In Memoriam, Dragana Cvetanovic

Dragana was not only the soul of Balkan research and teaching, she was also a warm person, a long-time friend and a colleague, blessed with a great sense of humour, depth and authenticity.

According to the philosopher Seneca, the grief we feel at the loss of someone close to us is essentially grief at our own loss. It is the grief of an eternal hole in our lives that we can never fill because the loved one was a unique individual. This is the void that the wonderful and talented Dragana left behind. Each of us has their own special memories of her, because she touched us at different times and in different roles. For some, like myself, she was first a sharp student with insightful questions, then a collaborator and colleague, and a trusted expert on the Balkans. Seneca is right that there is a huge gap in the Finnish academic world in terms of Balkan studies and especially in terms of knowledge of hip-hop culture. Dragana's presence was like a stone thrown into a pond, causing an ever-widening reaction: her influence spread to ever-widening social and professional circles. We were part of her network, and through our writings we want to remember Dragana's mark on our lives. 

Katalin Miklóssy, Head of Eastern European Studies, Aleksanteri Institute

Dragana was a very enthusiastic and open-minded scholar, and a gentle, warm, and generous person. She carried her Yugoslav heritage very lightly, and was such a perceptive but enjoyable interpreter of that region. Her departure is a huge loss to many people.

Brendan Humphreys, Balkan-expert, Senior Researcher, Aleksanteri Institute

Dragana was not only the soul of Balkan research and teaching, she was also a warm person, a long-time friend and a colleague, blessed with a great sense of humour, depth and authenticity.  I have wonderful memories of her, of long conversations about science, teaching, music and everything in between - spiced with laughter and sharp wit. 

Jouni Järvinen, Head of the Study Programme of Eastern Central Europe, Balkans and Baltic Studies, Aleksanteri Institute

Together with Dragana, we have planned and taught several courses. It has been a pleasure to work with her and I have also learned a lot from it. I will always remember Dragana as a very wise, supportive, open, warm, humorous, inspiring and improvising teacher, as well as a good friend and colleague.

Sigrid Kaasik-Krogerus, University Lecturer, University of Helsinki

Dragana shined a light around her. In the days when the floors of 33 Unioninkatu had their own kitchens, the work community and its "room teams" had a special atmosphere - and Dragana was the central figure in one of them. It was common for us to gather spontaneously in the kitchen for lunch. In the midst of the day's catching up, we would sometimes discuss deep topics. These conversations will not be forgotten over time. 

When a colleague needed encouragement to finish her stalled dissertation, Dragana not only noticed the situation and helped untie the knot herself, but arranged for extra help - subtly but effectively. The dissertation in question got completed fairly quickly. There is no price and no substitute for such wisdom of the heart. 

When leaving for her next employment, Dragana grieved her departure from the Aleksanteri Institute, even though the move had been well considered. What a treat it was to meet up later, usually by chance or on matters relating to the editorship of the Idäntutkimus journal. 

On one occasion, a Serbian rapper performed at the annual Aleksanteri Conference, arranged by Dragana, of course. The artist's performance introduced the conference audience to something magnificent that they had known nothing about. 

Dragana personified the courage to bring different worlds together, to sow not discord but consideration, respect and care for others, to build peace and hope around her. Her legacy will carry far into the future.    

Elina Kahla, Liaison Manager, Aleksanteri Institute

Dragana. It pierces one’s heart hard to try to fathom that someone so full of life, light, and joy – who dances happily, whose laughter and smile blow away everyone’s sorrows – is really gone. The kind of humane, intense presence, sense of humour, and lack of self-importance (though with your wit and intellect there would have been reasons to show some!) we can search, and I do not think we will find. At the Aleksanteri Institute, it has never been as fun as when conversing with you on things big and small. We all who got to spend even some time with you as colleagues and as friends are privileged and forever thankful. And so utterly sad that you are not here anymore.   

Anna Korhonen, Head of International Affairs, Aleksanteri Institute

Dragana was full of ideas and easily inspired. She had a very broad knowledge of Eastern Europe; in particular she was well versed in music and other arts or culture in general, and their relation to politics. VIExpert students also enjoyed her teaching and guidance as part of the Perspectives course and, in some years, on Dragana's own courses.

Sirke Mäkinen, University Lecturer, ViExpert Programme Director, Aleksanteri Institute


We used to share an office with Dragana and a few other researchers, where we discussed both big and small issues on a daily basis, from fundamental theories to everyday practical matters. Dragana brought a warm, humane, analytical, and broad understanding to these discussions. When we organised Afternoon Beat dance sessions together at the Institute, Dragana approached the music choices with a professional touch. Dragana's ability to throw herself into the moment made our joint trip to Rome and countless graduate school field trips memorable. Dragana was one of those people who is just both delightful and fun. I will miss her light and warmth.

Mila Oiva, Senior Researcher, University of Tallinn


Dragana was both the sense and the sensibility of the Aleksanteri Institute. She embodied incredible talent, acuity and research originality, combined with warmth of heart, caring and genuine concern for others. Above all, she has remained in my memory as an exceptionally sweet and positive person. Dragana, you will be greatly missed, but your memory will always live on in our hearts. 

Anna-Maria Salmi, Development Manager, Aleksanteri Institute 2009–2016