Name: Monument Park Knjaževac (Spomen-Park Knjaževac/Спомен-парк Књажевац)
Location: Andrijevica, Montenegro
Year completed: 1967
Designer: Vojislav Vujisić
Coordinates: N42°44'15.1", E19°47'13.9" (click for map)
Dimensions: ~22m tall six-legged monument
Materials used: White marble
This monument, located in the Knjaževac spomenik park in Andrijevica, Montenegro, was built to commemorate the over 600 Partisan fighters from this region, along with the nearly 900 civilian victims from the area, who died during the National Liberation War (WWII).
World War II
Turmoil and conflict hit Andrijevica and the surrounding Polimlje region of the Sandžak (the fertile valley areas along the Lim River) in April of 1941 when Italian and other Axis forces invaded and took over the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The town of Andrijevica and the Polimlje region were then besieged by a military occupation. While the Italians initially anticipated the people of Polimlje would be happy with the occupation (as there was a close relation between the Montenegrin monarch Nicholas I and Queen Elena of Italy), citizens soon became angered by the Italian presence and control. There was not just dissatisfaction due to the take over of food and production resources, but also because of the mass influx of refugees and oppressive military conditions.
As the local people of Andrijevica's anger towards occupation began to boil over, many of those opposed to the occupation began to organize into rebel resistance groups, primarily the communist-led Partisan resistance. On July 17th, 1941, a group of over 300 organized rebels overthrew the Italian garrison holding the town, killing over 200 Italian troops and effectively (yet briefly) liberated Andrijevica from Axis control. During the time Andrijevica was freed from the Italian occupiers, the resistance fighters organized politically and conducted a National Liberation Council (from July 19th to the 21st) (Photo 1). However, on January 5th, 1942, the town was retaken by Axis Italian and Chetnik forces, but it continued to switch hands between Axis troops and the Partisan resistance over 15 times during the course of the war. Andrijevica was so hard fought over by both sides because the narrow Lim River valley in which the town is situated is a strategic transportation and military route between the Adriatic and Serbia.
Photo 1: A large freedom rally being held in Andrijevica, 1942
Photo 2: Members of the Nazi 21st Division over executed bodies in Velika, 1944
In March of 1944, the Partisans defeated a German offensive during Operation Frühlingserwachen, which gave Partisans control of Andrijevica and the town's bridge over the Lim River. In an attempt regain this position and a northern path into Serbia, the the Nazi 7th SS 'Prinz Eugen' Division, along with the 21st 'Skanderbeg' Division (1st Albanian unit), launched Operation Draufgänger, which was intended to capture Andrijevica from the Partisans while destroying the bridge to prevent their pursuit. However, with the onset of the operation on July 18th, 1944, Partisans from the 2nd Shock Corps readily repelled German advances into Andrijevica. The 21st and 7th Divisions then retreated east along the Lim River to the nearby village of Velika. As retaliation and retribution for their recent Partisan defeat at Andrijevica, members of these two Nazi divisions, reportedly under the command of SS-Brigadeführer August Schmidhuber, executed on July 28th roughly 500 of the village's men, women and children, while they then proceeded to burn the village to the ground (Photo 2). The rationalization for these executions in Velika was given by Schmidhuber in the following form:
"It is obvious that the village of Velika, inhabited by the Montenegrins, was sufficiently assisted by the enemy. According to the statement of one prisoner from Velika, the propaganda division of the rebel squads recruited 20 of the village's young Montenegrins, and the population never reported the arrival of these red propaganda units, and they did not inform us of the transfer of these young man to the party of rebels and their departure through Montenegro."
