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Ulcinj (Улцињ)

Brief Details:

Name: 'Freedom' or 'Liberty Monument' (Spomenik Pobjede/Споменик Побједе/Përmendorja e Lirisë)

Location: Ulcinj (Ulqin), Montenegro

Year completed: 1985

Designer: Miodrag Živković (profile page) & Ðordje Zlokovic

Coordinates: N41°55'25.8", E19°12'20.6" (click for map)

Dimensions: ~12m tall and 15m wide monument

Materials used: Poured concrete and rebar

Condition: Poor, neglected

(OOL-tseen)

History:

This monument at the spomenik complex at Ulcinj, Montenegro commemorates the fallen fighters and civilian victims from the city and surrounding region who perished in during the National Liberation War (WWII). In addition, some sources relate that this spomenik is also a tribute to the efforts of airmen and pilots during the war.

World War II

Like much of the rest of the Yugoslav Adriatic coast, turmoil and conflict hit the region in April of 1941 when Italian forces invaded during the Axis takeover of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. When the city of Ulcinj was , it was integrated into the adjacent Kingdom of Albania, another puppet-state Italy had created after invading the Albanian region in 1939 (Photo 1). While the Italians initially anticipated a people of the region would be happy with occupation (as there was a close relation between the Montenegrin monarch Nicholas I and Queen Elena of Italy), the people of Montenegro and those along the Italian-occupied Adriatic soon became angered by the Italian occupation. There was not just dissatisfaction due to the take over of food resources, but also because of the mass influx of refugees. Ulcinj residents were particularly angered by this take-over not only because of the oppressive climate they were forced to live under, but also because the Italians annexed all of Ulcinj's salt-producing facilities, industries which were crucial to their local economy. While it was originally the Italian's plans to create a Italian run 'Kingdom of Montenegro', these plans were squashed when, in the summer of 1941, those living across Montenegro and the Adriatic coast began to rise up against Italian occupation in a revolt organized by the communist-led Partisan resistance movement.

Photo 1: A view of Ulcinj waterfront just after Italian occupation, 1941

Within six weeks of this uprising, Italy's Mussolini retaliated, sending a force of nearly 90,000 troops to put down this uprising, comprised of not only Italian troops, but also some Albanians and Kosovars. During this Italian backlash, nearly 10,000 were killed across Montenegro, with over 20,000 interned at camps, which included many Ulcinj citizens. However, by 1943, the Italians had surrendered to the Allies in the Armistice of Cassibile, which resulted in the Italians evacuating Ulcinj (along with all other parts of Montenegro and Albania), who were then replaced by German occupiers. However, not long after the Germans entered, they were themselves expelled after being defeated by Partisan fighters. The city of Ulcinj was liberated on November 26th, 1945. Then, after the final fall of the NDH, Ulcinj was officially integrated into Montenegro, which itself became part of Tito's Republic of Yuglsavia in November of 1945.

Photo 2: A Yugoslav-manned BAF squadron of Spitfires, Italy, 1944

Yugoslav Air Warfare

In addition, some sources relate that this memorial complex at Ulcinj also commemorates the efforts of the Yugoslav air warfare units during the National Liberation movement (WWII). At the time of invasion in 1941, the Royal Yugoslav Air Force of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia consisted of roughly 500 aircraft (8 fighters and 14 bombers) and 2000 pilots. However, as soon as the Axis forces invaded, these resources became null and void, as the majority of the aircraft and pilots were pillaged by the invading Axis powers. Through the war, the Partisans were able to form a few small air units from captured Croatian planes and conducted the occasional air mission, but nothing of any formidable power or organized impact. However, on June 1st, 1944, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower oversaw the reformation of many of these former Royal Yugoslav pilots into a substantial air unit under the name "Balkan Air Force (BAF)" in Bari, Italy, where they provided air support for Partisan operations by bombing German and NDH positions across occupied Yugoslavia, as well as delivering troops and evacuating the wounded. The BAF was composed of roughly 100 planes split up into 8 squadrons, which was all under the direct command of British RAF Air Marshall Sir William Elliot. The BAF disbanded on July 15th, 1945, with the Yugoslav pilots enlisted into the newly formed air force of the Republic of Yugoslavia. During the short life of the BAF, they flew over 38,000 missions, dropped over 6,000 tons of bombs and evacuated over 19,000 wounded fighters and civilians.

