The National Theatre
The National Theater of Belgrade was constructed in the 1ate 1860s and has served as the cultural center of Serbia ever since. It was built on what is now Republic Square by the finest Serbian architects and craftsmen who lived at the time, and it has remained a point of public pride ever since. The hall has been used for everything from meetings among Serbian rebels to the first formal parliaments, with the first Serbian constitution being drafted there in 1888. It remains open to this day, with Serbian plays being performed on a daily basis. Admission prices vary, as do the performances, and the massive size of the theater means that there may in fact be several performances going on at the same time.
The building was originally built with an eye towards renaissance construction, however it was later completely renovated and rebuilt to appear as it does today. The structure was constantly being rebuilt, modified, or having annexes added throughout the Soviet era, however it was “reset” to its 1922 look by a massive reconstruction project in 1986. It should be noted that attempts to keep the theater open were made during all of this reconstruction, and it was not unusual for the theater to give performances even while construction workers were working on it.
The National Theater remained the heart of Serbia and the center of Serbian culture throughout the 20th century, with performances, charities and balls for all social classes and all walks of life being given on a regular basis. Most famously, the theater remained open during a bombing campaign by NATO in 1999, permitting Belgrade’s residents to see a show in exchange for a single dinar. As both NATO and Serbian rebels refused to bomb the building, many thousands of Serbians were able to hide from the bombing by going to see the plays, which were performed almost constantly in an attempt to keep up the spirits of the refugees.