Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic
- Category : Philologist
- Type : GP
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Split - Small (8,20,31,33)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Sphinx 4
Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic (7 November 1787 – 7 February 1864) was a Serbian philologist and linguist who was the major reformer of the Serbian language. He deserves, perhaps, for his collections of songs, fairy tales, and riddles to be called the father of the study of Serbian folklore. He was also the author of the first Serbian dictionary.
He was well known abroad and familiar to Jacob Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and historian Leopold von Ranke. Vuk was the primary source for Ranke's Serbische Revoluzion ("Serbian Revolution"), written in 1829.
Vuk Karadžic was born to parents Stefan and Jegda (née Zrni?) in the village of Trši?, near Loznica in Serbia, then a part of the Ottoman Empire. His family settled from Drobnjaci, and his mother was born in Ozrini?i, Nikši? (in present-day Montenegro.) His family had a low infant survival rate, thus he was named Vuk ('wolf') so that witches and evil spirits would not hurt him (the name was traditionally given to strengthen the bearer).
Vuk Karadžic was fortunate to be a relative of Jevta Savi? ?otri?, the only literate person in the region at the time, who taught him how to read and write. Karadžic continued his education in Loznica, in the Monastery of Tronoša. As a boy he learned calligraphy there, using a reed instead of a pen and a solution of gunpowder for ink. In lieu of proper writing paper he was lucky if he could get cartridge wrappings. Throughout the whole region, regular schooling was not widespread at that time and his father at first did not allow him to go to Austria. Since most of the time while in the monastery Karadžic was forced to pasture the livestock instead of studying, his father brought him back home. Meanwhile, the First Serbian Uprising for Serbian independence from the Ottomans had broken out in 1804. After unsuccessful attempts to enroll in the gymnasium at Sremski Karlovci, for which 19 year-old Karadžic was too old, Karadžic left for Petrinje where he spent a few months learning Latin and German. Later on, he left for Belgrade in order to meet the highly respected scholar Dositej Obradovi?, and ask him to support his studies. Unfortunately, Obradovi? dismissed him. Disappointed, Karadžic left for Jadar and began working as a scribe for Jakov Nenadovi?. After the founding of the Belgrade Higher School, Karadžic became one of its first students.
Later life and death
Soon afterwards, he grew ill and left for medical treatment in Pest and Novi Sad, but was unable to receive treatment for his leg. It was rumored that Karadžic deliberately refused to undergo amputation, instead deciding to make do with a prosthetic wooden (peg-leg), of which there were several sarcastic references in some of his works. Karadžic returned to Serbia later on, however due to the Ottoman defeat of the rebels in 1813, he left for Vienna and later met Jernej Kopitar, an experienced linguist with a strong interest in secular slavistics. Kopitar's influence helped Karadžic with his struggle in reforming the Serbian language and its orthography. Another important influence was Sava Mrkalj.
In 1814 and 1815, Vuk published two volumes of Serbian Folk Songs , which afterwards increased to four, then to six, and finally to nine tomes. In enlarged editions, these admirable songs drew towards themselves the attention of all literary Europe and America. Goethe characterized some of them as "excellent and worthy of comparison with Solomon's Song of Songs."
In 1824, he sent a copy of his folksong collection to Jacob Grimm, who was enthralled particularly by The Building of Skadar which Vuk recorded from singing of Old Rashko. Grimm translated it into German and the song was noted and admired for many generations to come. Grimm compared them with the noblest flowers of Homeric poetry, and of 'The Building of Skadar' he said: "one of the most touching poems of all nations and all times." The founders of the Romantic School in France, Charles Nodier, Prosper Mérimée, Lamartine, Gerard de Nerval, and Claude Fauriel translated a goodly number of them, and they also attracted the attention of Russian Alexander Pushkin, Finnish national poet Johan Ludwig Runeberg, Czech Samuel Roznay, Pole Kazimierz Brodzinski, English writers Walter Scott, Owen Meredith, and John Bowring, among others.
