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JERNEJ KOPITAR’S ROLE IN THE DEVELOPMENT
OF A SLOVENE NATIONAL AND
► Hroch, Slovenes, Kopitar
► Kopitar, Zois, Vienna
► Kopitar's Austro-Slavism
► French and inter-Slavic influences
► Cultural communication: printing popular poetry
► Cultural communication: philological chairs
I intend to examine to what extent the Slovene scholar Jernej Kopitar (1780-1844) – primarily known for his role as a pioneer of Slavic comparative linguistics and director of the Austrian Imperial Court Library of Vienna - could be labelled as the pioneer of Slovene national consciousness-raising or even as the pioneer of the Slovene Phase A movement. On the one hand, I shall focus on his role in Slovene (and South Slavic) cultural issues and, on the other hand, this paper will deal with the ambiguity of Kopitar’s role regarding the fact that he considered himself a Carniolan, an Austro-Slavicist and a Slav at the same time. This paper will be based on Miroslav Hroch’s analysis of the Slovene national movement as a basis to illustrate a few phenomena of the emergence of Slovene cultural nationalism, as well as on correspondence material. Hroch labels the starting phase of a national movement by the term “Phase A” (scholarly interest), which is later followed by a “Phase B” (national agitation) and “Phase C” (mass support for national ideas). It is, however, our intention to particularly focus on the Slovene “Phase A” movement, which Hroch defines as follows:
The “scholarly” phase, when enlightened academic study took an interest in the language, history, culture, way of life and at times even the territory of the ethnic group. This phase was prompted by an enlightened desire for knowledge, but also, by enlightened patriotism, and love for the homeland and the ethnic group inhabiting it.
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Firstly, I would like to give a brief overview of Hroch’s interpretation of the historical situation of the Slovenes, in order to create a solid basis for our further presentation. Hroch considers the Slovenes a non-dominant ethnic group, as well as a non-historical group, consisting only of a rural, peasant population and thus characterised by the absence of a completed social structure. By non-dominant ethnic group, he means a small nation within a larger whole, with no real political programme due to Habsburg political oppression and with a weak tradition of a written language. The second term – non-historical group – refers to a nation without a tradition of history or experience of statehood, again with a lack of political history. Nevertheless, Slovenia did have a tradition of scholarly interest, by which its Phase A is marked. Since the Slovenes did not have a completed social structure, they preferred linguistic, historical and cultural demands during their national movement, instead of creating a political programme. With respect to this scholarly interest, the figure of Jernej Kopitar is of particular interest.
Bearing in mind the importance of language in the process of a national awakening and taking J.G. Herder’s influence on Jernej Kopitar into account, it is interesting to examine to which extent Kopitar was indeed engaged in the Slovene language issue. In 1809, Kopitar set out a linguistic programme in his Grammar – in which he primarily focused on the countryside and on the peasants when searching for the most pure Slovene spoken language among its population. He respected this unadulterated language to the extent of wishing to elevate it to the degree of a standardised vernacular. This brings us to the case of the Slovene orthography struggle, which is both a characteristic of Hroch’s Phase A, as it is a manifestation of Kopitar’s role in the rise of a Slovene national movement. During the Slovene Alphabet War (1830-1835) – better known as the Slovene ABC-Krieg - , Kopitar strongly expressed the idea of a complementary spelling in his Grammar, by endeavouring to introduce a new and common Slovene orthography for all Slovenes, irrespective of their origin, whether Krain, Kärnten or Steiermark (in other words: the regions of Carniola, Carinthia or Styria). Apart from the purification and thus degermanisation of the existing language, he suggested adding nine new Cyrillic letters to the twenty already existing Latin letters (as had already been anticipated by J.S.V. Popovič (1705-1774) in Slovenia and by J. Dobrovský in Bohemia), since he was of the opinion that the Latin script did not suffice to render all specific sounds. Therefore, he advocated a phonological approach towards the spelling, that is, one letter for one sound or as many letters as there are sounds. Since the Cyrillic alphabet was a distinctive characteristic of the language of the South Slavs, Kopitar’s linguistic reforms implied a move towards the unification of all South Slavs. The opponents of Kopitar’s suggested orthographic reforms were France Prešeren and Matija Čop, who both fought for the preservation of Slovene individuality and insisted on a separate language for the Slovenes. Prešeren wished to be able to express more intellectually complex content in the Slovene language, for which the common idiom was unsuitable. Kopitar was interested in literature for the common people, Prešeren in literature for the educated class.
