Uskoks as Refugees

In the fall, I taught a class on refugees, for the first time. It was titled (poorly) “World Wide Diaspora” by the people who concocted it — I was recruited to teach it after it was already in the catalog, to serve a new Refugee Studies minor. But I was glad to do it, and had been planning on teaching one or more classes in that minor, as it fits right in with my research program.

But it was new! And it was challenging! And I barely survived, but I did, and no worse for it.

Early in the course, there was a week in which we talked about early “refugees” (in quotes because the term had not been worked up yet), which included Huguenots (generally credited with being the first refugees), Jews (obvious inclusion), and Orthodox Christians/Serbs/Vlahs of the various migrations.

Either as intellectual excercise, or as useful creative contribution, I wondered about writing an article in which the Zumbercak Uskoks would be treated according to modern definition(s), using modern research questions, as refugees. I think there is something there, but perhaps only internally, for my consumption.

But, another bookmarked possibility.

Family Ties

Did I mention that one of the reasons that I originally became interested in this topic is that my grandfather was born there? In Dole, a small village near the larger and more well-known Draga, today on the Slovene side of the border, near Popovici on the Croatian side. The Draga/Dole area is known for having one of the older Uniate parishes, known as Svetica.

Some oddball thoughts/etc. from my reading so far:

Zupanic used a few hundred Zumberak boys and girls in his anthropological research in the early 1900s. He studied 6-12 year olds in 1908 and 1910, including by his own account some from Drage. My grandfather feel into that group, and because Dole is usually folded into Drage, it’s possible he was interviewed, measured…(Zupanic was from Griblje, a few kilometers south of Drage, went on to be a strong supporter of Pasic’s Radical Party after the First World War, and spent his career, I believe, mostly in Belgrade*; there could be records of his research in some archive!)

Zupanic notes that “The Zumbercanin’s nature is that he looks beyond his homeland, to the world, he is not quiet or at peace, he seeks material reward and nicer land than his own. He works hard, he speaks loud and clear, he is not sentimental…” I sent this to my aunt, because it kind of describes my grandfather, or the grandfather that I remember being remembered to me, since I knew him for only a short time (till I was 15, but it still feels short).

And, finally, Simrak notes that the Uskoks of Zumberak were known for their bride-abductions. Well…guess what my grandfather did in 1933? Pretty much…

Not that this is more than family lore confirmed by expansive turn-of-the-century reductionist chatter. Still.

*Oops,nope; he worked in Ljubljana throughout his career.

Progress Report/After Some Reading

I’ve finally gotten down to the books — or, in my case, the .pdf’s that I scanned before moving to the foreign country that is alas not Croatia or Slovenia.

Niko Zupanic: Zumbercani i Marindolci

Radoslav Lopasic, Zumberak

Vladimir Skaric, Odakle su zumberacki uskoci?

Aleksa Ivic, “O prvoj srpskoj seobi u Zumberak”

Aleksa Ivic, “Seoba srba u Kranjsku”

I have been wanting to dive into Zupanic for some time — perhaps 25 years, in fact; it’s odd that I had not yet. I think I wanted to wait until I could give it my full attention, as it was the first thing I “discovered” when I began my collecting in the late 1980s.

Once I’d read Zupanic, it made sense to focus for the moment on readings by people who were working at or near the turn of the century — regardless the subjects of their writings. The goal for the moment has become to understand the way that Serbian, Croatian, and other writers from the period of the growth of nationalism in the area thought about Zumberak and its Serbs. The questions that emerged for me have less to do with nationalism, which I’d love to avoid, like the plague; and more with the way that period understood culture and cultural transformation.

They are all chock full of interesting/crazy/typical stereotypes from the era…the willingness of scholars, journalists, etc. to draw wacky conclusions on the basis of the strangest evidence still surprises me.

Janko Simrak, on the Marca eparhija, is next. He’s got interesting thoughts on bride abduction…

More soon.

Research Question

Same book review, prompts more concrete set of questions:

The author of one of the articles notes the growth of warlords during/after First World War in Russia. This prompted me to wonder…

1. Why did Zumberak not produce warlords in the modern era?

2. What other characteristics we think of as typical of regions and regionalism does Zumberak not exhibit?

3. Local political leaders/henchmen/charismatics?

4. Given that it is clearly a separate place in important ways, how does it evince that separateness in usual ways? Unusual ways?

5. Is its economic backwardness the source of its lack of political leaders, charismatics, warlords?


I’ve been reviewing a book unrelated to my research; it’s about the effects of the First World War in Eastern Europe. At one point, an author of one of the articles said that “we must look backward and forward” to understand something about the violence of the war. In the spirit of sharing even that which may appear banal within minutes, here’s where my mind headed:

In Z, Looking backward and forward, one sees slow change, static population, sustained separateness –> in which movement in was original key, and confirms identity to now. But movement and its explicit absence, are constants in identity of the people. Maintained original differences even as they were homogenized religiously and nationally (existence of multiple dialects/variants in small area, by village). Then they left again, fled new threats. Perhaps took Zumberak with them. Ontario, Cleveland, Facebook. The interesting possibility is that they moved, but never assimilated; they changed identity over time in a unique fashion, but never disappeared into the population (of Z, of Croatia, of US, of Australia, Canada, Facebook).


One small project — probably best considered a side project — is to examine Jovan Hranilovic’s Zumberacke elegije alongside Silvije Strahimir Kranjcevic’s Uskocke elegije. The latter was written as a response to the former, and it’s my vague (perhaps baseless) hope that the two will work together and off of each other. One treating the violent starting point of Senj, the other the landing spot of Zumberak. Perhaps Trdina’s folk tale about Sveta Gera can find its way in there too. In other words, a fun examination of the Zumberak, and the Uskoks, of their own imagination.

Back in (the Red and the) Black

It’s been over a year, again, which adequately reflects how little time I’ve had to work on my Zumberak project. But I’m on sabbatical now, and the goal is to do as much reading as possible, and to just have time to think about what I would like to do with this project, on a small area but with so many potential approaches. I’m doing this in a faraway land, far from home, far from Zumberak.

Maybe this will take, finally?