Jovan Cvijić

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Jovan Cvijić
Jovan Tsvijitsh, geograf (1865-1927).jpg
Photograph by Milan Jovanović (1911)
Born(1865-09-12)12 September 1865
Died16 January 1927(1927-01-16) (aged 61)
Resting place New Cemetery, Belgrade, Serbia
Alma mater Belgrade Higher School
University of Vienna
Scientific career
Fields Geography, geology, folklore
Doctoral advisor Albrecht Penck [1]
Notable students Pavle Vujević
Petar Jovanović
Influences William Morris Davis [1]
Albrecht Penck [1]
Eduard Suess [1]

Jovan Cvijić (Serbian Cyrillic : Јован Цвијић, pronounced  [jɔ̌ʋan tsʋǐːjitɕ] ; 12 October 1865 – 16 January 1927) was a Serbian geographer and ethnologist, president of the Serbian Royal Academy of Sciences and rector of the University of Belgrade. Cvijić is considered the founder of geography in Serbia. He began his scientific career as a geographer and geologist, and continued his activity as a human geographer and sociologist.


Early life and family

Cvijić was born on 11 October [ O.S. 29 September] 1865 in Loznica, then part of the Principality of Serbia. His family was part of the Spasojević branch of the Piva tribe (Pivljani) [ citation needed ] in Old Herzegovina (currently Montenegro). Cvijić's father, Todor, was a merchant; his grandfather, Živko, was head of Loznica and a supporter of the House of Obrenović in Mačva. Živko fought in the 1844 Katana Uprising against the Defenders of the Constitution, and died after torture.

Cvijić's great-grandfather, Cvijo Spasojević, patriarch of the Cvijić family, was a well-known hajduk leader in Old Herzegovina[ citation needed ] and fought the Ottoman Empire in the First Serbian Uprising. After its failure in 1813 he moved to Loznica, built a house and opened a store.

His father, Todor (d. 1900) was a trader before accepting a clerkship in the municipality. Cvijić's mother, Marija (born Avramović), was from a family in the village of Koremita in the Jadar region (near Tronoša and Tršić, birthplace of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić). Todor and Marija had two sons, Živko and Jovan, and three daughters. Cvijić often said that in his childhood his spiritual education was primarily influenced by his mother and her family; he said less about his father and his father's family. However, in his works on ethnic psychology Cvijić praised the Dinaric race of his father.[ citation needed ]


Cvijic as a young man Jovan Tsvijitsh, mlad.jpg
Cvijić as a young man

After completing elementary school Cvijić attended grammar school in Loznica for two years, in Šabac for his third and fourth years, and graduated from the First Belgrade Gymnasium's department of natural sciences and mathematics in 1884. After graduation, he wanted to study medicine, but Loznica could not provide him a scholarship to study abroad. A grammar-school teacher suggested that he attend geography classes at the Velika skola in Belgrade (now the University of Belgrade). Cvijić took his advice, enrolling in the natural sciences department and graduating in 1889. Cvijić studied in several languages; in grammar school, he studied English, German and French, which was helpful at university (which had little work translated into Serbian), and wrote his scientific and other papers in those three languages.

During the 1888–89 school year Cvijić was a geography teacher at the Second Male Grammar School in Belgrade, and in 1889 enrolled to study physical geography and geology at Vienna University. At that time geomorphology was taught by Albrecht Penck, geotectonics by Professor Sis (president of the Austrian Academy) and climatology by Julius von Hann.

House of Jovan Cvijic in Belgrade, street view Kuca u kojoj je ziveo Jovan Cvijic.JPG
House of Jovan Cvijić in Belgrade, street view

Cvijić received his PhD from Vienna University in 1893. [2] His thesis was Das Karstphanomen, introducing him to the scientific world, and was later translated into several languages (into Serbian as Karst in 1895).


In 1911, Cvijić married Ljubica Nikolić, a widow from Belgrade, née Krstić (1879–1941). [3]


Cvijić did his first (and most important) field research in eastern Serbia, observing the structure of the Kučaj mountains and Prekonoska Cave in his PhD thesis (accepted in Vienna on 22 January 1893).

