Svetozar Marković

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Svetozar Marković
Svetozar Markovic.jpg
Portrait of Svetozar Marković
Born (1846-09-21)21 September 1846
Zaječar, Principality of Serbia
Died 26 February 1875(1875-02-26) (aged 28)
Trieste, Austria-Hungary
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Socialism
Notable ideas Serbia in the East
Influences
Influenced

Svetozar Marković (Serbian Cyrillic: Светозар Марковић, Serbian pronunciation: [sʋɛ̂tɔzaːr mǎːrkɔʋitɕ]) (9 September 1846 – 26 February 1875) was an influential Serbian political activist, literary critic and philosopher. He developed an activistic anthropological philosophy with a definite program of social change. He was called the Serbian Nikolay Dobrolyubov.

Early life[edit]

Marković was born in the town of Zaječar on the 9th of September 1846, the son of a police clerk. Marković's childhood was spent in the village of Rekovac and then the town of Jagodina. The family moved to Kragujevac in 1856. He reached adolescence at about the time Mihailo Obrenović became the Prince of Serbia. In 1860 he began to study at the gymnasium in Belgrade and in 1863 at the Grande École of Belgrade, the highest educational body in Serbia at that time, founded in 1808.

It was only at the Grande École that he began to become interested in literature and politics falling under the influences of Vuk Karadžić and Vladimir Jovanović, a leading Serbian Liberal. Because of his outstanding record as a student at the Belgrade college, his professors unanimously nominated him for a post-graduate scholarship to study abroad. He choose to go to study in Russia, in St. Peterburg in particular. For the next three years he lived in Russia and had come under the influence of Russian radicals of the sixties (1860s), but his political agitation forced him to leave Russia for Switzerland. At the ETH Zurich, an engineering, science, technology and management university in the City of Zurich, Marković resumed his interrupted studies and in his spare time continued to write articles on social and political issues. There too, politics got in the way of his studies, and when his scholarship was suspended he returned to Belgrade with new ideas. Marković immediately began attracting attention and from 1868 until his early death (1875) became one of the leading figures in Serbia's quest to reclaim its lost ancestral territories and enter into the comity of nations.

Study abroad[edit]

In 1866, he received a scholarship to study at the Alexander I Institute of Communication Engineers in St Petersburg.[1] Here he became involved with the Russian socialist underground who, in the main, were followers of the agrarian socialists Nikolai Chernyshevsky, who wrote and edited Nikolay Nekrasov's The Contemporary magazine. There he also met Dmitry Pisarev and Lyuben Karavelov, who in the autumn of 1876 took part as a volunteer in the Serbian campaign against Turkey, and subsequently joined the Bulgarian irregular contingent with the Russian army in the war of 1877-1878. Together with a few other men of birth and education, Mikhail Katkov, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, and Alexey Suverin, Marković began secretly to sow the sentiments of democracy among the peasants. His sympathetic nature was influenced by indignation against the brutal methods adopted towards activists, especially political prisoners, and by the stern measures which the authorities felt compelled to adopt in order to repress the revolutionary movement. His indignation carried him into accord for a time with those who advocated the acceptance of constitutional methods. In consequence he exposed himself to danger by remaining in Russia, and in 1869 he was obliged to leave the country. In March of that year he left Russia, suspecting, rightly, that he was in danger of being arrested by the Russian authorities for his socialist sympathies with the revolutionaries. He succeeded in making his escape—possibly he was permitted to leave on account of his youth and immediately began a more rigorous campaign against autocracy. He settled for a time in Switzerland, then known as the haven of revolutionary leaders, such as Johann Philipp Becker and others. He resumed his studies at Eidgenõssische Technische Hochschule Zurich (better known as ETH Zurich) but after a semester or two, after criticizing Serbia's Jovan Ristić and Milivoje Petrović Blaznavac, he lost his scholarship. He then abandoned his education and went back to Serbia, where he met journalist Pera Todorović, the future founder of the Narodna radikalna stranka (People's Radical Party) and his wife journalist Milica Ninković, and other young intellectuals who wanted to make a change.

Back to the Balkans[edit]

Shortly after he arrived, he gathered a small group of students, which included the future Radical leader Nikola Pašić. At the time, Serbia was ruled by a regency on behalf of Prince Milan. This regency had been in place since 1868. In the spring of 1869, the Serbian Liberal Party signed an accord with the Regency and a constitution with a toothless assembly was set up. Marković denounced this deal as a sellout and formed a minuscule radical party.

Marković now sought to wrest control of the youth wing Omladina from the Liberal Party. The Congress of Omladina met in late August 1870 in the Serbian city of Novi Sad, which in those days was in the hands of Austria-Hungary yet close to the then Serbian border. Marković and his fellow radicals proposed a resolution calling for decentralization and a number of social measures which began with: "The solution of the nationality problem in Austria-Hungary, and the Eastern Question, on the principle of 'free humanity'."

Vladimir Jovanović's liberal supporters countered with a call for an aggressive foreign policy saying that domestic policies had to take second place to unification of the South Slavs. A compromise was reached calling for decentralization and an expansionist foreign policy.

