Friday, April 22, 2011


I touched on inat in the previous post but it's such an integral part of the culture here that I feel it deserves a deeper explanation.

Inat, pronounced ee-naught, is defined as malice, spite or grudge in my pocket dictionary, but it's more than that. Serbs have described it as the strongest and proudest defiance, stubbornness, and self-preservation -- sometimes at another's expense. Parents chastise their children for it but silently couple that with a bit of pride.

Looking at their history one can sort of trace its origins. Serbs constantly had to fight to defend their land, their beliefs, their religion, and their culture. Under the Ottoman empire Serbs were given the ultimatum of changing their religion or dying and many chose execution. Serbs alive today have also been through a lot. In the '90s they fought a cruel wars with Croatia and Bosnia, 12 years ago Serbia faced 24 days of NATO bombing raids, until 2001 they were ruled by a vicious dictator, and even today Serbs, Kosovars, Bosniaks, and Croats are being tried for ruthless war crimes against each other committed in the last two decades. Sometimes you need some inat and dark humor -- another Serbian coping mechanism -- to get up in the morning.

There's a Serbian saying nadam se da komšijina krava umire, I hope that the neighbor's cow dies. The neighbor is a fellow Serb, but the saying postulates that within the past 100 years his family wronged or offended your family and still today you hold the grudge against them.

Obviously this complicates the relationship Serbs have with their neighbors and any people or country which wronged them because Serbs will not be the first to forgive or forget at all. At the same time it holds the country together when the opposing force is another nation and every citizen has been wronged by it.

There are a few idioms and sayings that I've jotted down to share so this is just the first of such posts!

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