© Spomenik Database - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Connect to Us

Mostar

(MOH-star)

Click on slideshow photo for description.

Brief Details:

Name: Partisan Memorial Cemetery in Mostar (Partizansko Groblje u Mostaru) (aka: Partiza)

Location: Mostar, FBiH, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year completed: 1965 (5 years to build)

Designer: Bogdan Bogdanović (profile page)

Coordinates: N43°20'28.1", E17°47'46.1" (click for map)

Dimensions: 5000sq meters of terraced hillside

Materials used: Poured concrete, rebar, paving stones and rubble

Condition: Poor, extremely neglected (read red travel alert below)

 

History:

This spomenik complex at Mostar commemorates the 810 named fallen World War II fighters from Mostar whose bodies are interred in the cemetery here; each of the fighters were members of the Partisan National Liberation Army and died fighting against the Axis Ustaše and German occupiers.

 

World War II

After the invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by Axis forces in April of 1941, Mostar found itself part of the newly created Axis puppet-state of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). This resulted in Mostar being besieged by an occupation force made up of Germans, Italians and the NDH's Ustaše nationalist militia force. During this occupation, many atrocities were committed against the city's civilians by these Axis forces and their collaborators. Much of the Ustaše violence was targeted at the city's Serb, Jewish and Roma ethnic populations, as one of the driving forces behind the NDH state was to reduce (or eliminate) the numbers of these ethnic groups from the populace. By August of 1941, an organized armed popular resistance began to rise up against this occupation, with many joining anti-fascist Partisan rebel groups. Mostar was a surprisingly strong force for anti-fascist/communist resistance during the war (which at that time earned it the nickname 'The Red City'), with participation in this resistance crossing both ethnic and religious lines. This can be explained as a result of the fact that in the years leading up to WWII, Mostar had hosted several major committee and conference gatherings of the Yugoslav Communist Party. Of the 18,000 people who resided in Mostar during the war, some sources assert that over 6,000 actively participated in the Partisan resistance in one form or another. Mostar was a significant regional headquarters for German, Italian and Ustaše forces, yet, despite this major Axis presence, the overwhelming amount of resistance put forward by the Partisan rebels resulted in the city changing hands multiple times.

 A notable Partisan attack was made in May of 1942 when the city's resistance fighters killed local Ustaše leaders Stjepan Barbarić, Sulejman Bašagić and Vinka Malvić. The retaliation against the local population for such actions was generally extremely brutal, as the Ustaše routinely took prominent local civilians hostage, then executed them in retaliation for Partisan attacks (Photo 1), usually in a graphic way in a public area. Well over 1,000 civilians were executed in such manners across the city of Mostar by the end of the war. Mostar was finally liberated from German occupation by the 8th Dalmatian Partisan Corps on February 14th, 1945 during Operation Mostar. Over 500 Partisans are documented to have died during this final battle. After taking the city, Partisans reportedly went through Mostar engaging in reprisal killings of those who they saw as German/Axis collaborators, which included several Franciscan monks.   

Photo 1: Mostar civilians hanged by the Ustaše in 1943

 

Photo 2: The cleared hillside of Biskupova Glavica Hill just before construction

Spomenik Construction

Because of the importance and significance of Mostar as an anti-fascist stronghold and seat of resistance, the Mostar municipality and Yugoslav government felt a monument befitting to those soldier's sacrifices would be appropriate for the city. Additionally, the creation force behind the cemetery came during a time when Yugoslav veterans groups were opposing the burial of Partisan soldiers in religious cemeteries, a move that they felt went against the ideals of communist revolutionary fighters. In 1959, the Mostar politician Džemal Bijedić petitioned notable Serbian designer Bogdan Bogdanović to create this memorial complex, asking him to situate it on Bijeli Brijeg (the most notable promontory of Biskupova Glavica Hill), just south of the city's southern outskirts (Photo 2). Through this project, Bogdanović hoped to create much more than just a sculpture or memorial --  he wanted to create an entire necropolis complex, akin to the ancient ruins found in the Middle East or at classical Etruscan sites. As seen from an early wall-design concept sketch by Bogdanović in Photo 3, he had quite grand ideas about imbuing the site with an atmosphere of ancient timelessness and hallowed antiquity.