On the 1st of June 1871, Marković launched Serbia's first socialist newspaper with Đura Ljočić (Jura Lyochich) as editor. The paper, Radenik (The Worker) struck a careful balance between outspokenness while avoiding printing anything that would get it banned. The paper proved very successful. It was soon being denounced by the establishment as the first socialist paper in the Balkans. A group of deputies of the Serbian National Assembly's accused Radenik of propagating communism "thus striking at the very foundations of the state; faith morals and property."

In March 1872, the government decided to arrest Marković but, warned in advance, he escaped across the Sava into Hungarian territory. Finally Radenik overstepped the mark once too often when it published an article in which Christ was described as a communist and a revolutionary. Using that as a pretext, the government banned the paper in May 1872 for blasphemy and treason.

In Realni Pravac u Nauci i Zivotu ("The Real Trend in Science and Life") which appeared in Letopis Matice Srpske, (1871–1872) and other works, he developed an activistic anthropological philosophy with a definite program of social change. By this time the ideas of Nikolay Stankevich, Nikolay Chernyshevsky, Nikolay Dobrolyubov, Dmitry Pisarev and other Russian revolutionary democrats, the materialistic philosophies of Ludwig Buchner, Karl Vogt, and Jacob Moleschott, and the revolutionary theories of Darwin and Herbert Spencer had gained considerable ground among Serbian intellectuals. He emphasized the role of science and of an educated minority in the historical process. He held that there are objective laws governing social progress but that they depend on the laws of human nature, which can be discovered by an analysis of the history of mankind. Genuine intellectuals help their people to become aware of their sufferings and their real needs and to produce a radical change in their conditions. A social revolution, therefore, presupposes the total intellectual power of the people. In time, Ljubomir Nedić, another philosopher and literary critic, took issue with Marković's premise.

Serbia in the East[edit]

He opened his literary career in June 1872 by a work on Srbija na istoku ("Serbia in the East"), published in Novi Sad, wherein he analyses the history of Serbia, interpreting the Serbian society before the First Serbian Uprising of 1804 as a society divided not so much on religious lines as by class. Marković argued that the Serbian revolt against the Turks had a social character rather than a religious one. He saw the social organization of the Serbian peasants who played the leading role in eventual successful overthrow of Turkish rule as insufficient to prevent the new state becoming a despotism which soon brought to life a parasitic bureaucracy.

Marković argued that growth of Serbia while this bureaucracy was in control would not lead to greater freedom, but merely strengthen the power of that bureaucracy. As an alternative to this Marković advocated democratic federalism. Marković idealized the old Balkan family structure, the zadruga, and believed that the state should merely serve to coordinate the activities of opštine, or small communities organized on the zadruga principle.

In fact, he preferred a federal and revolutionary Serbia:

The idea of Serb unity is the most revolutionary idea that exists on the Balkan peninsula, from Istanbul to Vienna. The idea already contains within it the need of destroying Turkey and Austria, the end of Serbia and Montenegro as independent principalities and the revolution in the whole political make-up of the Serb people. A new Serbian state will rise from portions of these two empires and two Serbian principalities -- that is the meaning of Serb unification.

At the time Marković was making an intensive study of socialism. And, from this framework for an analyses of Serbia came the basis for the growth of a movement of which Marković became the spiritual father and which years later, according to some, would become the Serbian Democratic Party under the leadership of Dimitrije Tucović.

As a frank critic of existing institutions, he suffered more than once from the Serbian régime.

Return to Serbia[edit]

As an exile, Marković had carried on his former line of thought and activity. Owing to his political activities in Novi Sad, Marković was expelled by the Hungarian authorities, but was promptly arrested upon his arrival in Serbia. He was already known in Eastern Europe by his book "Serbia in the East" (Srbija na istoku), which had been published recently (1872). The new Prime Minister, Jovan Ristić, immediately released him. Ristrić owed his position to the whim of Prince Milan, and as a result, was opposed by both the liberals and the conservatives. Ristrić hoped that releasing Marković would keep the socialists off his back.

On the 8th of November 1873, a new newspaper, Javnost (The Public) began publication in Kragujevac with Marković as editor. Marković was initially quite gentle on the new conservative government that had come to power only a few weeks before Javnost began publication.

Javnost's criticism quickly became more strident. The government lost patience and on the 8th of January 1874, Marković was arrested, even though he had handed over editorship by then. In the meanwhile, his supporters were running another newspaper, Glas Javonosti, which was started in anticipation of Javnost being banned.

Trial[edit]

Marković had been in ill health for some time and being kept in a damp, poorly heated cell in a Požarevac gaol made matters worse. His trial for "press crimes" began on the 19th of February 1874.

Defending himself against the charges that he had "insulted" the National Assembly by dismissing it as a mere debating society, Marković answered that he had written the truth. He then launched into a defense of the freedom of the press. On the charge that he had defended the right of the people "to overthrow a prince who does them evil and replace him with a good one", he denied that this was a call for revolution. He had been talking in the abstract.

