Are Serbs only meeting Serbs


Corporate structure

According to the results of the 2011 census, Serbia had 7,120,666 inhabitants (excluding Kosovo). Serbia's population growth has been negative for years. In mid-2019, Serbia therefore only had a total population of 6,963,764. In 2011, the country had a loss of almost 380,000 inhabitants compared to the 2002 census. In 2017, population growth was an estimated -0.5%. With an average age of 40.7 years according to the last census, the Serbian population was among the oldest in the world. In 2017, 18.4% were over 65 years old, the average lifespan is 71 years for men and 76 years for women. In 2019 a pilot census took place in preparation for the census in 2021.

According to the latest available figures from 2011, the degree of urbanization in Serbia is 56 percent. Around two thirds of them live in the largest Serbian city, the capital Belgrade, where around 29 percent of the total population live. At 44 percent, Serbia has a rather high proportion of rural population in a European comparison.

Ethnic composition

Despite the consequences of the ethnic wars of the 1990s and the loss of the predominantly Albanian-populated Kosovo, Serbia has remained a multi-ethnic state. The 2011 census showed the following ethnic structure - 83.32% of the population identified themselves as Serbs. The majority of the remainder describes themselves as belonging to one of the minorities, the numerically largest among them are: Hungarians - 3.53%, Bosniaks (especially in the Sanjak region) - 2.02%, Roma - 2.05%, Yugoslavs - 1.08%, Croats - 0.81%, Albanians (predominantly: Southern Serbia) - 0.82% (last available figure from 2002, as the majority of Albanians had boycotted the 2011 census). The Vojvodina province has the largest number of ethnic minorities, over 25. They make up around a third of the population. The largest groups are: Hungarians - 13.00%, Slovaks - 2.60%, Croats - 2.43%, Montenegrins - 1.15%, Yugoslavs - 0.63%. The Serbian state guarantees certain minority rights with regard to the official use of minority languages, the establishment of minority councils as national representation and the lifting of the threshold clause for ethnic minority parties in the Serbian parliament.

Social stratification

Serbian society had developed into a modern industrial society during the socialist phase of modernization. The result was a broad socialist middle class, the proportion of the peasant population and those who work full-time in agriculture fell to a level that was comparably low in Western Europe, while the proportion of people with specialist training and university degrees rose steadily, especially from the 1960s onwards. During the rule of Slobodan Milošević there was a radical change in the social structure: the former middle class disappeared economically almost completely, a drastic social differentiation between 90% impoverished population and 10% rich (the elites belonging to the regime) took place. A larger part of the youth emigrated during the war decade, an estimated 100,000 young men fled abroad before doing military service, many, especially very well-educated ones, followed them. This social structure has only slowly “normalized” itself since the last decade, there is still a strong brain drain of young people because the social mobility of the younger generations is blocked and youth unemployment is very high. As a result of the events of the 1990s, when war profiteers and war criminals rose to become role models and folk heroes in Serbia, the existing value system collapsed or was turned upside down. At the same time there has been a retraditionalization in Serbian society due to the close interweaving of politics and religion, of the Serbian Orthodox Church during the war years.

In Serbia, poverty remains a relevant social problem. In 2011, the proportion of poor people in the total population was 9.2 percent. It fell only marginally between 2006 and 2016 and largely followed the decline in population. Poverty is mainly found in rural areas and especially in the south and east of Serbia. It mainly affects households in which the family members who are able to work have little or no training or are unemployed. Children and young people are particularly affected by poverty. Without the private cultivation of food for self-sufficiency, poverty would have been 8.7 percent higher in 2016.

Gender relations

This has mainly had an impact on gender relations. In the socialist industrial society of Yugoslavia, women had quickly risen from a traditional social milieu to a certain emancipation, especially through a level of employment that was almost the same as that of men - work became the norm. In the 1990s, it was mainly women who were affected by the parallel process of economic collapse and retraditionalization. While women were the first to lose their jobs, the church, supported by the state and nationalist ideology, pushed strongly into the public space and propagated a return to the traditional family model with women as mother and housewife. While in real terms it was often women who had to keep families together in times when men were sometimes in military service during the wars, they were and are increasingly victims of domestic violence, a long-term consequence of the war traumatization of the generation of soldiers.

