Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Horse Statue on Republic Square Points Through a Sea of Trouble

To be, or not to be– that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them.
-Shakespeare, Hamlet

The Horse Statue at Republic Square in Belgrade, Serbia
  Quite literally at the heart of Belgrade stands the statue simply known as The Horse. It’s located on the central Trg Republike (Republic Square), but it’s also the prime reference point of the city. Before venturing into town, clubbers meet ‘at the horse,’ and every direction to any other sight-to-see starts with the horse. To get to Kalemegdan, walk from the horse to Knez Mihailova, and follow that street in the direction of the horse’s but. To get to theatre Atalje 212, follow the arm of the guy sitting on the horse.

But who is the guy sitting on the horse and where is he pointing at, other than theatre Atalje 212?

Horse Statue - Belgrade, Serbia
 Equestrian statues are common in our world. They usually depict military leaders who played crucial roles in the evolution of countries. Rearing horse statues are rare because balancing such a sculpture necessitates the horse to be almost vertical, and that will inadvertently push the rider into a pose that fails to convey an authoritative and astute composure. Subjects like to see their rulers to be in control of things. A horse that caries such a ruler has no business rearing. It should slowly but surely progress.

Hence, horses are commonly shown to daftly step, in subject to their rider, who usually sits there pointing at something. His pointing shows the ruler’s determinative aim for some kind of objective, which is a future state much rather than a physical destination. The horseman of Belgrade does so too. But he did that at some point in the 19th century, when his nation still had a very long trot coming.

Prince Michael - Horse Statue
 Prince Michael (Mihailo Obrenovic) ruled Serbia as a vassal subjected to the Ottoman Sultan. He strengthened the nation by supporting Serbian literature, and in the early 1880’s he reorganized the Serbian army into becoming the strongest army in the Balkan. To give his creation a try he revolted against the Turks, who withdrew into Kalemegdan and started bombing the town from within. Prince Michael felt forced to call off his armed revolt but continued his resistance on the diplomatic front. In 1867 the Turks pulled out of Belgrade, and some years later they surrendered all control of Serbia. That ended their 400 years occupation.

It also ended the brutalities with which the Turks would keep the Serbs subdued. One way of executing insurrectionaries was impaling them in front of the Stambol Gate. When the Turks left, that gate was razed to the ground, leaving an open space in the city that would become Trg Republike. (An ‘inner’ Stambol gate can still be found at Kalemegdan). In 1882 the square was adorned with a monument to Prince Michael seated on a stallion. Perhaps he points at a liberated Serbia, perhaps he’s showing the Turks or any other invasion force the door, and perhaps he’s pointing merely to show that the going is compulsory; countries must evolve just like rivers must flow.

Horse Statue on Republic Square - Belgrade, Serbia
 Belgrade was bombed in 1914 by the Austro-Hungarians, by the Luftwaffe in 1941, by the Allies in 1944 and by the NATO in 1999.

Prince Michael never experienced the independence of Serbia. He was assassinated in 1868. But on Republic Square, Prince Michael will never stop pointing, and the Belgradians will never stop meeting.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting website. I like the way you write this.


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