Why Ralph Fiennes Got Honorary Serbian Citizenship

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Ralph Fiennes

The actor was honored for his work in the country over the last few years, but retains his British citizenship.

Oscar-nominated British actor Ralph Fiennes recently got Serbian citizenship to honor his work in the country.

Obtaining a citizenship of an Eastern European country by a Western film star is rather uncommon, and Fiennes is the first major foreign star to be granted citizenship of the country. For those wondering: the initiative to give him the honorary citizenship came from Serbia's culture ministry.

"This is rather different from seeking to become a Serbian citizen," Simon Beresford, Fiennes' agent, told The Hollywood Reporter. "It is more like being granted the 'keys to the city.' "

According to Beresford, Fiennes remains a British citizen, but has "gracefully accepted the honor bestowed on him by the Serbian people in gratitude and appreciation of the work he has done in Serbia over a number of years."

Fiennes filmed his 2011 directorial debut, Coriolanus, in Serbia and is currently filming a movie that he is directing, The White Crow, there as well.

Serbia, the largest country of the former Yugoslavia, has a population of 7 million people. Among U.S. film personalities of Serbian ancestry are Milla Jovovich and Milena Govich.

In January 2013, Gerard Depardieu obtained Russian citizenship by a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin. In November of last year, Steven Seagal also became a Russian citizen. Both actors had been praising Kremlin policies, and the granting of citizenship to them was widely viewed as a political gesture.