Antiquities And The Byzantine Revival In Serbia

By Marko Zivkovic
Introduction: How it all started?
"It was in the early autumn of 1985 when by some Ostap-Benderesque diplomatic swindle a charlatan from [New] Mexico came to Yugoslavia and proclaimed the mouth of river Neretva to be the location of the ancient Troy" wrote Svetlana Slapsak in her essay "How it all started." She recounts how the domestic experts at the presentation the charlatan gave in a large Belgrade University auditorium "did their best not to say anything clearly critical and to suppress any intervention from the audience" (Slapsak 1994: 57). Sitting in the audience and unable to publicly intervene, Slapsak passed the time making fun of the presentation with her two friends until threatened with physical violence by those sitting near her who wanted them to shut up. She realized then that this was no longer a laughing matter:
- most of those present yearned to discover that they actually belong to an ancient and glorious lineage, repeating the European mythology of ancestors of Romans but older than Greeks, which is the essential ideological and state-building text of the myth of Trojans (Ibid. 58).
All of the essential elements of what was to come were present at this event, Slapsak claimed. Even before various Yugoslav nationalisms tore the country apart, this event showed a vague but strong need to define a dangerous enemy. "Someone mysterious stole our ancient identity, and now we had a chance to denounce the culprit and get back what rightfully belongs to us. That mysterious enemy could only, in an autistic reversal, be those," Slapsak says, "who wouldn't accept the ravings of the [New] Mexican charlatan" (Ibid. 58). This failure of qualified critics to do their critical duty, the result of a combination of cowardice and the "idea of the utility of lying for the collective," was seen by Slapsak as one of the main causes of Serbia's slide into nationalism and war. Finally, this event presaged how a yearning for a positive identity can become coopted into the "colonization of the past as a magical operation of colonizing the actual space" where the past serves as "a source of the right of the first" (Ibid. 58).
I have argued elsewhere (1) that the Serbian narratives of identity are at least partially oriented towards the ways Serbs are perceived by powerful others, that is to say, towards Serbia's position in European and worldwide symbolic geographies. Czechs and Russians, for instance, inhabit different positions along the West-East axis of the Enlightenment map of civilization (Wolff 1994), and this gives them different options when it

Drawing in part on Goffman's analysis of stigma and strategies of dealing with a "spoilt identity," I have described elsewhere how Serbian responses to various stigmas in general vacillate between 'ministrelization' (reflecting them back in exaggerated form) and various shades of ambivalent self-exoticization (as, for instance, in 'magic realism'). In this paper I want to present some of the ways in which the Serbs have been re-imagining their past since the New Mexican charlatan paid them a visit in 1985.
For analytical purposes, I am going to distinguish between several concrete strategies of appropriating or rejecting different pasts that have been used in Serbian discourses on national identity in the past decade or so. In practice, these strategies come mixed in all conceivable ways, but I will, at least initially, treat them as separable ideal types.
I will proceed by unpacking a series of "revelatory incidents" (see Fernandez 1986: xi) in which these ideal types of response come together in a particularly condensed and poignant way. The first scene is a farmer's market - the famous Kalenic pijaca - near where my parents live in the part of Belgrade called Cubura.

