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 - editor of the Serbian Almanac and secretary of Matica Srpska

Pavlović came to Pest at the very beginning of the publication of the Almanac (1825) and the founding of Matica Srpska (1826). He stayed in Pest - as Dr. Pejičić says - to seek remedies and heal the wounds of his patriotism and his people. For the beloved but neglected Serbian people, he was ready to dedicate all his physical and spiritual strength. Only thus can it be understood why, as a young lawyer with exceptional prospects and great material benefit, he neglected all that and engaged himself, devoid of means, like a sailor without sails to navigate the sea.

Great and sacred patriotism decided that Pavlović, at the expense of his future, should join journalism, to nurture and enrich the consciousness of his people.

His first step in public life was the publication of his translation of "VILANDOVA SIMPATIJE" (1829) and "O OPHOĐENJU SA LJUDIMA" by Adolf Kniegel (1831), which already placed him among writers. His second step was cooperation and later editing of the Serbian Almanac.

As a young intellectual devoted to books, he soon became a member of Matica Srpska upon arriving in Pest, with a paid contribution provided by its statute, and a collaborator in the Almanac.

Noticing him as a valuable and agile collaborator, and knowing him as a writer through his translations, Matica offered him the editorship of the Almanac in 1832, which he gladly accepted.

He began editing the Almanac from its second issue for 1832, or from issue 27, and edited it until 1841 when he handed over the editorship to Dr. Jovan Subotić. He edited a total of 27 issues of the Almanac.

Taking over the Almanac, Pavlović continued Magarašević's Slovenian program. He accepted editing as a "fate-bound call," seeing it as the fulfillment of his life's goal. Upon taking on this significant task, Pavlović wrote:

"If in doing this I bring the slightest benefit to my people, the fulfillment of all my desires in this world will be achieved."

He was soon elected secretary of Matica Srpska, which he saw as the greatest national treasure and was willing to make the greatest sacrifices for its prosperity in the cultural enlightenment of the Serbian people. With his arrival at Matica, he sought to expand its existing frameworks and goals. He believed that Matica should be the beacon of Serbian culture in literature, music, art, theater, education, and in everything that would contribute to the advancement of the Serbian people. Academician Vasilije Krestić, in the introductory speech at the scientific conference held at Matica on May 22 and 23, 1986, says:

"Pavlović was almost hypnotized by everything related to Serbs and Serbianism."

He was very diligent and systematic in his work and especially took care not to do anything that could harm Matica, the Almanac, and Serbian spiritual life in general, or create difficulties for them. He acted the same way regarding the language and spelling conflict that was raging at the time. He avoided getting involved in that fight. He tried not to antagonize Vuk and his supporters in his work, but also not to disturb relations with their opponents, including both church dignitaries and Tekelija himself. However, despite his tact, he did not manage to remain neutral.

Although he did not accept Vuk's spelling, he was closer to him and increasingly approached him through folk songs, which became more and more represented in the Almanac, of which he was the editor.

Pavlović was fascinated by our national poetry and its heroes, thus even finding himself among the precursors of Vuk's romantic youth. Considering folk songs as educational tools, in the concluding remarks of the article: "On Pride, which breeds bravery in its people's memory," he emphasizes that Serbs can be proud of their ancestors and that folk creations are one of the best means to remind of the deeds of our glorious ancestors, encourage and help future generations in further creation. He assessed our folk songs as follows: "beautiful spirit, significance, liveliness, full of delight, with invaluable deeds, worthy of invaluable hiding places, the most beautiful of all and of the songs recognized by the world as the most important."

But he belonged, in terms of education and understanding, to those who would soon have to make way for a new spelling and language. Even in the renewed Almanac, his dissatisfaction with the new spelling was not overlooked. Besides other objections, he opposed the spelling and linguistic reform because of his conviction that Slaveno-Serbian language and spelling lead to the unity of all Slavs, and especially to the unity of Serbs and Russians.

His grand plans for expanding Matica's activities forced him to hand over the Almanac to the young and already prominent writer Jovan Subotić in 1841. Subotić went even further in nurturing folk songs, and as early as 1846, he acknowledged Vuk Karadžić in the Almanac for revealing them to the world. Later, he recognized Vuk for the pure national language, saying that there is nothing like it in the world, which surprised Vuk himself, as no one had done so publicly before.

Matica could not avoid conflicts over language and spelling, but it can still be noted that, at that time, it found its way.

There were many difficulties in solving material problems. Pavlović tried in every possible way to solve this issue and create conditions for the expansion of its goals. In this endeavor, he turned to Sava Tekelija, a wealthy nobleman from Arad, although he did not accept the progressive attitudes of Matica.

The appointment to the position of the secretary of Matica and editor of Letopis represented a broader and more enduring involvement of Letopis and Matica in the contemporary cultural currents of the Serbs and their connection with cultural and scientific centers of neighboring countries. The exchange of publications was established while Hadžić was still president; Letopis and other publications were sent to the Museum in Pest, the Imperial Library in Vienna, the National Library in Prague, and the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. Pavlović transformed this cooperation into a permanent and systematic one. He particularly focused on establishing and developing Serbian-Russian literary connections. Thanks to these efforts, he was awarded the golden medal by the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1835, which sparked debates, especially with Vuk Karadžić.

Pavlović aimed to recruit wealthy Serbs into Matica, who could provide material support for Matica's broader activities through their contributions. He especially called for membership and contributions through his publications. Thus, Sava Tekelija became a member of Matica and soon, in 1837, became its president.

Upon his election as president, he, backed by his wealth, imposed a conservative course regarding language and spelling on Matica. He remained in the position of president for four years until his death in 1841. This period represented, ideologically, a setback for Matica. However, his material wealth donated to Matica, for the establishment of a foundation for funding scholarships for students, was an exceptional endeavor. Although it was not Tekelija's desire, these funds were a significant boost for the development of secular culture. Despite Tekelija's efforts, they did not divert Matica from its progressive orientation overall. Theodor Pavlović, despite Tekelija's influence, remained consistent with his strategic vision. His concessions to the powerful donor were merely a part of a temporally limited tactic. In fact, Pavlović continued the Enlightenment and anti-clerical activity initiated by Dositej.

In his endeavors, Pavlović encountered resistance from conservative and clerical circles led by Metropolitan Rajačić, later joined by Jovan Hadžić, the founder and first president of Matica. They opposed anything that threatened the complete hegemony of the clergy, especially in the church-school and cultural life of the Serbs.

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