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Makarska

(MAK-ar-skah)

Click on slideshow photos for description

Brief Details:

Name: Monument to the Revolution (Spomeniku revolucije), aka: 'Monument Observatory' or 'EU Astro-Park'

Location: On Glavica Hill in Makarska, Croatia

Year completed: 1974

Designer(s): Šime Vulas (profile page) & Matija Salaj

Coordinates: N43°17'45.7", E17°00'59.1" (click for map)

Dimensions: Series of 11 fins, 10m to 3m tall

Materials used: Poured concrete and rebar

Condition: Very good to excellent

History:

This spomenik in Makarska commemorates the local fighters and navy-men of the People's Liberation Army of Yugoslavia and those who fell during the struggle against fascism.

World War II

Soon after the Axis invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by Axis powers, the Adriatic seaside town of Makarska was integrated into the newly formed Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a puppet-state under the influence of Axis powers. For a time during the beginning of the war, Makarska served as a strategic port headquarters for the NDH's Central Adriatic Naval Command and various Italian Army operations, making it the center of Axis military activity along the Croatian riviera. Many residents of the central Dalmatian region were angered by this aggressive power accumulation, land grabbing and forced occupation by Axis forces in their region. Before the start of WWII, Makarska was the regional center of League of Communists of Croatia (KPH), as well as being home to the notable communist political school named 'Villa Irena'. As a result, armed communist resistance forces quickly began to rise up against this oppression, organizing themselves into two naval brigades of the 'Biokovo' branch of the communist led Partisan anti-fascist movement, named after the nearby Biokovo Mountains. Turning their fishing boats into makeshift gunships (Photo 1), the Biokovo Partisans waged constant guerilla offensives against Italian and NDH vessels from 1942 onwards, sinking and capturing dozens Axis military craft up and down the Makarska Adriatic region.

Infuriated by these Partisan actions, General Renzo Dalmazzo, who was the commander of the Italian 6th Corps, initiated and organized 'Operation Albia' in August of 1942, whose objective was to destroy all Partisan resistance along the Makarskan coast of Dalmatia. To supplement this operation, Dalmazzo convinced Serbian royalist Chetnik fighters to assist in 'cleaning out' the Partisans from the Biokovo region -- this was a controversial move for the NDH leadership, many of whom had no interests in having Serbian forces of any sort fighting in their territory. By the end of the operation, nearly 1000 Partisan fighters across the Makarska/Biokovo region were killed, with only losses of 17 soldiers being lost on the Italian side -- in addition, hundreds of civilians were killed, with innumerable homes burned to the ground. In response to this heavy-handed aggression, Partisan commanders met with supreme Partisan commander Josip Tito to coordinate a response. It was concluded that a formal Partisan Naval Headquarters would be established in the close-by coastal city of Podgora, from where continued naval offenses against Italian and NDH forces would be organized. Makarska and the rest of the Dalmatian Adriatic was not liberated from Axis control until October of 1944, when the 12th Dalmatian Partisan Brigade finally drove out the last of German forces.

Photo 1: Fishing boat turn into Partisan gunship at Makarska, 1942

Spomenik Construction

In 1974, a spomenik complex was constructed by the city of Makaraska on Glavica Hill to commemorate the fighters and civilians that died during the war, while additionally honoring the town's fierce communist resistance efforts during the war. Built by famed architect Matija Salaj and designer Šime Vulas, the monument complex consists of 11 white concrete fins, ranging in height from about 10m to 3m, which are flanked by a cylindrical tower about 9m tall by 2m wide. In front of the fins is a large paved courtyard, in the center of which is a small fountain element. For many years during the days of Yugoslavia, this was a much revered and cherished landmark, however, it began to fall into some neglect in the early 1990s at the onset of the Yugoslav Wars and Croatian independence. During this time, electricity to the complex was cut-off, with it eventually descending into a gathering place for drug addicts and vagrants.

