“The sky above Belgrade is expansive and high, shifting yet always beautiful; clear with its chill splendour during the winter; turning into a single downcast cloud during summer storms, driven by the crazy winds and bearing rain mixed with the dust of the Pannonian plain; seeming to flower along with the ground during spring; and growing heavy with roils of autumnal stars during fall.”
“Beogradske priče”, Ivo Andrić, writer and Nobel Prize winner
At the beginning of March 2016 the students of the Master Russie-Europe médiane and Dr. Krakovsky, in charge of the course on Political and Social History of Central and Eastern Europe, visited Belgrade, Serbia.
The Master Russie – Europe médiane (MAREM) is a master’s degree of the Global Studies Institute at the University of Geneva. It offers a specialized education on Russia and the countries comprising East Central Europe, studying their historical, cultural, political and socio-economic links. As the capital of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Belgrade has, on the one hand, the unique perspective of a communist country that managed to maintain its independence from the USSR. On the other hand, it is a city that suffered many more changes during the 1990s in comparison to other former Soviet countries, the effects of which can still be seen today. As the first official student trip of the MAREM the objective was to start a tradition while enriching and applying the knowledge the students had acquired during the first semester.
The first visit was a guided tour of the Museum of Yugoslav History, located on the grounds of the former residence of Josip Broz Tito. After the statue gallery in the garden, the group visited the mausoleum of the former Yugoslav leader inside the House of Flowers, where visitors can also see a selection of the relay batons and personal belongings of Tito. The group then moved on into the building containing some temporary exhibitions, including “To Be a Falcon is to Be a Yugoslav” and “Design for a New World”.
The next day the students visited the Nikola Tesla Museum. Located in a private home donated to the museum, it shows some of Tesla’s original prototypes. The visit included a video about Tesla’s life, several live demonstrations of some of his prototypes as well as the explanation of the laws of physics they were based on. Although small in size in comparison to Tesla’s achievements, the museum was one of the favorites of the group.
On the third day the group travelled to Kovačica, a small village located 50 km from Belgrade and one of the most important centers of naïve art in Europe. Upon arrival, Pavel Babka welcomed the group in his gallery “Galéria Babka” and explained the appearance of the naïve art in the region, the unique and peaceful coexistence of numerous minorities and the support their art has received from the UNESCO.
The students also took the time to visit the city itself including the old town, the fortress, several churches, to experience one of the splavs, floating clubs on the river, and, of course, the kafanas or traditional cafes with local food and music. This trip was a unique opportunity to visit a city that played a major role in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as to see firsthand how the country evolved from communism, through wars, to the country it is today, the changes that have already happened and the ones still underway.
The students would like to thank Milica Trailovic for interpreting as well as being the cultural intermediator; Dr. Krakovsky for his invaluable input during the trip; Prof. Amacher for her support, and the Global Studies Institute for this wonderful opportunity. MAREM would also like to thank the Museum of Yugoslav History, the Nikola Tesla Museum and Pavel Babka for the time they dedicated to us. For more information, please visit their web pages:
Museum of Yugoslav History: http://mij.rs/en.html
Nikola Tesla Museum: http://www.tesla-museum.org/meni_en.htm
Galéria Babka: http://www.babka.rs/en/