Jovan Cvijić

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Jovan Cvijić : biography

October 11, 1865 – January 16, 1927

Jovan Cvijić ( ; 11 October 1865 – 16 January 1927) was a Serbian geographer, president of the Serbian Royal Academy of Sciences, and rector of the University of Belgrade. A world-renowned scientist, Cvijić is considered the founder of geography in Serbia. He started his scientific career as geographer and geologist, and continued his activity as anthropogeographer and sociologist.


In more than 30 years of intense scientific study, Cvijić published many significant works. One of the most important is The Balkan Peninsula.

The most important works (on geology) include:

  • "Geografska ispitivanja u oblasti Kučaja u Istočnoj Srbiji" (Geographical Studies in the Area of Kučaj in Eastern Serbia). Geološki anali Balkanskog poluostrva 5: 7-172, 1893
  • Das Karstphänomen, 1893, Vienna
  • Karst, 1895
  • Structure and Classification of the Mountains of the Balkan Peninsula, 1902
  • Die Tektonik der Balkanhalbinsel mit besonderer Berückichtigung der neueren Fortschritte in der Kenntnis der Geologie von Bulgarien, Serbien und Mazedonien, 1904, Vienna
  • Foundations of the Geography and Geology of Macedonia and Old Serbia I-III, 1906–1911
  • Grundlinien der Geographie und Geologie von Mazedonien und Alt-Serbien. Nebst Beobachtungen in Thrazien, Thessalien, Epirus und Nordalbanien, 1908, Gotha
  • Lake Plastics of Šumadija, 1909
  • Geomorphology I-II, 1924, 1926

For over 30 years he traveled throughout the Balkans, producing a number of works and founding the "human geography school".

Typical for his work is the analysis of the influence of climate and geography on human building patterns (morphology). Cvijić was among the first to emphasize that humans are ecologically sensitive creatures. When it comes to the formation of anthropology types he underlines social structure (occupation), endogamy and exogamy and migration as primary factors. Particularly strong is the influence of environment on a population’s ethnopsychological characteristics.

Cvijić revealed the basic concepts for this in his work on the human geographical problems of the Balkan peninsula, and elaborated further in his work The Balkan peninsula and Southern-Slavic countries, first published in French, and, in 1922, expanded and printed in Serbian. The ethnopsychological classification that Cvijić described in these works was severely criticized ideologically in Yugoslavia after World War II.


Jovan Cvijić did his first and most important field research in the region of eastern Serbia. Observing the structure of Kucaj mountain and Prekonoska cave, he found the idea for his PhD thesis, which he presented in Vienna in 1892, and honorarily promoted on January 22, 1893.

Besides this, Cvijić was interested in geology (geomorphology) etc. His monograph on lime karst led to positive reactions in European scientific circles, but what made him famous was his being the first geotecomuscientist, and an introductory academic lecture that made him known as the first tectonicst among South Slavs.

The lime fields of Serbia were the topic of other scientists before Cvijić, but not their main subjects. They were: Otto won Pirch – 1830, Amie Boue – 1840, Felix Philipee Kanitz, Milan Ð. Milicevic, Jovan Žujovic, Vladimir Karic… The records of their research were mainly descriptive with general conclusions.

Another significant step forward Cvijić made while he was observing the surrounding of Midzor, Stara planina peak, and Rila mountain (Bulgaria) where he recognized the traces of glacial processes in the form of 102 mountain lakes.

It had not been previously thought that this region was influenced by glacial processes, so Cvijić’s discovery was a turning point in glacial process studies in the part of dispersement.

Thanks to this research, Cvijić made a breakthrough in world science once again with his anthropogeographical survey in "Balkan Peninsula 1918", 1922-I, 1931-II based on his research of Balkan psychological types.