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Struga (Струга)

Brief Details:

Name: Monument to the Revolution (Споменик на револуцијата/Spomenik na Revolucijata)

Location: Struga, Macedonia

Year completed: 1974

Designer: Vojislav Vasiljević

Coordinates: N41°10'39.6", E20°40'46.2" (click for map)

Dimensions: ~18m tall obelisk

Materials used: Poured concrete and rebar

Condition: Very Good

(STRUH-gah)

History:

This monument at the spomenik complex in Struga, Macedonia commemorates the 335 military victims from Struga who perished during the National Liberation War (WWII), along with all 3,000 Liberation fighters from Macedonia.

World War II

On April 6th, 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was invaded by the German army, with Axis troops (Germans, Italians and Bulgarians) reaching Macedonia by the end of that same month. The city of Struga and the surrounding Debar region were integrated into the Kingdom of Albania, which was a Italian controlled puppet-state (Figure 1). At this point, Struga taken over by Axis Italian forces, aided by local ethnic-Albanian collaborators. By October of 1941, armed resistance movements organized by the communist-led Partisan resistance group were amassing across Macedonia. Initially, military success in the Struga region by Partisan resistance forces were minimal during the first few years of the war, especially as Italian forces were particularly vicious and unrelenting in their suppression of any rebel forces. However, during the lead up to Italy's Allied surrender on September 3rd, 1943, Struga became the southern-most part of a large liberated 'Karaorman Free-Territory' that stretched all the way north to Gostivar. Yet, it was only a few weeks into this vacuum of occupation before German & Bulgarian troops arrived to re-take the area, which was a move instigated as a result of Struga Partisan units sabotaging Axis communication lines in this free-territory between Skopje and Greece. A battle waged by German troops (along with the Nazi collaborating Albanian Balli Kombëtar nationalist forces) against Partisan resistance fighters in Struga eventually led to the town's re-occupation on September 9th, 1943.

Figure 1: Kingdom of Albania map, 1939-1944

Photo 1: The 1st Macedonian Partisan Brigade in Struga, 1944

However, as Bulgaria switched to the Allied side after a Soviet invasion in September of 1944, success for the Partisan resistance movement in Struga against the remaining German occupying forces began to dramatically increase (Photo1). Over the next two months, the Partisans fought the Germans and their collaborators in a series of bloody battles in efforts to free the region of Struga. On the 6th of November, 1944, the 48th Macedonian Partisan Division initiated the start of the final battle for Struga. After two days of close combat, the Partisan division was able to completely drive German forces out of the area, to the point where Struga was fully liberated for the final time from Axis control on November 8th of 1944. Of the 3,000 Macedonian fighters of in the Liberation War (WWII), 335 were from Struga (182 Macedonians, 128 Albanians, 17 Vlachs, 4 Turks and 3 Roma fighters).

Spomenik Construction

In 1971, veterans groups and the local government of the municipality of Struga began to initiate plans for the creation of a spomenik complex to be built in the center of town to commemorate the region's fallen Partisan fighters who fell and fought during the National Liberation War (WWII). Yugoslav designer Vojislav Vasiljević was eventually commissioned by the town to design and create the monument, along with the site's surrounding memorial infrastructure. The complex was to be located right in the center of Struga, just east of Crna Drin River by Marshal Tito Square. The complex was officially unveiled to the public on November 8th of 1974, a date chosen in order to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the liberation of the Struga. The primary element of the complex is a large irregular concrete obelisk roughly 18m tall. Around it are sets of long stairs, seating and a small amphitheatre.

