Peja/Peć spomenik
Peja/Peć spomenik

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Peja/Peć spomenik
Peja/Peć spomenik

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Peja/Peć spomenik
Peja/Peć spomenik

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Peja/Peć spomenik
Peja/Peć spomenik

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Pejë/Peć

(Пећ)

Brief Details:

Name: Monument to the Revolution

Location: Pejë/Peć, Kosovo*

Year completed: 1972 (destroyed 2012)

Designer(s): sculptor Ante Gržetić [profile page], with architect Dragoljub Momčilović

Coordinates: N42°39'18.0", E20°17'18.3"

Dimensions: ~10m tall

Materials used: aluminum, stone, concrete

Condition: devastated and destroyed

History:

The Monument to the Revolution spomenik park in Pejë/Peć, Kosovo* is a commemorative site that was built to honor the region's thousands of Partisan fighters who fought and perished during WWII. Today, the complex sits in ruins.

History up to World War II

The city of Peć or Pejë sits within the dramatic landscape on the western plains of Kosovo* at the foot of where the Rugova and Accursed Mountains come together on the Pejë Bistrica River. It is an ancient city that has undergone many transitions of power over the centuries, such as it being the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the 1300s (located within the famous Patriarchate of Peć church), later taken over by the Ottomans in the 1400s, and the center of ethic-Albanian struggles against Ottoman powers in the late 1800s through the political organization known as the League of Pejë.

The city was briefly controlled by the Kingdom of Montenegro after the Balkan Wars but then quickly taken by Austria-Hungary on the eve of WWI. After WWI, it became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia within the Zeta Banovina (Photo 1). As WWII began to affect the region in the spring of 1941, Pejë/Peć was taken over by the occupational forces of the Axis forces of the Italian Army. Consequently, the area of Pejë/Peć was annexed by the Italian protectorate state of Albania. While some locals did collaborate with the Axis occupiers, there was also a significant Partisan resistance effort as well, as Pejë/Peć had long been an organizing location for the fledgling Yugoslav Communist Party (CPY), which had, even before the war had started, hosted a large KPJ conference in 1937 and was the regional hub of their operations (organized by famous local revolutionary Miladin Popović).

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Photo 1: A 1910s photo of Pejë/Peć

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Photo 2: Photo of occupied Pejë/Peć, 1944

At the end of June 1941, a conference of the CPY Regional Committee for Kosovo & Metohija was held in Vitomirica (a small village just outside Pejë/Peć), during which it was decided to start creating sabotage groups and background partisan units and to form a Military Committee. This famous meeting, which was integral in coordinating and organizing the Partisan resistance effort for much of the region of Kosovo & Metohija, was attended by figures such as Boro Vukmirović, Xhevdet Doda and Miladin Popović (who all went on to become famous folk heroes), as well as notable fighters such as Dušan Mugoša, Ali Shukriu and Fadil Hoxha (who would later go on to become the Vice-President of the Presidency of Yugoslavia during the 1970s). Then, in the fall of 1941, the Metohija Partisan Detachment was formed in Pejë/Peć, which consisted of nearly 800 fighters (including the famous Partisan folk hero Boro Vukmirović as its head political officer). The unit was made up of both ethnic-Albanian and ethnic-Serb fighters, illustrating the multi-cultural collaborative nature of the Partisan resistance force. The main task of this unit was mainly to defend the surrounding villages of the Pejë/Peć region from attacks by Axis occupiers and collaborators.

As a result of these Partisan incursions around the area, Axis forces often carried out reprisal killings of the city's innocent civilians, the majority of which were from the ethnic-Serb community of Pejë/Peć. In response, members of the Chetnik resistance force (units of commander Kosta Pećanac), which were also operating in the area in addition to the Partisans, undertook counter-reprisal attacks against the area's local ethnic-Albanian population.

As Axis armies responded to the resistance forces in the Pejë/Peć region with harsher brutality and increased amounts of troops, Partisans became overwhelmed and fled into the Šar Mountains to regroup their efforts. After the Italians capitulated and exited the Axis war effort in September of 1943, the occupation of Pejë/Peć was replaced with German Army forces (Photo 2), who were even more oppressive than the Italian forces had been (who now were also aided by not only the Balli Kombëtar, an Albanian nationalist fighting force, but also the Skenderbeg Division, a notorious SS unit made up of ethnic-Albanian fighters). However, in June of 1944, Partisan forces at Karaorman Mountain (just north of Struga, Macedonia) formed the 1st Kosovo-Metohija Partisan Brigade of the NOVJ, which then proceeded to plow its way north and entered the Kosovo* region in October of 1944.

