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Zlatibor (Златибoр)

Click on slideshow photos for description

Brief Details:

Name: Monument on Šumatno Hill or Monument to the Executed Partisans (Споменик стрељаним партизанима)

Location: Šumatno Hill in the town of Zlatibor, Serbia (formerly named 'Partizanske Vode', 1946-1995)

Year completed: 1967 (complex built over 6 years)

Designer: Jovanka Jeftanović & Ana Bešlić (profile page)

Coordinates: N43°42'40.4", E19°42'43.0" (click for map)

Dimensions: ~10m tall obelisk

Materials used: White marble blocks

Condition: Very good, well maintained


This spomenik at Zlatibor commemorates the wounded soldiers murdered by German forces after the Partisan retreat from Užice.

World War II

In September of 1941, Josip Tito (the commander of the National Liberation Army in Yugoslavia) and his Partisans were losing ground and battles at Užice against the advancing forces of the German army. As casualties and losses mounted, Tito finally made the decision in November of that year to flee from their Supreme Headquarters at Užice and retreat towards the Sandžak. During that retreat through the deep mountain snow, there were a great many wounded soldiers that were brought along, however, to Tito's dismay, there were not enough Partisan soldiers to assist in carrying all the wounded. While traveling through Palisad, in the Kraljeva Voda (present day Zlatibor) region, during December of 1941, Tito was reluctantly convinced to leave behind over 100 wounded soldiers along the road and at the hospital in Palisad. Tito naively believed that as these soldiers came to be inevitably captured by the pursuing German Army, they would be taken as prisoners of war and have their wounds properly treated, per the international rules of war.


When the Germany Army soon caught up to Palisad on November 29th, 1941 and found the abandoned wounded soldiers, they were all summarily executed over the course of several days, with many shot in the head while with others met even more grisly deaths. Many were even captured, brought back to Užice, and executed there. Tito was shocked when he heard the news of these executions, especially as wounded soldiers had always been cared for when retrieved by Germans up until this point. After this episode, Tito decided to never again abandon wounded soldiers to a fate of being mercilessly executed by the enemy. Tito later held his word on this matter to the extreme, as he ordered the evacuation of the entire Partisan Central Hospital as German troops were bearing down on their position at Jablanica, Bosnia, at which point Tito had soldiers carry all of the wounded across a ruined bridge over the Neretva River to safety. After World War II, in 1946, the region of Kraljeva Voda was renamed to 'Partizanske Vode' (Partisan's Water) to honor these murdered wounded soldiers. The town subsequently changed in name to "Zlatibor" in 1995 in recognition of the nearby mountain which dominates the region.

The memorial here at Zlatibor also commemorates the 'Battle of Zlatibor' (Битка на Златибору), which was a series of major confrontations between Axis and Partisan forces that began in May 1944 and ultimately ended with the liberation of the town several months later. At the beginning odds in this fight were heavily stacked against the Partisans who possessed only 5,000 troops in their ranks (commanded by Milutin Morača), while the Chetnik and German Axis units they faced had well over 10,000 fighters. As a result of this imbalance, in the first months of fighting, the Partisans were readily pushed out of the region. However, three months later, the Partisans reformed their ranks to wage yet another assault on the Axis occupation of Zlatibor. On August 24th, 1944, the fight for the final liberation of Zlatibor began against the German, Chetnik and Bulgarian forces which were holding the town. The Partisan offensive was spearheaded by the 1st, 3rd and 13th Proletarian Brigades, along with local fighters from the Zlatibor Partisan corps (Photo 1). Three days later on August 27th, all Axis forces had been driven from the city and Zlatibor was liberated.

Photo 1: Young fighters in the Zlatibor Corps, 1944

Spomenik Construction

In 1961, a modest engraved marker was installed at the summit of Šumatno Hill (also known as Glavudža), just outside Zlatibor. Underneath this marker, a crypt was laid which housed roughly 150 Partisan soldiers, including those who fell at Zlatibor along with the remains of local Zlatibor heroes Savo "Sirogojno" Jovanović and Aleksandar Jovanović, and veterans from several other locally active Partisan brigades. However, as soon as this was built, national and regional government groups (along with veteran organizations) immediately made additional plans to supplement the Šumatno Hill marker with an even more substantial memorial complex. The commission for this project was given to notable designers Jovanka Jeftanović and Ana Bešlić.


Photo 2: Monument just after construction

The expanded spomenik complex was unveiled to the public in November of 1967, with the event marked by a commemorative ceremony (Photo 2). The central element of the new addition was a 10m tall outwardly-tapering obelisk made of roughly hewn white marble blocks. On the front face of the obelisk was a figurative deeply-engraved design along, with underneath it being inscribed a poem by Serbian Poet Vasko Popa. In 1995, the region's name was changed from Partizanske Vode to 'Zlatibor'. While it is often explained that this change was made to better recognize the similarly named mountain in which the village sits on, the change invariably was also connected to the Yugoslav Wars going on at that time, as many people during that time wished to minimize the region's Partisan heritage. Thankfully, the monument was spared the vandalism and destruction that many spomeniks across the former-Yugoslav states endured.


