Ethno-Villages: Serbian Disneyland or Guardians of Serbian identity?

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Jovana Markovic

Ethno village Drvengrad

Social, religious, economic, and cultural diversity and complexity can be overcome by referring to common values, norms and behaviors that can be called ‘identity’. When Yugoslavia was under Josip Broz Tito`s leadership, a pan-Slavic identity was crafted through various cultural products. During this period Yugoslavian rituals were created, as the so-called ‘Youth Day’.

After Tito’s death a phenomenon called ‘Yugo-Nostalgia’ appeared. This phenomenon is also related to rural villages, which are considered to be an important part of Serbian identity. In fact rural regions, as in other developed countries, are undergoing a process of abandonment. In the public debate, this is perceived as a loss of identity. After the disruption of Yugoslavia large numbers of people were so distressed and nostalgic, that they started recreating places were Serbian/Yugoslavian identity could be celebrated (e.g. Yugoland). These are the prototypes of Ethno-Villages, the subject of this paper.

The first section of the paper provides a theoretical framework in order to place the phenomenon of Ethno-villages within the debate on identity, nationalism, and architecture. The second section presents some data on Serbian villages and describes utopian representations of them on media and on literary sources. The case of the Drvengrad (Wooden town) ethno-village is described in the third section, showing the uses of identity and of religion in the production of these spaces. The conclusive section identifies nationalism and consumerism as the major forces responsible of the production of these spaces, positioning them within the global trend towards the disneyfication of cities.