Figure 1: DAUP ORION-a logo

Present-Day

It was not until the early 2000s it began to be rehabilitated, as a group called 'DAUP-ORION-a' (Figure 1) decided to convert the cylindrical tower of the spomenik sculpture into an observatory complex. The telescope was installed and the observatory tower opened to the public in 2009, while the redesigned courtyard complex was opened in the fall of 2017. However, the monument itself is still undergoing renovation and transformation into a extensive 'Astro-Park' facility, with the majority of the original elements of the monument being maintained and preserved. As a result of these redevelopments, the complex has received a significant increase in visitors and tourists, while commemorative events have begun to be held here again annually.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

There are several engraved and inscribed elements which exist here at this spomenik complex in Makarska. On the middle of the shortest and northern most concrete fin, there is some inset raised lettering along with a bronze plaque (Slide 1 & 2). The raised lettering, which is accompanied by a large star, translates from Croatian to English as:

"To the fallen in the People's Liberation fight"

Meanwhile, the bronze plaque (Slide 2) contains a poetic verse by Hvar Island poet Jure Franičević-Pločar. He himself was a veteran Biokovo Partisan, so its inclusion here is very appropriate. The poetic verse roughly translates from Croatian to English as:

Slideshow

"More lasting than this cherished stone will be the glow of the flame of your inextinguishable dreams. Because in your eyes are the light of these bright dawns... immortal, like the rocks above the shores on which you were born"

Originally, the concrete fin which this plaque is attached to once had the names of hundreds of fallen Partisan engraved directly into it. This can be seen in Slide 1 of the 'Historical Images' section below. However, at some point in the past these were all removed, with no traces of of the engraved names left remaining. What can also be seen from the image is that this plaque in question is not original to the spomenik, being added later on some unknown date.

In front of the concrete fins, there is a circular courtyard with a concrete fountain in the center (Slide 3). This fountain has been newly renovated and rehabilitated, as up until the last few years, it was completely overgrown (Slide 4). On the south side of the fountain, there is a small engraving along the outside wall. It roughly translates from Croatian to English as:

"Glory to them"

...which can be assumed to refer to the fallen soldiers and civilian victims of the National Liberation War. Meanwhile, on the periphery of the circular courtyard, there are a series of concrete panels (Slides 5 - 10) engraved with the names of fallen fighters ("pali borci") and civilian victims. These engraved panels are not original to this spomenik complex, but were included in a later addition in 1982.

As can be seen in Slide 11, there is occasionally some graffiti that shows up on this spomenik, however, over the last few years, the municipality has been very good at being responsive to cleaning it off anytime they find it arising.

Observatory:

In the early 2000s, an organization called DAUP-Orion spearheaded a plan to convert the ~9m tall cylindrical tower element of the monument into an observatory facility. The interior of the observatory can be seen in Slide 1 while the construction process can be seen in Slide 2. The observatory was finally opened in 2009, with a view of its nighttime state seen in Slide 3. However, some elements of the spomenik complex are still under renovation, as there are grand plans to turn the complex into an 'Astro-Park', with playground elements and a tiled courtyard depicting a map of the solar system -- the plans for this can be seen in Slides 4 - 6, while the current state of construction can be seen in Slide 7. During June & July, the observatory is open from 9:30pm to midnight daily, while during the rest of the year it is open on Thursdays from 8 - 10pm. The observator's website can be visited HERE.

Observatory - Slideshow

Symbolism:

While I was not able to find records of the exact symbolic significance of this spomenik, some interpretation I have come across seem to suggest that the monument's form might be reminiscent of the shape of the Biokovo Mountains which can be clearly seen in the distant background of the complex. Being that the similarly named 'Biokovo Partisans' were a significant part of the Axis resistance of this region, it would not be surprising if this symbolism was the intention of the creator who designed this spomenik sculpture.

