Carnival of Ruritania

Photo by Bruce Sterling

At dawn, I crossed the border between the bad wild Serbs and the good little Croats in the center of Europe. My Serbian passport was closely scanned by Croatian police — especially the page with my permanent US visa. The Serbian bus featured American movies and apt professional smugglers hauling big checkered plastic bags: “all purpose bags,” they call those.

Immediately after arrival I checked out the bathrooms of modern Croatia: they were clean! They had seats! The local pop music sounded sweet, like Italian canzona. A Serbian bus station would feature dirty squat toilets and a turbo folk version of Bosnian rock.

The beautiful port city of Fiume/ Rijeka is preparing for their yearly carnival, as in Venice. I had my first taste of the sea in Rijeka, when it was part of my own country and I was a Yugoslav red princess. I had one of the best passports in the world, a splendid passport free of Western-Eastern cold wars, brick walls, and iron curtains, and for a holiday jaunt in Rijeka I didn’t need one at all.

In the 1970s no one in the world knew or cared what a “Serbian” was — at a high-society party in Rome I once claimed to be a “highly trained cosmonaut from Serbia.” Nobody doubted me. I might as well have come from the Moon, or Ruritania.

Krk - Photo by Bruce Sterling

My late best friend lost her virginity in Rijeka. Later, during the wars, she lost her family house there, because she was a Serb.

Modern Rijeka is seething with wifi and bright city lights, swarming with young hipsters kissing and necking in the streets, as in any other western European city. In Belgrade at this hour, their peers are belly-dancing with three fingers up, saying: NO to Europe.

The early-morning radio news in Croatia is barking corny national rhetoric:

….”during the barbarous Serbian aggression against glorious Croatia…”

The next channel smoothly claims: we Croats used to speak a half-German language, and we gave the world the civilized custom of wearing a tie, the ‘cravat,’ which originated in Croatia and demonstrates our way of being civilized…

The wars are history. The tourist city of Krk on the island Veglia is connected with a beautiful bridge to the mainland. Nobody on Krk notices or cares that I am Serbian, but my American friend is a major attraction as he spews computers and gadgets all over cafe tables and methodically samples the local Croatian liqueurs.

In this Cravat politically-correct island, the garbage is sorted ecologically. Wow, Croatia is almost EU!

Meanwhile, in Serbia (which recently joined NATO), a weird new national holiday combines the army, the religion and the state in a single public event, celebrated simultaneously by Orthodox priests, military street parades and Serbo-NATO jet bombers stunting overhead.

Belgrade smoking

Photo by Bruce Sterling

Belgrade’s garbage is publicly burned together with the plastic cans that hold it, in huge torrents of stinking smog. Wow, Serbia’s almost USA!

This all used to be one big country, a beautiful rambling region of seas, coasts, mountains, lakes, rivers, diverse people of different nationalities and religions, and the most expensive stolen passport in the global black market.

Today it’s a dizzy jumble of tiny Ruritanias, inventing and dis-inventing their borders and traditions.

Eurasia is no longer at war with Eastasia, for it has always been at war with Oceania…

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About jasminatesanovic

Jasmina Tešanović (Serbian: Јасмина Тешановић) (born March 7, 1954) is a feminist, political activist (Women in Black, Code Pink), translator, publisher and filmmaker. She was one of the organizers of the first Feminist conference in Eastern Europe "Drug-ca Zena" in 1978, in Belgrade. With Slavica Stojanovic, she ran the first feminist publishing house in the Balkans "Feminist 94" for 10 years. She is the author of Diary of a Political Idiot, a war diary written during the 1999 Kosovo War and widely distributed on the Internet. Ever since then she has been publishing all her work, diaries, stories and films on blogs and other Internet media.
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