March 9, 2018 Then and Now

Old Sava Bridge’s Unlikely Path to Belgraders’ Hearts

Despite its links to one the darkest chapters of the city’s history, Belgraders are fighting to keep their oldest bridge.

The new design of the future Sava Bridge. Photo: Direkcija za gradjevinsko zemljiste i izgradnju Beograda J.P.

Srdjan Garcevic

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Recent plans to replace the Old Sava Bridge with an expanded, less rickety version were met with widespread disapproval among Belgraders, so much so that it became a major issue in the recent municipal election campaign.

However, Belgrade’s relationship with the green-arched bridge, the city’s shortest and oldest continuously standing, started off in the worst possible way during the darkest days of World War II.

After Nazi Germany attacked the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, the Royal Yugoslav Army blew up all of Belgrade’s bridges on the Sava and the Danube in order to slow down the enemy advance. Given that the army surrendered to the occupying force just eleven days after the attack begun, the move was less than successful.

The Nazi occupiers decided in 1942 to construct this iron bridge over the Sava instead of the Tisza, a river in northern Serbia, as was originally planned. The idea was to ease transport between central Serbia and central Europe.

The new bridge was named after Prince Eugene of Savoy, an Austrian general who took Belgrade from the Ottomans in the 18th Century. The name was in line with a Nazi plan to turn occupied Belgrade into a fortress called Prinz Eugen Stadt and settle the region around the Danube with ethnic Germans.

Given that the Ustasa-run Independent State of Croatia occupied territories across the Sava in present day New Belgrade, the bridge had a border post in the middle. It was used in turns by pedestrians, cars and even trains.

Besides transporting military personnel and supplies, it also eased the transport of Belgraders, especially Jewish and Roma citizens, to the infamous Sajmiste concentration camp that stood on the other side of the river, occupying the site of an art-deco fairground that was built in 1937.

Despite its dark beginnings, the bridge became a symbol of personal courage and resistance against the Nazi occupation.

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Belgrade Insight to be integrated into Balkan Insight

After a 265 issue run, Belgrade Insight, BIRN’s bi-weekly Belgrade-focused English-language newspaper, printed its last paper edition on Friday 21 December, 2018. 

In its decade-long life since 2008, Belgrade Insight sought to bring quality journalism to its readers and subscribers.

Belgrade Insight covered political and economic developments in Serbia, but also told stories about people, businesses and events which shaped a unique and multi-faceted city like Belgrade.

In addition to detailed analysis and coverage of political, economic and business affairs, Belgrade Insight provided its readers with everything that expatriates, short-term visitors and local residents need to know in order to enjoy this great city.

It the past decade, it saw many changes in Serbia’s political and cultural climate: from the deep recession of early 2010s to Serbia’s candidate status in the EU, through Belgrade’s first Eurovision song contest and re-opening of city’s museums.

Although Belgrade Insight will no longer be printed, BIRN journalists and associates will continue their coverage of Belgrade and Serbia through the Balkan Insight website.

For any questions or refunds contact Snezana Caricic (