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The Wealth of Diversity Project in Serbia’s Ethnic Villages

  • Biljana Marceta
  • 18 August 2011

In the province of Vojvodina and part of eastern Serbia, an area where tourism has yet to be tapped to its full potential, an undertaking called the Wealth of Diversity project has been set in motion. Coupled with the warm-hearted, friendly, open nature of the unique diversity of people who live there, the project guarantees visiting tourists a special multicultural experience and hopes to help generate vital revenue in the hosting small villages.

Serbia Danube Diversity Velebit

Guests of the Wealth of Diversity project in Serbia can enjoy the warm hospitality and traditional cooking in Velebit, a village in the northern Backa plain with a Serb population that emigrated from Croatia. It is surrounded by villages with Hungarian populations. Photo courtesy of Katarina Paunovic

Origins of Diversity on the Pannonian Plain

In the Danube region of Serbia, the land’s original inhabitants are, generally speaking, newcomers. Until just 300 years ago, the region was a sparsely populated swampland. The Pannonian Plain, which bordered the left bank of the Danube River, was 80 percent covered by water and unsuitable for human habitation.

Then, during the time of the expanding Ottoman Empire, the ruling Austro-Hungarians chose to reinforce their defenses against the encroaching Turks by launching the most ambitious project of its time in Europe. They built a system of channels through the Pannonian Plain and settled it with people from all over Europe.

Serbia Danube Diverstiy Belo Blato

Belo Blato is a village in Banat, Serbia, with around 1400 inhabitants of Slovak, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Serb origin, as well as 16 other ethnicities. The villagers talk each other in four languages. Photo courtesy of Katarina Paunovic

In addition to the Hungarians, Serbs, Romanians and, to a lesser extent, other peoples who had already lived here for several centuries, the newly inhabitable land was colonised by Danube Swabians, Slovaks, Czechs, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Spaniards, Italians, French, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Slovenes, and Serbs and Croats from Slavonia, Dalmatia, Bosnia and other parts of the Balkans. Bulgarian Catholics, Roma and numerous other smaller ethnic communities have also found refuge here since then.

A Tourism Treasure

Today these groups – more than 25 different ethnic communities with six languages in official use (a number exceeded only by the European Parliament) and numerous religious communities – constitute the indigenous population of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, which enjoys a high degree of independence in Serbia.

Serbia Danube Diversity carriage

Ruski Krstur is a village in Serbia where Rusyns live. Rusyns are an ethnic community that usually inhabits areas of Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. They came to Vojvodina in the 18th century. Today tourists can enjoy a traditional horse-drawn carriage ride through the village. Photo courtesy of Perica Lukovic

Nowhere in Europe are there so many different peoples living in such a small region. Although the cultural wealth is made possible by their peaceful coexistence – an intertwining, mutual respect and acceptance – the different communities cultivate their unique traits in an effort to preserve their national identities. It is this wealth of diversity that has been identified as the region’s greatest asset in promoting tourism.

The Wealth of Diversity project was therefore launched at the initiative of the Magelan Travel Agency DMC and is being implemented by the Istar 21 Danube Tourism Cluster in cooperation with the government of the Province of Vojvodina. The goal of the project is to spotlight multiculturalism in the Danube region as a unified tourism product on the world market and lend this part of Serbia a recognisable brand.

Serbia Danube Diversity Deronje

Dancers perform in Deronje, a village populated with Serbs and Gypsies who have gained worldwide fame as tamburica players. This village hosts the largest festival and competition of tamburica orchestras. Photo courtesy of Katarina Paunovic

A Promising Project for Local Villagers

The Wealth of Diversity project identifies villages that best represent the ethnic mix in Vojvodina and the Danube region. Through the creation of tourism-driven market opportunities, the project will create conditions for the employment of women, young people and people on the margins of society.

Guests can enjoy traditional houses, crafts and local food, as well as rich folk-dance and musical programs, horse-and-coach rides, bike and boat tours and participation in the preparation of traditional produce. Villagers are encouraged to create authentic souvenirs and local food specialties.

Serbia Danube Diversity Stara Moravica

In the village of Stara Moravica, the majority of the population declare themselves as Hungarians. However, their forebears are Kumans, nomadic people of Turkish origin who came to the Pannonian Plain in the 12th century from Central Asia. Photo courtesy of Biljana Marceta

The Wealth of Diversity project also involves training the local population that will be involved in providing tourism services. It will be essential to raise the quality of these services to a level that meets contemporary tourist expectations and, through modern technologies (a website, mobile apps and social networking), make promotional information accessible.

The local population, which has increasingly been abandoning the villages for better opportunities elsewhere, places great hope in the Wealth of Diversity project. Here, a multiculturalism unique in Europe can be promoted, and the survival of these communities is made possible.

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One Response to “The Wealth of Diversity Project in Serbia’s Ethnic Villages”

  1. Ka'a says:

    Serbian customs, including some centuries old rituals and ceremonies that have been only slightly changed during the course of time, still have almost the same strength and importance. http://www.serbia.com/ethnocultural-heritage-of-serbia-ancient-rituals/

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