In a 1992 BBC documentary
entitled Serbian Epics, images of forbidding limestone peaks of the Bosnian
Dinaric Alps are juxtaposed with images of Bosnian Serbs listening to their
epics performed on gusle,4 and their guns firing into besieged Sarajevo.
In his 1992 New York Times article, John Kifner draws our attention to
“the rocky spine of the Dinaric Alps, for it is these mountains that have
nurtured and shaped the most extreme, combative elements of each community:
the western Herzegovinian Croats, the Sandzak Muslims, and, above all,
the secessionist Serbs. Like mountaineer communities around the world,
Kifner goes on, “these were wild, warlike, frequently lawless societies
whose feuds and folklore, have been passed on to the present day like the
potent home-brewed plum brandy that the mountain men begin knocking back
in the morning” (Kifner 1994).
Journalists work with striking
images and sound-bites: mountains-folklore-brandy-guns. The argument
works by juxtraposition and association – the link between mountains and
violence is left unexplained. However, that link, I would argue,
is not that of direct geographical causation. The insertion of epic
poetry into the chain of associations between mountains and violence points
to underlying cultural determinism of this argument of images: there
is something in the culture of Dinaric mountaineer that explains the violence
of the war. The image of the Dinaric Highlander that Kifner and other
journalists use, however, are not conjured out of thin air. A middle-aged
bank clerk from Belgrade I met on a train in the summer of 1996 told me
what he would do if he were the president of Serbia. In order to
topple Milošević, he said half-jokingly, “I’ll call upon my Bosnians [meaning
Bosnian Serbs]. Who else would do it? They are crazy – hat dearer than
head. They have only one hat,” he explained, “and no money to buy
another, as for the head, they don’t care much if they lose it – this is
the violent Dinaric mentality,” he concluded.
MOUNTAINS, HARDNESS AND
The Dinaric mountaineer is
a category long used by the Yugoslavs themselves as a tool of self-understanding
or self-criticism, and, particularly in times of conflict, as a rhetorical
weapon in inter-ethnic conflicts. A recent example of its propagandistic
uses is a book written by Croatian-American sociologist Stjepan Meštrović,
Habits of the Balkan Heart: Social Character and the Fall of Communism
(Meštrović 1993).5 However, since the book is actually little more
than revamping of a study by another Croatian-American sociologist, Dinko
Tomašić, it is more profitable to turn to the ‘original’ which, in addition
to providing a history of the adversarial use of this idiom, will also
lead us to its intellectual genealogy. Dinko Tomašić was a Croatian
sociologist who emigrated to the United States and taught sociology at
Indiana University. His Personality and Culture in Eastern European
Politics was published in 1948. Despite his efforts to generalize
to the whole of Eastern Europe, his argument is best seen as derived from
and pertinent mostly to the region that was once Yugoslavia. His
basic argument is that the bellicose and conspirative character of Eastern
Europe, its “upheavals, convulsions and warfare” are to a large extent
traceable to the clash between what Tomašić calls the zadruga and the Dinaric
According to Tomašić, the
mountaineers of the Dinaric region exhibit an emotionally unstable, violent,
and power-seeking personality. He argues that the Dinaric social
and family structure is “sufficient to explain the ambivalent drives and
the emotional instability of the Dinaric people” (Tomašić 1948: 32).
“The Dinaric child is born and reared in an atmosphere of rivalry and antagonism,”
says Tomašić. “Deep feelings of insecurity in such a family environment
create a strong need for self-assertion, with the resultant overcompensation
in boastfulness and illusions of grandeur” (Tomašić 1948: 32–33).
