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Jelena Bakic


Due to the historical and political situation in 19th-century Montenegro, opportunities for the development of culture were limited. Montenegro (gaining independence in 1878) had been for centuries a strongly patriarchal and warrior society. Written literature – mostly in men’s hands – was a privilege of the few. In such historical and cultural circumstances oral literature was an important cultural factor, which was a privilege of a prince-bishop (“vladika“).

But there were some Montenegrian women who, at the same time, were writing in other languages than Serbian (which was spoken in Montenegro) and who published in more developed countries. They found their own way of coping with imposed norms: they refused them. For example, refusing to marry, Ana Maria Marovi? (1815 – 1887) found in the catholic church in Italy, and in religious life a safe space allowing for writing and painting. Another example is the second queen of Italy, Jelena Petrovi? Njegoš (Elena di Savoia; 1873-1952), who married the Italian king Vittorio Emanuele III, and took an active role in (italian) society. She published some poems, but only in Russian and Italian – so they remained little known in Montenegro and her literary activity has been almost forgotten in her home country.

After these two, and some other, examples I will discuss women’s role in Montenegro, in 19th-century cultural life. They left a little developed country, and went to a more developed world. If their work had any impact in their own country, it was not during their life-time: their work came back to Montenegro from the European literary space only one century later.

AsK, September 2012

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