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Despite new digital trends, official statistics show that the number of Library users have increased steadily in the years to 2013.

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Serbia/ 8.2 Cultural consumption and participation  

8.2.1 Trends and figures

The cultural market in Serbia was ruined during the 1990s due to the dissolution of the country, huge inflation rates and decreasing standards of quality of life. The fall of Yugoslavia also meant that audience numbers for cultural industries decreased. An example of this is the decline in viewers of popular movies from 24 million in 1989 (in Yugoslavia as a whole) to 4.6 million in 2000. As the purchasing power of the population decreased, so did the number of buyers of cultural or artistic goods and services.

During the past decade, about 10.6% of the population fell below the poverty line and a further 20% people are barely at the poverty line. There is a difference between poverty levels of the rural and urban population - 14.2% of the rural population and 7.8% of the urban population fell below the poverty line. The Poverty Index in 1995 was 28.9%, in 2000 it was 36.5%, while in 2002 it was 14.5%. Again, in 2012 the index reached 24.6%, meaning that almost 2 million inhabitants live under the risk of poverty. With this index, Serbia scores at the top of Europe's list of poorest countries.

At the end of the 1980s, individual expenditure on cultural goods and services represented 80% of the total expenditure for culture. This, in itself, shows how large the art audience was and how strong and diversified their needs, practices and habits were to participate in cultural life.

In 1993-1994, due to huge inflation (100% daily), the price of an art work, a film or a theatre ticket, became insignificant – both for users and for institutions. The subscription system collapsed – both for tickets to events such as the opera or subscriptions to reviews and journals. Audience development and marketing became senseless.

Step by step, the cultural market is starting to recover. Art collectors are again reappearing, book shops in the provinces are starting to operate again, as well as cinemas, private theatres, etc. But, there is still a certain level of reluctance to recreate or offer subscriptions. One of the reasons could be the following example: in 1993-1995, publishers of many books or journals collected subscription fees, but then failed to send the goods to subscribers and therefore the latter lost confidence in the system. Trust is one of the key "institutions" to be re-established between the state and the population.

Table 13:  Audience and user figures, 2006-2013








Number of visitors

Number of visitors

Number of visitors

Number of visitors

Number of visitors

Number of visitors


1 754 000

1 745 000



2 992 000

2 118 000

Professional theatres

952 000

1 032 000

920 000

920 000

1 055 000

1 018 000

Children's theatres

339 000

402 000

369 000

371 000

136 000

136 000

Amateur theatres

130 000

186 000

120 000

122 000

261 000

335 000

Library (users)


1 367 200

1 133 981

1 369 295

1 466 646

1 500 170


1 767 449

1 457 000

1 945 992

2 376 329

2 402 819

1 214 205

Source:    Office for Statistics, Serbia and Office for Statistics, Belgrade.

Book sales dropped from 26 000 000 in 1985 to 11 000 000 in 2000. Although these figures show more than a 60% decrease, it is important to remember that in 1993-1994, the number was even lower. In reality, the book market has started to regain its importance.

Libraries: Despite the new digital trends, official statistics show that the number of Library users have increased in the previous years from 1 367 200 to just over 1.5 million in 2013.

Archives: the number of visitors and users of archives decreased from 16 907 in 1984 to 8 814 in 2010, due to the fact that archives have stopped organising lectures, courses, temporary exhibitions etc.

Table 14:  Household expenditure for private cultural participation and consumption, in CSD, 2011-2013

Items (Field / Domain)

Household expenditure for culture and recreation in RSD per household member (2011-2013)

% share of total household expenditure









Books; theatre; CD; sports…








17 869*

17 883

19 470*




Source:    Office for Statistics, Serbia and Office for Statistics, Belgrade 2012 - 2014.
*              Monthly average by member of a household.

There is a difference between the rural and urban population level of household cultural consumption. Expenditure on culture and recreation was 5.2% of urban household expenditure in 2013, while it was 3.0% of rural household expenditure in the same year. This situation is mostly caused by a higher level of rural household poverty. In the previous years, there was first a trend towards growing consumption of cultural goods and activities: the average Serbian household cultural consumption grew by over 50% from 2003 to 2008. However, then we see a stagnation or even a decline in cultural consumption up until 2013. In the last years, the difference between urban and rural cultural consumption has also narrowed. In 2008, urban cultural consumption was 2.5 times higher than rural consumption, whereas in 2013 urban households spent on average 2 904 CSD (less than 20 EUR), while rural households spent as little as 1 460 CSD (less than 15 EUR).

Chapter published: 18-08-2015

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