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Who was Atanasije Stojković


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Atanasije Stojković was born in Ruma on 20th September 1773.
In Ruma he finished the Serbian Grammar School, intending to continue his education. As he did not have the financial means to do it, for a while he worked as a clerk at the Ruma Geodesic Office, and later even as a teacher. When he tried to continue his education in Szeged and Pozsony (present-day Bratislava) he failed to do so because they would not recognise his previous education. However, as advised by his teacher from Ruma, Vasilije Krstic, he went to Sopron, where in 1793/94 he first completed six grades of grammar school, and then enrolled in Grammar School in Szeged, where in 1796 he graduated in Philosophy, i.e. 7. and 8th grade of grammar school. In the autumn of the same year and the spring of 1797 he tried to find a benefactor who would enable him to continue education in Germany. Then, during his short stay in Vienna, in July 1797 he met Dositej Obradovic and was introduced to his enlightenment ideas. In the autumn of the same year, he managed to get 300 forints from Metropolitan Stratimirovic to support himself in Goettingen, where he went to one of the most prominent universities at the time. In the course of the next two years he managed to get a PhD in Philosophy (1799), he became close friend with H. Heine (archaeologist and philologist) and professor Ludwig Schletzer and work intensively in different scientific disciplines (physics, mathematics, history...). After a short stay in Ruma in 1799 he moved to Budim where he finished and published his main work on three volumes “Fisika” (Physics) (1801-1803), mostly completed during his stay in Goettingen. In this most proliferate part of his life he also published a philosophical paper with elements of novel “Kandor or The Revelation of Egyptian Secrets” (1800); a sentimental novel “Aristid and Natalia” (1801), the first novel of more contemporary Serbian literature ”Serbian Secretary” (1802), a collection of forms, letters, and other other type of communication; a collection of poems called “Stihi kakovim obrazom ljubov u braku sohraniti mozno” and a hymn“On the Death of the Immortal Jovan Raic”(1802). He became a member of the Goettingen Academic Community in 1802.
Since it was difficult for non-Catholics to get state employment in the Habsburg Monarchy, Atanasije tried to secure his financial status by becoming a monk, but as it was impossible for him to immediately become promoted into archimandrite of the monastery in Kovilj (after the death of Jovan Rajic), he tried to get a position at the Department of Physics at the Pozsony Academy, but with no success either. That is why he was very happy to accept the invitation to be elected the first Professor of Physics at the newly founded Kharkiv University. The invitation came from the famous Severin Osipovic Potocki, school curator of the Kharkiv County – the future Russian Minister of Education, whom he met at the home of Count Josif Osolinski in Vienna.
Soon, Atanasije Stojkovic became the dean of the Physics and Mathematics Department, and in two terms (1807-1808 and 1811-1813) also the Chancellor of the Kharkiv University. Apart from that, he was also the founder of the Kharkiv Academic Community, and then the holder of many merits and privileges – he became the member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, he was awarded the medal of Saint Vladimir of the third degree by Emperor Alexander I, he obtained material privileges as well and became a state advisor.
During his stay in Kharkiv, Atanasije Stojkovic published numerous works, mostly intended for students, written in Russian. Especially prominent is the book titled “O vozdushnih kamnjah i jih proishozdeniji” (On meteors and meteorites and their origin) published in 1807 and emerged as a result of the fact that, being a university professor, Stojkovic got his hands on an "air stone", which in 1787. fell near the village of Zhygaylovka in the Kharkiv County. This book is considered to be the first ever monograph on meteorites in the world, and its publication influenced the development of Russian meteorite science. In Tunguzija region (where a meteorite exploded on 30th June 1908 and caused huge devastation) there is a hill 150 meters high named after this scientist - Stojkovic Hill.
These are the titles of the other works written while Stojkovic was a professor of physics in Kharkiv:

  • О јавленијах городов и прочего в воздух , називајемих фата моргана
    (On The Appearance of Hail And Other Things in the Air Called Fata Morgana (Mirage)) 1808.
  • Началнија основанија умозрителној и опитној физики по новејшим откритијам
    (The Basic Foundations of Abstract and Experimental Physics Until the Latest Discoveries)1809.
  • О преохраненији себија от ударов молниј во всех случајах жизни
    (On personal protection from the strike of lightning in all life situations) 1810.
  • О причинах дјелајушчих воздух неспособним дља диханија и о средствах предохрањајушчих от совершеној порчи
    (On the Causes Which Make the Air Improper for Inhaling and On Ways of Protection from Complete Damage) 1811.
  • Система физики (The System of Physics ) 1813.
  • Началнија основанија физическој географији
    (The Basic Foundations of Physical Geography) 1813.
  • Началнија основанија физическој астрономији
    (The Basic Foundations of Physical Astronomy) 1813.

