Tag Archives: Serbia

New Header Image: Konstantin Savitsky, Monk 1897

28 Mar

This will have to do until Holy Week/Easter.

Special thanks to Pelagia in Belgrade (old post) for first posting this image @Ljiljana1972.


And some slightly weird seguing/addendum:

For more on B-Town see also: “I haven’t seen any other English-language writer pull these elements together into such a compelling portrait of the city.” :

Hi Niko,

Predictably enough, when I first discovered your blog (a happy accident — I was googling “Sveti Jovan Bigorski” and spent an unusual amount of time leafing through search results) one of the first things I did was look under the ‘Serbia’ tag. I’ve already seen all four of the posts you’ve referenced. All four are terrific, but I’m especially enamored of your take on Belgrade — you really understand the place and its people and its historical-geographical specifics. I haven’t seen any other English-language writer pull these elements together into such a compelling portrait of the city. It’s obvious that you care about the place, which means a lot.

Just that I’m particularly proud of that review… :)


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Novi Sad: January 21 – 23, the Racija

23 Jan

Many of the victims were marched onto the frozen Danube and died when artillery was unleashed on the frozen river surface. You have to be a particularly perverse kind of facho to think of that way to murder people.

See rest of thread.


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My friend P’s sardonic Serbian humor: terrible government

15 Jan


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My friend P’s sardonic Serbian humor: Peace on Earth

15 Jan


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Tito: whatever fun you had this new year, Tito had more.

15 Jan


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My friend Pelagia in Belgrade: some great serbo-funny tweets in the great tradition of that people’s black and acerbic humor.

13 Jan

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Сновым Годом!!!!

The great Rakia Bar, with all its houemade varieties, Dobračina 5, Beograd 11000, Cрбjа


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My favorite Serbian pop music videos from 2020 (not necessarily when they came out, but when I discovered them)

31 Dec

Maybe calling them “pop” is inaccurate, especially because “Serbian pop” usually makes people think of Turbo-folk or Ceca, the Dowager Queen of Serbia. I think what most of these songs are is New Starogradska music, literally New Old-City music, “city” here meaning urban, meaning not folk or country, roughly the same popular tradition that goes as λαϊκά in Greek. Correct me, Serbs, if I’m wrong. And speaking of Greek, what’s cool about many of these songs is what a Greek-like affective tone they strike.

Here goes:

If you’re wondering what’s up with the action in these videos, they’re intercut with footage of the television series they come from, Ubice mog oca — “The Murderer Killed Himself” apparently. It’s a really good cops-and-bad-guys series, and I say that though roughly 70% of the time I’m not sure what’s going on; there are no subtitles, of course, and I just make do with vocabulary I can guess from my Russian and the action and character and plot conventions of the genre.

Ubice… stars Vuk Kostić as Aleksandr Jakovljević, detective and the star, I’d say, of the series. He’s the guy who’s shown hanging in clubs and in romantic entanglements in the videos. Aleksandr is a kind of male archetype found all over the Slavic world: he’s tough and soldierly, but also goofy, always in the same too small t-shirt and the same baggy jeans hanging off his ass, he’s a disaster with women, has a child out of wedlock with his boss, lives with his mother (Elizabeta Đorevska, who I adore), and drinks too much; in fact, the scenes of him trashed and the messes he gets himself into are brilliantly acted; I’ve never seen a better screen drunk before. And, of course, not too deep down, he has a heart of gold. He’s best in the Halid Bešlić video: “Ja bez tebe ne mogu da živim”; the title and refrain of the song — which he stands up to and drunkenly belts out for the whole club, despite his partner’s best attempts to get him to behave — means “I can’t live without you.”

Vuk Kostić as Aleksandr Jakovljević in Ubice Mog Oca

Next come my favorite Nikola Rokvić songs:

Below is “Honey and sweet grapes”… “My only sin is love…” Really like the song, but the video is lame and it contains a horrible stereotype of Serbian women in lip gloss. (Check out the Metaxa bottle in the refrigerator rack).

And then there’s this: “From craziness to craziness” “…I only live for you and that’s what kills me…” (aaawwww…) that Rokvić shares with Nikola Marinković, both incorrigible and adorable Serbian hams.

And my favorite Rokvić song:


Here comes the spring but I can’t stand how quickly time is passing, yet to me, it has stopped. Mothers, daughters, sons, and they all go to weddings. But mine will come from sadness, as my broken heart cracks.

