Jovan Cvijić


Jovan Cvijić : biography

October 11, 1865 – January 16, 1927

His life and work were particularly well-researched by geographer Milorad Vasović, who in 1994 wrote a 454-page book "Jovan Cvijić – scientist, public worker, statesman".

Anthropogeographic school

In his anthropogeographical researches, Cvijić studied migrations, village and town habitats, house types, material culture of population in regions under the influence of different civilizations, psychological types and varieties, folklore dress and the households. He conducted researches over thirty years, especially of the Balkan peninsula, which resulted in numerous paper and establishment of "Anthropogeographic school". He traveled during difficult social and political times, exposing himself to many unpleasant and dangerous, even life threatening situation, especially in the countries which were under the Ottoman and Austrian rule up to the first world war.

In these trips he had been acquainted with the living conditions of the Balkan peninsula population, which led to his interest in ethnographic and laer psycho-social issues. Cvijić himself said how little he had known about the life in Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia up to the period from 1896–1898, when he saw how difficult was life in these parts. Up to that moment, as he later said, he did not have much interest in folklore, ethnology and national politics. Since then, however, he became very active in solving these questions. Cvijić, as the organizer of numerous scientific trips visited the most dangerous and unexplored regions, developed inclination to empirical research. These researches he could support with his vast scientific knowledge.

In the year 1896. Cvijić published the "Instructions for studying villages in Serbian and other Serbian lands" which was later corrected and adjusted to specific conditions in other Balkan regions where they were later applied.

In Serbia, based on these instructions developed a widespread movement for folklore life research which enabled the creation of first methodological and systematically gathered data in ethnology. The research was conducted, not only by Cvijić’s students and associates but by many intellectuals-amateurs mostly village teachers and priests. This united and vast scientific effort represents the unique and significant phenomenon in international scientific life.

Cvijić’s thesis on the effects of climate and relief on the human morphology is the basis in his scientific approach in the anthropogeographic studies, where he practically stresses that a man is an eco-sensible being. When forming anthropological types is in question, Cvijić states primary factors are social structure, i.e. profession, endogamy, egzogamy and migrations. He especially stressed the effects of geographical environment on ethnopsychological characteristics of the population. Basic conception is given in the paper "Anthropogeographical problems" of Balkan peninsula from 1902. Later on, influenced by Cvijić’s paper PhD Milorad Dragic former student of Cvijić, elaborated the topic of ethnopsychological research in paper "Instructions for studying the settlements and psychological properties" from 1911, after which Cvijić expanded his thesis in "Balkan peninsula and Southslavic lands. This paper was first printed in French, and later considerably expanded and printed in Serbian.

The sudden interest for anthropogeographical and ethnographic researches was one of the greatest moves in Cvijić’s scientific career. Cvijić’s efforts and scientific research abilities helped him with gathering important data which he used during the negotiations on forming state border of the new state after World War I.


Cvijić became a world-renowned scientist, and he received numerous awards. He was a member of thirty scientific societies (academies, geographical and natural societies etc.) and he received ten decorations. He also received a gold medal for his work, from New York geographical society (1924) and English and French medals, as well. Two kinds of saffron were named after Cvijić.