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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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…