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A Slavic Republic of Letters

The Correspondence between Jernej Kopitar and Baron Žiga Zois


Luka Vidmar

This book discusses the correspondence between Jernej Kopitar, a co-founder of Slavic studies and proponent of Austro-Slavism, and Baron Žiga Zois, an Austrian nobleman and patron of the Slovene national revival. The author treats their letters (composed between 1808–19), which are for the most part unpublished, both as historical sources and as texts. In the first part of the book, he situates them in history and within the genre of the letter, especially in the context of Classical and Enlightenment epistolography; in the second, he deals with their importance for the development of Slavic cultural nationalisms; in particular, he argues that this correspondence successfully bound Slovene, Czech, Polish, Dalmatian, Croatian, and Serbian literati into a Slavic «republic of letters».
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The Kopitar-Zois Correspondence and the Slavic National Revivals


The Concept of the Slovene National Revival

The Kopitar-Zois correspondence of 1808–19 guided the revival of the Slovene language and culture. The revival had been evolving for half a century by this time.

THE EVOLUTION. In the middle of the eighteenth century, the natural scientist and linguist Janez Žiga Valentin Popovič was already pondering fundamental questions of the Slovene revival—that is, the identity of the Slovene language; the linguistic unity of Carniolans, Carinthians, and Styrians; and orthographic reform (Gspan 1956: 352–353). Marko Pohlin pioneered the Slovene revival. In the introduction to his 1768 grammar, Kraynska grammatika, he appealed to his fellow Carniolans: “Schämen wir uns nicht unserer Muttersprach liebste Landesleute!” (Pohlin 2003: 13). In the 1770s and 1780s, individual intellectuals and those belonging to the Pohlin and Zois circles started to support the demand for Slovene’s equal status in the family of European languages by devoting themselves to researching, cultivating, and validating the language.

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