Serbs Ready to Join European Union|
SERBIA – Part 3
It is probably a good idea to point out that the southern Slavs living in what used to be Yugoslavia (South Slavland) have developed into separate communities over the centuries.
Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians, Bosnians speak (slightly) different languages. They tend to profess different religions mostly according to their ethnic group – one tends not to find Muslim Serbs for example, or orthodox Croatians. The religions came to the various ethnic groups through their different political associations in the past. Bosnians took up the religion of the Ottomans. Croatians did a lot more with the Habsburgs and the Italians (Venetians) during a certain period and today mostly identify themselves as Catholic, and so forth.
Before the ethnic wars that broke up Yugoslavia in the 1990s there were territorial centers of gravity, so to speak, for the various subdivisions of Southern Slavs but they were all mixed up, with little communities of this group in the middle of concentration of that group. Indeed, the excuse of the wars of the 1990s was that the republics that broke away from Yugoslavia were ethnically based and that large minorities of mostly Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia were about to be mistreated so they would go ahead and preventively break away from the breakaways, doing their own rather extensive mistreating in the process. Thus the brief appearance of Serbska Kraina in Croatia and the ongoing “Serbian Republic” in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
There had been quite a bit of moving around of the various ethnic groups looking for advantage or mere refuge from human meanness. The Ottomans had a certain reputation for meanness, brutality even. Their policies in the Balkans combined with outside meddling by Hungary and the Habsburgs resulted in several rebellions over 3 centuries.
The outcome of all of these rebellions was that eventually the outsiders made a deal with the Ottomans and sold out the rebels, who were repressed by the Turks. Some of the survivors then decamping for the territories of the former allies who had just betrayed them.
The migrations of Serbs and others substantially depopulated some southern Balkan zones by the 18th century. The refugees went north toward Hungary mostly, many settling in a border zone of northern Serbia that came to be known as Voivodina, some trekked further, as far as Bohemia.
Although there were several ephemeral political entities called “Serbia” during the course of the 16th to 18th centuries none of them issued coins. The only coin issuing entity of the southern Slavs was the city of Dubrovnik, called Ragusa by the Venetians, now in Croatia. I found a website that claims Dubrovnik as Serbian during its heyday, though acknowledging that it was a Catholic city. That religion and the Roman alphabet are the main cultural features that distinguish Croatians from Serbians today. Croatian nationalists would certainly take issue with the characterization of Dubrovnik as a “Serbian” city.
The history of Croatia was closely tied to that of Austria and by extension Western Europe. Croats did not suffer the depredations of the Ottomans as did the Serbs. Austrian oppression was nevertheless real, and Croats as well as Serbs began thinking about nationalism and self-determination in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
A Serbian rebellion in 1788 was backed by Austria, but the Austrians got cold feet and sold out the Serbs. Many of the surviving revolutionaries went into Austrian exile. After a few years of playing slightly nice the Ottomans reverted to their normal level of meanness, and in 1804 yet another uprising developed. A military leader was elected, Karageorge Petrovich.
Backers of what is today called the “First Serbian Uprising” included wealthy Slavs living outside of Ottoman territory who looked for allies farther afield, some to Austria, others to Russia, still others to Napoleon, emperor of France. These potential backers were arrayed against each other in larger confrontations and had not a lot of attention to pay to the Serbs.
The “First Serbian Uprising” was actually against a group of rebel Ottoman soldiers who had seized power in Belgrade and vicinity, so there was some degree of support for them from the Ottoman government. When the rebels captured and executed the rebel leaders, negotiations began with the Sultan’s representatives. The Serbs wanted independence, talks broke down.
The Ottomans sent the first of several armies, but were consistently defeated. Belgrade was taken by the Serbs in 1807. Further negotiations with the sultan produced a treaty favorable to the Serbs but the Serbs rejected it, preferring to join with the Russians in their war against the Turks, ongoing since the year before. When that war was concluded in 1812, Russia being preoccupied with Napoleon at that moment, the Ottomans swept into the Balkans and crushed the Serb rebellion in 1813, inflicting severe reprisals. Karageorge Petrovic fled into exile in Austria.
In 1814 another rebellion, a little one, started and was quickly crushed. The following year yet another rebellion began, Milosh Obrenovich the elected leader. There was immediate support from Western Europe and Russia. To curry favor with the Ottomans Obrenovich arranged the assassination of Karageorge Petrovich. To forestall Russian involvement the sultan agreed to a semi-independent status for Serbia in 1817, confirmed by various treaties and agreements from 1828-30, Milosh Obrenovich I recognized as hereditary prince.
