Name: Ilinden Memorial (Споменик „Илинден“) or 'Makedonium' (Македониум)
Location: Gumenja Hill in Kruševo, Macedonia
Year completed: 1974 (four years to build)
Coordinates: N41°22'38.7", E21°14'54.2" (click for map)
Dimensions: ~25m tall structure
Materials used: Poured concrete, rebar and glass
Condition: Very good, well maintained
Click on slideshow photos for description
This spomenik at Kruševo commemorates the resistance fighters who took part in the Ilinden Uprising of 1903 against the Ottoman Empire, while also remembering the Partisan fighters of National Liberation War (WWII).
The primary historical event this monument commemorates is the Ilinden Uprising, which was an uprising of Macedonian IMARO rebels initiated against Ottoman rule on August 2nd, 1903. During this time, in the region of present-day Kruševo, resistance fighters proclaimed this newly liberated land to be the land of the Kruševo Republic, under the leadership of then school-teacher turned war-hero Nikola Karev (Photo 1). This separatist territory lasted less than two weeks before it was suppressed by 176,000 Turk soldiers and put back under Ottoman control, with nearly 9000 people being executed at the hands of the Turks in retaliation.
iberation War (WWII).
Yet, these events invariably became a destabilizing factor which contributed to the eventual fall of Ottoman rule, and the subsequent Macedonian independence, as the rebellion was yet another blow to the legitimacy of control which the Empire sought to exert over the present-day Macedonian region. Furthermore, the extremely brutal and heavy handed way in which the Ottomans squashed this rebellion instigated some European powers to intervene in the crisis, a move which increased the visibility and recognition of the Macedonian's plight. While there is no real historical lineage of events from the Ilinden Uprising to what exists as Macedonia today, in modern times, the short-lived separatist movement is deeply mythologized as an extremely important facet of Macedonia's historical struggle for independence and self-governance. Just as a note, the uprising was named 'Ilinden' because the revolt was initiated on August 2nd, which is the feast-day celebration for St. Elijah in the Eastern Orthodox churches. As such, with 'Ilija' being the Macedonian equivalent for the name 'Elijah', 'Ilinden' then means 'Elijah's Day'.
Photo 1: Nikola Karev
Photo 2: Prohor of Pčinja Monastery
World War II
In addition, this spomenik commemorates the local Kruševo fighters of the National Liberation Struggle (WWII) who struggled under the Partisan banner to help free Macedonian from Axis and fascist occupation. On August 19th, 1942, the Kruševo Partisan Detachment was formed as a force of community soldiers who engaged in skirmishes with Axis troops across Macedonia until Kruševo's liberation by Soviet-backed Bulgarians during the fall of 1944. Macedonia was officially declared a nation-state during the Anti-fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM), held at Prohor of Pčinja Monastery (Photo 2), on August 2nd, 1944, which was a date symbolically chosen to align with the date of the Ilinden Uprising, as the ASNOM gathering considered itself the 'Second Ilinden'. Presently, this date is still celebrated in Macedonia as the Day of the Republic.
Although initiatives had existed in Macedonia since the 1950s to create an 'Ilinden Memorial', it was not until 1968 that government bodies within the SR of Macedonia put together a commission to organize the construction of a large memorial complex dedicated to these events (Photo 3). The impetus for creating this commission may potentially have been a planned visit President Josip Tito was making to Kruševo the following year in 1969 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ASNOM gathering (the monument project could be seen as a way to impress him). The first question to be resolved in the construction of the monument was what town it should be located in. The two Macedonian towns instrumental to the Illinden Uprising which in contention for hosting the memorial were Kruševo and Bitola. Kruševo eventually won the bid to host the memorial, possibly due to the President Josip Tito's 1969 visit much lauded visit to the town, as well as the fact that Kruševo was a place with a great history of martyrdom.
Photo 3: A conceptual drawing of the Makedonium by the Grabuls
Photo 4: The Greek state of Macedonia (red) and the country of Macedonia (yellow)
It is also important to point out another reason behind the creation of this monument was a result of the 'Macedonia Question', which was the region's longstanding cultural battle with Greece over the culture and heritage behind the use of the term 'Macedonia' as a ethnic identifier. Greece contended adamantly that the SR of Macedonia had no right to use the word 'Macedonia' (as Greece already had a state by such a name) (Photo 4) and that the history of the SR of Macedonia had no historical roots before the 20th century. As a result of this debate (which became particularly heated in the 1960s) Macedonia went on a furious monument building endeavor to work towards countering such accusations. The 'Makedonium' project was one of the most significant of these 'political project' monuments intended to solidify Macedonia's cultural and historical claim on the Ilinden Uprising, an event which, as writer Stavroula Mavrogeni points out, was "claimed by Bulgaria and was refused by Greece".
