AVNOJ Museum in Jajce
AVNOJ Museum in Jajce

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AVNOJ Museum in Jajce
AVNOJ Museum in Jajce

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AVNOJ Museum in Jajce
AVNOJ Museum in Jajce

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AVNOJ Museum in Jajce
AVNOJ Museum in Jajce

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Jajce

Brief Details:

Name: Museum to the 2nd Session of the AVNOJ (Anti-Fascist Council for the People's Liberation of Yugoslavia)

Location: Jajce, FBiH, Bosnia i Hercegovina

Year completed: building constructed 1934, museum founded in 1953

Designer: architect Momir Korunović

Coordinates: N44°20'17.5", E17°16'03.7"

Dimensions: 2 levels tall on 39m x 13m footprint

Materials used: Stone and masonry

Condition: Very good

(Јајце)

(YAH-yetsah)

History:

The 2nd Session of the AVNOJ Museum at Jajce, BiH commemorates the antifascist council that was convened at this location in November of 1943, ultimately determining that it would act as the one and only legitimate governing body of a federal Yugoslavia once WWII was over.

2nd Session of AVNOJ at Jajce

The very first session of AVNOJ (Antifašističko veće narodnog oslobođenja Jugoslavije/Anti-Fascist Council for the People's Liberation of Yugoslavia) was held in November of 1942 in the present-day BiH town of Bihać [profile page], during which time significant decisions were made about the future of Yugoslavia and the governance organization of Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ). However, the members of this first AVNOJ session at Bihać stopped short of declaring itself the legitimate governing body of a future Yugoslavia nor did they speak out against the royal government in exile. However, this was all to change when the second AVNOJ session was held one year later in the present-day BiH town of Jajce.

After narrowly escaping capture a few months before during the Battle of Sutjeska [profile page] in June of 1943, Josip Broz Tito and his Partisan Army were heading north, eventually arriving at the small waterfall-rich landscape of Jajce by the subsequent autumn of 1943. It was at this point in September that Tito heard the news of Italy's capitulation. In light of this encouraging news, Tito felt that this was the perfect opportunity to convene a second AVNOJ session there at Jajce, where the Partisans had settled in. Also, Jajce being a historical seat of power in the region would have given the session great symbolic significance, something Tito was no doubt aware of. The building selected to host this large event was the old "Sokol" Society building (constructed in 1934 by architect Momir Korunović). Sitting along the banks of the Pliva River on the south edge of town, the building was most likely chosen was not only a sufficiently large build, but also, sitting on the edge of town, would be an unlikely target in the event any air attacks. As Jajce was occupied by Axis forces in 1941, the Sokol complex was being used by German troops as a prison before Partisans liberated the town (at which point the Partisans burned the complex). As such, the Sokol building was quickly renovated and refurbished in just three weeks before the start of the AVNOJ council. The interior design of the building was done by the famous Serbian painter Đorđe Andrejević-Kun. With the work completed, the building was renamed the "House of Culture" and the 2nd Session of the AVNOJ convened on November 29th, 1943.

Photo 1: A 1943 photo of speakers at the 2nd AVNOJ session at Jajce.

Photo 2: A 1943 image of the 2nd AVNOJ at Jajce. From left to right: Tito, Josip Vidmar, Edvard Kocbek, Josip Rus & Moša Pijade

This session at Jajce, which was attended by delegates from across the Yugoslav region, lasted three days and was presided over by the president of the KPJ, famous politician Ivan Ribar, who had also convened over the first session at Bihać (Photos 1 & 2). After introductory remarks by Ribar, Tito took to the podium and gave a rousing speech that garnered much applause (Photo 3). Tito concluded his words with the following statement: "The struggle of our nations and the glorious successes achieved by the fighters on the battlefield with the help of the famous NOV and POJ has cultivated great sympathies from the whole world; they have created all the conditions needed for our nations to achieve their aspirations... freedom and a truly democratic federal Yugoslavia". After this, delegates spoke and motions were voted on during the next few days of the session. Numerous decisions were made at this council meeting which were among the most important and decisive agreements the organization would make during the war. Some of the highlights of these decisions are as follows:

  • The AVNOJ is the exclusive and sole legislative and executive body of a federally organized Yugoslavia and no longer recognizes the Karađorđević royal family as the country's legitimate government. This decision is thus the birth of a federal Yugoslavia.

  • Yugoslavia will be established on democratic principles and all republics of the federation will stand as equals.

  • Tito is bestowed with the high rank of Marshal.

