The oldest Serbian literary, cultural and scientific society
Matica Srpska was founded in 1826 in Pest, during the liberation of Serbia from centuries of Ottoman occupation and the strengthening of awareness of the need to fully incorporate Serbian people in modern European trends at the same time maintaining their cultural identity. The activities of Matica were, from the very beginning, aimed at presenting Serbian culture to Europe and at enlightening the people. In order to achieve this, a rich publishing activity has been developed. The basis of this activity was the famous Letopis (Chronicle), first published in 1824. Later on, numerous other editions were published, among them one edition with a particular educational role, appropriately named Books for the People. During the 1840s, Matica created conditions required for scientific work. It was then that a library containing literary and manuscript collections from various scientific fields was formed.
In 1864, Matica Srpska relocated its headquarters from the Tekelijanum palace in Pest to the Platoneum palace in Novi Sad. It was then that the city of Novi Sad became known as the ’Athens of Serbia.’ The city was given this name because Matica Srpska was considered the gathering point of the wisest and the most educated people. That connection became even more emphasized later on. Matica Srpska became a symbol of civil society, culture, education, enlightenment, and charity. However, Matica always had, and still has the character of a people’s institution. Its founders (a young PhD holder, Jovan Hadžić, and wealthy businessmen: Đorđe Stanković, Josif Milovuk, Jovan Demetrović, Gavrilo Bozitovac, Andrija Rozmirović, and Petar Rajić), as well as its first contributors, lived in different regions, from Vienna to Timisoara, and from Dubrovnik to Pest. They belonged to different social strata. Among the benefactors and members of Matica Srpska were the ruler of Serbia, Miloš Obrenović and his brother Jevrem, noble Sava Popović Tekelija, Baron Jovan Nikolić of Rudna, ruler of Montenegro Petar II Petrović Njegoš, members of the Karađorđević Royal family, writers, people’s tribunes, world famous scientists such as Mihajlo Pupin, and less known citizens who supported Matica Srpska’s aim of enlightenment with their contributions. What brought them together was a noble idea of creating a single, unique “beehive” and the attitude that it is an honor to serve the prominent Matica Srpska. This thought was followed by thousands of people; among them were those who came from different nations. It was because of this widespread support among the people, that Matica was, for a period of time, the richest endowment institution in Hungary. Capital projects of great significance for the standardization of the Serbian language and the development of different scientific disciplines were financed from its funds. At the same time, Matica oversaw the education of gifted students and scholars, and thereby the creation of a Serbian intellectual elite.
Matica Srpska has almost 2.000 associates today. They are included in dozens of scientific and development projects within the Department of Literature and Language, Department of Lexicography, Department of Social Sciences, Department of Natural Sciences, Department of Fine Arts, Department of Performance Arts and Music, and the Manuscript Department. Associates prepare articles for ten periodical publications of Matica and work on the preparation of publications of great significance for Serbian culture and science, such as the Serbian Encyclopedia, Serbian Biographic Dictionary, the Dictionary of Serbian Language, Orthography… The Library of Matica Srpska has over 3,500,000 books, and the Gallery of Matica Srpska houses a rich collection of Serbian eighteenth and nineteenth century paintings. The Publishing Center continues the tradition of the former Matica Srpska Publishing Company, whose editions were, for decades, recognizable throughout Southeastern Europe by the emblem MS, which signified high-quality and carefully selected literature from various fields. Every year Matica Srpska awards worthy accomplishments in various fields of culture and science.
Matica Srpska has been an example to many Slavic nations. Based on this model the following institutions were established: Czech Matica in 1831, Illyrian Matica in 1842 (in 1874 renamed to Matica Hrvatska); Matica Lužičkosrpska in 1847, Halych-Russian Matica in Lviv in 1848; Moravian Matica in 1849; Matica Dalmatinska in Zadar in 1861; Slovak Matica in 1863; Slovenian Matica in 1864; Matica Opava in 1877; Matica in the Teschen Princedom in 1898. (from which Silesian Matica was created in 1968); Polish Matica in Lvov (1882); Educational Matica in the Teschen Princedom in 1885; Educational Matica in Warsaw in 1905; Bulgarian Matica in Constantinople in 1909 and the new Bulgarian Matica in 1989.
In the meantime, Matica Srpska has developed cooperation with many institutions and individuals worldwide.