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Stanislav Sretenović, Historian

Serbia Can Become The Region’s Switzerland

The 21st century’s age of electronics and rapid communication requires experts in the social sciences and humanities, especially historical sciences, as they contribute to the development of a critical mind and democracy.

With mixed feelings of satisfaction and hesitation – the sentence in the subtitle of this text was my first thought when your reputable magazine approached me to contribute as a “successful” person. However, I responded positively to your call because I consider that my experience in education, research and the transfer of knowledge could be of benefit to all interested people, especially young people, in different disciplines that extend beyond the world of science and culture exclusively, to enter the field of social relations.

During studies at the Vladislav Ribnikar Serbian-French Primary School, the 13th Belgrade Grammar School and the Belgrade Faculty of Philosophy’s Department of History, then postgraduate studies in France and my doctorate in Italy, as well as during my life, additional studies and research work in France, Italy and England, I became familiar with different education systems, cultures and ways of thinking and working, and endeavoured to adopt those that had the richest and the most comprehensive content.

In addition to this is my knowledge and experience gained at the European University Institute in Florence, where I received my PhD in the history of international relations and diplomacy, focusing on relations between France, Italy and the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes that emerged in 1918 at the end of the Great War, as a young and unsure country that struggled to find its place on the local and international scene.

Viewed historically, despite the heavy legacy of communism and Yugoslavism, Serbia can strive to become the “Switzerland of Southeast Europe” – a country of new ideas, good governance, tolerance and progress. Whether that will come to be depends on us

The work of historians is actually mostly linked to solitude and the four walls of a working office, library and archives. Alongside Serbian archives, I’ve conducted research in many European and world archives and libraries. But this work and its results also allow the researcher to be an actor in transferring knowledge through scientific publications, university lectures and conferences for professionals or the general public.

I’ve held many lectures and participated in many scientific conferences and seminars throughout Europe and around the world, from Africa to Japan; I was a guest professor in France, Italy and England, and during 2019/20 I should be a guest lecturer at the University Paris 1- Panthéon-Sorbonne.

In recognition of all my work to date in the research and academic field and my contribution to the development of French-Serbian relations, I was decorated in July this year with the French National Order of Merit.

The research issues I faced when writing books and scholarly papers were in fact life issues, but in past time, which – through recollections and relayed experiences of generations – is linked to the people of our age and to us personally.

Human thinking, deeds, sharing of experiences, seeking new solutions, strategic partnerships or friendships in the past as well as my critical interpretations of past times, taught me to maintain my Serbian identity, to seek the right measure in my activities and to build bridges to people and different cultures, to accept multiculturalism and remain as far away as possible from ideologies, dogmas or myths.

I often put the gained knowledge and critical thinking about scientific or current issues into a historical perspective, in longlasting processes, trying never to offend the humanity, integrity or emotions of my interlocutors, while I also tried to listen to opposing opinions and arguments, and to sometimes correct my views.

Many years of international experience and acquired knowledge have strengthened my desire for Serbia to prosper as a rich and democratic country that manages institutions well, always seeking optimal, practical solutions in scientific or economic projects and in everyday life.

Viewed historically, despite the heavy legacy of communism and Yugoslavism, Serbia can strive to become the “Switzerland of Southeast Europe” – a country of new ideas, good governance, tolerance and progress. Whether that will come to depend on us.

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