Name: Memorial to the Fallen of the Lješanska Nahija Region (споменик погинулим љешњанима)
Location: Barutana, Montenegro
Year completed: 1980 (5 years to build)
Designer: Svetlana Kana Radević [profile page]
Coordinates: N42°23'38.3", E19°08'30.3" (click for map)
Dimensions: ~12m tall tower
Materials used: Poured concrete and rebar
Condition: Fair, neglected
This monument at the spomenik complex in Barutana, Montenegro commemorates the many soldiers and civilians from the Lješanska Nahija region who perished during the three major wars of this region during the 20th century.
The First Balkan War
The first major war of the 20th century to impact the Barutana region of Montenegro was the First Balkan War of 1912. While Montenegro was officially recognized as an independent state from the Ottoman Empire in 1878 by the Treaty of Berlin, it and a few of its surrounding neighbors, Serbia and Bulgaria, wished to expand their territories into land still held by the Ottomans. Montenegro desperately wanted to expand their territory into the Sandžak, a region which was controlled by the Ottomans between their country and Serbia (Figure 1). Together, Montenegro, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria formed what was called the 'Balkan League', which was a military alliance meant to drive the Ottomans out of the region. Montenegro was the first to declare war against the Ottomans on October 8th, 1912, with the majority of their military force focused on the Ottoman strongholds of Shkodra (Shkodër) and Novi Pazar. Montenegrin forces waged a brutal siege on Shkodra, which ultimately resulted in an Ottoman surrender of the city on April 23rd, 1913, as its forces were reaching the point of starvation. By the spring of 1913, the Balkan League fully succeeded in their aim of driving the Ottomans out of continental Europe completely, with the Treaty of London ending the war officially in May of 1913, which effectively brought an end to 500 years of Ottoman presence in Europe. Through this Treaty, Montenegro greatly expanded its territory when it was granted half of the Sandžak region. Roughly 150 people from the Barutana region perished in the fighting against the Ottomans during the First Balkan War.
Figure 1: A map of the Montenegro region in 1912 before the 1st Balkan War
Figure 2: A map of the Zeta Banovina province in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1918
World War I
The very next year, Montenegro inserted itself into World War I as it came to the defense of its ally Serbia. After the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914 by Serbian Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip, Austria-Hungary and the other Central Powers attempted to blame Serbia for this killing. As a result, Serbia declared war on Austria-Hungary, with Montenegro following suit soon thereafter. Soon after this declaration, Montenegrin forces attacked Austro-Hungarian forces at the port city of Kotor. With the assistance from French Army units, a base as set up on Mount Lovćen, near Kotor, to launch attacks. However, with increasing pressure from the superior firepower of Austro-Hungarian battleships, prospects appeared dim for Montengrin fighters. Meanwhile, by the end of 1915, Austro-Hungarian invasion forces conquered Serbia, pushing Serbian troops into Montenegro. To support the Serbian troops retreat towards the sanctuary of the island of Corfu, Montenegrins engaged the pursuing Austro-Hungarians at Mojkovac in January 1916. The tactic was successful in buying the Serbians time to retreat, after which point many of the defeated Montenegrin troops at both Mojkovac and Mount Lovćen joined the Serbians at Corfu. By the end of January 1916, the Austro-Hungarians had completely conquered Montenegro. Hundreds of fighters from the Baratana region fell in the process of fighting Central Powers. However, the Allies defeated Austria-Hungary in November of 1918, after which point Montenegro's territory was integrated into the newly formed 'Kingdom of Yugoslavia'. However, Montenegro's sovereignty and old borders were dissolved, with its former territory becoming part of a province in this new kingdom called 'Zeta Banovina' (Figure 2).