Spomenik Construction

In the early 1980s, plans were initiated by the Yugoslav government to create a spomenik complex to memorialize the victims of the National Liberation War in Ulcinj. After a design competition, the commission for the project was awarded to the proposal submitted by artist Miodrag Živković and architect Ðordje Zlokovic. The location of the monument designated to be on the hillside overlooking Ulcinj's popular Mala Plaza beach. There was some alleged controversy over the choice of this location of the monument, as the land in question was reportedly possessed by Albanian property owners who did not wish to cede it for the project. Despite objections, the land was subsequently nationalized and the monument was built. It was officially opened to the public during a ceremony in 1985. The monument structure is four wing-like concrete shapes emanating from the concrete courtyard, standing a striking 11m tall and roughly 15m wide, making it visible across much of the waterfront of the city of Ulcinj. Originally, the memorial was meant to be expanded into an elaborate complex hosting a large public square at the center of a substantial amphiteatre, around which would be restaurants, cafes and hiking trails. However, with the dismantling of Yugoslavia a few years after the completion of this memorial, the plans were never realized.

 

The few informational sources which are available for this spomenik complex give conflicting reports on its secondary honorific attributions -- for instance, some sources relate that, in addition to fallen Partisan fighters, it is meant to commemorate the Yugoslav airmen and pilots during the war, while other sources say it is meant as a tribute to the victims of Kragujevac. Yet, in evaluating structure's sweeping wing-like shape,it seems much more logical to assume it is a memorial to airmen and pilots rather than the victims of the Kragujevac tragedy, so, for the purposes of this profile, I will continue to operate under this assumption until informed otherwise.

Present-Day

Original schematics intended the spomenik complex to be developed further than it currently exists, with additional elements to be added later, but the onset of the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s brought all additional building to a halt. Today, the spomenik lies relatively abandoned, slowing chipping and crumbling, covered in graffiti, with no clear sign it is being maintained or cared for in any appreciable way. The site sees little in the way of dedicated visitors and no known annual commemorative events are known to still take place here.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

There exists no form or style of any inscribed or engraved elements here at the spomenik complex at Ulcinj, Montenegro. Presumably at one point in time there were some that did exist some here spread around the site, but if so, after the state this site has descended into, they have all either been stolen, destroyed or removed. However, it is difficult to determine, because upon evaluating the site, I see no empty or vacant spots where a plaque would have been placed.

Slideshow

Graffiti at this memorial site is rampant, as can be seen in Slides 1 & 2. Vandals have covered most every space available at the lower reachable extents of this monument in graffiti and spray paint. In addition, a significant amount of of this graffiti is nationalist Serbian graffiti, mostly in the form of Serbian cross symbols. It does not appear that any efforts are being made by the city to remove or even prevent such vandalism.

Symbolism:

As sources relate that part of the commemorative intention of this spomenik is to memorialize the Yugoslav airmen who fought during World War II, the four concrete wing-like shapes central to the memorial sculpture are directly intended to represent the wings of soaring aircraft, which symbolize not only the aircraft used to defend Yugoslavia, but also the fighters who perished while flying them. That human element of the spomenik can be seen in the abstract faces seen peering out of the concrete wings. These sorts of abstract peering faces are a signature trait seen in many of the spomenik structures designed by this sculpture's creator, Miodrag Živković.

Status and Condition:

This spomenik complex is in poor condition. Vegetation is overgrown in many areas, while trash and debris are accumulated throughout. It does not appear there have been any appreciable rehabilitation efforts or restoration efforts in quite some time. There are no directional signs that lead to this monument and the city makes no efforts to promote it as a point of interest or tourist attraction. The only people that seem to make their way up here are those looking to use it to get a view of the beach and the Adriatic, which is understandable, as there are great views from this vantage. However, I see no evidence that tributes, honorings, flowers or wreaths have been left here by any locals or during any commemorative events. In fact, at some point, locals have re-purposed the space into a makeshift playground by erecting a basketball hoop.

Meanwhile, the entire lower half of the spomenik is covered in graffiti, much of which is nationalistic in nature. The site does not appear to be in any way protected locally or nationally. There is no lighting and no security cameras do prevent vandals from defacing it. Meanwhile, some locals feel it is an eyesore and advocate for its removal. As such, the future of this monument is unclear.

Additionally, another factor compounding the uncertainty of the future of this spomenik is that there are political movements within Ulcinj to have the city added back to the 'Natural Albanian' territory. People point to the fact that a Ulcinj was given to Montenegro on a 100 year concession during the London Conference of 1912, and since that time has now expired, it should now be returned. As roughly 60% of Ulcinj is ethnic-Albanian, if such a movement gained traction, it could have significant popular support. This could be problematic for the future of the spomenik as many in Ulcinj find it unattractive and feel it degrades the skyline of the city. As such, Albania taking control of the city could mean popular negative sentiment (both aesthetic and political) against the spomenik could result in its removal.

