s wife Sophie. Princip himself twice tried to commit suicide but bungled it. He escaped the death penalty because of his tender years but died in prison in April 1918, a few months before the end of the war he had helped bring into being.
 
The anniversary will be commemorated on Saturday with due solemnity in Sarajevo, present-day capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A series of cultural events will be led by a concert from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, in a spirit of co-operation between two countries whose enmity led to the assassination, and to the war. A modest plaque on a street corner marks the spot where Princip took his deadly aim. On the day I visited, there were two burning candles in front of it. Apart from that, there will be little mention of the figure who has been routinely denounced as a terrorist.
 
A couple of hours east of Sarajevo, on the border between the Serbian part of Bosnia, the Republika Srpska, and Serbia itself, another commemoration is planned. This one, devised by the Serbian film director Emir Kusturica, in the town of Andricgrad, by contrast places the young assassin at the centre of events. For Serbs, Princip was a revolutionary hero whose actions constituted an act of rebellion against an empire that was suppressing his people. The commemoration will consist of a “dramatic reconstruction” of the day’s events, and Princip’s subsequent trial.
 
There will also be an unveiling of a mosaic of Princip and his colleagues from the Young Bosnia movement. The mosaic shows Princip with a soft, pacific expression. “Look,” says Kusturica, 59, pointing to his figure. “I never knew he had blue eyes!”
 
The slogan at the bottom of the mosaic reproduces the less-than-pacific last words scrawled by Princip in his cell before his death: “Our shadows will be walking through Vienna, strolling through the court, frightening the lords”.
 
Kusturica, twice-garlanded with the Palme d’Or at Cannes for his highly acclaimed films When Father Was Away on Business (1985) and Underground (1995), says the assassination was first and foremost an act of political liberation against an illegal regime. “It is funny,” he says with combative sarcasm, “how the BBC and CNN showed us the fall of Saddam Hussein – a tyrant; Gaddafi – a tyrant. Apparently Franz Ferdinand wasn’t a tyrant. But he was.”
 
The contrast between the two views of Princip summarises the way in which history is politicised in this highly charged part of the world. The first world war was far from the end of the region’s problems, however; it was only a recycling of centuries-old inter-ethnic rivalries that continue to this day.
 
. . .
 
I am speaking to Kusturica in the Ivo Andric Institute, in the centre of Andricgrad. Both building and town have been named after the Serbian author (1892-1975), who won the 1961 Nobel Prize in Literature. If both the building and its pristine surrounds have an oddly antiseptic look about them, it is because they are brand new. Today’s unveiling of the Princip mosaic is also the official opening of a town. The Republika Srpska’s tourist organisation, which has high hopes for Andricgrad as a visitor attraction, is hosting my trip.
 
The project began when Kusturica had the idea of revivifying a nondescript part of the town of Visegrad by putting up new buildings devoted to cultural and educational projects. He has made it happen in three years, at a cost of $17m, garnered from public and private sources. “That,” he says emphatically, “is much less than the cost of many movies.”
 
Built on a small peninsula between the rivers Drina and Rzav, with riverside views that would have estate agents salivating, Andricgrad is entered through an arch, where the visitor is confronted by a dizzying variety of architectural styles. On the left, an Islamic (non-practising) mosque and minaret, with a caravanserai in the adjacent square; on the right, a Byzantine-style edifice. A small Austro-Hungarian section of buildings confirms the route we are taking is a potted history of Visegrad. “I didn’t follow any architectural rules, I followed my instincts, like the ancient Greeks,” says Kusturica as he shows me around. It is a cross between a film set, a theme park and a folly. The high street is dominated by a cinema and opens out into a wide square containing a café called Goya, after Andric’s favourite painter. Opposite there is an ice-cream parlour, inside which there are giant portraits of the Apache leader Geronimo, Gandhi, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Vladimir Putin. When I tell Kusturica it is one of the most surreal locations I have ever seen, he laughs out loud. The portraits, he says, are “an exhibition by an artist based in New York. Imagine – Geronimo and Putin, put together by a New Yorker!” Kusturica, whose favourite film directors are Federico Fellini, Andrei Tarkovsky and Stanley Kubrick, is no stranger to surrealism.
 