Photo 3: An early concept sketch of a wall design by Bogdanović [from 'Arhitektura urbanizam', Vol. 40]

Funding for the project was secured through a mix of both government and trade groups, as well as donations from companies and individual private donations. Work on the complex began in 1960. Massive amounts of material were used and removed in the construction to fill in and sculpt the hillside (even the left over rubble from the city's devastation during WWII was used), while huge chucks of the hillside were blasted away to make room for the monument's terraced features. The stone carving for the site was done by skilled masons from the Croatian island of Korcula, who used over 12,000 pieces of carved limestone. Meanwhile, a great deal of work at the site was also done by Youth Work Action civic volunteer groups from across Yugoslavia.

In addition, during construction, the bodies of the hundreds of fallen WWII Partisan fighters were interred in the staircases leading up to the top of the monument. The funding for the entire project was provided by the City of Mostar, along with donations given by local worker's organizations and families of the survivors. Meanwhile, much of the work to create the monument was done by volunteer youth brigades who took part in the project as part of their national patriotic duty. Over the course of work on the monument, it is estimated that over 11,000 m³ of rock and material were moved and removed from the site (Photo 4). Construction on the project had begun in December of 1960 and was completed in 1965, but it is worth mentioning that the project was put on hold for roughly a year during 1963/64, as concrete meant for the monument was directly towards Skopje to assist in relief efforts after the massive earthquake they experienced.  The official unveiling ceremony for the monument was held on September 25th, 1965, a date which marked the 20th anniversary of Tito finally withdrawing his Partisan troops from liberated Mostar after the war's end in 1945. Josip Tito himself, then President of Yugoslavia, personally inaugurated the monument's opening to the public. During his inaugural speech, Tito was reported to have made the following remarks:

Photo 4: The Partisan Cemetery complex under construction, 1964

"In various countries that I have visited I saw many monuments at which I have laid the wreaths. Yet such a beautiful and such a magnificent monument as it is this one here, I have never seen elsewhere. This is truly a masterpiece of our architecture, of our artists."

Upon completing this monument, the mayor of Mostar declared that Bogdan Bogdanović was to be recognized as an 'honorary citizen' of the town. In addition, he was bestowed with the annual award known as the "February 14th Prize", which is given to a person in Mostar who through the year achieves exceptional work in service to the town.

Photo 5: Walkway up to the cemetery, 1960s

The design of the monument was very unique for the time period. The use of any sort of religious, nationalist or even socialist imagery is completely absent from the site, nor is there to be found any overt war imagery, such as fighters, heroes or suffering. Speaking of his design of the memorial, Bogdanović reveals that in using "universal symbols of the elements of the sun, planets and moon, the monument becomes close to everyone, and succeeds in imposing itself as an authentic element of space." The layout of the monument begins with a long curving cobble-stone walkway (using river stone from the Neretva) which leads up the hill from the base (emulating the ancient walkways of Mostar), with the walkway then splitting into two split sections with what appears to originally have been a cascading water feature in the center (Photo 5). These paths then converge, where they lead to five tiers of wide terraces built into the side of the hill.

Along these terraces are 630 abstractly-shaped stones markers engraved with the names of fallen soldiers. Of these 630 stone markers, about 560 are for Partisan fighters whose remains are physically interred at the site, while the remaining 70 stones are symbolic markers for Mostar Partisans whose remains were never found. The collection of ethnicities seen in the names engraved upon these commemorative markers (Serb, Croat, Bosniak, Jewish, etc) is a testimony to the diversity of those who fought in the Partisan movement. Yet, despite this ethnic diversity, the stones are not marked with any forms of religious symbols which might allude to the ethnic background of the interred fallen fighters -- a feature which further lends to the universal nature of the memorial site. Meanwhile, at the middle of the top-most terrace, there is a large gear-shaped fountain which originally flowed straight down the terraces in a narrow groove, then down the hillside where it collected in a large pool at the base of the hill. The primary focal element of these terraced sections of the memorial is a large 'cosmological sundial' design which is set into the wall at the very top of the memorial behind the gear-shaped fountain (Photo 6). This design element seems to be the only one which Bogdanović was able to include from his original wall concept art seen in Photo 3.

