The Cyrillic Alphabet As Political Act

So Laura, seriously. Why didn’t you start learning Cyrillic sooner?


should have bitten the bullet and taken a Serbian language class at a university as soon as we arrived in mid-2010. I should have committed to driving 30 minutes to one-hour each way (thanks to cluster-fuck bridge-construction traffic into Belgrade), rushing home to feed my infant, while playing with my toddler.

Hell, I should have even been able to get tons of studying done. What better moment than middle-of-the-night bottle feedings?


Mommy’s homework

True, so true. Because the best time to tackle a new, very difficult language, is when one is sleep-deprived, culture shocked, and juggling two little kids.

may have believed Cyrillic was “just a phase” …

The truth is, I resisted learning Cyrillic initially because I took the “dual-lettering” (words are often written in Cyrillic and Latin) in malls and stores to mean that Serbia was on its way to “European-ize” itself, as it attempts to join the E.U. [No, I’m not an idiot. It’s just that the complexities of Balkan history and culture were fairly limitednonexistent in terms of American social studies education. And Western media, exemplified by the “All Serbs are war criminals” stereotype.

So anyway, Cyrillic as a phase? Um, not so much.

Reality check: Cyrillic is the alphabet of the Serbian language. While the West may lump ethnicities together, creating “Serbo-Croatian” dictionaries, locals will tell you that there is no such thing as a language called Serbo-Croatian. [I have nothing against Croatians, heck I was raised Catholic!]

Serbian is a language distinct from Croatian. (Let’s be real here, they’re verysimilar). Several words are different, and dialects and accents vary. But. Thealphabet of Serbian is Cyrillic, and the alphabet of Croatian is Latin.

Rebel Serbs, really?

The difference in alphabet is not to be taken lightly.

In February, thousands of Croats rallied against a new law to display Cyrillic Signs in Vukovar, which is now a part of Croatia, but has a large ethnic Serb population. According to Reuters, Vukovar is “a town destroyed in the 1991-95 war with rebel Serbs.”


WARNING: I may be more nationalistic now than some Serbs. I may be a foreigner and truly have no beef against anyone because of their ethnicity, but I do have opinions … If you are 100% sure that the American media reporting of the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s was balanced and unbiased, skip this section, please. I wouldn’t want to risk inadvertantly un-washing-someone’s brain.

Another quote from the Reuters article that exemplifies the Western perspective on the Balkan conflict

… the easternmost town of Vukovar, which many Croats still see as a symbol of destruction and suffering brought on by the Serb rebellion against Croatia’s independence from Yugoslavia. [boldface is mine.]

To clarify … the above referenced “rebel Serbs,” and the “Serb rebellion” … these were Yugoslav citizens. If they carried a passport, it was for Yugoslavia. People of Serb ethnicity were fighting to keep Croatia from gaining independence from Yugoslavia.

Stop! Caveat Time: Yes, the Serbs “lost,” yes, there was bad behavior on both sides. (This happens in war.) History is written by the victors, saying who’s a “rebel” versus who was “justified” and a “freedom fighter.”

Imagine for a moment …


If Florida declared independence, who would YOU call “rebel”?

Cuban-Americans [insert your mixed American ethnicity of choice] in Florida decided they were fed up (they, too have their reasons) and declare a free and independent Florida. … Would it be appropriate to call U.S. soldiers and citizens who take up arms against those seceding–rebels?

Would we call the ones who are fighting to keep Florida in the U.S., rebels?

Before anyone starts flaming me in the comments Consider this: during the Civil War, the Confederate Army was the Rebel Army, because they were the ones seceding.

Remember the American Revolutionary War? Yep. In that case, our constitutional Founders were Revolutionaries. Those who were remained loyal to the British throne (for whatever reason, surely they had at least one) … were “loyalists,” because they tried to keep the American colonies from gaining freedom.

The rebels were those who wanted to break away.

Cyrillic Alphabet as Political Act

Back to the Balkans …

What happened in Vukovar is that the Social Democratic-led Croatian government sought to implement a law (yes a law that passed by a democratic process). The law allows for Cyrillic public signs in places where there is at least a 1/3 Serb population. A significant number of Croatians (approx 20,000 rallied) have a problem with it.

The Croatian government is attempting to soothe ethnic tensions. … Protesting a law intended to recognize ethnic diversity, a law that your own democratic government carried out? That’s bad juju.

There you have it: Cyrillic is a political act. Ethnic tensions die hard.

Now please excuse me while this quote-un-quote rebel expat (and proud American citizen) takes some time to study her Cyrillic.

*  *  *  *  *

Vukovar protest image. Florida image from

Love Between Serbia And Croatia

A photo showing a young couple kissing, with the boy wearing Serbian and the girl Croatian flag was uploaded on image service “imgur”.

User who uploaded the photo described the circumstances that led to its creation.

“College ‘United World’ in Mostar attracts people of more than 40 nationalities. Located in the town which is still divided by war in population’s subconciousness, he became the symbol of new generation of Balkan nations. This year, a Culture parade takes place to mark 50 years of the movement ‘United World’. We all proudly wore our flags through the streets both on Bosnian and Croatian part of town. My Serbian friend was holding hands with his Croatian girlfriend. When an older lady asked her how she can walk besides a Serb, she kissed him. That’s when I took the photo. It is nothing special really, a couple showing affection, but for us here in Mostar, it is evidence that new generations are not willing to continue with war in their minds”, wrote the author of the photo.

