Name: Monument to the Fallen Fighters of the National Liberation War (Spomenik padlim borcem v NOB)
Location: Bravsko, FBiH, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Year completed: 1972
Designer: Mirko Radulović & Nebojša Loatinović
Coordinates: N44°32'56.4", E16°34'54.5" (click for map)
Dimensions: ~7m tall monument
Materials used: Poured concrete and rebar
Condition: Poor, neglected
This monument at the spomenik complex in Bravsko, Bosnia commemorates the fallen soldiers of the Bravsko Company (Bravska četa) and civilians from the surrounding region who perished during the National Liberation War (WWII).
World War II
With the invasion and occupation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in April of 1941 by Axis forces, the modern day lands of Croatia and Bosnia were reorganized into a new territory called the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), which included the Bosanska Krajina region where Bravsko is located. The NDH, which was an puppet-state under Axis control and influence, was under the military administration of the nationalist Ustaše militia, who waged a brutal campaign of violence and terror across all the land it controlled. Racial laws were immediately instituted which heavily oppressed ethnic-Serb, Roma and Jewish populations. Inspired by the open calls of the Yugoslav Partisan communist resistance to rebel against the Axis occupiers, many citizens from across the Bravsko region began to make their own plans for an uprising, as they gathered weapons and conducted secret meetings. However, the final straw came on July 28th, 1941, when Ustaše soldiers executed 60 peasants and railway workers at the nearby village of Klenovac. After this point, all resistance fighters of the Bravsko region banned together and initiated an armed rebellion against the Ustaše forces, forming a Partisan aligned fighting unit called 'Bravsko Company' (Bravska četa), under the command of Gliša Raca. By the end of 1941, the Bravsko Company numbered well over 100 armed fighters and by this point had already carried out numerous offensives and sabotage efforts against the Ustaše and other Axis units.
Local Ustaše regiments became increasingly agitated by the constant attacks by the Bravsko Company, so, on January 6th, 1942, the Ustaše waged a surprise offensive at their camp in Bravsko. However, the Company was tipped-off about the incoming attack, so, they laid a guerilla trap of their own against the Ustaše, which ended up turning the tables and reportedly defeated the entire Ustaše unit. Similar guerilla attacks were also successful against Italian efforts to take out Bravsko Company on Feburary 28th, 1942, near the village of Majkić. Into the summer of 1942, the Company fought continuously in repelling Ustaše offesnives, as was the case in Prijedor and Sanski Most (Photo 1), while also working towards liberating towns and territories across the region of western Bosnia, such as Ključ, Krasulje, Vrhpolje and Sanica. As a result of their combat successes, the Bravsko Company, along with several other Partisan units and battalions, were reformed into the 3rd Krajina Partisan Brigade on August 22nd, 1942 at the village of Kamenica, near Drvar. The brigade consisted of roughly 1,000 fighters organized into four battalions.
Photo 1: Partisan soldiers posing for photo in Sanski Most, 1942
Photo 2: Josip Tito evaluating members of the 3rd Krajina Brigade in Bihać, 1942
In November of 1942, members of the 3rd Krajina Brigade took part in the liberation of Bihać, which led to creation of the "Bihać Republic" (Photo 2), a zone comprised of areas liberated through Partisan efforts against Axis forces, which included the town of Bravsko. However, the territory of the Bihać Republic was retaken by German troops on January 29th, 1943 during the Axis Case White offensive meant to eliminate Tito and all his Partisans from western Bosnia. Through the war, the 3rd Krajina Brigade went on to fight in battles across occupied Yugoslavia, such as at Neretva, Sutjeska and one of the final most bloody battles of the war at the Sremski Front, from late 1944 to early 1945. Bravsko native Mile Latinović was instrumental during battles at the Sremski Front as the commander of the 5th Battalion of the 3rd Krajina Brigade. The Bravsko region was finally liberated by Partisan fighters in May of 1945. Over the course of WWII, over 500 local residents from the Bravsko region perished, both in fighting units across Yugoslav lands and as civilian victims.