It is interesting to note
that he relies quite heavily on the work of Jovan Cvijić whom he obviously
respects as the foremost authority on the Dinaric mentality, but whom he
casts as a geographical determinist6 in contrast to his own ‘Culture and
Personality School’ emphasis on the family upbringing. The Dinarics
show a “ceaseless concern with their own importance and reputation,” says
Tomašić quoting Cvijić. They “can hate with a consuming passion and
a violence that reaches a white heat.” In the Dinaric regions, again
quoting Cvijić, one can find “excessively fierce, wild and narrow-minded
men who are goaded beyond endurance by the smallest insult” (Tomašić 1948:
35). In a word, Tomašić concludes, the Dinarics are characterized
a malevolent, deceitful
and disorderly view of the universe, and an emotionally unbalanced, violent,
rebellious and power-seeking personality, together with tense interpersonal
and cultural relationships, and extreme political instability. This
herdsman-brigand-warrior-police ideal furnished a program for the conquerors
of urban centers and of the surrounding peasantry (Tomašić 1948: 12).
Opposed to the Dinarics
stand the peaceful, stable and tolerant peasants from the regions between
the Drava and Sava rivers who, at least in the past, have been organized
in large communal households called zadruga. “Exposure to happy family
life and a mild, but reasonable family discipline, favored among the Zadruga
peasants,” says Tomašić, results in
an optimistic, peaceful,
just and well-ordered conception of the world, an emotionally well-balanced,
non-violent and power-indifferent personality, and smooth and harmonious
interpersonal and intellectual relations (Tomašić 1948: 12).
The main conflict in Yugoslavia,
according to Tomašić, “was essentially a struggle of the Zadruga peasantry
against the Dinaric warriors who had imposed themselves upon Croatia as
Serbian military” (Tomašić 1948: 204).
What is important to note
here is that, with minor exceptions, the equivalence is established between
the zadruga society and Croats on the one hand, and Dinaric society and
Serbs on the other. However, the zadruga type of socio-economic organization
was wide-spread among both Croats and Serbs. The same holds for the
patriarchal Dinaric social organization. Both Croats and Serbs have
their own internal Highlanders and Lowlanders, and this master dichotomy
tends to get reproduced on ever smaller scales on both sides7 whereby supposedly
homogeneous Highlander and Lowlander communities further divide themselves
into internal high and lowlanders, and so on even to the level of a single
person. But before I pursue this recursiveness on the Serbian side,
which is the main purpose of this paper, I want to show yet another feature
of this type of dichotomizing discourse – the way that valences of the
opposite poles get reversed.
When he discusses Dinarics,
Tomašić is relying on Jovan Cvijić who, in his view, was “the outstanding
theorist of Serbian imperialism” and thus his direct political enemy.
Whatever the case might be, there is no doubt that by and large, Cvijić’s
valuation of Dinaric character was the opposite of Tomašić’s. Tomašić’s
somewhat biased account of Cvijić’s position will put this valence reversal
in the sharpest possible relief.
Tomašić writes that, according
to Cvijić, there are “four main types of man among the southern Slavs:
the Dinaric, the Central, the East-Balkan, and the Pannonian (see the map).
Each of these is subdivided into a few subtypes. Superior to all
types is Dinaric man, and of his five subtypes the Šumadija variety is
the best” (Tomašić 1941: 54). Šumadija is the heartland of Serbia,
the cradle of the Serbian uprisings against the Turks at the beginning
of the nineteenth century, and the core from which the modern Serbian state
expanded. If the Šumadians were the best type for Cvijić, Tomašić
writes, “the most inferior of all seems to have been the Pannonian type
to which the majority of Croatian and some Serbs of the Pannonian plains
belong” (Tomašić 1941: 55). I would argue, however, that for Cvijić,
the main contrast is between the pride and heroism of those who retreated
into the Dinaric ‘mountain fortress’ before the Turkish invaders, on the
one hand, and the rayah8 mentality and moral mimicry of the groups
who remained in close proximity of Turks in valleys and alongside main
communications – that is to say the Central and the East-Balkan Types,
on the other. The qualities of Dinaric man as defined by Cvijić,
continues Tomašić, “are live spirit, sharp intelligence, deep feelings,
rich fantasy, impulsiveness provoked by nonmaterial motives, national pride,
and the ideas of honor, justice and freedom. Dinaric man is a born
statesman, and his main urge is to create a powerful state …” (Tomašić
If for Tomašić, Highlanders
are negative and Lowlanders positive, for Cvijić, to put it somewhat schematically,
it is exactly the opposite – the higher the altitude, the nobler the character.