World War II
The final conflict being commemorated by this spomenik complex in Barutana is the National Liberation War, also known as the People's Liberation Struggle or World War II. The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was invaded by Axis powers in April of 1941. On April 16th, Italians entered and occupied the Zeta Banovina region, at which point the Kingdom of Montenegro was re-established as a vassal state under the control of an Italian regent (Figure 3). Then, starting on July 14th of 1941, a popular uprising by Montenegrins affiliated with multiple resistance groups began to rebel against Italian occupation and within three weeks, they had re-taken nearly the entire country. However, within six weeks Italy's Mussolini retaliated, sending a force of nearly 90,000 troops from the Mentasti's XIV Corps to put down this uprising. The Itialian response to the uprisings were brutal, resulting in the deaths of thousands of fighters and civilians as rebel groups were driven out of the region, while town and villages across the country were burned to the ground. However, after Italians had surrendered to the Allies in the Armistice of Cassibile in September of 1943, anti-fascist resistance forces began to make headway at liberating the region. Germans quickly replaced the Italians as occupiers by the beginning of 1944, however, these reinforcements were not sufficient, resulting in all Axis forces retreating from Montenegro in December of 1944. Several hundred citizens of the Barutana region perished during the course of the war. After the war in 1945, Montenegro was established as one of the six republics within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Figure 3: Map of Zeta Banovina province in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, 1918
Photo 1: Concept by Slobodan Boba Slovinić
Thirty years after the end of WWII in early 1975, local veteran and communist party groups (along with support from the Yugoslav government), planned for the creation of an expansive spomenik complex in Barutana to commemorate the region's soldiers & civilians of the Lješanska Nahija region who perished during the many conflicts of the early 20th century. When a design competition was opened in the fall of 1975, Montenegrin architect Svetlana Kana Radević [profile page] wished to apply, but at that point, she was on a multi-year architectural study trip in the United States. Not deterred by the distance, she created an entire schematic and model of her monument concept and mailed it overseas to the monument committee in Montenegro. However, her entry seemed to have gotten lost in the mail in transit for a time. During that confusion, the selection jury of the monument committee was leaning towards favoring the concept proposed by another Montenegrin architect, Slobodan Boba Slovinić (Photo 1). Yet, in the end, Radević's work was finally found and submitted to the jury, at which point it was chosen as their favorite. The choice of Radević by the jury was notable as she was well known at the time for being Montenegro's first female architect.
The complex was officially opened to the public in July of 1980, exactly 26 years after the Partisan liberation of the Barutana region. The central element of the spomenik complex is a 12m tall assembly of thin concrete pillars which together form a tower. A large amphitheatre was built adjacent to the tower for educational and political presentations. The complex was fully wired with electricity and lighting for use of the amphitheatre in nighttime events. Meanwhile, along the stone-paved pathway to the tower, there are three circular alcoves with smaller memorial elements each dedicated specifically to victims of the First Balkan War, WWI and WWII. During the Yugoslav era, the complex was regularly maintained and serviced by children from Barutana's local school.
In contemporary times since the fall of Yugoslavia, the Baturana monument complex has been largely neglected and marginalized by the people of the nearby city of Podgorica. Little official activity occurs here and I found no reports or articles referencing any remembrance or ceremonial events being held here in recent years. While some unknown groups do take the occasional time to manage the encroaching vegetation and overgrowth (which helps prevent it from falling into complete decay), evidence that this site is used on any consistent basis is scant. The primary memorial elements of the site are in a reasonable state of repair, but a lack of proper conservation over the years has left the complex weathered and in need of restoration. I have seen reports and heard stories that over the years the site has been utilized for various performances and events, but such engagements are rare. One notable and unorthodox event the complex was used for was a techno music festival in the summer of 2019, which was put on by the online Podgorica radio station named "Radio Zuznar" (Photo 2). The organizers of the festival asserted that a portion of the proceeds of the event would go towards the restoration of the complex.