In the early 1970s, plans were organized by local and regional governments to construct a spomenik complex in Bravsko to memorialize the soldiers of the Bravsko Company who were killed in the fight of the National Liberation War. Yugoslav architect Mirko Radulović and engineer Nebojša Loatinović were awarded the commission to create the complex, which was to be located just on the outskirts of the village. Along with the hundreds of resistance fighters this memorial was intended to commemorate, it is also designed to specially recognize the two Yugoslav National Heroes of the war that are from the Bravsko region: Trivo Latinović (Photo 3) and Mile Latinović, who both perished while aged only into their early 20s. Mile died at the Sremski Front while commanding the the 5th Battalion of the 3rd Krajina Brigade against the Germans on December 7th, 1944, while Trivo died in September of 1943 in nearby Ključ, shot by machine guns while throwing grenades into German bunkers. The spomenik complex was finally unveiled to the public during a remembrance ceremony on July 27th, 1972. The central memorial sculpture of the complex consists of a roughly 7m tall concrete structure, consisting of a thick central pillar, with five long corrugated rectangular box-shaped sections emanating from the pillar's apex. In addition to the memorial sculpture, a tomb for Bravsko Company commander Gliša Raca exists at this site as well.
Photo 3: Trivo Latinović
After the fall of Yugoslavia and the ensuing turbulence this region experienced during the Yugoslav Wars, this monument has essentially fallen into disuse and abandonment. While the structure of the memorial sculpture is still relatively intact, with the facade's concrete in reasonable condition, the grounds around the site are overgrown and not not appear to be regularly maintained in any appreciable way. Few visitors are ever seen at this lonely monument located in this very remote and seldom visited region of Bosnia.
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
The central memorial sculpture here at Bravsko, which is situated at the center of a stone paved courtyard, has four tall engraved panels installed onto its supporting pillar (Slides 1 - 5). The front panel facing the road (Slides 1 & 2), has an engraved inscription at its top which roughly translate into English as:
"In this place are buried the remains of 502 Yugoslav soldiers who fell during the National Liberation War, in the villages of Jasenovac, Klenovac, Bunara, Podsrnetica, Bravski Vaganac, Kapljuh and Janjila."
Underneath this inscription are the names of fallen soldiers and national heroes, along with their birth and death years, all organized by the village in which the fighter came from. These engraved stone panels vary as far as their condition, with some being in very good condition, while others are very distressed, showing signs of inadequate repairs having been made to them. Meanwhile, at the base of one of the panels, there is a small inscription about the origin and history of the memorial (Slide 3). Translated into English, it reads as:
Designer: Engineering architect Mirko Radulović
Supervisory authority: Engineer Nebojša Latinović
Contractor: GP '20 October' Sanski Most
Finally, in front of the memorial sculpture, off to the left as you are approaching along the paved pathway from the road, you will see a stone tomb laid into the ground (Slides 6 & 7). This tomb contains the interred remains of famed and widely respected Partisan fighter Gliša Raca, who was the commander of the Bravsko Company Partisan resistance unit, which is the unit this memorial is meant to commemorate.
The memorial sculpture located at the spomenik complex here at Bravsko, created by architect Mirko Radulović, has a shape and form which seems very unusual upon first viewing. While it might be easy to assume this work is of a purely abstract or non-representational nature, the image that I am often struck with when witnessing this work is that of an array of megaphones or sirens (Photo 4). This imagery of 'the siren' pointing out in all directions might be interpreted that the monument is calling out, so to speak, across the countryside about the deeds and heroic acts demonstrated by those that this site is meant to honor. Furthermore, 'the siren' might also be a symbol of Tito's call for uprising against fascist occupation, which was another integral component of the Yugoslav legend. This symbolic theory would appear to also be supported by the monument's well-positioned location, situated on a knoll just outside of the village looking out across the surrounding valley.
Photo 4: An array of sirens
However, another way to interpret the form of the Bravsko monument is as a subtle representation of the star shape. When looked at from an overhead aerial perspective, the five horizontal arms of the monumental create an unmistakable 'star' formation, which could easily be understood as the red star of Yugoslavia, a symbol which not only represented the country's communist government and anti-fascist heritage, but also the Yugoslav principle of Brotherhood & Unity.
Status and Condition:
The monument complex here at Bravsko, Bosnia is currently in a relatively poor state. Firstly, the vegetation and weeds around the site is not well maintained, with is not seeming as though any sort of regular landscaping or mowing occurs here. Meanwhile, the overall concrete structure of the sculpture itself is actually in fairly good condition, exhibited little in the way of cracks, fractures or deterioration, however, the concrete is heavily weathered and covered in grime and mossy growth. There are no directional or promotional signs leading or signaling visitors to the site, nor do there seem to be any efforts being made by the village of Bravsko to promote or advertise the memorial as a local cultural site or historic attraction. In fact, there are no informative signs or educational placards anywhere around this monument relating the site's historical significance or importance. Up until recently, the whole memorial site was surrounded by a large square line of tightly spaced cedar trees. However, all of these trees were cut down and removed at some point around 2013, presumably by locals for firewood use. The line of old cut stumps are still clearly visibly.