In a Country Profile on Gender Democracy published in 2012, the EU found that women are subject to structural discrimination in various areas of society, not least in the labor market. The Statistical Office of Serbia determined the most important data on gender relations on the basis of the 2011 census.

The Serbian government has been compiling the EU-internal Gender Equality Index for Serbia since 2016, making it the only non-EU country. The index for 2016 was published in December 2018. Despite significant improvements compared to 2014, Serbia remained in 22nd place in Europe in terms of gender equality. The country has made the greatest progress in terms of the participation of women in political life. Relatively speaking, Serbia comes off worst in terms of female employment. Women in Serbia earned an average of 16 percent less than men with comparable qualifications and work.


The multi-ethnic character of Serbia also shapes the language landscape. The main official language in Serbia is Serbian, which is spoken virtually everywhere in the country. In the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, Hungarian, Croatian, Russian, Slovak and Romanian are recognized as official languages ​​in addition to Serbian. Albanian is spoken in parts of southern Serbia (Preševo ​​Valley).

According to the constitution, which came into force in November 2006, the Serbian language in Serbia is officially written in Cyrillic script, with the Latin script being used in parallel in the media and in everyday life - especially in Belgrade and Vojvodina, less so in central Serbia and in the south .


Serbia's education system consists of an eight-year compulsory elementary school; this is followed by the secondary level - the general secondary schools, grammar schools, lead to general higher education entrance qualification in four years; various vocational secondary schools last up to four years and end with different degrees or entitle the holder to study at a university of applied sciences. The higher education system includes state and private universities.

Serbia had a good educational system under socialism - a good school system, developed universities with the University of Belgrade as one of the oldest universities in the Balkans and an adult education sector developed under socialism, with the help of which the high illiteracy rate was successfully combated in the middle of the 20th century . As a result of the political events, the education system suffered a decline in the 1990s. It was hit by economic decline, international isolation and brain drain, and ideological (nationalistic) indoctrination that was realized through the education system.

In the past decade since the regime change, a reform and modernization of the education system has been initiated. Expenditures for education, including elementary and secondary schools, have increased.

The condition of vocational schools represents a particular problem. Many branches of education are out of date and not adapted to the conditions of a modern labor market. At the same time, the training in many vocational schools is too theory-heavy, the practical work part is underdeveloped. With the help of international organizations, above all the German GIZ, the Serbian government has started to modernize the vocational training system in recent years.

In the higher education sector, as part of the Bologna Process, the modernization of higher education began, which was particularly hard hit by the decline of the education sector. There are five state universities in Serbia - in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš, Kragujevac and Novi Pazar - as well as a number of technical colleges. In addition, a parallel private higher education sector has developed over the past decade with now 12 private universities.

In the school year 2016/17, a total of 1,270,542 children and young people attended an educational institution in Serbia - 17% of them attended pre-school, 43% primary schools, 19% secondary schools and 21% tertiary schools. 98.6% of school-age children attended primary school, while the proportion in secondary school was still 90%.

A particular problem is the widespread disappearance of basic and advanced training programs for adults.

The DAAD promotes cooperation between Serbian and German universities.


Like the rest of the social systems in Serbia, the health care system has come under severe economic pressure since the 1909s. Serbia had taken over a state health system from Yugoslavia, in which all workers and employees as well as a large part of the self-employed paid a fixed portion of their wages (12.3%) into the state health insurance fund, from which the free provision of medical care for the population was financed. As a result of the economic decline, the system became unstable, with 2 million contributors and 7 million insured. The health fund accumulated a large deficit, the unsustainable funding of free services was increasingly supplemented by direct payment for services by the insured. Healthcare salaries have fallen dramatically, investments have been absent, drug and medical supplies shortages have spread, bribery and corruption have become systemic, and there has been a shift of patients and medical equipment to a growing, uncontrolled and uninsured private medical sector.

