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Belgrade (Town, Serbia)

Beograd, Београд

Last modified: 2006-08-19 by ivan sache
Keywords: belgrade | beograd | castle (white) | ship (sailing) |
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[Flag of Belgrade]

Flag of Belgrade - Image by Jorge Hurtado, 17 April 1999

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History of the symbols of Belgrade

Early symbols

In Belgrade, one of the oldest European town, on the crossroads of East and West, the first mention of the Belgrade 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 and is shown in the armorial collection of Fugerić honour miror from 1555.
The tradition of the coat of arms of Belgrade was interrupted under Turkish occupation, since Turks did not have such kind of symbols, but was resumed after the Austrian takeover of Belgrade in the XVIIIth 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 coat 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.. It is important to note that 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.

Symbols adopted in 1931

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, Mr. 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 adopted 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 = 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 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 #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.

Symbols adopted in 1991

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 Mr. Dragomir Acović, the highest authority in Serbian heraldry and the chairman of the Serbian Heraldic Society White Eagle, Mrs. Mira Kun, the daughter of Đorđe Andrejević-Kun, Mr. Branko Miljus, painter, and Mr. 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. With Statutes of the City of Belgrade of 1991, the suggested designs were adopted, which formally and legally confirmed the importance and value of the Belgrade coat of arms of 1931.

Legal provisions

The standards of the coat of arms and flag of the city of Belgrade and graphical standards for their representation were made by the Serbian Heraldic Society White Eagle, and were published in Službeni list grade Beograda (Official gazette of the city of Belgrade) #14/96 for the coat of arms, and #8/97 for the flag.

Source: Serbian Orthodox Church website (page no longer online).

Text translated by Željko Heimer, 17 April 1999

Greater and middle coat of arms of Belgrad

On the Serbian Orthodox Church website (page no longer online), there is a representation of the Belgrade coat of arms as 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."

Similarly, there is 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 honourary 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 Karađorđ:e 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, Mr. 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.

Source: Serbian Orthodox Church website (page no longer online).

Text translated by Željko Heimer, 17 April 1999