YUGOSLAVIA THROUGH THE LENS OF THE FORGOTTEN MONUMENTS
An important historical moment after WWII was the birth of socialism as a response to the fascistic and cruel regimes during the war period. The main idea behind the rise of this movement was the reconciliation of society as a whole. In the realization of this socialist idea of unity, Yugoslavia played an essential role. The reason was a cohesion of the multiethnicity of 6 different countries, which followed the uncompromised Marxist-Leninist principles of public ownership. This ideology in Yugoslavia was led by the highly popular leader, Marshall Josip Bros Tito who with his charismatic leadership and integrity, was able to maintain independence and reap the benefits of the fierce competition between the western democracy and the communist east.
The importance and the impact of this socialist state and its idealistic approach towards brotherhood and unity can still be felt nowadays, especially by all the citizens who were part of this country. In every conversation with ex-Yugoslavian people, no matter which country they come from, you can sense the overwhelming emotions of belonging in the community that they once lived in. These nostalgic reflections of their past lives can be felt by the passion they express whenever the topic of Yugoslavia comes up in a conversation. Having this in mind, we can understand the historical value of this socialist cohesion even nowadays in our daily lives. This can also be seen through the socialistic and brutalist architecture that Yugoslavian architects developed as a postwar reaction both in line with and distinct from the design approaches seen elsewhere in Europe and beyond. The architecture that emerged — from International Style skyscrapers to Brutalist “social condensers” — is a manifestation of the radical diversity, hybridity and idealism that characterized the Yugoslav state itself.
This was one of the many topics which we explored during our YUGO talks as part of the peace-building event situated in Sende, Portugal. Amongst this discussion, we emphasized the lack of knowledge about the existence of abandoned Yugoslav buildings or even more specifically, the forgotten and less-known monuments present in different areas of the ex-Yugoslavian countries. Hence, inspired by these emotional and nostalgic conversations about brotherhood and unity, we decided to emphasize these beautiful historical monuments and raise awareness of their existence.
In the following text we will name some of the monuments that are not so well-known and situated in different places amongst the ex-Yugoslavian territory :
Location: On Matičansko Hill of the Velanija neighborhood in Priština, Kosovo
Designer: Svetislav Ličina
This monument complex in the Velanija neighborhood of Priština, Kosovo commemorates the many soldiers and civilian victims from the Priština region who perished during the National Liberation War.
Location: Ilirska Bistrica, Slovenia
Designers: Janez Lenassi & Živa Baraga-Moškon
This monument is dedicated to the fighters of the 4th Yugoslavian Army who liberated this area during WWII. The remains of 284 of these soldiers who died during this fight are interred in a mass tomb beneath the monument.
Location: Kamenska, Croatia
Designer: Vojin Bakić
At the time of its opening, it was the largest postmodern sculpture in the world. It was dedicated to the people of Slavonia during World War II.
Location: Ostra, Serbia
Designers: Miodrag Živković & Svetislav Ličina
This monument Ostra stands as a memorial to the fallen soldiers and veterans from the Čačak Partisan Detachment who were all from the nearby city of Čačak, Serbia.
Location: Čenej, Vojvodina, Serbia
Designer: Pavle Radovanović
This monument complex in Čenej, located in Serbia’s autonomous province of Vojvodina, commemorates the Novi Sad Partisan Detachment, the first incarnation of which was destroyed at this spot by Hungarian authorities in July of 1941.
Location: Golubovci (a southern suburb of the city of Podgorica), Montenegro
Designers: Slobodan Boba Slovinić & Vukota Tupa Vukotić
This monument complex in Golubovci (a suburb just south of the capital city Podgorica), Montenegro commemorates the many soldiers and civilians from this area who perished during the National Liberation War (WWII).
Location: Čamića Brdo, a hill just NE of Novi Travnik, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Designer: Bogdan Bogdanović
This monument was built to commemorate the roughly 700 civilians who died at this site in a brutal massacre committed by occupying Ustaše forces in August 1941.
Location: Dražgoše, Slovenia
Designers: Boris Kobe, Stojan Batič & Ive Šubic
This monument complex at Dražgoše, Slovenia, in the Gorenjska region, commemorates the efforts of the Cankar Battalion at the 1942 Battle of Dražgoše, where Partisans fought a snowy winter against Germans, while also attempting to protect local peasants from deportation.
Location: Kavadarci, Macedonia
Designer: Petar Mulichkovski
This monument was made in a brutalist style and designed by Macedonian architect Petar Mulichkovski in 1976. It’s located in the town of Kavadarci, Macedonia. It’s a memorial of The Second World War, and it’s representing a typical house from Macedonia.
Location: Korčanica Memorial Zone of Grmeč Mountain, FBiH, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Designer: Ljubomir Denković , with Milovan Matović & Savo Subotin
This memorial structure commemorates a secret hospital that was operated by the Partisan resistance on the slopes of this hill during WWII, as well as all the medics who worked to treat injured soldiers.
Location: Veles, North Macedonia (formerly: “Titov Veles”)
Designers: Ljubomir Denković & Savo Subotin
The ossuary monument in Veles homage to the partisans from Veles who fought against the fascist forces from Germany and Bulgaria in World War II. Underneath the monument is a crypt with the remains of 87 partisans.
Location: Petrovac, Petrova Gora, Croatia
Designer: Vojin Bakić
The monument celebrates the uprising and resistance movement of the people of Kordun and Banija against Nazi fascism and commemorates the victims of Nazism, both civilian victims and fallen resistance fighters.
Location: Štulac, Serbia (along road to Popina)
Designer: Bogdan Bogdanović
This monument, situated on the road to Popina just southwest of Kraljevo, was built to memorialize and celebrate this location as the spot where the very first full frontal confrontation between Partisans and occupying German Wehrmacht forces began.
Location: Ulcinj, Montenegro
Designer: Miodrag Živković & Đorđe Zloković
This monument complex at Ulcinj, Montenegro commemorates the fallen fighters and civilian victims from the city and surrounding region who perished during the People’s Liberation Struggle (WWII).
Yugoslav architecture is so unique and distinct because it can be seen as a physical expression of the nation’s ideology. Liberated from both, the strictures of central planning, as well as the constraints of the market, these architects were supported by the full force of the state while still being free to experiment. The state-sourced designs through architectural competitions, which, by their very nature, nurtured inspiration and free thinking in the post-war era. Having this in mind, we can raise awareness of this important historic period. The interpretation of the Yugoslav ideology has an enormous contribution to this sense of belonging. Even though these countries have been separated, when we see these different monuments being spread in many forgotten places, we can evoke once again the feeling of hope that this multiethnic cohesion can happen in the near future. Amongst this, by exploring these designs, we can see the symbolic background of the fight against the cruelty of war. Also, these examples illustrate the importance of the use of peaceful and creative ways for breaking and getting out of the cycle of violence. It is only through these creative and non-violent processes that we can restore peace and give life to all the broken and abandoned places both internally, in each individual, and externally, in the society as a whole.
This article was written by the participants of YOU GO training course of peaceful political participation.
Special thanks to Marija, Sasha, Vladana, Judita and Alla.
You Go! is a project financed by the European Union’s Erasmus+ Programme.
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