Jovan Cvijić (Serbian Cyrillic: Јован Цвијић,
pronounced [jɔ̌ʋan tsʋǐːjitɕ]; 12 October 1865 – 16
January 1927) was a Serbian geographer and ethnologist, president of
the Serbian Royal Academy of Sciences and rector of the University of
Belgrade. Cvijić is considered the founder of geography in Serbia. He
began his scientific career as a geographer and geologist, and
continued his activity as a human geographer and sociologist.
1 Early life and family
4.2 Human geography
4.2.1 Influence on Yugoslav state borders
6 Critique of education
8 Academic honors
11 External links
Early life and family
Cvijić was born on October 11 [O.S. September 19] 1865 in
Loznica, then part of the Principality of Serbia. His family was part
of the Spasojević branch of the Piva tribe (Pivljani) in Old
Herzegovina (currently Montenegro). Cvijić's father, Todor, was a
merchant; his grandfather, Živko, was head of
Loznica and a supporter
House of Obrenović
House of Obrenović in Mačva. Živko fought in the 1844 Katana
Uprising against the Defenders of the Constitution, and died after
Cvijić's great-grandfather, Cvijo Spasojević, patriarch of the
Cvijić family, was a well-known hajduk leader in
Old Herzegovina and
Ottoman Empire in the First Serbian Uprising. After its
failure in 1813 he moved to Loznica, built a house and opened a store.
His father, Todor (d. 1900) was a trader before accepting a clerkship
in the municipality. Cvijić's mother, Marija (born Avramović), was
from a family in the village of Koremita in the Jadar region (near
Tronoša and Tršić, birthplace of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić). Todor
and Marija had two sons, Živko and Jovan, and three daughters.
Cvijić often said that in his childhood his spiritual education was
primarily influenced by his mother and her family; he said less about
his father and his father's family. However, in his works on ethnic
psychology Cvijić praised the
Dinaric race of his father.
Cvijić as a young man
After completing elementary school Cvijić attended grammar school in
Loznica for two years, in
Šabac for his third and fourth years, and
graduated from the First
Belgrade Grammar School's department of
natural sciences and mathematics in 1884. After graduation, he wanted
to study medicine, but
Loznica could not provide him a scholarship to
study abroad. A grammar-school teacher suggested that he attend
geography classes at the Velika skola in
Belgrade (now the University
of Belgrade). Cvijić took his advice, enrolling in the natural
sciences department and graduating in 1889. Cvijić studied in several
languages; in grammar school, he studied English, German and French,
which was helpful at university (which had little work translated into
Serbian), and wrote his scientific and other papers in those three
During the 1888–89 school year Cvijić was a geography teacher at
the Second Male Grammar School in Belgrade, and in 1889 enrolled to
study physical geography and geology at
Vienna University. At that
time geomorphology was taught by Albrecht Penck, geotectonics by
Professor Sis (president of the Austrian Academy) and climatology by
Julius von Hann.
Cvijić received his PhD from
Vienna University in 1893. His thesis
was Das Karstphanomen, introducing him to the scientific world, and
was later translated into several languages (into Serbian as
In 1911, Cvijić married Ljubica Nikolić, a widow from Belgrade, née
Cvijić did his first (and most important) field research in eastern
Serbia, observing the structure of the
Kučaj mountains and Prekonoska
Cave in his PhD thesis (accepted in
Vienna on January 22, 1893).
Ethnographic map of the Balkans, co-authored by Cvijić
He was interested in geology and geomorphology. Cvijić's monograph on
lime karst was well received in European scientific circles, and an
introductory academic lecture established him as the first South
Slavic tectonicist. The Serbian lime fields had been studied only
peripherally by Otto von Pirch (1830),
Ami Boué (1840), Felix Philipp
Kanitz, Milan Milićević,
Jovan Žujović and Vladimir Karić before
him. Cvijić studied
Rila in the
recognizing the glacial origin of 102 mountain lakes. It was
previously unknown that the region was influenced by the last glacial
period, and Cvijić's discovery was a turning point in the study of
Cvijić conducted a pioneering human-geographical survey in "Balkan
Peninsula 1918", 1922–I, 1931–II, based on his research of Balkan
personality types. He researched for 38 years, leading expeditions in
the Balkans, the southern
Carpathian Mountains and
produced a number of research papers. Cvijić's two-volume
Geomorphology is an important starting point for research into the
When studying under Albrecht Penck's tutelage he was encouraged to
focus on the study of karst phenomena in the northern Dinaric Alps
which was a region Penck was already acknowledged with. His first
major work was Das Karstphänomen published in 1893. This work was a
publication of the key points of his doctoral thesis. Das
Karstphänomen was published as a slightly modified translation in
Serbo-Croat in 1895. This work describes landforms such as karren,
dolines and poljes. In a 1918 publication, Cvijić proposed a cyclical
model for karstic landscape development. The results of this
work written in French were made accessible to English-language
scientists in 1921 when it was commented by E.M. Sanders. Differences
in climate and geology were used by Cvijić to explain various shapes
and types of karst landforms, sometimes incorrectly. Nevertheless, his
views on the role of climate on the development of karst were more
accurate than those of various climatic geomorphologists that
succeeded him and who greatly exaggerated the role of climate.