Photo 6: The 'cosmological sundial', 2016

Photo 7: A map of the completed section of the Partisan Memorial Cemetery in 'red', with the unrealized expansion project in 'yellow'.

Meanwhile, it is important to point out that the monument here at Mostar was Bogdanović's completion of his artistic cycle of the expression of the primordial elements through monumental works: stone, earth, air, fire and sky. As detailed in volume 40 [1966] of the journal 'Arhitektura urbanizam', this monument at Mostar was meant to represent 'stone', his work at Jasenovac represents 'water', his work at Sremska Mitrovica represents 'fire', his work at Prilep represents 'sky', while his work at Kruševac represents 'earth'.

Lastly, Bogdanović had grand plans to ultimately expand the entire memorial complex in a massive south-eastern addition, which would almost double the size of the monument's first phase. This proposed expansion would include an east entrance along Nadbiskupa Čule street, along with several sets of pathways and elaborately designed elements (Photo 7). The only section of this expansion that would realized was a concrete water collection pond at the base of the hillside. Very little information is available about this expansion project and why it never occurred, but more than likely it was due to lack of funding need for such an undertaking.

The Yugoslav-Era

This was a very popular attraction in the days of Yugoslavia, with people from across the country coming to visit, to pay respects and to hold massive ceremonies -- this memorial was specially visited during the time of the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, which brought huge amounts of tourism to the region. How this memorial space resonated and integrated with the average citizen in Mostar (Photo 8) is best described in a segment of a 2019 paper by Aida Murtić & Marko Barišić, which relates the following:

"The surrealist-inspired memorial complex that fluctuated between architecture, land-art and sculpture, emerged as an important ingredient of Mostar’s urban life. Citizens of Mostar today recall that the Memorial used to be “a park”, “a playground”, “beautiful to walk through”, “a place for picnic” and that even some of them “learned how to swim” in the little circular pond. Nicknamed Partiza, the familiarity of the Memorial is captured in the everyday language of citizens."

 

Photo 8: A family photo of a mother and daughter at the Mostar Partisan Cemetery [source]

Yugoslav Wars

With the dismantling of Yugoslavia and the ensuing Bosnian War of the 1990s, the monument site at Mostar not only fell into extreme disrepair and neglect, but it was also struck with war-time bombs, set on fire, looted, attacked and heavily vandalized (Photo 9). In fact, some local activists, such as Dragan Markovina, assert that the Partisan Cemetery was the first landmark targeted in Mostar when bombs began firing in 1992. The lines drawn in these 1990s conflicts were often ethnically-based, with the fighting starting off in 1992 with Mostar's Bosniak and Croat residents fighting against the Serbian-led invasion forces of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), while in 1993 (after the expulsion of the JNA), conflicts began between the city's Croat and Bosniak ethnicities. This ethnic component of the war made Mostar's Partisan Cemetery an inevitable target for vandalism, as it was often recognized as a classic symbol of Yugoslav ethnic unity (an idea in stark opposition to many of the post-Yugoslav ethnic-nationalist movements). Tragically, another symbol of Mostar's ethnic unity which was a victim of the war was the roughly 420 year old Stari Most bridge over the Neretva River, which was brought down on November 9th, 1993 during the second phase of the Siege of Mostar after reportedly being shelled by Croat rebel forces (HVO) roughly 60 times over several days.

Photo 9: Damage inflicted upon the cemetery during the Bosnian War, 1990s

 

Present-Day

After the wars of the 1990s, the monument was left in severe ruin and destruction, with the vast majority of the site's elements either abandoned, stolen or destroyed. In the late 1990s Bogdanović visited Mostar to survey the extent of the damages to his creation (Photo 10). Afterwards, in 1997 he wrote a lamentation on the destruction he had witnessed in Mostar titled "Grad mojih prijatelja" (The City of my Friends) (an English translated version can be found here). In this essay, he wistfully recollects stories of the creation of the structure while mourning its ruined state, saying:

"The only thing I could still wish... [would be to] create a secret niche to the left of the entrance gate, to accommodate my future urn. However, it now seems like I will not be in the company of my friends that way: the gravestones have cold-bloodedly and sadistically been taken away and crushed in a stone grinder."