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Photo 3: A photo of the Balli Kombëtar troops marching into the city of Prizren, 1944

Through the following weeks, the brigade was successful in pushing out the German occupiers and sending them into retreat. Pejë/Peć was subsequently liberated on November 17th, 1944. However, the expulsion of German forces did not end violence in the region, as many ethnic-Albanians resisted the integration of Kosovo* into socialist Yugoslavia (who wished it to join with Albania) and incited an insurrection. As a result, several months of fighting ensued between Partisans and the remnants of the Balli Kombëtar which did not end in the Pejë/Peć until February of 1945.

Spomenik Construction

In 1967, the Assembly of the Municipality of Pejë/Peć and the Association of Architects of Serbia organized a design competition for the creation of a grand monument park that would commemorate the city's WWII fallen fighters and victims of fascism. Several notable artists and architects from across Yugoslavia participated in this competition, including Slovene architect Marko Mušič [profile page], along with his father Marjan, as well as Belgrade sculptor Momčilo Krković (along with architect Aleksandar Đokić) (Photo 4) and Belgrade artist Nebojša Delja. However, the eventual winner of the competition was a proposal put forward by Belgrade artist Ante Gržetić [profile page] (along with Belgrade architect Dragoljub Momčilović) (Photo 5), who was at that time notable for his monumental NOB works at Kragujevac and Gjilan/Gnjilane. The location of this memorial site was slated for the City Park on Karagač/Karagaç Hill, just south of the city center.

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Photo 4: A drawing of the Pejë/Peć monument proposal by Momčilo Krković (along with architect Aleksandar Đokić)

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Photo 5: Concept art for Pejë/Peć monument by Ante Gržetić

Work on the construction of the memorial site at the City Park began in 1971 and lasted roughly one year, with work being undertaken not only by local construction firms, but also JNA soldiers and Youth Action groups. The complex was unveiled on July 4th, 1972, a date which marked 31 years since the start of the uprising against fascist occupation in Yugoslavia. Given the name "Monument to the Revolution", the central element of the complex originally consisted of a series of four aluminum figures (standing roughly 7m tall) that were all stood atop a flared 3m tall concrete pedestal.

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Photo 6: A vintage 1970s postcard photo of the memorial wall at the Monument to the Revolution at Pejë/Peć

The four figures are grouped together closely and each hold their fists up high in the air defiantly as they stare into the distance. The features of the figures were stylized in an abstract geometric fashion that emphasized the polished reflective qualities of the aluminum. Adjacent to this sculptural centerpiece down a series of stone stairs (just at the entrance to the memorial complex) was originally positioned a memorial wall composed of a collage of concrete cubes protruding and inset at various levels (Photo 6). On each of these cubes was installed stone tablets inscribed with over 2,500 names of Partisan fighters from across Kosovo*. This element stood as the largest such memorial wall site in all of Kosovo* and operated as the primary commemorative marker that publically recorded and inscribed the names of the region's fighters. Meanwhile, around the complex were arranged a set of terraced reflecting pools (laid out in sweeping curves and ovals) that framed the space and enhanced its aesthetic and commemorative qualities. The whole memorial complex itself provided a sweeping vista looking out over the city of Pejë/Peć and upwards towards the mountainous landscape of the Accursed Mountains.

From the Yugoslav-era to Present-Day

During the decades after the Monument to the Revolution was built in Pejë/Peć during the Yugoslav-era, the work stood as one of the most significant WWII memorial sites in Kosovo*. It was routinely commemorated and hosted regular ceremonies and events. Furthermore, the City Park itself where the monument was situated operated as an attractive and pleasant attraction for both locals and tourists, drawing in scores of people daily both to enjoy the serene natural environment, as well as to appreciate and pay respects to the memorial site. The level to which the Monument to the Revolution stood as a primary landmark for Pejë/Peć can be evidenced in that the site was depicted on nearly every touristic postcard produced for the city.

