The EXIT Festival is more than just an electro-forward dance event—it’s a Serbian institution, an essential event that contributes an annual 20 million Euro to the country’s economy and brings in more than 200,000 tourists and festivalgoers from over 100 countries every July. This coming weekend, from July 6 to July 9, the grounds of the historic Petrovaradin Fortress will once again come to life as the festival celebrates its 23rd edition with an unbeatable lineup featuring some of the biggest names in the world of electronic music.
To celebrate the 2023 edition of EXIT, we’re taking a closer look at the festival’s history, from its democratic origins as a student-led movement to the story of the 250-year-old Petrovaradin fortress that EXIT has called home for over twenty years.
EXIT: A History
Before (twice) earning the title of “Best European Festival” from the European Festival Awards, EXIT began as a student-led movement fighting for democracy in Serbia and the Balkans—a response to the civil unrest of the nineties and the subsequent bombing of Serbian territories by NATO in the spring of 1999. Student activists from across Serbia gathered on the banks of the Danube for what ended up being a 100-day music-filled protest against the Slobodan Milošević regime, with a slogan of “EXIT way out of a ten-year madness”.
Following the Yugoslavian general election in 2000, the festival moved to the 18th century Petrovaradin Fortress where it has stayed ever since. In the twenty-two years that have transpired since the festival’s rebellious origins, the Petrovaradin Fortress has been host to more than four million EXIT attendees.
EXIT: The Petrovaradin Fortress
While today’s Petrovaradin Fortress dates back to the 18th century, the area that it occupies actually has a history that even includes recently discovered evidence of Paleolithic settlements dating back to 19,000 BC. Sitting on the northern slopes of the Fruška Gora overlooking the Danube River, the fortress has served as a strategic defense point for everyone from the Romans to the Turks and Austrians during the 17th century.
The fortress has an apex that reaches 125 meters above sea level and offers some unparalleled views of the city of Novi Sad; at the top of the fortress is a historic clock tower, which has come to symbolize the strength of the city of Novi Sad. Beneath Petrovaradin’s foundation lies a complex maze of tunnels that exceed 16000 meters in length, while the fortress itself covers up to 100 hectares—plenty of room for EXIT’s 40 stages.
So much of what makes EXIT such a special festival can be attributed to the Petrovaradin Fortress and to the festival’s origins as a student movement. And as EXIT continues to grow it’s reputation as one of Europe’s leading festivals, more and more visitors are sure to discover the magic of EXIT. Personally, I can’t wait to take in all that the festival has to offer and report back!
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