Kapetanic, Niko and Nenad Vekaric - Forgery on the Origins of the Population of Konavle

Source: www.croatianstudies.org

Falsifikat o podrijetlu konavonskih rodova. (Forgery on the Origins of the Population of Konavle - Historical Pseudo-Science on Dubrovnik) Dubrovnik: Zavod za povijesne znanosti Hrvatske akademije znanosit i umjetnosti u Dubrovniku, 1997. (136 p.)

      Few historical disciplines influence political events as much as historical science. This fact is understandable, and there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, history deals in large part with the analysis of politics in the past and is consequently a basic starting point from which one begins the consideration of present-day politics and the prediction of political activity in the future.

      A problem occurs, however, when historical science becomes unnaturally yoked to politics, when it becomes an instrument of politics. Then, when history loses its universality, it also loses its fundamental scientific character. Instead of being a goal, it becomes a means by which a political interest can be more easily realized. Misused, historical science is thus fumed into the arm of politics that we would call historical pseudo-science.

     Historical pseudo-science has brought much misfortune to Dubrovnik. It has unfortunately not restricted itself to the laboratories. The results of pseudo- science were used in justifications of the Serbian military attack on Dubrovnik (1991), and in all probability even led to the very decision to attack the city.

     The hypertrophy of the historical pseudo-science of Dubrovnik began in the nineteenth century, when nations were beginning to form on the Balkan peninsula. These nations did not simply crop up out of nothing. Many factors religious, ethnic, linguistic, civilizational, cultural, etc.1 influenced their creation and crystallization. Each one found in variations of these factors its own individual course of creation and movement. Still, it is crucial that each nation necessarily had its own base, critical mass, core that began it, that carried it, and out of which it further developed. The basis on which the Serbian and Croatian nations were created was religion.2 For Serbs the basis lay in the Eastern Orthodox Church, for Croats, in the Roman Catholic Church.3

     Created upon these foundations, each nation has had its own specific development, its own rises and falls, its own shine, but its own delusions as well. 4 The Serbian nation showed its greatest aggressiveness during the Romantic period. The primary expression of this aggressiveness was Vuk Karadzic's theory that all shtokavian speakers are Serbs. Historically, Croats have been speakers of three dialects, named chakavian, kajkavian, and shtokavian for the variants of the interrogative pronoun cha, kaj, and shto 'what'. Serbs, on the other hand, have historically been speakers of two dialects in addition to shtokavian: Eastern shtokavian and Torlak. Early Croatian literature was written in each of its three dialects; its modem literary and linguistic standard, however, is based upon shtokavian. The acceptance of Karadzic's theory, which ignored all other essential and decisive factors in the genesis of nations, produced the powerful expansionism of the Serbs. Serbs, that is, were not satisfied by the development of the core from which they emerged, and they attacked the foundations upon which other nations were created, including that of the Croats. This was obviously a romantic illusion that had no chances of success, but it brought misfortune to Croats and other nations, not to mention Serbs themselves.

     According to this theory, even shtokavian Dubrovnik was supposed to be a Serbian town. Even the historical context of the time was in Serbs' favor, pushing Dubrovnik into the lap of Serbia. We must not forget that the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic after Napoleon's shakedown of Europe, and the end of centuries of autonomy, traumatically affected the citizens of Dubrovnik. It was a shock for them to come under Austria's rule. Psychologically, they considered themselves to be under occupation by a foreign state. Meanwhile, on the other side stood Serbia, recently freed from Turkish rule, which as such could have been a stronghold of pan-Slavism in the South Slavic region.

     Dubrovnik was also attacked internally. The fall of the Dubrovnik Republic brought with it the end of the city's religious exclusivism. People of Orthodox confession were allowed to immigrate freely. In 1857 one percent of the population was already Orthodox, while in the twentieth century this segment of the population grew to more than seven percent.5 Because these newcomers settled mainly in urban areas, their influence was greater in the city of Dubrovnik. The dissatisfaction of the people of Dubrovnik with their loss of independence, coupled with their view of Austria as a foreign body and the above-mentioned changes in the demographic structure, lead to the strengthening of Slavophile currents among the Croatian people, the most extreme phenomenon of which being the so called Serb Catholics .6

