On the occasion of the Serbian Statehood Day and the 220th anniversary of the First Serbian Uprising, as noted by Čedomir Višnjić, the editor-in-chief of the Serbian Cultural Association Prosvjeta:

In Šumadija, in Orašac, near two large elm trees, on a plateau, surrounded on all sides by a dense forest, called the Marićević ravine, on February 2, 1804, according to the calendar valid at the time, began, both symbolically and realistically, the established, modern political history of South Slavs. Without wanting to take away from anyone’s historical path, nor in any way reduce the right to one’s own course, had it not been for the assembly in Orašac and its outcomes, many things would never have been brought to light in the pages of history.

On that day, a motley group of people, among whom the most numerous were hajduk elders, such as Stanoje Glavaš and Veljko Petrović, as well as village knezes, cattle traders, clergymen, and owners of respectable cooperatives, just to name a few, chose Đorđe Petrović, better known as Karađorđe, as the leader of the uprising. On that same day, the inn in Orašac burned down, as a symbol of foreign rule and most certainly an accidental first victim. This uprising was a meeting place – an encounter of the people with their church and their poems – their culture. Folk poetry was the internal medium of the revolt, and its first spokesperson was Filip Višnjić. His body of work encompasses the decasyllables of Njegoš-like strength, which we still listen to today with excitement. However, it is also within these verses that we find the ideas that have guided us through the past two centuries:

God in heaven! What a great miracle!

When it would be in country Serbia

That Serb country gets to turning over

And another justice comes into being.

Village knezes are not for a quarrel,

But poor peasants, they do want it, badly…

In parallel with this, internal ideas about freedom developed and the Belgrade pashalik, from the initial Tribalia, and with the help of the Prechan intelligentsia, quickly and surely was becoming Serbia, within the network of unusually complex foreign policy circumstances of that period of European history. Let us just recall Napoleon’s letter to the sultan from 1806, in which he calls on him to forcefully suppress and destroy “Serbian rebels, whom Russia has in its grasp and is encouraging.” And yet, in spite of that, difficultly won and limited understanding of Europe, the epic struggle based on two political philosophies, Đorđe’s and Miloš’s, was successfully brought to an end.

Another episode from that struggle is related to the Feast of Presentation of the Lord or Candlemas. It is the renowned short-lived Constitution written by Dimitrije Davidović and passed by the Assembly on the day of the Feast in 1835, which was the result of the tense relations between knez Miloš and the national leaders at the time. And as a consequence of always unfavourable international relations and influences, the Constitution was soon withdrawn, because it was judged as potentially contagious, in the words of contemporaries: “a French seedling in the Turkish forest.” It was an act that, in Article 1, defined Serbia as “an indivisible and independent principality under the recognition of Sultan Mahmud the Second and Emperor Nicholas the First.” And to this day, its Article 118 resonates with a distinct tone: “When a slave steps onto Serbian soil, from that moment he becomes free, whether he was brought to Serbia by someone, or he fled to Serbia on his own.” The Constitution was published in the Serbian language of the time in the Ijekavian variety. Its objective historical significance was in limiting the knez’s powers and their legal regulation, guaranteeing basic civil rights and introducing the institution of the National Assembly into the government system.

And finally, let us remember the Feast of Presentation of the Lord – on the fortieth day after the birth of Christ, when the Blessed Virgin brought her son to the Jerusalem temple to consecrate him to God. This is the day when winter meets spring and when Saint Simeon recognized the Messiah.

Wishing you a festive holiday and may we meet for many more years to come!