December 7, 2009

Kosovska Mitrovica

 Streets of Northern Mitrovica

I really like Kosovska Mitrovica, but it's rather difficult to write about it. I spent a very nice time in the northern part of the city, and I knew it would not be enough just to show you some pictures and to write how sad that the city is one of the last devided cities in Europe and that crazy thing happened and happens there. So I tried to put some hisotrical facts together to help the understanding of the odd situation now and to put my pictures in a different angle.

The city, that is one of the oldest settlements of Kosovo and Metohija (in those times the region belonged to Raska) was named after Saint Demetrius (Dimitrie Solunski with patron day on November 8th called Mitrovdan) in the 14th century and a church dedicated to him was built.

Old postcard showing a street in Kosovska Mitrovica

Under Ottoman rule (that lasted from 1455 – 1912) the city became a lively industrial city (lead was discovered and mines were opened).
The Serb population never accepted Ottoman rule and often rose against the foreign regimen. The Albanian population didn’t resist against Ottoman rule and accepted easily the muslim religion. Kosovo was temporarily occupied by Austrian forces during the Great War of 1683–1699, but the Ottomans re-established their rule of the region. In 1766 the Ottomans abolished the Patriarchate of Pec and weakened the position of Christians by inducing a taxation of non-Muslims.

View of Mitrovica from the hill arriving from Zvecan

Changment arrived after the Congress of Berlin (1878) when Serbia and Montenegro got ist independence, Mitrovica stayed under Ottoman rule (as a region of Sandzak) but was occupied by Austrian forces. After the first Balkan War in 1913, Mitrovica was put under the Kingdom of Serbia  and after 1918 under the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs later (1929) Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

The main street in Mitrovica

Even during communist Yugoslavia there were constant ethnic tensions between Albanian and Serbs and another problem was an unclear strategy how to handle the problem. So from trying to get rid of Albanians (after 1953 Josip Broz Tito reached an agreement with Turkey to push Yugoslavian Albanians to declare themself Turks and to leave for Turkey) to giving Albanians more rights and freedom (University in Pristina was founded to assure Albanians higher education and after 1974 the Socialist Autonomes province of Kosovo received more power) everything was tried to solve the constant ethnic problems.

Inter-ethnic tensions continued to worsen in Kosovo throughout the 1980's. A high birth-rate in Albanian community and departing and diminuishing Serbian population changed the demography of the province and lead so to Milosevic’s 1989 reaction to reduce Kosovo’s special autonomy status in Serbia. Kosovo Albanians reacted with parallel structure (e.g. n medicine, education, taxations).

Of course such eternally not solved tensions could not lead to anything good. Violent Guerilla groups (KLA), armed Serbian and Yugolsavian security forces and desinteresse by the international community resulted in a ugly War with its peak in NATO bombing of 1999, leaving the province in a complete chaos and a fertile place for lies, crimes and  more tensions.

View to the Southern part of the city
An old building from communist time

Kosovska Mitrovica was so divided in a Southern half (populated completely by ethnic Alanians, ca. 60'000 inhabitants) and a Northern part (populated by  mostly Serbs, 13'000,  plus other ethnic minorities like Muslims by Nationality, Turks and Roma.

The bridge that instead of connecting is dividing the city

The City is since then divided by 2 bridges (and a little footbridge)  and the border is made by the river Ibar. The city and the borders are supervised by KFOR-troups.
However all that supervising was not really able to prevent clashes or attackes, and from all sides the KFOR is more seen as an intruder or occupator.

The new church for Sveti Dimitrije

The old church devoted to Saint Demetrius (from 14th century) that gave the city its name, came to lay in the Albanian part of the city.  Due to riots (the major ones in 2004) it became impossible to reach the church for orthodox believers.  As a surrogate a new church was built in 2005 on the hill over the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica and was dedicated to Saint Demetrius.

Shrine dedicated to the Serb and Albanian partisans 
in the 1941–1945 war from 1973 by Bogdan Bogdanovic

All the idustry that made Mitrovica a good funtioning city in the past was shut down because of the war and the tensions in the area. Today there is hardly a branch of industry working. Even electricity and water is not always available, not because it would be impossible to supply, but because the political wish is not present. 
The region is in a rather dead end situation that must be curbed by investments. But I would also say for that: even if there are attempts and studies made to solve the difficult ecconomic situation, it will not work, until the political wish on all sides is ripe.