Sanskrit in the Farmer's Market
One June morning in 1995, trailing an empty two-wheeled cart behind, my mother and I walked uphill on the narrow street leading to the unfinished giant edifice of the St. Sava Church and entered the familiar maze of even narrower streets in Cubura. Shabby little houses were interspersed with dilapidated villas, inner courtyards with the water tap in the middle, where Cuburians gather for coffee, gossip, even a haircut in the open. Gardens managed to be both neat and weedy. Like many other parts of Belgrade, Cubura bears a Turkish name. The mosques and Turkish baths almost all disappeared from the city more than a century ago, together with other, visible (and easily removable) signs of Ottoman rule, but the names stayed and still carry that special, yet largely unacknowledged intimate aura of things Turkish.
In the farmer's market you may pretend to be the most highly polished urbanite but most likely you are just barely a generation removed from the peasant across the stall and that gives the market an egalitarian feel. Here one glimpses the barrel-chested, bearded figure of a well-known National Opera baritone buying onions, over there an actress who sang gypsy songs in an Academy-Award-winning Gypsy film of thirty years ago. The tenor is dressed in worn out, nondescript clothes, the actress in something cheaply garish.
That morning we bumped into a an old acquaintance of my mother's - a sculptor and the widow of a prominent literature critic.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
"I am studying the stories Serbs tell themselves and others about themselves", I gave my one-phrase answer.
"Oh, everybody is studying us these days," she said.
"There was this American psychiatrist poking around who's studying human aggression. But no matter how hard they try, they will never understand us. They can put us in a computer and still they won't understand."
And then with a conspiratorial wink towards a fellow native: "Take for instance, our inat."
Oh, how well I knew this turn. Inat is supposed to be one of those ineffable essences of being a Serb, thus by definition untranslatable. We may bewail the foolishness of doing completely irrational, often self-destructive things "just in spite" (as inat translates, actually quite well), but we also think of it as unfathomably noble and would like others to take it as such. Popping out of the fellow-native confidante role, I took a stab with my little test:
"It is a Turkish word."
"Oh no," she said with the air of indulgent superiority as to a cub who has strayed, "many of those words we thought were from Turkish in fact come from Sanskrit."
"They might be Persian or Arabic in origin," I persisted, "but they came through Turkish."
"No," she would not budge, "you must surely know that Serbian is practically identical with Sanskrit, and besides, you would be well advised to look into the Hittites as well."
Several things were done in this exchange. An identity supposedly unfathomable to rational Westerners was encapsulated in a Turkish loan word. The Turkish Taint, which is a theme I have explored elsewhere but which is similar to what Greeks contend with, is rejected and instead an alternative and much more ancient heritage is affirmed, first with Serbian's supposed affinity with Sanskrit and then with Hittite descent.
Peasants and Byzantine Kings
Another "revelatory incident," this time from Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon - a veritable mine of highly illuminating vignettes - brings together another combination of identity options I want to address in this paper.
Subscribing to an entrenched European attitude that sees civilization as decadent and barbarity as vital, Rebecca West consistently reverses the usual valences of Balkanist2 discourse. As she descends down the gradient of civilization in her travel through Yugoslavia, the essence of the Balkans becomes more pure, and that vitality she is questing for increases. For her, Serbia is positioned somewhere between the decadence of the West and pristine Balkan purity of Macedonia. For all its exposure to "poisons of the nineteenth century," however, the European degeneration that threatens Belgrade is "still a long way from consummation." Belgrade hotels might emulate those in London or Paris, but in "none of those great cities," writes West, "have I seen hotel doors slowly swing open to admit, unhurried and at ease, a peasant holding a black lamb in his arms … His suit was in the Western fashion, but he wore also a sheepskin jacket^ a round black cap, and leather sandals with upturned toes …" (West 1969: 483; italics mine)
Western clothes and the three major diacritics of Serbian peasant identity - gunjce, subara and opanak-are finally complemented with the third essential element in this pregnant passage: the peasant with the black lamb, West writes, "stood still as a Byzantine king in a fresco" (ibid. 483; italics mine).
Indeed, I will argue, the Serbian sense of identity significantly revolves around the various ways these three large themes - Byzantine heritage as a claim to a High Culture, gunjce and opanak as egalitarian peasant Volksgeist, and more or less well-fitting Western clothes as uneasy membership in Western civilization - are seen to complement or contradict each other.
My mother's acquaintance in the farmer's market, however, in her retreat from identity tainted by Turkishness didn't claim Byzantine, but Sanskritic or Hittite roots. Let me then first explore that more ancient connection before embarking on Serbian problems with their Byzantine legacy.
Serbs … The Most Ancient People
There is a mantra every schoolboy in Yugoslavia could repeat in his sleep: "Slavs came to the Balkan Peninsula in the 6th and 7th centuries." I was hardly aware that there were alternative theories until 1990 when a man I met at a party told me the story of a Serbian woman who despite all odds defended a controversial dissertation at Sorbonne in the 1960s, and of a powerful conspiracy of silence that prevented the publication of her manuscript. It was only later that I learned that the book in question was Serbs … the Most Ancient People (Srbi…narod najstariji) by Olga Lukovic-Pjanovic, which was indeed published that same year (1990) in Belgrade, and instantly became a bestseller. It was followed by a deluge of magazine articles, serialized digests in the dailies and weeklies, as well as entire books.
If the New Mexican charlatan was the first to provoke a vague yearning for ancient identity in 1985, the publication of Serbs… the Most Ancient People in 1990 was a fulfillment of that yearning. The theories about ancient Serbian origins offered in this hefty two-volume work were not new. Olga Lukovic-Pjanovic was actually revamping the work of a group of 19th-century Romantic Slavophiles. A Montenegrin writer, Drasko Scekic, offers a compendium of practically all of these theories in his book "Sorabi" (Sorabs) published by a private Belgrade publisher in 1994. I will try to summarize the main tenets of this odd mixture although a summary may impose a misleading semblance of order and logic on the kind of free-associating that characterizes the whole genre.
According to most of these theories, the ancient homeland of Serbs or Sorabs was in India. From India they migrated around 4,500 years BC to Mesopotamia where they took part in the building of the Tower of Babel. Some stayed but the majority migrated further to Africa, where they ruled Egypt for some time. Two more waves of migration from India dispersed ancient Serbs throughout Asia from China to Urals, and from the Caspian Sea to Siberia or Sirbiria or Sirbidia, that is to say, Serbia. Migrations to Europe followed, centuries before Christ, and the historical map Scekic provides shows how these migrations covered a great deal of Central, East, and South-East Europe with Serb states. The evidence for such claims is sought in writings of Herodotus, Strabo, Tacitus, Pliny and, Ptolemy who supposedly documented the existence of ancient Serbs and their states all over the world of classical antiquity. The theories that see Serbs everywhere, however, most often overlook the fact that these classical historians and geographers were talking about Sarmatians and Scythians, Venets and Getae, Thracians and Dacians, Etruscians and Trojans, Illyrians and Pelazgians, and not Serbs. When this potentially damaging discrepancy is noted, the following explanation is offered. For one, says Scekic, the foreigners couldn't pronounce the word Srb so, often for nefarious purposes, they distorted it beyond recognition. "Fortunately," he writes, "these [false] attributions usually cannot mislead the erudite and objective searchers after the autochtonous Slavic origins. Even if doubt does appear, they can rely on the deeply rooted Serbian memory of their own most ancient existence and name. This precious evidence is preserved by the Serbian language - the primordial words, names, myths, wise sayings, traditions, legends and poetry" (Scekic 1994: 75). "Linguistic" evidence is central to this genre and it is mostly toponyms combined with fantastic etymologies that provide the main "proofs" of Serbian ancient origin. The Serbian language as it is spoken today, this literature claims, is the closest to the proto-Indo-European among existing European languages.(2) Serbs lived in India since times immemorial as attested by various place names, and they were most likely the precursors of Vedic poets, as attested by the mention of names like Sribinda in the most ancient Rg-Vedas. Srbinda, of course, corresponds to the modern Serbian, SRBENDA.(3) "SRBINDA is not the only ancient Serbian word in the VEDAS," writes Scekic referring to unnamed Slavic Sanskritologists of repute, "Our native tongue has preserved more than three thousand words from the times of the most ancient Vedic hymns, and these words have changed neither their form nor their meaning to this very day" (Scekic 1994: 103). My mother's acquaintance in the farmer's market used this theory to bypass the uncomfortable Turkish taint and claim a more ancient and more noble lineage.
For all their nebulous quality, there is a systematicity to these theories if we analyze them as a series of moves to "out-ancient" all the competitors. If Illyrians are actually Serbs, then Albanian claims to be descendants of Illyrians and thus predate Serbs in the territories they now inhabit is invalidated. If the Pelazgians were actually a Serbian tribe, then Serbs can out-ancient the Greeks who claim to be the direct descendants of ancient Hellenes; similarly with Etruscians and Venets in respect to Rome and Venice, and Dacians with respect to Romanians. It is interesting also that this literature makes a strong move to establish Serbian pre-eminence in respect to Slavs, by arguing that all the Slavs were originally Serbs. One can easily see the politics of this move which reverses the intra-Slavic hierarchy, especially the older brother claim of Russians. If all the Slavs were originally Serbs, than Russians too are our "younger brothers."
This whole literature rests on a fundamental conspiracy theory. The enemy is the Nordic or Berlin-Viennese School of History - a powerful cabal bent on suppressing the findings of what is often called the Serbian Autochtonistic School. While the Autochtonistic School claims that the Serbs are the authochtonous inhabitants of the Balkans, the Danubian Basin and even wider areas in Europe and Asia since times immemorial, the Nordic School pushes the theory that we all learned in school as Holy Writ, namely, that Serbs came to the Balkans only in the 7th century.
To claim pre-Vedic India as homeland and the status of proto-Aryans, is of course, quite sufficient to out-ancient all these powerful historic deniers of Serbian antiquity. There is, however, another theory that puts the origins of Serbs even further back into pre-history. In the late sixties (1965-68) archaeological excavations on the banks of Danube near the Djerdap straits led by Dragoslav Srejovic exposed the culture that came to be known as Lepenski Vir which dated back to about 6,000 B.C. Remains of buildings, tombs evidencing strange burial rituals, sophisticated stone, bone and horn weapons and various jewelry were found, making it one of the most important Mesolithic finds in Europe. Most striking were the monumental sandstone figurines (probably of deities and demons) with their characteristic downturned mouths and fish-like eyes. The oldest Lepenski Vir sites belonged to hunter-fisher-gatherers. Later dwellings built over the same site and elsewhere in Eastern Serbia (middle Danubian region) belonged to early Neolithic agriculturalists and pastoralists (5,0004,500 B.C.) of what is called the Starcevo culture. For Srejovic, these archaeological discoveries suggested the possibility that the impetus for the great cultural take-off did not have to come to Europe from the Near East but that one of its possible originating points was the authochtonous culture of Lepenski Vir.4 The leap that Srejovic never made, however, was, predictably, easily made by searchers after Serbian immemorial antiquity. Lepenski Vir culture was patriarchal, it venerated fire, the hearth and the dead. The pagan Serbian religion, as reconstructed by the noted historian of religion, Veselin Cajkanovic, was also centered around an ancestor cult. This is enough for Scekic and others like him to conclude that "the cradle of the Slavs is in the Danubian Basin, and that "the Serbs, since their embryonic stage inhabited they same ground they inhabit now." Lepenski Vir reveals the truth, he says, "the truth about ourselves, that has been attacked by Germans, the Vatican and the Turks for centuries" (Scekic 1994: 112). Scekic does notice, uncharacteristically for this genre, that there is a logical inconsistency between the Mesolithic Danubian and pre-Vedic Indian origin of the Serbs. He resolves it in a footnote. The discovery of Lepenski Vir, he says, "suggested another theory according to which the Sorabs, or the ancient Serbs, originated not in India but in the Danubian region, from which they then migrated to India, taking their culture with them and bringing it to fruition with Vedic religious hymns and the Laws of Manu" (ibid. 112).