Ethnographic map of the Balkans, co-authored by Cvijic Cvijic, Jovan - Breisemeister, William A. - Carte ethnographique de la Peninsule balkanique (pd).jpg
Ethnographic map of the Balkans, co-authored by Cvijić

He was interested in geology and geomorphology. Cvijić's monograph on lime karst was well received in European scientific circles, and an introductory academic lecture established him as the first South Slavic tectonicist. The Serbian lime fields had been studied only peripherally by Otto von Pirch (1830), Ami Boué (1840), Felix Philipp Kanitz, Milan Milićević, Jovan Žujović and Vladimir Karić before him. Cvijić studied Midžor and Rila in the Balkan Mountains, recognizing the glacial origin of 102 mountain lakes. It was previously unknown that the region was influenced by the last glacial period, and Cvijić's discovery was a turning point in the study of regional dispersion.

Cvijić conducted a pioneering human-geographical survey in "Balkan Peninsula 1918", 1922–I, 1931–II, based on his research of Balkan personality types. [ citation needed ] He researched for 38 years, leading expeditions in the Balkans, the southern Carpathian Mountains and Anatolia which produced a number of research papers. Cvijić's two-volume Geomorphology is an important starting point for research into the Balkan peninsula.[ citation needed ]

Karst geomorphology

When studying under Albrecht Penck's tutelage he was encouraged to focus on the study of karst phenomena in the northern Dinaric Alps which was a region Penck was already acknowledged with. His first major work was Das Karstphänomen published in 1893. This work was a publication of the key points of his doctoral thesis. Das Karstphänomen was published as a slightly modified translation in Serbo-Croat in 1895. This work describes landforms such as karren, dolines and poljes. In a 1918 publication, Cvijić proposed a cyclical model for karstic landscape development. [1] [4] The results of this work written in French were made accessible to English-language scientists in 1921 when it was commented by E.M. Sanders. Differences in climate and geology were used by Cvijić to explain various shapes and types of karst landforms, sometimes incorrectly. Nevertheless, his views on the role of climate on the development of karst were more accurate than those of various climatic geomorphologists that succeeded him and who greatly exaggerated the role of climate. [1]

It has been attributed to Cvijić that the term karst prevailed over Edouard Martel's proposed term "Le Causse". Another terminology usage indebted to Cvijić is that of doline, a term he introduced, and that overlaps with that of sinkhole. Eventually, Cvijić emerged as the "father of karst geomorphology". [1]

Human geography

In his human-geographical research, Cvijić studied migrations, village and town habitat, types of housing and the culture of populations in regions influenced by a variety of civilizations, psychological types, folklore and dress. He traveled during difficult social and political times, exposing himself to unpleasant and life-threatening situations (especially in countries under Ottoman and Austrian rule before World War I). During these trips Cvijić became acquainted with the living conditions of the Balkan population, leading to his interest in ethnographic and psycho-social issues; he noted how little he had known about the difficulty of life in Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia until 1896–1898. Until then, he later said, he had little of the interest in folklore, ethnology and national politics he later developed. Cvijić organized a number of research expeditions to dangerous, unexplored regions.[ citation needed ]

In 1896 Cvijić published "Instructions for studying villages in Serbia and other Serbian lands", which was later revised to apply to other Balkan regions. In Serbia, interest developed in folkloric research; this encouraged the first systematically-gathered data in ethnology. The research was conducted by Cvijić's students and colleagues and interested laypeople (primarily village teachers and priests), constituting a large, unified scientific effort.

Cvijić's thesis on the effects of climate and geography on human life is the basis of his approach to human geography, where he emphasizes that humankind is ecologically sensitive. When classifying anthropological types Cvijić considered social structure (work, endogamy, exogamy and migration) the primary factor, stressing the effects of the physical environment on a population's psyche. His basic concepts are presented in the 1902 Balkan-peninsula paper, "Human-geography problems". Influenced by Cvijić's paper, Milorad Dragić (a former student) elaborated on psychological anthropological research in his 1911 paper "Instructions for studying settlements and psychological characteristics" (after which Cvijić expanded his thesis on "The Balkan peninsula and South Slavic lands" in Serbian).