Karadžic continued collecting song well into the 1830s. He arrived in Montenegro in the fall of 1834. Infirm, he descended to the Bay of Kotor to winter there, and returned in the spring of 1835. It was there that Karadžic met Vuk Vr?evi?, an aspiring littérateur, born in Risan. From then on Vr?evi? became Karadžic's faithful and loyal collaborator who collected folk songs and tales and sent them to his address in Vienna for many years to come. Another equally diligent collaborator of Vuk Karadžic was another namesake from Boka Kotorska the Priest Vuk Popovi?. Both Vr?evi? and Popovi? were steadily and uselfishly involved in the gathering of the ethnographic, folklore and lexical material for Vuk. Later, other collaborators joined Vuk, including Milan ?. Mili?evi?.
The majority of Karadžic's works were banned from publishing in Serbia and Austria during the rule of Prince Miloš Obrenovi?. As observed from a political point of view, Obrenovi? saw the works of Karadžic as a potential hazard due to a number of apparent reasons, one of which was the possibility that the content of some of the works, although purely poetic in nature, was capable of creating a certain sense of patriotism and a desire for freedom and independence, which very likely might have driven the populace to take up arms against the Turks. This, in turn, would prove detrimental to Prince Miloš's politics toward the Ottoman Empire, with whom he had recently forged an uneasy peace. In Montenegro, however, Njegoš's printing press operated without the archaic letter known as the "hard sign"; in other words, it adhered to Vuk Karadžic's orthography. Prince Miloš was to resent Njegoš's abandonment of the unhappy hard sign, over which, at that time, furious intellectual battles were being waged, with ecclesiastical hierarchy involved as well. Karadžic's works, however, did receive high praise and recognition elsewhere, especially in Russia. In addition to this, Karadžic was granted a full pension from the Tsar in 1826.
He died at Vienna, and was survived by his daughter Mina Karadžic, who was a painter and writer, and by his son Dimitrije Karadžic, a military officer. His remains were relocated to Belgrade in 1897 and buried with great honours next to the grave of Dositej Obradovi?, in front of St. Michael's Cathedral (Belgrade).
Karadžic reformed the Serbian literary language and standardised the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet by following strict phonemic principles on the German model and Jan Hus' Czech alphabet. Karadžic's reforms of the Serbian literary language modernised it and distanced it from Serbian and Russian Church Slavonic, instead bringing it closer to common folk speech, specifically, to the dialect of Eastern Herzegovina which he spoke. Karadžic was, together with ?uro Dani?i?, the main Serbian signatory to the Vienna Literary Agreement of 1850 which, encouraged by Austrian authorities, laid the foundation for the Serbian language. Karadžic also translated the New Testament into Serbian, which was published in 1868. The Vukovian effort of language standardization lasted the remainder of the century. Before then the Serbs had achieved a fully independent state (1878), and a flourishing national culture based in Belgrade and Novi Sad. Despite the Vienna agreement, the Serbs had by this time developed a ekavian accent, which was the native speech of their two cultural capitals as well as the great majority of the Serbian population.
In addition to his linguistic reforms, Karadžic also contributed to folk literature, using peasant culture as the foundation. Because of his peasant upbringing, he closely associated with the oral literature of the peasants, compiling it to use in his collection of folk songs, tales, and proverbs. While Karadžic hardly considered peasant life romantic, he regarded it as an integral part of Serbian culture. He collected several volumes of folk prose and poetry, including a book of over 100 lyrical and epic songs learned as a child and written down from memory. He also published the first dictionary of vernacular Serbian. For his work he received little financial aid, at times living in poverty, though in the very last 9 years he did receive a pension from prince Miloš Obrenovi?. In some cases Karadžic hid the fact that he had not only collect folk poetry by recording the oral literature but transcribed it from manuscript songbooks of other collectors from Srem.
Besides his greatest achievement on literary field, Vuk gave his contribution to Serbian anthropology in combination with the ethnography of that time. He left notes on physical aspects of human body alongside with ethnographic notes. He introduced a rich terminology on body parts (from head to toes) into the literary language. It should be mentioned that these terms are still used, both in science and everyday speech. He gave, among other things, his own interpretation of the connection between environment and inhabitants, with parts on nourishment, living conditions, hygiene, diseases and funeral customs. All in all this considerable contribution of Vuk Karadžic is not that famous or studied.