“I think the city is the strongest social memory organ of humanity,” explains the film-maker when I ask him what prompted him to move from creating film sets to real places. He describes Andricgrad as his “biggest achievement”. “By making this time-machine city, we are respecting all the influences that have shaped this place over the centuries. Except that we have added the Renaissance form of wide public squares, which never happened here, because of the Ottoman occupation. Squares where people meet and talk about issues. Because in the Balkans, we use squares just to regroup, and then go to destroy something.”
 
. . .
 
Andricgrad is Kusturica’s personal homage to Andric, whose acclaimed novel, The Bridge on the Drina (1945) is a beautifully written historical account of the changing fortunes of Visegrad over four centuries, encompassing foreign occupation, religious conflict, war, revolution and love. Kusturica, and many others besides, describes it as a “masterpiece”, which has motivated “all my projects, and shaped my views of this country’s past”.
 
The eponymous bridge is an architectural tour de force, built in 1577 by Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic, grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire, who had been born a Serb in a nearby village, taken to Turkey to become a janissary at the age of 15, and risen through the army ranks. The bridge was a token of remembrance towards his homeland and is the central character in Andric’s novel, both meeting place for the town’s inhabitants and witness to its fluctuating fortunes.
 
One does not have to reach far into history to find examples of the terrors that the bridge has seen unravel before it. During the Bosnian war of the 1990s, Visegrad was a notorious example of the ethnic cleansing policy pursued by Bosnian Serbs towards the Bosnian Muslim population. Hundreds were massacred. Before the war, the town’s population was about two-thirds Muslim; today there are virtually none left.
 
There is no mention of any of this in Andricgrad or Visegrad. Of the people I spoke to involved in Kusturica’s project, including the director himself, none referred to the events of 20 years ago, delving far more comfortably into more distant history. It is not uncommon here for any conversation on religious conflict to begin in the medieval period and dribble away somewhere after the second world war. Kusturica, who was born into a Muslim family in Sarajevo but converted to the Orthodox church in 2005, was a controversial figure during the war in Yugoslavia. He filmed Underground, a rambunctious wartime fable centring on the fate of two best friends from the 1940s to the 1990s, during the course of the conflict, and was widely condemned for his refusal to condemn Serbian atrocities. (One of his most vociferous critics, the French academic Alain Finkielkraut, confessed after his attack on Underground to not even having seen the film, arguing that “that offensive and stupid falsification of the traitor taking the palm of martyrdom had to be denounced immediately”.)
 
Kusturica says shooting the film was “suicidal. I was struggling to survive. It was not easy for me. But I knew what I was doing. It was a testament to a country that vanished. Yugoslavia was the best solution for all of us.” The most widely-held criticism of Kusturica is that he refuses in his work to provide any political context to the events in his homeland, preferring, instead, to portray a savagery among its people that appears almost innate. In this, he is not so dissimilar from his hero, Ivo Andric. In Andric’s short story “Letter from 1920”, published in 1946, a young Jewish doctor from Sarajevo writes a letter to explain to a childhood friend why he had left Bosnia. “Bosnia is a country of hatred,” he begins. “Lack of understanding, periodically spilling over into open hatred, is the general characteristic of its people. The rifts between the different faiths are so deep that hatred alone can sometimes succeed in crossing them . . . You are condemned to live on deep layers of explosive which are lit from time to time by the very sparks of your loves and your fiery and violent emotion.” At one point during the writing of the story, Andric considered setting it in the future rather than the past. He nearly called it “Letter from 1992”.
 
Can Andricgrad change any of this? Kusturica, who is resolutely unsentimental in conversation, declares himself an optimist, though he shares some of Andric’s cynicism. In “Letter from 1920”, he says, Andric was trying “to explore the roots of our atavistic nature, trying to touch the button from which we go so wild.” The same could be said of Underground. He is dismissive of those who talk too glibly of multicultural crossroads, which is achievable, he says, in “the stable world of empires but not so easily when you are living on the outskirts”.
 
The creation of Andricgrad, with its commitment to cultural activities and to providing a multinational platform for debate, is a shamelessly idealistic project. The town, says Kusturica, should be “a symbol of pacifism . . . the heart that has to beat a great idea, to encourage eastern Bosnia as a symbol of peace”. But for every benign intention, he adds a bracing note of realism. “I am a man with a lot of passion,” he says. “I will always fight for peace. But, unfortunately, it is war that drives us forward. It is war that makes the major turns. It makes Wall Street function, it makes all the bastards in the Balkans function. What would happen if an angel appeared before the American president and told him there was no more need for war? Everything would collapse.”
 