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Photo 7: An art photo of the empty pedestal. Credit: Marko Krojac

However, during the 1990s, the site began to fall into a state of neglect and disrepair with the turmoil of the Yugoslav Wars raging across the region and the dismantling of Yugoslavia. Though, despite the iconoclasm seen across Croatia during the 1990s, the Monument to the Revolution continued to stand even through the Kosovo War of the late 1990s and even through the violence and killings that occurred across Pejë/Peć during that conflict (which sources say destroyed more than 80% of the homes in the city). It was not until 2012 that the Gržetić's aluminum sculpture was finally removed from its pedestal. Some sources relate that it was vandals/scavengers that stole the sculpture for its metal, while other sources relate it was removed by the municipality. Either way, no traces of the sculpture are known to exist. During the subsequent years, the monument complex fell into further disrepair, with every surface being covered with spray paint and graffiti, as well as all of the inscribed plaques on the memorial wall being removed and destroyed... meanwhile, the reflective pools and fountains across the site all dried up, only serving to accumulate rubbish. Yet, while the aluminum sculpture was removed, the 3m tall flared pedestal continued to stand in the park for many years afterward. It was not until the late 2010s that the pedestal was finally removed as well (Photo 7). Today, the site appears largely forgotten and derelict, with no visible evidence that the city of Pejë/Peć is putting forward any effort to maintain it. I found no reports of initiatives aimed at restoring the site.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

The central element of this spomenik complex at Pejë/Peć that contained plaques, engravings and inscriptions was the memorial wall that contained dozens of stone panels inscribed with over 2,500 names of fallen fighters. This element was completely destroyed during the early 2000s and, as of present day, all traces of these inscribed stone panels are long gone and of the stone panels that do remain attached, all the names have been removed (Photo 8). All that is left behind of this wall is the decorative concrete cube matrix upon which the panels were installed, which today is covered in graffiti. It looks as though the wall is routintely used as a local dedicated graffiti spot, as evidenced by the many layers of graffiti that have accumulated over many years. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any historical images that might relate any specific honorific inscriptions or dedication panels that were originally included on this wall. The wall itself is in bad shape and the concrete is slowly deteriorating.

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Photo 8: A recent photo of the memorial wall at the Pejë/Peć NOB monument. Credit: Evelien van der Kooi

In addition to the old memorial wall, graffiti can be found at numerous other locations around the Monument to the Revolution complex as well, such as around the former location of Gržetić's aluminum sculpture and the edges of the reflective pools that were situated around the monument. There may have been additional plaques and inscribed elements in this area as well, but no evidence of them exists any longer and very few photographic records remain to indicate what other features may have existed within this complex.

Symbolism:

The defining characteristic of the four figures in Ante Gržetić's aluminum sculpture (back when it originally existed at the spomenik park in Pejë/Peć) was them collectively raising their hands and fists up into the air in a group action (Photo 9). Some figures raised both fists while other raised one fist with their other hand held over their hearts. Many of the figures bore facial expressions conveying feelings of exuberance and relief. Such figurative gestures contain many meanings and communicate various concepts. Firstly, the most intuitive meaning to draw from such gestures is that of joy and extasy over the hard-fought victory Yugoslavia won against fascist oppression from Axis occupiers and collaborates during WWII. The idea of "victory" within the sculpture was further reinforced with the four figures creating a "V" shape in their positioning. The "V" symbol was an important and pervasive symbol that spread through the world after the Allied victory during WWII.

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Photo 9: A 2000s era photo of Ante Gržetić's aluminum sculptures at the monument at Pejë/Peć. Credit: Marko Krojac

Meanwhile, the raised fist motif can also be interpreted as a symbol of defiance and resistance, two concepts that were integral to the Yugoslav Partisan virtue of defying the oppressors and refusing to allow themselves to be subjugated. Such a symbol is a universal gesture of solidarity and unity among victims that can be found in monuments and statues all around the world, particularly related to histories of oppressed peoples. In Yugoslavia specifically, the theme of fists raised in defiance was a sculptural expression explored in numerous WWII monuments across that country, most notably exemplified with the Three Fists monument at Bubanj in Niš, Serbia (created by Ivan Sabolić in 1963) [profile page].

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Photo 10: A recent photo of the ruins of the Monument to the Revolution. Credit: Evelien van der Kooi

Status and Condition:

The current state of the Monument of the Revolution at the spomenik park in Pejë/Peć can be described as being in a condition of total devastation and dereliction (Photo 10). The central memorial element of the site, Ante Gržetić's aluminum sculpture, was removed in 2012 and its large pedestal was also removed several years after that. Meanwhile, the memorial wall bearing the names of over 2,500 fallen fighters is also completely ruined and destroyed. No significant or meaningful efforts are being made to either maintain this site or to restore it to a functional status. There are no interpretive or education signs or placards at this site communicating its historical significance nor are there any original plaques or inscriptions left remaining that communicated the commemorative purpose of the site. Any unknowledgable visitor who might happen upon this location would see no indications whatsoever as to what this site was or why it is in the poor state that it is. While the complex does see regular visitors, as it is within a well-utilized City Park, I found no evidence that any commemorative or ceremonial efforts related to the monument are conducted here any longer.

