Theodore Pavlovic - Life, Work, and Legacy: The Complete Story of the Serbian Intellectual

In the depths of Serbian history, Theodore Pavlovic stands as a pillar of intellectual richness and national dedication. His life, intertwined with the strength of character and deep love for his people, tells a story of relentless effort and commitment that guided him through all challenges and obstacles. Born at a time when the Serbian people were seeking their identity, Pavlovic emerged as a prominent member of society, recognized for his exceptional talent and leadership abilities.

Theodor Pavlović and his indelible contribution to Serbian culture

There are few deserving Serbs who are as respected and celebrated during their lifetime as Theodore Pavlovic. But perhaps even fewer are those who are so quickly forgotten after death.

There are immortal creators whose works continuously remind us of their creators, such as books, paintings, sculptures, musical compositions, and more. However, there are also those creators whose works are immortal but do not remind generations of their creators, regardless of the greatness and significance of their works. Their creators fade away, mostly remaining unknown to younger generations, unless certain institutions, societies, or individuals organize reminders in the form of commemorations or any other form of manifestation to highlight their contribution.

Pavlovic belongs to the category of creators whose works do not inherently remind us of the creator. Erecting a gravestone and two busts (one in the park of his birthplace and the other in front of the Serbian Matica in Novi Sad) are undoubtedly beautiful acknowledgments, but they still do not necessarily mean that newer generations know who that monument or busts represent and what his merits are.

Academician Vasilije Krestic, in his introductory speech at the conference held at the Serbian Matica on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the appearance of the "Serbian National List," said: "We know a lot about Theodore Pavlovic, one of the most prominent members of Matica Srpska, but not enough to be satisfied with that..."

Perhaps I won't present anything new that our scientists and researchers aren't aware of, but my desire is to revive memories in the year marking the 190th anniversary of his birth and the 140th anniversary of his death and to provide an opportunity for a wider readership to become acquainted with Theodore Pavlovic's contributions to Matica Srpska, Serbian journalism, literature, and Serbian culture in general.

Pavlovic is considered a revitalizer of Matica Srpska after its prohibition from 1835 to 1837. This alone doesn't speak much about his role in the development of Matica. He revived the work of Matica, but not on the same basis it had before the ban; instead, he set higher goals and disproportionately expanded its role compared to before the ban. By founding Tekelijanum, a library and museum, he created the basis for awarding scholarships to Serbian students, as well as for rich material funds for broader publishing activities and rewarding successful literary works. He laid the foundations for the creation of a new intelligentsia, which would play a special and great role in Serbian culture.

By engaging wealthy Serbs as donors, he essentially transformed Matica Srpska and made it an unsurpassed cultural institution in Vojvodina Serbdom to this day, thus becoming its renaissance figure.

In addition to the Letopis, of which he was the editor from 1832 to 1841, he also published and edited his two newspapers, "Serbian National List" and "Serbian National Newspaper," for ten, or eleven years, until the great uprising, and also published two issues of an almanac for Serbian women called "Dragoljub." Our most prominent scientists consider him the founder of Serbian journalism.

Pavlovic is considered the most deserving Serb in Hungary in the 1830s and 1840s, just as his follower Svetozar Miletic was in the 1860s and 1870s. Despite all his merits, he remained a somewhat unrecognized figure in Serbian culture, and immediately after his death, he was forgotten. It was precisely at that moment that there was an improper discussion at Matica Srpska about erecting a monument to him. Not only then, but also during the celebration of the centenary of Matica, in a well-prepared monument issued on that occasion under the title: "Matica Srpska 1826-1926," his merits are mostly overlooked.

Marko Maletin, historian and former secretary of Matica Srpska (1923-1929), wrote at the beginning of his study, published in the Bulletin of the Historical Society in 1935:
"In 1888, a gravestone was erected for Teodor Pavlovic, - then the public lingered on his name for the last time, bidding farewell to his memory."

I cannot help but mention another proof of this forgetfulness. In the introductory word of Nikola Radojčić for the book "History of the Karlovci Gymnasium" published by Matica Srpska in 1951, on page XIII it states:
"Matica Srpska repays its great debt to the Karlovci Gymnasium with the publication of this book. The founder and first editor of its LETOPIS was Georgije Magarašević, a Karlovci student and, for a time, a professor at the Karlovci Gymnasium."

Without underestimating Magarašević's merits, I notice that on this occasion, Teodor Pavlovic, who was also a student of the Karlovci Gymnasium, and one of the best, and incomparably more deserving for the establishment of Matica Srpska than Magarašević, is forgotten.

Even during his active years, Pavlovic faced opposition from supporters of Vuk's orthography. There is considerable evidence that accusations against Matica and Letopis came from that side, leading to the prohibition of Matica Srpska's work and the publication of Letopis in 1834/35. Pavlovic was fundamentally against the new orthography, but he tacitly accepted it, and folk songs appeared in Letopis, of which he was the editor.

In the conflict between Vuk Karadžić and Konstantin Kaulic, a Novi Sad bookseller and publisher of folk songs in the old orthography and dialect, the court ruled in favor of Kaulic. However, Vuk was not satisfied with that and published an article in Pavlovic's Serbian National List on October 19, 1844, stating that the songs published in Kaulic's collection were taken from the second and fourth books of his poems. By publishing this article, and in the new orthography, Pavlovic, in fact, sided with Vuk. Especially since he did not oppose Dr. Jovan Subotić, the editor of Letopis since 1841, who gave more space to folk songs and ultimately fully accepted Vuk's orthography, for which he wrote in Letopis that it was the best orthography in the world. This surprised Vuk himself, as until then no one had publicly praised his orthography in such a way. If Pavlovic had held the opposite view, he could have restrained Subotić's tendencies, given his authority, and as the secretary of Matica Srpska, which was the publisher of Letopis.

By highlighting certain omissions made towards Teodor Pavlovic, my intention is not to accuse anyone, but to encourage relevant figures in Matica Srpska to organize an appropriate event where they would be reminded of his work and give assessments that would dispel the shadows that have fallen over his name.

Paying tribute and highlighting his merits is not necessary for the deceased, but for us the living, as Dr. Pejičić says in his book "Life of Teodor Pavlovic": to remember him with respect and to encourage young people to look up to him.


Novi Bečej, 1994

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