Photo 2: A conceptual view of the renovations intended for the Ohrid memorial

Present-Day

While the spomenik here at Struga was not subject to any direct damage from the conflict of thedismantling of Yugoslavia and the ensuring Yugoslav Wars, as many spomeniks across the Balkans endured, it did fall into considerable neglect is the subsequent decades. Until recently, it has been slowly crumbling and has been subject to vandalism and damage. However, in January of 2016, the city of Struga allocated roughly 30,000 euros for the restoration and rehabilitation of the spomenik complex, with the hopes of turning it into a much more attractive and modern space to encourage local residents to start using the area again. Conceptual sketches of the complex can be seen in Photo 2. Efforts began on this project in early 2016. Upon my visit to the site in April of 2017, there was clear evidence that a significant amount of cleaning and restoration had been done to the spomenik. As of 2019, most renovation and restoration efforts to the site have been completed.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

There is one primary inscribed element at the memorial complex here at Struga. Located directly next to the central sculpture there is a large concrete block which has a large bronze plate installed on top of it with a raised relief inscription (Slides 1 & 2). This text reads as, when translated into English:

"The revolution is like a river: It flows uninterrupted from the springs of the past to the delta of the infinite future... And while flowing, it empowers life with life. Glory and honor to the soldiers of our revolution, through the ancestors to eternity."

Slideshow

This poetic verse was written by the famous local Struga-born writer Vlado Maleski [Владо Малески], who, in addition to being a writer, also fought in the Partisan resistance effort during WWII. During the Yugoslav-era, Maleski went on to become one of the most prominent writers of the Macedonian region, who not only wrote the lyrics to "Denes nad Makedonija" (Today Over Macedonia), what is still today used as the country's national anthem, but also wrote the screenplay for the first Macedonian film 'Frosina', released in 1952.

Photo 3: Engraving on the side of the monument at Struga

Symbolism:

From all outward appearances, there does not seem to be any direct or overt symbolism or representational messaging within the shape or form of the obelisk monument here at the Vojislav Vasiljević designed spomenik complex in Struga, Macedonia -- its design seems to be completely abstract and a fully universalist-style decontextualized structure. However, on the south-facing flat-edged side near the base of the obelisk is large engraved a war scene depicting five armed Partisan soldiers charging forward into battle while waving a fluttering Yugoslav flag (Photo 3), with one of the soldiers interestingly being clearly female. Such brazenly patriotic depictions are not the norm on the abstract WWII monuments from this era -- as a result, my guess would be that the engraving was not originally intended to be part of the monument (as it seems very 'slapped on', so to speak) and was possibly added against the wishes of the designer Vojislav Vasiljević or as some nature of compromise with the local/regional government bodies who commissioned the work (who may have wanted some small element of a traditional 'war monument' to be included).

Status and Condition:

Overall, the condition of the spomenik complex here in Struga is fairly good and actually seems to be improving. Compared to 2012 documentation and reports regarding the monument (which characterized the monument being in extremely poor shape), I was readily able to tell upon my April 2017 visit that the city of Struga's January 2016 rehabilitation efforts had made vast improvements to all aspects of the complex. These restoration efforts, which were spearheaded by the Struga Mayor Zijadin Sela, has resulted in the monument being cleaned to reveal its bright white color, while the grounds and monument itself have been wiped of graffiti and a new marble tiled courtyard around the monument has been installed. By 2019, most of the restoration efforts at the monument were completed, which included the installation of a colorful flower mosaic along a low wall on the west edge of the monument platform (Photo 4). Despite this rehab work is being done, I was still unable to find any promotional or directional signs leading visitors or tourists to the monument, nor any sort of educational in interpretive sign informing visitors to the significance of the monument or its history.

Photo 4: The new mosaic installed at the Struga monument, 2019

Photo 5: A 2017 commemorative event at the Struga monument [photo from Sitel.com]

However, while official interpretive signs and placards at the site remain absent, a 2017 visitors guide for the town of Struga (published by the Struga municipality and the Macedonian Tourist Office) prominently used imagery of the Revolution Monument in their touristic promotion for the town. In addition to the revitalization of this site, annual commemorative events have began to be held at the site once more. The most significant events (which are still modest in themselves) that held at the site on October 11th, which is the celebration of Macedonian Uprising Day, along with November 8th (Photo 5), a day which commemorates the liberation of Struga during WWII. Such events are regularly attended and hosted by notable regional and national politicians and figures. The square is also often used for the annual "Struga Poetry Evenings" (Струшки вечери на поезијата), which is an international poetry festival which has been occurring in the town since 1961.

