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Belgrade (City, Serbia)

Beograd, Београд

Last modified: 2019-11-02 by ivan sache
Keywords: belgrade |
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Flag of Belgrade - Image by Ivan Sarajčić, 22 January 2007


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History of the symbols of Belgrade

Belgrade is one of the oldest European towns, located on the crossroads of East and West: the first mention of a town coat of arms originates from the time of the son of Emperor Lazarus (Lazar), Despot Stephen (Stefan) Lazarević, when Belgrade became the capital of the Serbian state for the first time (1403), but until today it is not determined how it looked like.
The next coat of arms is from the period of the Hungarian domination, as shown in the armorial collection Fugerić honour miror from 1555.
The tradition of the coat of arms of Belgrade, interrupted under Turkish occupation since Turks did not have such kind of symbols, was resumed after the Austrian takeover of Belgrade in the 18th century. At that time, after a proposal by the Imperial Governor, Prince Alexander of Württemberg, the Court War Council adopted in year 1725 a new seal and coat of arms. The literature also mentions the coat of arms in Brockhausen Encyclopaedia, one in Encyclopédie Larousse and a so-called "ancient coat of arms of the city".
The first two coats of arms are considered as dubious by experts, while the third one is considered as a wrong interpretation of Roman coins from the first century A.D.. All of those coats of arms are known only from prints or literature.
In the project of Law on Communities of 1914, a new coat of arms with national symbols in it was proposed, but there is no evidence that this law was ever adopted due to the war events of that year.

The action of establishment of the Belgrade coat of arms was resumed once again in 1931, by the President of the Community (Mayor) of the City of Belgrade, Milan Nesić. An increased committee, formed of artists, heraldists, university professors, generals and state secretaries, considered, as it is stated in the official gazette, the task "very seriously, with much will and care". The committee had sessions several times and considered the issue, so that the first session of a smaller committee on 19 May 1931 issued the following conclusions:
- The coat of arms should be shield-shaped, with a point at the bottom;
- The elements of the coat of arms should be: the national colours; a river, as the symbol of the original power of Belgrade; a Roman vessel (trireme), as the symbol of the age of Belgrade; white walls with a tower and open gates (walls shall represent the merchant city, while the tower shall represent the city and the open gates the free market);
- The ground at the bottom of the shield, between the rivers and under the walls should be red, as the symbol of blood, eternal suffering of Belgrade; the rivers should be white according to the rules of heraldry; the walls and towers white, as the symbol of the "White City" (Beograd means in Serbian "White city"); the sky blue as the symbol of hope and faith in a better future.

On the contest made according to this, the sketch coded "Red three" won by a great majority. It was the work by the Belgrade painter Đorđe Andrejević-Kun. As suggested by the jury, the sketch was modified in minor details, awarded and officially adopted as the sketch of the coat of arms, printed in colours in Beogradske opstinske novine No. 1/32. The same year, according to an article from the same newspaper on the Spasovdan ceremony (being also the day of Belgrade), "the flag with the new coat of arms of Belgrade" was hoisted.

After the Second World War, with changed social atmosphere, the city seemed to forget its coat of arms. The legal solutions are from total absence of regulations on the coat of arms, over the use of the term "emblem" without blazon, to the regulations with a stylized blazon without further documentation.
With the confusion made by the use of two coats of arms, heraldically unacceptable, and with critical reactions of the citizens, in the beginning of 1991, the Assembly of the City of Belgrade initiated a procedure to solve the problem. A working group was formed by Dragomir Acović, the highest authority in Serbian heraldry and the Chairman of the Serbian Heraldry Society, Mira Kun, the daughter of Đorđe Andrejević-Kun, Branko Miljus, painter, and Tomislav Lakusić, the Secretary of the Assembly.
The working group concluded to the restoration of the coat of arms of 1931, with three minor corrections in the graphical layout of the coat of arms, blazon of the coat of arms and the flag of the city. The suggested designs were adopted in 1991 as part of the Statutes of the City of Belgrade, which formally and legally confirmed the importance and value of the coat of arms of 1931.

