Hotel Moskva (Belgrade)

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Template:Other uses Template:Coord Template:Infobox hotel Hotel Moskva (Serbian Cyrillic: ????? ??????, Template:IPA-sh; Template:Lang-en), is a four star hotel in Belgrade, one of the oldest currently operating in Serbia.

Apart from offering hospitality services, Hotel Moskva is one of the most recognizable Belgrade landmarks, a valuable architectural monument placed under governmental protection since 1968. Originally operating as a 36-room inn within the multipurpose Palace Rossiya, whose almost 3-year construction and January 1908 opening represented a major investment of the Russian Empire in the Kingdom of Serbia economy, Hotel Moskva eventually expanded its facilities to take up the entire palace.

Today, in addition to 132 rooms (40 of them duplex rooms) and 6 apartments, the hotel's two restaurants (one with international and other with national cuisine) offer a variety of cuisines, being one of the rare Belgrade spots that also serve vegetarian meals. The hotel also has a snack bar, a famous old-fashioned café and a summer garden which is very popular not only with guests, but with Belgraders too.

Location

Hotel Moskva is located on the Terazije square, core of Belgrade's downtown, administratively part of the Stari Grad municipality. It lies at the intersection of three streets: Terazije, Prizrenska, and Balkanska. Its location on top of Terazijska Terasa provides a wonderful skyline view of Novi Beograd, across the Sava river.

Apart from other commercial buildings in the vicinity, two other hotels, Balkan and Kasina, are located right across Prizrenska Street and Terazije, respectively. Points of interest in hotel's immediate vicinity are Palace Albania and the Terazije fountain, built in 1860, which is the administratively declared center of Belgrade.

History

In the late 1890s, in the Kingdom of Serbia ruled by the Obrenovi? royal house, specifically King Alexander I, the empty plot of land at Terazije where Hotel Moskva is located today was cheaply sold by the Belgrade municipal authorities to the local merchant Boško Tadi?.Template:Sfn

By the early 1900s, together with his wife Stana, he finished a simple one-story family house on the plot. At the time, the Terazije plateau around the house was lined with large chestnut trees that provided nice shade over a small open market where market sellers from Zemun, across the Sava river in neighbouring Austria-Hungary, as well as peasants from the Belgrade outskirts came to sell their food products. In essence, the open market was an upper town outpost of the larger Zeleni Venac open market located several hundred meters down the Prizrenska Street.

Velika Srbija inn

After Tadi?'s death, his wife Stana inherited the property. Known around town as Stana Boškova (Boško's Stana), she immediately sold the property to the Arilje-born Marjanovi? brothers, Bogosav and Miloš, well-known restaurateurs who already owned and managed several kafanas around Belgrade. Additionally, Bogosav Marjanovi? was revered as a veteran of the Herzegovina Uprising, which he voluntarily joined in 1875, fighting under the command of Golub Babi?.Template:Sfn The brothers quickly turned the family house into an inn, eventually naming it Velika Srbija, reportedly after the eponymous informal co-operative made up of regular guests from the Marjanovi?s' other kafanas. Branislav Nuši?, famous writer and a regular of Belgrade kafanas, wrote that the name had actually been suggested by another kafana regular Stanislav Ka?anski because it was the gathering spot for "Serbian gentlemen to drink bermet and feed on patriotism". Yet another regular at the Velika Srbija inn's kafana was Stevan Sremac, famous writer who reportedly spent many late nights there and even modified his daily schedule at one of Belgrade's gymnasiums so that he can sleep late in the morning.Template:Sfn

By 1902, the Marjanovi?s sold the inn to merchants Mitar Vrankovi? and Nikola Vu?kovi? who in 1904 flipped it to Svetozar Vukadinovi?, the former director of the Serbian Shipbuilding Company who spent the previous period outside Serbia in an exile of sorts. Born in 1860 in Novi Sad, Austria-Hungary in a staunchly nationalist Serb household of priest Jevtimije "Jevta" Vukadinovi?, young Svetozar moved across the border to Serbia becoming an administrator in various shipbuilding companies before being forced into exile due to running afoul of King Milan I Obrenovi?'s pro-Austrian economic policies. Vukadinovi? spent time in Russia, as well as in Austria-Hungary just across the border in Novi Sad and Zemun, waiting for the right moment to return to Serbia. That moment eventually came following the June 1903 Obrenovi? overthrow.

