Serbia, sanctioned

Since Serbia is remembering 30th anni ersary since very harsh sancions were imposed on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and as we are being pressured to impose sanctions in Russia, I am reminded of my earliest memories, which took place by the Belgrade train station. It was hot summers’ day in 1992, and I was four, throwing a tantrum when I was supposed to be … Continue reading Serbia, sanctioned

Hidden Belgrade (66): SIVilisational decline

For a very long time, SIV, for me, was just a drab government building. While I passed it fairly often, unthinkingly, on my regular walks between old Zemun, much like the whole of New Belgrade – with the exception of Sava Centar – it was unremarkable, melding into the grey mass of what I (and many around me) termed as “uninspiring socialist architecture”, something that … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (66): SIVilisational decline

Dejan Milićević: King of Yugoslav 90s Camp and Colour

Ever since MTV started airing non-stop music videos in 1980s, Yugoslav pop stars were keen to embrace the style and creativity of the medium. From the get go there were many creative attempts with the format from very arty and conceptual videos of VIS Idoli to sexy  high production videos to Lepa Brena’s songs. Slovenian controversial art-band Laibach’s video for Life is Life even managed … Continue reading Dejan Milićević: King of Yugoslav 90s Camp and Colour

Serbia and Yugoslavia at the World Fairs (1): 1885-1939

Ever since the world was sufficiently globalised to allow for a common cultural language of admiration for technology and industry in mid-19th century, there have been expositions which allowed every country to show their might, progress and peculiarity on the world stage. It all started with the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace of 1851, inside the Hyde Park, which dazzled the inhabitants of the … Continue reading Serbia and Yugoslavia at the World Fairs (1): 1885-1939

Belgrade Post-Modern: Ruins at the End of History

“The only way for us to become great, or even inimitable if possible, is to imitate the ancients.” Johann Joachim Winckelmann  “As is the case with the weather: rain and storms from the West reached us and so did Postmodernism. At the very beginning of Postmodernism, a great conference was held in Zagreb on that topic, which identified vectors and positive values ​​of the movement … Continue reading Belgrade Post-Modern: Ruins at the End of History

Hidden Belgrade (64): The Cursed Ghost Ship

Having been in a bit of a wedding frenzy over the past few days, I thought about the history of what I thought was one of the most beautiful and doomed wedding presents in Serbia: the “Dragor” river yacht, which I once read was a belated gift of the Romanian royal family to their daughter Marija on the occasion of her marriage to King Aleksandar … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (64): The Cursed Ghost Ship

They don’t (re)make them like they used to: Yugoslav covers of foreign hits through the ages

Although the now globally ubiquitous charges of “cultural appropriation”, have been a staple of inter-ethnic relations in the Balkans since times immemorial (especially when nations insist on their protochronism), they have never stopped the willingness of local musicians to draw from foreign music to create local hits which became treated as local folk songs. This phenomenon was best described in a 2003 Bulgarian documentary, “Whose … Continue reading They don’t (re)make them like they used to: Yugoslav covers of foreign hits through the ages

Build Better: How a Belgrade Firm Built the World

Energoprojekt, the most famous firm based in Belgrade, is celebrating 70 years this year, and thanks to the great people of BINA (Belgrade International Architecture Week) I got acquainted a bit further with both its amazing HQ in New Belgrade as well as its accomplishments around the world. The frim, founded in 1951, initially focused on major energy projects in Yugoslavia, building its coal and … Continue reading Build Better: How a Belgrade Firm Built the World

Occupation in 2-6 Pictures: Beginning

On this day 80 years ago, 6 April 1941, my great-grandparents’s flat in Vuka Karadžića street in Belgrade was torn in two by the Nazi bombs. On the same day, their relative, who was a child at the time was almost killed in the debris the Stukas made of an air-raid shelter by the Ascension church. A few days later, as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia … Continue reading Occupation in 2-6 Pictures: Beginning

Hidden Belgrade (59): Yugoslavia’s Crib

Due to many destructions brought upon Serbia, there are a few houses that have been standing long enough and have been important enough to tell the story of the country’s history (and various incarnations). Thankfully however, one of them is located bang in the heart of Belgrade, at Terazije. One of the first works by one of Serbia’s first starchitects, Jovan Ilkić, this Neo-baroque house … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (59): Yugoslavia’s Crib

Treats and Tricks: A Brief History of Serbia’s Favourite Sweets

Sweets are not the first thing you would associate with Serbia and, traditionally, they did not have a prominent place in the country’s cuisine.  In Serbia, the need for sugary treats was traditionally sated by plentiful fruit and preserves. Indeed, in one part of Njegoš’s epic Mountain Wreath (Gorski Vijenac), in describing his trip to Venice, duke Draško complains that the Venetians only subsisted on … Continue reading Treats and Tricks: A Brief History of Serbia’s Favourite Sweets