Serbian Archaeology's Response to Theories of Serb Antiquity
How did official Serbian archaeology respond to all of these theories of Serbian antiquity? I knew that it tended to focus on either prehistory or the Roman presence on present-day Serbian territory rather than the Slavic or Serbian past. In July of 1996, I had the honor of spending two days with Professor Dragoslav Srejovic at the Gamzigrad excavation site in Eastern Serbia.5 As a discoverer of both Lepenski Vir and the late Roman era Imperial palaces in Gamzigrad and Sarkamen, Srejovic was the premier authority on these traditional foci of Serbian archaeology.
"Serbs have this megalomaniac trait," Srejovic told me, "the Piedmont complex, which makes them play patrons to their unwilling neighbors. So, as long as everything is fine, the Serbs don't think they have anything to prove to anybody about their greatness. That is one of the reasons, he said, why Serbian archaeology neglected the period from the settling of Slavs in the Balkans to their Christianization (VI-X century), and why we have so little data about that period of our past:
- When this last (nationalist) euphoria started it was too late to make up for the lost time. There were no real specialists in this area. Then there appeared that assistant professor who took it over and he claimed that he found Slavs as early as the Roman period … At that moment this kind of research was lucrative but it was done unprofessionally, to say the least, and was often quite bizarre (sumanuto). There is an example, for instance, of that guy who presented himself as an expert on Etruscians (Svetislav Bilbija) and who bragged that he had deciphered their inscriptions by using Cyrillic?! and Olga Lukovic-Pjanovic (in her book Serbs … the Most Ancient People) cites him totally uncritically. Now it's reversed again into the other extreme and now anything that smells of Serbs (in archaeology or history) is suspicious and made odious by the previous period's excesses "(parenthesis mine).
Even though it was not his specialty, Srejovic told me he'd like to see more research on our national past, even if it is fueled by nationalist motives. More facts will be accumulated, and in time, after the nationalistic excesses blow over, the data will remain, on which a solid edifice of reliable knowledge could be painstakingly built. Srejovic took a public stance against all kinds of crackpot theories in the 1990s calling them "euphoric delusions of lunatics," and "totally fraudulent claims about Serbian prehistory" in a 1994 interview (Vreme of Aug. 8, 1994). "Instead of endeavoring to make our people feel truly proud," he said in that interview, "knowing what great things were created on the territory of Serbia, the great spiritual creations of various populations and peoples, and instead of that being the pride and hope of the citizens of Serbia, it is in some people's interest to build our hope on deceptions and to confound us with lies."
"The books by various painters and amateurs who claim that the Serbs are the most ancient people do not worry me," Srejovic said, "but it is terrible if a scientist joins such mindless and uncontrolled behavior. This is then to be severely condemned." I assume that at least one of the scientists Srejovic was talking about was Djordje Jankovic - that same "assistant professor" who "took over" Slavic archaeology and did "unprofessional" but lucrative research in Republika Srpska.6 I learned more about Jankovic from one of his colleagues from the Belgrade University Archaeology department with whom I talked in July of 1995, exactly a year before my pilgrimage to Gamzigrad.
Jankovic's colleague was particularly incensed at him and "those like him" precisely because he thought that Serbian archaeology has always been unusually free of nationalistic bias. Since its beginnings in the 1840s, Serbian archaeology focused on pre-history and non-Serbian themes, he said. This is in contrast to practically all our neighbors whose archaeology is thoroughly imbued by the national element - Romanians, Bulgarians, even Hungarians, not to mention Greeks and Macedonians. His thesis, to which he laid copyright claims, was that one of the possible explanations for this state of affairs is the fact that in Serbia there are well-preserved monasteries with frescoes. "Frescoes are political statements. The way the rulers are depicted in them signifies a lot and sends a definitive message," he said, "just like television does today. This, alongside with coins with the ruler's image was what presented the ruler to the illiterate people. Therefore, he said, "there isn't much pressure on archaeology in Serbia to dig out the history of the nation. Croats, for instance, had to dig out artifacts that pointed to their kings." In a word, he insisted that Serbian archaeology, from its inception, was almost completely free of the obsession with the nation, that this is a big advantage over practically all our neighbors where this is not the case, and that we should preserve that advantage so that we can look the world in the eye.
Milic of Macva, the "Mad Painter": Peasants and the Inverted Perspective
As a scientist and scholar, Srejovic said that he worried more about people with scientific credentials promoting "euphoric delusions" than about, as he put it, "various painters and amateurs who claim that the Serbs are the most ancient people." It was quite obvious which painter Srejovic meant - the self-proclaimed "mad painter," Milic of Macva who since the early 1960s made a career out of Salvador Dali-like eccentricity and extravagant public boasting.7 In the late eighties and particularly early nineties, he became one of the main disseminators of the various theories of Serbs as the most ancient people. For years he was taken as an amusing eccentric whose excesses were indulged as artistic liberties, and whose outspoken Serbian nationalism, being packaged as ravings of a "mad painter," was more or less tolerated even by Tito. Then in the mid-1980s, when the genres began to blur (as evidenced by Slapsak's analysis of the Mexican charlatan episode), it was suddenly not entirely clear whether Milic was just an "eccentric artist," or whether he was "for real." When he was commissioned to paint the walls of the Orthodox church in Vozdovac (part of Belgrade), there was a public outcry. Orthodoxy has very strict rules about who can paint churches and a very strict canon of how to do it, and by even the most relaxed criteria, allowing Milic to paint the walls of a church in his eccentric surrealist style was blasphemous.8 In 1991, another Serbian cultural institution broke its tacit gate-keeping rules. Milic was the first living Serbian painter to have a retrospective exhibition in the National Museum.9 This was an occasion for a long interview in Duga (No. 463, 23 Nov. 1991) in which Milic managed to present practically all the tenets of the "Serbs as the Most Ancient People" theories prompted by the seemingly serious questions of the interviewer (Ljiljana Habjanovic Djurovic).
In March of 1995, Milic had another exhibition, this time in the Belgrade Ethnographic Museum, pompously titled: "My Farewell to Alberti's False, Narrowing Renaissance Perspective." This event showed what I call the "Byzantine revival" in Serbia of the 1990s in a very "graphic" way. Moreover, it is a particularly striking example of how the tokens of the Byzantine Great Tradition get mixed with the emblems of the Little Tradition10 of Serbian peasant culture.
The opening was announced by the sound of church bells, the choir sang an Orthodox liturgical song, and the central theme of the exhibit was the "inverted perspective" of Byzantine religious art.11 On the other hand, the event was taking place in the Ethnographic Museum - a typical Central European temple of the Romantic Volksgeist, amid relics of peasant life. Here is how the art critic Djordje Kadijevic reconciled the two elements in his speech:
"Milic of Macva found a model of a similar understanding of space, often identical to the Byzantine one, in the treasure house of our ethnographic heritage, in our folk art. This folklore element deeply infuses Milic's artistic imagination … In the creations of these folk artists, so close and dear to Milic of Macva, there is not a trace of Latin, Renaissance understanding of space. Those anonymous creators of masterpieces sheltered under the roof of the Ethnographic Museum were under the influence of our Church art, they revered frescoes on the wall of Nemanjic's monasteries, were awed by the carvings on their iconostases. By returning to the "Orthodox" Byzantine "expanding" perspective he encountered in their creations, Milic of Macva returns in a symbolic way to the roots of our national art tradition. Here again, we encounter the image of illiterate peasants staring in awe at the frescoes of medieval Serbian monasteries. We will return to this key image after an excursion through some other manifestations of the "Byzantine Revival" in 1990s Serbia"
The Eurasian Internationale or the Byzantine Commonwealth
In July 1994, as a part of its Summer Festival BELEF, Belgrade hosted a "Gathering of the Cultures of Spiritually Kindred, Eastern Orthodox Peoples" (Sabor kultura duhovno bliskih, istocnohriscanskih naroda) attended by representatives from Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, South and North Ossetia, Crimean Republic, Cyprus, Nagorno Karabakh, Republika Srpska, Republika Srpska Krajina, Rumania, Russia, Ukraine and Bielorus. The Gathering was accompanied by musical performances and art exhibitions, but the central event was a roundtable discussion on the "Eastern Orthodox World and the Challenges of the New World Order." Dispargingly or admiringly, the Gathering was variously labeled in the Belgrade press as The Eurasian Internationale, or The Byzantine Commonwealth. It was opened by the then vice-president of Yugoslav federal government, Zeljko Simic and attended by a number of prominent Serbian intellectuals (linguist Pavle Ivic, historians Milorad Ekmedzic, and Veselin Djuretic, writer Dobrica Cosic, our "mad painter" Milic of Macva, etc.),12 but its real grey eminence was Dragos Kalajic, a painter, art critic, essayist, publisher and editor of the popular Duga.
Tall, handsome and dandyish, Kalajic was filling a small niche in Belgrade cultural life in the 1970s and 1980s with his diatribes against modern art and all kinds of Western decadence. Full of obscure, hermetic references and the kind of erudition that dazzles the half-educated, he combined the views of the Western elitist right (appropriating the likes of Julius Evola, Ortega y Gasset and Ernest Junger), and of the Russian "Euroasianists" (like P. Savitsky, Valentin Rasputin, Aleksander Dugin and Igor Shafarevich). His essays and books were a compendium of conspiracy theories in which Freemasonry, the Tri-Lateral Commission, the Vatican and most importantly the "usurers' international" (lihvarska internacionala) led by the "high priests of supra-national capital," (zreci nad-nacionalnog kapitala) helped by the fifth column of domestic "mondialists" and "deracinated, decadent cosmopolitans" try to undermine the "spiritual vertical" of the Serbian and other Orthodox cultures of the Byzantine Commonwealth. Like many previously marginal phenomena, Kalajic and his little coterie suddenly gained in public prominence with the general blurring of criteria that started in the late 1980s and was in full swing in the early 1990s. They formed "The New Serbian Right" (Nova srpska desnica) and started publishing a glossy journal "Our Ideas" (Nase ideje).
The phrase that perhaps best characterizes the agenda of the 'Eurasian Internationale' is "the third way." In the words of one of the participants, Natalia Narochnitskaya:
"In the Orthodox world the awareness has ripened of the necessity to formulate and undertake what A. I Solzhenytsin called "the third way" of the Orthodox. More than anybody else we have personally experienced the evil and degeneration of communism. Thank God, there's no return to it. We shouldn't however, repeat the tragic mistakes of the equally degenerate Western liberalism and its corresponding economy (in his writings Dragos Kalajic illuminated that better and with greater tenacity than I could). That does not mean that we shouldn't take over the good elements, the positive experiences of both sides. In that way we will find crystallized before us a "cross-like order." The Horizontal (axis) will be made of the undoubtedly positive heritage of the left: social justice, social concern, equal starting positions for all … The Vertical will be embodied in the spiritual-ethical and god-aspiring hierarchy of the classical European right, in the aristocracy of spirit and virtues … "
These appeals to hierarchy and the aristocracy of the spirit could find hardly any resonance with anything in Serbian history and experience relevant to the present situation, and in their extreme misalignment with arguably the core Serbian sentiment of egalitarianism13 they often bordered on the comic. What did resonate well with the Serbian public at that time and acted as a salve for the spoilt identity of a pariah people (at least on the international stage at that time) was disparagement of the West combined with the affirmation of one's own cultural or "spiritual" superiority.
Tracing that cultural superiority back to the Byzantine heritage, however, poses a number of problems. One of them is whether there is any justification in claiming continuity between modern Serbian culture and that particular Great Tradition. I am not qualified to present a comprehensive history of Byzantine influences on Serbian culture that alone could provide a full answer. Yet in what follows I will endeavor to show a few glimpses of what that heritage could represent to present-day people in Serbia through a few vignettes.
Continuity or Discontinuity: The Spiritual Academy in Studenica Monastery
A recently deceased Serbian poet, Ivan Lalic, hailed in a Politika article of 27 April 1996 as "A Poet of Serbian Byzantium," says in his poem "Raska":
Stars over Raska are not like other stars: Short fuse, the powder wet, the flash unclear, The Big Cart14 in blood and mud mired, And the hills werewolfishly red at dawn -