Though he bought the centrally located Velika Srbija, Vukadinovi? had no interest in running an inn. Instead, he traveled back to Imperial Russia looking to parlay his newly bought Belgrade property into a larger business venture. Calling on his Russian connections, Vukadinovi? managed to get some interest from Roman Ivanovich Poitzl of the Rossiya insurance company about enabling the company to enter the Serbian market via opening a branch in Serbia. They additionally agreed an ambitious project of building a luxurious multipurpose palace in place of Vukadinovi?'s inn that would serve as the branch headquarters.Template:Sfn

In 1905 they requested architectural design proposals for a future palace to be submitted to the panel consisting of two architects from Saint Petersburg, famous Vienna architect Otto Wagner, and Belgrade architects Andra Stevanovi? and Nikola Nestorovi?.Template:Sfn Backed by the Russian architects and Otto Wagner, the design by the Zagreb-based architect Viktor Kova?i? (1874-1924) got selected, with the Belgrade-based architect Jovan Ilki?'s (1857-1917) design supported by Stevanovi? and Nestorovi? coming in second. Still, the Rossiya's directorate eventually picked Ilki?, bringing him over to Saint Petersburg in order to continue working on the design along with Russian architects. How much of Ilki?'s original design was changed in Saint Petersburg is unclear, but according to art historian Draginja Maskareli, the fact that the original construction plans have been signed by Rossiya's chief architect Pawel Karlovich Bergstresser (1851-1920), as well as the fact that Moskva's final facade contains elements of Saint Petersburg secession, it is reasonable to assume that there were changes.Template:Sfn

Construction of the Rossiya Palace

The construction began in March 1905. Sheer size of the project attracted many Belgraders who gathered daily around the construction site, watching the excavation and laying of the foundation.Template:Sfn

Right away, the project ran into unexpected problems when it was discovered that the soil under the Velika Srbija inn is full of hardened loam as well as underground springs and subterranean streams, creating additional budgetary needs. Eighty-two wooden beams, 5m in length and 30cm thick, were placed in the palace's foundation followed by 30 wagons of boiling iron in 9-meter long rods, and 10 wagons of hard Ripanj stone. A 2.2m thick concrete panel was then placed over the foundation. The brick-laying hadn't started until spring 1906. The construction work was performed by the civil engineer Karlo Knol and the bricklayers from Crna Trava while the supervising engineer was the project design architect Ilki? himself. Reinforced concrete part of the job was managed by architect Matija Šnajder. The surface of the outer walls from the second floor to the roof was lined with yellowish tiles decorated with green-coloured ornaments. The ceramic lining was brought in from the Zsolnay factory in Pécs, Austria-Hungary that reportedly to this day keeps the casts used to mold it.

The upper part of the hotel's façade was laid with a maiolica decorative relief titled 'Glorification of Russia', featuring an image of Roman god Neptune, symbolizing Imperial Russia's yearning for maritime dominance.<ref name="politika-2011">Majstorice i stari kalupi;Politika, 31 January 2011</ref>

File:Hotel Moskva-nocu.jpg
Hotel Moskva on a spring 2012 night.

Ilki?'s design employed a Secessionist style with skillfully incorporated ancient Greek elements, quite daring for that time, giving Belgrade a modern face during the transformation it was undergoing at the turn of the century. The most impressive feature, even at first glance, is the smooth and shiny façade, made of ceramic tiles.

Upon construction, Hotel Moskva inside the Palace Rossiya had only 36 hotel rooms.<ref name="politika-2008">????? ?? ?????????? ???????? ????? ??????;Politika, 22 January 2008</ref>

Grand opening

The Rossiya palace (in Serbian: Palata Rosija) was finally opened on Tuesday, 14 January 1908 as the biggest privately owned building in Serbia at the time. Its importance to the country was evidenced in the fact that it was personally opened by Peter I Kara?or?evi?, the King of Serbia. Another part of the opening ceremony was held three days later on Friday, the 17th of January with the King's Guard, the Royal Serbian Army's most elite unit, staging a concert.

In addition to Hotel Moskva, the palace housed a kafana, an exclusive restaurant serving specialties from the French and Serbian cuisines,<ref name="politika-2008"/> numerous apartments for rent, and the Rossiya insurance company's Belgrade branch headed by Svetozar Vukadinovi?. The insurance company branch consisted of administrative offices on the first floor (one floor above ground) while the teller windows and offices were on the ground floor.<ref name="politika-2008"/>

Surrounded by structures of one or two stories, the sheer size of Palata Rosija dominated the skyline of Belgrade, a city of some 70,000 inhabitants at the time. As evidenced by the Russian diplomat Vasiliy Strandmann's observations in his book Balkan Memories, looking at the city from across the river Sava in the late 1900s and early 1910s, three structures clearly grabbed immediate attention — the Saborna church with its bell tower, the Royal palace with its three domes, and now also the Rossiya palace.<ref name="politika-2009">Kako je „Velika Srbija” postala „Moskva”;Politika, 30 November 2009</ref>

