World War II was, inarguably, one of the most catastrophic man-made disasters in the history of humankind. Over 60 million people perished around the globe, including almost 600,000 people alone from then-Yugoslavia.
After the war, Yugoslavia’s short-lived monarchy, led by President Josef Broz Tito, placed an emphasis on “brotherhood and unity.” To promote that philosophy—and simultaneously commemorate the war—Tito commissioned an array of grandiose monuments on the sites of historic battles and concentration camps. Designed by famous sculptors and architects of the time, some of these markers were not built until after Tito’s death in 1980.
The war memorials were popular tourist destinations in the ’80s, but as tensions rose in the area, they became neglected. Now, graffiti and general neglect have taken over; still, these monuments are stark reminders of the terror and destruction in Eastern Europe during the war… and they look fearsome and futuristic, to boot.
1. This symbol of communist pride is called “Monument To The People Of Moslavina.” It was designed by Dušan Džamonja and stands in an empty Croatian field.
2. This is Kosmaj, built by an unknown architect in Serbia. It commemorates fallen soldiers who fought against the Germans in the south of Belgrade.
3. In Bosnia stands the Tjentište, which pays tribute to the Battle of Sujeska—a Nazi failure which lead to the death of some 7,000 people, mostly civilians.
4. Located in Kruševo, Macedonia, Ilinden (also known as Makedoniumit) was opened in 1974 and is dedicated to those who participated in the Ilinden uprising of 1903, as well as the Macedonia National Liberation Struggle of 1941 to 1944.
5. Kozara Memorial Monument marks the 1942 battle in Banja Luka, the largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In April of that year, the Croatian army, Ustaša militia, and the German Wehrmacht killed 80,000 civilians and sent another 50,000 to concentration camps; 1,700 Partisans—guerrilla fighters for the Yugoslav air force—were also killed. The structure stands on Mrakovica Mountain and has 9921 of the Partisans’ names inscribed on it.
6. To find the Grmeč monument for the country’s revolution, one must wander deep into the forest. Moss grows in its cracks and it’s among the most neglected of these structures.
7. Ilirska Bistrica is in Slovenia, and commemorates the 4th Yugoslavian Army, which liberated the area from German and Italian control in 1945.
8. The Jasenovac memorial stands in the place of Serbia’s largest concentration camp, which claimed the lives of an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people.
9. This monument is called Sanski Most and is named for the liberation of the Bosnian town of the same name.
10. Near Niš, Serbia, these fist-like sculptures, called Babanj, honors fallen Yugoslavian fighters.
11. Korenica, which stands on the border of Croatia and Bosnia, celebrates Yugoslavian freedom.
12. Knin sits among overgrown shrubs in the Croatian city and fortress of the same name. It was erected in honor of the 4th Dalmation Corps, who liberated Knin in 1944.
13. This is Makljen, also known as “The Fist,” “The Poet,” and “Monument to the Battle of the Wounded.” Located in Bosnia atop Mt. Makljen itself, it commemorates the Battle of Neretva, when Partisans defended the Neretva river valley against Axis troops.
14. In Kolašin, Montenegro, the “Spomn-Dom” was built to remember the first assembly of the National Anti-Fascist Council of the Peoples Liberation of Montenegro and Boka in 1943.
15. Kadinjača Memorial Complex stands northwest of Užice, Serbia. It commemorates surviving and fallen fighters of Posavina and Orasje, many of whom perished while serving the Worker’s Battalion of the Užice Partisan Detachment in 1941.
16. On Partisian Hill in Mitrovica, Kosovo stands the Shrine to the Revolution, or Monument to Fallen Miners. The Shrine is in remembrance of local Serbian and Albanian fighters who worked at the Trepča mines. While the mines were occupied by Germans, these men formed the Miner’s Troop and revolted by successfully disabling the mines, which were being used for Axis gains.
17. Nikšić commemorates fallen soldiers from this city in Montenegro. Thirty-two Partisan soldiers and anti-fascist fighters were executed in this very spot.
Wow, these abandoned monuments are truly incredible. The atrocities they represent will never be forgotten, especially because they exist today. Even though some of them have been neglected, the historical power they hold can never be forgotten.
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