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.

Theodore Pavlović: Fighter for the Rights of the Serbian People and Resistance to Magyarization

In the early years of publishing his newspapers, Pavlović exhibited a very loyal and perhaps even submissive manner of writing, which gradually became more decisive and combative, especially when it came to issues regarding the rights of the Serbian people. During that time, he expressed his views openly and decisively in all major discussions on political reforms, whether they were conducted in parliament, journalism, or in public.

He criticized civil war and conflicts in general, advocating for fostering good neighborly relations, but his pacifism ceased when it came to endangering Serbian identity and the imposition of foreign nationalities.

The imposition and ruthless Magyarization of Serbs was particularly pronounced in 1840 when the decision was made to conduct Serbian church books in Hungarian, with Hungarianized names such as Boško becoming Tivadar, Stevan becoming Istvan, Jovan becoming János, Aleksandar becoming Sándor, Zorka becoming Hajnalka, Jelena becoming Ilona, Ljubica becoming Ibolya, and so on. Unfortunately, this practice persisted until the end of World War I, as evidenced by the author's baptismal certificate in this book.

By the 1844 decree, the introduction of the Hungarian language into all secular and Serbian Orthodox Church courts was enforced. In 1847, a proposal was submitted to the Hungarian Diet in Pozsony for the translation of all liturgical books into Hungarian at state expense, implying that services in Serbian Orthodox churches would be conducted in Hungarian, "with the ultimate goal of converting Serbs into Orthodox Hungarians".

Pavlović was deeply troubled and highly concerned about these denials of basic national characteristics, the trampling of all Serbian rights, and the blatant and rapid Magyarization. Through his newspapers, he awakened national consciousness in a time when Serbs were relatively indifferent and resisted Magyarization.

In his Historical Overview of Serbian Press in 1911, Skerlić writes that the Serbian National Newspaper until 1848 set the tone for Serbian politics in Hungary and had a significant influence on the internal politics of the Principality of Serbia. According to him, Pavlović was one of those people among Hungarian Serbs who constantly advocated for the ideas of Serbian Vojvodina. Throughout his newspaper, he consistently sought the need for Serbian national assemblies. When national and political unrest began in Hungary in 1847, he "decisively demanded the national autonomy of Serbs. His words stirred Hungarian Serbs and indirectly triggered the whole movement that culminated in the proclamation of Serbian Vojvodina."

Regarding this, his biographer and friend from his school days, Dr. Konstantin Pejićić, writes: "He sowed the seeds of the Serbian Vojvodina in Austria and nurtured its first sprouts..."

At that time, publishing a newspaper with such content was very dangerous, as Skerlić writes, something Pavlović was aware of but did not want to withdraw from the struggle in those crucial moments. About this, Pavlović himself wrote: "We shudder at the thought that the people in today's, so ominously significant time, without a voice, without newspapers should be. Therefore, we will remain, we will continue to publish leaflets about our bitter plight..."

When in 1847 the Hungarian Diet under the protection of law decided to impose the Hungarian language in Serbian schools, he rejected all caution and, with a sense of anger in his newspapers, called on Serbs to resist those government efforts, saying: "What will Hungarian language do in elementary Serbian schools? Serbs have proven for centuries that they want to live in love with other nations, but it pains them that they are constantly provoked and disturbed..."

In his newspapers, when faced with Kossuth's attitude towards the Serbian delegation in Hungary, he responded to such occasions as follows: "The domination of one nation over another, which is not that of a slave but of a free nation, is difficult to bear even in the greatest love, let alone when it is scorned and trampled upon..."

These words were like balm to the ears of opponents, but they warmed every Serbian heart and opened their eyes to the future.

