Name: Monument to the Fallen Fighters of Golubovci (Spomenik palim borcima Golubovaca)
Location: Golubovci, Montenegro (southern suburb of the city of Podgorica)
Year completed: 1974
Coordinates: N42°19'35.6", E19°13'11.8" (click for map)
Dimensions: ~7m tall monument
Materials used: Poured concrete and rebar
Condition: Fair, neglected
This monument at the spomenik complex in Golubovci, Montenegro (a suburb just south of the capital city Podgorica) commemorates the many soldiers and civilians from this area who perished during the National Liberation War (WWII).
World War II
Turmoil and conflict hit the Podgorica region (where Golubovci is located) in April of 1941 when Italian and other Axis forces invaded and conquered the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in April of 1941. After that point, the region of Montenegro, which had until then existed as a province in the Yugoslav Kingdom called 'Zeta Banovina', was then transformed by the Italians into the 'Kingdom of Montenegro', which acted as a Italian vassal state under the control of an Italian regent governor. Large numbers of the people of Montenegro were extremely displeased with this occupation and foreign control and thus, starting on July 14th of 1941, Montenegrins across the country began to rise up against this Italian occupation. Within three weeks, these resistance groups had liberated nearly the entire region from Axis control. Yet, within six weeks, Italy's Mussolini retaliated by sending a force of nearly 90,000 troops from the Mentasti's XIV Corps, who brutally crushed this uprising. During this Italian backlash, the resistance was destroyed, with nearly 10,000 rebels killed across Montenegro and over 20,000 interned at camps -- these numbers included many citizens from Golubovci and the Podgorica region.
After quelling this popular revolt, the Italians exerted total control over Podgorica for nearly two year. However, by September 1943, the Italians had surrendered to the Allies in the Armistice of Cassibile, which resulted in the Italians retreating from Montenegro. As a consequence, the region was then re-occupied by the German Army by October 1943. Upon occupying Podgorica, German troops recognized the city's strategic location and its potential in being utilized it as a supply route for its more southerly military positions in Albania and Greece. As a result, German Army convoys began to pass in and out of Podgorica at an ever increasing rate from early 1944 onward. The leader of the 'Partisan' anti-Axis resistance group in Yugoslavia, Josip Tito, sent word to the US and British Allied Air Forces about the increased activity of German convoys moving through Podgorica and recommended to them that the city be targeted with a bombing campaign to prevent the movement of German troops and armaments.
Photo 1: Bombing of occupied Podgorica by Allied forces, 1944
Photo 2: Bombing damage in Podgorica, 1944
The first Allied bombing targets in the Podgorica region, which began on October 25th 1943, were at the Golubovci Airport, which the German Luftwaffe were utilizing for their own airborne bombing campaigns. From here, the airport and the city of Podgorica were bombed repeatedly through the course of the remainder of the war (Photo 1). The most intense bombing of the Allied campaign occurred on May 5th, 1944, when over 270 tonnes of bombs were dropped over Podgorica. The bombing of German positions continued even during the Germans retreat out of the region during late 1944. The town of Golubovci (and most in the Podgorica region) were finally liberated by Tito's Partisan forces on December 19th of 1944. In the aftermath war and the bombing campaign, roughly 90% of the city of Podgorica was leveled to the ground (Photo 2), while nearly 5,000 fighters and civilians were killed. After the war, July 13th, 1946, the city of Podgorica officially changed its name to 'Titograd' in order to pay tribute the Partisan military commander Josip Tito.
In 1972, local and region governments initiated an effort to create a memorial complex in the small village of Golubovci (which is in the southern suburbs of Podgorica). To decide on the shape for the memorial, a selection committee was organized who would judge proposals put forward during an public design competition. After deliberating, the selection committee award the project commission to Montenegrin architect Vukota Tupa Vukotić, who was already well known in Podgorica for having created the highly modern Galeb Kayak and Beach Club in 1960 at the city's center along the Morača River (Photo 3). Slobodan Boba Slovinić, another designer whose submission to the competition was highly praised, was so well regarded by the selection committee that he was asked to create two large bronze relief panels for the complex. Marked by a commemorative ceremony and festivities, the memorial was officially unveiled to the public in December of 1974. The primary element of this spomenik complex is a roughly 7m tall concrete hook-like sculpture comprised of five individual fins. This monument is located on top of a large burial mound containing the remains of fallen Partisan resistance fighters. Just a few meters to the south of the monument is where the two large bronze relief panels depicting scenes from the war are located. In addition, the entire complex was surrounded by an elaborate flowing fountain system.
