About Belgrade

History of Belgrade

Belgrade is not only one of the oldest cities in Europe but it also has one of the most tumultuous history of the Continent, due to its strategic and coveted position, at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, a crucial point between the East and the West, often target of expansive campaigns and wars.

 

 

Ancient Period
The first human settlements on Belgrade area date back 7000 years ago but it was around 4000 BC that Vinča cultures stretched over an area by size and population larger than the territory of any other Neolithic group in Europe. Moreover researches claim that the prehistoric Vinča signs are one of earliest forms of alphabet. Around 600 B.C. the Scythian and Thracian-Cimmerian tribes moved across this area and in the III century B.C Celtic tribes reached Belgrade: in particular it was a Celtic Tribe known as the Scordiscs that in 279 B.C built the fortified settlement of Singidunum (Singi - means round and Dunum means fortress).
In the first century A.D the Romans conquered Belgrade ruling the city and preserving the name of the settlement for over four centuries. However, the city’s strategic position was not fully exploited until 86 A.D., when the IV Legion of Flavius transformed Singidunum became an important Roman military camp, in the II century A.D. during Emperor Hadrian’s rule, the city gained municipal rights and improving once more its military importance.
Thereafter the dissolution of the Roman Empire into the Western and Eastern Roman Empire in 395, Singidunum was transformed a border town of the Byzantine Empire, becoming a crucial point both for communication and strategic purposes. The Roman Empire downfall was followed by the invasion of barbarian people such as Avars Eastern, Gepidaes, Goths, Sarmatians and Slavs. Due to its position right at the boundary, Belgrade suffered frequent attacks and devastations. Singidunum was not able to resist the attacks anymore and in 441 it was sacked by Attila the Hun. Renewal came in 488 with the Byzantine emperor Justinian that rebuilt Singidunum in 535, restoring the fortress and city to its former military importance.
At the end of the VI century, the fortress was attacked and destroyed by Avars and Slavs and also the name Singidunum got lost forever. In 878 the city was mentioned again, now as Beograd, (a Slavic word meaning "white fortress" due to the color of the stones it was built with), in a letter written by Pope John VIII to Bulgarian prince Boris I Mihail. Then Belgrade changed hands several times. The Franks were the first to reach Belgrade and destroy the Avars, then came the Bulgarians and they gave place to Hungarians. In 1018, Belgrade was once again part of the Byzantine Empire. During the XI and XII centuries, the antagonist forces of Hungary, Byzantine Empire and Bulgaria fought for it: there were three Crusades (1096, 1147, 1189) passed through Belgrade bringing insecurity and destruction.


Middle Ages
The Serbian rule over Belgrade began in 1284 with the Serbian king Dragutin, son-in-law and vassal of the Hungarian king Ladislav IV. It was a period of intensive settling of Serbian population and increasing influence of the Serbian Orthodox Church. After Dragutin's death, his brother Milutin try to keep the throne contrary to prior agreements: Belgrade became a target for Serbian rulers.
In the beginning of the XV century, when the Turks appeared on the historical stage of Europe the rivalry between Serbs and Hungarians ended: the Hungarians allowed construction of Belgrade during the rule of Serbian Despotes Stefan Lazarević. He ruled from 1403 until 1427 and that was the time the city flourished: one of the most important economic, cultural and religious center of Europe, with about 40-50,000 inhabitants in that period.


Turkish conquest and Austrian invasions
The Turks considered Belgrade as one of the worst obstacles in their campaign towards Central Europe. In 1440 the city experienced the first siege by the Turkish army, for almost a century Belgrade has resisted several Turkish attacks, it was even known as Dar-ul-Jihad “Home of Holy War”.  At the end, in 1521, under the command of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the Turks managed to conquer Belgrade; the town was demolished and burnt down. Turkish Belgrade became later an huge trade and commercial centre, it experienced 170 years of peace and prosperity.
After the Turkish defeat at the gates of Vienna in 1688, the Austrians conquered Belgrade but their rule was very brief, indeed two years later the Turks regained control over it.
Belgrade was occupied by Austrians three times (1688–1690, 1717–1739, 1789–1791) however it was quickly recaptured and substantially razed each time by the Ottomans.
After the peace treaty of Svishtov in 1791, the Austrians retreated to Zemun, and the janissaries were forbidden entrance to Belgrade. However in 1801, a terror campaign led by the janissaries  troop established their own rule over the town: that was a period of anarchy and violence that brought to the  slaughter of the Serbian knezes.


Liberation of Belgrade
The rise of national consciousness led to the First Serbian Insurrection in 1804. After two years of fight, the town became the capital of Serbia and a symbol of freedom for its people.
By the way the Turks managed to gain the control of the town again in 1813, and the repressions that followed led to the insurrection in 1815. That time the conflict was resolved by a diplomatic agreement in 1830: the Turks would leave the countryside and live in only six forts. Finally in 1867 the Turks left Belgrade.


World Wars
Belgrade development was halted by the First World War since the city was an obstacle to Austrian expansionistic policy against Balkan.
Indeed World War I started with the ultimatum and the attack on Serbia. During World War I Belgrade was the most destroyed town in Serbia and the country lost 28% of its whole population.
Belgrade became then the capital of the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes: larger buildings were built, new parks and facilities as well as the first bridge between Sava and Danube. In the year 1936 Belgrade was proclaimed a tourist resort.
Again that favorable period came to a abrupt end in 1941, when due to the rejected collaboration with the Nazi Germany, the city was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe, killing thousands of people. The city fell into Nazi hands and  
Belgrade's Jewish community were subject to mass shootings or were sent to extermination camps, perpetrating a barbaric genocide of over 750.000 Serbs, Jews and Gypsies.
On 20th October 1944 Belgrade was liberated by Communist Yugoslav Partisans and the Red Army. On November 29th 1945, Marshal Josip Broz Tito proclaimed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in Belgrade.
The post-war period was marked by a rapid industrialization and the build of the New Belgrade on the other side of Sava river. A western and cosmopolitan atmosphere reached the climax in 1980’s


The Capital of Serbia
Unresolved issues of various origins such as ethnical, political and economic ones led to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991, which marked the end of the longest period of peace in Balkan in the XX century. In 1992 Belgrade became the capital of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Montenegro).
Unfortunately, another round of destruction  occurred in 1999 when the NATO air-raids bombed and destroyed residential buildings, administrative and production facilities.
In 2003 Belgrade became capital of the newly formed State Union of Serbia and Montenegro and finally since May 2006 Belgrade has been the capital of the Republic of Serbia.

 
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