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Title: Serbia: A Sketch
Author: Reed, Helen Leah, 1860-1926
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Serbia: A Sketch" ***

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555 Boylston Street, Boston

Copyright, 1916


    _Serbia, valiant daughter of the Ages,
    Happiness and light should be thy portion!
    Yet thy day is dimmed, thine heart is heavy;
    Long hast thou endured--a little longer
    Bear thy burden, for a fair tomorrow
    Soon will gleam upon thy flower-spread valleys,
    Soon will brighten all thy shadowy mountains;
    Soon will sparkle on thy foaming torrents
    Rushing toward the world beyond thy rivers.
    Bulgar, Turk and Magyar long assailed thee.
    Now the Teuton's cruel hand is on thee.
    Though he break thy heart and rack thy body,
    'Tis not his to crush thy lofty spirit.
    Serbia cannot die. She lives immortal,
    Serbia--all thy loyal men bring comfort
    Fighting, fighting, and thy far-flung banner
    Blazons to the world thy high endeavor,
    --This thy strife for brotherhood and freedom--
    Like an air-free bird unknowing bondage,
    Soaring far from carnage, smoke and tumult,
    Serbia--thy soul shall live forever!
    Serbia, undaunted, is immortal!_

Among comparatively recent books in English accessible to the general
reader are:

_Mijatovich_--L. C. Page Co.

_Lazarovich-Hrebelianovich_, 2 vols.--Scribners

_Alfred Stead_--Heinemann

_Tucic_--Hodder and Stoughton



_Petrovitch_--Harrap and Co.

_Fortier Jones_--The Century Company

The spelling of names follows "Servia by the Servians," except "Serb."

The author is indebted to some of these books for facts embodied in this
little sketch--as well as to several persons familiar with Serbia.

She gives warm thanks to Madame Slavko Grouitch, wife of the Serbian
Secretary for Foreign affairs, who first interested her in Serbia.



Serbia, younger sister of the Nations, has indeed had a younger sister's
portion. In her early years she grew up with little guidance from older
and wiser members of the family. She did not have the advice that she
needed. Perhaps she would not have followed it, though on occasion she
has shown more docility than many of the family.

It took her a long time to find herself; she had troubles in her
household, and it was her first endeavor to get the factions to unite
and let her be the acknowledged head of the house. She believed it was
her ultimate destiny to govern them all--that this was for their good.

When she had made herself mistress of her own house, she tried to stand
alone--to be independent of her neighbors. She had no wish to dominate
them. She did not try to aggrandize herself at their expense, nor did
she take up weapons against them. But she wished them to acknowledge her
head of her own household, just as those within her house had done. She
even was willing to be called a Princess--providing she governed her
household well. But almost hidden from the rest of Europe by her
mountains, kept by barriers from easy access to the rest of the world,
the other Nations paid little attention to her. She grew up almost
unnoticed by the world--proud and strong, simple in her tastes, pious in
her own way (for her church was not the church of most of her
neighbors), and thoughtful, if ill educated.

She was not bookish in those early days; she was too indifferent,
perhaps, to letters. Had she kept a journal, we could now embroider her
story with more brilliant threads. Her lack of education was perhaps
rather her misfortune than her fault. Those who knew her realized her
many fine qualities, yet she made few friends beyond her own
borders,--and because she was independent and poor, her richer neighbors
were suspicious of her and jealous. This one and that one set upon her.
They were jealous when she first put on regal robes. They were afraid
that she wished to enlarge her possessions at their expense, and one of
them, who had assumed complete lordship over Serbia and all her sisters,
was constantly threatening her, pretending at times that if she could
help him against the foe from Asia who was threatening them both, she
should be acknowledged of royal rank. This did not wholly satisfy her.
Her ambitions had grown. She herself was reaching out for the Imperial
purple. She felt that if she wore it, she might better defend herself
and her relatives beyond the mountains from the Asiatic hordes.

Then came the great test--and from then almost until to-day Kossovo has
been a day of mourning!

When the fair, gray-eyed ancestors of the modern Serb came south from
their home in Galicia, moving westward from the shores of the Black Sea,
along the left bank of the Danube, they crossed the river and occupied
the northwest corner of the Balkan Peninsula. How long they had lived in
Galicia we need not ask, but they bore with them traditions of a
catastrophe in India that was probably the cause of their remote
fathers' leaving that country.

Pliny and Ptolemy mention the Serbs, and we know that for one hundred
years at least previous to 625 A.D. they were at war with the Empire.
The Roman Empire was then slowly disintegrating, and in the Balkans
there was no power to protect the Romanized Illyria from the northern
invaders who in prehistoric times had driven away the aboriginal

It matters little whether the Emperor Heraclius invited the Serbs to
settle down in the northwest Byzantine provinces lately devastated by
barbarians, on condition that they would defend the Empire against the
Tartar Avars, or whether he merely accepted the fact that they had
entered these provinces and must stay there. He made an agreement of
peace with the Serbs--and this marks the beginning of their known
history. He desired a buffer State, as the neighbors of the Serbs so
often have desired in later times. The lands the newcomers then occupied
are the Serb lands of to-day--Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Herzegovina,
Old Serbia, Macedonia, Dalmatia, the Banat, and to an extent Croatia and
Western Bulgaria--practically the ideal Pan-Serbia, but in this little
sketch, so far as it is possible, by "Serbia" is meant the Kingdom of
Serbia, at the north of the Balkan Peninsula.

The Kingdom of Serbia is bounded by Bosnia, Old Serbia, Bulgaria,
Roumania, the Banat, and Slavonia. The boundary rivers are the Danube,
on the north separating it from Hungary and on the northeast from
Roumania; the Drina, on the northwest from Bosnia; the Save, on the
northwest from Croatia and Slavonia; the Timok, on the northeast from
Bulgaria. Various mountain ranges on the west separate it from Bosnia,
on the south and southwest from Turkey, and on the south and southeast
from Bulgaria.

Until the tenth century, except Pliny and Ptolemy, the Emperor
Constantine Porphyrogenites is the only historian to speak of the Serbs,
and he but briefly; yet their history in those three centuries after
their arrival was an epitome of their history in later years in the
Balkan Peninsula. The general movement was the same. First, a constant
struggle on the one side to establish a union of the jupanias and on the
other side a constant resistance to such centralization. A jupania may
be roughly defined as a county within whose limits lived clans more or
less related to one another. The ruler was a Jupan, and it was not
strange that the more powerful Jupans should tend to absorb their weaker
neighbors. The successful man took the title of Grand Jupan. Jealousy of
the Grand Jupan would lead to assassination, dethronement, and
decentralization--and then would come a repetition of the violent and
bloody story.

Another element of disorder in Serbia was the ancient Slavonic rule that
a Jupan might be succeeded, not by his son but by the oldest member of
his family. It was hardly to be counted against a strong Jupan that he
should try to arrange for his son to succeed him--yet this added to the
troubles of the Serbs.

A third and later cause of Serb trouble was the Church. The Greek
Emperor and the Greek Church on the one side, and the Roman Catholic
Church represented by Venice and Hungary on the other, were continually
warring, not only for territory but for influence in the Serb provinces.
Yet in spite of apparent wavering, the Serbs from the time they adopted
Christianity have been constant to the Church of their early choice.

Finally, the founding in the seventh century of the Bulgarian kingdom,
on the eastern and southeastern frontiers of Serbia, added to the
dangers of this tempestuous little nation. After the Frank and Bulgarian
Emperors in the first quarter of the ninth century had for some time
wrangled over the Serbian tribes, the Bulgarians at last succeeded in
placing a garrison in Belgrade. The Bulgarians ruled Rascia for seven
years, but it was like ruling an uninhabited land, as the larger part of
the Serbians had run away to Croatia.

Almost two hundred years after the agreement with Heraclius the Serbs
had a strong Jupan who carried out the principles of concentration. This
Visheslav was probably a descendant of that Visheslav who had signed
the agreement with the Greek Emperor. His descendants, of whom the
greatest was Vlastimir, for three generations contributed to the unity
of Serbia by defending it against Bulgar and Frank, who were constantly
menacing even when not directly attacking. Towards the end of the ninth
century, in 871, under Basil the Macedonian, the Serbs acknowledged
again the suzerainty of the Greek Empire and accepted Christianity. This
was in the reign of Mertimir, but after his death almost all of the
Greek Serb provinces were lost to Tsar Simeon of Bulgaria.

Though Serbia recovered part of her lost provinces, she could not hold
them. The political center of the Serbs had moved to Zeta (Montenegro)
and the mystic Prince Jovan Vladimir in the latter part of the tenth
century, sometimes called King of Zeta, tried in vain to stop the
triumphal march of Tsar Samuel of Bulgaria through the Serb provinces.
He himself was taken a prisoner to Samuel's court, where he married the
Tsar's daughter, Kossara. He returned to Zeta as reigning Prince under
the suzerainty of Bulgaria, but in 1015 he was murdered by Samuel's
heir, and he now is venerated as a saint in Serbia. The first Serb
novel, "Vladimir and Kossara," published in the thirteenth century, is
founded on the life of this Prince.

Zeta was too far from the racial center of Serbia to be a good political
center and soon the disintegration of the first Serb kingdom began.
Although Serbia recovered the provinces Bulgaria had taken, she was
unable to stand alone, and grudgingly accepted Greek suzerainty until
Prince Voislav--cousin of Vladimir of Zeta--started a successful revolt
against the Greeks and united under his own rule Zeta, Trebinje, and
Zahumle. His son, Michel Voislavich, annexed the Jupania of Rascia. In
1072 he proclaimed himself King and received the crown from Gregory
VII. This was an effort to free Serbia from the Greek overlordship, as
expressed in the Greek Church. In the next reign Serbia became better
known to the world when she welcomed the Crusaders under Raymond of
Toulouse, passing through on their way to the Holy Land. Then came
brighter days for Serbia. Stephen Nemanya, Grand Jupan of Rascia, who
lived near Novi Bazar (1122-1199), planned the union of all the jupanias
in one kingdom under one king. This he practically accomplished, for
though unable to include Bosnia, within ten years of his accession he
had almost doubled his territory.

Later, when Stephen's ambition grew, he received Frederick Barbarossa,
passing through with his Crusaders, and gave him every honor due the
Empire when he visited Nish in 1188, and treated him so liberally that
Barbarossa--at least this is something more than rumor--was considering
a marriage between his son and Stephen's daughter when death put an end
to the alliance. In the next reign the Emperor Henry VI planned, with
the help of the Serbs, to conquer the Byzantine Empire. But again death
took the Emperor before the plans were completed.

Another notable act of Stephen's was his attack on the Greek provinces
as an ally of the King of Hungary. Stephen Nemanya assumed the
double-eagle as the insignia of his dignity, but though he founded the
first real Kingdom of Serbia, and was called King, he was never crowned.

Toward the close of his distinguished career, in 1196, weary of the
world, he withdrew to the Monastery Helinder on Mt. Athos, where years
before his youngest son Rastko had retired. Stephen died after three
years of monastic life. The historic records of Serbia begin with his

Rastko, known in the Church as Sava and afterwards canonized, was a man
of active temperament--a statesman as well as a churchman. He used his
wisdom and his learning to benefit his country.

Stephen, son of Nemanya, was the first crowned King of Serbia. He kept
off foreign enemies, and Serbia, no longer dreading attacks, began to
develop some of her mineral resources. She made a beginning, too, of
educating her people. In the next two or three generations of rulers
there were quarrels among members of the ruling family. Outside, too,
the Magyars began to press upon the little kingdom. But on the whole
Serbia was united,--mindful, perhaps, of St. Sava's motto: "Only Union
is Serbia's Salvation."

Stephen the Sixth, or "The Great," won victories over the Greek
Emperors, the Tartars, and the Bulgarians. He helped the Greek Emperor
against the Turks, now becoming formidable, and as part of his reward
had the Emperor's daughter given him in marriage. But this led to
domestic unhappiness in his later years and some loss of territory. For
his wife tried to keep his son Stephen from his inheritance. In turn,
Stephen's party set upon the King and choked him to death. Though
Stephen Dushan may have had no hand in it, this murder clouds his
reputation. Stephen Dushan is a contradictory character--by some
regarded as the murderer of his father, by others an idealist to be
compared with King Arthur or with Roland. Stephen Dushan (Detchanski),
great-grandson of Stephen Nemanya, came to the throne in 1331 and in ten
years had gained Albania and Epirus and finally all Macedonia except
Salonika. He was practically suzerain of Bulgaria. He freed the Church,
which long since had drifted from Rome back to Byzance. Now he made it
independent of the Greek Emperor, constituting the Archbishop of Petch,
Archbishop, or rather Patriarch, of Serbia.

