Tito-Mausoleum & Museums
The final resting place of Yugoslavia
's liberator and leader of 35 years as the centre piece of a complex of museums and a park in Belgrade
. But note that the main part of the "Museum of Yugoslav History" currently does not justify its name! Instead its floor space is now used for temporary (art) exhibitions. But exhibitions of gifts to Tito and a few other memorabilia in the other two institutions next door still make a visit here worthwhile.
>More background info
>What there is to see
>Access and costs
>Combinations with other dark destinations
>Combinations with non-dark destinations
More background info:
The original core of the complex was opened on 25 May 1962 as a birthday present for Yugoslavia
's great leader Josip Broz Tito – and the building still officially bears that name: "May 25 Museum".
On the slope behind, the so-called "Kuca Cveca" – literally 'House of Flowers' – was built in 1975 as a kind of winter garden for Tito. From the terrace the old man could enjoy a good view over Belgrade. It augmented his presidential residence further up the hill.
Next to this, the "Old Museum" (as it is now known) was already built in 1964-65 to house all those gifts Tito received in Yugoslavia from foreign and Yugoslav dignitaries/delegations, or which he brought back from his extensive travels.
The latter still more or less fulfils this function – but the remainder underwent successive changes. Most significantly from 1980, the year Tito died (on 4 May). He had wanted to be buried in the flower garden at Kuca Cveca – and so it happened. A symbolic tomb was placed above ground in the centre of the complex, which from then on operated as the Josip Broz Tito Memorial Centre, while the other two parts ran under the name of "Museum of the Revolution of Yugoslav Nations and Ethnic Minorities".
Since 1996 the two wings have been merged to form the "Museum of Yugoslav History".
The central part of this, however, i.e. the one supposedly sporting an exhibition about Yugoslav history, must have undergone massive changes very shortly before I visited it at the end of April 2011. Basically, any trace of a history museum in the May 25 building had disappeared. Instead there was an art exhibition on the upper floor, and the ground floor was closed and locked. The In Your Pocket guide for April 2011 still hailed the place as "the first stop for visitors interested in the former Yugoslav state". Interestingly, an earlier 2010 edition criticized the museum for inadequate presentation and sometimes inaccessibility of parts of the exhibition – but now that it is actually true as much as is conceivably possible, IYP no longer does include this criticism … I'm puzzled!
Even crazier: a shiny red text panel outside the museum boasts, I quote verbatim: "Our collection comprises more than 200,000 items which illustrate Yugoslav history in the twentieth century, with particular emphasis on the life and work of Josip 'Tito' Broz." That's as may be, but what's the point of boasting about the collection in such a way if it isn't on display for members of the public to see it? Beats me.
I asked a museum warden at the May 25 museum, but his incompetence, unwillingness to answer, or the language barrier precluded any illumination on what happened to the museum. So I went back to the gift shop by the ticket office, as I remembered that the shop assistant spoke good English. When I asked her about the whereabouts of the actual exhibition of Yugoslav history, she almost apologetically said "I know! It's gone. it's just our director …" – but hesitating, she only went as far as indicating that it's due to some plans for comprehensive changes … already implemented or for the years to come?
With that question in my head I looked up the museum's website when I got back. Indeed there is a "vision" and "mission" page. But it remains rather vague, mostly hiding the actual future plans behind grandiose wordings. However, one section could be interpreted as meaning at least parts of the old exhibition could come back in a different guise. "Reconstruction of the museum's holdings", "modernisation of (the) manner of presenting museum materials" are slithers or meaningful expressions that may give cause for hope (while most of the text is just verbose fluff and annoying waffle about marketing).
The place needs to be monitored for further changes, then. At the moment, it is certainly no longer the top dark tourism site it may previously have been. But maybe it will bounce back? Let's not give up hope yet.
UPDATE December 2015: on my recent return trip to Belgrade I was able to confirm that the old history museum is still elusive, and the main building still houses an art gallery, just as it did in 2011. The buildings with the ethnographic displays and Tito gifts was “temporarily closed”. But the exhibition at the House of Flowers around Tito's grave had been upgraded and even included English texts now.
What there is to see:
Possibly the No. 1 dark tourism site in Belgrade
, as well as a shrine for all Tito fans and anyone nostalgic for the golden olden days of communist Yugoslavia
. However, the designation "Museum of Yugoslav History" is misleading these days. When I visited the place no such exhibition was to be found, and instead the main museum part, the May 25 Museum, only contained an art exhibition instead. (more on this below).
On the other hand, the single most marvelled-at piece of the entire complex is still there in full glory: Tito's tomb.
Before you get to see it, however, you have to make your way to the ticket office to the left of the May 25 Museum building. (Contrary to dated info still found in some guidebooks, entrance is no longer free!) The building with the ticket office is also home to a gift shop, which you may well want to come back to at the end of your visit.
