My favorite things Serbian


1. Painter: Marko Čelebonović.  Plus lots of the art in the monasteries.

2. Performance art: Marina Abramović.  I still love this video of the staring game.

3. Author: Danilo Kiš, the Serbian Borges.  Or how about Milorad Pavic, Dictionary of the Khazars, which somehow seems to have fallen through the cracks since the time of its publication.  Ivan “Ivo” Andrić is the Serbian Nobel Laureate, sort of, he espoused a Serbian identity but actually was Bosnian.

4. Actor and director: Emir Kusturica.  Recently he has disappointed, and taken flak, for having supported Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  He is still an impressive creator, however, and is also an accomplished musician and author.  Did I mention that he espouses a Serbian national identity, and has converted to Orthodox Christianity, but originally was a Bosnian Muslim?

5. Actress: Milla Jovovich, most of all in Fifth Element and also Resident Evil, she is part Serbian.

6. Economist and blogger: Branko Milanović.

7. Sports: Lots of tennis players, plus Pete Maravich was of Serbian descent.

Other: Tesla was ethnic Serbian though born in Croatia.  American poet Charles Simic was born in Serbia, though he moved to the United States at a young age.


How about Thomas Nagel?

Indeed. For example, what's it like to be him?

I think Novak Djokovic deserves to to be mentioned by name. He's not just another good Serbian player.

And a shout out please to Vlade Divac?

Mr. Cowen since you're into classical music maybe you should check out Serbia's most famous composer Stevan St. Mokranjac.
Here's a youtube of his best work. . It's an Orthodox Christian liturgy done in acapella style similar to the ones by Rachmaninov (Vespers) and Tchaikovsky.

Tesla was ethnic Serbian though born in Croatia.

No, he was an ethnic Serb born in the Austrian Empire. The region he was born in was called the "Croatian Military Frontier", and was still directly under the control of the Emperor in the 1850s, it was added to the "Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia", which was controlled by the Kingdom of Hungary, only in 1881, long after Tesla had left. There were Serb and Croat populations scattered through out the Habsburg realm and ethnicity mattered to most people more than geography. Also Tesla was a Serb, not a Serbian - a Serbian is a native or national of the country of Serbia, of any ethnicity.

Likewise Andric was an ethnic Croat from Bosnia who was also a Serbian writer (but not a Serb writer). I know Tyler finds concepts like ethnicity and nationality upsetting and unseemly, but these mistakes are just lazy.

I find this interesting. My last name is Gregorich, and my great grandfather came to the US in 1900 from 'Austria'. Since then every source I've found online lists this as a Croatian last name. When I was in Italy I also had people ask me if I spoke Croatian, and people from that region all have assured me that this is indeed a Croatian name. If you were to tell my great grandfather this however, he'd get quite upset and assert he was actually Austrian. I have not been able to find out the town he emigrated from to determine if it's within the current Croatian border or not.

So your comment that "ethnicity mattered to most people more than geography" seems to not have applied to him but perhaps I'm missing something else.

My comment could well apply to your grandfather. A good example of what I mean is Bohemia where Germans and Czechs lived side by side for centuries and people with both German and Czech ancestry would often choose which group they identifed with. Your great grandfather may have spoken German as his primary language and his Croat roots might have been far in the past. Plenty of modern Austrians have Slavic last names and still consider themselves "Austrian". Or maybe he just found Croats embarassing. There were also a lot of majority Croat speaking villages in areas that are now in Hungary, Austria or Slovenia so finding his town may not answer your questions.

4. You should tighten up your signaling. Be more subtle. Otherwise you might be subject to mockery at the next cocktail party.

2 - The video of Abramovic & Ulay meeting again IS very beautiful & moving. But the use of sound in the video is totally wack, cheapening a powerful moment by hitting the viewer over the head with insipid romantic music. After the set up of the text in the film, the faces and gestures of the two artists tell everything you need to know about the moment.

This is a great example of one of my pet peeves in narrative movies. All too often, when the acting, direction, script, editing, and other technical aspects of film are working well, music doesn't add anything.

But when all those things in a film are NOT going well, music is used like sauces by a bad cook, to cover up aspects of the story that have been presented poorly. Music, in this case, is used to push the audience around, to cover up failures of directors, actors, etc. and to insure that no one watching the film gets the "wrong" idea of what's going on, despite these failures by the director, actors, editors, etc.