Noted both as a soldier and a statesman, Stephen had wider plans than
Vlasimir or Nemanya. The Turks were now looming dangerously in the
East. The Greek Empire was tottering. With it, the rest of Eastern
Europe might fall, including little Serbia--one of the smallest of all
the little principalities. But Serbia, if small, was brave, and Dushan
hoped to proclaim a Serbo-Greek Empire to head off the Asiatic hordes.
To accomplish this he took certain territory from the Greek Empire and,
proclaiming himself Emperor of the Serbs and Greeks, was solemnly
crowned at Uksub at Easter, 1346. Nine years later he tried to unite
Bulgars and Serbs and Greeks against the Turks. With a large army of
about one hundred thousand trained soldiers he was almost at the gates
of Constantinople when a sudden illness overtook him and he died.

Under Dushan Serbia had very nearly reached her highest
ambition--complete dominion over the Balkan Peninsula. Dushan ruled also
a large part of the former Byzantine lands in Europe.

Of farther-reaching good for Serbia than his territorial conquests was
the Zakonik or Code of Laws, completed in 1354 under Dushan's direction.
It contained not only the best of the old, but many new, laws resulting
from Dushan's knowledge of his country's needs. It ranks high among
medieval codes of law. After his death, his empire separated itself into
its elements--a number of small states whose rulers were fighting one
another while the Turks were subduing Thrace.

With the death of Dushan in 1355 the greatness of Serbia also passed
away. His son, Urosh, could not hold what his father had gained, and
little by little parts of his Empire fell off from the center, until but
a small fragment remained. Yet there were still many stout-hearted
Serbs--many who wished to do their utmost to throw off the Turks now
pressing upon them. When Urosh died childless, the direct Nemanya
dynasty came to an end, but in 1371 Lazar Grebelyanovitch of the
Nemanya family was elected ruler of the Serbs. Though called Tsar, he
would not formally take the title. Devoted to his country, he threw all
his energy into forming a Christian League against the Turks.

But the wily Oriental circumvented him by attacking the members of the
League one by one. For nearly twenty years after that there were many
encounters between Turks and Serbians. At the first attack on Nish,
Serbia so humbled herself as to agree to pay tribute in gold and in
soldiers for the Sultan's armies on condition the Turks would leave her

Later Lazar did his utmost to save poor Serbia from further disgrace. He
united with the Ban of Bosnia, also a descendant of Stephen Nemanya, and
together they gained many small victories. After once defeating the
invading Turks under Murat I the Serbs had to stand a second time
opposed to Murat and a well-trained force of Turkish soldiers. Against
the Turks were drawn up the full strength of Serbia, Albania, and

There on the field of Kossovo, the "field of blackbirds," June 15, 1389,
was fought one of the decisive battles of history. It was a bitter
defeat for Serbia, though as many Turks as Serbs perished on the field.
On the eve of the battle Murat I had been assassinated. The brave Lazar
with the flower of the Serb nation lay dead--Lazar first made prisoner,
then beheaded. Of all Serbian rulers, the memory of Lazar was held the
dearest. "A pious and generous prince, a brave but unsuccessful

There was no longer any question as to supremacy in the Balkan
Peninsula. The independence of Serbia and the liberties of all the
smaller states were now the property of the unspeakable Turk.

Lazar, it is said, was warned of his fate by a letter from Heaven even
before the battle, but he still went forward to fight for his country.
Bowring's translation of the heroic pesma (Battle of Kossovo) gives an
idea of this event. Before the battle Lazar receives the mysterious

    "Tzar Lasar! thou tzar of noble lineage!
    Tell me now, what kingdom hast thou chosen?
    Wilt thou have heaven's kingdom for thy portion,
    Or an earthly kingdom? If an earthly,
    Saddle thy good steed--and gird him tightly;
    Let thy heroes buckle on their sabres,
    Smite the Turkish legions like a tempest,
    And these legions all will fly before thee.
    But if thou wilt have heaven's kingdom rather,
    Speedily erect upon Kossova,
    Speedily erect a church of marble;
    Not of marble, but of silk and scarlet;
    That the army, to its vespers going,
    May from sin be purged--for death be ready;
    For thy warriors all are dooméd to stumble;
    Thou, too, prince, wilt perish with thy army!"

    When the Tzar Lasar had read the writing,
    Many were his thoughts and long his musings.
    "Lord, my God! what--which shall be my portion,
    Which my choice of these two proffer'd kingdoms?
    Shall I choose heaven's kingdom? shall I rather
    Choose an earthly one? for what is earthly
    Is as fleeting, vain, and unsubstantial;
    Heavenly things are lasting, firm, eternal."

    So the Tzar preferr'd a heavenly kingdom
    Rather than an earthly. On Kossova
    Straight he built a church, but not of marble;
    Not of marble, but of silk and scarlet.
    Then he calls the patriarch of Servia,
    Calls around him all the twelve archbishops,
    Bids them make the holy supper ready,
    Purify the warriors from their errors,
    And for death's last conflict make them ready.

    So the warriors were prepared for battle,
    And the Turkish hosts approach Kossova.
    Bogdan leads his valiant heroes forward,
    With his sons--nine sons--the Jugocichi,
    Sharp and keen--nine gray and noble falcons.
    Each led on nine thousand Servian warriors;
    And the aged Jug led twenty thousand.

    With the Turks began the bloody battle.
    Seven pashas were overcome and scatter'd,
    But the eighth pasha came onward boldly,
    And the aged Jug Bogdan has fallen.


    Then Lasar, the noble lord of Servia,
    Seeks Kossova with his mighty army;
    Seven and seventy thousand Servian warriors.
    How the infidels retire before him,
    Dare not look upon his awful visage!
    Now indeed begins the glorious battle.
    He had triumph'd then, had triumph'd proudly,
    But that Vuk--the curse of God be on him!
    He betrays his father at Kossova.

    So the Turks the Servian monarch vanquish'd,
    So Lasar fell--the Tzar of Servia--
    With Lasar fell all the Servian army.
    But they have been honor'd, and are holy,
    In the keeping of the God of heaven.

All that the Nemanyas, all that the Serbian people had done toward
national unity was destroyed at Kossovo. Throughout Serb lands, the
anniversary of Kossovo is still kept as a memorial day for all Serbian
heroes, both for those who fell then and those who have since fallen in
defense of their country.

For seventy years after Kossovo, Serbia, though nominally ruled by
despots, was really subsidiary to the Sultan. George Brankovitch, one of
the despots, worked for an alliance between Serbia and Hungary to
overthrow the Turks. The Turks were defeated at Kunovista, and lands
previously taken were restored to him. This brave man died at the age of
ninety of wounds received in a duel with a Hungarian nobleman. But in
spite of the efforts of Brankovitch, the days of Serbia were numbered.
In 1459 she became a Pashilik under the direct government of the
Porte--and this was her condition for nearly three hundred and fifty

If in her darkest hour some strong nation had sympathized with Serbia,
her future might have been different. The nations of Europe were now
having a revival of life--a renaissance--but they had no thought of
Serbia, their young sister. She was hidden among her mountains and she
made no outcry. She had tried to do what she could for herself. She had
had her moments of power and happiness. Now came a long, long night.


In the darker days many Serbs fled to the mountains, sometimes to carry
on their occupation of farmer so far as they could, unmolested by the
Turk; sometimes to become Haiduks--the Robin Hoods of the mountains and
forests--to steal from the Moslem when it was possible, to give to the
poor Serb; always to keep up an unceasing guerrilla warfare.

Serbians were sold as slaves by the ten thousands to Constantinople and
to Egypt. Whenever they could, they fled their country to Venice, to
Dalmatia, to Hungary. Those who stayed in Serbia were not meek and so
far as they could they resisted their oppressor. The Church was the
mainstay of the nation; indeed, even to-day, the Serbian Church is a
national rather than a religious organization. Before the end of Serb
power came, southern Hungary had begun to receive many Serbian
immigrants; by the middle of the sixteenth century they were numerous
along the borders of Croatia and Slavonia. Although to a large extent
farm laborers, they were soldiers as well, and fought in many battles
for Austria. In the latter part of the fifteenth and the early part of
the sixteenth century, the Serbs in the Hungarian army formed the famous
"Black Legion" and won great fame. In the latter part of the seventeenth
century thirty-seven thousand Serbians went in a body to South Hungary,
and fifty years later one hundred thousand, migrating to Russia, formed
a colony by themselves. In 1690 the Emperor Leopold had granted a fair
amount of liberty, civil as well as religious, to the large organized
body of Serbs who had settled in South Hungary. Their privileges were
from time to time confirmed, especially when the Emperor needed help
from the Serbs against some one of his numerous enemies. At other times
the Serbs in Hungary had no flowery path. Austria was always playing
fast and loose with them, and at last, toward the end of the eighteenth
century, though Austria was treating them well, they saw they had little
cause to hope that she would free them from the Turkish yoke. The
ancient ill will of Hungary against Serbia persisted, and sometimes laws
passed in her favor by Austria were in the end suppressed or nullified
by Hungarian efforts.


Serbia, in the hands of a cruel conqueror, stripped of most of her
possessions, bereft of happiness, forgotten by her sister nations, had
little left but hope. She still clung to her ideals of brotherhood and
freedom, and she held close her great treasure, a gift inherited from
her remote northern ancestors--her gift of song. Her songs--virile, yet
somewhat softened by contact with her southern neighbors--cheered and
strengthened her. She sang and sang, in a minor key, and her mountains
reëchoed with the deeds of her happier days, with the stories of her
heroes, now seeming more splendid because she herself had become so poor
and unhappy. For centuries she was like one stunned; she had never been
aggressive--now she could not fight against the aggressor who had all
the weapons in his own hands.

A younger sister--and poor at that!--a younger sister, who had set out
to be perfectly independent--what could she expect? She must work out
her own salvation. Besides, she lived so far away from the centers of
culture she was almost a barbarian. Yet she was not wholly uncouth. She
had been courteous to the Crusaders traversing Europe to crush their
common enemy--the Turk; and now the Turk had captured her! Of course it
was a pity! It was a busy time in Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries; the nations had enough to do to keep their own houses in
order,--and when they had leisure they must keep in touch with new life,
with the renaissance of Art and Learning. They were enchanted with the
discovery that they were not mere parvenus like distant Serbia, but
descendants of that grand old house that had once conquered the world.
The beauty of Paganism--ah, that was something worth contemplating! But
Serbia--well, the Crusades were over, and the Turk was no longer
threatening Western Europe; besides, Serbia had not even belonged to
their Church--so what matter if the Turk crushed her?

But Serbia was not crushed. Had the nations listened, they could have
heard her singing. There was little else she could do, except wait and
hope--wait like her Marko for the signal to rise.

Through five centuries of subjection to the Turks, the guslars, singing
the heroic pesmas, were hardly second in influence to the priests in
fortifying the spirits of the suffering Serbs. The intense patriotism of
the Serb was kept alive, indeed was often kindled, by the folk songs he
had heard even in his cradle. Through all his troubles he has cherished
the divine fire of Nationality, even as the Vestals conserved the sacred

The Serb, belonging to the most poetical of nations, has the most
melodious of all Slav tongues--identical with that of the Croats and yet
used as the language of literature a comparatively short time. Even
little more than a hundred years ago people were still arguing whether
ancient Slavonic or the Serbian vernacular should be the language of
literature. But for Dossitie Obradovitch this result might have been
reached less quickly. He, "the great sower," a notable educator, applied
the language of the people to literature, publishing an autobiography,
besides poems and treatises, in the common tongue. Before his death, in
1811, the "Write as you speak" party had won, and literature became the
property of the masses. Yet a further improvement in the language was
undertaken by Vuk Karadgitch, a self-taught cripple, whose grammar,
published in 1814, was epochal. He it was who devised the alphabet of
thirty letters, each one representing a complete sound, and he published
a dictionary and a collection of the pesmas which he took down from the
mouths of the guslars who sang them. Then, when various translations
appeared, Europe remembered vaguely that diplomats and travelers
generations before had brought back accounts of Serbian poetry heard
almost as often in those days in foreign countries as in Serbia itself.

