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National Romanticism: The Formation of National Movements

Balázs Trencsényi
Michal Kopeček

Chapter V. National Heroism: Revolution and Counter-Revolution

Jevrem Grujić: A vision of the state

Jevrem Grujić
Traduction de Krištof Bodrič

Texte intégral

1Title: Obzor države (A vision of the state)

2Originally published: In the review Neven Sloge, Beograd, 1849, pp. 175–181

3Language: Serbian

4D. Perović, D. Prljević, Radoslav Perović, eds., Istorijska čitanka: odabrani tekstovi za istoriju srpskog naroda (Beograd: “Znanje”, 1949), pp. 159–161.

About the author

5See Jevrem Grujić and Milovan Janković, South Slavs, or the Serbian nation with the Croats and the Bulgarians, pp. 154–155.


6Jevrem Grujić belonged to the first generation of Serbian students who studied abroad, and returned home bringing the European ideals of democracy, constitutionalism and civic liberties. Grujić participated in founding the ‘Association of Serbian Youth,’ a group which nurtured and transmitted ideas of liberal nationalism and Slavic unity. The Association was modeled after the revolutionary and literary youth organizations of the period that had been set up throughout Central and Western Europe. Grujić was sensitive to the revolutionary vibrations of the time; he cooperated with the Serbian youth movement in Hungary and participated in the events of 1848 in Vojvodina, where the Serbian demands for collective rights eventually clashed with those of the Hungarian liberal nationalist revolutionaries seeking to combine legal emancipation and national homogenization.

7Grujić, together with Jovan Ilić and Milovan Janković, played an important role in the St. Andrew’s National Assembly in 1858 when the call for a parliamentary check on monarchic power for the first time gained support. Through their work the ideas of Slavic brotherhood were intertwined with the doctrines of liberalism. The first generation of liberals in Serbia, which emerged in the late-1840s and 1850s, believed that individual freedom and the ‘progress of the nation’ could be secured through the institution of parliamentary representation of the sovereign people elected on the basis of universal male franchise. The necessity for a broadly democratic government was Grujić’s basic political credo and he never abandoned this idea. His pivotal ideas about ‘internal’ and ‘external’ liberty were given public life in his ‘Vision of the state’, first published in the magazine Neven Sloge (Neverfading unity), a publication connected with the Association of Serbian Youth. Jovan Skerlić, a distinguished literary critic at the turn of the century, argued that this text could be seen as “the first declaration of liberalism in Serbia, the first step towards a future, liberal Serbia, and the seed of the program of the United Serbian Youth.”

8The program of liberalism, in Grujić’s reading, flowed naturally from ancient Serbian national traditions and institutions. Reared in a peasant milieu, Grujić venerated the functioning of rural social institutions and remained close to the ideas of communalism and egalitarianism. The institutions of ‘peasant democracy’, particularly that of a popular assembly endowed with extensive powers, represented for Grujić the ideal of a sovereign state organization—intended, as he put it, to “make the nation aware of what it means to live in a state.” In his later work, practical as well as theoretical, on law-making and constitutionalism, Grujić adopted the approach of the German historical law school, as exemplified by Georg Friedrich Puchta and Friedrich Carl von Savigny. That approach implied that the norms and rules of positive law should be rooted in history, in the experience and life ‘of the people,’ in the ‘spirit of the folk’ and its natural sense of justice. These ideas undoubtedly touched on Grujić’s understanding of the people’s way of life and people’s customs, which he considered “good and benign.” That was particularly visible in his later works, including his ethnographic descriptions in Slaves du Sud (1853) and in his ‘Memoirs’ (1864).

9In the extract below Grujić first considers the circumstances under which the Serbian people were living. He goes on to point out their subordinate position under Turkish rule, lack of education, passivity and overall backwardness. He poses the question of who can perform the task of the liberation and development of the Serbian people and with what support. Rather than just relying on foreign help, Grujić puts emphasis on the self-emancipatory capacities of the nation. He thus goes on to stress the importance of education, especially of teaching “what rights the nation should have”, as being crucial to allowing the Serbian people to free themselves from oppression and reach the condition of an enlightened nation that “will find even the lightest foreign yoke unbearable.”


