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National Romanticism: The Formation of National Movements

Balazs Trencsenyi
Michal Kopecek

Chapter III. The Nationalization of Space

The draft

Ilija Garašanin
Traduction de Vedran Dronjić

Texte intégral

1Title: Načertanije (The Draft)

2Originally published: The text, commonly known as the Načertanije, was written in 1844 but for long kept in secrecy; it was first published in 1906, as “Program spoljne politike Ilije Garašanina na koncu 1844. godine,” (The foreign policy program of Ilija Garašanin at the end of 1844), ed. by Milenko Vukićević, in: Delo, vol. 38, No.1, 1906, pp. 321– 336

3Language: Serbian

4The excerpts are from a transcript of the original text published in Radoš Ljušić, Knjiga o Načertaniju, (Beograd: Beogradski izdavačko-grafički zavod, 1993), pp. 151–166. An English translation is also available in P. N. Hehn, “The Origins of Modern Pan-Serbianism – The 1844 Nacertanije of Ilija Garasanin: An Analysis and Translation,” East European Quarterly, 1975, IX (2), pp. 153–171.

About the author

5Ilija Garašanin [1812, Garaši (Central Serbia) – 1874, Belgrade]: politician. He was born into a merchant family. His original family name was Savić, but he took the name Garašanin after his native village. He opted for a military career during the reign of Miloš Obrenović (r. 1817–1839, 1858–1860). His father and brother were politically engaged on the side of the so-called Ustavobranitelji (Constitutionalists). Garašanin, too, entered politics and was among those prominent politicians expelled from Serbia in 1840 after Mihajlo Obrenović (r. 1840–1842 and 1860–1868) came to power. After appealing for protection to the Ottoman authorities in Belgrade, some of the exiles were sent to Vidin (present-day Bulgaria) and others, including members of the Garašanin family, were directed to Istanbul. Under pressure from the Ottomans, Austrians and Russians, Prince Mihajlo and the ‘Constitutionalists’ made peace, and the majority of the émigrés, Ilija Garašanin among them, returned to Serbia at the end of 1841. The Constitutionalists actively participated in overthrowing Mihajlo Obrenović and establishing the rival Karađorđević dynasty in 1842. The regime which they subsequently established was marked by the almost complete dominance of a state bureaucratic oligarchy in which Ilija Garašanin played a key role, first as Minister of the Interior from 1843 until 1852 and later as President of the State Council (the Serbian government) and Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, he was dismissed from the position in 1853 at the request of the Russians who considered his policy to be pro-French. After several dynastic conflicts, Prince Mihajlo Obrenović appointed him Prime Minister in 1861. In the following years Garašanin worked on the solidification of the regime of the ruling dynasty inside the country. In foreign policy he followed the strategic lines laid down in his Načertanije and accommodating the anti-Ottoman intrigues of the ambitious prince. Because of his opposition to the prince’s marriage plans he was dismissed from his position and left politics. He died in Belgrade in 1874.


6Načertanije represents the carefully elaborated draft of a Serbian foreign policy program. It consists of an introductory part followed by two chapters entitled ‘The policy of Serbia’ and ‘Which means could be used to achieve the goal of Serbian policy?’ The Introduction and the first part represent the core of the document where the basic ideas about the future expansion of the Serbian state are presented. In the latter part of the document, basic ideas about the Serbian propaganda policy are outlined.

7Načertanije is the first written national program in Serbia. It was kept secret until 1888 when it was for the first time publicly referred to, in Milan Đ. Milićević’s book Pomenik znamenitih ljudi u srpskog naroda novijeg doba (Album of the important figures among the Serbs in modern times). Milićević claimed that Garašanin’s policy in office was guided by the ideas presented in the Načertanije, even though the existence of such a document was at that time known only to a few and it remained unpublished until 1906. From the moment of its publication, this document has been the focus of scholarly and political interest, provoking controversy and rival interpretations. It is certainly one of the most contested documents of nineteenth-century Serbian history.

8In spite of opposing interpretations as to the political goals embodied in this document, historians agree on one fundamental point: that Načertanije represents the basic programmatic political document of nineteenth-century Serbian history. It was written at a time shortly following the restoration of some political stability after more than a decade of internal strife: the state-bureaucratic class, flaunting themselves as defenders of the constitution (hence “Constitutionalists”), among them Ilija Garašanin, had finally triumphed over the prince and in 1842 established themselves firmly at the head of the young state.