Goethe was one of the first to translate them and call attention to
those pesmas. He praised their humor and philosophy, their high heroism
mingled with certain spiritual qualities. Soon Sir John Bowring, a
skilled linguist, made a translation into English verse which is nearer
the original in spirit and letter than any that has been made since.

There have also been many fine prose translations of the Kossovo cycle
and of other pesmas, and all readers agree that in them is, as one
critic says, "a clear and inborn poetry, such as can scarcely be found
in any other modern people."

"Serbian song," wrote Schafferik, "resembles the tone of the violin; old
Slavonian, that of the organ; Polish, that of the guitar. The old
Slavonian in the Psalms sounds like the loud rush of the mountain
stream; the Polish like the sparkling and bubbling of a fountain; and
the Serbian like the quiet murmuring of a streamlet in a valley."

The Serb loves to sing; every young countryman carries his gusle, and is
ready to use it--a one-stringed violin, shaped something like a
mandolin, played on the knee with a bow, like a violoncello. Men and
women--peasants and townsmen--all sing. When two or more sing together,
it is unison and not part-singing. The national Serb music is rich in
melodies. The traveler to-day hears the Serb singing a ballad of the
days of Stephen Dushan of Kossovo, of the Bulgar War, of Karageorges
(the William Tell of the mountains). The gusle wails monotonously, with
an occasional trill on one or two minor notes. Some find its music
plaintive, others call it tiresome, and travelers as long ago as the
beginning of the eighteenth century have written of seeing numbers of
people in a crowd silently weeping as they listened to an old blind man
chanting the national songs.

There are two great epic cycles--one centering around Tsar Lazar, the
other around Marko--and both have to do with the Battle of Kossovo.
Fragments of other cycles show that Dushan, Milos Obilich, and other
heroes have been each a chief figure in them.

No matter how unlearned, from one point of view, a Serb may be, he can
always talk about Stephen Nemanya, or St. Sava, or Marko, and the other
great men of his race. Moreover, he is continually creating new songs,
new folk lore. In the great mills of this country he lightens his work
with his simple melodies. Sometimes the words of his song form a clear
narration of the events that brought him to America, even of happenings
since his arrival. His own sorrows, his own joys, are woven in his epic.
After their recent war with Bulgaria, everywhere at village festivals,
the Serbs began to sing of their victories, and to-day they are
undoubtedly singing of the sorrows of the past two years.

Mr. Miatovich says that when as Cabinet Minister he had been defeated,
forty years ago, the next day he heard the people singing this event in
the streets.

Whatever the subject--whether it deals with ancient times or with the
present; whether it is an epic or one of the so-called women's
songs--the Serbian pesma is anonymous. No single writer or composer
claims it. It is the work of the people, all of whom have had a chance
to modify it as it has passed through the ages.

Among all the heroes of the guslars the favorite has always been Prince
Marko. Although much of the career of the Marko of the pesmas was
fabulous, this prince had a real existence in the latter part of the
fourteenth century--the son of Vukashin, who tried to usurp the throne
of young Urosh after the death of Stephen Dushan, and Queen Helen,
unless one prefers to account for Marko's glittering qualities by making
him the offspring of a dragon and a fairy queen. The real Marko was not
a great man, as the world counts greatness. He ruled a small territory
in Macedonia, and Prilip was his capital. He is said to have been
friendly with the Turks and to have died fighting for the Sultan. This
was after Kossovo, when Serbia was sleeping. Yet he must have had
qualities that made him rise above this in popular estimation, for his
local reputation grew with time and became national. Certainly for five
centuries he has been a living personality, not only in Serbian but in
Croatian, Bulgarian, and Roumanian tradition.

It is worth considering--this theory that in Prince Marko the Serbian
nation projects itself; that his sufferings and successes are the
sufferings and successes of the whole nation; that it beholds its own
virtues and weaknesses in his; its own individuality in his popular
personality; its own doom in his tragic fate.

Athletic, keen-minded, quickly reading the designs of his foes, he, as
an individual, was what Serbia would like to have been as a political
entity. Even as he triumphed over Magyar, Venetian or Turk, so would the
Serb have triumphed. When Serbia was sunk in poverty the guslar brought
before his hearers visions of splendid things they could never hope to
see, but whose beauties satisfied their imagination.

Marko is the knight without fear, without reproach--the lover of
justice, the hater of all oppression. He is kind and dutiful, the
protector of the poor and abused. His pity extends even to animals, who
in turn often helped him. "He feared no one but God." Courteous to all
women, tender and dutiful to his mother, Marko could be savage and cruel
beyond belief toward the Turks.

Human weapons never harmed him, and he wielded a war club weighing one
hundred pounds, composed of sixty pounds of steel, thirty pounds of
silver, and ten pounds of gold. One touch of this mace beheaded a foe,
as one stroke of his saber ripped him open.

Marko's horse, Sharaz, his constant companion and helper, was the
strongest and swiftest horse ever known. He knew just when to kneel down
and save his master from the adversary's lance. He knew how to rear and
strike the enemy's charger with his forefeet. When roused he would
spring up three lance lengths forward. Glittering sparks flashed from
beneath his hoof, blue flame from his nostrils. He has been known to
bite off the ears of the enemy's horse; sometimes he trampled Turkish
soldiers to death. Marko fed him bread and wine from his own dishes.
Sharaz kept guard over Marko while he slept. He always shared the glory
of victory.

Yet, whether or not Marko personifies Serbia, in the life of Marko the
current of Serbian medieval life is reflected as in a mirror.

In these poems Turks are always unreliable and cruel; Venetians are
crafty; the faithless wife is usually lured away by a Turk. In one vivid
tale, Marko's own bride, as he is taking her home from Bulgaria, is
stolen by a Doge of Venice, who, with three hundred attendants, had been
invited by her father to be part of her bridal procession. His designs
do not succeed, and when Marko comprehends this treachery he does not
hesitate. "He cleft the Doge's head in twain," and he struck another
traitor with his saber "so neatly" that he fell to earth in two pieces.

The touch of exaggeration in all the stories is not one merely of
incident but of detail--the kind of exaggeration a child loves. For
example, when Marko was brought from the cell where the Sultan had
imprisoned him for three years, his nails were so long that he could
plow with them. The Serbs of those days, having few splendid things in
their own surroundings, loved to endow Marko with grandeur. On his tent,
for instance, was fixed a golden apple. "In the apple are fixed two
large diamonds which shed a light so far and wide that the neighboring
tents need no candle at night." In another instance a magnificent ring
is described, "so richly studded with precious stones that the whole
room was lighted up."

The ransom demanded by Marko and his friend Milosh from the Magyar
General Voutchka was more than magnificent. He was to give three tovars
of gold for each (a tovar was as much as a horse could carry on his
back), and, among other things, a gilded coach harnessed with twelve
Arabian coursers used by General Voutchka when visiting the Empress at
Vienna. Voutchka's wife not only agrees to this, but adds one thousand
ducats for each of the two. Even in a poem, it delighted the Serbs to
have a Magyar in their power.

Sometimes Marko's adversary is a Moor--for example, the Moor who wishes
to marry the Sultan's daughter and the other Moor who demanded a wedding
tax from the maidens of Kossovo. He cut off the head of this Moor with
one touch of his mace. At another time he is imprisoned by a Sultan
whose daughter releases him. He has promised to marry her. But when they
have started on their elopement, and she lifts her veil, he is horrified
to see how black she is. There seemed nothing for him to do but to run
away. Yet he knows that he has committed a sin in breaking his
promise--and he confesses this sin to his mother:

    "Then I sprang upon the back of Sharaz,
    And I heard the maiden's lips address me--
    'Thou in God my brother--thou--oh, Marko!
    Leave me not! thus wretched do not leave me!'

    Therefore, mother! wretched do I lowly penance:
    Thus, my mother! have I gold o'erflowing,
    Therefore seek I righteous deeds unceasing."

In these pesmas one has glimpses not only of all the neighbors who
warred upon the Serbians, but of Christian malcontents going over to the
Church of Rome or sowing dissensions at home. A careful reader can get
an almost complete picture of the Serbian life after the Conquest,
painted, to be sure, in high colors.

In most of the Serbian heroic pesmas there is little of that
superstitious element that marks the ordinary life of the Serb to-day,
except in the almost constant presence of the Vila. Marko's Vila never
loses an opportunity to help him, to warn him, and even to scold him.

The Serbian Vila, so conspicuous in Serbian song and story, may be
roughly defined as a guardian angel. She is a vaguely beautiful maiden
born of the dew and nurtured in a mysterious mountain and seems to
combine qualities of both classic and northern mythologies. She has
qualities which are even essentially Christian, for sometimes she
expresses her belief in God and St. John, and always she has a deadly
hatred for the Turk. No higher compliment can be paid a lady than to
say, "as fair as the mountain Vila," and a steed "swift as a Vila" means
one of great value. Occasionally Marko reproves his Vila Rayviola and
once when she has shot an arrow through the throat and another through
the head of his friend Milosh, he pursues her among the clouds on his
horse Sharaz and brings her to earth with his club, ungallantly adding:
"Thou hadst better give him healing herbs lest thou shalt not carry
longer thy head upon thy shoulders." But generally Marko's attitude is
more affectionate: "Where art thou now, my sister-in-God, thou Vila?"

There are in existence about thirty-eight poems and twice as many prose
legends detailing the thrilling exploits of Marko. In spite of certain
accounts of his death, it is generally thought that he never died, but
withdrew to a cave near the castle of Prilip and is still asleep there.
At times he awakes and looks to see if a sword has come out of a rock
where he thrust it to the hilt. When it is out of the rock, he will know
that the time has come for him to appear among the Serbians once more to
reestablish the Empire destroyed at Kossovo. Even now, on occasions, he
may appear to help his disheartened country-men. An interesting story
of the War of 1912-13 is told that bears directly on this belief. The
Serbian forces were storming the fort at Prilip when their general
ordered a delay. In spite of this, they pushed on and ran straight to
the castle of the royal prince, Marko. The general trembled, believing
that without the help of his artillery, for which he was waiting, these
men of the infantry would be wholly destroyed. But even while dreading
this, he saw the Serbian national colors flying from the donjon of
Marko's castle. His Serbs had driven the Turks away and were victorious,
as it proved, with little loss of life. When he reproved them for
risking so much: "But we were ordered by Prince Marko, did you not see
him on his Sharaz? Prince Marko commanded us all the time--'Forward!
forward!'" They really believed that they had seen their hero.

Two passages from the heroic pesmas may serve to show Marko under
different aspects. In the first he has been invited by the Grand Vizier
to go hunting, in company with twelve Turks. He has obeyed the Vizier's
command and has loosed his falcon.

    Then the princely Marko loosed his falcon;
    To the clouds of heaven aloft he mounted;
    Then he sprung upon the gold-wing'd swimmer--
    Seized him--rose, and down they fell together.
    When the bird of Amurath sees the struggle,
    He becomes indignant with vexation:
    'Twas of old his custom to play falsely--
    For himself alone to gripe his booty:
    So he pounces down on Marko's falcon,
    To deprive him of his well-earn'd trophy.
    But the bird was valiant as his master;
    Marko's falcon has the mind of Marko:
    And his gold-wing'd prey he will not yield him.
    Sharply turns he round on Amurath's falcon,
    And he tears away his proudest feathers.

    Soon as the Visir observes the contest,
    He is fill'd with sorrow and with anger;
    Rushes on the falcon of Prince Marko,
    Flings him fiercely 'gainst a verdant fir-tree,
    And he breaks the falcon's dexter pinion.
    Marko's noble falcon groans in suffering,
    As the serpent hisses from the cavern.
    Marko flies to help his favourite falcon,
    Binds with tenderness the wounded pinion,
    And with stifled rage the bird addresses:
    "Woe for thee, and woe for me, my falcon!
    I have left my Servians--I have hunted
    With the Turks--and all these wrongs have suffer'd."

But Marko did not content himself with words and the Grand Vizier had
hardly time to warn his companions when Marko cleft his head asunder and
proceeded to cut each of his twelve companions in two. After
deliberation he went to the Sultan and told what he had done. The Sultan
laughed, for he was afraid of the light in Marko's eyes and chose to
dissemble: "If thou hadst not behaved thus I would no longer have called
thee my son. Any Turk may become Grand Vizier, but there is no hero to
equal Marko," and he dismissed Marko with presents.

In the second, "The Death of Marko," he has been warned by the Vila that
his death is near, and he obeys her commands.