It is important to bear in mind that the Habsburg (Austrian) political policy consisted of dividing the Slovenes into provinces and regions. The policy even attributed different names per region for the same language, e.g. the Slovene language in Carniola was called Carniolan, while the same language in Carinthia and Styria was called “windische Sprache”. Its goal was to disintegrate the Slovenes to the extent of making a political or even an administrative unification impossible. Therefore, it was Kopitar aspiration’s to unify these Slovenes as much as possible. Kopitar’s linguistic reforms initially illustrate his national and cultural commitment to his people and his wish to fight against the weak position of his mother tongue within the German-speaking territory. Therefore it is not that striking that he considers the best solution to be a unification with the South Slavs. Influenced by Herder, Kopitar believed that the language was a medium for connecting people; people who speak the same language belong to the same nation. Hroch, however, does not believe language to be a criterion that determines a sense of belonging to a particular nation. However, he does admit that patriots like Kopitar turned dialects into objects of admiration and thus Hroch considers the nostalgic celebration of the national language to be a characteristic of the Phase A movement.
The question that was constantly keeping Kopitar busy was whether Slovene speakers were to be absorbed in the German-speaking multitude or in a South-Slavic multitude. Since the Slovene lower classes did not master German as did the more educated Slovenes, Kopitar had more sympathy for a unification in the southern direction. He considered Slovene to be part of a larger whole and thus entitled to existence. Many Slovene intellectuals are critical about Kopitar’s true loyalty to the Slovene language, however, we must acknowledge that Kopitar’s most famous theory was his so-called Carantanian theory, in which he wished to put forward the authenticity of Slovene through proving its closeness to Old Church Slavonic, thereby stating that the Slovene language was the descendant of Old Church Slavonic. Notwithstanding the fact that this theory may seem absolutely untenable today, we must recognise the positive discoveries which the theory entailed, such as Kopitar’s thought about the christianisation of the Pannonian Slavs (Carniola, Hungarian Slovenia, Provincial Croatia, i.e. all Slavs using the question word “kaj”) preceding the arrival of the two Holy Brothers Cyril and Method. Moreover, Kopitar’s research on the historical Carantanian language can be considered as an integral part of the Slovene Phase A, since it led to the rise of a historical consciousness among the Slovene population. Consequently, the Slovenes were proud to at least have a historical tradition on linguistic level, despite the fact that Hroch labels the Slovene nation as a nation without a tradition of history.
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The second issue, which I would like to discuss, concerns Kopitar’s role in Vienna, to where he moved for good at the age of twenty-nine. Considering that Kopitar worked for his Maecenas iga Zois (1747-1819) in Ljubljana for several years before permanently leaving for Vienna in 1809, I consider it relevant to examine whether Kopitar’s scholarly activities were influenced by this environmental change or rather by his Maecenas. As relevant background information we should mention that Baron Zois was a famous Slovene Enlightener at the end of the eighteenth century up to 1819, the year in which he died. He strongly endeavoured to bring about a Slovene national awakening and was the first to establish a circle of young Slovene intellectuals, who were all willing to strive for the Slovene national and cultural cause. Moreover, Kopitar was a member of Zois’ circle and thus strongly influenced by his master’s patriotic aspirations. It is our intention to examine whether Kopitar – after having left his homeland and thus his Maecenas iga Zois for Vienna – continued to strive for the preservation of his mother tongue and for the rise of a Slovene national consciousness.