Cvijić introduced the term 'metanastasic movements', which referred to slow, gradual, a place-to-place human movement. He and his students took wide exploration of this phenomenon, eventually establishing the Serbian ethnological-historic school which gathered ethnological material from all around the Balkan peninsula and encompassed exploration of written sources. [5]

The sparking of interest in human-geographical and ethnographical research was one of the greatest achievements of Cvijić's scientific career. His efforts and research helped him gather crucial data, which he used during negotiations on the state borders of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia after World War I.

Influence on Yugoslav state borders

After World War I Cvijić helped determine the state borders of the new Yugoslav state, using his research in demography and human geography in the negotiations; his data was used in determining the ethnic expansion of the South Slavs.

French geographer Paul Vidal de la Blache invited Cvijić to Paris on behalf of the University of Paris twice (in 1917 and at the beginning of 1919), where he lectured on Balkan physical and political geography. At the end of 1918, the Serbian government named him their chief expert on ethnographic borders; in 1919, he was elected president of a unit dealing with territorial issues as part of the state delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. Here, with Mihajlo Pupin (another influential scientist), Cvijić's efforts in creating ethnographic charts of the Yugoslav countries in 1918–1919 helped determine the borders of a new country: the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians. It was agreed that the new country should incorporate Banat, Baranja, Dalmatia and the Bled triangle (Bled, Bohinj and Triglav).


After Cvijić's return from Vienna in March 1893 he became a professor in the Faculty of Philosophy of the Velika Skola in Belgrade, teaching geography, physical geography and ethnography. Traveling as a student and a professor throughout the Balkans later in life, he developed an interest in folklore and culture and organized ethnographical research in the department of geography.

After the Velika Skola became the University of Belgrade on 12 October 1905, Cvijić was one of eight tenured professors; the others were Jovan Žujović, Sima Lozanić, Mihailo Petrović Alas, Andra Stevanović, Dragoljub Pavlović, Milić Radovanović and Ljubomir Jovanović, and they chose other colleagues for tenured positions.

Cvijić played an active role in reforming the school, helping found an ethnography department whose first professor was his oldest student and assistant, Jovan Erdeljanović (followed by Tihomir Đorđević); Cvijić remained in the geography department. He was influential in establishing five new faculties: medicine, agriculture and theology in Belgrade, philosophy in Skopje and the Subotica Law School.


Critique of education

Cvijić thought that the grammar-school education of that era should last seven years, instead of eight, and felt that young men should be included early in adult life and independent work.

Grammar school forms the intelligence and character perhaps even deeper and stronger than university; it influences the spirit and moral value of future intellectuals. Besides university, the moral and spiritual situation and its development depend on the type of grammar school, what will its civilization get, and in the end, will it slow or interfere with the development of great personalities, which show the properties of one nation.[ citation needed ]

He published detailed instructions for conducting field research into populations and habitats to help his colleagues, including the 1907 article "On scientific research and our University".

Territorial expansion

Cvijić' s scientific impartiality has been criticized for his support of Serbia's political advancement; [6] his geographic work was used to scientifically justify politics of territorial expansion and further territorial claims. [6]

 ... For economic independence, Serbia must acquire access to the Adriatic Sea and one part of the Albanian coastline: by occupation of the territory or by acquiring economic and transportation rights to this region. This, therefore, implies occupying an ethnographically foreign territory, but one that must be occupied due to particularly important economic interests and vital needs. [6]

According to Cvijić, Bulgarians were "different from the other South Slavs in their ethnic composition". He described as Slav three ethnographic groups previously considered Bulgarians: the Macedonian Slavs, the Shopi and the Torlaks. Cvijić excluded the region around Sofia (Bulgaria's capital) from the Bulgarian group, maintained that the three groups above were Slavic (and therefore Serbian). [7] He believed that Serbia could govern a much larger area that the territory it held. [8]

Views of Albanian culture

According to Croatian historian Igor Despot, Cvijić's studies of Albanians depicted them as an isolated people with no culture. His research was published into Serbian press which resulted in a chauvinistic denial of any great value of Albanian culture, depicting them as armed robbers ravaging through Christian cities. [9]


You should get used to constant thinking about a problem, work, profession until you find a solution. There are bright moments, especially bright nights, which are rare; where you can find an answer to a question or come up with a research plan. That time of spiritual lucidity and creativity should be put to use, and not thinking about rest according to that ordinary human, oriental laziness. That does not hurt the body, and if it does hurt, the body exists in order to be spent properly. [10]

With a group of geographers and biologists, Cvijić founded the Serbian Geographic Society in Belgrade in 1910 and was its president until his death. In 1912 he began a magazine, the Serbian Geographic Society Herald, which is still published. Cvijić conducted weekly seminars for science students, which were also attended by teachers from Belgrade grammar schools. He founded the Faculty of Philosophy's Geographical Institute in 1923 (the first such organization in the Balkans), managing it until his death.

