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  • 1 ELTE BTK Szláv, H-1088 Budapest, Múzeum krt. 4/D
  • 2 Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

The study deals with the role of Slavic antiquities in the age of national revivals and with the forging of such antiquities. It discusses the subject of Slavic antiquities and forgeries in Central Europe, bringing in the cultural context of Western Europe as well.

‘Antiquity’ is understood to mean a kind of medium that conveyed textual or visual information. The collecting of antiquities became fashionable during the first decades of the 19th century and led to the need for antiquities to be described and categorized. In turn, antiquities served as corpuses for the shaping of modern national cultural canons. It contends that these artefacts, authentic and forged alike, played an important role in moulding the cultural canons of the Slavic nations in Central Europe.

An antiquity's canonical value stemmed from its age most of all and an antiquity needed to be linked as specifically as possible to the history and culture of a given nation. The worth of an antiquity was further boosted when it could be connected with historical personages of great significance. Finally, the more mysterious the history of an antiquity, the greater the degree of speculation permissible in regard to interpretations of it.

A forged antiquity is basically an objectification informed by the forger's thinking and imagination. A forgery bears not just marks characteristic of past times but also marks of the forger and those of the time in which the forgery was made. It is something which calls an entire system into question, thereby causing bewilderment. From this perplexity, only one phenomenon can derive benefit, namely, the national culture. Important among the motives for the forging of Slavic antiquities was the circumstance that framers of canons felt that the structures of their national cultures were incomplete. Researching the reasons for the forging, the study points out structural gaps in the canons in Central Europe as well as traumas stemming from forgeries. Using four examples taken from Kollár's oeuvre (the Poison Tree of Java, the Slavic idols of Prillwitz, the Queen's Court and Green Mountain manuscripts and Derzhavin's poem God in Japanese and Chinese translation) it presents the most common motives behind Slavic forgeries along with the kinds of fake most frequently encountered; it also shows the processes by which forgeries were exposed for what they were.

These examples show that when Kollár worked with antiquities and fake antiquities, playing the imposter and pecuniary advantage were very far from him. On the other hand, as a philologist he became a prisoner of contemporary national canonical and emblematic structures.

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