Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building

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Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building
Yugoslav General Staff
Савезни секретариjaт за народну одбрану
Savezni Sekretarijat za Narodnu Odbranu
The damaged Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building in 2005
Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building is located in Belgrade
Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building
Location within Belgrade
General information
StatusDamaged / partially used
TypeGovernment building for the Ministry of Defense[1]
LocationNemanjina Street, Belgrade, Serbia
Coordinates44°48′20.2″N 20°27′40.5″E / 44.805611°N 20.461250°E / 44.805611; 20.461250Coordinates: 44°48′20.2″N 20°27′40.5″E / 44.805611°N 20.461250°E / 44.805611; 20.461250
Construction started1957
Technical details
Floor area49,235 m2 (pre-1999)
Design and construction
ArchitectNikola Dobrović

The Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building (Serbian: Савезни секретариjaт за народну одбрану, romanizedSavezni Sekretarijat za Narodnu Odbranu, lit. "Federal Secretariat for the People's Defense"), also known as the Yugoslav General Staff (Serbian: Зграда Генералштаба, romanizedZgrada Generalštaba, lit. "General Staff Building") is a building that was previously occupied by the Ministry of Defence of Yugoslavia, a governmental department responsible for defending the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from internal and external military threats.

Considered to be a masterpiece of post-war architecture, it was bombed and heavily damaged during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Today, only a small non-damaged portion of the building is used by the Ministry of Defence of Serbia.


The building was built between 1957 and 1965 and it was designed by Serbian architect, Nikola Dobrović.[1] It is divided by Nemanjina Street, and its design is meant to resemble a canyon of the Sutjeska river, where one of the most significant battles of World War II in Yugoslavia was fought, with the street as a river dividing the two monumental, gradually completed tracts. As Nemanjina Street comes up the hill from the main railway station, the two parts of the building form a symbolic gate.[1]

In addition to expressive cascading forms, facades are characterized by the application of contrasting materials - robust, brown-red stone from Kosjerić and white marble slabs from the island of Brač.[2] The most striking visual motif representing the window bars on the facades, designed in the spirit of late modernism.

The first part of the building, standing across the government of Serbia building in Kneza Miloša street, is named Building "A" and has 12,654 square meters.[3] The other part of the building, divided by Nemanjina Street, is named Building "B" and has 36,581 square meters.[3]

1999 bombing[edit]

Around midnight on 29/30 April 1999, 40 days into the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the building was bombed two times by NATO in the space of 15 minutes, because of the structure's significance as a military facility.[4][3] It was uninhabited at the time it was bombed, leading some to speculate that it was bombed more due to its symbolic significance as a representation of the state, rather than merely just for immediate tangible purposes.[1] It was bombed once again nine days later, around midnight on 7/8 May 1999.[3]


Severely damaged by the 1999 bombing, the building has not been repaired for over a decade and is Belgrade’s most famous ruin. Since 2005, it has been the protected monument of culture,[3] symbolizing the 1999 NATO bombing and suffering of Serbia.

Building "B" was much less damaged during the bombings, and in the following years entrance of the building has been removed, for the safety of the pedestrians. Part of the building "B" has been used by the Ministry of Defence of Serbia.


In November 2015, with the budget of 650,000 euros, the first phase of reconstruction of Building "A" has started, for the purpose of structure collapse prevention.[5][6] By May 2016, the central part was entirely demolished and the pillars for the part of building close to the street were poured.[6] Around 5,000 square meters was demolished.[5]

In February 2017, the government of Serbia has decided to demolish most of the Building "A" construction with the obligation to re-build it to its original appearance once the country has the funds.[7] This sudden decision was explained with the high cost of the further reconstruction amounting to the estimated 7.66 million euros, while the demolition was estimated at 1.46 million euros. Minister of Defence of Serbia, Zoran Đorđević said that experts advocated for this solution despite already paid first phase of the reconstruction, while the military experts condemned this decision.[7] On 9 March 2017, the Association of Serbian Architects (an informal, private group) launched an initiative for the submission of candidature for the UNESCO World Heritage Site, also saying that the Government of Serbia wanted to remove it from the register of cultural properties, but due to the long legal procedure resorted to the reconstruction.[8] The Association condemned the decision and marked it as a "definitive loss of our culture" as it is a "monument of suffering and brutality of NATO forces".[8] In March 2015, on the occasion of the 16th anniversary of the beginning of NATO intervention, the government of Serbia organized a ceremony in front of the ruined building which some observers interpreted as the evidence that the ruin has indeed become a de facto war monument.[9]

Proposals for other purposes

Over the years, there have been talks that the building could be turned into a luxurious hotel of The Trump Organization.[10][11] Following the reconstruction of Building "A" and later proposed demolition of the most of the construction, Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, said that there are plans for the construction of Monument to Stefan Nemanja and Museum of medieval Serbia on the place of the Building "A".[12][13]


Panorama of damaged Yugoslav General Staff in 2014, building "A" on the left and building "B" on the right


  1. ^ a b c d "THE GHOSTS OF THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE: THE CASE OF THE ARMY HEADQUARTERS IN BELGRADE, SERBIA by Srđan MILOŠEVIĆ" (PDF). IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  2. ^ Petrović, M. R. (30 July 2015). "Generalštab pola šminkaju, pola ruše". blic.rs (in Serbian). Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Tri varijante za ZGRADU GENERALŠTABA, ali na kraju ipak MORA DA SE RUŠI". blic.rs (in Serbian). 2 March 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  4. ^ "A Kosovo Chronology". PBS. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Počinje rušenje nestabilnog dela zgrade Generalštaba" (in Serbian). Tanjug. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b Rodić, Milena (11 May 2016). "ZGRADA GENERALŠTABA podeljena na DVA DELA" (in Serbian). Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Sanirali zgradu Generalštaba za 78, ruše je za 180 miliona". insajder.net (in Serbian). 28 February 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Generalštab je obeležje našeg stradanja". novosti.rs (in Serbian). 9 March 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  9. ^ Ejdus, Filip (2017). "'Not a heap of stones': material environments and ontological security in international relations" (PDF). Cambridge Review of International Affairs. 30: 23–43. doi:10.1080/09557571.2016.1271310. hdl:1983/46946960-3281-4175-a8c1-6b46971a4e3f.
  10. ^ "Trump Eyes Turning Serbian Army Ruin into Hotel". Balkan Insights. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  11. ^ "Donald Trump to build a hotel in Belgrade". ExpatSerbia. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  12. ^ "Na mestu Generalštaba spomenik i muzej Stefanu Nemanji". blic.rs (in Serbian). 21 November 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  13. ^ Dragović, R. (27 December 2016). "UMESTO SRUŠENOG GENERALŠTABA: Nemanjićima muzej naspram zgrade Vlade". novosti.rs (in Serbian). Retrieved 24 March 2017.

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