One of the keys to understanding these valuations lies in the phrase “a
born statesman.” State-building capacity was a matter of great importance
at the time Cvijić was doing his major research. As one of six senior
experts at the Paris Peace Conference, Cvijić was closely involved in the
formal creation of Yugoslavia. It is certainly not a matter of chance,
Halpern and Hammel note, “that his monumental work, The Balkan Peninsula,
was published first in French in 1918, and only later in Serbo-Croatian”
(Halpern and Hammel 1969: 20).
Cvijić was obviously concerned
about presenting a little known population to “civilized” Europe in the
most favorable light, and the most important thing was to present it as
inherently capable of state-building.9 To understand this concern
one has to bear in mind the prevalent characterizations of Slavs in the
‘civilized’ Europe at the time as being of “the dovish disposition” – peaceful,
passive, and “non-statebuilding” (nedrzavotvorni), as Dvorniković, a very
important but neglected student of Cvijić, notes in his Characterology
of Yugoslavs (Dvorniković 1939: 141). According to the famous Slavicist
Alexander Brückner, Dvorniković reports, Slavs are:
good-natured and hospitable,
carefree and joyful … without initiative and energy, indolent and superficial
… they retreat before every attack, avoid all authority. … In addition
they are inordinately humble, seek after nothing, and that’s why despite
their courage, large numbers, and physical endurance, they were not made
for conquerors or founders of states” (Dvorniković 1939: 141–142).
can be read as an incredibly detailed refutation of the above view.
“Modern Slavic nationalism – particularly the Yugoslav one!” he writes
– “feels bad about the old Slavic peacefulness and sees in it a sort of
inferiority. Triumphantly the discoveries are shown that even those
pre-Slavs were sometimes brutal warriors and that they did what other peoples
of their age did” (Dvorniković 1939: 272–273).
Tomašić relates zadruga
culture, and by extension, Croats, to the culture which existed among the
Slav farming folk in the marshy plains of Polesia at the beginning of the
Christian era. For Tomašić, this ancestry is something positive,
especially as contrasted with the Ural-Altaic or even Tartar origins he
ascribes to Dinarics. For Dvorniković, however, that same ancestral
Slav population is tainted by its passivity and inability to build states.
He is at great pains to establish at least some high altitude pedigree10
for that portion of Slavdom who migrated to the Balkans and thus differentiate
them from their passive, amorphous Slavic brothers. For Dvorniković,
even more than for Cvijić, the state-building capacity is related to higher
altitudes which breed the necessary backbone, initiative, and hardness.
This is perhaps why so much of his thick volume is devoted to various plays
on the hard-soft and active-passive continuum. On a larger scale,
the mountain-hardened South Slavs are contrasted to the soft Russians and
Poles with their “lack of highland energy,” “soft languages,” and love
of diminutives (Dvorniković 1939: 283). The same dichotomy is then
refracted recursively among the South Slavs themselves, and could be seen,
for instance, reflected in the dialects of Serbo-Croatian. “Štokavian
is a ‘hardened’ Slavic speech,” Dvorniković writes, “Kajkavian is, like
Russian, a soft language of the lowlanders … Particularly sharp is
the opposition between the masculine što and feminine kaj, … which was
not without influence on the tribal-political relationships between Serbs
and Croats, between the Štokavian Belgrade and mostly Kajkavian Zagreb”
(Dvorniković 1939: 635, 642). Hardness is evident in the montagnard
physiognomy as well. Their faces are “sharp, angular, accented: [This
is] the type that does not bend, does not retreat before the clash, ready
for the thrust and response. No, this is not the old Slav of Prokopios
and Herder … who retreats before every pressure!” (Dvorniković 1939: 197).
For Tomašić, mountains correlate
with violence and the syndromes of amoral familism, factionalism, and power-seeking.
While he realizes that the bearers of that syndrome played an important
role in the state formation, even more important is the instability they
bring to the whole region. Opposed to turmoil caused by the Highlander
element and its congenitally undemocratic personality, zadruga mentality,
Tomašić argues, offers a factor of stability and democracy.