Already in his first letter to Dobrovský (March 1808), written when he was still under Zois’ wing, I came across striking statements, which prove that Kopitar did not consider himself to be merely a Slovene Enlightener, but rather a Slav Enlightener:
Mein Lebenswunsch wäre [...] mich vorzubereiten, und dann an eine reichhaltige Bibliothek zu kommen, vielleicht an die kaiserliche nach Wien, und für die slavistische Geschichte das zu werden, was Muratori für die italiänische ist. slavische Sprachforschung würde mich freilich auch sehr lebhaft beschäftigen … aus des Volkes Munde müsste man unsere Dialekte studieren …
Evidently, we must bear in mind that the terms “Slovene” and “Slavic” were in the nineteenth century not used and interpreted in the same way as we understand them today. Therefore, some prudence is called for when dealing with terminology of this sort. I, however, wish to emphasise that the quotations at hand merely serve as an illustration of Kopitar’s Pan-Slavic (i.e. transgressing Slovene) ambitions.
Approximately two years later (February 2nd, 1810), Kopitar wrote a letter to the Slovene Baron Jozef Kalasanc Erberg (1771-1843), in which he wrote:
O! Ich habe herrliche Aussichten für meine Slawen,[...], wenn ich nur in Wien etabliert werde.
These quotations are merely a random selection from the large number of similar expressions on Kopitar’s so-called “Slavic” undertakings. Previous studies on Kopitar’s life and work have often led to contradictions and misinterpretations, due to the fact that the Slovene scholar is often labelled a “Carniolian” or accusatory designated as an “Austrian patriot”, while he felt just as much a Slav in Vienna. Many Slovene literary historians even tend to deprive Kopitar of his authority as a Slovenist. In a letter to A. Erberg (dated April 14th, 1810) Baron Zois established a link between his own Slavic scholarship, which he had pursued for thirty-two years, and Kopitar’s assignments in Vienna. He suggested that Kopitar should pursue Slavic studies at the Imperial Court Library of Vienna (apart from pursuing the study of law), and that with the intention of “doing service to the most cultivated Slavic state and honouring Slavism in general.” This sentence is undoubtedly pro Austro-Slavic, however, it also expresses a definite tendency towards an actual program of Slavism. And indeed, if one studies Kopitar’s scholarly activities, one comes to the conclusion that Kopitar attached great importance to the study of the Slovene language and its history, however, always put it into a South-Slavic or even into a Slavic context in general. Kopitar used to refer to the term “South Slavic”, when considering the Slovenes, Croats, Serbs and even Bulgarians, since he ascribed the Bulgarians to the category of the Serbs at this stage, as did Dobrovský.
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The term “Austro-Slavic” requires some extra attention, since it may not be confused with the Austro-Slavic phenomenon in 1848. It was, however, an extraordinary and at the same time prevailing phenomenon in Kopitar’s works and thus influenced the development of the Slovene national awakening. After the publication of his Grammatik in 1809, he started writing numerous articles on contemporary Slavic issues in German scholarly journals (e.g. in Vaterländische Blätter, Wiener allgemeine Literaturzeitung, Jahrbücher der Literatur). One of his first and most famous articles, Patriotische Phantasien eines Slaven , clearly manifests the beginning of his Austro-Slavic ideology, which involved unifying all Slovenes and South-Slavs in what he called “Slavic Austria”, in order to found a national and stable Slavic entity within the Austrian Empire and secondly, to offer greater resistance to the Russian Orthodox Pan-Slavicists, as he called his enemies. Kopitar’s greatest aspiration within this ideology was to establish a centralised Slavic academy in Vienna (the capital city of the Slavs), which would serve as the academic centre of Slavic studies. His ideology was culturally as well as politically oriented since it was not merely his wish of making Vienna the cultural centre of the Slavs, but also to sweep away all Russian cultural and political influences. The only way to realise this plan would be to introduce and develop cultural identity through language, which would later transform into a national identity, namely the feeling of a common Slavic identity on Austrian territory. In his Patriotische Phantasien he literally incited the Slavic population to unite:
Lernet einander nur besser kennen, gewiss, ihr werdet täglich neue Vorzüge an einander entdecken! Vereinigt euch, wenigstens ihr Zweige, […]!
