In preparations for the first conference of the Non-Aligned Nations in Belgrade in 1961, a number of makeshift monuments were built around the city. At the very crossing from New Belgrade to the old part of the city in 1961, an obelisk, a four-sided pillar narrowing towards the top, which resembled those seen in Ancient Egypt or Rome, was dedicated to the Non-Aligned Movement first conference held that year. The obelisk was meant to be a temporary solution, which would later be replaced by a permanent monument. This is supported by the fact that neither the Belgrade Archives nor the Institute for the Protection of Monuments has documentation on the mark in the form of an obelisk.
There is little to no record about who and why built this obelisk and a number of artists and officials claim to be responsible for that. Among other architects Dušan Milenković and Svetislav Ličina. What is certain, however, is that it is a very simple, almost improvised construction. The monument stands in a prominent location, just next to the Brankov Most bridge that all the delegates to the conference had to cross coming from the airport. After 1961 the monument was forgotten until the next conference of the same alliance that took part in Belgrade in 1989. After that date, it fell into obscurity once again and nowadays most of the people of Belgrade know about it but not when and why was it erected.
Today the monument is the centrepiece of a small park used by the locals and is not protected as a heritage site. It is regularly covered in graffiti and then cleaned every several years. Apart from that, the forgotten monument is in fair condition.
Researcher Vladimir Dulović
Form of government
1961 Socialist Federative Republic
2018 Parliamentary democracy
Spatial Planning Agency
2018 Urban Planning institute, Belgrade
Type of heritage and protection
Interview with Konstantin Novaković
KN: Well, I remember the ambience of the park dominated by the obelisk from some foggy period of my early childhood and I remember very well the obelisk. At the time I had no idea what it was for or when it was erected and what it is in fact but I do vaguely remember the Belgrade coat of arms that’s been on it forever. The park itself was always like a kind of oasis between the noise of Brankova street and the Branko Bridge and Kosančićev venac.
VD: Does it seem that that park means something to the people who live on Kosančićev venac as the closest green space where there’s a bit of grass, where someone can take their dog for a walk or something?
KN: Well I think it means something for the people from Kosančićev venac and for those from the surrounding streets – primarily for those who have dogs – also passers-by and those who work in the area. For example, the electrician that did some work for me a couple of years ago told me how they – I think he went to the Hotelier School or one of those schools near Zeleni venac – how they would hang out there during their break time. So I think that it’s the same today and I often see students and others hanging out and drinking beer.
VD: Yes, it was really surprising that there’s still a park where people drink beer in the evenings!
KN: Yes, yes… Anyway, I remember that atmosphere because of the Small Stairs and a guy, I think he’s homeless, who would feed cats, dogs, gulls and pigeons early in the morning, for years, decades even…
VD: Tell me, all these people there, do they have any kind of interaction with the Non-Aligned obelisk? Does it seem to you that anyone would care if they removed it tomorrow? Do you have any thoughts on that?
KNĆ Well, I wouldn’t say that there’s any…. Maybe an insignificant number of people are even aware of what that monument is for, that obelisk, or what it actually means. And we all know that here anything can be build or removed, just like they’re now closing the Main Railway Station and there’s absolutely no reaction. So I don’t think absolutely anyone would care about that.
VD: But does it seem that enough time has passed, however long it’s been, it’ll be almost sixty years soon, that it’s been there long enough that people might miss the visual constant of that place where so much has changed since then?
KN: Well, I can speak to my point of view. To me, that obelisk is an inseparable part of that whole area and I really would be bothered. Anyway, I’d like to add one other thing, that the obelisk itself has followed our fate and the fate of our decline. I mean, it was originally erected as an improvised structure – at its core are two lampposts lined with tin sheeting – as something that was a temporary fix and we’re still living in that state of limbo. Even today it just stands there as it is, except that with time the cheap materials have begun. I would like to add one more thing, that somehow this obelisk itself is following our destiny and the fate of our decay. So he was initially erected as an improvised structure - in his core, there were two sheets lined with sheets - as something that should have been a temporary solution, and in fact, we continue to live in that particular provisory. It still stands as it is today, with how the times changed, so cheap materials began to be used. So now in his base, we can see that as an intervention, in the past few years, cheap gypsum boards have been glued which probably should have been corrected in the simplest and cheapest way, but, of course, the effect of degradation has actually been produced.
Interview with Olga Manojlović Pintar
OMP: Robert Musil said that there is nothing quite so invisible in a public space as its monuments – i.e. monuments that no longer have an adequate role in a public space, around which no ceremonies are held and which lose all their symbolism the moment the regime that erected them is no longer in power. That is unfortunately what happened to this monument. It’s really very minimalist form, which makes it and would have made it a recognisable symbol regardless of the ideological context, currently and for the last quarter of a century… But, honestly, I would go back to the time when I was much younger, even then it wasn’t so recognisable in the Belgrade cityscape. Space has somehow merged with the buildings in the background and that which should have made it very clearly stand out actually made it an invisible space. After the year 2000 there were these truly banal activities in which it – in the activities of the JAZAS Youth League, that bogus organisation close to JUL and Mira Marković – as part of that campaign against HIV in 2005 it was covered with a condom to, you know, reaffirm the idea of fighting HIV and the AIDS virus but, of course, it was clear from that that it had lost all meaning. What should have returned it to people’s awareness was one great campaign, a great project that was organised by a group of artists in 2014, not only here in Serbia but worldwide. The project was called Traveling Communiqué and through stories about photographs and the collection of what was then the Museum of Yugoslav History and is now the Museum of Yugoslavia it went back to that event, that first congress of the Non-Aligned Movement and directly dealt with the question of the monument. Because there were lots of people on that project who had been involved in the Monument Project (Milica Tomić, Branimir Stojanović, etc.) and told the story of the Non-Aligned Movement and about the role of monuments in public spaces in, I think, the right way.
Interview with Vladan Jeremić