Spomenik: a journey through the monuments of a lost era

Until a few years ago they were practically unknown, a semi-forgotten residue of a fallen era. Today, the Spomenik (meaning “monuments”) of the countries of the former Yugoslavia are having an unexpected revival. So much to have become not only possible stops on a tour for architectural enthusiasts, but also the subject of a recent exhibition at the MoMA in New York.
From the super-touristic Croatia to the most unknown villages of Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, it is now possible to imagine embarking on a road trip to admire at least some of these relics of a bygone era but which seem – paradoxically – futuristic.

The spomeniks are dozens, scattered throughout the territory of the former Yugoslavia, from Slovenia in the north to the southernmost point in North Macedonia. On internet there’s plenty of notes and indications of architecture enthusiasts, but one of the most complete sites is spomenikdatabase, featuring also a map , very useful for tracing the exact coordinates of the monuments and planning a trip.
There is no official census of the remaining Spomeniks, but we have chosen some of the most famous which are definitely to discover and admire in all their majesty.

The Monument to the People’s Revolution of Moslavina (Podgarić, Croatia)

spomenik moslaviana

Located just over an hour south of Zagarbia, Podgarić’s Spomenik is the poster-momunent of all spomeniks: usually the first to appear in a Google search under “Spomenik”. And with good reason: created by the sculptor Dušan Džamonja and inaugurated in 1967, it is absolutely majestic and imposing in its extravagant abstract winged concrete shape, which is 10 meters high and 20 meters wide, with a central “eye-sphere” made of aluminium panels which makes it almost mystical. The effect to the visitor is that of being in the presence of an altar created for a modern or alien deity – an effect reinforced by veiled references to the Zoroastrian iconography (the eye as the Persian sun), as the “winged sun” is a recurring figure in the myths of ancient Egypt and Assyria.
Currently, the conservation status of the Monument to the People’s Revolution of Moslavina is good. And, even if there do not seem to be conservative efforts by local authorities, the site is easily accessible (although there is no signposting to indicate it).

Picture “Monumento alla rivoluzione del popolo di Moslavina”
@Donald Niebyl/Spomenik Database

Kozara Memorial (Mrakovica, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

spomenik kozara

The Kozara memorial is located in the northern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, at an hour’s drive from the nearest medium-sized city, Prijedor. It was designed by Dušan Džamonja himself and inaugurated in 1973: it consists of a cylindrical monolith of 1000 tons of cement, about 33 meters high and segmented by 20 vertical fins covered with stainless steel. At the time of the Tito regime, the Memorial was visited each year by one million visitors in commemoration of the partisan struggle of Kozara’s offensive against the Nazis in 1942.
Being situated in a national park, this Spomenik is in good condition and shows no signs of vandalism. Unlike other monuments of the Yugoslav era, the complex still has a regular flow of visitors, despite being in a very isolated area.

Picture title: “Kozara”
Image by Tomislav Medak, License: https://tinyurl.com/q8p9dmr
Source: https://tinyurl.com/y5ggg94n

Kadinjača Memorial (Užice, Serbia)

spomenik Kadinjaca

Situated in the Zlatibor district of central Serbia, just over an hour from the famous UNESCO heritage Bridge on the Drina , the complex of Kadinjača is a result of the work of sculptor Miodrag Živković and architect Aleksandar Đokić and was inaugurated in 1979. The complex consists of a 11-meter-high stone obelisk and a series of 18-meter-high white concrete panels arranged to form a sort of modernist Stonehenge. In the center stands an iconic monolith that seems to represent an imploded star (or a bullet hole).
This spomenik is still visited by thousands of tourists every year, it is regularly chosen as a venue for commemorative events and is constantly cared for by the authorities.

Picture title: “Jan-Kempenaers-Spomenik-The-Kadinjaca-Memorial-Complex”
Image by Artyukh Igor, License: https://tinyurl.com/q8p9dmr
Source: https://tinyurl.com/yy6ux7b2

Monument to the Revolt of the people of Kordun and Banija (Petrova Gora, Croatia)

spomenik moslavinaLocated in the area of ​​Karlovac in central Croatia, the Petrova Gora spomenik was the result of the work of sculptor Vojin Bakić and architect Berislav Šerbetić and was inaugurated in 1981. What remains to be admired today is above all the futuristic 37-meters-high stainless steel structure imported from Sweden with five oblong wavy layers covering the exterior. The interior, instead, which was to contain an auditorium for 250 people, a library, a bar and a museum are now only vestiges of what it was. In fact, due to the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, individual acts of vandalism and the indifference of the Croatian authorities, the Petrova Gora spomenik is today in a state of total abandonment.

But, for those who venture up to the complex, the spectacle of the Spomenik from afar still appears astonishing for the characteristic almost-extraterrestrial quality of these monuments of the Titine era, while the interiors – now empty and derelict – can only leave a sense of terrible decadence.

“Monument to the Revolt of the people of Kordun and Banija”
@Donald Niebyl/Spomenik Database

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