Foundations of Identity
When everything is twisted and looted, when people and nations lose ground under their feet, when the world is blindly pushed into the abyss, language and culture are the living streams that we must hold on to. Collecting, studying and preserving the Serbian spiritual and material heritage in Kosovo and Metohija is at the center of all the activities of the Institute for Serbian Culture, a multidisciplinary scientific and research institution. And that was not interrupted even under the bombs of the North Atlantic Treaty, nor after the expulsion, nor in the current lawlessness. The time will come when everyone will know WHY

By: Aleksa Komet
Photo: Archives of the Institute, Archives of the National Review

It sprouted out of necessity. Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija desperately needed a scientific institution that would study and preserve their cultural heritage in the province. It was not about one part, but about the foundation of Serbian culture. And when the Institute for Serbian Culture was created in Priština, thirty-six years ago, Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija had a hard time exercising their fundamental rights and interests in everything, including culture, education, and science.
Although the Institute of Albanian Studies was founded among the first scientific institutions in Kosovo and Metohija, the Serbs did not have a scientific institution for the study of their own culture. Since the beginning of the work of the University of Priština, there has been a desire among Serbian intellectuals to create such a multidisciplinary scientific institution. The idea originated in 1975 from university professors, who were aware of the need for the existence of a scientific-research institution that would deal with the study and collection of historical materials. They believed that this would eliminate the danger of forgetting the rich cultural and artistic heritage. In 1979, the request was sent to the competent authorities, who hesitated for eight years. Finally, on 18 January 1987, a decree was published on the establishment of an institution called the Institute for the Study of the Culture of Serbs, Montenegrins, Croats and Muslims. For less than four years, the Institute worked in inadequate conditions, and then in December 1990, it moved to a new building, built on the foundations of the oldest Serbian school in Priština (from 1859).
Good working conditions were then created, enough space was provided for scientific departments, a library with a reading room, a hall for scientific and other gatherings. A documentation center and a photo laboratory were developed. Already after a year, the first issue of the Baština newsletter was published. Scientific work went according to plan until the war in 1999. The Institute then had to move out of Priština and find refuge in Leposavić, where it operates today as the Institute for Serbian Culture.
– Our work program is aligned with the national strategy for the development of science – says for the National Review Prof. Dr. Dragan Tančić, director of this institution. – We follow modern processes, contributing our scientific, theoretical, methodological and empirical knowledge. In addition to the journal Baština, we are trying to start another one, in accordance with the highest standards of publishing activity, and to create a platform for public opinion research in the area of Kosovo and Metohija, and beyond. It would be another important contribution of ours to the social sciences and humanities and to the public.


The Institute has 44 employees. Among the collaborators in the scientific sector are 24 PhDs, three full-time professors, five senior and 13 scientific collaborators, 15 doctoral candidates. Departments for Serbian Language, Literature, National History, History of Art, Ethnology and Ethno-Musicology were established, as well as a scientific documentation center with a library. The Institute has developed into a serious scientific institution, as evidenced by numerous scientific projects.
– I would point to the projects Historical and National Foundations of the Spiritual and Material Culture of the Serbian People in Kosovo and Metohija, then the Spiritual Phenomena and Creativity of the Serbian People in Kosovo and Metohija from the 15th to the 20th Century, as well as the project Spiritual and Material Culture of Kosovo and Metohija – said Dr. Marija Jeftimijević Mihajlović, senior research associate of the Institute. – Projects involve serious scientific and research work, organization of scientific and professional gatherings, round tables, as well as publishing activities. This activity has been very rich since the establishment of the Institute until today and includes monographs, thematic collections, collections of papers from scientific meetings, periodical publications, bibliographies and catalogs from various fields of social sciences and humanities. The papers cover various aspects of the study of Serbian culture in Kosovo and Metohija from the Middle Ages to the present, from the point of view of various social sciences (history, history of art, ethnology, anthropology, sociology, political science, literature and language). In short, we are focused on the Serbian spiritual treasury and cultural heritage, and the contribution to the study was made by participants from the country and abroad who gladly responded to our call.
The Institute publishes monographs in all the mentioned fields. The spiritual and material culture in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija is studied from a historical perspective and in modern times. Also, many notable personalities were at the center of systematic studies, for example prominent writers such as Vuk Filipović, Vladeta Vuković, Grigori Božović, Petar Sarić, or the artistic achievements of prominent visual and sculptural artists from the area of Kosovo and Metohija. This is how important studies and lectures of the Institute’s scientific workers were created.