Additional Sites along Montenegro's Adriatic Coast:

This section will explore additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites which are situated in the general area around Ulcinj, Montenegro (mostly along the country's Adriatic Coast) that would be relevant to anyone who is interested in exploring Yugoslav monuments. We will examine the sites which are located in the towns of Pečurice, Pobori as well as at Petrovac na Moru.

Monument at Pečurice:

About 16km north of Ulcinj in the Adriatic coastal area known as Mrkojevići, you will find a modest memorial sculpture in small mountain village of Pečurice next to the local school house (Slides 1 - 4). This monument was built to commemorate 33 local fighters from the area who fought and perished during WWII. Built in 1977 by sculptor Cvetko Bošković, the memorial sculpture is characterized by a 7 to 8m tall white concrete spire which is encircled by a floating concrete loop halfway up its form. To the left of the monument is a set of three engraved blocks (Slide 5). The center and right-most blocks contain the inscribed names of the 33 fighters this monument commemorates, while the left-most block contains an inscription which reads as: "Let this memorial forever radiate the names of our sons who perished in the People's Liberation War and in the Revolution, 1941-1945". To the right of this set of three blocks is an small inscribed stone set into the concrete describing who built this monument (Slide 6).

Monument at Pečurice - Slideshow

In a description of the monument here at Pečurice from the 1978 book "Spomenici Revolucije", it is written that "it symbolizes the struggle for freedom and the great sacrifices that this little town gave on the battlefields throughout Yugoslavia: breaking the chain of eternal backwardness and slavery." Most interesting aspect of the symbolism of this monument is that the white spire piercing a concrete hole. The concrete hole itself is notable in that it is in the shape of a star, a characteristic of this element that often goes unnoticed, as seen in Slide 7. Perhaps the spire piercing the star symbolizes Partisan forces breaking themselves out from oppression and occupation. Today the monument still resides in reasonable shape and underwent restoration in 2017. Finally, one last element to note for its symbolic qualities are the two concrete protrusions on the front of the monument, which both have circles piercing them (Slide 8). These elements look very similar to the window protrusions seen on the homes in the old city of nearby Ulcinj (Slide 9), which perhaps act as a cultural reference to local architecture and historical design. A historical image of the monument from the Yugoslav-era can be seen in Slide 10. The exact coordinates for the monument are N42°01'55.9", E19°10'24.6".

 

Fallen Fighters of Pobori monument:

Roughly 80km up the coast from Ulcinj in the hills above the seaside town of Budva you will find a small memorial sculpture in the small mountain village of Pobori at a scenic overlook spot called Gomila (Slides 1 - 4). Created in 1972 by famous Montenegro born sculptor Stevan Luketić [profile page], the artist more than likely accepted such a small commission in an out-of-the-way village because Luketić was born here in this area of Budva. The monument site is dedicated to the many people from Pobori village who have struggled and fought to defend their lands during the region's of the 20th and 19th centuries, most notably the first (1868) and second (1882) Krivošije Rebellions, the First (1912-1913) and Second (1914-1918) Balkan Wars and WWII (1941-1945). As such, Luketić titled this monument as "To the Fallen Heroes of Pobori". This title is inscribed on a metal panel on the reverse side of the monument (Slide 5). On the front of the monument are several inscribed panels bearing the names of the local fighters who perished during war.

Monument to Fallen Fighters of Pobori - Slideshow

Set among these stone panels which list names,there is situated at the center of of the structure (which is roughly 5m tall) one large stone panel with an inscribed commemorative message (Slide 6). This engraving reads, when translated into English, as:

"Slow down your walking and stand for a moment. It was here that the Pobori freedom fighters gathered before their uprising. A monument to their heroism, Montenegro and its freedom!"

Meanwhile, the most prominent element of the monument are a set of 6 bronze sculptural relief panels. The reliefs depict various scenes of people in uprising/rebellion.

 

This memorial site, which I have seen referred to under the nickname "Guvno", continues to exist in good condition, is well maintained and hosts annual commemorative events (Slides 4 & 5). The City of Budva has marked and listed the monument as a locally protected cultural site. The exact coordinates for the monument are N42°19'23.0", E18°49'51.0".

