Serbia/ 8.2 Cultural consumption and participation  

8.2.1 Trends and figures

The cultural market in Serbia was ruined during the 1990s due to huge inflation rates and decreasing standards of quality of life. This also meant that audience numbers decreased, for example, film viewers decreased from 24 million in 1989 to 4.6 million in 2000. As the purchasing power of the population decreased, so did the number of buyers of cultural or artistic goods and services.

During the past decade, about 10.6% of the population fell below the poverty line and a further 20% people are barely at the poverty line. There is a difference between poverty levels of the rural and urban population - 14.2% of the rural population and 7.8% of the urban population fell below the poverty line. However, there are also some positive trends which indicate poverty reduction. For example, the Poverty Index in 1995 was 28.9%, in 2000 it was 36.5%, while in 2002, it was 14.5%.As the Poverty index represents some kind of purchasing power of the population, we can expect growth of cultural consumption in the future.

At the end of the 1980s, individual expenditure on cultural goods and services represented 80% of the total expenditure for culture. This, in itself, shows how large the art audience was and how strong and diversified their needs, practices and habits were to participate in cultural life.

In 1993-1994, due to huge inflation (100% daily), the price of an art work, a film or a theatre ticket, became insignificant – both for users and for institutions. The subscription system collapsed – both for tickets to events such as the opera or subscriptions to reviews and journals. Audience development and marketing became senseless.

Step by step, the cultural market is starting to recover. Art collectors are again reappearing, book shops in the provinces are starting to operate again, as well as cinemas, private theatres, etc. But, there is still a certain level of reluctance to recreate or offer subscriptions. One of the reasons could be the following example: in 1993-1995, publishers of many books or journals collected subscription fees, but then failed to send the goods to subscribers and therefore the latter lost confidence in the system. Trust is one of the key "institutions" to be re-established between the state and the population. The art market is expected to recover along with the banking and tax-paying system.

Table 13:   Audience and user figures, 2006-2011






Number of visitors

Number of visitors

Number of visitors

Number of visitors


1 754 000

1 745 000



Professional theatres

952 000

1 032 000

920 000

920 000

Children's theatres

339 000

402 000

369 000

371 000

Amateur theatres

130 000

186 000

120 000

122 000

Library (users)


1 367 200

1 133 981

1 369 295



8 814

8 814

8 184


1 767 449

1 457 000

1 945 992

2 376 329

Source:     Office for Statistics, Serbia and Office for Statistics, Belgrade (2006-2011).

Book sales dropped from 26 000 000 in 1985 to 11 000 000 in 2000. Although these figures show more than a 60% decrease, it is important to remember that in 1993-1994, the number was even lower. In reality, the book market has started to regain its importance as a cultural practice.

Libraries: The number of library members is diminishing as they often do not have the books that users are looking for or they only have one or two copies available for lending. The majority of libraries do not offer an Internet service, so part of the audience has moved to Internet cafes where they can find the information they require.

Archives: the number of visitors and users of archives decreased from 16 907 in 1984 to 8 814 in 2010, due to the fact that archives have stopped organising lectures, courses, temporary exhibitions etc

Table 14:   Average household expenditure for private cultural participation and consumption, in CSD, 2010

Items (Field / Domain)

Household expenditure for culture in CSD

% share of total household expenditure

e.g. books; theatre; CD; etc.

1 982*



41 170*


Source:     Office for Statistics, Serbia and Office for Statistics, Belgrade 2011.
*                Monthly average by member of a household.

There is a difference between the rural and urban population level of household cultural consumption. Expenditure on culture was 5.8% of urban household expenditure in 2008, while it was 3.3% of rural household expenditure. This situation is mostly caused by a higher level of rural household poverty. Also, there is a strong connection between the level of income per household and the level of expenditure on culture. For example, households with 100 EUR of average monthly consumption spent 1.5% of their monthly income on culture. On the other hand, households with 792 EUR of average monthly consumption spent 5.8% of their monthly income on culture. In the last several years, a trend towards growing consumption of cultural goods and activities can be observed – in the average Serbian household cultural consumption grew by over 50% from 2003 to 2008. It is interesting to see that Belgrade's cultural consumption is two times higher than the average Serbian cultural consumption. Belgrade's monthly average cultural consumption by member of household was 1 300 CSD (13 EUR); Belgrade households spent about 33.5 EUR per month on culture. A difference in cultural consumption can be observed between urban and rural household as well as between Central Serbia and Vojvodina. For example, urban cultural consumption is 2.5 times higher than rural cultural consumption (3.5 EUR monthly average per member of household for rural households, 9 EUR monthly average per member of household for urban households). Empirical evidence on household cultural expenditure refer that a great number of citizenships (67%) spent less than 20 EUR a month on culture; 25% spent between 20-50 EUR a month and only one in every hundred citizen spends more than 100 EUR a month on culture (Cveticanin, Milankov, 2011)

There are two different indicators for household expenditure –Table 14 presents the average level of expenditure of all household in Serbia. In text and by the end of this section is presented income differences and in accordance with that variation in cultural consumption.

Since 2008 several visitor centres have opened including Gamzigrad and Lepenski vir, allowing cooperation between culture, tourism, etc.

Chapter published: 08-02-2013