  • A National Committee for the Liberation of Yugoslavia will operate as a provisional government until the end of the war, with Tito standing as its prime minister

In the weeks and months after the second session of AVNOJ at Jajce, the meeting was met wide acceptance and Allied forces extended even greater gestures of cooperation and support. Even Stalin, who was initially against nearly all of the decisions made at Jajce, came to accept them as well through the course of WWII. During the Yugoslav-era, the legacy of this AVNOJ session at Jajce became one of the most important historical moments of the country, not only because it marked the official start of the country's governance, but also because of the dramatic and daring way such a brazen event was held in the midst of war.

Photo 3: A 1943 photo of Tito speaking at the 2nd AVNOJ session at Jajce.

During the 6th Enemy Offensive (also known as "Operation Kugelblitz"), the town of Jajce was again taken by German Army forces. These German forces continued to hold Jajce until September of 1944, when it was taken and liberated by the Partisans for the final time. After this Partisan forces held Jajce until the end of the war, using it as the center of the region's antifascist government organization and administration.

Photo 4: A Yugoslav-era image of the podium at the AVNOJ Museum in Jajce

The 2nd Session of AVNOJ Museum

After the end of the war, the building in which the AVNOJ session sat in poor condition as a result of the damage it suffered during the final years of the war. It was not until 1947, the 5th anniversary of the AVNOJ session, that efforts were undertaken to restore and rehabilitate the building. During the rehab work, a metal plaque was installed within the museum, this being the first effort to memorialize and commemorate the events which occurred here. Also, it was at this point it was opened as a community cultural center, which was freely accessible to the public. However, on the 10th anniversary of the council meeting, the building was further refurbished and reorganized as a museological institution called the Museum of the 2nd Session of AVNOJ. In laying out the museum, efforts were put forward to arrange the main presentation hall of the building exactly as it appeared during the council session in November of 1943, as a means to visually transport the visitor back in time to the moment when the event happened. Special consideration was made to arrange the chairs in their original orientations, of which included the original large yellow cushioned chair Tito sat in during the council. The original sculptural bust of Tito by sculptor Antun Augustinčić that stood next to the podium in front of the stage (seen in Photos 3 & 4) was lost in the years after the war and today has a reproduction of it in its place [see the article at THIS link for more info on this Tito bust].

During the Yugoslav-era, the 2nd AVNOJ Museum was among the most significant and visited historical museum sites in the country, seeing over 170,000 visitors a year at its height. One source notes that from its founding in 1953 up until 1988, roughly 2.5 million people visited the museum. One source remarks that "the AVNOJ museum was one of the major sites of the institutionalization of Yugoslav identity, memorializing the partisan struggle for national liberation, not just in the region, but countrywide". The museum operated as the primary staging ground upon which the primary celebrations were undertaken for honoring the founding of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on November 29th of every year, a day which was known as "Republic Day" (a date which was also prominently featured at the center of the country's official coat of arms). An interesting history of Republic Day in Yugoslavia can be found in an article by Peter Korchnak of "Remembering Yugoslavia" at THIS link. Sources recount that the last Republic Day mass celebration of significant size occurred in 1978 with the marking of the 35th anniversary of the 2nd Session of AVNOJ and the unveiling of new renovations to the museum. During significant anniversaries, Josip Broz Tito would even make an appearance in Jajce and at the museum for the Republic Day ceremonies (Photo 5), with these special events bringing record numbers of visitors. However, after Tito's death and from the end of the 1980s up to the early 1990s, the museum saw a notable decline in visitorship and funding.

Photo 5: A 1966 photo of Tito at the AVNOJ Museum in Jajce

Photo 6: A photo of 2018 events at the AVNOJ Museum [source]

End of Yugoslav-era to the Present-Day

As beginning of the 1990s rolled through the region, Yugoslavia began to be dismantled with former republics declaring their independence, starting with Slovenia and Croatia in 1991. In these new countries, Republic Day was no longer observed and the cultural role of Jajce in these places fell, almost overnight, to nearly nothing. Meanwhile, as the Bosnian War began in 1992, the town of Jajce endured significant violence and damage. During this process, the 2nd AVNOJ Museum, left vulnerable and unprotected, was severely damaged and looted of virtually all of its artifacts and historical materials. By the end of the war, the museum was largely in ruin. Meanwhile, in the years after the Bosnian War, the Republic Day went unmarked and uncelebrated, with one source noting that "there was nothing that could remind anyone of the pre-war importance of the AVNOJ Session and its strong connection to the town of Jajce." It was not until the mid-2000s that efforts began towards restoring and rehabilitating the 2nd AVNOJ Museum, an effort which was largely accomplished with funding from veterans groups from across the former Yugoslav region (with little, if any, contribution from the national governments). The museum was re-opened to the public with a ceremony in 2008, marking 65 years since the 2nd AVNOJ Session.

