Media propaganda vs public dialogue: the spatial memorialisation of conflict in Belgrade after the 1999 NATO bombing

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Abstract

Two events marked the turn of the millennium in what remained of former Socialist Yugoslavia: the NATO bombing of Serbia, and to a smaller extent Montenegro, in 1999 and the fall of Slobodan Milošević’s regime in 2000. This was the infamous epilogue of the turbulent 1990s, a decade of successive violent conflicts that torn the federal state apart, destroyed its heterogeneous culture, divided its territory along ethnic borders, and definitively rejected socialism to embrace an unhinged variant of neoliberal capitalism. Serbia played a complex role in those events, both as an aggressor accused and convicted for war crimes, and as the target of an asymmetric conflict with NATO that led to the separation of its southern province of Kosovo, and left deep scars in its urban environment. The effort to reconstruct these damaged buildings, therefore, poses deeper questions about understanding the past, facing unpleasant truths, and setting the course for an uncertain future. This article will illuminate those multifarious processes by examining the role of media propaganda and public dialogue in the reconstruction of two structures in Belgrade that were damaged during the 1999 NATO bombing. Both buildings, the Avala Tower and the television headquarters on Aberdareva Street, were in use by the Radio Television of Serbia (RTS). In a fragmented society that is still struggling to make sense of these difficult issues, I argue that state-controlled media has a decisive influence on steering public debate, creating the false image of social consensus, and weighing in on architectural design, while downplaying the role of architects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-393
Number of pages23
JournalThe Journal of Architecture
Volume26
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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