Then why does the angel agree to pause On the wall of the new church, to light this place By dubious glory marked?
In Lalic's poetry, the critic Aleksandar Jovanovic writes in that article, "Byzantium is truly an open, polysemic symbol and could be understood in a multiplicity of ways: as a homeland and extended memory of a culture, as a search for the cultural and civilizational identity, and as a dream of continuity which tells us that there was little continuity in actuality."
In July of 1996 I visited the Studenica monastery some 200 kilometers south of Belgrade. It was built by Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja (1113-1199), the ruler of the Serbian state of Raska (of the eponymous poem by Lalic) and the founder of the Serbian Nemanjici dynasty.15 At the time of my visit, Studenica was hosting the "Spiritual Academy," a kind of Summer camp for Orthodox liturgical singing led by the Academician Dimitrije Stefanovic, a great authority on Serbian medieval church music. For eight days, young people, already members of various amateur choirs from Serbia, assembled there to learn the art of complex liturgical singing. I arrived the day before the last and attended the evening talk given by Dimitrije Stefanovic in the large refectory.
Rather than lecturing, Stefanovic was showing slides of Serbian monasteries, of frescoes, and medieval manuscripts and improvising around them. With enormous erudition and contagious enthusiasm he was weaving a fascinating web of associations spanning centuries of Serbian history. He would, for instance, go from a particular manuscript to the monastery in which it is kept to a famous fresco in that monastery to the holy relics of a saint kept there and then launch into the story of how these relics were carried from one monastery to another over the centuries of exile and return prompted by the ebbs and flows of conquering empires. He recounted an experience he and his students had before an icon brought to Szentendre (Sent Andreja) in Hungary by the largest such wave of migration from Ottoman-occupied Serbia - the great migration under the Patriarch Arsenije Carnojevic in 17th century. "When we looked at that icon," Stefanovic said, "and when we tried to analyze it, we understood how that art, painting and music, and text and the liturgy, how all of that is assembled together and of a piece so that it could not be set apart." It was that coherent unity that I glimpsed emerge from Stefanovic's thick web of associations linking monasteries, frescoes and manuscripts, migrating relics and icons, architecture, music and liturgy - the unity of what used to be the Byzantine-derived Great Tradition of Orthodoxy in the Serbian lands.