Apart from the natural division created by the Ibar, North Mitrovica itself is being further divided between a Serbian section of the city (where also other minorities live like: Roma, Ashkali, Turks) and three neighborhoods - Bosnjacka Mahala, Tri Solitera, and Suvi Do - that are largely Albanian.

I would have like to post some pictures about Bosnjacka mahala, but just by aproaching the district (a cluster of old houses with a huge Albanian flag on the roof) just because we were sitting in a Serbian car some people started shouting at us, so it was not possible to take pictures. I can just tell: a scary situation!

Contact with the city's southern half (populated by Albanians) is also rare and hostile. Before crossing the bridge into that part we had to customize the car, to hide every possible sign of serbness or orthodoxy or we would have needed escort from KFOR.

Here is one building of Naselja "Tri Solitera" (the 3 skyscraper district)  populated by Albanians and where earlier this year exploded some bombs. That's the only picture I could take from the albanian populated places.

N.B. This post is not an intention to implement that there are good ones and bad ones. I wish to show that you can not force people to get along if their basic believes are so different and if the roots of their disagreements are so settled. The situation is not created by the people itself (it's neither the Albanian population nor the Serbian). It's been heavily manipulated by imperialistic wishes of third parties, the ones that now make presure to these people to make peace, to get along nicely. The ones that dare to speak about multiethnicity in the KOSMET region. The ones that dare to say: we helped those people with the "humanitarian" mission: the NATO agression!

I would also like to mention two of very good impressions that have been recently writed about Kosovska Mitrovica:

Alessandro di Meo wrote this posts SOS Kosovo and  KOSMET-è scattato l'allarme about his recent stay in KOSMET (in italian)

Gian Matteo Apuzzo worte a lot about divided cities, and here his post about Kosovska Mitrovica. Divisi dal ponte: Mitrovica,una città die mondi (in italian)

November 30, 2009

Dom Omladine in Belgrade

Dom Omladine (the Youth Center) is a modern building costructed between 1961 and 1964, designed by Momcilo Belobrk (1905-1980) and some other architects in team.

Belobrk graduated from the department of Architecture at the Technical Faculty in Belgrade in 1930 and became member of GAMM (Group of Architects of the Modern Movement) in 1932. After 3 years of employement in the design and construction firm of Djura Borosic he started his own practice in 1933. Through the outbreak of WW II he realized some 40 residential buildings (including houses and villas). In the postwar period he specialized in the architecture of performing art buildings. In 1943 he started his academic career at the school for Applied Arts (the Academy) where he stayed until he retired in 1972.

So Dom Omladine was one of Belobrk's late works an he worked in team with Zoran Tasic.

This facade is one of the many examples in Belgrade, how sleek modernist fronts get a bit of  an entertaining diversion when fancoil air-conditioners are added on the outside of the building. Without planning the facade gets a decoration (compare with the old black and white picture!).

Dusan Dzamonja is the author of the relief at the main entrance. It's called "The sun" and was made in 1967. (

Dom omladine is a center that promotes programs for youth in the sphere of contemporary art and culture. In its range of activities, it covers all art disciplines and forms: from visual arts and new media, to film, theatre and  music.
The Youth Center was founded in 1964, as an alternative cultural center. It was set up by the people who shared their belief in the importance of contemporary culture and arts. From the very beginning, it was conceived as a different source of urban energy, with the trend towards experiments, a tendency it has managed to maintain up to the present days. With a long history and a special place it has in the cultural life of Belgrade, it has been continuously offering various kinds of cultural, educational, and entertainment programs.

Close-up of the first floor with minimalistic modernist details ( this picture and title picture

November 27, 2009

Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade

This building at Studentski Trg 13 is now the  Ethnographic Museum of Belgrade.
A very interesting museum (here the website

This building was originally designed as the Stock Exchange by Milutin Borisavljevic (1889-1970)  and it was built in 1934.
Since 1951 the Ethnographic Museum has been located here. The mueseum contains a wealth of objects and docments on the culture of Serbia and Yugoslavia.

The permanent collection – “Folk art in Serbia” – comprises of folk costumes,fabrics, rugs, and handicraft tools. The museum also has a library and a hall for lectures and cultural events.
 At the beginning of the 20th century, the Ethnographic Museum exhibited at shows  in St. Petersburg, Paris, London and Prague presenting Serbian culture. (two pictures from rascian at skyscrapercity)

an old picture of the building

Milutin Borisavljevic was an architect and also an esthetic expert. He studied in Paris at the Sorbonne. The ethnographic museum was one of his main works. In the nearby Studentski Park (former Pancic Park) he designed the fences. (They are made like the cirillic letter „R“ with two cast-iron gates)

Also a major work of him was the Flasar House (Kornelijs Stankovica 16) here in a picture of Goldstajn at skyscrapercity.

