Three-finger salute (Serbian)

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For other uses of this phrase, see Three-finger salute.
Three-finger salute on 2008 Kosovo is Serbia rally in Belgrade

The three-finger salute (Serbian: три прста/tri prsta, "three fingers"), commonly known as the Serb salute, is a salute which originally expressed Serbian Orthodoxy, that today simply is an expression, a gesture, for ethnic Serbs and Serbia, made by extending the thumb, index, and middle fingers of one or both hands.


Orthodox symbolism[edit]

The Serbs, when swearing Oath, historically used the three fingers (collected, as when crossing) along with the greetings "My Holy Trinity" (Svetog mi Trojstva) or "for the Honorable Cross and Golden Freedom" (za krst časni i slobodu zlatnu) during formal and religious events.[2] The salute was often made with both hands, raised above the head.[2] Karađorđe was appointed leader of the Serbian rebels after they all raised their "three fingers in the air" and thereby swore Oath.[3] Paja Jovanović's painting, Takovo Uprising (1898), depicts Miloš Obrenović holding a war flag and saluting with three fingers.[2]

Takovo Uprising (1898)

Serbian Metropolitan Nikolaj Velimirović (1881–1956) called for a Serbian salute in which three fingers were to be raised along the greeting: "Thus Help Us God!".[4] In Serbian and Orthodox tradition, the number three is exceptionally important.[2] A Serbian saying goes "There is no cross without three fingers" (Nema krsta bez tri prsta).[5]

Modern form[edit]

The first popularized use of the three-finger salute (with fingers separated) was in 1988, when Serbs from Srem, Banat and Kosovo used it to counter the Albanian, Croat and Slovenian use of the V sign, during that time's political events. Historian Dragan Petrović stresses that Vuk Drašković was not the "author" of the salute, but that greater credit belongs to Mirko Jović and Jovan Rašković.[2] Vuk Drašković, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement political party, said in a 2007 interview that he first used it in 1990 at the founding meeting of the party, inspired by Paja Jovanović's painting (The Takovo Uprising) depicting Miloš Obrenović greeting Serb insurgents with three extended fingers during the Second Serbian Uprising of 1815.[6] During the March 1991 street demonstrations in Belgrade, the three fingers were massively used by Drašković's supporters, representing the three demands that the Serbian Renewal Movement had put before the government.[7][8][better source needed] It was popularly used by the Serbs during the Yugoslav wars.


Salute at Boris Tadić convention.

The salute is used by members and supporters of almost all Serbian political parties on their rallies during election campaigns. It can be seen at all kinds of street demonstrations and celebrations.

NBA basketball player Aleksandar Pavlović displaying the three-finger salute

The salute is often used by sport fans and players when celebrating sport victories. After winning the 1995 European basketball championship, the entire then-Yugoslav team displayed the three fingers. Sasha Djordjevic says he flashed the three fingers "not to be provocative. Just: that's Serbia, that's us, that's me – nothing else. It's my pride."[9] More recently, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic has shown the three-finger salute often after his victories.

According to political scientist Anamaria Dutceac Segeste, the significance of the salute is diverse: although it has been used by nationalists, it cannot be monopolized as such; it has been used without aggressive nationalist connotations, i.e. at sport events, by opponents of Milošević, by President Boris Tadić during the 2008 Summer Olympics, etc.[1]


Some Albanians, Bosniaks, and Croats find the salute provocative and offensive due to perceived irredentist symbolism.

When Russian peacekeeping troops entered Sarajevo in 1994, they used the salute when greeting the Serb troops.[10] Because of this, they were branded pro-Serb; the UNPROFOR used the Serb salute when greeting the Serbs, and the V sign when greeting the Bosniaks, showing impartiality.[11] There were instances when non-Serb captives were forced to use the salute.[12] During the Croatian War, there were instances of massacred Serb civilians having had their three fingers on the right hand cut off.[13]

2007 Eurovision winner Marija Šerifović used the salute when celebrating points; controversially, she used the salute when receiving the maximum of 12 points from Bosnian viewers, after which Bosnian media reported it as being used as a direct provocation.[14][15] The Swedish-Serbian National Association called it ridiculous, saying that the salute is not to be mistaken in that way, but viewed of as nothing more than a modified V sign.[16] Aleksandar Šapić said "I know that it was used by soldiers in war, but I do not raise three fingers because I hate someone. I respect all peoples, and know what is in my heart."[17]

