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Vogošća

Brief Details:

Name: Monument to the Fallen Fighters of People's Liberation War (Spomenik i spomen-kosturnica borcima NOR-a)

Location: on Džindino Hill, Vogošća, FBiH, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year completed: 1969

Designer(s): Petar Krstić (profile page) & Zlatko Ugljen

Coordinates: N43°53'57.9", E18°21'00.0" (click for map)

Dimensions: 5-6m tall and 8m wide

Materials used: Poured concrete, rebar and copper

Condition: Fair, some damage and neglect

(VOH-gohsh-chah)

Click on slideshow photos for description

History:

This spomenik is a memorial to the fallen Partisan fighters from area of Vogošća, Bosnia, while also being a crypt where their remains are interred. In addition, this monument was built in remembrance of the illegal workers (led by Trifko Đokić and Radovan Šućur) who, in 1943, killed Chetnik leader Spasu Tadić.

World War II

Upon the Axis invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in April of 1941, the city of Sarajevo, of which Vogošća lies on the northern outskirts of, put forward a very meager defense in the face of nine days of German Luftwaffe air attacks (which killed 93 people). The city's Royal Yugoslav Army units quickly fell when the German's 16th Motorized Infantry Division entered the city, unconditionally surrendering on April 17, 1941, with the city then being taken over by the German forces, along with Ustaše militiamen of the newly created Independent State of Croatia (NDH) Axis puppet-state, of which Sarajevo was then absorbed into. At this point, the town of Vogošća fell under an occupation by the Ustaše and Germans troops. While the invading Nazi forces accepted and were welcomed by many in Sarajevo, the Volksdeutsche, alternatively, many people in the local populace of Vogošća were oppressed and mistreated, especially the town's ethnic-Serb, Jewish and Roma citizens. In fact, in order to cause even further tensions in the local communities, the Ustaše attempted to turn the local Muslim population against the region's ethnic-Serbs. As a result, many Muslims across the region of Sarajevo began to persecute the ethnic-Serbs as well, all under the blessing of the Ustaše. In response, many Sarajevo Muslims signed the Resolution of Sarajevo Muslims, within which they condemned the Ustaše's oppression of ethnic-Serbs. As the occupation progressed, many of the persecuted ethnic-Serbs, Jews and Roma were not only shipped off to death camps, most notably to Jasenovac, but also many began to be openly executed as well.

In response to this brutal oppression in Sarajevo (and the wider Yugoslav region), two sets of armed resistance movements materialized in the summer of 1941: the communist Partisans, led by Josip Tito, and the nationalist Chetniks, led by Draža Mihailović. The most notable unit to form in Vogošća was the Vogošća Partisan detachment (also called the Youth Vogošća unit) (Photo 1), led by local fighters Trifko Đokić and Radovan Šućur. This detachment worked in and around Vogošća and Sarajevo to sabotage the efforts of the Ustaše and Germans troops, while also attempting to lay the groundwork for the eventual re-taking of Sarajevo. Initially, Vogošća Partisans worked together with the Chetniks, but, by the end of 1941, Chetnik forces switched sides, joining ranks with the Germans and driving the Partisans out of Vogošća.

Photo 1: The Youth Vogošća unit

However, by the summer of 1943, the Vogošća Partisans had returned, at which point Trifko Đokić and Radovan Šućur led an attack on the Chetniks, killing their local commander Spasu Tadića in the Vogošća neighborhood of Blagovac. As a result, Vogošća became a small free-territory, where Partisans could walk and operate freely. From here, the Vogošća Partisans joined forces with the nearby Visoko-Fojnica Partisan Detachment of the 6th Krajina Brigade, continuing to engage both the Germans, Ustaše and Chetniks in the Sarajevo region through 1944, during which operations Trifko Đokić was killed by a Chetnik ambush in the nearby forests. Though, despite this and other losses, in the summer of 1944 alone, the Visoko-Fojnica Partisans destroyed over massive amounts of German supply equipment, including 10 trains, 100 convoy trucks and over 200 wagons. It was not until April 6th, 1945, that Vogošća was liberated by Partisan forces. Nearly 100 local Vogošća Partisans died during the course of the war, and during the liberation of the town.

Spomenik Construction

In the late 1960s, it was decided a monument should be built to memorialize those who fought and gave their lives for the liberation of Vogošća from fascist forces during WWII. As a result, a large memorial complex was built by designers Petar Krstić and Zlatko Ugljen, having its official unveiling to the public on July 21st, 1969, which was accompanied by a large ceremony. The primary element of the memorial complex is a wide elevated concrete sculpture (~8m wide) supported in the air by several concrete feet at its center. The two main faces of this wide flat memorial sculpture have engravings and designs spread across it, with its central feature being a wide copper-lined 'wound' shape at the center of both faces. Next to this memorial sculpture are three horizontal pylons criss-crossing each other, engraved with the names of 62 fallen Partisan soldiers originally from this region, most of who were involved in the Zvijezda Detachment, the Visoko-Fojnica Detachment and the 6th Krajina Brigade.

