Belgrade (Serbian: Београд, Beograd [bɛˈɔɡrad] is the capital and largest city of Serbia. The city lies at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. It has an urban population of 1.2 million, while the metropolitan area has more than 1.7 million people, making it one of the largest cities of Southeastern Europe. Its name translates to white city.
Belgrade’s wider city area was the birthplace of the largest prehistoric culture of Europe, the Vinča culture, as early as the 6th millennium BC. In antiquity, the area of Belgrade was inhabited by a Thraco-Dacian tribe Singi, while after 279 BC a Celtic tribe inhabited the city, naming it “Singidun” (dun, fortress). It was awarded city rights by the Romans and was permanently settled by Slavs beginning in the 520s. As a strategic location, the city was battled over in 115 wars and razed to the ground 44 times since the ancient period by countless armies of the East and West. In medieval times, it was in the possession of Byzantine, Frankish, Bulgarian, Hungarian and Serbian rulers. In 1521 Belgrade was conquered by the Ottomans and became the seat of the Pashaluk of Belgrade, as the principal city of Ottoman Europe and among the largest European cities. It frequently passed from Ottoman to Austrian rule which saw destruction of most of the city, the status as capital of Serbia would be regained only in 1841, after the Serbian revolution. Northern Belgrade, though, remained a Habsburg outpost until the breakup of Austria-Hungary in 1918. The city was the capital of Yugoslavia from 1918 to 2003.
Belgrade has its own autonomous government, and has a special administrative status in the territorial organization of Serbia. Its metropolitan territory is divided into 17 municipalities, each having its own local council. It covers 3.6% of Serbia’s territory, and 15% of the country’s population lives in the city. Belgrade is the financial center of Serbia.
Belgrade hosts many annual cultural events, including FEST (Belgrade Film Festival), BITEF (Belgrade Theatre Festival), BELEF (Belgrade Summer Festival), BEMUS (Belgrade Music Festival), Belgrade Book Fair, and the Belgrade Beer Festival. The Nobel prize winning author Ivo Andrić wrote his most famous work, The Bridge on the Drina, in Belgrade.Other prominent Belgrade authors include Branislav Nušić, Miloš Crnjanski, Borislav Pekić, Milorad Pavić and Meša Selimović. Most of Serbia’s film industry is based in Belgrade; the 1995 Palme d’Or winning Underground, directed by Emir Kusturica, was produced in the city.
The city was one of the main centres of the Yugoslav New Wave in the 1980s: VIS Idoli, Ekatarina Velika, Šarlo Akrobata and Električni Orgazam were all from Belgrade. Other notable Belgrade rock acts include Riblja Čorba, Bajaga i Instruktori and Partibrejkers. Today, it is the centre of the Serbian hip hop scene, with acts such as Beogradski Sindikat, Škabo, Marčelo, and most of the Bassivity Music stable hailing from or living in the city. There are numerous theatres, the most prominent of which are National Theatre, Theatre on Terazije, Yugoslav Drama Theatre, Zvezdara Theatre, and Atelier 212. The Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts is also based in Belgrade, as well as the National Library of Serbia. Other major libraries include the Belgrade City Library and the Belgrade University Library. Belgrade’s two opera houses are: National Theatre and Madlenianum Opera House.
There are many foreign cultural institutions in Belgrade including the Spanish Instituto Cervantes, German Goethe-Institut and French Centre Culturel Français which are all located in the central pedestrian Knez Mihailova Street. Other cultural centres in Belgrade are American Corner, Austrian Cultural Forum, British Council, Chinese Confucius Institute, Canadian Cultural Center, Hellenic Foundation for Culture, Italian Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Culture Center of Islamic Republic of Iran, Azerbaijani Culture Center and Russian Center for Science and Culture.
Following the victory of Serbia’s representative Marija Šerifović at the Eurovision Song Contest 2007, Belgrade hosted the Eurovision Song Contest 2008.