. . .
 
We walk around the town for a little while. Kusturica is often stopped by visitors who ask for their children to be photographed next to him. I ask a local journalist what he makes of Andricgrad and he describes it as a “miracle”. I tell Kusturica that I visited the cinema the night before and had seen a film that hadn’t yet opened in London. He looks the happiest he has been all day. “Make sure you write that down!” he says.
 
The finishing touches are being applied to the mural of Princip and the Young Bosnians, which Kusturica says is meant to be “in the spirit of Delacroix”. Next to it there is another mural, more in the spirit of a mock-heroic cartoon: it shows Kusturica and Milorad Dodik, president of the Republika Srpska, pulling on a rope, hauling the bricks that will build Andricgrad. Any pretensions of grandeur are subverted by the figure of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, a friend of Kusturica, observing the scene quizzically in the background.
 
Andricgrad is built for the future, and for culture. Kusturica hopes to build a new university there, in addition to the Andric Institute for Slavic languages, an academy of fine arts, and a theatre. But for every move forward, there seems to be more than a selective backward glance. Today’s commemoration of Sarajevo’s assassination is loaded with political resonance. Kusturica is determined the event should not be hijacked by “revisionist historians” who would shift blame for the first world war towards Serbian aggression. Remembrance is everything but can it, in this febrile corner of Europe, ever be prevented from spilling into recrimination?
 
We take a boat ride down the river Drina. Kusturica points to the poverty of the urban mise en scène on the banks, next to which Andricgrad seems to glow with prestige. His pride is palpable. About an hour into our journey, he points to a small church, built, he explains, to commemorate the massacre of 6,000 Serbs by the pro-Nazi Croatian Ustasha during the second world war. He says he wants to open a restaurant on the other side of the bank. During our return to Andricgrad, he informs me the river is “very dangerous”. Because of its currents, I ask him? “No. Because of everything that has happened here.”
 
 
Peter Aspden is the FT’s arts writer
Additional research by Tatjana Mitevska
 
 
 
*****
 
If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at heroesofserbia@yahoo.com
 
*****
 

Andrićgrad: Otkriven mozaik posvećen Gavrilu Principu i mladobosancima / "Andricgrad" June 28, 2014

www.andricgrad.com
June 28, 2014

 
Tri mjeseca, kamen po kamen, najbolji srpski mozaičari slagali su mozaik koji je inspirisan stihovima rečenice koja se pripisuje Gavrilu Principu: „Naše će sjene hodati po Beču, lutati po dvoru, plašiti gospodu“.

Mozaik je izveden u želji da se ovjekovječi sjećanje na mladiće koji su dali svoj život za ideale slobode – alegorijski predstavljene na prvom mozaiku. Ova kompozicija je posvećena neopipljivoj i razumom neuhvatljivoj ideji samožrtvovanja.

Na početku ceremonije, Emir Kusturica je rekao da je Princip junak srpskog naroda.

„Ja sam se dugo pitao šta bi bilo da je Štraus video da je Gavrilo imao plave oči, da li bi se pesma ‘Na lepom plavom Dunavu’ zvala ‘Na lepim plavim očima‘“ , – rekao je Kusturica.

Poručio je i da večeras ceo svet može da slavi zaraznu reč „sloboda“.

Okupljenima se obratio i akademik matija Bećković koji je ocenio da se u Andrićgradu „ukrštaju visoka kultura i nepokolobljiva vera“.

„Ovo je grad gde su ponovo zbraćeni Mehmed i Makarije, paša i patrijarh srpske crkve, obnovitelj Pećke patrijaršije koja je stavila srpski narod pod jedan krov i taj krov traje do dana današnjeg“ , – rekao je je Bećković.

On je rekao da je to što je car Lazar izabrao carstvo nebesko, umjesto carstva zemaljskog, „najdalekosežniji izbor u srpskoj istoriji i subini“.

„To se dogodilo pre 625 Vidovdana, koji je srpski praznik od pamtiveka, a taj dan je sve od tada ostao ono što slavimo, a to je da je crkva jedan krov, Vidovdan jedan dan, Kosovo jedno polje, božur jedan jedini cvet“ , – rekao je Bećković.

Na mozaiku su prikazani  (s leva na desno) pripadnici Mlade Bosne: Bogdan Žerajic, Gavrilo Princip, Trifun Grabež, Nedeljko Čabrinović, Vasa Čubrilović, Danilo Ilić, Mihajlo Pušara, Veljko Čubrilovic, Milenko Jovanović.

