Throughout the year, Soviet Wastelands run two epic tours through the Balkan countries that make up the former Yugoslavia. Whether it’s our Balkan Badlands tour in the winter or our Ultimate Yugoslavia tour in the summer, each is guaranteed to bring you an insight into the crazy world of the Communist Yugoslavia and the horrific wars that engulfed the region during the 1990s. As lovers of communist nostalgia, one of our favorite aspects of the Yugoslavia tours is visiting the region’s communist monuments known locally as Spomenik which simply translates to the monument in English.
For many years, the Spomenik of Yugoslavia were hidden from the world due to their often remote locations combined with the hell of the Yugoslav wars distracting them. In recent years they’ve become a popular hunting ground for those seeking unique architecture photography. The monuments are usually dystopian or UFO style in nature and cut a striking scene, especially with a mountain backdrop. In this article, we’re going to look at our 5 favorite Spomenik discovered on our Balkan tours.
5. Spomenik to the Fallen Miners, Mitrovica, Kosovo.
On our Balkan tours, Mitrovica in Kosovo is a quintessential stop. Mainly due to the city’s political tension and history, being a divided city between ethnic Kosovans and Serbs. The two ethnic groups reside on either side of the river in a tense standoff since the de-escalation of the Kosovo War.
In addition, the hills above the city feature an epic Yugoslavian Spomenik which requires a small hike to reach but rewards you with epic views over Mitrovica once you reach the top. Sometimes you’ll be able to see NATO Black Hawks patrolling the city from there. The Spomenik is locally called ‘the BBQ’ but was built in 1973 to honor the memory of Serbian and Albanian fighters who worked at the Trepča mines in Mitrovica and bravely revolted against Nazi occupation, forming the Miner’s Troop. Since the fall of Yugoslavia and the outbreak of the Kosovo War, the Spomenik has been largely undermaintained and has unfortunately seen better days.
4. Bubanj Memorial Park, Niš
On our Ultimate Yugoslavia tour, we kick off an epic road trip from Belgrade, Serbia to Pristina, Kosovo and make a few stops on the way including one to the Serbian city of Niš where we visit the infamous tower of skulls. However, in the hills above Niš is another epic Yugoslavian monument known as the three fists.
The Three Fists Spomenik was built in 1963 in memory of the 10,000 Serbian, Jew, and Roma civilians that were executed at the site by the Nazis in WW2. The three fists are all different sizes in order to remind you that men, women and children were all slaughtered here. The inspiration for the design of the monument was influenced by captured Yugoslav partisans who raised their fists in the air as they were shot by Nazis in a symbol of defiance. Thankfully, since the fall of Yugoslavia, the monument has been largely well maintained.
3. The Sniper Spomenik, Popina
Not far from Niš is the epic monument to the sniper in Popina. Built back in 1981, this mountaintop Spomenik was placed at this location to honor the spot where the very first full-blown battle between Partisans and occupying Nazi forces took place.
The monument replicates a sniper rifle barrel looking out into the mountains ahead and is a prime example of Yugoslavian architecture. Unfortunately, after the fall of Yugoslavia, the monument was abandoned and fell into disrepair due to its location. But thankfully, its historical significance has been realized in recent years and various efforts have been made to restore it to its former glory and protect it.
2. Spomenik at Mosmaj
This epic monument reminds me of the crown of Sauron in Lord of the Rings. Built back in 1971 and located on Kosmaj Mountain in Serbia, this Spomenik was built in memory of the local Partisan regiment and pays tribute to those who died during the Second World War.
After the fall of Yugoslavia, the site has fallen into disrepair. But remains a popular spot for events such as techno festivals and cycle clubs. It is featured on the city crest of the Sopot as well being a feature in concept artwork for the 2017 live-action remake of the Hollywood film ‘Ghost in the Shell’.
1. Monument to the Revolution of the people of Moslavina
Taking the place at number 1 is one of my favorite Spomenik – the Monument to the Revolution of the people of Moslavina which reminds me of a dystopian radar perched on a hilltop. Built back in 1967, in the Croatian town of Podgarić, this Spomenik was built to commemorate the local rebellion and uprising against infamous Ustaše occupiers in the Moslavina and Zagreb regions throughout WW2. It was opened by Tito and his wife.
The design of the monument aimed to represent the ‘wings of victory’ overcoming death and defeat. Like many others, this monument has largely been forgotten about since the fall of Yugoslavia except for nostalgic locals and adventurous tourists.
To visit the fascinating lands of the former Yugoslavia, check out our range of group tours every year or contact us for a bespoke private tour today!
For more information about various Spomeniks across the former Yugoslavia, check out the incredible work of the team at the Spomenik database.