Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Southeast European History

Boris Stamenić

Sinjska alka. Political life of the cavaliers game.


This dissertation analyses the political history of the cavaliers game Sinjska alka. The term political refers to the processes of invention, adaption and ideological (re)interpretation of the local tradition as well as the political intentions broadcasted through it. Sinjska alka has been performed in the Dalmatian town Sinj since the 18th century as a commemoration of the military victory against the Ottomans in the battle of Sinj in 1715. Its original symbolical meaning has reverberated through the annual performance since its inception; several other memory codes were amended to Sinjska alka through the 19th and 20th century. The birthday of the respective Emperor of Austria, the legend of the Marian apparition in the battle of Sinj, the People’s Liberation War (1941-1945) as well as Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995) have been or are currently evoked through the very same competition of the horsemen. Furthermore Sinjska alka transmitted various ideas, ideologies and policies of the alternating rulers and political systems along with the wishes and requests of the local stakeholders to the central government. The durable custom of annual symbolical recognition between the state representatives and local elites attracted and still attracts the attention of political authorities ever since its introduction surviving numerous political turns. The ideological (re)interpretations of the traditional competition, the changes of the associated ceremony as well as the public appearances of the costumed cavaliers beyond the local festival in Sinj – they all reflect the development of political legitimation by means of cultural staging from the 18th to the begging of the 21st century.

This PhD dissertation asymmetrically compares Sinjska alka with three other cultural performances from the Eastern (Sub-)Adriatic region: Bokeljska Mornarica, Moreška and Ansambli Folklorik I Rugoves. These three examples of cultural staging, although quite different from one another, also contain the performative implementation of the arms dating from the pre-modern and the early modern period. Thereby they concise citing in the dissertation contributes to the better comprehension of the main issue.


The PhD-research is funded by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation.