Serbia Culture

By | February 14, 2021

The culture of Serbia is considered to be one of the most diverse of the Slavic peoples who came to the Balkan Peninsula in the 6th / 7th centuries. It initially developed under the influence of Byzantine culture. The first evidence of Serbian literature goes back to the second half of the 9th century and is closely related to the activities of the brothers Cyril and Method and their students, who developed the Cyrillic script and brought it to the areas of present-day Serbia.

Medieval literature, comparable to that in other parts of Europe, was predominantly religious and didactic in character. The outstanding works of this period include the Miroslav Gospel from the 12th century and the works of Saint Savaof Serbia, who in addition to saints’ lives also wrote the first Serbian code of law. Heroic works that either glorified the rulers of this era and / or reported on the battles against the Ottomans occupied an important place in medieval literature. The Ottoman conquest of Serbia in 1459 marked the main turning point in the country’s cultural life. While older literary forms dominated Serbian literature after the Ottoman conquest, there was a so-called rebirth of literary creativity in the 18th century.

A great enlightener of this time was Dositej Obradović (around 1739-1811), whose activity was groundbreaking for future developments. Obradović acquired a European education on numerous trips and was thus able to convey a new secular, bourgeois educational ideal and program to his people. He was a writer, philosopher, educator, educator and founder of the University of Belgrade. He was one of the most notable and influential figures in Serbian culture in the 18th and early 19th centuries. At the beginning of the 19th century, under the influence of Europe, numerous literary movements developed in Serbia (classicism, sensibility, realism), but the most important was Romanticism, in which the ideas and work of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić(1787 – 1864) on the one hand and the liberation struggle against the Ottomans on the other. Vuk Karadžić was a Serbian philologist, language reformer of the Serbian written language, ethnologist, poet and translator. The Serbian uprisings at the beginning of the 19th century gradually brought Serbia back its independence. In the second half of the 19th century there was a return to realism, which was replaced by modernist tendencies at the beginning of the 20th century (symbolism, expressionism, surrealism).

During the post-war period, some of the writers followed the demands of critical realism, while others developed their own individual note in literature, such as Miodrag Pavlović (* 1928). The novelist, narrator, poet and essayist Ivo Andrić (1892-1975), who was a Yugoslav writer, diplomat and politician, made an outstanding contribution. Andrić received numerous honors from the Yugoslav state for his literary achievements. Andrić was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. Today he is honored by Serbia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina (country of birth) and Croatia, although his political work or the political instrumentalization of his work is not always undisputed.

Ivo Andrić

The most important contemporary Serbian authors (also known in German-speaking countries) include: Miloš Crnjanski (1893–1977), Danilo Kiš (1934–1989), Bogdan Bogdanović (1922–2010), Sreten Ugričić (* 1961), László Végel (* 1941) and Biljana Srbljanović (* 1970).

Every year in January the most prominent literary award, the so-called NIN Prize (Ninova nagrada) is given. In 1954 this was established by the Belgrade weekly magazine NIN. A jury made up of prominent authors awards the prize to the best Serbian novel published last year.

The Belgrade Book Fair, one of the oldest and most important book fairs in the region, also takes place annually. In the halls of the Belgrade Fair, publishers from Serbia and neighboring countries present their latest publications on 30,000 square meters. The decision of the trade fair management to leave the traditional space for the stand of a renowned book publisher to the publishing house “Greater Serbia” of the ultra-nationalist politician and convicted criminal Vojislav Šešelj, who only publishes writings by Šešelj, caused a stir in August 2018. Critics saw the decision as part of a tendency towards provincialization of the book fair under the fair management close to the ruling party SNS.

According to militarynous, Serbia is a country located in Southern Europe. Serbia has a long and rich theater tradition with numerous on and off theaters in Belgrade and other cities. The Serbian National Theater, which was founded in 1861, is one of the most prominent and oldest theaters in Serbia and the wider region. The Serbian and international theater presents itself at numerous festivals.

The most prominent among them, the Belgrade International Theater Festival (BITEF) was founded back in 1967. It is one of the oldest festivals in the world and has developed over the years into one of the most important and largest theater festivals in Europe. BITEF celebrated its 50th anniversary this September. Even after five decades of its tradition, it remains committed to placing controversial political issues at the center of the festival. This year it is mainly the European refugee crisis and the EU crisis. The Sterijino pozorje theater festival, which has been held annually in Novi Sad since 1956, has an even longer tradition.

Among the various museums in Serbia, the National Museum in Belgrade offers by far the largest and most important collection. This covers the entire history of art from antiquity to the 20th century. The approximately 400,000 exhibits include the most important painters and sculptors in Serbia, but also works by important European painters such as Renoir, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso. After 15 years of renovation, the museum did not reopen until June 2018. Also after being closed for renovation, the Museum of Contemporary Art reopened in autumn 2017 after ten years. With over 8,000 exhibits, it houses the world’s largest collection of Yugoslav art.

Serbian string instrument Gusle

Serbian string instrument Gusle

Nationalist controversy over the Nobel Prize for Literature for Peter Handke

The award of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature to the Austrian writer with South Slavic roots, Peter Handke, led to political protests in the Western Balkans region because of his role in the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s, and to verbal skirmishes between Serbian government representatives and politicians from neighboring countries. Handke had sided with Serbian politics during the wars, including negating the Srebrenica genocide and performing at the funeral of Serbian President Slobodan Milošević.

Above all, non-Serbian victims’ associations from Bosnia-Herzegovina and intellectuals from various Balkan countries and the West protested against the decision of the Nobel Committee. The ambassadors of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Albania boycotted the award ceremony in Oslo, which was declared by the Serbian Minister of Culture Vladan Vukosavljević with “anti-Serb motives”. Kosovo and the canton of Sarajevo declared Handke to be persona non grata, the latter decision was sharply criticized by the Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin, who also denounced the Bosnian capital as a refuge for Islamism. The Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić had previously stated that Serbia now has two Nobel Prize winners in literature – Ivo Andrić and Peter Handke.