Republic Square (Belgrade)
Republic Square with the statue of Prince Mihailo
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Republic Square or Square of the Republic (Serbian: Трг републике / Trg republike) is one of the central town squares and an urban neighborhood of Belgrade, located in the Stari Grad municipality. It is the site of some of Belgrade's most recognizable public buildings, including the National Museum, the National Theatre and the statue of Prince Michael.
The square is located less than 100 meters away from Terazije, designated center of Belgrade, to which it is connected by the streets of Kolarčeva (traffic) and Knez Mihailova (pedestrian zone). Many people erroneously consider Square of the Republic to be the center of the city. Through Vasina street it is connected to the fortress and park of Kalemegdan to the west and through Sremska street it is connected to the neighborhood of Zeleni Venac and further to Novi Beograd. It also borders the neighborhoods of Stari Grad and Dorćol, to the north. Today, it makes one of the local communities within Belgrade with a population of 2,360 in 2002.
The name of the square has been the subject of much debate in the city. Vuk Drašković of the Serbian Renewal Movement suggested the square be renamed to Freedom Square (Trg Slobode) after pro-democracy demonstrations were held in the square to oust Slobodan Milosević in the 1990s. Most recently, a group of theater academics suggested the square's original name Theater Square (Pozorišni trg) be returned.
Stambol Gate occupied the area between the modern National Theatre and the Monument to Prince Michael. It was built in the 18th century by the Austrians. Generalissimo Ernst Gideon von Laudon probably ordered the construction of the gate, as part of the vast effort to fortify the city, which included the defensive trench which encircled a wider Belgrade area. The trench became known as the Laudan's Trench (Laudanov šanac) and passed in front of the gate which was accessed over a small bridge over it. The gate was the largest of all city gates at the time, but was also considered the most beautiful. It was the starting point of the Tsarigrad Road, which linked Belgrade with Constantinople, hence the name of both the road (Carigrad was Serbian name for Constantinople) and the gate (after shortened Serbian version of the Ottoman name for Constantinople, "Istanbul Gate"). The gate was made of dressed stone and bricks. It had rooms for housing the sentry units and three entry points: large, central one, for the carts and two smaller ones on the sides for the pedestrians. Doors were made of thick oak beams, nailed down with the strong iron plating. In time, the plating became full of obvious bullet holes.
The people remembered the Stambol Gate as the place in front of which the Turks executed the "raya", their non-Muslim subjects, by impaling them on stakes. It was also the place where during the attack on Belgrade in 1806 in the First Serbian Uprising, one of the leading Serb military commanders, Vasa Čarapić, was fatally wounded. In his memory, a street near the square and a monument in the vicinity were named after him.
After the demolition of the gate and establishment of Serbian rule in all of Belgrade in 1867, the site of the present square was not laid out for a long time. The National Theatre, built in 1869, was the only building as the square didn't develop as an urban area until the monument to Prince Mihailo was erected in 1882 when the square gradually started to acquire more buildings.
The second ice rink in Belgrade, after one in Savamala, was built in 1909 near the modern Army House. The National Theatre remained the only large building standing here for more than thirty years and, until Communist rule after 1945, the square was named Pozorišni Trg ("Theatre square"). The place where now the National Museum is, was the location of long single-storied building which housed, among other things, the famous "Dardaneli restaurant". This was the meeting-place of members of the artistic circles at the time. The building was pulled down to make way in 1903 for the Treasury (now the building of the National Museum). In a small park next to the National Theatre, there were the well-known "Kolarac" restaurant and cinema (owned by Ilija Milosavljević-Kolarac, a merchant and benefactor).
The "Riunione" Palace, in which "Jadran" cinema used to be located, was built from 1929 to 1931. It was built by the Adriatic Insurance Company "Riunione" from Trieste, Italy. The palace had apartments, offices, cinema "Uranija" and "Milanović" bistro. It was adapted into the pastry shop later (Kod kneževog spomenika) and is café-pastry shop even today. Part of the building was rented to German Transportation Bureau (Deutsches Verkehrs Buro). It was a public secret that it is actually a hotspot for German spies, but the state didn't react. Few days before the 27 March 1941 anti-German protests, including the coup d'état, Germans hastily left the building, so the protesters smashed it. Boško Buha Theatre is today located in that section of the building.
