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Serbian culture
Cinema · Literature · Epic poetry
Music (Rock · Turbo-folk · Hip hop) · Dances
Art · Religion · Sport · Dress · Kinship · Cuisine

Serbian culture refers to the culture of Serbia as well as the culture of Serbs in other parts of the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere in the world. It has a strong influence from the peasantry especially in its arts, crafts and music. The nearby Byzantine Empire had a strong influence in the Middle Ages while the Serb Orthodox Church has had an enduring influence. The Serbian (Byzantine) culture was weakened during more than three centuries of rule under the Ottoman Empire, nevertheless, It was influenced greatly in Music. At the same time flourishing during the rule of Habsburg Empire and Republic of Venice in the Adriatic sea. Following autonomy and eventual independence in the mid 19th century, Serbian culture could be restrengthened in the people. Socialist Realism was predominant in official art during the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but recent decades have seen a growing influence from Western and traditional Serbian art.


Serb traditions

Serbs have many traditions. The Slava is an exclusive custom of the Serbs, each family has one patron saint that they venerate on their feast day. The Serbian Orthodox Church uses the traditional Julian Calendar, as per which Christmas Day (December 25) falls currently on January 7 of the Gregorian Calendar, thus the Serbs celebrate Christmas on January 7, shared with the Orthodox churches of Jerusalem, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and the Greek Old Calendarists.

Serb folklore

In Krajište and Vlasina there are epic stories of the extermination of Roman males in a battle, and of the settling of Russians (Antes)[1][2]

Serbian literature

Miroslav's Gospel is one of the earliest works of Serbian literature dating from between 1180 and 1191 and one of the most important works of the medieval period. This work was entered into UNESCO's Memory of the World program in 2005. Serbian epic poetry was a central part of medieval Serbian literature based on historic events such as the Battle of Kosovo.

Serbian visual arts

Serbian music

Serbian music dates from the medieval period with strong church and folk traditions. Church music in Serbia of the time was based on the Osmoglasnik a cycle of religious songs based on the resurrection and lasting for eight weeks. During the Nemanjic dynasty and under other rulers such as Stefan Dušan, musicians enjoyed royal patronage. There was a strong folk tradition in Serbia dating from this time.

During Ottoman rule, Serbs were forbidden to own property, to learn to read and write and denied the use of musical instruments. Church music had to be performed in private. Gusle, a one-stringed instrument, was invented by Serbian peasants during this time in an effort to find a loophole through the stringent Ottoman laws. Filip Višnjić was a particularly notable guslar (gusle player). In the 18th century, Russian and Greek chant schools were established and the Serbian Orthodox Church accepted Church Slavonic into their liturgy.

Folk music enjoyed a resurgence in the nineteenth century. Jozip Slezenger founded the Prince's Band playing music based on traditional tunes. Stevan Mokranjac, a composer and musicologist collected folk songs as well as performing his own work. Kornelije Stankovic wrote the first Serbian language works for choirs.

Traditional Serbian folk music remains popular today especially in rural areas. Western rock and pop music has become increasingly popular especially in cities with rock acts such as Riblja Čorba and Đorđe Balašević incorporating political statements in their music. Turbo-folk combined Western rock and pop styles with traditional folk music vocals. Serbian immigrants have taken their musical traditions to nations such as the US and Canada.

Serbia recently won the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest.

Serbian theatre and cinema

Serbia has a well-established theatrical tradition with many theaters. The Serbian National Theatre was established in 1861 with its building dating from 1868. The company started performing opera from the end of the 19th century and the permanent opera was established in 1947. It established a ballet company.

Bitef, Belgrade International Theatre Festival, is one of the oldest theatre festivals in the world. New Theatre Tendencies is the constant subtitle of the Festival. Founded in 1967, Bitef has continually followed and supported the latest theater trends. It has become one of five most important and biggest European festivals. It has become one of the most significant culture institutions of Serbia.

