Reconstructions of Serbian National Identity in the Post-Yugoslav Era: A Thematic Survey

  • Paul Moon Auckland University of Technology
Serbia, history, homogeneity, hybridity, identity, culture, ortodox, religion, nationalism


This paper surveys some of the challenges facing Serbia in reconstructing elements of its national identity following the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Unlike most of the other republics that comprised the federation, Serbia fought to maintain the Yugoslav federation, and so to that extent was the least nationalist of the republics at the beginning of the 1990s.  However, as Yugoslavia disintegrated in that decade, Serbia was forced to reconstruct its identity in ways that reflected the unprecedented circumstances it was confronting.  This paper explores elements of the ongoing process of Serbia’s identity-reconstruction since the 1990s, focussing on notions of hybridised national identity, the influence of historical tropes, and the tensions between cultural homogeneity and the subversive effects of globalisation on this identity. What emerges from this study is that contemporary Serbian national identity has consequently become a dynamic and evolving construct, and is continually being redefined as it responds to internal tensions and external pressures.


Acheraïou, A. 2011. Questioning Hybridity, Postcolonialism and Globalization. London: Palgrave.

Appleby R. S. and Scott, R. 2012. Religious Violence: The Strong, The Weak, and The Pathological. Practical Matters 5: 1-25.

Banac, I. 1990. Political Change and National Diversity. Daedalus 119 (1): 141-159.

Barth, F. 1998. Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organisation of Culture Difference. Illinois: Waveland Press.

Belgrade Pride. 2014. “USPEH: Beograd Prajd 2014 – “Nova Strana Istorije!” 1 October 2014.

Bhabha, H. K. 1994. The Location of Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bieber, F. 2002. Nationalist Mobilization and Stories of Serb Suffering: The Kosovo Myth from 600th Anniversary to the Present. Rethinking History 6 (1): 95-110.
Bilić, B. and Stubbs, P. 2015. “Unsettling ‘The Urban’ in Post-Yugoslav Activisms: ‘Right to the City’ and Pride Parades in Serbia and Croatia”. In Urban Grassroots Movements in Central and Eastern Europe ed. Jacobson K., 119-138. London: Routledge.

Blagojević, M. 2008. Desecularization of Contemporary Serbian Society. Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe 28 (1): 37-49.

Borowik, I. 2006. Orthodoxy Confronting the Collapse of Communism in Post-Soviet Countries. Social Compass 53 (2): 267-278.

Brown, R. J., Vivian, J., and Hewstone, M. 1999. Changing Attitudes through Intergroup Contract: The Effects of Membership Salience. European Journal of Social Psychology 29: 741-764.

Brown, R. 2000. Social Identity Theory: Past Achievements, Current Problems and Future Challenges. European Journal of Social Psychology 30 (6): 745-778.

Brubaker, R. 1995. National Minorities, Nationalizing States, and External National Homelands in the New Europe. Daedalus 124 (2): 107-132.

Brubaker, R. and Cooper, F. 2000. Beyond “Identity”. Theory and Society 29 (1): 1-47.

Buell, L. 2003. “Theorising the National in a Spirit of Due Reluctance”. In Theories of American Culture, Theories of American Studies, eds. Fluck, W. and Claviez, T., 177-200. Tübingen: Narr Verlag.

Burg, S. L. and Berbaum, M. L. 1989. Community, Integration, and Stability in Multinational Yugoslavia. American Political Science Review 83 (2): 535-554.

Caspersen, N. 2008. Between Puppets and Independent Actors: Kin-state Involvement in the Conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Nagorno Karabakh. Ethnopolitics 7 (4): 357-372.

Cirković, S. 1994. Historiography in Isolation-Serbian Historiography Today. Helsinki Monitor 5: 35-40.

Čolović, I. 1994. “Die Erneuerung des Vergangenen”. In Bosnien und Europa. Die Ethnisierung der Gesellschaft, eds. Stefanov, N. and Werz, M., 90-104. Frankfurt: Fischer.

Congressional Quarterly. 2013. The Powers of the President, 4th edn Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Ćosić, D. 1989. “Ima li smisla pristajanje na svaku Jugoslaviju?” In Borba, Belgrade, 13 June 1989.

Danilevskii, N. 2013. Russia and Europe: The Slavic World’s Political and Cultural Relations with the Germanic-Roman West (Woodburn, S., trans.). Indianna: Slavica Publishers.

Demacopoulos, G. E. and Papanikolaou, A. eds. 2013. Orthodox Constructions of the West. New York: Fordham University Press.

Demacopoulos, G. E. and Papanikolaou, A. 2013. “Orthodox Naming of the Other: A Postcolonial Approach”. In Orthodox Constructions of the West, eds. Demacopoulos, G. E. and Papanikolaou, A., 1-22. New York: Fordham University Press.