During the project's public design competition, eight entries were submitted by architects from across Yugoslavia. After being narrowed town to three finalists, the final choice was voted on by the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia on May 6th, 1970, with the winner being declared to be husband and wife team Jordan and Iskra Grabul from the town of Prilep (just east of Kruševo). One reason that Jordan and his wife may have been selected was that he was not only of Macedonian background and a fervent supporter of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, but he also himself fought during the People's Liberation Struggle as a Partisan fighter. The location with Krusevo chosen for the monument was the summit of Gumenja Hill on the north end of town, it being a prominent spot which overlooked the entire area. Historical sources within Macedonia assert that it was on this hill that the headquarters of Nikola Karev, the regional leader of the 1903 uprising, were located and that it was on this spot that the Kruševo Republic was initiated. After the 1903 Uprising was squashed by the Ottomans, it is also recounted that this is where many of its participants were executed. Meanwhile, it is important to note though that the Grabuls being awarded the commission more than likely had much more to do with their descriptions of their ideas rather than any presented blueprints (of which there were none), especially since the memorial concept which the jury approved looked VASTLY different than the eventual final product.
From the start, contention between the Grabuls and the monument commission over the construction and appearance of the project was significant. The commission, who were tasked with safeguarding the project's artistic value and social importance, pushed for more traditional and figurative components for the memorial, while the Grabuls desired the monument be of a completely abstract and interpretive form. The situation was not helped in the fact that Jordan was very secretive with his drawings and schematics, even going as far as attempting to push for the laying of the building's cornerstone before the commission had even seen any finalized blueprints or models of the memorial's design (Photo 5). Jordan Grabul reportedly even went as far as to claim the commission was ignorant and uneducated on the principles of art. An especially contentious topic during the design process was a series of eight relief sculptures which were to be located inside the memorial that would tell history of Macedonia (Photo 6). When Jordan revealed his concept to the commission on on March 8th, 1973 (whose final form can be see below in Photo 11), they were disappointed, especially committee member Dragi Tozija, who is documented in a book by Keith Brown as having the following exchange with Jordan:
Photo 5: A model of Makedonium monument
TOZIJA: The designer told us that the reliefs will be figurative: the ones that are shown to us are now abstract. I personally will not withdraw the request that the reliefs should be processed figuratively and clearly. It's not my job to tell you how they should be developed: it's the artist's job to figure it out.
GRABUL: You wish to interfere with my artwork?
TOZIJA: Grabul, with this you mock the commission.
Photo 6: A photo of the Makedonium under construction, 1972
It reached a point where relations between the commission and Jordan got so unproductive that Iskra was forced to take over all further communications between the commission and the construction project. Meanwhile, progress on project was painstakingly slow, which worried the commission further as fears began to grow that the August 2nd 1973 deadline would not be met (which intended to mark the 70th anniversary since the Ilinden Uprising). Eventually, compromises were reached and the Grabuls were allowed to create their modernist memorial, however, delays and disagreements had already severely set back the momentum project -- as a result, construction of the monument had to be extended (Photo 6) and the 1973 deadline was missed. The structure was completed and officially inaugurated the following year on August 2nd, 1974 (Photo 7), a date which marked the 30th anniversary of the Second Session of the Anti-fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia and the 71st anniversary of the Ilinden uprising.
The official name of the memorial is 'Ilinden'; however, it is informally referred to by most people as the name of the construction company which built it: 'Makedonium'. The constructed complex consists of several sculptural and memorial elements: at the entrance to the complex you find a series of large concrete sculptures call 'Chains' or 'Broken Fetters'. Then, along the path to the main memorial, you pass through a crypt mound consisting of two walls with protruding metal plates bearing the inscribed names of 58 notable Macedonian revolutionaries. Then, located directly in front of the memorial is a large amphitheatre (designed by Petar Mazev) and a colorful relief wall. Finally, at the top of the hill is the Makedonium, a 25m tall concrete dome dotted with many tubular protrusions (with four adorned with massive stained glass windows by Prilep artist Borko Lazeski (Борко Лазески)) (Photo 7). In 1990, a tomb memorial to Nikola Karev was erected inside of the Makedonium building, with his remains being interred within the foundation.
