The Stone Flower, a structure known as a “spomenik” located in Jasenovac, Croatia. Built in 1966, it commemorates the thousands of victims who were executed during World War II at the Jasenovac forced labor and extermination camp which operated on this very location by the river Sava.
To be honest, there is about a zero percent chance that I will ever travel to any of the countries of the former Soviet Union. Which is a shame since I really, really love vodka. However, if I did ever venture to that part of the world I would make it a point to attempt to see at least a few of the haunting sculptures or “spomeniks” that were erected all over what was formerly called Yugoslavia. These stone architectural marvels are meant to serve as grim reminders of those who fought and died in various military events that took place during significant battles, involving among other things resistance operations meant to repel the Ottoman Empire in the 1800s.
Most of the structures were built in the late 60s. One of the most striking is the Monument to the Revolution which is located in Podgarić, Berek. The futuristic-looking sculpture was built by Croatian sculptor Dušan Džamonja and still stands as a memorial to the citizens of Moslavina who died while resisting the German forces during WWII. Others appear to be channeling the architectural design directly from 1976 and the film Logan’s Run—which is perhaps yet another reason I find them so compelling to look at.
While they are quite beautiful to behold, it’s critical to understand the meaning behind the monuments that serve as a reminder of time much more daunting than what we are being faced with right now. As well as the fact that those who do not remember the past—specifically the numerous historical examples in Yugoslavia that saw the people adapt to authoritarian regimes—will likely allow such events to repeat themselves. Many of the images of notable spomeniks in this post were taken by famed Antwerp-based photographer Jan Kempenaers and are the featured in his 2005 book, Spomenik. If you’re interested in learning more about the history behind the spomeniks, I would recommend spending some time at the extensively detailed online resource, the Spomenik Database.
A set of sculptures that stand in Bubanj Memorial Park built by Petar Kristic. Located on a hill in Niš, it marks the location where more than ten thousand Serbian people were systematically executed by German forces.
“Bulgaria’s UFO,” the Buzludzha monument. Designed by Georgi Stoilov, the monument officially opened in 1981 on the top of Mount Buzludzha which was also the infamous site of the last stand between Bulgarian rebels and the Ottoman Empire in 1868.
More after the jump…