The museum continues to operate and remains open to the public up to the present day, while also continuing to host commemorative events and ceremonies related to the 2nd Session of AVNOJ. A video from celebrations at a 2015 event here at Jajce can be watched at THIS YouTube link, while a 2018 news videos about events at the museum can be watched at THIS YouTube link. The museum's official website can be found at THIS link, which contains a virtual tour where you can navigate around the complex and explore its exhibits. The official Facebook account for the museum is located at THIS link. The AVNOJ Museum at Jajce also curates an archive of videos related to the 2nd session at a YouTube account found at THIS link. Today, the museum is protected on the national level by the BiH Commission to Preserve National Monuments as an important historic site of cultural heritage.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

Within the Museum of the 2nd Session of AVNOJ, there are currently set up numerous inscriptions, exhibits, placards and informative boards spread out across the complex. These communicate significant amounts of information on the history and heritage of this site and the events which occurred here. However, as far as plaques go, the is one primary plaque that exists at the main entrance to the museum just inside the building's double doors on the left hand side of the hallway (Slide 1). The plaque, made of white polished stone, is is installed here at the entrance onto the building's white walls just above a large 1952 painting which portrays Tito during WWII created by famous Bosnian artist Ismet Mujezinović. According to sources, this plaque was installed in 1953 during the building's initial transformation into a museum. When this plaque is translated into English, it roughly reads as:

Plaque at AVNOJ Museum
Plaque at AVNOJ Museum

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Inscription at AVNOJ Museum
Inscription at AVNOJ Museum

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Inscription at AVNOJ Museum
Inscription at AVNOJ Museum

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Plaque at AVNOJ Museum
Plaque at AVNOJ Museum

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Slideshow

"Representatives of all the peoples of Yugoslavia made the basic decisions on the creation of a new democratic federal Yugoslavia as acts of nationwide liberation and revolutionary struggle at the second session of the anti-fascist council of the people's liberation of Yugoslavia held in this building during November 26th through 30th, 1943. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of this great historical act, this building was turned into a museum of the second session of AVNOJ."

Meanwhile, there are several large painted letter inscriptions located high up on the walls within the main auditorium of the AVNOJ Museum. These can be seen in Slides 2-4. The inscription located above the stage reads in English as "Death to fascism, freedom to the people", which was the motto of the Partisan Army during WWII. In addition, there is another inscription located on the balcony in the back of the auditorium which reads in English as "Long live our heroic People's Liberation Army". Lastly, high on the walls along the broad edges of the auditorium are additional inscriptions which read in English as "Long live Tito", "Long live Stalin", "Long live the Red Army" and "Long live our allies, the USSR, England and America". These inscriptions appear very much how they existed during the original council meeting on November of 1943. Around the edges of the auditorium are large ink drawings of Marx, Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt and Tito painted by Serbian artist Đorđe Andrejević-Kun.

Symbolism:

While it may not immediately seem apparent that any nature of symbolism exists within a museum arrangement or exhibition, some authors describe how they believe the 2nd Session of AVNOJ Museum here at Jajce is very much designed with symbolic intentions in mind. In talking about the museological layout of the complex's auditorium, with curators working to make it appear as much like it did during the November 1943 council session as possible, researchers Dzenan Sahović & Dino Zulumović had the following observations in a 2012 paper they wrote about the museum:

"The absence of delegates [within the museum] gives a possibility for visitors to step back in time as they take a seat, experience and imagine being a part of the birth of the state. In contrast to the empty chairs, the bronze statuette of Josip Broz Tito at the centre of the stage symbolizes a position of leadership and supervision of the meeting, a natural place for the future leader of the new socialist Yugoslavia. In a sense, the main hall with all its artefacts is forming a symbolic ‘ground-zero’ moment, the moment of the new beginning; a complete and total breakup with the dark past and the final socialistic emancipation of the society. For this reason, there is no representation of the history of the house before the AVNOJ Session. There is no information or artefacts about the concentration camp, Sokol movement or previous destruction and reconstruction of the building. The lack of history fits perfectly into the narrative of a new beginning and the associated processes of re-shaping the memories of the past.

