Belgrade is one of the oldest continuously occupied human settlements in Europe and one of the most frequently destroyed cities in the world. It is located at a crossroads between East and West, which has seen many political, ethnic and cultural realignments of our continent. Many a major event in Europe’s history has thundered over Belgrade. Razed to the ground and burnt down in countless cataclysms, Belgrade has been left without much of the material evidence of its existence through the ages. Yet, it has not lost a sense of historic dignity.
The need for the organized protection of Belgrade’s cultural heritage arose exactly between two such cataclysms, two world wars, a period of the city’s rapid development which threatened to obliterate its modest, and therefore oft-contested, architectural heritage. Preparatory activities were interrupted by the war and it was only after it ended that a cultural heritage protection service was set up, at first on a republican level, in 1947, and subsequently for the area of the capital city. The Cultural Heritage Protection Institute of the City of Belgrade was founded on 27 May 1960 by Act № 1861/60 of the People’s Committee of the City of Belgrade.
This year, 2010, the Institute commemorates an important anniversary, fifty years since its establishment. Its continuous activity under different social systems testifies to the sustained effort of several generations of architects, art historians, historians, ethnologists, archaeologists and other specialists in pursuing its mission to protect Belgrade’s immovable cultural heritage.
From the first heritage protection decision, issued for Jevrem Grujić House at 17 Svetogorska Street, till this day, the list of designated cultural assets in the city area is nearing the figure of four hundred and includes historic buildings, historic districts or sets of buildings, archaeological sites, sights and places of memory.
Aware of the importance of cultural heritage presentation and popularization for society at large, the Cultural Heritage Protection Institute, in concert with the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia and the City of Belgrade, has decided to present for the first time the entire heritage of Belgrade in the modern CD format. Members of the Institute carefully selected the texts and illustrations that would best demonstrate the cultural, historical, architectural, townscape, aesthetic and artistic merit of the presented cultural assets and their importance for the identity and development of Belgrade.
Presenting Belgrade’s entire cultural heritage in one place was a challenging and creative task, and by no means an easy one. It entailed picking out the most valuable of the valuable from the Institute Documentation, and illustrating not only all phases in the functioning of the protection service, but also in the life of all monuments of culture through a sort of identity cards created for each one of them. The information offered on the CD should give a picture of the diversity of the cultural heritage, of the interactive relationship between the monuments and their immediate surroundings, their impact on the cityscape, and their overall meaning and significance.
We believe that the “readers” of this CD will see that history and heritage are not mere collections of unchanging facts, but rather a continuous process that involves life itself, thereby making them an integral part of who we are. Looking back at the past does not mean recognizing the same values all over again and taking them as a standard for all times. A look back “changes” its object, every viewer in every age, in every moment even, inevitably changes the past according to his or her own nature.
Milica Grozdanić MA