The landscape of Balkan countries is dotted with monuments, showcased in cities or hidden in mountains. Many were built after the Second World War, to commemorate victims and heroic acts. The brutalist imposing yet purified style renders an aura of respect and solemnity for the events the monuments symbolize. Unlike the prefabricated blocks, each monument is unique, conveys something different, and surprises by its original shape. A vivid example is the Bubanj Memorial Park, located in a field near the city of Niš, in the south of Serbia, where inmates from the concentration camp in the city (weirdly, next to a school) were executed. Three fists stand in the spot where more than 10 000 prisoners were shot by German Nazis.
In a Russian doll way, during the socialist period, these monuments were the legacy of the fights and massacres and victims of the Nazis. Today, the monuments in themselves, because of the time that they were built, their architectural style, and the nationalistic feeling they instilled, are a legacy of socialism.
This is a heated issue, in Croatia particularly, where monuments are vandalized by a part of the population who believes that the socialist and Yugoslavian meaning they carry in order to honor victims of fascism and anti-fascist struggle, should instead be turned into commemorating the victims of the socialist regime. Structures are destroyed (mostly during the 1990s independence war, where the idea of Yugoslavia, a product of socialism, was being rejected, but there has been a resurgence in the recent years); or they are altered. For example, names of victims from an anti-fascist uprising are replaced by names of victims of a battle in the independence war.
Numerous other monuments across the Balkans are dedicated to the fight against the fascism of the Second World War, and more largely, capitalism. One can assume that of the many goals of building them during the socialist era, one was to nurture a hate towards capitalist West, and certainly a feeling of pride in the nation that stood up against it and won.
Every victim and every event, from all political periods, deserves to be remembered with respect. That is why monuments should be left in peace, regardless of the political belief of individuals, and should be properly preserved. These monuments are a tangible trace of history and have a special meaning, especially regarding the nation building process of the Balkan countries that were emerging from centuries under the Ottoman rule. They are national treasures, a part of history’s safeguarding, and serve in its teaching, to locals and to tourists.
Then there are what I consider now-monuments that were not erected as such. A massive building dedicated to the communist party, for example, would now have become, against the intent of the architect, a monument to the vanished regime, preserving the style, grandeur and ambition it wished to convey, and carrying the weight of the socialist legacy and what it meant. I am thinking for example of the Buzludhza monument in Bulgaria. It was built to host meetings of the communist party and is now abandoned on the top of a mountain. The brutalist style is coupled with futuristic elements that make it look quite literally like a spaceship. The red star is still chillingly visible, a reminder of the hold of the regime on the country, and a famous socialist heritage.
On a less serious note, but also because in order to be protected, monument must be known and appreciated, here are some visually striking examples: