In 1839, at the age of twenty-two, Matija Mažuranić crossed the River Sava into Ottoman Bosnia on a secret political mission on behalf of the Illyrian national movement in his native Croatia, then part of the Habsburg Monarchy. After initial setbacks, he reached his goal via the principality of Serbia, since 1830 an autonomous entity within the Ottoman Empire. For the Illyrians, both Bosnia and Serbia were kindred south Slav lands (albeit little known because of the militarized border that still separated ‘Germany’ from ‘Turkey’) and, as such, key components of a future Illyrian association.
In this fascinating and sympathetic eyewitness account, Mažuranić records his encounters with Ottoman Bosnian society at every level – from peasants in the field mistaking him for a demon to townspeople in taverns and shops who often saw him as a strange and inferior being – culminating in the time he spent as a visitor attached to the pasha’s court. The author’s life was in danger on more than one occasion, from his perilous crossing into Serbia by boat to a nocturnal ordeal at the hands of a jealous father.
This unique record provides invaluable insight into the local customs, modes of speech and dress, and political, social and economic conditions of Ottoman Bosnia at the dawn of the reform period known as the Tanzimat.
About the Author
Matija Mažuranić (1817–1881) was the youngest brother of two leaders of the Illyrian national movement in Croatia. He was an entrepreneur and builder of roads and bridges, who learned Turkish and travelled widely throughout the Ottoman Empire.
'Matija Mažuranić performs a great service to anybody teaching the modern history and culture of the region.'
Alex Drace-Francis, University of Liverpool