Tag Archives: Serbs

Novak and his cross

10 Jan

For me there’s always been something “real man” about a guy who’s not too macho to show some form of piety* — we all know those Greek men who cross themselves like they’re flicking crumbs off their tie, right? — especially if that “real man” is Orthodox, Serbian and Novak Djoković. I have a long history of dating sons of clergymen: priests, rabbis, even pastors.

Let’s hope he gets out of this Australian mess as soon as possible, though it’s hard for me to not put part of the blame on him.

* By “piety” I do not mean the Fellowship, or the Family, or C Street, or American Evangelism in any, any, any form, which I don’t consider Christianity or even religion, but the most dangerous threat to faith of any kind since Calvin. I hope my readers knew that about me before reading this.

Bosnian History (@BosnianHistory) has fantastic pictures of Old Bosnia

10 Jan

Lifted by me without permission — hope she forgives me:

“Les Bosniaques en marche”, 1890
A couple from Kreševo, date unknown
At the fountain in Sarajevo, early 20th c.
Mostar 1898
Bihać, 1908
Bosnian Christian left, Bosnian Muslim right, date unkown
Bosnia: coffee and mangal, date unknown
Bosnian costumes, date unknown (the beauty, variety and opulence of Balkan female dress always blows me away, especially as the West has traditionally thought of the Balkans as a poor part of the world.)
Bosnia, dance, no further information (I love the movement of the colored salvar — the women’s long baggy pants.)
House and family in Herzegovina, date and location unknown (along with ethnic/religious affiliation of those pictured; but the women aren’t wearing salvar — see previous photo — which traditionally identified a woman as Muslim in the Balkans; I’m assuming they’re Croats or Serbs)
Mostar (date unknown): among other things, an illustration of the ridiculously phallic competition to make church towers higher than minarets — and it’s only gotten worse today.
Sarajevo, 1890, guessing, from left to right, Croatian, Serbian and Muslim women.
Sarajevo, 1892 (the gorgeous lattice work of the round cumba on house on left.)
Serbian woman from Herzegovina, date unkown, one of @BosnianHistory ‘s loveliest photos.
Travnik, 1900, love the low divan, coffee and cigarette (staples of civilized Ottoman life) and the partial smirk on the second from left woman that’s the only thing that comes close to a smile. In Dinner with Persephone by Patricia Storace, the best travel book on Greece since the earlier work of Patrick Leigh Fermor, which I give to all friends who are going to Greece for the first time, Storace writes: “The initial glance here is inquisitive, investigative. There are no easy smiles given away in Greece. It hasn’t yet been ascertained that your existence deserves a smile.” The huge, pearl-white teeth smile is, I think, an entirely American invention: the relentless positivity of the American psyche (Like, why are you smiling?) until the crazy smile descends into total psychosis.
Tuzla 1902
Bosnia urban couple, no further info, but an illustration that urban dress throughout the Balkans was basically a variety of Ottoman urban dress; the wildly imaginative costumes belonged more to the rural population.
Bosnia, no further info, but another image of Ottoman coffee “tea ceremony”. People swear, till today, that coffee made in the ashes of a mangal, like in the photo, tastes far superior to coffee made by any other contraption.
Bosnian Croats (no further info), hence, I guess, the resemblance to Catholic nuns’ headress.
Jajce, 1941
Bosnian bride and father-of in more contemporary image. Again, it’s obvious that these costumes cost a fortune for families. Luckily most of the gold is inherited. And I love the male vanity of dad. Montenegrin men (the butchest of Balkan butch) dress in similarly extravagant stuff, and if I’m not wrong every male in Montenegro still has a traditional outfit made for him for ceremonial occasions. The Male in nature?
Kolo in Busovača, 1926
Busovača, 1926
Sarajevo, girl at fountain, 1920s
Mostar, 1950s (relatively late, but Greek rural women wore traditional clothing until the 50s – 60s as well.)
Mostar, 1912
Mother and child in Sarajevo, 1947. This may be my absolute favorite: stylish 40s fashion and traditional niqab-like item.
Sarajevo, Logavina, 1904
Sarajevo, 1938
Sarajevo bakery, Eid/Bayram, 1910. Sorry man, but the niqab must be a real pain-in-the-*ss.
Latinluk, Sarajevo, 1933, Sephardic women on a stroll (Does anyone know what “Latinluk” means? In Turkish it literally means the “Latin-ness”
Sephardic women (or as caption says “Spanish women”) in Sarajevo, early 20th c.
Urban garb, Sarajevo, early 20th century. And an image of the much-commented-on height of Bosnians.
Tuzla, 1911
Woman in traditional dress, Mrkonjić Grad, Bosnia.
Muslim women in Sarajevo, 1925
Young men smoke nargilé (hookah) and play music, Sarajevo, 1898


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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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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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Photo: Sarajevo 1938

15 Jan

Hhmmm… Dunno, does it look as much older to anybody elseas it does to me? My only source is Bosnian History @BosnianHistory and WorldPress site: Bosnian History. So maybe she can help us out.

The largest single collection of her photos are here: “…beautiful old photos of Bosnia

Sarajevo 1938


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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

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