Njegos – Part 1

NjegosThe past Labor Day weekend is known in the Cleveland area by their picnics, both on Broadview and Wallings Road, referred to as Njegos Day. This year marks the 200th anniversary since the birth of Njegos. Below is a loose translation of an article about the life of this famous Serbian bishop, statesman and poet.

Let That Which Cannot Be, Be

Svetlanda Novicic (Pravoslavlje, br.1113-1114)

Petar II Petrovic Njegos was born in 1813 in Njegusima, beneath the Lovcen mountain, not far from Cetinje, in the famous house of the Petrovic, which had already given Montenegro a number of prominent figures.  His name was Radivoje (Rade), while the name Petar he received at his monastic tonsure. There wasn’t enough money for his schooling in Russia, so his uncle, Bishop Petar I, sent him to Monastery Topla near Herceg Novi, where the abbot Josip Tropovic taught him Italian, math, church chant and the Psalter. When he returned to Cetinje, his teacher was the well known Serbian poet of that time Sima Milutinovic Sarajlija, who above all taught him poetry. Most of his education Njegos received on his own. He knew history remarkably well, as well as folk poetry and philosophy. He was tonsured a monk at a very early age in 1831 and after the death of his uncle he accepted rule over Montenegro. He traveled to St. Petersburg in 1833 where he was consecrated as bishop [when he was only 20! Ed.].  Thus he became the civil and religious ruler of Montenegro. He was the last, since after his death church and religious rule was separated.

Even though it might appear that rule seems intoxicating and sweet, that which awaited the young bishop was nothing like that. Perhaps it is Isidora Sekulic who best describes that time in her work, To Njegos, A Book of Deep Devotion, referring to him as bitter years: “Even the ones before the bitter weren’t that sweet. Didn’t the young Rade Petrovic, before his received his first title as Ruler and became  an archimandrite, hadn’t he already received an ultimatum from the Pasha in Skadar? But that year of 1836, temptations, troubles and injustice will pour out like a torrent.  Though, in moments venting will come, one can still say that some ten years of bitterness, resentment and even despair will sit with  the young Ruler while he eats bread, writes letters and poetry and even while he rests. And after those ten years he is left with only three-four years of sickness, dying and death.”

Njegos completed many difficult jobs – he helped in the reconciling of divided and feuding tribes, introduced the first tax, opened the first schools in Montenegro, as well as a printing press in Cetinje. He procured books from Serbia, Croatia and Russia and distributed them to the people and upon his initiative the first Montenegrin periodical was published, the almanac Grlica. In a letter to Ilija Garasanin he says: “I will try to establish more schools since I am convinced they are the surest means by which a nation, through education and enlightenment, can be led to true happiness.”

To be continued

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