Status and Condition:

The Glavica Hill spomenik complex here at Makarska, Croatia has been undergoing significant renovation and redevelopment over the last few years, which has improved its previously deteriorating state, while it also significantly altered certain aspects of the memorial. Firstly, the grounds and landscaping around the memorial are in good condition, as they are well maintained and cared for. Meanwhile, the structure of the sculpture itself is also very good. A renovation project to redevelop the courtyard area in front of the monument, completed in the fall of 2017 (Photo 2), has revitalized the memorial's facade and appearance, adding in an array of new elements for the community such as playgrounds and picnic tables. However, some of the original inscriptions on the monument have been changed and amended through this renovation. Yet, the most striking change at the memorial is the redevelopment of the tall cylinder element of the memorial into an observatory which began in 2003. This construction was initiated by a group called DAUP-Orion, who state that they were driven to create the observatory after witnessing the dilapidated state in which the memorial had descended into. The cost of the project was roughly 300,000 kuna (40,000 euro), with the majority of the money coming from the Croatian Ministry of Tourism. Along with the construction of the observatory, the entire courtyard in front of has been re-designed with a planetary space-theme.

Photo 2: View of the completed 2017 renovation project

This renovation project has dramatically increased tourism and engagement with the site from the local community. Directional and promotional signage for the 'Astro-Park' can be found at various locations around the city, while the city of Makarska does a great deal to promote and advertise the site as a local cultural and historical attraction. In addition, several multi-lingual interpretive and educational placards have been added to the complex. Finally, annual commemorative and remembrance events are still being held at this monument, with events generally being held in May during the local holiday called the 'Feast of Arbun'.

Additional Historic Sites in the Makarska Area:

This section will explore additional Yugoslav-era historic, cultural and memorial sites in the Makarska area that are of relevance or significance to those interested in the history of Yugoslavia. Here we will examine what is often called the "Party School" or "Vila Irena" on the banks of the Adriatic in Makarska, as well as the now abandoned Children's Maritime Health Resort in the nearby town of Krvavica.

 

Political School at "Vila Irena":

From September 5th to October 10th of 1940, just on the verge of WWII, two major representatives of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ), Mitar Bakić and Vlado Popović attended a local conference of local party members at a place in Makarska, Croatia called "Vila Irena", a site which acted as a secret communist political school and meeting location. As a result of the presence of this Vila Irena in Makarska, the uprising against Italian occupation at the start of WWII was particularly strong and enlistment of local peoples into the Partisan resistance was significant. During the Yugoslav-era, the Vila Irena became a cultural monument, acting as a museum, historical location and KPJ political retreat. After the fall of Yugoslavia, the property came into the possession of government of Croatia and questions surfaced about what the future of the building should be (as it contained prime waterfront real estate). Efforts were put forward to restore its exterior in 2016.

"Vila Irena" Political School - Slideshow

Current views of the building can be seen in Slides 1 - 3, while a photo of the site during the Yugoslav-era can be seen in Slide 4. In the near past, it was reportedly operated as a catering facility. However, in recent years, a controversy has arisen over who is the rightful owner of the property and what its future should be. The Vila Irena is located on the rocky seaside along St. Peter's Promenade (Šetalište Svetog Petra) within St. Peter's Forest Park and has a beautiful view of the Biokovo Mountains and the waterfront of Makarska. Its exact coordinates are N43°17'41.6", E17°00'39.2".

Children's Maritime Health Resort:

Roughly 6km north of Makarska along the Adriatic coast is the town of Krvavica. Positioned on a cliff among the pine trees overlooking the beach are the abandoned remains of what was originally a military run youth rehabilitation spa for the children of military personnel. Built in 1964 by Rikard Marasović, the complex is dominated by a huge wheel-shaped structure elevated on concrete pylons. It stands as a unique example of Yugoslav modernist spa/resort architecture, with some sources considering it among the most significant examples of Yugoslav modernism in Croatia. Notable Zagreb architecture professor Dr. Radoslav Bužančić says of the building: "This is a unique example of the modern spa architecture of the 2nd phase of modernism, while also being a representative example of the so-called "critical regionalism" in modern architecture that transformed the canons of the international-style by making free-use of forms and local materials".