Figure su predstavljene realistično, uklopljene u onirički ambijent koji naginje duhu romantizma. Kompozicija je pokušaj svojevrsne vizuelizacije navedene rečenice Gavrila Principa, uz metaforičku nadgradnju prikazivanjem mitološke predstave otmice Evrope, koja u ovom slučaju može simbolisati autističnu, sladunjavu lepotu Bečkog dvora, izgrađenog na muci potlačenih naroda, a istovremeno podsjeća da su kuturne tekovine Evrope često žrtve sirovih nagona i zakona jačeg.

U pozadini se nalazi dvorac Belvedere, oko kojeg se „viju sjeni“ onih koji ne zaboravljaju i koji neće biti zaboravljeni, a djevojka na Biku predstavlja Evropu.

Mozaik je izrađen u rekordnom roku, prema likovnom rešenju Bisenije Tereščenko, uz tim akademskih slikara Maje Đurović, Tatjana Benderać Vučićević, Olivera Nikolić, Jelice Durković, Josipe Miletić, Gordane Jovanović, a na pripremi kamena radio Žarko Lepojević sa timom pomoćnika. Montažu i retuširnje izveo akademski slikar, magistar mozaika Risto Vujović, sa timom pomoćnika.

Širi idejni okvir mozaika dao je prof. Emir Kusturica, na osnovu čega je Bisenija Tereščenko, kao autor, nacrtala skice-predloške, koji su kroz konsultacije sa Kusturicom razrađivane i usvajane.

Za ovaj mozaik dužine osam i po metara i širine tri i po metra trebalo je na sitne komade isjeći i umjetnički oblikovati više od dvije tone kamena. Mozaik je postavljen na zgradi bioskopa u Ulici Mlade Bosne u Andrićgradu.

U okviru programa nastupili su muzičari Nemanja Radulović i Aleksandar Sedlar. Izvedena je i rekonstrukcija Sarajevskog atentata u scenskom prikazu u tri čina „Pobunjeni anđeli„, rađenom prema ideji Emira Kusturice.


http://www.andricgrad.com/2014/06/andricgrad-otkriven-mozaik-posvecen-gavrilu-principu-i-mladobosancima/

*****

If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at heroesofserbia@yahoo.com

*****

Saturday, June 28, 2014

HONORING THE BATTLE OF KOSOVO AND THE SACRIFICE OF THE CHRISTIAN SERBIANS - VIDOVDAN (St. Vitus Day) JUNE 28 - AND ITS LESSONS FOR TODAY / By Aleksandra Rebic June 28, 2014

Kosovo Icon
 
Saint Lazar
 
 
HONORING THE BATTLE OF KOSOVO
AND THE SACRIFICE OF THE CHRISTIAN SERBIANS -
VIDOVDAN (St. Vitus Day) JUNE 28 -
AND ITS LESSONS FOR TODAY.
Serbia had indeed reached her pinnacle. Under the leadership of strong and able rulers, she had progressed and flourished during the Middle Ages, and her lands in the Balkans had advanced culturally, spiritually, and politically to make her a powerful and established empire in the Balkans. She would not, however, be allowed to enjoy her status for too long, as competing empires had their sights on her lands, her people, her resources and her very soul. It was the legacy of this glorious period in Serbia’s history that so became imprinted on her national consciousness that no matter how powerful or ruthless an oppressor came along in the future, and there would be many, she would endure and prevail.

In his book “The Serbians”, Author Paul Pavlovich describes this phenomenon:

“….[King/Tsar] Dusan’s tremendous achievement was his building up of national pride in the Serbians of his day, as well as in all of those later generations of Serbians who were, during the centuries of misery and foreign subjugation, to look back on Dusan as a constant inspiration which gave them the fortitude to persist and carry on. The Serbs of the future centuries found solace in that source of pride and inner strength while they were outwardly being driven to the ground by the foreign empires (Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian) or the great powers of Europe (Britain, France, Germany, Russia). For it was soon after the reign of Dusan, and until well into the 19th century, that Serbs were not to be independent to guide their destinies, and it was during this long fight for survival that Serbs were to remind themselves of the glorious past: the whole Nemanya period had been the golden period of medieval Serbian history, and Dusan’s contribution to that period had been its crowning zenith…