Additional Sites in the Struga Area:

This section explores additional Yugoslav-era cultural, historical and memorial sites in and around the greater Struga region that might be relevant to anyone with an interest in the architectural history and WWII memorial heritage of Yugoslavia. Here we will examine the Monument to the Libeation of Struga, as well as the Hotel Drim, also located in Struga.

Monument to the Liberation of Struga :

Along the roadside at the northern outskirts of Struga, directly next to the Moroišta Bridge over the Black Drin River, originally existed a monument dedicated to the Partisan fighters who liberated Struga during WWII on November 6th, 1944 (Slide 1). This concrete monument, built in 1977, consisted of three thick wing-like structures emanating from a central point. On one of the sides of the monument facing the road was inscribed a dedication (Slide 2) reading (when translated into English): "And the guards were dead before your home's threshold. Freedom keeps your covenant and your memory." In June of 2018, the municipality of Struga directed that the monument be removed from its original setting. The work was quickly carried out (Slides 3 & 4). News articles reported that Struga officials indicated that the monument would be reinstalled across the street from its original setting, but as of June 2019, the reinstallation of the monument is not confirmed.

Monument to Fallen Fighters at Moroišta - Slideshow [photos from Opserver.mk]

This removal of the Liberation Monument reportedly drew harsh criticisms from many in the Struga community, especially from local veterans groups. The exact coordinates for the original location of this monument, of which no traces of are reported to exist at this time, are N41°11'50.5", E20°40'32.6".

Hotel Drim in Struga:

One of the premiere resort hotels in Struga during the Yugoslav-era was the Hotel Drim, located not far from the town center right on the shores of Lake Ohrid where the Black Drim River empties into the lake. This hotel, with its four curved connected concrete towers, is a testament to the Yugoslav style of modernist architecture of the period, being created in 1977 by Macedonian architect Ljuben Najdenov. Historical postcard images of the hotel can be seen in Slides 1 & 2, while some contemporary images can be seen in Slides 3 & 4. The complex is still very active, staying a well managed condition since the SR of Macedonia gained independence in 1991. The hotel was remodeled in 2017, so many of its original Yugoslav-era interior desgin features have been replaced, but many interesting aspects and elements of the building still remain. The hotel's official website can be found at THIS link, while its exact coordinates are N41°10'25.9", E20°40'46.4".

Hotel Drim in Struga - Slideshow

And Additional Sites of Interest:

  • The "Miladinov Brothers" Cultural Center of Struga: Just across the Black Drim River from the Hotel Drim near the center of Struga is the town's Cultural Center (Центар за култура 'Браќа Миладиновци' - Струга), named in honor of Miladinov brothers, a pair of famous 19th-century poets and folklorists from here in Struga. The building, which appears to be from the 1970s, is one of the town's Yugoslav-era landmarks, built in a typically Yugoslav high modernist style of architecture, as seen from THIS 1980s era postcard of its original appearance. However, the structure has been remodeled in recent years, changing it from its original appearance. Its official website can be found at THIS link, while its exact coordinates are N41°10'30.1", E20°40'39.8".

Directions:

Finding the memorial complex and monument in Struga is a relatively easy endeavor. Firstly, this monument is located directly in the center of the city, on the east side of the Crna Drin River, off of Кеј 8 ми Ноември street. It is also located just across from Marshal Tito Bridge, in the center of Marshal Tito Square. It can be seen HERE in a Google 360 photograph. As Struga is a very busy an bustling city, parking should be made anywhere you can find it available. However, the closest and most convenient street parking that I found upon my most recent visit was around the coordinates N41°10'43.0", E20°40'42.4". Note that finding parking in the height of tourist season will be considerably more difficult than in the off-season.

A map to the location of the monument at the spomenik complex in Struga, Macedonia.

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Slideshow

Comments:

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