Further on he writes: “Österreich herrscht aber über Slaven aller Dialekte […]” and he calls Vienna the “Zusammenflusse von Slaven aller Mundarten”.
Katja Sturm-Schnabl most clearly and accurately describes the aim and impact of Kopitar’s Austro-Slavic ideology on the development of a national awareness, whether Slovene or Slavic:
Kopitars Vorstellungen einer slavischen Wiedergeburt fanden schliesslich ihren Niederschlag in dem kulturpolitischen Konzept des Austroslavismus. Davon ausgehend, dass der damalige österreichische Staat von einer zahlenmässigen Mehrheit katholischer Slaven bewohnt wurde, sollten diese im Rahmen dieses Staates die kulturpolitische Führung innerhalb der slavischen Welt übernehmen und so das katholische Österreich über das orthodoxe Russland hinausheben. Träger dieser Bewegung sollten die Südslaven, insbesondere die Slovenen sein. Serbien wollte Kopitar wenigstens für eine Union gewinnen.
Based on the foregoing, we could say that Kopitar did not so much continue his scholarly work on the Slovene national case after he had moved to Vienna, but rather promoted and popularised the need for a common Slavic entity. To quote the Slovene writer Josip Jurčič (1844-1881) on this matter:
Kopitar je bil eden prvih, ki je z velikim znanjem in torej z veliko avtoriteto tolmačil tujim učenjakom, o Slavjanstvu nevednim, ime, pomen in skupnost našega naroda. Govoril je o Slavjanih na Kranjskem, ne o Kranjcih, o Slavjanih na Češkem, ne o Nemcih, kakor je bila prej navada. [...] Odprl je slavjanom samim oči za veliko njih preteklost, podal jim je ključe jezikovne znanosti do prvega vira nepokvarjene staroslovanščine, tega divnega jezika naših svetih apostolov Cirila in Metoda [...].
Kopitar was one of the first, who - with great knowledge and thus with great authority – imparted knowledge to foreign scholars on matters such as Slavdom (Slavjanstvo) and the name, significance and unity of our people. He spoke of Slavs in Carniola, not of Carniolans, of Slavs on Czech territory, not of Germans, as was the habit before. […] He made the Slavs aware of their great history, he gave them the keys to linguistic knowledge up to the primary source of the Old Church Slavonic language, this wonderful language of our Holy Brothers Cyril and Method […]
Another illustrative example of Kopitar’s ideology of uniting Slavs (and thus also Slovenes) in the Austrian Empire was his mission to Paris (1814-1815) with regard to Napoleon’s loot. During several of Napoleon’s occupations, innumerable precious manuscripts, books, works of art, maps, pictures, engraved plates and prints were removed from the Austrian Empire and transported to Paris. In 1805 and 1809 the Imperial Court Library of Vienna was subjected to a similar practice. In June, 1814, Kopitar was sent to Paris on a secret diplomatic mission as a representative of Emperor Francis I, entrusted with the task of regaining the material that had been removed from the Imperial Court Library. It was Kopitar’s personal wish to regain as many stolen Slavica as possible in order to recover the literary wealth and cultural heritage of his second homeland. Since Kopitar was a loyal Slovene patriot, it seems evident that he wished to devote himself to the expansion of other Slavic languages and thus their acceptance in the Austrian Empire. Kopitar’s passion for the study of Slavica was demonstrated in the successful execution of his mission.
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Obviously, we cannot study the development of Slovenia’s national awakening without considering the fact that the French Revolution must have triggered Slovenia’s Phase A, as well as its short episode as a Napoleonic state, known as the Illyrian Provinces (1809-1813). Slovene scholars were pleasantly impressed by the French attitude towards the Slovenes and their language, since Napoleon permitted the introduction of the Slovene language in his educational reforms. Moreover, Napoleon wished to put as many locals in administrative and political functions as possible. The more the French in Ljubljana, which was the capital city of the Illyrian Provinces, wished to organise the new Illyria, the more and bigger Kopitar’s plans to develop Slovene became. It even came so far, that Kopitar doubted whether he would return to his homeland and accept a French position in his native country, in stead of waiting for his position of scriptor at the Imperial Court Library of Vienna. Without further elaborating on this matter, I wish to indicate that Kopitar was acquainted with the contemporary situation on Slovene territory, which means his interest still went out to his native country, despite the fact that he permanently left for Vienna. Therefore, it would be unfair to state that Kopitar merely focused on the destiny of the (South) Slavs.
