The Bodacious Belgrade Blog

August 18, 2008

Serbians and the Glorious Capitalist Revolution

Filed under: Uncategorized — bunitingi @ 3:22 pm

I’ve heard the workplace under socialism described the exact same way by several people. It’s as follows:

6 people are at work.

1 is actually doing some kind of work.

The other 5 are smoking and chatting.

All are drinking.

Rakija: A colorless, homemade, distilled alcohol, about %50 (100 proof), usually made from apricots, plums, pears or quinces. Can put hair on your chest and rip it off in the same sip. Drunken profusely by pretty much every serbian in existence.

We have a good friend here, Dika (dee-ka) who is retired, and can definitely put away a healthy and sizeable amount of rakia and wine. He says retirement was the best thing to happen to his drinking, as now it’s mellowed out substantially. When he was working it was much more extreme, as the entire office (he was an accountant) would start pouring rakia from the very beginning of the workday, and drink straight through. This was actually quite typical.

I wonder if this is typical of socialism/communism in non-balkan regions. Certainly capitalist countries drink their faces off, just not at work. When your boss wants his profits to flourish, he tends to not allow this sort of behavior. When no one stands to gain by work being done well or shoddily, it seems it might be more likely for this sort of thing to happen.

However, one thing that’s also different is an insane level of rudeness in any commcercial interaction with most people over 40 here. And if it involves anything official, the people you have to deal with are outright dicks.

Yes, i know the whole american “that damn woman at the DUV” type of rudeness, but this makes that look like Bambi nuzzling your crotch affectionately. We’ve been trying to get me a residency here, only yesterday this guy who we had to talk to to approve this official stamp from america made poor maja cry. (and bonus: he was totally and completely wrong.)

I wonder sometimes if there’s a refusal to bust ass for the system ingrained in serbian mentality as a result of centuries of bitter occupation by the turks. In such a situation where open resistance is punished by severe violence, a stubborn refusal to help the system along becomes a daily form of subtle resistance.

You know, like how those grateful Iraqis are embracing with open arms the big hulking, steaming glob of democratic, freedom pie that their loving and altruistic occupiers are shoving down their happy mouths.

And on the note of living under violent occupation, i ran across a concise history of belgrade which was rather shocking and horrific. Damn, this place gets occupied and overrun more times than a satchel of cash in a crime movie.

Concise history of Belgrade: (According to ‘Belgrade In Your Pocket’)

7000 BC Neolithic settlement established.

279 BC We have the original Belgrade, a small city known as Singidunum, founded by a Celtic tribe. Thus we discover that MY people were actually the first Belgradians. Yay Celts!

86 AD HQ of the 4th Roman Legion Flavia Felix.

395 The Roman Empire splits into two and Singidunum passes to the Eastern Roman Empire. Strategically located on the northwestern border, it is exposed to diverse cultural influences and is a magnet for every aspiring conqueror.

441-827 Invaded and ravaged successively by Huns, Sarmatians, Goths, Gepidaes, Avars, Slavs, Byzantine Empire, and Bulgaria. Slavic tribes colonise the Balkans in the 6th century. Slavs embrace Christianity in 9th century.

878 First mention of the Slavic name for the city – Belgrade – in a letter by Pope John VIII to Bulgarian Prince Boris I Mihail, informing the latter of the dismissal of Bishop of Belgrade for debauchery.

896-1232 Battleground between Hungary and Byzantine Empire, it changes hands eight times. Once seized by Bulgaria and twice ransacked by Crusaders on their way to Jerusalem.

1166 Stefan Nemanja asserts himself as the Grand Prince of Serbs, creates an independent Serbian state and founds Nemanjić dynasty. He is crowned king of Serbs by the Pope.

1219 Serbian Orthodox Church gains independence.

1284 King Stefan Dragutin receives Belgrade from Hungary as a gift – this is the first time that the city passes to Serbian rule.

1319 Hungary reclaims Belgrade.

1346 King Stefan Dušan of Nemanjić house crowned Emperor of Serbs and Greeks. Following his demise, the empire dissolves and Serbian noblemen create their own states.

