Name: Monument on Obad's Hill (Spomenik na Obadovom Brijegu/Споменик на Обадовом Бријегу)
Location: Obad's Hill near Danilovgrad, Montenegro
Year completed: 1974
Designer: Slobodan Vukajlović
Coordinates: N42°34'49.6", E19°03'12.7"
Dimensions: ~4m tall and 5m wide
Materials used: Concrete
Condition: Poor shape, neglected
The memorial sculpture on Obad's Hill commemorates the 6th Montenegrin Strike Brigade who defended the nearby Danilovgrad Pass from a incursion of German soldiers in November of 1944.
World War II
Formed near Kolasin, Montenegro on November 14th, 1943, the 6th Montenegrin Strike Brigade was a force of over 500 anti-fascist Partisan fighters. This unit primarily operated around the Nikšić and Grahovo regions attempting to expel and weaken all locally operating groups of German and Chetnik troops, as well as Muslim militias. Through September and November of 1944, the Brigade participated in the final liberation of both Nikšić and Grahovo from Axis occupation (Photo 1). After these successes, the Brigade switched their focus to Axis forces still remaining in the region of Danilovgrad.
In late October, the German 21st Mountain Corps, led by Commander Ernst von Lajzer, attempted to push north through the Danilovgrad region in order to take back the town of Nikšić from the Partisans. However, the German forces were intercepted by several units of Partisans, most notably the 6th Montenegrin Brigade, at mountain pass on Obad's Hill (Obadov Brijeg). Beginning on November 13th, 1944, these Partisans engaged in a bloody offensive to prevent the Germans from crossing over Obadov Hill. In addition to the Partisans infantry forces attacking at the front lines of this offensive, British forces from the Middle East Command provided artilery support while Allied planes took out German columns along the road. Then, after 13 days of fighting, the Partisan units succeeded on November 26th in forcing the Germans into a retreat east away from the pass. In the aftermath of this victory, Partisan commander Josip Tito personally gave congratulations to the 6th Montenegrin Brigade for their efforts and success during this offensive.
Photo 1: A Partisan offensive against Axis forces in Montenegro, 1944
Photo 2: Vukajlović's Hotel Jastreb (top) and Catholic Church (bottom) in Nikšić
In the late 1970s, local government and SUBNOR veterans committees in Nikšić and Danilovgrad began to organize the creation of a modest monument complex to commemorate the military victory by the 6th Montenegrin Brigade at Obad's Hill. Through the course of opening a public design competition the commission to create this memorial structure was awarded to the proposal put forward by local Nikšić architect Slobodan Vukajlović. Already an accomplished designer at this point, Vukajlović had created numerous significant highly modernist architectural creations across Montenegro, including Hotel Jastreb in 1971 and ambitiously experimental Catholic church in 1973, both of which were constructed in nearby Nikšić (Photo 2). Vukajlović completed the Obad's Hill monument in 1974 and it was inagurated in November of that year in order to commemorate exactly 30 years since the fierce battle which had occurred there. The monument Vukajlović created was a small roughly 4m tall swan-shaped sculpture made of concrete, crafted in a highly simplified and minimialistic style. The monument is located at the center of a small roadside memorial complex near the Obad's Hill pass just off the side of the main road between Nikšić and the capital city Podgorica (a city which was during the Yugoslav-era named Titograd).
In the decades since the break-up of Yugoslavia, the spomenik complex has fallen into decay, neglect and abandonment. The central memorial sculpture is still relatively intact, however, the memorial plaque once attached to the structure has been removed while the site itself is completely deteriorated. As far as my research has been able to determine, no remembrance or commemorative events are held at the site any longer, even despite its easy-to-access location right along the main Nikšić-to-Podgorica highway.
Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:
In its original state, the memorial sculpture here at Obad's Hill had a bronze plaque affixed to its southwest side (the side of it which faces the main highway). However, at some point after the dismantling of Yugoslavia during the 1990s and early 2000s, this bronze plaque was removed, presumably stolen for scrap or simply defaced by vandals. The location on the monument where this bronze plaque once exist can be seen in Slides 1 & 2. As of yet I have found no historical photograph depicting what this plaque looked like or what information was inscribed onto it. Additional plaques, engravings or inscriptions may have also existed at this site before the memorial site was vandalized, however, so far I have found no further evidence to indicate what these might have depicted. Interestingly, the surface of the monument is mostly free of graffiti or other types of spray paint or defacement.