Children's Maritime Health Resort - Slideshow

While it was a popular location during the Yugoslav-era, during the region's conflicts of the 1990s, the building was used to house displaced refugees. Then, the complex slowly fell into disuse to a point of complete abandonment. Since the 2000s, most of the resort's valuables and fixtures have been stripped from the structure. However, with the interest in Yugoslav-era architecture increasing, many international tourists are visiting the site and some Croatian architecture professors are taking students on tours of the complex. While there has been some discussion and actions about officially protecting the structure (and even restoring it), its current protection status is not clear. This building was prominently featured in the 2018 HRT documentary series "Betonski spavači" (Slumbering Concrete). Its exact location is N43°19'21.8", E16°59'05.2".

And Additional Sites of Interest:

  • Memorial Fountain to Fallen Fighters at Baška Voda: Roughly 13km northwest of Makarska along the Adriatic coast is situated the seaside town of Baška Voda. At an scene overlook spot within the Gradina archeological ruins site is a memorial fountain to local fighters who fell during WWII. Created in 1980 by Rajko Radović (author of the famous 'Seagull' monument at Podgora), the monument is composed of a circular fountain at the center of which is a bronze figurative statue of a male soldier wearing a Partisan cap and holding a machine gun with his arms extended upwards. Around the base of the circular fountain are bronze panels with relief depictions of war and naval scenes, as well as quotes by Croatian poet Jure Franičević. It appears in good condition, but the fountain is no longer functioning. An image of the work can be seen in Photo 3, while its exact coordinates are N43°21'34.4", E16°56'44.8".

Photo 3: Monument at Baška Voda

Photo 4: Monument site at Pisak

  • Monument to Fallen Fighters in Pisak: Roughly 23km northwest of Makarska along the Adriatic coast is situated the seaside town of Pisak. On the edge of a hillside overlooking the sea is a small spomenik complex at the center of which is a ~3m tall figurative sculpture on a pedestal of a young soldier with a rifle slung over his back. The sculptural work, which was unveiled in 1977, was created by Radoslav Duhović, while architect Marina Utrobičić created the environment around the monument. In 1992, about a year after separation or Croatia from Yugoslavia, the monument was completely destroyed by vandals. However, an initiative by locals resulted in its reconstruction in 2015, making it one of the first destroyed Yugoslav-era monuments in the region to be reconstructed. An image of the work can be seen in Photo 4, while its exact coordinates are N43°24'03.5", E16°51'40.6".

  • Monument to Fallen Fighters in Povlja: Roughly 15km to the west of Makarska as the crow flies is the seaside village of Povlja on the island of Brač. On the beachfront of the village is a concrete funnel-shaped Yugoslav-era moument which honors fallen fighters from WWII, while also marking the location of where villagers were executed by Italian forces during the war. The work was created in 1984, however, I have not yet been able to establish its author. An image of the monument can be seen at THIS Flickr page, while its exact coordinates are N43°20'04.7", E16°50'01.6".

Directions:

This spomenik complex in Makarska, Croatia is a relatively easy endeavor to reach. It is situated right in the center of the city near the waterfront and harbor, just north of the City Museum (Gradski Muzej). The main vehicle entrance for the monument is to the south of the monument off of Ulica Stjepana Radića. This entrance street can be seen clearly on Google StreetView here. Parking can be made anywhere nearby where it is accessible. In addition, there is a set of stairs on the west side of the spomenik complex that can be used as access if you are on foot. The exact location where parking can be made at is N43°17'44.3", E17°01'00.9".

Map of the location of the monument at the spomenik complex at Makarska, Croatia.

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Photo 5: West stairway entrance with blue Astro-Park sign

Photo 6: South street entrance

Comments:

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