As he was showing his slides, Stefanovic would quiz the audience about what this fresco depicted, or where that icon was kept, or what was the most famous three word expression in this manuscript? In itself, this quiz format was nothing extraordinary, but the way Stefanovic framed these questions was quite distinctive. Over and over again he would plead: "I am asking only for that minimum that everyone should know … You have to know this, I mean, you don't have to, but you should, you really should. I repeat, this is ours, we are a part of this, and please, don't let it be that we cannot recognize these, as they say, at the first glance … " All Greeks know these things, he said, "since early childhood, so to say."
Stefanovic's tone of an exasperated educator who nevertheless cannot blame his wards for what he considers criminal ignorance reminded me vividly of the tone our instructors at Jewish summer camp used as they tried to instill some elementary knowledge of Judaism in totally assimilated Jewish children - their "you should at least know what Hanukah is," is the exact equivalent of Stefanovic's anguished pleas. In both cases, a handful of experts were trying to re-instill at least the rudiments of a Great Tradition into younger generations who had completely lost touch with it.
At some point, Stefanovic showed a slide of an old manuscript. Who is the youngest here? he shouted, "quick, quick, give me the youngest, let the youngest, what is it, 16, anyone 16, 17, come over quick, don't be afraid." While the search for the youngest present was going on, Stefanovic boomed: "Children, the issue here is whether we have any continuity and whether we are able to read something that was written in the 14th century. "Finally a 17-year-old girl came before the screen and with some help from Stefanovic, she managed to decipher the line: "Hvalite jego psaltiri i gusli" (Praise Him psalteries and gusle). "Therefore," Stefanovic concluded, "we can more or less say that the alphabet (azbuka) has in essence remained …"16 "Only ten minutes ago," he said, "the monks finished the evening liturgy (bdenie) ending it with those very same lines which are sung to this day."
Yes, Studenica monks were singing the same lines as they did in the fourteenth century and a high school student could be made to decipher a fourteenth-century text, but it was obvious that save for a few experts like Stefanovic who made it their lifelong calling, the majority of the younger generations in Serbia did not have access to what could be called a Great Byzantine Tradition, at least not in the way their Greek counterparts do - instilled in them from early childhood as a matter of general education. But this discontinuity was not just a matter of Communism suppressing religious education for half a century. The rift between the Great Tradition symbolized by Byzantine-style frescoes in Serbian monasteries and the Little Tradition symbolized by illiterate peasants staring at them through the centuries of Ottoman rule has a much longer history.
After the fall of the medieval Serbian states and effective elimination of the local aristocracy, the Orthodox clergy remained the only bearer of the High Byzantine-derived culture. The question of how much exactly was preserved and to what extent the Orthodox Church managed to keep alive some of that heritage for the illiterate rayah in the intervening centuries is a question that demands detailed historical investigation. What is more relevant here is that the two Traditions did emerge as distinctly configured ideological positions in the nineteenth century and that due to particular political and ideological circumstances they came to a head-on clash known as "The War for Serbian Language and Orthography." In that 'war' the illiterate peasants, led by the language reformer Vuk Karadzic won a total victory over the custodians of the Byzantine-derived High Culture - the conservative clergy and educated Serbian "higher classes" from Austrian Vojvodina and Slavonia. Even though the victory for one side was total, the arguments of the vanquished periodically resurfaced in the form of laments over the broken continuity with the only High Culture to which Serbs can lay claim. Before going to the most recent echoes of that battle, let me first sketch out what the war was about and who the main protagonists were.
Vuk's War for the Serbian Language and Orthography
After taking part in the First Serbian Uprising in 1804, Vuk Karadzic found himself in Vienna in 1813 as a protege of Jernej Kopitar - the powerful censor for all Slavic, Romanian, Greek, and Albanian books published in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A student of Schlegel, von Humboldt, and Herder, Kopitar was a "notoriously zealous advocate of "national" languages, and believed that Slavic movements inside Austria would eventually fulfill his dream of Austria being a Slavic nation-state" (Greer 1997).17
The point of origin for such a language was to be in the speech of the "folk," and in a world that resonated strongly with to the ideas of Herder and Grimm, Vuk was a heaven-sent prodigy - a speaker of a pristine vernacular, and imbued with precisely the kind of oral epic poetry and folk tale tradition that was all the craze in Europe of that time. It was then Vuk's own speech that became the "the ideal, authoritative, pure standard of Serbian speech and hence the Serbian language" (Ibid.) The main opponents of Vuk's radical language standardization projects were the Austrian Serbs who were the only representatives of Serbian literate culture. Greer outlines three alternatives that existed at that time:
The most radically "Orthodox" approach to the Serbian language would be one in which the existing written tradition would continue, undisturbed by and separate from any Serbian speech whatsoever. This camp, which controlled all Serbian presses until Vuk's debut, in effect advocated a strong linguistic tie to the traditions of Orthodox Christianity.
A moderate reformist view of standardization, advocated by the majority of productive Serbian writers of the time, would keep much of the abstract lexicon of Church Slavic, while attempting to replace most of the everyday written language with material based upon speech.
Finally, Vuk's idea of Serbian had no place whatsoever for literary tradition or the authority of literary production. The current written language, viewed as corrupt and unwieldy, was to die out in favor of one based exclusively on speech.
Language and orthography were an important political issue for Austrian Serbs. To stubbornly preserve the hybrid language and Church orthography, marked by heavy Russian influence, thus became a traditional national policy of the Austrian Serbs as a bulwark against the threat Austro-Hungarian expansionism posed for Serbian national and religious identity within the Empire. On the other hand, Vuk's radical project was at least initially in alignment with Kopitar's national language policies whose explicit aim was precisely to make Vienna, not Moscow, the centre of Slavdom. The Serbian Orthodox clergy could thus attack Vuk's reform as an Austrian Catholic plot to undermine the Serbian Church and thus the Serbian national cause in Austria (Selimovic 1970: 82-3; 95-97 and Skerlic 1925: 260).
The political context surrounding this 'language war' became irrelevant in time, but the direction Serbian literature as well as cultural life in general took was decisively set by the fact that it was Vuk's alternative that won the day. As history is written by the winners, Vuk's opponents are now remembered as little more than simpletons destined to oblivion. Yet, as the great Bosnian writer Mesa Selimovic put it in his For and Against Vuk, some of their arguments were not without merit and kept reappearing in different guises, especially at times when "something important was changing in our orientations" (Selimovic 1970: 105).
One of the arguments was that Vuk's "language of peasants and herders" lacked the abstract vocabulary, the means for expressing subtle, inner, psychological states, or matters spiritual that transcend everyday pragmatic reality - all already existing in Church Slavonic or the hybrid literary language based on it. The influential critic Jovan Skerlic raised this issue at the turn of the century by reporting the following dialogue that took place between Vuk and the other pillar of Serbian culture, the Montenegrin Archbishop and poet of the "Mountain Wreath," Petar Petrovic Njegos:
Verily, Mr. Vuk, the archbishop said, this language of ours is very impoverished. It doesn't have the word for "idea" or for "era," and so many other concepts.
Master, Vuk replied, if the people (narod) could find a name for each part, each tiny piece, each screw and bolt on the cart, they could have found the names for these concepts as well, had there been a need for them. When they are needed, the people will find them (Skerlic 1925: 272).
The last chapter of Selimovic's For and Against Vuk is devoted to Gavril Stefan Venclovic - a Serbian monk who lived in South Hungary at the end of 17th century and whose poetry was completely forgotten until a young scholar edited and published his manuscripts in 1966. Selimovic stands in awe before the "wondrous" Venclovic. Here was a language full of vernacular vitality yet able to express the inner, the subtle, the transcendent. "Is it possible that a poetic Serbian language imbued with such marvelous expressive potential already existed more than two centuries ago?" Selimovic asks. "The missing link has been found, the continuity has been reestablished," he exults, but we are confused, for it is too late. Serbian literature did not flow from this obscure and forgotten monk. He disappeared without leaving a trace, and after him, starting in the mid-18th century, owing to Russian influence "a strange, static, supposedly panslavic language incomprehensible to the ordinary people starts to dominate," resulting in a serious stagnation in culture, in language, and in literature, in a great step back in comparison to Venclovic. That Slavic Esperanto had no chance, and the national uprising had to put its liquidation on its list of priorities. Thus everything had to start from the beginning, from the eternal popular basis, from popular songs and fables, from hard laborer's speech (Selimovic 1970: 153-4).
=Between the Byzantine Commonwealth, the Myth of Kosovo and the UN