Photo 2: A home burning in Vogošća, 1995

Yugoslav Wars to Present-Day

While the Vogošća spomenik site was somewhat neglected after the dismantling of Yugoslavia and the ensuing Yugoslav Wars during the 1990s, but, overall, the monument has been reasonably well maintained in the state which it presently sits in (which is fair). The monument's present good quality of condition is especially notable as the region around Vogošća was particularly turbulent during the Bosnian War, with the Vogošća area being taken into the territory of the Army of the Republic of Srpska (VRS) during the war and was right on the front lines of conflict. As a result, the town of Vogošća saw much damage, violence, ethnic cleansing and killings in the early 1990s, with some sources estimating that upwards of half of all homes in the town were significantly damaged (Photo 2) and that many hundreds of local Vogošćans were killed. Today, the monument complex continues to play host to annual remembrance ceremonies, which are held here multiple times each year by locals.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

There are several inscriptions and notable sculptural reliefs on the monument here at Vogošća. On the east facing side of the spomenik, there is an engraving directly on the concrete surface (Slide 1). It roughly translates from Bosnian to Engish as:

"To stomp on the neck of tyranny and to hold it up to the face of justice, this is the holiest of endeavors."

-Njegoš, to the people of this area

This verse was written by Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, a 19th century poet-philosopher from Montenegro, who often is just referred to as "Njegoš". The works of Njegoš are often considered some of the most culturally important pieces of literature to the historical culture of Serbia and Montenegro.

Slideshow

A few meters to the east of the spomenik, there are three horizontal concrete pylons (Slide 2) engraved with the names of 62 fallen Partisan soldiers from the Vogošća region.

While graffiti at this site is currently minimal, there are clear signs that it has been extensively vandalized in the past, but repaired. This can be seen in Slide 3, which depicts a poor effort by the municipality to cover up old graffiti at the base of the spomenik.

Symbolism:

The intended symbolism imbued into this work by the creators of this spomenik appears to most centrally focused around the two large copper-lined openings on either side of the monument. My impression is that these elements most directly represent gashes or wounds, possibly those wounds inflicted upon the people of Bosnia and the fallen Partisan soldiers who died fighting against Axis occupation. Furthermore, the copper may have been chosen very intentionally for the lining of these 'wounds' elements because as with the years have passed, copper water stains have appeared from the edges of these 'wound', which many have been planned by the creators to mimic the look of the wound actually bleeding.

Set into the sculpture's facade around the large 'wound' motifs are small pressed relief scenes depicting soldiers fighting and civilians in the turmoil of war (Photo 3), as well as scene of peaceful village life and kolo dancing. In addition, there are a strange series of stamped symbols (on both sides of the monument) whose meanings or significance is not immediately clear (Photo 4). While some of these symbols are clearly religious in nature, some are difficult to interpret, perhaps being astrological or traditional symbols, or even maybe simply decorative. 

Photo 3: Relief scene on monument

Photo 4: Symbols on monument

Photo 5: A 2016 event at the Vogošća memorial

Status and Condition:

While the current state of this spomenik could be considered fair, there are some aspects of the site which are deteriorated and degraded. Firstly, the primary concrete facade of the monument is in adequate shape (for the most part), yet, there is some rust staining streaks down the two main faces of the structure and cracking/chipping of the concrete around its base (which looks as if only minimal efforts would be necessary for thorough repairs). The grounds around the memorial are in good condition, with the grass being regularly trimmed and the landscaping well maintained. I did not see any promotional or directional signs around the town advertising or directing visitors to the monument nor did I find any informational or educational plaques or placards at the site itself which could serve to inform visitor's to the sites cultural and historic significance.

I did not notice any significant vandalism or graffiti at this site... for the most part, the monument seems well respected and taken care of, however, there were clear indications that the structure is regularly vandalized with graffiti but painted over and concealed by the municipality. To what degree this memorial complex is being actively/officially protected, repaired or maintained, whether on a local, regional or national level, is not immediately clear, as the monument has overt issues of cracking and deterioration. Upon my most recent visit to the site in the spring of 2016, I did find a number of flower and wreath offerings left here, an indication that locals still routinely visit and honor this site. However, at my time of visit, I saw no other people here and it did not seem as though it was a place regularly (if ever) visited by outside tourists. Yet, despite the lack of tourists visiting the site, regular annual commemorative ceremonies and events are common occurrences here (Photo 5). The following annual remembrance ceremonies are often held at this memorial complex:

-April 6th: Liberation Day of Vogošća and Sarajevo

-July 27th: Bosnia Uprising Day

-Nov. 24th: Bosnia Statehood Day

Directions:

Finding the spomenik complex at Vogošća is relatively easy and can be done by coming from number directions. For example, from the center of Sarajevo, take the M18 highway towards Vogošća (approx. 10km). Just as you are getting about half a km out from the Vogošća city center, turn left onto Josanicka road, then immediately left onto Izeta Delica. Right after you've turned onto Izeta Delica, you will see a large futuristic mosque on the right called 'Džamija Vogošća' (Photo 5). You can park at this mosque's parking lot. From there, you will be able to see the spomenik directly in front of you up on top of the hill. It can easily be walked to from here. The exact coordinates for parking at the mosque are N43°53'59.3", E18°20'58.5".

This is a map of the location of the monument at the spomenik complex at Vogosca, Bosnia.

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Slideshow

Photo 6: The Džamija Vogošća next to the Vogošća memorial

Comments:

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