For centuries, Serbia’s territory was split between the Eastern and Western parts of the Roman Empire; then between Byzantium and the Kingdom of Hungary; then, in the early modern era, between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Empire. These overlapping influences have resulted in cultural variations across Serbia; the north is more like to Central Europe, while the south is more akin to the Balkans and even the Mediterranean. The Byzantine impact on Serbia was significant, beginning with the arrival of Eastern Christianity (Orthodoxy) in the early Middle Ages. The Serbian Orthodox Church has a long history in Serbia, with numerous Serbian monasteries among the most important cultural treasures left over from the Middle Ages.
Serbia has five UNESCO World Heritage sites: the early medieval capital Stari Ras and the 13th-century monastery Sopoani; the 12th-century Studenica monastery; the Roman complex of Gamzigrad–Felix Romuliana; medieval tombstones Steci; and finally the endangered Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (the monasteries of Visoki Deani, Our Lady of Ljevi, Graanica, and Graanica).
UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme includes two literary monuments: the 12th-century Miroslav Gospel and physicist Nikola Tesla’s significant collection. The slava (patron saint devotion) is on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Ministry of Culture and Information is in charge of conserving and developing the nation’s cultural legacy. Additional cultural development initiatives are carried out at the local government level.
Many royal towns and palaces in Serbia, such as Sirmium, Felix Romuliana, and Justiniana Prima, have architectural traces of the Roman and early Byzantine Empires.
Serbian monasteries represent the pinnacle of Serbian medieval art, with its frescoes and icon paintings. At first, they were influenced by Byzantine art, which was especially noticeable after the fall of Constantinople in 1204, when many Byzantine painters fled to Serbia. Studenica is the most well-known of these monasteries (built around 1190). It served as a model for subsequent monasteries like as the Mileeva, Sopoani, ia, Graanica, and Visoki Deani. The Mironosnice na Grobu (or “White Angel”) fresco from the Mileeva monastery is the most renowned Serbian medieval fresco. In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, an autochotonous architectural style known as Morava style emerged in the Morava Valley region. The lavish ornamentation of the frontal church walls was a feature of this style. Manasija, Ravanica, and Kaleni monasteries are examples of this. The country is studded with many well-preserved medieval fortresses and castles, including Smederevo Stronghold (Europe’s biggest lowland fortress), Golubac, Magli, and Ram.
Serbian art was practically non-existent under the Ottoman Empire, with the exception of a few Serbian painters who resided in territories controlled by the Habsburg Monarchy. Traditional Serbian art, as shown in the works of Nikola Nekovi, Teodor Kraun, Zaharije Orfelin, and Jakov Orfelin, exhibited some Baroque influences towards the end of the 18th century.
During the nineteenth century, Serbian art reflected the influence of Biedermeier, Neoclassicism, and Romanticism. Paja Jovanovi and Uro Predi of Realism, Cubist Sava umanovi, Milena Pavlovi-Barili and Nadeda Petrovi of Impressionism, and Expressionist Milan Konjovi were the most prominent Serbian artists of the first half of the twentieth century. Marko Elebonovi, Petar Lubarda, Milo Milunovi, and Vladimir Velikovi are among the well-known artists of the second part of the twentieth century.
Anastas Jovanovi was one of the world’s first photographers, and Marina Abramovi is a world-renowned performance artist. The Pirot carpet is regarded as one of Serbia’s most significant traditional handicrafts.
Serbia has approximately 100 art museums, the most prominent of which is the National Museum of Serbia, founded in 1844; it houses one of the largest art collections in the Balkans, with over 400,000 exhibits, over 5,600 paintings, and 8,400 drawings and prints, including many foreign masterpiece collections. Other notable art institutions in Serbia include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade and the Museum of Vojvodina in Novi Sad.
The origins of Serbian literacy may be traced back to the Balkan adventures of the brothers Cyril and Methodius. There are monuments of Serbian literacy from the early 11th century, written in Glagolitic. Books were written in Cyrillic beginning in the 12th century. The Miroslav Gospels are the earliest Serbian Cyrillic book editorial from this period. The Miroslav Gospels are often regarded as the most ancient literature in Serbian medieval history.
Saint Sava, Nun Jefimija, Stefan Lazarević,, Constantine of Kostenetsand, and others are examples of notable medieval writers. The late 17th century saw the emergence of Baroque tendencies in Serbian literature. Gavril Stefanović Venclović, Jovan Rajić, Zaharije Orfelin, Andrija Zmajević, and others were notable Baroque-influenced writers. Dositej Obradović was the most famous person of the Age of Enlightenment, while Popović was the most notable Classicist writer, but his writings also included aspects of Romanticism. Vuk Stefanović Karadžić gathered Serbian folk literature and corrected the Serbian language and spelling during the period of national rebirth in the first half of the nineteenth century, preparing the way for Serbian Romanticism. The first half of the nineteenth century was dominated by Romanticism, with the most notable representatives being Branko Radičević, Đura Jakšić, Jovan Jovanović Zmaj and Laza Kostić, while the second half of the century was marked by Realist writers such as Milovan Glišić, Laza Lazarević, Simo Matavulj, Stevan Sremac, Vojislav Ilić, Branislav Nušić, Radoje Domanović and Borisav Stanković.