Battles over Andrijevica between Axis units and the Partisans continued into the autumn of 1944. The town of Andrijevica was finally liberated for the last time by Partisan troops on November 17th, 1944. Over the course of the whole war, of the roughly 700 Partisan fighters from the Andrijevica region, hundreds perished and over 1,000 civilians were killed. Towards the end of the war, the SS commander August Schmidhuber (Photo 3), who had ordered the execution of civilians at Velika, attempted to flee -- however, he was quickly apprehended by Soviet Red Army forces in May of 1945. In early 1947 he was put on trial for war crimes against civilians by a Yugoslav 3rd Army military tribunal, during which he adamantly proclaimed his innocence. Regardless, he was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was carried out in Belgrade on February 27th, 1947.
Photo 3: August Schmidhuber
In the early 1960s, plans were made by the local and regional governments and veteran's groups of the region of Andrijevica to construct there a monument to commemorate the fighters and civilians who fell during the National Liberation War (WWII). This new monument was constructed in Andrijevica's Knjaževac Monument Park, which is located in the center of the town on a terrace overlooking the Lim River. The location of this new monument was directly adjacent to the WWI memorial obelisk, right in front of the primary school building of Andrijevica. Also, located in Knjaževac is the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, constructed in 1887. This new memorial sculpture was officially unveiled to the public during a large remembrance ceremony on July 17th of 1967, a date which was chosen to commemorate the 26th anniversary since the town's uprising against Axis occupation. This memorial is a 22m tall white marble sculpture made up of six connected pillars with an eternal flame at its center. There are several other much smaller memorials commemorating the events of WWII located around the spomenik park.
While there is significant damage and degradation to the structure of this spomenik as a result of its neglect after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the complex overall is in reasonable condition and the damage to the monument is not overly extensive or beyond repair. Meanwhile, a great many of visitors patronize the site and it exists as a notable local attraction, while commemorative and remembrance events are still held here by locals in the greater community. In addition, a memorial temple to the victims of the 1944 massacre at Velika was unveiled in that village on July 28th, 2001.
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
Directly underneath this spomenik is a polished black granite cube (~2m tall) (Slide 1). The granite panels of this cube are engraved with the names of hundreds of Partisan fighters from the local area (Slides 2 - 5) who died during the war. In addition, the south facing panel bears a commemorative inscription (Slide 2). It reads, when translated from Montenegrin to English, as:
"During the Liberation War, from the 13th of July, 1941 to May 15th, 1945, 608 fighters from the Andrijevica region died for the freedom, brotherhood and unity of our people. At the same time, 857 inhabitants of the region were killed during the fascist terror."
Meanwhile, the granite panel on top of the cube also has an engraved inscription written into it (Slide 6). This inscription reads, when translated from Montenegrin to English, as:
"Everything they had, they gave for the freedom of the people and for the honor of the homeland. Let us pay our respect through memories in good times and doing the same they did in hard time."
Additional Memorials at Knjaževac Park:
Scattered around the Knjaževac Memorial Park, surrounding the central spomenik site, are several other monuments and memorial elements commemorating WWI and WWII, in addition to the Church of St. Michael the Archangel. These sculptural and memorial elements will be looked at individually in the following sections:
Balkan Wars & World War I Monument:
At the center of the Knjaževac memorial park, there is a roughly 7m tall solid black marble obelisk topped with an eagle sculpture (Photo 4), honoring fighters from the Upper Vasojevići Brigade who fell during the Balkan Wars & WWI. Built in 1931 by General Radomir Vešović, the marble obelisk was carried to this spot from Cetinje by members of the general's clan across the Kuči region and over to Kom mountains to this spot. After being erected, it was unveiled during a massive ceremonial event. The main inscription on the pillar reads, when translated into English, as:
"This monument was built by the families of the fallen warriors of the Upper Vasojevići Brigade in the wars of 1912-1921 with help from disabled war veterans and volunteers. The monument was erected in 1931 by the Committee for Memorial Construction."