Status and Condition:

As of 2021, the state of repair and overall condition of the Museum of the 2nd Session of AVNOJ is in good condition and is a cultural property that is fully protected by the national government of Bosnia & Hercegovina since September of 2002. The town of Jajce contains numerous signs spread around the community advertising it as a local attraction (Photo 7), while the official Jajce tourism website lists the museum as one of the town's main cultural offerings. The museum itself is kept in good order, with clean and modern museum exhibitions and facilities. While not all of the artifacts and museum pieces lost during the Bosnian War during the 1990s were recovered, a significant amount of them were indeed found and made their way back to the institution, which has a significant amount of various items on display. This museum continues to be one of the most visited in BiH (not only by locals but by foreign tourists as well) and, as a result, the museum's exhibits contain a small amount of multi-lingual translations (mostly English). Yet, in front of the entrance pathway to the museum, there is an interpretive sign that tells the full story of the building and the museum in several different languages.

Photo 7: A photo of an interpretive sign in Jajce advertising the AVNOJ Museum

The 2nd AVNOJ Museum continues to host annual commemorative and remembrance events (known as "Days of AVNOJ/Dani AVNOJ-a") and these ceremonies generally occur every year around the end of November when the original session was held back in 1943. These events often attract hundreds and sometimes even thousands of visitors.

Additional Historical Sites in the Jajce Area:

This section will explore additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites located around the town of Jajce that would be of interest to those studying the heritage of the former Yugoslavia. Those examined here are the Statue of Moša Pijade, the Monument to Fighters & Liberators, as well as the "Little Partisan" steam locomotive.

The Statue of Moša Pijade:

One of Tito's most trusted political and military advisors here with him at Jajce in 1943 was the communist revolutionary and philosopher Moša Pijade. After the war, Pijade became one of Yugoslavia's leading politicians and remained as, until his death in 1957, one of Tito's closest friends and collaborators. At some point (probably in the 1950s or 60s) a 2m tall bronze statue of Pijade was installed in front of the 2nd AVNOJ Museum at Jajce (Photo 8). Created by famous Serbian sculptor Stevan Bodnarov, the statue showed Pijade standing in his typical trenchcoat with his arms held up at his mid-section as if he were having an active conversation, no doubt alluding to Pijade's penchant for debate and discussion. This monument stood in front of the museum through the Yugoslav-era, however, as it was closed at the onset of the Bosnian War in the early 1990s, the statue of Pijade was subsequently removed and its ultimate fate or whereabouts is unknown.

Jajce-3.jpg

Photo 8: Three views of the statue of Moša Pijade at the AVNOJ Museum at Jajce, the original [left], removed in 1990s [center] and replacement [2008].

Some sources assert that the statue was thrown into the nearby Pliva Waterfall, where it may sit to this day, but such assertions have yet to be confirmed. When the 2nd AVNOJ Session museum was re-opened in 2008, the missing statue was replaced, as recounted by reseacher Andrew Lawler, with a duplicate version of Bodnarov's Pijade sculpture that existed at the elementary school in Novi Travnik, BiH, which the school graciously donated to the museum. Up to the present day, the replacement Pijade statue continues to stand in front of the museum, yet, the whereabouts of Bodnarov's original statue are still remain unknown.

Monument to Fighters & Liberators:

Just across the Pliva River from the Museum of the 2nd Session of AVNOJ is Jajce's main City Park (Gradski Park). On the terrace above the park by Travnik Gate is a small square and spomenik complex which contains a work called the Monument to the Fighters & Liberators of Jajce (Photo 9). Created in 1972 by Dubrovnik sculptor Marijan Kocković [profile page] (as well as an unknown author credited as "Amir"), the work is built right into the base of the fortress walls and consists of two carved white marble elements: 1.) three 3m long square pillars laid horizontally with small fountain bowls on top and 2.) a large fountain bowl positioned next to the pillars. The large bowl has an engraved decoration of a ring of figures with joined hands, while the pillars contain the inscriptions "Fighters & Liberators of the City of Jajce", as well as the poetic verse "like the water of eternal youth, eternal youth is mine". The symbolism of the work is not immediately clear, but it would certainly seem to represent "Brotherhood & Unity" to some degree.

Photo 9: A vintage photo of Marijan Kocković standing in front of his memorial work Monument to Fighters & Liberators in Jajce. Credit: Kocković Archive

The monument continues to exist in good condition up to the present day, with the sculpture's facade in good condition and the fountain elements of the work still operational. During the "Days of AVNOJ" celebrations which occur in late November, this monument and the square around it operate as one of the centers of festivities and commemorative events. The exact coordinates for this monument are N44°20'19.5", E17°16'12.0".