Photo 3: A view of the Galeb Kayak & Beach Club in Podgorica, 1960s
During the conflicts which arose in the early 1990s due to the break-up of Yugoslavia, the city of Titograd changed its name back to 'Podgorica' on April 2nd, 1992. Even despite these conflicts which occurred in the Golubovci region, which resulted in strategic facilities at the town's airport being struck during the 1999 NATO bombings, the spomenik complex still sits in relatively good condition. Currently, it still appears to be used in local commemorative events, while also appearing to be regularly maintained and serviced by the municipality. However, some of the elements of the memorial are falling into neglect and the site's fountain element is no longer functional. As an interesting side note on the topic of WWII monuments in Golubovci, in late 2016 a memorial was built at the Golubovci Airport recognizing recently discovered fallen German Nazi soldiers who perished in the town during the 1944 retreat. However, many locals and veterans groups in the region protested against this memorial, asserting that it disrespected Montenegro's Anti-Fascist history and heritage. In addition, live bombs dropped by the Allies during WWII are still being uncovered in the area, with some being found as recently as 2012.
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
There are a number of engraved and inscribed elements at the memorial complex here at Golubovci. Firstly, on the south end of the spomenik complex, there is a white concrete wall which has several sets of engravings made into it. Firstly, the inscription made on the left side of the wall (which includes a list of the names of 218 fallen fighters) can be seen in Slides 1 & 2. Its central inscription reads as, when roughly translated into English:
"Freedom peers through your eyes, flowers bloomed when you died, every dawn above Zeta weaves a new wreath to your life."
In this inscription, 'Zeta' refers to the Zeta plains, the geographic region characterized by fertile lowlands in which Golubovci and Podogorica reside.
On the far right side of this wall, there is another engraved inscription in the white concrete wall, along with a collection of inscribed named commemorating fallen soldiers from Golubovci (Slide 3). The engraving reads as, when translated in English:
"Zeta, to the fallen fighters of the National Liberation War and Revolution
Then, between these two sets of inscriptions are two large square bronze reliefs set into the white concrete wall (Slide 4). Each of the relief sculptures are roughly 4m x 4m in size. On these reliefs seems to be depicted a fierce battle where Axis forces (right panel) are shown massacring outnumbered Partisan soldiers (left panel) with an overwhelming amount of firepower. The inscribed signature at the base of both of these panels reads "Slovinić '74" (Slide 5), which refers to notable Montenegrin artist Slobodan Boba Slovinić. Originally, Slovinić put forward design proposals to the 1972 selection committee for his ideas for the whole monument complex itself. However, while Vukota Tupa Vukotić invariably won the commission for the memorial complex, Slovinić was nonetheless granted the commission for this bronze relief secondary memorial element.
In addition, just in front of the mound the spomenik is situated on top of, there is an alcove in which six engraved black stone plaques are installed (Slide 6 & 7). On the top row of three plaques are engraved the names of notable fighters and heroes, while the lower row has an inscription describing what each set of people are being remembered for. The three sets of lower plaque inscriptions read as, when translated from Montenegrin to English, as:
(left) "Memorial tomb of our comrades who lost their lives heroically on April 12th, 1941, in the town of Meterizi fighting against occupiers and domestic traitors."
(right) "Died for the freedom of their people."
It is not immediately clear that any sort of representational imagery or symbolism was designed into the shape or structure of this memorial, created by Vukota Vukotić, here at Golubovci, Montenegro. From what I have been able to determine, it appears to be a monument of a wholly abstract and non-representational nature. However, one interesting and curious aspect of the monument's form is the way in which it appears to stand in a way that defies gravity, as a first glance at its position would make one think it should topple over. Obviously, the underground anchoring is engineered in such a way to keep its unbalanced stance upright, but this theme of design which creates an illusion of standing against the force of gravity is a common theme across many of the WWII abstract spomeniks across Yugoslavia. This repeating theme may very well be meant to communicate and symbolize the power of strength and resolve, even against all odds, when faced with overwhelming adversity. Being that Josip Tito's Partisan resistance army very much felt they faced and persevered against such overwhelming odds when taking on the Axis superpowers during WWII, a narrative which became central to the mythology of the Yugoslav communist state, it would not be surprising if this monument at Golubovci was symbolically part of the extension of that narrative. In addition, this asymmetrical off-balanaced positioning of this decontextualized shape elicit feelings of tension, suspense and unease. The instigation of these subconscious feelings are what historian Sanja Horvatinčić describe as being a 'geometry of fear', where such 'contorted visions' create powerful sensations within the viewer without actually portraying graphic or visceral realism.
