“SERBIAN CUSTOMS SERVICE 1804-1914”
On the Serbian Customs Service Day, May 25, 2009, in the hall of the administration building at Bulevar dr Zorana Đinđića 155a in New Belgrade, a permanent exhibition was opened with the aim to present the development of the customs service in Serbia from 1804 until World War One. It is divided into three parts: the period from 1804 to 1863, period from 1863 to 1893, and period from 1893 till World War One.
The exhibition features two levels. In the first, lower level, the most important documents on establishing gümrük houses, later customs houses, in the territory of the then Serbia are displayed – the laws and regulations governing the customs service in each of the mentioned periods. Special attention was paid to ordinances from 1833, when the Belgrade Vizier handed the customs house over to Prince Miloš, and also to the Law on Gümrük Organization from 1863, and finally to the legal act from 1893 introducing radical changes into the organization of the customs service. Therefore, the development of the customs service is presented, from its beginnings by organizing a gümrük (customs) house in Ostružnica at the time of the First Serbian Rising till its full-blown development into a state institution in an internationally recognized country. The cabinets display various articles directly or indirectly used in carrying out customs service duties, the weapons of customs officers involved in the Rising, the oldest preserved passports, the oldest issues of the magazine “Carinik” (Customs Officer), etc. The oldest uniforms of customs officers from 1899 and 1913 were also reconstructed.
The upper level of the exhibition involves materials and pictures presenting Serbia in the period from 1804 to World War One. Geographical maps are shown for each of the periods mentioned, along with the travel journals by famous foreigners Konstantin Irecek, Felix Kanitz, Mary E. Durham and Hans Vogel mentioning their meeting Serbian customs officers at the border crossings. Also exhibited are brief biographies of famous people who used to be customs officers in certain periods, like Vuk Karadžić, Dimitrije Davidović, Sima Milutinović Sarajlija, Borisav Stanković, Vladislav Petković Dis, Milutin Uskoković. The fact that is little known is that the first plays of Belgrade theatre groups were played in the Theatre in the gümrük building of the Belgrade customs house.
The materials presented in the two mentioned levels and paintings of customs houses and customs officers by both eminent and less well known artists of 19th and 20th centuries, allowed the authors of the exhibition to indicate two important facts: the first one is the origins and development of the customs service as an import state institution in the territory of Serbia from the beginning of 19th century until World War One, and the other is related to the customs service as a part of a society, developing along with it, and experiencing, like the society itself, inseparably from it, all the ups and downs, rough times and good times, to this very day, when the customs service is a modern capable system intensively investing efforts into modernization and transformation in order to come closer to the world’s best practices.
Đorđe S. Kostić, PhD and Director’s Bureau