Fallen and upraised monuments of Yugoslavia
Author: Anežka Prokopová
Stumbling across one of the gigantic, mighty and yet somewhat fragile monuments in the middle of a misty land must be a truly unforgettable moment. Breath-taking with the sunrise, awe-inspiring during a cold winter day. With every change of weather, these monuments change too, although firmly attached to the rocks below them. In the middle of a desolated nature or right at the end of a village, they can be surprisingly scary. They can be strong and confident and in a while, weak and insecure. Their solitude makes them strangers to the surrounding nature as well as its complements. Balancing on a border between sculptures and architecture, they become objects of many contradictions. Being often inaccurately claimed as abandoned is just one of many meanings they selflessly happened to embody throughout time.
Given their history, those that are still standing hold many different emotions, hopes and memories. Just as they stand, they are strangely beautiful in their solitude and grace, and yet, every single one of them marks and embodies a site of cruel battles and ominous concentration camps of the Second World War. This burden they occurred to carry along with them seems to still be changing and thus constantly shaping their charm.
Built in 1960’s and 70’s to commemorate victims of the many savages that took place, to remember heroes of battles as well as to encourage and strengthen the new unity of historically fractious Balkan states, they embodied variety of feelings and expectations. Not a long time ago, there were still thousands of them celebrating the fresh solidarity and pride of the united Yugoslavia, and still in 80’s they represented frequently visited places of a patriotic value, reminding those who felt victims during the anti-fascist battles.
Yugoslavia’s broke up into several smaller countries in 1990’s however gave them another meaning. This breakup caused by manipulative ideologies and hatred followed after a process of wars during which thousands of innocent civilians were killed. Some monuments were destroyed during those battles, but many of them managed to survive, although sometimes severely damaged. They then became melancholic reminders of what was once a strong country and their meaning became sensitive and poignant.
Nowadays, hurt by the many fights and cheated by many ideological and political promises, people of former Yugoslavia are now beginning to fight for these monuments again. Reminding heroic fights for freedom and better future, they represent what people now begin to search for again; their true pride and honorable values. Advertising them as abandoned, which is appealing and very common in many medias, is therefore misleading. Numbers of them have never stopped being cared for and many others are becoming tended again.
Lately, they have also become a rather popular place to visit by people outside of former Yugoslavia. Although many times unaware of their past, the mystery created by the elegant inappropriateness of the monuments is very appealing. Many artists are attracted by their many contradictions and the melancholy they radiate. Many of them use the monuments in a completely different context, far detached from their original meaning. That evokes a seemingly simple question. Could they ever function as pure sculptures, pieces of art, detached from their original meaning? If yes, would they still be beautiful?