Miloš Crnjanski, Isidora Sekulić, Ivo Andrić(who was given the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961), Branko Ćopić, Miodrag Bulatović, Meša Selimović, Borislav Pekić, Danilo Kiš, Dobrica Ćosić, Aleksandar Tišma, Dragoslav Mihailović, Milorad Pavić, and ohers dominated the twentieth century. As shown by the works of Milan Rakić, Jovan Dučić, Vladislav Petković Dis, Rastko Petrović, Stanislav Vinaver, Dušan Matić, Desanka Maksimović, Branko Miljković, Vasko Popa, Oskar Davičo, Miodrag Pavlović, Stevan Raičković, and others, there were many great literary accomplishments. David Albahari, Svetislav Basara, Goran Petrović, Vladimir Arsenijević, Zoran Živković, and others are among the most well-known modern writers.
Serbia (excluding Kosovo) has 551 public libraries, the largest of which are two national libraries: the National Library of Serbia in Belgrade, which has approximately 5 million volumes, and Matica Srpska (the oldest Serbian cultural institution, founded in 1826) in Novi Sad, which has nearly 3.5 million volumes. In 2010, 10,989 books and brochures were published. The book publishing business is controlled by several large publishers, including Laguna and Vulkan (both of which run their own bookshop chains), and the annual Belgrade Book Fair is the most attended cultural event in Serbia, with 158,128 people in 2013. The granting of the NIN Prize, which has been awarded every January since 1954 for the finest newly published book in Serbian, is the literary scene’s high point (during times of Yugoslavia, in Serbo-Croatian language).
Theatre and cinema
Serbia has a long dramatic history, with Joakim Vujić regarded as the pioneer of contemporary Serbian theater. The most prominent professional theatres in Serbia are the National Theatre in Belgrade, the Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad, the National Theatre in Subotica, the National Theatre in Ni, and the Knjaevsko-srpski teatar in Kragujevac (the oldest theatre in Serbia, established in 1835). The Belgrade International Theatre Festival – BITEF, established in 1967, is one of the world’s oldest theater festivals and has grown to become one of Europe’s top five. Sterijino pozorje, on the other hand, is a festival that features national theatrical plays. The most significant Serbian playwrights were Jovan Sterija Popović and Branislav Nušić, while famous names nowadays include Dušan Kovačević and Biljana Srbljanović.
Serbian cinema is one of Europe’s most active micro cinematographies. The government actively supports Serbia’s film industry, mostly via subsidies authorized by the Film Centre of Serbia. In 2011, 17 feature films were produced in the United States. The nation has 20 operational theaters, 10 of which are multiplexes, with total attendance surpassing 2.6 million and a relatively high proportion of total sold tickets for local films of 32.3 percent. Modern PFI Studios, situated in Imanovci, is currently Serbia’s only film studio complex; it comprises of 9 state-of-the-art sound stages and draws mostly foreign films, particularly from the United States and Western Europe. The Yugoslav Film Archive used to be the former Yugoslavia’s and is now Serbia’s national film archive; with over 95 thousand film prints, it is one of the world’s five biggest film archives.
Serbian cinema began in 1896 with the publication of the Balkans’ oldest film, The Life and Deeds of the Immortal Vod Karaore, a biopic of Serbian revolutionary hero, Karaore.
Emir Kusturica is the most well-known Serbian director, having won two Golden Palms for Best Feature Film at the Cannes Film Festival, first for When Father Was Away on Business in 1985 and then again for Underground in 1995. Among the other well-known directors are Goran Paskaljević, Dušan Makavejev, Goran Marković, Srđan Dragojević and Srdan Golubović. Steve Tesich, a Serbian-American screenwriter, received the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Breaking Away in 1979.
Serbian cuisine is highly diverse, including elements from the Balkans (particularly former Yugoslavia), the Mediterranean (particularly Greek), Turkish, and Central European (particularly Austrian and Hungarian) cuisines. Food is extremely significant in Serbian social life, especially on religious holidays like Christmas and Easter, as well as feast days like slava.