"…I, for one, would argue that Dusan’s accomplishments played their most important role during the latter centuries of Serbian history, as the foundation of Serb pride and soul-building, which as stood them in good stead to this very day…” (Pavlovich, Paul. The Serbians, pp. 45-46)

Arguably, the primary problem of the great Dusan’s reign, which may have contributed to the eventual break up of the Serbian Empire, is that he didn’t establish a smooth succession to his throne. Tsar Dusan had been a man and ruler of tremendous personal power, and this power provided a “unifying and cohesive force”, even over the newly acquired and conquered lands that had become part of the Serbian Empire during his reign. But, once he was gone, the Serbian Empire would slowly slide into feudal anarchy, plagued by internal instability. As is often the case with states whose territories and conquered lands are ruled by multiple rulers with divergent interests and competing egos, personal conflicts will inevitably erode whatever strength was inherited. This feudal anarchy and internal conflict would make the once seemingly invincible Serbian lands vulnerable. The Turks were indeed coming and with them the suffocating yoke of Islam. The Ottoman Turk sultanate, which was gradually spreading from Asia to Europe and which would conquer and defeat the already broken Byzantium, relegating the once great and vast Byzantine Empire to the ashes of history, had the Serbian Empire and its Christians in its sights.

When Tsar Dusan died, power passed to Dusan’s son Uros II, who was only 19 years old at the time of his father’s death, and Dusan’s half brother Simeon, also a young man. Neither of the young men, now inheritors of the House of Nemanja, had the qualities of those rulers who had preceded them. In 1356, the Byzantines began disassembling what was left of their once great empire. Uros II attempted to keep the centralized system of government in place in the lands over which he ruled, however, Simeon successfully broke away from that centralized government, as did other rulers of their respective territories.  Instead of consolidating both the existing Serbian territories with the newly acquired lands and maintaining a strong, unified front ready and able to withstand any future attack, the new “leaders” created and aggravated the very cracks that would become increasingly advantageous to those that coveted those lands. When Tsar Uros II died in 1371, the great Nemanjic dynasty was finished after two centuries of glorious and exemplary rule.

Among the new ruling class, a new leader would emerge at this time in the northern part of Serbia proper, where Kosovo lay, that would soon become permanently enshrined in history far beyond what he could possibly have foreseen for himself and his legacy. His name was Lazar Hrebeljanovich, Prince Lazar, and he would manage to successfully fix some of the damage that had been done by the feudal anarchy that began to plague the Serbian lands in the mid 14th century. He would manage to unite most of Serbia, through both battle and diplomacy, although reuniting all of Serbia eluded him. Some of the regional feudal lords just would not cooperate. One has to wonder if they had cooperated in Lazar’s noble and necessary unification effort, perhaps the fate of the entire Serbian state might have ended up differently in the pivotal 14th century in the Balkans.

Complete reconciliation between the Eastern Byzantine and Serbian Orthodox Churches, would culminate during Prince Lazar’s rule, which began in 1370. Though this reconciliation of the Eastern Christian Church served to stabilize and strengthen Orthodox Christianity here where it had been born, it would be alone in facing the future Islamic onslaught that was still to come. The Western Christian Church would not step in to help save the Balkans from the Moslem Turks. The Orthodox Christians in the heart of Europe would be left to fight the battle of saving Christianity from the Islamic onslaught alone.

Before the epic Battle of Kosovo in 1389 that would change everything in the Balkans, especially for the Christians, an event preceded it that was a harbinger of the tragedy that was yet to come. By 1371, the ambitious Turks were already firmly established in much of the territory that used to be ruled by Byzantium. What used to be Byzantine lands were now Ottoman lands. At this time, the Ottoman Empire was just beginning the great expansion of the Islamic way of life into south-eastern Europe where the Balkans lay. Their first “base” on European soil had already been established in 1354 at Dardanelles, a narrow international waterway (strait) that together with the Bosporus, connected the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and divided the Balkans (Europe) along the Gallipoli Peninsula from Asia Minor. Who were these new “invaders”?