Status and Condition:
While the primary memorial elements here at the spomenik complex at Golubovci are in relatively good condition, there are several elements of the site which appear severely neglected and in the process of deterioration. Firstly, the ground maintenance and grass mowing around the site seem to be done to a level to prevent overgrown vegetation, but weeds growing up through broken unrepaired pavement and sidewalks are issues in several areas around the complex. Meanwhile, the primary memorial sculpture and bronze relief are in presentable state, yet some smaller elements around the lower area of the site are completely damaged or destroyed, including several small fountains and benches. In addition, the large fountain feature that snakes around the entire memorial is not currently operational, sitting completely dry and disused. One affliction plaguing the stone and concrete of nearly the entire site is mildew staining and discoloration caused by excessive weathering and a lack of proper cleaning. Furthermore, many elements of the memorial are covered in graffiti and spray paint, including the central monument. All of these issues exist even despite the municipality of Golubovci spending over 30,000 euros on upkeep over the memorial over the last 7 years.
Upon visiting the site in the spring of 2017, I found no signs or directional markers bringing attention to the site from the main highway. However, it is close enough to the road that it is readily visible and noticeable to anyone driving through Golubovci's town center. Meanwhile, there are no interpretive signs or educational plaques found anywhere around the memorial site that communicate the historical or cultural significance of the monument. Many reports indicate that the monument complex has fallen into a state of disuse and neglect. Upon my most recent visit to the site, I found no honorific wreaths, candles or flowers which might hint at regular use of the site by the local community. However, news articles relate that some small annual remembrance events are still held here, generally on July 13th, which is Montenegrin Statehood Day (also known as Anti-Fascist Uprising Day). In addition, the Tourism Ministry of Montenegro in 2020 released a cultural route tourism book on the region's WWII monuments which included the Golubovci monument site. In mid-2017, plans to repair and rehabilitate the site have been put forward by the municipality of Golubovci, which would include updating the lighting around the memorial, reconstructing broken elements and adding in a children's playground. However, articles from late 2017 indicate that the work is still yet to be completed.
Additional Sites in the Golubovci Area:
This section will explore additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites in the greater area of Golubovci, Montenegro that might be of interesting to those studying the monuments of the former-Yugoslavia. The sites that will be examined here are the Monument to Fallen Fighters at Mataguži, as well as the similarly named monuments at the lakeside towns of Virpazar and Godinje.
Monument to Fallen Fighters at Godinje:
Roughly 19km southwest of Golubovci, just over the Skadar Lake causeway you will find the small village of Godinje. On a conspicuous rocky knoll just north of the main road you will find a small memorial complex dedicated to the region's fallen fighters during WWI and WWII (Slides 1 - 3). This monument, which stands roughly 6-7m tall, was created in 1982 by local Nikšić sculptor Ljubo Vojvodić. Many sources inform me that the form of this concrete sculpture is intended to be a stylized version of a pomegranate, a fruit which is grown locally here in this region. The monument's pedestal also has affixed to it two bronze sculptural relief panels. The panel facing north contains a scene depicting a WWI-style scene (Slide 4), showing cannons and simple rifles being used. Meanwhile, the south facing panel depicts scenes from WWII (Slide 5), which show more modern style machine guns and artillery, with the rounded helmet of the German soldier visible on the right of the scene while the star-capped Partisans can be seen on the left.
Monument to Fallen Fighters at Godinje - Slideshow
In addition to the bronze reliefs, the pedestal also has two engraved granite panels attached to its east and west faces (Slides 6 & 7), with one honoring fallen fighters from WWI and the other honoring fallen fighters from WWII. While most of the overall elements of this memorial site are intact, there appears to be considerable neglect of the site and lack of regular maintenance. I have found no indications or articles indicating that commemorative events are still held here. The exact coordinates for this site are N42°13'21.3", E19°06'43.6".