Photo 10: Bogdanović visiting the Mostar Partisan Cemetery, 2000

Several attempts have been made to restore and rehabilitate the memorial since the end of the wars, with a notable attempt made from 2008-2010 (funded via a ~20,000 euro grant from the Netherlands & Norway) -- nonetheless, throughout the 2000s and 2010s, neglect, destruction and vandalism continued to plague the complex and undermine restoration efforts, with no sign of abatement, even despite the cemetery being declared a national monument by the Bosnian government in 2006. However, renewed efforts in the late 2010s have shown constructive efforts and progress in the realm of returning the site to a restored and rehabilitated state. Currently, some modest memorial services are still held at the site, however, aggression towards the site by local vandal groups still occasionally prove to be deleterious factors affecting the future of the memorial.

 

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

Across the five upper terraces of Mostar's Partisan Cemetery complex, there are hundreds of abstract shaped stone markers which bear the engraved names of the fallen Partisan fighters (Slides 1 & 2). Since the fall of Yugoslavia, as the site has fallen into disrepair, a great number of these markers have been vandalized, displaced and smashed (as seen in Slide 1 on the right). Even engraved markers that have been recently refurbished and replaced continue do be destroyed.

As far as graffiti at this site, many of the  memorial walls and sculptural elements around the complex are covered in it. While a large proportion of this graffiti is just simple and senseless vandalism, there is a notable amount of graffiti that that can be found around the complex that is nationalistic and fascist in nature.

Slideshow

In one prominent example I found in this spring of 2016, seen in Slide 3, there is graffiti in Croatian that translates into English as:

"I am Ustaše, my father is Communist,

I will kill my father in the name of Jesus Christ."

...with the text flanked by the Ustaše symbol on the right and Nazi symbol on the left. The appearance of such graffiti can be explained by the ongoing contenious ethnic relationship between Catholic Croatians on the west side of the Neretva River (which splits Mostar) and Muslim Bosniaks on the east side of the river, a relationship that is made complicated and difficult by disagreements over the legacy of the many wars that plagued this area during the 20th century. To clarify, this monument resides on the Crotian side of the river. In addition, the Ustaše symbol (Slide 4), a 'U' with a '+' over top of it, is graffitied across many walls of the memorial. As far as graffiti goes, the Ustaše symbol is essentially tantamount to the Nazi symbol, as the Ustaše regime was essentially an Axis puppet-state and heavily influenced by the Nazi regime. However, as of 2018, much of this old graffiti is in the process of being cleaned and removed in rehabilitation efforts going on at the Partisan Cemetery complex.

 

Photo 11: A 1960s schematic of the Mostar memorial site by Bogdanović

Symbolism:

In the creation of the Partisan Cemetery at Mostar, one of the main efforts of its creator Bogdan Bogdanović was to create a complex that would act as a symbolic mirror of the city of Mostar itself, and through this mirroring, Bogdanović hoped to create something that would blend seamlessly into the town's landscape. As a result, there are many elements of the complex which are clearly meant to act as references to real physical features of Mostar.  Firstly, as you enter this spomenik complex at Mostar, you are led up towards the terraces along a pair long symmetrical curving cobblestone walkways (Photo 11). This style of walkway is thought to be a reflection of the ancient cobblestone walkways found in the city of Mostar itself. In fact, the symbolism of this monument being a mirror of the city of Mostar continues with further elements at the site. For example, the terraces of the cemetery are split through the center with what was originally a flowing water element which represented the splitting of Mostar into two sections via the Neretva River. Furthermore, the rising terraces themselves reflect the steep and dramatic hillsides of the Neretva Valley, in which the city of Mostar resides.

