I remember during the Kosova crisis reading some magazine (which one escapes me now) that like so many at the time did an article on it. However, that was not the issue I was reading; rather, it was one wherein there were letters to the editor on the article they had previously run some time earlier in their pages. One letter stuck in my mind, and still has after all these years. It was from some lady, who in her epistle compared and contrasted the Albanian virtue of "Besa" with a Serbian one she called "Inat". Now I knew quite well what "Besa" meant, the "unbreakable promise", the one that one would rather kill one's own first born son than break. But I didn't know what "Inat" was. So I looked it up, and found out. The word in Serbian basically means "malice", "spite", or "grudge".
Now according to some Serbians, it means a bit more than that. In an article that's a part of the BBC's e-cyclopedia, Dragan Milovic of the Institute of Slavic and Eastern European Studies in London, says that it is more like "An attitude of proud defiance, stubborness and self-preservation-sometimes to the detriment of everyone else or even oneself." Admittedly, explained that way Inat doesn't sound quite so bad-indeed, it could even be considered somewhat admirable. After all, who hasn't gotten a smile out of the famous illustration of the mouse giving the "one-finger salute" to the eagle about to make it his latest snack? But it seems there's a bit more to it than even that. Milovic goes on to give a somewhat more concrete example that he seems to feel epitomises "Inat": "There is a saying in Serbian, which is 'I hope the neighbor's cow dies.' The neighbor is probably a fellow Serbian-it's just that 10 years ago, 100 years ago, he or his family wronged you. That wrong may just have been to do better than you. That is inat."
So let me get this straight-the main trait that Serbians, or at least those of the Nationalilst bent, appear to consider to be their defining one, indeed their primary "virtue", is one that most people, myself included, would probably define as "snotty vindictiveness"? Hmmm....that would perhaps explain a lot, wouldn't it?
As for this blogger, given the choice between "Besa" or "Inat" for a personal virtue, I know which one I'd choose!