Photo 7: A view of the 1974 opening of the Makedonium monument
Meanwhile, in a 1993 interview, Iskra Grabul expressed frustration that many of the elaborate ideas she and her husband had for the Makedonium were never realized, which were a result of disagreements between them and the Ilinden Memorial planning commission. Among these unrealized visions she describes are an underground multimedia theater and an elaborate system of light projection which would illuminate the dome at night. There does reportedly exist the rough framework and preliminary efforts of the construction of the large theatre complex underneath the monument which Isrka mentions here, however, I have seen no photos or verified documentation of this or any mentions that can attest to the current conditions or state of such vestigial construction.
Meanwhile, in a 2012 publication by writer Violeta Simjanovska, a series of statements are featured from Lira Grabul, the daughter of the Makedonium monument's creators, Jordan and Iskra Grabul. These statements discuss the design and creation process that her parents went through to create the monument, with her explaining:
"I don’t remember anyone suggesting to my parents to create realistic art, so that their work would be more understandable to the ge-neral public. In those times, artists and politicians had mutual respect and didn’t meddle in each other’s business. But, on the other hand, there were many hidden games and obstacles in the process, so in the four years of its construction, my parents faced many problems and disputes: allegedly, that they were making a monument that no one would empathize with. You know, small number of people understand the contemporary form, because in order to do that, one should have appropriate education. That’s how things stood before, and today it’s the same. However, my parents managed to pull it through and create something that was truly timeless and, by the majority, misunderstood."
While the opening of the Makedonium in Kruševo was most certainly a significant event for 'official' defining of the history and heritage of the SR of Macedonia, there were some within the town who were dissatisfied with the monument. Firstly, the town of Kruševo was a place with very little community infrastructure, as such, many residents of the town felt that the creation of the Makedonium was a misplaced allocation of resources and that such funds could have been spent creating cultural centers, theatres, and other places of public gathering. Meanwhile, many took issue with the unorthodox appearance of the Makedonium structure. In the 2003 book "The Past in Question: Modern Macedonia and the Uncertainties of Nation" by Keith Brown, the author describes in detail the feelings of many people in Macedonia towards the monument around the time it was built:
Photo 8: Macedonian currency from the early 1990s
"More widespread were expressions of dissatisfaction with the abstract style of the monument. Grabul's hopes that the monument would stir feelings of common humanity and optimism for the future were seldom fulfilled, even by those who found clear meaning in the modern design... Many more, though, were simply unable to find personal or national meaning in what they jokingly, sardonically, or sometimes angrily described at a sea-mine, spaceship, bomb, or simply a monstrosity."
However, despite such initial reservations and skepticism towards the Makedonium, it slowly became widely accepted and cherished across the region over the subsequent years. In fact, the monument took on such social significance for Macedonia that when the region gained its independence after the fall of Yugoslavia, depictions of the Makedonium appeared on the new country's currency, as seen in Photo 8. In a currency series put out by the Macedonian government in 1992, the monument appeared on the back side of the 10, 25, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000 Denar notes.
Since the creation of the Makedonium, annual memorial ceremonies commemorating the Ilinden Uprising on August 2nd have continued at this the site uninterrupted. In 2003 a full restoration project for the Makedonium was initiated. This was a notable undertaking as it was the first socialist-era Yugoslav monument to undergo restoration in post-Yugoslav era. All indications suggest this site will continue to be taken care of and well patronized, due to its strong importance and significance to not just Kruševo, but to all of Macedonia. On that note, a full restoration a renovation project began at the Makedonium in late 2016, with it being finally completed in late 2018. The late 2010s also brought wider global recognition of the Makedonium. in 2018, an article in the Australian magazine 'Architecture & Design' named the Makedonium one of the top 10 most unique buildings in the world, while the American magazine 'Architectural Digest' mentioned the monument in a 2016 article titled "Seven Astounding Brutalist Buildings You’ve Probably Never Seen Before".
Photo 9: A poster from Mireldy Design Studio
Photo 10: A poster from artist Zoki Cardula
Meanwhile, younger generations in Macedonia are finding new ways to engage with this memorial site. For instance, since 2016, a local Kruševo electronic music festival called Kruševo Budno has been held annually on the grounds of the Makedonium complex. Furthermore, as the awareness of this monument has spread internationally via the internet, young artists, photographers and designers from around the world inspired by its unique form have incorporated it into their work in various ways (Photos 9 & 10), in the form of such mediums as digital creations, art photography, posters, t-shirts, etc.
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
At the entrance to the spomenik, there is a small bronze plaque (Slide 1) fixed to the side of one of the chain sculptures. It roughly translates from Serbian to English as:
"A cultural monument protected by law."