The standards of the coat of arms and flag of the City of Belgrade and graphical standards for their representation, made by the Serbian Heraldic Society "White Eagle", were published in Službeni list grade Beograda (Official gazette of the city of Belgrade) No. 14/96 for the coat of arms, and No. 8/97 for the flag.
[Municipal website]

Željko Heimer, 17 April 1999


Use of the flag of Belgrade

The flag of Belgrade has been in use since 1995, last time before that the flag was flown is in 1932, during litany in occasion of Ascension day. Presumably that flag of 1932 was a single copy produced for that occasion
[Dragomir Acović:, Glas Javnosti, 11 November 2001]*

* There are a few things claimed by Acović that I am not sure are quite correct or at least are up to discussion. Possibly the jouranlist's form of the interview does not provide for the exactness in some of these; also note the date of this interview is in 2001.
- he claims that the etalons (of the state symbols) were last time adopted by the government in 1946. I am not aware of any etalons being adopted at the time - the symbols of the republics within Yugoslavia were adopted at the end of 1946, and prescribed in the beginning of 1947 in their respective constitutions, but I do not think that any particular further details were ever issued that could be considered as "etalons".
- he states that the flag of the President should be flown on his residence whenever he is in the country (he also states that this was at the time totally unregulated, but this is how he sees it should be done) - as far as I know, this is not quite usual practice - the flag (standard) is flown over the residence rather when the head of state is in it physically - not when he is in the country.
- he refers to federal regulations regarding flags that require the flag to be flown horizontally and that the vertical ("labarum" style, as he calls it, we would say banner-like, I guess) hoisting from a crossbar is forbidden (he states that such practice is only in church rituals and some military ceremonies) or at least inappropriate. As far as I am aware (but without checking the sources) I do not remember any such provision in Yugoslavia / Serbia and Montenegro flag regulations ever mentioned.

Željko Heimer, 8 February 2008

The usage of a correct flag is a matter of pride.
Usage approval is not necessary, but incorrect and improper usage and misuse which insults the dignity of Belgrade citizens will be penalized. Therefore, previous consultation is recommended.
[Municipal website]

The flag of Belgrade was seen in use many times throughout the 2000s, particulary in football/basketball matches, used by supporters of FK/KK Partizan (photo), FK Crvena Zvezda, and OFK Beograd.
The flag was also widely used in the political campaign for the presidential election held a few days ago.
I have seen versions of the flag of Belgrade vertically hanged and in proportions c. 1:3, with the same square design, and upper part in blue and lower in red, but this was only arbitrary, unoffical and false usage of the flag in front of a hospital in Zemun.

Ivan Sarajčić, 5 February 2008

The newspaper Le Monde published on 4 February 2008 a photo taken in Belgrade after the victory of Boris Tadić in the presidential elections.
The flag shown on the picture, clearly in non official use, does not seem to be square, as officially prescribed, but rectangular.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 5 February 2008


Coat of arms of Belgrade

The coat of arms of Belgrade was presented on the website of the Serbian Orthodox Church in two versios:
- an escutcheon on a white eagle, with mural crown, and orders, captioned "The greater coat of arms of the city of Belgrade, proposed by the Serbian Heraldic Society 'White Eagle'."
- a coat of arms with crown and orders, captioned "The middle coat of arms of the city of Belgrade, proposed by the Serbian Heraldic Society 'White Eagle'."
It is not clear if these two coats of arms were officially adopted, or are only proposals that were eventually not adopted.

The four orders in the coat of arms are described as follows:

The city of Belgrade carries four orders of merit:
1. Order of the Légion d'Honneur. Awarded to the city on 21 December 1920
Established on 19 May 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte, awarded in five grades as the highest order in France, the order was awarded to the city by Marshal of France and honorary vojvoda of Serbian Army Louis Franchet d'Espèrey (1856-1942). Except Belgrade, only two cities not in France were awarded it: Liège (Belgium) and Luxembourg.
2. War Cross. Awarded to the city on 8 October 1925
Established by the Czechoslovakian temporary government in Paris on 7 November 1918 as the highest state war order in one grade, it was awarded for courage and initiative in battle against enemy and for heroic deeds in combat for independence in 1914-1918.
3. Order of Karađorđe Star with Swords. Awarded to the city on 18 May 1939.
Established in four grades on 1 January 1904 by King Peter I of Serbia. The group with swords for war merits was established on 20 October 1912. The Minister of the Army and Navy, Army General Milutin Nedić, as the representative of HM King Peter II of Yugoslavia, awarded this highest war order to the President of the Community of Belgrade, Vlado Ilić on Spasovdan ceremony.
4. Order of People's Hero. Awarded to the city on 20 October 1974.
Established on 15 August 1943 in one grade as the order for people that gained title of People's Hero, established some time earlier. The design was made by Đorđe Andrejević-Kun, and plastic design by Antun Augustinčić.

Željko Heimer, 17 April 1999


 
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