     The wheel of history was thus turning in the advantage of the Serbs, not the Croats. In spite of all this, Dubrovnik still did not become Serbian, and for one reason alone: it did not belong to the Serbian corpus in terms of religion, culture, or civilization. There was no way that the Catholic "Latin" from the coastal Konavle region could identify with the Orthodox "Vlah" from the immediate hinterland, who had been a constant threat to his life and property for centuries. Even the townspeople of Dubrovnik, who were initially friendly toward pan-Slavism. soon "cooled off" to the idea when they sensed that the Serbs did not understand it in the same way when they figured out that behind this idea lurked expansionism. Therefore, in Dubrovnik no critical mass emerged that could successfully impose "Serbianness." This was endorsed by Orthodox Serb arrivals and part of Dubrovnik's intellectual elite who, under the influence of Miklosic, accepted Karadzic's theory and in contact with Belgrade found their own advantage. But neither the common people nor the rest of the Dubrovnik intellectual elite ever accepted this idea. One very indicative report is that of Vlaho Bogdan, Court Secretary of the Habsburg Ferdinand IV, Grand Duke of Tuscany, published in Narodni list, no. 78 (October 20, 1885), in which he reviews Serb Catholic emphasis on Dubrovnik belonging to the Serbs:

     "I know very well when, and by whom, the Serbian label was attached to Dubrovnik. That which our immortal Medo Pucic wrote for Talijanska antologija in 1867 was not authoritative for many reasons, one of which is that, although his was a life of honor and uncommon virtues, he lacked that blessed consistence and sang as a 'Slav,' a 'Yugoslav,' an 'Illyro-Slav,' and finally, as a 'Serb.' This, of course, was natural for him, but neither for him nor for anyone else was it natural to name all of Dubrovnik Serbian. Organize for God's sake a plebiscite, and then you will hear the true voice of Dubrovnik laughing at your face. If it were not for his ardent patriotism and great poetic gift, his christening of Dubrovnik with the Serbian name would bring him little eternal fame... From 1850 until 1860 and before that time, except for Medo Pucic (perhaps) and those true Serbs who came here in search of a better living, in Dubrovnik there was not a Serb to be found".7

     The "Serbianness" of Dubrovnik, as an idea, already met its demise in the same century as when it was conceived, and it was destroyed in the twentieth century, in the first Yugoslavian state, especially after the Croatian representative and leader Stjepan Radic was killed on the floor of the Yugosalivian parliament in Belgrade.

     But Serbian romanticism, of course, was not destroyed, but merely lost its foothold in Dubrovnik itself. Serbian politics and its product, historical pseudo- history, did not give up their claim to Dubrovnik. Since Serbia never controlled Dubrovnik legally or in the real sense not even during the period of Austrian rule, nor later in the Yugoslavian period, and since they had no positive legal basis for the acquisition of Dubrovnik, all they had left was the romantic imposition of historical criteria. Related to this was the creation of false dilemmas (Whose is Dubrovnik, Croatian or Serbian? Whose is the literature of Dubrovnik, Croatian or Serbian?) and the tactic of supporting these false dilemmas while waiting for an appropriate historical moment to change a wish into a reality.

     To be sure, it was a false dilemma, because Dubrovnik did not derive its affiliation from some romantic view of history, but from actual and legal fact. Dubrovnik is a city in the Republic of Croatia, Dubrovnik is legally a city in the Republic of Croatia Croatia did not take it from anyone else by force, Croatia did not fight a war in order to get Dubrovnik, Croatia did not occupy and conquer Dubrovnik. These are decisive facts. Dubrovnik's place in the Croatian corpus can be confirmed by listing all of the arguments from historical proof to ethnic characteristics, just as the Serbs or any other nation have the right to search for their connections with Dubrovnik. But these arguments are not decisive; they are only explanations of particular historical events and processes, and not criteria according to which Dubrovnik could be considered Croatian, Serbian, or anyone else's.8