Dimou, A. ed. 2009. “Transition” and the Politics of History Education in Southeast Europe. Gőttingen: V&R Unipress.

Djuretić, V. ed. 1991. Kosovska bitka i posledice. Belgrade: SANU.

Drezgić, R. 2010. Religion, Politics and Gender in the Context of Nation-State Formation: The Case of Serbia. Third World Quarterly 31 (6): 995-970.

Durham, J. and Godfrey, T. 1993. A Certain Lack of Coherence: Writings on Art and Cultural Politics. London: Kala Press.

Economides, S. and Ker‐Lindsay, J. 2015. ‘Pre‐Accession Europeanization’: The Case of Serbia and Kosovo. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 53 (5): 1027-1044.

Ejdus, F. 2012. “State Building and Images of the Democratic Soldier in Serbia”. In Democratic Civil-military Relations: Soldiering in 21st-century Europe, ed. Mannitz, S., 226-248. London: Routledge.

Eriksen, T. H. 2002. Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives. London: Pluto Press.

Erikson, E. H. 1980. Identity and the Life Cycle. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Evans, A. 2002. Forced Miracles: the Russian Orthodox Church and Postsoviet International Relations Religion. State & Society 30 (1): 33-43.

Fluck, W. and Claviez, T., eds. 2003. Theories of American Culture, Theories of American Studies. Tübingen: Narr Verlag.

Friedlander, J. 1975. Being Indian in Hueyapan, A Study of Forced Identity in Contemporary Mexico. New York: St Martin’s Press.

Friedman, T. L. 1993. “Conflict in the Balkans: Clinton says He’s ready to Hit Serbs Attacking U.N. in Bosnia”, New York Times, 29 July 1993.

Gadgil, M. and Guha, R. 1995. Ecology and Equity: The Use and Abuse of Nature in Contemporary India. London: Routledge.

Gagnon, V. P. 1994. Ethnic Nationalism and International Conflict: The Case of Serbia. International Security 19 (3): 130-166.

Gazeta Express, 14 January 2015.

Gellner, E. 2008. Nations and Nationalism. New York: Cornell University Press.

Gilroy, P. 2000. Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Glaurdić, J. and Vuković, V. 2016. Proxy Politics, Economic Protest, or Traditionalist Backlash: Croatia’s Referendum on the Constitutional Definition of Marriage. Europe-Asia Studies 68 (5): 803-825.

Gonzalez, R. and Brown, R. 1999. “The Role of Categorization, Group Status and Group Size in Mediating Inter-nation Attitudes in the European Union”. Paper presented to the BPS Social Psychology Section Conference, Lancaster, September 1999.

Goulding, C. and Domic, D. 2009. Heritage, Identity and Ideological Manipulation: The Case of Croatia. Annals of Tourism Research 36 (1): 85-102.

Greenberg, R. D. 1996. The Politics of Dialects among Serbs, Croats, and Muslims in the Former Yugoslavia. East European Politics and Societies 10 (3): 393-415.

Greenberg, R. D. 2004. Language and Identity in the Balkans: Serbo-Croatian and its Disintegration. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Griffin-Pierce, T. 1997. When I Am Lonely the Mountains Call Me: The Impact of Sacred Geography on Navajo Psychological Well-Being. American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research Journal 7 (3): 1-10.

Guzina, D. 2003. Socialist Serbia’s Narratives: From Yugoslavia to a Greater Serbia. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 17 (1): 91-111.

Harris, O. 1995. “Ethnic Identity and Market Relations: Indians and Mestizos in the Andes.” In Ethnicity, Markets, and Migration in the Andes: at the Crossroads of History and Anthropology. eds. Larson, B. and Harris, O., 351–390. Durham: Duke University Press.

Hislope, R. 1996. Intra-ethnic conflict in Croatia and Serbia: Flanking and the consequences for democracy. East European Quarterly 30 (4): 471-494.

Hobsbawm, E. J., and Kertzer, D. J. 1992. Ethnicity and Nationalism in Europe Today. Anthropology Today 8 (1): 3-8.

Hobsbawm, E. 2012. Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hobsbawn, E. 1972. “Some Reflections on Nationalism”. In Imagination and Precision in the Social Sciences. ed. Nossiter, T. J., Rokkan, S, and Hanson A. H., 385-406. London: Faber.

Hodson, R., Sekulić, D. and Massey, G. 1994. National Tolerance in the Former Yugoslavia. American Journal of Sociology 99 (6): 1534-1558.

Iveković, I. 2002. Nationalism and the Political Use and Abuse of Religion: The Politicization of Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Islam in Yugoslav Successor States. Social Compass 49 (4): 523-536.