We have thus seen how the
opposite poles of the same high-lowland dichotomy can reverse valence depending
on who is talking to whom and for what purpose. I have also mentioned
how this dichotomy gets reproduced within one of its poles – namely, how
Croats, supposedly on the Lowlander side of the scale, divide themselves
further into internal Lowlanders and Highlanders. The purpose of
this paper, however, is to see how this dichotomy plays out at the supposedly
Highlander end of the scale – among the Serbs themselves.
HIGHLANDERS AND LOWLANDERS
AMONG THE SERBS
It was not very hard for
Tomašić to use Cvijić in emphasizing the negative traits of the Dinarics.11
Alongside with romanticizing and extolling, Cvijić also criticized the
Dinaric ethnopsychological type. Yet, by and large, wittingly or unwittingly,
he was the originator of what historian Slobodan Jovanović called “the
Dinaric psychosis.” “What was an ethnological finding for Cvijić was transformed
into a national ideal in Serbia at the turn of the century,” Jovanović
writes, “and in that transformation, the Dinaric type was significantly
simplified … What was emphasized was his dynamism, his impetuosity
and heroism, and his reckless bravery that asks not what is and what is
not possible” (Jovanović 1991: 83).
Yet there are internal divisions
among the Serbs. Some authors use the idiom of the opposition between mountaineers
and valley folk in a way that the valuations are reversed: the mountaineers
are seen negatively and the valley folk positively – often in terms identical
to those used by Tomašić, Meštrović, or Kifner on a larger scale.
Appeals to this ethnopsychological idiom became very prominent at the time
when the Yugoslav crisis was rapidly evolving into a civil war.
A well known Belgrade psychiatrist
Vladimir Adamović wrote in January of 1991, on the eve of the war in Croatia,
that he was afraid of the conflict between the Serbian and the Croatian
Dinarics in Croatia. Of different faith, they are nevertheless of
the same psychological constitution – fanatics and capable of boundless
hate – and that’s why the conflict between them, Adamović concluded, was
bound to bring so many casualties. This is a footnote to an essay
in which he contrasts the Serbs of Morava region with the classical Dinaric
highlanders. Cvijić considered the population of this heartland of
Serbia to have been predominantly Dinaric, but Adamović argues that the
Morava Serbs are less Dinaric than Cvijić thought. They are less
narcissistic and vengeful, more rational and pragmatic, and more inclined
toward compromise. After the war in 1945, however, the Dinarics swept
into Serbia, Adamović says, especially into cities, and became dominant
in party, state, military and police institutions. This is a type,
he says, inclined to extremism, disproportional aggressiveness, rigidity
and fanaticism with the elements of messianism. Dinarics are good
for a short war, an uprising or a revolution, the Morava Serbs for periods
of peace, negotiation and dialogue.12 On the eve of the war, however,
the predominance of Dinarics in Serbia can spell disaster, Adamović thinks,
so he pleads for “more Morava types wherever the fate of the nation is
being decided” (Adamović 1991: 93).
“On the Morava rivers,”
writes Danko Popović, “they fear that the warmongers could drag Serbia
in the new bloodlettings …” (Popović 1994: 80). An author of the
immensely popular Book of Milutin, an ode to the Serbian Šumadija peasant
that was reprinted in seventeen editions by 1986, Danko Popović is certainly
one of the most influential recent exponents of the thesis that pits impetuosity,
irrational extremism, and nationalistic fanaticism of the highlander Dinarics
against the sobriety, wisdom, pragmatism and peacefulness of Morava peasants.
“Is it normal that Serbia be ruled by the Serbs from outside of Serbia,
as if it were a colony populated by primitive tribes?”, Popović asks.
No, he replies, “it is exactly the opposite – they are the ones who are
forcing the tribal spirit and habits on an area which is legally organized
as a state” (Popović 1994: 93).
