Name: Monument to the Fallen Krajina Fighters (Споменик палим Крајишницима)
Location: On Banja Brdo (Banj Hill) (aka: Šehitluci Hill) in Banja Luka, RS, BiH
Year completed: 1948 - 1961
Designer: Antun Augustinčić
Coordinates: 44°44'38.6"N 17°09'46.3"E
Dimensions: 13m tall and 24m long
Materials used: Marble blocks from Brač Island
Condition: Fair to poor
The Monument to Fallen Krajina Fighters is a memorial work that honors those of the Bosnian Krajina region who fought, fell and suffered during the People's Liberation Struggle (WWII).
World War II
At the start of the Axis invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in early April of 1941, the city of Banja Luka was heavily bombed by the German Army's Luftwaffe aircraft, which subsequently destroyed significant sections of the city. By April 9th, German Army troops had entered and occupied the city. Banja Luka then proceeded to be integrated into the newly formed country of the Independent Nation of Croatia (NDH), which operated as a puppet-state of Axis powers under the control of a fascist group known as the Ustaše.
Because of its strategic location within the Bosnian Krajina region, the occupying Ustaše and German soldiers went to considerable effort fortifying, consolidating and organizing Banja Luka as a central operational hub. As a result, considerable punitive actions were taken against the local population who were deemed to be enemies of occupational forces, which included Jews, ethnic-Serbs, Roma, anti-fascists, communists and other Axis opponents. Many hundreds of the citizens of Banja Luka who fell into these groups were executed or sent off to concentration camps to be killed. Such extreme actions by Axis occupiers only helped to embolden the city's anti-fascist resistance groups, which were primarily organized by the local Bosnia Krajina regional branch of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ). It was during this meeting, which took in a forest house on Šehitluci Hill on June 8th, 1941, that local KPJ officials made initial plans for Banja Luka's first armed uprisings, with several more KPJ planning meetings occurring here over the subsequent weeks. Finally, on the following 31st of August, Banja Luka's very first armed unit of Partisan fighters was formed.
The Partisan rebel forces started off their resistance efforts with mostly small scale operations such as guerilla attacks and sabotaging Axis supply lines, communications and transit. In response to such actions, Ustaše and German soldiers often carried out retaliatory violence and killings against the local population of Banja Luka and the wider region. One of the most grisly of these retaliatory attacks was on February 7th, 1942, when a reported 2,300 ethnic-Serb civilians (which also included hundreds of women and children) of four villages just north of Banja Luka were executed. It is notable to mention that sources indicate that these killings were committed in just one day and perpetrated not with bullets, but with knives, axes and other such weapons. This operation was planned by the notorious Ustaše commissioner Viktor Gutić, who himself personally planned the mass executions of untold thousands of civilians across the Bosnian Krajina and Srem regions during WWII.
Photo 1: A view of Partisans just after the first occupation of Banja Luka in Sept 1944 [source]
Photo 2: An Allied plane bombing Axis positions in Banja Luka, 1944 [source]
Over the subsequent years in 1943 and 1944, Partisan forces slowly built up their efforts in and around the Banja Luka region, however, because of the strong presence of Ustaše and German military command posts in the city of Banja Luka, taking the city itself would prove to be no easy task for the Partisans. A group of several Partisan brigades waged an attempt to take Banja Luka in December of 1943 in an offensive referred to as the "First Banja Luka Operation", however, it was subsequently repelled. A Second Operation was waged by the Partisans in September of 1944, and while it succeeded in taking much of the city (Photo 1), the Axis troops were able to create a fortified position within Banja Luka's medieval castle. Over the subsequent months, the Partisan's efforts reinforced by Allied aircraft bombings on Axis remaining positions with the city (Photo 2). It was not until April 22nd, 1945 that the 10th Krajina Impact Partisan Division was finally able to completely liberate Banja Luka from Ustaše and German forces. Of the roughly 3,000 people from Banja Luka who took part in the Partisan uprising during WWII, an estimated 1,000 perished.