Today, the spomenik complex here at Zlatibor is very well maintained and visited by many thousands of people each year from across the region. While some instances of defacement and vandalism against the monument are still found here occasionally, the municipality has been thorough about addressing such problems in a timely manner. Meanwhile, reports indicate that annual commemorative and memorial events are still held at this site regularly. In addition, literary and community cultural events have began to be held at the site as well. It might even be argued that the monument here on Šumatno Hill act as one of the integral symbol for the region, especially as the monument is often used in promotional and marketing materials for various local tourist organizations (Photo 3).


Photo 3: A promotional graphic used by a local Zlatibor tourism agency

"I won't let go of this sunshine in my eyes, I won't let go of this bread in the palm of my hand"

On the right side of the obelisk, there is an inset engraved marble panel laid within the stone (Slide 2). This inscription reads as, when translated from Serbia to English, as:

"This monument is to the wounded fighters of the Uzice Republic, who were vengefully shot by Germans on Nov. 30th, 1941."

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

On the front side of the obelisk, there is a poem engraved into the stone near the base (Slide 1). The inscription is a stanza from the poem 'Branim' (I Defend), by Serbian poet Vasko Popa. Translated from Serbian to English, the stanza reads as:


The vandalization in red spraypaint highlights the word "wounded". It is not clear if this was done to make a specific political statement or if it is completely random.

On the raised platform the obelisk is on, there is a granite interpretive plaque to the right side of the platform (Slide 3). This is in very good condition and barely weathered. It translates roughly from Serbian to English as:

"In this memorial crypt are buried the remains of 100 severely wounded people who were treated at the Central Partisan Hospital of the Užice Republic, who the fascists brutally murdered on the 30th of Nov. 1941 at Zlatibor mountain. To this crypt are also relocated and interred the remains of the national heroes Savo 'Sirogojno' Jovanović and Aleksandar 'Otrov' Jovanović, esteemed fighters of the People's Liberation War, who died in May of 1944. To this crypt are also buried 36 fighters of the 1st Proletarian Brigade, 18 fighters of the 13th Proletarian Brigade 'Rade Končar', and 12 fighters of the 3rd Proletarian 'Krajina' Brigade, who died in the Battle of Zlatibor in August of 1944."

--Erected in 1961 by the Association of Veterans of the Town of Čajetina

Along the paved walkway from the parking lot, I found upon my most recent visit in 2016 an interpretive sign (Slide 4) which has been severely vandalized with spray-paint. It is of the same color as the graffiti in Slide 2, which leads one to believe they were by the same vandals. If there is political or social significance to this graffiti, it is not immediately clear.

On the reverse side of the obelisk, there is one last piece of notable graffiti (Slide 5), which is of a simple red Christian cross of the same color spraypaint as the graffiti in Slides 2 and 4. Other photos from the very recent past of this spomenik I've found have revealed that similar such graffiti has been sprayed upon this monument in recent times (but was removed). Furthermore, I have also witnessed this exact same type of graffiti on other war monuments in the Zlatibor region. This localized nature of vandalism seems to indicate that tension in the area towards the region's Partisan heritage still may exist to some degree.


On the front of the obelisk, above the engraved Vasko Popa (Photo 4) poetic stanza inscription, there is an abstract line engraving which is meant to be a depiction of the Popa stanza. The line engraving shows a stylized human figure with its head pointed upwards towards the sun while reaching for what we can assume to be a piece of bread. Popa himself fought as a Partisan during the World War II and was even held in a German concentration camp at Zrenjanin, Serbia during the war, so, he had visceral personal experiences with the crimes of NDH and German Axis fores. As such, it is no surprise that this spomenik's designers Jovanka Jeftanović & Ana Bešlić founds Popa's hopeful and optimistic words so appropriate for engraving and depicting on this large obelisk. 

Status and Condition:

The overall state of the spomenik complex here at Zlatibor is very good. The grounds and landscaping at this complex are excellently maintained, while the structural state of the monument's facade also appears to be in good condition. I found very little overt degradation or deterioration here, and what I did see had been repaired by the local municipality. There were small amounts of recent graffiti on a few elements of the complex, but seeing evidence that prior graffiti defacement here is quickly removed, I anticipate that this most recent graffiti will also be removed. Furthermore, the 3/4km long stone-paved lit pathway from the parking lot to the spomenik is in excellent condition, as well.

