A week has been plenty of time for Serbs to reflect on the feelings of national pride awoken and affirmed by Marija Serifovic�s sensational win in Helsinki. For years the pariah state in the shadow of the Yugoslav wars, Serbs have found it difficult to reconcile themselves to a damaged reputation at home and abroad; winning the Eurovision Song Contest might just be the balm that millions of ordinary Serb citizens were in need of. This hope is reflected in the words of countless Serb bloggers this week.
Bloggers across the Internet have reflected the sense of reborn pride, and are brimming with new hope for a brighter international future for the country, where the people need no longer feel ashamed to call themselves Serbs and be proud. Organising the contest, for a start, will give the country a chance to promote itself in a completely different light from the news reports of the 1990s that still colour the country for many TV viewers and newspaper readers in the West. “I consider this a great chance for positive PR of our country” writes Gorana Secibovic, continuing “in the Norwegian media, Serbia is mentioned only in relation to Mladic, Nikolic, Kosovo and the mass graves around the region. Just a few days ago, a Norwegian lady asked me if the army preserves the peace on Serbian streets, if military vehicles are patrolling around.” Belgrade 2008 will give the nation a fighting chance, at least, to right some of the wrongs committed against it in wider European attitudes.
It feels good to be a Serb
Milosrdni Andrjeo reflects the hopeful mood: “here’s a chance for Serbia to show itself off in a bright light next year” whilst blogger Trotter sums up the people’s joy similarly, with thanks to the woman who brought the opportunity home: “thank you Marija for promoting my Serbia this way!” Maja is more explicit in just what the singer has allowed for her personally: “she managed to show me again how it feels good to be a Serb” writes the blogger.
Next May, thousands of foreign journalists and fans will flood the capital for two weeks, creating a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reaffirm everything which is good about Serbian culture to the World. Neven Andjelic sums this up: “those who decide to visit Belgrade will obtain, I hope, a more positive picture of Serbia, about Belgrade, because they have a lot of prejudices against us, taking into account all the events of the 1990s.”
The East is on the rooftop of Europe
But what of the cries from the West of diaspora voting and neighbourly exchanges? Andjelic gives his own take on the phenomena, turning the tables and placing the blame squarely on the West for creating volumes of people traffic across the continent, with the East simply biting back. “The West wanted to create vast diasporas out of the East Europeans, so now the diasporas are voting for their own. The East is on the rooftop of Europe. Deservedly” he claims. This year’s contest is a “success for democracy”.
Surely, there could be fewer countries more in need of a regeneration of reputation and confidence than Serbia in the contest, and the benefits are all there for the taking. “Let’s take this opportunity to improve our reputation in the World” are the words of Glavna Strana, echoing fellow bloggers, although with the more practical – and perhaps slightly cynical – observation that “now, big money will pour into Serbia because Eurovision is a commercial festival – our government should plan how to cash in on this ‘kitsch parade’ as best as it can and invest the money in renewing the culture and alternative music scene in Serbia.” Cynicism or not, this view cements the contest as one of the most important cultural events in the European calendar, and one whose benefits should not be so easily overlooked. All the opinions expressed by these Serb bloggers from all over Europe confirm that the impact of the contest is a force to be reckoned with – and potentially, a hugely positive one for all concerned.
This article was written thanks to sources from Zeljana Grubisic (Southeast European Times) and Ljubis Bojic (Global Voices).