Hajduk Veljko Petrović – The hero of the First Serbian Uprising
The beginnings of the work on the protection of movable cultural heritage in most cities in Serbia was accompanied by a noble idea that a new life should be breathed into old buildings, by transforming them into museum spaces. So, in 1983, when the Hajduk Veljko Monument was unveiled on the square, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Krajina Museum, the Hajduk Veljko Museum was opened in the residence of Knez Todorče.
The Krajina Museum displayed a part of the historical collection, which formed the display of the First Serbian Uprising and Hajduk Veljko. However, the Museum was closed as soon as in 1989. After that the building had different purposes. In the meantime, the conditions for the reopening of the Museum were met, so in 1997, the inscription The Hajduk Veljko Museum was put on Knez Todorče’s residence. It was a rectangular bronze relief with Hajduk Veljko’s face engraved in its centre, with the name of the Museum above, the work of the sculptor Milko Pavelk. Since the Museum was reopened after eight years, the display became more diversified than the previous one.
Today, twenty years later, the Hajduk Veljko Museum is still located in the house of Negotin obor-knez from the 19 th century–in the residence of Knez Todorče.The residence of obor-knez Todorče is one of the oldest houses in Negotin. In 1950 the house was dilapidated. At that time, upon the invitation of the administration of the Museum, Ivan Zdravković, an architect from Belgrade, examined the old house in Negotin, owned by the late Dušan Jovanović, a former trader, in Stanko Paunović Street, and proposed a plan for the adaptation of the building. In 1966, a decision was made to buy off the house and, considering its very characteristic architecture, to open an ethnographic department in it. The restoration and adaptation followed.
The building was constructed of hard materials. The ground level walls were built of rough stone, arranged in straight horizontal rows with a thickness of 75 to 95 cm. The upper level was made of bricks, and a special beauty was given to it by the arcaded balcony and the ingeniously triangle shaped wall surface over the entrance, i.e. full tympanum, decorated with a luxuriant garland of bricks arranged in a zigzag combination, modeled after church buildings of Byzantine origin.
The Krajina Museum wanted to repay the duke of Negotin nahia appropriately, by displaying the material heritage exhibits from its collections. The permanent museum display, in addition to a historical and ethnological collections, also contains an art collection, which possesses, besides its artistic value, a significant documentary importance.
The historical exhibition is quite heterogeneous, which increases its significance because it also covers a part of the ethnological heritage from the same epoch, which is directly or indirectly related to military equipment and weapons.
The frameworks of the collection are traditional Serbian arms – yataghans. Yataghans date back from the early to mid-19th century, and represent all major workshops of the Balkans – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Metohija, Albania and the Bay of Kotor. Practically equally represented two types of yataghans with white bone or black ivory grips, a significant portion of the blade with descriptions that indicate the time of preparation, owners and masters. Several swords from the same era were also collected. Basically it is a weapon with a handle in the form of a “gun” and a blade type “shamshir”. As with yataghans, this type of weapon was a product of primarily Balkan workshops, although there were copies that were made in the important centres of the Ottoman Empire. Sabres were from the time of the late 18th century. The copy probably belonged to the Turkish cavalry from the time of the reforms of Mahmud II, so it could certainly be categorized as regulated weapon.
Guns that are now kept in the collections of Negotin Museum are typical examples of craft workshops of the Balkans used in the first half of the 19th century. On the arms there are almost equally represented mechanisms with a system of fire flint, local, “Miquelet” variants, as well as modern French “mechanisms”. The collection includes guns made in Prizren and Debar and also weapons imported from workshops of North-Western Europe.
The largest, but no less important part of the collection consists of weapon accessories: powder horns, bandoleers (cartridge boxes), Holy book cases, grease and ramrods. This part of the collection is significant not only in terms of ethnology, but also in terms of applied arts and overlapping influences of Eastern and Western cultures. Items originate mainly from the first half of the 19th century and present the works of the Balkan workshops, including those in Macedonia and Greece.
