18 Jul 2018

Foreigners fascinated by Yugoslav monuments

CNN has put one of them on the list of “the world’s ugliest monuments.” But people worldwide have become more and more interested in the unusual concrete constructions dotted throughout the countries of former Yugoslavia. 

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
Foreigners fascinated by Yugoslav monuments - NewsMavens
The flower monument in Jasenovac, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Just after I submitted the article I recommend here, I discovered that the Croatian "Flower" memorial dedicated to victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp in World War II had been used in a sunglasses commercial for the Australian Valley Eyewear company.

The move is obviously disgraceful but, according to the statement it released, the company was unaware of the meaning of the site and its sensitivity.

Some of the people from the West whom I interviewed for the story below -- experts in the matter -- told me they knew nothing about the so-called spomeniks only a couple of years ago. But then they began exploring them and writing about them. 

As the number of materials about spomeniks in the English language grows, mistakes such as the one made by Valley Eyewear will, hopefully, be avoided. 

Details from the story:

  • The "Flower" memorial is located in Jasenovac, Croatia and is a monument to the victims of the Ustaša during World War II. It was constructed to serve as a reminder of the atrocities perpetrated in the Jasenovac concentration camp.
  • An increasing number of foreigners visit Balkan countries to explore communist monuments (the so called Spomeniks) commissioned by former Yugoslavia's leader Josip Broz Tito and war veteran groups.
  • There is a growing number of websites, blogs and photo projects about Spomeniks as well as guided tours for those who want to visit them in person.
  • A book Spomenik Monument Database will be published this September. Its author Donald Niebyl first launched the Spomenik Database website, a comprehensive online platform about Spomeniks in communist Yugoslavia two years ago.
  • As they are perceived as “communist propaganda,” many of these statues became an unwanted reminder of the past in countries of former Yugoslavia. Some of them were abandoned and even destroyed.
  • Two years ago, Croatian filmmaker Irena Škorić made a documentary about spomeniks titled Unwanted Heritage. The movie has won six prizes and screened at film festivals around the world.
  • Each July, the summer music festival OK Fest takes place in Sutjeska National Park close to the famous Tjentište monument. The festival brings together rock bands and music fans from former Yugoslavia. Many visitors say one of the reasons why the festival is so appealing is its location.
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