The men’s world in the Balkans

Searching for the true face of Balkan men

As a woman, born and raised in Serbia, I grew up surrounded by Balkan men without thinking of how they were. They simply were there, and that was all. I was certainly unaware of the image the foreigners had about the region and its inhabitants. It was only after I left the country, 8 years ago that I learnt that there was this image of Balkan men, which was quite unattractive.

A great part of the history of the Balkans is a history of wars, conflicts, nationalism and religious intolerance. This is certainly not something appealing to look at. The role that men played in creating this history is not negligible. They are actually at the core of it as they are the leading figures in these traditionally patriarchal societies dominating in families, at work and in politics.

Some of those who managed to immigrate to the West have brought with them their traditions, and social and behavioral patterns. The stereotype that emerged was that of The Balkan man or in Serbo-Croatian Balkanac. It referred to a man who is rather temperamental, if not to say aggressive, a traditional macho man, often involved in illegal businesses, pretentious and, all in all, quite “wild”. In reality, these men were mostly uneducated people from villages whose most important values in life were materialistic. The term soon became pejorative.

The movies of Emir Kusturica, which were so successful in the West, added to this image a few more connotations: superstition, magic and humor. They misled the big majority of the people as they took them literally.

I decided to visit the region and rethink of its men and the myths and stereotypes that surround them. After all these years abroad, the world has changes and the Balkan men with it, although some things did stay the same. Are Balkan men really the way the media in the West represent them? Or is there something more to it?