9In international terms, however, the Principality found itself in constantly troubled waters. After the Polish ‘November Uprising’ (1830–31) was crushed by Russian troops, some of the Polish revolutionaries moved to Serbia, where they built contacts with the Constitutionalists. Garašanin was well informed about the activities of the Polish émigrés in Serbia and engaged in a correspondence with them. The basis of Načertanije was the project of the Polish émigré Prince Adam Czartoryski, and it was actually formulated by František Zach, a Czech who came to Serbia in November 1842 to take up a position in the state bureaucracy. He presented his plan for regional politics to Garašanin in December 1843. In line with the strategic ideas of the Polish émigrés, Zach’s plan called for the unification by Serbia of the South Slav lands (Croatia-Slavonia, Dalmatia, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and the Slovenian lands), thus creating a basis for Serbian resistance to both Russian and Austrian influence. In his revision of Zach’s plan, Garašanin envisioned a reconstruction of the medieval Serbian empire and the unification of the ‘Serbian lands’ (Bosnia and Hercegovina, Montenegro, northern Albania, parts of Dalmatia and the Habsburg Military Border). Union with the other South Slavs (the Croatians and Bulgarians) was planned under the Serbian dynasty. The foreign policy plans of the document clearly reflected its ‘Polish’ origins, seeking to maintain a balance among the Great Powers and freeing Serbia from Austrian influence. The document also had a practical side inasmuch as it called for the creation of a network of agents in all South Slavic lands working to free Serbia from Austrian influence.

10The basic idea presented in Načertanije was the liberation and unification of South-Slavic (južnoslovenske) lands, with Serbia playing the role of a ‘Piedmont’ for the South Slavs. What Garašanin actually meant was the unification of the “southern Serbs” and (what later became) Northern Bulgaria—that is, the ‘Ottoman Slavs’—whereas his position was more ambiguous concerning the Habsburg Serbs. In fact, in the first part of the document he made clear that the plan referred to the Serbs inhabiting the Ottoman lands, while in the second part of the plan he mentioned the Serbs of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia as well. Speaking of these, he emphasized the importance of propagating the ideas of national unification among the Habsburg Serbs in general, but he did not put forward the idea of a broader national unification that would have encompassed the Serbs both in the Ottoman and the Habsburg lands. In this way, while Garašanin cultivated in the first instance the idea of a “Greater Serbia,” he also left space for a possible wider integration with other South Slav nations (Croatians, Bulgarians) and the creation of a South-Slav state.

11The critical reception of Načertanije focuses on two points. The first relates to the discussions about the ideological influences on Načertanije, that is, the debates concerning the authorship of the document. Some have emphasized the impact that Czartoryski’s ideas had on Garašanin, hence the genuinely Serbian character of the document has been questioned. Others have stressed exactly the opposite—the authenticity, or Serbianness of the document—and credited Garašanin with inventing its main ideas. The second point of contention is related to the question about the political implications of the plan: more precisely, was it directed towards the creation of a Yugoslav or a (Greater) Serbian state? Interwar historians such as Đurađ Jelenić, Ferdo Šišić, Dragoslav Stranjaković, and some Marxist historians after 1945, for example Ljiljana Aleksić, interpreted Načertanije as a document infused with the concept of a Yugoslav unity. Vasa Čubrilović was the first among another group of Marxist historians who during the 1950s pointed to the document’s nationalistic (velikosrpski) character, an interpretation later elaborated by other historians, mainly from Croatia, especially during the 1990s (Mirko Valentić, Nikša Stančić, Ivo Banac). The latter interpretation has been invariably maintained by Bulgarian historiography as well.


The Draft

[A plan of Serbia’s foreign and national policies at the end of the year 1844]

13Serbia must come into line with the rest of European countries, having drawn up a plan for her own future, or putting together, so to speak, a sort of domestic policy defining the main guiding principles to which Serbia should constantly adhere at various times and according to which she should conduct her affairs in a consistent manner.

14Tumult among the Slavs has already begun and it will indeed never cease. Serbia must learn to understand this movement very thoroughly, as well as the role or task which she will have to perform within the said movement.