The Croatian sculptor Antun Augustinčić was already a renowned artist before WWII, often being considered, along with Ivan Meštrović, to be the two greatest sculptors in Croatian history. When WWII came, Augustinčić's artistic skills were initially co-opted by the Ustaše leadership, however, he eventually changed course in 1943 and defected to the Partisan resistance movement. Partisan leader Marshal Josip Broz Tito himself was a great fan of Augustinčić's work, and as a result, even before the war's end, Augustinčić spoke of his hopes to create a monument to the people of the Bosnian Krajina. As the war ended in 1945, Augustinčić quickly transitioned back into a role as an artist, becoming the main professor of sculpture at the University of Zagreb and by 1948 he had already conceived his first conceptual model for a Bosnian Krajina monument (Photo 3). However, it was not until 1953 that Augustinčić was officially awarded the commission to construct the work, when government planning efforts towards constructing the monument finally began in earnest.
Photo 3: The 1948 concept model by Augustinčić for the Bosnian Krajina monument [source]
The location chosen to construct this Bosnian Krajina monument, which would honor the region's WWII fighters and victims, was atop the 430m tall Šehitluci Hill (roughly 5km south of the Banja Luka city center) where the June 1941 uprising planning meetings of the Yugoslav Communist Party meetings occurred. Yet, as the process of formulating a final design for the monument moved forward, Augustinčić worked towards refining his original 1948 concept (Photo 3), which was fashioned like a cave jutting out from the surrounding rock. His final concept was a more streamlined form, which took the rough edges and gave the idea a more stylized and clean shape.
Photo 4: During the monument's construction, 1959 [source]
Construction on the monument complex began as early as 1953, when local volunteer workers started on creating a paved road that could reach the top of the hill. Work on the monument itself began around 1957/58. At the start of the work, the primary material chosen out of which to construct the monument was a beautiful marble from the Croatian island of Brač. The sculpting and carving of the hundreds of stones required for this massive work was done not by Augustinčić, but also by a large professional team which he coordinated which consisted of his personal workshop assistants Vladimir Hrljević and Nesto Orčić, along with Grga Antunac, Velibor Mačukatin and Frano Kršinić. Architectural intervention was provided by Drago Galić. Furthermore, plans were formulated mid-way through construction to have artist Ismet Mujezinović paint a series of frescos within the inner mausoleum of the monument that would celebrate the Partisans uprising and victory. However, before the complex was even completed, water seepage and penetration into the structure revealed itself within the mausoleum. As such, the idea of Mujezinović creating these frescoes was deferred indefinitely. Further pre-completion issues were found early on when it was discovered that the Brač marble, which was procured from a warm climate, weathered and reacted poorly in the cold Banja Luka mountain climate. This materials problem would go on to plague the monument for decades all the way up until present day.
The completed memorial work on Šehitluci Hill (or Banj Hill as it was later called) that was officially titled "Monument to Fallen Krajina Fighters" was officially unveiled to the public on July 27th, 1961, a day that marked the 20th anniversary of the Day of the Uprising of the People of Bosnia & Herzegovina. This event was attended by thousands of people and accompanied by a huge amount of festivities and celebrations (Photo 5). As far as the character of the central element of this monument complex, it consists of a massive 13m tall by 24m long mausoleum complex adorned with a facade of white marble. The complex is such that its dynamic form of contours and tapered edges seems to effortlessly integrate itself in with the shape of the mountain, which would seem to root from Augustinčić's initial design of it having a more roughly hewn cave-like quality. The two broad sides of the monument contain a long series of relief sculptures containing hundreds of figures designed in the style of 'socialist realism' that depict local events from WWII.
