Dizelaši (Serbia)

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Dizelaši
Location: Serbia
Serbia map.png
Author: Elena G. Stadnichenko
Affiliation: Moscow State Industrial University, University of Novi Sad and the United Brussels Institute

Original text: Elena G. Stadnichenko, Moscow State Industrial University; University of Novi Sad; United Brussels Institute

Dizelaši is a slang expression that may be translated as ‘Diesel Boys.’ It refers to the members of a youth male subculture that emerged in Serbia in the turbulent socio-political environment of the early 1990s. The break-up of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992 plunged the region into war. As violence escalated, Serbia became mired in deep economic crisis. UN sanctions imposed in 1992 provoked soaring inflation and shortages of such key products as fuel. Economic turmoil saw rogue traders and members of criminal gangs grow extremely wealthy very quickly, and some nouveaux riches groups used fashion to express their new-found status (Gordi 2000: 6)[1].

The word dizelaši is thought to derive from the fashion brand Diesel, Diesel jeans being one of the most prized fashion items among young males in Serbia at this time (Gerzić 2002: 60)[2]. However, it may also refer to the smuggling of diesel fuel, one of the illegal activities in which the dizelaši were allegedly involved (Subcultureslist.com 2015)[3].

The physical appearance of the dizelaši reinforced their reputation as tough and criminally-oriented. Typically shaven-headed, muscular and robust, they devoted much time to exercising in the gym and paid particular attention to their clothing. As a sign of group identity, their dress code included sporty attire consisting of a tracksuit or jeans (the upper part of the tracksuit tucked into the trousers) and Nike Air Max or Reebok trainers (Klajn 2010: 366)[4]. They wore conspicuously thick gold chains around their necks (Subcultureslist.com 2015)[5]. Female members of the subculture, known as dizelašice or sponzoruše (diggers), were known by their fondness for glamorous lifestyles. They wore heavy makeup, provocatively short skirts, high heels, long, usually blonde hair, and extravagant jewellery (Subcultureslist.com 2015)[6].

'The videos of artists such as Snezana Babic and Dragana Mirkovic were filled with gold jewellery, luxury cars and huge new houses; they depicted young women in knock-off Versace living it up in the mirrored bars and casinos of Belgrade's luxury hotels—the Intercontinental, the Hyatt and the Metropolitan' (Higginbotham 2004)[7]. This embrace of branded clothing, ostentatious fashion accessories and expensive motorcars was seen as a means used by the young nouveaux riches to distance themselves from social and financial instability.

The dizelaši were ardent fans of turbo-folk, a new musical genre that emerged in the 1990s and that glorified the luxurious lifestyle. The term was coined by rock musician Rambo Amadeus as an ironic reference to the genre’s hybridity since it blended traditional Serbian folk music with hip-hop, rock’n’roll and dance. In his song 'Turbo-folk,' Amadeus explained that the term encompasses more than just a particular music style: 'Folk refers to people, turbo refers to speedy fuel injection under pressure. Thus, turbo-folk refers to combustion of people. Anything leading to this combustion can be called turbo-folk' (Higginbotham 2004)[8]. Petar Popovic, director of Serbia’s state-run record company, followed the same line of argument when he said that turbo-folk ‘is the sound of the war and everything that the war brought to this country. It represents everything that has happened to this country over the past few years’ (Higginbotham 2004)[9].

Turbo-folk gained popularity largely thanks to its promotion by state-controlled and private TV stations. State-sponsored TV Pink and TV Palma, for example, supported the regime of Serbian President Slobodan Milošević not only through their news-reporting but also by focusing in their entertainment programmes on turbo-folk and by avoiding any reference to the rich pop and rock scene that had existed in Yugoslavia before the 1990s. According to Amadeus, ‘rock 'n' roll in Serbia died the moment that Milosevic came to power’ in 1989 (Gordi: 129)[10]. Turbo-folk with its kitschy, flashy videos and lyrics popularising the glamorous lifestyle provided an escape from the realities of poverty, sanctions, ethnic conflict and war. On the one hand there was rock 'n' roll, underground and rebellion; on the other there was turbo-folk, dizelaši and crime; this cultural divide reflected the social and political orientations that characterised Serbian society in the 1990s (Gordi: 116)[11]. Dizelaši embraced the aesthetic of 'war chic' (Kronja: 92)[12] and discriminated against other, usually Western-inspired subcultures such as Metalheads or Punks (Subcultureslist.com 2015)[13].

