Saturday 8 September 2018

Mountain Serbs of Montenegro

Anthropologist Chris Boehm spent 3 years, between 1963 and 1966, doing fieldwork in Montenegro in Gornja Morača region. He called the people that he encountered there "Mountain Serbs of Montenegro".

At the time Chris was there in the mid 1960's, Gornja Morača Tribe numbering 1800 people lived isolated at the headwaters of the Morača River seven hours by foot from the nearest road.

Firewood had to be brought from far away on foot. This was usually women's job.

The Gornja Morača area is a karst country. Arable land is scarce and fields are small. In the 60's these fields were still worked in the same way they had been worked since medieval time.

At home babies slept swaddled in wooden cots. 

Life in villages in Gornja Morača in 1960's involved a lot of hard work outside of the house done by both men and women. If a mother had to go out and do some work, like get water from a well o firewood from a forest (or both) the baby was carried around on their mother's back.

People from Gornja Morača kept small flocks of sheep. The flocks grazed on high mountain pastures which were exposed to extreme weather conditions year round. 

The sheep were of the type Pivska pramenka, a long tailed coarse wool, typical mountain breed, well adapted to severe conditions of rearing

Every household usually had few cows too, of the buša type, a small tough mountain breed, which was used as a working animal.

Horses were used for transport. They belonged to a local hilly horse breed, tough animals used to hard mountain terrain and harsh climate. 

106 years old man from Gornja Morača in front of his house. He insisted on changing into his "burial clothes", traditional local dress, before being interviewed by the anthropologist

In 1960's, a typical house from Gornja Morača was a single room stone hut covered with wooden slates. 

The centre of the house was open hearth like this one used for heating and cooking.

When the walls of a new house were built Gornja Morača, just before the roof work began, a lamb was sacrificed on top of the wall to ensure that the house would stand for a long time.

Local church was the focal point of the Gornja Morača community. All important tribal events took place on the plateau in front of the church. Oro (traditional circle dance) was often part of the event.

Tribal graveyard is located on a hill top overlooked by high mountain peaks. The ancient oak in the middle of the graveyard is considered sacred. Cutting it or any part of it is considered sacrilegious. Even collecting naturally fallen branches is forbidden.

The graveyard is very old and has many ancient tombstones of unknown age.

It is the isolated communities like this one that have preserved some of the oldest cultural traits in Europe. No wonder considering that they were literally living hidden from the rest of the world in the land above the clouds...