January 27 – St. Sava Day in Serbia

Posted on January 27, 2018

St. Sava is considered the patron saint of Serbia, and a protector of churches, families, schools, and artisans. He is also considered the father of Serbian education and literature!

Serbia is a fairly small European nation that, despite its small size, has a lot of neighbors! Around the size of Maine or South Carolina, Serbia borders on eight nations: Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Albania (through the disputed territory of Kosovo). 

In contrast, the U.S. is more than 100 times the size but only borders on two nations, Canada and Mexico.

Now, did you notice that I mentioned that Serbia borders Albania through the disputed territory of Kosovo? What does that mean?

Kosovo is a territory within the borders of Serbia - BUT it has declared independence from Serbia (in 2008) and is recognized as a separate nation by 112 countries in the United Nations. Still, Serbia refuses to acknowledge Kosovo as a nation!

In 1999 and 2000, Serbia withdrew its troops from Kosovo. And in 2013 Serbia signed onto an agreement recognizing the legitimacy of Kosovo's institutions. It looks to me as if, step by step, Kosovo is indeed becoming a fully independent nation.

For now, Wikipedia and other references have to give two figures for everything:

88 thousand square km (including Kosovo)
77 thousand square km (excluding Kosovo)

9 million (including Kosovo) 
7 million (excluding Kosovo)

Gross Domestic Product:
131 billion (including Kosovo)
112 billion (excluding Kosovo)

Since almost all of the people living in Kosovo are ethnic Albanians, many speculate that an independent Kosovo will eventually merge into the nation of Albania.

I watched this video about Pristina, capital of Kosovo, and I discovered a few interesting tidbits about this brand new (and still disputed) nation:

There is a famous monument made up of the word

In English!

For context, you have to remember that there are two official languages in Kosovo: Albanian and Serbian. There are in addition four recognized regional languages: Bosnian, Turkish, Gorani, and Romani. No English in the list!

So why is the Kosovo monument, meant to celebrate the nation's newborn stage as a brand new nation, in English?

I read that the monument, which was unveiled on February 17, 2008, was meant to show the nation's modernity and to attract international attention from media and continuing attention from tourists. English is the most commonly recognized and understood second language in the world.

The bid for attention worked! The day it was unveiled, a photo of the bright yellow monument made the front page of The New York Times. And tourists continue to visit the monument. 

The monument is always changing. When it was unveiled, the president, the prime minister, and around 150,000 other people signed the various letters. Each February 17, the monument is repainted. For the first few years, it was repainted yellow, giving visitors a fresh unmarked canvas on which to sign their names. But then the monument's designer, Fisnik Ismajli, decided to vary it each year to send a variety of messages. In 2013 it was painted with the flags of the nations that recognized Kosovo's independence. This flag design won numerous awards.

The most recent repainting job, in 2017, was amazing: the letters were painted to represent a wall with bricks partially showing through a layer of stucco. But two of the letters were placed so that they are laying down. This version of the NEWBORN monument was said to give a message to the new president of the U.S., Donald Trump. And that message? "No Walls."

Ismajli says, "In a world where walls are being built every day, and freedom of movement is becoming ever more limited by narrow minds, while a wall here continuously harms Kosovo’s sovereignty, NEWBORN wants to bring those walls down, for the sake of humanity."

Pristina has a Blill Clinton Boulevard (aka Bill Klinton Boulevard) with a statue of U.S. President Bill Clinton, an American flag, and (separately, but nearby!) a dress shop called Hillary. This is in honor of President Clinton's efforts on behalf of Kosovo's independence.

(The U.S. formally recognized Kosovo as a nation the day after it declared independence.)

Here are a few photos of the landscapes and people of Kosovo:

Also on this date:

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