Very little information is available in any of the local/national media outlets relating to the status or condition of this monument site. With it having sat in a derelict condition for roughly two decades now, there does no seem to be any indication that this status will change nor are there indications that the site will be removed or redeveloped. As such, all evidence would seem to infer a continued situation of this monument site sitting in a state of limbo and forgotten historical oblivion.

Additional Sites in the Pejë/Peć Area:

This section explores additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites in and around the greater Pejë/Peć region that might be of interest to those studying the monuments of the former Yugoslavia. The sites examined here will be the Monument to Fallen Fighters at Vitomiricë, as well as both the "Bankkos" Building and the "17 Nëntori" Department Store in Peja.

Mon. to Fallen Fighters at Vitomiricë:

Just northeast of the city of Pejë/Peć is a small community Vitomiricë/Vitomirica. Situated right in front of the town's main post office is a modest spomenik park that contains within it a memorial work known as the Monument to Fallen Fighters, that commemorates the people of this community that perished battling for the Partisan Army during WWII (Photo 11). Records indicate that the monument was created by an artist named "M. Miletić", with the works artistic style indicating it is from around the era of 1970s. The body of the monument is composed of a geometric abstract concrete form that stands roughly 13m tall. On an outstretched cantilevered portion of the monument sits a collection of five roughly-rendered bronze figures. It is not clear what action the figures are engaged in, but it appears to be some nature of battle or conflict. Underneath this group of figures is a series of bronze plaques inscribed with the names of fallen fighters. On top of the monument's spire is a final lone 4m tall bronze figure with broken hand-chains who is holding one arm up as they release a bird.

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Photo 11: A recent photo of the Monument to Fallen Fighters at Vitomiricë. Credit: Evelien van der Kooi

While this monument site is not in very good condition, the monument itself appears largely intact, despite its clear lack of maintenance and upkeep (as it is highly weathered, cracked and grafittied). I found no evidence that this site sees any regular visitors or that it hosts any commemorative events. Its exact coordinates are N42°41'53.6", E20°20'36.5".

The "Bankkos" Building in Pejë/Peć:

Located in the center of the city of Pejë/Peć, situated right upon "Academics" Squre, is a skyscraper that was originally known as the "Bankkos" Building (Photo 12). Created between 1984 and 1986, the author of this immense high-rise project was architect Milan Tajić (who also worked on the city's "17 Nëntori" Department Store). This charismatic tower stands as formidable landmark over the city, with it originally operating as the local branch office for "Bankkos" (an abbreviation for the "Bank of Kosovo"). The style of high modernism this complex was designed in made it on of the most architecturally adventurous buildings in Kosovo* from the time period, as such, it serves as a notable monument to Yugoslav-era architecture. The features of this tower that are most pronounced are the protruding bands of sculptural elements between the strips of windows of each level. These elements are composed of curved "U"-shaped forms (some inverted, some enlarged) arranged in playful patterns and arrangements, giving the entire facade of the building a highly textured and dynamic form.

In the early 1990s, the Bankkos organization collapsed and the building was abandoned, a state in which it remained for several decades. It was recently privatized in 2021 and purchased by the food service chain "Prince Coffee", who are planning on making significant changes to it. The exact coordinates for the Bankkos Building are N42°39'34.7", E20°17'17.9".

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Photo 12: A recent photo of the Bankkos Building in Peja. Credit: Natalie Faye Dawson

"17 Nëntori" Dept. Store in Pejë/Peć:

Located on the east edge of the city center of Peć/Pejë, just across from the Old Bazaar, is situated a department store which today is referred to as the "Metë Bajraktari" Shopping Center, a complex which was originally named "17 Nëntori" during the Yugoslav-era. This original name, which is in the Albanian language, translates to "November 17th" in English, which is a date which refers to the anniversary of the Partisan Army expelling the German occupiers from the city during WWII. The complex was designed by the architect team made up of Svetislav Živković & Milan Tajić, with work on it starting in 1975 and completing two years later in 1977. The design of the lower department store section of the complex is of a conventional modernist style, however, the upper office levels of the complex is characterized by a uniquely textured facade and sloping-edged stair-step levels which gave the whole structure a dynamic and architecturally ambitious appearance.

