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Župa Nikšićka

(ZHOO-pah NIK-sheech-kah)

Brief Details:

Name: Monument to the Fallen Soldiers on Sutjeska (Споменик палим борцима на Сутјески)

Location: Carine, Montenegro in Župa Nikšićka valley

Year completed: 1984

Designer: Ljubo Vojvodić (Љубо Војводић)

Coordinates: N42°43'56.1", E19°04'59.4" (click for map)

Dimensions: ~11m tall sculpture

Materials used: Concrete

Condition: Fair to good

(Жупa никшићкa)

History:

The monument here in Carine, Montenegro, located within the valley of Župa Nikšićka just east of the city of Nikšić, commemorates fighters of the 5th Montenegrin Proletariat Brigade who perished during the Battle of Sutjeska in July of 1942.

World War II

The valley of Župa Nikšićka is a long dramatically textured landscape through the middle of which runs the Gračanica River. Within this valley are situated 12 villages. One of the most notable features of the valley is the large St. Luke's Monastery (Манастир Светог Луке) complex, located in the village of Carine, which was founded in 1235. During the Axis invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in April of 1941, the valley of Župa Nikšićka was occupied by Italian forces. Angered by the occupation and the Italian oppression that accompanied it, local citizens in the valley began to rebel and rise up against the Italians starting in July of 1941, mostly joining the communist-led Partisan resistance. The Italian response to this domestic rebellion was swift and extremely heavy handed, in hopes that a brutal response would deter further uprisings. However, such actions only further inspired local populations across Montenegro to resist and rebel.

Photo 1: A view of members of the 5th Montenegrin Brigade, 1942

Photo 2: Sava Kovačević

The following year in June of 1942, several dozen locals from the Župa Nikšićka valley region joined the newly formed Partisan unit named the 5th Montenegrin Proletariat Brigade (Photo 1). This unit, which consisted of roughly 900 fighters, was commanded by highly respected local revolutionary fighter Sava Kovačević (Photo 2). After the 5th Brigade's formation, Kovačević led successful operations across the southern Bosnian region through the rest of the month of June, however, the very next month in July over 600 of the unit's fighters were lost during the bloody Battle of Sutjeska in the Zelengora Mountinas of Bosnia. Kovačević himself also perished in this battle, including 8 local fighters from the Župa Nikšićka valley. In response to this continued insurrection of villagers in the Župa Nikšićka valley enlisting with Partisan units, Italian troops entered the valley in 1943 and proceeded to loot, vandalize and damage St. Luke's Monastery complex. During this assault, the Italians burned hundreds of the monastery's religious books and documents important to its religious history and culture. The villages of the Župa Nikšićka valley were not liberated from Axis control until November of 1944 by the 6th Montenegrin Partisan Brigade.

Spomenik Construction

As the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the Župa Nikšićka valley was approaching in the early 1980s, the Župa Alliance of Veterans and the Nikšić Union of Workers organized a committee to spearhead the creation of a memorial complex in order to commemorate the occasion. During this planning process the memorial concept proposed by local Nikšić designer Ljubo Vojvodić was the winning entry chosen by the committee. The spot chosen to construct this memorial structure was a prominent location roughly 100m northwest of St. Luke's Monastery. This spot was likely chosen as it was (and still is) important center for the community and was heavily affected by war-time conflicts. The choice of this location adjacent to the monastery is notable and curious as the vast majority of such Partisan and Yugoslav war memorials are wholly separated and intentionally distanced from religious institutions, which was done in an effort to prevent these memorials seeming religiously affiliated or aligned. The complex was officially unveiled to the public on November 29th, 1984 during an mass remembrance ceremony. The central element of the site is a roughly 11m tall conical-like concrete sculptural monument sitting at the center of an elaborate elevated platform. Also, it is worth pointing out that the commander of the 5th Montenegrin Brigade, Sava Kovačević, who died at Sutjeska has his own monument complex dedicated to him at his hometown of Grahovo (Photo 3), created in 1978 by Miodrag Živković.