In a 1997 magazine interview Bogdanović in which he discusses his feelings and motivations towards the creation of his Partisan Cemetery project at Mostar, he made the following statements, translated here from Serbian into English:

"...in constructing the Mostar acro-necropolis, a deep, inner fire swept over me. The task at hand was by no means easy or straightforward but I was getting on with it without nausea or fatigue, in fact, I was overwhelmed by a new way of comprehending life and death. Perhaps it sounds absurd, but it was as if I was hoping to impart some of my secret joy to my ‘new friends’, whose names – Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian – only just began taking shape on the necropolis terraces. Their little afterlife city, as I had promised to their families, was overlooking the very heart of Mostar's old city."

As Bogdanović suggests in this quote with in regards to the creation of this 'afterlife city', not only is the structure of this metaphorical city important, but also the location of it. Thus, the chosen location for the monument on the slopes of Bijeli Brijeg can be thought of as part of allowing that the fallen fighters be able to direct see and commune with Mostar, or in other words, as researcher Haris Kuko asserts: "For Bogdanović it was more important how the monument 'looked' at the city rather than how the people looked at the monument".

Within the terraces are hundreds of stone markers engraved with the names of fallen Partisan soldiers (Photo 12). Sources relate a variety of symbolic meanings behind these stone markers; with some writings describing them as 'bird-esque' in resemblance, which is said to represent freedom and release from suffering -- meanwhile, other sources describe the stones to be shaped similar to cut tree stumps, which would symbolize a disconnect and separation from youth or a life cut short. Yet, other sources describe the stone's appearance to more of a flower-shape design, which could be meant to represent the 'blossoming' of new life from the ground. It is difficult to say for sure, as the site's designer, Bogdan Bogdanović, would never personally comment on the symbolism or representative elements in designed into his memorials. In addition, as the engraved stones bearing the names of fallen Partisan fighters are of a wide range of ethnic backgrounds (Croat, Serb, Muslim, Jew, etc) all arranged side-by-side with religious markings, this cemetery has often been viewed as a classic representation of the supreme Yugoslav ideal of 'Brotherhood and Unity'.

Photo 12: Three engraved stone markers on the terraces

Photo 13: Set of 3 sculptural elements at the Partisan Cemetery, Mostar

Photo 14: Minoan Horns of Consecration at Knossos, Crete, circa 1100BC

Another interesting symbolic element within the memorial is a set of three strange sculptures at the very base of the terraces (Photos 13 & 14). These sculptures bear a strong resemblance to the 'Horns of Consecration' derived from the Minoan civilization. In that culture, tombs and shrines which bore these horn designs, symbolic of the sacred bull, were meant as a sign that the structure was sacred or holy. Bogdanović often included modern interpretations of ancient symbols in his work as a way to ground his spaces in an atmosphere of both the past and the future. He also included this Minoan horn motif at his monument at Štip, Macedonia.

As mentioned above, the concept of symmetry is reflected in multiple elements of this memorial, from the design of the walkways, to the shape of the terraces, to the way in which the fountain bisects the upper-level of the memorial. In his writings, Bogdanović often describes symmetry as a metaphor for the dualistic nature of the universe (life & death, light & dark, creation and destruction, etc), which he felt lent itself to the overall symmetry of the cosmos. Through this cemetery, which Bogdanović often referred to as his 'acro-necropolis' or 'city of the dead', overt attempts are made to create an avenue or 'portal' to the greater cosmos. This concept can be seen in what could be considered the centerpiece of the memorial... a large and perplexing sundial-like sculpture on the rear wall of the very summit of the complex, which itself appears very 'portal-like'. As a result of this collection of celestial and geometric elements, Bogdanović very much seems to be attempting to fashion the cemetery into a celestial bridge between the Mostar of the living and the Mostar of the dead. Furthermore, as the 'bridge' concept is one especially important and integral to Mostar itself, such symbolism is very appropriate. Bogdanović himself even went so far as to personally dub this monument as 'Little Mostar'.