Statue of Cvijic in Belgrade Jovan Cvijic u dvoristu.JPG
Statue of Cvijić in Belgrade
Cvijic's grave JCgrob.jpg
Cvijić's grave

In 1947, the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts founded the Jovan Cvijić Geographical Institute in Belgrade to advance the science of geography. On 21–22 November 2002, the Academy hosted a meeting on "the socio-political work of Jovan Cvijić". [11]

The Jovan Cvijić's house is housed in his family's house in Belgrade at 5 Jelena Ćetković Street. Since 1996, the house (built in 1905) has been declared a cultural monument by the state and was decorated by Dragutin Inkiostri Medenjak; Cvijić favored a decorative style based on Balkan folklore. The museum features manuscripts, letters, notes, books, paintings, geographical charts, atlases and personal items, and occasional lectures are presented.

In Serbia, a number of schools and streets are named after Cvijić and he is still considered the most important Serbian geographer. His work has been continued by his students, six of whom later became members of the Serbian Academy (including Pavle Vujević, Borivoje Z. Milojević and Milisav Lutovac). The scientist's life and work were researched by geographer Milorad Vasović for his 454-page book, Jovan Cvijić: Scientist, Public Worker, Statesman (1994).

Academic honors

Cvijić received a number of awards. He belonged to 30 scientific societies (academies, geographical and natural societies), receiving ten decorations. Cvijić received a gold medal for his work in 1924 from the New York Geographical Society and medals from England and France. Two varieties of saffron were named after him.[ citation needed ]

Cvijić was awarded:

Cvijić was named:


Monument to Jovan Cvijic in Academy Park, Belgrade Spomenik Jovanu Tsvijitshu SP001 DSC 2944.JPG
Monument to Jovan Cvijić in Academy Park, Belgrade

In more than 30 years of scientific study, Cvijić published many works. One of the best-known is The Balkan Peninsula. Other publications include:

Related Research Articles

Karst Topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks

Karst is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. It has also been documented for more weathering-resistant rocks, such as quartzite, given the right conditions. Subterranean drainage may limit surface water, with few to no rivers or lakes. However, in regions where the dissolved bedrock is covered or confined by one or more superimposed non-soluble rock strata, distinctive karst features may occur only at subsurface levels and can be totally missing above ground.

Physical geography The study of processes and patterns in the natural environment

Physical geography is one of the two major fields of geography. Physical geography is the branch of natural science which deals with the study of processes and patterns in the natural environment such as the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and geosphere, as opposed to the cultural or built environment, the domain of human geography.

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Loznica City in Šumadija and Western Serbia, Serbia

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Marjorie Sweeting British geomorphologist

Marjorie Mary Sweeting, was a British geomorphologist specialising in karst phenomena. Sweeting had gained extensive knowledge on various typographies by travelling to places such as Greece, Australia, Czechoslovakia, United States, Canada, South Africa, Belize, and most notably China. She published Karst Landforms, and Karst in China: its Geomorphology and Environment after many years of work there starting in 1977; the latter is the first comprehensive Western account of China's karst. She created one of the first western published works on the karst found within China, even in a male dominated field.

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Uvala is originally a local toponym used by people in some regions in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. In geosciences it denotes a closed karst depression, a terrain form usually of elongated or compound structure and of larger size than that of sinkholes (dolines). It is a morphological form frequently found in the “Outer Dinarides” anywhere between Slovenia and Greece. But large closed karst depressions are found on all continents in different landscapes and therefore uvala has become a globally established term, used also to distinguish such depressions from poljes. Definitions of uvalas are often poorly empirically supported. “The coalescence of dolines” is a most frequently found and still dominant explanation. Yet because of the ongoing dissatisfaction with this definition the term ‘uvala’ has often been belittled – occasionally it was even proposed that the term be given up altogether.