Echoes of Tomašić! Here
is Danko Popović, a prominent Serbian nationalist, claiming, as Tomašić
did fifty years before, that it is the peaceful lowlanders who are the
state-builders while their mountaineer Dinaric brethren are warmongers
The highlanders are often
collectively referred to as ‘Serbs’ in opposition to ‘Serbians’ – meaning
the Serbs from Serbia proper. The ‘Serbs’ are also called ‘prečanić,
meaning ‘those across the river’, in this case, the Drina river that forms
the natural boundary between Serbia and Bosnia.13
If the sober, peace-loving
lowlander Serbians are lamenting what they see as domination by their megalomaniac,
impetuous highlander brethren, it is only to be expected that the latter
might have a different view of the situation. In 1991, the influential
Belgrade weekly NIN was running a series of essays titled: “The Dinarics
and the Serbians.” The fifth installment featured Nikola Koljević,
a professor of English literature at the University of Sarajevo and later
one of the top leaders of Republika Srpska (who recently committed suicide).
He accused NIN of abusing its newly won freedom from Communist control
by conducting an “anthropogeographical” survey of “who is who” among the
Serbs in which “the so called Dinarics got the worst deal.” He goes
on to sarcastically enumerate their supposed sins in the eyes of the Belgrade
weekly: they are guilty for refusing “to be cast in chains preferring instead
to be in a centuries long mountain hideaway,” and for “taking over many
respectable and influential positions” through their connections in Belgrade.”
This is not “civilizationally” correct, Koljević notes with heavy irony.
How could it be when, since
the times of Cvijić, it is well known that those are the violent types
who are poisoning the agrarian tender souls with their aggressive visions
of Serbian unity and concern for the brothers in other Serbian regions.
It should be noted that
Koljević puts the “agrarian tender souls” in the same category with “decadent”
Belgrade elite luxuriating in fine distinctions, oversophisticated democratic
principles and neurotic individualism at the time when the great danger
to the nation as a whole necessitates the highlanders’ superior mettle
and sense of national mission.
The Belgrade cosmopolitan
intellectuals, of course, strike back. In an essay titled “Murder
of the City,” for instance, Bogdan Bogdanović, an architect-philosopher,
a former mayor of Belgrade (1982–1986) and a sophisticated urbanite of
impeccable pedigree, posits an ‘eternal Manichaean battle’ between ‘city
lovers’ and ‘city haters’ or ‘city destroyers’ (Bogdanović 1993).
The immediate context is the Serbian shelling of Vukovar, Dubrovnik and
Sarajevo and one can easily discern the dichotomy of mountain vs.
urban folk, or the Dinaric Savage vs. Sarajevo Urban Cosmopolitan underlying
his argument. Bogdanović is perhaps the most outspoken representative
of the opposition intelligentsia in Serbia which condemns the montagnard
mentality as the antithesis to civility, modernity and Europeannes (Veselinov
1992; Vasiljević 1992).
What follows is a response
from the viewpoint of “agrarian tender souls,” coming from Nikola J. Novaković,
a lawyer from Novi Sad, and secretary of the local Rotary Club:
Our peasants lean on the
Fruška gora14 with their feet in the Danube and they see to the ends of
Europe. Those others [highlander newcomers] do not have the breadth
[of view] and do not know how to look. They see nothing but the mountains
up to their noses, only the sky, vertically. … Some hard and
harsh people. They holler and snarl, swallow vowels or twist them.15
They proclaimed force and power for justice, deception and corruption for
morality, malice and envy for customs, Asiatic howling for music, and pistols
and revolvers for national costume. … Comrades,16 here we celebrate
other people’s successes and we pay for our own drink. This is the
essential difference between the comrades and the gentlemen (gospoda).
I am not losing hope that you will understand the importance of good manners
and home upbringing (Novaković 1994).
Not having mountains to
block his view, the Vojvodina lowlander peasant can see to the ends of
Europe, he is thus allied with it, as with civilization and culture.
In Novaković’s view, he is a kind of peasant-cosmopolitan.17 And
for all the bitterness the natives feel for newcomers, according to the
saying: “came the wild, kicked out the tame” (došli divlji, isterali pitome),
Novaković believes that the “wild” will eventually get tamed.