In the first half of the past decade, the Serbian government began reforming the health care system with the help of the World Bank. Transparency in the health system, especially in the private sector, has been significantly increased. The expenditure of the insurance fund could be stabilized. A modern medical concept that focuses on preventive medicine was introduced. The structural problems of the Serbian health care system have remained, however. This mainly relates to the increasing funding gap caused by the public health insurance system, which is due to an aging population and a low level of employment. In addition, the health insurance contributions of 20% of the population (public sector employees and their dependents) are paid from the state budget. While public financing of the health care system decreased, the share of private expenditures in total health care expenditures rose to 42.4% in 2017. These are direct payments from citizens, often due to structural corruption. In addition, there is the increasing migration or recruitment of doctors and nurses to Western Europe, especially to Germany.

Overall, public spending on health care in Serbia is relatively high with comparatively poor performance. Health expenditure in 2019 was 9.1% of GDP, close to that of the richest EU member states (Germany 11.5%, Austria 10.3%). The number of hospital beds and doctors per 1,000 inhabitants, on the other hand, at 5.7 and 3.1, respectively, were significantly below the figures for EU countries with comparable expenditure levels (Germany 8.3 and 4.2).

In 2016, there were 2,700 people infected with HIV registered in Serbia. Other relevant infectious diseases in Serbia are tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis A and B.

The challenges of the corona pandemic

The corona pandemic is a major challenge for the Serbian health system. As for most countries in the world, the first problem was the lack of protective equipment and corona tests, as well as the capacity limits of intensive care medicine. Since 1990, 16% of intensive care beds in Serbia have been dismantled. Ventilator capacities remained unclear at the start of the crisis as the government declared the number a state secret.

The actions of the Serbian government therefore focused on the rapid procurement of ventilators, through purchases such as donations as well as protective equipment and tests. In addition, additional bed capacities of 3,000 and 1,000 beds were created at the Belgrade Exhibition Center and at the Novi Sad Exhibition Center. At the same time, the government decided to increase health expenditure by 100 million euros. This includes a 10 percent wage increase in the health care system - which, however, only corresponds to the amount of the wage cuts made in recent years. Eventually the government banned the export of certain medical goods.

Due to the massive decline in the number of new infections in the course of April and the lifting of the state of emergency and lockdown at the beginning of May, the additional bed capacities in Belgrade and Novi Sad were reduced again.



Serbian society shows strong conservative traits, which were considerably reinforced by the nationalist war policy of the 1990s. A special expression of these conditions is the precarious social position of sexual minorities to this day. Legal protection has improved significantly in recent years, in particular through an anti-discrimination law passed in 2009, and the way the media dealt with members of the LGBT community has also improved. Nevertheless, the sexual minorities continue to see themselves exposed to discrimination, while the improved legal protection is hardly implemented in practice to this day. Organized resistance comes mainly from right-wing extremist Serb groups such as “Dveri”, “Naši” and “1389” - but also from the Serbian Orthodox Church. The most prominent expression of this self-assertion struggle for minority rights is the annual struggle for the Gay Parade. After 2001 it was only in 2010 that a gay parade was held in Belgrade. Around a thousand participants were protected from several thousand members of right-wing extremist groups and football hooligans by 5,000 security forces. In the following three years, most recently in September 2013, the Interior Ministry banned the Belgrade Gay Parade for "security reasons" - despite massive pressure from the EU.

In autumn 2014, again under strong pressure from the EU, a gay parade took place in Belgrade for the first time. A massive police presence prevented serious incidents during the parade. Ministers from the Serbian government, opposition politicians and Western diplomats also took part in the march, in which an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 participants took part. The day before, several thousand right-wing extremists had demonstrated against the parade.

However, two weeks earlier there was an attack on a German LGBT activist who had attended a conference in Belgrade and who was critically injured in the attack.

In contrast, the Gay Parade 2015, the Gay Parade 2016 and the Gay Parade 2017 ran without major incidents, and also in the past two years.