    Marko did as counsell'd by the Vila.
    When he came upon the mountain summit,
    To the right and left he look'd around him;
    Then he saw two tall and slender fir-trees;
    Fir-trees towering high above the forest,
    Covered all with verdant leaves and branches.
    Then he rein'd his faithful Sharaz backwards,
    Then dismounted--tied him to the fir-tree;
    Bent him down, and looked into the fountain,
    Saw his face upon the water mirror'd,
    Saw his death-day written on the water.

    Tears rush'd down the visage of the hero:
    "O thou faithless world!--thou lovely flow'ret!
    Thou wert lovely--a short pilgrim's journey--
    Short--though I have seen three centuries over--
    And 'tis time that I should end my journey!"

    Then he drew his sharp and shining sabre,
    Drew it forth--and loosed the sabre-girdle;
    And he hasten'd to his faithful Sharaz:
    With one stroke he cleft his head asunder,
    That he never should by Turk be mounted,
    Never be disgraced in Turkish service,
    Water draw, or drag a Moslem's Jugum.
    Soon as he had cleaved his head asunder,
    Graced a grave he for his faithful Sharaz,
    Nobler grave than that which held his brother.
    Then he broke in four his trusty sabre,
    That it might not be a Moslem's portion,
    That it might not be a Moslem's triumph,
    That it might not be a wreck of Marko,
    Which the curse of Christendom should follow.
    Soon as he in four had broke his sabre,
    Next he broke his trusty lance in seven;
    Threw the fragments to the fir-trees' branches.
    Then he took his club, so terror-striking,
    In his strong right hand, and swiftly flung it,
    Flung it from the mountain of Urvina,
    Far into the azure, gloomy ocean.
    To his club thus spake the hero Marko:
    "When my club returneth from the ocean,
    Shall a hero come to equal Marko."

    When he thus had scatter'd all his weapons,
    From his breast he drew a golden tablet;
    From his pocket drew unwritten paper,
    And the princely Marko thus inscribed it:
    "He who visits the Urvina mountain,
    He who seeks the fountain 'neath the fir-trees,
    And there finds the hero Marko's body,
    Let him know that Marko is departed.
    When he died, he had three well-fill'd purses:

    How well fill'd? Well fill'd with golden ducats.
    One shall be his portion, and my blessing,
    Who shall dig a grave for Marko's body:
    Let the second be the church's portion;
    Let the third be given to blind and maim'd ones,
    That the blind through earth in peace may wander,
    And with hymns laud Marko's deeds of glory."

    And when Marko had inscribed the letter,
    Lo! he stuck it on the fir-tree's branches,
    That it might be seen by passing travellers.
    In the front he threw his golden tablets,
    Doff'd his vest of green, and spread it calmly
    On the grass, beneath a sheltering fir-tree;
    Cross'd him, and lay down upon his garment;
    O'er his eyes he drew his samur-kalpak,
    Laid him down,--yes! laid him down for ever.

    By the fountain lay the clay-cold Marko
    Day and night; a long, long week he lay there.
    Many travellers pass'd, and saw the hero,--
    Saw him lying by the public path-way;
    And while passing said, "The hero slumbers!"
    Then they kept a more than common distance,
    Fearing that they might disturb the hero.


The Nations of Europe that had over-looked Serbia in her days of
strength--she was so young, and so far away, half hidden in her
wilderness of mountains--the Nations of Europe that had turned deaf ears
to her cries when the Turk attacked her, began to make inquiries about
the little sister. She had been asleep so long that some of them really
imagined her dead. But they heard some plaintive music: they recognized
her voice as she sang. They saw that she was not only alive, but awake,
thoroughly wide awake, and that she was asking for help. But they had
troubles enough of their own--revolutions and things of that kind. The
people were altogether too troublesome--so at least the rulers said--and
the people, who ought to have heeded poor Serbia's cries, did not take
time to find out just who she was, and what she desired. All might have
been different had they known that Serbia was one of themselves,
acknowledging no privileged classes and desiring little but a chance to
get on her feet and walk alone. For this she needed space to expand in,
space in which to exhale the spirit of freedom that filled her. The
Turk, her master, was growing weaker. She could almost strike off her
own shackles when suddenly a deliverer came--one of her own people, a
son of her mountains.

When her master was driven away, Serbia began to look about her, a
little humbly at first, for she was trying to understand herself. She
saw that she needed education before she could take her proper place in
the world. So she set herself bravely to learn from books. She noticed
that the stronger Nations were governed by rules, and she gave herself a
Constitution patterned on theirs. Regular work was hard for her, but she
worked diligently and saved a little, though disinclined to hoard. She
had rich treasures hidden away but she had never thought about them,
even as playthings. What does a child care for diamonds? But when it was
made clear to her that wealth is power, she worked more heartily.

The other Nations began to admit that Serbia was no longer Nobody.
Indeed she was so near being Somebody that many thought it would be wise
to win her friendship, and wiser to put her under obligations. So when
she asked for an Hereditary Prince, presto! the thing was accomplished!
though once she had hardly dared ask more than the privilege of naming
her own chief.

In outward aspect Serbia began to be more like other people, although
some of her neighbors remembered too well her hoydenish days and her
years of poverty. Still, they could flatter her sometimes, for she held
the key to certain things that several of them needed--trade routes,
fertile lands, and other things that no ambitious Nation should live
without. Soon some of her neighbors desired to control the sale of
things that modestly enough she had begun to offer to the world. She had
heard that money was power, and she hoped to send her goods to market in
the best way. She noticed that every one who made a success of business
had a place by the sea. In the whole family of Nations she was the only
one who had not a place by the sea, except the littlest one perched up
in the high mountains. But this little one makes a success by trading in
beauty. Yet beauty is an intangible thing to carry to any market and is
best disposed of in the mountains themselves.

When Serbia first expressed her longing for the sea every one frowned.
"Impossible!" There were other things that ought to please her as
well--opportunities to help them in their wars, little snips of
territory here and there if she helped them gain anything. But a
seaport--ridiculous! Why, the Imperial cousin on one side of her would
be insulted! What better could little Serbia wish than to market her
goods to him, or at least send them over routes he had picked out?

Then Serbia said less and thought more. She sang less, but she composed
more songs, and she listened to the people talking, not singing. She
found she could not live by poetry alone. The Young Serbs and the
Panslavs told her their plans and she looked hopefully at her big
fur-clad Cousin. But though with him it wasn't a question of trade, he
had ambitions of his own. He wasn't sure but that Serbia with a seat by
the sea might watch him too closely. Then all the others in the great
family of Nations took sides with one or the other.

Serbia was restless, but she knew she could wait. Her household was now
much more closely united than in the days of her youth, and she had
realized what had once seemed a vain dream--comparative independence. So
she could wait!

Who would look at pictures of massacres extending throughout Serbia! at
plundered villages! at tortured women and fatherless children shrieking
in agony! All the horrors inflicted by the Turks on the Serbs in the
early nineteenth century were the convulsive movements of one near his
end. The Turk himself was growing weaker and weaker, and his weakness
was Serbia's opportunity. But where was the man to lead her out of
bondage? There was now no heir to her throne, the throne of what had
once been a proud kingdom. Assassination and exile had led also to the
passing of the old nobility. Although the family of the ancient kings
was no more, the old racial stock had little changed. The Serbs were
still of the same indomitable race, still breathing the spirit of
freedom, still bound to one another in a true brotherhood. Yet, loyal
though they were, ready to die for Serbia, where could they look for a

In the early part of 1804, Mustapha Pasha, the Turkish Governor of
Belgrade, was much too kind and benign a man to suit the Janissaries and
the Dahias, their leaders. They had dealt slaughter right and left, and
at last had killed Mustapha himself because he had opposed their
cruelty. While they were planning a general massacre of the most eminent
Serbs in the country, all Serbs who could were fleeing to the mountains.
The rumored massacre was the last straw, and a silent cry arose, "Oh,
for the right man!" Then came the whisper that a leader had been
found--Karageorges, Black George, a prosperous raiser of swine, at this
time about forty years old. He had served in the Austrian armies nearly
twenty years before under Joseph I, that Emperor who, of all the
Austrian monarchs, is said to have meant the most and to have done the

Karageorges, Black George, so called either on account of his dark
complexion or his moody disposition, a brave man and a man of character,
had fled to the Sumadia for safety. He had great influence among the
large body of refugees in that beautiful forest region of secure
mountain fastnesses. Karageorges was a blunt, plain man, and honest. He
had a strong sense of justice, though notably hot tempered. At the
meeting, when he was chosen leader, there were about five hundred Serbs,
men all under arms. In responding to their request that he would lead
them against the Turks, he said: "Again, brothers, I cannot accept, for
if I accepted I certainly would do much not to your liking. If one of
you were taken in the smallest treachery, the least faltering, I would
punish him in the most fearful manner." "We want it so, we want it so!"
they cried. When he saw that they were in earnest, Karageorges accepted
the office they conferred on him and the Archpriest of Bonvokik
received and consecrated his oath. Upon this Karageorges took supreme
control of the insurrection.

At this same meeting, in the little village of Oorshats, they organized
a National Assembly. At first the Serbs with tactics worthy an Oriental
managed to keep the Sultan's attention from their insurrection by
protesting that they were in arms not against the Sultan himself but
against the Dahias, who, by disobeying him, were the real rebels.
Deceived, or willing to seem deceived, the Porte let them work out their
own plans. But the battle of Ivankovitz awoke The Sublime Porte. Turks
defeated by Serbs! The world had never heard of such a thing! In vain
Napoleon advised The Porte to take no notice of the Serb insurrection.
It was merely part of a Russian plot! Soon the army of Karageorges was
before Shabaz, where the Turks were intrenched. The Turkish commander
shouted from the heights, ordering Karageorges and his men to give up
their weapons. "Come and get them!" cried Karageorges. In a short time
the Serb leader and his army were in Shabaz, from which the enemy had
fled in great disorder. Austria was now too intent upon her own war with
Napoleon to give the Serbs the help they sought. She merely advised them
to make peace with The Porte. In accordance with her usual policy, she
wished to cramp the little State within small limits, subject to her
interests. Russia, though more sympathetic, had little thought to spare
for Serbia. At this moment she herself was trying to make an alliance
with Turkey against Napoleon, but she did advise Serbia not to accept
the recent offer of The Porte to give her self-government and to
recognize Karageorges.

Pathetic enough was the vacillation of Serbia between Austria and
Russia. Had Austria been more responsive, Karageorges would have
preferred closer relations with her. But while Austria was indifferent
to Serbia's advances the Tsar, showing more interest in Serbia's
affairs, agreed to send his agent to her. He promised help also if the
Serbians would agree to all things initiated by the Russian government.
Austria was disturbed. Serbia was too bold; she must be watched!

Like most really great men Karageorges, even when first acclaimed his
country's deliverer, had enemies. The old question of centralization and
decentralization had come up. Many thought him too autocratic. The
enemies of Serbia encouraged decentralization. Divided, she would be
easier to subdue. Russia disapproved of many things done by Karageorges.
But he had the strong support of the Sumadia in whatever he did. When
the Turks again tried to invade Serbia, Russian and Serbian troops,
fighting side by side, drove them away. But for the party troubles, but
for the loudly expressed ill will of leaders of the opposition,
Karageorges might have been happy.

Though Serbs fought side by side with Russians until 1812, it happened
that no important battles took place on Serbian territory. During these
years Serbia not only had self-government, but she somewhat increased
her boundaries by lands taken from neighboring Pashiliks. Yet she had
her disappointments. Turkey, when Russia's war with Napoleon began,
disregarded the few concessions made to Serbia by the Peace of
Bucharest. At last, the Grand Vizier led his army against Serbia, and
although her men fought bravely, they had to draw back from the
frontier. Then a strange thing happened! With no obvious reason,
Karageorges went back to Belgrade with the army reserves. Without
staying there even for a day, he and part of his officers practically
deserted the army. Crossing the Danube into Austria, they forsook their
country in her day of trial. With them went the Russian consul and the
Metropolitan and many leading Serbians with their families.

The downfall of Karageorges was due to no fault of his. No one ever
doubted his courage, and could he have had his own way, when he saw the
impossibility of pushing back the enemy, he would have gone again to his
stronghold in the Sumadia, there to fight to the last. But there was a
frontier to be defended, and Serbs owning property along the rivers
begged for protection. The army was not large enough to accomplish all
that was demanded of it. The Turks were victorious and with their
victory there began again a series of acts of unspeakable cruelty.