Vuk was resurrected yet again in the mid-1980s in Serbia, and that "resurrection" could be seen as yet another point "where it all started." "The power elite took its first steps towards instrumentalizing popular tradition for political uses at the bi-centennial celebration of Vuk Karadzic's birth (in 1987)." a Belgrade ethnologist suggested. "Vuk Karadzic, the man who formed most key symbols of Serbdom, himself became one of its symbols, and the pomp with which he was celebrated symbolized a change of attitude towards the Serbian nation and tradition" (Naumovic 1994: 103)18 Vuk's image was used as an emblem to signal (or feign) an ideological change - from Communism to a fuzzily defined Serbian nationalism. Both the regime which pre-emptied the Serbian nationalist-populist position and the opposition parties which were striving to regain that position by outdoing Milosevic tended to indiscriminately mix together a whole array of decontextualized emblems of Serbian identity. Thus mixed with Vuk, and those emblems of Serbdom associated with him, the public space became glutted in the 1990s by images taken from what was strictly speaking the Byzantine-derived Great Tradition. The White Angel (the most famous Serbian fresco from Mileseva monastery), for instance, was spreading its wings everywhere - behind prison bars on a poster protesting UN sanctions, in Tourist Agencies' windows and on the ceramic-point pens imported from Korea!19
The argument which sharply opposes Vuk's Romantic populist legacy to the Byzantine-derived High Culture, however, resurfaced again very forcefully in the recent round of acrimonious literary polemics initiated by the Belgrade writer Svetislav Basara.20 Basara was by no means the first to take Vuk to task as directly responsible for the backward-looking cultural isolationism based on an idealization of the peasantry and disdain for the "decadent West" (truli zapad). At the turn of the century, Jovan Skerlic leveled the same accusation against Vuk and contrasted him with the Enlightenment rationalism and cosmopolitanism of Vuk's older contemporary, Dositej Obradovic. Basara's case is interesting, however, because the utopia that emerges from his criticism of Vuk is not the rationalist Enlightenment one, but the utopia of unbroken continuity with Byzantium. As Belgrade ethnologist Ivan Colovic (1996) presented it in his brilliant analysis, Basara's argument runs as follows: If a language has weak expressive potential, if it is imprecise, crude, and full of loan words, such as Serbian language has been after Vuk's reforms, then the nation speaking it is condemned to endure at the margins of history. That language, peasant, pragmatic, concrete, vulgar, and earthy made "Serbian thinking" hopelessly mundane and provincial. Because Vuk profaned the language, Serbs cannot reach God. Another road, however, could have been taken - the imperial, sacred, Byzantine one - had not Vuk forcibly separated the Serbian language from the linguistic treasure house of the older literature.
Basara's argument, based on so-called "sacral" or "mystical" geopolitics," Colovic says, "developed in the ranks of the European extreme right, which arrived on our shores owing to a group of authors gathered around the journal Our Ideas (Nase ideje)." Basara is against the aggressive Serbian nationalism because that nationalism is too folksy and vulgar. "Serbian culture and politics, founded on folklore and folk myth making," Colovic summarizes Basara's argument, "should give way to a sacral order founded on the myths of the medieval Serbian elite, Slavic being and Byzantine civilization. In other words, Basara is rejecting rightist populism in the name of rightist elitism" (ibid.). Those, who like Basara, are disappointed by the return to the epic Kosovo", Colovic concludes his analysis, "are recommending a return to Byzantium. Nobody, including Basara, suggests a return to the United Nations, but many, and he is among them, rather expect that, as of tomorrow, Serbia will again gain membership in the alternative international organization of the spiritually gigantic and spiritually kindred nations called, as we all know, the Byzantine Commonwealth" .

