Saturday, June 30, 2018


So, the World Cup is upon us once again. Besides always rooting for Japan and Brazil no matter what, I always root for the smaller countries and countries I’d like to visit. I was actually rooting for Serbia and caught a little of one of their games when I was at work. To be honest, I don’t quite understand all the rules of soccer yet. I tried to look at the standings and just threw my hands up at all the abbreviations. Stop making things complicated. 

Essentially, Serbia refers to the Serbs or Sorbs, but where they got their name is pretty much unknown. There are a handful of theories, many are stemmed from words of Indic, Greek and/or other Slavic origins, all with an array of possible meanings. (Who ARE these people anyway?) It’s also changed names several times, from People’s Republic of Serbia to Socialist Republic of Serbia, and now it’s just Republic of Serbia.

Serbia is located on Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, surrounded by Hungary to the north; Romania and Bulgaria to the east; Macedonia and Kosovo to the south; and Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Croatia to the west. The northern part of the country has some plains, but the central and southern parts are quite mountainous as the Dinaric Alps, the Carpathian Mountains, and the Balkan Mountains rise up throughout these areas. The northern areas and high-elevation areas can have a pretty temperate climate, but the southern areas are a little more Mediterranean. There are several rivers that flow through the country, but the Danube remains the most important one. They’re also at risk for quite a bit of severe weather (woo-hoo! I love storms, just as long as it’s not super bad on the damages).

Slobodan Milosevic

The earliest known evidence of human settlement dates back nearly a half-million years ago. Serbia has a history that is rife with other people controlling its lands. The Greeks, Celtic tribes, the Romans, Byzantines, and Bulgarians were among those who ventured into this area and claimed at least part of the land for themselves. Christianity was introduced during the Middle Ages. During the 16th century, Serbia fell under Hapsburg and Ottoman rule who fought for nearly a century before the Hapsburgs eventually took over. However, the south remained under Ottoman control, and being a largely Islamic group, hated on the Christians. Christian Serbs were considered inferior, and many started moving north into more Christian-friendly lands. It took over a decade of fighting against the Ottomans to gain their independence, but they finally did that in 1815. Although there were some uprisings, the Serbians did finally kick feudalism to the curb. Even though they declared their independence in 1815, the last of the Turkish/Ottoman soldiers finally left in 1867 (talk about unwanted guests–apparently Serbia was the first Airbnb complaint). However, a few years later, in true adolescent fashion, they announced their unity with Bosnia and warred against the Ottomans.  In 1912, the Balkan League kicked the Ottoman’s butt, eventually allowing for Serbia to expand its territory by 80% while doubling its population. Serbia was a major player in the Balkans during WWI. During WWII, Serbia became part of Yugoslavia. The Axis Powers invaded the area, and an estimated nearly 16,000 Serbian Jews were killed during the occupation. In 1989, Slobodan Milosevic took the top job in Serbia, causing a lot of problems in Serbia (like refusing to accept he lost elections, among other things). In 1992, the country of Yugoslavia changed its name to become Serbia and Montenegro, which disbanded in 2006 when Montenegro decided they’ve had enough and wanted to be single. In 1998, Kosovo decided they also wanted to go out on their own, and after fighting a conflict over it, decided they were done with Serbia. However, not everyone is on board with this decision (basically Serbia). [But for the sake of this blog, I’m including Kosovo and the other two non-UN member states at the end].

With a little over a million people located at where the Danube and Sava Rivers meet, Belgrade is Serbia’s capital. And it’s one of Europe’s oldest capitals, first conquered by the Celts in 279 BC. Generally located in the north-central part of the country, it’s been leveled and rebuilt 44 times and has seen battle another 115 times. I’d say that makes it a pretty resilient city. It also served as the Yugoslavian capital. Today, it serves as the Serbia’s center for commerce, finance, government, culture, media, transportation, and more. There are several universities and colleges located in the metro area, and the city is also known for its architecture.

Serbia’s upper-middle income is the result of an emerging economy. Many large international corporations including Coco-Cola, Carlsburg, and Siemens have invested their money and resources in Serbia. They have a prominent agricultural sector, making them a leading producer of frozen fruit in Europe, especially in raspberries. They also have a significant wine industry as well. While Serbia may not be a huge tourist destination, it’s certainly more popular as a domestic and regional tourism spot.

Although Serbia is a secular state, Orthodox Christians make up nearly 85% of the population. Other Christian denominations include Roman Catholic, Lutheranism, and Calvinism. There are some Muslims, a few Jews, and a handful of atheists/agnostics.

The official language is Serbian, and it’s the only European language to have two alphabets: Cyrillic and Latin. The Serbian Cyrillic script was listed as the official script in their constitution in 1814, but today slightly more people prefer the Latin alphabet instead. I know, I do: my Cyrillic reading ability sucks. 

Hahaha, ok. Just kidding.
So, most people associate vampires with Dracula as being “the first” one. But there was one before the Romanian story: it was Petar Blagojevic (not to be confused with the former governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich, who is also of Serbian descent). In fact, even the word vampire has its origins in the Serbo-Croatian word vampir. Who knows, maybe Rod is related to this vampire guy? I wondered why all of his press conferences were held at night, and once I swear I saw him turn into a bat just to avoid traffic on the Dan Ryan.

Up next: art and literature

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