Photo 4: World War I Monument
Uprising Cannon Memorial:
On the edge of the terrace overlooking the Lim River is a memorial comprised of an iron cannon mounted on a concrete base (Photo 5). This cannon is one that was used by Partisan forces during the town's very first July 17th, 1941 uprising against the Axis Italian occupiers who had besieged and overtaken the town of Andrijevica at the start of World War II. The exact date this memorial was erected, or its creator, is not known. There is one small engraved black stone plaque at the center of the concrete base which bears an inscription. This inscription reads, when translated from Montenegrin to English, as:
"This memorial cannon is from the uprising on July 17, 1941 by the people opposed to Italian occupation."
The Alliance of National Liberation Fighters, Andrijevica
Photo 5: Cannon Memorial
Victims of Italian Occupiers Memorial:
Also located on the terrace's edge is a monument honoring citizens from Andrijevica killed by Axis occupiers in 1941 and 1943 (Photo 6). The monument is comprised of two concrete half-circle panels, with the left panel much larger than the right panel. Both panels are engraved with the names of those executed during each respective year. The year of creation and sculptor of this monument is not known. On the concrete base of the monument there is an inscription translates as:
"All [killed] by Italian occupiers"
Meanwhile, installed into the base of the monument is an inscribed red marble panel which translates as:
"Rehabilitated by the Association of Veterans, 1912-1999"
Photo 6: Memorial to Victims of Italian Occupiers
Along the west side of Knjaževac memorial park there are three concrete pillars (roughly 2m tall), with each pillar having two bronze plaques installed on their east and west facing sides (Photo 7), all bearing inscriptions. The pillars commemorate significant WWII events of the region and were installed on July 13th, 1971. The plaque's inscriptions on each pillar briefly recount moments from the events being commemorated. The southern most pillar contains a bronze plaque on the west-facing side engraved with three red stars, while the east-facing plaque contains an inscription. This inscription reads, when translated into English, as:
"On May 3, 1943, the Andrijevica Partisan Battalion was formed on the mountain Zeletin, which, without hesitation of the cruel terror of the fascist occupants, led with renewed vigor and brought freedom to the nation."
Photo 7: Memorial Pillars
Meanwhile, similar to the south-most pillar, the east-facing plaque on the center pillar has an engraving consisting only of three red stars, while the east-facing plaque contains an inscription. This inscription reads, when translated into English, as:
"Let it be known that the people of this region ceased to allow themselves to be oppressed in their own land, and thus liberated Andrijevica from the Fascist occupiers on July 17, 1941."
Then, the northern most pillar contains engraved bronze plaques with inscriptions on both sides. The east-facing plaque contains an inscription which reads, when translated into English, as:
"In the liberated area of Andrijevica, the delegates of villages, oligarchs and combat units elected on July 19, 1941 a joyous National Liberation Committee, the apparatus of revolutionary power for the people."
Finally, the engraved inscription on the west-facing plaque of the northern pillar reads, when translated from Montenegrin to English, as:
"With an assault on the enemy in Andrijevica, the rebels seized six hills of cannon, from June 18th to the August 7th in 1941, then beat the fascists at the frontlines and during the fighting for the release of the towns of Kolašin and Berane."
Photo 8: Church of St. Michael the Archangel
Church of St. Michael the Archangel:
Located at the south end of Knjaževac memorial park, the Church of St. Michael the Archangel (Црква Св. Архангела Михаила) (Photo 8) was built in 1887 by Montenegro's ruler Prince Nikola. The name of this memorial park even takes its name from the Prince, as 'Knjaževac' literally means 'Prince's place'. The church was built with the collective patronage of all members of the region's Vasojević clan, who each collectively pledged to bring one stone block to put towards the construction of the church. Being that many of the region's churches were destroyed during Ottoman invasions during the 1870s, this was one of the few churches in the area during its initial construction, giving it significant symbolic importance to the local community. The reason this church is named after St. Michael the Archangel is that he is the patron saint of the Vasojević clan. Currently, the church is still in very good condition, being well used and honored by the local community.
