This „butchered“ Croatian word actually means monuments but a very specific kind became popular under the name „spomeniks“ among urbex, history and alternative architecture fans.
So, what are they exactly?
First of all the Balkan area is full of them – just scattered around waiting for rare visitors.They represent different things to different people, but one thing is certain – they are a witness and heritage of some different, for many forgotten times…
They were built from the 1950s-1990s during Tito’s Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the purpose was to honor people’s resistance and suffer during the WW2. Their role was to show the strength, power and bravery but also to educate and promote “brotherhood and unity“ among people. All of them look a bit „out of this world“ and some of them have a kind of open arena around them that would serve for gatherings. A lot of people wonder why do most of them have odd shapes – this „modern, futuristic“ style can be ascribed to new tomorrow or a better future. It is hard to say exactly how many of them were built but different sources agree that the number goes over a couple of thousands and they come in all shapes and sizes – anything forms a 15-story building to the ones smaller than a car.
When it comes to location – all former Yugoslavian territory is full of them but often they are a bit off the beaten path surrounded by nature. This makes them an awesome place for a visit even today.
Why visit them today?
Looking at these „spomeniks“ as an important part of our history, as local tour guides we love to give the opportunity to our guests and friends to discover them. Unfortunately time, nature and people have done its part so many of them are destroyed, decaying, or just in a rough shape. Most of the people interested in these kinds of locations are urban explorers – a term that combines visiting, exploring, taking photos, documenting, and just enjoying the locations ( man-made structure ) that have once been in use but for some reason they just got forgotten about.
For all of us there is a deep attraction towards these places, but not only because of the place itself, but because of the story behind it.
The ones in a better condition are visited and admired even today. Needles to say that because of their specific looks, these monuments attract many fields of interests so they served as movie or video sets, great photography locations, tourist visits, architectural studies and much more…
Some examples maybe?
Before I share my list of favourites, for those more enthusiastic about this topic here is a great place where you can check all of them out: spomenik database
Since Yugoslavia was a Federations made out of six countries, back then there were no borders – but today you can find monuments in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Macedonia.
The ones in better condition are visited and admired even today.
Here are some easily accessible location definitely worth visiting while in Croatia:
- Petrova Gora
Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija
- Sculptor: Vojin Bakić
- Year: 1981
- Location: Petrova hill ( 1,5h of a drive from Zagreb, located between the city of Karlovac and NP Plitvice lakes )
- Purpose: Dedicated to the victims and the resistance movement of the people of Kordun and Banija against Nazi-fascism during WW2
Monument to the Revolution of the People of Moslavina
- Sculptor: Dušan Džamonja
- Year: 1967
- Location: Podgarić ( 1h of drive, East of Zagreb )
- Purpose: ‘wings of victory’ overcoming death and defeat;
built to pay respect for 900 soldiers from the wider area of Moslavina who sacrificed their lives during WW2
Stone Flower Monument and Museum of Jasenovac concentration camp
- Sculptor: Bogdan Bogdanović
- Year: 1966
- Location: Jasenovac ( 1h of drive East of Zagreb )
- Purpose: it serves as a memorial to the hundreds of thousands of victims executed during WW2 at the Jasenovac concentration and extermination camp
4. Spomen Dom Kumrovec
Memorial House of Fighters of the NOR & Yugoslav Youth
- Architects: Berislav Šerbetić & Ivan Filipčić
- Year: 1974
- Location: Kumrovec ( 1h of drive, North of Zagreb )
- Purpose: built as a cultural center, memorial complex, hotel, youth complex and political school at the birthplace of Josip Broz Tito
- Sculptor: Marijan Burger
- Year: 1978
- Location: Zagreb ( suburb of Zagreb called Pleso )
- Purpose: built to commemorate the acts of sabotage committed by Partisan units on Axis controlled airports in the Zagreb area during WW2