According to historian Paul Pavlovich,

“There is still much controversy among historians about the origin of Ottomans. For our purposes, it is sufficient to accept the view that the Ottomans found their origin among one of the closely related Turkish groups which invaded Anatolia (part of modern Turkey) in the 13th century. Ottoman is a “political” concept, and the name of the Turkish state and Empire which existed from the 13th century until World War I. The founder of the Ottoman state was Osman (Othman) who established the dynasty that bore his name – Osmanli, or Ottoman.” (Pavlovich, Paul. The Serbians, p. 48)

In 1359, Murad I, the first Turkish Sultan, which was the equivalent of “Emperor” or “Tsar”, came to power, and by this time, the Ottomans had proven themselves superior over their Christian adversaries. They achieved this advantage by being well organized militarily and by having an effectively mobile light cavalry. Had the western Christian powers united with the eastern Christian powers at this time, it is unlikely that the Ottomans would have been as successful, but such a unified Christian Front was not to be.

The Ottoman advance into the Balkans would also be aided by the feudal conflicts and battles resulting from the political anarchy that plagued the Balkans at this crucial time and by Hungarian and Venetian interference in Balkan affairs. Could Islam have been stopped from reaching and enveloping the heart of Europe for centuries to come? Had the above mentioned points not been a factor, the answer could have been yes.

The Ottomans were well aware of the Serbian fighting spirit. They knew that Serbs were courageous and able warriors. But to get what they wanted in the Balkans, the Turks would have to face these courageous and able Christian warriors and beat them. Murad’s soldiers were preparing to face the Serbs at Maritsa River in 1371 (near the village of Chernomen which was today's Ormenio in Greece). This river flowed through Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. By this time, the Serbs and Byzantines had successfully “reconciled”, with peace and good will having been restored between their churches due to the efforts of Tsar Dusan’s widowed Empress Helena and Serbian leader Despot Jovan Uglješa who both knew that the common enemy, the Turks, could be faced better with a united front.

Uglješa’s brother King Vukashin and Vukashin’s son Prince Marko, who would become the legendary “Kraljevich Marko”, came to help Uglješa at the Maritsa River. This great battle would take place on the terrible night of September 26, 1371. The battle would only last this one solitary night, ending by the dawn of the next day, but it was marked by a vicious storm passing through that overwhelmed the entire area with incredible amounts of rainfall that would swell the Maritsa River and swallow the dead bodies of the Serbian warriors and their horses who were massacred that night. Among the massacred Serbs were the brave Despot Jovan Uglješa and King Vukashin. It is worthy to note this tradition of Serbian leaders, regardless of their status and whether or not they were royalty, being willing to fight in the trenches with their men. They did not leave the fighting just to their soldiers, but rather joined them in battle, either celebrating victory with them or dying with them.

During this one stormy, singular night in September on the Maritsa River, the disarray that had befallen the Serbs after Tsar Dusan’s death over a period of just 15 years, came to terrible fruition. For the Ottoman Turks, the Battle of the Maritsa River was the beginning of their mastery over not just the Serbs, but most of the Southern Slavs as well, which was to last for the next half a millennium to come. Virtually overnight, the Turks became lords of Thessaly (northern Greece) and all the lands as far west as Albania.  The newly expanded territory and power of the Ottomans resulted in the Christian rulers and their peoples living on those lands which bordered on the ever expanding Islamic Empire, being made Turkish vassals, essentially in servitude to the Moslem victors.

This would not be the last significant battle fought between the Moslem Turks and the Christian Serbs. Another, far more epic and far reaching battle remained to be fought in the future, and that one would be even more decisive and pivotal. Serbia, what was left of her, would continue to “exist” for another 88 years after the Battle of the Maritsa River. Instead of consolidating her remaining “free territories” to become one strong unified state, with a centralized system of government, however, she would continue to be comprised by her own different despots in charge of administering the different areas just as she had been prior to the Turkish victory at the Maritsa.

Those lands that were not taken over by the Turks yet at this time were ruled by notable Serbs whose names would become permanently etched in the history of the period. King Vukashin’s son, Prince Marko (“Kraljevich Marko”), survived the Battle at the Maritsa, but was forced into becoming a dreaded Turkish vassal, and ruled over the city of Prilep. Vuk Brankovich, who would soon become infamous, established his rule around Prishtina and Skopye, but his rule would not last long. The most legendary of the new rulers would be the already mentioned Prince Lazar, (Lazar Hrebeljanovich), who was born in 1329 and whose father had been one of Tsar Dusan’s court officials. His distant connection to the Nemanjic dynasty would come by way of his marriage to Militsa in 1353, who was the daughter of one of the military nobles who had served Dushan. Prince Lazar would come to rule over the most northern areas of Serbia - the Morava River Valley. His rule would extend as far as the Sava and Danube Rivers. The heart of Serbia, her soul, which was Kosovo, lay here.