Photo 9: National Hero Sculptures
Yugoslav National Hero Sculptures:
Located just north of the central Vujisić memorial (between it and the school), there are five NOB National Heroes and martyrs who are honored here with commemorative bust sculptures (Photo 9). It is not clear when, or by whom, they were erected (they seem to have been built during different time periods). Facing them, from left to right, I will name them off those depicted and briefly describe them:
Branko Deletić (Бранко Делетић) - Local Partisan leader and organizer, killed in WWII by Chetniks in nearby Kralje.
Danilo Lekić (Данило Лекић) - Spanish Civil War and WWII veteran and later was a JNA Lt. General.
Bogdan Novović (Богдан Нововић) - Political secretary in Montenegrin Communist Party, killed fighting in Croatia.
Dimitrije "Zeko" Vojvodić (Димитрије "Зеко" Војводић) - Partisan commander in WWII and later JNA Lt. General.
Bajo Jojić (Бајо Јојић) - Local Partisan organizer who was a secretary for Yugoslav Communist Party.
The shape of the central monument sculpture here at Andrijevica, whose defining feature is six white 22m tall marble pinnacles, was designed by its creator, Vojislav Vujisić, for each one of the six pinnacles to represent one of the six socialist republics of the former common Yugoslav state. Furthermore, all six of these pinnacles arching towards each other to meet in the center symbolized that while each of these six socialist republics are distinct and unique, they were nonetheless bound together and unified into a Yugoslav state. Meanwhile, the eternal flame element at the arching center of all the pinnacle's union is meant to be a symbol of sacrifice for the Yugoslav cause made by the Partisan fighters during WWII, while the continued 'burning' of this flame sculpture signified that this sacrifice made would not be forgotten by the people of Yugoslavia.
Status and Condition:
While there is some damage to the facade of the main spomenik sculptural element here at Knjaževac spomenik park, overall, the condition of the park's collective set of memorials, along with the park's grounds is fairly reasonable. Firstly, the grounds and landscaping of the park itself are well manicured and regularly cleared of any overgrowth or excessive vegetation. Meanwhile, the structure and facade of most of the memorials here are in good condition and are regularly maintained. However, the central 1967 Vujisić spomenik sculpture is in a slightly distressed state, with the marble paneled base being cracked and broken in several places, while the monument itself has a great deal of graffiti covering it. It appears as though this graffiti and damage has existed for quite some time. I was not able to find any information regarding plans to rehabilitate or repair damages to this monument. As far as navigating to the complex, there was minimal roadway signage leading visitors or tourists to this site from the highway, yet, the site did contain multiple multi-language interpretive plaques explaining the historical and cultural significance of this memorial park. In addition, the town of Andrijevica puts considerable effort into promoting the memorial park as a touristic attraction and a point of interest, even to the point where images of the Vujisić spomenik is often the primary symbol used to advertise and draw visitors into the town. Furthermore, the official Montenegro tourist website specifically lists Knjaževac Park as an attraction for the region.
On the whole, the memorial park is very well patronized by locals, passers-by and the school-children whose school is right next door to the monument. Several of the memorials even had honorific wreaths, candles and flowers around them, demonstrating the level to which the local community is commemorating and utilizing the site. Furthermore, large remembrance events and activities are held here at Knjaževac memorial park every year on July 13th, a date which marks Montenegro's Uprising Day (Statehood Day).
Additional Sites in the Andrijevica Area:
In this section we will explore additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites of significance that would be of interest to those studying the heritage, war history and architectural aesthetics of the former Yugoslav region. Here we will examine the Monument to Fallen Fighters in Murino, as well as the Sts. Cyricus & Julitta Temple in Velika.