November 24, 2009

Prizad Building in Belgrade

At Obilicev Venac 2 is a great building, an icon of modern Belgrade: the Tanjug Building (TANJUG = Telegraph Agency of the new Yugoslavia, the news agency founded in Jajce in 1943, to supply the Yugoslav and foreign press, as well as other institutions, with domestic and foreign news).


When the building was erected however it was called Prizad building until WW II, as it was build for PRIZAD Private Bank.

It was designed in 1938 by Bogdan Nestorovic (1901-1975) the architect that designed also the Radio Belgrade building, (my post here) and was involved also in designing St. Sava Cathedral (my post here).

The architecture uses typical modern elements, has strict hierarchy and is very neat designed.  The building shape adapts to the plot size: along toblicin venac it's  even and follows the street, on the other side where the property is limited by two streets that fall into each other, the building reacts to it with its round shaped side.
On the picture above you can see, how the building looks very different from the two sides.

Title picture from Peter ( all other from from rascian at skyscraper city.


November 21, 2009

Politika Building in Belgrade

Along the "Makendonska" street in Belgrade, are some interesting modern buildings.  About one of them (Radio Belgrade Building on the corner of Makedonska and Hilandarska) I already made a post.
Another one of this buildings is the Politika Building - the newspaper publishing house of one of the oldest newspapers in the Balkans - it's first issue was published in 1904. However all this took place in another older building. The actual building was built in 1968 after a project from the two architect who also projected the Avala-Tower (here my post about it)
(Picture above from igorclark)

Here the building by day. The address is  Makedonska 29.
In front of the building is a monument to Mosa Pijade (a Jew that saw himself as a Serb and founder of the state news agency Tanjug) the work of sculptor Branko Ruzic.

The H-shaped relief-like panels of the facade are well known and give a plastic movement to the frontage. Although the building is 20-floor high it looks less, as the first 4 floors are made as a differentiated socle taking so a part of the height.

As you see in this great pictures from Peter ( the two architects created a lot of interesting details. Also the bearing structure is sculpted and designed.

November 17, 2009

JAT Airlines - Design

This post is nothing like an add for JAT I'm rather disappointed about what's going on with this airline, not to mention about the poor service (my friend was not satisfied) and the high prices. But OK, the airline is in trouble and is looking for an economic boost, and it would be fantastic for Serbia if the national air carrier gets its glamour back.

Yes, because JAT Airline , was former called Yugoslavian Air Transport (Југословенски аеротранспорт JAT) and had not only worldwide good reputation (JAT was the first European Airline to buy a Boing 737!) but had a very attractive CI (Corporate Identity, like Logo, Advertising, Uniforms, the Company Image).

When I started flying with JAT, they still had the old logo and because short after the war nobody still had put relooking efforts into the company, it had a lovely almost retro look and you could still feel the glam of the past times.

The glam years

Shortly after the WW II  JAT was founded (1947) from the former airline Aeroput. War airplanes like the Junkers JU-52 were converted into passenger aircrafts.  Multiple international and domestic routes were opened. From the 50's to the 80's JAT was booming.

 The 1951 timetable shows modern airplanes and a traditional peasant in national costume spinning. (source:

During those years, the company carried 5 million passengers annually and served 80 destinations on five continents (19 domestic, 45 medium haul and 16 long haul routes). JAT also constructed a large hangar to accommodate wide-body aircraft and a jet-engine test stand at their Belgrade hub.

Here some of the JAT ads from the 60's.  The colors, the graphics..the composition showed an optimistic and playful style.

But the Balkan Wars of the 90's set an end to the prosperous company. 1992 Germany (the largest market for JAT in Europe, with 7 flights daily and 40 million German marks gross annual profit), followed by Italy and then by the U.S and later Canada interrupted any air traffic with Yugoslavia.  JAT could not really evade to domestic flights instead, as destinations like Nis, Tivat, Podgorica and Uzice (yes, they used Ponikve Airport for a short time) were just money consuming and made no profit.
An attemp of the government to boost the company in 1998 (8 Airbuses were ordered) failled inevitably in 2000 when instead of paying the aircrafts or trying to sell them to another airline Serbia was bombed for 78 days and the CEO of JAT was murdered in front of his house in Belgrade.


