PRAVNI ZAPISI • Year VII • No. 1 • pp. 68-116


Language: Serbian

Ivan Janković
Advokat u penziji



Pravni zapisi, No. 1/2016, pp. 68-116

Original Scientific Article

DOI: 10.5937/pravzap0-11185

Toma Živanović, criminal law, criminology, synthetic philosophy of law, tripartition, international congresses, International Association of Penal Law (AIDP), Nobel Prize

Toma Živanović (Thomas Givanovitch, 1884–1971) taught criminal law at Belgrade University (1909–1945). He obtained his LL.D. from the Sorbonne (1908) and did postdoctoral work in the Berlin Criminalistics Institute under Franz von Liszt (1908/9). In 1916–1918 he taught two courses at the Sorbonne, in which he developed two theoretical insights which were well received in the academia of the time. The first concerned a tripartite division of the fundamental notions in criminal law and the second a „synthetic” philosophy of law.

The paper contributes new data on Živanović’s personality, life and work. Although recognized in Serbia as a leading international scholar and a victim of Communism, Živanović is also the subject of an oral tradition, initially developed by his colleagues and students, which remembers him as a selfish, stingy and rancorous individual, willing to do for money things that people with a more developed moral sense would not, and unwilling to help his students. The paper critically assesses this tradition and finds it to be true in some, but invented in other parts. Born to a family of an uneducated provincial artisan and burdened by a speech im- pediment, Živanović suffered from an inferiority complex, which thwarted his social integration. Eventually he entered the high society of the then Yugoslavia, partly because his marriage to an influential socialite. He was a noted member of the leading international associations in criminal law and philosophy and, together with Vespasiano Pella, Raphael Lemkin and several others, belonged to a „select group” of European lawyers who dealt with issues of international criminal law and terrorism.

After the Communist takeover in 1945, much of Živanović’s family property was nationalized and he was forced to retire from the University. He did remain a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences, through which he continued his research and writing, often travelling abroad to work in libraries and participate in international congresses. He published his three-volume Synthetic Philosophy  of  Law  in  Yugoslavia, but foreign publishers had lost interest in his work. In the last two decades of his life, Živanović became obsessed by what he perceived as the seminal importance of his earlier contributions. He regarded tripartition as a universally applicable „discovery” (rather than an insight or a theoretical construct), to be used in all legal and many „extra-legal” sciences (such as zoology and pedagogy). He believed that nearly all modern criminal codes were based on his tripartite theory and suspected a conspiracy of legal scholars to minimize or deny his authorship. Živanović’s obsession gradually made him lose contact with reality. Twice, in 1960 and 1961, he nominated himself for the Nobel Prize in literature (it not being awarded for legal scholarship). Although Živanović was indeed an internationally recognized and prominent legal scholar before the Second World War, assessment of his significance prevailing in the Serbian literature is overstated, closer to his own delusional self-image than to reality.