15If Serbia considers thoroughly what she is at the moment, what her position is and what the nature of the nations surrounding her is, she will invariably arrive at the conclusion that she is still very small, and that she cannot remain thus. Only in alliance with her neighboring nations can she ensure a future for herself; and this must be her sole task.

16The main line and fundament of Serbian politics arises from this notion [that she should not limit herself to her current boundaries, but that she should strive to encompass all the Serbian peoples that surround her.]

17Should Serbia fail to adhere to this policy closely [and, even worse, should she reject it] and should she not draw up a well thought-out plan for this pur-pose, she shall find herself tossed around by foreign tempests like a tiny vessel, until she eventually hits a large rock, against which she will shatter into smithereens.

18What we wish and are attempting to achieve through this plan is to offer a contribution to Serbian policy.

The policy of Serbia

19The Turkish Empire [must] fall apart, and this dissolution can only take place in two ways:

  1. Either the Empire will be divided, or
  2. It will be built anew by its Christian inhabitants.


  • 1 Stefan Dušan (r. 1333–1355), the greatest Serbian ruler of the Middle Ages.

21The Serbian state, which has already taken off favorably, but which needs to expand and become stronger, has its strong base and foundation in the Serbian kingdom of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and in the rich and glorious Serbian history. [It is known from history that] Serbian kings had begun taking over the momentum of the Greek Empire and would nearly have put an end to it, thus substituting a Serbo-Slavic Empire for the fallen Eastern Roman Empire. Emperor Dušan the Mighty1 had already adopted the coat-of-arms of the Greek Empire. The arrival of the Turks interrupted this changeover and obstructed this matter for a long time, but now that Turkish strength has been, in a manner of speaking, broken down and destroyed, that same spirit ought to reawaken and assert its rights anew and once again continue the interrupted process.

22This foundation and the bases of the construction of the Serbian Empire ought now to be cleaned of ruins and debris and be brought to light; and thus a new building should commence and continue on such a firm and permanent historical fundament. This is how this undertaking will attain an inexpressible importance and high value in the eyes of all nations and their very cabinets; as we Serbs would then be presenting ourselves to the world as the real heirs of our great forefathers, who are but repeating their glorious achievements. Therefore, our present will not be without a link to our past, but the two will comprise an inter-dependent, homogeneous and organized whole. This is why the Serbian nation, its ethnicity and its statehood stand protected by a sacred historical right. Our longing cannot be dismissed as new and ungrounded, as being a revolution or a coup, but must be acknowledged by everyone as politically necessary, grounded in ancient times and as having its root in the former state and national life of the Serbs—a root which is merely starting to grow new branches and is starting to thrive again.

23If this new revival of the Serbian Empire is seen from this perspective, then other South Slavs will easily understand this idea and will adopt it with pleasure. For the memory of the historical past probably survives in no European nation in such a way as it does with the Slavs of Turkey, who even to the present day retain a vivid and faithful recollection of almost all glorious men and events of their history. This is why we can count on with certainty that this undertaking will be willingly accepted by the people, and there is no need for decades of agitation among the nation for people to realize what the benefit and usefulness of this self-governance is.

24Serbians were the first of all Slavs in Turkey to fight for their freedom with their own means and strength, and, therefore, they have primary and full entitlement to resume this struggle. Even now, in many places and in certain cabinets, it is being foreseen and predicted that the Serbs are looking at a glorious future, which is what is attracting the attention of all Europe toward Serbia. If we did not think beyond the principality as it now is, and if we did not perceive this principality as the germ of a future Serbian Empire, then the interest of the world would rest upon Serbia no longer than was the case with the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, in which there is no independent principle of life and which are consequently considered to be mere appendages of Russia.

25A new Serbian state in the South would give Europe every guarantee that it would be a worthy and sound state, able to survive between Austria and Russia. The country’s geographical position, its surface, its abundance of natural resources and the courageous spirit of its inhabitants, as well as an elevated and fiery feeling of nationhood, a common origin, a shared tongue —all of these point to its permanence and great future. […]


1 Stefan Dušan (r. 1333–1355), the greatest Serbian ruler of the Middle Ages.


Vedran Dronjić (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2007

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