Modernization Aspects of the Development of Serbia as an Important Basis for Construction Undertakings
Modern Serbian state was formed in the period between 1830s and 1890s. At the time the concept of its future development was defined. Two parallel trends, the creation of national uniqueness on the one hand and the acceptance of pan European and modernization ideas on the other hand, blend into one trend which leads to the creation of modern Serbian state. The presence of these two trends at the time defined the effectiveness of economy, power of military, level of education, human rights’ implementation and all other important social and state characteristics. National self-awareness and unique cultural features typical of a nation were created and nurtured. They shaped the national framework whose role and importance are fundamental.
Modernization, which establishes similarity relations among modern societies, enables this very specific national framework to interact more with other national frameworks primarily in the European context of that time. Bearing in mind the ever present need to improve the interaction potential of our country, i.e. to modernize it so that it can comply with the certain elements of other modern states, which is a never-ending process like the very process of civilisation and individual states’ development, it is useful to analyze historical aspects of modernization of the development of Serbian state. They are especially important when we study lives and works of the prominent people who built Serbia, which is the topic of the cycle of virtual exhibitions and this text is a part of it. The reason for that is because the creation of objects and the construction of the physical world depend on ideas and economic potential of a society which is to the great extent determined by its capacity to interact with the modern world, i.e. they depend on the level of modernization of that society.
An important element for modernization of Serbia in the 19th century was the education of youth and preparation of the future staff for administration, civil service and economy through the process of the creation of the elite. Since 1830s the state sent young people to science and humanities faculties, military academies in Western Europe and spiritual academies in Russia. The formation of the elite is the result of the preconcerted politics of the state to train experts and intellectuals. The first legislators, founders of economic, political and cultural institutions, writers and translators and newspapers’ founders came from this group. At the same the elite among Serbs in Austro-Hungary was created following the example the elites of other nations there.
The most important elements of modernization are the following: population growth, relationship between the elite and education, interdependence of state system and education system, educated population, attendance at schools, social mobility, education of women and raising of national awareness. Modernization of the Serbian state was uneven due to the fact that it was initiated at the time of specific historical circumstances. If we considered different aspects of modernization such as political, economic and social ones, the results would be different. Political modernization preceded social and economic modernization. In the course of time this created a strong contrast between state institutions based on western models and the poor society which resisted differentiation of social groups, functional specialisation and structural transformation which were crucial for modernization.
In the last quarter of the 19th century, modernization movement was projected and governed by the minority. It was very rapid and it was in accordance with the English model: a top-down reform. Governing elite came into light because the entrepreneurial elite was too weak to influence public affairs. A positively defined modernization process in Serbia, which was in accordance with the model which propagated the development of light industry followed by the development of heavy industry, described by Moore Barrington as very successful in developed societies, had abruptly stopped because of the devastating wars in Serbia in the first half of the 20th century. Serbian economy which was rising at the time was devastated. This also happened later when the communist ideology, which was dominant in Serbia for almost half a century, completely destroyed the idea of private property which was crucial for the development of entrepreneurship and economy in general.
The laws were passed in accordance with the West-European laws. To crown it all, a liberal constitution was passed in 1888 and it was the most democratic constitution in up-to-then Serbian history and one of the most progressive constitutions in Europe at that time. This constitution implemented parliamentary regime in Serbia. Valtazar Bogisic was a renowned modernizer of the science of law in Serbia at the time. He used previous German and French experiences of developed societies and gave a unique contribution to the enhancement of the existing legal practice.
Modernization was primarily directed at the state system and public institutions. It was synchronic as it referred to economy, politics, education and health. The results of modernization were laws on freedom of printing, freedom of association and organization, independent judiciary system, obligatory primary education, public health, cattle protection, tax system, construction of the first railway, national bank, establishment of standing army. It should be noted that the National bank and several monetary institutes were founded at that time. Educational institutions were organized and the Academy of Sciences was founded. The education of women improved immensely in the period between the start of the creation of the modern Serbian state and 1914. There was a great leap from complete illiteracy to earning degrees in Serbia and doctorates abroad. The first women graduated at the Faculty of Law in Belgrade on June 28th 1914, and the first woman earned a degree at Cambridge in October of 1948.
Automatic application of the western models of modernization, a traditional-contemporary dichotomy in particular, can easily mask true modernization shifts and achievements. Due to the fact that other potential modernization factors were underdeveloped, intellectual elite was not able to change the essence of the value system, to impose the way of life that would initiate changes in empathy, mobility, thinking, participation and acts of behaviour, necessary psychological conditions for changes. Intellectual elite itself still wasn’t detached from the patriotic matrix. The appreciation of traditional values was present in its actions and activities.
Territorial changes slowed down economic and social modernization. The same thing happened to political modernization because democratisation, which was advancing in spite of all actionsthroughout the 19th century, was suspended when Serbia began to embrace ethnically and culturally diverse regions in 1912.
Serbian industry developed from trade, but these were not traditional trades. At the beginning of its development, which was stopped by the devastating war activities in 1914, neither heavy industry nor sophisticated industry could have grown. At this early phase of modernization there was a certain number of craftsmen and apprentices who came from traditional trades and were ready to work and learn as a group who encouraged modernization. Traffic and economy were modernized. Up to 1888 they had built 552km long railway roads. Up to 1896 they had opened 14 important factories such as Evgenije Mihel’s Textile Factory (1878) and Minh’s Factory for Wool Textiles in Paracin (1882). Great efforts were made to modernize the country following Gerschenkron’s theory of economic backwardness. This can only be done in the societies which are late in modernization processes and at least in that domain they can achieve something. The number of coal and metal mines tripled (mining of non-ferrous and precious metals in Majdanpek, Kucajna, Podgora, Suplja stena, Zajaca, coal mining in Aleksinac mines, Vrska Cuka and other mines).
The end of the 19th century marks the beginning of electrification in Serbia. In 1893 Belgrade got its electric lighting before many European and world capitals. In 1900 the first industrial hydroelectric power plant was opened on Djetinja river near Uzice. Professor Djordje Stanojevic was the key person in the electrification of Serbia.
Modernization influenced by the elite was based on a special model of segmented moderniztion where a lot more was achieved by the individuals than by many institutions.