At first glance, it is interesting that a large part of the collection consists of both lead and iron balls of various weapon calibres and front charging weapons relatively rare in other museums – hand grenades of early 19th century. However, the fact that there was a workshop for the repair of weapons and ammunition production in the immediate vicinity of Đorđe Bulukbaša’s tower (commander of the fifth ditch fortifications in the defence system of Negotin) – fully justifies frequent findings of similar items. Besides, we can certainly say that those items are products of the epoch and the work of local insurgent masters when Veljko Petrović defended Negotin.
Finally, certainly the most important pieces in the collection are two cannons. In our collections there are rare pieces of artillery from the time of the First and Second Uprising, so these two cannons, with partly preserved gun-carriages, are rarities themselves. In addition, one tube is iron, which was in 1804–1813 Serbia quite rare. It is known that on the defensive line in 1813, there was a set of five cannons and it is quite possible that these specimens came from the bastion of one of the trenches. They both come from loot. The first, three-pound iron cannon, was given to the Turks as the British military aid and was then seized by the insurgents. The second, one-pound brass cannon, represents the typical famous light mountain Serbian “Haiduk” cannon which was mentioned in many Austrian reports as a kind of technical innovation with significant tactical advantages in rough Serbian battlefields.
Unfortunately, there are no exhibits in the collection that can directly or indirectly be related to the personality of Haiduk Veljko Petrović.
On the ground floor of the Haiduk Veljko Museum there are traditional viticulture and winemaking ethnographic artefacts, and on the first floor, in “Odžaklija”, there are 19th century furniture items. The goal of the Haiduk Veljko Museum ground floor exhibition (housed in Todorče’s Lodgings) is to present the traditional viticulture and winemaking. The exhibits were selected from existing ethnological collections in order to highlight important aspect of this production for Negotin economy.
Museum items, such as barrel, water container (balon), two kinds of jugs-ewer and mug, and the like, illustrate traditional winemaking. Nowadays it is dying out, which made us want to remind people of this kind of production and usefulness and value of these items. Ordinary people are skilled at making certain objects of different materials: wood, metal, clay, glass … that in addition to prior mentioned values have a great importance, because they are used in wedding or funeral rituals (e.g., some types of jugs-mug, pitcher, ewer, etc.). By creating within traditional culture, a man remains in the spirit of conception prevailing in that particular society. His works were a reflection of the economic and social conditions, as well as customary and religious beliefs, which still live at home and are passed from generation to generation.
These examples show the skill and talent of those who make them, most made freely, without a rigid frame, and that’s the joy of living, because every item tells a story, and often is a work of art.
In Eastern Serbia and Negotin-Krajina viticulture was once a very important and lucrative industry. By selling good wine, one could gain good fortune, thus increasing one’s household. The containers used in wine making (casks, jugs, flasks, etc.) were decorated with symbols and motifs, which show a great breadth and rich ornamentation. They creators used what was around them. The exhibits show the achieved harmony between the useful and the beautiful.
At the Museum of Hajduk Veljko there is “odžaklija”. It is the smallest room in the living quarters constructed in the middle of the magnificent 19th century, which the citizens call Todorče’s Lodgings. Odžaklija was a typical kitchen area, where food used to be prepared on the open hearth. Odžaklija, kitchen, house, hearth – these were the names of the space that was used for cooking and heating homes. Appropriate Museum ethnological collection items from the second half of 19th and the first half of the 20th century were selected for this permanent exhibition.
Hearth was the most important part of the house. Its position depended on several factors: the method of construction of the house, the family economic diversity and the number of family members. In this region, up to the mid-19th century hearth commonly stood in the middle of the room; in the second half of the 19th century it was moved to the side of the room, mostly next to the eastern wall, and its open part was facing the room. In our Odžaklija, the hearth is in the middle of the room. There is a chimney over the hearth which is called “odžak“, hence the name „odžaklija“.
People didn’t extinguish the hearth fire, they kept the embers covered by ashes. They cooked in cauldrons that hung on chains, hanging from a bar – chain mail, and in pipkins placed on a triangular metal frame – „sadžak“. Bread was baked in shallow clay containers called „crepulja“ covered with large metal or ceramic lids called „sač“. People used lifting hook for „crepulja“, coal shovel and Mulch grilled tongs to work in „odžaklija“.
