Protection of intangible cultural heritage in the Republic of Serbia is rooted in many decades of technical and scientific work of relevant institutions, which have been researching the country’s socioeconomic, cultural and spiritual heritage through ethnological and anthropological studies, folklore studies, ethnolinguistic and ethnomusicological studies and gathering and documentation of heritage. By collecting information on traditional ways of life, social feasts and practices, customs, beliefs, oral traditions and traditional craft skills and knowledge, these institutions have laid the foundations for further research and protection of the heritage through a protection system implemented under the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia passed the Law on Ratification of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage on 5 May 2010, thereby initiating the process of safeguarding ICH in accordance with the standards set out in the Convention. The Ministry of Culture, as the body in charge of implementing the Convention, has been focusing on three main directions in the process of its implementation: establishing the legislative and institutional framework; forming a National Registry and educating, promoting the values enshrined in the Convention and raising awareness of ICH.
Establishment of the legislative and institutional framework began with the formation of competent bodies and adoption of implementing regulations which define the powers and procedures for systemic safeguarding of ICH. The network of institutions and competent bodies in charge of implementing the Convention was put in place in 2011 and 2012 and includes: the National Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage, the Commission on Inscription of ICH on the National Registry, the Network of Regional Coordinators (for Vojvodina, Belgrade, Central Serbia, Western Serbia, Eastern Serbia, Southern Serbia and Kosovo and Metohia), as well as the Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage of Serbia operating within the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade.
The Ministry of Culture and Media has made significant efforts to educate the expert community and the general public: in 2010 and 2011, it held a number of seminars, workshops, roundtables and conferences, which were attended by experts from cultural institutions, representatives of local communities and local self-governments, national minorities and implementing bodies responsible for ICH. The aim of these programmes was to present the objectives of the Convention, to explain the importance of its implementation and to present the procedures for identification and inscription of elements. These activities resulted in the formation of the National Registry of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Serbia in June 2012. The Register was borne out of close cooperation between the expert bodies, associations and local communities in identifying the elements for inscription and preparing and developing nomination files. Measures undertaken by the community and by the stakeholders of the elements inscribed on the National Registry include a wide range of activities, from direct dissemination of knowledge (through workshops, lectures and one-on-one tutoring) to presentation (local events, exhibitions, participation in fairs etc.) to documentation of ICH. Another important segment of activities was raising awareness of the importance of safeguarding ICH and awareness of the Convention itself, which is supported by a website that catalogues Serbia’s intangible cultural heritage and by publishing of articles in expert magazines, promotional materials etc.
With the establishment of the National Registry, Serbia became eligible to apply for relevant UNESCO lists. Consequently, in March 2013 the Serbia prepared a nomination file for the inscription of Slava, celebration of family saint patron’s day, on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The inscription procedure was completed on 27 November 2014, when the Intergovernmental Committee decided to inscribe this element.