While the dizelaši subculture was closely linked to the specific socio-economic conditions of 1990s Serbia, similar subcultures were found in other countries that underwent social and economic turmoil at the turn of the century. For example, gopniki describes members of the youth subculture found in Russia and other post-Soviet states in the 1980s (Subcultureslist 2015)[14]. It too attracted young males, comparable to ‘chavs’ or ‘neds’ in Great Britain, characterised by aggressive behaviour, a predilection for criminal activity, and alcohol abuse. Like the dizelaši, gopniki followed a dress-code featuring tracksuits and leather jackets.

The dizelaši phenomenon was propagated in popular culture through films such as Do koske (To the bone), Rane (Wounds) and Vidimo se u čitulji (See you in the obituary). Nowadays the phenomenon persists through the subculture neodizelaši, whose members follow the same dress code as the dizelaši and listen to music from the nineties. The neodizelaši are not however nearly as prominent or widespread as their predecessors were. Today, indeed, the term dizelaši is mostly used pejoratively to refer to a people with poor taste in clothing and music. However, the subculture of dizelaši also survives through a 'Silicone valley' subculture that emerged in the late nineties and persists to this day (Kronja: 92)[15]. Female members of the subculture are known for their use of silicone implants; hence the term.

Notes

  1. Gordy, E. 2000. ‘Rokeri and Turbaši as Windows Into Serbia's Social Divide.’ Balkanologie, 4(1) 55–81
  2. Gerzić, N. and B. 2002. Rečnk savremenog beogradskog žargona. Belgrade: Istar
  3. Subcultureslist.com. http://subcultureslist.com/DIZELASI/ and http://subcultureslist.com/gopniki/ accessed 23 August 2015
  4. Klajn, I. 2010. Veliki rečnik stranih reči i izraza. Novi Sad: Prometej
  5. Subcultureslist.com. http://subcultureslist.com/DIZELASI/ and http://subcultureslist.com/gopniki/ accessed 23 August 2015
  6. Subcultureslist.com. http://subcultureslist.com/DIZELASI/ and http://subcultureslist.com/gopniki/ accessed 23 August 2015
  7. Higginbotham, A. 2004. ‘Beauty and the beast,’ The Observer (UK), 4 January http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2004/jan/04/features.magazine67
  8. Higginbotham, A. 2004. ‘Beauty and the beast,’ The Observer (UK), 4 January http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2004/jan/04/features.magazine67
  9. Higginbotham, A. 2004. ‘Beauty and the beast,’ The Observer (UK), 4 January http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2004/jan/04/features.magazine67
  10. Gordi, E. 2001. Kultura vlasti u Srbiji. Belgrade: Samizdat B92
  11. Gordi, E. 2001. Kultura vlasti u Srbiji. Belgrade: Samizdat B92
  12. Kronja, I. 2006. ‘Urbani životni stilovi i medijska reprezentacija gradskog života i omladinske potkulture.’ Zbornik Fakutleta Dramskih Umetnosti, 10: 89-109 http://www.komunikacija.org.rs/komunikacija/casopisi/zbornikfdu/10/07/download_ser_lat
  13. Subcultureslist.com. http://subcultureslist.com/DIZELASI/ and http://subcultureslist.com/gopniki/ accessed 23 August 2015
  14. Subcultureslist.com. http://subcultureslist.com/DIZELASI/ and http://subcultureslist.com/gopniki/ accessed 23 August 2015
  15. Kronja, I. 2006. ‘Urbani životni stilovi i medijska reprezentacija gradskog života i omladinske potkulture.’ Zbornik Fakutleta Dramskih Umetnosti, 10: 89-109