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BITEF Before and After 1989: Representation to Deconstruction of Social and Cultural Paradigms

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 July 2021


Ivan Medenica here analyzes the cultural shift that the Belgrade International Theatre Festival (BITEF) experienced after 1989. From its beginnings in the late 1960s until the end of the1980s, BITEF was a representation of the dominant multicultural, modernist, and progressive paradigm of Yugoslavia’s cultural policy. This was not an unambiguous position. On the one hand, modernist values were imposed by Tito’s authoritarian regime and, on the other, they were confronted with the conservative tendencies both in politics and the arts. As a multicultural and progressive platform, BITEF was one of the biggest victims in the field of the arts of Slobodan Milošević’s nationalist regime in the 1990s and the wars in former Yugoslavia. After the fall of Milošević in 2000, a complex period of tension started between the ‘reborn’ urge for democratization and internationalization, on the one hand, and persistent nationalism and conservatism, on the other. Due to its tradition, reinforced artistic ambitions, and international reputation, BITEF regained its fame. Its position today, however, is quite paradoxical. It is an anti-traditionalist and multicultural festival – within a culture and society that are becoming traditional and rather claustrophobic. Ivan Medenica is a Professor of Theatre at the University of the Arts in Belgrade in Serbia and has received the national award for theatre criticism six times. His publications include The Tragedy of Initiation, or the Inconstant Prince: The Classics and Their Masks. Medenica is also the artistic director of BITEF.

Research Article
© Cambridge University Press 2021

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