Travel Guides: History Of Belgrade
Belgrade is one of the most interesting and attractive cities in the Balkans, despite the devastating wars that have rocked the region. This old town (one of the oldest in Europe), located on the Danube bank and with a population of over 1.7 million, was once a reference point of intersection of the east and the west of Europe.
Belgrade is a place that combines history with cultural life; here can be found palaces, fortresses, museums and galleries, each with something special. It’s hard to choose between all of them. But the most important tourist attractions include the following:
Palace of Princess Ljubica – situated on the Knez Sime Markovica 8 is an extraordinarily well preserved example of Balkan architecture from the late eighteenth century – early nineteenth century, having beyond the beauty of the construction and charm of the era, an impressive collection of paintings and carpets.
Ada Ciganlija – this island park, located on the Sava River, is perfect for those who simply enjoy a walk in nature, away from the bustle of the city. You can take a bike ride and discover the charm of nature.
Kalemegdan Citadel – the fortified structure provides an opportunity to travel back in time, until the seventeenth century, when the citadel was an important defense for the city. Today you can also see here, hidden by the massive walls of the medieval gates, the Muslim tombs and Turkish baths, very well kept. It is the place where time seems to have stood still in a troubled period of Balkan history.
The fortress was built in the fourteenth century. The long process of reconstruction of this citadel has just concluded four hundred years later, when the Turks invaded the Balkans in Europe. The former Yugoslavia did not escape the Ottoman advance so that, in this era, the Kalemegdan fortress still retains some important monuments. For example, in the higher part of the building, you will find the fountain of Mehmed Pacha Sokolovic, and the mausoleum of Turbe de Damad Ali Pacha.
These are sights of great interest of Belgrade, which recall the times when heroes walked the streets. The fortress of Kalemegdan is interesting also by its numerous medieval towers and gates. The old tower that guards Belgrade is the Tower of Despot. You can recognize it easily because it has a square shape and is placed in an open area to the river, and in old ages it has been used as the main entrance in the fortress. Equally interesting is the Nebojsa Tower.
Military Museum – those attracted by history can also stop here, after seeing the castles and fortifications. The museum offers a journey through military history – battles, weapons, tactics and tricks used since ancient times until modern times.
Tomb of Marshal Tito – a destination not only for nostalgic people, as Tito’s personality remains today very popular and appreciated in Belgrade.
National Museum – it is one of the most important museums in the Balkans, with a rich collection of ancient art and artifacts, but also with works by artists like Picasso or Monet. Combining passion for history and archeology inspired that for Art, National Museum should be a mandatory destination for any tourist.
Marko Sebian Orthodox Church – the size and importance of faith in Serbia can not be neglected, and the beauty of this construction is always a living testimony of it. From the start the impressive architecture and atmosphere of silence and inner faith, the church is truly one of Belgrade’s cultural and architectural jewels.
Mount Avala – located south of downtown, covered with forests, it is a mountain symbolic for Belgrade, surrounding the city and always seeming to be defending it. At the top of the mountain, after an exhausting climb, you will find the Unknown Soldier Monument, built in memory of Serb heroes who lost their lives in the battlefield of the First World War.
Yugoslavia, Tito, war, all these ended, and Belgrade is today, a very good city to visit. For a while Western tourists and not only them, are attracted by the gaiety of Serbs who seem to be looking for all injuries caused by the Balkan conflict.
Danube in Belgrade – You need to pass through two centuries, that the two gates built in the eighteenth century and, respectively, XIXth century and discover the symbol of Belgrade. It is represented by a statue sculpted by the famous Ivan Mestrovic. The statue is built on a neoclassical column and symbolizes the efforts of the Serb army to liberate the country during WWI.
Here you can find the most beautiful view over the two rivers that cross the capital of Serbia (the Danube and Sava). If you are interested in weapons of war, you should visit the Military Museum. You will see many sizes and shapes of guns that Serbs have kept as “souvenirs” from the many wars that took place in this part of Europe. It is time to go from the city to walk the boulevards in Belgrade. You will notice several architectural styles.
As in other capitals reached by communism, prewar buildings or old age even more chaotic with walls typically communist neighbors. Until now, nothing special, say Eastern European tourists. It is true, but they have not yet arrived in the Republic Square.
Here you will find the National Museum and a bronze sculpture. It is important to represent a Serbian hero: Mihailo Obrenovic. Also, this is where they have meetings and also gather here to protest against those who strike.
Orthodox and Muslim – Those who are interested in religion, will not be disappointed in Belgrade. Many churches raise their crosses on most of the hills of the city. The most famous of them are Saborna Crkva and Sveti Marko. The first is built in the nineteenth century in a style that combines the characteristics of Byzantine architecture and houses the tombs of Austria’s two most important Serbian writers (Dositelj Obradovic and Vuk Karadzic).
