There are more than 20 registered national and ethnic communities in Serbia. Some of these groups are territorially concentrated in certain areas, such as the Hungarians living in Vojvodina and the Bosniaks living in Sandžak. Other groups are more dispersed throughout the country such as the Roma, Haskalis / Egyptians, Tsintsars and Slovenes.
Table 2: Ethnic structure of population in Serbia, 2011, 2002
|Total (2011)||Total (2002)|
|TOTAL||7 186 862||100.0||7 498 001||100.00|
|Serbs||5 988 150||83.32||6 212 838||82.86|
|Montenegrins||38 527||0.54||69 049||0.92|
|Yugoslavs||23 303||0.32||80 721||1.08|
|Albanians||5 809||0.08||61 647||0.82|
|Bosniaks||145 278||2.02||136 087||1.82|
|Bulgarians||18 543||0.26||20 497||0.27|
|Bunjevtsi||16 706||0.23||20 012||0.27|
|Vlachs||35 330||0.49||40 054||0.53|
|Gorani||7 767||0.11||4 581||0.06|
|Hungarians||253 899||3.53||293 299||3.91|
|Macedonians||22 755||0.32||25 847||0.35|
|Muslims||22 301||0.31||19 503||0.26|
|Germans||4 064||0.06||3 901||0.05|
|Roma||147 604||2.05||108 193||1.44|
|Romanians||29 332||0.41||34 576||0.46|
|Russians||3 247||0.05||2 588||0.03|
|Ruthenians||14 246||0.20||15 905||0.21|
|Slovaks||52 750||0.73||59 021||0.79|
|Slovenians||4 033||0.06||5 104||0.07|
|Ukrainians||4 903||0.07||5 354||0.07|
|Croats||57 900||0.81||70 602||0.94|
|Regional affiliation||30 771||0.43|
|Other||17 558||0.24||112 156||2.05|
Source: Office for Statistics, the Republic of Serbia, 2011
The Law on the Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities regulates the ways in which the rights of people belonging to ethnic minorities are implemented. The law represents an additional resource to the constitutional law, which stipulates the rights of preservation, development and expression of ethnic, linguistic or other rights relevant to ethnic minorities (Article 11 of the Constitution) such as:
- the right of national affiliation;
- the right to co-operate with co-nationals in the country and abroad;
- the right to use one’s native language;
- the right to use national symbols; and
- all the other rights and solutions which protect the specificity of national minorities in the areas of special interest to them.
Unique features of this law are provisions aimed at the effective participation of ethnic minorities in decision-making on issues of relevance in government and in administrative matters. The main instrument of their representation and participation are the national councils of national minorities. The following minorities have established their National Council: Albanians, Ashkalis, Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Bunjevacs, Vlachs, Macedonians, Hungarians, Germans, Slovaks, Slovenians, Croats, Ukrainians, Romanians, Ruthenians (Rusyns), Roma, Checks, Greeks, Egyptians, Montenegrins and Jews. National councils representing ethnic minorities are partners and consultative bodies of the government, and their members participate in decision-making on questions of importance to them.
Having acquired autonomy in decision-making, National Councils representing different minorities provide the largest proportion of funds for culture, festivities and events. There is no coherent cultural policy, nor instruments to foster links between the cultures of the minorities and the culture of the majority. Nevertheless, the festivals of ethnic cultures are supported by the Ministry of Culture and Information, as well as the Provincial Secretariat for Education and Culture of Vojvodina (as events with high levels of visibility). One example of this type of activity is the holding of regular festivals of amateur theatre companies by the Ethnic Slovaks. The “Winter Meetings of Slovak Scientists” are devoted to the fostering and promotion of Slovak literature, while the festival “Na Jarmoku” celebrates Slovak arts and crafts.
When it comes to cultural life, apart from the financing of national councils which often have their own calls for projects or give a grant in some other way, the Ministry of Culture supports a number of cultural projects and programmes by ethnic communities from all over Serbia, as part of a special call for projects. Municipalities and the province of Vojvodina have developed their own special programmes for ethnic communities within their territories.
In spite of this important step forward, it must be said that more is being done for the Roma people by artists and activists from the civil sector. This was the case when the City of Belgrade authorities put a fence around the Roma people living around Belville (a sports village for the Belgrade Universiade 2009), to hide them away from the participants of this large sporting event, and dismantled some of their camps. Artists and civil rights activists were there as a corrective factor, supporting the Roma people and campaigning for them to be treated equally to all other citizens. The Roma Museum was opened in October 2009 in Belgrade, as an initiative of the Roma Community Centre, which has a small space of 70 m2.
Within the annual Action plan for the application of the Strategy for social inclusion of Roma in Republic of Serbia 2016-2027 (adopted on 7th June 2017 for the period 2016/17), several aims that are relevant for cultural participation have been foreseen: development of a legal framework guaranteeing social and cultural rights for Roma with recommendations to local authorities; preservation of the Roma cultural identity (with measures related to the engagement of professional educators that are competent in Roma language and culture in schools and introduction of the elective subject “Roma language with elements of culture” in a number of schools); preventing discrimination in all types of public institutions (measures relate to the inclusion of positive content in school text books of different subjects); stipulate research devoted to language, culture and identity of Roma people; endorse publishing in Roma language; raise the cultural standard of the Roma population with specific measure to open Roma cultural centres in communities and settlements with at least 300 Roma. Unfortunately, for many of those measures financial means are declared as: “apply for donations” or “unknown sources in this moment”.