 

Status and Condition:

The state of the Mostar's Partisan Cemetery has been very poor in recent years, but recent efforts have improved its condition. Firstly, the landscaping and general state of the monument has been unmaintained in the past, with graffiti covering walls, trash scattered about and grass/shrubs overgrown across the pathways and courtyards. Second, extensive physical damage has befallen many elements of the memorial complex over the decades since the 1990s (Photo 15), with smashed stone markers throughout, damaged concrete elements and profuse water damage to many areas. Third, none of the fountain elements anywhere in the memorial complex are currrently in working order, nor have been for quite some time. While a number of efforts have been attempted to restore this memorial over the last two decades, such efforts were, in the past, quickly subverted by vandals.

Photo 15: A fire set at the entrance to the memorial complex, 2014

As far as the local government promoting this memorial, I was not able to see any signs or directional markers leading visitors to this site (from what I understand, most were stolen by vandals). In addition, there are no informational or interpretive signs at the memorial which could serve to inform visitors to the site's historic or cultural significance. Furthermore, nowhere in the city did I see any promotional materials advertising the memorial cemetery or planned tours which could take visitors there. Though, on the 'Visit Mostar' web portal, I did find one particular page dedicated to the Partisan Cemetery which did seem to promote it as a tourist attraction. Furthermore, upon my most recent visit to the site, I found a number of visible remains of flowers and wreaths meant to pay respects to this site left by those in the local community. Furthermore, there are reportedly still several official commemorative celebrations held at this monument annually, yet, to what degree they are regularly held (or well attended) is not immediately clear:

  • February 14th: Day of Liberation for the City of Mostar

  • June 26th: Yugoslavia joinin the United Nations

  • July 27th: Day of Uprising

  • November 25th: Statehood Day

Photo 16: Day of Europe celebrations, 2018

Finally, it is important to point out that due to the nature of the Mostar Partisan Cemetery acting as a symbol for the city's ethnic tension, the site's safety is a factor that must be taken into consideration when visiting as a tourist. This is particularly true in light of the recent attack by 20 masked assailants upon an international student group touring the memorial complex in November of 2017. Personally, I would strongly advise against visiting the site alone, especially if you are a foreigner. The safest way to visit the cemetery would be in large groups or by patronizing a local Mostar guide who is familiar with the complex and is aware of what factors need to be considered before visiting. However, as of 2018, significant amounts of restoration and rehabilitation to the site has been completed. In addition, 24hr security guards have been reportedly posted at the memorial site. Recently on May 10th, 2018, Europe Day celebrations were held at the Partisan Cemetery with massive light shows and cultural events (Photo 16).

 

Additional Sites in the Mostar Area:

This section will explore additional Yugoslav-era sites of historical significance around the area of Mostar that may be of interest to people interested in subject of this region's abstract WWII monuments. We will examine here the Memorial Fountain commemorating fallen NOB fighters, as well as the abandoned Buna underground airbase just south of Mostar in Gnojnice.

Memorial Fountain to Fallen Fighters:

In front of the Mostar Health Center on the west side of the Neretva River is a modest memorial fountain. This small monument was built to commemorate the city's fallen Partisan soldiers who fought during WWII (as well as honoring five Partisan fighters who were executed at this spot by German troops). The fountain, whose year of creation and authors I was not able to determine, consists of a 3-4m wide basin out of which protrudes a concrete claw-like semi-sphere. This monument was extremely neglected and degraded during the Bosnian War of the 1990s, with Slides 1 & 2 here showing the entire structure riddled with bullet holes, as well as having its memorial plaques stolen. After having sat in such a state for nearly two decades, in 2010 the memorial fountain was fully restored and rehabilitated (Slide 3) by the initiative of Mostar's city administration. Commemorative ceremonies have even began to take place at the fountain again (Slide 4). The exact coordinates for this memorial fountain are N43°20'24.5", E17°48'30.3", right at the corner of Kneza Mihajla Viševića Humskog and highway M6.1.

