Jovan Riznic

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Jovan Riznic
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Born18 September 1793
Trieste, Habsburg Monarchy
Died14 September 1861
Gopchitse near Odessa,Kiev Governorate, Imperial Russia
  • Merchant
  • Lawyer
  • Philanthropist
  • Court councillor
  • Banker

Jovan Riznić (Serbian Cyrillic: Јован Ризнић; Trieste, Habsburg Monarchy, 18 September 1793 - Gopchitse near Odessa,[1]Kiev Governorate, Imperial Russia, 14 September 1861) was a prominent Serbian merchant, lawyer, philanthropist, court councillor, banker who lived and worked in Odessa most of his life. In literature, he is remembered as the brother-in-law of Honore de Balzac[2], through his second marriage.[3]He was a member of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences[4]and Merchants' Association, which included such distinguished families as Darinka, Princess of Montenegro, Miletić, Nikolić, Rajović, Jovo Kurtović, Teodorović, Sadness, Popović, Spiridione Gopcevich, Vučetić, Vojnović, Opuhić.[5]


His father Stevan Riznić was a rich merchant in Trieste who owned 50 merchant ships in the late 18th and early 19th-century[6]. Jovan went on to receive an excellent education at elite schools in the Austrian empire. His grade school teacher was Dositej Obradović who lived in Trieste before moving to Belgrade at Karađorđe's written invitation in 1805. Following the Napoleonic wars, Trieste was again restored to Austria in 1813 and the great trade resumed . Ships from Trieste brought grain from Odessa to feed war-torn Central Europe. Stevan Riznić sent his son Jovan to study jurisprudence in Padua and in Vienna where he graduated with a law degree. After graduation, he went back to Trieste to take up his duties as a trade. In 1819 Jovan officially moved from Trieste and opened a branch of the Riznić trading company in Odessa where he quickly achieved success in his business dealings and received Imperial Russia. During this time he was in contact with a business partner Johann Ripp of Trieste who had a 21-year-old daughter by the name of Amalia (1802-1825) who he courted[7]. In the spring of 1823 Amalia Ripp was betrothed and married to Jovan Riznić, nine years her senior. The following year her coughing became worse and because of the harsh Russian winter, on medical advice, she was sent to Trieste to convalesce. It is in romantic literature that Jovan Riznić, Amalia Ripp and Pushkin would ultimately intertwine[8].

The richest merchant in Odessa

The Riznić treasuries, with a large fleet of merchant ships, had a very extensive trade network, and were among the richest merchants in Trieste. At the time of Jovan Riznić's youth Trieste was occupied by the Napoleonic France, and Jovan's father had early plans of moving his son to Odessa in Imperial Russia. Odessa in those years was in a developing stage as a city with an influx of Serbian immigrants mostly military personnel disenchanted with their treatment in the Habsburg Monarchy and educated traders and ship owners from the Balkans and surrounding regions who saw opportunities where others did not. In fact, the Riznić company was in Odessa a decade before (1809) opening a branch and had strong trade ties, exported Austrian goods, and imported grain, flour, wood, tobacco, etc. Odessa became the new seat of the Riznić trading empire, and Jovan's business continued to prosper and he accumulated a large fortune, becoming the richest merchant there. His house became a literary salon. He took a group of Italian singers with him from Trieste, and established athe first opera House in Odessa (mentioned in Alexander Pushkin's Eugene Onegin)[9]. In 1823 he married Amalia Rip in Trieste, who went with him to Odessa. Alexander Pushkin, who was in Odessa at the time, fell in love with her[10]and dedicated several poems to her[11], including "On the Death of Amalia Riznić"[12][13]Pushkin was a frequent guest of Jovan Riznić literary salon where an active Society of Serbian Dilettanti gathered along with their accompanying guests. Riznić often met in Odessa with Pushkin, who continued his close ties with Serbs after leaving the region. Through Riznić, the Russian poet followed the events and got acquainted with the Serbs, their culture and tradition.[14]However, Amalia who was forced to leave Odessa after a year there died in Trieste a year later (1825) of tuberculosis.[15]

In the Russian service

Wealthy merchants in Russia and Europe often enjoyed close relations with political and military rulers, serving as diplomats, ambassadors, court and state advisors (councillors), and suppliers of essential resources. Because of this privileged position, they occupied a central place in literary and cultural life as well. During the Russo-Turkish War (1828-1829) Riznić helped the Russian Army by putting all his resources at the their disposal. In 1829 Czar Nicholas I of Russia conferred upon him a title of Court Councillor (later elevated to State Councillor (Russia) and awarded the Order of Saint Vladimir and the Order of Saint Stanislav (4th class) for his generous Humanitarian aid aid he provided to the state at a critical time. Due to the November Uprising|Russo-Polish War (1830-1831), his trade began to decline and he was forced to leave the trade and enter in the Russian civil service. He first served in Odessa and then Kiev. The same year he entered the government service, Jovan Riznić took a new wife, Rzewuski family[16], the sister of La Mort de Balzaca (1801-1882) who was married to Honore de Balzac, and was appointed director of a state bank in Kiev. His marriage with Paulina was blessed with five children.

After more than two decades as a banker and state councillor in 1853 he retired to his estate in Gopchitse near Odessa[17]in his retirement yeas, he helped young students with their manuscripts and arranged for the publication of their dissertations into books.He was a patron of the arts in Odessa, serving as director of the opera.

He died in Russia in 1861.[18]


It is said that he helped many people, particularly his fellow Serbs who travelled to Russia and came to see him.[19]He met many Russian[20], Serbian (Sima Milutinović Sarajlija who wrote a book while in Imperial Russia) and foreign personalities of the day. He gave 3,000 thalers to Sima Milutinović Sarajlija|Sarajlija to print his book.[21]

In 1854 Jovan Riznić donated hundreds of books to the Grande école in Belgrade and before he died wrote his Will and testament leaving his library of more than 4,000 books to the National Library of Serbia.


  • Božidar Kovačević, "Balzakovi pašenovci - Jovan Riznić i Stefan Ćirković," Zbornik Matice srpske za kniževnosti i jezik, Volume 20, issue #2 (1972): 382
  • Spomenica Beogradske Trgovačke Omladine 1880-1930, Belgrade, 1931, page 60
  • Glasnik Srbskog učenog drustva, 1862. p. 321–322
  • Nada Savković, "Dositej Obradović's stay in Trieste"
  • Ljubivoje Cerović, "Serbs in Ukraine"


  3. "L'élément illyrien chez Balzac - ProQuest".
  5. name="auto"
  14. Vreme, Belgrade 1931
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  16. name="auto"
  18. "Glasnik drustva srpske slovesnosti", Belgrade in 1862
  20. name="auto1"
  21. "Сима Милутиновић Сарајлија- творац "Србијаде", српске Илијаде и Одисеје: Епски спев "Србијанка" са 15 хиљада стихова говори о Првом српском устанку". September 19, 2018.

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