In any case, the French interregnum on Slovene territory was of great importance for the national and cultural life of the Slovenes. Napoleon had in fact created a high level of culture for the Slovenes, which they did not have prior to their invasion. Napoleon did not so much enforce the French language as he did French civilisation upon the Slovenes.
Another important characteristic of Hroch’s Phase A – that is scholarly interest – is the intense mutual communication among the Slavs, which is most certainly an important feature of the rise of a Slovene national awareness. Kopitar maintained an extensive correspondence with contemporary Slavicists in order to stimulate a mutual communication of this sort. The scholar’s tendency to serve as a kind of human serving-hatch is frequently illustrated in his extensive correspondence and is even found to be characteristic of Kopitar in contemporary studies on him. He had more than five hundred correspondents , among which many intellectuals from all around Europe (Josef Dobrovský, Jacob Grimm, Pavel Šafařík, Samuel Linde and many others), with whom he openly discussed the national and cultural interest of the progressive Slavs in the Austrian Empire. Thus, he built up a large network of eminent Slavic experts, with whom he could endlessly elaborate on scholarly issues. His goal was to keep his contacts informed on linguistic and cultural developments, by, for example, exchanging or promoting new or interesting scholarly books, periodicals and even manuscripts. As censor for Slavic, neo-Greek, Rumanian and Albanian books at the Imperial Court Library of Vienna (1818-1844), Kopitar pulled the strings of literary life of the Habsburg Slavs and was therefore well acquainted with modern scholarly research. He also wished to connect as many Slavic scholars as possible, in order to make interchange of ideas and transfer of knowledge possible among scholars or intellectuals interested in Slavic studies. Among the Slovene intellectuals, he mainly collaborated with, stimulated and extensively corresponded with his Maecenas Zois, Franc Miklošič (his pupil), Janez Nepomuk Primic (the man behind the foundation of the Slovene Chair at the Lyceum of Graz), Franc Metelko and Peter Danjko (important advocates of Kopitar at the time of the Slovene Alphabet War). Among the Serbs, he greatly influenced Vuk Karadžić, for whom he was like a Maecenas – as Zois had been Kopitar’s. His collaboration with the Croats was less intense, because Kopitar considered the Kajkavian Croats to be Slovenes and secondly, he opposed Ljudevit Gaj’s Illyrian Movement (because the Štokavian standard language of the Illyrian Movement removed Croatian Kajkavian even further away from Slovene). Thus, Kopitar was famous for expanding scholarly information through various communication channels. Not only did he reach a large public by dozens of publications in several periodicals and through his extensive correspondence, but moreover, through gatherings and scholarly circles. The most striking case in point of Kopitar’s network building was the concept of his meeting place “Zum Weissen Wolf” in Vienna. Kopitar called it his “round table”, since he was at the centre of it. At this public house, Kopitar mixed with Balkan traders and merchants, in order to gather ‘lebendiges Material für seine Balkanphilologie” , as well as to acquire a good working knowledge of several Slavic languages, which were represented at this meeting place.
Quoting Hafner on this matter:
Jeder in seinem Bereiche der vaterländischen Wissenschaft ergeben, lieferten sie die Bausteine für das kulturpolitische Konzept Kopitars. Im Weissen Wolfen wurden, wie wir aus Kopitars Korrespondenz wissen, nicht nur wissenschaftliche Erfahrungen ausgetauscht, Briefe weitergereicht, publizistische Unternehmungen besprochen, es wurde, wie wir aus Hormayrs Bericht entnehmen, auch kräftig Politik gemacht.”
