This article originally appeared on VICE Serbia
Considering our very recent and complicated history, it's no surprise that Serbians are obsessed with America. Couple that with the fact that we've been called to the polls three times in just the last eight years, and you'll understand no one in this part of the world is able to stop talking about the American Election. We are intrigued by Trump's populism because he reminds us of our local lunatic tycoons, we despise Hillary for being the wife of the guy who sent warplanes and bombs on us, but we are falling hard for Bernie Sanders. So much so that we keep looking for new ways to support him: One of those ways is a new Facebook page called Balkans for Bernie Sanders.
According to the bio on the page, its admins are looking "to build a network of US-expat Bernie Sanders supporters and other fans throughout the region of former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria & Albania!" Yet, scrolling down the timeline, I realised that most of the people posting and liking were Serbian. "Why?" I wondered, "why would a Serbian care about Bernie so passionately?" I got in touch with Jovana, one of the page admins, to find out.
VICE: Hi, who are the admins and where did you get idea to start something like this?
Jovana/Balkans for Bernie Sanders: Phillip Bay, an American living in the Balkans for more than 23 years, is the founder and content administrator of the page. He is in contact with other Americans who also support Bernie Sanders. I am one of the page admins – my job is to grow the number of our followers by targeting the right people.
Let me check if I got this right – this FB page is primarily for Americans living in the Balkans. Are these the people you target?
There are two target groups: the first are American citizens who live, work and study in the Balkans. At the same time, we are trying to inform people from the Balkans about Bernie. They need to know that he is leading a transparent and honest campaign. We want to show people that this year's elections can affect not only the US, but the whole world.
People in the Balkan region are used to authoritarian governments and wildly corrupt, multiparty, wild-west "democracy". Bernie Sanders probably makes people hopethat this can change.
I have noticed that there are a lot of people from Serbia, who are very active on your page. They comment, post and share your posts almost fanatically. Yet, their vote doesn't count.
Yes, that surprised us too. Serbians are among the most active users. We are very happy that is not only Americans who are interested in the US presidential elections. People from the Balkans are interested in who is going to be the next president and how is she or he planning to run the country and the world. Their voices and support are of a great importance.
At the end, we would like to get the Balkans back to the US political agenda. We want US politicians to recognise that there are people living in the Balkans – not just to bomb but to work with and help out. Our page could play a significant role in changing the idea Americans have of Serbians.
What do you think it is that makes Bernie Sanders so popular among people from the Balkans?
He is probably the only US presidential candidate to run his campaign against the "establishment" while having a direct conversation with the American people. Maybe only Teddy Roosevelt did this back in the early 20th Century.
I believe this resonates with people in the Balkan region who are used to authoritarian governments and wildly corrupt, multiparty, wild-west "democracy". Bernie Sanders probably gives people in the Balkans hope – if a global powerhouse like the USA can reform itself then so can we. Our Facebook Page is just a small reflection of this.
Are you planning to organise any rallies or public gatherings?
Not really. But if some other organisation – the Democrats Abroad for instance – chose to put together an event of some sort, we would be happy to support them by promoting it.