Vuk Stefanovich Karadzich

(1787-1864)


Vuk Stefanovich Karadzich was born in the village of Trshich in western Serbia, son of a peasant, in 1787. A sickly child, he was named Vuk (Wolf), supposedly to ward off evil spirits. He attended briefly the famous gymnasium at Sremski Karlovci and then studied for a time at the new "velika shkola" (later University) in Belgrade. But he soon left Belgrade and after an illness that left him crippled for life went to Vienna in 1810

Vuk produced a grammar of the vernacular of Serbian language in 1815 and a Serbian dictionary three years later. In these works he reduced the complex Slavo-Serbian alphabet from forty characters to thirty, following the then radical principle of the elimination off all unpronounced letters. These works were of crucial importance to South Slavic linguistics, alphabet, and history.

Vuk's primary objective was to make the Serbian language as spoken by the ordinary peasants into the literacy norm. In writing his grammar his wish had been to ease the writer's task.

In consequence he devoted much time to the writing of contemporary Serbian history. The desire to spread abroad the fame of Serbia and its heroic history lead him to prepare a big collection of Serbian oral and "popular songs". Vuk had also recorded from his own memory a collection of Serbian oral poems. He was collecting more heroic songs from a blind "guslar", Filip Vishnjich and other freedom fighters against Turkish Empire.

Vuk's translated work received international attention. It was translated by J. W. Goethe, Jacob Grimm and Pushkin. Vuk's collection attracted the attention and caught up in the European enthusiasm for folk poetry. The Serbian songs were translated into major European languages.

Adapted from the: "Life and Times of Vuk Stefanovich Karadzich" by Duncan Wilson and Vasa D. Mihailovich


lpv@umiacs.umd.edu