Here rest important Serbian priests and leaders. The second one combines Serbian Orthodox church with medieval style features of Greek. You recognize it after the twelve towers and after colors of red and ocher. I recommend an evening visit, because the church is turning into a real light show. Ingenuity bulbs placed on the walls make this place of worship all the tourist fun at night.
Belgrade also holds a mosque. One found near the port. Bairakli Mosque was built in the seventeenth century by Sultan Suleiman II. It was rebuilt several times, but retains many architectural elements from the Turkish times. For example, the inner courtyard. The minarets of the mosques, Ottoman flag hoisted to mark the beginning of their prayers in all mosques of the city.
Railway station in Belgrade is surrounded by small hotels that offer good prices. If you want an accommodation to five star rated, you can choose between Aleksandar Palas and Hyatt Regency. The first is set in a huge intersection near downtown and 20 minutes walk from the train station. Prices range between 15 and 200 euros per night depending on the conditions they propose in hotels.
Partially destroyed approximately 44 times, the city of Belgrade is not only one of the oldest cities on the continent but also one of those that can boast a history as can be cruel if not tragic. The capital of Serbia since 1403, Belgrade (Beograd) is placed in a strategic point at the mouth of the river Sava in the Danube, between two important regions of Serbia, Vojvodina and Central Serbia. Today, Belgrade is a true European capital, a city worth visiting and offers tourists a historical center which counts no more than 48 markets and 5,500 squares and old streets.
Atlas Mountains – Located south of the city’s historic center, Avala Mountain is covered by a dense forest guards and the top or Unknown Soldier Monument, built in memory of the heroes of the First World War.
The Ancient City – Neolithic Starčevo and Vinca cultures developed in or near Belgrade and dominated the Balkans (and some parts of Central Europe and Little Asia) 7,000 years ago. Some researchers believe that the signs are the prehistoric Vinci oldest known form of the alphabet. Places were inhabited by Paleo-Balkan tribes of the Dacians and Thracians made before scordiscii, a Celtic tribe, established here in the fourth century BC and gave it the name by which the city was known, Singidūn before its Romanization Singidunum name in the first century AC.
In the middle of the II century, the city was proclaimed by the Romans a municipium, evolving into a full colony developed (the highest class of Roman city) by the end of the century. Constantine the Great, first Christian emperor, was born in Serbia, Nis, in the year 280, and Iovian, a Roman emperor known Iovianus Flavius, the restorer of Christianity, was born in Belgrade in the year 332.
Iovian restored Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, ending the brief revival of Roman religious traditions as Julian the Apostate, his predecessor. In 395 AC the place came under Byzantine rule. Beyond the Sava River in Singidunum, was the Celtic town Zemun, which over the Roman and Byzantine rulers shared a common fate with the “twin” (the two cities were linked by a bridge).
Middle Ages – Singidunum was occupied and often ravaged by successive invasions of Huns, Sarmatians, Gepids, Ostrogoths and Avars before the arrival of Slavs around the year 630. It was used as the center of the United Gepids in the early 500, before being conquered by the Avars. When the Avars were finally driven out by the forces of the Carolingian Empire in the ninth century, again under Byzantine rule, while Zemun became part of the Carolingian kingdom and was renamed Malevilla. At the same time (around 878), the first record of the Slavic name, Beligrad appeared during the reign of the the First Bulgarian Empire.
For about four centuries, the city was a battleground between the Byzantine Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary and the First Bulgarian Empire. The city hosted the armies of the first and second crusade. Moving on here during the Third Crusade, Frederick Barbarossa and 190,000 crusaders saw the Belgrade in ruins. United Capital in 1284 Syrmia’s Dragutin was given by his father in law, Stephen V of Hungary. Following the Battle of Maritsa in 1371 and one from Kosovo Polje in 1389, bran Serbian began to crumble when the Ottomans conquered the southern part of the territory.
However, the northern part of Serbia has resisted along its existence, with the capital in Belgrade. The town prospered under the Serbian ruler, Stefan Lazarević, son of Lazar of Serbia. Lazarević built a castle with a citadel and towers, which have been preserved until today only the tower and west wall. Also, the old city walls were rebuilt, Ottoman forces managed to resist for almost 70 years. During this time, Belgrade was a haven for many Balkan peoples fleeing from Ottoman rule, and is believed to have a population of 40-50 thousand people. In 1427, Stephen’s successor, George Brancovici, had Hungarians back to Belgrade and the capital was moved to Smederevo. During their reign, the Ottomans had conquered most of Serbia, unsuccessfully besieging Belgrade in 1440 and then in 1456.