We see how somebody like
the Rotarian Novaković – obviously an urbanite intellectual – extols the
virtues of peasants over the vices of highlander newcomers. In that
he is allied with the influential writer Danko Popović with his idealized
Morava peasants. Cosmopolitans like Bogdanović, however, are contrasting
idealized urbanites and not idealized peasants to the violent Highlanders.
The highlander urbanite Koljević pits his proud Dinarics against both the
“agrarian tender souls” and Belgrade decadent urbanites who somehow coalesce
into a single group.
Depending on who is talking
to whom, when, under what circumstances, and for what purpose, the permutations
and combinations, sometimes seemingly logically inconsistent, of these
ethnopsychological distinctions can assume dizzying complexity. The
tokens of highlander or lowlander mentality could be pinned on different
regions, and different groups of people in order to “exalt or debase identities”
in the “quality space” (Fernandez 1986a). Both could be given a whole
spectrum of variously shaded valuations: lowlanders could be seen as rational,
pragmatic, cultivated on one hand, or degenerate, soft, and submissive
on the other; the highlanders, as brave, proud, of superior mettle, or
obversely, as violent, primitive, and arrogant.
CONCLUSION: FROM VERSAILLES
The man in the train who
was talking about “his reckless Bosnians” in 1996 was invoking the notion
of the Dinaric character formulated by Cvijić at the time of the Paris
Peace Conference. In the nearly eight decades that divide Versailles
from Dayton, Croatian sociologists used these notions to promote their
own agendas, New York Times correspondents appealed to them to explain
the violence of the Yugoslav wars, and Serbs invoked it in their internal
cleavages. Dormant at times of relative stability, the Dinaric Highlander
seems to pop up at the times of crisis and turmoil as a notion that natives
and outsiders alike use to gain understanding, criticize or extol, or further
their political agendas. The question for anthropological theory
is what precisely is the status of those notions.
Originally, with Cvijić,
Dvorniković, as well as Tomašić, the Dinaric and other ethnopsychological
types were meant to describe what particular groups were really like, notwithstanding
their other agendas. The originators of these types worked within
disciplines that were ancestral to modern-day social/cultural anthropology:
Ratzel’s human geography, Völkerpsychologie of Lazarus and Steinthal, characterology
of Ludwig Clages, or national and social character studies. If not
discredited, these disciplines are now consigned to the museum of sciences,
and we are inclined to relegate those notions to the status of floating
signifiers, tokens of identity, and rhetorical devices. Who would
dare say today, that the Dinaric type accurately describes the actual character
of a whole people? Yet Hammel and Halpern write that:
These theories about ‘folk
mentality’, as the Yugoslavs call it, are now a firm part of folk social
science, encapsulated in a series of ethnic stereotypes. Interestingly
enough, they are fairly accurate; whether because they originally summarized
behavior in an adequate way or because people live up to role models, or
both, is hard to say (Halpern and Hammel 1969: 21).
For some, however, this
was more than just an epistemological problem. Writing in the first
months of the war in Croatia, Slobodan Blagojević, the Belgrade dean of
post-modern sophistication, found the return of the “national psyche” existentially
threatening. As somebody fully aware of “the decentered I, of Lacan,
Lyotard … of Groff and Derrida,” he is deeply unsettled by what he
cannot help but see as the essential correctness of Dvorniković’s account
of the “national psyche” fifty years after it was published. “Is
there then some sort of psyche there or not?”, he asks – “Yes there is,
to the point of its threatening to kill us all, to strangle us like a she-wolf
strangles her puppies, like a totem strangles its blind animists” (Blagojević
Ethnic stereotypes discussed
above could at some levels function as “fairly accurate summaries of behavior,”
and at others as images manipulated for purely rhetorical purposes.
They are used by variously situated groups and individuals to “make indications
to one another about who they are and what other kinds of people are in
their habitat,” but rarely without an element of “adornment” or “disparagement”
insofar as they take up “the mission of metaphor in expressive culture”
(Fernandez 1986a: 41).18 They are used locally for self-understanding
and self-criticism as well as for self-display before more powerful international
others. By tracing their intellectual genealogies and historical
vicissitudes, as well as the pragmatics of their uses on various levels
and in various arenas, I am hoping to set a stage for a finer anthropological
understanding of cultural dimensions of such complex socio-historical phenomena
as the breakup of Yugoslavia or the wars of Yugoslav succession.