The nomination of the previous Minister for Public Administration, Ana Brnabić as the new Prime Minister of Serbia by the newly elected President Vučić in June 2017 meant a turning point in the history of the LGBT community in Serbia. She thus became the first lesbian Prime Minister of Serbia. This then set a first political signal in September with their participation in the Gay Parade 2017. The decision was received differently by the Serbian public: Serbian LGBT activists welcomed the appointment in principle.Sections of the parliamentary opposition put the historic step into perspective by what they believed was the political intentions of the president. Some smaller, extremely conservative coalition partners of the ruling SNS party announced the refusal to support the Prime Minister-designate with reference to the traditional gender and family image.

As in the previous year, Serbia's first lesbian Prime Minister took part in the Gay Parade for the second time in 2018. However, the Prime Minister's second appearance was controversial among LGBT activists. Last year it made announcements to improve the situation of gays and lesbians. Numerous activists who wanted to prevent the Prime Minister's participation complained that none of the promises had been carried out. The criticism was renewed at the Gay Parade 2019. In 2019, the Prime Minister became a mother after her partner gave birth to a child - another milestone in the history of the LGBT community in Serbia.

In 2020 the Gay Parade had to be canceled due to the corona or it was postponed to the coming year. In the middle of September the 10th Pride week took place, which this year had the corresponding motto - "Solidarity within your own four walls". In this context, the activists once again criticized the government for continuing to fail to implement most of its reform promises. In 2019, it was legally made easier for trans people to have their gender portrayed in personal documents without medical alignment. But in all other areas, such as the introduction of equal partnerships and their legal equality with marriage, there has been no progress.



Migration: European refugee crisis and the Balkans route

Since 2014, the issue of flight and migration has become increasingly important in Serbian society, initially due to increasing migration from the Western Balkans to the EU, and finally Serbia became one of the key countries of the European refugee crisis in 2015, when hundreds of thousands were due to the collapse of the EU external border and the European asylum system took the route via the so-called Balkan route into the European Union.

In both waves of migration, Serbia assumed the role of a transit country and not a destination country for migration, for two reasons: Firstly, due to its socio-economic and social conditions, the country is largely unattractive for asylum seekers and other migrants. Secondly, Serbia has a poorly functioning asylum system that motivates asylum seekers to move on to the EU.

The first wave of migration was that of Kosovar Albanians via Serbia and Hungary further west (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) at the end of 2014, beginning of 2015. Out of desperation about the political and economic situation in their home country, tens of thousands of Kosovars took the opportunity to enter Serbia legally, to reach the EU in the north in the province of Vojvodina over the green border to Hungary. This wave of migration largely came to a standstill in the late spring of 2015 after the affected EU countries had initiated numerous measures in cooperation with Kosovo, in particular the declaration of Kosovo as a safe country of origin.

But then, in the summer of 2015, the European refugee crisis began, in which the Balkan states played a central role. The displacement of the illegal refugee movements to Europe to the short sea route in the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast to the Greek islands brought the external border of the EU and the long-dysfunctional Dublin asylum system to collapse within a very short time. During the year 850,000 people crossed the Aegean Sea, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, but also from Africa and Asia. From there, up to 5-6,000 crossed the Balkans daily to the EU - initially via Macedonia and Serbia to Hungary, and after the Hungarian border was closed on September 15, 2015, from Serbia via Croatia and Slovenia to Austria.

Serbia's handling of this unexpected crisis was largely similar to that of all other affected states. The authorities were initially completely unprepared and hopelessly inadequate. The overwhelmed police responded to the massive illegal entry with violence against refugees and with corruption. As everywhere, civil society organized itself to take care of the refugees, supported by international refugee aid organizations and migration organizations such as UNHCR, IOM, Doctors Without Borders, etc. and transit centers on the Macedonian and Hungarian or later the Croatian border as well as by providing means of transport for transit through Serbia.

The improvement in cooperation with the other affected states on the Balkan route also contributed to this. In September, the closure of the Hungarian-Serbian border led to a brief trade war, including border closure, between Serbia and Croatia. This then gave way to an increasingly better coordination of the transit of refugees and migrants along the Balkan route.

