As I come back to these photos and learn more details about the buildings and age depicted in them, I literally get a chill down my spine every now and then. The history of Belgrade and Europe is nothing less than amazing. I’m not even referring to ancient history. We’re talking about a hundred years or less here, around the time my grandparents were born. That’s a minuscule amount of time in a city that is officially over 2000 years old.
As I continue to revamp the orginal post from Ivan’s “Unkool” blog (and he’s promised a huge amount of high quality old photos in the future) I’ll ask you to keep in mind that some of these buildings and people were revolutionary for their time. Sometimes it takes a look into the past to make for a better future.
The National Assembly (Parliament) Building
(Zgrada Narodne Skupštine)
The first plans for the National Assembly building were drawn up by Konstantin Jovanović in 1891, the innovative architect who also designed the building of the National Assembly of Bulgaria,but construction didn’t begin until 1907 By that time, architect Jovan Ilkić, who also designed the Hotel “Moskva”, had made a new designfor the Assembly building, based on Jovanović’s design.
A few years later, World War I further delayed construction and all original plans for the building were lost. Ilkić’s son, Pavle Ilkić, drew up new plans from what he remembered of the original plans. The interior of the building was designed by Nikolaj Krasnov, artist and member of the Serbian Royal Academy.
Toma Rosandić, one of Croatia’s most prominent sculptors of the time, created perhaps his greatest masterpiece for the entrance of the Assembly building, “Igrali se konji vrani” (“The Black Horses Played”). The statues and building are located on Nikola Pašić Square in downtown Belgrade. The sight is still impressive, to say the least.
Video footage of the building of the National Assembly in Belgrade burning during the riots of the “Bulldozer Revolution” on October 5th of 2000 were included in the 2008 film “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly. Below is a clip from CBS Evening News dated October 5th, 2000 with some of that footage.
King Alekandar Bridge & King Petar Bridge
(most Kralja Aleksandra & most Kralja Petra)
A bridge dedicated to the “knightly King Aleksandar” was built across the Sava river in 1934 and was also known as the tram bridge. This must be one of the few existing pictures of the bridge as it was demolished by bombs in 1941, during World War II.
Branko’s bridge was built in its place in 1957, using the former bridge’s pylons. A German company was behind the bridge’s original design while the bridge’s original pylons were decorated by another outstanding Croatian sculptor, Ivan Meštrović. The bridge was officially named the “Bridge of Unity and Brotherhood” but it was soon, and continues to be, referred to as Branko’s Bridge.
There has been an ongoing debate as to the origins of the name. Some will tell you the bridge carries the name of Serbian poet, Branko Radičević, as it is located next to the street named after him. Those with a more “noir” or adventurous attitude will tell you the bridge got it’s name after Bosnian Serb writer, Branko Ćopić, who plunged to his death from this bridge in 1984.
As a form of payment for World War I damages to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, two German companies joined in he construction of a bridge over the Danube, from Belgrade toward the industrial town of Pančevo. Construction began in 1933 and the bridge was opened in a ceremony lead by the regent Prince Pavle Karađorđević in October of 1935. The bridge was named after the still minor King Petar II. The bridge was subsequently destroyed several times, first by the Yugoslav resistance in 1941 (in and attempt to stall the advancement of German troops from entering Belgrade). The German occupiers reconstructed the bridge immediately but it was once again bombed by the Allied forces in the spring of 1944 as an important strategic point. German troops finally destroyed the bridge as they were leaving Belgrade in October of the same year.
Russian engineers of the Red Army technical troops rebuilt the bridge almost immediately after World War II and Josip Broz Tito then dubbed it the Red Army Bridge. It saw its last major renovation in 1965 and , with over 150,000 vehicles passing the bridge daily now, it is in dire need of another renovation. Plans to renovate the bridge have been announced and postponed numerous times over the last few years as the process would see this major artery in the city’s traffic system shut down for some 12 months. Pančevo is considered to be an outer suburb of Belgrade today and the bridge is now best known as the Pančevo Bridge.