Photo 5: A vintage photo of the 1961 monument opening ceremony on Banja Brdo
Meanwhile, the upper northwest front face of the monument contains a tall Greek-like sculpture of a nude male holding a Communist Party flag, while underneath of this figure is a door at the base of the structure. Within this door is the monument's mausoleum, within which was contained the remains of hundreds of fallen Partisan fighters who perished during the war.
Immediately after its completion, the Monument to Fallen Krajina Fighters on Šehitluci Hill (Banja Brdo) became one of the region's most popular and culturally significant attractions, attracting visitors from across Yugoslavia. Anecdotes relate that every family in the country at one point would have taken a photograph atop Šehitluci Hill in front of the monument. While President Josip Broz Tito was unable to attended the monument's inaugural unveiling, he did visit five years later in 1966 to lay a wreath and pay his respects to the site (Photo 6). In commenting on the monument, Tito is quoted making the following remark: "You have chosen a wonderful location for this monument. I think it is the greatest monument in Yugoslavia. When its stone becomes weathered by the climate, it will look even more beautiful." However, while the monument remained popular through the Yugoslav-era, its condition deteriorated progressively through the decades as a result of water infiltration and degradation of the white marble stone by weathering. Consequently, several restoration interventions were made in both the 1970s and 80s.
Photo 6: Tito & crowd at the Šehitluci Hill monument, 1966 [source]
Photo 7: Here we see some sketches by Ismet Mujezinović of his design for the interior crypt fresco of the Banja Lika Monument
Also in the 1980s, efforts were finally made towards attempting to create the series of WWII-themed frescos inside of the monument's mausoleum. However, while Ismet Mujezinović died in 1984, he left behind the conceptual artwork he intended for the frescos (Photo 7), which allowed his son Ismar put forward efforts to realize his father's dream. The frescoes were finally screen printed onto the mausoleum's walls in 1988, however, they quickly degraded and disappeared because of the monument's unresolved water situation. Unfortunately, little photographic evidence exists depicting what these frescoes looked like, but sources relate that it was composed of a scene of 1,000 figures depicting the war in Krajina. One can imagine the scope and style of the scene by looking at Mujezinović's conceptual artwork seen in Photo 7.
Post- Yugoslav-era to Present-Day
During the dismantling of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and the subsequent Bosnian War which took over much of the region, the Monument to the Fallen of the Krajina here in Banja Luka suffered only minimal impact as a result. Yet, in the ensuing years after the end of the war, the monument received less and less regular maintenance while more and more becoming a target of vandals. As a result, water infiltration further decayed the structure and its facade often found itself being scarred with illicit carvings and graffiti. Small efforts were made from time to time by local authorities in Banja Luka to address these problems through the 2000s, but such degradation has continued to persist up until the present day, even despite the work being protected as a monument of great historical significance by the national government.
While the Bosnian Krajina monument here on Banja Brdo sits in a degrading condition, the site still nonetheless plays host to thousands of visitors a year, both local and foreign, not only as a result of the monument, but also because from Banja Brdo can be seen some of the best panoramic views in the region. Furthermore, annual commemorative events are still organized here by local authorities and veterans groups which honor the memory of the fallen fighters and victims interred here. Plans have been discussed for many years by local authorities as far as formulating a more permanent restoration and preservation project which could fix many of the long-standing deterioration issues faced by the Bosnian Krajina monument, however, as of 2020, any definitive work is as of yet unrealized.
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
As far as I have been able to evaluate, there exist no plaques, engraved inscriptions or any other nature of memorial messages here at or around the Banja Brdo monument site. It is unclear whether there were historically such elements in existence here at the site or if they were only removed in recent decades as the result of vandalism, degradation or renovation. However, it is important to mention that a recently installed informational placard does exist here.
Meanwhile, graffiti is a significant issue at this monument site. As seen in Slides 1 & 2, vandals are using various methods in which to deface the facade of this memorial work, both on the primary body of the structure as well as on the sculptural relief panels. While some work has been put forward over the decades to remove and address the graffiti problem around this location, it continues to be an issue. However, it can be said that the issue here is not as extreme or malicious at it is at other memorial sites.
