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Friday, February 20, 2015

Nothing to Sing: The strange case of the wordless National Anthem

In theory, and usually in practice, nothing unites the people of a state more than their national anthem. The words of a national hymn are fairly uniform from country to country-topics such as liberty, natural beauty, history, and perseverance of the country's people. Some invoke the name of a god or gods. The national hymn is a fundamental symbol of any country, as important as the flag or the constitution.

Some are somber, and some are so bombastic that they leave you with tears in your eyes ready to go to fight for a battle that isn't being fought. Some have long fanfares (and some have introductions that are so long that during sporting events, only that part is played, leaving the droves of fans in attendance to take it away wordlessly)

And yet, there still exists the peculiarity of the nation with the wordless hymn. There are four nations in the world that do not have official lyrics to their national anthems. They are the Kingdom of Spain, the ancient Republic of San Marino, the multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the only-partially-recognized Republic of Kosovo.

Depending on who you ask, the answers to the question "How many national anthems does Bosnia have?" could be one, and it could be as large as four. The reason for this is the cumbersome and confusing Dayton arrangement of Bosnia as a state for the last twenty years. After years of spending time in a hellish war, Bosnia was stitched back together by the international community as, essentially, a three-nation federal republic. The country has two separate entities-the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a joint operation shared by Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and Croatians. The other entity is called Republika Srpska, which roughly translates as "Serb Republic".

Bosnia's present-day national anthem was adopted in 1998 but has only recently received lyrics-and these lyrics are not yet official. Because of the history of ethnic nationalism and the prolonged history without words, most of the people living in Bosnia don't identify with that hymn.

This anthem might just be a day late and a dollar short, despite a hauntingly beautiful melody and poetic lyrics about going into the future together as one. Bosniaks often sing the previously used anthem "Jedna si Jedina" ("You are our one and only") over the instrumental recording at sporting events. The Serb population tends to identify with the anthem their brothers across the border in the Republic of Serbia sing, "Боже правде” ("God of Justice"). Likewise, the Croat population sings the same song their counterparts in Croatia sing: "Ljepa Nasa Domovino" (Our Beautiful Homeland). 

The partially recognized Republic of Kosovo is another country without lyrics to their national anthem. Kosovo still sits in recognition limbo after declaring their independence from Serbia, something Serbia still refuses to recognize and is vocally opposed to. In November 2014, a historic meeting between Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia ended in heated words when Rama called on Vucic to move on from Kosovo. In October, a football match between Albania and Serbia was interrupted by a drone operated by an unknown party that displayed "Greater Albania", including Kosovo. A Serbian player tried to take the drone down and all hell broke loose. 

Kosovo's anthem, titled "Europe" is the official hymn, but many Kosovars, who are ethnically Albanian, sing Albania's "Himni i Flamurit", or "Hymn to the Flag". With Serbia in negotiations to join the EU, the future of Kosovo and its hymn is up in the air.  

The third country with no official words to its national anthem is an ancient and tiny nation completely surrounded by Italy called San Marino. Barely more than 30,000 live in San Marino, so the anthem, words or no words, is rarely heard outside the country's diminutive boundaries. It does have unofficial words, but they were never formally adopted. 

Only one other nation has an anthem with no official words, the Kingdom of Spain. The anthem, called simply "La Marcha Real" (The Royal March) has been around for centuries, but has gone through various adaptations through the turbulent history of the Spanish monarchy and the rule of fascist dictator Francisco Franco. Like many of these other countries, Spain has proposed lyrics to the hymn but in 2008 the supposedly nationalist lyrics were rejected by many of the Spanish people for their nationalist tone (though whether the lyrics were truly nationalist are up for debate.)To make things even more interesting, a tide of republicanism is rising in Spain, and the country may adopt the republican anthem they sang at various times in the 19th and 20th centuries, not to mention the various provinces who are seriously considering independence from Madrid.

1 comment:

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