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Brzeće (Брзеће)

Brief Details:

Name: Mramor Monument (Spomenik Na Mramoru/Споменик на Мрамору)

Location: Brzeće, Serbia

Year completed: 1969

Designer: Ž. Radojčić

Coordinates: N43°16'38.8", E20°52'31.1" (click for map)

Dimensions: ~18m double spire

Materials used: Marble

Condition: Fair, neglected

(ber-ZEH-cheh)

History:

The Mramor monument here at Brzeće, Serbia commemorates the 'Battle of Kopaonik', one of the final major Partisan victories in the Kopaonik Mountains against Chetnik Axis collaborators during the ultimate push for Serbian liberation.

World War II

In May of 1944, Partisan leadership in Serbia was organizing the final stages of their strategy to achieve a total liberation of Serbia from the control of all foreign occupying Axis forces, along with their domestic Chetnik collaborators. After numerous Partisan successes against German and Chetnik forces in Novi Pazar, the Sandžak region and the Ibar River region with the 1st Krajina Proletariat Strike Brigade, Partisans continued to pursue these Axis units into the mountainous Kopaonik region, right along the rugged border of present day Serbia and Kosovo. In early August of 1944, Partisan intelligence acquired information that Chetnik groups were amassing near the small Kopaonik village of Brzeće. To confront this force, the 1st Brigade sent their 2nd Proletariat Shock Division, under the command of Petar "Peko" Dapčević (Photo 1), to intercept and defeat the vestiges of the area's Chetnik presence. Upon discovering their location, from August 6th to 8th, 1944, the Partisan's 2nd Shock Division clashed with the Chetnik 4th Assault Corps in the foothills south of Brzeće. The Chetniks were squarely defeated in this confrontation to such a point that its detachment was effectively immobilized. The level to which the Chetniks were defeated here at Kopaonik is demonstrated in a report written by the Chetnik 1st Assault Corps headquarters on August 12th:

Photo 1: "Peko" Dapčević

"During the night of August 7/8, the [Chetnik 4th Assault] corps was attacked by stronger Communist forces and after the 3-hour struggle, we were shattered... So far it is known that roughly 1,200 to 1,250 our soldiers and officers were captured by the Communists, but the soldiers and commanders [who escaped] do not know exact numbers... Many bodies of fallen soldiers have not been collected, which include the brigade and battalion commanders themselves."

The Chetnik 4th Assault Corps was reported to be one of the strongest and well-armed Chetnik fighting forces in Serbia, so their defeat here at Kopaonik by Dapčević and his 2nd Division was pivotal for the Partisan resistance efforts and for the continued Partisan liberation push towards Belgrade. Furthermore, the defeat allowed the Partisans of the 1st Krajina Proletariat Strike Brigade to convene and collaborate with other Partisan detachments in Jablanica and Toplica, from whom they were cut off from before. Through these increased joint operations between Partisan groups, along with the help of the Red Army during the Belgrade Offensive, Serbia was completely freed from German control by the end of 1944. After the war, Peko Dapčević was granted the distinction of 'Yugoslav National Hero', where upon he gained the rank of Lieutenant General in he JNA. He passed away in Belgrade in 1999 at the age of 85.

Spomenik Construction

I have been able to find very little on the topic of the construction and creation of this spomenik complex here at Brzeće, Serbia. While I have been able to determine that the work was completed at some point in 1969 and that the creator of the monument (according to a book I have on Serbian WWII monuments) is someone indicated simply as "Ž. Radojčić". However, I have been not been able to find out any further indications about who this artist was or under what conditions or circumstances the monument was created. If you have any information on this site, please contact me. Officially named the "Mramor Monument" or "Marble Monument", it is a roughly 18m tall marble double spire, connected about 1/3 of the way up with an ornate circular design. The monument is located in the south foothills area of Brzeće near where the pivotal battle occurred between the Partisan and Chetnik forces. Finally, underneath the monument is a small crypt which holds the remains of 22 fallen Partisan fighters.

