Culture of Serbia – Serbian Culture

Serbian cultural identity has come down as the mixture of the eastern and the western cultural models based on the culture of the ancient Serbs who resided before, during and after the development of the immemorial cultures of the Vinča and the Lepenski Vir in the areas of ancient India, Black Sea and the Caspian Lake, the Baltic, the valley of Mesopotamia, and the northwest and Middle Europe and the Carpathian Mountains, up to the areas of Podunavlje – Danube basin and the Balkan peninsula. Byzantium was specific type of melting-pot and the unique combination of the inherited Roman state organization and legal order, the inherited Hellenic culture, and the Christian faith in its Orthodox form.

“One of the most important characteristics of the Byzantine culture and Christian spirituality is its continuous link with the Ancient culture…. The Byzantines were familiar and studied Platon and Aristotle in their schools that made the culture of the East culturally and spiritually different from the Western culture. The Byzantines used and relied to the ancient records of logic, medicine and physics, but not in the context of religion – the monastic circles were especially careful in regard with the ancient records”. Branka Vranješević, Muse – Divine Wisdom: one Antique motif and its transformation in a Christian context.

Greeks considered the ancient Serbs as Thrakoi, after the first tribe they encountered with around the Maritza river /nowadays Bulgaria/, which was at that time surrounded with the remains of the town of Ras, at the turn between two last centuries. Greeks were unable to express the word of RAŠČANI, or RAŠANI, since they do not have the consonants Š and Č, so the name of Tracani – Thracians remained. The words of Serf, Sirf, Sirfiče, Sirb in the Turkish means ‘people of the same origin and inheritance’, and also the people who are free, brave, combative, vicious, warlike, belligerent or “asij“, which resulted into Sefer or Serber war or combat.

Eleven centuries of the so-called Byzantine Empire significantly influenced the history of the human civilization and also the Serbian Medieval Spirituality, Art and Statehood. Area of ​​the Balkans and the Asia Minor was NEVER called Byzantium, but it was called the Eastern Roman Empire or Roumelia. Among the consequences of the Latin conquest and occupation of Constantinople /Tsarigrad in Slavic/ from 1204 to 1261 there is a striking change in Byzantine sacred architecture in the capital. Even the Turks who conquered Tsarigrad in 1453 named it the White city and this area Rumelia /and never Byzantium/. That story on Byzantium and Constantinople was accepted and started to be pushed by the Phanariots, an association of rich officials, wealthy citizens, merchants, from the Phanar neighborhood who became close to the Patriarchate of Tsarigrad thanks to money. And by bribery they took a position in the Turkish Empire. They considered themselves the original “Greeks”, in fact the descendants of the Achaeans. Thus began the story of the neglect of the Slavic-Serbian majority rural population in relation to the Achaean population, which mostly lived in cities and were civil servants and merchants. With their influence on the Patriarchate of Tsarigrad and their participation in it, they abolished other Orthodox churches in the area of ​​the Roman Empire – in 1766 Patriarchate of  Pec (Peja) in Kosovo and Metohija.

“The floor of the church in Prizren, the church of Decani, the narthex of Pec, the gold of Banjska and the scriptures of Resava are not to be found anywhere.” The Karlovac Genealogy, 1418-1427

However this influence is evidenced in the cultural inheritance of the Eastern spirit – the Orthodox Christianity, Byzantine style of architecture and continued intellectual vitality, Medieval Monasteries, Cyrillic alphabet, and the multiple-centuries of the Ottoman yoke in the Balkan region /several thousands words in the Serbian language come from the Turkish /loanwords/, and the majority of Serbian traditional dishes comprise the modified oriental specialties/. Miroslavljevo Jevandjelje (The Miroslav Gospel) is the earliest and the most beautiful illuminated manuscript of Serbia written in Serbian language in the Cyrillic script, beautifully illustrated with magnificent ornaments and stylistic decorations, written from 1180-1187 in the Monastery of SS Peter and Paul in Bijelo Polje. The Miroslavljevo jevandjelje-Miroslav Gospel has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2005.

Serbs assumed a corporate identity thanks to the historical and cultural memory preserved in the Serbian Orthodox Church and tradition of oral epic poetry.

In 1833 Shafarik determines that the Old Serbian Language was utterly similar to the present, modern language which is rare in the history of languages. He literary says: “In Serbia since the time immemorial …. there besides the church dialect, simultaneously existed an independent educational national Serbian language, which is equal in basic points with the present language”.

In 2018 Singing to the accompaniment of the Gusle is inscribed (13.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In 2021 the Tambouritza Music – Tambouritza practice is inscribed in the National Registry of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. List of elements of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Serbia.

The Serbs should always be conscious and proud for they are descendants of the civilization that provided the manking the literacy, metallurgy, astronomy, science, urbanism, culture, arts, social structure of unity and spirituality.