Photo 2: A view of the 2019 Radio Zunzar music festival at Barutana [source]
Furthermore, as the popularity of the abstract memorial heritage of the former Yugoslavia began to increase more and more during the 2019s, the Barutana monument, after years of marginalization and being largely unknown outside the region, increasingly became a cultural work which began to inspire artists, designers, photographers and other creative individuals around the world, as well as across the former Yugoslav region as well. As a result, the Barutana monument, as well as its creator Svetlana Kana Radević, have been receiving ever-growing amounts of attention and focus in recent years. For instance, the work of Radević was highlighted at the 2018 exhibition on Yugoslav architecture at the MoMA in New York City, while a 2020 article in the London-based magazine Architectural Review explored the work of Radević, in addition to the Barutana monument.
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
A number of engravings and inscriptions exist at this memorial site here at Barutana. When you walk through the entrance to this spomenik, there is an engraved white marble slab installed into the cobble-stone retaining wall (Slides 1 & 2). It reads, roughly translated from Montenegrin to English, as:
"Monument to the fallen of the Lješanska Nahija region who died in the fight for freedom."
Then, directly across the entrance pathway from this engraved stone slab, there is another smaller polished black marble engraved stone slab installed into the lower corner of the retaining wall (Slide 3). It reads, roughly translated from Montenegrin to English, as:
The author of this project:
Svetlana Kana Radević
As you walk up the pathway towards the main monument tower element, there are three memorial elements in recessed alcoves off to the side of the path (Slide 4). Each of these alcoves is made up of concrete blocks forming a circle with a collection of thin pointed concrete pillars of varying height at the center of the circle. At the front of each of these three small circle memorials, a white marble engraved stone slab is attached (Slides 5 - 7). Each slab relates the war in which each of these smaller memorials commemorate. As you walk up the pathway towards the top, the plaques on each of the three smaller memorials read in the following order, translated from Montenegrin to English:
The Balkan Wars
World War I
World War II
Then, around the circular perimeter of each of these smaller memorials elements are engraved stone panel sections which bear the names of people from the Lješanska Nahija region who perished in each of those three wars. An example of one of these engraved sections can be seen in Slide 8.
The monument complex here at Barutana, created by architect Svetlana Kana Radević, is replete with symbolism and hidden meaning in its many features and elements. Firstly, looking upon the central sculptural element at the front of the monument's amphitheatre, one's first impression is of two arms extended upwards into the sky with hands cupped in the air holding or perhaps offering something up to the heavens. Maybe this thing, this celestial offering, are the souls of those fallen Montenegrin fighters this memorial honors being guided upwards by the hands of the people of Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, another interpretation of the central sculpture is that it is a burning torch symbolizing the struggle and fight for Yugoslav freedom. At the very least, the space radiates a very exalted atmosphere, with an almost church-like feel, with the central monument acting almost as if it is some nature of divine conduit to the heavens.
Photo 3: Aerial view of the Barutana complex, showing its ascending layout (Photo: Matthias Forcher)
In fact, the entire layout of the memorial complex dwells upon the theme of a journey upwards through time and space. You begin at the bottom of the hill, ascending the path towards the hill's summit while visiting smaller memorial stations along the way which tell of the region's past battles and victories (Photo 3). Each of these stations is punctuated with a small 'flower-like' concrete sculpture. As you climb higher, each station speaks of a time closer and closer to the present. Then, once at the hill's summit, you find yourself situated in a large open courtyard of the 'present' (or what was then the 'present' in 1980), which surrounds you with a sense of universal spiritualism and those optimistic socialist Yugoslav notions of 'togetherness' and 'possibility'. In my view, symbolic political glorification via shared struggle seems to be the intent of this memorial park... to physically walk the visitor along the steps of Montenegro's quests for freedom through time. And through this quest, the visitor arrives at the apex of the journey, their 'realized victory' waiting for them after having overcome those adversaries, in other words, their 'bright socialist present', as the Communist Party of the time may have hoped to be communicated. When speaking of her symbolic design philosophy when approaching the challenge of creating a monument, sources quote Radević as making the following remarks:
Status and Condition:
From evaluating the overall structure and state of this spomenik complex at Barutana, I would roughly determine that its status is fair, but nonetheless, there are many degraded and deteriorating elements all across the site. The concrete facade of the central tower monument is in fairly reasonable shape, however, some cracks are visible while evidence of many half-hearted and poorly executed repair attempts can readily be observed. In addition, years of staining and discoloration can be found across all the memorial elements of this site, including its ampitheatre and the three smaller war memorials. Meanwhile, the stone-paved pathways and stairs leading up to the top of the complex are extremely degraded and are chipping and falling apart. In the amphitheatre area, vegetation can be seen overgrowing between the concrete seats.
