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Priština (Приштина/Prishtinë)

Brief Details:

Name: Monument to Brotherhood & Unity (Permendorja Vllaznim-Bashkim/Споменик Револуције у Приштини)

Location: Priština/Prishtinë, Kosovo

Year completed: 1961

Designer: Miodrag Živković (profile page)

Coordinates: N42°39'56.6", E21°09'52.4" (click for map)

Dimensions: ~20m tall monolith

Materials used: Poured concrete and rebar

Condition: Poor, neglected and degraded

(PRISH-tee-nah)

Click on slideshow photos for description

History:

This monument at the spomenik complex at Priština, Kosovo is meant to commemorate not only the fallen Partisan soldiers of this region who perished during the National Liberation War (WWII).

World War II

Just two months after the Kingdom of Yugoslavia capitulated to Axis forces April of 1941, the city of Priština was absorbed into Mussolini's 'Greater Albania', which was a creation intended to woo nationalistic Albanians to the side of the Italian Axis forces. Italians set up a puppet-government in this 'Greater Albania' made up of many Albanians who were intent on seeking revenge against what it felt were injustices carried out on them during the Kingdom of Yugoslavia era, with ethnic-Serbs in Kosovo being used as the primary scape-goat. In June of 1942, the Prime Minister of this 'Greater Albania' Axis puppet-state, Mustafa Merlika-Kruja, made the following statement regarding ethnic-Serbs living within the region:

"We should endeavor to ensure that the Serb population of Kosovo should be removed as soon as possible... all indigenous Serbs who have been living here for centuries should be termed colonialists and as such, via the Albanian and Italian governments, should be sent to concentration camps in Albania. Serbian settlers should be killed."

Statements such as this, among others, resulted in the persecution, ethnic cleansing and killing of many ethnic-Serbs and Montenegrins who lived in not only Priština, but also across the entire region of Greater Albania (Photo 1). However, as the Italian occupation wore on, even the Albanian's growing nationalism pushed them to resist even this Italian presence.  After the Italian army capitulated at the Armistice of Cassibile in 1943, the area of Greater Albanian was taken over by German forces. This new occupation under the Germans subsequently resulted in the persecution of many Jewish people across Priština, something that had not happened to a significant degree under Italian control. In May of 1944, the 21st Waffen SS division (made up mostly of Albanian Muslims), arrested nearly 300 Jewish civilians across Priština, who were then handed over to the German forces and shipped to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, a fate which resulted in the deaths of scores of these Jewish prisoners. A year later, in May of 1945, German troops withdrew from Priština during their retreat northward from the pressure of Allied bombings. By the end of the war, the city of Priština's population had dropped to just under 10,000 citizens (down roughly 6,000 from its pre-war population of 16,000) due to mostly the expulsion, fleeing and genocide of Jews and Serbs. Meanwhile, it is estimated that somewhere between 10,000 and 250,000 ethnic-Serbs were forcefully deported from Kosovo during the war.

Photo 1: Axis-aligned Albanian troops executing ethnic-Serb civilian on streets of Priština, 1943

Photo 2: One of the conceptual sketches of the Živković monument

Spomenik Construction

The initial planning stage for a Priština monument began in 1959 when a design competition was held to decide on the shape that the memorial complex would take. The competition was won by the proposal submitted by famed Serbian designer Miodrag Živković (Photo 2). The complex was completed in 1961. The spot chosen to build the memorial complex was directly in the center of Priština, on the spot of a 19th century Ottoman bazaar called the 'carshia' which contained well over 100 shops and stalls, but had fallen into disrepair after WWII. The monument consisted of a ~20m tall obelisk made of three separate thin pillars which all connect at the top, set in the middle of a large tiled public square. In addition, a long fountain was originally included on the east side of the monument, but this was removed during 1970s redevelopment efforts and replaced with a footprint of grass. Each of the three pillars represents one of the three ethnicities of the region (Serb, Albanian and Montenegrin). In front of the obelisk is a statuary series representing eight Partisan soldiers. The unifying idea of this sculpture was that it would be a memorial for ALL fallen fighters and victims of the war, no matter what their ethnicity was. The monument, officially named 'Monument to Heroes of the National Liberation Movement' or "Monument to the Revolution", is often referred to in Albanian as “trekëndëshi” (the triangle) or 'tre rremëshi' (the three branches). Some consider this structure to have been the first modernist-styled creation in the city of Priština.

The final element included with the original construction of the Brotherhood & Unity memorial complex which is important to mention is a long bronze sculpture series placed in front of the triple pillar tower 10m away to its east side. This set of reduced bronze figures (with angular cubist-like bodies and small heads with minimized features) is meant to be a stylized depiction of eight of Partisan fighters. The composition of the piece seems to be illustrating cooperation, unity and compassion, with the figures on the outside of the work standing guard while the inner-most ones are helping one another. While this element of the memorial complex seems completely different in terms of style and structure compared to the triple pillar tower, it is nevertheless also a sculpture work created by Miodrag Živković. While Živković is mostly known for his large concrete metal works, he also created many bronze cast figurative sculptures as well. A historic photo showing the sculpture's condition during the 1970s can be seen in Photo 3.

Photo 3: The Živković sculpture of Partisan fighters, 1970s

During the Yugoslav-era, this monument complex was an extremely significant cultural site in Priština. It stood as not only a political symbol representing the Yugoslav principle of Brotherhood & Unity, it was also one of the central symbols of the city, being depicted on just about every single postcard for the region during the era. In addition, it acted as a meeting point for youth congregation as well as diverse groups of people from across the city.

