Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, Later life and death

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Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (, ; 7 November 1787 – 7 February 1864) was a Serbian philologist and linguist who was the major reformer of the Serbian language. He deserves, perhaps, for his collections of songs, fairy tales, and riddles to be called the father of the study of Serbian folklore. He was also the author of the first Serbian dictionary in his new reformed language.


Soon afterwards, he grew ill and left for medical treatment in Pest and Novi Sad, but was unable to receive treatment for his leg. It was rumored that Karadžić deliberately refused to undergo amputation, instead deciding to make do with a prosthetic wooden [peg-leg], of which there were several sarcastic references in some of his works. Karadžić returned to Serbia later on, however due to the Ottoman defeat of the rebels in 1813, he left for Vienna and later met Jernej Kopitar, an experienced linguist with a strong interest in secular slavistics. Kopitar's influence helped Karadžić with his struggle in reforming the Serbian language and its orthography. Another important influence was Sava Mrkalj.

In 1814 and 1815, Vuk published two volumes of Serbian Folk Songs (Српске народне пјесме), which afterwards increased to four, then to six, and finally to nine tomes. In enlarged editions, these admirable songs drew towards themselves the attention of all literary Europe and America. Goethe characterized some of them as "excellent and worthy of comparison with Solomon's Song of Songs."

In 1824, he sent a copy of his folksong collection to Jacob Grimm, who was enthralled particularly by The Building of Skadar which Vuk recorded from singing of Old Rashko. Grimm translated it into German and the song was noted and admired for many generations to come. Grimm compared them with the noblest flowers of Homeric poetry, and of 'The Building of Skadar' (Зидање Скадра на Бојани) he said: "one of the most touching poems of all nations and all times." The founders of the Romantic School in France, Charles Nodier, Prosper Mérimée, Lamartine, Gerard de Nerval, and Claude Fauriel translated a goodly number of them, and they also attracted the attention of Russian Alexander Pushkin, Finnish national poet Johan Ludwig Runeberg, Czech Samuel Roznay, Pole Kazimierz Brodzinski, English writers Walter Scott, Owen Meredith, and John Bowring, among others.

Karadžić continued collecting song well into the 1830s. He arrived in Montenegro in the fall of 1834. Infirm, he descended to the Bay of Kotor to winter there, and returned in the spring of 1835. It was there that Karadžić met Vuk Vrčević, an aspiring littérateur, born in Risan. From then on Vrčević became Karadžić's faithful and loyal collaborator who collected folk songs and tales and sent them to his address in Vienna for many years to come. Another equally diligent collaborator of Vuk Karadžić was another namesake from Boka Kotorska the Priest Vuk Popović. Both Vrčević and Popović were steadily and uselfishly involved in the gathering of the ethnographic, folklore and lexical material for Vuk. Later, other collaborators joined Vuk, including Milan Đ. Milićević.

The majority of Karadžić's works were banned from publishing in Serbia and Austria during the rule of Prince Miloš Obrenović. As observed from a political point of view, Obrenović saw the works of Karadžić as a potential hazard due to a number of apparent reasons, one of which was the possibility that the content of some of the works, although purely poetic in nature, was capable of creating a certain sense of patriotism and a desire for freedom and independence, which very likely might have driven the populace to take up arms against the Turks. This, in turn, would prove detrimental to Prince Miloš's politics toward the Ottoman Empire, with whom he had recently forged an uneasy peace. In Montenegro, however, Njegoš's printing press operated without the archaic letter known as the "hard sign"; in other words, it adhered to Vuk Karadžić's orthography. Prince Miloš was to resent Njegoš's abandonment of the unhappy hard sign, over which, at that time, furious intellectual battles were being waged, with ecclesiastical hierarchy involved as well. Karadžić's works, however, did receive high praise and recognition elsewhere, especially in Russia. In addition to this, Karadžić was granted a full pension from the Tsar in 1826.

He died at Vienna, and was survived by his daughter Mina Karadžić, who was a painter and writer, and by his son Dimitrije Karadžić, a military officer. His remains were relocated to Belgrade in 1897 and buried with great honours next to the grave of Dositej Obradović, in front of St. Michael's Cathedral (Belgrade).

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External Links

  • WikipediaBiographyEncyclopedia of World Biography from Bookrags.comVuk's FoundationVuk Karadžić online library

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