The principality developed along western European lines and gradually expanded its territory through the mid-19th century. Fighting between Serbs and Turks in the 1860s led to the departure of Turkish troops from Serbia in 1867. That year a new Serbian constitution was promulgated without consultation with the Turks thereby establishing the de facto independence of Serbia.
At that point the modern Serbian coinage began. The ruler, Obrenovich III (Michael) was called “prince.” The first coins were bronze 1, 5, and 10 para of the then standard western European sizes and denominations, the Serbian “para” equating to the French centime, the Italian centesimo, etc.
Then there were silver 50 para and 1 and 2 dinar coins in 1875. In 1879 there was a bronze 5 para, silver 1, 2, and 5 dinars, and gold 20 dinars. In 1882 the principality declared itself a kingdom, the prince became a king. Gold 10 and 20 dinars were produced, in 1883 copper-nickel 5 and 10 para. All of these coins were produced at the Paris mint except the 1882 gold 20 dinar struck in Vienna. In 1884 more copper-nickel coins were made at the Heaton mint. Some pattern coins are known dated 1890 and 1892. Silver 1 and 2 dinars were made in 1897.
Bronze 2 pare, copper-nickel 5, 10, and 20 para, silver 50 para, 1, 2, and 5 dinara were made in 1904, the 10 and 20 para only as proofs, the 5 dinara with 2 edge varieties. In 1912 there were 5, 10, 20, and 50 para, 1 and 2 dinara. In 1915 there were 50 para, 1 and 2 dinara, several minor varieties of each. In 1917 there were 10 and 20 paras.
My market experience with these coins has been that the bronze, copper-nickel, and silver have been available in grades from low to uncirculated. They have tended to sell well for me in recent years. The silver 5 dinara coins have been hard to find and have tended to be expensive. The gold have been expensive auction items. I have not seen the proofs nor the patterns.
The Balkans have been famous throughout history for skullduggery, and this reputation has persisted into modern times. In 1903 a military coup occurred, the Obrenovich king and queen were murdered and replaced by a Karageorgevich. The new king proceeded to expand the Serbian territories, taking Macedonia and Kosovo from the Ottomans in 1912-13.
Serbian nationalists in Bosnia-Herzegovina conducted a campaign of sedition against Austria culminating in the assassination of archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, which led to World War I. Serbia ended up on the winning side but lost more than half of its males. The king put together a kingdom of “Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes,” later changed the name to Yugoslavia.
That kingdom was torn up between its various Axis enemies during World War II, an entity called “Serbia” put up as a puppet by the Germans, who behaved in their standard notorious manner, killing all kinds of people, stealing things, destroying stuff. In the midst of the carnage they issued a set of zinc coins.
A story about the coins. In the late 1980s I was contacted by a guy in then Yugoslavia with contacts at the central bank. There were Croatian zinc 2 kuna coins and Serbian 10 dinara available, uncirculated, straight from the bank. How many did I want? I got some, a 20 -year supply as it turned out. Very nice coins. No spots on the zinc. Otherwise those Nazi Serbian coins are not so common. Bohemia-Moravia, for example, are much easier to find.
From 1943 or so until 1945 all of Yugoslavia was a military free-for-all with various national and ethnic groups marauding around. The Nazis had major allies in a group of Croatian fascists, who enthusiastically murdered Serbs among others in their territory, boosting bad feelings that would come back to cause trouble 45 years later.
In the end the communists won out and reconstituted Yugoslavia with a new government. There was a strongman named Tito, happened to be a Croat, who did not believe in ethnic nationalism and enforced his international cooperationist views on his country until his death in 1980.
In the 1980s various economic and political factors produced a decline in the Yugoslavian economy and governance. Serbians in particular, some of them, did not like how things were going, and at a certain point in 1987 a guy named Slobodan Milosevic came to power in the Serbian Republic and began acting as an ever more extreme Serbian nationalist. The result was the set of wars of the early 1990s that broke up Yugoslavia into independent republics.
For a couple of years “Yugoslavia” consisted of only the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro, then those two split up in 2006 and Serbia emerged again as an independent nation.
The coinage of the latest iteration of Serbia actually began in 2003 during the union with Montenegro. Montenegro had been using the deutsche mark as its currency until the advent of the euro, then it converted along with Germany even though it was not a member of the European Union. Serbia then issued its own coins.
These modern Serbian coins are mostly easy to find. There are a few gold coins honoring the inventor Nikola Tesla, currently the most famous Serb for the outside world.
Serbia would like to join the European Union and use the euro, but that is still in progress and no date for that transformation is yet envisaged.
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On July 31, 2013 Boris
On August 10, 2013 Journalist
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