Beyond the ticket office and gate a path leads up to the 'House of Flowers', or "Kuca Cveca" in Serbian. Arrows mark the direction of the circuit, just to make sure. Apparently there were times when crowd control was more of an issue than it is most of the time these days. In theory you could thus also deviate from the prescribed route. But let's be good and follow it as we are told.
Inside the Kuca Cveca, the central marble tomb of Tito dominates the whole structure. It is surrounded on three sides by plants, so you're guided to approach it in a respectful manner along the marble path in front of it. Tito is actually buried in the flower garden, so the marble tomb is only symbolic, or representational. The terrace overlooking the park and Belgrade
is not accessible to the general public.
UPDATE: meanwhile, Tito's widow, Jovanka Broz, who passed away only in 2013, has been buried at the site too. Her marble tomb, slightly set aside from her late husband's and a tad more modest in size, is to be found between the main Tito tomb and the batons exhibition (see below).
To the right of the tomb are a couple of exhibition rooms. The first one contains a study room of sorts, with a Tito bust and a massive carved wooden desk, as well as various Tito-related personal items such as his glasses, writing pens and a box of cigars. Also on display is a kind of timeline of post-Tito and Yugoslav/Serbian history … as well as yet more Tito worship in photos, texts and statistics (e.g. visitor numbers at his tomb! … so you, as a visitor today, take an active part in these statistics!).
The exhibition part on the other side of the central tomb has a couple of Tito's uniforms in glass display cases, including the famous white one familiar from so many Tito photographs, with a whole set of medals adorning the chest part.
This section is however dominated by a collection of batons. That's right, batons, as in relay. Background: it used to be tradition in Yugoslavia
that each year on 25 May, Tito's official birthday, young people would hold a relay in honour of the great father figure, and on each occasion a special baton was designed to be a gift to Tito at the end. Over the years, the designs of the batons became more and more elaborate and/or bold. Some are indeed strikingly modern little works of art. Others are examples of shameless toadying ... such as one inscribed with the dedication to the "heroic Tito" – despite the fact that he never actually took part in the running himself.
Needless to say that over the many years of Tito's reign quite a collection of batons had built up. Quite a few are of a socialist-realist
design and celebrate industry, mining, branches of the military, missiles, tanks, planes, as well as agricultural crops and, of course, sports. Some designs are quaint, others over the top, some downright funny. And on top of it all, you can spot the odd red star here as well, for a fuller dose of commie nostalgia. In that sense, this rather odd display theme is actually rather more interesting than you would at first assume.
Back outside note the various statues in the open park. Obviously there's one of those typical statues of Tito in his long overcoat striding ahead, head down in leaderly deep thought. Other statuary ranges from wounded soldiers to peaceful kitschy Bambi ensembles.
Following the arrows further up the slope of the park towards the entrance of the Old Museum, also look left and ahead at the residence buildings behind walls. After all, this was the prestigious villa district for the top party functionaries. And obviously that also included the president's residence on ulica Uzicka. By the way: in the 1990s, "bad boy" Slobodan Milosevic took over the presidential residence, which is why it was also bombed during the 1999 NATO
attacks on Belgrade
(cf. NATO bombing scars
The Old Museum is currently the most extensive museum part of the complex. However, its contents aren't as exciting as one might expect. It's mostly ethnological displays of garments, musical instruments, weapons and the like, mostly representing the (former) Yugoslav
peoples, that are likely to leave the average dark tourist rather cold.
Somewhat more promising is the fact that the museum also contains presents given to Tito by state visitors, allies etc. – but again, from a dark tourism perspective, the gifts section in the Old Museum is quite "harmless" (the smaller equivalent exhibition
trumps it easily, e.g. with gifts from such illustrious baddies as Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi). UPDATE December 2015: on my latest trip to Belgrade I found this ethnographic section with the Tito gifts closed, whether indeed only temporarily (as a sign indicated) or not, I cannot say ...
Back through the main gate, the large May 25 Museum still awaits inspection … but as already indicated, my expectations that it might fulfil the advertised promise of actually being a Museum of Yugoslav history, with an alleged focus on "the life and work" of Tito, were quickly crushed when I went in.
The only exhibit related to Tito in any way is a model of one of his yachts at the bottom of the stairs. His big black presidential limos (one of them a Rolls) that used to flank the staircase on the ground floor have disappeared. I still saw them in photographs in a 2010 brochure I picked up at the tourist information office in the centre of Belgrade
. But either they're also undergoing refurbishment, or they're gone for good. Who knows – see also under background.
The foyer on the ground floor was otherwise bare, and the doors leading off it all locked. Instead I was ushered upstairs. And up there was an art exhibition … which was a bit of a disappointment. Still, some pieces were at least of a vaguely dark nature. Especially the one simply listing – and thus likening to each other – Jasenovac
and Goli Otok
(the latter was a Yugoslav political prison – so it's quite a statement!). One series of works alluded to commie-era doublespeak by labelling painting with simple monochrome squares with the words for colours other than what they actually were. A few items may have had their own merits independently … but it really was mostly just for those interested in modern art as such. The promised museum covering Yugoslav history
, it definitely was NOT. Maybe other temporary exhibitions relate more to the alleged topic of the place, but what is missing is a permanent exhibition on the subject. Shame.
