The Serbian Cultural Background

was ruled for three centuries under the Ottoman Empire and this greatly impacted the culture of the region. However, they are still and always have been a very musical and creative people. Thanks to the love of the arts, the area has produced many actors, composers, sculptors, and painters.

Cuisine: Serbian cuisine is very similar to Greek cuisine due to the nearness of the two regions. In Serbia, some unique desserts are baklava, nut rolls and koljivo. The people of Serbia take great pride in producing and preparing most of their own food. They prepare sausage, jellies, and assorted pickled foods at home. These are things most other countries would buy at the store, but the Serbs have always preferred to prepare these items themselves. Just like in Western culture, the Serbian people enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, breakfast has o­nly been a daily meal for them since the nineteenth century.

Religion: The majority of people in Serbia are Orthodox Christians. There are also a great deal of Catholic Christians and Muslims in the area as well. Serbia, as a whole, is secular and does not have a national religion, but favor is often given to members of the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Serbs celebrate Slava, held o­n Saint’s Day, every year. Each Orthodox family has a patron saint inherited through the father’s side of the family, and this special day is reserved to honor that saint.

Serbian humour is centuries old. The most common type of humour is Black Humour and Serbian jokes are often imitated by other peoples from the Balkans, often with a twist. As with many other peoples, there are popular stereotypes on the local level: in popular jokes and stories, inhabitants of Vojvodina (Lale) are perceived as phlegmatic, undisturbed and slow; Montenegrins are lazy and pushy; southern Serbians are misers; Bosnians are raw and stupid; people from Central Serbia are often portrayed as capricious and malicious, etc. But all that is pure conjecture, of course.

Music: Serbian music dates from the medieval period with strong church and folk traditions. Church music in Serbia of the time was based on the Osmoglasnik a cycle of religious songs based on the resurrection and lasting for eight weeks. During the Nemanjić dynasty and under other rulers such as Stefan Dušan, musicians enjoyed royal patronage. There was a strong folk tradition in Serbia dating from this time.

During Ottoman rule, Serbs were forbidden to own property, to learn to read and write and denied the use of musical instruments. Church music had to be performed in private. Gusle, a one-stringed instrument, was invented by Serbian peasants during this time in an effort to find a loophole through the stringent Ottoman laws. Filip Višnjić was a particularly notable guslar (gusle player). In the 18th century, Russian and Greek chant schools were established and the Serbian Orthodox Church accepted Church Slavonic into their liturgy.