For the Emperor and My Nation
This inscription from the recently renewed tombstone on the grave of Petar Bigga at the Uspensko Cemetery in Novi Sad, engraved as a life motto and vow, indicates the entire depth of the imperial idea among Serbs. The lasting dream about a state based on the principles of Rome and rules of Heavens. Serbs have been carrying the symbols of such a state, from relics of saints to the regal eagle, through all fires and times. And when they moved from areas across the Sava and the Danube in times of dissatisfaction, they didn’t move to the west, as economic migrants. They followed their star in the endless blue circle. To the Third Rome. This famous defender of Srbobran lived that idea

By: Đorđe M. Srbulović


The biography of Petar Bigga is at the beginning. Biga’s Meadow still exists today in Lika, near Plitvice Lakes. Although there are no more Serbs there, this toponym testifies about the starting point of a man, whose motto carved in his tombstone will help us tell the essence of Serbian existence, purpose, attitude towards life and the world, as well as the Serbian state they have been attempting to establish since ancient times, destroyed by the more powerful ones each time they accomplished it. A state on the principles of Rome and rules of Heavens.
For centuries, Lika was the line of Serbian defense of Christian Europe from the invading Ottoman Empire. For centuries, similar to a volcano, it threw out of itself a wondrous magma – the Serbian military class, Orthodox Christian kshatriyas. The biographies of those warriors are horizontally alike – from house to house, village to village, army barrack to army barrack, as well as vertically: grandfather, father, son, grandson, uncle, nephew… Some were soldiers their entire life, someone died in a battle as a perspective lieutenant with a brilliant career ahead, and some, like Petar Bigga, died in the Bačka plane as a retired, glorious general of the Habsburg Monarchy and Serbian people, aristocrat, with numerous medals. Essentially, all those fates are identical: For the Emperor and my nation.


Petar Bigga was born in Bjelopolje near Korenica, in 1811. His village of birth used to be written as Belo Polje, but, as the fate of Serbian Lika ended in 1995, previous names of towns were changed. Only old books remain, until they also disappear under a pile of new ”scientific knowledge”.
His father Todor was an officer, just like all his male ancestors: great-grandfather Jovan, grandfathers Leontije, Radojica and Mileta… His mother Đurđija was from a priest’s family, her father was parishioner Šever. Todor Bigga was transferred from the Varadin regiment to Surduk, where he died soon afterwards. Alone with six children, Đurđija moved to Pazova, where two of her daughters died, and she left to Mitrovica with four sons. Petar’s brother Dane also had a successful military career and reached the rank of major. Petar started his education in Surduk, continued in the German school in Pazova and ended in Mitrovica. He became a cadet in 1828 and officer five years later.
Bigga’s fame began with his participation in the Serbo-Hungarian war 1848/49. Although the entire Varadin battalion started off to Italy, general (and ban) Jelačić returned it because of the conflict between Hungary and Vienna. Bigga came to Karlovci, the seat of the Serbian Vojvodina main board. He was appointed captain and deployed in Szenttamas, present Srbobran. The present name of the town originates from that time, after an unconquerable trench, designed and built by a Pole, geometer Vornovski, according to the instructions of Đorđe Stratimirović. This trench was held by ”Srbijanci” – volunteers from the Principality of Serbia, writes Novak S. Golupski in his Memories. This little town, up to then called after St. Thomas, could also be named after the heroic defenses of Serbian troops, small in numbers, against the much more numerous, better armed and trained Hungarian forces. Petar Bigga commanded those defenses. One of the big battles took place on the Day of Transfiguration in 1848, and the other on the Day of Nativity of the Virgin the same year. The attack of 25.000 Hungarian soldiers, led by generals Mesaroš and Hrabovski, was rejected by 5.000 border guards from Srem, šajkaši from Bačka, guards from Szenttamas and volunteers from Serbia. Besides Voivode Šupljikac and Đorđe Stratimirović, Bigga was certainly the most popular Serbian hero of this war – writes Jakov Ignjatović in his Memoirs. Later Bigga became commander of the defense of Karlovci. He was decorated with Leopold’s Medal for his participation in the 1848/49 battles.
Already in 1859, after a successful warfare for Austria in Italy, he attained the rank of colonel, and after the new wars in 1866, the rank of general. For his accomplishments in the Battle of Mongabia, where he commanded the Požarevac regiment, he was awarded with the military cross and became a noble in the rank of knight – ”knight of Mongabia”. That same year, he became commander of the regiment in Brno. He was pensioned off already the following year, 1867, and retired to Novi Sad with his wife Hristina, where they spent their last years enjoying great respect of their fellow citizens. His wife died in 1876 and he passed away in early January 1879. They were both buried at the Uspensko Cemetery in Novi Sad. In time, two large tombstones grew in weeds and fell on the ground, the fence was damaged and everything covered by oblivion. The house in previous Jevrejska Street, then JNA Street, where he spent the last years of his life, was demolished in the late 1970s, at the time of construction of the Serbian National Theater. It seemed that Bigga disappeared from Serbian memory forever.
A few years ago, however, with the support of the Ministry of Labor and according to the design of the Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments of Novi Sad, the tombstones were reconstructed, the graves refurbished, and the fence replaced. So the inscription ”For the Emperor and My Nation!” sparkled again.


