Serbia - Expo Liege 1905

Serbia at the Exhibition Expo Liege 1905

Serbia was the first country to officially join the Liege Exhibition.

Like Montenegro, it was installed under the large alleys of the Parc de la Boverie.

I do not know if all the Serbian monasteries are identical to the pavilion that encloses the Serbian Exhibition or if they simply have an air of kinship with it. Perhaps we have been delegated the most finished and graceful type for the sole purpose of inciting us to regret not having been able to desert the battle of life and take refuge in the calm and sweetness of the cloister to spend those days woven of gold and silk of which ancient wisdom speaks.

The Serbian pavilion is a facsimile of a local monastery. It has cachet and character with its white walls, topped by a square tower, starred with bull's eyes, indented with windows, hooded with red tiles and its marble colonnade forming a front, under which two Serbian soldiers on guard add to the illusion.

One goes around this exhibition with interest, examines it with curiosity, and notes with satisfaction how many interesting things it contains.

There is a very carefully drawn map of the Balkan peninsula by Captain Danilovich.

It is not difficult to remember the exact geography, for this Balkan peninsula changes every twenty years with an almost mathematical regularity.

European diplomacy and the ferments of various races constantly produce there those tears and boils of which the East has the speciality and the secret.

Thus Serbia has been in the news a great deal lately, but our Western minds are ill-suited to judge what we like to call a "tragedy" and what Serbia calls merely an "incident" that barely wrinkles her normal life.

Serbia is a great producer of cereals and has the right to be proud of its agriculture, which provides it with wheat, barley, rye, oats, corn, and tobacco of such good quality and yield. It also produces wines and famous spirits such as Slivooitza (plum brandy). These are indeed the products of a people of agriculture and peasants, hard workers bent on the furrow and the ploughing, whose strong race insensibly loves this earth which nourishes them, and which will be their shroud.

They are hardy, tough, brave to the extreme, and constitute a rural population which in time of war provides valiant militias, and in peace works energetically for the prosperity of the kingdom.

But Serbia has other instruments of wealth as well, its minerals are varied and numerous. She samples gold-bearing ores, mercury, lead, copper, molybdenum, bismuth, antimony, and chromium with a prodigality that is enviable and yet does not cost her much, for she possesses a soil that shelters in its depths a succession of industrial fortunes.

A country always has great resources and fertile promises for the future when it has as its reservoir a soil cushioned with rich deposits and paneled with luxuriant harvests, and Serbia has these elements.

It should be remembered that several Belgian companies were set up to exploit these riches, notably the Société des Cuivres de Maidenpek and the Charbonnages d'Alesinat.

The Orient means carpets and fabrics. Here are some from Pirot and Ujitze whose inhabitants, it seems, have a mystery to keep them eternally brightly coloured and incomparably fresh. They are double-sided, usually red, and it is said that they are free from all machinations.

Where Serbia really is at its national heart is in its regional costumes, in its antique fabrics and jewellery, in its special weapons, in its exquisitely fragrant tobacco.

It is there that one must go to seek it out, to evoke it, because therein lies the whole sequence of its traditions in the picturesqueness of its character, in the originality of its nationality.

For all the peoples of the world, the history of their costumes and weapons is the history of all their passions, their prejudices and beliefs, their adoration and hatred; it reflects the colour of their sky and their love, it is the mirror in which their peaceful or tumultuous, calm or bloody lives pass in light and deep shadows.

And the Serbian is no exception to the common law. His haughty, wild, independent character has left its mark on the clothes that protect him, the weapons that defend him, the jewels with which he adorns himself.

An artistic saloon dominated by a beautiful portrait of King Peter gives shelter to sculptures and paintings by Serbian artists, and this attractive gallery belongs to King Peter and Queen Nathalie, widow of the former king of Milan.

Destiny has ironic and unexpected connections, the exhibitions of those neighbours who do not fear diplomatic incidents.

In this way, Serbia lets us touch her activity and her particularism, she confides in us her desires and hopes, her abilities and her goals.

For a long time she lived under arms, trampling on a soil which she watered with the blood of her fellow citizens whenever she had to fight for her independence, and if the harvests grow so thickly on Serbian fields, it is perhaps because they have been sown so much with the bodies of her heroes.

A new Serbia was born out of the clash of arms, out of the tumult of revolutions, a new Serbia that remembers the lessons of the past in order to carve out a fruitful, lasting future for itself, whose popular qualities of energy, bravery and endurance have not degenerated, but are increasingly directed towards those paths of peace and bravery on which nations find prosperity and peoples happiness.

This is how the new Serbia appeared at the Liège Exhibition, and this participation must have won many sympathies for this country, which is still ignored by many.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Liège 1905