Mother Serbia at the top of the building of the Government of Serbia

Mother Serbia (Serbian: Мајка Србија / Majka Srbija; Србија мати / Srbija mati ), Serb Mother (Serbian: Српска мајка / Srpska majka) or Mother of All Serbs[1] (Serbian: Мајка свих Срба / Majka svih Srba), is a female national personification of Serbia, the nation-state of Serbs.

The nation of Serbia has historically been portrayed as a motherland (sometimes also being referred to as the fatherland i.e. Otadžbina), with all visual personifications of the nation represented as a woman. She was used as the metaphoric mother of all Serbs.[1] Serbian national myths and poems constantly invoke Mother Serbia. She was also used to symbolize the early feminist movements in Serbia and Yugoslavia, such as the Circle of Serbian Sisters which formed in 1903 and lasted until 1942, only to be re-established in 1990.[2][3]

The territories inhabited by ethnic Serbs outside Serbia can be represented as the children of Mother Serbia.[4] Serbia may also be described as a daughter of Mother Serbia, alongside other Serb territories, as in Dragoslav Knežević's poem Mother Serbia: "One sister younger than the older Montenegro and Serbia, In peacetime and in war Krajina joins the Serbian flock".[4] Personifications of Yugoslavia would parallel the ones of Serbia and Croatia in appearance, largely due to similar artists and sculptors depicting both personifications, as well as the spread of Yugoslavism. Most depictions of Yugoslavia in Serbia would later be renamed and/or represent Mother Serbia, due to Serbia being the main founder and successor of both royal and socialist Yugoslavia.


While visual personifications of Serbia existed before the 19th century and the archetype of a motherly figure having a great significance among all Slavs, the concept of Mother Serbia solidified around the time of Serbia's liberation from Ottoman rule, the Serbian national awakening, and the spread of the Enlightenment among the Serbs.

19th century

Dositej Obradović (1739–1811) extensively used Mother Serbia in his works.[5] The concept and term was used in many patriotic songs, such as Vostani Serbije, Oj Srbijo, mila mati, Oj Srbijo mati, etc.

On February 24, 1874, the "Serbian Liberation Committee for the Sanjak of Niš", known simply as the Niš Committee, was founded by local notables. Orthodox priest Petar Ikonomović swore Oath on the Christian cross and Gospel, reminiscent of the Orašac Assembly (1804).[6] Ikonomović said:

So together, brothers, and the Almighty shall help us all in his mercy, and soon permit us to weave the triumphal flag of our only faithful IV Obrenović on the Niš fortification. Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Long live our beloved knightly Prince Milan M. Obrenović IV. Long live Mother Serbia!

— Petar Ikonomović, priest of Niš (February 24, 1874)[7]

20th century

Kingdom of Serbia

Monument to the heroes of Kosovo, 1900

With the rise of the Kingdom of Serbia on the political stage, King Alexander I Obrenović commissioned several sculptures and monuments depicting Mother Serbia to be made by Đorđe Jovanović, to glorify Serbia's war victories and history. The sculptor was instrumental in creating the most widely recognizable appearances of Mother Serbia, a woman with ether a crown made of metal or plants, usually holding a crown, a shield (with the nations heraldry), and/or a flag. Further art commissions were done by King Peter I Karađorđević before the outbreak of the First World War. Some sculptures got international praise, like the "Monument to the heroes of Kosovo" showcased at the Exposition Universelle in 1900,[8] or other Jovanović′s work in the International Exhibition of Art of 1911.[9]

World War I

There were several allied made lithographs, posters, and postcards done depicting the female personification of Serbia, often in traditional Serbian clothing and in Serbian war uniform. They were sold to support the war effort throughout 1914–1918. Some posters promoted international aid for the nation of Serbia and its people. Later victorious World War I depictions of Serbia (often next to the personification of Montenegro and other allied nations) would be made throughout Europe in the early 1920s.

Kingdom of Yugoslavia

With the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, personifications of Mother Serbia were often intermixed with the personifications of Yugoslavia, due to the ruling monarchy stemming from previous Kingdom of Serbia, as well as Alexander I Karađorđević attempts to unify the identities of all Yugoslavia's ethnic groups into one Yugoslav identity.

She [Serbia] sacrificed hundreds of thousands of her best sons, gave up her name, flag, existence, and eventually the blood of her king. But still they aren't satisfied and want more, they want to kill her spirit, rip out her heart, wipe out every trace of her, but this will never be! Mother Serbia will give more sacrifices, take more blows for the good of the King and our fatherland Yugoslavia, but she will endure.

— President of the Serbian women organisation "Dobrotvorna Zadruga Srpkinja" in Sarajevo, during the inter-war period.[10]

In 1940, Pavle Tatić wrote the drama Srpska majka.[11]

World War II

The propaganda of the Serbian puppet Government of National Salvation included promoting Milan Nedić as "Mother of the Serbs", claiming that he cared and shielded the Serbs.[12]

Other personifications of Mother Serbia at the time depicted her as a regular Serbian mothers enduring wartime hardships, such as those fleeing the terror of the Croatian Ustasha.

Socialist Yugoslavia

After the war, most public depictions of the personification of Yugoslavia and Serbia were ether removed or altered to better suit the socialist ideology of Tito's Yugoslavia. More emphasis was placed upon visual representations of ordinary people from various labor backgrounds, instead of a unified and glorified personification of the nation.