     However, with the creation of false dilemmas, the history of Dubrovnik became politicized. Because of this, historians have not devoted their complete energy to researching the phenomenon of the Dubrovnik Republic, a small but significant state that survived in between great empires, a state that brought forth many prominent people, successful artists and scientists, a state that, thanks to its administration, has left us excellent archives, making it possible for us to follow microscopically all significant component parts of life over a long period of time beginning in the middle ages. Instead. their energies have been focused upon proving who Dubrovnik belongs to. Thus numerous Serbian historians began to search for clues proving Dubrovnik to be Serbian. Every Cyrillic letter found in the Dubrovnik Historical Archives became a proof of "Serbianness" in Dubrovnik. Individual segments of history in which the medieval Serbian state expanded toward Dubrovnik, capturing surrounding territories (but never the city itself), became decisive and even more important than the more long-term chain of events before and after this expansion. The short-lived Orthodox presence that occurred on the territory of Dubrovnik as a result of this expansion was new and further proof of Dubrovnik's "Serbianness'', much stronger than the long-term religious affiliation of the region both before and after Evidence was seeked out in joint families, baptismal feasts. personal names, surnames, and individual statements. At the same time there was such animosity among Serbian historians toward the terms "Croatia", "Croats". "Croatian", and ''Croatian language" that it would be difficult among numerous books and articles, to count on one hand the works in which at least some of these terms are mentioned even once. The basic goal was to prove that Dubrovnik is Serbian, and that, because it is Serbian, it is unjustly Croatian. Consequently, this injustice must be corrected.

     The few Croatian historians of Dubrovnik were unable to match the powerful Serbian historiographical school that developed beginning with Jorjo Tadic and the generation of skillful experts that he trained. In fact, taking into consideration Serbian historiography as a whole, this Dubrovnik group was probably one of the strongest and most noteworthy. Many important Serbian academicians built their scientific careers on the study of Dubrovnik. Croats were weaker, and only a few individuals (Vinko Foretic, Josip Lucic, Trpimir Macan, and Vladimir Koscak) succeeded in sustaining some kind of balance and preventing Dubrovnik historiography from becoming completely Serbianized .9

     To be sure, in such a power relationship, the Croatian historiography of Dubrovnik exposed its weakness. Because they did not have a large number of quality historians with the ability to use the power of argument and a large quantity of publications to expose the absurdity of the gross politicization in the works of some Serbian historians, the small number of Croatian historians found themselves in an unnatural defensive position. Sometimes, by joining the pointless discussion and attempting to prove the "Croatianness" of Dubrovnik, they would only strengthen the false dilemma that was imposed upon them.

     Modern Croatian historiographv should not be allowed to fall into this trap in calling upon history to prove that Dubrovnik belongs to Croatia. For Croatia and Dubrovnik this is a ridiculous and unnecessary discussion. The Serbs who imposed the discussion will have to come to terms with it by themselves until they do that until they discard their romantic view of history and politics from their historical science laboratories they will not be a serious partner to Croatian historiography. That is, however, their problem. Croatian historiography of Dubrovnik must dedicate its energy towards constructive ends: it is essential that we have more researchers of Dubrovnik's past, that we are dedicated to the systematic and thorough study and publication of the abundant records held in Dubrovnik's rich archives. And on the basis of this preliminary work, we must utilize the power of fact and reason in order to analyze everything that comprises the history of Dubrovnik. We must openly discuss all basic elements that follow this history. We must even explain the significance of the Serb Catholics, as well as that of the Orthodox presence in certain parts of the Dubrovnik region in the Middle Ages, etc. We should not be silent about these issues, and must not suppress them. On the contrary, it is necessary to speak out and put things in their right place, according to the strictest scientific criteria. In this way Croatian historiography of Dubrovnik will receive complete affirmation and respect, and only in this way will it be able to uncover and neutralize the one-sidedness of one segment of Serbian historiography.

     Modern Croatian historiography will exhibit its strength by just valorization of the results of Serbian historiography of Dubrovnik. It would be a great mistake to discard everything that that school has produced in the past decades. Among Serbian historians have been highly qualified scholars whose research was exclusively a product of their scientific curiosity, rather than political goals. Miodrag Popovic, to mention one, had the courage to state that the literature of Dubrovnik comprises a constituent part of Croatian literature, and that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the literatures of Dubrovnik and Serbia belonged to two completely different cultural and historical traditions.10 We must not make unnecessary generalizations and allow ourselves to hate those who we should respect. Croatian historiography must critically review the works of Serbian historians and argumentatively and impartially sift out what is good and acceptable from what is a forgery that must be rejected. *** This work is an analysis of exactly such a forgery, a book by Jovan Vukmanovic about the Konavle region. A typical example of how a romantic approach to science can lead to pseudo-science, Vukmanovic's book would not even deserve to be reviewed were it not for the fact that it bears the label of the highest scientific institution in Serbia. However, this book passed through the reviewing process of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts and is printed as a publication of that institution. For this reason it is from the scientific point of view a first-class scandal.