– The Institute is the only institution in Kosovo and Metohija that deals exclusively with scientific research explains Dr. Marija Jeftimijević Mihajlović. – It may be considered invited to offer answers to the questions of preserving Serbian cultural and national identity in its own unique way in a complex social, historical and political situation. Language and culture are the two foundations on which the identity of every nation rests, including the Serbian one. This is perhaps the biggest challenge, but also the biggest asset in the spiritual, cultural and political struggle for the preservation of Kosovo and Metohija in Serbia. When everything is subjected to revision and attempted to be seen through the distorted prism of political interests, when there is a danger of all kinds of alienation, language and culture are eternally living streams. Their interweaving with the cultures of other peoples, in multicultural environments such as Kosovo and Metohija, has lasted for centuries. And yet, there has never been such an open danger as there is today. The academic, intellectual and moral responsibility of the scientific workers of the Institute for Serbian Culture is therefore great, but, fortunately, also very developed.
The Institute has received significant awards. It received the Vuk Award in 2001 for its outstanding contribution to the development of culture in Serbia and the all-Serbian cultural space. It received the golden plaque for the special development of Serbian culture, which is awarded by the European University in Brčko and the European University ”Kalos” in Tuzla, in 2019. Numerous awards and recognitions have also been received by the Institute’s scientific associates.
Baština journal, the Institute’s newsletter, has a distinctive look. On the cover is a vignette from the Four Gospels of Prizren (Evangelist Marko).
– During all these years, since 1991, Baština has been published continuously, even when the Institute continued to work in improvised conditions, with its headquarters relocated to Leposavić. It is ranked as a scientific journal of international importance. It is multidisciplinary and can include works from different scientific fields, because such are the research programs at the Institute. From the fields of literature, archaeology, history, history of culture, history of art, political science, ethnology, ethnomusicology, sociology... It also publishes edited material, polemics, criticisms, reviews. Experts from various academic communities throughout the Balkans and the world publish their works, critical views and research results in Baština. The journal, however, has remained true to its basic goal and primarily deals with the study of Serbian culture in Kosovo and Metohija.


The status that the Institute has today in Serbian culture has been built over decades. The most difficult period was certainly 1999 and the relocation of the headquarters to Leposavić. Left without a suitable space and without its library, the Institute shared the fate of its people – it continued to live in exile and dispersion. This was certainly reflected in the attrition of the scientific staff. The work had to be continued in difficult conditions, without research sites, archival material, literature from a rich library. Since the political and social circumstances did not change, the Institute worked more and more on empowering the staff. Young and talented scientific workers came, who in the last two decades became good historians, art historians, literary theorists, ethnomusicologists, sociologists and political scientists. This continued until today, when fellows of the Ministry of Education of Serbia are employed at the Institute.
The institute continues to work in unfavorable conditions. It does not have its own building, scientific workers perform most of their work in archives and libraries throughout Serbia, as well as in unsafe areas of Kosovo and Metohija. They have constant problems during field research and transportation of their publications through the administrative crossing in Jarinje. But, interestingly, the publishing activity of the Institute has never been richer. It has never had so many scientific researchers with the highest scientific degrees. By participating in symposia and gatherings, as well as scientific works, they contribute to a considerable extent to the spread of knowledge about the importance of Serbian culture in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as the dramatic need to protect it. The spirit of consistency and perseverance, professionalism and scientific truthfulness is fostered among the Institute’s scientific researchers. That principle is passed down from generation to generation.


International cooperation
– Agreements on cooperation with foreign scientific institutions provide for the joint organization of scientific meetings, professional training, joint publishing activities – says director Prof. Dr. Dragan Tančić.  – We may single out agreements with Belgorod Technical University ”Shukhov”, Southern Federal University from Rostov-on-Don, Crimean Federal University ”Vernadsky”, Black Sea Information and Analytical Center...


Of the institutions in our region – says director Tančić – we may single out the agreements and protocols on cooperation with the Institute for Serbian Culture in Nikšić, the Faculty of Philosophy in East Sarajevo, the Faculty of Philology in Banja Luka, the Serbian Literary Cooperative, Faculty of Philology in Belgrade...

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