The Monument to the Fallen of the Krajina here at Banja Luka's Šehitluci Hill (Banja Brdo) contains a significant amount of symbolic elements, from its shape to the many relief sculptures adorning this massive work. The following section will examine each facet of the monument's symbolism in detail.
The Monument's Form
Firstly, looking at the overall form of the central monument, sources recount that its author, sculptor Antun Augustinčić, originally intended this distinct form of the work to be a cave jutting out from the top of the mountain, an idea which can clearly be seen in early concept models for this monument. However, he later refined the shape, smoothing out its texture and giving it elegant curves and contours. As it stands in its final form, most sources recount that the monument's overall shape is meant to symbolize a bullet fired from a rifle. The meaning behind such a symbol may be the idea of 'resistance', with a bullet being fired back towards the Axis occupiers and aggressors. Furthermore, the direction this symbolic 'bullet' is pointing is towards the heart of the Bosnian Krajina (specifically Kozara and Grmeč), both of which are places that played central roles in the Partisan's resistance efforts in the Bosnian Krajina during WWII. Therefore, being that Šehitluci Hill is the place from which the region's Yugoslav Communist Party (KPJ) leadership decided to wage a war of resistance against Axis powers, it thus seems natural and intuitive that this action would be symbolized with a "bullet" form.
"The Victor" sculpture
At the tip of this symbolic "bullet" form is poised a sculpture of a young nude male figure holding a Communist Party flag high up into the air. Titled "The Victor" (Pobjednik), this triumphant figure represents the Yugoslav Partisan Army vanquishing the fascist forces of WWII. The bottom of the flagpole which the Victor figure holds is firmly planted in the ground, which operates not only as a symbol that this is the location of the start of the Bosnian Krajina resistance, but also that it was the Communist Party's efforts which facilitated this uprising. The eyes of the figure are cast downwards towards as if it is looking directly at those who visit this site, almost as a way of indicating to the viewer that the freedom they enjoy was provided by to them by The Victor (a symbolic representation of the Partisan Army). Meanwhile, underneath this sculpture is the small unassuming door which is the access point for the mausoleum within the monument. As such, The Victor sculpture acts as the gatekeeper who ushers fallen souls through the portal through which they must pass to reach their final resting place. The waving flag and extended arm thus could be understood as a sort of beacon and calling for those lost souls seeking salvation.
Photo 8: An 18th century drarwing of the Colossus of Rhodes [left], The Victor sculpture at Banja Brdo [right]
Furthermore, thinking about The Victor sculpture as a 'portal' or 'gateway' leads us to the idea that Augustinčić may have modeled this work after the ancient style of Greek sculpture (hence its nudeness and defined features), but specifically, the form of this work may have been inspired by an 18th-century depiction of the ancient Greek statue known as the Colossus of Rhodes (Photo 8), which is arguably the most famous historical character to ever stand atop a gateway. It seems possible that Augustinčić was inspired by this depiction of the Colossus of Rhodes during his design of The Victor sculpture. Similarities between the two are confined not only to the raised arm, defined body features and beacon-like qualities, but also in the way in which the legs in both cases are stretched wide apart directly above the gateway/door over which both stand.
Northeast Relief Wall
On both the southwest and northeast broad sides of this monument are massive +20m long sculptural reliefs depicting artistic scenes of suffering, oppression and uprising which occurred across the Bosnian Krajina during WWII. The first relief we will examine here is the one on the northeast side of the monument.
The northwest relief (Photo 9) is properly read starting from the front portal end of the monument. It begins by depicting a representation of the David and Goliath Biblical story, where David is shown as a bare-chested young man (symbolizing a Partisan fighter) who is standing victoriously over a fallen Goliath (who here is depicted wearing a Nazi military outfit). The idea of using the David and Goliath story as a symbol for the battle of the Partisans against the German Army is an effort to convey the idea that even despite the formidable size and power of the German military, the much smaller and lesser equipped Partisan Army fighters were still able to vanquish them. In the background of the scene is a smoldering town, which represents the destruction of the landscape which came as a result of the war.
