Jasmina Tešanović: Christmas in Serbia

(Essay by Jasmina Tešanović, photoshop by Oibibio)

Since December 20th, 2007, ever-smaller Serbia is surrounded by the ever-larger European Union. Nine countries have joined - bringing to 24 the number of nations to have abolished internal passport controls.

The latest wave of members includes eight former communist states, and Malta.

Switzerland will become the 25th Schengen country when it joins next year.

The enlarged free-travel area encompasses some 400 million people - 30 percent more than the population of the U.S.

This wall is called Schengen, imposed against the Others in the region who will not comply with the standards emanating from Brussels. Every state around Serbia has come to make its peace, more or less, with the huge fact of European soft-power. Serbs do not comply.

The negotiations in Vienna about the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo have clamorously failed, yet again. The province is threatening to proclaim a unilateral independence from Serbia, which will likely be recognized by every state in the EU except for Cyprus. Serbia is declaring that it will fight to the bitter end for its ancient heritage, although Kosovo is currently inhabited by a 90 percent Albanian populace.

The Serbian president Boris Tadic just returned from the US where he sought the understanding of Condoleezza Rice. God knows why.

The Russians, with their newly assertive and deeply nationalist policy, are busily buying up Serbia with their boom in oil funds. Serbia as an economic and diplomatic pawn within EU territory would be very handy for Russian intrigues and wonderfully painful for everyone else including Serbs.

With its own clamorous failure in the negations in Vienna, the European Union timorously hands over a European problem and a fractious chunk of European territory, back to the planet's violently assertive power players: Russia and the US.

European reluctance was symbolized last week in Vicenza, Italy, where a big anti-NATO rally was held. Vicenza holds a major airbase from which NATO, in 1999, launched the (mostly American) warplanes that bombed a European state for the first time since 1945.

This holiday season, Serbia will observe the New World Order's consumer rite of Christmas, then perform the pagan ritual of New Year, when people hit the streets, flinging firecrackers and firing weapons into the sky in a storm of resolutions, wishes and kisses before the Serbian Orthodox Christmas.

The upcoming presidential elections in January 20th 2008 will show supposedly what small Serbia has decided for its own fate: to become European, Russian or American. In reality, Serbia stands decoratively armed as the banana republic of Ruritania, a frozen-conflict in love with melodramatic national notions from a historical pulp novel, with its own rules and edicts, which it flings into the teeth of a disbelieving world. The world does not comply with Serbia.

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Jasmina Tešanović is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Her blog is here.

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Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:

- Neonazism in Serbia
- Korea - South, not North.
- "I heard they are making a movie on her life."
- Serbia and the Flames
- Return to Srebenica
- Sagmeister in Belgrade
- Jasmina Tešanović: What About the Russians?
- Milan Martic sentenced in Hague
- Mothers of Mass Graves
- Hope for Serbia
- Stelarc in Ritopek
- Sarajevo Mon Amour
- MBOs
- Killing Journalists
- Jasmina Tešanović: Where Did Our History Go?
- Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide
- Carnival of Ruritania
- "Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
- Faking Bombings
- Dispatch from Amsterdam
- Where are your Americans now?
- Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
- Slaughter in the Monastery
- Mermaid's Trail
- A Burial in Srebenica
- Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
- To Hague, to Hague
- Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties
- Floods and Bombs
- Scorpions Trial, April 13
- The Muslim Women 
Belgrade: New Normality
- Serbia: An Underworld Journey
- Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
- Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
- Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
- The Long Goodbye
- Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
- Slobodan Milosevic Died
- Milosevic Funeral


  1. Very pretty, in a weird, altered reality sorta way. I guess little lights make almost everything look better.

  2. “This wall is called Schengen, imposed against the Others in the region who will not comply with the standards emanating from Brussels. Every state around Serbia has come to make its peace, more or less, with the huge fact of European soft-power. Serbs do not comply.”

    A quibble, but as JT says in the paragraph before this:

    “Nine countries have joined – bringing to 24 the number of nations to have abolished internal passport controls.”

    Rewind to say 1960. You needed a passport to travel from pretty much any European country to any other one. Schengen agreement allows travel without passports between signatories. So the borders between those EU/Schengen countries are disappearing; it’s nothing new that you need a passport to travel to/from Serbia to, well, anywhere else as far as I know. So it’s not a wall around Serbia (though of course it has changed a lot in the last decades.)

  3. For the life of me, I can’t grasp a central point to this. It’s a very artsy essay, but rambly, and with no clear message.

    Outside of wanting us to hand her a stapler so she can staple her hand to her forehead in horrible tortured angst, what was the point of this?

  4. 2 IMIPAK:

    The problem which you apparently do not catch is not that a national of one European country needs a passport to travel to another European country. Schengen wall around Serbia and, as in my case, Ukraine, is constructed by the requirement of visas, which are expensive and hard to get for normal citizen. It is very psychologically uncomfortable to have to travel 600 km eastwards from Lviv to Kyiv, bring lots of dumb documents, answer even more dumb interview questions and only then be “kindly allowed” to travel the same distance westwards.

  5. Hypcrts. Srbs r gn plyng thr fvrt gm: “prtndng” t b vctms whl t th sm tm prssng thr smllr nghbrs. Stp prtctng yr gncdl mrdrrs lk Mldc, th btchr f Sbrnc. Srrndr hm t th N wr crms trbnl & lt Ksv vt frly fr thr ndpndnc. Myb thn th cvlsd ntns wll jdg tht y r wrthy f jnng s.

  6. Just like many Christians in the United States — they are always the victims in their own eyes while they dominate the polity and insist that everyone honor their God and their awful strictures on medical progress, “morality,” etc.

    (This doesn’t refer to all Christians, but is emblematic of the religious right.)

  7. Some of the links for the previous articles are not working.

    Also, I can’t seem to understand what the author’s view on this matters are. Does she, for example, think that Kosovo should remain in Serbia ?

  8. That picture is neither a photoshop, or even in Europe.

    I’m stationed in South Korea, and that is a tank out in front of the 1/72nd Armor Battalion (First Tank!) of the 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey, South Korea. I just passed it yesterday, it’s all tarted up with Christmas lights. Nothing ‘shopped about it.

  9. Since boingboing seems to enjoy editing my post to remove all vowels & thus make it unintelligible, let me repost it again:

    Hypocrites. The Serbs are again playing their favorite game: “pretending” to be victims while at the same time oppressing their smaller neighbors. Stop protecting your genocidal murderers like Mladic, the butcher of Sebrenica. Surrender him to the UN war crimes tribunal & let Kosovo vote freely for their independence. Maybe then the civilized nations of Europe will judge that you are worthy of joining us.

  10. Schengen is not the same as the EU. Schengen includes countries not in the EU and, though all EU countries have signed the Schengen agreement, not all have implemented it. You still need a passport to go from Ireland or the UK to another EU country.

  11. While I do understand that an argument may be made that agreements and mutual understandings between a group of countries may be seen to erect higher walls between those countries and neighbouring countries that are not invited to participate, nevertheless Serb citizens, although required to obtain a Schengen area visa, may visit more countries on a single visa (a visa issued by, say, the Austrian embassy in Belgrade is usually valid for the whole of the Schengen area, unless there are special reasons to limit the validity of the visa), than before the expansion of the Schengen area. Schengen unification also means that a Serb that desires to visit several West European countries does not have to go down the whole block of embassies in order to apply for national visas at each embassy.

    Furthermore, a Serb citizen with a residential visa in one of the Schengen countries, for example a work permit in Germany, may visit all the Schengen countries without a visa, as long as he or she brings a valid passport with a Schengen area residence sticker.

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