Saturday, November 17, 2012

Company of the Golden Keg-Serbia's 14th Century Reenactment Group!

Here at the Modern Medievalist Blog, we oftentimes have the luxury of reporting on the efforts of individuals, and groups who are absolutely top notch in their fields of endeavors. What doesn't get stated, or is just assumed is, most of the people reported here, come from countries that have cherished their traditions and have established museums and institutions which preserve their history.

In America we have thousands of museums and institutions that are dedicated to the preservation of knowledge, and history. Albeit from a somewhat Western Euro centric standpoint. We also have Native American Indians or Indigenous people who have histories, and cultures that go back to the stone age. For the American Indians, one of the biggest trials that they have had to face, has been the preservation of their history and culture. Most have succeeded to do so in one form or another.

What if you are from Europe, or more specifically Eastern Europe? People as a rule assume, rightly or wrongly that everyone in Europe knows their history, and as far as their culture goes… they are living everyday in their culture …right?

The Pannonian Basin or Balkans as it is most commonly referred to as, is one of the most fought over and historically dynamic regions of the world. Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Franks, Byzantines, Russians, Poles, Croats, Serbians, Bulgarians, Turks, Magyars, Germans, Italians, and Austrians have all at one time had either overt influence and open warfare in the region or have been covertly influencing cold war politics since, humans stepped foot in the region.

I will not go into the last 90 years of politics of the Balkans. What I will say is that for those who want to know, need to know their culture, their history, their triumphs and their losses, the Balkans in particular offer a dizzyingly difficult challenge.

So it is rare to see the beginning of something. Rare to witness a group of dedicated individuals starting something from almost nothing. It has been my greatest pleasure to have been introduced to “The Company of the Golden Keg.” They are a 14th Century Reenactment group from Serbia.

They are all universally young. With their youth, comes a passion to know, and understand their culture at a bone deep certainty. From my observations, and interactions with them, they struggle mightily against, years of cultural neglect, propaganda based on a desire to create a sense of nationalism that has little basis in fact, outside perceptions of what it means to be Serbian, cultural, and religious conflict.

-All in an effort to know the facts of their history, to accurately portray who they are, and where they come from. I think they are doing an amazing job at it, and deserve a great deal of attention. I am also proud to call them my friends. Besides there is a certain cachet, a sense of craziness that I find so very attractive about a group who names themselves after a pub!

Srdjan Obradovic

Q: Tell us about deciding to create 14th Century Reenactment Company in Serbia?

A: We all long knew each other from forums on the internet, and we all shared a passion for history of medieval Serbia, and especially the 14th century, so after some time we decided it is a good idea to form a reenactment group. We named it after the pub where we hang out –“The Golden Keg.”

Q: Why did you choose the 14th Century?

A: -Serbia was in turbulent times back then, while going through a whole range of socio-economic transformations, and an emerging new social class of wealthy commoners. Again, the "ease" and "low cost" of procuring 14th century armour compared to mid 15th century was a minor point.

Q: At what level of reenactment do you wish to attain? Would it be something similar to Projekt 14?

A: We try to do our best in accordance with our current situation. Which is not that easy, when you know that right now, reenactment in Serbia is still at its beginning. We lack craftsmen, reenactors, equipment, you name it…
Being reenactors in Serbia means that you should be a factotum, and learn the trades of armouring, leather craft, sewing, chainmail weaving, woodworking, blacksmithing, etc. It is easier nowadays, different guys managed to specialize  for certain crafts. We also managed to build a kind of information network…  long story short, we really aim for a high level of reenactment. But current situation don’t allow us to go as high as we want. When you start from scratch you are usually not able to devote as much attention as you would like to certain details.

Q: Would like to eventually participate or even host an international event similar to the ones Projekt 14 does?

A: Well yes… Since there are not many Living History events in Serbia, we have to participate in those abroad. Last year we broke the ice with events in Ukraine and Bulgaria. For next year we have invitations for several more events that are outside of Serbia. About events in Serbia – there are none that are purely Living History events. There is one held at an old medieval fortress Koznik, near Aleksandrovac, organized by a local museum.

Castle Koznik and Fighting in the Pass

Q: What was the significance of the event you held at Castle Koznik?

A: It was the first truly multi group medieval event in Serbia. And, as far as we know, it was the biggest event of that kind in this part of Europe. It took close to four years of planning by a local Heritage Museum in Aleksandrovac. They provided all the money for the organization, the actual event, and trip expenses for participants. We had groups from Czech, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Serbia. They were all impressed by the hospitality and friendly atmosphere. Also, it is important to say that there is a huge amount of support for this event from the local community. Everybody who would like to come is invited, and most importantly welcomed.

Doba Karlova of the Czech Republic
Modvs Vivendi of Bulgaria
Chivalric Order of Paladins, Ukraine

These are some of the groups who participated at the event held at
Koznik Castle.

Q: What is your greatest strength?

A: Our greatest strength is knowledge and diversity of crafts we all know. We are not experts at them, but we tend to improve ourselves over time. We are all mostly college educated, one of our members is an archaeologist and one is a historian. We put a lot of effort and time in studying of original sources. Our harness is still not the way we
want it to be, but we are constantly working to improve it. There is also a tremendous amount of love, and certain level of insanity - ingredients that you need to have if you want to be a reenactor.

Q: What is your biggest flaw as you see it

A: Sluggishness, which is probably consequence of most members living in different towns.

Q: How many reenactment groups-regardless of time period are there in Serbia?

A: There are three declared reenactment groups in Serbia, but some of them interpret history rather freely. We expect two more to come, but we will see. We do wish the scene to grow with more good groups.

Q: How closely aligned to Serbian History do you wish to become?-Meaning do you eventually want the group to be a Living History Group, that teaches and informs Serbians about their history, by working with a University or Archaeology Institute?

A: Our group’s main purpose is to raise awareness about our medieval heritage. After all, that past is who we are. Those were our ancestors. As for concrete cooperation with institutions, we have had good experiences cooperating with some museums and would not turn down an opportunity to help academia when possible (and get as much knowledge in return.)

Camp Life In The Company of The Golden Keg.
Ukrainian shield after a hard day of fighting..

It should be noted that, although it sounds like one voice replying to my questions, all the members of the group participated, and replied. Thank you my friends for your patience, your friendship and your chivalry, which is humbling in its honesty, and openness.

The Company of The Golden Keg are:
Srdjan Obradovic, Igor Cosic, Milos Nesovic, Vladimir Rodic, Djordje Dragoslavic, Sinisa Vuckovic, Cedomir Beljac, and Dragana Filipavic.

Here are links to the only known videos of the fighting at Castle Koznik:

The Facebook Fan Page for the Company can be found at:

*For some reason the above links, need to be cut & pasted into your server.

Any group not listed or left out, is an error by me and not by the Company of The Golden Keg.

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