During the last six months I have watched “The Ister” twice. It’s a remarkable documentary based on Martin Heidegger’s wartime Hölderlin lectures.
In one part of the documentary, Nemanja Calic talks about the NATO bombings of the bridges in Novi Sad during the Yugoslav war. The mentioned bridges are the Sloboda bridge (sloboda is the slavic word for freedom) and the Zezelj bridge:
Here is some of what Nemanja Calic says in the documentary:
See what is impressive, for example, is that this [The Sloboda bridge] is kind of a sophisticated structure. With stay cables, with high pylons and everything. Although it’s a little bit old-fashioned now, for that time (the early 1980) it was really an accomplishment.
And the other bridge, the big concrete bridge, Zezelj Bridge […], was built a decade earlier in a classic style, an old-fashioned arc bridge. And having a look at the way they were destructed, the sophisticated structure gave up instantly, and the old one had suffered, let’s say, seven attacks, with more than thirty missiles, bombs, whatever was launched on it, whilst the Sloboda Bridge collapsed after only two Tomahawk missiles, very precise in the base of the pylons. And it was down in a minute.
But Zezelj Bridge, concrete arc structure, retained, although very heavily damaged, perforated by various hits… And finally they could not put it down. And they concentrated their attacks on the middle pier, in the river. They gave up targeting the beams, the arcs, and then they concentrated their fire on the middle pier, and then they just destructed it. It was just blown away, and without the pier, both arcs collapsed in the river.
I just wanted to point out the difference between modern, sophisticated technologies, even in the construction business. The more sophisticated they are, the more sensitive they are. I don’t say that the other one is safer than this one, but it’s more sophisticated. Vulnerable. If you touch it at the proper point it will yield, it will give up.
So that’s how it went…
Here is another image of the Zezelj bridge. Notice the size of the middle pier.
I think it’s an important story, from many perspectives and it leaves some room for thoughts for the listener. For example, why did NATO bomb the bridges? Was it a correct decision? Was the design of the “modern bridge” too brittle? Is Nemanja’s suggestion correct that sophistication leads to sensitive systems? What happened to the people in the city during and after the war? Or why was there a war in Yugoslavia in the first place?