(it's interesting to note that 16 years before the Marković trial, the Serbian people and the National Assembly exercised this right and in 1858 deposed Prince Alexander Karađorđević and recalled the reigning prince's father, Miloš Obrenović to the throne).

The trial attracted a large audience, including many of the local peasants. As a result of the trial Marković became a symbol of the growing discontent against the government. Marković's conviction was a foregone conclusion but the sentence, 18 months in prison, was relatively light. However, by now his general health problems had developed into full blown tuberculosis. The sentence was further reduced to nine months; it was far from certain that he would survive his term in prison. He was released on the 16th of November 1874, and went to Jagodina to convalese.

Socialist success[edit]

During Marković's imprisonment and building on the publicity created by Marković's trial, for the first time socialists succeed in getting elected to the National Assembly and small but vocal group, advocating Marković's ideas, formed round the Serb from Croatia, Adam Bogosavljević. Ignoring warnings that he needed to recover his health first, Marković was unable to stay in the background. On the 1st of January 1875 Oslobođenje (Liberation) came out, with Marković at the helm. He was as outspoken as ever at a time when harassment of socialists was in full swing.

When, however, the police told him he had the choice either to submit to arrest or leave Serbia, he chose the latter. This time he had no illusions that prison would be anything other than a death sentence.

Death[edit]

Marković caught a Danube steamer for Vienna. Here the doctors told him that there was little hope for him, but they recommended him to go to Dalmatia where the climate was warmer. He reached Trieste but collapsed in his hotel. He did not recover and died on the 26th of February 1875, at the age of 28. He is buried in Jagodina where he spent most of his youth.

Literature and politics[edit]

A major literary critic of this time was Svetozar Marković, who was also the first to introduce the doctrine of social reform among the Serbs. In contrast to previous trends, he believed that literature should actively serve the needs of the majority of the people and deal with the basic problems of everyday life. The acknowledged catalyst of the new trend, Svetozar Marković's influence was an indirect one; he was primarily a social and political thinker and publicist. In the 1870s Marković in Serbia and Vaso Pelagić in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia were what their teachers Chernishevsky, Dobrolyubov, and Pisarev were in Russia in the 1860s.

Immediately after the war and revolution of 1870-1871, the nonviolent antistatism of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon reasserted its appeal to a new and chastened generation of social revolutionaries, this movement gained a new following in agrarian southern and eastern Europe. Seminal protagonists of populism like Russia's Nikolay Mikhaylovsky and Serbia's Svetozar Marković translated the works of Proudhon. Marković in particular exerted tremendous influence on his contemporaries recommending them to be positivists in science, republicans in politics, and realists or rather utiliterians in literature. He proudly subscribed to the realistic novels of Jakov Ignjatović. Practically all the new writers -- Milovan Glišić, Laza Lazarević, Janko Veselinović, and Simo Matavulj, to name only the best, were in one way or another under the influence of realism, including Jaša Tomić and poet Vladimir M. Jovanović (1859-1898). Under Marković's influence, Glišić undertook to translate Gogol's "Dead Souls" and Tolstoy's "War and Peace".

In the elections of 1875 the socialist-radicals made significant gains and were for a time a significant force in Serbian politics. It was not however able to stay united in the long term. In 1881 Nikola Pašić and other followers of Marković founded a new radical party.

Socialist ideas of Svetozar Marković lived after him. For example, Jovan Skerlić began to work for various socialist and opposition newspapers, such as "Socijaldemokrat" (Scial Democrat), "Radničke novine" (Worker's Herald), and "Delo" (Work).

Altogether, Marković ought to be seen as a thinker of depth and originality, independence and earnestness, whose short and difficult life did much towards the knowledge and appreciation of Serbian thought. Many Serbian traditionalists regard him as the heretic and a dangerous modernist. There is no doubt that when he treats more purely theological questions he sometimes lays himself open to a charge of that kind. Marković is at his best and surest in the philosophy of history and in ethics. He is the chief representative of an important philosophical school of which many members whose thought is largely occupied with the nature and destiny of man and society—a school which is not without a certain influence on Christians.

Legacy[edit]

  • The Socialism of the new radical party did not survive the failure of the 1883–1884 Timok uprising, after which the radicals repackaged themselves as a nationalist party.
  • For the Yugoslav communists, Marković was merely a Utopian.
  • Nevertheless his writings (extensive considering how young he died) remained influential even though no political party claimed to follow in his footsteps. Anarchist Krsta Cicvarić, speaking in 1920 said "all of us in Serbia who are democrats or socialists learned the political ABC's from Marković."
  • A Yugoslav film on his life Svetozar Marković directed by Eduard Galić was first shown in 1980.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Svetozar Marković and the Origins of Balkan Socialism by Woodford McClellan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964, ISBN 978-0-691-05158-1.
  • Jovan Skerlić, Istorija Nove Srpske Književnosti (Belgrade, 1921), pages 427-430.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Svetozar Marković in Russia, Gale Stokes, Slavic Review, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Sep., 1972), pp. 611-612