When socialist Yugoslavia rose from the ashes of WWII it did not want to be part of any political bloc like the COMECON or NATO, so it formed its own bloc which became known as the non-alignment movement.

The first non-alignment meeting took place in 1961 in Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia. Besides a monument near Branko’s bridge there are other reminders of Yugoslavia’s global ambitions and one of them is the Friendship Park. The park is located in between the confluence of the Sava and the Danube rivers, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Palace of the Executive (now: Palace of Serbia).

The park (left) as seen from the Ušče tower with the confluence of the Danube and the Sava (right).

The Nutshell times blog wrote the following about the origins of the park:

The (official) story is that the idea for a park was initiated by the Youth Union of Gorani [forest rangers] of Yugoslavia in 1961, who wanted to commemorate the international struggle for peace and equality for all nations, by having politicians from all nations plant trees in this part of New Belgrade to show their commitment to long lasting peace. The location of the park was symbolic: next to the political heart of New Belgrade (and Yugoslavia), close to the Communist party headquarters (CK, now Business centre Ušće, now ironically housing a few private companies and a bank), the main Government building and a stone commemorating the start of construction of New Belgrade on 11 April 1948.

Luckily, the initiative coincided with the first summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which was held in Belgrade in 1961. The movement’s strong anti-colonial beliefs, and opposition to both the Warsaw Pact and the NATO, brought together leaders of 25 nations, including Jawaharlal Nehru (India), Abdel Nasser (Eqypt), Sukarno (Indonesia), Haile Selassie (Ethiopia, and of Rastafarian fame) and, of course, Tito. All of these grandees attending the summit planted plane trees on what was back then a random field in Belgrade, and thus the history of the Friendship Park began. Through the years and with each state visit the park grew.

The commemorative plaque in front of the tree which Josip Broz Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia, planted in 1961.

Between 1965 and 1991 there were trees planted by Queen Elizabeth II and Leonid Brezhnev, Wily Brandt and Gaddafi, Jimmy Carter and Fidel Castro, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev and many other world leaders. Also Queen Juliana from the Netherlands, my home country, planted a tree in the park in 1972. Coincidence or not a year later King Baudouin from Belgium planted a tree next to hers.

On the Nutshell times you can read further:

The park’s golden years ended in 1991 with the visit of Ion Iliescu, the Romanian president, who planted the park’s 194th tree, probably not more than a few dozen meters from that planted by Nicolae Causecu, who he deposed. The breakup of Yugoslavia and the subsequent sanctions meant that the park was plunged into obscurity and there were no new trees planted.

In June 2000, in the middle of the Friendship Park he inaugurated an obelisk with an eternal flame as a memorial to Yugoslav “defiance” of the NATO during the war. Ironically an obelisk was the first proposed memorial of the park before Pališaški’s plan. However, the new monument’s purpose symbolically put an official end to the park’s pacifist idea and showed that Yugoslavia, once a country around which nations grouped for anti-colonial agenda was a pariah.

Last months the park has been reconstructed and it is part of wider plan to upgrade this part of Belgrade to a leisure and fun part of Belgrade. The commemorative plaques in front of the trees are now cleaned from the dirt and dust. It is somehow fascinating to see the plaques with all these names from the different world leaders here in this Friendship park, in reality world politics was much more complicated.

For more pictures from the Friendship Park , please visit the following link : Friendship Park Belgrade.

With many thanks for the permission from my friend Srdjan Garčević from the Nutshell Times to take over his texts.

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