This improved cooperation was increasingly used over the winter to gradually close the Balkan route, a reaction of the countries in the region to the increasingly restrictive refugee and asylum policies of the most affected EU states. The countries on the Balkan route decided on November 18 to only let refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan through. After the introduction of border controls by Sweden and Denmark and the promulgation of refugee ceilings by Austria in January 2016, further restrictions followed. On March 8, immediately after the end of the EU-Turkey summit, the complete shooting of the Balkan route in Macedonia, where the state had a border fence built with Greece and the Macedonian authorities had border police from Serbia and various EU member states at the Border security were supported.

The closure of the Balkan route was directly related to the refugee agreement agreed on March 18 between the EU and Turkey. Among other things, it provides for the return of all refugees and migrants arriving on the Greek islands to Turkey. With the resulting drying up of the flow of refugees, the Balkan route also ended. Since March, however, more and more refugees have come to Serbia via Bulgaria, albeit in significantly fewer numbers. Since the summer of 2016 in particular, the number of refugees and migrants reaching Serbia via smuggling routes - via the Greek-Macedonian border and above all via Bulgaria - has risen again. Because Hungary and Croatia keep the borders more or less hermetically closed for onward travel to the EU, Serbia has become the number 1 country in which the refugees stranded on the Balkan route. According to UNHCR data, the number at the end of the year was around 8,000, and according to data from Serbian civil society, 10,000. In mid-2017, the number of migrants stranded in Serbia fell to less than 5,000. In spring 2018, the Balkan route to Bosnia-Herzegovina became a transition to the EU, i.e. relocated to Croatia. As a result, the number of migrants in Serbia has fallen below 4,000. At the end of December 2018, the number of migrants in Serbia had increased slightly to 4,400. As a result of the winter weather conditions, thousands of migrants got stuck in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Since the quality of accommodation in Serbia is better than that in Bosnia, a limited number of migrants have returned to Serbia for wintering from Bosnia, which contributed to the winter increase. In the course of 2019, the emigration of migrants to Bosnia-Herzegovina increased again and as a result the number of migrants in Serbia fell to just under 3,000 at the end of August.

In October 2019, the number rose to over 4,000 for the first time, to 4,200. This increase was due to the numerically largest new immigration since the end of the European refugee crisis with the conclusion of the EU-Turkey refugee agreement in March 2016. This new development is mainly due to the increased numbers of newly arriving migrants from Turkey to the Greek islands as a result of the Turkish intervention in northern Syria and the tightening of Turkish refugee policy. Since the summer of 2020, the number of migrants in Serbia has been around 5,000. In the wake of the corona pandemic and in the light of the tensions on the Greek-Turkish border in spring 2020, the Serbian government decided on new measures to prevent renewed mass migration to / through Serbia. The measures included the expropriation of land on the external border with North Macedonia and Bulgaria. In the summer, the government began building a fence on the border with North Macedonia.

A global public opinion poll carried out in 2019 showed that there is a very high level of rejection of migrants among the Serbian population and that this rejection has increased since the last survey immediately after the end of the European refugee crisis. In 2019, Serbia was in third place worldwide after North Macedonia and Hungary, and even ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, although the neighboring country now hosts significantly more migrants than Serbia.

With the wave of migration from the Middle East, the pressure to migrate from the Western Balkans towards the EU increased again. Alongside Albania and Kosovo, Serbia was among the top ten countries of origin for asylum seekers in 2015. In Germany, Serbia took 6th place with 26,000 asylum applications. Germany and other affected EU countries reacted with accelerated returns and information campaigns in the countries of origin as well as the expansion of their lists of safe countries of origin. In Germany, Serbia was declared a safe country of origin in November 2014. At the same time, the federal government opened the way for qualified labor migration from the Western Balkans.

Labor emigration to Europe

While Serbia has been a transit country for migrants on their way to Europe for several years, the country itself is also suffering from increasing emigration, especially of skilled workers to the EU and the USA. According to the OECD, 654,000 Serbian citizens emigrated between 2000 and 2019. Emigration to some EU member states and Switzerland, which were traditionally the destination of Serbian labor migration, is particularly strong, especially to Germany. Serbia ranked fourth among the non-EU countries in terms of skilled labor immigration to Germany in 2017. In the first half of 2018, 19,000 Serbian citizens had a work visa in Germany, 2,000 more than in the previous year. Recruitment is particularly strong in the medical and nursing sectors. In 2019, 50,000 people from the entire Western Balkans worked in this, an increase of 6,500 people compared to the previous year.