It has been attributed to Cvijić that the term karst prevailed over
Edouard Martel's proposed term "Le Causse". Another terminology usage
indebted to Cvijić is that of doline, a term he introduced, and that
overlaps with that of sinkhole. Eventually, Cvijić emerged as the
"father of karst geomorphology".
In his human-geographical research, Cvijić studied migrations,
village and town habitat, types of housing and the culture of
populations in regions influenced by a variety of civilizations,
psychological types, folklore and dress. He traveled during difficult
social and political times, exposing himself to unpleasant and
life-threatening situations (especially in countries under Ottoman and
Austrian rule before World War I). During these trips Cvijić became
acquainted with the living conditions of the
leading to his interest in ethnographic and psycho-social issues; he
noted how little he had known about the difficulty of life in
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia until 1896–1898.
Until then, he later said, he had little of the interest in folklore,
ethnology and national politics he later developed. Cvijić organized
a number of research expeditions to dangerous, unexplored regions.
In 1896 Cvijić published "Instructions for studying villages in
Serbia and other Serbian lands", which was later revised to apply to
Balkan regions. In Serbia, interest developed in folkloric
research; this encouraged the first systematically-gathered data in
ethnology. The research was conducted by Cvijić's students and
colleagues and interested laypeople (primarily village teachers and
priests), constituting a large, unified scientific effort.
Cvijić's thesis on the effects of climate and geography on human life
is the basis of his approach to human geography, where he emphasizes
that humankind is ecologically sensitive. When classifying
anthropological types Cvijić considered social structure (work,
endogamy, exogamy and migration) the primary factor, stressing the
effects of the physical environment on a population's psyche. His
basic concepts are presented in the 1902 Balkan-peninsula paper,
"Human-geography problems". Influenced by Cvijić's paper, Milorad
Dragić (a former student) elaborated on psychological anthropological
research in his 1911 paper "Instructions for studying settlements and
psychological characteristics" (after which Cvijić expanded his
thesis on "The
Balkan peninsula and South Slavic lands" in Serbian).
Cvijić introduced the term 'metanastasic movements', which referred
to slow, gradual, a place-to-place human movement. He and his students
took wide exploration of this phenomenon, eventually establishing the
Serbian ethnological-historic school which gathered ethnological
material from all around the
Balkan peninsula and encompassed
exploration of written sources.
The sparking of interest in human-geographical and ethnographical
research was one of the greatest achievements of Cvijić's scientific
career. His efforts and research helped him gather crucial data, which
he used during negotiations on the state borders of the Kingdom of
Yugoslavia after World War I.
Influence on Yugoslav state borders
World War I
World War I Cvijić helped determine the state borders of the
new Yugoslav state, using his research in demography and human
geography in the negotiations; his data was used in determining the
ethnic expansion of the South Slavs.
Paul Vidal de la Blache
Paul Vidal de la Blache invited Cvijić to Paris on
behalf of the
University of Paris
University of Paris twice (in 1917 and at the beginning
of 1919), where he lectured on
Balkan physical and political
geography. At the end of 1918, the Serbian government named him their
chief expert on ethnographic borders; in 1919, he was elected
president of a unit dealing with territorial issues as part of the
state delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. Here, with Mihajlo
Pupin (another influential scientist), Cvijić's efforts in creating
ethnographic charts of the Yugoslav countries in 1918–1919 helped
determine the borders of a new country: the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats
and Slovenians. It was agreed that the new country should incorporate
Dalmatia and the
Bled triangle (Bled,
Cvijić' s scientific impartiality has been criticized for his support
of Serbia's political advancement; his geographic work was used to
scientifically justify Greater Serbian politics and territorial
... For economic independence,
Serbia must acquire access to the
Adriatic Sea and one part of the Albanian coastline: by occupation of
the territory or by acquiring economic and transportation rights to
this region. This, therefore, implies occupying an ethnographically
foreign territory, but one that must be occupied due to particularly
important economic interests and vital needs.
According to Cvijić,
Bulgarians were "different from the other South
Slavs in their ethnic composition". He described as Slav three
ethnographic groups previously considered Bulgarians: the Macedonian
Shopi and the Torlaks. Cvijić excluded the region around
Sofia (Bulgaria's capital) from the Bulgarian group, maintained that
the three groups above were Slavic (and therefore Serbian). He
Serbia could govern a much larger area that the
territory it held.