In 1810 Atanasije travelled to Austria, visited his mother in Ruma, as well as his friends in Srem and Slavonia, but because of suspicion that he was actually sent on a secret mission by Russia, and due to some public appearances where he glorified Russia and promoted the creation of a country of South Slavs, he was sent back to Russia in October that year following the Emperor's order.
After his return to Kharkiv he became the object of an affair which claimed that on his his way back from Austria (and later with the help of his friends), he imported large quantities of goods (wine, silk, gems, art...) which he sold illegally. The investigation went on for years, and was later extended on Stojkovic's relationship with his colleagues and other professors. Probably in order to prevent tarnishing the reputation of the University, the investigation was never closed, the charges were never proven, but the affair was most likely the reason for the end of Atanasije Stojkovic's university career. In May 1813 he was approved a sick leave, when he was relieved of his duty as chancellor, and once he returned from his leave, Stojkovic personally wrote to the Emperor Alexander I requesting to be relived of professorship.
After he left the University, Atanasije Stojkovic lived in Bessarabia, where in 1815 he received a large estate (15 000 hectares) from Alexander I. In this period Stojkovic did not practice physics very much. He had the idea of writing or publishing a comprehensive history of Serbs, but he could not come trough with it. Living far away from Serbia, he was also far from the necessary sources, аnd he failed to find the right person capable of writing such a history, although he had a wish to finance printing of that kind of a book. He persists in trying to realise his idea with the help of Metropolitan Stratimirovic, who he was constantly corresponding with.
The final years of his life Stojkovic spent in Petrograd in close contact with representatives of Russian central authorities, and in 1826 he also became the representative of Montenegro at the Russian court, thanks to his acquaintance with Montenegrin Metropolitan Petar I Petrovic. He spent most of his time doing translations, one of which is the New Testament in Serbian, published in Petrograd in 1824. The is dispute as to whether it is a plagiarism of Vuk Karadzic's translation or independent work, but a fact remains that this trnaslation was printed more than 20 years before Karadzic's.
These are the titles of the works by Atanasije Stojkovic created in th elast decade of his life:

  • О саранче и способах истребљенија јеја (On grasshoppers and ways of exterminating them) 1825.
  • О отводах молниј и града (On coduction – derivation of lightning and hail) 1826.
  • Зашчишченије градових отводов (Protection of anti-hail conductors) 1826.
  • Систематическоје изложеније обезводњенија мокрој почви
    (A systematic presentation of draining watelogged land) 1827.
  • Теоретическо-практическоје настављеније о виноделији
    (Theoretical – practical advice on wine production) translation from French ,1830.

Records show that Atanasije Stojkovic died in Kharkiv on 2nd June 1832 Where he most probably stopped by on his way to, or return from Bessarabia.
Atanasije Stojkovic was obviously a hard-working man of great abilities and lively and restless spirit, but also very successful and respected. He spoke several languages: German, Latin, French, Italian, English, Greek, Hungarian, and almost all Slavic languages. He used his diverse interests, ambition and intelligence, probably under the influence by Dositej Obradovic, to enlighten his nation and develop their science and culture in not so favourable conditions. Sentimental by nature, he invested strong emotions in his works, even in “Physics”, a scientific piece, where each phenomenon described overwhelmed him. Unfortunately, Atanasije Stojkovic is little known and even less respected with his own people. His name fell into oblivion, his work remained little known, very likely as a result of the conflict with Vuk Karadzic regarding the translation of the “New Testament”. Because of the conflict, Karadzic tried to diminish the reputation and importance of Stojkovic's work, and was rather successful at it, primarily thanks to his great reputation and influence on his contemporaries. By naming this fund “Atanasije Stojkovic” we wish to contribute to the efforts retrieve the name of this great man from oblivion and to find it a suitable place in history, culture and science of the Serbian people.

Atanasije Stojković


Book collection of Atanasije Stojković
10 digital copies of origonal publications of Atanasije Stojković from National Library of Serbia Old and Rare Book holdings

Translation of the NEW TESTAMENT
by Atanasije Stojković

Letter from Dositej Obradović to
Atanasije Stojković rregarding publishing
a book  "Фисика" (Physics), 1802