Belgrade (Serbian: Београд, Beograd) is the capital and largest city of Serbia. The city lies on two international waterways, at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where Central Europe’s Pannonian Plain meets the South European Balkans.
Likewise, the city is placed along the pan-European corridors X and VII. With a population of 1,630,000 (official estimate 2007), Belgrade is the fourth largest city in Southeastern Europe, after Istanbul, Athens and Bucharest. Its name in Serbian translates to White city.
One of the oldest cities in Europe, with archeological finds tracing settlements as early as the 6th millennium BC, Belgrade’s wider city area was the birthplace of the largest prehistoric culture of Europe, the Vinča culture.
It was first inhabited by the Thracio-Dacian tribe of Singi who would give the name to the city after a fortress was founded in 3rd century BC by the Celts who named it Singidun (dun, fortress).
It was awarded city rights by the Romans before it was permanently settled by White Serbs from the 7th century onwards. As a strategic location, the city was battled over in 115 wars and razed to the ground 44 times since the ancient period by countless armies of the East and West.
In medieval times, it was in the possession of Byzantine, Frankish, Bulgarian, Hungarian and Serbian rulers. In 1521 Belgrade was conquered by the Ottomans and became the seat of the Pashaluk of Belgrade, as the principal city of Ottoman Europe and among the largest European cities. Frequently passing from Ottoman to Austrian rule which saw destruction of most of the city, the status of Serbian capital would be regained only in 1841, after the Serbian revolution.
Northern Belgrade, though, remained an Austrian outpost until the breakup of Austria-Hungary in 1918. The united city then became the capital of several incarnations of Yugoslavia, up to 2006, when Serbia became an independent state again.
Belgrade has the status of a separate territorial unit in Serbia, with its own autonomous city government. Its territory is divided into 17 municipalities, each having its own local council. It covers 3.6% of the territory of Serbia, and 24% of the country’s population lives in the city. Belgrade is the central economic hub of Serbia, and the capital of Serbian culture, education and science.