The cinema was established reasonably early in Serbia with 12 films being produced before the start of World War II. The most notable of the prewar films was Mihail Popovic's The Battle of Kosovo in 1939.

Cinema prospered after World War II. The most notable postwar director was Dušan Makavejev who was internationally recognised for Love Affair: Or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator in 1969 focussing on Yugoslav politics. Makavejev's Montenegro was made in Sweden in 1981. Zoran Radmilović was one of the most notable actors of the postwar period.

Serbian cinema continued to make progress in the 1990s and today despite the turmoil of the 1990s. Emir Kusturica won a Golden Palm for Best Feature Film at the Cannes Film Festival for Underground in 1995. In 1998, Kusturica won a Silver Lion for directing Black Cat, White Cat.

As at 2001, there were 167 cinemas in Serbia (excluding Kosovo and Metohija) and over 4 million Serbs went to the cinema in that year. In 2005, San zimske noći (A Midwinter Night's Dream ) directed by Goran Paskaljević caused controversy over its criticism of Serbia's role in the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s.

Serbian cuisine

Traditional Serbian cuisine is varied and can be said to be a mix of central European, Mediterranean and Middle eastern cuisine.[citation needed] Ćevapčići consisting of grilled heavily seasoned mixed ground meat patties is considered to be the national dish. Other notable dishes include Koljivo used in religious rituals, Serbian salad, Sarma (stuffed cabbage), podvarak (roast meat with Sauerkraut) and Moussaka. Česnica is a traditional bread for Christmas Day.

Slivovitz, a distilled fermented plum juice is the national drink of Serbia with 70% of domestic plum production being used to make it. Domestic wines are also popular. Turkish coffee is widely drunk as well.

Serbian handcrafts

Serbia has a long tradition of handicrafts. Đakovica in Kosovo was known for its black pottery. Pirot in eastern Serbia became known for its ceramics under the Ottomans with the potters following Byzantine designs. It also became a centre for the production of Kilims or rugs.

The Slavs introduced jewellery making to Serbia in the sixth century AD. Metalworking started to develop on a significant scale following the development of a Serbian state. Workshops were set up in towns, large estates and in monasteries. The Studenica Monastery was known for the quality of its goldsmithing. Coins were minted not only by the kings but some of the wealthier nobility. The nobility also was influenced by the wealth of the Byzantine court. Metalworking like many other arts and crafts went into decline following the Ottoman conquest. However, there was a partial revival in later centuries with a strong Baroque influence notably the 17th century silverwear at "Our Lady on the Rocks" on Boka Kotorska.

Serbian media

As of 2001, there were 27 daily newspapers and 580 other newspapers published in Serbia.[citation needed] Some of these newspapers have Internet editions. Politika founded in 1904 is the oldest daily newspaper in the Balkans. There were also 491 periodical magazines published in Serbia with the Nedeljne informativne novine (NIN) and Vreme amongst the most notable.[citation needed]

As of 2001, there were 184 radio stations in Serbia with 84 of these privately owned. The state broadcaster Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) owns the rest with the station starting official broadcasts in 1929. Private radio broadcasting started in the 1990s.[citation needed]

Television broadcasting started in 1958 with every country in the former Yugoslavia having its own station. In Serbia, the state television station was known as RTB and became known as RTS after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Under the Communists and Milošević regime, state broadcasting was controlled by the ruling party. The RTS station was bombed during the NATO action against the Milošević regime due to its propaganda role under that regime.

There was some private broadcasting with the B92 radio and television station starting in 1989 although it was shut down in 1999 during the hostilities. After the fall of Milošević, RTS became known as Nova RTS as an assertion of independence while B92 commenced broadcasting. During 2001, there were 70 television centres in Serbia of which 24 were privately owned. In 2003, there was a return to censorship as the Government of Zoran Zivkovic temporarily imposed a state of emergency following the assassination of Zoran Djindjic and the European Federation of Journalists continues to hold concerns over media freedom in the country.