Rade Leskovac, president of a Serb minority party in Croatia, caused controversy in 2007 when election posters featuring him with the salute were posted around Vukovar.[18] In 2015, an art-piece mural on a school wall in Umag, Croatia, depicting a hand counting was removed due to likeness to the Serbian salute.[19] Foreigners are warned not to use the salute in Croatia.[20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Anamaria Dutceac Segesten (16 September 2011). Myth, Identity, and Conflict: A Comparative Analysis of Romanian and Serbian Textbooks. Lexington Books. pp. 145–. ISBN 978-0-7391-4867-9. 
  2. ^ a b c d e A. Palić (2013-12-07). "Prkos raširio tri prsta". Novosti. 
  3. ^ M. Đ Milićević (1876). Knez̆evina Srbija 1. Sloboda. p. 251. 
  4. ^ Радмила Радић (2006). Живот у временима: Гаврило Дожић 1881-1950. Институт за новију историју Србије. p. 178. ISBN 978-86-7005-047-1. Тако нам Бог помогао! 
  5. ^ Vladimir Ćorović (1921). Pokreti i dela. Izdavačka knjižarnica Gece Kona. p. 9. 
  6. ^ "Tri prsta za pobedu" (in Serbian). Večernje novosti. 2007-11-17. 
  7. ^ "Tri Srbije?". B92 Editorial. 10 October 2002. 
  8. ^ "3 PRSTA". Kurir. 11 November 2006. Lepo ste se toga setili! Podignuta tri prsta jesu simbol koji je u masovnu upotrebu uveo Vuk Drašković na mitingu u Beogradu 13. marta 1991. godine. Tada je SPO imala tri zahteva, a jedan od njih je bio da se puste svi pohapšeni 9. marta. To je bio naš simbol borbe za promene, a iako je trebalo dosta vremena da se taj simbol prihvati, očigledno je da je uspelo. I kada ga danas koriste radikali, nemam ništa protiv – kaže Srećković. 
  9. ^ "Prisoners of War". Sports Illustrated. 1996. [dead link]
  10. ^ "A Three-Finger Salute". The Christian Science Monitor. 2 February 1994. 
  11. ^ United States. Congress. House. Committee on National Security (1 January 1997). United States Policy Toward the Former Yugoslavia: Hearings Jeld June 7, 1995, July 11, 1995, October 17, 18, 1995, November 2, 8, 15, 30, 1995, December 6, 1995 and September 25, 1995. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-16-054094-3. 
  12. ^ Michigan Law Review 96 (7-8). University of Michigan, Department of Law. 1998. p. 2049. 
  13. ^ Станко Нишић (2004). Од Југославије до Србије. Књига-комерц. p. 162. одсечена три прста десне руке 
  14. ^ "Tajni znakovi Eurosonga: Kome je Marija podigla tri prsta?". SINA. [dead link]
  15. ^ Georg Cederskog (13 May 2007). "Schlagertävlingen hotar bli politiserad". Dagens Nyheter. 
  16. ^ Serbernas riksförbund i Sverige; et al. (17 May 2007). "Missförstå inte våra serbiska tre fingrar". Aftonbladet. 
  17. ^ NIN: nedeljne informativne novine (2958-2965). Politika. September 2007. Знам да су то користили војници у рату, али ја три прста не ди- жем зато што неког мрзим. Ја све љу- де поштујем, и знам шта ми је у срцу 
  18. ^ "Nepoželjna "tri prsta" u hrvatskoj izbornoj kampanji" (in Serbian). RTS. 2007-11-16. 
  19. ^ "Zbog tri prsta sa škole uklonjen mural ekološke tematike" (in Croatian). Tportal. 27 June 2015. 
  20. ^ "How NOT to behave in 15 countries around the world". Business Insider UK. 7 May 2015. 
  21. ^ "Cultural Information - Croatia". Centre for Intercultural Learning. 15 October 2009.