RUSSIA AND RUSSIANS IN SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO Jul 19, 2012 15:19:28 GMT -5
Post by Bozur on Jul 19, 2012 15:19:28 GMT -5
RUSSIA AND RUSSIANS IN SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO. PART 1
OCT 9, 2009
The historical contacts between Russia and Serbia have a long tradition, going back at least to the baptism of Rus and lasting up to the 20th century when world wars, the dissolution of empires and the ensuing displacement of large numbers of people affected both countries. The history of contacts between the two countries, especially migration, looks like a kind of pendulum today. Before the beginning of the last century, a mass movement of Serbs into the Russian Empire took place. Serbs served in the Russian army, had an enormous impact on Russian culture, and contributed to the establishment of the Russian state. Their role was especially important during the time of Peter the Great. Russia’s presence in the Balkans was mostly indirect in the form of Orthodox spiritual and educational literature published in Russia for subjects of the Ottoman Empire. There were also investments in monasteries and educational centers (especially to the Matica srpska) and, later, military assistance to the Serbian kingdom that was fighting for independence from the Turks. With the exception of Cossacks who fled from Russia to the Austrian-Turkish border in 1785, there was no Russian diaspora in Serbia to speak of prior to the 20th century. The Cossacks, however, never took root on the military border and eventually resettled in the lower reaches of the Danube, later moving to the interior of the Ottoman Empire.
After the October Revolution and Civil War, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia (until 1920 it was the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) provided shelter to at least 200,000 Russian refugees. For the majority of Russian exiles, Yugoslavia became an intermediate stop en route to western Europe, the United States, Canada and Latin America. By the beginning of the Second World War approximately 40,000 Russian refugees were officially registered in Yugoslavia – less than a quarter of the original number. This was certainly a very significant figure for what was predominantly a patriarchal and rural country. The Russian immigrants who settled in Yugoslavia were soldiers, scientists, engineers, artists and members of the clergy. Most of them had the opportunity to continue in their previous profession. Earls working as doormen, and colonels working taxi drivers was simply not seen in Yugoslavia, which was a big difference from what was happening in France, Germany or Czechoslovakia. In order to explain the very special circumstances and the special climate created for Russians in Yugoslavia under King Alexander I, we must look deep into history, as the “White Tsar’s” attitude toward Russia and Russians was a continuation of an old national tradition.
For Russia, the 15th and 16th centuries were a time of national consolidation, the emergence of a centralized state and the birth of the imperial idea. For the Balkan states, particularly Serbia, the period signified the loss of statehood and enslavement by the Ottoman Empire. As Vladimir Moshin, the greatest Byzantine scholar and historian of Russian origin, pointed out, “the era that became for the South Slavs the grave of slavery became for their eastern brothers the birth of a new era of politics. It was at that time that Moscow formulated its political mission: to defend the Christian world against infidels and to protect the Orthodox Church from ungodly Hagarenes.” Thus, the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Moscow sought opportunities to confirm their status as the heirs of Rome and Constantinople. The peoples of the Balkan Peninsula were more than ever in need of assistance, especially those coming from a state that was so close both culturally and spiritually. Russia’s geographical remoteness at the time prevented Russia from entering into direct military conflict with the Ottoman Empire, and in this situation, whether the Balkan peoples received help depended solely on the finances of Moscow's princes.
Envoys from the Serbian monasteries of Studenitsa, Milesheva, Krušedol, Remete and Hilandar (in Greek Athos) arrived in the city of Putivl on the southern border of Moscow to await permission to proceed to Moscow. These envoys were often bishops and archimandrites who were counting not only on cash assistance, but also a personal audience with the Moscow grand prince. Starting with Ivan III, pilgrimages by Serbian clergy and nobility to the Moscow court continued on an even larger scale under Vasily III and Ivan IV. The importance of Serbs’ contact with Rus and the support of Moscow's rulers are particularly well illustrated by the history of Ivan the Terrible’s Serbian roots. One Serbian apocryphal source states that the Lithuanian Prince Vasily Glinsky took the Serb Princess Anna Iakshich as his wife. Iakshich was the mother of Elena Glinskaya and, accordingly, the grandmother of Ivan the Terrible. According to the Serbian chronicle, “the first St. Elena, the tsarina with Serbian roots, gave birth to the devout Greek King Constantine, and now another Elena, the Serb Grand Duchess, gave birth to the Ivan, Tsar of All Russia, hope to the entire Orthodox world, the ruler of the new Israel.” In Russian history this text has remained virtually unknown, but in Serbia, the legend was regarded as an indisputable fact. For the Serbian national consciousness this tradition carried fundamental importance as the embodiment of Serbia’s proximity to Moscow.
