Belgrade’s naked ‘Victor’ statue to be restored

Belgrade’s inhabitants take pictures as workers prepare the statue ‘The Victor’ (Pobednik) before transport to send it for restoration, at the Kalemegdan fortress in Belgrade October 10, 2019. — AFP pic
Belgrade’s inhabitants take pictures as workers prepare the statue ‘The Victor’ (Pobednik) before transport to send it for restoration, at the Kalemegdan fortress in Belgrade October 10, 2019. — AFP pic

BELGRADE, Oct 11 — Symbol of Belgrade, the “Pobednik” (Victor) statue, which has overlooked the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers since 1928, was taken down from the city’s Kalemegdan fortress yesterday to be restored.

The naked man with a square jaw and martial gaze holds a dove in one hand and a sword in another, symbolising the complex past of the volatile Balkans region.

Initially, Belgrade commissioned the statue from sculptor Ivan Mestrovic to mark the defeat of the Ottoman empire during the First Balkans War in 1912-13.

An alliance of the region’s Slavs ended the five-century Ottoman domination, but Serbs and Bulgarians then fought each other over the spoils — in the Second Balkans War.

No sooner was that over when the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria sparked World War I.

Mestrovic, who had begun building the statue in Belgrade in 1914, had to leave the city because he was a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire — now an enemy and part of the Axis coalition with Germany and Italy.

After World War I ended in 1918, the original ‘Victor’ idea made little sense in a Serbia which suffered 1.1 million losses — the largest relative to its population.

So the statue was held in a shed in Belgrade until 1928, the 10th anniversary of the Salonica Front military breakthrough that accelerated the defeat of the Axis forces.

Initially the statue was to be erected at Terazije, one of Belgrade’s main avenues. — AFP