Politika, the Serbian newspaper of record, pronounced Palata Rosija "the most expensive and the most beautiful Russian house in the Balkans".<ref name="politika-2011"/>

The palace was also a significant political statement, providing yet another example of King Peter I Kara?or?evi?'s and prime minister Nikola Paši?'s turning of Serbia's foreign and economic policies towards the Russian Empire and away from Austria-Hungary.<ref name="politika-2011"/> It's opening took place in the middle of the so-called Pig War, a bitter economic showdown initiated by the Austro-Hungarian imposition of a customs blockade on the import of Serbian pork, Serbia's chief export at the time. Austria-Hungary decided to punish Serbia for moving out of Austria-Hungary's geopolitical sphere of influence since the 1903 May Overthrow and the Kara?or?evi?s taking over the Serbian throne from the previous ruling house, the Obrenovi?s, who were Austrian allies and clients for decades.

Right away, the palace's tenants began arriving — on 31 January 1908 the Russo-Serbian Club moved into its new offices. The were followed by Novo vreme, a newspaper published by Vladislav "Vlajko" Savi?, taking its spot at the palace's fourth floor. Later that year, the newly founded Narodna Odbrana housed its Belgrade branch in the Rossiya palace.

In 1909, Rossiya insurance company decided to lease out Hotel Moskva and the kafana inside the Rossiya palace to Mehansko-kafanska zadruga, a local co-operative headed by Danilo Guteša who put Luka ?elovi? in charge of running the hotel's and kafana's day-to-day operations.Template:Sfn

Being a Narodna Odbrana member as well as a Novo vreme correspondent, famous Serbian poet Jovan Du?i? spent a lot of time at the Rossiya palace. The 18 December 1909 Novo vreme issue wrote of an incident in Hotel Moskva's lobby that saw Du?i? punch Rista Odavi?, a professor at one of Belgrade gymanasiums. Unsurprisingly, the newspaper's piece was sympathetic to their correspondent, stating that his punch occurred as a consequence of Odavi?'s repeatedly confrontational and aggressive behaviour.Template:Sfn

On 23 February 1910, Serbian Olympic Club (OKS) was founded in the fourth floor offices of Novo vreme at the Rossiya palace with the newspaper's publisher Vlajko Savi? and the Serbian Army captian Svetomir ?uki? leading the new committee. Similarly, the Journalists' club and the Writers' club both moved into the palace.

Interbellum (Kingdom of Yugoslavia period)

The hotel had a role in the post-World War I Serbian literary scene. Arriving in 1919 to a war-ravaged city that still didn't have a fully restored electricity and water supply, novelist Miloš Crnjanski described Belgrade as being "wrecked and ugly — full of holes, ruins, weeds, uncertainty, sensational political events, and returning writers from all corners of the world". Crnjanski proceeded to establish Grupa umetnika, a small but enthusiastic collective of writers, painters, and musicians eager to provide the city with a new beginning in art and culture. They did not form a coherent school or movement, but their meetings, discussions, and polemics over the nature of art provided an engaging and stimulating atmosphere for a younger generation of Modernist writers amidst the Belgrade ruins. In addition to Crnjanski, the group that united pre-war and post-war generations featured Sima Pandurovi?, Rastko Petrovi?, Stanislav Vinaver, Ivo Andri?, Mom?ilo Nastasijevi?, Branko Lazarevi?, etc. They met in Hotel Moskva's kafana, because, according to Crnjanski, it was the only place with light.<ref name="politika-2009"/>

With the Bolshevik-led October Revolution taking place, putting an end to the Russian Empire and eventually giving birth to Soviet Union, the relations between the newly established communist state and the also newly founded Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes led by the same royal house, the Kara?or?evi?s, rapidly cooled. With the disappearance of the Russian Empire, Rossiya insurance company went away too. Hotel Moskva was thus take over by Poštanska štedionica (Postal Savings Bank), a recently established local financial institution.

On 1 October 1923 Poštanska štedionica opened its very first counter window at the palace. In 1938 the palace was taken over by the National Bank of Yugoslavia.