Among the Serbs who remained in Serbia when Karageorges and his friends
crossed over into Austria was Milosh Obrenovitch. He had not only served
with Karageorges in the Austrian armies, but he had worked for him as a
keeper of swine on his Sumadia estate. During the recent revolution he
had helped his great leader by watching the Balkan passes for unfriendly
Bosnians and Albanians.

When Milosh saw that the Turks were, for the time at least, masters, he
offered to help them reconquer the Serbs. In reality, faithful to his
own people, he was only waiting a chance to aid them. The time came and
one memorable Palm Sunday, 1817, he appeared near the church at Tokova
and the people called upon him to lead them against the Turks. He told
them that this would be a difficult undertaking. "We know that, but we
are ready for anything. Dost thou not see that we perish as it is?"
"Here am I," he replied. "There stand you!" "War to the Turks! With us
is God and the right." Then arms were brought out from underground
hiding places. His men were ready and Milosh led them on to victory over
the Turks. When later the Turks came to treat with him, they made him
tribute collector. Many of the Serb chiefs were therefore displeased and
wished to fight openly. They suspected Milosh of double-dealing. Among
these was Karageorges who had landed unexpectedly in Serbia.
Karageorges and Milosh were no longer friends. One explanation of this
was that Milosh suspected Karageorges of poisoning his brother Milan,
who had died suddenly, but no one who really knew Karageorges could
suspect him of using poison to a rid himself of an enemy.

But the world does believe that Milosh betrayed Karageorges to the
Turks. Certainly the latter was murdered by the Turkish Governor's
men--beheaded in the lonely house where he was sleeping. This was a
pathetic end for a great life that had held as many melodramatic as
tragic events. Karageorges was a true patriot. He was neither cruel nor
blood-thirsty, though circumstances often compelled severity. A glance
at his portrait shows his nobility of character. That he was a lover of
law and justice was evident by his promptly establishing a system of
law-courts for Serbia. He reduced taxation, and though he could neither
read nor write--or because of this--he zealously supported education. He
hoped that the time would come when Serbia need no longer send outside
to get the trained men whose help she needed. He established many good
public schools, among them the High School at Belgrade, which later grew
into the University.

Among his tragic moments was that one when he had to shoot his father in
order to prevent his torture by the Turks, and that other when he
refused to save his brother from execution when he found he deserved the
death penalty. More melodramatic than tragic was a critical moment in
the National Assembly when members sat with pistols held at their heads
that they might not act foolishly.

Though not a crowned King, in name, Karageorges had all the power of a
monarch. Yet with so much at his command he retained his taste for the
simplest life. His dress was that of the peasant and, even when Chief
Executive of Serbia, he often cooked his own meals in the kitchen of his

After the death of Karageorges the efforts of Serbia to have Turkey
recognize her dragged on. At last, in 1820, the Sultan by a special
bérat made Serbia a hereditary princedom. This was a long step in the
right direction.

Milosh, feeling secure in his seat, did well by his country, and better
by himself. Years after his death, Serbs in gossiping groups would
recount the divers ways in which Milosh had filled his coffers. His
keenness for the main chance, and his general canniness, all his
subjects admired hugely. But the burly neighbor looking on was less
pleased. Why did a little struggling State trouble herself so about
education, and economical housekeeping? Why should she try to attain the
impossible? Then, to show poor Serbia how impossible her ambitions were,
Russia frowned and agreed with those who thought the hereditary Prince
too autocratic. In eastern Europe there was room for only one Autocrat.
"Moreover," muttered Russia, "why should an Autocrat give a Constitution
to Serbia?" A threat was mingled with the muttering--and Milosh withdrew
the Constitution.

Yet Russia used her influence so strongly with Turkey that Great Britain
began to take an interest in Serbia. The young State was growing too
fast, there was no telling where she might wander. She needed a
guardian--some one to watch her, to note where she was going and tell
her she must not. So Great Britain sent Colonel Hodges to Serbia as her
General Consul, and he whispered--for Russia must not hear him--that in
case Serbia had trouble with Russia, Great Britain and France would
stand by her. Next, the Porte, never before known as a constitution
maker, invited Milosh to send deputies to Constantinople to plan a new
Constitution for Serbia. But Milosh found this new Constitution no
better than the one Russia had made him withdraw. Alas for Milosh! alas
for Serbia! Although the new Constitution was to have the guarantee of
the Great Powers, the Constitution itself would not hold water. A few
months later, the authority of the Prince of Serbia was modified. It was
ordered that he should have a Council of seventy life members. He had
desired Councillors whom he could appoint and dismiss at will, but
Turkey, forgetting a promise to Great Britain, had yielded to Russia. As
the Constitution required Milosh to appoint the most distinguished men
in his realm as Councillors, and as at this time Serbia's men of
influence were chiefly his enemies, he was disturbed. Although the
British Ambassador counseled patience, Milosh plotted to do away with
this Constitution by a military vote. When his plans fell through, he
abdicated, in June, 1839, and retired to his home in Wallachia. Before
abdicating, however, Milosh had to sign the Constitution imposed upon
him at the instigation of Russia, and this limiting of the power of the
hereditary Prince was a good thing for Serbia.

Milan, the eldest son of Milosh, survived but three weeks after his
father's abdication. Michel, the younger son, succeeded him. While he
was wrangling with the Porte and Russia, Vuychitch, a Councillor,
started a rebellion and Michel, not knowing what else to do, left
Serbia. This suited Vuychitch and soon the National Parliament elected
the son of Karageorges Prince of Serbia. Serbia was quiet and prosperous
during his reign, but Alexander himself was of a timid and wavering
temperament, not even bold enough to summons a National Assembly.
Friendly to Turkey and to Austria, rather than to Russia, he pleased no
one of them, and finally, when he did call a National Assembly, the
Council dethroned him. Old Milosh was now asked to return and the change
of rulers was made without excitement or disorder.

At the death of Milosh after three short years, his son, the exiled
Michel, returned to the throne. In his exile he had grown wiser and he
was ready with a definite program for Serbia's good. He saw that if his
country was to be respected, her independence must be guarded. First
among his many reforms was a new Constitution to replace the one Russia
had imposed on Serbia. Michel was a good diplomatist and, in 1862, when
the Turkish Government at Belgrade bombarded Belgrade, he demanded the
evacuation of all the forts, and some of them complied. Next he sent his
wife to London--the beautiful Julia, Countess Hunyadi. She interested
Gladstone, Bright, and other influential Englishmen in little Serbia. He
armed and drilled a national army and had an understanding with Greece
and other Balkan states for a general uprising against the Turks.
Finally he requested the Sultan to remove all Turkish garrisons in
Serbia, and when Great Britain supported the advice the other Great
Powers gave the Sultan, the later, at last, gave up the forts to Michel.
Michel did much for Serbia. He built good highways, laid out parks, and
gave her many fine public buildings, including an opera house. He was
among the first to emphasize Serbia's need of a seaport, and he was
equally far-sighted in many other matters.

Michel had no children and when the Karageorges exiles heard that he
meant to divorce his wife and remarry, their own hopes of power in
Serbia faded. Poor Michel, their victim, was assassinated in the spring
of 1868. No change of dynasty followed Michel's death. Serbia proclaimed
as Prince, Milan, son of a first cousin of Milosh the elder.

Milan's early years had been spent in Paris, and the kind of education
he received there left its bad impress on his whole life. When confirmed
by the Skupchtina he was barely thirteen, and little more than of age
when, five years later, urged by Panslavists, he had a war with Turkey.
Although Serbia was defeated, this war forced the Balkan situation, and
the attention of Europe was turned toward the little Nation that held
the key to the Balkans. Milan had made strategic mistakes, and when the
vast Turkish army was invading Serbia, he called on the Great Powers for
help. While they hesitated, Russia ordered Abdul Hamid to sign an
immediate truce. When Russia within a few weeks of this went to war with
Turkey, Serbia, in spite of her recent losses, was able to help her.
After capturing Vrania, Pirot, and Nish, Serbia had the joy of
celebrating Mass on the Field of Kossovo where five hundred years before
she had lost everything.

Yet at the Peace of Stefano Serbia did not get a fair reward. Her
welfare was but a shuttlecock, beaten back and forth between great
nations. She could secure, at the Berlin Congress, neither complete
independence nor the annexation of certain territories she hoped for.
But at this Congress Austria gained her own ends by giving Serbia two
strong neighbors for watchdogs, Bulgaria and East Roumelia. She also
imposed a barrier between Serbia and her strongly desired goal--the sea.

When Milan saw that he could not depend on Russia, whom he had been
brought up to regard as a friend, he turned to Austria. He began to pay
long visits to Vienna. Thus he angered both his own people and the Tsar,
but Austria was always ready to give him the money his manner of life
required. The building of new railways threw the Nation into debt, and
between the advice given first by Progressives, then by Radicals, Milan
the ne'er-do-well could barely enjoy a life devoted to pleasure. At the
beginning of his reign the Porte had acknowledged him hereditary Prince
of Serbia, but Milan, aiming higher, in 1882 had himself proclaimed
King. Not long after this, in a war with Bulgaria, he had to retreat
ingloriously before Prince Alexander of Battenberg. Indeed, now, as on
other occasions throughout his reign, Milan behaved like the proverbial
spoiled child. Sometimes, fearing his people might use a rod made of
something more stinging than words, he would completely disarm them in a
brilliant speech. When things were at their very worst his statesmen
would extricate him. Yet gradually he lost influence with the Nation in
spite of the new Constitution which gave them most things that
enlightened nations seek. But various happenings were tending to
estrange him from his people, not the least of which was his undignified
quarrel with his wife, with whom, even after their divorce, he continued
to bicker about their son. Milan was rather a blunderer than a villain,
and as he had managed to hold the affection of his people through all
his misdeeds, political or domestic, his abdication was a great
surprise. He went away suddenly to live in Paris the life he preferred,
after making provision that Alexander, his son, should succeed him.

Alexander was but a boy of fourteen when he came to the throne--a
subnormal boy, and wilful, too. As an Autocrat he had no rival among
modern Serbian rulers. No one unmade and made so many Constitutions. No
Prince or King of Serbia surprised his people with so many coups d'état.
But the time had passed when the misdoings of a ruler could make the
people of Serbia very unhappy. Although the King never failed to show
that he despised not only statesmen and scholars but even distinguished
army officers, he could terrorize neither individuals nor the Nation.
The three great parties, Liberal, Radical, and Progressive, were not
afraid to express opinions, and many reforms were projected and carried
out. Serbs as a whole were anxious to be counted among the people of the
world of intelligence and culture. Alexander and Draga mortified them;
but the assassination of the wretched pair lowered the Nation in the
estimation of humanity.

Less than a week had passed since the killing of the King and Queen, in
the spring of 1903, when the Skupchtina elected Peter Karageorgevitch to
the throne. This grandson of Karageorges had been an exile for
forty-five of his fifty-seven years of life. Austria and Russia alone
among the Great Powers were willing now to recognize him. Great Britain
waited three years before sending back her Minister to Serbia. This was
after the regicides had gone from the country.


So Serbia was no longer a child, and she wore a royal crown. She even
had to be considered by the family of Nations when making plans. Some
members of the family, indeed, would like to have made all her plans for
Serbia, without intimating that in so doing they would profit
themselves. Serbia realized that there were things she could not do
without the consent of some, or even all of them; but she did not wonder
why--for Serbia herself had grown up, and it wasn't merely a physical
development. She understood a great many things that in her more
primitive days she could not have comprehended.

Sometimes they fought among themselves, with an occasional black eye for
one or the other, because they found it hard to decide, not what they
could do for Serbia--the youngest and most inexperienced--but what they
could get from her without her discovering their motives, without the
others objecting. They forgot that Serbia was no longer a child; they
did not know that she could spy self-interest in the proffers they made
her. So she was coldly distant with them at times, though she leaned
most toward the big, fur-clad Cousin from the North. He was closer of
kin, a double relation, and he seemed less mercenary than some of them.
But even he could not get her a home facing the sea. She longed so
ardently for this! Why did every one hinder her? The Imperial Cousin on
the West was determined to stop her. Had he not given refuge to her
exiled children in the days of darkness? Had he not let them win
victories for him when she had hardly a friend in the world? Was it
likely--as human nature goes--that he had done this without expecting a
reward? No, she must be reasonable and must let him have the first
choice of all that she had to sell, and at his own price. Should she
reach the sea, others would tempt her. She would find all sorts of
people there anxious to trade with her--new people whom she herself had
never yet had a chance to help. No! he, the Imperial Cousin, knew what
was best for her. The only trade route for her was the one through his
land. She must send her things that way and, after he had looked them
over, if there was anything he did not wish, she might sell it to some
one else. Moreover, of course, she must pay whatever he charged for
transportation and customs as she passed through his country.