Photo 9: A view of the northwest relief wall at the Monument to the Fallen of the Krajina
As the scene moves to the left, we next see a large group of men, women and children who have been driven out of their communities across the Bosnian Krajina by the advancing fascist forces. The women are gathered around a fire with looks of despair on their faces, while the men, armed with rifles, gather in groups to discuss their concern and plans for resistance. As the scene moves to the left further, we see regiments of Partisan resistance fighters have now organized, set up in a formation of four lines. They stand facing their leader Marshal Josip Broz Tito as he makes a speech to them. Moving from here to the next scene, we see battles waging between Partisan fighters and German soldiers. They fight with simple weapons and even to the point of using their bare hands against armed German fighters, which clearly is meant to symbolize the ferocity and spirit with which the Partisans fought. To the left of the battle can be seen a depiction of the brutality which the civilian population suffered under at the hands of the German forces and their collaborators (Ustaše, Chetnik, etc). Not only can we see civilians (including children) hung by their necks from surrounding trees, but we also see civilians having their heads cut off with knives by German soldiers and others, who hold them up like trophies. By virtue of its sheer graphic nature, this may be considered one of (if not the) most grisly and horrific depictions of war seen on any WWII monument from the Yugoslav-era. In the final scene of this relief wall all the way to the left we see a group of miners and workers surrounding Marshal Tito as he gives a speech to them, which would seem to illustrate Tito appealing to the proletariat class for further help in his revolution against fascist forces as the war pushes forward. The visual narrative of this sculptural relief wall continues on the southeast side of this monument.
Southwest Relief Wall
A view of the southeast sculptural relief wall can be seen in Photo 10. The visual narrative of the depicted scenes here is properly read from the front of the monument and proceed towards its rear (from left to right). The southeast relief begins by showing a David and Goliath scene almost exactly the same as that which appears on the northeast relief wall. This repetition and prominence of the position of this motif is clearly done as a means of emphasizing the importance of the concept that the Yugoslav Partisans achieved victory in the face of all odds and that even though they were faced with a formidable enemy, success was achieved nonetheless. This idea of "an unlikely victory against a greater power" (as a means of signifying the righteousness of Yugoslavia's will and its revolution) would operate as a primary mythological tenant in the post-WWII narrative of the country.
Photo 10: A view of the southeast relief wall at the Monument to the Fallen of the Krajina
To the right of the 'David and Goliath' depiction, the scene continues by showing a group of eight civilians escaping the oppression of fascist forces by fleeing through a dense forest. The figures appear cold, weary and sick, with one looking up mournfully into the sky. Hunger and sickness were the most significant killers of civilians in Yugoslavia, which took more lives in the Yugoslav region than oppressive Axis fighters did. Further civilian suffering endured across the Bosnian Krajina landscape is visible in the next scene to the right, which shows a woman clutching her dead child as she sits helplessly in the ruins of her burnt home. Then, as the scene progresses to the right, we see the final battle. In this dramatic fray of clashing bodies, Nazi troops are falling back under the charge of Partisan fighters (which conspicuously places a female Partisan fighter front and center). Furthermore, the wounded fighters are shown being carried away from the battle, an inclusion that is clearly meant to convey the idea that the Partisans were a compassionate group that respected humanitarian needs. As the scene moves on further to the right, the end of the war has come and Partisan fighters can be seen coming home to their villages, where children dance, music is being played and mothers are there to greet their returning sons and daughters. In the final scene all the way to the right of the relief, civilians can be seen casting their ballots, symbolizing Yugoslavia's first free elections after the war.
