Hidden Belgrade (43): Last days of Yugoslav socialist consumerism

While many emphasise worker-ownership or its non-aligned anti-imperialist foreign policy as distinctive features of Yugoslav socialism, for me one of the most striking ways it differed from the countries behind the “Iron Curtain” is its deep openness to Western consumerist culture. Indeed, if you ask average former Yugoslavs what the main difference was between them and their supposed ideological comrades in the Warsaw pact, they … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (43): Last days of Yugoslav socialist consumerism

Hidden Belgrade (42): Art for The People!

Public art in Belgrade is back in fashion with many ambitious projects completed and planned. They range from the sculptural/architectural collaboration between Turner prize-winning Richard Deacon and widely acclaimed local sculptor Mrđan Bajić to the future gigantic monument to  the founder of the most successful of Serbian medieval states, Stefan Nemanja, made by the acclaimed Russian sculptor Alexander Rukavishnikov. There have also recently been two … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (42): Art for The People!

Hidden Belgrade (41): Occult Belgrade

Given Belgrade’s long and bloody history it is almost a wonder that there is not a larger number of stories of hauntings and other occult occurrences. This is even more remarkable considering that Serbia has a long association with and interest in the occult – from being connected with vampire crazes since 18th century (we invented the word after all), to its prominent role in … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (41): Occult Belgrade

Hidden Belgrade (40): National Assembly’s Grand Interior

Built in 1936, on the spot of the former Batal mosque, and just across the road from the royal place complex, the National Assembly building, was built to impress the power and ambitions of the ill-fated Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The outdated, Belle Epoque grandeur of its exterior was based on a design by Konstantin Jovanović in 1892, (later modified by Jovan and Petar Ilkić in … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (40): National Assembly’s Grand Interior

Beyond Brutalism: Belgrade’s Magical Pre-WWII Architecture

Although best known for socialist modernism and brutalism, Belgrade’s architecture is (in)famously eclectic due to the various political twists and turns that shaped the city’s identity (as I’ve written here). Although through much of the 19th century, Belgrade’s foreign and foreign-educated architects were trying to find their feet by copying architecture of Serbia’s powerful neighbours, in early 20th century and arrival of art-nouveau, which embraced … Continue reading Beyond Brutalism: Belgrade’s Magical Pre-WWII Architecture

Hidden Belgrade (38): Great Men Behind National Museum’s Tiny Egyptology Collection

Ever since Napoleon invaded Egypt at the turn of 19th Century, having  an Egyptological collection was a status symbol in the West. These collections, stuffed with precious ,strange mummies, statuses of animal-headed gods and golden trinkets not only served to pique the curiosity of the local educated elites but were also a symbol of civilisational continuity: that its current rulers and citizens are physically connected … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (38): Great Men Behind National Museum’s Tiny Egyptology Collection

Hidden Belgrade (36): ‘German Bridge’ and its Hero

Belgrade’s relationship with this iconic green-arched bridge, the city’s shortest and oldest continuously standing, started off in the worst possible way during the darkest days of World War II. After Nazi Germany attacked the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, the Royal Yugoslav Army blew up all of Belgrade’s bridges on the Sava and the Danube in order to slow down the enemy advance. … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (36): ‘German Bridge’ and its Hero

Hidden Belgrade (35): The Home of Serbian Expansionist Project

On August 10 1889, cannons announced the arrival of the teenage King Aleksandar Obrenovic to an empty plot in Dusanova street. Although cleared for years, the spot at which the young king was standing, held the remains of two empires between which the young Kingdom of Serbia was slowly growing. It used to be “Pirinc-han”: the palace of Eugene of Savoy during the Habsburg rule … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (35): The Home of Serbian Expansionist Project

Hidden Belgrade (34): Rabbi Alkalai, Zemun and Zionism

Although in the past few decades Zemun is best known for its tough guys (read: mafiosi), great lively restaurants a more chilled vibe than old Belgrade, this ancient town has for centuries been a vibrant melting pot of various cultures, drawing merchants and craftspeople to the border of Central Europe and the Orient, which, for centuries lay on the banks of the Danube. Despite many … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (34): Rabbi Alkalai, Zemun and Zionism

Hidden Belgrade (32): Eternal Belgraders

Sculptures on Belgrade’s buildings were created in the relatively narrow period of time. Out stone and bronze citizens were all born in the stretch of about 80 years, between the end of the austere Balkan architectural style in mid-19th century (which, following the Islamic custom forbade depiction of people) until the final victory of modernism in Belgrade’s  architecture, when Tito broke away from Stalin and … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (32): Eternal Belgraders

Mathematical High School: Serbia’s Academic Bright Spot

Belgrade’s Matematicka gimnazija (Mathematical High School) is a rare Serbian institution, along with athletes and cuisine, which receives nearly unanimous national acclaim and the school is protected from the usual mud slinging of Serbia’s public arena for good reasons. Year after year, the school churns out positive news: alumni routinely achieve great success at the world’s best universities- one alumnus is a former mayor of … Continue reading Mathematical High School: Serbia’s Academic Bright Spot

Hidden Belgrade (31): How Slets and Sokols Helped Work Out a Yugoslav Identity

It has been 30 years since the last ‘slet’ – a spectacular annual event much like the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games that included the presentation of a relay baton that had been carried across each Yugoslav state followed by mass games featuring coordinated gymnastic routines and dances. The event was part of the former Yugoslavia’s Youth Day celebrations, one of the largest events … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (31): How Slets and Sokols Helped Work Out a Yugoslav Identity

Hidden Belgrade (30): Neimar –  Belgrade’s First Leafy Suburb

During Belgrade’s population boom in 1920s and 30s, its better heeled citizens decided that they wanted to create suburban neighbourhoods which would guarantee them a degree of comfort away from the town’s hustle and bustle. While then, like now villas in neighbourhoods of Senjak and Dedinje were considered the best addresses in town, the educated (upper) middle classes sought also wanted to get away from … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (30): Neimar –  Belgrade’s First Leafy Suburb

First Years of Modern Belgrade

A century and a half ago, on April 6 1867, the last Ottoman soldiers left the Belgrade fortress, the northernmost post of the sprawling, if crumbling, empire. That day, celebrated with much pomp in Kalemegdan, marked the beginning of modern Belgrade. Under Ottoman rule, Belgrade was known as Dar al Jihad (House of the Holy War) and in the 17th Century it was one of … Continue reading First Years of Modern Belgrade

Hidden Belgrade (29): Voždovac’s Surrealist Church

From the outside the Church of St Constantine and St Helen in the suburb of Voždovac looks like a slightly more elegant standard-issue Serbian Orthodox church, with a demure grey façade and a prominent bell-tower. The current structure, an update of the church built in early 20th Century and damaged in WWII was designed by Dragomir Tadić, a renowned Serbian church architect of the late … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (29): Voždovac’s Surrealist Church