But Serbia had grown more sophisticated. Her costume of red and gold
still followed the old lines; indeed, only a close observer could see
any changes in it. But the material was richer than formerly, and she
had thrown aside the little veil--symbol, as it seemed to her, of the
darkening oppression of the Ottoman. Her people were clamoring around
her. They assured her they were not lazy, though perhaps a little slower
than some of their neighbors. Their fields yielded abundantly. They
discovered that by digging they could get much wealth, not only from the
surface but from their rocks far below. They must be able to exchange
it--to send it readily where they wished. Why, why, since they were
willing to pay for it, could they not have a seaport of their own?

But there was another who was determined to hold Serbia back. She did
not know him well; for though he bore the Imperial eagle, he had
appropriated a title that belonged to the old house that for a time had
held the world in its grasp. She would not call him a parvenu--not
wholly a parvenu--yet why should he trouble her? She was not really in
his way. Could it be that he was trying to curry favor with the turbaned
Turk, and hoped to ingratiate himself the more thoroughly by tormenting
her? What had the Turk to give him? Ah! Serbia had now grown so worldly
that she suspected motives in every action, even in those sometimes that
were really guileless.

Serbia, in the same latitude as France and Italy, has a similar climate,
though with greater extremes of heat and cold; and its average of one
hundred rainy days yearly prevents its being called a land of sunshine.
With an area about equal to that of the State of New York, its
population of four millions is much smaller--nearer, indeed, that of
Massachusetts. About fifteen thousand of its nearly thirty-four thousand
square miles of area is territory added since the Balkan wars. The
rivers of Serbia flow toward the north into the Danube. Its boundary
rivers, the Danube, Save, Drina, and Timok are navigable, but of those
within Serbia, only the Morava is navigable, and that for but sixty
miles. Serbia is not only protected by the ranges on her boundaries, but
four-fifths of the surface is covered with mountains, a "chaos of
mountains," a fact both helping and hindering her progress through the
centuries. The general aspect of Serbia is one of beauty, with high and
rugged mountains, mysterious forests, and long narrow river valleys as
picturesque as fertile. Even the Sumadia, called the rallying point of
the Nation, is now well cultivated and enterprising. Many medieval
buildings add to the picturesqueness of the country, forts and churches
perched on rocky heights or half screened in the woods.

Serbian towns resemble one another, with their wide, clean streets, and
red-roofed houses built of stone, with suburbs that show many attractive
dwellings surrounded by shrubbery. Even if the churches are not very
graceful, there are many modern school buildings throughout the country.
The five largest towns have--or, alas! had--from fifteen thousand to
about one hundred thousand inhabitants each, from Passavowitz to
Belgrade; in order, Leskovatz, Kraguievatz, and Nish, but Belgrade is
by far the largest.

Although the original Serb type was probably blonde, the mingling of the
Slav with the other races in the Balkans has brought it about that most
Serbs are now dark-skinned and dark-haired and of only average stature.
The tall blonde peasant of the Sumadia is an exception to this type,
though the Serb generally has a clear gray eye.

The Serb is excitable and volatile. While holding to old things he is
ready to grasp new ideas, but his new ideas he cannot always make
practical. It is probably for this reason that Serbia is behind many
countries in agricultural and industrial development. The Serb is not of
a jealous disposition. He is ready to praise what others have done, and
though tenacious of purpose he is neither dogged nor blunt like his
neighbor the Bulgarian. The modern Serb desires to be well thought of.
He is anxious to be measured by Western standards, yet in his heart he
still cherishes many old customs. If he is less straightforward,
especially in politics, than one might wish, his love of strategy may be
ascribed to the many years when it took something besides physical
courage to save him from the brutality of the Turk. Even his enemies
admit his bravery. In general character, the Serb may be compared to the
Scotch Highlander, "brave in battle, with much canniness in prosecuting
material interests." All visitors to Serbia note the great hospitality
of the Serb, and he shows a marked courtesy in dealing with others. He
is fond of fun and laughter, as any one realizes who sees him at a
festival, dancing the national dance--the kolo--to the sound of the
flute and the bag-pipe, and often, afterwards, listening to the heroic
verse of the guslar as he accompanies them on the gusle.

The Serb's religion is almost the same as patriotism with him. The
Orthodox Church of Serbia to-day has a strong resemblance to the early
Christian Church of the eighth century. "Here we know the English very
well, and your Church is not unlike our own," said a Serb to an English
traveler recently. The independence of the Serbian Church is largely due
to the fact that the Turks did not interfere with the religious faith of
the Serbs in the long dark night of oppression. Though this may have
been merely from their contempt for the conquered and their Church, the
result was to the advantage of the Serb.

Many Serbian traditions are contrary to the spirit of the Christian
Church, but the Church early found that the only way to hold the Serb
was to be patient in the hope that Christianity would eventually modify
his Pagan beliefs. In few nations is there such a mingling of heathen
traditions and piety. The traditions, yes, even the superstitions of the
Serb helped him bear the hardships of the Turkish reign. While the Serb
has held fast to Christianity for more than a thousand years and while
bigotry and atheism are almost unknown in Serbia, the Serb does not
attend Church devotedly. He is, however, very faithful to religious
customs, though many of these originated in heathendom. The Saints are
very real to him and each one has duties, yet some of them are very like
the gods of mythology.

The Serb is a great observer of signs and they deeply affect his daily
life. His manner of getting up, of dressing, the person whom he first
meets in the day, the way the dog barks or the moon shines--all these
things have some influence on his actions. Many of his superstitions
naturally relate to birth, death, and marriage. Most youths and maidens
know just what to do to discover their future husband or wife.

There is poetry in many Serb beliefs about death, notably that death can
be foretold by the person himself or by some of his family. Very
beautiful is the idea that there is a star for every person, that
disappears when that person dies. The Serb has a strong faith in
immortality. He believes in both good and bad spirits, and in witches
and enchanters, as well as in the poetic Vili. He occasionally hunted
and killed witches in the olden times. Vampires, too, have had an
existence in his imagination. To protect himself from all these evil
things, the Serb of old had various superstitious practices, and it is
surprising sometimes to-day to find him cherishing primitive beliefs. As
cattle raising for example is certainly one of his chief occupations,
many superstitions exist and are put into practice for making the cattle
healthy and fat, and for protecting them from wild beasts. The Serb also
knows what charm to use to make his wheatfields grow, to prevent
droughts and other things that might injure his crops or his fruit

Among all their festivals, the Serbs celebrate Christmas the most
elaborately, with feasts and ceremonies, many of which come down from
Pagan days. After supper, on Christmas eve, seeds and crumbs are
scattered outside as a treat for the birds, which, they say, are also
God's creatures. A young oak or baidnak always plays a conspicuous part
in the Christmas festival and the ceremonies attending it are most
picturesque. The Slava is also a most important festival. It is a family
celebration and generally falls on the Feast Day of some great Saint.
After a man's death, the same Slava is kept by his son. In some regions,
people with the same Slava do not marry, for having the same Slava may
mean that they are of the same stock. Of all people the Serbs are most
scrupulous not to marry those who are nearly related to them.

While religion is so strongly a part of his daily life, the Serb is yet
disinclined to engage in abstract religious discussions. This is strange
since he is very fond of long political and historical arguments. An
English traveler came upon two men engaged in a fisticuff fight. When
he inquired the cause, he was told that the two had a disagreement about
something that had happened at the Battle of Kossovo, five hundred years

Although there is less now than in former times of the unique and formal
swearing of brotherhood between Serb and Serb, the feeling of
brotherhood is still very strong. Travelers through the country
sometimes come upon rude stones erected to soldiers who have died "for
the glory and freedom of his brother Serbs."

What has been said about the men applies to a great extent to the women
of Serbia. It must be admitted, however, that in the interior of the
country woman is still reckoned inferior to man--the plaything of youth,
the nurse of old age. But the modern Serbian woman is coming to the
front. She is not strong-minded in the limited sense, not anxious, like
her Russian kinswoman, to mix in politics, yet she is deeply interested
in national affairs and in crises she is always ready to help. If she
does not work as hard as the Montenegrin woman she still performs much
heavy labor. The men of Serbia encourage her higher ambition. Of late
years, many Serb women have gone abroad for training as teachers, or to
engage in technical work. Not infrequently, their expenses have been
paid wholly or in part by some brother or cousin whose own earnings were

To tell what Serb women have done in the many wars of their country
would be a long story. Not content with providing food and clothing for
the soldiers and nursing the wounded, time and again they have carried
guns and have fought by the side of the men of their families. This was
notably the case in the late war with Bulgaria, and in the present war
also many of them have served as soldiers.

The Serb woman is not willing to go out as a domestic. She prefers to
earn money, if she has to, as a teacher, secretary, or nurse, or in a
profession; but in her own home the Serb woman does no end of work. She
is the first to rise, the last to go to bed, and seems never to rest,
for she does all the housework. She spins, weaves, and embroiders;
cooks, washes, milks the cows, makes cheese; she takes care of the
children and the sick; she makes the family pottery and sometimes the
opanke or shoes.

But the condition of her country the past few years has to a great
extent destroyed the home life of the Serb women. Very remarkable was
the "League of Death" the women formed in the war before the present.
Young and old of all social conditions became good shots, and stood side
by side, rifles on their shoulders, like men. They made the men wear the
medal of the League. In that war women did not join the fighting troops,
as in the present. But they often accompanied them on the march,
carrying on notched sticks their heavy bundles with clothes and
domestic utensils, and set up their little households wherever the men
happened to halt.

In the present war, Serbia has a three-fold claim on Americans: Because
of the democracy of its institutions and people; because of the
simplicity of life as it is lived there; and because of its centuries of
struggle for political independence.

Serbia is one of the most democratic countries in the world. It has no
titles, except those of the King and his next of kin. All other Serbians
are "gospodin" and "gospoja," our "Mr." and "Mrs." The farmer is the
real aristocrat and eighty per cent of the Serbians are farmers.

The farmer has many things in his favor. Even the peasant has five acres
of land allotted him by the government; and in his home garden he raises
carrots and turnips and pumpkins and melons. The larger farmers raise
wheat and corn and sugar beets, oats and all the cereals; and cattle in
large numbers. They raise their own food and they are chiefly
vegetarians; and they carry their surplus in ox-teams to the nearest
market. Prices are regulated by the Agricultural Society. Every farmer
gives one or two days a year to the State and pays his taxes in kind.
When crops fail, the Coöperative Agricultural Society lends him money.
It also advances money for implements and buildings, and offers prizes
for cattle and improved stock.

Living a simple life, the average Serbian needs little money. One dollar
in Serbia is equal to five dollars here. If a farmer enters trade, he is
thought to be going down in the world. He may enter banking or life
insurance with no discredit, but the shopkeepers of the country are
largely foreigners. In all Serbia there are hardly two-score
millionaires. Serbian women are good housewives and do much of their own
work. Serbians, in general, are too independent to be servants; and the
latter are largely Austrians. Government employees in Serbia are
natives. Young Serbians also are educated for the church, the army, for
law, and for school teaching. Young men intended for the army generally
study in France, for scientific work in Germany, for the church in
Russia. Many young Serbians, too, have studied in Switzerland and in
Belgium. Thus, Serbian society as a whole is sympathetic with foreign

Of the four million inhabitants of Serbia proper, the larger number
belong to the Orthodox Greek Church, but there are also a good many
Roman Catholics and some Moslems. Though their life is in general very
simple, Serbians are not wholly untouched by modern progress. Many towns
have electric lights and telephones, and electric trams are by no means
unknown. Serbia has rich mineral resources, which the State is
undertaking to develop. Among their manufactures is a remarkable wool
carpet and a certain kind of coarse linen. Though they have a fairly
large output of silk, silk fabrics as well as finer textiles are
imported. A man who has a salary of three thousand dollars is an
exception, and considered very prosperous. Salaries of cabinet ministers
hardly exceed this sum, and court life does not tend to any

Serbians marry young. There is little illegitimacy in the country and
infrequent divorce. They have been called automatically eugenic--on
account of their strict marriage laws forbidding marriage under certain
degrees of relationship. The Serbians are a domestic people, devoted to
their children; hence, the present condition of the country is
especially tragic.