The modernist concrete memorial sculpture here at Obadov Brijeg is interesting in several respects in relation to its shape and form. Firstly, it is almost unquestionable that the intent of the monument's creator, Slobodan Vukajlović, intended for the sculpture to be depicting some nature of swan-like bird. Of all of the hundreds of Yugoslav monuments I have encountered (traditional, modernist or otherwise), this is the only one which uses animal imagery in such a front-and-center straightforward manner. Yet interestingly, through my research into this site I found no indications how the image of a swan might relate in any way to the events which occurred here. Traditionally, swans symbolize grace, beauty or purity, yet none of those concepts seem to be relevant to this site. As many Yugoslav monuments explore the ideas of ancient symbolism, the swan could perhaps be some sort of mythological reference, Cygnus the Swan from Greek myths, for instance (Photo 3). Yet, even the story of that swan hardly seems to apply here either. Perhaps the swan in merely a peaceful and solemn symbol meant to communicate harmony and serenity to all who encounter it.
Photo 3: Cygnus the Swan
Photo 4: Danilovgrad monument catalog, 2017
Status and Condition:
The monument complex here at Obad's Hill (Obadov Brijeg) appears to be in a completely abandoned state and no longer seems to be used or maintained in any way whatsoever. The grass and vegetation around the memorial sculpture are overgrown and untended while trash and other sorts of litter are scattered across the entire site. It also appears that many people squat inside and around the monument using it as a toilet, which was evidenced by several piles of feces and toilet paper around the base of the structure. There are no directional signs or markers around the site which might draw the attention of passing motorists, nor are there any educational or interpreative signs/plaques located around the memorial (as they have all been removed or stolen). However, despite all of this neglect and damage to the site, I found no indications whatsoever of any nature of spray paint or graffiti vandalism. Yet, the monument's concrete surface has appreciable staining and green algal growth on it from a lack of cleaning and maintenance. While it seems clear the monument receives little promotion or advertisement from the local municipality, this monument was featured in a 2017 catalog [PDF] of anti-fascist monuments in the Danilovgrad region (Photo 4).
Meanwhile, upon my most recent visit to the site, I found no honorific flowers, candles, wreaths or any other forms of tribute left at this memorial site. Nor did I find any evidence that any nature of commemorative or remembrance events are being held at this complex any longer. As such, the site seems to be advanced state of disuse and decay or, for all intents and purposes, abandoned. Finally, my research yielded no indications that any plans or initiatives were in the works to either repair or rehabilitate this site. As far as I was able to ascertain, this monument is under no governmental protection, either on the local, regional or national level.
Additional Sites in the Danilovgrad Area:
This section will explore additional Yugoslav era historical, cultural and memorial sites in and around the greater Danilovgrad area that would be of interest to those exploring the monuments of the former Yugoslavia. Here we will look at several sites, including the Monument to Fall Fighters at town center of Danilovgrad, the Ljutotuk Memorial complex in Bobulja, as well as the Monument to Executed Youth in Jastreb.
Monu. to Fallen Fighters in Danilovgrad:
About 4km southeast of the Obadov Brijeg monument is the town of Danilovgrad. In the central square of the town (called Square 'December 9th') is a small memorial obelisk which is dedicated to the fallen fighters from WWII (Slides 1 & 2). Created in 1959 by Danilovgrad native sculptor Drago Đurović, around the base of the obelisk (which is about 10m tall) are four large bronze figurative sculptures of Partisan fighters (Slide 3). At the rear of the monument on the lower street level is a crypt area, which is currently enclosed behind a gate. Within the crypt area can be dimly seen a large old mosaic panel (Slide 4), but it is too dark and concealed to be able to see the mosaic properly. I was unable to find any historical photos of it. The complex exists in reasonable condition and annual commemorative events are still held at the site. Some Yugoslav-era images of this monument can be seen in Slide 5. The exact coordinates for this monument are N42°33'11.5", E19°06'19.0".
Monument to Fallen Fighters at Danilovgrad - Slideshow
Monument to Executed Youth at Lazine:
About 3km southeast of the town of Danilovgrad is the small village of Jastreb (in an area called 'Lazine'), just south of the Zeta River. On the rural northern outskirts of the village along the main road is a small monument complex which is dedicated to 52 Danilovgrad youth who were executed during WWII at this spot by German occupational forces on July 23rd, 1944 (Slides 1 - 4). The central element of this memorial is a roughly 7m tall bronze figurative sculpture depicting a young women wearing a long dress in a unique pose with her right arm arced over her head and her left extended outward horizontally in a dramatic stance. Her legs appear bound and her body language is that of defiance and rebellion. which wa created in 1959 by Danilovgrad native sculptor Drago Đurović and architect Vojislav Đokić. Along the road in front of the monument is a fence which is made from pieces of recycled gun parts (Slide 5). In front of the monument is a set of seven engraved stone blocks (Slide 6).
