Overcoming the Language Barrier: A Mitrinović Glossary

One of the many challenges for researchers (and the cataloguer!) working with the Mitrinović collection is the terminology Dimitrije Mitrinović used. He spent years studying and developing difficult philosophical and theological concepts, and an obscure technical vocabulary grew out of his studies. For instance, he frequently used the word “pleroma”, normally taken to refer to the totality of divine powers and manifestations, which he would have discovered through his interest in Gnosticism.

NAF 1-6-2-12-20 Glossary Pleroma

Mitrinović seems to have enjoyed coining words himself, often using the prefix “anthropo-” in front of a word, or the suffix “-centric”, to create new compound nouns and adjectives. He also had a habit of using familiar words in novel ways. For instance, his work on designing a new, peaceful world order led him to use the term “Senate” to describe the group of people who would bring about a transformation in the world, and lead the new society.

Evidently it is not only us who are sometimes baffled by Mitrinović’s idiosyncratic use of language. His followers in the New Atlantis Foundation created a glossary to help them to better understand his thinking. Today their efforts will be seized upon as a helpful tool for researchers interested in his writing and ideas, although further study may lead us to add to or otherwise modify the definitions given.

NAF1-6-2-12-20 Glossary intro, ver 2It is interesting to speculate on how Mitrinović came up with his complex vocabulary. He spoke and wrote multiple languages, which may well have encouraged his love of words and given him a huge pool of linguistic knowledge to draw upon. His native tongue was Serbo-Croatian (as was fitting for someone who worked to create Yugoslavia, he considered Serbian and Croatian to be the one language). His German was sufficiently fluent to enable him to study in Munich, and work closely with German philosophers like Erich Gutkind. I have found documents he wrote in French and Russian, and enough Greek and Latin words and phrases to suggest he was pretty comfortable reading these ancient languages too. When Mitrinović came to Britain in 1914 his English was rather eccentric, but good enough for him to deliver a lecture at the University of Leeds within months of his arrival.

As an aside, one word Mitrinović claimed to have coined is very familiar indeed: “Yugoslavia”. In a letter, he wrote that during his student days in Zagreb, he “coined and first professed the very name Yugoslavia, intending it to cover also Bulgars [i.e. in addition to Serbs, Slovenes and Croats] in the time.” Certainly the adjective “Yugoslav” predates Mitrinović, but is there any truth to the claim that he came up with the country name? Or was this claim simply a way of bolstering his credentials as a trusted voice for the “Southern Slavs”?

Did Mitrinović invent "Yugoslavia"?

Did Mitrinović invent “Yugoslavia”?

Whatever the truth of the origins of that particular word, Mitrinović’s love of language can be witnessed in his notes, which are full of what appear to be mantras, pages of word association and his coinages, as well as the odd poem. Those who knew him commented on his unique way of speaking and writing. Thankfully we have the work of Mitrinović’s most dedicated students to help us make sense of this joxquiz!


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