With the entry into force of the new Skilled Workers' Immigration Act on March 1st, 2020 in Germany, which significantly expands immigration from third countries, a further increase in emigration from Serbia to Germany is expected. In Serbia and the region, there is criticism that the increased recruitment of skilled workers from Germany and other European countries will increase the demographic problem and the shortage of skilled workers in Serbia.


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 connected with 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.

The medieval literature Like those in other parts of Europe, it 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 Sava of Serbia, who in addition to the lives of saints also wrote the first Serbian code of law. An important place in medieval literature was taken by heroic works that either glorified the rulers of this epoch and / or reported on the battles against the Ottomans. 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 hand were formative. 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.

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) forgive. 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 in the previous 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 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.

Serbia has a long and rich history theatre-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. This September the BITEF celebrated its 50th anniversary. 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.

The music in Serbia can look back on a rich history. The oldest musical evidence goes back to ritual songs and dance melodies of the Slavs who came to the Balkans in the 7th century. Sacred music, which was largely influenced by Byzantine art, has prospered since the 10th century. In the High Middle Ages, epic poetry, performed by traveling minstrels at princely courts, spread. Classical music originated in Serbia in the 19th century, not least thanks to the work of the composer Stevan Stojanović Mokranjac (1856-1914), who combined European traditions with church music and folk melodies. After the First World War there was a change in the direction of modernism with the young composers Petar Konjović (1883-1970) and Stevan Hristić (1885-1958). In Serbia there is a long folklore tradition that has become internationally known, especially in the form of brass music under the name Balkan Brass (also: Gypsy Brass) and shows clear influences of centuries of belonging to the Ottoman Empire. Balkan Brass originated in the 19th century mainly from Austrian and Turkish military music as well as Serbian and Roma folk music. Influences from other styles of music, such as B. Klezmer integrated. These influences can also be heard in Turbo Folk, which has a say in popular music in Serbia and other areas of the former Yugoslavia. In traditional Serbian music, v. a. using the accordion. National instruments such as the gusle are mainly used for traditional, especially rural music.

A rich independent music scene has developed in Serbia, which can tie in with the youth scenes in the former Yugoslavia, which had been pushed back under the Miliošević regime. These include electronica acts like Darkwood Dub or indie rock combos like the Partibrejkers. The largest annual music festivals in Serbia are the "Dragačevski sabor trubača" trumpet festival in Guča and the "Exit pop festival" in Novi Sad. In 2007 Serbia took 1st place in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song "Molitva" (The Prayer) by Marija Šerifović. The unitary state of Serbia and Montenegro achieved a success with 2nd place in this competition in 2004 with the song "Lane moje" (My little lamb) by Željko Joksimović. Well-known Serbian singers include Đorđe Balašević, Lepa Brena, Željko Joksimović and Ceca.

The architecture in Serbia reflects the diverse history of the country. Byzantine architecture is significant, especially in the numerous Serbian monasteries, some of which have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The most important patrons of architecture were the members of the medieval Nemanjid ruling dynasty. Since the construction of the Holy Sepulcher by the dynastic founder Stefan Nemanja in the Studenica Monastery, all other Serbian kings have acted as patrons of the arts and especially of religious architecture. A large part of the Serbian monasteries was built in the Middle Ages. In addition to religious buildings, numerous defensive structures stand out, which, along with the fortresses Golubac and Smederevo, the city wall of Kotor and the fortress of Belgrade, are among the outstanding defensive structures of the time. Other prevailing architectural styles in Serbia are the baroque in the north of the country and the oriental architectural style in Sanjak. In the capital, Belgrade, in particular, there are numerous buildings from the interwar period in the modern style, especially Art Deco.