Then, within the Makedonium, there is an elaborate tomb to Nikola Karev (Slide 2), with a pillar inscribed with his name. Karev's remains were interred here in 1990. For the most part, this spomenik complex is free of graffiti or vandalism. However, there are a few sections of the Makedonium dome that have scrawlings and spraypaint on them (Slide 3), most notably the underside of the bridge pathway which leads into the monument and the small closed off room underneath it.
Interestingly, an additional memorial plaque in the vicinity of the Makedonium complex honoring Mirasav Joksimović, which is located at the northeast corner of the open grassy field just north of the parking area (Slide 4). This plaque, erected in 1971, honors the efforts of Joksimović as not only as the first president of the District Court of Kruševo (1934-1941), but also as a pioneering advocate of reforestation and pine plantation creation across the region of Kruševo. He was the first to introduce the Black Pine tree to Kruševo and is among the very earliest environmental advocates in the region of Macedonia. The plaque in located in front of one of the first pine plantations he established in the city.
Located mid-way along the paved pathway up to the Makedonium memorial building, there is located a circular courtyard built into the side of the hill, within which houses remains of Liberation War fighters and other Macedonian heroes. Along the concrete walls surrounding this courtyard are 58 bronze markers attached to short pylons protruding from the wall (Slides 1 - 5). These markers are inscribed with various names and historical events from Macedonia's history, as such, it acts as a sort of history lesson, relating the names and events that were decided as most notable to the region's struggle for freedom. The markers are roughly arranged in a chronological fashion, making it all the more evident that this memorial element was meant to not only be a commemorative space, but also a teach tool for the youth groups and school trips who often visited the site during the Yugoslav era.
Crypt Memorial - Slideshow
One interesting topic to examine in relation to the 58 people, places and events chosen for the bronze markers at this memorial crypt is looking at how these exact 58 subjects were chosen. Sources recount that the Ilinden Memorial commission hired two historians to create a list of eligible subjects for the Grabuls to consider for commemoration within the crypt memorial element. However, of this list given to them by the commission, which included over 60 subjects spanning back 11 centuries, the Grabuls decided to only include 21 of those recommendations in their 58 final selections (which only included figures that went as far back as the 19th century. It is not clear or known what metric or decision making process was used by the Grabuls in devising their final list nor is it known why so many of the official recommendations by the commission were rejected. This conflict in choices illustrates the contentious atmosphere of the public delineation of Macedonia's official prescribed history at that time (which centered around the so-called 'Macedonia Question'), while also providing a unique and singular interpretation of Macedonian historical struggle which diverges from many of the official narratives of the Yugoslav era. The most glaring omission which is most apparent upon first glance is the lack of any inclusion whatsoever of events, people or places pertaining to the People's Liberation Struggle (WWII). Historian Stavroula Mavrogeni points out in a 2015 paper that after the Macedonian historical narrative controversy stirred up as a result of the construction of the Makedonium, government enforced more oversight to ensure that future monument projects in Macedonia kept their focus centered around WWII events.
To read the list of subjects on the wall chronologically, start reading from the crypt's south wall at the far right side, zig-zagging up and down between the upper and lower rows as you read leftwards. Then, follow suit in the same fashion on the north wall. As such, the 58 subjects listed on the crypt memorial are read as follows:
1.) Iljo Maleshevski
2.) Gorgi Pulevski
6.) TMORO, 1893-1908
8.) Goce Delchev
9.) Đorče Petrov
10.) Dame Gruev
11.) Pere Toshev
12.) Jane Sandanski
13.) Petar Poparsov
14.) Vasil Glavinov
15.) Nikola Karev
16.) Dimo Hadzi-Dimov
17.) Krste Misirkov
18.) Lazar Poptraykov
19.) Hristo Uzunov
20.) Georgi Sugarev
30.) Yordan Piperkata
31.) Arseni Jovkov
33.) Gemidzhii, 1903
35.) Ilinden, 1903
37.) Dinu Vangel
38.) Klisura, 1903
41.) Karbunica, 1903
43.) Neveska, 1903
44.) Armensko, 1903
48.) Voydan Chernodrinski
51.) Taskata Cerski
52.) Apostol Petkov
53.) Dimitar Vlahov
54.) Kašina, 1905
56.) NFP, 1908-1910
57.) Dimitrija Čupovski
Relief Wall - Slideshow (photos via sahraguate@flickr)
The Grabul's integrated a significant amount of symbolism into this memorial site. To begin, the first element you encounter at this memorial complex is at the entrance-way as you are walking towards the Makedonium from the main parking lot. This minimalist sculpture series, which depict large white severed concrete 'chains' scattered about in various configurations, are unambiguously representative of Macedonia 'breaking free' of the chains of past oppressors, occupiers and foreign controllers over its long history. Due to many of the continued cultural struggles Macedonia still faces, whether it be defining their heritage, youth anger towards authority or even contention over the name of their own country (FYROM or Macedonia?), the 'broken chains' motif on display here still seems very much to be a significant symbol to the people of Macedonia.