The footage in this song is from Žigosani u reketu, a series about young men in a basketball club in Belgrade. They just started putting up episodes of it on YouTube and I’m peeing in my pants at the prospect of watching endless hours of television that I don’t understand.

I’m particularly enamoured of Goran Babić (Jovan Jovanović) in this series, the super tall guy with the green glasses. Here he is in a scene (no music) from Žigosani… Goran is the team’s intellectual — the thinking man’s jock — and in this video he’s expounding on something about Bosnian-Croat-Yugoslav writer Ivo Andrić of Bridge on the Drina fame. A friend translated it all for me once, but I forgot — something about “looking for him [Andrić] in all the wrong places.”

Oooooffff… Ok. Thought I’d get to Beogradski Sindikat but that’ll have to wait as it’s really a whole other genre anyway. So, that’s all for now. More next year.

Elizabeta Đorevska

Elizabeta Đorevska (above) as Olja Jakovljević, mother of Aleksandar Jakovljević (Vuk Kostić); there’s an argument to be made that Serbian women age better than any other women in the world; they have great bodies, great legs and stay beautiful and regal into their 60s or 70s. I really find Serbian women of this age super-sexy.


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Photo: Musa-paša Mosque in Nova Kasaba, Bosnia

30 Dec


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Croatian facho tourist prop on Balkan Insight

28 Dec

If Germans had never accepted their guilt for their massive, inconceivable, unspeakable crimes during WWII, who would visit Germany or Austria? who wouldn’t be in favor of sanctions and boycotts against German states?

But WWII fascist Croatia, the NDH, was so brutal and vicious in its treatment of the peoples who came under their rule, that even Berlin — the Nazis themselves — had to tell them to chill out!!! And yet not only has near no one pressured Croats to come to terms with or face their past “even as they except Serbs to recite their assigned mea culpa till the end of time [N.B.]”, they were granted immediate independence in the 90s based on their supposed “Westerness”, and were accepted into the European “family of nations” with almost none of the reforms or changes expected of other now European Union member-states or that are still being used to keep Serbia and Bosnia and Macedonia out.

How much longer?

Oh, and the Catholic Church needs to make some statement of repentance for their shameless support of the Ustaše during the war and their equally shameless facilitating of Ustaše leaders’ escape to Spain and Latin America after the war to avoid being prosecuted for war crimes. We all gloat over the Bosnian Serb leaders taken to the Hague to be (rightfully) judged for their murders, but no one cared or cares that Ante Pavelić died quietly in his bed in Madrid thanks to the Vatican and Franco.

Oh, and there’re no clues in the Odyssey that would lead us to assume that Odysseus made it as far up the Adriatic as Mljet in southern Dalmatia.

OH….! And this month Croatia revealed a memorial to war (Yugoslav wars) leader Franjo Tudman — without even the slightest ashamed editorializing from Croatian media — or Western media for that fact. But when some municipalities in Serbia and even a movement in Belgrade tried to erect a Milošević memorial in recent years, the attempt was (rightfully) condemned all around. Balkan Insight write Anja Vladisavljevic only sheepishly ended her piece on the new memorial with this lame observation:

“Admired by nationalists for achieving Croatian independence, he [Tudjman] has also been criticised for Croatia’s role in the war in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as for his attitudes to the Croatian opposition, human rights and press freedoms.”

It’s all infuriating.

The unveiling ceremony for the monument in Zagreb. Photo: Croatian Government/Twitter.

See all of Vladisavljević‘ piece here: Croatia Unveils ‘Homeland’ Monument On Tudjman Death Anniversary

Feast of St. Nicholas on Julian Calendar, old post, and Срећна Cлава to all Serbian friends celebrating today

19 Dec

(See Slava: “Где је слава, ту је Србин” — “Where there is a Slava, there is a Serb“)


Today’s my nameday

6 Dec


Russian icon of St. Nicholas the Wonder-worker (click)