Commemoration of the 1st World War

In 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of World War I and the triggering attack in Sarajevo were an important topic in the Serbian cultural scene. The cultural processing of the historical event reflected the nationalist legacy of recent history and the resulting split in historical memory between national historiography and critical memory. On the anniversary of the attack, June 28, the leadership of Serbia and the Republika Srpska in Visegrad, eastern Bosnia, commemorated the outbreak of the First World War, separate from the international celebrations in Sarajevo. The location of the Serbian national tinted memorial event was Andrićgrad - a replica of the medieval city of Višegrad conceived by the politically controversial director Emir Kusturica based on the novel The Bridge over the Drina by Ivo Andrić. The Muslim director Kusturica converted to the Serbian Orthodox faith as a result of the Balkan Wars and has become an icon of the nationalist Serbian cultural scene.

In contrast to the nation-kitschy Andrićgrad, the Serbian writer and dramaturge, together with the Sarajevo theater director Dino Mustafić, staged the play "Mali je ovaj coarse" (This grave is small), which is critical of the generation of young Serbian assassins from Sarajevo grapples.

Novi Sad European Capital of Culture

Serbia's provincial capital Novi Sad will be European Capital of Culture in 2021. In 2016, the European Commission chose the capital of Vojvodina for the first time as a city in a country outside the EU, after the Commission opened the program for the candidate countries of the Western Balkans in 2014. Novi Sad will share the title with Timişoara in Romania and Eleusis in Greece in 2021.

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 its role in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, 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, as well as 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 the Serbian Minister of Culture Vladan Vukosavljević declared 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.


Serbian cuisine is part of the so-called Balkan cuisine. The most distinctive feature of this largely rural cuisine is the large selection of grilled and other meat dishes. The Serbian cuisine was significantly influenced by the Greek, Turkish, Austrian, Hungarian and Italian cuisine. Dishes such as Serbian bean soup (Serbian Pasulj Čorba) or beans (Pasulj), sarma (stuffed cabbage rolls), Serbian rice meat (Serbian: Đuveč), suckling pig (Serbian: Pečeno Prase) or Ćevapčići are in many throughout the Balkans Variants can be found, especially in German-speaking countries, however, they are simply recognized as part of a Serbian culinary culture.

There are numerous Serbian beers and wines. The variety of schnapps and other high-proof beverages is particularly large.


The vast majority of Serbia's residents are Christians. About 6.3 million (approx. 84%) of the population profess the Serbian Orthodox Church, there are also religious minorities, especially Catholics, Protestants and a few New Apostolic Christians. About 3% of the population are Muslim. They live in Sanjak in southern Serbia, where they form a slim majority.

The Serbian Orthodox Church has a special role in the national history of Serbia. After the territory of the Kingdom of Serbia with its center in Kosovo fell under Ottoman rule for several centuries in the 14th century, it was the Orthodox communities with their spiritual center, the Patriarchate of Peć, who enjoyed the autonomy and became the preservers of Serbian culture and folk tales . In the 19th century, in the emerging national movement and national historiography, a close connection between nation and religion, between national movements and the Orthodox Church, developed from this. In the ethnicizing disintegration of Yugoslavia, which meant the liberation of the churches from communist control and regulation, the Orthodox Church entered into an unholy alliance with the Serbian nationalism of the 1990s. This led the church and larger parts of its dignitaries to legitimizing ethnic warfare and violence. At the same time, the church became the leading force in a conservative re-traditionalization of Serbian society. In recent years, the political influence of the church has been put into perspective, and it is again concentrating more on its traditional social role.

In general there is freedom of religion in Serbia. However, the Serbian constitution and laws only recognize 7 “traditional” denominations, which results in a certain degree of discrimination against other religious groups and their members, for example in the registration of religious groups - an area in which there has been recent progress. At the same time, the Serbian Orthodox Church enjoys a clear preference over other denominations. The latest report by the US State Department on Religious Freedom for 2019 confirmed that Serbia had an overall satisfactory level of religious freedoms. However, he noted cases of everyday discrimination, for example against Jehovah's Witnesses, also by the police, which the authorities only partially investigated.


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