History of the Balkan region is history of continuous warfare before everything else, and such history can be best perceived in the Military Museum at the Kalemegdan Fortress, which is located in Belgrade. Covering the period from the Bronze Age until 1999, the museum’s extensive collection encompasses cold and fire weapons, armour, military outfit, historical documents, interactive displays and more. Although mostly centred on Serbian, Croatian, Montenegrin and other Balkan nations, you have an opportunity to gain better understanding of the former superpowers such as the Roman and the Turkish Empires.
Military Museum’s outdoor display
An outdoor display of armoured vehicles, cannons, anti-aircraft and naval weaponry leads you to the Military Museum, allowing you to observe the machinery used in both world wars completely free. Among other exhibits, you can take a closer look into the military arsenal used by the former Yugoslav army, the Germans, the Austro-Hungarians and other military powers involved in the Balkan warfare in the previous centuries.
From the Roman Empire to the First World War
The related period focuses on the transition from the Roman dominance over the Balkan region, through the founding of the Slavic medieval states and the Turkish emergence, to liberation from the Ottoman Turks just before the outbreak of the First World War.
The Slavs started to migrate to these regions shortly after the Western Roman Empire collapsed (5th century A.D), and had it definitely colonized in the 7th century. In the process, they battled the Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire that withstood the invasion of the barbaric tribes) and fought over supremacy with other migrating tribes.
As the Slavs consolidated their acquired positions, various advancing medieval states started to emerge one after another – Serbian, Macedonian, Bosnian, etc. The Slavic domination of these regions ended with the emergence of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which occupied most of the Balkans throughout the 14th century. The Islamic invaders ruled these lands, to the largest degree, for the next five centuries.
The related exhibition of the Military Museum takes you through the evolution of weaponry and military equipment throughout the centuries, military operations, regular troops and insurgents, models of medieval fortification systems, etc. Pay special attention to:
-the overview of the Battle of Kosovo, in 1389, when the Serbian medieval state was crushed by the Turks, and where both rulers were killed;
-the First (1804 – 1813) and Second Serbian Uprisings (1815), which marked the beginning of the liberation from the Turks;
-the Balkan wars, fought between the people of Balkans on one side and the Turks on the other in the First Balkan War (1912), and between the Serbs (and subsequently other nations) and the Bulgarians in the second (1913), who had pretensions over territories claimed by Serbia in 1912.
Along the way, you can familiarize yourselves with Tsars Dusan (most powerful Serbian ruler during the Middle Ages) and Samuel (Macedonian), leaders of both Serbian Uprisings and other meritorious personalities, tactics the Turks used to be so superior in clashes with the Christian forces, and more.
The 20th century warfare
The first allied victory over the central powers in the First World War (1914 – 1918) was won by the Serbian Army over the Austro-Hungarians at the Battle of Cer. Between the introductory battles and the liberation in 1918 a lot had happened. Withdrawal of the Serbian army from Belgrade and its retaking after the Kolubara battle (1914), the exodus of the Serbian army and people to Greece (1915) over the Albanian wastelands, the recovery and the Kaimakchalan battle (1916) and the liberation in 1918. This war cost Serbia a third of its populace.
The Germans didn’t wait long to return in another conquest of the Balkans. This time, in the Second World War, the new state founded after the First World War (which gathered all the Slavs except the Greeks) fell prey to them, their traditional allies (the Bulgarians, the Hungarians) and the Italians. Aside from the military operations, related models and arsenal, this section underlines great heroism of the freedom fighters against the overwhelming opponents.
Plan your visit
Although basic information is provided in English, it would be beneficial if you had at least a basic knowledge of Serbian language to gain a better understanding of the museum’s collection. The full entry price is 1.20 EUR (1.30 USD) and the museum can be thoroughly explored in three or four hours, while a quick visit should take up to two hours. The Military Museum operates from Tuesday to Sunday between 10:00 am and 05:00 pm.