47th Children's October Salon
Belgrade, City of Culture – Children's Artistic Attraction

47th Children's October Salon

Short History of Belgrade

Legend has it Argonauts, mythical Greek seafarers, sailed into the Danube (Ishtar) on their sea voyages. Reaching the spot where the Sava River flows into the Danube they called this river the West Danube and continued sailing. At the very place where the two rivers crossed their water courses, the first settlement developed. It was five thousand years before the new era and the settlement thrived within the frames of the Vinča culture.

Singidunum, as one of the oldest settlements is dated into 298 AD when these areas were inhabited by the Celts and their tribe of Scordisci. Singidunum got its name from the tribe of Singi who lived here and the word "dunum" is a Celtic word denoting a town.

Roman emperors were passing through the town and staying in Singidunum. The place was repeatedly destroyed by Goths and Huns, later restored by the Byzantines, only to become devastated by the Avar and Bulgarian tribes. When the Slavic people reached the area in the seventh century, the town was named Beligrad. According to available sources the name was to describethe white walls surrounding the town.

It was in 878 AD that its Slavic name Beograd was mentioned for the first time in the official bulla1 issued by the Pope John VIII and addressed to the Bulgarian prince Boris Mihail. Its geographic position made Belgrade a frequent target of various conquerors.

During the reign of King Dragutin, in 1284, Belgrade became part of the Serbian state and was proclaimed seat of the ruler. Having arranged marriage of his son Vladislav to the niece of the Hungarian king, Dragutin was given Belgrade with the Mačva Plains as a wedding present. Dragutin ruled Serbia, as a Serbian king, from 1276 until 1282 when he abdicated in favour of his brother Milutin2, but he kept power over the northern part of the state reigning as the "king of Syrmia" until 1316.

In the fifteenth century Belgrade became the capital of the Serbian state during the reign of Despot Stefan Lazarević (1402-1427).

During the Ottoman reign Belgrade became Beligrad – mahalla, and under the leadership of Karadjordje Petrović the town was temporarily liberated in 18063. In the second half of the nineteenth century the Princedom of Serbia pursued active foreign policy under the Prince Mihailo Obrenović.

After Serbian-Turkish relations deteriorated following the grievous incident at the Čukur Fountain in Dorćol in 1862, Prince Mihailo Obrenović went for a visit to Constantinople followed by Serbian delegation. There he was successful in obtaining a ferman (written imperial command, charter) from sultan Abdul-Azizon hand over to Serbian rule the towns of Belgrade, Smederevo, Šabac and Kladovo. The imperial ferman was solemnly proclaimed in the Kalemegdan Fortress and the Belgrade military commander (muhazif) Ali Riza Pasha symbolically handed over the keys of the town to Prince Mihailo. The event was noted for the posterity by a drawing of Adam Stefanović.

It was in 1967 that a memorial was erected on the place where the keys had been handed over. It is a stone block done by sculptor Mihailo Paunović with a relief depicting the event after the drawing of Adam Stefanović4.

The same occasion inspired the erection of the first monumental equestrian statue placed in open space in 1882. The monument was dedicated to Prince Mihailo Obrenović and was executed by Italian sculptor Enrico Pazzi. The bronze figure of the prince on horseback and with outstretched hand indicates regions still to be liberated.The towns that were liberated are inscribed on the bronze plaques along the lower part of the pedestal.

1Bulla is a lead seal used for sealing imperial and papal documents. From the 13th century on the word refers to the document itself in particular to papal ones with appointments of bishops, canonization of saints and definitions of theological issues.

2Serbian King Milutin ruled Serbia from 1281 until 1321 and during almost forty years of his reign he had built and restored more than forty churches in Serbia and beyond.

3Милорад Павић, Кратка историја Београда, Београд 1990.

4Site of the keys hand-over in 1867, Institute for Protection of Monuments of Culture of the City of Belgrade, Belgrade, 2010