Memorial Fountain - Slideshow

Buna Underground Airbase:

In 1971, the government of Yugoslavia opened a secret underground military airbase built within a small mountain in the town of Gnojnice, roughly 7km south of Mostar. The complex acted as a concealed clandestine jet hanger for the Yugoslav Air Force (at 300m long, it could fit 20 planes) that would protect the precious jets in the case of an air attack. In addition, the complex was also meant to act as a protective bunker, as it also originally contained living quarters, offices, kitchens and a barracks. It seems evident the facility was made to withstand even some nature of nuclear attack, especially considering the two massive 20cm thick sliding steel doors at either entrance. After the dismantling of Yugoslavia, the facility fell into disrepair and disuse, leaving the camouflage and concealment materials to degrade and fall off. The pieces of dark styrofoam pieces scattered at the north entrance are lingering evidence of this camouflage. Presently, the entire underground complex is abandoned, gutted, opened to the elements and covered in graffiti.

Buna Airbase - Slideshow

The primary entrance to Buna airbase is located in Gnojnice, just off of highway 6.1 across from the Mostar airport. The exact coordinates for the northern most entrance to the site is N43°17'44.4", E17°50'47.9". If you decide to enter the airbase, please be safe and do not wear opened toed shoes, as many hazards still lurk within the site.

The Razvitak Shopping Center:

Less than 1km north of Mostar's Old Bridge in the town's center on the east side of the river are the ruins of the old Razvitak Shopping Center. Unveiled on March 1st, 1970, this innovative new modernist shopping center instantly became one of Mostar's landmarks upon its opening (even being featured on the town's postcards). Created by Bosnian architect Ante Paljaga, the unique concrete panels surrounding the facade of the structure bear a series of dynamic ancient designs borrowed from the carved figures found on the region's medieval tombstones known as 'stećci'. With stećci being an integral part of the region's culture, Paljaga including their imagery on this building was a way to integrate local vernacular design and cultural history intro the building's modernist visual language, thus creating a distinct 'local' style of Yugoslav architecture. Historical Yugoslav-era images of the shopping center can be found in Slides 1 - 4. Also seen in the old photos is a 64 apartment 7 floor high-rise which was built next to the shopping center during its initial construction.

The Razvitak Shopping Center - Slideshow

During the Bosnian War of the 1990s, the Razvitak Shopping Center, along with its accompanying residential high rise, were severely damaged by shelling and bombing that went on. After the war, the high rise was demolished as the building had become a safety hazard in danger of potentially collapsing, however, the shopping center was left as it was, abandoned and destroyed. Now, more than 20 years after the war, the fate of the Razvitak is still in question. Some recent proposals in 2018 have been put forward to tear down the old ruins and redevelop the site, while other proposals suggest the building's original facade should be preserved. however, it is unclear whether these efforts will be carried out. One of the biggest road blocks in the development and resolution of the future of this site are prolonged legal disputes between the city of Mostar and the residents of the current high rise. Currently, the ruins are surrounded by fencing and it is prohibited to enter, while contemporary views of the ruins can be seen in Slides 5 & 6. The exact coordinates for the ruins of the Razvitak complex are N43°20'39.5", E17°48'48.5".

And Additional Sites of Interest:

  • Stari Most (Old Bridge): Unquestionably the most important historical, cultural and touristic attraction in Mostar is the Stari Most (Old Bridge) (Photo 17). This 16th century bridge was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent, the longest reigning Ottoman sultan, and crosses the Neretva River right at the center of the old town, joining the two sides of Mostar. The bridge was destroyed during the wars of the 1990s, but rebuilt exactly the same soon thereafter. It is a must-visit if you are in the area. A photo of the bridge can be found at this Wiki link, while the exact coordinates for the site are N43°20'14.3", E17°48'54.6".

  • Verlo Bune (Buna River Spring): Roughly 13km SE of Mostar is an amazing geologic where the massive spring wells up out of the mountain from a deep karstic cavern creating the Buna River. It exists as the most quintessential example of a karstic spring in the world and is often credited with being one of the most beautiful springs in Europe. Positioned directly in front of the spring, built directly into the steep cliff walls, is a 16th century Dervish monastery called Blagaj Tekke, while on top of the mountain above the spring is the 10th century ruined Blagaj Fortress. Verlo Bune is on the tentative list for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A photo of Verlo Bune can be seen at this Wiki link, while its exact coordinates are N43°15'24.8", E17°54'11.5".

