Jovan Jovanović “Zmaj”

Portrait of Jovan Jovanović “Zmaj”

Jovan Jovanović “Zmaj” was a Serbian poet and translator known for his children’s works. He was born on 24th November 1833 in Novi Sad, Serbia and died on 1st June 1904 in Sremska Kamenica, Serbia aged 70. 

Major Works

“Vidosava Branković” (1860)
“Istočni Biser” (1861)
“Šaran” (1864)
“Snohvatice I-III” (1895 and 1900) 
Đulići Uveoci” (Faded Little Rosebuds) (1882)
“Devesilje” (1900)

Biography Timeline

Jovan Jovanović Zmaj was born on 24th November 1833 in Novi Sad, Serbia, then part of the Kingdom of Hungary in the Austrian Empire. His father Pavle was Aromian of noble descent and served as Mayor of the town after the 1848 Revolution. Jovan finished primary school in Novi Sad where he began to write poetry and then went to High school in Halas and Pressburg (modern Bratislava). He then studied law in Budapest, Prague and Vienna as his father wished although he had the desire to study medicine himself.

1848: He begins to use his nickname of Zmaj, meaning dragon where he was called it in the 3rd May Revolutionary Assembly.

1849: He gives up his job to dedicate himself to writing poetry.

1852: His first poem is printed in the journal “Srbski Letopis” (Serbian Annual Review). He also writes for “Neven” (Marigold) and “Sedmica” (Week). He begins to make translations of Hungarian works by Sandor Petofi, Janos Arany and the Russian Mikhail Lermontov into Serbian 

1860: He writes the drama “Vidosava Branković” and translates “Vitez Jovan” by Petofi.

1861: He gets married. He also becomes co-editor of the comic journal “Komarac” (The Mosquito) along with Đorđe Rajković and starts his own literary journal “Javor” to which he contributes many poems. He publishes “Istočni Biser”, an anthology of eastern poetry.

1862: He has to cease publication of “Javor” much to his consternation and becomes involved with the United Serbian Youth movement.

1863: He is elected director of the Tekelijanum in Budapest an organisation founded by the Serbian lawyer Sava Tekelija. He studies medicine at the University. He writes many articles on health and hygiene. He founds the literary society Preodnica and translates “Demon” by Lermontov

1864: He founds the satirical journal “Zmaj” which becomes very popular and he adds the word to the end of his name. His comic play “Šaran” is performed to enthusiastic audiences.

1870: He begins working as a doctor spurred on by the fact that his wife and children suffer from tuberculosis. He also advocates the use of cremation. He becomes a member of the Matica Srpska (Serbian Medical Society) and the Serbian Literary Guild. 

1872: His wife dies, followed shortly afterwards, by the last of his five surviving children.

1873: He founds the comic journal “Ziza”.

1877: He begins an illustrated chronicle of the Russo-Turkish War.

1878: He founds his popular comic journal “Starmali” and writes some short novels. 

1880: He translates “Enoh Arden” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

1882: He publishes his masterpiece collection Đulići Uveoci” (Faded Little Rosebuds).

1895: He begins writing the poem “Snohvatice I-III” (Dreamcatchers I-III).

1900: He translates “Ifigenija u Tavridi” (Iphigenia in Tauris) and “Der Gott und die Bajadere” (The God and the Bayadere) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Jovan Jovanović Zmaj died on 1st June 1904 in Sremska Kamenica, Serbia. 

Further Information

List of works by “Zmaj”.