At the final approach to the Makedonium dome, you walk through a massive vibrant amphitheatre (created by Petar Mazev) with roughly 200 pylon seats. Surrounding the seats are two curved concrete relief walls brightly decorated with colorful mosaics of painted protruding concrete triangles (Slides 1 - 8). It is not immediately clear what symbolism these designs, colors and shapes have or what they might represent. While some sources claim these sculptures contain meaning and are representational, I would much sooner guess and assert they are of a purely abstract and non-representational in nature. However, if you are aware of representative meaning or symbolism they might have, please contact me.
Photo 11: Makedonium entrance doors
Lastly, there is the Makedonium dome itself... while many assert the dome monument resembles many strange things, from a heart valve to a virus, many sources relate is the inspiration of the shape of the Makedonium is the 'mace' weapon. Used in historic wars in this area since ancient times, the mace is also a symbol for resistance and authority. Meanwhile, other sources indicate that the spherical shape of the building is meant to act as a universal symbol for the fundamental "material of the earth", an ode to the perfection of humanity. One symbolic aspect of the structure which is not ambiguous is the set of double-doors at the memorial's entrance, which are shaped like the letter 'M', which unquestionably refers to the land of Macedonia (Photo 11). Regardless of what the shape of the building is actually meant to symbolize, what is clear is that the design itself was a complete and total break with all previous design or concepts related to monument construction. It could be argued that the Makedonium is more ground-breaking and future-oriented than any other spomenik in the former Yugoslavia. The Grabuls saw this monument, according to historian Keith Brown, as "representing a break with – or an escape from – the clutches of the past".
Meanwhile, in the ceiling of the dome there are set four large elliptical stain glass windows in the four largest skyward protruding alcoves (Photo 12). These fractal-like patterned stained glass windows, designed by Macedonian artist Borko Lazeski, are said by some sources to represent the four seasons. When light shines through these stained glass windows in just the right way, they rain down a sparkling array of shapes and colors on the viewer, creating a fascinating and reflective sensory experience which is especially distinct in the Makedonium's pure white-walled interior. Meanwhile, above the stained glass windows at the top of the ceiling are four more smaller 'skylight' protrusions which are said to represent the four ages of Macedonia: ancient times, Turkish rule, the time of conflict and the final independent state. On the floor, underneath the center of the dome, there is a raised plastic platform that is meant to symbolize an 'eternal flame', which can be lit with inset lights to resemble the Macedonian flag.
Photo 12: A view of all four Lazeski stained glass windows
Lastly, the final symbolic sculptural element at the Makedonium that should be mentioned is the series of eight wall reliefs inside of the main hall of the Makedonium structure. The sculptures are situated in sets of two on the walls on either side of the four large lower window alcoves. The way in which these reliefs are framed is in such a way that they almost appear to organically emerge from the wall itself. These reliefs were created by Jordan Grabul and were intended to be an abstract depiction of the struggle of Macedonia, starting from the Ilinden Uprising up to the Yugoslav era, with each relief symbolically and sequentially relating a stage in that struggle. Each relief is quite large (between 1.5 to 2m in diameter) and the relief sequence begins in the Window Alcove 1 which is situated just to the left of the door after you've walked through the building's main entrance. The sequence then proceeds clockwise around the interior of the hall to each subsequent window alcove. In the following photos, each of the 8 wall reliefs [photos via sahraguate on Flickr] will be examined and explained in relation to their symbolic qualities as it relates to the history of Macedonia:
Window Alcove 1
Photo 13: The fertilization of the embryo
Photo 14: The development of the embryo
The sequence of this sculpture series begins in Alcove 1 with the first circular relief in seen in Photo 13. In this sculpture, the re-igniting of the idea of national emancipation in the Macedonian region from Ottoman rule is symbolized as an embryo becoming fertilized with the concept of 'freedom', here seemingly depicted with the globular sperm-like shape penetrating into the center of the sculptural form. The idea of illustrating the region's national awaking of freedom as an embryo also communicates the idea that its beginning is small, but that it will soon grow into something large and formidable.