As a further obstacle to accession in Central Europe, over 100,000 Ottoman soldiers launched the famous siege of Belgrade, the Christian army led by John Hunyadi successfully defended the Ottoman city, wounding Sultan Mehmed II. This struggle “decided the fate of Christendom”; at the request of Pope Calixt III, noon bell ringing throughout the Christian world commemorates the victory to date.
Ottoman conquest / Austrian Invasion – Only on 28 August 1521 (7 decades since the last siege) of the fortress was conquered by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his 250,000 soldiers, mostly after the city was bred to the ground, and the entire Christian population (including Serbs , Hungarians, Greeks, Armenians) was deported to Istanbul in the area known as the Belgrade Forest. Sanjak district became the center of Belgrade, which has attracted new residents – traders, Turks, Armenians, Greeks and others, and peace was maintained in the next 150 years.
Belgrade became the second most populous of the Ottoman city with over 100,000 people, surpassed only by Constantinople. Turkish domination of Ottoman architecture introduced in Belgrade, many mosques were built east of the city atmosphere amplified. In 1594, a major Serb rebellion was crushed by the Turks. In addition, the Grand Vizier Sinan Pasha has ordered that the relics of St. Sava to be burned in public in Vracar plateau, more recently, the Temple of Saint Sava was built to commemorate this event.
Occupied three times (1688-1690, 1717-1739, 1789-1791) by the Austrians led by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian of Bavaria and that Eugene of Savoy, Belgrade was quickly recaptured and subsequently destroyed each time by the Ottomans. In this period the city was hit by two major Serbian migrations, in which hundreds of thousands of Serbs were led by their patriarchs, retreated together with the Austrian Hapsburg Empire, which was settled today in Vojvodina and Slavonia.
Serbia’s Capital – During the first Serbian uprising, the revolutionaries were in control of the city on 8 January 1807 until 1813, when it was recaptured by the Turks. After the Second Serbian uprising in 1815, Serbia has gained a partial independence officially recognized by the Sublime Porte in 1830. In 1841, Prince Mihalio Obrenović moved the capital from Kragujevac to Belgrade. With the acquisition of complete independence of the Principality of Serbia in 1878 and change in the Kingdom of Serbia in 1882, Belgrade has become the key that city in the Balkans and developed rapidly.
However, Serbia has remained whole a predominantly agrarian country, even after the opening of a railway linking Belgrade to Nis, Serbia’s second city, and in 1900 the capital had a population of only 69,100 inhabitants. Yet by 1905 the population reached over 80,000, and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, exceeded 100,000 citizens – without Zemun, who belonged to Austria-Hungary. The first film screening in South-Eastern and Central Europe held in Belgrade in June 1896 was organized by Andre Carr, a representative of the Lumière brothers. Belgrade’s first film was released the following year, although it was not kept.
World War I / Unified city – Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, by Gavrilo Princip on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo triggered World War I. Balkan offensive was concentrated around Belgrade. Austro-Hungarian monitors shelled Belgrade on July 29, 1914; it was conquered by the Austro-Hungarian Army under General Oskar Potiorek on November 30. On December 15, it was regained by Serb troops led by Marshal Radomir Putnik. After a long struggle, which destroyed a large part of the city between June and October 9, 1915 Belgrade fell to German occupation and Austro-Hungarian troops commanded by Field Marshal August von Mackensen. The city was liberated by Serbian and French troops on November 5, 1918 under the command of Marshal Louis Franchet d’Esperey of France and Prince Alexander of Serbia.
The capital was destroyed by military operations, Subotica has become the largest town in the Kingdom, but only for a short period, the population of Belgrade has grown rapidly, re-occupying first place in the early 1920s. After the war, Belgrade became the capital of the new kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and later renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. The kingdom was divided in Banat and Belgrade with Zemun and Pancevo cities have formed a separate administrative unit.
During this period, in Belgrade has been a significant and rapid modernization. The city’s population increased to 239,000 in 1931, and in 1940, up to 320,000. Percentage of population growth from 1921 and 1948 was 4.08% per year. In 1927 it opened the first airport in Belgrade, and in 1929 the first Serbian radio station began to transmit radio broadcasts. Pancevo Bridge, which crosses the Danube, was opened in 1935.
World War II – On March 25, 1941, the Government of Prince Regent Paul signed the Tripartite Pact, joining the Axis Powers in the hope that it will not enter into the Second World War. This step was immediately followed by mass protests in Belgrade and a military coup led by Air Force Commander, General Dusan Simovic, who claimed that King Peter II is the age required to run the kingdom. Consequently, the city was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe on 6 April 1941, 24,000 people were killed.