Monument to Fallen Fighters at Virpazar:
Roughly 16km southwest of Golubovci, just over the Skadar Lake causeway, you will find the historic fishing village of Virpazar. Just as you are crossing the historic stone bridge into the village, you will find a sharp rock pillar on top of which is a dramatic bronze memorial sculpture (Slides 1 - 4). This work was created in 1964 by Croatian sculptor Mirko Ostoja. This sculpture depicts three Partisan fighters, one with his gun pointed towards the enemy, one raising his arms and flying the flag of victory, while the left-most figure hangs his head for his fallen comrades. The monument is dedicated to the fallen fighters of the Crmnica region who perished during the region's wars. It is located at this spot as Virpazar is the historical and cultural center of the region of Crmnica. At the top of the stone pillar around the base of the sculpture is a circular stone wall. This stone wall was not built with the construction of the monument, but was instead part of a ruined watchtower associated with the nearby 15th century Ottoman fortress called Besac Castle.
Monument to Fallen Fighters at Virpazar - Slideshow
In addition, you can see an image from the early 1900s showing the watchtower and fortress before they fell into ruin in Slide 5. The ruins of Besac Castle itself, just south of the monument roughly 100m, are still standing and can be easily visited. Meanwhile, at the base of the stone pillar near the level of the roadway are two engraved black polished granite panels, one from 1964 and the other from 1997. The inscription on the left one from 1967 (Slide 6) reads as, when roughly translated into English:
Crmnica! To the fallen sons and daughters and the People's Liberation War and Revolution, 1941-1945.
July 13th, 1964
The date of July 13th is significant in that it is recognized as Statehood Day in Montenegro. Then, the second engraved plaque on the right of the rock pillar (Slide 7), which is from 1997, has an inscription on it which roughly translates into English as:
[People of] Dupilo! This memorial plaque was raised as a sign of remembrance and respect for the ancestors who died at Besac on Easter Day of 1702.
"And we killed all Turks in Crmnica and we leveled Besac Castle to the ground." -Njegoš
This plaque is intended to be a commemoration of when the local people of the region of Dupilo, an area a few kilometers west of Virpazar, defeated the Ottomans in 1702, driving them out of their stronghold of Besac Castle and out of the region. The quote in the second part of the inscription is from the famous 1846 theatrical poem "The Mountain Wreath" by the then Prince-Bishop of Montenegro, Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, who is considered the most important and significant historical literary figures in all of Serbian/Montenegrin history. This quote from Njegoš's poetic work is included here because the poem concludes with the Ottomans at Besac Castle being defeated. A link to the entire poetic work in English can be found HERE.
The site itself remains in good condition and records indicate that regular commemorative events are still held at this location. A historical image of the monument from the Yugoslav-era can be seen in Slide 8. The exact coordinates for this monument here at the Virpazar site are N42°14'45.8", E19°05'30.5".
Fallen Fighters Monument in Mataguži:
Roughly 6km east of the Golubovci monument you will find the small village of Mataguži. Right in the middle of the village at the central square (across from the village youth center) is situated a modest memorial site (Slides 1 - 3) which commemorates the region's fallen fighters from WWII who hailed from the surrounding area of Mataguži, as well as the nearby villages of Vladni and Vranj. Created in 1977 by sculptor Ilija Šćepanović, this monument is characterized by a ~6m tall concrete wall at the middle of which is a large circular bronze medallion-like sculptural relief panel (Slide 4). This bronze panel depicts a Partisan soldier with his rifle raised into the air, while in the background two figures fly the communist star flag through the air. At the lower part of the medallion is an inscription which translates into English as "Fallen fighters of the People's Liberation War and Revolution for freedom and socialism, 1941-1945". Within the radiating lines on the right side of the medallion are the names of 32 fallen fighters.
Monument to Fallen Fighters at Mataguži - Slideshow
This monument complex resides in a relatively good condition, with most of the site's memorial elements still fully intact and in a decent state of repair. However, as of yet I have found no records or articles indicating that annual commemorative events are still held at the site. A historical photo of the monument can be seen in Slide 5. The exact coordinates for the monument here at Mataguži are N42°19'22.8", E19°16'26.5".
Getting to the Zeta Memorial complex here at Golubovci is a relatively easy endeavor. Firstly, if you are travelling from the town center of Golubovci or from the direction of the Podgorica Airport, head south on Highway M2. Once you pass the town's post office on the left, you will see the spomenik complex on the left hand side of the road (see HERE for Google Streetview). Then, take your very next left onto Plavnica Road, and park in the gravel area on the left (see HERE for Google StreetView). The exact coordinates for parking are N42°19'34.5", E19°13'12.0".
Click to open in Google Maps in new window
Selected Sources and More Information:
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