Let it shine

Belgrad's diversity

Let it shine

To western Europeans, extreme nationalism and the Balkans have been inextricably linked since the wars of the 1990s. But the reality is actually much more complex. In Belgrade, for example, we experienced so many different facettes of daily life – from nationalist government propaganda, an isolated march of orthodox fanatics to anti-nationalist graffitis on the walls of buildings. We even tasted the fantastic Croatian cuisine in a fish restaurants on the bank of the Danube.

The streets and bridges in Belgrade are still illuminated by New Year’s light ornaments, which are similar to Christmas light ornaments in German cities. However, the New Year’s ornaments in Belgrade shine in the national colors red, blue, and white. Since even February has passed by now we wonder why all that junk is still on display.

The answer is … easy. Belgrade is going to elect a new mayor on March 4. The candidate of President Vučić’s party is the favorite. A taxi driver explains: “Vučić’s party hung the ornaments. For weeks I’ve been wondering when they are finally going to tear it down. Probably only if they win the election. Just think about them loosing … then we will have to live with it forever!”

In Zemun (Belgrade), we visit a small orthodox church, St. Archangel Gabriel. The priest tells us that all travelers and traders coming from the Ottoman Empire across the river Save into Christian Europe used to pass through this church for a medical examination. It’s unthinkable that they had been stopped or rejected. “It was a hotspot then,” says the priest, “people came and went, everyone was moving, that was normal. Why do we call it a refugee crisis when people are moving?”

Foto: © Zorana Mušikić