The people of Serbia have the greatest admiration for Americans, and for
the independence and political ideas of America.

The valorous struggle of little Serbia against Austria, its tireless
enemy, astonished the world at the beginning of the present war. It
accomplished hardly less for the cause of the Allies in the East than
the resistance of Belgium in the West. Yet, at first, the sufferings of
the more distant Serbians attracted less attention than the case
demanded. Their agony continues acute and terrible.


Then, at last, Serbia reached the sea. Unexpectedly, it is true, and not
at the point that she had long had in mind. Sad and bereft, was she
deserted by God as well as by man? As she sat there alone she heard a
confused murmur of voices, and she vaguely distinguished the cries of
children for their fathers, and wives for their husbands--and tales
echoed in her ears that were sadder, more horrible, than the most
horrible tales of the Turkish night. Poor Serbia! Her garments were torn
and stained with snow and mud, her face was bruised. Gone, gone her
aspect of happy prosperity. Yet in spite of all she had suffered there
was a light in her eyes--the light of her soul shining through the
sadness. She was not bowed down, though her attitude spoke of sorrow.
She was disturbed not for herself, but for her people. How they had
suffered! She did not try to shut her ears to the murmurs that still
came to her--children crying faintly and oh, so pitifully! and strong
men, yes, she heard the moaning of strong men. Then as she looked in the
direction of the sound, she saw a mother bowed in grief beside a long
snowy road, yet uttering no word as old men, strangers to her, found a
place for the little frozen body under the hard ground. She saw a long,
long line winding up the narrow, shelving road, where a false step at
any moment might send a man to death into the river five hundred feet
below. "The best fighters in the world!" It had made her proud to hear
this, but now how could they fight the savage winter? Worst place of
all, Kossovo, where not so long before she had celebrated Mass
triumphantly, Kossovo, again to be as when it was first named "The Field
of Black Birds," "The Field of Vultures." Now the stricken lay never to
rise again and for a moment Serbia could look no longer.

There were other things along the road--rifles, and cartridge belts,
burdens too heavy to carry far, and she wished that all such things
might lie on the ground forever, never to be used by young or old.

Alas, the little boys! the little boys who had never been away from
their mothers--the hope of Serbia--dying by thousands along that dreary
road; dying, dying on the plain of Kossovo. War, for them, a kind of
holiday! They were soldiers now; they would be real men when they
reached the sea! The little boys, the hope of the future! Of the thirty
thousand who trod that dreary road, only a half lived to reach the sea.
Not one-half of these reached the island where they were to have their
training as soldiers.

The soul of Serbia was in agony as a ghostlike army, pale, pinched, and
starved, crept over the snowy mountains, over the soggy roads--men,
women, and poor dumb animals sinking in to their death. Of those who
came to the edge of the sea some could hold out no longer, but died when
comfort was near.

Despite the circumstances under which he came to the throne, no one
believed that King Peter had planned or had anything to do with the
murder of Alexander and Draga; he, the direct descendant of the honest
Karageorges. Yet it could not be denied that he had profited by this
murder and, consequently, even when the horror of the whole thing had
faded from the minds of other Europeans, he had a certain amount of
prejudice to overcome. Yet in the first ten years of his reign, Serbia
had prospered. Her nearly one thousand miles of railways had brought her
in closer connection with the world. Though the debt incurred for these
railways and other improvements were large she had no trouble in
borrowing money. Her loans were readily taken by outside capitalists.

In the hundred years since she had been freed from Turkish rule, Serbia
had made constant advance in culture, in all that may be called economic
life. Her peasant farmers not only produced all that the Serbians
themselves needed--wheat, barley, maize, fruits of various kinds,
cattle, and pigs--but there was a demand for some of their staples in
other countries, and more and more they required a larger market; more
and more they chafed under the restrictions made by Austria. The whole
country realized, as outsiders had realized, that Austria was slowly
squeezing her; that Austria would be ready to devour her when the right
time came. The King had a difficult task in keeping his people

Politically, however, Serbia in the nineteenth century had made great
advances, and King Peter's domain was a well-organized limited monarchy.
After many vicissitudes Serbia at last has an excellent Constitution,
well meeting all the needs of the Nation. In the King and the
Skupchtina is vested all the legislative power. The Skupchtina, an
assembly elected by proportional representation, has complete control of
the national finances. Serbia has good Courts of Justice and a humane
prison system, and her standing army not only has to be taken into
account by the Great Powers, but has spoken loudly for itself in the
present war. Serbia has also good local government; the scheme for which
includes two public bodies, a municipal council and a communal


Serbia, after many years of backwardness, has been paying great
attention to education. The Minister of Education is a man of great
prestige and influence. Teachers are well trained and well paid. It is
not strange, perhaps, that a people with the Serbians' deep poetic
sensibility should in the past have given little attention to technical
training, but a change has of late been coming, a change of attitude
that after the war will undoubtedly produce important results. From the
earliest days the Serb has had a marked aptitude for handicraft. In
medieval documents, certain Serbian blacksmiths are named as expert
makers of penknives, and to-day Serbian metal work has high rank. Unlike
the Greek, the Serb has little aptitude for trade, and unlike the
Bulgar, he is rather sluggish in working his farm, slow to use improved
methods or new implements. Yet, in spite of the many upheavals at home,
he has been constantly progressing, and since he threw off Turkish rule
has each year become sturdier and more self-reliant. Indeed, he can be
called to-day efficient in both the economic and the military sense.

In the Middle Ages Serbia was one of the largest silver-producing
countries in Europe. Her mountains have as yet given up but little of
their treasure. The Romans knew the mines and brought out of them much
gold, silver, iron, and lead and, during the later Middle Ages, the
merchants of Ragusa obtained no small portion of their wealth from the
same source, but about the middle of the fifteenth century the Turks put
an end to all enterprises of this kind. In the first half of the last
century, mining was revived. Belgian capital had a large part in this,
especially in producing copper and iron.

The copper mines south of Passarowitz were said to be among the richest,
if not the richest, in the world. But as yet Serbia herself hardly
appreciated the value of her own resources. Her less than one thousand
miles of railways had loaded her with a heavy debt. Austria had improved
the Danube--largely, however, for Austria's advantage. But Serbia began
to look about. She was determined to gain, if possible, the economic
independence she longed for. With a resourceful King, with a competent
Ministry headed by the eminent Pachich, this ought not to be difficult,
she thought, ought to be much less difficult than her long, hard
struggle for political independence.

The spirit of the Serb has been shown in the remarkable development of
coöperation in industry, especially in the twentieth century. "Only
Union is Serbia's Salvation"--this was St. Sava's famous saying in the
distant twelfth century. Politically, his words had proved true for
Serbia, and economically they had begun to show their value, especially
in King Peter's reign.

One reason for the success of nineteenth century coöperation in Serbia
may be found in the Zadruga of ancient times. This was a large family
association including male kinship to the second and the third degree.
It often numbered more than a hundred individuals; each member had a
fixed duty and the revenues were divided among all the members. The
Zadruga was ruled by an elder or Stareschina. Sometimes the Stareschina
was a woman. The Stareschina kept the money-box and attended to the
payment of taxes. The women of the Zadruga obeyed the Stareschina's
wife. This kind of community life was so familiar to the Serbs that it
was no unusual thing when some one asked, "Whose is that drove of
sheep?" to hear the reply "Ours," never "Mine."

In Literature, in Science, in Art, the Serb had begun to take his
rightful place in Europe, encouraged by the example of a large-minded,
cultured monarch.

Serbia had long realized that within her boundaries lived hardly half of
the Serb race in Europe. The feeling of brotherhood with all his kin
which is so powerful a characteristic of the individual Serb is even
more marked in the Serbian Nation. A generation ago Serbia was willing
to go to war with Turkey to help her downtrodden kindred in Bosnia and
Herzegovina. "The saving of Old Serbia and the Union of the Serb peoples
is the star by which the Serb steers," said a traveler in the early part
of King Peter's reign, and certainly to the liberty-loving Serb this
was a beautiful vision--that he was sometime to liberate from Turkish
and from Austrian control all his oppressed brothers, the four and a
half millions whom the twentieth century found so restive under Turkish,
Teutonic, or Magyar control.

For Serbia, then, her entrance into The Balkan League in 1912 was a
natural sequence of many of her previous aspirations and efforts. In
presence of a common danger--the Teuton working through the Turk--the
Balkan States put aside their own particular rivalries and formed a
Union. This was effective, and the Turks were defeated. But when Turkey
was defeated, Bulgaria and Serbia were again at sword's points. It was
not a question of jealousies between small kingdoms, but rather a larger
issue--Pan-Slavism as against Pan-Teutonism. Serbs, wherever found, were
outspoken, and Austria saw that she might have to give up not only her
hope of adding Serbia to her dominions but besides this lose her
dominion over the Serbs within the dual monarchy. From that time she
hardly tried to hide her intention of punishing Serbia for her ambition.
Serbia, meanwhile, was growing bolder, stronger. Though her successes in
recent wars had not given her her coveted seaport, she had found ways of
getting a considerable proportion of her products to market without
sending them through Austria. Her imports from Austria fell off largely.
Austria and Germany saw that they would have difficulty in making Serbia
a docile ward, especially as M. Pachich in 1912 had made it plain to the
other Powers that it would be to their advantage to give Serbia a chance
to expand.

It was eleven years almost to a day from the time he came to the throne,
when Peter's security was shattered by an explosion. The Archduke
Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, and his wife, while making a
tour through Bosnia, were killed at Sarajevo by a Serb, not one of the
kingdom of Serbia but a Serb of Greater Serbia. Austria, that had been
for so long watching Serbia as a cat watches a mouse, quickly pounced on
the little kingdom. She made demands such as no civilized country could
comply with, and at last gave an ultimatum on the twenty-seventh of July
which had far-reaching consequences. It was a stone thrown into a quiet
pool and the ripples and eddies reached unthought-of shores, as the
whole world now knows.

There are many strange circumstances connected with this murder. Those
who have followed out the various clues have seen evidence that the Serb
government had no knowledge of the proposed murder, but there is much
that tends to show that the assassination was not a great surprise to
Austria--that Ferdinand, even at home, was in fear of his life. He
always slept in a room without furniture and not long before the
assassination he had taken out a life insurance, the largest life
insurance known. In case of his death, it was necessary to make
provision for his consort who could hope nothing from the house of which
he had long been the heir. When Ferdinand's heir had a son born to him,
the Austrians turned against Ferdinand and wished him out of the way.
His removal, indeed, was a greater object to Austria-Hungary than to
Serbia, for it was generally known that he was liberal in his ideas
regarding the Serbs in the dual monarchy, and had even formed a plan for
giving them Home Rule.

From the beginning Austria-Hungary tried to impress on the world that
the shooting of Archduke Ferdinand was part of a revolt of the southern
Slav provinces of Austria instigated by the Serbian government. On the
twenty-third of July, Austria sent an ultimatum to Serbia demanding that
she use every means in her power to punish the assassins and stop all
further anti-Austrian propaganda. The next day, Russia asked for delay,
and on July twenty-fifth, ten minutes before the time of the ultimatum
expired, Serbia made due apologies and agreed to all the conditions
imposed by Austria except the one that Austria should have official
representatives in the work of investigation. Two days later, the
Austrian foreign office issued a statement with these words: "Serbia's
note is filled with the spirit of dishonesty." Austria was determined on
war. She had not accepted Serbia's apologies.

Then the Great Slav came to the rescue of the smaller. Russia
immediately notified Austria that she would not allow Serbian territory
to be invaded. Now it was Germany's turn. She let it be known
semi-officially that she stood ready to back Austria. No one, she said,
must interfere between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. On this
twenty-seventh of July Sir Edward Gray, Great Britain's Foreign
Secretary, proposed a London conference of the Ambassadors of all the
Great Powers. France and Italy at once accepted but Austria and Germany
declined this invitation. On the twenty-eighth of July came the fateful
call to war. "Austria-Hungary considers itself in a state of war with
Serbia." The reason given for this was that Serbia had not replied
satisfactorily to Austria's note of the twenty-third of July. Events
followed in quick succession. Russia's mobilization was followed by a
request from Germany that she stop this movement of the troops and make
a reply within twenty-four hours. Whereupon England notified Germany
that she could not stand aloof from a general conflict; that the balance
of power could not be destroyed. Russia made no reply to Germany's
ultimatum but instead sent out a manifesto: "Russia is determined not to
allow Serbia to be crushed and will fulfil its duty in regard to that
small kingdom." Next, the German Ambassador at the French foreign office
expressed fear of friction between the Triple Alliance and the Triple
Entente unless the impending conflict between Austria and Serbia should
be strictly localized.