There's another version of this video online that includes an original pop song with lyrics about the artists' reunion that may be even worse than this one.

So, nothing but tennis actually.

If we are going to count people of Serbian descent we might mention Gregg Popovich (Serb/Croat). Of course, you might have mentioned Bill Bilichek, Nick Saban, Rudy Tomjanovich in the Croatian thread along with Werner Herzog and John Malkovich.

The most famous Serbian painter is Paja Jovanovic. Check "Furor Teutonicus", "Krunisanje Dusana za Cara"

Linguists say that Serbian and Croatian are merely dialects of the same language, Serbo-Croatian, and some even claim that there is no really substantive difference between them and the rest of the southern Slavic languages ranging from Bulgarian to Slovenian, usually classified as distinct languages, with my linguistically capable wife among those supporting this latter claim (no problem at all conversing with Slovenians in Bulgarian). The claim they are distinct seems mostly political.

I first became aware of the politics of this over 40 years ago when I went to the Serbian Three Brothers restaurant in Milwaukee. While waiting at the bar to be seated I asked the bartender if he knew "Serbo-Croatian," and I was met with an unpleasant stoney silence, followed by the statement that there was no such thing as that language. Oh....

I do not know any of them, but I have been told by some that the most obvious difference between them involves their treatment of words coming from other languages. Apparently, the Croatians are more like the French and insist (or try to) on making up their own versions of such words drawn from Croatian roots, whereas the Serbs are more willing to just adopt the foreign loan word from the foreign language as is.

no problem at all conversing with Slovenians in Bulgarian

That is quite ridiculous. Barely grasping the subject most of the time is not really "no problem conversing. " You wife is lying to you.

Serbo-Croatian is of course a single language written in two different alphabets based on predominant religion. Tesla was Serbian, not Croat. Full stop. In the same way as Sydney Brenner or Charlize Theron are not Zulu.


And your credentials to say anything about this and accuse my wife of lying are what? i was there, and you seem to be a worthless sack of stupid shit, excuse my French.

From a 1947 book by Noyes quoted in a book by us:

"So, today a man may walk from Varna on the Black Sea (east end of Bulgaria) west to Sofia, then down to Bitolj in Southern Macedonia, northward to Belgrade, thence west through Slavonia and Croatia to Zagreb, still further west to Ljubljana and into Slovenian districts annexed by Italy after the First World War, and if he pay heed to the speech of the peasantry rather than that of the postmasters and the schoolmasters, he will never cross a definitive linguistic boundary dividing Bulgarian from Serbo-Croatian from Slovenian."

Really, the trolls here are coming from ever deeper cesspools of utter inanity and ignorance.

I actually traveled to Ljubljana with a Bulgarian and witnessed her not being able to get very far as far as the spoken language goes. Once again: the "no problem at all conversing with Slovenians in Bulgarian" is as utterly stupid claim as one can possibly come up with. And I don't care for your wife, so STFU. While you at it, try to figure out the difference between the "definitive linguistic boundary" and mutual intelligibility.


And I suspect that my wife would not care for you either, since indeed you are obviously an s of s.

As it is, Peter is certainly correct that if people want to communicate between Bulgarian and Slovenian, they probably can, and I certainly saw my wife doing so, even though Bulgarian is merely the second of her several Slavic languages.

Probably the problem was that your Bulgarian friend is as unpleasant as you are, and the Slovenians you encountered were not interested in communicating with her, so that when she addressed them in her village Bulgarian from near the Turkish border, they replied in their own village Slovenian that she found incomprehensible, and then laughed behind their backs while the two of you struggled to find your way out of that s of s you were walking around in.

You are full of shit, Barkley. In this very thread a Bulgarian writes that he is unable to understand a single sentence off Serbian TV, yet you continue to peddle your (or your wife's) bullshit about Sloven, Serbian and Bulgarian being practically the same language. And Peter, who is, unlike you, knows what he is talking about, concurs with me, too. Be a man and admit your mistake! Else you look like a clown in a sandbox.


