Vladimir Ivosevic contemplates Serbia in this WanderLearn PodcastIn this WanderLearn Podcast, you'll hear from Vladimir Ivosevic, a Serbian who was born and raised in Belgrade (pictured).

To download (right click and "Save Link As..." or "Save Target...") this podcast to listen to it on your MP3 player. Or listen to it here!

{enclose Serbia_WanderLearn_Podcast.mp3}

This 47 minute podcast includes a couple of Serbian songs, including its National Anthem performed by the US Navy band.

Vlad read my articles about my 2004 trip to Eastern Europe. In an email he thanked me for writing objectively about the Balkans.

I'm writing my book on Eastern Europe, I am trying to meet as many Serbians (and other Eastern Europeans) as possible so I can hear all sides and perspectives.

This conversation took place in 2009, so some of the issues that Vlad mentioned about not being able to travel without a visa are no longer valid. In 2010, the EU changed its policy and let all Serbians travel without visas.

Enjoy a map that show's Serbia and its neighbors. Below is an excerpt of my chapter on Serbia.

Serbian villages mentioned in podcast

In the podcast, Vlad mentions three different Serb villages that are worth mentioning. They are:

  1. Salas 84
  2. Guca
  3. Veliki (Big) Grabovski

Are Serbians the least accepting to ethnic and racial minorities?Map of Serbia and its neighbors

Nearly 71 percent of Serbians told Gallup that their area is a “good place” for ethnic and racial minorities. That’s far higher than all others in the Western Balkans that had rates around 55 percent (Albania was 46 percent). Why the disparity?

Before we consider that question, let’s look at Gallup’s Diversity Index, which measures how well a community accepts different racial, ethnic, and cultural groups. The index is a composite score based on a variety of global surveys, including the above-mentioned survey.

The results of the Diversity Index show a clear east-west European divide, with all Western Europeans (except Austrians) scoring above 50 (on a 100-point scale) and all Eastern Europeans scoring below 50, with three exceptions (Finland, Slovenia, and Serbia). Slovenia barely gets by (50.3), while Serbia is a bit more robust (54.8). Serbia’s Balkan neighbors have scores around 42 with Albanians (both in Albania and in Kosovo) generating the lowest scores in Southeastern Europe of 31.8 and 39.9, respectively.

The results of the Diversity Index paints a different picture than the Western media typically draws. According to the Index, in Eastern Europe, Serbians are the most accepting of different people (assuming you don’t consider Finns, who scored 61.6, as being Eastern European). In contrast, Croatians, Bosnians, and especially Albanians, are far less accepting than Serbians.

An alien examining this evidence might come to one of three conclusions:

(1) it’s likely that close-minded Croatians, Bosniaks, and Albanians ignited the Yugoslav Wars by not welcoming the Serbs in their communities;

(2) perhaps the non-Serbs were just as accepting as the Serbians, but by the time the survey was taken in 2010 (15+ years after the wars), that trusting attitude eroded (if so, then why did it not erode as much in Serbia?);

(3) since the Index is based on each community’s responses, perhaps Serbians just like to think of themselves as being more accepting than they really are (and/or non-Serbs are more self-critical than Serbs).

So what’s the right answer?

Like most things in the Balkans: there is no obvious answer. First, it’s foolish to base one’s entire analysis on one Index, even if it does merge several surveys based on thousands of participants.

Second, let’s not forget that while the point difference between the Serbs and non-Serbs is significant and is not a statistical anomaly, it’s not that big of a difference. If Serbs had scored like America (76.1, putting eighth from the top), or, even better, scoring like the most accepting nation of all, Canada (85.4), then we could make a bigger deal about the difference (of course, if that happened, then the Balkan conspiracy theorists would have a easy time arguing that the results were tampered).

Third, the Serbian results only consider Serbs in Serbia, not Serbs elsewhere. In other words, Gallup would file the opinion of Serbs who live in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo under those countries, not Serbia. Therefore, if Serbs in Kosovo, for example, are extremely close-minded toward others, they would drag down the Kosovo index, not the Serbian index.

Conclude what you want, but these results should at least cast reasonable doubt on the standard Western media image of Serbians being evil devils. It should make everyone question that stereotype and consider that perhaps Croatians, Bosnians, and Kosovars bear more responsibility for all the fighting than many Western analysts originally argued.

You're welcome to comment on this article or the Serbian Podcast on my forum.


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