Monument to Executed Youth at Jastreb - Slideshow
The left-most stone block of this set of seven contains a poetic inscription that reads in English as: "There is no victory without victims, there is no freedom without blood", while the six stone blocks to the right of this one contain inscriptions of the names of the 52 youth who were killed at this location. The complex was restored and rehabilitated in 2016 by local authorities and official annual commemorative events continue to be held here. A historical Yugoslav-era image of the monument can be seen in Slide 7. The exact coordinates of this monument are N42°32'06.7", E19°08'02.7".
Ljutotuk Memorial Complex in Bobulja:
About 3km east of the town of Danilovgrad is the small village of Bobulja. In the center of this village is a monument called the "Ljutotuk Memorial Complex" which commemorates fighters from the region who perished during WWII. This work was unveiled in 1975 and was designed by famous Montenegrin architect Ranko Radović. Despite his notable stature in the Yugoslav architecture world, Radović's choice to create such a small monument in this out-of-the-way village is because this area was his place of birth. The monument is characterized by three ~6m tall concrete pillar sets with numerous shelf-like protrusions emenating from them. Behind the monument is a concrete amphitheatre. On the inner sides of the pillars are white marble panels with an inscription which reads in English as: "In memory of 337 fighters from the People's Liberation Struggle & Revolution, under the leadership of the KPJ (1941-1945). Eternal life to those who gave their lives for freedom. By the local community of Jelenak, July 13th, 1975."
Ljutotuk Memorial Complex in Bobulja - Slideshow
The condition of the monument is somewhat neglected, with the surface of the structure's facade badly weather stained and several areas overgrown with weeds, along with much graffiti covering several parts of the complex. I was unable to find any reports that annual commemorative events are still held at this location. The exact location of this monument complex is N42°33'01.5", E19°09'33.5".
And Additional Sites of Interest:
Monument to Fallen Fighters at Frutak: Roughly 500m southeast of the Obadov Brijeg monument on the south end of the village of Frutak is a monument (Photo 5) which commemorates ~70 local fighters from the Balkan Wars, WWI & WWII (with special mention of 7 Partisans who fell during liberation efforts in October of 1944). Created in the 1970s by local Nikšić sculptor Ljubo Vojvodić, this monument is a carved stone pillar in an mechanical-like abstract shape. The exact location of this monument is N42°34'37.9", E19°04'05.0".
Danilovgrad Art Colony: Just north across the street from the Square 'December 9th' is the Danilovgrad Art Colony (Umjetnička kolonija Danilovgrad). This art gallery contains dozens of works within a sprawling sculpture garden and serene park setting. Founded in 1972 and operated by the Danilovgrad Cultural Center, the sculpture garden contains modernist works created by not only Yugoslav artists, but artists from around the world. The official website of the Art Colony can be found at THIS link, while the exact coordinates for the colony are N42°33'12.3", E19°06'20.8".
Monument to the 3rd Battalion: Roughly 4km north of the Obadov Brijeg monument is a modest concrete memorial pillar along the highway dedicated to a April 1944 WWII battle (Photo 6). This absract work was created in the 1970s by local Nikšić sculptor Ljubo Vojvodić. It contains on its front a black inscribed stone panel which reads in English as: "In this area on April 2nd, 1944, in a series of bloody fights against the Germans and Chetniks, the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Proletarian Dalmatian Brigade made a significant victory. In this fight, there were 7 fighters, including Jovo Chetnik, commander and Radomir Marković, deputy commander of the battalion. Association of Fighters, Nikšić". The exact coordinates for this monument are N42°36'45.0", E19°01'36.9".
Photo 5: Monument to Fallen Fighters at Frutak
Photo 6: Monument to the 3rd Battalion
The small spomenik complex at Obad's Hill (Obadov Brijeg) is located along the north side of the main highway between Podgorica and Nikšić, almost exactly halfway between the two towns. If you are driving north from the direction of Podgorica, the monument complex is located just a few hundred meters past the brown sign advertising that Ostrog Monastery is 21km away. After passing that sign, you will immediately see the memorial site on the right. Parking can be made in the travel/dirt area in the pull-off zone just off of the highway next to the monument. Exact coordinates for parking are N42°34'50.1", E19°03'11.8".
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Selected Sources and More Information:
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