The vicissitudes of Dositej Obradović’s Enlightenment cult among the Serbs
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AbstractThis chapter traces the strenuous and troubling entanglement of Serbian culture with the Enlightenment by analysing the reception of the life and ideas of its foremost proponent, Dositej Obradović. Centuries of diverging historical development in the Balkans, as well as geographical and communication hurdles with the rest of Europe, were hard to overcome even when at times it did not seem so. During his lifetime, Dositej himself struggled to connect his Orthodox Christian background with the ideas of Western Enlightenment. After his death, Dositej's ideas eventually achieved a hegemonic position among the Serbs. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, he was worshipped as a cultural hero of the nascent bourgeoisie eager to embrace Western values and mores. Yet, by the interwar period, Dositej's legacy was seriously questioned. In Communist-ruled Yugoslavia, Dositej's enlightenment was reinstated, albeit modified. Finally, with the rise of confessional nationalism in the 1990s Dositej was condemned, abandoned and replaced with the Serbian medieval patron St Sava. Now, Dositej is venerated by few elitists just like in the early years of his Enlightenment mission.