The policy of the Russian tsars with respect to the Balkan peoples remained unchanged, regardless of which dynasty was in power. Boris Godunov and Vasily Shuisky showed their brothers in faith living under the Turkish yoke even more generosity than the Ruriks. It was Boris Godunov who was the first to invite Serb refugees to move into Rus, although the relocation was hindered by the Time of Troubles. The first Romanovs also paid great attention to the plight of the oppressed Balkan peoples, although Prince Golitsyn’s Crimean campaign marked the beginning of Russia’s military attempts to solve the “eastern question.”
Contacts between Russia and Serbia reached their peak under Peter the Great. It was under his reign that Serbs and Montenegrins actively entered the state service. Having set a goal of turning Russia into a great naval power, Peter hired advisors from Dubrovnik, Herzegovina and Montenegro – a region famous for its rich maritime traditions. A large number of Serbs from Austrian’s military border came to Russia to serve in the Russian army, and they were given a separate Serbian regiment that participated in the Battle of Poltava and the Prut Campaign. The prominent Russian diplomat Savva Vladislavich-Raguzinsky, a native of Montenegro, signed the Treaty of Kyakhta with China. He also served as Russia’s ambassador in Rome and Constantinople. In 1723, already at the very end of his reign, Peter allowed Major Ivan Albanez, who was of Montenegrin origin, to bring several hundred Serbian soldiers and their families to settle in Sumy.
During the reign of Elizabeth Petrovna, tens of thousands of Serbs, many of whom were previously Austrian nationals, moved into the territory of what is today Lugansk and Kirovograd. There were also refugees from Turkey among them. Two autonomous regions were set up, which were known as New Serbia and Slavjanoserbija. The administrative center of both areas became the city of Bathmat. The settlers lived a paramilitary existence similar to that of the Cossacks. Their goal was to protect southern Russia from raids by Crimean Tatars, as well as to be ready to mobilize in the event hostilities broke out between Russia with Turkey in the region of the Danube. Both regions lost their autonomy and became part of the Novorossiysk province under Catherine II. Relocated Serbs holding officerial ranks were given noble titles and granted estates, and regular Serbian soldiers became state peasants who, as a result of a special decree, could not be transferred to private ownership.
Many Russified descendants of Serb settlers made a significant mark on Russian history. The most famous of these was probably General Mikhail Miloradovich, whose name for most Russians, unfortunately, is synonymous only with the Decembrist uprising and the death of Kakhovsky. Miloradovich certainly deserves remembered as a war general, however.
The history of Serbs in the Russian service is essential to understanding Serbia’s relationship with Russia and the willingness on the part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and especially Serbia to accept Russian emigrants during the 1920s. For many thousands of Serbs, Russia became a second homeland, and New Serbia and Slavjanoserbija were seen by many Serbs as the embryo of a future Serbian state under the auspices of the Russian emperor. The “New Israel” under the authority of the Russian tsar, which had been foretold by the medieval Serb chronicler, had almost become a reality.
It is obvious that Russia’s support of the Orthodox population in the Balkans, the active recruitment of Serbs and Montenegrins to the Russian service, and the creation of special conditions for Serb settlers were due not to altruism but rather were justified by Russia’s geopolitical interests, which have changed little with respect to the Balkans since the time of Ivan the Terrible. But until the middle of the 19th century, when the newly autonomous Serbia began attempting to build its own foreign policy, Russia’s interests virtually coincided with Serbian aspirations. This is particularly relevant to Russia, as exemplified by the story Šćepan Mali, the Monetengrin king who falsely presented himself as the Russian tsar.
In 1766, a man appeared in Montenegro who declared himself the Russian Emperor Peter III, who had miraculously escaped death. Locals met the impostor with delight. His tactic was not based on money and connections, which Peter-Šćepan did not initially have; rather, it was based on Montenegrins’ love for Russia and their trust in everything Russian. The miraculously escaped Peter III was proclaimed king of Montenegro at the national cathedral. For the first time in a century, the patriarch of the Petrovich-Negosh family was to hold religious and secular authority over the Montenegrin tribes. The impostor king remained in power for six years, and his rule was marked by several military victories over Turkey, as well as various social reforms, especially the prohibition of the blood feud. The country’s first secular court was established, a census was taken, and public money was used to repair the roads. The Russian Empire initially condemned the proclamation of the impostor king, but it was eventually forced to resume relations with Montenegro, especially since Šćepan’s anti-Turkish policies were fully consistent with the basic thrust of Russian foreign policy. It remains a mystery how the imposter’s story would have turned out had a Turkish agent not killed him in 1773. Historians have yet to establish his true identity. Chances are that the imposter king was originally from Russia. If this is true, then what we have is a truly unique page in the history of Russian emigration.