Homosexuality in Serbia through the Ages

One of my first encounters with the concept of other sexualities was when, as kid visiting my grandmother`s tiny summer house in Montenegro I was walking around the yard and pointed to a far-away house on a land neighbouring ours and asked who lived there. „That was cousin M.`s house…“ she said, somewhat darkly, unlike her eager explanations of who else lived in the 20km … Continue reading Homosexuality in Serbia through the Ages

RETVRN: Remembering the Serbian Middle Ages

One of the most commonly heard, yet, as it often happens, misattributed, Churchill quotes about the Balkans is that its nations „produce more history than they can consume“, always irritated me for both of its condescending and exoticizing attitude. What is that makes Balkan history so indigestible? Isn’t it the case that it is hardly only the Balkan people’s who shaped this region’s history (and … Continue reading RETVRN: Remembering the Serbian Middle Ages

An African-American Star in 1920s Yugoslavia

In April 1929, Josephine Baker was the first African-American star to visit Belgrade, while she was on her tour around Central Europe on the Orient Express. The visit came during her peak popularity in Paris, just before she made her hit „J’ai deux Amours”, and while she was still shunned in her native US, despite entrancing everyone with her dance and skimpy exotic outfits. She … Continue reading An African-American Star in 1920s Yugoslavia

Escaping Tito’s Long Shadow

In Serbia and most former-Yugoslav republics, May, it seems, was, is and will be, at least for another few decades, the month of Tito. Not only does it start with the International Worker’s Day,  but Tito was born, celebrated his official birthday, and died in May. He was born on 7 May 1892 in Kumrovec, Croatia, to a Croat farmer father and a Slovene mother. … Continue reading Escaping Tito’s Long Shadow

Serbia and Albania: Know Thy Neighbour

In October 2017, I went to Tirana for a conference about relations between Serbia and Albania, jointly organised by the Albanian Institute for International Studies and the European Movement in Serbia. One of the topics of the conference was the public perception of the relationship between the two countries, which made me instinctively shudder. Despite the recent displays of friendship between the Albanian Prime Minister … Continue reading Serbia and Albania: Know Thy Neighbour

“Serbsplaining” the West

From the early days of modern Serbia, and arguably before, Serbian perceptions and expectations of ‘the West’ were in many ways inextricable from how Serbians perceived themselves. Serbian uprisings against the Ottomans were from the outset imagined as a way for Serbia to re-join and catch-up with its Christian brethren from the West, who were expected to embrace it with open hands. After the last … Continue reading “Serbsplaining” the West

Poverty and Politics in Serbia

I only became aware of inequality and class division once I moved to a country which is almost synonymous with them: the UK. At both university and work, my British friends frequently dissected levels of “posh-ness” in themselves and others, assessing how appropriate it was to play rugby or vote Conservative, given their background. I was, of course, dumbfounded. In Serbia, discussing “class” and inequality … Continue reading Poverty and Politics in Serbia

Serbia’s paradoxical affair with history

When pundits look for a culprit for instability in the Balkans, their fingers often point to history, or rather the great fondness the people here have for it. Visitors to Serbia are often baffled by Serbians’ tendency to explain contemporary actions and attitudes by referencing events that happened several centuries ago. For example, it is not uncommon for somebody to explain Serbia’s awkward teetering between … Continue reading Serbia’s paradoxical affair with history

Westsplaining the Balkans

Twenty years ago, while the embers of war in Bosnia and Croatia were still smouldering, Bulgarian historian Maria Todorova published “Imagining the Balkans”. In this seminal work, she detailed the ways in which the Balkans have been perceived and documented for centuries both home and aboard – most often as a somewhat brutal and uncivilised forecourt of Europe. Todorova called this discourse “Balkanism” as homage … Continue reading Westsplaining the Balkans

Serbian elites’ long war on clarity

Although it is 170 years since a simplified Serbian language became the norm, Serbian elites still prefer muddying the rhetorical waters  In 1847, after three decades of struggle, Vuk Karadžić and his allies, Petar Petrović Njegoš, Branko Radičević and Đura Daničić, decisively won the battle for the standardisation of Serbian folk language and its literary use. Their victory was achieved by proving that the language … Continue reading Serbian elites’ long war on clarity