Photo 3: Monument to Sava Kovačević in Grahovo

Present-Day

Today the current state of this memorial complex at St. Luke's Monastery is in fairly good condition. There is no evidence that the monument was heavily damaged or neglected at any point during the post-Yugoslav era. Though, some distress (chipping and cracking) in the concrete is visible in some places on the monument's facade. The structure and the grounds of the monument appears well maintained while reports indicate that ceremonial and remembrance services are still being held and observed at the site. In addition, the site also hosts regular visitors and patrons, but certainly not to the extent as during the Yugoslav era. Meanwhile, the monastery has been fully restored since WWII and is widely patronized by the Orthodox church and the local community.

Plaques, Engravings and Graffiti:

At the monument situated at St. Luke's Monastery in Župa Nikšićka there is one central inscribed memorial element. Located right at the base of the southeastern side of the monument's structure there is one long rounded engraved black granite slab. (Slide 1). When translated into English, the inscription on the stone slab reads as:

This monument is dedicated to the fighters of the 5th Proletariat Montenegrin Brigade of July, 1942 at Sutjeska-Grandićina, with unquestionable heroism:

[list of 8 names & lifespans]

Union of Župa Veterans of the National Liberation War and Union Workers of Nikšić, Nov. 29th 1984

Slideshow

Meanwhile, the lower levels of this monument has some slight instances of graffiti scrawled and spray painted on it, but it does not exist to an extensive degree (Slide 2). In this slide you can also see an instance of the Serbian cross graffiti, which is a nationalist style symbol often seen on sensitive war memorials and other places of political significance.

Symbolism:

As far as to the nature of the symbolic representation or depiction of this memorial sculpture, it is not immediately clear or obvious. First impressions of the shape and form of the monument certainly impart ideas of a tree, an arrow or maybe even a rocket ship. Though, despite such impressions, my guess would be that the form is of a completely abstract or non-representational nature. When evaluating other monumental works by this work's designer, Ljubo Vojvodić, they also all seem to embody very abstract and imaginative forms, appearing more as exercises in decorative arts rather than overt symbolic representations. However, one element of the monument whose significance is without question is the star motif adornment attached to the very top of the sculpture (Photo 4). This star operates as not only the symbol for the Partisan uprising (which is evidenced by the "1941-1945" inscribed along side of it), but it was also used as one of the primary symbols of the post-war Yugoslav state itself. Also, looking at the base the monument resides on, when viewed from above it also exhibits somewhat of a 'star' shape, further emphasizing the importance of the symbol in Yugoslav society and in monumental art.

Photo 4: The star ornament at top of monument

Status and Condition:

The overall state of the memorial complex here at Župa Nikšićka valley in Montenegro can be described as fair to good. While some small issues with cracking and crumbling of the concrete facade do exist, the overall structure and appearance of the central sculptural element seems to be in a reasonable condition. The landscaping and vegetation around the complex also appears well maintained and regularly manicured. Other than the small engraved plaque in front of the monument, there exists no informational or educational placards around the site which relate the historical or cultural significance of the site in any specific detail or clarity. Furthermore, while driving along the main road through the Župa Nikšićka valley, there are no directional signs or alerts making visitors or passers-by aware of the monument's presence... nor do there appear to be any attempts by the local municipality to promote or advertise the monument site as an attraction or point of interest. Overall, very little information or public awareness exist for this site, not only across Montenegro as a whole, but also in the immediate Nikšić region itself.

I have found some indications that annual commemorative and remembrance events are still being held here but to what degree and to what scale they are occurring is not immediately clear. I did not find any specific reports or articles about ceremonies being held here, but signs would imply that some level of remembrance still occurs here. It would seem that the great majority of the positive maintenance and preservation of the Župa Nikšićka monument site is directly related to its proximity to the highly maintained and patronized St. Luke's Monastery complex adjacent to it, especially as the monument site appears to be specifically included and integrated in the general grounds maintenance and upkeep on the monastery site itself.

Directions:

From the city center of Nikšić head east out of town along Vuka Karadžića Street. As you reach the city limits of Nikšić continue to head straight into Župa Nikšićka valley. Make sure as you are heading out of town along the road that you DON'T make the left towards Vučje and Žabljak (there will be a sign)... keep on going straight up the valley. After you completely pass by the large Liverovici Lake on the right, the access road for the monastery will be the 2nd right and there will be a small sign advertising the monastery. Follow the access road to the end and you will find the monument. Parking can be made the small parking lot directly adjacent to the monument. The exact coordinates for parking are N42°43'56.9", E19°04'58.3".

Click to open in Google Maps in new window

Comments:

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