The former Yugoslavia is dotted with monuments that were built in Tito’s spirit. So is Montenegro. Many friends and relatives from the Netherlands have asked me about the meaning of numerous concrete ‘forks’, ‘wings’, ‘stars’ or social-realistic sculptures they have seen. Can you believe that there are 1,700 war memorials, monuments and memorial plaques in Montenegro? Many of them were abandoned and neglected, although foreign tourists are certainly interested in learning more about their history and artistic value. Several countries from the former Soviet Union are using their war memorials as a tourist attraction. This could also be a chance for Montenegro. Wouldn’t it be interesting to organize a round trip focused NDon Montenegro’s war monuments and history, combined with natural beauties?
The Belgian photographer Jan Kempenaers spent three years chronicling war memorials of ex-Yugoslavia in his photobook Spomeniks that has got a lot of attention lately. He travelled the Balkans photographing these eerie objects.
Kempenaers grew interested in the spomeniks in the late 1990s during a visit to a library in what was once Yugoslavia, where he discovered them on maps and in an old encyclopedia. Between 2006 and 2009, he toured around the ex-Yugoslavia region, bringing before our eyes a series of striking images. As he concluded, the monuments are still of a stunning beauty, but they are physically dilapidated and neglected by the state institutions. The Spomeniks series shows 25 monuments scattered around ex-Yugoslavia, among which the war memorial of Kadinjača in Serbia (picture 3), Tjentište, Kozara, etc.
In the meantime, the ambassador of Croatia at UNESCO, Ivo Goldstein, has submitted the initiative to list the most important anti-fascist monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Montenegrin Ministry of Culture approves this initiative. It would be a good idea to enter the Montenegrin ’spomeniks’ on this list, too. The Ministry of Culture will prepare a list of monuments in conformity with the criteria and propositions of UNESCO, in cooperation with colleagues from the region. It is a fact that war monuments have often been the target of vandals, in particular after the last war, but most monuments are still in good shape.
I saw a monument in Piperi, with a beautiful bird on top, which carried the freshly painted communist signs: red star, hammer and sickle, but it was obvious that the concrete pillar is in bad shape (picture 1 and 2).
The sculpture on the central square of Kolašin made by Vojin Bakić (1949), dedicated to fallen fighters, proudly presents the battle of Partisans against the Germans (picture 4). However, the building that was intended to be a Memorial Hall is totally dilapidated.
The war memorial in Grahovo has a splendid position on the top of a hill (picture 5). But also other monuments, like the monument to fallen soldiers on Gorica hill in Podgorica, the monument on the rock in the center of Virpazar and the war monument in the memorial park of Andrijevica are worth a visit.
It is my intention to design a war monument route through Montenegro next year and I am sure that this will be an interesting novelty for foreign tourists!