Jacobson K. ed. 2015. Urban Grassroots Movements in Central and Eastern Europe. London: Routledge.

Jansen, S. 2000. Victims, Underdogs and Rebels: Discursive Practices of Resistance in Serbian Protest. Critique of Anthropology 20 (4): 393-419.

Jost J. T. and Sidanius J. eds. 2004. Political Psychology: Key Readings. New York: Psychology Press.

Jovanović, B. 2008. Prkos i inat: Etnopsihološke studije. Belgrade: Zavod za udžbenike,

Jovanović, M. 2013. Silence or Condemnation: The Orthodox Church on Homosexuality in Serbia. Družbosand Cultural Relations with the Germanic-Roman Westlovne Razprave 29 (73): 79-95.

Kahlina, K. 2015. Local Histories, European LGBT Designs: Sexual Citizenship, Nationalism, and “Europeanisation” in post-Yugoslav Croatia and Serbia. Women’s Studies International Forum 49: 73-83.

Kain, P. J. 2007. Nietzsche, Eternal Recurrence, and the Horror of Existence. The Journal of Nietzsche Studies 33 (1): 49-63.

Kapferer, B. 2011. Legends of People, Myths of State: Violence, Intolerance, and Political Culture in Sri Lanka and Australia. New York: Berghahn Books.

Kitromilides, P. M. 1989 “Imagined Communities” and the Origins of the National Question in the Balkans. European History Quarterly 19 (2): 149-192.

Lacan, J. 1978. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis. (A. Sheridan, trans.). New York: Norton.

Larson, B. and Harris, O. eds. 1995. Ethnicity, Markets, and Migration in the Andes: at the Crossroads of History and Anthropology. Durham: Duke University Press.

Lemyre, L. and Smith, P. M. 1985. Intergroup Discrimination and Self-esteem in the Minimal Group Paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 49: 660-670.

Lendvai, P. 1991. Yugoslavia without Yugoslavs: The Roots of the Crisis. International Affairs 67 (2): 251-261.

Leustean, L. N. 2008. Orthodoxy and Political Myths in Balkan National Identities. National Identities 10 (4): 421-432.

Ljubesic, N., Mikelic, N. and D. Boras, 2007. “Language Identification: How to Distinguish Similar Languages?” Information Technology Interfaces, 2007. ITI 2007. 29th International Conference, Cavtet: IEEE.

Mannitz, S. ed. 2012. Democratic Civil-military Relations: Soldiering in 21st-century Europe. London: Routledge.

Mikuš, M. 2011. “State Pride” Politics of LGBT Rights and Democratisation in “European Serbia”. East European Politics and Societies 25 (4): 834-851.

Miličević, M. 2017. Creation and Some Ideas for Classroom Use of an Electronic Corpus of the Dialect of Bunjevci. Едиција ФИЛОЛОШКА ИСТРАЖИВАЊА ДАНАС TOM VII. Belgrade: University of Belgrade.

Milosević, S. 1989. Godine raspleta. Belgrade: BIGZ.

Morus, C. 2007. Slobo the Redeemer: the Rhetoric of Slobodan Milosevic and the Construction of the Serbian “People”. Southern Communication Journal 72 (1): 1-19.

Nossiter, T. J., Rokkan, S, and Hanson A. H. eds. 1972. Imagination and Precision in the Social Sciences. London: Faber.

Oakes, P. J. and Turner, J. C. 1980. Social Categorization and Intergroup Behaviour: Does Minimal Intergroup Discrimination Make Social Identity More Positive. European Journal of Social Psychology 10: 295-301.

Oberschall, A. 2000. The Manipulation of Ethnicity: From Ethnic Cooperation to Violence and War in Yugoslavia. Ethnic and Racial Studies 23 (6): 982-1001.

Ognjenović, G. and Jozelić, J. eds. 2014. Politicization of Religion, the Power of State, Nation, and Faith. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Pavković, A. 1998. From Yugoslavism to Serbism: The Serb National Idea 1986–1996. Nations and Nationalism 4 (4): 511-528.

Pešić, V., Ethnic Mobilization in Serbia: Report for MIRICO: Human and Minority Rights in the Life Cycle of Ethnic Conflicts. Bolzano, March, 2007.

Pesić, V. 1996. Serbian Nationalism and the Origins of the Yugoslav Crisis. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.

Postero, N. 2013. Introduction: Negotiating Indigeneity. Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies 8 (2): 107-121.

Ramet, S. P. 1996. Nationalism and the ‘Idiocy’ of the Countryside: The Case of Serbia. Ethnic and Racial Studies 19 (1): 70-87.