Photo 11: A Soviet monument in the style of Socialist Realism, Minsk, Belarus [source]
Socialist Realism Style
It is important to note that the sculptural reliefs and friezes of the Monument to the Fallen of Krajina are crafted in Soviet pioneered Socialist Realist artistic style, which was an approach to memorial making widely employed in Yugoslavia up until the country broke off relations with the USSR in 1948. In the years after that, the style gradually went out of fashion. The style of Socialist Realism was primarily concerned with using highly regulated idealized and romantic figurative depictions (generally of the working class) as a means of communicating socialist narratives and principles (Photo 11). It was only around the time which this monument was built here at Banja Brdo that sculptors, artists and architects in Yugoslavia were just beginning to experiment with the idea of employing abstract forms and modernist artistic approaches as a means of commemorating events of WWII, from which point on it gradually became the dominant artistic style for memorial art and architecture. The monument here at Banja Brdo was among the very last major memorial projects to be created in the style of Socialist Realism in Yugoslavia.
Status and Condition:
When evaluating the current state of the Monument to the Fallen of the Krajina on Šehitluci Hill (Banja Brdo) near Banja Luka, some parts of the complex are in a fair condition, while other parts are in a very poor condition. Overall, the complex is in desperate need of critical repairs to its facade and its structure, while long-standing water and drainage issues are still yet to be permanently resolved. Large chunks of white marble can be seen broken off on numerous sections of the monument's facade as the result of freeze-thaw damage, while other sections of the sculptural relief are severely damaged as a result of vandalism (Photo 12). Furthermore, some marble panels on the top of the monument have been removed altogether, while the structure's attachment to the hillside appears extremely compromised. Meanwhile, reports indicate the huge fresco by Mujezinović inside the mausoleum, which has been inaccessible for many years, is almost completely destroyed by water infiltration. While there have been some efforts put forward during recent decades to address some of these issues during the post-Yugoslav era, each of them persists up until the present day. I was not able to find any recent news article discussing any nature of proposals by local authorities to repair or rehabilitate this monument.
Photo 12: Recent photos showing sections of the sculptural relief destroyed by vandals
Photo 13: An informational placard located on Banja Brdo
However, while the condition of the monument is poor in many respects, the site continues to be a significant attraction, both for the local community and for visiting tourists. In fact, this Banja Brdo monument can easily be considered among, if not the, most popular attraction in the Banja Luka area, with the Banja Luka Tourist Board even promoting the monument on their official website. Reports indicate that tens of thousands of people visit Banja Brdo and the monument here each year. This area can be found particularly crowded and bustling on beautiful summer days, which attracts people not only for the history of the monument and the beauty of the surroundings, but also for exercise and for taking in clean mountain air. The access road up the mountain was closed in 2015 for pedestrian use only, though a special shuttle bus from the Banja Luka city center to the top of the mountain has recently been opened. The grounds and vegetation of the complex are generally kept in good order. In addition, there exists a contemporary interpretive and informational placard situated along the approach to the monument, which conveys information in both English and the local language (Photo 13).
This monument site continues to host annual commemorative and remembrance events which are organized by government authorities and veterans groups from Banja Luka (Photo 14). These events often attract many hundreds of people from the local community. The most significant of these memorial ceremonies occur annually on July 27th, a day that is celebrated as the Bosnian Day of Uprising Against Fascism. In addition, this monument site sometimes operates as a site of political protests, such as in 2015 when an unknown group draped the front facade of the monument in a white banner on which was a message asserting that the anti-fascist heritage of the site was being forgotten. Meanwhile, the monument has experienced recent incidences of aggressive vandals causing serious harm to the site, such as a 2019 incident where a group of local youth started a series of fires in front of the monument's mausoleum. Despite such instances, this monument site is completely safe to visit.
Photo 14: A 2019 memorial event [source]
Additional Sites in the Banja Luka Area:
This section explores additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites in and around the greater Banja Luka region that might be of relevance to those interested in the monumental, architectural or cultural heritage of the former Yugoslavia. The sites examined in this section will be the Partisan Memorial Graveyard as well as the Boska Department Store.