"Uranija" was later renamed "Jadran", and the cinema was popular for its repertoire, mostly made of dramas and romantic movies. When it was sold to the privately owned company in 2007, they resold it the a company from Cyprus which closed the cinema and opened a café and a pastry shop instead.
World War II and later
Most of the buildings were destroyed during the German bombing on April 6, 1941. In the summer of 1942 a failed assassination on Dušan Letica by a group of six Yugoslav Partisans Happened here. After World War II the tram tracks were removed (until then, a tram terminus was here), and the square, on which for a short time were the crypt and the monument to the Red Army soldiers died during the Belgrade Offensive in 1944, was removed (their remains have been transferred to the Cemetery of the Liberators of Belgrade). Later, the biggest building on this square, the "Press House" was constructed in 1960, so as the "City Restaurant" and the International Press Center.
The area of the present 'Plateau of Dr Zoran Đinđić', right across the National Theatre was seen as the site of the future Belgrade Opera from the 1960s. However, this became highly controversial issue, both academic and public, in the 2003, when city government decided to tear down the Staklenac mall (saying it has done its purpose, even though it was built in 1989) and to construct City Gallery, while the Opera is supposed to be built in the swampy and uninhabited area of Ušće in Novi Beograd. Despite opposition from the citizens, ensemble of the opera and prominent architects and artists, the city government, most prominently the official city architect Đorđe Bobić, insisted that regardless of everything, they already made a decision that the Opera will not be built on the Square. Architect Milan Pališaški proposed in 2003 a project "Opera on the Square". It included construction of the national opera and ballet house (up to 1,200 seats) and a large underground garage (1,400 parking spots). The project would rule out the need for smaller underground garages in the vicinity (like to one planned on Studentski Trg or, as it is the case with La Scala and Covent Garden, a separate building for the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra which could also use it. The project, which also included the underground passage which would connect the new building with the building of the National Theatre across the Francuska Street, was supported by the "Opera at the Square" movement, headed by the opera singer Živan Saramandić. As of 2018 nothing has been either demolished or built.
In 2015 city announced that the Staklenac mall (Serbian for glassy) will be demolished. The mall, with 4,000 m2 (43,000 sq ft) of floor area, was built in 1989 on a temporary permit from 1988, which expired after 10 years. Hence, the object can't be officially legalized. It was built concurrently with the reconstruction of the National Theatre, in the scopes of the city beautification for the IX Non-Aligned Movement summit which was held in Belgrade. New project is a cultural venue, covering 15,000 m2 (160,000 sq ft) and comprising galleries, bookstores, conference halls and an underground garage for 500 vehicles. In August 2017, city architect Milutin Folić said that the plan will include opera, ballet and a gallery, or a combination of those, though that was not in the project accepted in 2015 and even announced a possibility of yet another architectural design competition.
In January 2018 it was again announced by the city that the mall will be demolished to make room for an opera and ballet house. It was disclosed that the demolition will start in summer of 2018, but there is a possibility of postponing it, as the city will only then organize an architectural design competition so there is no economic point in demolishing the well established mall so early.
The square is one of the busiest places in Belgrade, as one of the central business areas in the city, with over 20 bus and trolleybus lines of the city public transportation passing through the square.
On one side, the square extends to the Knez Mihailova street, the pedestrian zone and one of the main commercial sections of Belgrade. On the opposite side, the square is occupied by the Staklenac, the Belgrade's first modern glass and steel constructed shopping mall. The small flat area in front of Staklenac has been officially named 'Plateau of Dr Zoran Đinđić', after the Serbian prime minister was assassinated in 2003.
After 2013, new city government announced the closing of the entire downtown for traffic, including the square, and turning the central city area in the pedestrian zone. The square and the entire section till the Kalamegdan will be paved in granite or concrete slabs, without any trees. The idea met with the universal opposition from the professionals (architects, urbanists, traffic experts) but also from the public.
Prince Michael monument
The bronze statue of Prince Michael on a horse, by the Italian sculptor Enrico Pazzi was erected in 1882. It was erected in honor of the Prince's most important political achievement, complete expulsion of the Turks from Serbia and liberation of the remaining 7 cities within (then) Serbian territory, still under the Turkish rule (1867). The names of the cities are carved on a plates on the monument itself, on the statue's pedestal and prince is sculptured with his hand allegedly pointing to Constantinople, showing the Turks to leave. During recent years, the role and honor of prince somewhat fell into the oblivion and the statue became simply known as kod konja (Serbian for 'at the horse'). Even the nearby restaurant is named that way, Kod konja.