Ratcliffe, P. 2004. Race Ethnicity and Difference: Imagining The Inclusive Society: Imagining the Inclusive Society. London: McGraw-Hill Education UK.

Ristić, I. 2007. Serbian Identity and the Concept of Europeanness. Panoeconomicus 54 (2): 185-195.

Roter, Z. 1989. The Position of Believers as Second-Class Citizens in Socialist Countries: The Case of Yugoslavia. Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe 9 (3): 1-18.

Samardžić, R. 1991. “Für das Himmlische Reich”. In Kosovska bitka i posledice. ed Djuretić, V., 9-14. Belgrade: SANU.

Savich, C. 2017. “Russian Succor for the Serbian Orthodox Church”, Serbianna, 10 November 2017.

Scharf, M. P. and Schabas, W. A. 2002. Slobodan Milosevic on Trial: A Companion. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc.

Sciolino, E. 1994. “Clinton Supports Wider Air Strikes Against the Serbs”, New York Times, 20 April 1994.

Sekulić, D., Massey, G. and Hodson, R. 1994. Who were the Yugoslavs? Failed Sources of a Common Identity in the Former Yugoslavia. American Sociological Review 59 (1): 83-97.

Selbach, C. 2002. The Orthodox Church in Post-Communist Russia and her Perception of the West: A Search for a Self in the Face of an Other. Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft 10 (2): 131-174.

Simić, A. 1973. Kinship Reciprocity and Rural-Urban Integration in Serbia. Urban Anthropology 2 (2): 205-213.
Sobel, R. 1998. Trends: United States Intervention in Bosnia. The Public Opinion Quarterly 62 (2): 250-278.

Spaić, T. 2008. “Kosovski Zavet”, Blic, 22 February 2008.

Stamatović, M. and Zakić, N. 2010. Effects of the Global Economic Crisis on Small and Medium Enterprises in Serbia. Serbian Journal of Management 5 (1): 151-162.

Stedman, S. J. 1992. The New Interventionists. Foreign Affairs 72 (1): 1-16.

Stefanov, N. and Werz, M. eds. 1994. Bosnien und Europa. Die Ethnisierung der Gesellschaft. Frankfurt: Fischer.

Stojanović, D. 2009. “Slow Burning: History Textbooks in Serbia, 1993–2008”. In “Transition” and the Politics of History Education in Southeast Europe, ed. Dimou, A., 141-158. Gőttingen: V&R Unipress.

Stojanović, D. 2017. “Oil on Water”. In Populism the Serbian Way. Belgrade: Peščanik.

Tajfel, H. and Turner, J. C. 2004. “The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior”. In Political Psychology: Key Readings. eds. Jost J. T. & Sidanius J., 276-293. New York: Psychology Press.

Tajfel, H. 1981. “Social stereotypes and social groups”. In Intergroup Behaviour, ed. Turner J. and Giles H., 144-167. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, 30 September 2006.

The Russian Orthodox Church, Department for External Church Relations, “Primates of the Russian and Serbian Orthodox Churches Celebrate at the Cathedral of St. Sava of Serbia”, 16 November 2014.

Trbovich, A. S. 2007. Nation-building Under the Austro-Hungarian Sceptre: Croato-Serb Antagonism and Cooperation. Balcanica XXXVII : 195-220.

Turner J. and Giles H., eds. 1981. Intergroup Behaviour. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Verdery, K. 1996. What was Socialism, and What Comes Next? Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Vlasto, A. P. 1970. The Entry of the Slavs into Christendom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Volčić, Z. 2005. Belgrade vs. Serbia: Spatial Re-configurations of Belonging. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 31 (4): 639-658.

Volčić, Z. and Erjavec, K. 2009. Nostalgia for Greater Serbia: Media Coverage of Radovan Karadžić’s Arrest. Journal of Global Mass Communication 11 (1/2): 24-46.

Vukomanović, M. 2008. The Serbian Orthodox Church as a Political Actor in the Aftermath of October 5, 2000. Politics and Religion 1 (2): 237-269.

Vukomanović, M. 2014. “Ecclesiastical Involvement in Serbian Politics: Post-2000 Period”. In Politicization of Religion, the Power of State, Nation, and Faith, eds. Ognjenović, G. and Jozelić, J., 115-149. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wallerstein, I. 1990. World-Systems Analysis: The Second Phase. Review Fernand Braudel Center 13 (2): 287-293.

Weaver, H. N. 2001. Indigenous Identity. American Indian Quarterly 25 (2): 240-255.

Weinstein, H. M., Freedman, S. and Hughson, H. 2007. School Voices: Challenges Facing Education Systems After Identity-based Conflicts. Education, Citizenship and Social Justice 2 (1): 41-71.

Young, R. J. C. 1995. Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture, and Race. New York: Routledge.