Lazar’s territory began to feel the threat for real in 1381 when the first Turkish raids in northern Serbia began. The pivotal invasion would come on a Tuesday, eight years later. That Tuesday, June 28, 1389, would become probably the single most important date in all of Serbian history, and the impact of the events of that single day would not only effect the Serbians and their lands, but all of the Balkans and the future of Europe as well. It is impossible to quantify all of the collateral impact of the Kosovo Battle in 1389 on the “Field of Blackbirds”, but as a result of Ottoman Empire domination in the Balkans, the Serbs would become essential pawns and players in the eyes of other states and empires to the north and to the east. The power play that would result would have international consequences far beyond the Balkans.
The Turks won the battle. The Serbs lost the battle. Murad I lost his life. So did Prince Lazar. And so did the entire Serbian Army of Christians who faced down the Moslem Ottoman invaders and perished doing so. How do you adequately explain the Battle of Kosovo and all that this one battle meant, not just to the Serbians, but to all of Christianity? To the Serbs, you don’t have to.
Back when the land of Kosovo was still an integral part of the Republic of Serbia, historians Alex N. Dragnich and Slavko Todorovich gave us a history of Kosovo which included the following attempt to define this very special place that’s permanently etched in the Christian Serbian heart and consciousness for eternity:

“Although the problem of Kosovo is complex and complicated, for about one-half of Yugoslavia’s population, the Serbs, it is not. To them Kosovo is holy ground. It is the cradle of their nationhood, when they were virtually its sole occupants. It was the center of Serbia’s empire in the Middle Ages, at one time the strongest empire in the Balkans. It was in Kosovo in 1389 that Ottoman forces won the crucial battle with the Serbs, leading to the end of their empire. But Kosovo is also the place where Serbia’s most historic and religious monuments are located…a symbol of the Serbs’ identity, their greatness, and the hope of their ultimate resurrection.” (Dragnich, Alex N. and Slavko Todorovich, The Saga of Kosovo)

"Free" Serbia, as such, would continue to “exist” until 1459 when the Serbian lands finally and completely fell to the Turks, and a whole new chapter in Serbian history began that was to last for several centuries.  During those centuries, Serbs would become integral to the “Eastern Question” involving another great empire, that of Russia.  They would become increasingly significant to the Austrians, who would not only use and covet the Serbs as able warriors to keep the Turks from the gates of Vienna, but who would come to have their own self-serving agenda with regards to the Serbian lands. This “western” agenda would continue to escalate after the Turkish “invaders” from the East had been vanquished and it was this agenda that would culminate in consequences for the entire world in the Twentieth Century and beyond. How far back in history the evolution of this “western” agenda can be traced is probably from the very beginning of the Serbian presence on the Balkan Peninsula in the 7th Century, but this agenda would come increasingly into focus many centuries later as the resilient Serbs began successfully rising up against centuries of Ottoman subjugation and seeking the Unification of all the Serbian Lands, a national dream no different than that of the other peoples and nations of Europe.

It was when they were finally able to shake off the last vestiges of Ottoman rule and liberate themselves from their vassalage and subjugation almost five centuries after the Battle of Kosovo that the Serbians would come to be looked upon not just as pawns or “assets”, but as true contenders.  As with all contenders, they would make new enemies, this time in the west, who no longer just perceived them as a barrier to Eastern encroachment, but as a threat to western interests and intentions and what they coveted.

There would be no rest for the Serbians, whether in defeat or in victory. Such would be the fate of the valiant people who had settled in the crossroad between East and West and who would pay dearly for making their home in the Balkans.


Aleksandra Rebic
June 28, 2014


*****

If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at heroesofserbia@yahoo.com

*****

Friday, June 27, 2014

JUNE 27, 1914 - THE DAY BEFORE THE WORLD CHANGED FOREVER 100 YEARS AGO. / By Aleksandra Rebic June 27, 2014


DUSK Friday June 27, 2014 / Photo by Aleksandra Rebic

Aleksandra's Note: Today is Friday, June 27, 2014. Exactly 100 years ago today was the day before everything in the world changed forever. History tells us that it was a beautiful summer in 1914 - everything a summer should be. This peaceful atmosphere in Europe had only 24 hours left.
 