Prime Ministers Of Serbia And Croatia Meeting: Cooperation And Support

After the meeting in Belgrade with the Croatian Prime Minister, Serbian PM Ivica Dacic said that the relations of the two countries are of key significance in the region, and that their governments should cooperate in realizing their goals.

His Croatian colleague Zoran Milanovic said that Croatia supports Serbian European integration and that it is ready to help as a neighbor.

Serbian PM said that he talked with his Croatian colleague about three groups of questions, namely the open issues from Croatian and Serbian past, the economic cooperation and the question of European integration.

Dacic said that it has been arranged for the mutual relations, after certain break, should move in direction of normalization.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said that “Croatia is supporting Serbia on the way to EU, not just in words, but in reality, because that is in our interest. Serbia will have a more difficult job than other, new member countries of EU. We have the experience, and we don’t want to be anyone’s mentor, because we were mentors to ourselves, but we do want to be associates and neighbors”.

Idea Of Proclaiming Franjo Tudjman A Saint Met With Disbelief And Laughter In Serbia

News that Franjo Tudjman (1922-1999), former Croatian president, held by many in Serbia as guilty of war crimes against Serbian minority in Croatia, could reportedly be proclaimed a Saint, was met with laughter in Serbia.

Commentators on news sites in Serbia understood the news mostly as “another provocation from Croatian side after the acquittal verdicts to generals Gotovina and Markac for crimes against Serbs.“

Serbian public also wondered if there is an end to euphoria in Croatia after the acquittal and “whether the Catholic church in that country has something better to do, such as to help reconciliation between the two peoples.”

However, there is still no official statement by the Catholic church in Croatia, and there will most likely not be one, because the entire case of “Holy Franjo” began as a clumsy allegory made by a Croatian bishop who called the first Croatian president “The Great Franjo of Croatia” at one public gathering.

Dacic: Hague Verdict Will Make Reconciliation More Difficult

Serbian PM Ivica Dacic said that the Hague verdict in which the Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac were freed of all charges will have dire consequences for the process of reconciliation
in the region.

“This verdict is not in line with, as we previously thought, the desire of the international community to objectively approach all war crimes and to make all countries face the crimes committed on their behalf through reconciliation process, and clearly say that someone has to be responsible for those crimes”, said Dacic

“Ii is obvious that this verdict has a political connotation. The goal of the verdict was to set Croatia free of the responsibility for crimes committed on Serbs. The reality is completely different, more than 200 000 Serbs were forced out of Croatia and several thousand were killed.” said Serbian PM.

”Is it possible in today’s Europe someone forces out 200 000 and kills several thousand civilians and that nobody is responsible for such an act? To me it seemed like it’s not possible, but now we see that it is,” said Dacic.

Exit Festival Moving Out Of Serbia?

World famous music festival Exit, that has for the past 13 years been
taking place in Novi Sad, city in the north of Serbia, could be moving
to Croatia.

Reason for that is fear that big financial sponsors of the festival in
Serbia could be giving up due to economic crisis.

It is also unsure whether the state will financially aid the EXIT
organization in 2013. Without state’s help, organizers say, it is not
possible for festival to take place.

After organizers warned that the most popular Balkan festival could be
moved to a location outside Serbia, the mayor of Novi Sad Miloš
Vučević came forward with a statement.

He said that the city of Novi Sad will continue the cooperation with
the music festival in the future, but also that he was assured Exit
will have support also on the state level.

The following days will tell if the promised state’s and city’s help
are enough to maintain organization of the festival, which already
would have announced the performers for the next season by now, were
it not for the crisis.

In 13 years of existence, Exit was visited by 2.350.000
festival-goers. Large part of that number was made up by foreigners,
making Exit an important contributor to Serbian tourism industry.

Another 16 Illegal Immigrants Discovered

Serbian custom officers have discovered 16 illegal immigrants, mostly of Tunisian origin, who have illegally entered the country hiding in a car.

The group was hiding in a Chrysler Voyager vehicle that was stopped by a police patrol near the south Serbian town of Vranje.

The immigrants were discovered after a group of vehicles with Italian and Serbian license plates became suspicious since one of the cars moved as if it had been carrying a heavy load.

After the police found the immigrants, drivers of all three stopped vehicles fled the scene.

Serbia often serves as a transit country for people smugglers on their way to the European Union. The police believe the latest group intended to continue its journey through Serbia in order to reach Western Europe through either Hungary or Croatia.

Murderer Of A Minor Sentenced

Dragan Paravinja, citizen of both Serbia and Croatia, has been sentenced for murder and attempted rape of 17-year-old Antonija Bilic.

The Croatian county court in the town of Sibenik sentenced Mr. Paravinja to 40 years in prison.

The court has concluded that Miss Bilic was last seen entering a truck, owned by Mr. Paravinja, on a bridge over the river Cikola, on June 7, 2011. She was later reported missing. The police examined CCTV recordings along the motorway where she disappeared while hitchhiking towards the Croatian port of Split and talked to bystanders who saw Miss Bilic entering a truck. The investigation subsequently led to Mr. Paravinja who was employed as a driver at the time.

The convicted killer was arrested in Bosnia and Herzegovina where he fled after the start of police investigation. After the arrest, he confessed to the crime, but later retracted the confession, claiming it was given under duress.

However, forensic experts found traces of Antonija’s hair, blood and saliva in his truck – the crucial evidence for the outcome of this heavily publicized trial.

The body of Antonija Bilic has never been found. Her family offered to forgive Mr. Paravinja for his crime in exchange for his information on location of the girl’s body, but he refused to divulge any details of the murder.