SpeakerSreten Ugričić

InstitutionNational Library of Serbia

SubjectThe Avant-Garde Journal Zenit 1921-1926

Zenit, an International Review for Art and Culture was started by Ljubomir Micić, in Zagreb in February 1921. The monthly issuing of the journal ceased with No. 24 in May 1923, when, after a tense polemic, the editorial office was forced to move to Belgrade. The Belgrade phase was marked by an uneven and slow issuing, by frequent changings of the entire journal’s format and function. That brave and unusual attempt of issuing, which continued with No. 25 in February 1924, after a several month pause, ended, in spite of the editor’s will, with a ban in December 1926, with No. 43 inclusive. The editorial board tried to solve the problem of the irregular issuing by merging several issues into one, which sometimes differed from the usual issuing rhythm, with double issues (17/18, 19/20) becoming eight-issue units (26/33), formally adapted to the calendar rhythm of periodicity. Besides, the issuing strategy expressed itself both on the formal level and regarding the selection of the journal sorts. When in the theoretical and practical respects it assumed certain attitudes, Zenit, once a journal-almanac, became a program organ – after the issuing of the international Manifesto of Zenithism (June 1921). The turning to the propaganda work in Germany manifested itself in a poster issue, while the printing of Zenit in folio (1922) can be connected with the Russian avant-garde motto concerning the art getting out in the streets. The issue in the form of an exhibit catalog (1924) or the one with a supplement including only the program of the Zenithist vesper service held in Zagreb (1923) can be considered as extremely innovative journal genres.

Zenit comes from the time of the newly created state of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, and of the post-war Europe, exhausted with the world war, when it was for the first time placed before the main theme of its history – belief in hope, salvation and renewal. At the same time one believed that it was the end of the old Europe, which had for a long time had a monopoly on culture, and that the appearing of the neglected national values on the European scene was inevitable and possible.

The avant-garde journal Zenit is of a national and European rank, of an original program and poetics, generally opposed to the denied European tradition and its still quite strong echoes in the contemporary life, its political and economic systems, developed on the strengthening power of the capital – in the name of accepting the values built upon the presumptions of the man’s inner renewal, of the overcoming of the outside materiality by the inner contents. With its immanent program, Zenit is basically international: it aimed at the creation of one entirely new and united Europe, regardless of races, nationalities, languages, ideal and ideological orientations. It was an attempt of building a new Babylon Tower, despite the mix of nations.

As for its origin, Zenit approaches, leaning on Dimitrije Mitrinović and Jovan Cvijić, the newly revived Balkanocentric thematics, available through the shifting of the interest towards the esthetics of pre-cultural, primitive, archaic forms of thinking and presentation. The stressing of that identity and that spirit included the separation from other cultural spheres of Europe, which ought to be Balkanized. Zenit shared that idea with many Russian futurists. Namely, they claimed that they had to be considered Asiatic in order to free themselves from the European yoke.

It was not by chance that Zenit gave priority to several repeated issuings of the journal, as if reminding each year, with its February issue, of the beginnings of the Italian futurism, or marking the Russian October with the October issue.

As for the position of the editor, there were no inner contraries there, since it exclusively belonged to Ljubomir Micić, with a short participation of Boško Tokin, Rastko Petrović and Branko Ve Poljanski; with an exception of several issues of the end of 1921 and the beginning of 1922, when Ivan Gol took part in the program of the shaping of Zenit.

It is necessary, at the end, to point out that the initiative of Zenit very much coincided with the initiatives of other European journals of that time, though in some cases it exceeded them, and that from a more or less specific program and esthetic platform it succeeded in gathering a large number of modern and avant-garde representatives from Yugoslavia, Russia and the West.