(Don’t) rejoice, Serbian nation: Who is bothered when the Serbs celebrate

doček košarkaša i Đokovića
Source: Print Screen RTS

The song "Veseli se srpski rode" (Rejoice, Serbian nation) has quickly become one of the anthems of the Serbs, but it has also stirred up an unprecedented storm in the region. The song celebrates Serbian history and sacred places, carrying emotional and spiritual value for many. However, for some, it is seen as a call for annexation and Greater Serbian hegemony, with accusations even reaching the point of calling it neo-Nazi. Kosovo Online's interlocutors consider such accusations malicious and argue that what provokes is, in fact, derived from the title itself—a call to joy and celebration.

The song "Veseli se srpski rode" is performed by the Montenegrin singer of ethnic, spiritual, and patriotic music, Danica Crnogorcevic. It has become a symbol during the protest processions organized by the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro and later echoed at various events, including the reception of the Serbian national basketball team and the world's best tennis player, Novak Djokovic, from the balcony of the Belgrade City Assembly. The song stirred controversy on November 23 at the Davis Cup in Malaga when it played in the background as the Serbian tennis team entered the court. Under pressure, the Davis Cup removed the video of the Serbian team's entrance from its profiles.

Who and why is bothered by the song "Veseli se srpski rode"? Writer and journalist Muharem Bazdulj says that it only bothers those who try to find any opportunity to accuse the Serbs and Serbia of territorial claims over neighboring countries. In his opinion, this is a complete distortion of facts and nonsense.

"It seems to me that people who have raised a fuss or commotion about that song generally have an issue with the Serbs and Serbia. Therefore, they seek any reason to create a distortion of facts and sophistry. I found this idea most prevalent among Montenegrins. Due to the mention of Rumija, which is located in the territory of Montenegro, they see it as some kind of territorial claim by Serbia against Montenegro. This is absurd. We know that about thirty percent of the population in Montenegro are Serbs. So, when Serbian heritage is mentioned, it does not imply that all Serbs live in Serbia. Moreover, there are 100,000 Serbs living in Vienna. In Vienna, people celebrate whenever Novak or a Serbian team wins. It's an attempt to use anything as an accusation against the Serbs. In that text, there is no idea; it simply says 'rejoice, Serbian nation', it doesn't say rejoice, people living within the borders of the Republic of Serbia'. I truly don't see anything problematic in terms of the text and the message of the song", Bazdulj said.

Our interlocutor considers the comments of individuals who see irredentism or chauvinism in this song as malicious. He explains that other nations behave in the same way, and, for example, the entire western Herzegovina celebrates all the successes of Croatian athletes.

"Some Milos who moved to Graz won't necessarily start cheering for Austria. He still cheers for Serbia. Even if he takes Austrian citizenship for some practical reasons, he may still remain a fan of Serbia in sports. The idea that songs that serve people to celebrate some kind of sports success have a deeper political dimension, I think that's misuse and a confusion of terms. But again, I say, there are people known for deep and systematic anti-Serbian activities, so it doesn't surprise me. Tomorrow, they will use a video of children in kindergarten singing 'Boze pravde' to say that it is indoctrination", Bazdulj concluded.

Fedja Dimovic, a member of "Beogradski Sindikat" musical group, also sees nothing controversial in this song and says that the Serbs, like all other nations, have the right to rejoice.

"In my opinion, that song is phenomenal. I love that song a lot, and I don't see anything wrong with it. The Serbs, like any other people on Earth, have the right to rejoice and celebrate and to display their flag wherever the Serbs live. I don't see any Greater Serbian hegemony or any other conspiracy in that", Dimovic says for Kosovo Online.

He explains that whenever there is a celebration symbolizing Serbian unity, such as when athletes' success is celebrated, there is always "some small but loud group of people" criticizing it. He recalls that something similar happened during the welcome reception for basketball players and Novak Djoković in front of the Assembly of the City of Belgrade.

"That song was sung, and 'Beogradski Sindikat' participated. Insults and belittling of that phenomenal and emotional event began. There is regret among some people that this is no longer Yugoslavia, that Belgrade is not the center of the SFRY, that this is Serbia, that we sing about it and our church. I am happy that these times have finally come for us to mention some things without fear and with pride", Dimovic states.

The frontman of "Beogradski Sindikat" adds that, on the other hand, everyone fights for their interests and cites the example of Albania.

"If you look at what the Albanians, especially Albanian lobbyists, are doing, you see their influence in popular culture where they have three or four extremely popular global pop singers. In Drake's new video, one of the most listened-to musicians on the planet, Albanian coats of arms appear, and he personally emphasized Albanian symbols. There is even some rhyme where he mentions Pristina. Obviously, Albanians are contributing a significant amount of money to popularize their idea of 'Greater Albania'", Dimovic believes.

He says that other nations in the region also have their interests and that within that framework, there is a need to attack every Serbian campaign.

"It's not a systemic campaign like in some places here. It's just an individual act, as Djokovic or some other athlete does, so the song is heard because of them. Those bothered by it try to present every Serbian idea as something bad, something nationalist, chauvinistic, racist, genocidal... They lead these campaigns to actually cover up other crimes and the suffering of the Serbs", Dimovic says.

He explains that "Beogradski Sindikat" is often targeted because of national attitudes in their songs and the celebration of the culture and tradition of the Serbs, but they no longer pay attention to it.

Film director and screenwriter Danilo Beckovic says that neither the song nor the lyrics are controversial. However, those who want to find a reason for criticism will find it—many already in the title.

"I think that joy, that invitation to rejoice, is something that provokes because we have learned in the last 20 years that we are not allowed to have the right to joy. That we have the right to apologize, that we have the right to guilt, to a kind of ash-spreading. But the right to pride and joy, I think that's what provokes. On the other hand, it's a song that says: Let the Serbian flag fly. Then it lists cities and places where that flag flies every time those athletes achieve some success. Actually, they didn't lie about anything; they didn't say anything wrong. Indeed, from Prizren to Rumija, the Serbian flag flies with every victory of Novak Djokovic, basketball players, any of our athletes", Beckovic says.

Members of other nations are not even mentioned in the song. On the other hand, historical figures and dynasties significant to the Serbs are celebrated. This, evidently, annoys many, but according to Beckovic, it does not threaten anyone.

"It speaks exclusively about the Serbs, about Serbian lands, and, in the end, about some historical figures - Obilici, Petrovici, Nemanjici. I don't see that any of these dynasties, any surname, is controversial in any way and can be controversial for anyone", our interlocutor explains.

There is no song that would be more fitting for the events where "Veseli se srpski rode" gained prominence because the greatest joy is brought to us by athletes, he believes.

"There is no song that suits them more. It has become one of the anthems of the Serbs. It has become that in a very short time, and it is an anthem that precisely corresponds to what our athletes bring", Danilo Beckovic concludes.