World War II: Gestapo HQ

In spring 1941, with Kingdom of Yugoslavia invaded and quickly conquered by Nazi Germany, before even quicker getting carved up into several Nazi client states, Gestapo moved into Hotel Moskva, transforming it into its headquarters. Not liking its references to Russia, they also renamed it Hotel Velika Srbija, after the original inn.<ref name="politika-2008"/>

All throughout World War II, the headquarters had their own power generators and even water sources independent of the city supply in addition to elevators and wide basement facilities.<ref name="politika-2008"/> The hotel was one of the last buildings liberated in October 1944. During the Nazi German occupation, the hotel's original master's paintings, silverware and gold-plated utensils were looted and taken away.<ref name="politika-2008"/>

The communist period

In the post World War II period, the hotel went right back to being the cultural elite's favourite congregation spot. Yugoslav Nobel laureate in literature, Ivo Andri?, had his own table at the restaurant. Poet Vasko Popa was a regular visitor who frequented the hotel's cafe for decades on a daily basis — his daily ritual consisted of arriving every day at 3:30pm, drinking his coffee and staying until 6pm.<ref name="politika-2008"/>

With the post-war influx of people from Montenegro into Belgrade, the hotel cafe's summer patio also became a favourite hangout for the Montengrin newcomers to the city. The perception that being seen drinking coffee while hanging out amongst the cultural elite at Hotel Moskva was an instant seal of approval, endured for decades.<ref name="politika-2008"/>

In 1974, the hotel restaurant introduced a cake, named Moskva šnit after the hotel, that quickly became popular.

Privatization

In August 2005, the hotel's umbrella legal entity, state-owned Moskva a.d., had its 82.83% purchased by the Belize-based off-shore investment fund Netwest Finance represented by Serbian businessman Mile Dragi? for €11 million.<ref name="novosti-2006">"Mo­skva" kao "Ric";Ve?ernje novosti, 28 July 2006</ref> Right away on 13 September 2005, the hotel's new owners decided to start trading the hotel's shares on the Belgrade Stock Exchange as HMSK.

At the July 2006 shareholders meeting, it was agreed to seek out a brand name partnership by hooking up with an established global brand, with Four Seasons, or one of the Marriott brands such as Ritz-Carlton being specifically mentioned.<ref name="novosti-2006"/> In the end, nothing came of it and Moskva continued as a standalone hotel.

Around the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 in May 2008, the timetable for Hotel Moskva's renovation, expansion, and possible upgrade to the five star hotel was announced. Expansion plans included building of a garage, congressional hall, and a shopping mall.<ref name="politika-2008"/>

Throughout 2009 and 2010, four years after its privatization, the hotel finally underwent extensive renovation — from April until September 2009, the side facing Balkanska Street was refurbished, both internally and externally, with new furniture, wallpaper, drapes, curtains, bathrooms, flooring, and electronic locks.<ref name="politika-2009"/> From the fall 2009 until April 2010 the same was done with the side facing Terazije.<ref name="politika-2009"/>

Famous guests

Hotel Moskva is a four star hotel. It is the only hotel in Belgrade that has no room or an apartment number 13. It had over 36 million visitors in the past 100 years, including celebrities like Serbian Field-marshals Živojin Miši? and Petar Bojovi?, inventors Mikhail Kalashnikov and Albert Einstein, sportists Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Carl Lewis, actors like Robert De Niro, Kirk Douglas, Milla Jovovich, Jack Nicholson, Michael Douglas, producers like Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Miloš Forman politicians like Nikola Paši?, Rajiv Gandhi, Yasser Arafat, Indira Gandhi, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Richard Nixon and others, singers and tenors like Luciano Pavarotti, Yves Montand, Ray Charles, Bob Geldof writers like Maxim Gorky, Orson Welles, Rebecca West, Jean-Paul Sartre and many others. [1] The pictures of the famous visitors are in a hotel hallways.

In fiction

Hotel Moskva has been depicted or referenced in various works of music, film, and literature.

Miroslav Krleža's NIN Prize-winning 1962 novel Zastave whose plot is set in the turbulent 1912–1922 period while following the lives and fates of some 20 characters (all of them of different profession, pedigree, and financial means, but from the milieu of Serbian, Croatian, and Hungarian inteligentsias) features several references to Hotel Moskva. At one point, one of the main characters decides to take a peek into Hotel Moskva's kafana where, as he says with contempt, "wet tobacco is smoked" and "Byzantine intrigues are drawn up".

Klopka, a 2007 neo-noir film set in post-Miloševi? Serbia that explores how far is a financially strapped father willing to go in order to come up with the funds for his ill child's surgery, features a key scene in Hotel Moskva's cafe where the mysterious man played by Miki Manojlovi? makes an offer to the sick child's father played by Nebojša Glogovac of paying for his son's surgery in return for the man carrying out an assassination.

See also

  • Tourism in Serbia

References

Template:Reflist

External links