Vladimir Kulić: National, supranational, international: New Belgrade and the symbolic construction of a socialist capital

The construction of New Belgrade as the new capital of socialist Yugoslavia was the most symbolic modernizing act initiated by the country’s communist government. Yet, its precise meanings were suspended between the complicated and permanently transitory concepts of socialist Yugoslavia’s federalism and its international aspirations. Focusing on three characteristic “snapshots” of the city’s physical development, this paper analyzes how New Belgrade and its most important buildings represented the shifting concepts of socialist Yugoslavia as a multiethnic community and its even more changeable place in the world. The first snapshot deals with the years immediately following World War II, during which New Belgrade was conceived as the seat of a centralized Stalinist state in close alliance with the USSR. The second deals with the effects of Yugoslavia’s break from the Soviet bloc in 1948, especially its rapprochement with the West and the start of the decentralization of the federal state. Finally, the third explores the late socialist period: the dwindling of New Belgrade’s role as the political heart of the federation, and at the same time its emergence as a locus of Yugoslavia’s ambition to play a leading role in international relations, especially through its activity in the Non-Aligned Movement.

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