Photo 17: A photo of the Old Bridge in Mostar, BiH

Photo 18: The Cathedral of Mary in Mostar, BiH

  • Cathedral of Mary (Mother of the Church) in Mostar: Located roughly 1km west of the Stari Most bridge at the center of Mostar is the Cathedral of Mary. This religious landmark was completed in 1980 after many decades of the local Catholic diocese battling with the Yugoslav government for permission to build a new cathedral for Mostar. Only a small number of significant religious centers were built during the Yugoslav-era, so permission being given here is notable. The resulting cathedral built was an extremely post-modern architectural work which was ambitious and groundbreaking for cathedral architecture (Photo 18), even when compared to present-times. The structure, designed by the architect team Hildegard Auf–Franić, Ivan Franić & Teodor Kupcevski, was meant to be symbolic of a "Tent of God". However, the church was severely damaged during the Bosnian War of the 1990s. It was subsequently repaired and renovated, during which time a massive bell tower was built in the square in front of the church. The official website fo the cathedral can be found at THIS link, while its exact coordinates are N43°20'21.7", E17°47'53.8".

 
 

Directions:

The Partisan Necropolis memorial complex at Mostar is located in the area of Trimuša Park, in the southwest part of Mostar, right off Kralja Petra Kresimira road. Parking can be made either in front of the long avenue that leads up to the memorial complex or in the parking lots of adjacent apartment buildings. The exact coordinates of parking are N43°20'34.3", E17°47'52.9" (click for map). However, if you choose to walk to the complex instead of driving, it can be reached on foot from the Stari Most (Old Bridge) in about 22 minutes over a 1.6km distance.  Be alert and vigilant while visiting, as there have been many reports of local youth hassling and harassing foreign visitors coming to see the monument. It is not advisable to visit alone, especially if you are a tourist. If hesitant at all, hire a local guide.

Map of the spomenik at Mostar, Bosnia designed by Bogdan Bogdanović

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Selected Sources and More Information:

-English Wiki article: "Partisan Memorial Cemetery in Mostar"

-Minor Sights: "The Partisan Cemetery of Mostar"

-Failed Architecture: "The Partisan Necropolis: Mostar's Empty Stare"

-Bosnian Wiki article: "Partizansko groblje u Mostaru"

-Andrew Lawler paper: "The Memorial works of Bogdan Bogdanović: Their condition and situation as of 2012."

-Bosnian Commission to Preserve National Monuments: "Partisan Memorial-Cemetery, the architectural ensemble"

-Atlas Obscura article: "Partisan Memorial Cemetery"

-Marko Attila Hoare book: "The Bosnian Muslims in the Second World War"

-Gojko Jokić book: "Jugoslavija, Spomenici Revolucije: Turistički vodič"

-Znaci Archive article: "Mostar u oslobodilačkom ratu"

-Balkan Insight article: "Partisans’ Necropolis in Bosnia’s Mostar Left to Rot"

-Heroji Sa Neretve blog: "Partizansko spomen-groblje - Help to preserve"

-Vojna Povijest article: "Borbe za Mostar u veljači 1945. godine"

-Dizdarević & Hudović paper: "The lost ideology-Socialist Monuments in Bosnia"

-Facebook page: "Partizansko spomen-groblje - Help to preserve famous WW2 Memorial in Mostar"

-Janes-Laslo Stadler paper: "Die Partisanennekropole in Mostar"

-Kristina Ilić paper: "Cultures of memory, landscapes of forgetting: The case study of the Partisan memorial cemetery in Mostar"

-Barišić, Murtić & Burzić book: "MOSTARSKA Hurqualya : (ne)zaboravljeni grad" [PDF]

-Arna Mackic article: "Mortal Cities: The Irreversible Disappearance of Mostar"

-Haris Kuko paper: "Partizansko Spomen Groblje– Symbolet på en svunnen tid" [PDF]

-Institute for War & Peace Reporting documentary: "The Forgotten" [video]

-Murtić & Barišić paper: "Unruly Monument: Subverting the Topography of the Partisan Memorial Cemetery"

-Mostar Cathedral website: "Nova Katedrala u Mostaru"

Comments:

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.