Immediately after the outbreak of the great rebellion, on March 15, 1848, following Kossuth's response to the Serbian delegation, prominent members of the Serbian Literary Society, including Theodor Pavlović, Pavle Trifunac, Isidor Nikolić, Đorđe Stojaković, Jovan Subotić, and others, formed the Serbian Movement. At the assembly held on March 17-18, Pavlović was elected secretary and remained a central figure in all these events. The Movement Committee was formed to highlight the "Wishes of the Serbian people" from among 30 members, and its core body, the commission - consisting of T. Pavlović, I. Nikolić, Đ. Stojaković - tasked Jakov Ignjatović with drafting the proposal of these wishes.

The head of the delegation tasked with presenting to the emperor in Vienna, the palatine Stefan, and the president of the newly established Hungarian government, Ludwig Báčanji, in Pest, was Theodor Pavlović.

The "Wishes of the Serbian people" were printed and sent to all Serbian municipalities, and then translated and published as leaflets in Hungarian. Apart from the enthusiasm they sparked among Serbs, they also aroused bitter resentment among Hungarians. They saw them as separatist aspirations and accused Serbs of being enemies and traitors to the homeland. The wishes provoked public accusations against the leading figures in the Serbian Movement in Pest, as the authorities believed they sought the secession of Serbian territories from Hungary.

Such attitudes of the Hungarians caused great fear among the prominent figures of the Serbian Literary Society. The hostility towards Serbs boiled over, and threats were made by Hungarian youth to cut off all leaders of the Serbian assembly held in the Serbian Literary Society. The message from the Minister of Internal Affairs that the Hungarian government was unable to provide protection and guarantee the safety of these prominent members of the Serbian assembly from Hungarian mobs added even greater fear.

These Hungarian attitudes and assessments were not softened by verbal assurances from the main advocates and drafters of the national demands, nor even by written statements of allegiance to the Emperor and Hungary published in the government newspaper "Pesti hirlap".

More than others, Theodor Pavlović was consumed by fear due to his role as the editor of newspapers "for the most important intellectual culprit" for the most influential and dangerous for the separatist aspirations and the movement of the Serbian people. All the anger and blame would fall on him, which greatly disturbed him.

Fearing these pressures and threats, five prominent Serbs also published their second written statement in "Pesti hirlap", which was not only more extensive but also more submissive. Instead of constitutional establishment of freedom, equality, and parity of the Serbian people with the Hungarian, they reduced Serbian demands mainly to the equality and freedom of the Serbian Church. They reassured the Hungarians "of their duty towards the king and the common fatherland" and declared themselves "by descent and language Serbs, members of the Hungarian citizenry," ready to do everything "for the Hungarian royal throne as well as for our Hungarian fatherland and to live and die for them."

This statement of loyalty and the withdrawal of its leaders halted the activities of the Serbian Movement in Pest.

The acceptance by the Hungarian public of the statement by the five Serbs somewhat reassured Pavlović regarding his personal safety, but the conflict that arose between Serbs and Hungarians meant the shattering of his illusions about preserving peace and harmony in the common state.

Because of the rejection of Serbian demands and the threat of forced Magyarization, Serbian students in Pozsony and Pest were the first to rise against the Hungarian authorities, among whom were notable figures like Svetozar Miletić, Bogoboj Atanacković, Đorđe Radak, and Mija Vlaškalić (Mija Vlaškalić was from Vranje). They returned to their homelands and informed the people of the danger posed by the Hungarians, urging them to prepare for the fight. Enraged by the behavior of Hungarian revolutionary authorities, the people demonstrated, for example in Novi Sad, by burning the church protocols kept in Hungarian.

The peasant uprising broke out soon after, on April 12, in Kikinda and the villages of the Kikinda District, as well as in Veliki Bečkerek, Novi and Stari Bečej, and other places, against the municipal authorities and large landowners.

To pacify the Serbian people, the Hungarian government decided on April 14, 1848, to hold a Church Assembly in Sremski Karlovci on May 15, appointing the Tamiš County Count and Great Voivode Petar Čarnojević as commissioner with the authority to suppress the Serbian uprising and, if necessary, impose martial law.

