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  • The 1836/1844 Project of Resolving the "Serbian Question"
  • Vladislav B. Sotirović


This article is a contribution to the history of Serbian political thought and especially to Professor Vasa Čubrilović's anthology of political thought in Serbia, chronologically unfinished and published in 1958 but a mostly completed history of political ideas in Serbia,1 and to a similar but much updated anthology of 19th century Serbian political thought of Professor Dragan Simeunović.2 The article addresses a linguistically based project on Serbian ethnonational identity and a language-based political model for the creation of the Serbian united ethnonational state in the Balkans, drafted by the most famous Serbian philologist Vuk Stefanović Karadžić in 1836 and further developed by Serbia's statesman Ilija Garašanin in 1844. The most significant problem with respect to V. S. Karadžić's "Srbi svi i svuda" ("Serbs All and Everywhere") and I. Garašanin's Načertanije (Outline)—two programmatic works in which the project of resolving the "Serbian Question" was developed in 1836/1844—is their interpretation and understanding of the historiographical traditions of different nations, especially those of Serbian and Croatian historians, philologists, and political scientists. It provoked discussion and intellectual friction within the political ideology of the Balkan nations until the destruction of Yugoslavia (1991–95) and after it.

The cardinal scholarly aim of this research paper is to investigate a linguistic aspect of the ideological framework in making both Serbian national identity and national state-building program created in the first half of the 19th [End Page 1] century by two different Serbian writers and public figures—V. S. Karadžić and I. Garašanin. In subsequent decades this "linguistic" framework of national identity became one of the cornerstones of the Serbian national ideology and foreign policy of Serbia. The question of national identity and the creation of a united national state occupied the first place of the agenda in the minds of the leading Serbian intellectuals and politicians in the first half of the 19th century. Imbued by ideas of German Romanticism and the French Revolution, Serbian patriotic public actors set up a goal to create an ideological-political framework for Serbian national liberation from foreign occupation—the Roman Catholic Austrian Empire and the Islamic Ottoman Empire (Sultanate). Therefore, the present work investigates the linguistic model of national identification of the South Slavs designed by V. S. Karadžić in 1836 and the program for the restructuring of the political map of the Balkan Peninsula drafted by I. Garašanin in 1844.

There are three scholarly goals of investigation in this research paper:

  1. 1. To investigate how language influenced Serbian national ideologies in the first half of the 19th century.

  2. 2. To discuss how V. S. Karadžić, the most influential 19th century Serbian philologist, and I. Garašanin, the most important 19th century Serbian politician, answered the fundamental question of Serbian nationalism from the perspective of 19th century Romanticism, that is, who are the Serbs and what are the borders of a united Serbian national state

  3. 3. To define the structure of Serbian linguistic nationalism in the first half of the 19th century.

In order to achieve these research goals I apply two research methods: 1) textual analysis of the prime historical sources, and 2) comparison of different interpretations and undestandings of the works by V. S. Karadžić and I. Garašanin. Both methods are used for the purpose of sociolinguistic examination of the role and function of language in the creation of a Serbian national ideology as a symbolic feature of national determination, internal national cohesion, and distinction from other ethnolinguistic nations, especially of the neighboring Croats and Bulgarians.3 The research strategy has been to shift the [End Page 2] focus of analysis from official and public documents to unofficial papers, pro-grammatic-ideological and personal notes of influential 19th century Serbian patriots, ideologists, and politicians, but above all, those of V. S. Karadžić and I. Garašanin. By applying this methodology, I have attempted to reconstruct the opinions of influential 19th century South Slavic and other scientists and politicians concerning the problem of South Slavic national identification, and to complete the...


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