Historically, groups of students from the local school maintained and serviced the memorial, however, as the population of the village of Barutana has plummeted in the post-Yugoslav era, so has local interaction and maintenance of the site. To what extent this complex is still used to hold veteran remembrance ceremonies is not clear, as I have found no honorific wreaths, candles or flowers during any of my visits here, while I found no documentation or reports such activities were still conducted, but my guess would be the site is still used in a commemorative capacity to some degree. Meanwhile, in June of 2020, a group sponsored by the Montenegro Center of Conservation & Archeology worked on a restoration and rehabilitation project at the monument (Photo 4) where its elements were cleaned and repaired, while lighting around the site was installed.
Photo 4: A group restoring the monument in 2020
Photo 5: A 2020 guide to Mont. WWII monuments
Upon my most recent visit to the site, I found no directional signs leading visitors from the main highway towards the site, nor did I see any signs in the area promoting the complex. Meanwhile, the site itself contained no appreciable interpretive signs or informational placards which might reveal more history or context about this memorial or its cultural significance. In the years after the Yugoslav-era, very little effort was put forward by local tourism agencies in promoting the site as a point of interest or local attraction. However, since the late 2010s, efforts towards promotion have increased considerably, with the group "Discover Montenegro" putting out a promotional video on YouTube about the Barutana monument in 2019, while the Tourism Ministry of Montenegro in 2020 released a cultural route tourism book on the region's WWII monuments (Photo 5) which not only includes information about the Barutana monument, but the book also prominently features an image of the monument on its front cover. Finally, while the monument has been nominated several times to receive special state protection as an immovable cultural property, such nominations have not yet led to any official protective status for the site and to this day the site still is not yet officially protected.
Additional Sites in the Barutana Area:
This section will explore additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites in and around the greater Barutana area that might be of interest to those learning about Yugoslav monuments. Here we will examine the Monument to Fallen Fighters which is in the nearby river town of Rijeka Crnojevića (REE-yeh-kah TSER-no-yeh-vee-chah), as well as Hotel Podgorica in the nearby capital city of Podgorica.
Monument at Rijeka Crnojevića:
Roughly 14km west of Barutana on the narrow banks of the Crnojević River you will find the small town of Rijeka Crnojevića. One of the town's most prominent features is a memorial complex that is visible just as you are entering the town limits from the east (Slides 1 - 3). This memorial, which is called "Monument to Fallen Fighters and Victims of Fascism" or "Monument to the Revolution", is characterized by a ~13m tall split concrete spire to either side of which are a series of 27 concrete blocks (Slide 4) bearing the engraved names of fighters from the region's various 20th century conflicts, such as the Balkan Wars, WWI and WWII. In addition, next to the split spire is a ~8m wide bronze sculptural relief panel which depicts ten figures, both fighters and civilians, rising up against oppression (Slide 5). This work, completed in 1973, was created by local Danilovgrad-born artist Drago Đurović, who created many memorial works across Montenegro.
Photo 6: The view from Pavlova Strana overlook on the way to Rijeka Crnojevića
Monument at Rijeka Crnojevića - Slideshow
Also seen in Slide 5 above the large bronze sculptural relief panel (attached to its concrete frame) is a gold colored raised-letter inscription. This inscription reads as, when translated into English:
"Fallen in the struggle for freedom and socialism, [from the areas of] Ceklin, Bokovo, Dobrska Župa and Zagora - 1919 - 1945."
