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СРБИ ИЗВАН СРБИЈЕ - ОЧУВАЊЕ КУЛТУРНОГ ИДЕНТИТЕТА

 

The Serbs outside Serbia - a preservation of cultural identity

 

The Serbs today live in about hundred different countries worldwide. Despite the fact that the exact number of them living abroad has not been established yet, as precise statistics was not kept, it could be taken with reliability that about four million Serbs live outside Serbia. However, the number increased particularly at the beginning of 1990s, after the disintegration of former Yugoslavia, followed by civil war in some separated republics.

 

 

Serbian Ortodox Church of St. Archangel Michael, Szentandre

 

 

Serbian history recorded several migrations of population fleeing war and famine or simply seeking better life. The largest one began soon after the battle of Kosovo and fall of the Serbian lands under the Turkish supremacy. In early 15th century a lot of Serbian noblemen obtained vast possessions in southern Hungary, and settled there their compatriots.

 

Cathedral Church of the Dormition of the

 Most Holy Mother of God, Szentandre

 

After the fall of the Serbian Despotate in 1459 mass movements of the Serbs were intensified. Both Hungarian and German records reveal the fact that by the mid 16th century the Serbs constituted the majority in Banat, which was then named Rascia after them, and the seat of which was in Temisoara.

 

Migrations of the Serbs into Panonia continued in the 17th century, when they settled northwestern part of the Balkans and became the basis of the Austrian Militärgrenze, or Military Frontier. After the War of the Christian forces (1683-1699), Vojna Krajina, what was the Slavic name for the region, was considerably extended eastwards.

 

In their migrations the Serbs reached the extreme east of the Balkans and settled the region connecting Gallipolis and Thrace. There they remained until the Balkan wars and the Greek War of Independence, when they moved to Pehcevo, in eastern Macedonia, close to Bulgaria. In 1690 Archbishop Arsenije III Crnojevic of Pec led a migration of 30,000–40,000 families from “Old Serbia” and southern Bosnia across the Danube and Sava. The extreme point they reached was Gornja Zemlja (Upper Land) and the town of Komoran, today in Slovakia, which became religious and secular center of the Serbian people. Consequently, Serbian middle class won strong positions in many Hungarian towns, such as Buda, Pest, Ostrogon, Szentendre, Gyor, Yerga, Stoni Beograd, Pecs, Baja, Szeged, Temisoara and Arad. Another wave of Serbian migrations, called “A journey to the East”, began by

 

 

Serbian Ortodox Church of the Holy Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, Szentandre

 

the mid 18th century and was directed towards Russia and Ukraine. On the model of Austrian Military Frontier, two new regions were organized there - Nova (New) Serbia and Slav-Serbia.

 

In Russia the Serbs had lived in over thirty settlements, which were named after the towns and places from their homeland. In each they built a church. However, these Serbs gradually assimilated with ethnically similar population.

 

Mass migrations of the Serbs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries marked a period of new movements, now directed towards the USA, Canada and South America. The last migration coincided with the secession of several republics of former Yugoslavia (Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina), from where waves of refugees fled and moved not only to the parent country but also to numerous European and overseas countries.

 

The Serbs participated in both World Wars. Many of them were killed in them, while certain number ended in the POW and concentration camps in Austro-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria or Turkey. Hence a lot of Serbian soldiers’ cemeteries throughout Europe, even in Asia and Africa. While some of them are well looked after, the others are neglected.

 

 

Monastery of Gomirje

 

On the territories they settled the Serbs built churches, temples and monasteries. Many of these sanctuaries are later purposely destroyed or devastated, in particular to exterminate the traces of the Serbian presence there. Apart from numerous donors and benefactors, the Republic of Serbia also did its best to restore these churches and monasteries throughout the world. Among other reconstruction works, the following should be mentioned: the monastery of Chilandar, the Cathedral Church and the Church of St. George in Temisoara, the churches in Szentendre, etc.

 

In Hungary, in the eparchy of Buda, the monastery of Grabovac ranges among famous and well-known monuments. The monks from the monastery of Dragovici in Dalmatia built its original church and residence, in 1587.

 

There are also several Serbian monasteries in Romania, in the eparchy of Temisoara: Bezijas on the bank of the Danube, Bezdin on the Moris river, Zlatica and Kusic on the Nera and St. George on the Brzava. However, many Serbian monasteries could be found in former Yugoslav republics Croatia and Bosnia; all of them were considerably damaged during the civil war 1991-1995.

 

The most famous holy object of the Serbian Orthodox Church is the monastery of Chilandar, on Athos, built on the ruins of the derelict Greek monastery by the monk Simeon (Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the Nemanjic dynasty) and his son Sava. At the beginning of the 14th century, King Milutin undertook the restoration and expansion of the monastery and erected the new church, present one, dedicated to Mother of God. Through centuries, Chilandar remained a keeper and nursery of Serbian spirituality and culture, the place for prayers, first Serbian university and literary center.

 

 

 

Monastery of Chilandar

 

Chilandar houses the enormous art treasure, including icons, manuscripts and rare copies of printed Cyrillic books, charters and other monastery valuables. Apart from these sacral objects, the monastery possesses a considerable collection of coins, rings, documents, objects used in everyday life, as well as objects made of ceramics and textile. Unfortunately, in 2004 the monastery suffered severe devastation caused by fire.

 

Serbian military cemetery of Zejtinlik in Thessalonica

Significant number of monuments related to the Serbian history is situated in Greece, and refers mostly to the First World War. Of particular importance are the ossuary at the Greek island of Vido and Serbian military cemetery Zejtinlik in Thessalonica.  

 

However, as regards monuments and movable cultural heritage of Serbian origin in other countries, their fate is much less documented.

Approximately, Serbian cultural heritage abroad, both movable and immovable, includes 137 churches, six monasteries, several tens of sacral objects and undoubtedly rich fund of books, documents and other art works.

 

Finally, one can conclude that immovable heritage in adjacent countries, of notable importance for Serbian culture and history, make significant fund of monuments, which has long continuity. Among almost 150 sacral objects with paintings, icons and iconostasis of extraordinary beauty, made by famous Serbian baroque masters, the monuments of folk architecture with preserved ethnological and other objects, the two of them are of exceptional importance - the monastery of Chilandar in Greece and Szentandre in Hungary.

 

These monuments of Serbian origin certainly deserves a care not only of the countries on which territories they are located but also of the mother country, which should invest much more responsibility and determination to preserve them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Istorijski muzej Srbije, Beograd,   www.imus.org.yu    
 
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