Present-Day

As the monument is located along on of the main highways through the Kopaonik Mountains, the memorial sees small numbers of roadside tourists and visitors. However, it is in poor shape, as the sculpture monument itself is severely stained by weathering, while the large altar in front of the monument is significantly cracked and degraded. Nonetheless, the site does see a number of official commemorative events held here annually (often on the July 7th Uprising Day), while many community groups and businesses list the complex as a local point of interest and cultural attraction.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

Here at the spomenik complex at Brzeće there is one large primary inscribed element. Located directly next to the central monument itself, there is a large flat altar stone (Slides 1 - 3) set in front of an stone paved courtyard (now overgrown with grass), whose top surface is made out of several polished black granite panels. As can be seen in the slideshow photos, several parts of the altar element are damaged and are in very poor condition, with many pieces of it missing and/or broken. On this stone altar surface is engraved a long inscription of a quote along with a description of the cultural and historic significance of this site. Despite the appreciable damage that has been inflicted upon the altar, the engraving on the stone is still in very good condition and easily readable. These engraved inscriptions read, translated from Serbian to English, as:

Slideshow

"I hope the wounds of freedom never die in the heart of the free people"

-this monument was erected by the people of the Kopaonik region, July 7th, 1969

"Here in the liberated Kopaonik mountains, from Aug. 6 - 8, 1944, one of the hardest and most crucial battles between units of the National Liberation Army (NLA) and the Axis forces were fought. In that fierce 3-day battle, the 2nd Proletariat Shock Division of the NLA penetrated from Montenegro into Serbia, smashing the elite and notorious Chetnik 4th Assault Corps, which was a striking force of the Chetnik movement in Serbia. After this victory, the 2nd Division collaborated with other Partisan divisions and began joint operations for the final liberation of Serbia from the German-Hungarian fascist occupiers and their collaborators."

The poetic quote that leads off at the top of the above translation is from Serbian writer and politician Dobrica Ćosić, who was often considered by his followers to be the "father" of the modern nation of Serbia and took up the position in 1992 as the first president for the then newly formed Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Symbolism:

While I have found no official documents or articles relating the specific symbolism of the Mramor (Marble) Monument here at Brzeće, it does seem similar to other monuments whose symbolism I am familiar with. Firstly, my initial evaluation of the sculpture would be that each of the two spires may represent the region's two primary ethnic groups, the Serbs and the Kosovars (ethnic Albanians), while the star design in the center represents the two groups being brought together under the banner of "Brotherhood and Unity" within the Republic of Yugoslavia. While few ethnic Albanians live in this region of Kopaonik, much less Brzeće, the monument site is only a few kilometers away from the Kosovo border. Yet, this interpretation may be incorrect. Please contact me if you have more information on the symbolic interpretation of this monument.

Status and Condition:

The overall state and current situation of the spomenik complex in Brzeće, Serbia can be considered fair, but also showing signs of neglect and damage. Firstly, the grounds of the site do seem to be maintained and mowed to some degree, but the site certainly would not be considered expertly kept or landscaped. Meanwhile, the structure of the main marble sculpture itself is very good, yet it does show significant signs of staining and weathering from a lack of cleaning over many years. In addition, the engraved altar in front of the sculpture is exhibiting severe cracking and damage to it, especially around the edges. However, the surface and engraved panels on the top of the altar do seem to be in relatively good condition. There is no directional or promotional signage along the route to the monument complex that might bring it to the attention of passing tourists or visitors. Meanwhile, there is a very informative engravings on the surface of the memorial's altar, yet, it is only written in Serbian -- no other interpretive or informational signs or plaques can be found here. While it is not clear to what degree the local municipality attempts to promote the site as a local tourist attraction or point of interest, many local businesses and groups list this monument on their websites as a place one should visit when in the area of Kopaonik.

The spomenik site does see a number of visitors and curious onlookers, as it resides right on one of the main highways through the Kopaonik region and it extremely visible from the road. In addition, it does seem that this site sees locals coming to pay respects to it, as honorific candles, flowers and wreaths can often be found left at its altar. Furthermore, local governments continue to hold official commemorative ceremonies here annually, generally on the July 7th Uprising Day, which are often well attended. However, despite this attention and attendance, I have found no evidence or indication that any local governments or veterans groups have plans to restore or rehabilitate the memorial.

Directions:

Finding your way to the Mramor Monument complex in Brzeće is a relatively easy endeavor. Firstly, from the village of Brzeće, follow Road 212 south out of town up into the mountains. As you head out of town, after driving about roughly 3km, you will approach the top of the pass and see the spomenik complex readily visible on the right hand side of the road (see HERE for Google Streetview). Parking can be easily made directly along the side of the road in front of the spomenik complex. The exact coordinates for parking at this location are N43°16'40.0", E20°52'31.2".

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Historical Images:

Photo 2: View of monument from the 1970s

Comments:

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