Conclusion: Vagaries of Imagined (or Invented) Continuity
When people in the peripheries engage in inventing continuities, the desirable pasts they create are usually not entirely imagined. What will be selected is usually a period or an aspect of actual history that is seen to serve a number of purposes - from staking territorial claims to mending a spoilt identity. If that identity is seen by significant others as corrupted by a long Turkish rule, for instance, then recourse can be had in emphasizing some kind of a Golden Age predating the Ottomans. While Greeks and Romanians have the option of claiming continuity with ancient Hellenes and Romans, respectively, the Serbs have no ancestor that the West would accept as its own illustrious predecessor. The only pre-Ottoman Golden Age that Serbs can claim with some justification is their Medieval Byzantine-derived High Culture. The problem is that even though monuments of that culture were well preserved, the continuity was not. The illiterate rayah could view in awe some of the finest Byzantine art in existence on the walls of their monasteries through centuries of Ottoman rule, but they were not inheritors of the full splendor of that Great Tradition. The other problem is that if the Serbs want to claim that they are heirs of that culture in order to escape their spoilt identity, they have to undertake an additional operation. As in the eyes of the West, the Byzantine civilization is denigrated as Oriental, despotic, petrified and in any case inferior, and as the adjective 'Byzantine' came to connote a world of devious, crooked, infinitely dense webs of intrigue, the Byzantine heritage has to be re-valued. It has to be shown that it was superior, not inferior to the civilization of the West with its roots in the Italian Renaissance. This move is very graphically exhibited by Milic's embrace of the "Inverted perspective." At the crudest level of pure buffoonery, his "Manifesto" was actually invoking a much subtler argument of Father Pavel Florensky - a Russian theologian, Orthodox priest, mathematician, scientist and art critic who perished in Siberia in 1937 - who in his "Inverted perspective"21 and "Iconostasis."22 opposes the Orthodox metaphysics of the icon to Renaissance and Protestant religious art, concluding that the latter are spiritually inferior.
Another option is to skip the Byzantine ancestry entirely and look for continuity with something much older. In Serbia, this takes the form of often quite fantastic escapes into pre-Vedic India or even Mesolithic cultures. To claim Indo-European roots as a lineage conferring prestige today feels anachronistic in addition to being fantastic. The reason is probably that these theories were first formed in the 19th century in opposition to German scholarship which was at the time obsessed with Indo-European philology and Aryan roots. The theories claiming the Lepenski Vir or Starcevo culture as proto-Serbian, on the other hand, are more recent and were probably encouraged in part by the iconic prominence of Lepenski Vir figurines.
Oriented as much to domestic discourses as towards significant others, the varied cultural lineages Serbs have been claiming since the New Mexican charlatan discovered Troy in Herzegovina in 1985 often came mixed together in ways defying logic. The "mad" painter Milic is perhaps the most extravagant but certainly not the only example. In the Serbian pantheon of glorious ancestors, the Lepenski Vir figurines often rub shoulders with Byzantine White Angels and the long mustache of Vuk Karadzic.
Colovic, Ivan. 1996. Sozercanje. Nasa Borba.
Fernandez, James W. 1986. Persuasions and Performances: The Play of Tropes in Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Florensky, Pavel. 1996. Iconostasis. Translated by Donald Sheehan and Olga Andrejev. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press.
Greer, Charles. 1997. Vuk Karadzic on How to Make a Language: Representing language conflict, Serbia, 1818. Unpublished manuscript, Linguistics Department, U of California, Berkeley.
Naumovic, Slobodan. 1994. Upotreba tradicije: politicka tranzicija i promena odnosa prema nacionalnim vrednostima u Srbiji 1987-1990. In Kulture u tranziciji, edited by M. Prosic-Dvornic. Beograd: Plato.
Redfield, Robert. 1989. The Little Community and Peasant Society and Culture, Midway Reprint. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.
Scekic, Drasko. 1994. Sorabi: istoriopis, Saborna sfera; Beograd - Podgorica: Sfairos - Timor.
Selimovic, Mesa. 1970. Za i protiv Vuka. Sarajevo: Svjetlost.
Skerlic, Jovan. 1925. Omladina i njena knjizevnost (1848-1871): izucavanja o nacionalnom i knjizevnom romantizmu kod Srba. Novo ispravljeno izdanje u redakciji Vladimira Corovica. Beograd: Izdavacka knjizara Napredak.
Slapsak, Svetlana. 1994. Ogledi o bezbriznosti, Apatridi. Beograd: Radio B 92.
Srejovic, Dragoslav. 1972. Europe's First Monumental Sculpture: New Discoveries at Lepenski Vir. Translated from the Serbo-Croat by Lovett F. Edwards. New York: Stein and Day.
Todorova, Maria. 1997. Imagining the Balkans. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
West, Rebecca. 1969. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey through Yugoslavia. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books.
Wolff, Larry. 1994. Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Zivkovic, Marko. 1990. Representing the Balkans: Symbolic Geography of the South-Eastern Margins of Europe. Unpublished manuscript, Anthropology Department, The University of Chicago.
Zivkovic, Marko. 1997. We are Gypsy People Cursed by Fate: Dealing with Balkan Stigma in Serbia and Croatia. Paper read at The Second Conference of the Association for Balkan Anthropology (ABA), September 4-7, 1997, at Bucharest, Romania.
Marko Zivkovic left Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1989 to study anthropology at The University of Chicago. He was a visiting professor at Reed College, Portland, Oregon for five years, and is currently teaching at the University of Alberta, Edmonton.
(1) See Zivkovic 1990, 1997, as well as the rough draft of my dissertation chapter Serbia's Place in European GeoPolitical Imaginings comes to dealing with the stigma of being "Eastern." Croats and Serbs, similarly, occupy different positions on the north-west/south-east gradient that characterizes the symbolic geography of the Balkans, and they have different options when it comes to dealing with the stigma of the Balkans. Having similar structural positions does not mean that the options will be the same, for each peripheral society has to deal with quite specific historical contingencies. Serbs, Greeks and Romanians, for instance, have different response options even though they share both the Balkan peripherality and Oriental taint.
(2) Olga Lukovic-Pjanovic says, as quoted in Scekic (1994: 99): "The Serbian language, according to all the documents and evidence gathered up till now, more than all other languages we have been able to compare it with, seems to be a language undiscovered by Westerners showing not only linguistic continuity starting from the ancient Vedic, or even the pre-Vedic period, but also continuity with both the Vedic tradition and Vedic spiritual treasures almost in their totality."
(3) Srbenda is augmentative of Srbin (a Serb), and in the usage established, according to Skerlic (1925: 169-170) in the mid-19th century, it denotes someone who is thoroughly and uncompromisingly devoted to everything Serbian, an "autochtonous, raw Serb without a trace of anything foreign" (Skerlic 1925: 167). To this day, "srbenda" carries the connotations of rusticity, simplicity and "traditional" partriarchal values – the opposite of high culture polish and cosmopolitan sophistication. This equation of a mythological being from the Vedas with the romanticized rusticity of the Serbian variant of the noble savage is especially piquant.