After Cvijić's return from
Vienna in March 1893 he became a professor
in the Faculty of Philosophy of the Velika Skola in Belgrade, teaching
geography, physical geography and ethnography. Traveling as a student
and a professor throughout the
Balkans later in life, he developed an
interest in folklore and culture and organized ethnographical research
in the department of geography.
After the Velika Skola became the University of
Belgrade on October
12, 1905, Cvijić was one of eight tenured professors; the others were
Jovan Žujović, Sima Lozanić, Mihailo Petrović Alas, Andra
Stevanović, Dragoljub Pavlović, Milić Radovanović and Ljubomir
Jovanović, and they chose other colleagues for tenured positions.
Cvijić played an active role in reforming the school, helping found
an ethnography department whose first professor was his oldest student
Jovan Erdeljanović (followed by Tihomir Đorđević);
Cvijić remained in the geography department. He was influential in
establishing five new faculties: medicine, agriculture and theology in
Belgrade, philosophy in Skopje and the Subotica Law School.
Critique of education
Cvijić thought that the grammar-school education of that era should
last seven years, instead of eight, and felt that young men should be
included early in adult life and independent work.
Grammar school forms the intelligence and character perhaps even
deeper and stronger than university; it influences the spirit and
moral value of future intellectuals. Besides university, the moral and
spiritual situation and its development depend on the type of grammar
school, what will its civilization get, and in the end, will it slow
or interfere with the development of great personalities, which show
the properties of one nation.
He published detailed instructions for conducting field research into
populations and habitats to help his colleagues, including the 1907
article "On scientific research and our University".
You should get used to constant thinking about a problem, work,
profession until you find a solution. There are bright moments,
especially bright nights, which are rare; where you can find an answer
to a question or come up with a research plan. That time of spiritual
lucidity and creativity should be put to use, and not thinking about
rest according to that ordinary human, oriental laziness. That does
not hurt the body, and if it does hurt, the body exists in order to be
With a group of geographers and biologists, Cvijić founded the
Serbian Geographic Society in
Belgrade in 1910 and was its president
until his death. In 1912 he began a magazine, the Serbian Geographic
Society Herald, which is still published. Cvijić conducted weekly
seminars for science students, which were also attended by teachers
Belgrade grammar schools. He founded the Faculty of Philosophy's
Geographical Institute in 1923 (the first such organization in the
Balkans), managing it until his death.
Statue of Cvijić in Belgrade
In 1947, the
Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts founded the Jovan
Cvijić Geographical Institute in
Belgrade to advance the science of
geography. On November 21–22, 2002, the Academy hosted a meeting on
"the socio-political work of Jovan Cvijić".
Jovan Cvijić's house
Jovan Cvijić's house is housed in his family's house in Belgrade
at 5 Jelena Ćetković Street. Since 1996, the house (built in 1905)
has been declared a cultural monument by the state and was decorated
by Dragutin Inkiostri Medenjak; Cvijić favored a decorative style
Balkan folklore. The museum features manuscripts, letters,
notes, books, paintings, geographical charts, atlases and personal
items, and occasional lectures are presented.
In Serbia, a number of schools and streets are named after Cvijić and
he is still considered the most important Serbian geographer. His work
has been continued by his students, six of whom later became members
of the Serbian Academy (including Pavle Vujević, Borivoje Z.
Milojević and Milisav Lutovac). The scientist's life and work were
researched by geographer Milorad Vasović for his 454-page book, Jovan
Cvijić: Scientist, Public Worker, Statesman (1994).
Cvijić received a number of awards. He belonged to 30 scientific
societies (academies, geographical and natural societies), receiving
ten decorations. Cvijić received a gold medal for his work in 1924
from the New York Geographical Society and medals from England and
France. Two varieties of saffron were named after him.[citation
Cvijić was awarded:
1917: Medal of Geographical society of Paris
1918: Medal of the Charles University in Prague
1920: Patron's Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society
1924: Cullum Geographical Medal
1924: Medal of the Paris-Sorbonne University
Cvijić was named:
Honorary doctor, University of Paris
Honorary doctor, Charles University in Prague
Member of the Serbian Royal Academy
Member of the Czech Academy
Member of the Academy in Brussels
Corresponding Member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts,
Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Italy
Corresponding Member of the Parmasus Science Association, Athens
Corresponding Member of the Russian Geographical Society, Saint
Corresponding Member of geographical societies in Budapest, Vienna,
Geneva, Warsaw, Bucharest, Munich, Berlin,
Amsterdam and London
Honorary president of the Congress of Geographers and Ethnologists,
President of the Serbian Royal Academy from April 12, 1921 until his
death in 1927
Rector of the University of
Statue of Cvijić in Academy Park, Belgrade
In more than 30 years of scientific study, Cvijić published many
works. One of the best-known is The
Balkan Peninsula. Other
Ka poznavanju krša istočne Srbije, 1889.