Serbian cultural institutions

At the beginning of the 21st century, there were 32 art galleries and 142 museums in Serbia.[citation needed] Belgrade has many of the most significant with the National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade, the Gallery of Frescoes featuring Orthodox Church art, the Ethnographic Museum and the Princess Ljubica's Residence. Novi Sad contains the Vojvodina Museum as well as the Petrovaradin fortress.

Matica Srpska is the oldest and most notable cultural and scientific organisation in today's Serbia. Its name is translated in Serbian as the Serbian matrix or parent body of the Serbs. It was founded in 1826 in Budapest and moved to Novi Sad in 1864. Amongst other achievements, it compiled a six-volume study of the Serbian language between 1967 and 1976. Its journal Letopis Matice Srpske is one of the oldest periodical examining scientific and cultural issues anywhere in the world. Vojvodina province of Austro-Hungary became attractive for Serbs ever since the fall of Serbia in 15th century, and was the site of the Great Serbian Migrations, when Serbs colonized this area escaping Turkish vengeance. Sremski Karlovci became the spiritual, political and cultural centre of the Serbs in the Habsburg Empire, with Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church residing in the town. To this day, the Patriarch of Serbia retains the title of Metropolitan of (Sremski) Karlovci. The town featured the earliest Serb and Slavic grammar school (Serbian: gimnazija/гимназија, French: Lycée) founded on August 3, 1791. In 1794 an Orthodox seminary was also founded in the town, ranking second oldest in the World (After the Spiritual Academy in Kiev). Novi Sad is home to Serbia's oldest professional theatre, founded in 1861 as Srpsko Narodno Pozoriste, followed by Belgrade in 1868; however two other cities claim this title: City of Kragujevac Knjazesko Srbski Teatar since 1835 and Subotica since 1851 (*there were theatres throughout Serbia long before that time but cannot be classified as "professional".

There is a strong network of libraries with three national libraries, 689 public libraries, 143 higher education libraries and 11 non-specialised libraries as at 1998. The National Library of Serbia is the most significant of these. Project Rastko founded in 1997 is an Internet Library of Serb culture.

Roots to the Serbian education system date back to 11th and 12th centuries when first Catholic colleges were founded in Vojvodina (Titel, Bac). Medieval Serbian education however was mostly conducted through the Serbian Orthodox Monasteries (UNESCO protected Sopoćani, Studenica, Patriarchate of Peć) starting from the rise of Raška in 12th century, when Serbs overwhelmingly embrassed Orthodoxy rather than Catholicism. First European style higher education facilities however were founded in Catholic Vojvodina, Teacher's College in Subotica in 1689, although several facilities have functioned even before (f.e. Jesuit School in Belgrade, since 1609). Following short-lived Serbian independence between 1804 and 1813, Belgrade officially became an educational centre of the country (excluding Vojvodina). The University of Belgrade is the biggest and most prestigious university in Serbia (officially founded in 1905 although its roots go back to the founding of the Belgrade Higher School in 1808), which is the precursor of today's University of Belgrade's Law School and Department of Philosophy. The Gymnasium Jovan Jovanović Zmaj was founded in 1810 and many important Serb cultural figures studied there.

Within the Government of Serbia, the Serbian Ministry for Culture is responsible for administering its cultural facilities.

See also


  1. ^ Николић 1912: 165-167
  2. ^

Online references

Other references

  • "Serbia and Montenegro", Encyclopedia Britannica, 2005
  • "Serbia", Grove Art Online, 2005
  • "Serbia", Grove Music Online, 2005
  • The Statesman's Yearbook 2005: The Politics, Cultures and Economies of the World, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, ISBN 1-4039-1481-8

Further reading

  • Radmilla Marinkovic, The History of Serbian Culture, Porthill Publishers, 1995
  • Sveta Lukić, Contemporary Yugoslav Literature: A Sociopolitical Approach, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972, ISBN 0-252-00213-X


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