Cultural heritage of Serbia includes but is not limited to movable and immovable cultural property, including historic and cultural monuments, sites and architecture, whether religious or secular; archaeological sites and artifacts; works of art; manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest; traditional cultural property; as well as scientific collections and important collections of books or archives and the buildings that house them such as museums, libraries, archives, or other depositories. The history of peoples on the Serbian soil has been turbulent from the times immemorial and has left countless traces, primordial words, wise sayings, customs, beliefs, traditions, legends, myths, poetry, vernacular architecture and landmarks that shaped it.

Lepenski Vir in Djerdap Gorge on the Danube River had permanent settlements as early as the 6th millennium BC. Neolithic archaeological sites have been known as the cultures of Starčevo and Vinča. In his book “The mysteries of the Danube Civilization” Harald Haarmann proves that the Balkans was inhabited by the civilization that developed the first written language. Haarmann calls this culture “Old European”. Vinča is the first civilization in World located in Serbia with the Danube civilization script being the oldest writing in the world ever. And the town of Vinča itself was just one of several metropolises, with others at Divostin, Potporanj, Selevac, Pločnik and Predionica…

The Cultural Treasure of Serbia – Tourist Organization of Serbia

There is unbroken continuity of the ancient civilizations here: Serbs, Sarmatians, Ants, Iazyges, Roxolans, Illiryans, Tracians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines… In Gomolava archaeological site on the bank of the Sava River /Srem county in Vojvodina/, there is evidence of the continuity of cultures, from about 5000 years BC till the 16th century. Most important are antiquities from the town of Sirmium, nowadays Sremska Mitrovica. Influences in contact of the cultures of the East and the West are vivid in remains of the Medieval structures, while there are rare examples of the Medieval applied and fine arts and precious handwritten and printed books preserved in the Serbian Orthodox monasteries.

The list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Serbia includes following elements and dossiers which were nominated for the inscription into the UNESCO heritage : prayer – Saint George Day ritual, belmuž – traditional shepherd dish, ritual of making and lighting farmer candles, preparation of Pirot hard cheese, Pirot Rug weaving, the Filigree crafstmanship, the Stonemasonry craft, Pazar meat pie, the Zlakusa Pottery, the Kosovo-style embroidery, Singing to the accompaniment of the Gusle instrument, Groktalica singing, Clamor singing, the Era-style humor, …. There are also the Kolo dance, the Three-steps kolo dance and the Six-steps Kolo dance, the “Rumenka” Kolo dance, Bagpipe playing, the Pipe playing practice, the Kaval playing, the Naive paintings of the Slovaks,  the “Lazarice” processions of the Sirinićka zhupa area, Wooden flask manufacture in the Pilica village, the “Vukov sabor” – Vuk Convocation, the “Ojkača singing’, the “Vranjska gradska pesma” – Urban songs of Vranja and “Čuvanje Hristovog Groba” – the Easter ritual of guarding the Christ tomb, Pirot storytelling, the Sljivovica traditional plum spirit, preparation of kaymak, Rug-weaving in Stapar village, the Cipovka – knowledge and skills in preparation of traditional bread in Vojvodina,… and many other elements nominated to the UNESCO Heritage by the National Registry of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Serbia. The nomination also included the vast documentation which best testify on the significance of the Slava feast – Patron day for the Serb population,  before all as the symbol of unity. The Slava feast ritual consists of pre-Christian, Christianized and Christian elements that all together enforce the religious and the national identity and support the cultural richness and diversity of Serbia.

The Oak is the Serbian symbol of Christmas in Serbia. In the past it was not a custom in Serbia to decorate a Christmas tree like it is today. The Oak tree – Badnjak used to be decorated, and covered with honey and wheat, nuts, dried figs and plums… All those who had disagreement or quarrel during the year, used to make peace to each other on that day when they received reconciliation and forgiveness. In the villages of Serbia is well preserved tradition that the house host goes to the forest early in the morning on the Christmas Eve of the 6th January to cut a oak tree which was considered the symbol of divine power /the name of Badnjak comes from the Old-Slavic word bdenje meaning vigil/. Oak trees were taken into the house in the evening where they were burnt in the hearth along with festive rituals and customs performed by all house members. Early in the Christmas morning comes a special guest called „položajnik“ who mostly was a family friend whose role was to stir up the fire with a poker while speaking special words like: „As many sparks that much hapiness and joy in this house, as many as sparks that much money in the house, as many sparks – that many sheep in the sheepfold…“.

The word fresco is loan word from the Italian language (buon fresco) which describes the technique used for performing depiction in wet morar without any connective appliance. It is used constantly with small changes approximately from 1500 BC until the 18th century. It is interesting that this term was not registered in Medieval Serbia, but there were other terms used in the meaning such as writing on the rock, writing on the columns, interior writing, decoration writing…… The fresco of „Ascension of the Holy Virgin” in the Sopocani Monastery is considered by the scholars as one of the most beautiful frescoes in Europe from the 13th century.

….”Likewise the fusion of the ancient and the Slavic composing elements, similar to the Roman and the German constituents in the development and integration of West Europe, the Serbs possessed the similar cultural and intellectual features in development of their common consciousness by which they have preserved their community and achieved the common identity and longevity”. See more The Serbs  Sima M. Ćirković

And, of course the Christian Heritage of Kosovo and Metohija