1389 Battle of Kosovo. Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović rallies Serbian nobility to stand up to Turkish expansion into Europe. Europe celebrates the victory of Christianity because of the death of Turkish sultan and Turkish retreat, but Serbia cannot recover as most of its nobility, including Prince Lazar, perished in the battle. He is succeeded by his underage son Stefan Lazarević, who becomes a Turkish vassal.

1403 Despot Stefan Lazarević receives Belgrade from Hungary, rebuilds it and makes it the capital of Serbia.

1427 Hungary reclaims Belgrade following the death of Despot Stefan Lazarević.

1440 Sultan Murad II lays siege to Belgrade with 100,000 Turkish soldiers and 200 ships. The city endures the siege following fierce struggle.

1456 Sultan Mehmed II besieges Belgrade with 150,000 soldiers. Turks lift the siege when their Sultan is wounded.

1459 Turks conquer the then Serbian capital of Smederevo; beginning of a five centuries long Turkish supremacy over Serbia.

1521 Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent captures Belgrade with 300,000 soldiers, and deports the entire population to Istanbul.

1688-1791 Belgrade successively conquered by Austria and Turkey six times.

1801 Rebel janissaries (Turkish elite infantry, usually Christian boys forcibly conscripted) seize Belgrade Fortress and terrorise Serb population.

1804 Serbian uprising against Turks started by Đorđe Petrović Karađorđe.

1807 Led by Karađorđe, Serbs liberate Belgrade and make it the capital of Serbia. Karađorđe is subsequently proclaimed a hereditary ruler. He founds Karađorđević dynasty.

1813 Turkey captures Belgrade; uprising is crushed; Karađorđe flees Serbia.

1815 Miloš Obrenović leads Second Serbian Uprising. Serbia is offered partial autonomy.

1817 Karađorđe is murdered on his return to Serbia, on orders from Miloš Obrenović.

1830 Turkey grants autonomy to Serbia. Miloš Obrenović is acknowledged as hereditary Prince. He founds Obrenović dynasty.

1862 Murder of a Serbian youth triggers a clash between Serbian and Turkish soldiers which ends in an international treaty bringing the Turkish control over Belgrade to an end.

1867 Turks leave Belgrade. Turkish commander hands over to Prince Mihailo Obrenović the keys to Belgrade Fortress.

1876 Serbian-Turkish war. Serbs liberate southeastern Serbia.

1878 Formal independence of Serbia recognized at the Congress of Berlin.

1882 Kingdom of Serbia proclaimed under King Milan Obrenović.

1903 The May Coup d’Etat. Group of officers styled Black Hand assassinates King Aleksandar Obrenović and Queen Draga Mašin, because their love was unacceptable to people. The house of Obrenović becomes extinct, King Petar I Karađorđević (grandson to Karađorđe) claims the throne.

1912 First Balkan War launched by Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria against Ottoman Turkey. Turks driven out of Kosovo and Metohija, the last occupied part of Serbia.

1913 Second Balkan War waged and won by Serbia against Bulgaria.

1914 Outbreak of the First World War. Austro-Hungary shells and captures Belgrade. After the Battle of Cer, the first allied victory in WWI, and Kolubara, Serbian army liberates Belgrade and drives the Austro-Hungarian army out of Serbia.

1915 Germany and Bulgaria enter the war siding with Austro-Hungary. German and Austro-Hungarian troops capture Belgrade. Beginning of three-year-long occupation and plunder of the city. Serbian army retreats under attack across Albania towards Greece and Corfu Island.

1918 With the breakthrough of the Salonica Front, Serbian army returns to Serbia. In WWI, Serbia had 1,247,000 casualties (28% of its total population). Serbs, Croats and Slovenes unite into one state and Belgrade becomes the capital of Yugoslavia.

1934 King Aleksandar visits Marseille in a bid to strengthen a defence union with France against Germany and is assassinated by Croatian Ustashe.