Yugoslavia was then invaded by German forces, Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian and eastern suburbs of the capital and Zemun have been incorporated into a Nazi puppet state – Independent State of Croatia. Belgrade became the seat of another puppet government, led by Milan Nedic. During summer and autumn of 1941, in retaliation to attacks by partisans, the Germans made several massacres of Belgrade citizens, particularly Jews were shot by the order of General Franz Böhme, Governor General of the Serbian military. Böhme imposed a harsh rule that for every German killed, 100 Serbs to be shot or Hebrew.
Belgrade was bombed by the Allies on April 12, 1944, killing nearly 1,100 people. The bombing took place on Easter Orthodox Church. Most of the city remained under German occupation until 20 October 1944, when it was issued by the Yugoslav Communist partisans and Red Army. On 29 November 1945, Marshal Josip Broz Tito proclaimed the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia Belgrade, which was to become, on 7 April 1963, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Communist Yugoslavia – During the postwar period, Belgrade has progressed rapidly as the capital of the renewed Yugoslavia, developing as an important industrial center. In 1958 it started television broadcasting. In 1961, the Non-Aligned Conference was held in Belgrade under Tito’s chairmanship. In 1968, student protests led to more major street conflicts between students and police, which ended with Tito’s famous words, “Students are right.” In March 1972, Belgrade was the center of the last major outbreak of smallpox in Europe, which, by the application of quarantine and mass vaccination, was attenuated in late May.
Post-communist history – On March 9, 1991 massive demonstrations took place in the city led by Vuk Draskovic, against Slobodan Milosevic. According to the media, took to the streets between 100,000 and 150,000 people. During the protest, two people were killed, 203 injured and 108 arrested, and later those days were brought tanks to restore order. More protests were held in Belgrade from November 1996 to February 1997 compared to the same government, after the alleged local elections fraud. These protests brought to power Zoran Djindjic, the first mayor of Belgrade after the Second World War was not a member of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia or its offspring, the Socialist Party of Serbia.
NATO bombing during the Kosovo war of 1999 caused significant damage to the city. Among the buildings bombed were those of several ministries, in some hospitals and public television – in which 16 technicians were killed, Jugoslavija Hotel, the Central Committee building, Avala TV Tower and the Chinese Embassy. After the 2000 elections were held in Belgrade major street protests, with over one million participants. These demonstrations have led to the elimination of President Slobodan Milosevic.
Name history – Belgrade has received several names throughout history, though almost all are translated as “white city”. Serbian name, Beograd is composed of the words beo (“white light”) and grade (town, city) and city names etymologically refers to other, common in the Slavic world: Belgorod, Białogard, Biograd.
Municipalities – The city is divided into 17 municipalities. Most municipalities are located in the south of the river Sava and Danube region Šumadija. Three municipalities (Zemun, Novi Beograd and Surčin) are located on the north bank of the Sava, in the region Syrmia and Palilula city is on both sides of the Danube, both belonging to Šumadijia and Banat.
Demography – According to the 2002 census, the main ethnic groups in Belgrade: Serbs (1,417,187), Yugoslavs (22,161), Montenegrins (21,190), Romans (19,191), Croats (10,381), Macedonians (8372) and Muslims (like ethnicity) (4617). Recent surveys in 2007 showed that Belgrade’s population grew by 400,000 in just five years since the last official census.
By August 2, 2008, the Institute of Informatics and Statistics in the city registered a total of 1,542,773 citizens eligible to vote, confirming the dramatic population growth in recent years. Currently, the number of citizens voting has surpassed the entire population of a few years ago. At the end of 2007 official estimates, according to the Institute of Informatics and Statistics, were 1.63 million.
Belgrade is home to various ethnic groups from all over the former Yugoslavia. Many people come to town in rural villages or small towns as economic migrants, while thousands more have arrived as refugees in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, due to the outbreak of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. It is estimated that live in Belgrade between 10,000 and 20,000 Chinese; they began to settle down in the mid 1980s. Blok 70 in New Belgrade is known as a local center of the Chinese.
Many emigrants from the Middle East, especially Syria, Iran, Jordan and Iraq came in order to continue studies in the 1970s and 1980s and their families based in the city. Afghan and Iraqi Kurd refugees are the latest wave of immigrants from the Middle East. Although there are several historic religious communities in Belgrade, the city’s religious composition is relatively homogeneous.
The Serbian Orthodox community is by far the largest, with 1,429,170 of the faithful. There are also 20,366 Muslims, 16,035 Christians, Roman Catholics and Protestants 3796. There was also a significant Hebrew community, but due to the Nazi occupation and subsequent emigration to Israel, their number dropped to just 415.11