There are tripods and a table set in „odžaklija“ for sitting and dining. This room was used for heating other rooms with built earthen ovens. Most of the family activities happened in this hearth smoke darkened room – eating, sleeping, cult performing and immolating to the ancestors. Therefore, the hearth is the sacred symbol of the family.
In many civilizations the domestic hearth fire became a deity whose cult was preserved by the family and the state (the same thing happened with the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Indians). By respecting the hearth one respected the ancestors and spirits that were the protectors of the house. The cult of the domestic hearth was preserved in many folk traditions. It is a sacred space of each house, which is respected and preserved.
The aim of the museum exhibition is to convey the life of our national culture in the past.
One of the most important moments of Negotin culture was the opening of the Museum of Haiduk Veljko Petrović. The Krajina Museum wanted to repay the Duke of Negotin Township in an exemplary and worthy way , with its contribution, summarizing exhibits from its collections to present our material heritage. In the permanent museum exhibition, besides historical and ethnological, art collection plays an important role, which represents both artistic value and a documented testimony. The exhibits of art collections, displayed in the permanent exhibition rooms were built in the nineteenth and throughout the twentieth century, with emphasis on portraits of Haiduk Veljko Petrović. Also there is a special place for the Karađorđe portrait located in the weapon display room. His portrait completes the exhibit unit not only as the leader of the First Serbian Uprising but also as a „Vožd“ (supreme commander) who appointed Haiduk Veljko the Duke of Negotin Township.
When Haiduk Veljko liberated Krajina he left a deep mark in the constitution of national identity. The rich folk tradition has inspired many in the fine arts. Vuk and his contemporaries left a detailed description of Veljko, which facilitated his portraiture. His brother Milutin and contemporaries chose people who were most similar to Veljko in order to create his character. Felix Kanitz wrote about one of them- a young Arnautin Duke Petar Vukotić. He wrote that Čučuk Stana visited Prince Miloš in Bucharest after Veljko’s death and on that occasion Miloš asked the Arnautin to dress as Hajduk Veljko and appear before her. The similarity was so strong that she became speechless upon seeing him and thought that he had risen from the dead. The portrait was later donated to the National Museum, and Pavle Čortanović had copy of the portrait sent to the Mayor of Negotin Mihail Lazarević. Nikola Kusovac noted that the portrait of Raka, the son of Hajduk Veljko, was kept in the National Museum. It was done by Petar Palikruškić and also served as a model for future portraits of the famous duke.
The first artists who portrayed Hajduk Veljko were Anastas Jovanović in his most important enterprise in the field of lithography “Serbian Monuments” and Uroš Knežević in one of his greatest portait enterprises “vivid galleries of famous people of 1804”, which was created on the initiative of Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević. Ljiljana Konstantinović studied Hajduk Veljko’s character and in her paper showed that, although the portraits of Jovanović and Knežević differed in details, the character was the same.
“Death of Hajduk Veljko” was painted by Steva Todorović; “Hajduk Veljko overrides the Turkish camp” painted by Petar Ranosović; “Hajduk Veljko breaking through the Turks alone near Banja” painted by Živorad Nastasijević, like many others, among them Pavle Čortanović, Milisav Marković …
This museum exhibition is in some ways trying to bring Hajduk Veljko closer to visitors, to point out his courage and dignity and bring the spirit of heroic pride. The museum is proud of the good concept of the exhibition, which is backed by a large number of visitors.
The Krajina Museum library has collected many professional literature titles and local history records since 1934 when it was founded. An important part of those records are publications about Haiduk Veljko Petrović, the Krajina Duke and Serbian revolution hero (1804–1813) whose prowess was sung about and celebrated in folk tradition and in both oral and written literature as it can be seen in many stories, poems, legends, novels and plays.
Haiduk Veljko’s heroism was described not only by his contemporaries – Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, Sima Milutinović Sarajlija, Đura Jakšić, Jovan Dragašević and Dušan Baranin but he inspired many modern writers as well.
The permanent exhibition of the Haiduk Veljko Petrović Museum contains literary works dedicated to the hero and the First Serbian Uprising, which were collected over the years and are an integral part of the Krajina Museum library.
In the yard of Todorče’s residence there’s an open summer stage for various art performances.