The next day, June 28, 1914 was Vidovdan (St. Vitus Day), a most sacred day in Serbian history. It was also the day that an Austrian Archduke and his wife would come visiting and go for a ride in Sarajevo, a city in Bosnia. It was a day they should have chosen to go elsewhere, anywhere, but Bosnia. But then again, it would not have mattered at all. The war planners had already engineered the future, a destiny they believed would turn out in their favor. That's the folly of arrogance, ignorance, and shortsightedness.
 
Will the historical revisionists, in marking this year's centennial of the start of the Great War, The War To End All Wars, merely continue the long running trend of sabotaging the truths of history, instead of taking advantage of this great 100 year milestone to set the historical record straight? Will the Serbians, regardless of all evidence to the contrary, continue to be made the fall guy for the war, thus nullifying even the Versailles Treaty where it was determined unequivocally and with finality who was responsible and accountable for the First World War, and it was not the Serbs. Any historian with integrity and a passion for establishing a valid and truthful historical record should consider this World War One Centennial as an opportunity to rewrite history so that it actually aligns with the reality of the time and the facts.
 
History, just like "Truth", is often dismissed as being "relative".  Is that why we keep getting the wrong "facts" about these cataclysmic events that changed our world forever, "facts" that are predicated on whatever false premise is politically correct at the time?
 
100 years of nonsense is long enough. It's time to reconsider and re-evaluate. And maybe, just maybe, we can get it right, and thus do a great favor for posterity.
 
This day exactly 100 years ago, June 27th in 1914, was a peaceful day in Europe and beyond.  But there had been portents of things to come for many decades before this day, and like anything that simmers under the surface, there's always the tipping point. Always.
 
David Fromkin, in the excerpts I'm sharing below from his book "Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?" describes this peaceful time and the context in which the First World War began.
 
As the leaders and politicians and policymakers and the regular, ordinary people of the world all went to sleep on this same night 100 years ago, they could not possibly have known that the very next day the world as they knew it would change forever in more ways than any of them could ever have imagined.
 
As they slept, the tipping point was upon them.
 
 
Sincerely,
Aleksandra Rebic
June 27, 2014
 
*****
 
David Fromkin writes:


"What was the First World War about? How did it happen? Who started it? Why did it break out when and where it did? 'Millions of deaths, and words, later, historians still have not agreed why,' as the "Millenium Special Edition" of The Economist (January 1, 1000-December 31, 1999) remarked, adding that 'none of it need have happened.' From the outset everybody said that the outbreak of war in 1914 was literally triggered by a Bosnian Serb schoolboy when he shot and killed the heir to the Austrian and Hungarian thrones. But practically everybody also agrees that the assassination provided not the cause, but merely the occasion, for first the Balkans, then Europe, and the rest of the earth to take up arms.

“The disproportion between the schoolboy's crime and the conflagration in which the globe was consumed, beginning thirty-seven days later, was too absurd for observers to credit the one as the cause of the other...millions of people could not be losing their lives they felt, because one man and his wife -- two people of whom many of them had never heard -- had lost theirs. It did not seem possible. It could not, everyone said, be true.

“Because the Great War was so enormous an event and so fraught with consequences, and because we want to keep anything similar from happening in the future, the inquiry as to how it occurred has become not only the most challenging but also the biggest question in modern history. But it remains elusive. In the words of the historian Laurence Lafore, 'the war was many things, not one, and the meanings of the word 'cause' are also many.'" [1]

“To the man or woman in the streets of the Western world -- someone who was alive in the vibrant early years of the twentieth century -- nothing would have seemed further away than war. In those years men who dreamed of battlefield adventure had been hard pressed to find a war in which they could participate. In the year 1901, and the thirteen years that followed, the peoples of western Europe and the English speaking Americas were becoming consumers rather than warriors. They looked forward to more: more progress, more prosperity, more peace. The United States at that time (commented an English observer) 'sailed upon a summer sea,' but so did Great Britain, France, and others. There had been no war among the Great Powers for nearly half a century, and the globalization of the world economy suggested that war had become a thing of the past. The culmination of those years in the hot, sun-drenched, gorgeous summer of 1914, the most beautiful in living memory, was remembered by many Europeans as a kind of Eden.” [2]

[1]Fromkin, David. Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?, p. 8

[2]Fromkin, David. Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?, p. 12


These history changing events and their long-term impact will be featured in the upcoming book "Heroes of Serbia" by Aleksandra Rebic.

*****

If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at heroesofserbia@yahoo.com

*****