Defending Serbdom in the linguistic field
by Milena Perovic
The place and time: the Nikšić cinema last weekend. The public: several hundred greybeards. Instead of a film show, teachers of the Serb language from the Nikšić high school sit in contemplation at a table covered with a blue cloth. This is the latest episode of the serial: ‘Defence of the name of the Serb language’. The plot is well known: Montenegrins, Croats, Austro-Hungarians, Muslims, Diocleans, and Italians led by the late Mussolini, are once again attacking Serb holy things.
‘They think they can deter us by switching off the heating. See how the heater is fanning cold air.’ An elderly lady, having discovered a Montenegrin plot, points in a Sherlock Holmes manner to a largish heater while waiting for the meeting to start. The cold in the cinema auditorium, well known to the people of Nikšić who over the past decades came to view cinematic creations, is in fact mildly diminished by the candlelight flickering everywhere. Lit by it, the framed canvases of St Sava, Njegoš and Vuk [Karadzić], serious and lifelike, look on.
‘The Serb language and national urgency have called this meeting’ - a poetically inspired Vaelin Matović, president of the Action Group of Nikšić Teachers, greets those assembled before announcing the speakers. The latter include professors from the universities of Novi Sad, Belgrade, and (as they insist) Prishtina. They have been brought in as reinforcements, since the teachers’ strike, the students’ angry letters to the minister of education Slobodan Backović, and Amfilohije Radović’s linguistic expertise, have all proved fruitless. The curricular subject called ‘Mother Tongue and Literature’ remains appended with a bracket that, in addition to Serb, includes also Montenegrin, Bosniak and Croat.
The new strategy: to formulate, with the help of colleagues from the fraternal Serb lands, a Declaration Defending the Serb Language - which no one is attacking. It is also necessary to decide on additional defence measures against the Serbs’ many enemies. Although at the start of their rebellion on behalf of the Serb language they had insisted that their motives were not political but purely ‘scientific’, the Declaration ultimately adopted refers also to other ‘endangered holy things’: the Serb church, Serb culture and the Serb nation.
Western plot, Montenegrin allies
Dragoljub Petrović, a professor at the university of Novi Sad, worked hard to prove that one is dealing with an 'occupation' of all that is Serb. Having cited the incontrovertible scientific truth that the Montenegrin language ‘does not exist’, since ‘its foundations are phantasmic’, he proceeded to explain to his audience the background of the attempt to ‘change the name of the Serb language to Montenegrin’. After a dramatic pause, his gaze fixed at the ceiling, he exclaimed: ‘The architects of the world’s destiny will not miss the opportunity to reduce the Serbs to an insignificant factor on some future map of the Balkans. Western strategists have found their best allies for the total destruction and enslavement of Montenegro among the Montenegrin political, intellectual and moral dregs. This is only a sign of further fragmentation of the Serb [national] body!.’
Tremendous applause. An elderly man with a cap embroidered with four Cs, in his excitement that the plot has been finally uncovered and scientifically proved, and that he is not the only one who knows about it, jumps up from his chair shouting: ‘Bravo!’. Another ‘Bravo!’ echoes through the room after it becomes clear that Petrović too knows about the ‘green transversal which Austria established long ago as part of its advance towards Salonica, and which the Muslims later reversed in order to invade Europe.’
The next speaker, a linguist from Novi Sad who calls himself Jovan Delić, is also aware what is being planned for ‘the Serb land’ of Montenegro: ‘The meaning of the change of language is to turn Montenegrins into Diocleans ... i.e. to make Montenegrins into Ustashe ... to change them gradually and confessionally into something quite different.’ The linguist is sure that language affects also one’s religion. As he stands proudly on the podium unmasking all those who harbour hostile intentions against the Serbs - and why - the members of the Resolution Drafting Commission look at each other, make notes, and smile nodding their heads.
‘What is to be done? Delić lowers his voice and, lifting an eyebrow, comes up with a plan: ‘It is necessary to form a movement for the salvation of the Serb language and the Serb Orthodox Church in Montenegro, and for preservation of the common state.’ He goes on to specify it in detail: ‘We must form mobile and qualified teams, made up of historians, linguists, and people who know the culture and tradition of their land and people. These teams must urgently visit every hamlet in Montenegro.’
The linguist from Novi Sad found a suitable place in the struggle for Serb holy things also for the Serb bishops: ‘Our bishops must unsheath the sword of their word and reach for the mighty weapon of St Peter of Cetinje - for damnation and curses, for public anathemas.’
Another scientific speaker, Mihailo Šćepanović, operative officer for the struggle outside Montenegro, issued a threat against the Montenegrin government: ‘A special section on the Serb language will be published in Srpska Zora [Serb Dawn], conveying the views of the Belgrade [Montenegrin] emigration. No one will prevent us from defending Serbdom.’ ‘No one’, replied voices from the auditorium in support.
The participants in the meeting contributed not only to a better understanding of world politics, linguistics, and Serb human rights - some of them also made an invaluable contribution to the history of Fascism and Nazism. Đorđe Janković of the University of Belgrade was unable to attend, but he nevertheless sent his speech, according to which: ‘We must overcome the sterile Western culture, since we are superior. One superiority of the Serbs lies in the Cyrillic script and the Serb language.’
‘The nation must be more important to us than the state’, Bogoljub Š ijaković, professor at the University of Nikšić, explained to those present. It is therefore perfectly natural, the professor believes, that the Serb nation should not heed existing state borders: ‘Our geography is tragic, which is why we advocate all Serb sources of support.’ It is unfortunate for future generations that his further explication of this Serb version of the Nazi idea was interrupted by the arrival of the metropolitan. Silence. Some kissing of hands, some indulgent smiles directed at God’s flock, and Metropolitan Amfilohije climbs the podium: ‘Wishing the Serb language to all who live in Montenegro and all Serbs living in other parts, I greet and bless you .’ The Metropolitan once again shows his Christian concern for all Serbs in this world.
After a lunch taken at the parish monastery, speakers followed one another in discovering new enemies. The Declaration was adopted on the following day. It asks the Montenegrin government ‘to repeal the decision to change the name of the school subject "Serb language and literature", and to declare null and void all its consequences’; to restore the Nikšić high school teachers to their posts; and to ‘end the organized and destructive attacks on the canonical Serb Orthodox Church in Montenegro’. Notwithstanding the plethora of proposals submitted to the meeting, the plan for a further campaign was reduced to maintaining contacts among Serb intellectuals, teachers and scholars, renewing Serb scientific and cultural institutions, and establishing a Serb journal. At the end of the meeting all those present signed the Declaration, thus binding themselves to ‘make the maximum effort to ensure that its spirit and message reach every citizen of Montenegro’.
‘Hey, Monitor, Monitor’ - one of the local teacher-fighters recognizes the intruder on the way out of the hall - ‘Listen, you must give an objective report. You must write that the meeting was attended by esteemed linguists and scholars, all of whom agreed that the Montenegrin language does not exist.’
Translated from Monitor (Podgorica), 10 December 2004