Monument to Fallen Fighters in Murino:
Roughly 14km SE from Andrijevica along the Lim River is the small village of Murino. Just on the village's northern banks of the river, next to the Lim River Bridge, is situated a monument dedicated to local Partisan fighters from WWII (NOB). The monument, built in the 1970s by Aleksandar Babović & Momo Radunović, consists of a ~25m tall sharp concrete spire, at the foot of which is a polished stone panel engraved with a poetic verse. Yugoslav-era photos of the monument can be seen in Slides 1 & 2, while a contemporary view of the site can be seen in Slide 3. A view of the inscription panel can be seen in Slide 4. On April 30th, 1999, the Lim River Bridge, which can be seen in the background of Slide 1, was destroyed when it was hit with ten missles during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign of Yugoslavia. Six local people (three of whom were children) were on the bridge when it was struck and died in the blast.
Monument to Fallen Fighters in Murino - Slideshow
As this bridge over the Lim River was a key access point for accessing Montenegro mountain roads into Kosovo, NATO more than likely bombed the bridge as a means to prevent any JNA troops from being able to utilize it. It is reported that no emergency alert sounded before the airstrike occurred. A monument commemorating the deaths of those six local people who perished in the 1999 NATO blast was built along the road right below the WWII memorial spire (Slide 5), just 50m away from the rebuilt Lim River Bridge. Regular commemorative events are still held at both monument sites (though the primary focus is on the 1999 memorial). The exact coordinates for this memorial site in Murino are N42°39'46.9", E19°53'10.9".
Sts. Cyricus & Julitta Temple in Velika:
In honor of the hundreds of victims who were killed in Velika on July 28th, 1944 by Nazi SS soldiers, the construction of an small Orthodox temple began in 1994. Exactly 7 years later the church was officially consecrated on the date of July 28th, 2001, a day which marked 57 years since the massacre. The church was given the name Temple of the Holy Martyrs Cyricus & Julitta (Храм Светих мученика Кирика и Јулите) (Photo 10) and is located in the center of the village of Velika where the majority of the executions occurred. The interior walls of the temple are painted with many traditionally styled religious frescoes, one of which depicts a visceral interpretation of the 1944 massacre at Velika. A number of annual religious ceremonies are held at this temple, including a notable yearly gathering on July 28th of each year to commemorate the day of the massacre. The exact coordinates for the temple in Velika are N42°39'53.0", E19°57'19.6".
And Additional Sites of Interest:
Hotel "Plavsko jezero" in Plav: Roughly 26km southeast of Andrijevica is the town of Plav, situated right on the shores of beautiful Plav's Lake. In the 1970s, a massive resort hotel complex was built near the edge of the lake. The hotel was named "Plavsko jezero" and it was created in an ambitious modernist architectural style, making it one of the most conspicuous and distinctive structures in the region. Plav's Lake was a popular vacation and ski destination during the Yugoslav-era, with this resort hotel acting as a significant attraction. However, after the dismantling of Yugoslavia and the conflicts of the Kosovo War, tourism in the town quickly dried up and the hotel became derelict. For some years in the late 1990s the hotel hosted Kosovo refugees. The hulking structure of Hotel "Plavsko jezero" then proceeded to sit abandoned and decaying for 30 years. It was not until 2018 that local efforts began to restore the giant hotel. Projections anticipate it will re-open around 2019 or 2020. A set of photos of the hotel can be seen at THIS Imgur album, while its exact coordinates are N42°35'57.1", E19°56'09.0".
Finding the monument complex at Knjaževac spomenik park in Andrijevica is a relatively easy endeavor. Firstly, from Berane head out of town going south along Highway P2. Follow this down through the Lim River valley for about 14km. Then, right before you enter the village of Andrijevica, the road will stay the same but change names as it is fed into by Highway M9. Continue about 1km further on M9 and you will see a pull off for parking for the Monument Park Knjaževac on the left (see HERE for Google StreetView). From here, the spomenik can be easily walked to. The exact coordinates for parking are N42°44'09.9", E19°47'17.7".
Click to open in Google Maps in new window
Selected Sources and More Information:
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