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origin of the name Serbia is unknown, but most likely comes from the old Slavic
word serb, which means "same." Other theories say the name comes
from the Indo-European word ser, meaning "watch over" or "protect";
or the Iranian word srbi, meaning "freeman."
Srbija / Сербия
Serbia is a country that has changed direction, focus, and power multiple times
and with these changes the culture and lifestyle of the people have also changed.
A big reason for these many changes is the country's location, which has split
it between east and west; plus the mountainous landscape has divided the people,
allowing some introductions to stay and others to never arrive.
Reaching back to the Roman and Byzantine Empires, the lands of modern day Serbia
fell under the control of the east, including the Byzantine Empire. The lands of
modern day Serbia essentially fell on the border and most of the country's neighbors
to the west and north fell under the rule of the west. When the Slavic people established
themselves in the region, they were divided by this shift and the most noticeable
difference between these people today comes in the form of religion; Serbia remained
tied to the east and converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and remains so today, although
most of their western and northern neighbors clung to Catholicism.
Despite the religious differences, the Serbs had many cultural ties to the other
people from the region and remain tied to these people today. These people are arguably
the same in terms of ethnicity and language, although many locals argue these points.
Despite the similarities, it was religion that most obviously divides the people
and hence is among the strongest identifying features for the people of Serbia and
the Balkan Peninsula today, even if religious services are rarely attended by the
majority of the population.
The similarities in the Balkan Peninsula are also magnified due to Serbian dominance
over the region during a couple stretches of time. The Serbs dominated the region
politically and spread their influence to neighbors as numerous cultural aspects
were exchanged, not to mention the movement of ethnic Serbs who later lived throughout
much of the peninsula. However, foreign invasions, particularly from the Ottoman
Turks and Austrians, and later foreign rulers changed the culture, but also magnified
Serbian pride led to a distinct culture that magnified the culture's individual
traits and what makes the culture unique. This led to conflicts with foreign rulers
and the eventual assassination of the Austrian Archduke and the beginning of World
War I. This cultural distinction continued into the Yugoslav period as Serbs dominated
the relationship for much of the time, but eventually lost power as Yugoslavia crumbled.
Today, the Serbian people return to finding their path forward and redefining their
culture and identity. The Serbs remain strongly tied to their religious identity
and great history, but with rapid changes in technology, communication, and infrastructure,
the people find themselves seeking a balance between past and present. Despite the
changes, the culture remains firmly rooted in the past, the religion, the language,
the ethnicity, the foods, and the people.
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