Exactly who is the Bulgarian here who made the claim you make? I am not finding any. Peter knows what he is talking about, but his big point is that there is a very wide variety of local dialects,arguably languages, that differ very much. Peter may be Bulgarian or from some other Balkan state, although I do not think he said where he is from. BTW, this does not at all contradict that there may be no definite break in languages if one follows a careful route through the region.

Certainly the Balkans are very linguistically complicated. But the issue remains that it is not obvious when one has different language rather than a different dialect, and this is often a political matter, one of "postmasters and schoolmasters" as Noyes put it. New nations attempt to regularize an official version for themselves, including deciding whether or not to just accept new loan words or dredge around in their pasts or their set of village dialects to find a word that can be used officially by the postmasters and schoolmasters.

Again, DK, name that Bulgarian or admit that you have been wildly hysterical. Sorry your Bulgarian girlfriend is such a ditz.

I have no idea where Peter is from or what his background is, but I would note that where one finds people with his last name by far the most is Russia, he may be Chinese for all I know.


It's just below:
Puzzled August 5, 2015 at 11:59 am
I am a native Bulgarian speaker, raised on the standard literary version of the language. Once I watched some Serbian TV and didn’t understand a single sentence, even though I managed to catch a word here and there.

Peter is from Poland (I believe) and, FWIW, I am a bilingual Ukrainian/Russian speaker. I am sorry that our back and forth got on the wrong footage but, really, you were wrong, and that's all there is. (My Bulgarian girlfriend was a ditz, I'll admit - but trust me, she knew her linguistics :-))

Sorry, DK is right. I spend a lot of time in the Balkans. Slovenian has internal dialects that are barely intelligible to people from other parts of Slovenia, never mind Bulgarians. Serbo-Croatian is based on a literary standard that was cobbled together in the 19th century out of closely related Slavic languages, so even today there are clear differences, sometimes verging on intelligibility between the way a farmer in Varazdin speaks, a fisherman in the Dalmatian Coast, a resident of Sarajevo or a factory worker in Nis. The problem for nationalists is that the differences in these dialects are geographical, not ethnic. Croatian is trying to break away from Serbian by stressing local (and sometimes archaic) dialect elements for the most part, not by "making up words". In any case your wife is certainly exagerrating. Slovenian and Bulgarian are close enough that basic conversation is possible if both parties are trying to communicate with each other - which is probably true between English and Dutch for that matter, and certainly true between Italian and Spanish - but a Bulgarian will not be able to follow normal conversational Slovenian speech, nor vice versa. These days young Slovenes do not even understand Serbian television until they have had some prolonged exposure to the language.

edit - "verging on UNintelligibility"


Many reasonable and subtle points here. Of course there are many mutually barely intelligible village dialects in many places, even within the same language, such as Slovenian. Noyes picked his route carefully. My point is that indeed a lot of this is political, and right now these people are emphasizing their separateness, thus the semi-pathetic search by Croats for archaic words for modern things. I think the French made up "ordinateur" for "computer," but I think you are right that the Croats came up with some dreadful silly word from the middle ages for it, rather than just calling it "computer" as do the Serbs.

I studied Dutch at one point,and it is much further from English than Slovenian and Bulgarian are from each other. Frisian, however, is much closer to English than it is to Dutch, and supposedly Frisian fishers can communicate reasonably well with fisthers from the Scottish lowlands, whose dialect is closer to Old English than most of what is spoken on the island of Britain.

I would not claim that my wife could have some super deep and sophisticated discussion using Bulgarian with a Slovenian, but she was certainly fully and easily functional for the sorts of things we were doing, no problem at all.

Another angle on this matter can be seen by considering the first conversation that Bulgarian Communist Party leader, Zhivkov, had with Montenegrin Milovan Djilas when they were both in exile in Moscow under Stalin's protection during WW II. It was to ask Djilas if the Macedonians spoke "Serbian or Bulgarian"? As it is, control of Macedonia went back and forth just prior to WW I, and a Madedonian named Stojanovski would have his name changed to "Stojanovic" when the Serbs were in control and to "Stovanov" when the Bulgarians were in control, with Tito agreeing after WW II when he gave them their own Yugoslav republic that indeed they have their own language, even if now it is those Not So Serious Greeks who want to smoosh their identity and turn their nation into the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macdonia," because, well, heck, they are all really Greeks, don't you know, unless they are really Albanian-speaking Illyrians.

