Heroes of the Imagined Communities, Soldiers, and the Military: The Case of Montenegro, the Ottoman Empire, and Serbia before the Balkan Wars (1912–13)
University of Konstanz
The article illustrates the policy of wielding the hero as a symbolic political and nationalizing instrument in the Montenegrin, Ottoman, and Serbian armies before the Balkan Wars. The heroic became an integral part of other social disciplines (such as schools). Besides standing in a clear interdependent relationship, these social disciplines represented a necessary result of various centralizing processes of the governing elites. The primary efforts for the nationalization of the population were undertaken in the pre-/post-military life, in which the role of different state agents was equally important. Hence, the grid of the social disciplines became ever denser, which led to the uniformity of the heroic. This process enabled the legitimization of the ruling elites, subsequent actions in war, and heroization among recruits. The article argues that uniformity of the heroic is lacking in the Ottoman context. Given the ideological context and intellectual background of the preachers of nationalism, the consistency of the Ottoman heroic narrative before, during, and after military service is missing. The article shows that the so-called medievalism closely linked to the heroic offered a framework for constructing continuity between the immediate and distant past, providing meaning to someone’s death. A link between the past, the present, and the future was established, which constructed the nation’s primordial character and the feeling of ancient hatred towards an imaginary enemy.
Keywords: heroic, military, Montenegro, Ottoman Empire, Serbia, soldiers