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Serbia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.7 Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes

Until 2007, Intercultural dialogue has not been a specific issue and / or a priority of cultural or other policies in Serbia. It was mentioned in the discourse of international organisations only, and practised in some NGOs. Therefore, it can be said that the main actors addressing the issue of intercultural dialogue were coming from the civil sector and public institutions supported by international foundations, or, to a smaller extent, from the culture industries. However, the situation slightly changed in 2007, when two working groups were created within the Ministry of Culture: the Commission for Intercultural Dialogue and the Commission for Politics of Memory and Remembrance.

In October 2007, the Ministry for Culture organised the regional conference of ministers responsible for cultural affairs: "The Promotion of Intercultural Dialogue and the White Paper of the Council of Europe", discussing regional approaches to the promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue in Southeast Europe (see chapter 3.4.5). Civil society also contributed to the issue: The NGO theatres, such as Dah Theatre or the Centre for Cultural Decontamination, Cultural Centre Rex, etc. had developed a lot of real intercultural dialogue programmes and projects, from inclusive theatre performances to exhibition projects reviving the life of lost neighbours (Jewish community in Belgrade) or ignored neighbours (Roma community), as well as raising awareness and including immigrant communities (refugees from Croatia & Bosnia). Very often, those projects represented highly innovative hybrid artistic forms: Hamlet – Medea in the Centre for Cultural Decontamination, where classical and modern drama texts had been put in dialogue with documentary performances, based on real narratives of the Roma, and performed by them, while classical dramatic narratives had been performed as contemporary dance; Dah Theatre created: In/Visible City – performed on "bus 26", in December 2005, during a normal bus drive for passengers; and in the summer of 2007, they created the performance In search of the City on the ruins of the National library. Both performances aimed to raise awareness of multicultural Belgrade which is slowly disappearing hiding its multicultural faces behind global billboards and new signs of the post-modern city of consumption.

In the cultural industries, the issue of intercultural conflict, differences etc. have been addressed often, as it has "dramatic" but also "cathartic" aspects. However, it very rarely succeeded in having high artistic results, with the exception of the movies of Goran Pakaljevic, Emir Kusturica, SrÄ‘an Dragojević and Srdjan Karanovic (opening up the issues of intercultural dialogue between Serbian and Albanian, Roma or specific social non-integrated groups like the LGBT community). Otherwise, in popular movies, TV serials (24 Hour Marriage and Mixed Marriage on TV Pink), rock and folk music – in both dramatic and humorous ways, the stereotypes, prejudices and different options are presented without clear critical sensitivity.

Vojvodina represents particular and specific example of multiculturalism in Serbia. Due to the coexistence of languages, scripts, religions and traditions of different ethnic communities in its territory, Vojvodina has become a symbol of protection of diversity in relation to other parts of the country. A public information system, including the electronic media, is performed in eight languages (Serbian, Hungarian, Slovak, Romanian, Croatian, Roma, Ukrainian and Ruthenian). There are professional theatres in Serbian, Hungarian, Slovak and Romanian languages, financed from the budget. Classes are held in national minorities' languages, in more than 120 elementary schools. Therefore, the existence of cultural diversity is supported – but not dialogue between them.

Vojvodina has been facing significant challenges and problems in relation to its cultural and linguistic plurality (there is a history of frequent national and religious intolerance). In order to address these issues in 2005, the Provincial Secretariat for Legislation, Administration and National Minorities developed a complex programme focused on the preservation and development of multiculturality, multilingualism and protection of the rights of national and ethnic minorities living in this territory, in cooperation with other provincial bodies and stakeholders. This programme was based on the research: Communication on inter-ethnic based incidents that happened in Vojvodina in 2003- 2004.

A project entitled the "Promotion of Multiculturalism and Tolerance in Vojvodina" was organised, with the main objectives of contributing to promoting the idea of an open democratic society; and raising awareness of multilingualism and multiculturalism in Vojvodina and representing them as values of common interest. The main characteristic of this programme was that it involved several Provincial secretariats and many partners ranging from research centres, libraries, schools and the media. One of the popular parts of the programme was the quiz for pupils in which they learned and presented their intercultural knowledge while competing for prizes. For that occasion, a publication "How much do we know each other" was produced and disseminated. The Project has covered the organisation and realisation of many sub-projects promoting and building intercultural dialogue in the different areas, as well as by the specific approaches. 

Additional Resources:

Database of Good Practice on Intercultural Dialogue

Key Resources

Chapter published: 17-08-2015

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