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Serbia Returns to 19th Century Anthem, Coat of Arms - 2004-08-18


Serbia has restored its 19th-century anthem and ancient coat of arms to boost the country's flagging national confidence. The cross and the crown of the new emblem replaces the five-pronged red star of the old one.

This tune was long the favorite of activists who sang it during pro-democracy demonstrations that lead to the overthrow of autocratic President Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Today, the 19th century anthem "Boze Pravde," or "God of Justice" has become Serbia's new anthem.

In a parliamentary vote on Serbia's new identity Tuesday, Mr. Milosevic's supporters boycotted the vote. They said the anthem represented a Serbia of a 19th century monarchy.

Although lyrics referring to the Serbian king have been rephrased, regional analysts say for many Serbs the anthem still represents an oath of allegiance to the monarch as well as to the country.

The parliament also voted to adopt the once-royal symbols in the Serbian flag and national emblem. The coat of arms, which dates back to the Middle Ages, features a crown on top of a double-headed white eagle. Serbia's new flag adds this crest to the upper left corner of the red, blue, and white tricolor.

Lawmakers said they hope the new symbols will better reflect Serbia's identity after a decade of war sparked by the disintegration of Yugoslavia. The fighting killed a quarter of a million people.

But the Serbs could not agree on a flag, an emblem, and an anthem for the Serbia-Montenegro union, the last vestiges of the former Yugoslavia. It came as a setback for the dwindling number of politicians who believe that Serbia and Montenegro could survive as a lose federation.

They had hoped the two republics could bury their differences to approve a joint national anthem in time for this year's Olympic Games. But instead, last month Montenegro adopted its own flag, national anthem, and national day.

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