Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

Serbs are Slavs and practice the Serbian Orthodox religion. Serbs speak mainly the Ekavian subdialect of the Stokavian dialect of Serbo-Croatian, a South Slavic language in the Slavic branch of Indo-European. Serbs prefer the use of the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, which differentiates them from the Croats who use the Latin alphabet. Prior to World War II, Serbs were primarily subsistence agriculturalists who also raised animals and sold some crops. After the war, with modernization and urbanization, there was less dependence on agriculture.


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Europe --Southeastern Europe



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in this eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Serbs file consists of thirty-five documents, thirty-three of which are in English and two are translations from Serbo-Croatian (Drobnjakovic: 1973 and Pavlovic: 1973). The most comprehensive coverage in the file is that provided by the husband and wife team of Joel M. Halpern and Barbara Kerewsky-Halpern. Their fieldwork, which extended from the 1950s to the 1980s, focused primarily on the village of Orasac, a typical Serbian peasant community. Of their works, probably the best known is Joel Halpern's classic study entitled "A Serbian Village" (Halpern 1967, no. 25). This work is a general ethnography of the community of Orasac in the heart of traditional Old Serbia with a time depth extending from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. In addition to the above, other works by Joel Halpern stress historical and cultural change (Halpern 1986, no. 43; Halpern 1977, nos. 28, 39), and theory (Halpern 1986, no. 44). Barbara Kerewsky-Halpern's works concentrate on ethno-medicine (Halpern 1983, no. 29; Halpern 1989, no. 23), the economy (Halpern 1983, no. 29), linguistics (Halpern 1977, no. 40), oral literature (Halpern 1977, no. 41), ritual laments (Halpern 1981, no. 37), and memory recall (Halpern 1977, no. 42). For an earlier account of Serbian peasant ethnography the reader should consult Lodge's work in this file (Lodge 1941, no. 10), which presents data on cultural history and ethnography from 550 A.D. to 1939 A.D. Many of the other documents in this file also provide limited data on general Serbian ethnography as background to their specific studies, as for example Pavlovic (Pavlovic 1973, no. 19). The remaining monographs, articles, and essays in this file cover a wide range of topics including as major subjects such things as: religion (French 1942, no. 2; Filipovic 1954, no. 12); folk psychology and folk medicine (Kemp 1935, no. 5); the economy (Palairet 1977, no. 33; Palairet 1979, no. 34); kinship (Hammel 1957, no. 14; Hammel 1968, no. 16); the family (Hammel 1967, no. 13; Erlich 1966, no. 15; Hammel 1972, no. 21); nationalism (Hayden 1994, no. 20; Denich 1994, no. 35; Simic 1991, 36); literature (Foley 1976, no. 32); fertility and reproduction (Wagner 1992, no. 31); women's roles (Denich: 1977, no. 38); urban and rural life (Simic 1973, no. 26), and time, in relationship to economic and social development (Spangler 1979, no. 27). For more complete information on each of the works mentioned above, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article, "Serbs," by Richard A. Wagner in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 4. 1992. Linda A. Bennett, ed. Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall & Co. The synopsis and indexing notes were prepared by John Beierle in June, 1996.

Overview by

John Beierle

BAJALICA -- female "shaman" -- category 756

BRATSTVO -- brotherhood; an exogamous group whose members are, or consider themselves to be, descendants of a common ancestry; comparable to the Irish-Scottish "clan" -- categories 614, 613

ESNAF -- craft guild -- category 467

ethnic cleansing -- categories 726, 727

genocide -- categories 726, 727

KOLO -- a circle or line dance -- category 535

KUCA -- house or household -- category 592

KUM -- godfather, sponsor -- category 608

KUMA -- godmother, sponsor -- category 608

KUMSTVO -- godparenthood -- category 608

MIRAZ -- land dowry -- categories 583, 423

non-kin ZADRUGA -- category 592

PLEME -- tribe -- category 619

POBRATIMSTVO -- blood brotherhood -- category 608

PORODICA -- nuclear family or immediate household -- categories 594, 592

PRELO -- spinning bee; a gathering of girls and matrons; a traditional courtship institution -- categories 461, 584

ROD -- kin group or "clan" -- category 613

SELO -- village -- category 621

SLAVA -- celebration -- category 796

STARESINA -- household elder; head of ZADRUGA -- categories 592, 596, 554

VAMILIJA -- lineage -- category 613

ZADRUGA -- the extended family or household -- categories 596, 592

ZDRUZENO (SLOZENO BRATSTVO) -- brotherhoods not related by blood -- categories 571, 592

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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