By finer understanding I mean an endeavor to investigate the role of Dinaric
Alps in recent events that moves beyond saying that mountains and epics
breed violence, or that the national psyche threatens “to strangle us like
a she-wolf strangles her puppies.”
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* Shorter version of this
paper was presented at the 74th Annual Meeting of the Central States Anthropological
Society, Milwaukee, WI, April 3–6, 1997.
1 In every region, Cvijić
writes, there is a particular direction, alongside which the changes in
psychological characteristics are most easily discernible. By following
them “the researcher would better discern the differences between inhabitants,
the more he goes away from the starting point. When he comes to the
end point of the profile, he would be better able to understand and classify
psychological characteristics of the population alongside the whole traversed
space than would be the case should he limit himself to one or two regions
alone” (Cvijić 1987b: 18).
2 Various strategies of
metonymic misrepresentation that use the ‘geographical’ idiom of Highlander/Lowlander
opposition should be seen in the context of European and even world-wide
symbolic geographies and the tension between ‘self-display’ and ‘self-knowledge’
(Herzfeld 1987) that is particularly acute in peripheries which have to
contend with disparaging images that economically, politically, militarily
and representationally much more powerful cores have of them. In
the case of the Balkans, the Highlander/Lowlander idiom is clearly a subset
of representational practices that Maria Todorova (1997) identifies as
‘Balkanism’, and it partakes in the logic of what Milica Bakic-Hayden calls
‘nesting orientalisms’ (Bakic-Hayden and Hayden 1992; Bakic-Hayden
1995), or the present author calls ‘gradients of depreciation’ ( ivković
1990; see also ivković 1997).
3 Cvijić himself indicates
how certain clusters of traits could become disassociated with the original
group to which they had been ascribed and used to label quite different
ones: “The Peasants of Western Serbia refer even to those new settlers
who are not coming from Bulgarian regions as Bulgarians; that’s because
they sense a different soul in them, not because of small differences in
language, and they have anecdotes and stories by which they characterize
this ‘Bulgarian’ soul” (Cvijić 1987a: 282–3).
4 “A bowed, stringed musical
instrument of the Balkans, with a round wooden back, a skin belly, and
one horsehair string (or, rarely, two) secured at the top of the neck by
a rear tuning peg. It is played in a vertical position, with a deeply curved
bow … related to the medieval rebec and the Greek lira and used in the
Balkans to accompany the performance of the guslari, or epic singers” (Britannica
online). Even though it was used by Croats and Bosnian Muslims as
well as Serbs, in the recent period of national segregation and especially
during the war of Yugoslav succession, gusle came to be identified exclusively
with the Serbs.
5 Co-authors are Slaven
Letica – a Zagreb sociologist and one-time adviser to President Tudjman,
and Miroslav Goreta, a Zagreb psychiatrist.
6 ”Cvijić, himself a Dinaric
Serb,” writes Tomašić, “believes that the unbalanced temperament of the
Dinaric man developed because of alternating periods of hardship and idleness,
which were determined by the climate and by the geophysical conditions
of the Dinaric regions” (Tomašić 1948: 32).
7 Even a superficial perusal
of Croatian press in the last few years would suffice to show how important
the opposition between peaceful lowlanders and urbanites, on the one hand,
and violent, power-seeking highlanders (the “Herzegovinian Croats” Kifner
mentions), on the other, is in Croatian politics. This is a case
of what Susan Gal called “recursiveness”, whereby dichotomies get reproduced
on ever smaller scales (Gal 1991).
8 Literally ‘cattle’, or
‘herd’, rayah was the term used by the Ottomans to denote the non-Muslim
subjects of their empire. “Rayah mentality,” according to Cvijić,
is a cluster of character traits acquired by the subject populations due
to centuries of Turkish oppression. It includes the worship of authorities,
pragmatism, egoism, submissiveness, servility, resentment, and moral mimicry
– his gloss for what would later come to be known as “identification with
the aggressor” (see ivković 1995). The worst odium thus actually
falls not to Pannonians but to Bulgarians (the Easternmost group).
