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Post Greater Serbia and Vidovdan; from Gary Moore
Created by John Eipper on 08/17/15 5:02 AM

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Greater Serbia and Vidovdan; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA, 08/17/15 5:02 am)

Gary Moore writes:

The great insights into the origins of World War I from Hall Gardner, Anthony D'Agostino, and John Heelan leave me now with John Eipper's challenge to tell what I meant about World War I destroying Serbia to create Greater Serbia, which the world knew for three-quarters of a century as a new place called Yugoslavia (though the Greater Serbia aspect was somewhat on hold between 1945 and 1987; Tito was not only communist but Croatian).

There are fascinating mystic overtones here that are sharply etched and clear-- if you know the background. For example, when Serbian prime minister Nicola Pasic exulted in 1921: "This year's Vidovdan restored our empire to us"--what in the world did he mean? The thicket here is dense--and rich with revelation.

Vidovdan (Видовдан), St. Vitus's Day or June 28, said to date back to the pagan god Sved or Vid, has been an especially revered Serbian date, anchored by mythology and history surrounding the lost battle of June 28, 1389 (calendar changes aside). As Serbia preserved its Christian faith under a half-millennium of Turkish/Islamic rule, the date and the mythology were enshrined as national creed, especially by clerics in the 1600s-1700s, feeding nostalgia for an ancient Serb Camelot (the real-life empire of Czar Dushan had lasted little more than a generation, carved from the crumbling Byzantine flank). In Turkish-ruled Serbia, mystical symbolism became an oblique way to affirm one's beleaguered Christianity (a folk-maze of threes: toasts, kisses on greeting--everything done as a shadow reference to the Trinity)--and with this came startling commemorative power in Vidovdan, bridging the merely coincidental into the fanatically engineered. When Serbia finally wrenched itself free from the Ottomans in 1876, that war was declared on Vidovdan. Then the 1881 accord cementing the result, a secret convention with Austria, was reportedly signed on Vidovdan.

You may see the drift here. A few decades later, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a non-superstitious sort, decided that there was no reason for him not to visit Austrian-ruled Bosnia on Vidovdan, he was playing with mysterious fire. In Serbian eyes, because many citizens of Bosnia were Serbs, Bosnia was part of a Greater Serbia that must be brought back into being, reviving the Camelot of dreams. The visit on Vidovdan--June 28, 1914--was one more crossing of the stars, a sign, a celestial dispensation--certainly not lost on the consumptive post-adolescent plotter Gavrilo Princip, who--dying of tuberculosis anyway--joined the assassination plot in a fire of mystical rightness. Later tried, Princip said of the insulting Vidovdan visit: "This fact fired me with zeal to carry out the attempt. Our folklore tells us how Milos Obelic was accused before Vidovdan, and how he answered."

Milos Obelic was the (interestingly deceptive) hero of 1389--which for Princip seemed only yesterday.

The epic dimension gets thicker. In the 1914-1918 horror that then did predictably destroy Serbia as Austria invaded in indignation, the above-named Premiere Pasic, in exile, presided over the trial and execution of Apis/Dimitrijevic, the Black Hand visionary who had purportedly set in motion pawns like Princip. But then in the Versailles Treaty, as the ashes cooled, Apis's grand vision was posthumously made flesh, because the heads of state rewarded Serbia with a much larger country, which they called Yugoslavia (Land of the South Slavs), but which was ruled from Serbia, as a Serbian project, though it included (very restless) places like Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and the storied site of Camelot itself--Kosovo-- all of these lying within what Apis and co-visionaries had seen as Greater Serbia.

You may still not get the drift. The Versailles Treaty--for whatever reason--was also signed on Vidovdan.

In a colossally traumatized Europe, obsessive symbolism multiplied, with the more famed convergence being the armistice date that effectively ended the war: Eleven-Eleven-Eleven (that is, November 11, 1918, in a signing at 11:00 a.m., immortalizing Hitler's later reconfigured railroad car).

And then Yugoslavia was ratified. The "Vidovdan Constitution" came on June 28, 1921.

A dense thicket, this, flashing with strange signs. And thus another kind of trip might be required. It's available here (https://sites.google.com/site/themagicredflower/home ). Admittedly, it's a long trip, coming from a strange angle, in order to reach into a landscape of desire.

JE comments:  All too often, Serbia is seen as the spark, not the cause, of WWI.  With this captivating post, Gary Moore adds some important depth to our discussion.  I had never before read of the Vidovdan connection.

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