Prekonoška pećina, 1891.
Geografska ispitivanja u oblasti Kučaja, 1893.
Das Karstphänomen, Geographiche Abhandlungen, Wien, 1893.
Karst, geografska monografija,
Pećine i podzemna hidrografija u istočnoj Srbiji, 1895.
Izvori, tresave i vodopadi u istočnoj Srbiji, 1896.
Tragovi starih glečera na Rili, 1897.
Glacijalne i morfološke studije o planinama Bosne, Hercegovine i Crne
Karsna polja zapadne Bosne i Hercegovine, 1900.
Struktura i podela planina Balkanskog poluostrva, 1902.
Antropogeografski problemi Balkanskog poluostrva, 1902.
Novi rezultati o glacijalnoj eposi Balkanskog poluostrva, 1903.
Balkanska, alpijska i karpatska glacijacija, 1903.
Die Tektonik der Balkanhalbinsel mit besonderer Berückichtigung der
neueren Fortschritte in der Kenntnis der Geologie von *Bulgarien,
Serbien und Mazedonien, 1904.
Nekolika posmatranja o etnografiji makedonskih Slovena, 1906.
Osnove za geografiju i geologiju Makedonije i Stare Srbije, 1, 1906;
2, 1906; 3, 1911.
Grundlinien der Geographie und Geologie von Mazedonien und
Alt-Serbien. Nebst Beobachtungen in Thrazien, Thessalien, Epirus und
Jezerska plastika Šumadije, 1909.
L'anexion de la Bosnie et la question Serbe, Paris, 1909.
Dinarski Srbi, 1912.
Izlazak Srbije na Jadransko More, 1912.
Raspored Balkanskih naroda, 1913.
Ledeno doba u Prokletijama i okolnim planinama, 1913.
Jedinstvo i psihički tipovi dinarskih južnih Slavena, 1914.
Mouvements metanastasiques dans la Peninsule Balkanique, La Monde
Hydrographie souterraine et évolution morphologique du Karst, 1918.
La Peninsule Balkanique, Geographie Humaine, 1918.
Etnogeografske karte jugoslovenskih zemalja, 1918.
Severna granica južnih Slavena (La frontiere septentrionale des
Đerdapske terase, 1922.
Balkansko poluostrvo i južnoslovenske zemlje, 1922.
Metanastazička kretanja, njihov uzrok i posledice, 1922.
Geomorfologija I-II, 1924. and 1926.
Karst i čovek, 1925.
Karst i srpske narodne pripovetke, 1925.
Seobe i etnički procesi u našem narodu, 1927.
Balkansko poluostrvo i južnoslavenske zemlje, 1931.
Rector of University of Belgrade
Andra J. Stevanović
Rector of University of Belgrade
Chairman of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
^ a b c d e f g Ford, Derek (2007). "
Jovan Cvijić and the founding of
karst geomorphology". Environmental Geology. 51: 675–684.
^ "Ethnographic Map of the
Balkan Peninsula". World Digital Library.
Retrieved 23 January 2013.
Belgrade Atlas of Jovan Cvijić: Century and a half since the
birth: 1865–2015", Tatjana Korićanac, p. 23, Gallery of the Serbian
Academy of Science and Arts; 135, Belgrade, 2015.
^ Cvijić, Jovan (1918). "Hydrographie souterraine et évolution
morphologique du Karst". Recueil des travaux de l'institut de
géographie alpine (in French). 6 (4): 375–426. Retrieved June 5,
^ Džaja 1999, p. 43.
^ a b c Jovan Cvijic, Selected statements
^ "The National Question in Yugoslavia. Origins, History, Politics",
Ivo Banac, pp. 307–328, Cornell University Press, 1984.
^ Cvijic, "O nacionalnom radu", commemorative speech 1907, reprinted
in Govori i Clanci, I, Beograd 1921 pp. 51–76
^ Cvijić, Jovan (1907). O naučnom radu i o našem univerzitetu
svetosavski govor 1907. Beograd: Državna Štamp. Kraljevine
^ "Social-political work of Jovan Cvijić". [dead link]
^ "List of Past Gold Medal Winners" (PDF). Royal Geographical Society.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 24
Džaja, Srećko M. (1999). Konfesionalnost i nacionalnost Bosne i
Hercegovine (in Croatian). Mostar: Ziral. ISBN 9536364212.
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