Museum of Yugoslav History (Muzej istorije Jugoslavije), Belgrade

On my recent trip to Serbia I’ve visited the Museum of Yugoslav History (Muzej istorije Jugoslavije) located in the Dedinje district of Belgrade. As its name suggests, the museum is dedicated to the history of Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, it is only dedicated to a history of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a country that existed from the end of WW2 to 1990s. An era of its predecessor the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which existed from the end of the WW1 to the 1945 is not included.

Tito’s statue in the museum garden

The main emphasis of the museum is the persona of the former lifetime president of Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito. In fact, the main exhibition at the Old Museum (one of three museum buildings), is a collection of the Tito’s personal objects, thousands of batons used in the annual “relay of youth” which took place on 25 May each year to celebrate Tito’s birthday and the gifts Tito received by various foreign dignitaries, statesman and delegations. Moreover, the museums premises also contain the so-called “House of Flowers“, which is the final resting place of Tito. Therefore, the much more accurate name for the museum would be “Museum of Tito”.

Tito’s personal objects

The permanent exhibitions are presented in very traditional way, I found a bit dull. The objects in display cases are accompanied with the labels with the basic informations in Serbian and English.  Because I am familiar with the history of Yugoslavia, I found the information on the labels sufficient, but I had to give extra explanations to my friends  who had no prior knowledge of the history of Yugoslavia.

Socialist monuments models

To my opinion, the best and most informative panel was definitely the timeline of Yugoslav history in the House of Flowers. Even though, we’ve read it in the opposite direction than it was most likely planned (starting with the most recent years), we still got the good overview of the most important events in Yugoslavian history since 1945.

Batons which were used in the “relay of youth” annually held on 25 May to celebrate Tito’s birthday

The temporary exhibitions are held in the museum building called 25th of May museum. At the time of our visit, we saw the exhibition Yuga, my Yuga – Gastarbeiter stories about the temporary workers from Yugoslavia in Germany and Austria. The exhibition presented on one side the general picture of the expat life, and on the other the personal stories of some of the expats. I think the mix of the text panels, personal objects, posters and videos was a lovely visually attractive attempt to present the topic. However, it had some severe flaws. First of all, there was way too much text to read, it wasn’t well divided into the paragraphs and the fonts were too small to read. Apart from the introductory panel, we didn’t have any motivation to read the panels. Also, while some of the  objects were supported by too much text, others completely lacked it. I think we would get the much better view of the topic, if we would read more of the text, but it was simply too much. Curators of this exhibition really need to learn how to sum up the information.

Old Museum exhibition

Old Museum permanent exhibition

Even though the exhibition about Tito gave a good impression on how important figure he was for Yugoslavia, I think the visitor doesn’t really get the whole (hi)story of Yugoslavia. It was much complex than it is presented. The era of Kingdom of Yugoslavia is completely neglected, very little is mentioned of the WW2 and the disintegration of Yugoslavia is told only in few short paragraphs. Nothing is mentioned of the bloody wars which took a place during the disintegration of the Yugoslavia. Nothing is mentioned of the dark side of the Tito’s rule. He’s still celebrated as the leader, the father of the nation, the comrade who made Yugoslavia strong and united. The curators definitely took the safer option of exhibiting the history of Yugoslavia. My question is how long would it take to heal all the wounds from the past and the painful aspects of the history of Yugoslavia will be presented in this museum. Only time will tell…

Tito’s uniform

 

1,508 thoughts on “Museum of Yugoslav History (Muzej istorije Jugoslavije), Belgrade

  1. The Wayfarer says:

    With such a fraught political history, I can’t imagine it would be easy to put that museum together! I would love to visit this museum, but I would probably read more about Yugoslav history before I went. The whole region’s history is very sad but so interesting!

    • Urska - Slovenian Girl Abroad says:

      Yes, I think it is challenging to put up the exhibition on Serbian contemporary history that would be neutral enough not to offend anybody. I agree, the history of the region is sad, but very interesting. Isn’t interesting how we usually found the most painful and horrible events of the history most interesting?

    • Urska - Slovenian Girl Abroad says:

      I did, but only in Slovenia: to Museum of Contemporary history in Ljubljana. I think it presents the era from WW1 to the 1990s very well. None of the major historical events is neglected, it doesn’t only show the good sides of this era, but also shows the contested topics (i.e. post WW2 war killings, Dachau trails), The history (including the disintegration of Yugoslavia) is presented from Slovenian point of view, but that’s what’s expected from a national museum. I really liked it.

  2. jj says:

    Slovenia was highly involved in selling weapons, and made a lot of money from it, during the war to the Bosnian Muslims and Croats, and it acted as a middleman for weapons from many other countries. Did the Slovenian museum cover that aspect?

    • Urska - Slovenian Girl Abroad says:

      Hi JJ! Thanks for the comment! I know about the 1990s Arms trade scandal, but I don’t know if it is mentioned in the Museum of Contemporary History in Ljubljana. It has been a while since I’ve been there, and back then, the permanent exhibition ended with the independence of Slovenia. They did some modifications to the exhibition since then, but I don’t know if they included the Arms trade scandal, sorry.

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