In the far off land of the ex-Yugoslavian territories (now Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc.), in towns and fields dotted across the country side, lie a series of behemoth monuments that the locals would rather forget.
Commissioned by former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 70s, the monuments, called Spomeniks (which is Cyrillic for monument) were designed to commemorate WWII battles sites or demolished concentration camps. Intended as a display of strength and resolution, for many years the monuments attracted large numbers of tourists hoping to gain a “patriotic education”. However, despite the best efforts of the monuments to inject socialist resolution amongst the ‘Slav’s, it was not enough to prevent the dis-solution of the socialist republic, which began in the early 90s. This in turn triggered the beginning of the end for more than the regime, as the proud and futuristic monoliths would begin to head in the same direction – down. No longer were they emblems of pride for the locals, but rather, they began to symbolise something much more sinister – the physical embodiment of a communist past.
Whilst some remain in use, like the one is Krusevo Macedonia, (which is kept as a monument to the Macedonian uprising), the majority are being left to the care of the elements and vandals. Unfortunately for the Spomeniks, they have found themselves occupying a unique space in a trinity of circumstances:
- The incumbent governments are democratic regimes – Given the Spomeniks are the incarnation of a Communist ex-Yugoslavia, the political motivations of those with the cheque book and the power to restore them to their glory are those who most wish them to be ignored.
- There have been many battles since the erection of the Spomeniks – In comparison to the battles that brought about the downfall of communism, the battles the Spomeniks commemorate are now less pertinent to the surviving citizens
- Political instability – After years of poor governance, resources do not stretch to polishing monuments that lie on the periphery of civilization.
Designed by some of the Yugoslavian Republic’s most famous sculptors and architects, so institutionalized is the neglect of most of these statues that Dutch photographer Jan Kempenaers (who took all the photo’s featured below) was forced to rely on a 1975 tourist map to track them down. Now photographed and compiled in a series appropriately titled “Spomenik” – you can make up your own mind as to how old boy Tito’s show of strength and resolution are looking.
In closing, despite the Spomeniks now being bereft of their originally intended significance, it is the amateur opinion of Me and My Moustache that they can continue to serve – if for no more than as an historical reminder of a political fracturing. But without due care, the Spomeniks will surely continue down the path to total physical dilapidation, but in the meantime, let’s celebrate their beauty while we still can.