Partisan Memorial Cemetery at Pobrđe:
Situated on the western edge of the city of Banja Luka in the area of Pobrđe is the municipal graveyard complex known as the New Cemetery. On the south side of this graveyard is the Partisan Memorial Cemetery (Photo 15), which houses the remains of local fighters who perished during WWII. Created in 1963, the central element of this memorial site is an 11-12m tall triple white concrete obelisk sitting at the center of a small paved courtyard at the top of a series of stairs. Meanwhile, at the entrance to this cemetery complex, which is ~70m to the east, there is a low concrete wall upon which is attached a black metal relief sculpture depicting Partisan fighters, along with pitchfork-wielding peasants, charging forward holding a large flag. Around the grassy open areas of this cemetery are dozens of small roughly hewn stones which are set into the ground. Each of these stones have nameplates attached to them which relate the names of fallen Partisan fighters.
Photo 15: View of the Partisan Memorial Cemetery at Banja Luka
The current condition of the Partisan Cemetery complex is poor. Numerous news reports from recent years have recounted what a neglected state the cemetery has fallen into, with the vegetation commonly found overgrown and many parts of the complex deteriorating and decaying. Though, these same articles also relate that there have been promises from local authorities that the site will be rehabilitated in the near future, but as of 2020, such work remains to be seen. However, local community clean-up groups have worked to help maintain and clean up the site and prevent its further degradation. The exact coordinates for this cemetery complex are N44°46'03.6", E17°10'18.9".
Boska Department Store in Banja Luka:
A significant number of massive department store projects were created in Bosnia during the Yugoslav-era (such as those at Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zenica, etc), which not only served as major commercial hubs, but also operated as symbolic testaments to the industrial and technological innovation of these cities. Of all of these major projects, the only one that has continued to remain in business until present-day is the "Boska" Department Store in Banja Luka (Slides 1 & 2). The Boska complex was constructed upon the ruins of a massive now-demolished residential building known as the 'Titanik' (Slide 3) which was at the epicenter of the massive earthquake which struck this city on October 27th, 1969. When the building was cleared, a decision was made to create a new city square masterplan, as Banja Luka prior to the earthquake did not have a significant central square. At the center of this plan would be a modernist commercial building.
Slideshow - Boska Department Store in Banja Luka
When this new complex was unveiled on December 5th, 1978 it was among the largest department stores in Yugoslavia, with 5 levels, 500 employees and over 11,000 sq m of retail space. Its huge scale and bevy of offerings made it an instant landmark for the city of Banja Luka, which resulted in the city's residents developing a deep connection to the structure. Designed by famous Croatian architect Velimir Neidhardt (along with assistance from Ljerka Lulić and Jasna Nosso), the structure's stark yet imposing modernist facade is characterized by smooth concrete paneled walls which bump out with each additional level, with a mansard-like brown metal roof framing the complex (which today has acquired a green patina). A bright orange awning surrounding the ground gave the building a splash of color. During the Bosnian War, the Boska Department Store was spared much of the destruction and damage that other similar grand commercial structures around the country endured. In both 2009 and 2018, the complex underwent significant restoration efforts, which repaired many deteriorating components of the structure. It continues to operate to present day and exists as a monument to Yugoslav-era commercial architecture in Bosnia. A recent photo of the location can be seen in Slide 4. Lastly, it is notable to mention that a small monument is situated in front of the complex dedicated to the 1969 earthquake (Slide 5), which consists of a clock stopped on the time the tragedy occurred. The exact coordinates for the "Boska" Department Store are N44°46'11.2", E17°11'22.1".