In 2000, a modern public clock, named the Millennium clock and funded by Delta Holding, was installed in the square. The clock is placed on a tall stand, and it also displays current weather conditions. Two main, digital clocks face the less busy sides of the square (near Čika Ljubina and Kolarčeva streets), while two small, analog clocks face the two busier sides (near Knez Mihailova street and the National Theatre). The clock and its stand are made of chromed steel and glass.
With the addition of the clock, Belgraders are now more likely to say 'Let's meet at the clock' than 'at the horse'.
Lushly decorated building at the entry section into the square from the Terazije direction was built in 1923. Located in the Kolarčeva Street, the building has a total floor area of 5,505 m2 (59,260 sq ft) and is protected within the Spatial Cultural-Historical Complex of Old Belgrade. The building is projected by the architect Matija Bleh, but it is better known for its façade ornamentation, which can be divided into the façade plastics and sculptures. Ornamental plastic was done by the Czech sculptor Karel Pavlík while Serbian scultpor of Italian origin Giuseppe Pino Grassi carved the sculptures in artificial stone. Decorative elements include figures of Atlases with Earth on their shoulders, male heads with šajkača caps, female heades with bandanas, half-figures of lions, etc.
After World War II, the building was occupied by the state-owned trade company Jugoexport. Jugoexport went bankrupt in 2001 and state tried to sell the building since 2006, but it was unsuccessful in the next 10 years. Main flaws of the building included non-funcionality, high maintenance costs and lack of parking places. Serbian industrialist Petar Matijević, nicknamed the "meat king" purchased the object in 2016 for €7,3 million, with an intention to turn it into hotel. It was announced that actually his sons purchased the building to him for his birthday, in the memory of Matijević's father, who worked in the building as a bellboy.
Adaptation into the hotel began in November 2017. As the building is protected, the exterior must be preserved. The investment is €6 million and it is expected to return in the next 12 years. Matijević also purchased a lot of 500 m2 (5,400 sq ft) in Simina Street, below the square, for the future parking lot. The four star hotel with 68 tooms, which should be named "Centar", is expected to open in summer of 2018.
- "Beograd: Trg Republike ne menja ime" (in Serbian). Večernje novosti. 11 January 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
- "Umetnici: Trgu Republike vratiti stari naziv" (in Serbian). Večernje novosti. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
- "Da li znate: Gde se nalazila Stambol kapija?" [Do you know? Where the Stambol Gate was located?]. Politika (in Serbian). 21 March 2018. p. 30.
- Slobodan Kljakić, "Od pozorišnog trga do Trga republike", Politika (in Serbian)
- Nikola Belić (28 November 2010), "Led kreće, klizaljke na gotovs", Politika (in Serbian)
- Dragan Perić (20 May 2018). "Политикин времеплов - Шпијуни из саобраћајног бироа" [Spies from the transportation bureau]. Politika-Magazin, No. 1077 (in Serbian). pp. 28–29.
- S.Šulović (27 September 2013), "Beograd spao na 9 bioskopa", 24 sata (in Serbian), p. 3
- Ivana Milanović Hrašovec (31 January 2013). "Od »Balkana« pa do »Jadrana«" (in Serbian). Vreme.
- "Od Stambol kapije do tržnog centra", Politika (in Serbian), p. 16, 26 December 2014
- Daliborka Mučibabić (23 January 2018). "Od leta "Staklenac" razbijaju u paramparčad" [From summer, "Staklenac" will be broken to smithereens]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 17.
- Branislav Milenković (10 June 2017), "Jedan zaboravljeni predlog", Politika-Kulturni dodatak (in Serbian), pp. 06–07
- Daliborka Mučibabić (24 January 2018). "Vlasnici lokala traže zvanično obaveštenje o rušenju "Staklenca"" [The shop owners are asking for the official notification on demolition of "Staklenac"]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 14.
- Sandra Petrušić (10 May 2018). "Темељна бетонизација – Напредњачка хуманизација града" [Thorough concreting - Progressive's humanization of the city]. NIN, No. 3515 (in Serbian).
- Ana Vuković (3 November 2017), "Kralj mesa sređuje hotel "Centar"" [Meat king is adapting the hotel "Center"], Politika (in Serbian)
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