Photo 4: Vasko Popa

Photo 5: "Poetry of Fire" event, 2017

Reports indicate that the monument, as of yet, has no official protection as a 'cultural asset', but certain 'technical protections' are currently extended to it. Meanwhile political efforts are underway to solidify this protection so the area around the monument cannot be commercially developed. Meanwhile, it is clear that the town of Čajetina, and other surrounding municipalities, are putting great efforts into keeping up the memorial and its grounds. This site's well manicured condition may partly be a result of the region being an extremely popular tourist destination. There were a great number of tourists present here during my visit, with both coming to see the mountain's spectacular views and to pay homage to the monument. At the top of the mountain, amenities have even been put in place to cater to visitors and tourists, such as lounge chairs and a small cafe. Furthermore, even the municipality of Zlatibor goes to considerable lengths to promote the spomenik complex as a historic attraction and point of interest, as they advertise the site on the official Zlatibor website. In addition, there is also a multi-lingual interpretive sign along the path up to the monument explaining the historical significance of the area in Serbian, Russian and English.

While I was not able to find specific reports testifying to the degree that annual commemorative or remembrance events are still held at the site, I did find multiple reports about ceremonies being held at the site in July of 2018 by members of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) which were in protest against the municipality of Čajetina taking out a mortgage on the property the monument resides on. In addition, I also found reports about a writing and poetry group holding events at the memorial complex in September of 2014 (Photo 5).

Additional Sites in the Zlatibor Area:

This section explores additional Yugoslav-era historical, cultural and memorial sites in and around the greater Zlatibor region that might be of interest to those studying the heritage of the former Yugoslavia. The sites examined here will be the Vila Pavlović, a site often credited as being one of Tito's villas, while the resort hotels surrounding Zlatibor will also be examined.

Vila Pavlović [aka: Tito's Villa]

Set within the neighborhood of Palisad in the historic resort town of Zlatibor, Serbia is an old manor house named "Villa Pavlović". Crafted by famous Serbian architect Milutin Borisavljević in a stylized version of the local architectural vernacular, this romantic rustic villa was built in 1937 for Belgrade lawyer Aleksandar Aca Pavlović (Photo 6). After WWII in 1945, the villa was nationalized by the new Yugoslav government for use as a summer residence for president Josip Broz Tito (most likely as the area of Zlatibor had historical symbolism because of the WWII events which happened at and around this location). However, despite Vila Pavlović being set aside for Tito's use, the historical record is unclear about how often Tito actually spent time at this villa, if at all. Despite this uncertainty, it has been consistently referred to from the Yugoslav-era up until the present as "Tito's Villa". In 1967, the villa was given over for use to the national TV station "Radio Television Serbia" (RTS), whose executive staff used it as a summer and winter retreat.

Vila Zlatibor. Serbia (43.735432, 19.706270)-2.jpg

Photo 6: A vintage postcard of Vila Pavlović in Zlatibor

In 2014, a restitution process was initiated for Vila Pavlović by a descendant of Aleksandar Aca Pavlović. The property was subsequently returned to the heir, who then immediately sold it to a local developer. Being that the villa was a protected cultural property, it could not legally be torn down, so, at that point, the developer began to put into action a plan to construct two large resort towers on either side of Vila Pavlović in close proximity. This new complex was thus dubbed "Titova Vila Zlatibor", with plans to restore the old villa and turn it into a museum dedicated to Josip Broz Tito. As of 2020, this project is still under construction and development. The exact coordinates of the villa are 43°44'07.6"N, 19°42'22.6"E. For more information on the history and heritage of the numerous villas across Yugoslavia used by President Josip Broz Tito, feel free to check out my article on that subject at THIS link.

The Yugoslav-era Resort Hotels of Zlatibor

The area around Zlatibor has been a significant and vibrant recreational center for generations, attracting many thousands every year for activities such as skiing, hiking, sightseeing, fishing, hunting, and much more. As a result of the growing tourist industry that evolved in Yugoslavia as a result of the country's modernization and increased access to leisure time and the automobile, vast resort facilities began to be created in Zlatibor during the decades following the 1950s. Many of these resorts were created in the highly evocative and imaginative modernist style that this era was known for. What follows are four of some of the most significant architectural examples of such complexes created during the Yugoslav-era.


Hotel Palisad: Unquestionably one of the most historically central resort hotels in Zlatibor is Hotel Palisad (Photo 7), created in 1967 by architect Jovanka Jeftanović. Interestingly, Jeftanović, who is also one of the primary authors of the Monument on Šumatno Hill, built this hotel at the same time as she was building the monument complex. This sprawling complex consists of multiple buildings, with the most conspicuous and famous being the seven-level tower overlooking Zlatibor Lake, fashioned in a hybrid style of traditional alpine architecture combined with modernist simplicity. The hotel's reception desk was adorned with a massive painted ceramic tile mural showing scenes of Slavic mythology by Ana Bešlić, Jeftanović's partner on the Šumatno Hill Monument. Between 2010 and 2013, the hotel underwent an extreme renovation, completely changing its interior and exterior design. Today, it bears little resemblance to Jeftanović's original hotel, though, it currently contains a significant amount of Yugoslav-era artwork. The exact coordinates for the hotel are 43°43'40.2"N, 19°42'00.7"E.