And Additional Sites of Interest:
Museum of the Republic of Srpska: Just 75m east of the above mentioned "Boska" Department Store is what today is called the "Museum of the Republic of Srpska". The building that this museum is currently housed inside was originally called the "Worker's Solidarity House" (Dom radničke solidarnosti) (Photo 16) and was built in the early 1970s as part of the same city center post-earthquake redevelopment masterplan as the department store, giving them both a similar appearance. In 1980, what was then called the "Bosnian Krajina Museum" moved from the Banja Luka castle into the Worker's Solidarity House. After the 1990s Bosnian War, the museum name was given its current name. Currently, along with the museum, the building also houses a youth center, a library and a children's theatre. The museum contains thousands of exhibits on the history of the region. Its exact coordinates of the Museum of the Republic of Srpska are N44°46'09.4", E17°11'30.7", while the museum's official website can be found at THIS link.
Photo 16: The Worker's Solidarity House
Cathedral of Saint Bonaventure: Situated just northeast about 700m from the "Boska" Department Store in Banja Luka is located the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Bonaventure (Катедрала Светог Бонавентуре), standing as one of only four Roman Catholic cathedrals in Bosnia (Photo 17). This hyper-modernist cathedral, almost futuristic in its ambitious styling, was unveiled in 1973 and designed by Zagreb architect Ljubo Matasović. The construction of religious buildings during the Yugoslav-era was a rare occurrence (as a result of it being a communist secular nation), but in this instance, the original cathedral, which was built on this site in the 1850s, was destroyed as a result of the 1969 Banja Luka earthquake. As such, the Yugoslav government permitted its reconstruction. Its unique form is meant to symbolize a tent, which in this case can be translated two ways. In the local language, the expression used for being in the presence of God is 'šatorom Božjim' or literally 'Tent of God' in English. In addition, after the 1969 earthquake, many residents of Banja Luka were forced to live in tents as a result of their homes being destroyed. On the interior of the church, its stain glass was created by Croatian painter Ivo Dulčić, while mosaics were created by Prijedor artist Rudi Slačal. In 1991, a matching modernist bell tower reaching 42m tall was built next to the church that was designed by Slovene architect Danilo Furst. This concrete tower has a characteristic spiral staircase that snakes up to its five bells. The exact coordinates for the Cathedral of Saint Bonaventure are N44°46'30.0", E17°11'41.2".
Photo 17: The Cathedral of Saint Bonaventure
The Old Military House: Located across the street from the Cathedral of St. Bonaventure is what was originally the JNA Military House (Dom Vojske), but today exists as the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska. Built in 1973 by Banja Luka architect Kasim Osmančević, the large complex is modernist in its design, with its facade dominates by a pattern of thick vertical lines of polished marble between thin slits of windows. However, the most striking feature of the facade is a large bronze relief sculpture depicting an eagle on its southeast facing side (Photo 18). This bold sculpture dominates the building and very much communicates the original military nature of its founding. Depicted within the panels of the relief are warrior figures and other scenes of battle. The sculpture was created during the building's construction by Dubrovnik sculptor Marijan Kocković. In 2019, work began restoring this sculpture and was completed the subsequent year in 2020. The exact coordinates for the Military House are N44°46'31.2", E17°11'37.7".
Photo 18: A view of the relief sculpture on the side of the old Military House in Banja Luka. [source]
Reaching the Monument to Fallen Krajina Fighters on Banja Brdo is a relatively easy endeavor. Firstly, from the city center of Banja Luka, head directly south out of the city center and cross over the Vrbas River. Head west along the river until you reach Koste Vojnovica Street, which is the first left after you pass by the Harem of the Stupnik Mosque cemetery. After about 70m you will take a sharp left onto Banja Luka Detachment Road (Put banjalučkog odreda). Follow this up the hill about 500m, at which point you will come to a large parking lot. This parking lot is the starting point for the pedestrian trail which goes up to the top of Banja Brdo where the monument is located. The trail is paved and the distance to the top is roughly 2.8km (about a 45 minute walk). The coordinates for the parking lot are N44°45'04.5", E17°10'33.8".
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