Explorations by the Seljan brothers

The Seljan brothers, Mirko (5/4/1871 - 1913) and Stevo (19/8/1875 - 7/6/1936) were Croatian explorers. They were born and educated in Karlovac. Mirko worked in St. Petersburg over a period, where he started being actively involved in athletics. Hence, in 1898 he set off for a one hundred-day journey on foot from Saint Petersburg to Paris. After that, the brothers met in their hometown and on 23rd January 1899 they set off for another journey "around the world on foot". Their destination was Ethiopia, where they resided whilst they were in the service of the Emperor Menelik II until the end of 1901. The Seljan brothers were appointed respectively as the governor and the deputy of the Southern Equatorial Provinces and assigned a task to strengthen and expand the Emperor’s power. Furthermore, the Seljan brothers were involved in geographical and ethnographic exploration throughout this immense area.

In 1903 they set off for South America where they explored the areas of Brazil and Paraguay. They were assigned the task by the local authorities to explore the possibility of establishing traffic connections between important trade hubs. In addition, they established connections with Croatian expatriates and intensively focused on raising their national awareness. They signed a contract with the Peruvian government about the construction of the road intended to connect the rich lowlands with the coast. Consequently, Mirko set off for another journey through Peru with an expedition and he died in the rainforest, probably in May 1913. After his brother’s death, Stevo continued travelling and searching for ores. He lived and founded a family in the Brazilian state Minas Gerais where he died in 1936.

The Ethnographic Museum preserves the valuable legacy of the Seljan brothers. This project is intended increase the availability of the holdings of the Ethnographic Museum, as well as those of other Croatian institutions. Our specific objective is to bring together in one venue all the materials available to date that show the activity of the Seljan brothers.

All the materials from the holdings of the Ethnographic Museum are available. They comprise of different objects that originate from Ethiopia and South America, photographs taken by the Seljan brothers in South America, their letters, diaries, notebooks about the journeys, postcards and mailing-cards, as well as the book entitled "Salto del Guaira" (in French and Spanish).

The National and University Library in Zagreb has digitised two books written by the Seljan brothers (in Croatian) and the Karlovac City Museum has presented the Seljan Brothers Collection, which has enriched this project.

Moreover, the texts published between 1902 and 1911 by the Seljan brothers in the magazine entitled "Prosvjeta" have also been made available (in Croatian). The list of References highlights the books published by the Seljan brothers, as well as the scientific and popular materials that address the issue of their activity.

A comic strip by the reputable comic-book writer Andrija Maurović entitled "A Grave in the Jungle" (the text was written by Franjo Fuis and Marcel Čukli – in Croatian) used to be published in the magazine entitled "Zabavnik" (1943 - 1944), based on the book by Zlatko Milković "The Seljan Brothers“.

Striving to provide a deeper insight into this issue, we have created interactive maps showing the routes passed by the Seljan brothers. In addition, we have provided the descriptions of their expeditions and additional material. We are hoping this project will be expanding, as the insight into the rich activity of the Seljan brothers deepens. Moreover, we are hoping that the information about these exceptional explorers and travellers will easily cross the borders and connect cultures in the same way as the Seljan brothers did.