The complex exists in relatively good condition, with little degradation or decay visible on any elements of the structure. However, I was not able to find any information on whether commemorative events are still held here.
The exact coordinates for the site are N42°21'20.4", E19°01'40.3". A historical image of this monument can be seen in Slide 6. Also, when driving to Rijeka Crnojevića from the direction of Barutana, make sure to stop at the Pavlova Strava overlook, which offers a glimpse of one of the most beautiful views in all of Montenegro (Photo 6). Be careful on this road though, as it is very narrow and dangerous. An additional point of interest in Rijeka Crnojevića is Danilo's Bridge, a stone block river crossing built in 1853, which is the most significant historical landmark in the Cetinje municipality.
Anyone interested in checking out additional nearby architectural work by Svetlana Kana Radević [profile page], creator of the Barutana monument, ought to check out Hotel Podgorica, just 12km northeast from here in the capital city of Podgorica. Situated on the western banks of the Morača River, this vast hotel complex was unveiled in 1967. The hotel is one of the early examples of "critical regionalism" in Yugoslav modernist architecture, which is a movement which emphasized the idea that buildings should pay homage to the local landscape and traditions rather than working against them. In that respect, the structure not only fits itself into steep cliffs of the river valley (instead of trying to transform it), but the hotel's facade itself is adorned with river-rock taken directly from the Morača River. This was one of the earliest works of Yugoslav modernism in the region that attempted to be understood as being uniquely "Montenegrin" in its nature and design.
Hotel Podgorica - Slideshow
Among the most notable elements of the hotel are three levels of sharp angular bare-concrete balconies, which some would describe as being almost 'brutalist' in their styling. These balconies are stacked in a slightly slanted orientation as they dramatically overlook the Morača River valley, with each horizontal section of six balconies intersected by large walls of riverstone. These balconies, set back just a few meters from the river's steep rocky cliffs, almost appear as an upwards continuation of those rocky outcrops themselves. Contemporary images of Hotel Podgorica can be seen in Slides 1 & 2, while historical images can be seen in Slides 3 - 5.
While the hotel continues to be fully operational, the hotel's interior underwent an extensive renovation during the early 2000s, which resulted in the removal and redesign much of the interior's original Yugoslav-era furniture, design features and aesthetics. The hotel's official website can be found at THIS link, while its exact coordinates are N42°26'20.7", E19°15'24.7".
And Additional Sites of Interest:
Podgorica Bus Terminal: For those even further intrigued by the work of Svetlana Kana Radević [profile page], an additional fascinating work of hers to explore in Podgorica is the city's central Bus Terminal. Built in 1968, the design of this swooping concrete and glass structure, with its dominantly flaring ornamental canopy panels, was no doubt a nod to Le Corbusier’s "Palace of Assembly" in Chandigarh, India. The station mirrors Hotel Podgorica in that it is also made of raw concrete and river stones, and, just as with the hotel, this building greatly helped contribute to building the city's visual identity during the Yugoslav-era. An additional unusual feature of the complex that is quite fascinating are the two glass pyamids on the east-side of the building, which serve as the public restroom entrance. A photo of the terminal can be seen at THIS link, while its exact coordinates are N42°25'56.9", E19°16'06.2".
Getting to the memorial site here at Barutana is a relatively easy endeavor. Firstly, from the city center of Podgorica, take Cetinjski Put road out of town heading southwest. This road turns into Highway M2.3 heading towards the Adriatic. Follow this highway roughly 12km you will see a big yellow sign pointing to an upcoming left towards Barutana (see HERE for Google StreetView). Turn left here, bearing to the right after you make the turn, and follow this road west for about 400m. This road may be bumpy and quite rough, so take caution. You will see the spomenik complex on the left, where there is a large gravel lot in which parking can be made. The exact coordinates for parking are N42°23'40.1", E19°08'28.7".
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Photo 7: Photo from the 1980s of the Barutana site
Photo 8: Photo from the 1980s of the Barutana site
Selected Sources and More Information:
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