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  • Nahija Krupska Vilajet Bosna: Istorisko-etnoloske Bilejske
  • Andrei Simić
Petar Pepa Gaković. Nahija Krupska Vilajet Bosna: Istorisko-etnoloske Bilejske. Introduction and editing by Robert Predrag Gakovich. Twin Lakes, Wisconsin: Izdanje “Neven,” 2006, 82 pages.

Some years ago, while visiting relatives in Belgrade, Professor Robert Gakovich came across a manuscript written by a deceased distant cousin, Petar Pepa Gaković. Pepa was born toward the end of the 19th century in the village of Rujiska near Bosanska Krupa, the area from which all of the Gaković family are descended. Reading the manuscript, Professor Gakovich recognized that it was a valuable cultural and historical document which, however, required considerable editing and reorganization so as to place the author’s observations in chronological order. The present volume is the result of his extensive and excellent recapitulation of the original manuscript.

Nahija Krupska Vilajet Bosna is essentially a journal of the author’s personal memories and the compiled recollections of elderly persons who remembered the last decades of Turkish rule and the subsequent Austrian occupation of Bosnia. Against the background of larger historical events, and spanning the period from the second half of the 19th century to the first decades of the twentieth, this work provides an intimate and highly personal [End Page 361] view of life in Bosanska Krajina during a time of far-reaching political and social change. Particularly evocative are the numerous anecdotal accounts of the harshness manifested by Muslims towards Serbs during this final period of Turkish rule. In this regard, the author cites a number of instances of resistance on the part of local Serbs to Turkish oppression. Of particular note is the description of the salient roles played by the renowned Serbian insurgents (hajduci), Petar Mrkonjić and Vasa Pelagić in the Uprising of 1875.

In addition to its historical value, this narrative is rich in accounts of local customs and folkways, as well as detailed descriptions of archaeological sites. Among topics of ethnographic interest are observations about village wedding and funerary customs, religious rituals, material culture, and other aspects of daily life. The author’s vocabulary, which is characterized by numerous regional expressions and Turkish borrowings, endows this work with a sense of authenticity. However, it might have been enhanced by the appending of a glossary of these terms, many of which are surely unfamiliar to most contemporary readers.

Petar Gaković has provided us with an intimate and microcosmic portrayal of the history and daily life of a single region of Bosnia. However, at the same time, this narrative makes reference both implicitly and explicitly to more all encompassing currents of events. For example, a case in point is the cynicism of the Austrian officials toward the Serbs of Krupska Nahija which reflected a widespread policy of first courting support from the Serbs against Turkish influence in the region, and then, when such support was no longer needed, suppressing Serbian political and cultural ambitions. Nahija Krupska provides a clear validation of the renowned German sociologist Max Weber’s contention that society can best be studied through the understanding of the experience of individuals, in other words, from the specific to the more abstract. In this case, Gaković’s work provides an intimate and emphatic portrait of the conditions, deprivations, and challenges which surely characterized the lives of Serbs throughout Bosnia during this turbulent period of Balkan history. [End Page 362]

Andrei Simić
University of Southern California


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pp. 361-362
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