Tomašić’s account, however, helps us to see the reversal of valuations
in a sharper relief.
9 Cvijić, like Vladimir
Dvorniković after him, thought of himself as a Yugoslav and believed that
Yugoslav national consciousness will eventually emerge in the crucible
of a new state of South Slavs, yet he extolled the virtues associated mainly
with Serbs. This was resented by Croats who were quick to see Serbian expansionism
behind their Yugoslav unitarian rhetoric. To emphasize the state-building
capacities of the Dinarics was for Croats like Tomašić tantamount to a
hardly concealed claim for Serbian supremacy and the inherent right to
rule over other Slavs united in the new state, some of which, like Croats
and Slovenes, considered themselves as more cultured and civilized than
10 ”Even before migration
to the Balkans, the ancestors of South Slavs (Serbs and Croats) might have
belonged to the Carpathian [that is to say mountainous] branch of Ur-Slavs.
So they might have had some highlander’s accumulated energy prior to coming
to the mountains of the Balkans” (Dvorniković 1939: 284).
11 In 1988, Belgrade literary
critic Petar D ad ić took out those passages from Cvijić’s work which were
critical of Dinarics and assembled them together with selected critical
passages from Ivo Andrić into a highly successful book (Cvijić and Andrić
12 Dvorniković is also talking
of the possibility of tempering the Dinaric character with some of the
opposite traits associated with other groups. “That something rationalized,
positivistic, non-poseur, non-epic and non-rhetorical which many ascribe
to the population of Eastern and South Serbia, could be an infiltration
of that non-dinaric, Turanoid element, an infiltration which sinuously
and doggedly penetrates towards the West and is being felt today, through
the Dinaric racial area, all the way to Drina. Many are of the opinion
that the chivalrous and eloquent Dinaric could do well with some Šop supplement
and correction. But, on the other hand, the Šops are told (Jovan Cvijić!)
that they would do well to adopt some of the Dinaric’s passion and idealism!”
(Dvorniković 1939: 236).
13 ’Prečani’, however, also
refers to the Serbs from across Sava river that used to mark the boundary
between Serbia proper and Austro-Hungarian territories. These ‘prečani’
were the principal bearers of Central European culture and institutions
in the new Serbian state (see Jovanović 1925).
14 The only mountain in
otherwise completely flat Vojvodina region.
15 Note how Novaković reverses
Dvorniković’s valuation of the way Highlanders speak.
16 Insinuating that Highlander
immigrants are Communist. Like Danko Popović, Novaković emphasizes the
fact that the new Communist elite which flooded Serbia after the WWII,
and which disinherited and physically purged the old bourgeoisie, was overwhelmingly
composed of the Highlander Dinarics from outside of Serbia proper.
17 I owe this phrase to
Professor Raymond Fogelson who suggested it as a logical fourth term in
the tripartite classification of types I initially proposed consisting
of: 1) The (Šumadija) solid peasant, 2) the cosmopolitan-urbanite, and
3) the peasant-urbanite halfling. At that time, I couldn’t find an
example of the peasant-cosmopolitan, but I have since realized that in
addition to Novaković, such influential writers as Danko Popović and Dobrica
Cosić are actually attributing a peculiar kind of ‘cosmopolitanism’ to
their idealized peasant characters.
18 Highlanders and Lowlanders
could be seen to form a continuum in the Balkan “quality space” as formulated
by Fernandez. My analyses of value reversals and of Dvorniković’s play
on soft-hard continuum, for instance, are informed by his topographic model
in which inchoate pronouns are moved along a set of culturally specific
dimensions or continua by metaphoric predication (Fernandez 1986a: 3–70).
These types are, however, usually embedded within at least elementary narrative
structures, such as “came the wild, kicked out the tame” scenario mentioned
in connection with Novaković above and have to be analyzed on the level
of “stories Serbs tell themselves (and others) about themselves”
which goes beyond the topographic model.