Serbs were a Slavic tribe that settled in Macedonia at the beginning of the 7th century, invited by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. They didn’t like it there and decided to make a U-turn and ride back to the unknown parts of Central Europe - Bohemia, most likely - that they came from. As they were passing Singidunum, they changed their mind and asked the Byzantine commander of the fortress to broker another deal with the Emperor and give them another land to settle. Heraclius obliged and directed them to Dalmatia. This is according to Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, a Byzantine Emperor from the 10th century, who wrote it in De Administrando Imperio, the most relevant source about the origins of the Serbs. Can anyone with a bit of knowledge of historical circumstances at various times actually believe this? How many of these Porphyrogenitus’ Serbs were there, fifty, no women and children? I mean, expecting me to believe that an entire people could move this fast and this large in numbers, on horses or on foot is plain offensive to my intelligence, let alone economically impossible. But this is what’s become the official Serbian history kids learn in school.
A people’s history is what shapes its identity, for the most part. Not knowing your history means not knowing who you are and why you are the way you are; in other words, it means not knowing your own self. Serbs, so proud of their history, appear to have generally known very little of it. Entire premises that our understanding of our own past is mainly based on, stand on very shaky legs, are easy to challenge and should be revisited and revised, if found false.
I am not going to dissect and try and overthrow the Serbian historical delusions. The point I want to base this diatribe of mine on is that the Serbian history, including its oldest periods, is crucial in crystalizing dimensions and components of our identity, that these delusions were a great contributor to the Serbian disorientation of the present and that an effort must be made to renew the study of our history earnestly, honestly and scientifically, to identify and remedy the errors, even it meant revising the entire school of historical thought.
The central question of the Serb origins deals with the determination of whether Serbs were native to the Roman province of Illyricum or we settled it as invaders. This is a watershed question as the correct answer to it opens a truckload of conclusions that undermine the entire established school of not only Serbian history, but of our understanding of the Late Antiquity and the Great Migrations. Assessing historical sources and conclusions about this period necessarily lead to Jovan I. Deretic, the standard-bearer of the so-called ''Serbian historical school.'' Deretić claims that Serbs are the autochtonous people of the Balkans and the oldest civilized people of Europe. He added to the Serbian history entire eras, stretching back to the Vinča civilization of the 6th millenium B.C. I won't even touch trying to prove or disprove his theories, not necessarily because I agree or disagree. All I can say is that I strongly support his challenges and accusations directed towards the official version of the history of Serbs, although I do have a thing or two to object to his chosen ways.
Thus far in this diatribe, I have stood by Deretić and his frame of thought. Where we differ is crucial. Deretić came up with a whole alternative version of the Serbian history, intending to replace the knowledge generations of Serbs acquired. According to him, everything the young Serbs have been taught since the Berlin Congress of 1878 was based on false premises stemming from falsified, misinterpreted or incomplete historiography. Where we differ and what I oppose is the way he has chosen to attempt the substitution.
I do want future generations of Serbs to learn their history presented in as accurate a manner as possible. Now, we don’t have to know what’s impossible to know and we don’t have to present a clear picture if the clear picture just isn’t available. For that reason, an attempt to entirely replace one, dominant and standing version, albeit built on shaky foundations, with another version, which, I have to notice, possesses some fairy tale-like traits, points towards amateurism in both historical methodology and strategic negotiation of educational and marketing hurdles. Needless to say, the confirmation of the latter amateurism calls into question the strength of the building blocks of the Serbian historical school as a whole. If Deretić is going about educating the public and marketing his findings in an amateurish way, how could we take him for his word that he went about his research in a scientific way? If I have a reason to doubt efficiency of the educational approach, it will lead me to doubt the validity of the historical research the theory as a whole was based on.
The official version of the Serbian history is not only accepted by most of the living and educated Serbs, but also by the relevant international scholarship, as no people’s history is an island. It is not simple to overthrow it. No substitute can take its place in a meaningful and lasting way until the standing theory is overthrown, however. Of course, a change in the political climate can lead to a ruling political option imposing one theory over the other, but isn’t that what Deretić claims happened in 1878? Does he propose his version to come to dominate in the same way? Does such an overthrow make his version more legitimate just because he will support it with a set of data and notions that will go unchallenged? How does that make him different from Stojan Novaković, whom he accuses of planting the Trojan Horse that became this official version? It doesn’t.
Strategically undermining rather than frontally assaulting the enemy is the main trait of the guerrilla warfare. The Serbian historical school is incomparably weaker than the official version, the so-called Berlin-Vienna school, and some form of guerrilla warfare would be the only manner in which a gradual substitution may take place. ‘’Substitution’’ is probably too strong a word; ‘’merging’’ of the versions in which fallacies get scientifically removed is the optimal way. Serbo Makeridov should be left for some future generations of archaeologists and historians to search for.