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Post/Socialist Palaces

Palaces of Culture featured prominently in the educational and cultural policies of socialist states. As places of encounter and education, of culture and sport, they were part of the social engineering practised by the state.

At the same time, they were architectural icons of many Eastern, Central and Southern European capitals. But Palaces of Culture were found not only in the heart of socialist metropolises. “Houses of Culture” were systematically established in smaller towns and suburbs too, where people could take advantage of education, culture and sports offerings that also served to shape the “socialist citizen”. Then, in the years of change around 1989, Houses and Palaces of Culture played an important role as physical venues in the system transformation. Today, the architectural and cultural heritage of these Palaces is handled in ways that are as diverse as the societies of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. In five panel discussions curated by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb), visitors to the Humboldt Forum will take a look at Warsaw, Kyiv, Belgrade and Minsk together with guests from the respective countries. They will learn more about the socialist idea of Palaces of Culture, urban debates, revolutions in the city environment, international discourses, political protests, state power, and shrinking spaces for culture.

Today’s Palace of Serbia (Palata Srbije), formerly the “Palace of the Federation”, and colloquially known as “Palata SIV” (Palace of the Federal Executive Council), is by no means out of place amid Belgrade’s modern architecture – it rather looks like a testimony to Le Corbusier’s International Style. Carefully planned, its styling was once intended to underline Yugoslavia’s new role as leader of the non-aligned countries in global politics. Its official opening in 1961 marked the first Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries, where the basic principles of a non-aligned alternative to East or West were formulated: the struggle for peace and disarmament, and against division into economic and military political blocks. The features of this movement, to which the Palace of Serbia also belonged, show that the international path of Europe’s East was at the same time a strategy against its own marginalisation on the European continent. The discussion will reflect on the breaks and tensions in the non-aligned world order – and its postcolonial impacts to the present day.

The series “Palaces for the People. Palaces of Culture in Eastern Europe Before and After 1989” is curated by the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung.

Welcome and introduction
Carolin Savchuk, Advisor on Russia and Belarus in the Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe project group at the bpb

Dr. Radina Vučetić, Professor of Modern History, Belgrade University
Nemanja Radonjić,Assistant Professor teaching history, imagology, colonialism and anticolonialism in the 20th century, Belgrade University

Prof. Hannes Grandits, Professor of Southeast European History at the Humboldt University of Berlin

Carolin Savchuk: After completing a degree in languages and international cultural and business studies with a focus on Central and Eastern Europe at the University of Passau, Carolin Savchuk worked for over ten years as a freelance facilitator and trainer with cultural managers in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the South Caucasus. From 2017 to 2023, she established and then headed the education and outreach department at Museum Berlin-Karlshorst – the historic site of the end of the war in Europe in May 1945. Since May of this year, she has been an advisor in the Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe project group at the bpb.

Dr. Radina Vučetić is a professor of 20th century history in the Department of History and head of the Center for American Studies at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade. She has published six books (among them Coca-Cola Socialism: Americanization of Yugoslav Culture), co-edited three monographs, and written numerous book chapters and journal articles on different aspects of Yugoslav and Cold War history. Her primary academic interest is the history of Yugoslavia, Cold War culture, art and politics, Second/Third World cultural encounters, and the disintegration of Yugoslavia. She was co-author of the exhibitions “Yugoslav-U.S. Relations through a Photo Lens”, “Come Together/Zajedno: 180 Years of UK-Serbia Diplomatic Relations”, and “Tito in Africa: Picturing Solidarity”. She was a European Research Council project evaluator, and UNDP consultant for the project Wars of the 1990s. Her research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena, the Robert Bosch Foundation, DAAD, and the U.S. Department of State’s Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) fellowship: U.S. Culture and Society (New York University).

Dr. Nemanja Radonjić is an Assistant Professor of 20th century history in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Belgrade, where he teaches courses on imagology, European Cold War history, and colonial and anticolonial history. His PhD thesis “The Image of Africa in Yugoslavia (1945-1991)” was published in 2023 as Slika Afrike u Jugoslaviji, Institut za noviju istoriju Srbije, Belgrade. He was a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Philosophy and the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade (2015-2019), a research fellow with the international project Changing representations of socialist Yugoslavia (Humboldt University, Berlin 2014-2019), and a research assistant and co-author of a chapter with the project Socialism Goes Global: Cold War Connections between the ‘Second’ and ‘Third’ worlds 1945-1991 (Exeter, Exeter 2016-2019). He has also been a research associate at the Institute for Recent History of Serbia since 2018. His primary research interest is imagology, international solidarity during the Cold War, and anticolonial and colonial networks. He was one of the curators of the Non-Aligned World exhibition and the organiser of the NAMTalks conference, which was held in Belgrade on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the non-aligned movement in 2021.

Hannes Grandits is Professor of Southeast European History at the Humboldt University of Berlin, where he teaches and researches the history of Southeast and East Central Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Since 2010, he has been involved and held leading positions in various research partnerships and projects at the Institute of History (IfG) at Humboldt University. From 2013 to 2020, he was project leader of a network programme funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) with universities and partner institutions in Belgrade, Koper, Pula, Sarajevo, Skopje and Zagreb. His latest book is The End of Ottoman Rule in Bosnia: Conflicting Agencies and Imperial Aspirations. London & New York: Routledge 2021.

- free of charge
- Duration: 60 min
- from 14 years and older
- Language: German / Simultaneous translation: English-German and Belarusian-German
- Mechanical Arena in the Foyer

Additional information