Memorial Tower at Petrovac na Moru:

Roughly 47km north of Ulcinj along the Adriatic coast is the small resort town of Petrovac na Moru (or 'Petrovac on the Sea'). At the north end of the town's famous beach is a rocky point called Lazaret on which is a 16th-century Venetian fortress called Kaštel Lastva. Among the fortress ruins at the very tip of Lazaret point is located a veterans memorial tower (Slides 1 - 4). The tower and its memorial complex were designed by Aleksandar Prijić, Uroš Stojić and A. Kraljić in the late 1960s. This tower commemorates 143 of the region's fighters who fought and fell during WWII (most specifically those fighters from the local Paštrovići tribe), as well as the local fighters from WWI and the Balkan Wars. Originally the tower had an gas flame which burned from its top (Slide 5), but that has ceased to operate in recent times. In addition, a set of four or five bronze sculptural relief panels depicting Partisan fighters were installed at in a small stone courtyard just down the steps from the tower.

Memorial Tower at Petrovac na Moru - Slideshow

There has been some degradation to the site in recent decades. During the 2000s, many of these bronze relief panels previously mentioned had been stolen over the years, with only one being left (Slide 6) as of 2016. However, by 2019, all of these relief panels had been stolen. A Yugoslav-era photo of the panels can be seen in Slide 7. Also installed next to the bronze relief was a set of five white stone plates engraved with the names of local fighters who perished in the region's various wars (Slide 8). These plaques still exist today in reasonable condition. Above these white stone panels is a set of bronze plates bearing a phrase which reads, when translated into English, as: "It burns for a common name and freedom". The 'burning' this phrase speaks of more than likely refers to the gas flame which originally burned from the top of the tower, while the 'common name' probably refers to the people of the Paštrovići tribe who this monument was built for. In addition, the 'freedom' this quote speaks of the monument burning for has all the more symbolic meaning with the placement of the tower on the tip of Lazaret Point, almost as if it is a lighthouse broadcasting the message across all the land. An additional inscription at this site is located directly on the concrete tower itself (Slide 9), which reads, when translated into English, as: "Paštrovići fallen in the National Liberation Struggle and the Socialist Revolution". Overall, this site is well patronized by many people, as location has incredible views and Petrovac na Moru is a significant tourist town. However, I found no reports indicating that annual commemorative events are held here. However, other than the stolen bronze panels, the site resides in fairly good condition and appears sufficiently maintained. Historic images of the site can be seen in Slides 10 & 11.

There are two interesting side notes to mention about Petrovac na Moru. Firstly, it was on beaches less than 1km west of this monument in the neighboring village of Perazića Do that, in February of 1942, two British Special Operation officers landed for a secret WWII mission called "Operation Hyrda" during which they were supposed to make contact with the Partisans. The mission ended in tragedy. Secondly, it is notable to point out in the 2006 James Bond film 'Casino Royale', the Montenegro casino which the primary action of the film occurs is meant within the story to be located here at Petrovac na Moru. However, the film was not shot in the town, nor anywhere in Montenegro for that matter.

And Additional Sites:

  • Ulcinj Regional Museum: Housed within the ancient fortifications of the old city of Uclinj is the Ulcinj Regional Museum. This sprawling complex explores this region's thousands of years of history, including the ancient Greek times, Ottoman period, through the medieval era. Attention is also paid to the region's archeology and ethnographic history. However, this museum contains very little about the region's WWII or Yugoslav heritage. The exact coordinates for the museum complex are N41°55'28.7", E19°12'03.8".

  • Izbor Department Store: Roughly 27 km north along the Adriatic coast within the town of Bar is the Izbor Department Store (Photo 3). This fascinating structure is a impressive example of Yugoslav-era architecture & design aesthetic, with its series of three angular spaceship-like pavilions. It was built in 1984 by Montenegro architect Batrić Mijović and continues to be well used in the community while standing in reasonable condition. The exact coordinates for this structure are N42°05'55.0", E19°05'42.5".

Photo 3: A photo of the Izbor Department Store in Bar [photo by vijesti.me]

Directions:

From the city center of Ulcinj, follow Bulevar Đerđ Kastrioti Skenderbeg west, then turn left at Xhamia e Kryepazarit mosque towards the sea on Rr. Hafiz Ali Ulqinaku road. Then, after a few dozen meters, veer left uphill onto Mujo Ulcinaku (see turn HERE on Google StreetView). This is a narrow street and looks like a one-way at first, but if you are careful, you'll be fine. Continue on this curvy road up the hill and in less than a kilometer, you'll see the spomenik on the right overlooking the sea (see HERE on Google StreetView). Parking can be made right along the road, from which point the spomenik can be easily walked to. Exact coordinates for parking are N41°55'27.0", E19°12'21.4". Alternatively, the spomenik can be easily walked to up the hill from the Mala Plaza beach as well.

A map to the WWII spomenik complex located in Ulcinj, Montenegro (Crna Gora).

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Comments:

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