The museum shop next to the ticket office is worth a good look. There are all manner of Tito cult-of-personality items and various other more or less tacky socialism-nostalgia items, as well as regular tourist stuff. One book stood out and I couldn't resist acquiring a copy: "Tito's Cookbook". It's not so much about the recipes in this book ... which are quite dated and rarely exciting in purely culinary terms. But it's a history book of sorts, providing unusual insights into all those political and non-political meetings Tito had around the world and at home with a glamorous host of celebs. Apart from the more or less predictable politicians, this also included famous showbiz people such as a Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. They met with Tito in 1973, as Burton played Tito in a feature film shot on location in Yugoslavia
On balance, then: the mausoleum and parts of the exhibits on display in the House of Flowers and, to a lesser extend, the Old Museum are probably still of sufficient interest to dark tourists to warrant a visit of this site. However, a "Museum of Yugoslav History" is currently (as of April/May 2011 – and still in December 2015) nowhere in sight here, despite the name, and despite the boasting text panels outside the main building. The art exhibitions, or whatever may be on at any given time, may be of interest to some, if you're lucky. But chances are that you could even skip going through the May 25 building altogether.
to the south of the centre of Belgrade
, a good two miles (3.5 km) from Republic Square, next to Hajd Park just south of the motorway (and the ill-fated construction site of what's one day to be Belgrade's new central station).
Access and costs: easily reached by bus; not expensive.
To get to the complex it's easiest to get on a No. 41 trolleybus from the city centre. It departs from Studentski Trg. From along Kneza Milosa (cf. NATO bombing scars
) you can alternatively also get on line No. 40. There's a dedicated bus stop for the complex – called Kuca Cveca in Serbian, just beyond Hajd Park.
The large central building in the park complex is the former Museum of Yugoslav History. The ticket office for the mausoleum and Old Museum is to the left of this, up a slightly upwards-sloping path.
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily except Mondays and on a number of public holidays (including May 1, Orthodox Easter and New Year's Day). In the summer months the museum stays open until 8 p.m. – and every first Thursday of the month it's open till 9 p.m. (and entrance is free from 6 p.m.).
Admission: 400 RSD (200 concession for groups), free on May 4 (Tito's death day) and 25 (Tito's "official" birthday – the actual real date appears to be disputed).
Time required: Now that the May 25 Museum part of the Museum of Yugoslav History has been emptied of its former exhibitions, the remainder of the complex takes much less time. How long exactly will now largely depend on how much you get out of all the ethno stuff in the Old Museum and the batons in the mausoleum. I spent a bit over an hour at the complex in total.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
in general see under Belgrade
– one other dark site in this southern suburban location can quite conveniently be combined with a visit to the Tito mausoleum is the museum of the Banjica concentration camp
: just get back on the 40/41 trolleybus bound for Banjica (the district name) for a few stops and then walk up Pavla Jurisica Sturma (but check opening times beforehand!).
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
- mij 01 - Museum of Yugoslav History complex
- mij 02 - dry fountain
- mij 03 - map of premises
- mij 04 - overview of components
- mij 05 - ticket office and shop
- mij 06 - bronze Broz Tito
- mij 07 - brave bronze Broz
- mij 08 - Kuca Cveca
- mij 09 - Tito tomb
- mij 09b - Jovanka Broz
- mij 10 - Tito desk
- mij 11 - writing set given to Tito by JFK
- mij 12 - Tito cigars
- mij 13 - new timeline exhibit
- mij 14 - white Tito uniform
- mij 15 - Broz brass
- mij 16 - batons
- mij 17 - batons with socialist-realist themes
- mij 18 - industrial batons
- mij 19 - technology parade
- mij 20 - red stars, hammer and fish
- mij 21 - run away
- mij 22 - hero Tito
- mij 23 - at the rear of the complex
- mij 24 - Old Museum
- mij 25 - inside Old Museum
- mij 26 - how exciting
- mij 27 - when weapons were wonderful
- mij 28 - doll cabinet
- mij 29 - yeah
- mij 30 - gift from Myanmar
- mij 31 - musical instrument made of stone
- mij 32 - OK let us move on
- mij 33 - May 25 Museum
- mij 34 - front mosaic closer up
- mij 35 - misleading panel
- mij 36 - the only Tito-related exhibit left
- mij 37 - grand stairs sans grand limos
- mij 38 - no more Yugoslav history but art instead
- mij 39 - at least there are some dark allusions
- mij 40 - grim art
- mij 41 - under-maintained grey ex-grandeur