The next stage of this growing push for freedom and emancipation within the Macedonian people can be seen in next sculpture in the sequence (Photo 14). In this sculpture you see the embryo becoming more solidly formed and shaped, which possibly represents the uniting of the Macedonian people around the idea of fighting for their freedom and realizing that they can form their own independent state. In addition, small figures can be seen poking out from the defensive protection of their united front, almost as if they are sensing the coming threats.
Window Alcove 2
Photo 15: The struggle for liberation
Photo 16: Attack on the Republic of Kruševo
The sequence of this sculpture series continues in the relief seen in Photo 15 contained in Alcove 2. In this relief you see the Macedonian people initiate the start of the Ilinden Uprising, as they defend their 'embryo' of the Republic of Kruševo. Within the relief you can see figures huddled down at the center of the scene pointing their weapons out from the fortified position of their new Republic.
Next, the next relief in the sequence can be seen in Photo 16. This relief depicts Ottoman forces laying siege to the newly independent Republic of Kruševo, which is symbolized within the relief with sharp lines penetrating into the shape of the Republic and fracturing it into many pieces.
Window Alcove 3
Photo 17: The division of Macedonia
Photo 18: The guerilla fighting during WWII
The sequence of this sculpture series continues in the relief seen in Photo 17 contained in Alcove 3. Again you see in this first relief the idea of Macedonia being divided and fractured, this time with the relief representing the onset of WWII. During this war, the present-day country of Macedonia was controlled by Axis-aligned Bulgarian and Albanian forces. However, at the center of the sculpture, you can see a small nucleus still intact, which may be meant to represent the enduring and un-fractured spirit of freedom within the people of the region.
Then, in Photo 18, we see a depiction of the popular uprising against Axis occupation being represented by a tangle of abstract figures throwing their arms up and engaging in resistance. Much of the resistance fighting against occupation was done through guerilla-style warfare, which is possibly what the artist meant to portray in this scene.
Window Alcove 4
Photo 19: The sunrise of Macedonia
Photo 20: Macedonia as the 'Apple of Discord'
The sequence of this sculpture series continues in the relief seen in Photo 19 contained in Alcove 4. In this scene we see a depiction of what is supposed to be arising and radiating sun, which is not only a symbol for freedom but also the central symbol for Macedonia (as it appears on the nation's flag).
In Photo 20 we see the final relief which interestingly depicts Macedonia as a stylized apple, an image which represents the 'Apple of Discord', or, in other words, a small treasured prize over which large wars have been fought through the centuries by a great many significant forces. According to researcher David Anderson, Macedonia sits at the "geographic heart of the Balkan peninsula and [is] the historical centerpiece of political and military activity in southeastern Europe. This confluence of history, politics, and commerce makes Macedonia a flashpoint for ethnic tension and conflict." Also of note is the apple is clearly divided into two major segments, which are each themselves subtly divided, leaving four distinct pieces in all. This may refer to the four wars of the 20th century that directly led to the creation of Macedonia: the Ilinden Uprising, the Balkan Wars, World War I and World War II.
I wanted to thank Shoku Boro on Twitter for sending me the information needed to help me understand the symbolism and meaninging behind these relief sculptures.
Status and Condition:
For the most part, the condition of the Makedonium memorial complex is very good. Nearly all of the elements of the complex are being well kept while the grounds and landscape around the facility are regularly manicured and maintained. On any given day the complex can be found hosting significant numbers of visitors, both out-of-towners and locals alike, with this site also acting as a popular stop for tourist buses and excursions. Good directional and promotional signage around the area which lead visitors to the site. When visiting, it is important to know that for entry into the Makedonium main building, you must pay a small fee of 30 denar (~€0.5) for adults, 20 denar (~€0.3) for children and 60 denar (~€1) for foreigners. They do not take credit cards as payment for entrance into the Makedonium. A small gift shop also operates at the main entrance to the memorial complex which sells a variety of memorabilia and collectible items.
Photo 21: A 2016 ceremony at the Makedonium
Photo 22: A 2016 view of construction at the Makedonium
Furthermore, during my most recent visit to the site, there are many wreaths laid within the Makedonium, a testament to its local popularity as a place of honor. Regular commemorative events have been consistently hosted at this site every August 2nd (Ilinden Uprising Day) since the monument's creation (Photo 21). In fact, the reason this complex is in such good shape and so well patronized compared to other National Liberation memorials across the former-Yugoslavia (and Macedonia even) may be because of the strong Macedonian symbolism contained within it. In fact, some sources assert that the complex is "as anti-Yugoslav as it is anti-Ottoman", due to how strongly the idea of Macedonia as a fierce fighting independent nation is wrapped up within the structure and symbolism of this monument. In recent years, the highly politicized nature of the commemorative events at the Makedonium have led to incidents of political motivated violence and confrontations between various groups.