The German historian Pertz described the meeting place as follows:
We met at the hotel, the “Weisser Wolf”, where other scholars frequently joined us […] Philological discussions occupied an important part of the time we spent together. Both Kopitar and Dobrowsky […] were regarded by the Sclavs, as well as by the Poles and Russians, as their most learned men, whoever visited Vienna sought them out. Therefore we constantly met at our meals Greeks, Hungarians and Oriental scholars.
Vuk Karadžić was Kopitar’s most loyal guest at the inn, as well as Palacký, Šafařík, Jungmann, Čelakowský, Hanka, …; almost all Slavic nationalities grouped together as one tolerant entity. This clearly illustrates that Vienna was indeed the centre of many Slav intellectuals and that Kopitar could be labelled as its central figure.
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Hroch's Phase A does not only imply mutual communication, but also “national and social communication”. In the case of Slovene national awakening, this type of communication entails the rise of periodicals and printing presses, the collection and edition of popular songs and the foundation of Slavic philological chairs among other things. Since the primary focus of this paper does not lie in an elaboration of the quoted communication means, I shall limit myself to a brief presentation of Kopitar’s contribution to the collection of popular songs and the foundation of philological chairs.
Kopitar had already shown interest in South Slavic poetry and, more specifically, in Croatian and Serbian popular songs since the beginning of his stay in Vienna, and thus certainly before meeting his future disciple, Vuk Karadžić (1787-1864). Previously, he had already been influenced by Zois’ similar interest for popular songs, as well as by Herder. However, at the time, the collection of national songs or folk songs was not yet developed on Slovene territory and since Kopitar did not show much interest or enthusiasm for it, he did not even attempt to collect them. He even had doubts about the existence of old Slovene popular songs. Nevertheless, he was aware of the importance of collecting them, especially with regard to their importance for a nation’s cultural and national development. Such collections would serve as mirrors of nationality, of history and of customs, all elements of Hroch’s Phase A. Like Herder, Kopitar believed popular songs were a valuable source of literary tradition. Since most Slavs lived under foreign domination for centuries, their mother tongue, as well as their traditions, were neglected and thus only preserved in the national songs of the common people. Kopitar’s Slovene contemporary Valentin Vodnik (1758-1819), who was also a member of Zois’ circle, was an exception, in this sense that he did collect Slovene songs, although to a limited extent. His collection, on which he was still working before he died in 1819, contained three narrative songs and one hundred and forty dance songs. Except for Vodnik and some other small group of enthusiastic Slovenes and a few Slavic scholars, there does not seem to have been a strong interest concerning Slovene popular or folk songs until later. It was Kopitar who played a vital role in connecting popular songs with the national awakening, though more in Serbia than in his own native country. To the Serbs and to Europe, Kopitar revealed the richness and value of Southern Slavic oral poetry, by stimulating his favourite pupil Vuk Karadžić to record and collect Serbian folk songs. In view of his Austro-Slavism, which I have already presented (cf. supra), Kopitar wished to attain the same goals for the Serbs as for the Slovenes, namely the rise of national awareness through the development of cultural nationalism. In other words, he wished to introduce a literary programme for the Serbs just as he had initially wished for the Slovenes. This literary programme consisted of attaining a cultural uprising through the introduction of a new orthographic system, a dictionary, a grammar and a collection of traditional popular songs.
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The second characteristic of cultural communication that I wish to discuss is the foundation of Slavic philological chairs. Kopitar attached much importance to the foundation of Slavic and Old Church Slavonic chairs on the Habsburg territory, which of course cannot be studied without taking his aspirations to establish a Slavic Academy into account. The latter again represents a large part of his Austro-Slavic ideology.