Jovan Hadži-Vasiljević

Jovan Hadži-Vasiljević was a Serbian historian, ethnographer, journalist and writer. Hadži-Vasiljević was born in Vranje, at the time part of the Sanjak of Niš of the Ottoman Empire until it was captured by the Serbian Army in 1878. His father was Hadži Vasilije of the Pogačarević family, and his mother Katerina was the daughter of the churchwarden (ikonom) of Kumanovo, Dimitrije Mladenović (1794–1880). The Pogačarević family hailed from Rakovac, having settled in Vranje at the end of the 18th century. He finished primary school in Vranje, gymnasium in Vranje and Niš, and the Great School in Belgrade at the History and Philology faculty. He received his Philosophy doctorate at the University of Vienna in 1898. As an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs he served from 1898 to 1904 in Bitola, Skopje and Belgrade. After he left the civil service in 1904, he was the secretary of the Society of Saint Sava until 1940. Throughout his life he worked for the national enlightenment of Serbs in the Ottoman Empire. He participated in the Balkan Wars and the First World War. He retreated with the Second Morava Division through Albania, which he described. Hadži-Vasiljević wrote extensively on history, geography and ethnology. The high value of his work is due to the basis on field research, especially in the areas of Old Serbia and Macedonia. He wrote over 200 historical and ethnographical works about those regions. He was the editor of the Brastvo journal of the Society of Saint Sava.

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Jovan Cvijićs House

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Nedeljko Koshanin was a scientist biologist, university professor and academic at the Serbian Royal Academy, now the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. He was the manager of the Jevremovac Botanical Institute and Botanical Garden of the University of Belgrade He initiated the publication of the Gazette of the Botanical Institute and Botanical Gardens, which had collaborated with over 90 botanical institutions worldwide. He described many new plant species on his own or in collaboration with prominent botanists in the world, and foreign and domestic researchers named his newly discovered plant species out of respect for his work. After the "Josif Pančić era", his work marked the epoch (1918-1934) in the development of botany in the country, known as the "Košanin era".



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Ford, Derek (2007). "Jovan Cvijić and the founding of karst geomorphology". Environmental Geology. 51: 675–684. doi:10.1007/s00254-006-0379-x.
  2. "Ethnographic Map of the Balkan Peninsula". World Digital Library . Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  3. ""The Belgrade Atlas of Jovan Cvijić: Century and a half since the birth: 1865–2015", Tatjana Korićanac, p. 23, Gallery of the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts; 135, Belgrade, 2015" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 December 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  4. Cvijić, Jovan (1918). "Hydrographie souterraine et évolution morphologique du Karst". Recueil des travaux de l'institut de géographie alpine (in French). 6 (4): 375–426. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  5. Džaja 1999, p. 43.
  6. 1 2 3 Jovan Cvijic, Selected statements
  7. "The National Question in Yugoslavia. Origins, History, Politics", Ivo Banac, pp. 307–328, Cornell University Press, 1984.
  8. Cvijic, "O nacionalnom radu", commemorative speech 1907, reprinted in Govori i Clanci, I, Beograd 1921 pp. 51–76
  9. Despot, Igor (2012). The Balkan Wars in the Eyes of the Warring Parties: Perceptions and Interpretations. p. 20. ISBN   978-1-4759-4703-8 . Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  10. Cvijić, Jovan (1907). O naučnom radu i o našem univerzitetu svetosavski govor 1907. Beograd: Državna Štamp. Kraljevine Srbije.
  11. "Social-political work of Jovan Cvijić".[ dead link ]
  12. "List of Past Gold Medal Winners" (PDF). Royal Geographical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2015.


  • Džaja, Srećko M. (1999). Konfesionalnost i nacionalnost Bosne i Hercegovine (in Croatian). Mostar: Ziral. ISBN   9536364212.
  • Radojević, Mira (2015). "Jovan Cvijić in social and political life of the Serbian and Yugoslav States". Jovan Cvijić: Life, work, times. Belgrade: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. pp. 79–95.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sima Lozanić
Rector of University of Belgrade
Succeeded by
Andra J. Stevanović
Preceded by
Đorđe Stanojević
Rector of University of Belgrade
Succeeded by
Slobodan Jovanović
Preceded by
Jovan Žujović
President of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Succeeded by
Slobodan Jovanović