Starting in July 2016, the exterior of the Makedonium structure has underwent a massive restoration project, an initiative which included the cleaning off of water stains from the exterior, repainting the structure and repairing damaged concrete. During this process, the Makedonium was nearly completely covered in scaffolding (Photo 22). This restoration project was completed towards the end of 2018.
Additional Sites in the Kruševo Area:
In addition to the Makedonium complex, there are several other significant Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites in the Kruševo area that are notable for anyone interested in Yugoslav monuments. Three primary ones will be explored in the following section here, including the National Liberation Museum (across from the Makedonium), the Monument on Sliva Hill and the Mečkin Kamen monument.
National Liberation Museum:
Roughly one-hundred meters west of the parking lot for the Makedonium monument there is located the Kruševo National Liberation Museum or 'Muzej NOB'. Created in 1989 by architect Kliment Korobar (with landscape work done by Galena Kuculoska), the structure is created in the contemporary Macedonian architectural style of the time (perhaps to offset the hyper-modernism of the Makedonium monument). The centerpiece of this museum complex is a massive mural (Photo 23) created on the interior central rear wall of the building, painted by famed Macedonian artist Borko Lazeski (who also created the stain-glass windows in the Makedonium). Within the museum were originally exhibits consisting of photos, artifacts and artistic works related to the struggle of Macedonian freedom and independence.
National Liberation Museum - Slideshow
Photo 23: Borko Lazeski mural
In the rear exterior of the building is located a large amphitheatre complex which would have played host to various historical and cultural events related to the Ilinden Uprising and the National Liberation War, most notably for the Tito's Pioneers youth groups (which often visited sites such as this as part of their 'patriotic education').
In recent years the museum complex has fallen into neglect and disarray. Upon my most recent visit in 2018, I found the museum closed up and locked, seemingly in a state of permanent closure (but I cannot confirm this). Looking in through the windows, it seems to be used as more of a place for storage rather than for hosting any sort of exhibition events. Meanwhile, the rear amphitheatre is in a state of total neglect, with every single one of the seats around the complex removed (or stolen). In addition, the building itself was in poor shape, with several instances of degradation visible across the buildings exterior. I saw no indications that any sort of restoration or preservation work was underway.
The Plum Hill Monument:
One of the most significant battles of the Ilinden Uprising occurred on August 12th, 1903 on Plum Hill (Brdu Sliva), in the rolling landscape just north of Kruševo. It was on this spot that 40 to 50 fighters of the rebellion fought a 'last stand' battle against 3,000 advancing Ottoman soldiers, in an effort to act as a final defense of the fleeing women and children in the town of Kruševo below. Each of the rebel fighters holding the hill were ultimately killed as the Ottoman forces made their final advance upon Kruševo. In 1963, a 5m tall stone monument was built on the site of the battle in order to commemorate the efforts made by the Ilinden rebel fighters (Slides 1 - 3). I was unable to determine the author of this work. On the front of the monument in an engraved stone (Slide 4) with an inscription that reads: "For the freedom and endurance of the 40 fallen heroes of Ilinden".
The Plum Hill Monument - Slideshow
The exact coordinates of this monument are N41°23'17.3", E21°13'38.6" and parking can be easily made in front of the gravel loop around the memorial. From the Kruševo town center, this monument can be accessed by following the road that heads northeast out of town towards Pusta Reka for roughly 4km, but be aware that this road is rough, not being well maintained, and should probably be avoided during winter.
The Monument at Mečkin Kamen:
On the 12th of August, 1903, Ottoman troops were bearing down on Kruševo after the onset of the Ilinden Uprising. While Ilinden forces met the advancing Ottomans at Plum Hill to the north of town, another unit of Ilinden rebels stood in resistance at the south of town at Mečkin Kamen (Bear's Stone). With 18 men led by the IMARO commander Pitu Guli, the rebel group made a 'last stand' against the advancing Ottomans, similar to as was done at Plum Hill. Tales from the eventual clash at Mečkin Kamen between the Ottomans tell that Pitu Guli and his rebel fighters fought to the very end, to the point where as they ran out of ammunition, they even lifted and threw boulders at the oncoming Ottomans. In 1983, a bronze sculpture memorial was built by Dimo Todorovski of an Ilinden fighter (perhaps Pitu Guli) throwing a boulder was built on the spot of the battle to commemorate their efforts. At the base of the monument is a set of metal letters which read in English as "Freedom or death".
