Београд је свет

 

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Photograph: Darko Vojinovic/AP

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The people of Serbia are no strangers to social movements. From the student-led protests in 1996 to the Bulldozer Revolution in 2000 to the protests and sit-ins of today, Serbians have come together to protect what they think is important using any means that they can.

During our time in Serbia, we were able to meet the organizers of two different movements taking root in Belgrade. Both had a similar goal: to not allow Belgrade’s commercialization to destroy its history and culture. One sought to achieve this by occupying theatres that had once hosted independent movie makers and cinephiles. Having fallen into a state of disrepair, these theatres were nothing but empty halls void of the cheers and laughs that had filled them in the past. Their real estate was tempting for many a buyer though. These theatres would be reduced to nothing more than supermarket chains and clubs. A group of young adults in Belgrade took it upon themselves to occupy the theatres and restore them to their former glory before this happened to them.

Another group in Belgrade had different means but a similar goal. Along with the development of Serbia economically came the interest of outside investors. The bank of the Sava River was a prime place for these investors to set their sights upon. Rallied behind the symbol of a duck, this group in Belgrade has sought to protect the historical and aesthetic features of this land along the river from the impeding commercialization.

Times have changed, but the people have not. The people of Belgrade still believe in the power of coming together and forming a movement. From revolutions to protests to sit-ins, the purposes and means have changed, but I doubt that the emotions that tie them together will ever really change.