There are very strong similarities (and probably a sort of a continuum) between different south Slavic languages regarding vocabulary and phonology. However, there are discrete differences in grammar. For example, none of the Bulgarian dialects have grammatical cases, while all of Serbo-Croat varieties have seven cases. There are similar differences in tenses, definite articles, etc.

And another anecdote. I am a native Bulgarian speaker, raised on the standard literary version of the language. Once I watched some Serbian TV and didn't understand a single sentence, even though I managed to catch a word here and there.

Danilo Kis sounds interesting.

Is there a best place to start? And a best work overall? (these are often but not always the same book)

Start with collections of short stories, for example:

A Tomb for Boris Davidovic

Milla Jovovich? Hmmm. Hardly Meryl Streep is she?

Goran Bregovic, who wrote a lot of music for Kusturica's films, is a Serb-Croat and definitely deserves the mention. Some great music and the world-best ability to plagiarize himself!

Milutin Milankovic

Milutin Milankovic developed the theory of perturbations in the Earth's orbit explaining the timing of ice ages (there are 3 different cycles at work). Although this is not fully proven, no one has a strong competing explanation. He worked this out as a prisoner of the Austrians during WW1.

And of course Gavrilo Princip, the assassin of the arch duke Ferdinand of Austria, which kicked off WW1 (and therefore by extension WW2, probably the bloodiest war in human history, beating even China's Tianjin rebellion). Princip was not executed (he was too young) but died during WW1 in Austrian captivity).

It was Austria which declared that war and invaded Serbia, and the Archduke's death was just an excuse for a WANTED war by Austria. Austria had been wanting war for many years with Serbia.
The Archduke was not liked by the Austrian government nor military.
No one mourned his death - his funeral was boycotted, and observers noted the Austrians seemed happy and content in their daily lives after he died.
The Archduke also stood in the way of the wanted war - he worried about Russia and actually had some proposals of bringing in Serbs/Slavs into the Empire.
He was given no protection on his tour in an open car, and when the earlier would-be assassins threw a dud bomb, his tour was not aborted. Only delayed.
Gavrilo Princip, who'd actually given up and gone into a bar, was told by someone there that the Archduke was coming around after all.
The Archduke's car stopped right before Gavrilo Princip and stayed stop so he could walk right up to him and shoot him.
I say it was all arranged by Austrian security who were overseeing that the "job" would get done. The Austrian Intelligence probably directed and infested renegade Serb radical groups and fed them info.
(Kind of like the FBI and CIA give ideas to radical Muslims, but then *usually* arrest them before they carry it out.
Though the FBI didn't do this for the first World Trade Tower bombing attempt in 1993, by Ramsey Yousef.
The FBI knew he had live bombs in his van as he drove it into the parking garage but didn't stop him.)

The other assassins before Princip were not arrested nor stopped before they made their attempt or chickened out. But as soon as they attempted or chickened out and left, they were pounced on by the police.

Austria had a huge amount of soldiers, police and local police and soldiers (mostly Bosnian Muslims whom Austria supported against Serbs), yet didn't give the Archduke protection.

Further, Austria arranged the tour on a Serbian holy day.

No love for the best Serbian film, conveniently titled A Serbian Film?

Well you are missing a lot of Serbia's rich heritage in traditional music and folk dancing, also the beautiful scenery of Serbia.

Now, one of my favorite Serbs is singer Jelena Tomasevic. She sings traditional Balkan music, as well as contemporary ballads and pop music.
She represented Serbia at Eurovision in 2008 and came in 6th place. I think the song was too "calm" to win a Eurovision which likes the louder and/or flashier music or performances.

Here is the song Oro:

She sings so beautifully the Balkan folk songs. This is a Serbian one, Usnila je dubok sanak (Kosovski bozur), and it is a live performance:

This is one of her own songs (written for her and not a cover), and the name refers to a wind that sweeps over Belgrade from the "jet effect" - winds and high pressure from the east are concentrated by the huge gorges on the Danube River on the Serbia-Romanian border - and is not about Kosovo:

It is also turning into a tourist destination. CNN wants to see pictures of your favorite things about the country.

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