A vision of the state

  • 1 The dashes: — denote blank spaces in the text. These blank spaces either are the result of censors (...)

11But what is more important, brothers, is that we see the present state of affairs in our country and amongst our people. Our people today are not free either outwardly or inwardly. They are not outwardly free because they pay tithes to Turks—.1 They are not free inwardly because they do not have—, they do not know, and they are virtually not allowed to know, the kind of rights they have. They are a pure means that are used by some—and then others for their own ends. Insufficiently informed, they, poor folk, follow those that pull them along, all with false promises; they then place their heads in the yokes of self-will, laugh at beating, ignore gaols, serve prison sentences, bow to wheels, carry out all orders, as long as others do not prevent them from exercising their will. They thus exhaust their energy and ruin themselves in order to satisfy the insatiable—. Our people do not have their own free will, but not because they are not capable of it. Consequently, they do not live in prosperity but rather in backwardness. And therefore our state (or rather its leaders) has not fulfilled their task.

12But who will now fulfill this task? Will it be those who compare the present burden of shameful dependence and dismal tutelage with the former burden of insatiable Turkish tyranny, saying: It has never been better than today, while for internal policy they apply the principle of Strike and rule! Will a people strong enough of arm to throw off the yoke of others, despite still being underdeveloped, albeit bright, be able to recognize its rights, bravely to express its own will before all, put an end to all base flattery and blind acceptance and seek and exercise its own rights? Or V— … Honest ends require honest means.

13Who then can perform that task and with whom is it best to do it?

14This remains unsolved for the time being. But if the former is known, the latter will be solved by the spirit of the times. That spirit calls and will call when the time is right on those who have the will and readiness to follow it […]

15We have already stated that education does not suffer the slavery of others or its own. Education is therefore vital to enable the Serbian people to free itself from oppression. And the people must:

  1. For its outer liberation, make the entire Serbian nation aware of its former empire and its brilliant future; it must furthermore become better acquainted with and more closely linked to other Slav branches;
  2. For its inner liberation, make the nation aware of what it actually is, what rights it should have; what government is, why it exists, from whom it exists and what its limitations are; the nation must be told what it means to live in a state and it must be called upon to live in that way.

16Such an enlightened nation will find even the lightest foreign yoke unbearable, both for itself and for its brothers; it will wish to rid itself of it and must do so, as it has the necessary physical strength that should be channelled; it remains only for it to have the necessary moral strength. And what a morally strong nation can do was demonstrated by Miltiades who, with ten thousand morally determined Greeks, defeated one hundred thousand whip-forced Persians at Marathon. Then, we shall be able to join in an ode to the Slav nation to the benefit of mankind and become free together with Serbs across the rivers Sava, Danube, Drina and Timok […] and with Bulgarians on the Struma by proffering hands and not swords and then, as a free nation under one banner, without any foreign tutelage.

17I think, my brothers, that this is the best and the most fitting path our nation can take and be prepared to win freedom for itself, preserve it and enjoy it wisely. And whoever amongst Serbs or Serbian communities has the will and the spirit for this, may he set to work. There will be many obstacles (the illiteracy of the majority of the people and, what is worse, the lack of freedom of the press, etc.). However, if the Serb feels himself capable of achieving this—he will emerge victorious, as he will have many to help him in this task: the people,—and time is on his side. All he needs is fraternal love, unity and strength of will, inspired by the principle of all for one and one for all for the progress of the nation. May he march forward without fear; victory may not be close, but it is certain. May he march forward and he will hear the echoes of the words: “Long live the independent, constitutional and, eventually, free Serbian state.”


1 The dashes: — denote blank spaces in the text. These blank spaces either are the result of censorship or possibly allusions on the part of the writer.

© Central European University Press, 2007

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