The Pest Society selected Theodor Pavlović as its representative at this Assembly, while the church community of the village of Čobanca near Sentandreja chose Jakov Ignjatović.

Although Pavlović had already faced difficulties with the authorities due to his prominent role in a Serbian assembly in Pest, the authorities accepted him as a delegate to the Assembly in Novi Sad. Although fearful of retaliation from the authorities, he accepted the role, as this Assembly was convened with the government's knowledge, and because he had advocated for peace and loyalty to the joint state in his newspaper articles during April. However, now his greatest fear came from the enraged Serbs.

Upon his arrival in Novi Sad, burdened by what he had seen on the boat journey from Pest to Novi Sad and by what he witnessed in Novi Sad itself, he became even more frightened than before, more for himself than for the Serbian people.

Learning immediately upon arrival in Novi Sad about the rumors circulating about him, characterizing him as Kossuth's man, the most dangerous and hated Hungarian politician among Serbs, intending to subject Serbs to Hungarians and conspiring against Archbishop Rajčević, with whom he had already been in hostile relations, hurt him deeply, especially as these rumors were propagated by Belgrade Serbian newspapers. This affected him terribly.

Pavlović's sensitive and already ailing soul found all of this very tragic because he was aware that he had dedicated all his knowledge, all his strength, and his entire life to the cultural upliftment and national awakening of the Serbian people. Instead of deserved recognition, he received scorn, insults, and humiliation of his proud personality.

Thus, Pavlović found himself between two fires: on one side were the Serbs, and on the other were the Hungarians and their government. If he went to the assembly in Karlovci and agreed with its decisions, he would satisfy the Serbs but enrage the Hungarians, and in that case, he would not dare to think about returning to Pest because he would be killed by the enraged Hungarian mob. If, on the other hand, he continued with his speech at the assembly based on his convictions, fueled by fear of the Hungarians, like Jaša Ignjatović, he would appease the Hungarians but lose his life in Karlovci. If he remained silent at the assembly, he would embitter both the Serbs and the Hungarians. The Hungarians would resent him for participating in an illegal and rebellious assembly and for not opposing decisions against the homeland, while the Serbs would interpret his silence as confirmation of his disagreement with their statements and positions. Therefore, he considered it wisest not to participate in the assembly in Sremski Karlovci.

At the assembly in Sremski Karlovci in May 1848, when Vojvodina was proclaimed, the Hungarians used this to falsely portray the Serbs as rebels against the emperor.

In May 1848, from Zemun, via Pozun and Klagenfurt newspapers, false news spread worldwide alleging that in May 1848, in Sremski Karlovci, the Serbs had chosen a king for themselves and had sent their delegation to Emperor Ferdinand in Vienna to confirm that election.

With the disappearance of censorship after the events of March 1848, everyone could write whatever they wanted. In these conditions, Pavlović did not handle himself very well and allowed himself to be swept away by revolutionary currents. He accepted that his Serbian national newspapers would no longer be solely Serbian but broader Yugoslav. Thus, from April 6, 1848, the newspapers were published under the title "ALL-SOUTH SLAVIC AND SERBIAN NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS," which corresponded to their new title. As before, they were sent to all regions of Serbia and Yugoslavia, often arriving in Turkey hidden in bread and cakes to uplift and maintain the Serbian spirit there.

Although an autonomous Hungary was declared at the Pozun Assembly on March 3, 1848, from the Carpathians to the Adriatic Sea, the official Hungarian revolution considered itself the protector of the court against the allegedly rebellious people. In those early days of the uprising, the Hungarians obtained everything they asked for from the bewildered emperor, so their leaders could consider the Serbian uprising as an act of rebellion, believing that Vienna would oppose them. Kossuth's stance against other nations in Hungary was not only evident in his speech in Pozun in March 1848 but also in the assembly in Budapest on July 11, 1848, when he said regarding the Serbian uprising: "That the Serbs are rebels and insurgents (rebels resisting the authorities - LM note), who can only be dealt with by the hangman's noose."

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