1941 The 27th March protests erupt against joining the Axis (Germany – Italy – Japan). Following a coup d’etat, 17-year-old Crown Prince Petar assumes the throne. Nazi Germany bombs Belgrade on 6th April. The King and the government go into exile. Emergence of two Serbian resistance movements – chetnicks of Draža Mihailović and Tito’s partisans. Yugoslav territory is divided between Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary and Independent State of Croatia.

1944 Belgrade is repeatedly bombed by the Allies. Tito’s partisans and the Red Army liberate the city on 20th October.

1945 Toll of war is 1,700,000 deaths, chiefly among Serbs. Monarchy is abolished, Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia is proclaimed, and Josip Broz Tito is officially installed in power. In the post-war period, Belgrade grows rapidly and develops into an important centre of political, cultural and sporting life. Crown Prince Aleksandar, son to King Peter II is born in Claridges Hotel in London.

1968 Students’ protests against social inequities and bureaucracy. Soon after, hundreds of thousands of Belgraders at Nikola Pašić Square protest the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia.

1980 Josip Broz Tito dies. Yugoslavia is now governed by “Presidency” comprised of 8 members (6 from the republics and 2 from Serbian provinces).

1991 Ethnic and political divisions lead to the collapse of Yugoslavia. Slovenia and Croatia declare independence, civil war erupts. Crown Prince Aleksandar II visits Belgrade for the first time in his life.

1992 European Community recognises Croatia and Bosnia. Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is proclaimed. UN Security Council imposes economic embargo on Yugoslavia over its support to Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia, who want to unify with the federal Yugoslavia.

1993 The highest hyperinflation in history – a 500,000,000,000 dinar note is printed in Belgrade.

1994 End of hyperinflation, new dinar introduced.

1995 In the aftermath of Croatian war, around 300,000 Serb refugees leave Croatia for Serbia.

1996 Massive protests against Slobodan Milošević over electoral fraud at local elections.

1999 Long-lasting aspirations of Kosovo Albanians to secede from Serbia escalate in violent conflicts between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo. The NATO forces bomb Serbia and Belgrade for three months, without endorsement of the UN Security Council. Slobodan Milošević is accused of crimes against humanity during the wars of Yugoslav succession. In June, following a piece agreement, NATO troops are stationed in Kosovo and Metohija. Around 200,000 Kosovo Serbs find refuge in Serbia.

2000 Slobodan Milošević is ousted amidst huge demonstrations over electoral fraud. Relations with European countries and the US improve.

2003 Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is replaced by State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Đinđić, is assassinated by a criminal clan.

2006 State Union of Serbia and Montenegro ceases to exist. Serbia is again an independent state. Belgrade is named City of Future of South Europe by Financial Times.

2008 With support of the USA and some of the EU countries, Albanians from Kosovo and Metohija province of Serbia declare independence from Serbia. The international community is still divided over this issue – some countries have recognised Kosovo independence, some are against it. Serbian leadership does not want an armed conflict and is striving to prevent the secession of its province through diplomatic and political means. Massive protests are staged throughout Serbia. Around 500,000 people are gathered in Belgrade at peaceful demonstrations and prayer against Kosovo independence, while several hundreds of youngsters demolish and burn the emptied building of the US Embassy.

So there you go. Personally, I find it a pretty impressive list of sackings and invasions. Damn. No wonder this place has such a high chaos element. (and of course, i rather like a high chaos element…)

Lord Chaos

Lord Chaos

Lord Chaos and Master Order exist together in the cosmos. Lord Chaos ask Master Order questions and Master Order attempts to answer them to Lord Chaos satisfaction. Master Order and Lord Chaos created the In-Betweener to maintain the balance of order and chaos within the universe. The In-Betweener planned to maintain a cosmic balance by creating universal insanity.”

Wow. I do sometimes miss being a 15 year old comic book geek. Perhaps this mantel will pass along to my future child! (Just watch, they’ll be a soccer fanatic…)

Until next time…

1 Comment »

  1. I think the words you’re searching for are “soccer hooligan.” That has to be in the blood, I think. Maybe Maja’s?

    Comment by matthew — August 22, 2008 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

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