Monday, May 24, 2010

I squee for former Soviet architecture!! Who knew?

I have a soft spot for 60's awesomeness so when I ran across a group of mindfuckingly awesome vintage architectural photos on Grain Edit (via Robert Burghardt's FZZ Fanzine) I thought "hey these sure are zippy!" And then I read that they are WWII memorials in the former Soviet Union I was like "aww shit."  Guess I can't sail my way through THIS blog post like all my other musings on unicorn dreams and rainbow gummi bears.  I don't know how we're going to balance my normal hilariously irreverent style while being respectful of the Holocaust but let's see what happens.

These memorials, only a handful of thousands, were erected to honor the former Yugoslav Partisans - a group of communists who fought against the their fascist leaders aligned with the Axis powers during WWII.  They were the only resistance movement to free their country without the help of outside forces.  They sound pretty badass.  This is the first I've heard of them because I went to a public school in the South and our history classes ended at the Reconstruction.  We pretty much still live like we're in the Reconstruction.  I've got my eye on you damn Carpetbaggers!!

The Makljen Memorial.  It's a giant rock cloud that I would live in if it wasn't, you know, a Holocaust memorial haunted by ghosts.  

Or destroyed.  It makes Madame Sunday's heart hurt.

Here. More info here.
The Jasenovac concentration camp was the largest death camp in Croatia killing at least 500,000 people.  This memorial dedicated to the people who died there was unveiled in 1966

As Robert Burghardt nicely articulates:
In their abstract vocabulary they allow for an appropriation of meaning that bypasses official narrations, especially today, after their context has become invisible. They open the scene for numerous associations; they could be ambassadors from far-away stars, or from a different, unrealised present. The openness which originates in the abstract language of the monuments is a visual manifestation of the emancipation from the Stalinist dominance of socialist realism in the eastern bloc, in which future is represented only in a happy-overreaching form of the present. The monuments invoke a utopian moment, stick to aniconism, and translate the promise of the future into a universal gesture.

The 'broken wing' memorial at the Sumarice Memorial Park to honor the victims of the massacre at Kragujevac, Serbia. 

here. More pics here.
The people are particularly poignant in this one.  

These three clenched fists are at the Bubanj Memorial Park dedicated in 1963 to the 10,000 people shot in Nis and Southern Serbia during the war.  All of the monuments featured are considered to be in the style of Socialist Realism (not to be confused with Social Realism which turns out I squee over too.  Thank you Wikipedia.), a modern art movement developed in the former Soviet states to promote communism and modernism through art.  Hence big concrete fists.

last two from here
The park today showing graffiti on the momuments and more vandalism on a wall of relief sculptures.  The previous relief sections include a giant machine gun and and line of people awaiting execution.  This relief shows the victims.

The Makendonium monument in Krusevo.  Or, as someone pointed out at Grain Edit, perhaps a giant bumble ball...??!!

At night showing the stained glass window.

The memorial at Petrova Gora began work in the 70's but was finally completed in 1981.

Now it is also abandoned.  The contrast of futurist desolation, the lonely movement of the building and the green overgrowth really rocks my world.  As Burghardt explains, these sites "..still proclaim a future, which already has become past." Probably the reason that, although sad, the images of them falling into ruin is quite appealing to me as it visually captures the intent but ultimate failure of these memorials.  So preservation people let's get on this.  But not before I go there and take a lot of pictures with my new Omega J899900000 Camera of Amazing Awesomeness.    

Battle of Kozara Memorial.

The Grave of the Undefeated at Prilep finished in 1962.

AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!  I WANT TO GO TO THERE!!!!!!  This is a monument commemorating the Battle of Sutjeska by artist Krsto Hegedusic done in the 1970's.  This spot just made it onto my top five list of places to visit of all time.  I'm pretty sure if you walk in between those crystal mountains your life changes forever.  They're like big concrete oracles or something and will tell you your future.  Or give you special powers.  

Here it is today.  It looks a little like something you'd stumble across one day while hiking here in the Tennessee valley.  If I was the type of person who actually hiked.  Which I'm not.  So there might be something like this a mile from my house and I'd probably never know.  Note to self: find some hippie friends and buy hiking boots. 

More pointy fabulosity.  Although all of these memorials are heavy "monumental" sculptures I find them hardly static at all.  More like stone outcroppings that move slowly over millennia but appear frozen to us.

These last two are both part of the Sutjesko complex all of which are now abandoned.

The memorial monument at Mount Kosmaj in 1961.  Of course now it is also abandoned.

Gawd this is awesome.  The tension that happens at the center of those three bursts(?) drives me insane.  I'm no functional adult architect or engineer but I think it takes a pretty talented person to create a 'moment' (*eyeroll* myself) in negative space like that.  I don't know - maybe it's like #367 of A Pattern Language but I totally didn't read that far.