Today’s the feast of St. Nicholas (on the Gregorian calendar — December 19th on the Julian Calendar, depending on what kind of Orthodox you are ethnically), the saint generally known in the East (and beautiful Bari, one of my favorite Italian cities) as the “Miracle-worker.”  But for me the coolest thing about St. Nick, and that’s the cause of his nauseating transformation into Santa Claus in the West, is that his miracles are deeply human and mundane and material, and actually just more good deeds than miracles: his most metaphysical, I guess, was his power to calm threatening seas; probably more to the point he prevents the execution of an accused criminal, following Christ’s example in opposing capital punishment or — my favorite — he quietly leaves three bags of gold, εν τω μέσω της νυχτώς, in the bedroom of three poor sisters who needed dowries to get married.  He didn’t preach or rail against the dowry system, like the moralist who thinks his ideological crusade is more important then the real needs of real people, who gets a hard-on from his preaching while others are truly suffering: for example, the schmucks who leave a hard-working waiter a card that says: “We don’t believe in tips; they’re exploitative, join our group at www…etc…” or like the assholes you hear in New York on the subway when a panhandler comes by and certain types go off on their “oh-I’ve-heard-that-story-before-get-a-job-you-probably-make-more-money-than-me” tirades, without thinking that if a man is reduced to begging, for whatever reason, he’s already been through hell enough and deserves your compassion.

A priest at my old parish in Whitestone, I remember years ago on this day, said in his sermon: “St. Nicholas is not one of our great theologian-intellectual saints, like the Cappadocians [though he apparently slapped someone at the First Oecumenical Council at Nicaea for saying something dumb about the Trinity…I think], or one of our warrior, defender-of-the-faith saints, like Demetrios or Mercourios or the Archangels.  More, he was a saint who always made sure that everyone under his pastorship had food to eat and a roof to sleep under.”  He was particularly venerated in the sea-faring islands of Greece, for obvious reasons (“Hagie Nikola, I implore you” sings the island girl with her sailor-man away, “carpet the seas with flowers…”) and is the patron saint of Russia.  In communist times the name still had some lingering Imperial/Romanov stigma attached to it and when I was there in the eighties, it seemed anachronistically charming to many Russians.  Now it seems there are significantly more young “Kolyas” and “Nikolays” everywhere.

Despite an almost erotic devotion to and obsession I’ve developed for St. Demetrios over the years — hard to resist a young Roman aristocrat in uniform — Nicholas is still my patron saint.  And he’s more than just important to me as saint himself, but because I love the Orthodox nameday tradition, which again varies from country to country.  Serbs have always observed a single clan nameday, the Slava, celebrating the saint on whose feast-day the family’s first ancestor supposedly converted to Christianity, a very ritualized and beautiful celebration and one of the many traditions that Serbs adhere to that makes them the Slavs that, more than any others, still have one foot in their pagan past; telling, also, to how important he is in the Orthodox world: the single largest group of Serbian clans celebrate St. Nicholas as their Slava patron.  Communism forced Russians to take their birthdays more seriously, and discouraged the celebration of the obviously religious nameday, but nineteenth-century Russian literature is full of nameday celebrations (Chekhov’s “Nameday Party,” and Tatyana’s nameday dance in Pushkin’s Onegin*), and as a semi-conscience remembrance of what the new Western-style celebration of birthdays replaced, the birthday-boy is to this day still called the “imeninets,” the “name-bearer.”

What I most love is that, among Greeks, your nameday is a day critical to your honor and reputation: it’s when you take friends out and treat them; it’s when people in small towns especially, but even some in Athens still, sit home in a house full of food and sweets and wait for everybody who has the right to — meaning every one they know essentially — and most likely will, drop by and wait for the the privilege of feeding them; most young Athenians today wait for an official invitation but massive group drop-ins are still common enough among the old-fashioned.  In smaller, provincial towns, when there was a death in the family, you used to have to put an ad in the paper saying: “Due to mourning, we won’t be accepting callers this St. Nicholas Day.”  In villages everybody just knew.  It’s a day when you make an artoklasia,  a “bread-breaking” offering and share sweetened and blessed loaves with your whole parish.  It’s a day when it’s your obligation to give and serve and prove your noblesse and not, as Western birthdays have become, a day when you sit around waiting for others to do for you or give you gifts.  Western, American, birthdays are only slightly less gross to me than the totally American ugliness of wedding and baby showers: “I’m getting married and/or I’m pregnant; so I’m having a party where you have to bring me things.”  And don’t even start me on bridal registries, where you tell people, not just that they have to bring you something, but what they have to bring you.

So: χρόνια μου πολλά…  And Многая Лета to other Nicholases everywhere.  Keep the tradition alive.

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* Tatyana was not a popular name in Russia until Pushkin’s Onegin became the Bible and literary gold standard of modern Russian, and Russians took the deeply loved heroine into their hearts.  Only then did it become a widespread name and eventually, through her epic act of heroically soul-baring letter-writing probably, her nameday, January 12th or 25th — depending again on calendar — become the patron saint day of young students and scholars.

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