For some time — approximately 23 years — I’ve been gathering pieces of a future project as I work on other projects. Having spent my career studying Serbs in Croatia, Serbian politics, Serbian nationalism, Serbia’s modern wars, and the social habits of (you guessed it) Serbs, all of which are fairly modern research areas, I’ve long harbored the desire to move to an earlier time. One in which the subjects of my research are not alive. One that would allow me to gain some distance and lose some emotional investment, neither of which were possible, for instance, when writing about a bunch of nutty (and living) Serbian cultural figures who arguably started a war.
The future project is something, I don’t know precisely what, on a region known as Zumberak. The initial sources of my interest in Zumberak were these:
1. My grandfather was an immigrant born in what is now Slovenia, what was then Austria-Hungary (he probably came to the US in about 1920). He was not political, maintained no links to his family, and remained for me a pretty silent figure until his death in 1979, but I was always curious. This curiosity partly explains the fact that I study former Yugoslavia and Southeastern Europe.
2. My dissertation research was on the Serbian community of Croatia.
3. While doing that research in 1988-89, I sought out my grandfather’s family, about whom I only knew the name of their village and the nearest town to it (the village: Dole; the town: Metlika).
4. I discovered while visiting with them that they were “Zumbercani” — a term that meant nothing to me at that time, from a place whose name was not on any of my maps.
5. I then discovered during my research that Zumberak was one of the leftovers of the old Vojna Krajina (Military Frontier), and that my grandfather was thus in some distant sense one of the subjects of my dissertation research.
From that point, I began quietly collecting articles, documents, interviews, maps, and other things. This blog is the beginning of that research project.
It’s possible nobody but me will ever see this, but for the record, I plan on using this as a sandbox.