     The purpose of this article is not to prove that the people of Konavle are Croats. They know that even without us and without Vukmanovic, who attempted to convince them that they are a "happy Yugoslavian combination". What the people of Konavle are, and what each person from Konavle is individually, are questions to which the inhabitants of this southernmost region of Croatia can expect a two-way answer. Today: every Konavle resident is whatever he feels to be; every individual can answer that question by himself. Historically: each Konavle resident can take pride in his or her origins, whatever they may be. There is nothing better or worse about a Konavle resident who we can consider an autochton, than one whose family moved there long ago from more northern parts of Croatia, or whose ancestors left old Montenegro or Bosnia, coming to Konavle either to save their own necks or in some more peaceful or spontaneous migration. Every person who lives in the Konavle has a story, which they can be proud of. This is however a historical story and nothing more.

     The goal of this book is to separate truth from lies; to base the historical story of each Konavle resident upon truth, and not upon someone's political whim; to ensure that behind such a story stands a reliable historical source, and not a forgery.
Translated by Alexander Hoyt

1 Compare Edgar Morin, "The Contents of National Feeling." Lettre internationale 1/3-4 (1991): 16-18.

2 Ivo Banac. "Vjersko 'pravilo' i dubrovacka iznimka: Geneza dubrovackog kruga 'Srba katolika'" (The religious 'rule' and the Dubrovnik exception: The genesis of the Dubrovnik circle of 'Serb Catholics') Dubrovnik , New series 1/1-2, 1990: 179.

3 Ivo Banac makes an essential comment on this question: "Without going into a dissection of whether religion really divided the South Slavs into different nations or whether religious denomination simply reflected the heterogeneity of the South Slavic population that type of discussion would be difficult to carry out based upon today's comprehension of ethnogenisis I am only warning of the fact that the religious 'rule' was not always so strict and that it was sometimes overlooked during clashes of ideology." Ibid. 179.

4 See Wolf Dietrich Behschnitt. "O tipologiji nacionalizma u Srba i Hrvata." (On the Typology of Nationalism Among the Serbs and Croats.) Translation: Christine Dumbovic-Reiser. Casopis za suvremenu povijest 24/3 (1992): 227-240.

5 Stjepan Krivosic. Stanovnistvo Dubrovnika i demografske promjene u proslosti . Dubrovnik: Institute for Historical Science in Dubrovnik, Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 1990: 70; Popis stanovnistva 1991., Narodnosni sastav stanovnistva po naseljima (The 1991 census in Croatian, Ethnic breakdown of the population by locality.) Zagreb: Republicki zavod za statistiku, Dokumentacija 881, 1992: 80.

6 Banac, Ibid.: 180; Trpimir Macan. "O pristupu srpskokatolickom fenomenu." Dubrovnik 1-2 (1990): 236-237.

7 Niko Kisic. "Dubrovcanin Vlaho Bogdan, suradnik Narodnog lista." Zadarska smotra 41/6 (1992): 13-15.

8 Nenad Vekaric. "Razmisljanje povodom ideje o otimanju Dubrovnika."Dubrovnik (u ratu) 3/2-3 (1992): 454-457.

9 One very symptomatic example is Koscak's conclusion about the "Croatian silence" in the polemic debate about the origins of the literature of Dubrovnik that was publicized in the Belgrade daily Borba during 1967: "And while on the Serbian side the president of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the dean of the faculty, the chairman of the department, and full professors all voiced their opinions, on the Croatian side they were careful not to offend anyone, and in so doing, left the arguing to younger and less prominent scholars, who luckily carried out the task honorably. Vladimir Koscak. "Polemika o pripadnosti dubrovacke knjizevnosti." (The 1967 Debate Over the Origin of the Literature of Dubrovnik.) Dubrovnik (u ratu) 3/2-3 (1992): 474.

10 Koscak, Ibid.: 470-472.