We love you, our Fatherland: Yugoslav and Serbian Popular and Official Anthems

The past two centuries of Serbian and Yugoslav national movements might have produced a lot of pain and suffering, but they also did create some cool music. Here are my favourite official and unofficial anthems of Serbia and Yugoslavia, which can still bring a tear to my eye. 9. Zemljo moja (To my country) – Ambasadori, 1975 Apparently one of Tito‘s favourite songs, “Zemljo moja” … Continue reading We love you, our Fatherland: Yugoslav and Serbian Popular and Official Anthems

All The Belgrade Olympics That Didn’t Happen

Ever since their modern re-incarnation, the Olympics are an opportunity for countries to show off their wealth, might and cultural sophistication, all under a pleasant guise of global unity, fair play and athletic achievement. They are certainly the most enduring and spectacular pinnacle of Belle Époque intellectual trends from increased importance of sports in individual and social development (e.g. the Sokol movement), globalism, international competition, … Continue reading All The Belgrade Olympics That Didn’t Happen

Belgrade’s Lost Monuments

As a city which went through significant turmoils in its modern, post-Ottoman history – from brutal occupations in WWI and WWII to major political changes in 1903, after WWII and in 2000 – Belgrade has had its fair share of monument destructions, however mostly at the hands of its occupiers. Unsurprisingly, removal of monuments to the recent past happened most immediately after the Partizans took … Continue reading Belgrade’s Lost Monuments

Yugohotel: Omorika, Tara

Built in 1978. based on the design of Miroslav Krstonošić, a Ljubljana-educated architect from Novi Sad, Omorika is named after an autochthonous spruce which grows on the slopes of Tara. Its tent-shaped design was awarded Borba prize for architecture, and its interior still looks very much in vein of other Yugohotels. Thanks to the fact that it still owned by the Serbian Military (although accessible … Continue reading Yugohotel: Omorika, Tara

An African-American Star in 1920s Yugoslavia

In April 1929, Josephine Baker was the first African-American star to visit Belgrade, while she was on her tour around Central Europe on the Orient Express. The visit came during her peak popularity in Paris, just before she made her hit „J’ai deux Amours”, and while she was still shunned in her native US, despite entrancing everyone with her dance and skimpy exotic outfits. She … Continue reading An African-American Star in 1920s Yugoslavia

VIS Idoli and Subversion in the 1980s SFRY

Opinion on Yugoslav pop music among Serbia’s intellectual elite oscillates between breathless adoration (in 1990s, when it was a sign of being “educated” against the onslaught of the ovelry maligned folk and turbofolk) to disgust (currently liking EKV, let alone Bijelo Dugme,  is considered a sure sign of pseudointellectualism and/or smarm) and back to ironic appreciation (Zdravko Čolić and Bajaga). As Yugopop was the soundtrack … Continue reading VIS Idoli and Subversion in the 1980s SFRY

Celebrating Workers in Belgrade’s Public Art

As Serbia and Yugoslavia moved towards a more industrial economy in 1930s and 40s the industrial workers, who had a rough time during the capitalist monarchy in Yugoslavia, started being celebrated in its arts. Although celebration of the life workers was most famously depicted by artists with socialist sensibilities such as Đorđe Andrejević Kun, whose album of prints Bloody Gold, depicted rapacious capitalism, idealised workers … Continue reading Celebrating Workers in Belgrade’s Public Art

Hidden Belgrade (45) Sava Centar: Yugoslavia’s Global Stage

When I asked Maja Necić from AUTORI, one of the leading contemporary architecture and design studios in Serbia, for any buildings that inspire her work, she took a pause and then immediately said: Sava Centar. Designed by Stojan Maksimović, one of Yugoslavia’s most promising architects who was in his 40s at the time, and built between 1976 and 1979, it was mean to be the … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (45) Sava Centar: Yugoslavia’s Global Stage

How Ivan Meštrović brought the Kosovo Myth to life

In 1911, Ivan Meštrović, a Croatian sculptor raised in Dalmatian backwater and educated in Vienna, who was hailed as one of the greatest of his generation and a successor to Rodin,  caused the first of many political stirs in his life. Instead of exhibiting his monumental, secession-inspired works to show the glory and grandeur of the imperial Austro-Hungary during the 1911 international art exhibition in … Continue reading How Ivan Meštrović brought the Kosovo Myth to life