Bread, meat, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are staples of the Serbian cuisine. Bread is the foundation of all Serbian meals, and it is used in religious ceremonies as well as in Serbian cuisine. Guests are traditionally greeted with bread and salt in Serbia. Meat, as well as fish, is frequently eaten. evapii (caseless sausages made of minced meat that are always grilled and seasoned), pljeskavica, sarma, kajmak (a dairy product similar to clotted cream), gibanica (cheese and kajmak pie), ajvar (a roasted red pepper spread), proja (cornbread), and kačamak are all Serbian specialities (corn-flour porridge).
Serbians claim to be the origin of rakia (rakija), a highly alcoholic drink made mainly from fruit. Rakia may be found in a variety of varieties across the Balkans, most notably in Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Hungary, and Turkey. Slivovitz (šljivovica), a plum brandy, is a kind of rakia that is considered Serbia’s national drink.
Sports are very significant in Serbian culture, and the nation has a rich athletic past. Football, basketball, tennis, volleyball, water polo, and handball are the most popular sports in Serbia.
Sporting federations and leagues organize professional sports in Serbia (in case of team sports). One of the distinctive features of Serbian professional sports is the existence of numerous multi-sports clubs (known as “sports societies”), the largest and most successful of which are Red Star, Partizan, and Beograd in Belgrade, Vojvodina in Novi Sad, Radnički in Kragujevac, and Spartak in Subotica.
Football is the most popular sport in Serbia, and the Football Association of Serbia is the country’s biggest sports organization, with 146,845 registered players. Dragan Džajić was named “the best Serbian player of all time” by the Football Association of Serbia, and more recently, the likes of Nemanja Vidić, Dejan Stanković and Branislav Ivanović have played for Europe’s elite clubs, cementing Serbia’s reputation as one of the world’s largest exporters of footballers. Despite qualifying for three of the past four FIFA World Cups, Serbia’s national football squad has had little success. Serbia’s national youth football teams won the U-19 European Championship in 2013 and the U-20 World Cup in 2015. The two most important football teams in Serbia are Red Star Belgrade (winner of the 1991 European Cup) and Partizan Belgrade (finalist of the 1966 European Cup). The two clubs’ rivalry is known as the “Eternal Derby,” and it is often regarded as one of the most thrilling sports rivalries in the world.
Serbia is one of the world’s traditional basketball powerhouses, having won two World Championships (in 1998 and 2002), three European Championships (1995, 1997, and 2001), and two Olympic silver medals (in 1996 and 2016). In 2015, the women’s national basketball team won the European Championship, and in 2016, they earned a bronze medal in the Olympics. In the past two decades, 22 Serbian players have played in the NBA, notably Predrag “Pedja” Stojaković (three-time NBA All-Star) and Vlade Divac (2001 NBA All-Star and FIBA Hall of Famer). The famous “Serbian coaching school” produced several of Europe’s most successful basketball coaches, like Željko Obradović, who won a record eight Euroleague championships as a coach. The KK Partizan basketball club won the European championship in 1992.
The recent success of Serbian tennis players has resulted in a massive increase in the popularity of tennis in Serbia. Novak Đoković,, a twelve-time Grand Slam winner, was world No. 1 in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015, and he is presently No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. Ana Ivanovic (French Open winner in 2008) and Jelena Janković were both rated No. 1 in the WTA Rankings. There were also two No. 1 tennis doubles players: Nenad Zimonjić (three-time men’s double and four-time mixed double Grand Slam winner) and Slobodan Živojinović. Serbia’s men’s tennis team won the Davis Cup in 2010, while the Serbia women’s tennis team reached the Fed Cup final in 2012.
Serbia is one of the world’s top volleyball nations. Its men’s national team won gold in the 2000 Olympics and has twice won the European Championship. The women’s national volleyball team won the European Championship in 2011 and a silver medal in the Olympics in 2016.
Serbia’s men’s national water polo team is the second most successful in the world, behind only Hungary, having won an Olympic gold medal in 2016, three World Championships (2005, 2009, and 2015), and six European Championships in 2001, 2003, 2006, 2012, 2014, and 2016. VK Partizan has won seven European champion championships, a joint-record.
Swimmers Milorad Čavić (2009 World champion on 50 meters butterfly and silver medalist on 100 meters butterfly as well as 2008 Olympic silver medalist on 100 meters butterfly in historic race with American swimmer Michael Phelps) and Nađa Higl (2009 World champion in 200 meters breaststroke – the first Serbian woman to become a world champion in swimming) are among the other notable Serbian athletes (2012 Olympic gold medalist).
In the last ten years, Serbia has hosted a number of major sporting events, including the 2005 Men’s European Basketball Championship, the 2005 Men’s European Volleyball Championship, the 2006 and 2016 Men’s European Water Polo Championships, the 2009 Summer Universiade, the 2012 European Men’s Handball Championship, and the 2013 World Women’s Handball Championship. The Belgrade Marathon and the Tour de Serbie cycle race are the country’s two most significant yearly sports events.