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  • Jovan Marinović, Serbia’s Outstanding European Diplomat, 1821–931
  • David MacKenzie

1. Early Life and Career

Jovan Marinović, dubbed “the Bosnian,” played an important role in the affairs of 19th century Serbia, both at home an abroad. Widely respected and esteemed in Europe as Serbia’s cooperative gentleman-diplomat, he was a key leader in Serbia’s painful transition towards constitutional liberalism, independence, and a recognized place as a leading Balkan country. As chief adviser to Serbian princes Mihailo and Milan Obrenović, he contributed much to Serbia’s emergence from vassaldom and isolation, This article will focus on Marinović’s key role as premier and foreign minister of Serbia, 1873–74.

Born of impoverished and soon deceased parents in Sarajevo, Bosnia, in 1821, little Jovan at age four was taken by his uncle on horseback to the city of Kragujevac, autonomous Serbia’s first capital, during the reign of Prince Miloš Obrenović. In 1838, after completing secondary education in Kragujevac, Jovan at age seventeen entered Serbian state service in Prince Miloš’s office. Then in 1842 he was sent on a state stipend to Paris for advanced study where he became fluent in spoken and written French, an invaluable asset during his subsequent diplomatic career. Upon his return to Serbia, Marinović became a junior secretary in the powerful State Council (Državni savet). Serving there until 1847, he was regarded as a diligent, highly intelligent worker who utilized his superb knowledge of French to maximum advantage. Soon he was named second secretary of the Council. During that service Marinović married the daughter of Belgrade’s richest man, merchant Miša Anastasijević. Soon Marinović and his bride were living on an exalted financial level in a luxurious Belgrade residence, quite an amazing rise for an impoverished Bosnian orphan! Through his wife Marinović became acquainted with the outstanding Serbian statesman, Ilija Garašanin, who became [End Page 15] a lifelong friend and close colleague; they conducted an extensive correspondence. 2 Making frequent trips abroad, Marinović became addicted to European gambling and spoke Serbian with a somewhat foreign accent. He now looked like a great European gentleman: tall, slender, rather weak in his legs, with his Bosnian eyes, long eyelashes, rather soft and vulnerable.3

In August 1847 Marinović received a two year leave of absence to complete his graduate studies in Paris. That became the first of his numerous political and diplomatic missions during which he acted in Paris as Serbia’s unofficial diplomatic envoy. As a semi-autonomous Turkish vassal state, Serbia had no official envoys abroad except at its suzerain court in Constantinople. Ilija Garašanin, Serbia’s interior minister, wanted Marinović to remain indefinitely in Paris where the July Monarchy collapsed in 1848. Marinović thus served Serbia as a diplomatic pioneer before it secured the right under the Treaty of Paris (1856) to maintain regular envoys abroad.

After his return to Serbia, Marinović in 1850 became head of the chancellery of ruling Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević and of the Foreign Ministry. In September 1852 Marinović followed his mentor Ilija Garašanin into power serving as foreign minister, 1852–53, until removed at the demand of Russia which alleged that he was a revolutionary nationalist (actually, he was deeply Conservative). By late 1853 Marinović realized he must find a new positioln, if possible outside of Serbia. He proposed that a secret Serbian diplomatic agency be established in Paris under his direction; Prince Aleksandar agreed. In March 1854 he left for Paris with his family as unofficial envoy. During the Crimean War (1853–55) Marinović represented Serbia to the Western powers allied with the Turks against Russia while Serbia remained neutral. In 1858 Garašanin led a movement which removed Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević and restored the Obrenović dynasty under the aged Prince Miloš.

The Obrenovićes’ return enhanced Marinović’s career prospect. Both Obrenović princes provided him with much more opportunity to utilize his diplomatic skills for Serbia. In 1860 he was named a state councilor continuing as Garašanin’s assistant and confidant. In February 1861, no longer in the cabinet, Marinović was sent as Serbian special envoy to Paris and St. Petersburg to seek the...


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