Using history, making heroes

History has played a crucial role in defining national identity, mobilizing people, shaping their destinies and conforming objectives common to a whole nation irrespective of social, economic, cultural or other considerations. In order to define a specific identity, each group engaged in persistent efforts to investigate its past, to link it to the present and to provide explanations for the group’s specificity. [more]

Portrait of Karađorđe, leader of the First Serbian Uprising in 1804 Oil on canvas by Arsenije Petrović, 1840, Historical Museum of Serbia, Belgrade Karađorđe Petrović was celebrated not only as the hero of the First Serbian Uprising (1804) but of the revolutionary idea in general. Assassinated after the Second Serbian Uprising by order of Prince Miloš Obrenović, he remained a symbol of struggle for political emancipation.

Josip Jelačić, ban (viceroy) of Dalmatia, Croatia and Slavonia (1801-1859) Oil on canvas by Franz Schrotzberg, Vienna, 1850, Croatian History Museum, Zagreb Jelačić’s reign in 1848 marked, albeit formally, the unification of all Croatian lands within the Habsburg Monarchy, the abolition of serfdom, and the convocation of the first representative Parliament (Sabor). He is portrayed here in his inaugural uniform – the tricolour national uniform bearing Illyrian symbols.

Portrait of Ioannis Kolettis Oil on canvas, 1884, National Historical Museum, Athens Leading political figure trained in politics within the Ottoman Empire, who thereafter became a fierce proponent of national politics and formulated the irredentist concept of the “Great Idea” (Megali Idea), with the goal of establishing a Greek state encompassing all ethnic Greek-inhabited areas.

Serb-Bosnian writer Petar Kočić Photograph, 1909, Museum of the Republic of Srpska, Banja Luka This portrait celebrates Petar Kočić (1877- 1916), founder of the agrarian movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina and proponent of parliamentary democracy. His Fatherland newspaper made Banja Luka the centre of resistance to the Austro- Hungarian occupation.

Portrait of Prince Mihail Sturdza of Moldova Oil on canvas, unknown author, about 1845, National History Museum of Romania, Bucharest Mihail Sturdza, Prince of Moldova (1834 to 1849), was praised for his social and administrative reforms and founding a new educational system. Yet, criticized for his philo-Russism, his cupidity and his brutal treatment of the Moldavian revolutionaries in 1848, he was finally exiled to Germany.

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