Already in his Grammar, Kopitar for example wished for “eine permanente Kanzel der krainischen Sprache an der Theologie“, which promoted the establishment of a Slovene Chair at the Ljubljana Lyceum in 1815. Above all, Kopitar wished to found a chair of Old Church Slavonic in Vienna, which would mean the crowning glory of his Austro-Slavic aspirations. In a letter to Dobrovský he wrote in 1810 (21.04.1810):
Das Altslawische sollte in Wien eine Kanzel haben, weil es hier, und nicht in Russland zu Hause gehört, und weil österreich über Slaven aller Dialekte herrscht (Russland über einen) und das Altslawische die gründlichste Anleitung zu allen neuern gibt! Was für Ideale fliegen mir durch den Kopf! Und nein! Die Erfahrung muss nicht verzweifeln machen. Wäre ich nur Scriptor, dass ich meinem Slawismus leben könnte […]“
In 1811 a Slovene chair was founded at the Lyceum of Graz, which was then the intensive cultural centre of the Slovenes from the region of Styria in the northeast of Slovene territory, and in 1815 a Slovene chair was founded at the Ljubljana Lyceum. These chairs were established with the aim of achieving a long-term development of the Slovene language on a pedagogic and scientific basis, as well as on a religious and aesthetic basis, since most students were prospective clergy. According to Ivan Prijatelj , the main aim of the Slovene Chair in Graz was to teach Slovene to (government) clerks. The foundation of the Chair was in fact owed to Primic, however, Kopitar played a guiding and supervising role. For example, Kopitar advised Primic, the holder of the chair, to surround himself with intellectuals, students and priests and to prepare a complete inventory of the local language.
In addition to the introduction of the Slovene Chair at the Graz Lyceum , a Societas Slovenica was founded in 1810 by Janez Nepomuk Primic (1785-1823), again, through mediation of Kopitar. This association was established with the aim of opposing the public indifference with regard to the Slovene language by developing and fostering the use of Slovenian speech among the Slovene students at the University of Graz and Ljubljana. Its members (mainly intelligentsia and bourgeoisie) quite often got together to read Herder (who saw language as the repository of a people’s tradition, culture, history, religion, wisdom, heart and soul), Dobrovský (his periodical Slavín in particular) and Kopitar’s famous Grammar. Undoubtedly, these activities contributed to the development of the Slovene language in Styria (Graz), as well as in Ljubljana. The Slovene language started to break through in public life, which led to an intellectual and cultural development of the Slovenes and even to an Austrian-Slovenian cultural collaboration. However, a Slavic Academy was never established in Vienna as the Austrian governmental institutions did not believe in Kopitar’s so-called “Phantasies”. Instead, Kopitar endeavoured the foundation of a Slavic printing press, which would provide the possibility of producing fundamental Slavic works in Vienna, again to prevent them of being published in Russia.
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The few points discussed in this presentation enable us to phrase the following conclusions: Kopitar was not so much the pioneer of the Slovene Phase A as he was an advocate of the South-Slavic Phase A movement. He saw the national awakening as the awakening of the Slavs to some kind of group identity. He stimulated scholarly interest among contemporary Slavic intellectuals; he encouraged the Slavs to look back in their history, to use their native tongue, to draw up schoolbooks and textbooks, as well as to establish national periodicals. In general, he encouraged his Slavic colleagues to advocate a Slav national consciousness-raising, in order to suppress Russian and German oppression. In other words, Kopitar was searching for a kind of territorial and Pan-cultural identity for the South Slavs living in the Habsburg Empire. Thus, Kopitar’s Austro-Slavic ideology was also a factor of vital importance during the Slovene and Slavic Phase A movement. In the same way, he stimulated and supported Vuk’s reforms with regard to Serbian linguistics and culture. Kopitar believed that the only way to attain a common Slavic (or Slovene) cultural identity, would be through language, which would in a later stage transform into a national identity; namely the feeling of a common Slavic identity on Austrian territory.
Therefore, Kopitar’s role during the 20s and 30s of the nineteenth century cannot and may not be underestimated, since he realised many of his scholarly aspirations, be it Slovene or Slavic. Quoting the famous Slovene scholar Jože Toporišič to conclude:
Kopitar’s work[…] signifies one of the indispensable pillars of Slovene awareness of their linguistic and also political individuality. As long as Slovenes care about one and the other – and the two are inseparable – we can only be glad of having Kopitar among us.
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