I found no other visitors at the site upon my most recent visit, nor did I see any signs of honorific wreaths, candles or flowers which might indicate that the site is being locally commemorated or respected. Furthermore, I was able to find no evidence or indication that annual remembrance ceremonies are held here any longer. For all intents and purposes, the site seems to be relatively abandoned and forgotten.
Additional Sites in the Bravsko Area:
In this section we will explore additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites in and around the Bravsko area that might be of interest to those interested in the monumental and architectural heritage of Yugoslavia. Here we will look at the central department store in the nearby town of Ključ, as well as the Monument to Fallen Fighters at Bosanski Petrovac.
Ključanka Department Store in Ključ:
Roughly 16km east of the village of Bravsko is the town of Ključ. Situated on a dramatic bend in the Sana River, one of the town's most distinct Yugoslav-era buildings is the town's central department store (robna kuća). Known locally as 'Ključanka', when it was created (presumably around the 1970s), it became one of the most important and prestigious commercial spaces in the region. The entire facade of its angular architectural form is dominated by hundreds of large vibrant red-colored faceted panels, which gave the building a strong and dynamic appearance. A photo of the building from during the Yugoslav-era can be seen in Slide 1. Still a local landmark, the building continues to operate as a commercial space, hosting a retail outlet called 'Kaffers'. Yet, the main change to the building's original appearance is that the formerly red panels have been changed to ones which are silver in color (Slide 2). The exact coordinates for the building are N44°31'57.1", E16°46'53.2".
Ključanka Department Store in Ključ - Slideshow
Monument at Bosanski Petrovac:
Roughly 19km west of the Bravsko monument is the town of Bosanki Petrovac. At the center of this town in front of the main municipal building is a bronze figurative WWII memorial sculpture dedicated to the region's local fighters who perished during the People's Liberation Struggle (Slide 1). The monument is characterized by stern-looking sculptures of a man and woman, crafted in the socialist realist-style, standing together side by side both holding up into the air a small infant. This scene more than likely operates as a representation of men and women coming together in the post-war era to create the next generation of Yugoslavia. Behind the three figures are a set of six ~1m square metal plates bearing sculptural reliefs of various WWII scenes of fighters and civilian life. The creator of this work was Bitola-born sculptor Olga Jančić, but I was unable to determine what year it was created (but from its style, I would guess that it was created somewhere between the late 1950s/early 1960s).
Monument at Bosanski Petrovac - Slideshow
This monument, standing ~4-5m tall, appears in good shape and looks well maintained. Yet, despite its good appearance, I found no reports or articles that commemorative events are still held here. During the Yugoslav-era, this monument stood as one of the symbols for Bosanski Petrovac (evidenced by it appearing on nearly every local postcard from the time period), but today it has lessened in prominence. Interestingly, when looking at historical images of this monument from the Yugoslav-era (Slides 2 - 4), it is clear to see that this current setting is not the monument's original location, having seemed to be moved to this present site at some point in recent times. The exact coordinates for this monument are N44°33'18.5", E16°22'07.4".
And Additional Sites of Interest:
Jovan Bijelić Memorial Museum: In the town of Bosanski Petrovac is a memorial museum dedicated to famous Yugoslav modernist painter Jovan Bijelić. Being one of the earliest pioneers of modernist painting in Yugoslavia, Bijelić was looked to as a leader in developing the Yugoslav visual art scene in the 1950s and 60s. Bijelić was born just outside of Bosanski Petrovac and went to elementary school in town here, which is why a museum to him was created here. This museum exhibit, which contains many of Bijelić's works, is located inside of the Bosanski Petrovac Dom Kulture (Cultural House), which is itself notable for being host to the 1st Conference of the Anti-Fascist Women's Front in 1942. The conference was even attended by Tito himself. The exact coordinates for this site are N44°33'13.0", E16°22'04.1".
Navigating to the memorial complex here at Bravsko is a relatively easy endeavor. Firstly, if you are coming from direction of the city center of Bihać, take Highway M5/E761 southeast roughly 77km. As you begin to approach the village of Bravsko, you will see the memorial complex not far off on the left hand side of the road, with the sculpture perched on the crest of a small hill surrounded by a circular stone wall. Parking can be made on the left hand side of the road in a gravel turn-off right in front of the site. From here, you can easily walk just a few meters to the spomenik site. The exact coordinates for parking are N44°32'55.5", E16°34'53.1".
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Selected Sources and More Information:
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