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

5.000 Skiers Daily At Kopaonik

One of the most popular (and most expensive) mountains in Serbia, Kopaonik, is the place to be for all passionate skiers this January as well. Due to snowfall, but also because all paths are equipped with artificial snow systems, up to 5000 skiers enjoy skiing on the mountain every day.

All chair-lifts and cable-cars are operational, to skiers’ delight, and the most popular paths are still Karamen Greben and Panicev vrh, providing the most beautiful view on all of Kopaonik.

Price of accommodation at Kopaonik goes from 20 euros per day per person in small family owned apartments to over 100 euros in the most expensive hotels.

Renting of ski equipment did not rise this year, so the skis, shoes and poles could be rented from 500 (4 euros) dinars per day (on the outskirts of Konak), but the average price in the ski center itself is 700 dinars (6 euros). Six-day ski-pass for children costs 7,340 dinars (65 euros), and 10.710 dinars (90 euros) for adults.

Serbian Police Embarrassment Caught On Film (Video)

Video footage showing a Serbian police vehicle having problems moving on snow because it doesn’t have appropriate winter tires raises the question of how well the Serbian police is equipped. If this is the case with cars, then what is the situation with weapons, wondered viewers of the video clip on Youtube.

“A whopping 90 percent of police vehicles is breaking the law by driving with summer tires on, and the official vehicles do not have obligatory extra equipment: first aid kit, emergency triangle, snow chains, car pulling rope”, warned Serbian police workers’ union.

“Technically defective vehicles with summer tires represent a threat to personal safety of the driver – police officer. In that way, they also threaten safety of citizens who expect help from the police or firemen,” the union representatives said. They claim that, besides the police, also the fire brigade vehicles, which are the responsibility of the same Ministry, do not have the necessary winter tires.

However, the traffic police is performing rigorous controls these days whether drivers have all four winter tires as they are required to by law. Those drivers who do not have the appropriate tires are fined.


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In the recent decades, Kopanik Mountain has established itself as the top Serbian winter ski resort. Situated 2017 m above the sea level, it provides as many as 24 ski lifts and 70km-long ski slopes, adapted to all levels of skiing skills. With 200 sunny days per year and the average of 160 days with snowfall, Kopanik guarantees a long and vibrant skiing season. The mountain’s nightlife is equally rich with nighttime skiing, various nightclubs, cafes, restaurants and pubs offering good music and tasty local cuisine.

With its modern hotels and luxurious rest houses and cottages, Kopaonik has earned the title of the hot spot for the Serbian elite. Apart from Serbian A-listers, it attracts local businessmen, as well as foreign diplomats and dignitaries. The recent boom of Kopanik’s business oriented tourism led to its latest nickname – Serbian Davos.

However, the tourist season does not die down during the summer.  With its sublime landscape, well organized hiking paths, numerous well-equipped tennis courts and other sport facilities, Kopaonik proves to be an ideal summer hideaway from increasingly scorching Balkan heat. Its microclimate and wildlife have been protected by the state since 1981.

Summer is also the ideal time for wine connoisseurs to visit the nearby Zupa area and its wine route. History lovers can explore the Valley of Serbian Medieval Kings, which runs along the river Ibar dotted with gems of the national ecclesial medieval architecture. The true jewel in the crown of Serbian medieval monasteries is the burial cathedral of the Nemanic dynasty, built in the 12th century within the grounds of the Studenica monastery. The monastery of Gradac is yet another masterpiece with its unique mix of Gothic and Byzantine architecture. No tourist should leave this region without having a splash in the hot springs of the Josanica river, a visit to a true oriental bazar in the town of Novi Pazar, a tour to Spocane and Zica monasteries or, finally, without pausing for a moment at the ancient monastery of Stara Pavlica, built in the 5th century, which towers over the Ibar river valley.



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Zlatibor Mountain has always managed to retain the crown of the most popular both summer and winter resort in Serbia. The mountain was named after its rich and tall golden pines. Most of the Zlatibor Mountain is situated on a 1000-m high weald bordered by the rivers – Djetina, Uvac, Susica and Rzav, the latter being the most attractive of the four.

According to local tourism experts, it was Serbian king, Aleksandar Obrenovic, who approved the idea that Zlatibor should be turned into a spa and resort during his visit to the mountain in 1893. Today, Zlatibor can host up to 14 thousand tourists with its 10 hotels, dozens of luxurious villas for rent, numerous restaurants and cafes. Apart from numerous sport facilities, the resort provides open and closed pools, ski lifts, gyms, lake-beaches, as well as a paragliding training program.

Situated midway between Belgrade and Montenegrin coast, Zlatibor is a unique meeting-point of Mediterranean and Central European wind currents. The mountain’s dry and ionized air has been proven to help convalescence periods after serious lung, heart and thyroid gland diseases. It is also a perfect place to boost one’s blood count or lose weight by following the renowned diet and exercise program at the Cigota Medical Centre.

Rich with pine-trees, Zlatibor landscape has been doted with Serbian traditional log cabin churches for centuries. Recently, the world famous film director, Emir Kusturica, has constructed the whole log-cabin village of Mokra Gora, which hosts an international film festival and workshops each summer.

The village of Sirogojno offers a unique insight into Serbian long and rich knitwear tradition. The region is famous for its arts and crafts that are put on display during an annual local fair.

Zlatibor is easily accessible with good roads and frequent bus links from Belgrade in the north, Nis in the south and nearby town of Uzice. However, one cannot leave the most famous Serbian mountain before tasting its delicious prosciutto and kajmak, nor without hiking to the Gostilje waterfall and visiting the nearby 14th century monastery of Mileseva and its masterpiece – “White Angel” fresco – the first satellite image sent from Europe to the US.