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After years of neglect, the city of Priština, Kosovo rehabs a notable Yugoslav memorial

Updated: Apr 12, 2020

Roughly two weeks ago, on August 2nd, the memorial complex at Adem Jashari Square in Priština, Kosovo, formerly known as the 'Brotherhood & Unity' square during the Yugoslav era, held an inauguration of the square's recently completed renovation and rehabilitation. These repairs came after the memorial square sat for years in a state of dereliction and degradation.  

A photo of the newly renovated Adem Jashari Square in Priština. Kosovo

The memorial square, which is situated between the Kosovo Assembly and the Priština Municipal Building, was built in 1961 by Serbian designer Miodrag Živković during the time that the region was part of the country of Yugoslavia. The memorial square's original layout was a tall triple-spire monument flanked by a bronze statuary series representing eight Communist Partisan soldiers, all residing at the center of what was called Brotherhood & Unity Square, one of the principle ideas of ethnic cooperation in Yugoslavia. The square was renamed to 'Adem Jarshari Square' around 2000, not long after the start of the Kosovo War. Adem Jashari is one of Kosovo's most mythologized and epic figures, as he was one of the primary founders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, a organization which, at that time, existed as "an ethnic-Albanian paramilitary organization that sought the separation of Kosovo from... Serbia during the 1990s", as Wikipedia describes.

A photo showing the poor condition of the memorial square before renovation

However, in the years after Kosovo declared independence, the complex at Adem Jashari Square began to fall into a state of severe neglect and degradation. It was subjected to significant amounts of graffiti and defacement, while reports indicate that failed attempts were even made to topple the square's central spire monument with explosives. Meanwhile, the Partisan statuary set was painted over with the Albanian flag as well as the flags of NATO nations. News article indicate that as early as 2010 efforts were being discussed by Priština city officials to demolish the spire monument and redeveloped the space into a plaza and underground parking facility. Even the head of the Institute for the Protection of Monuments in Priština, Haxhi Mehmetja, stated in 2010 that the 'Brotherhood & Unity' symbol was something no longer wanted by the people of Priština. However, as these efforts progressed, institutions such as Cultural Heritage Without Borders and Docomomo 'Kosovo' advocated for the monument and insisted it was indeed protected by Kosovo's cultural heritage laws.

A closer view of the renovations made to the Adem Jashari Square

As a consequence of such groups advocating on its behalf, efforts and initiatives to demolish the spire monument ceased and abandoned. In 2015, plans were put forward by the city to begin a significant renovation project which would rehabilitate Adem Jashari Square while leaving the spire monument intact. After a long planning process and multiple delays over the site's ownership, work on the memorial square finally began in March of 2018. The construction project was completed in late July and was inaugurated during a large ceremony on August 2nd. These renovations, which cost roughly 309,000 euros, consist of a completely new and aesthetically contemporary tiled plaza, as well as attractive lighting, benches and green spaces. Damage to the spire monument was also repaired. As a result, the square appears much more warm and welcoming compared to its former dilapidated condition. However, one aspect of the square that was left unchanged was the Partisan statuary set, which remains with its graffiti flags painted across it. Potential plans for the future development of the square include the construction of a statue of Adem Jashari.

However, the continued inclusion of the Živković’s 1961 triple-pillar monument remain controversial, as many in the city see it as a symbol of its unwelcome Communist past. Speaking on this subject, the mayor of Priština, Shpend Ahmeti, made the following remarks (roughly translated here into English):

“It should be understood that this pillar... has been in every panorama of Priština, back during the age of the panorama, and it has been in photographs and part of the city’s history. This means that although many people associate it with Communism, with Yugoslavia, I think that history can even be expressed through architecture, so we should have something left to speak about that era in time.”

The 2018 completion of this project commemorates the 20th anniversary of both the KLA Epopee and the controversial 1998 killing of Adem Jashari (along with 58 members of his family) by Serbian police, who considered Jashari to be a terrorist.

For more information from domestic sources, see this Albanian language link from Zeri:

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