Hotel Palisad-1, Jovanka Jeftanović, 1967.jpg

Photo 7: A vintage Yugoslav-era postcard view of Hotel Palisad in Zlatibor, Serbia

Hotel Narcis: Located directly adjacent to Hotel Palisad (just a few dozen meters to the west) is the resort facility known as Hotel Narcis (Photo 8). Unveiled in 1962 and designed by famed Serbian architect Mihajlo Mitrović (creator of some of the most notable buildings of the Yugoslav-era), this hotel consists of 30 rooms spread across a roughly 2,000 square meter complex. The hotel's appearance is characterized by its use of native stone for its exterior facades and its playfully diverse arrangement of steep rooflines sloping in various directions. While some minor alterations have been made to the structure over the decades, it remains largely intact and true to the original design laid out by Mitrović, maintaining much of its Yugoslav-era appeal and aesthetic. In 2017 the Serbian Ministry of Interior privatized the complex and donated it to the local Čigota Hospital, which now manages the facility. It continues to remain in a reasonable condition and open to the public. The exact coordinates for Hotel Narcis can be found at 43°43'41.7"N, 19°41'57.5"E.

Hotel Narcis, 1962, Mihajlo Mitrović.jpg

Photo 8: A vintage Yugoslav-era postcard showing Hotel Narcis in Zlatibor, Serbia

Hotel Jugopetrol (today 'Hotel Vis'): On the south end of Zlatibor just a few dozen meters away from the gondola station, is a resort facility that was originally known as "Hotel Jugopetrol" (Photo 9) (so named because the hotel's construction was funded by that Yugoslav oil company). It stands as one of the most architecturally unique and imaginative hotel complexes in Zlatibor. Created in the early 1960s by Belgrade architect Mario Jobst, the hotel is composed of a distinct yellow brick facade laid out in collections of octagon patterns. The bricks along the edges of the octagon extend out slightly, giving the facade an unusually dynamic texture. A patinaed copper roof caps off the structure, along with a dramatically sloping steel beam porte-cochère extending over the hotel's main entrance. In the post-Yugoslav-era, the facility changed its name to "Hotel Vis" and the facility continues to operate up to the present day, keeping many of its original fixtures, interior design features and 60s/70s-era aesthetics. The exact coordinates for the hotel are 43°43'15.0"N, 19°41'50.7"E.

Hotel Vis (Jugopetrol), Mario Jobst, early 1960s -1 [43°43'15.1N 19°41'50.7E].jpg

Photo 9: A vintage Yugoslav-era postcard view of the Jugopetrol Hotel in Zlatibor, Serbia

Hotel Zelenkada: Positioned on the edge of the wide-open grassy mountain meadows of Zlatibor is the unmistakable triangle shape of Hotel Zelenkada (Photo 10). Sources indicate that the hotel facility was built around 1982, however, I have not yet found any information about who was the architect for this project. Fashioned as a hyper-sleek modernist version of a traditional A-frame alpine lodge, the hotel contains 45 rooms populated over six levels, each with rustic wooden balconies that look out across Zlatibor's dramatic mountain landscape. The hotel continues to operate in very good condition and still retains many of its original Yugoslav-era fixtures and decorative elements (particularly in the restaurant and dining hall), though, though the bedrooms and bathrooms themselves have both been renovated and brought up to modern standards. The exact coordinates for the hotel are 43°43'28.2"N, 19°42'25.0"E and its official website can be found at THIS link.

Hotel Zelendanka, 1982-1.jpg

Photo 10: A vintage Yugoslav-era postcard view of Hotel Zelenkada in Zlatibor, Serbia


In order to reach this monument site at Zlatibor, head south from Užice along highway E-763, driving all the way through the town of Čajetina. Approximately 3km outside of town along the same road, there will be a right hand turn for Cigota Zlatibor (see Google StreetView location here). Take this right turn and then immediately take your first left turn onto Ulica Sportova. Just after this turn you will immediately see the parking area for the Zlatibor memorial complex by a dark red roofed building. Park here, then follow the signs SE across the concrete walking bridge and take the paved pathway uphill  (which is roughly 3/4 km long) to the top of Šumatno Hill where the monument is located. The exact coordinates for parking are N43°43'07.7", E19°42'06.5".

A map to the location of the monument at the spomenik complex in Zlatibor, Serbia.

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Historical Images:



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