The "Little Partisan" Steam Locomotive:

Located against the cliff-side just to the left of the main entrance to the 2nd Session AVNOJ Museum is a small vintage steam locomotive called the "Little Partisan" (Photo 10). Created in 1903 by the Austrian steam locomotive company "Krauss Linz", this engine was used in Jajce during the Austro-Hungarian era by the power company "Elektrobosna". However, during WWII, the Partisans took control of the locomotive and famously used it to transport AVNOJ delegates to the 2nd Session at Jajce in November of 1943. The locomotive continued to operate for many years after the end of WWII, however, when it became obsolete, it was moved to a special exhibition space next to Jajce's AVNOJ Museum in the 1950s to act as a historical monument.

Over the decades, the locomotive fell into a state of heavy decay and was extremely rusted. However, in 2013, the engine was declared a national monument, at which point it was fully restored and a metal canopy was built over top of it.

Photo 9: A recent photo of the restored "Little Partisan" steam locomotive located next to the 2nd Session of AVNOJ Museum in Jajce [source]

And Additional Sites of Interest:

  • Jajce Department Store: Located in the town center of Jajce is the shopping complex that was originally known as "Jajce" Department Store (Photo 10), created in 1976 by a design team comprised of the architects Radivoj Jadrić, Đemaludin Karić & Nedžad Kurto. Its dramatically tiered and intricate roofline seems to be an expression of "critical regionalism" architecture in its ability to merge together modernism with local architectural traditions and vernacular home construction. The complex is in good condition and still operates as a commercial center for Jajce (today being called the "Vodopad" Department Store). For this work, the architect team won the Borba Award for excellence in architecture, which was the highest professional distinguishment awarded in Yugoslavia at that time. The exact coordinates for the complex are N44°20'24.7", E17°16'18.6".

Photo 10: A vintage postcard view of the Jajce Department Store in Jajce, BiH

Photo 11: A vintage postcard view of Hotel "Jajce" located west of Jajce on Small Pliva Lake

  • Hotel "Jajce": Roughly 3-4km west of Jajce on the banks of Small Pliva Lake sits the ruins of the once-grand complex of Hotel "Jajce" (Photo 11). Originally the most expansive and exclusive hotel facility in the Jajce region, very little information exists about its creation or its history, so I was not able to establish what architect created it or even what year it was built (but it looks to be from the late 1970s). Before its ruin, Hotel Jajce consisted of a series of terraced pavilions that were perched on the steep hillside above the lake. With white facades and dark tile roofs, it was no doubt a modernist complex but it also one that fit comfortably within the traditional aesthetics of the landscape. Many Yugoslav-era postcards from Jajce feature the hotel, acting as a testament to its importance to the area during that time period. During the Bosnian War, the facility was completely devastated and destroyed. For nearly 30 years now, the ruins of the hotel have sat in an abandoned state, with many locals wondering if it will ever be restored or renovated. The exact coordinates for the ruins of Hotel Jajce are N44°20'46.0", E17°13'05.2".

 
  • ZAVNOBiH Memorial House in Mrkonjić Grad: Roughly 22km northwest of Jajce is the small town of Mrkonjić Grad, BiH. It was here in this town that on November 25th and 26th of 1943 (just a few days before the 2nd AVNOJ Session at Jajce) that delegates of Bosnia & Hercegovina assembled to convene the first session of ZAVNOBIH (National Anti-Fascist Council of the People's Liberation of Bosnia and Herzegovina). To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the ZAVNOBiH in 1973, an extensive memorial house and hotel complex was built in the center of Mrkonjić Grad, created by architect Zdravko Karačić. The complex consisted of a series of white plaster pavilions characterized by distinct dark metal roofs that curved upwards at their center in a dramatic and unique fashion. When it was completed, the "Dom ZAVNOBiH" (Photo 12), as it was called, instantly became one of the most important sites in the town. However, it was significantly devastated during the Bosnian War, yet, much work has been done to restore it in recent years. Its exact coordinates are N44°24'54.0", E17°05'00.4".

Photo 12: A vintage postcard view of the Dom ZAVNOBiH located in Mrkonjić Grad, BiH

Directions:

The 2nd Session of AVNOJ Museum within the town of Jajce, BiH is an easy attraction to find and navigate to. As you drive the main highway E716 through Jajce, you will see the town's main bus station on the south end of the highway's central tunnel through the community. Turn at the bus station heading north onto a street called "Comrades of the 2nd AVNOJ", at which point you will curve around sharply and, after 300m, you will find the parking lot for the museum just on the edge of the Pliva River. There is an ample parking area here which is free to the public, at which point the museum is only just a few meters away. The exact coordinates for the parking lot are N44°20'16.9", E17°16'07.7".

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