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Modernism: The Creation of Nation-States

Ahmet Ersoy
Maciej Górny
Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter I. Making of the modern state in a multi-national context

Stay here

Aleksa Šantić
Traduction de Amila Čelebić

Texte intégral

1Title: Ostajte ovdje (Stay here)

2Originally published: In the journal Zora, I, 1896.

3Language: Serbian
The excerpts used are from Spirit of Bosnia, an international interdisciplinary bilingual journal, translated by Amila Celebić, Vol. I, No. 4, October 2006, pp. 1–2.

About the author

4Aleksa Šantić [1868, Mostar (Herzegovina) – 1924, Mostar]: poet, publicist and writer of Serb nationality from Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was born into a rich merchant family in Mostar. He spent almost his entire life in Mostar, except for short periods spent in Ljubljana (Ger. Laibach) as well as in the important Habsburg port of Trieste (Slov., Cro. Trst), where he was engaged in commerce as a member of the Serb Orthodox community. After his father’s death, his uncle took care of him and his family. One of his sisters, Radojka (Persa) married Aleksa’s close friend and peer in the field of culture, Svetozar Corović. After graduating from the trade schools of Ljubljana and Trieste, he returned to Mostar. In order to improve, the cultural life of his hometown, Santić became one of the founders, together with Corović, of the cultural magazine Zora (The Dawn). He also presided over the Serb music association Gusle (The Fiddle). Šantić was a very productive poet and writer. He wrote 715 po-ems, seven theatrical plays and some prose. Many of his writings were of high quality and aimed to criticize or advocate diverse social or cultural issues. He was strongly influenced by Heinrich Heine, whose works he translated. His funeral was attended by citizens of Mostar irrespective of their religion or nationality. He was later deemed by many writers to have been Yugoslavia’s greatest poet. In the 1980s a movie entitled Moj brat Aleksa (My brother Aleksa) was produced in his memory.

5Main works: poems: Ostajte ovdje [Stay here] (1896); Emina (1903); Ne vjeruj [Do not believe] (1905); Hljeb [The bread] (1906); Moja otadžbina [My fatherland] (1908); theatrical plays: Pod maglom [Under the mist] (1907); Hasanaginica [Hasanaga’s wife] (1910); Angelia (1911).


6The Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was a direct outcome of a decision made at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. Although the religious, cultural and individual rights of the Muslim population of Bosnia and Herzegovina were granted official protection, the advent of Austro-Hungarian suzerainty triggered feelings of unease among the Bosnian Muslims. The most significant consequence of the occupation was the migration of Bosnian Muslims to areas still held by the Ottoman Empire (the Balkans, Istanbul and Anatolia). The causes of this migration were manifold: religious, cultural, psychological, political and economic. Among the major causes, for instance, was the massive introduction of cheap European industrial products, which damaged the livelihood of many craftsmen who could not compete with the imported wares. Additionally, the most vocal opponents of the Austro-Hungarian regime among the Bosnian Muslims had to flee to the Ottoman Empire. This migration was constant throughout the period of Habsburg rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1878–1918). However, the biggest waves were always closely connected in time and cause to significant events in the history of occupation. The first large wave was in 1878, and the second followed in 1882, after the suppression of the Herzegovinian rebel-lion against conscription into the Austro-Hungarian army. The third wave was the result of the persecution of the leaders of a Muslim autonomist movement which demanded community control over their religious and educational institutions and respect for the agrarian interests of the Muslim elites. The next large migration movement followed the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Habsburg Empire in 1908, and the last significant phase of migration occurred in 1912, after the Ottoman Empire lost the First Balkan War.

7Migration always involved hardships and disasters for the people involved. The migrants frequently sold their properties for much less than their actual value. Their integration in other Ottoman areas was slow and often unsuccessful. Many people’s lives declined in both social and economical terms. The migrants to Macedonia and Salonica as well as Anatolia (particularly Iznik, Bursa, Ankara and Antalya) were decimated by malaria. All these hardships made many Bosnians question the viability of migration. The leader of the Muslim community, Reis-ul ulema Azabagić, wrote a treatise against migration which evoked the Shari’a. On the other hand, other reli-gious authorities (ulema) claimed that migration was mandatory, grounding their opinion on the fact that being administered by Christians, Bosnia was not anymore within the ‘Abode of Islam’ (Darul islam), but rather the ‘Abode of war’ (Darul harb). Concomitantly, Serbian and Croatian intellectuals considered the emigration of Bosnian Muslims to be a major loss for the Slavic element in the Balkans. They believed that Bosnian Muslims would eventually discover their supposed Serbian or Croatian national identities. The well-known Serbian geographer and anthropologist Jovan Cvijić wrote an article in 1908 which strongly condemned the migration as an anti-Slavic movement and a significant loss for the Slavic race. In addition, the economic destruction of so many people aroused compassion all over the Bal-kans, accompanied by the delight of the speculators who profited from the plight of the migrants.