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Photo 13: An old postcard photo of the "17 Nëntori" Department Store located in the city of Pejë/Peć

In the years after the Yugoslav-era, the department store was privatized in 2004, at which point it underwent several drastic renovations and remodels over the subsequent years, leaving the whole complex today almost unrecognizable from its original appearance. The exact coordinates for this complex are 42°39'34.8"N 20°17'32.6"E.

And Additional Sites of Interest:

  • The UNESCO Monasteries: The greater region of Pejë/Peć and Western Kosovo* is known for having some of the most significant monasteries related to the history of the Serbian Orthodox religion. First, the Patriarchal Monastery of Peć (located just 2km west of the city center at the entrance to the Rugova Canyon) is a site that was built in the 13th century and was the seat of the Serbian Archbishops. Notable for its bright red color, it is notable not only for its ancient religious art, but also its 800 year old mulberry tree in the courtyard. Next, about 13km south of Pejë/Peć is the community of Deçan/Dečani, the location of the Visoki Dečani Monastery. This 14th century religious site is most well known for its massive religious murals and painted ceilings. Both of these monasteries are protected as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. As a curious side-note, the Visoki Dečani Monastery is notable for having, among its frescoes, medieval depictions of what many assert to be ancient UFOs (Photo 14).

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Photo 14: A fresco inside the Visoki Dečani Monastery

  • The Bazaar of Pejë/Peć: Just a few hundred meters east of "Academics" Square is the famous Bazaar of Pejë/Peć. Composed of a network of narrow streets, merchant stalls, vendors, food kiosks and other cultural offerings, the bazaar offers a unique experience of finding local handcrafts, regional food, coffee shops and other distinct souvenirs. This ancient marketplace has been around since the Ottoman-era, thus making it an integral place to learn about the history of the city.

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Photo 15: A vintage photo of the Mon. to the Fallen in Pejë/Peć

  • The Monument to the Fallen of Pejë/Peć: In the city center of Pejë/Peć there is a plaza that is today known as "Shkelzen Haradinaj Square" (originally known as "Marshal Tito Square"), right in front of Hotel Dukagjini. At the center of this square originally existed the Monument to the Fallen that was dedicated to the city's fallen Partisan fighters (Photo 15). Erected in the 1950s, the monument consisted of stone block pyramid topped with a red star. Recordsd indicate this was the very first monument in Pejë/Peć dedicated to the events of WWII. Inscribed stone plaques listing names of the city's fallen fighters were installed within the stone marker, as well as an inscription relating to seven Partisan fighters who were executed at this site on Dec. 7th, 1943. Around the mid-1990s, this monument was removed by the local authorities, with it being replaced by a sculptural bust of UÇK fighter Shkelzen Haradinaj in 1999. Then, in 2019, the bust was replaced with a full sized statue of Shkelzen Haradinaj. The exact coordinates of this location are N42°39'33.8", E20°17'22.9".

  • Cinema Jusuf Gërvalla: Along William Walker Street on the south side of the river in Pejë/Peć is a film house known today as the Cinema Jusuf Gërvalla. Constructed in 1955 by the local Worker's Union, it was originally called "Kino Rad" ("Workers’ Cinema") and constructed in an early modernist style (Photo 16). During the Yugoslav-era, this was one of the primary cultural centers of the city. The cinema was closed at the start of war in 1998 but was reopened in 2001, with it given its new name "Jusuf Gërvalla" the following year, named after a local writer, artist and activist. Through the 2000s, the cinema struggled to survive financially and was subsequently taken over by an NGO named "Anibar" in 2016. While screenings still occur here, they occur so only sporadically. For more info, a detailed history of the cinema can be found at THIS link. The exact coordinates for the cinema are N42°39'28.4", E20°17'13.1".

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Photo 16: A recent photo of the Cinema Jusuf Gërvalla in Pejë/Peć. Credit: Evelien van der Kooi

Directions:

To get to the Monument of the Revolution spomenik complex in Pejë/Peć, start from the city center along General Wesley Clark, at which point you will head east until you come to the sharp intersection of Mretëresha Teutë. Follow this road for roughly 170m, at which point you'll turn left onto Hwy R107 going south. After you cross over the river, you'll drive roughly 300m further and then turn right onto Mbreti Argon. As you drive along this road, you'll already see the City Park on the left. Keep on driving another 300m until you get to the corner of Femi Agani. The memorial complex is located at this corner. Parking is available anywhere along the street.

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*NOTE: All mentions of the designation "Kosovo" on this page are made without prejudice to the position on status, and is in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and the International Court of Justice's Opinion of the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.

Comments:

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