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Viktor Novak

Yugoslav historian

1889   -   1977

occupation: historian, university teacher

Viktor Novak (4 February 1889, Donja Stubica – 1 January 1977, Belgrade), was a Yugoslav historian, professor at the University of Belgrade and full member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU), and a corresponding member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts (JAZU).While working at the University of Zagreb, Novak, an ethnic Croat, was frequently attacked by Croatian nationalists for his balanced approach to the history of South Slavs and for his pan-Slavic Yugoslavist persuasion. From 1920 to 1924 he held the chair of Auxiliary Sciences of History at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb. Novak left his position there in 1924 to go to the University of Belgrade. Viktor Novak dedicated many years to the extensive research of clericalism and extreme nationalism among Roman Catholic Croats in Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia. He did extensive research on the cultural and political foundations of the Yugoslav movement in the nineteenth century (with works on key persons such as Josip Juraj Strossmayer, Franjo Rački, and Natko Nodilo), as well as on the relations between the reformer of the Serbian alphabet Vuk Stefanović Karadžić and members of the Croatian Illyrian movement. In Belgrade Novak's writings represented a strict Yugoslav unitary concept. During the January 6 Dictatorship, Novak wrote his Antologija jugoslovenske misli i narodnog jedinstva (Anthology of Yugoslav Consciousness and National Unity). According to historian Ivan Mužić, the work was an attempt "to justify a newly conceived myth of a three-tribed nation and its ostensible united national consciousness which dates to the sixth century". Novak would write: The future generations, freed of atavistic woes, with the aid of conscious national education, can bear in their hearts one great and holy idea, which will safeguard the people from external and internal enemies. That idea is the Yugoslav idea alone. In Belgrade Novak was a member of the Yugoslav Cultural Club and wrote in its unofficial journal Vidici. Novak would write in Serbian ekavian while working in Belgrade.Novak authored Magnum Tempus, Magnum Sacerdos and Magnum Crimen (The Great Crime - a half-century of clericalism in Croatia), a trilogy about the Roman Catholic Church in Yugoslavia and its relation to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Roman Curia, and the Croatian clerical nationalism including Ustashe supporters and World War II. From 1929 to 1959, he was a professor of Yugoslav history at the University of Belgrade. The Vatican Curia placed Magnum Crimen on their list of banned books Index librorum prohibitorum and named Viktor Novak "an enemy of Catholic Church". As an ardent Yugoslav patriot and anti-fascist activist, Viktor Novak was during the Second World War arrested and spent some time in the Nazi detention camp at Banjica, near Belgrade.After the Second World War, Novak continued teaching Yugoslav history and methodology of history at the Belgrade University. He was later elected to membership of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU; corresponding member in 1948 and full member in 1961) and was made head of the Department for Social Sciences of the Academy (1966–69). Novak was among founders and first director of the History Institute of SANU (Istorijski institut SANU) from 1947 to 1954. He was also praised for his books on Latin paleography, which are considered to be seminal works on the subject in Serbian historiography. Magnum Crimen, which is considered the main source of first-hand accounts of close relations between Croatian clericalism and pro-Nazi Croatian Ustashas, that led to the genocide against the Serbs, Jews and Roma in the 1941–45 Independent State of Croatia, was first published in 1948, and again in an abridged version in 1960 in Sarajevo. The 1948 edition, reprinted several times in Belgrade after 1986, was highly acclaimed as a masterpiece left in oblivion.'The English edition of his magnum opus - Magnum Crimen was completed eventually in 2011 and published in two volumes on more than 1,300 pages, with two chapters that were omitted from the first edition in 1948, due to the communist censorship. Viktor Novak was decorated with the Order of St. Sava bestowed by the Serbian Orthodox Church.
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