Jovan Cvijić


Jovan Cvijić : biography

October 11, 1865 – January 16, 1927

Cvijić did research for 38 years, during which he led expeditions over the Balkans, Southern Carpathian Mountains and Asia Minor. The expeditions resulted in numerous research papers.

The two-volume "Geomorphology" by Jovan Cvijić gives a geomorphological picture of the Balkan peninsula terrain and has not lost value today, as it still represents an important starting point in that science.

Early life and family

Jovan () Cvijić was born on September 19 (October 11) 1865, in Loznica, then part of the Principality of Serbia. The Cvijić family was a branch of the Spasojević brotherhood of the Piva tribe (Pivljani) in Old Herzegovina (currently Montenegro). His father, Todor Cvijić, was a merchant. Jovan’s grandfather Živko was a chairman of the Loznica municipality and a supporter of the House of Obrenović in Mačva. He was a katana, during the Katana Uprising against the Defenders of the Constitution in 1844. Furthermore, he was punished by lashing after a successful action conducted by Toma Vučić-Perišić, after which he soon died.

Jovan’s great-grandfather, Cvijo Spasojević was pater familias of the Cvijić family. Cvijo was a famous hajduk leader in that part of Old Herzegovina. He fought against the Ottoman Empire during the First Serbian Uprising of 1804. After its collapse in 1813, he moved to Loznica where he built a two-story house between the trend and church. He opened a store that was a trading business for his family.

Jovan’s father Todor (who died in 1900) was into trading before taking a clerkship in the municipality. Jovan’s mother Marija (born Avramović) was from a respectable family from the village of Koremita in Jadar region, located near the Tronosa and Trsić, the birthplace of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić. Todor and Marija had two sons Zivko and Jovan, and three daughters. Cvijić often said that in his childhood years his spiritual education was mostly influenced by his mother and her family in general, they were quiet, composed and homely, while he wrote with far less emotions about his father and father’s family. But, in his works on ethnic psychology Cvijić had praised the dinaric ethnic type and characteristics, which his father belonged to.

Cvijić’s review of the schooling system

Cvijić thought that the grammar school education of that time should last seven, not eight years. He felt that young men should be included early into life and independent work.

He published five detailed instructions for terrain research of the population and habitats in order to help and direct his associates in their work. Cvijić published a large number of information on teaching and science in the article "On scientific research and our University", published in 1907.

Teaching profession

After his return from Vienna, in March 1893, he found a position as a professor of the Faculty of Philosophy in Velika Skola in Belgrade. He taught physical geography and ethnography in the beginning, but only geography later on.

Traveling as both a student and as a professor all over the Balkans later in life, he developed an interest in folklore life and culture. Therefore he organized researches in ethnography, in the department of geography, as additional subjects.

After the transformation of Velika skola into the University of Belgrade, on the October 12, 1905 Jovan Cvijić became one of the first eight tenure professors in the university. Beside Cvijić, the others were: Jovan Žujović, Sima Lozanić, Mihailo Petrović Alas, Andra Stevanović, Dragoljub Pavlovic, Milic Radovanovic and Ljubomir Jovanović. These eight professors chose other colleagues for tenure positions.

Cvijić played an important and active part in the School reforms helping with the foundation of a special ethnography department where the first professor was his oldest student and assistant Jovan Erdeljanovic, and then Tihomir Djordjevic, while Cvijić stayed in the geography department. His influence was crucial in founding five new faculties: medicine, agriculture and theology in Belgrade, philosophy in Skopje and the Subotica Law School.