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news 16 Jan 17

Controversial Author Claims Tesla for Montenegro

Writer Miroslav Cosovic - whose earlier books annoyed many Serbs - is causing more sparks with his new book, which claims the famous scientist Nikola Tesla considered himself Montenegrin.

Dusica Tomovic
A cover of the book „Nikola Tesla declared himself as Montenegrin“.

A book "Nikola Tesla declared himself as Montenegrin", published in Montenegro, has added fuel to the long-standing dispute over the national identity of the scientist Nikola Tesla, who lived and worked in the US. Born to a Serbian Orthodox family in Smiljan, Austria-Hungary, now Croatia, he died in New York in 1943.

The author, Miroslav Cosovic, told BIRN that American newspapers in the last decade of the 19th century referred to Tesla "at least 100 times" as Montenegrin. At that time, he added, it was rarely said that Tesla was a Serb and his name was almost always given as "Montenegrin".

"American journalists could not have come up with Tesla as Montenegrin if he himself did not say that. In the book, I publish 20 facsimiles from American newspapers ... referring to Tesla as the 'young Montenegrin' and as 'Montenegrin by birth,'" he said.

Who was Tesla

Tesla, generally considered an ethnic Serb, was born in Smiljan, Croatia, on July 10, 1856. After completing his education, he moved to New York in 1884, where he worked at a company owned by Thomas Edison, the inventor and businessman.

In 1891, he introduced to the world wireless energy transmission known as the Tesla Effect, as well as the Tesla Coil, an electrical resonant transformer circuit used to produce high-voltage, low-current, high-frequency alternating-current electricity.

Later, he experimented with X-rays, remote radio control and a steam-powered mechanical oscillator known as Tesla's oscillator. In all, Tesla held nearly 300 patents in 26 countries. He died in 1943.

In June 2016 a new dispute between Serbs and Croats erupted about Tesla’s nationality after the Serbian Orthodox Church said it wanted to move his ashes from the Tesla museum in Belgrade to a church in that city.

Church leaders had been campaigning for years for Tesla's ashes to be relocated to Saint Sava's church in Belgrade, one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world.

Several Croatian media then reported that as Tesla was a Croat, his remains could not be moved to a Serbian church.

The book, published in late December, has created heat on social media in Montenegro, but also in the region, drawing harsh criticism of the author who has been accused of "falsifying history".

But Cosovic said hostile comments on news portals and on Facebook do not count.

"Criticism on Facebook is like complaining in front of the television, watching the news," he said, dismissively.

 "One chauvinist historian, known as a famous Belgrade TV star, once criticized me, pointing out some meaningless comparison. The Serbian [Orthodox] Church has also criticized me," Cosovic said.

It is not the first time that Cosovic has rattled scientists and historians in Montenegro. Other articles and books by him on the origin of Montenegrins – dipsuting the idea that they share the same origin as Serbs, and about the Serbian Orthodox Church, have also caused stormy reactions.

In November 2015, he published several articles claiming that Montenegrins are not Serbs or even descendants of Slavic ancestors who migrated to the Balkans.

Cosovic claimed that Montenegrins are instead an "indigenous people" to the Balkans, descended from those who the Romans referred to as Illyrians and to people of the so-called "Old Herzegovinian" origin.

He said he was not afraid of controversy. "After you publish this article, anyone can contact you by letter denying my claims, but no one will," Cosovic said confidently.

Miroslav Cosovic. Photo: Curtesy of Cosovic.

Cosovic is also known as the author of "Bizarre Saints of the Serbian Church," a book promoted in 2014 by the rival Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which the much more influential Serbian Orthodox Church does not recognise and condemns as uncanonical.

The author describes various Serbian saints as "bizarre, genocidal, bloodthirsty, cruel, organizers of political murders, paedophiles, butchers, lechers, madmen."

In the book, Cosovic also said that Njegos, the Montenegrin poet and prince-bishop and national hero from the 19th century, was "a traitor to his people" for having allegedly asked the Russian Tsar for permission, along with 20 Montenegrin families, to move to Russia.

"That was an attempt at treason, leaving his people in the lurch," Cosovic wrote in his book.

The Serbian Church said that his book insulted thousands of believers in Montenegro and misled readers by claiming that it was backed by scientific evidence.

However, Cosovic said the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Serbian politicians had only encouraged him to start his research on ethnogenesis of Montenegrins.

He said his parents told him when he was a child that he was Montenegrin and that the attempt to persuade Montenegrins that they are really Serbs only started in the 1980s, through the press, the TV, in bars, and on the street.

 "I did not agree to give up the Montenegrin national name, to kneel before this persuasion. I decided to investigate and publish my research. Tesla declared himself as Montenegrin, maybe it's controversial, it may be stupid, it might be funny - but it's true," Cosovic concluded.

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