Above a plane with the older logo and livery

After the regime's overthrow on 5 October 2000, the FR Yugoslavia was accepted back into international organisations and sanctions were dropped and in 2003 the company name was changed into JAT Airlines and introduced new livery.

The new identity: New livery for the planes and a new corporate design

JAT is not the only airline to operate in the red, so all the standard remedies are tried (alliances, frequent flyer and so on). In 2007 and 2008 the airline received an award as one of the five best brands from Serbia.
It's not enough, after strikes of the staff and a failed privatization an the company is still rum entirely by the Government of Serbia. Can the airline go back to the former impeccable shape?
Researching for this post I run into a great blog:

 A JAT meal, looked weird...but was much better than expected (and it was for short flight Belgrade - Zurich)

November 11, 2009

Serbian design – The Sajkaca

My favorite Serbian design item is of course the Sajkaca (Шајкача) the icon of Serbdom all over the world. That was also the reason why I choose it as an icon for my blog about Serbian architecture and design, there is nothing more "Serbian" that the Sajkaca!

I usually don't wear Sajkacas
I love to pose with them

The Sajkaca is a Serbian national hat, used by ethnic Serbs since the 18th century. Orginally worn by the Serbian river fleet on the Dunav river in the time when they conducted raids agaist the turkish ocupators.

Also Boris Tadic (President of Serbia) sometimes wears a Sajkaca

The style of this caps spread quickly among the Serbian community and today it’s still wor in some national dresses of Central Serbia (e.g. Sumadija) or by peasants.

3-D source of a Sajkaca

The cap is of a simple but neat design. It’s recognisable by its top part that looks like the letter V or like the bottom of a boat (viewed from above).

The material is usually an elaborated wool and mostly it’s of a grey-olive color. But there are all kind of types, like dark blue or black ones and there are also some made of a heavy cotton.

The shape of the Sajkaca gives a typical silhouete to the wearer as the V-shape is recognizable at the first sight. That makes it a good logo either, with two or three strokes you can draw a cap and you immediatly know it’s a Sajkaca.

The Serbian version of Facebook "serbbook"
uses exactly this easily remembered shape
of the Sajkaca for its logo

The hat was used by the Serbian army in the first world war. From then on the cap kept also a symbol for military units. The Sajkaca exist also in a officer version decorated with emblems and stripes (like General Ratko Mladic and other military commanders wore in the Bosnian War in the 90’s).

Also it was the cap worn by Chetniks

before and during the World Wars.

Here a grafiti of Draza Mihailovic

on a wall in Belgrade

A good fonctionality and a high value of recognition make it a smart and distinctive piece of design. No wonder it’s used as a „brand“ for promoting Serbdom!

The Serbian skater brand "Cetniks Skejtbords"

uses national elements for its logo

and among them the Sajkaca

November 9, 2009

Vidikovac - Belgrade's lookout

Vidikovac is a district of Belgrade and is located on the top of the hill of the same name in the Rakovica municipality, on the border of the municipality of Čukarica, along the road of Ibarska magistrala (the road that leads southwest leaving Belgrade).

I like Vidikovac for three reasons: the panorama view that gives a general impression of the whole Belgrade area , some interesting skyscrapers with funny details on the facades in the center of Vidikovac and visiting my dear friends, the Nedic family, where I was really warmly welcome and had some of the best food EVER! ( I shared one of Jelena Nedic’s wonderful recipes on Balkan-Crew, my other blog, here.)

Vidikovac as a settling was mainly build in the 70's and it was projected as a series of skyscrapers (up to 19 floors) constructed in a small concentric circles within larger circles represented by circular streets.

Vidikovac means „lookout“ or „observation point“ in Serbian.

this picture from Vidikovac website

I like the brick facades, the cut out angle-balcons and the round windows, this high rise buildings still look in good shape even after 30 years.

It's not uncommon to see extensions of the buildings by just adding a few floors more to the building. It's a way to densify the area with a minimal effort but with not negligible problems for the static of the buildings.

Panorama view from a highrise building

Urban planning was done nicely in Vidikovac, but sometimes there is someone with enough money to say: "my Villa will be like I want it, and what's more interesting to build a little house where big ones are planned?"

More examples for "wild" extensions

Nobody takes then care to plaster the facades, once the scaffolding are taken away, chances are that the unfinished wall will stay like that.

Walking around a building site: Vidikovac still has potential to be extended

The community counts around 18'000 inhabitants, there are a lot of commercial buildings and also churches.