Yugoslav Wars

The expression was used during the Yugoslav Wars, referring to Mother Serbia's children in the west (outside Serbia and Montenegro) as the Republic of Serbian Krajina and Republika Srpska.[citation needed]

Milan Martić, President of the Republic of Serbian Krajina , argued, after the fall of Serbian Krajina (Operation Storm), that "the people felt they had been deceived and abandoned by mother Serbia" for not protecting Serbian Krajina.[13]

21st century

Most modern visual depictions of Mother Serbia take inspirations from Đorđe Jovanović's work, while some depict her as a woman wearing traditional Serbian clothing.


Serbia had numerous personified depictions since as early as the 18th century. Mother Serbia was constantly represented and referenced through art, literature, and music. During Yugoslav period, her form would often intermix with the personification of Yugoslavia.

Paintings and posters

Currency and finance

Personifications of Yugoslavia and Serbia were done on several banknotes of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Serbia. Krone and dinar banknotes of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia depicting personifications would be done from 1919 to 1941. Socialist Yugoslavia would remove personified depictions of the nation, instead representing the people, industry, and agriculture of the country. After the fall of Yugoslavia, a personification would appear on the 5000 Serbian dinar banknote, the statue next to Slobodan Jovanović.

Statues and sculptures



See also


  1. ^ a b Dubravka Žarkov; Kristen Ghodsee (13 August 2007). The Body of War: Media, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Break-up of Yugoslavia. Duke University Press. pp. 51–. ISBN 978-0-8223-9018-3.
  2. ^ a b Garčević, Srđan (11 September 2017). "Hidden Belgrade (16): The Forgotten Feminist Palace". Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  3. ^ Renata Salecl (31 January 2002). The Spoils of Freedom: Psychoanalysis, Feminism and Ideology After the Fall of Socialism. Routledge. pp. 17–. ISBN 978-1-134-90612-3.
  4. ^ a b Ivan Čolović (January 2002). The Politics of Symbol in Serbia: Essays in Political Anthropology. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. pp. 32–33, 52. ISBN 978-1-85065-556-5.
  5. ^ Petar Pijanović (2000). Život i delo Dositeja Obradovića: zbornik radova sa naučnog skupa Srpske akademije nauka i umetnosti održanog 15. i 16. decembra 1999. godine u Beogradu i 17. decembra 1999. godine u Sremskim Karlovcima. Zavod za udžbenike i nastavna sredstva. ISBN 9788617085474.
  6. ^ Danica Milić (1983). Istorija Niša: Od najstarijih vremena do oslobođenja od Turaka 1878. godine. Gradina. p. 298.
  7. ^ Branibor Debeljković; Olivera Stefanović (2005). Old Serbian photography. Narodna biblioteka Srbije. p. 165. ISBN 9788681695067.
  8. ^ a b Aksentijević, Jovana (9 July 2022). "Povodom Vidovdana feljton o Lazaru, Kruševcu, Kosovu: Spomenik kosovskim junacima – simbol viteškog podviga i časti". (in Serbian). Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  9. ^ Elezović, Zvezdana (2009). "Kosovske teme paviljona Kraljevine Srbije na međunarodnoj izložbi u Rimu 1911. godine". Baština. 27.
  10. ^ Nancy M. Wingfield; Maria Bucur (9 May 2006). Gender and War in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe. Indiana University Press. pp. 165–. ISBN 0-253-11193-5.
  11. ^ Pavle Tatić (1940). Srpska majka: drama u tri slike sa prologom. Štamparija"Natošević".
  12. ^ Rebecca Haynes; Martyn Rady (30 November 2013). In the Shadow of Hitler: Personalities of the Right in Central and Eastern Europe. I.B.Tauris. pp. 302–. ISBN 978-1-78076-808-3.
  13. ^ Thomas Ambrosio (2001). Irredentism: Ethnic Conflict and International Politics. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 88–. ISBN 978-0-275-97260-8.
  14. ^ "Живот и дела Кара Ђорђа" (in Serbian). Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  15. ^ "Serbia: Freedom for ever!". Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  16. ^ "JEDINSTVEN U CELOJ SRBIJI: Mozaik "Majka Srbija" na simboličan način predstavlja stradanje našeg naroda". (in Serbian). 31 July 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  17. ^ "Уметност и црвени терор: Драгослав Стојановић (1890-1945) или Мајко СРБИЈО, помози!". (in Serbian). 13 July 2017. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  18. ^ a b Stojanović, Marko (1 June 2018). "Skulptura Velike Srbije u Užicu sa ženom kao simbolom nacije". (in Serbian). Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  19. ^ Ana Atanasković, Ana (13 March 2022). "Koja žena je srpski "Kip slobode" u Nemanjinoj?". (in Serbian). Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  20. ^ "Vajar Đorđe Jovanović (1861–1953) - Katalog izložbe, Čačak 2007" (PDF) (in Serbian). Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  21. ^ NIN. nedeljne informativne novine. Politika. 1999. p. 33.
  22. ^ "Sele Majku Grcku i Majku Srbiju". Politika.
  23. ^ Kovačević, N. (31 October 2018). "Spomenik Velikoj pobedi otkriven u Užicu". (in Serbian). Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  24. ^ Pekić, Petar (1939). Povijest oslobodjenja Vojvodine. Štamparija Grafika. p. 90.
  25. ^ "Selaković and Gouillon presented the "Mother Serbia" award to Đorđe Mihailović". Retrieved 30 November 2022.

Further reading