Kosovo War

After the fall of Yugoslavia and the onset of the Yugoslav Wars in 1991, degradation and neglect of the monument began almost immediately. Then, as the Kosovo War began in 1998 (Photo 4), an attempt to destroy the monument with explosives was made by unknown persons, possibly because many in the city viewed the monument as a representation of Serbian dominance, which would have been an incendiary symbol during Kosovo's war against Serbia. However, this attempt did not bring the monument to the ground. Damage from this bombing attempt can still be seen at present at the base of the monument. Then, in the aftermath of the war around 2000, the local government changed the name of the square from 'Brotherhood and Unity Square' to 'Adem Jashari Square'. This was a very controversial move in some people's eyes, as using the name of Adem Jashari, a military leader of the Kosovo Albanian separatist movement, seemed to be a stark contrast to Tito's idea of 'unity and brotherhood' under which the memorial was established.

Photo 4: Destruction in Priština from bombings during the Kosovo War, 1999

Present Day

Over the last two decades, the monument and the square it resides in have sat in a very derelict and degraded state, covered in graffiti and withering with crumbled concrete. In the mid-2010s, many in the city's government were discussing the possibility of tearing down the monument to redevelop the space into a parking area. However, in 2018 the city of Priština initiated a restoration project and by the fall of that year, the square was completely restored and rehabilitated. The cost of the project was roughly 300,000 euros. One of the strongest voices in advocating for the restoration of the complex was the Kosovo chapter of the Docomomo architectural conservation organization. However, despite these rehabbing efforts, the monument complex is still not officially protected on either the municipal level or by the national government.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

There are no plaques or engravings present at the spomenik complex here in Priština (at least before the 2018 restoration). While it seems like there may have been at one point in time, at this point, there is no longer any signs of them.

Up until 2018 the site had a considerable amount of graffiti covering most of the elements of this monument (Slide 1). Firstly, the base of the tri-pillar obelisk itself was covered with graffiti. This graffiti was cleaned off in the site's 2018 restoration. Then, the series of bronze statuary behind the monolith (Slide 2) was completely covered in spraypaint, which interestingly depicts a series of various world flags. This was done in 2008, immediately after Kosovo independence, meant to represent the countries who assisted Kosovo during the Kosovo War. Interestingly, the 2018 restoration efforts at the site did not remove the graffiti from the bronze statues.

Slideshow

Symbolism:

The intention of this spomenik's creator, Miodrag Živković, was that each of the obelisk's three pillars would a symbolic representation of a member of the 'brotherhood of Yugoslavia' that lived within the region of Priština... the Serbs, Albanians and Montenegrins. All three pillars combining to make one unified structure clearly represents all three of these ethnic groups working and living together in harmony and peace. As such, the central intention of this monument was to stand as a testament to the Yugoslav concept of 'Brotherhood and Unity', an idea which was of particular importance to the Yugoslav President Josip Tito (who was a central figure behind the monument's creation), as calming ethnic tensions between the region's various ethnic groups was one of Tito's central tenants of his unified Yugoslav state. This concern was very much rooted in reality, as tensions between various ethnic, religious and nationalist groups in Priština (and the Kosovo region) had caused great conflicts during not only WWII, but also continued to create issues during the Yugoslav post-war era as well... while instigating tensions that have persisted even up until present-day.

Status and Condition:

The overall status of this spomenik is very poor and degraded. Firstly, the entire plaza/square on which it lays, Adem Jashari Square (formerly the Square of Brotherhood and Unity), is falling apart, from the tiles to the stairways. Grass is overgrown and poking up through cracks across the entire plaza as well. As for the monument itself, it is in a very bad shape, also. It is said to have experienced an explosives attack at some point in the late 1990s, and since these and other attacks, there are no signs that efforts towards repair or rehabilitation have been made by the city of Priština. The base is falling apart in chunks while rebar and metal are seen to be sticking out. More than likely the whole obelisk is probably structurally unsound. In addition, not only is the obelisk covered in spray paint, so is the bronze sculpture set installed in front of the obelisk.

Photo 5: A view of the renovated monument site, August 2018

No signs or promotional materials draw attention to the monument, while there are no engravings or placards anywhere indicating to the public what the sculpture's historical or cultural significance. While the square is often quite busy and bustling with people, as it is in the center of Priština, it does not appear as though any locals are interested in the monument, as far as paying homage to it or honoring it. No known annual commemorative or remembrance ceremonies are known to take place here, and furthermore, I found no honorific candles, wreaths or flowers left anywhere at the site. While some plans were put forward in 2015 for renovation and repair for the monument, other plans have also been discussed by politicians, since early 2010, to tear down the entire monument to redevelop the square into a new plaza and underground parking garage, as some feel the location in the center of the city near government buildings would be an ideal location for a public parking facility. Interestingly, even the head of the Institute for the Protection of Monuments in Priština, Haxhi Mehmetja, had stated that the monument is not wanted by the people of Priština any longer. Yet, despite these initiatives for redevelopment and demolition of the monument site, a full renovation project was was ultimately carried out at the site in August of 2018 which integrated into the new complex both the obelisk monument as well as the Partisan statuary set (Photo 5). However, while the obelisk was cleaned of graffiti, the flags painted onto the Partisan statuary were left intact.

Directions:

This spomenik is right in the city centre area of Pristina, located just south of the Pristina Townhall (large white building). Parking can be made anywhere you can find it, however, be aware that traffic in this city is amazingly congested and heavy, and parking can be extremely difficult to find (I do not suggest driving into the city). Even city centre parking garages can often be found to be completely full and useless, with streetside parking near impossible to find at times. Not only that, but the city is a maze of confusing and clogged streets which Google Maps or any SatNav/GPS more than likely won't help you much with.  Do proper and adequate research before travelling here. Read updated travel warnings for the city HERE, as protests and demonstrations are not uncommon.

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Slideshow

Comments:

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