On August first, the German Ambassador handed a declaration of war to
the Russian Foreign Minister. This meant war with France, and hardly had
the French Government issued general mobilization orders when the
invasion of France began. A day later, Germany demanded of Belgium free
passage for her troops, and the French Government proclaimed martial law
in France and Algiers. All Continental Europe was now aflame. The German
Ambassador had made a strong bid for British neutrality, and Great
Britain's reply was noble. After speaking of its friendship with France
it concluded with the words: "Whether that friendship involves
obligations, let every man look into his own heart and construe that
obligation for himself."

On the fourth of August, after Italy had proclaimed her neutrality,
England's ultimatum was sent to Germany. When no reply came, the
British foreign office announced that a state of war existed between the
two countries and Germany gave the British Ambassador his passport. A
day later, President Wilson offered the good offices of the United
States to bring about a settlement between the warring powers. On the
seventh of August, a day after Austria-Hungary had declared war on
Russia, Germany announced that jealousy of Germany was the real cause of
the war. On the ninth of August, Serbia, in order to get rid of the
German Ambassador, declared war on Germany and, finally, war was
declared between France and Austria, and Austria and Great Britain.
Portugal reported that she was on the side of Great Britain.

Soon Austrian troops were invading Serbia, three to one. On the
twenty-seventh of July, the Serbian army had mobilized. It had barely
recuperated from the recent war with Bulgaria and, while men were in
trim for fighting, the army was ill equipped and to an extent
unprepared for a new war. This in itself shows the folly of the
accusation that the Serbian Government had encouraged the murder of the
Archduke in order to precipitate a war with Austria. An additional bit
of evidence in Serbia's favor, if more were needed, was the fact that
when the Archduke was murdered, many Serbian officials and other men of
importance were at German or Austrian watering-places and had difficulty
in getting back to their homes and their duties.

Little of the war material destroyed in the recent conflict with
Bulgaria had been replaced and even when the Serbs took the field they
had not sufficient ammunition, for much of their ammunition was French
and, owing to conditions in France, the latter country could no longer
supply Serbia with what she needed. Yet by the middle of August the
armies of the Crown Prince in a five days' engagement, the Battle of
Jadar, sent the Austrians across the river, and out of Serbia. In dead
and wounded the invaders had lost about twice as many as the Serbs, as
well as a large amount of ordnance and stores. They returned in
September, but after inflicting much damage on the country were again
defeated and again driven out of Serbia about the middle of December.

Serbia, invaded by an army three times as large as her own, fought
valiantly and drove the Austrians outside her kingdom, not, however,
until much damage had been done. Not only had she many wounded but the
invader destroyed everything, even the property of non-combatants who
had remained passive on their farms. So viciously had the Austrians
treated the non-combatants that all who could fled the country toward
Macedonia. Crops were seized; cattle were killed or taken away; farms
and implements destroyed, and in fact the whole country was laid waste.


Perhaps in no better way can the barbarous methods of the Austrian
invader be understood than from a quotation from an appeal made by the
Serbian Archbishop.

     "The barbarous methods of warfare of the German Allies, the
     object of which is to annihilate other nations and their
     culture, have inflicted on us, as well as on the Belgians,
     bloody and incurable wounds. Whole crowds of our best and
     noblest Serbs, who as non-combatants peacefully received the
     Austrian army, have been killed with a cruelty of which even
     savages would be ashamed. Men and women, old men and
     innocent children have been murdered by terrible tortures,
     by arms, and by fire. Many have been locked up in school
     buildings and other houses and burnt alive. All the churches
     to which the Austrians got access have been desecrated,
     robbed, and destroyed. The schools and the best houses have
     fared in the same way. Belgrade, the beautiful capital of
     Serbia, its churches, its educational and humanitarian
     institutions, have been destroyed. The university, the
     national library, the museum, and scientific collections,
     have been ruined. For those who have escaped, and for the
     orphans of the fallen, speedy help is most necessary."

Said Madame Grouitch an eye witness of these depredations, "Imagine the
farming districts of our Middle States charred and trampled, and
everything killed. This would give you a faint idea of Serbia after the
Austrians first entered it." When they approached Belgrade at the very
beginning of the war, within six hours they were shelling the city and
killing women and children. In other cities, as at Shabats, for example,
they did many things from what seemed a mere spirit of wantonness,
emptying the contents of shops into the streets and carrying away
property that could hardly have been of use to them. But while they
devastated the country they had entered and terrified the
non-combatants, they had few engagements with the Serbian soldiers
worthy the name of battle.

It was during this second invasion that King Peter especially endeared
himself to his men. In one instance where they were growing
disheartened, he entered the trenches and discharging his rifle as a
signal, led them to victory. The Serbs from the beginning of the war
felt confidence in their leaders--the Crown Prince, Putnik, Misich,
Pasich, the king.

The Serbian soldiers were gathering strength. The world knew before this
that they were brave fighters; since that autumn of 1914 they have known
that they are unsurpassed. Facing an enemy that outnumbered them three
to one, they did not flinch, and by the 20th of December the Austrians
were driven out of Serbia--not to return for nearly a year. During that
year, however, the Austrians from the other side of the Danube were
constantly bombarding Belgrade, while the inhabitants for the most part
went about their business as usual. The army, which had early been
ordered out of the city in a vain effort to save Belgrade from
bombardment, was now putting itself in good condition. The return of the
invaders was certain, the time less sure. All that Serbia could do was
to spare no effort to put herself in the best condition to meet the
inevitable attacks of the foe. The hospitals were full of wounded and
Serbian women and nurses from outside were doing their best for the
Serbian soldiers and for the many sick Austrian soldiers, when the
dreadful typhus broke out.

But for famine and disease during their fatal six months Serbia might
still be on her feet. Her tragic condition interested the whole world,
unwilling to see the women relatives of a million fighters suffering,
aye, even dying. The first invasion resulted in taking away from their
home the majority of the peasants who had remained behind to provide
food. The invaders did not even respect the hospitals--they cut off the
water supplies so that the nurses could not even provide for the sick.

During those months of disease the black flag hung over hundreds of
houses in every Serbian town. The whole country was demoralized, for
many officials had lost their lives. The fever was so virulent that it
may be said that no country has ever suffered so severely. The typhus
that broke out in the early part of 1915 came from the bad sanitary
condition of the Austrian prison camps, and Serbia, weakened by war, was
in no condition to resist. Several thousands a day died in the early
months of that year. In six of the most fertile districts, more than
half of the children died--of hunger, cold, and exposure as well as of
disease--and it was not until the Red Cross physicians and others from
various countries took hold, that the disease abated.

Meanwhile, men of Serbia were fighting bravely and hopefully until an
advancing wave of Teutons swept over the country and the populace fled.
It had been wiser, perhaps, if non-combatants had stayed in their homes,
but so fearful were the atrocities reported, the atrocities committed by
the German armies in Belgium and elsewhere, that retreat seemed wisest.
Many Serbian soldiers, however, wished to stay and face the invader
until they could fight no longer. But they would have had to fight with
three against their one. The hordes rushing on were beyond
belief--Germans, Austrians, and Bulgarians. The humbler people might
with less danger have stayed behind, but the Government, naturally,
could not remain in its capital and there were many others upon whom a
price was set. When once the retreat began it rolled up by tens of
thousands, and this human flood could not be stopped. It was a
spectacular flight. All the private vehicles that the Government could
get together; all the motor trucks which could be collected; all in one
great procession, peasants carrying their household goods in bundles
over their shoulders--chiefly old men and women, for the young men were
in the army; young women carrying babies in their arms with little
children clinging to their skirts were following close behind. Those in
motor vehicles did not have a painless journey. Often their cars broke
down; they were thrown into the mud from which they were with
difficulty rescued. Sometimes a car and its occupants fell from the
precipice into the foaming river below. They went over mountains as high
as our Alleghanies and as wild as our Rockies. Sometimes they passed
feudal castles on steep rocks; sometimes they went through dangerous
passes and slept in the open, fearing attacks from the murderous
Albanians, who were certainly to be dreaded. For not a few of the poor
pilgrims met death at the hands of these cut-throats. For days and days,
they moved on in the drenching rain, cold and starving! And it was not
only the animals that succumbed to the horror of the march; old men and
women, children, and soldiers who once had been strong at last had to
give up and lie down in death. Constantly they were in dread of the
approaching enemy, whose guns after a while they could hear rumbling in
the distance. But they kept moving on toward the sea, where they
expected ships to take them to a safer country.

The wraith of an army reached the sea and the wraith of an army of
non-combatants,--all of this suffering merely to find a haven from the
advancing Teutonic armies! Perhaps those men were right who had refused
to retreat, who had begged for death by a comrade's gun rather than have
the dishonor of turning backs to the enemy. Though they saw that the
conquest of Serbia was inevitable, it was hard to admit that they were
beaten. At last, after all this hardship, when the poor Serbians reached
the Adriatic, they found no food! Transports loaded with food had been
sunk in the harbors! Weary, starving, they must wait a little longer.

Was there ever before such a flight? The retreat of one civilized Nation
before another; the flight of a whole people, Government, soldiers,
non-combatants, and all because of the rumors of the terrors the pursuer
would inflict if he caught his prey! At the sea they breathed more
freely--they could look across the water and there, far, far beyond, lay
the lands where for centuries the weaker had not been sorely oppressed.


Then the wraith of an army began to hope; and on the island the soldiers
were recuperating, and the little boys--a quarter of those who had
poured into the great procession from all the roads, from every little
village, from every town--the dead, would not swell the triumph of the
victors. Those by the sea rested and grew stronger; and after a while
the world began to hear that Serbia, deprived of her country, a Nation
living in exile, was getting ready to claim her own. She was now one of
the Allies. Her army could give an account of itself. "Poor Serbia!"
they had said. "Plucky Serbia!" they were now saying, and it was even
possible to imagine the world crying, "Lucky Serbia!" The soldiers
recuperating at Corfu; the women working at Corsica making the
wonderful embroideries that had given Serbia fame the world over; the
downtrodden under the feet of the Conqueror, living in shattered
dwellings in Serbian town and village, and praying, praying for the
restoration of their homes, hiding their tears while they worked or
prayed or nursed the sick--all, all working for Serbia.

Then those people who recognize heroism, those people who admire
patience and silent bravery, those people who long had cried, "Plucky
Serbia!" who had long been working for Serbia, now worked the harder,
and other workers joined them, until there were few sections of the
globe where there was not a group working for Serbia. The remnant of the
army, too, worked harder than ever, training, gathering strength, adding
to its numbers,--and at last it was ready.

Then Serbia had a vision of the men who had made her great--Vladimir,
who first showed that union is strength; Michael, her earliest King, and
Stephen Nemanya, who gave her a real kingdom, and Stephen Dushan, whose
dreams of a Serb Empire had given her glory; then Lazar Grebelyanovitch,
her brave and generous defender at Kossovo. Again, after her long sleep,
Karageorges, heroic and just, grandsire of King Peter; and last, Milos
Obrenovitch, whose cleverness had laid the foundation for much of her
present good.

Had she changed too quickly from the old patriarchal system before she
could rightly replace it? All this time, she now realized too well, she
had been only half-educated. It was easy enough for the great Nations to
criticize her, forgetful of the long past years when they were in her
condition, yet none of them could deny her her heroic past.

Then Serbia looked toward the sea. She no longer felt the pain of her
grief and her bruises; she was no longer alone. Friendly hands reached
out to her on every side, and beyond the sea lay noble England, and
strong Canada, and heroic France--Allies fighting for her, for her who
might never be able to reward them; and, nearer to her, she could see
fair Italy, magnificent Russia, and brave Montenegro and Roumania. All,
all had been fighting for her, for in fighting for liberty, they fought
for the oppressed of the whole world. They had been fighting her
battles--the battles of the days of her strength. And there, farther
off, was friendly America. For the moment she saw her ideal State--the
union of Serb countries into one independent National State--a Serbian
or a Croato-Serb monarchy.

Then, a shout, a clamor of voices, "Monastir! Monastir! Serbia! Serbia!"
Not a year since that awful retreat, and now the long exile was nearing
its end. King Peter, and the Crown Prince, the Government, the whole
Nation were hurrying home!

"There is no death without the appointed day," chants the old pesma.
Serbia will live!

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Serbia: A Sketch" ***

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