The opening speech of academician Vasilije Krestic
One of the noteworthy characteristics that adorn the Serbian nation is endowing. It has deep roots that originate from the early Middle Ages. The most renowned donors belonged to the upper class, that is, to the most elite circles of the society: district prefects, kings and the landed gentry. When we lost our state, and when the aristocracy ceased to exist, endowing was reduced to bare existence. The Serbian senior bishops, archbishops and individual prelates who have established, within their means, various foundations for the needs of their people and believers, preserved it.
The elite of our society nurtured endowing throughout the entire Middle Ages and so did the high-ranking clergy. Out of patriotic and religious motives they had set up foundations, mainly in Austria and Austro-Hungary, and thus paved the way for the course of the subsequent historical events that happened to our people, particularly in the 19th 20th century.
Modeling themselves on medieval rulers and aristocracy, as well as the Serbian Orthodox clergy, the Serbian middle class has extensively developed the institution of endowment and foundation on all geographical locations that they inhabited. That is how things were in the Principality, and the Kingdom of Serbia, but also in the areas populated by Serbs and under the rule of Turks, Austrians, Hungarians and Venetians. There is a very long list of generous people who have bequeathed substantial parts of their property, sometimes even entire ones when they were without descendants, to their people or the state at their disposal.
Legacies and foundations were created for various purposes, but always with a patriotic background. They maintained their continuance within our society up until the outbreak of the Second World War and the collapse of the state in 1941. They were extinguished after the war in 1945, and the new political establishment treated it with contempt. Eager to take everything that was owed to them on ‘revolutionary merits’, they were not willing to give away to the people that they were swearing by, and on whose behalf they ruled. Originators of legacies and foundations were labeled as capitalist exploiters, and legacies and foundations were categorised as unnecessary and damaging institutions of the bourgeois society that have no place in the socialist system. Therefore, legacies and foundations that were an indisputable pride of the Serbian nation have then ceased with work, and their funds disappeared without a trace. It will require plenty of effort, knowledge and skill for it to be returned to those to whom it was intended. The first Serbian private foundation that was set up after the Second World War is the Karic Foundation. The objectives that led to its creation, as emphasised in their regulations, are humanitarianism, aid to those in need, establishing the Serbian national culture, and its recognition in Europe and the world at large. By creating this foundation, including all its purposes, the Karics have demonstrated the desire to restore tradition and enhance the generosity that once festooned our nation. Time has shown that it won’t be an easy task; the nouveau riche such as the Karics did not thus far show any intent to establish a foundation. Let us hope that they will soon follow the steps of Captain Misa Anastasijevic, Sava Tekelija, Ilija Milosavljevic Kolarac, Sima Igumanov, Vladimir Matijevic, and many other prominent, and less-known.
The award that is presented tonight is only a fraction of the considerable activities performed by the Karic Foundation. It is presented for the highest achievements in the field of science, art, culture, journalism, publishing and humanitarian work. The award was established in 1998 and it was conferred upon tens of people and institutions. It is important to stress that the award has no political or ideological precondition, and is based solely on scientific, artistic, expert, and humanistic values. As there have never been any flaws in that respect, the Karic Brothers award has been gaining increasing repute by the year.
I wish to believe that it will preserve its integrity, and that its significance will grow even greater in the decades to come.
I congratulate this year’s laureates and wish that this award serves as an incentive for fresh intellectual accomplishments and creativity.