Vuk Karad?i?, around 1850
Vuk Stefanovi? Karad?i?
7 November 1787
|Died||7 February 1864 (aged 76)|
|Resting place||St. Michael's Cathedral, Belgrade, Serbia|
|Alma mater||Belgrade Higher School|
|Known for||Serbian language reform|
Serbian Cyrillic alphabet
|Anna Maria Kraus|
|Children||13, including Mina Karad?i?|
Vuk Stefanovi? Karad?i? (pronounced [?û:k stef?:no?it? kârad?it?], Serbian Cyrillic: ? ?; 7 November 1787 – 7 February 1864) was a philologist and linguist who was the major reformer of the Serbian language. For his collection and preservation of Serbian folktales, Encyclopædia Britannica labelled him "the father of Serbian folk-literature scholarship." He was also the author of the first Serbian dictionary in the new reformed language. In addition, he translated the New Testament into the reformed form of the Serbian spelling and language.
Karad?i? held the view that all South Slavs that speak the Shtokavian dialect were Serbs or of Serbian origin and considered all of them to speak the Serbian language, which is today a matter of dispute among scientists. However, Karad?i? wrote later that he gave up this view because he saw that the Croats of his time did not agree with it, and he switched to the definition of the Serbian nation based on Orthodoxy and the Croatian nation based on Catholicism.
He was well known abroad and familiar to Jacob Grimm,Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and historian Leopold von Ranke. Karad?i? was the primary source for Ranke's Die serbische Revolution ("The Serbian Revolution"), written in 1829.
Vuk Karad?i? was born to a Serbian family of Stefan and Jegda (née Zrni?) in the village of Tr?i?, near Loznica, which was in the Ottoman Empire (now in Serbia). His family settled from Drobnjaci, and his mother was born in Ozrini?i, Nik?i? (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).
Karad?i? was fortunate to be a relative of Jevta Savi? ?otri?, the only literate person in the area at the time, who taught him how to read and write. Karad?i? continued his education in the Trono?a Monastery in Loznica. 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 Karad?i? was forced to pasture the livestock instead of studying, his father brought him back home. Meanwhile, the First Serbian Uprising seeking to overthrow the Ottomans began in 1804. After unsuccessful attempts to enroll in the gymnasium at Sremski Karlovci, for which 19-year-old Karad?i? was too old, he left for Petrinja where he spent a few months learning Latin and German. Later on, he met highly respected scholar Dositej Obradovi? in Belgrade, which was now in the hands of the Revolutionary Serbia, in order to ask Obradovi? to support his studies. Unfortunately, Obradovi? dismissed him. Disappointed, Karad?i? left for Jadar and began working as a scribe for Jakov Nenadovi?. After the founding of the Belgrade Higher School, Karad?i? became one of its first students.
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 Karad?i? deliberately refused to undergo amputation, instead deciding to make do with a prosthetic wooden pegleg, of which there were several sarcastic references in some of his works.[clarification needed] Karad?i? returned to Serbia by 1810, and as unfit for military service, he served as the secretary for commanders ?ur?ija and Hajduk-Veljko. His experiences would later give rise to two books. With the Ottoman defeat of the Serbian 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 Karad?i? with his struggle in reforming the Serbian language and its orthography. Another important influence on his linguistic work was Sava Mrkalj.
In 1814 and 1815, Karad?i? 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 Karad?i? 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.
Karad?i? 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 Karad?i? met Vuk Vr?evi?, an aspiring littérateur, born in Risan. From then on Vr?evi? became Karad?i?'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 Karad?i? was another namesake from Boka Kotorska the Priest Vuk Popovi?. Both Vr?evi? and Popovi? were steadily and unselfishly involved in the gathering of the ethnographic, folklore and lexical material for Karad?i?. Later, other collaborators joined Karad?i?, including Milan ?. Mili?evi?.
The majority of Karad?i?'s works were banned from publishing in Serbia and Austria during the rule of Prince Milo? Obrenovi?. As observed from a political point of view, Obrenovi? saw the works of Karad?i? 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 Milo?'s politics toward the Ottoman Empire, with whom he had recently forged an uneasy peace. In Montenegro, however, Njego?'s printing press operated without the archaic letter known as the "hard sign". Prince Milo? was to resent Njego?'s abandonment of the hard sign, over which, at that time, furious intellectual battles were being waged, with ecclesiastical hierarchy involved as well. Karad?i?'s works, however, did receive high praise and recognition elsewhere, especially in Russian Empire. In addition to this, Karad?i? was granted a full pension from the Emperor of All Russia in 1826.
He died in Vienna, and was survived by his daughter Mina Karad?i?, who was a painter and writer, and by his son Dimitrije Karad?i?, 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).
Karad?i? reformed the Serbian literary language and standardised the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet by following strict phonemic principles on the Johann Christoph Adelung' model and Jan Hus' Czech alphabet. Karad?i?'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. Karad?i? 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. Karad?i? also translated the New Testament into Serbian, which was published in 1847. 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 an Ekavian pronunciation, 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, Karad?i? 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 Karad?i? 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 Milo? Obrenovi?. In some cases Karad?i? hid the fact that he had not only collected folk poetry by recording the oral literature but transcribed it from manuscript songbooks of other collectors from Srem. His work had a chief role in establishing the importance of Kosovo in Serbian national identity and history.
Besides his greatest achievement on literary field, Karad?i? gave his contribution to Serbian anthropology in combination with the ethnography of that time. He left notes on physical aspects of the human body alongside his 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 Karad?i? is not that famous or studied.
Karad?i? was honored across Europe. He was chosen as a member of various European learned societies, including:
He received several honorary doctorates. and was decorated by Russian and Austro-Hungarian monarchs, Prussian king,Order of Prince Danilo I and Russian academy of science. UNESCO has proclaimed 1987 the year of Vuk Karadzi?. Karad?i? was also elected an honorary citizen of the city of Zagreb.
On the 100th anniversary of Karad?i?'s death (in 1964) student work brigades on youth action "Tr?i? 64" raised an amphitheater with a stage that was needed for organizing the Vukov sabor, and students' Vukov sabor. In 1987 Tr?i? received a comprehensive overhaul as a cultural-historical monument. Also, the road from Karad?i?'s home to Trono?a monastery was built.
Karad?i?'s birth house was declared Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1979, and it is protected by Republic of Serbia. Recently, rural tourism has become popular in Tr?i?, with many families converting their houses into buildings designed to accommodate guests. TV series based on his life were broadcast on Radio Television of Serbia. His portrait is often seen in Serbian schools.
A student of primary (age six or seven to fourteen or fifteen) or secondary (age fourteen or fifteen to eighteen or nineteen) school in Serbia, that is awarded best grades for all subjects at the end of a school year, for each year in turn, is awarded at the end of his final year a "Vuk Karad?i? diploma" and is known (in common speech) as "Vukovac" a synonyme for a member of an elite group of highest performing students.
Write as you speak and read as it is written.-- The essence of modern Serbian spelling
Although the above quotation is often attributed to Vuk Stefanovi? Karad?i? in Serbia, it is in fact an orthographic principle devised by the German grammarian and philologist Johann Christoph Adelung. Karad?i? merely used that principle to push through his language reform. The attribution of the quote to Karad?i? is a common misconception in Serbia, Montenegro and the rest of former Yugoslavia. Due to that fact, the entrance exam to the University of Belgrade Faculty of Philology occasionally contains a question on the authorship of the quote (as a sort of trick question).