Old, Abandoned and Almost Forgotten Ottoman Crafts In Serbia

Back to the roots

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In the era of advanced technology, many people do their best to preserve old crafts from oblivion and maintain family traditions. In small shops, located in old houses or basement rooms, they are trying to maintain a processing technique and work from the past.

The term “zanat” (craft) is the Balkan word that comes from the Turkish language with Arab origin, and means skill or knowledge.

Some crafts, based on the experience of ancient Slavic and Asian culture, were the key economic sectors of the old villages. The data on crafts are in the Serbian royal charters from the 14th century, and also in the lists of artisans who, together with the villages and farms, were assigned to certain monasteries. In the census of 1455 were recorded the craftsmen such as blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, butchers, bakers, potters, stonemasons, wheelwrights, millers, and herbalists. Here are just some old crafts you probably didn’t know.


Opančar is the craftsman who specializes in hand-made footwear, especially opanci (opanci are traditional peasant shoes worn in Southeastern Europe. The attributes of the opanci are a construction of leather, lack of laces, durable, and various ending on toes). This craft experienced a period of great success from the second half of the 19th century to the fifties of the 20th century. From the mid-20th century, this craft begins to decrease.

Today in Serbia there are only a few craft shops of this kind, and footwear is sold mainly as souvenirs or for the purposes of folklore groups, as part of the national costume. Since this craft falls under the traditional folklore, the Ordinance of the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Serbia placed it under the protection of the law.


Sarač is an old Serbian craft. It is a craft that produces leather goods, especially saddles, belts, cases for firearms, whips, and wallets.

Sarač (craftsman) makes his products mainly by hand. These products can be bought at markets, fairs in Serbia, especially when it’s the market day. Plastic replaced products made out of leather because they require a lot of professional labor, and that raises their price.


For this craft can be said that it falls under a type of art. Kujundžija is engaged in the production of decorative objects, mainly jewelry. Kujundžija used to do all things by hand, with simple tools. Today, jewelers process materials and make ornaments by using modern technology and various types of precious stones.

The most common product of these craftsmen is jewelry: rings, wedding rings, earrings, pins, brooches, necklaces, bracelets…

In addition to making decorative items, kujundžija did the engraving on their products (or product that customers brought). They engrave letters, words or entire drawings.


Rabadžija worked mostly with oxen chart. And, although oxen were slower than the horse-drawn carts, they were far stronger and able to pull more weight. This profession is still alive in Serbia and it is present especially where roads are bad. Today rabadžija mainly pulls trees from the forest to the road.


Asurdžije (plural) had their workshops and homes near the swamp where their working material (rush-reeds) was close at hand. Asurdžije produced various types of mats depending on the needs of the market. These mats were made in different sizes, different thickness with decorations or undecorated.

Mats were used as curtains for the sun, as the rugs on the premises or as mats for the beach.


Dunđer is the mason who builds the house “nabijanice”. Nabijanica is a house whose walls are made of compacted soil that was put in the wooden hull. In Vojvodina, the soil was mixed with chaff and it was even more compact after drying. The walls were half a meter thick.

In this homes summers were cold and winters were warm. But because there was no insulation in relation to the ground, the walls were still wet at the bottom.

So, because dunđer didn’t do especially precise work, the word “Dunđer” is still used in a derogatory sense, even for low-quality work.

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