Mečkin Kamen Monument - Slideshow [pics via JourneyMacedonia]
This more figurative monument stands in interesting contrast to the more abstract works of memorial sculpture and art commemorating history in the town of Kruševo. In the introduction to his 2003 book "The Past in Question: Modern Macedonia and the Uncertainties of Nation", author Keith Brown asserts that the local community constructing the Mečkin Kamen was perhaps a response to the local dissatisfaction with the abstract and non-figurative nature of the Makedonium complex. In essence, the locals wanted a monument that referenced and honored the events of the 1903 Ilinden Uprising in a much more direct and overt way. As such, the Mečkin Kamen site acts as an poignant cultural and artistic foil to the Makedonium site.
The exact coordinates of the Mečkin Kamen site are N41°20'15.6", E21°15'29.0", which can be easily accessed from Kruševo's southern entrance road R1306. A 1.5km long access road to the site is located off of R1306 roughly 2km south of Kruševo, just a few meters away from a Makpetrol station. It is well signed and posted.
And Additional Sites of Interest:
Montana Palace Hotel: Perched on the south slopes of Kruševo overlooking the town is a unique Yugoslav-era hotel called Montana Palace (Photo 24). Built in the 1970s, this 'log-cabin' style modernist creation is a notable example of not only the country's distinctive architectural style, but also the very forward-thinking project of government-owned and created resort complexes offered to the public. Compared to other similar resorts and hotels across the former Yugoslavia that either declined or disappeared after the 1990s, this hotel remains active and fully operational. A photo of the hotel can be seen at THIS Wiki link, its official website can be found at THIS link, while its exact coordinates are N41°21'52.7", E21°15'10.8".
Photo 24: Montana Palace
Photo 25: Nikola Karev statue
Statue of Nikola Karev: About 100m south of the Makedonium parking lot is a small park at the center of which is a statue of the revolutionary fighter and leader Nikola Karev (Photo 25). This bronze work was created in 1953 by sculptor Jordan Grabul, made early in his career before he made the strong shift to modernism. The work depicts the figure, standing about 3m tall and standing on a pedestal, who is wearing a traditional costume and is optimistically pointing to the horizon. The work is in good condition and is still regularly commemorated. Its exact coordinates are N41°22'24.8", E21°14'46.8".
The Toše Proeski Memorial House: It bears mentioning that right across the street from the Makedonium entrance complex is a memorial house and museum for the late great Macedonian singer Toše Proeski. During his brief singing career, Proeski, born in 1981, achieved international fame and was considered the most important musical preformer in Macedonia, being given the nickname "Elvis Presley of the Balkans" by BBC news. Having grown up in Kruševo, Proeski was a hometown hero and widely praised here. However, he perished in a tragic car accident on October 16th, 2007 at the age of 26 years old. In 2011, this expansive modern museum and memorial house was built to honor Proeski, with it being crafted in concrete and glass panels created by the architect team of Dejan Sekulovski, Dejan Spasenovski and Ilija Bozinovski. Its official website can be found at THIS link, while its exact coordinates are N41°22'27.6", E21°14'46.9".
From the city center of Kruševo, take Todor Proeski road north through town. After driving about 1km on this road, turn right onto Cali Makedonium road, then after driving on this roughly 100m, you will see a large parking lot for the Makedonium on the right, right across from the Todor Proeski Memorial House. Parking can be easily made here. The exact coordinates for parking are N41°22'29.5", E21°14'49.0". Once you park, follow the trail up past the burial crypt and the amphitheatre and you will find the Makedonium at the top of the hill.
BE AWARE: There are two important things I want to mention about travelling to Kruševo before you decide to travel in that direction. Firstly, the Road 517 from the direction of Cer is not recommended for use by tourists in accessing Kruševo (even though it may seem like a shortcut when approaching from certain directions), as this road is very narrow and mountainous, while also being treacherous in inclement weather.
Click to open in Google Maps in new window
The second thing to be aware of is that there is only one petrol/gas station in Kruševo called Makpetrol on the southern outskirts of town and additional fueling stations are few and far between in this mountainous region. This is important to mention because Makpetrol's officially posted business hours indicate that it closes at 5pm, but some travellers have informed me that it can often close as early as 2pm. As such, due to the remoteness of Kruševo, when travelling in that direction it would be wise to make sure you do so with your vehicle's tank filled before you venture out.
Selected Sources and More Information:
Please feel free to leave a message if you have any comments, if you have any questions, if you have corrections or if you have any additional information or insight you feel might be appropriate or pertinent to this spomenik's profile page.