(4) "Lepenski Vir is proof that the Mesolithic is not the 'dark age' of European prehistory but only a prolonged period of gestation and that the first great advance of European culture in the Post-Glacial period was not fertilized by outside influences but arose spontaneously, from the awakening of the long-concealed energies of the Danubian culture of the Late Paleolithic. This is a significant fact. It shows that Europe did not have to borrow from the Near East in order to rise above the past and find the strength for a creative future. Lepenski Vir is a proof that achievement took place in Europe independently. Its unexpected revelation and its exceptional features prove that our knowledge is still limited" (Srejovic 1972: 15).

(5) He was seriously ill from lung cancer and he died only three months later at the age of 65, so it was my last chance to talk to a man who was not only the dean of Serbian archaeology and a world famous archaeologist, but a cultural institution in his own right.
(6) Jankovic claimed that Serbs used to burn their dead and then expose the bones above the ground. Such sites were recognizable as small tombs (gromile) and through their diffusion, the spread of Serbs could be inferred for the period between 7th and 9th century for which there are practically no written sources on Serbs on the Balkans. I am not qualified to judge the validity of such claims, nor are the details important in the context of this paper. Jankovic's colleague claimed that the evidence was "weak or nonexistent, but because there are practically no traces of Slavs in this region from 7-9 centuries, it is possible to hypothesize all kinds of things and nobody can disprove them."
(7) The string of "honorific" he gives himself can give a good taste of his eccentricity. He calls himself, Milic, the General of Lepenski Vir, the Knight of Machva, the skeleton of Radovan, the Heliocentric, the grandson of Pantelija, the Serbian barbarogenius, the ancestor of Serb vampire wayside tombstones (krajputasa), the one who periodically rises from the grave and opposes mathematics.

A certain level of spiritual purity, including vows of
chastity comparable to that of monks is demanded from the painters, and the rules of representing religious themes and personages have been passed down for centuries without much change (see Florensky 1996).

(9) At that time, however, the official Serbian Orthodox Church did not show its support by sending representatives to the grand opening. Only an excommunicated priest, Zarko Gavrilovic, was present.

(10) "The great tradition, according to Robert Redfield, "is cultivated in schools or temples; the little tradition works itself out and keeps itself going in the lives of the unlettered in their village communities. The tradition of the philosopher, theologian, and literary man is a tradition consciously cultivated and handed down; that of the little people is for the most part taken for granted and not submitted to much scrutiny or considered refinement and improvement" (Redfield 1989: 42). I have borrowed these terms from Redfield as a useful shorthand while aware of the their problematic nature.

(11) The museum was completely packed for the opening, and Milic staged one of his typical performances. He read his long "Manifesto" dressed first all in black – to symbolize the evil Western "narrowing" perspective to which he was saying farewell, and later all in white to show his conversion to the Byzantine "inverted" or expanding perspective.

(12) A panegyrical review of the round table that appeared in Duga, titled: "The Third Way of the Orthodox" lists "forty three Ph.D.s, over twenty university professors, five theologians, seven philosophers, a dozen reputable writers, two military strategy experts, a number of well known economists, one president of a republic, two foreign ministers, five high ranking diplomats, seven academicians, a number of directors of strategic studies institutes … coming from and area extending from Boka Kotorska Bay (on Montenegrin coast) to the Bering Sea and Kamchatka, from Severnaya Zemlya to Cyprus."
(13) 13 The solution to the puzzle of why this small group that proclaimed itself "rightist" and openly aligned itself with racist and Fascist ideologies was not only tolerated but actively promoted by the nominally "left" regime of the Socialist Party of Serbia in the early 1990s lies in one important tenet they both shared – anti-liberalism and anticapitalism. [Latinka, perhaps last chapter?].

(14) The local term for the constellation of the Big Dipper is "Velika kola", which translates as Big Cart, or Great Wagon (cf. British usage, The Wain).
(15) Nemanja's youngest son, Rastko, who adopted the name Sava after becoming a monk, established the independent Serbian Church and became its first archbishop. Under the influence of Sava, Nemanja took monastic orders in Studenica, when he assumed the name Simeon, and then retired to Chilandar Monastery on Mt. Athos. After he died in Chilandar, Sava brought his relics to Studenica where their cult still thrives. Simeon was canonized as St. Simeon Myrobliptos (Sv. Simeon Mirotocivi). Due to its special connection to the sanctified Nemanjic dynasty and St. Sava, the founder of Serbian Church, the Studenica monastery always held a special place in the hierarchy of Serbian monasteries. Its central Church of the Virgin is an architectural masterpiece and its frescoes among the most beautiful on the territory of Serbia.
(16) A relative from Israel related a similar demonstration to me in 1988, at the site of a stone inscription at least 2500 old. When he toured Israel some years before, the guide seated the group in front of that inscription and took about 15 minutes to instruct all these speakers of modern Hebrew how to read it – thus demonstrating the continuity spanning thousands of years.
(17) The Serbian language "was one of the so-to-speak "test cases" for the concept of "national language," and Kopitar's implementation of the idea through Vuk Karadzic," as Charles Greer argues, "is a better example of national language creation than any other in Europe" (Ibid.).
(18) It took another three years, however, and firm establishment of Milosevic in power, before the turn was completed: when new elementary school readers were published in the Summer of 1990, instead of Tito, it was Vuk Karadzic who peered out from the first page.
Such eclecticism could be seen not only as a sign of
confusion (or of the spuriousness of such instrumentalization of tradition), but also as a marketing strategy designed to reach as many different constituencies as possible (by broadcasting on a wide band).

(20) Basara saw himself as leading a cultural crusade against the Serbian literary establishment and its "godfather," Dobrica Cosic, on behalf of the new generation of "postmodernist" writers. The polemic offers a good example of Serbian cultural ideology cleavages but as is usual in this genre, it relies heavily on the readers being able to decipher veiled insinuations based on their connoisseurship (minute knowledge) of the Serbian literary scene.
(21) An essay written in 1919 for the Commission for the preservation of art and antiquities of the Sergiei's Church of the Trinity and presented in 1920 at a meeting of the Byzantine Section of the Moscow Institute for the Historical-Artistic Researches and Museology attached to the Russian Academy of the History of Material Culture.

(22) Written in 1922, the essay was translated into English for the first time in 1996 (Florensky 1996).


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