Čubura: Disappearing Belgrade

Čubura is one of the most famous quarters of Vračar and Belgrade generally. Even today, people from this neighbourhood will point out that they are Čuburci rather than Belgraders

Čubura emerged as a settlement around the Čubur Stream. This stream no longer exists, having been filled in, liked many Belgrade waterways, following urbanisation during the 1920s. It flowed from the start of today’s Čuburska Street towards the Southern Boulevard, then flowed into the Mokroluški Stream (today also filled in), which was the right tributary of the Sava (not yet filled). That’s why until recently older Čuburci could often be heard referring to the course of the Southern Boulevard simply as the stream.

Thus, the settlement emerged at the source and around the stream. The settlement was named Čubura, and the stream Čuburski. Or it was the other way around. That’s the eternal dilemma of those who represent land theories and those who represent aquatic theories about the origins of names. Whatever the case, Čubura was born, so as they say it was worth swinging.

But where did Čubura come from? Imaginations worked, so today we have a mass of theories about the emergence of this name.

The most acceptable is the one connected with the Čubur stream. Specifically, the stream didn’t have a large flow of water, so a pipe was pushed into it so it couldn’t be filled with water. It was actually a larger barrel without a bottom. This original innovation in the history of Serbian waterworks was called a Stublina, but it wasn’t appropriate to call the whole surrounding area Stublinara, Burara or possibly Cevara. That’s why we borrowed the Turkish noun for this device, derived from the words ‘čuruk buru’ (hollow tube) or čubura (çubura). The Turks are a wonder when their language includes a word for a hollow tube…. As though there’s such thing as a tube that isn’t hollow.

Čubura, like most of Vračar, was urbanised in the second half of the 19th century. Then around the stream emerged a settlement like a further periphery of Belgrade as a town. The stream was small, but knew how to flood on rainy days, causing problems for Čubura locals. Ducks once swam unhindered in this stream. It flowed from today’s park through Čuburska Street all the way to the Southern Boulevard, where it ended by emptying into the Mokroluški Stream.

The stream dried up in the 1920s, with the ducks migrating to warmer regions, leaving younger generations deprived of a childhood spent by the water.

The symbols of Čubura are primarily the park, then the famous handicraft centre known as Gradić Pejton. Čubura is today administratively divided into two local communities: Neimar and Vozarev krst

Then began the first major urbanisation of Čubura, which would reach its peak following World War II.

In the first half of the 20th century, including during World War II, Čubura was a quarter composed mainly of small family houses. It appears as though every other small family house was a tavern, so this family-bohemian quarter remained in memory as a quarter with the largest number of taverns per capita.

The symbols of Čubura are primarily the park, then the famous handicraft centre known as Gradić Pejton. Čubura is today administratively divided into two local communities: Neimar and Vozarev krst.

Čubura was long home to numerous famous taverns, with those gathering there including “poets, craftsmen, bohemians, peasants from Kalenić, and all enjoyed the same right – everyone could say what was on their mind, as long as there was someone there to listen”. Legendary taverns disappeared one after another (“Stara Srbija”, “Sokolac”, “Kikevac”, “Mlava”, “Tabor”, “Trandafilović” …) in a wave of frenzied construction, with only the Kalenić Kafana tavern being preserved. The only civil uprising among Čuburci was in defence of “Gradić Pejton”.

Momo Kapor wrote on the pages of famous daily newspaper Politika long ago: “For those who aren’t from Belgrade it should be noted that Kalenić market is the city’s biggest and richest, and is located in Čubura. Older Belgraders still call it Kalenić’s rubber”.

Beside Momo Kapor, their Čubura origins have been hailed (and are still hailed) by the likes of Velimir Bata Živojinović, Dušan Duda Ivković, Dragan Gaga Nikolić, Zoran Hristić, Slobodan Marković (Libero Markoni), Olivera Katarina, Strahinja Straja Rodić, Jovan Ristić Rica, Dušan Prelević Prele, Rastislav Jović Kekec, Miroslav Novčić Nos, Slobodan Piva Ivković, Miša Stojanović Crnogorac, Dragoslav Gane Mladenović, Nikola Tolja Tasić, Milan Radovanović Genga, Milan Rakočević Raf, Zvonko Vujić Voskar et al. For all of them there are little witticisms, especially for the greatest legend, Velimir Batu Živojinović, the fiercest boy and unrivalled actor: “Hey, we are Crusader-Čuburci, there’s no messing with us!”.