THIS book is not only a history of Serbia and
Montenegro, but is also a study of the historical development of the
whole of the Jugo-Slav peoples. It is very instructive, and is written
in a singularly restrained style when one considers the battles,
invasions, revolts, and oppressions it deals with, for, in the author's
phrase, the story of the Jugo-Slavs is 'bloody beyond ordinary
The Jugo-Slavs early became split up into two great
sections, of which the Croats and Dalmatians adopted the Church of Rome,
the Latin alphabet, and in part, Western culture as far as they were
permitted by their German oppressors ; whereas the Serbians and
Montenegrins acknowledged the Greek rite, and so, unfortunately for
themselves, were ecclesiastically subordinate to the Byzantine Empire,
and on its fall were absolutely cut off from the West by the Turkish
Conquest. But the old kingdom of Serbia, in spite of its constant wars
with Bulgarians, Hungarians, and Byzantines, had a great history, as we
see here, and the spirit of nationality has always been strong, and, we
have reason to think, will continue among the suffering people.'Disaster,'
says the writer, 'has sometimes created and has always intensified
national feeling in Serbia.' The period of the Serbian zenith was from
about 1190 to 1400. Stephen Dushan (1321-55), their greatest ruler,
aimed at the Imperial throne of the East when cut off by death, and his
death was followed by a gradual decline of Serbian power to a state of
weakness, which allowed the Turkish invaders to conquer in 1389 at the
battle of Kossovo, 'The Field of Blackbirds,' still sung in many sad
ballads as the end of a great period of freedom.
The rest of the history deals with Turkish misrule
and oppression, which was inaugurated at once by the * tribute of
children,' and the gradual acquisition of independence by Serbia and the
fiery battles for freedom in Montenegro under the chiefs and vladikas.
It recounts the painful feud in Serbia between the two chief families,
the Karageorgevitch and the Obrenovitch, which did not end until the
extinction of the latter worthless dynasty in 1903 by the brutal murder
of King Alexander and Queen Draga, a murder which made way for the
present king, of the rival family, and which was not greatly disapproved
of by the tumultuous subjects of the Serbian Crown. It is sad to think
that the hard-won Serbian and Montenegrin independence is again under a
hateful eclipse, but if history teaches anything it shows a phoenix-like
power of resurrection among the Slav peoples.
A FRANCIS STEUART.