Resurrection: A tale of two anthems sung by Serbs

Christopher K. Kelen*, Aleksandar P. Pavković

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a comparative study of two key contenders for Serbian anthem-hood, the royalist song 'God of Justice' and the pan-Slavic hymn, 'Hey Slavs'. Drawing on the theorising of nation and representation, as developed by Benedict Anderson, Michael Billig and others, the purpose of the study is to compare the self-images these songs present to those they enjoin in unison, and to consider the role of those images and the identities they suggest in national/ist ideologies. Neither of the songs discussed in this paper was originally intended to be a national song. Both are in this sense 'accidental anthems'. The paper will discuss the history of the accidents which have at various times given, and deprived, these songs of anthem status, in Serbia. 'God of Justice', originally a song in a patriotic stage play of the 1870s (commissioned to legitimise a young prince's accession to the Serbian throne), was the national song and later the official national anthem of the Principality of (later Kingdom of) Serbia from 1872 to 1919 and then, in a changed form, part of the national anthem of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1919 till 1941. It was resurrected in 2006, in a changed - republican - form to become the national anthem of the Republic of Serbia. The pan-Slavic 'Hey Slavs', written in 1842, emerged, a century later, first as a national song of the Communist-led resistance movement in Yugoslavia in 1942 and then became an unofficial national anthem of the Communist-ruled Yugoslav federation; it survived the violent disintegration of that federation in 1991 to serve (once again unofficially) as an anthem of the rump Yugoslavia from 1992 to 2006. Why have these particular songs been chosen for the purpose of representing the Serbian nation to itself and to the world? How has each succeeded and failed in that task? The essay concludes with some speculation on these questions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-461
Number of pages20
JournalNations and Nationalism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


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