8Aleksa Šantić was one of the leaders of the Serbian literary and national movement in Mostar at the end on of nineteenth and the beginning of twentieth centuries. In this he was followed by his brother-in-law, the writer Svetozar Ćorović, and later by the famous Serbian symbolist poet and die-hard nationalist Jovan Dučić. They turned Mostar into what was called the Serbian Athens. The journal they edited, Zora, was considered the best literary jour-nal published in the Serbian language at the time, and was highly praised by one of the most eminent critics of Serbian literature, Jovan Skerlić. Šantić’s poem, ‘Stay Here’ has to be understood in the context of these views, which were shared by many Slavic intellectuals at the time. It is neither a pure ex-pression of solidarity with the Bosnian Muslims nor a call for the nationaliza-tion of Bosnian Muslims and their incorporation into the Serbian national body.

9The Slavic Orthodox community in Mostar dates back to the sixteenth century, but it reached its economic peak in the first half of the nineteenth century. The nationalization of the Slavic Orthodox population in Mostar and their adoption of Serbian national identity started in the 1860s, and culmi-nated with the publication of Zora in the 1890s. This was a typical example of how a religious community imagined its new national identity. Consequently, Šantić’s poem can be read on one level as an expression of a certain national ideology. For him, the Bosnian Muslims were merely Islamized Serbs. Their migration was considered a demographic and racial loss for all Serbs. The poem can also be analyzed in terms of its social vision. Šantić, although coming from a rich merchant family, was sensitive to social themes in literature and was a partisan of the poor and the oppressed. This social dimension had a high and widespread public appeal; many people who did not identify with Šantić’s national agenda, such as the Muslims and Catholics, were able to sympathize with his social critique. This was what made the poem famous among people of various national identities. Among the Bosnian Muslims, the social dimension of the work overruled its nationalist agenda and they accepted it as a poem about them and written by one of them. The same applies to Šantić’s so called ‘orientalizing’ poems dealing with Muslim life, among which is the love song Emina, where he expresses his fascination with the unprecedented beauty of the daughter of a Mostar imam. The poem was soon adopted as a folk song, and its tune became im-mensely popular in the Balkans.

10One can say that in his work Šantić stood at the crossroads between the old pre-modern, multi-cultural society of the late Ottoman Balkans, and the new cultural topography of Central Europe informed largely by rising na-tionalisms. Although an avowed Serbian nationalist, he was unable to detach himself from traditional Balkan urban culture, and thanks to this, he became a paradigmatic figure of Bosnian culture. Even the most ardent Bosniak and Croat nationalists do not dare to propose the removal of Šantić’s works from school curricula or literary anthologies. The centuries-old shared world of Mostar depicted by Šantić almost totally vanished during the years of war between 1992 and 1995. Today Mostar is a divided city and its Bosniak and Croat communities are permanently in a state of cold war, while its once-prominent Serb community has almost totally disappeared.


Stay here

Stay here! ... The sun that shines in a foreign place,
Will never warm you like the sun in your own;
The bread has a bitter taste there
Where one has noone, not even a brother.

Who would find a better mother than one’s own,
And this land is mother of yours;
Take a look upon the limestones and the field,
Everywhere are the graveyards of your great-grandfathers.

For this country they were noble giants,
Lights who knew how to defend it,
You, too, should stay in this country,
And give the last drop of your blood for it.

As a deserted bough, when the autumn winds
Tear its leaves and slash it with ice;
Your motherland would be without you,
Like a mother crying for her child.

Do not let tears run down her face,
Return her to the world’s embrace;
Live in order to be able to die
On her battlefield where glory comes to greet you!

Everybody knows and loves you here,
And nobody will recognize you there;
Even the barren limestones are better here
Than the flowers in the fields of a foreign place.

Everybody shakes your fraternal hand here
In the foreign land, wormwood blooms for you;
For us, amongst the limestones, everything connects:
Name, language, brotherhood and holy blood.

Stay here! ... The sun that shines in a foreign sky
Will never warm you like the sun in your own
The bread has a bitter taste there
Where one has no one, not even a brother...

12Translated by Amila Čelebić in the Spirit of Bosnia, Vol. I, No. 4, October 2006, pp. 1–2.


Amila Čelebić (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2010

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