Finally, it’s time to shed light on the meaning of the inscription on the tombstone: For the Emperor and My Nation! After crossing the Sava and the Danube in the 1690 Migration, Serbs took with them the most important institutions of the medieval state: the Church, the Assembly and symbols of the state, recognized by Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Leopold I in his Privileges. Medieval Serbian rulers brought all important decisions at assemblies – from transferring the crown to passing laws. Emperor Dušan passed his Code at two state assemblies. Serbs regulated their position in the Habsburg Empire with the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, who became their emperor and guaranteed them their assembly and election of voivode, who later became the grand voivode of the Voivodeship of Serbia. The emperor convened assemblies, confirmed its decisions, but also had the right to change them and adjust to state interests. Thus Serbs transferred their medieval state, established within the Second Rome – Byzantium, to the Holy Roman Empire, enabling survival and all manner of advancement. Vienna was not the third Rome, but in a long period of time it was the center of the Holy (western) Roman Empire, and the Serbian state and nation were founded on imperial, Roman principles. When they were moving due to dissatisfaction, Serbs were not moving to the west as economic migrants. They followed the star in an endless blue circle. They moved to Third Rome.
The symbols of the statehood they moved into the Habsburg Monarchy also included relics of medieval rulers: Prince Lazar, as the last one before Kosovo, and many others. The relics of Stefan the First-Crowned and other rulers were moved numerous times, since that way they were also carrying their state with them.
The flag of the Voivodeship of Serbia, acclaimed at the May Assembly in Karlovci, has Serbian colors and the Habsburg eagle. The inscription on the flag consecrated by priest Pavle Stamatović in the Szenttamas Orthodox Church states: For the Emperor, Faith and Nation. Volunteers from Serbia, as well as Bigga with his soldiers from Lika, defended the Voivodeship of Serbia under that flag. One God in heavens, one emperor in the state, one father in the family – Pater familias.
The tombstone on the grave of Petar Bigga, an authentic representative of the Serbian and Roman statehood tradition has recently been refurbished. The restoring of Serbian traditional family and state lies ahead.


The Lord Knows and Judges
In August 1995, Lika – the homeland of Serbian kshatriyas through centuries, ceased existing as such. In only a few days, all Serbs were exiled, although they created its essence and meaning through centuries. If anyone writes the History of Serbian Warriors one day, Lika will be most frequently mentioned. If the writer is objective, it simply cannot be any other way. He will be astonished to find the warriors from Lika in so many different armies, battlegrounds and assignments: from Italy and Germany, to the shooting of civic Belgrade and Serbia in 1944. People say that there were 36 Yugoslav National Army generals, originating from Lika, living in Belgrade in August 1995, with their families and descendants, not to mention lower ranked officers. Entire battalions. They were all sitting quietly in their homes. Why – that is a question someone else will have to answer. The Lord knows and judges.

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