I think something really special happens there like exploding rainbows or something but I'm not sure.  I'm going to guess it's the place of first contact for when aliens visit earth just like Stephen Hawking said.  Or maybe there's a singularity or black hole of some kind that allows for time travel.  I'm gonna go with time travel because I've read the Outlander series and those structures are totally humming to me right now.  (high five if you know what that is)

The only way I would want to be in the center of that thing any more is if Jamie Frasier was standing in the center of it holding Edward Cullen in one hand and a Krispy Kreme Double Down sandwich in the other.  I would run so hard my arms and legs would fall the fuck off.  Then my Boxing Helena'd stumpy torso would inch up those steps like a worm, my path lubricated from the saliva pouring from my drooling open mouth.

The ensuing orgy of debauchery would probably be the best (and most accurate) ambassador for the visiting aliens.  

Welcome to Earth.

*all images from FZZ Fanzine unless otherwise specified.  More photos at rb.fzz's flickr.


  1. I'm speechless and if you knew me, you'd know that's a rare feat. Congratulations.

  2. It was probably the Krispy Kreme KFC Double Down sandwich. It sounds pretty awesome, I know.

    And since I obviously DON'T really know you please come back so we can fix that! But I didn't mean that in a creepy way - just a casual "hey let's be blog friends and share a KFCKKDD sandwich" kind of way.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. Wow, that was a really good post. Normally I like to tease or mock you in some way, but my love of art, photography and travel, just make me want to go see them too.

    I will mock your next post.

  4. I can't believe you couldn't find anything to mock about that post...? You must not have tried really hard. Or are you sick maybe? So sorry.

  5. Okay, that was a pretty good post. I know you must have stayed up late to get it done so as a long time reader and ModernSauce conspirator, let me reward you with a comment and some observations:
    1. Vodka rainbow gummi bears
    2. Nice job balancing the line between your typical irreverent tenor and a topic on the Holocaust. You started to fade a little once you got towards the end and introduced time travel, the Outlander series, and aliens - but it confirms you as the author of this post.
    3.The Jasenovac Memorial is worth the trip.
    4. You don't need to find some hippie friends and buy hiking boots, just find the hippies and ask them. (But you might have to pay them in crystals and herbal tea and "other" things).
    5. The paragraph containing Jaime Frasier, Edward Cullen and KFCKKDD was the most full throttle paragraph I've ever read on the internet - congratulations. (I'm keeping this post for your kids)

  6. Dear long time reader Bob,
    Thanks for so GRACIOUSLY allowing me a good post. I am here to humbly serve and feel properly rewarded by your comment.
    1. teehee.
    2. um time travel is the best part of the post. duh.
    2b. just kidding. the KFCKKDD sandwich is.
    3. sooo jealous of your trip!!!!!!!! tell me about it.
    4. your knowledge of hippies is staggering.
    5. I think you might need to reevaluate your definition of full throttle. Or maybe I just need to high five myself b/c a fourway with some fried chicken, a fake highlander and a virgin that sparkles does sound pretty awesome.

  7. Latecomer here, but I have to weigh in on a post which contains so much fabulous concrete within its remarkably well structured prose ( I am agreeing with Bob on the obvious degree of compositional care invested in this offering).
    I squee loudly alongside you for these mind-blowing feats of full-on ginormous sculptural concrete confabulations. I am humbled and beaten in the presence (or knowledge of) these works of nearly forgotten homage. These are the handiwork of a race of Super men, gigantic beings from another time, when you could dream big and build bigger. The shapes are so evocative and demand such a response; it must be a little wearing to be standing at the foot of them and staring up at the looming shapes, angles, walls. I would be saying, "oh my god, oh my god, oh my god..." and then fall over with glazed eyes and a dim smile on my lips.

    But then again, I am a concrete guy.

    And if Bob runs out of awesome useful tips about hippies, I can share some more because I live in Vermont. And we wrote the book. And then used it for rolling papers. So there's that.

  8. You can keep your Vermont hippie carpetbagging bullshit up there in yankeeland where it belongs!

    Except for your comments. Your reading and comments are always welcome down here.

  9. great space invader stuff! perhaps you also like my webpage with communist architecture in jugoslavia, baltik countries, hungary, czechoslovakia and others.

  10. Super awesome pictures + reading :D Thanks!

  11. Peter - sorry for the late reply! Thanks so much for your link - I will definitely check it out! I love this stuff.

    Anonymous - Thanks so much for stopping by. ; )

  12. Get your facts straight before you post. Yugoslavia was never a part of the Soviet Union.

    I'm not even going to comment the desecration of these solemn masterpieces with the narrow-minded blather.

  13. So.... You didn't like it??!!!!!

  14. when i was a kid and a boyscout, we gave our boyscouts' oath underneath that kosmaj monument [the last one in your post]. the best thing about it is the build-up: you have to climb the straight stairway for hundreds of meters up the mountain to reach it. already from the bottom of the stairways, the monument seems immense. but as you climb further and further up those endless stairs, it just grows and grows... finally, physical exhaustion emphasizes the greatness of the monument. disintegrating!

    history lession: yugoslavia was never a part of soviet union. these are not soviet, but yugoslav monuments.

    art lession: this is neither social nor socialistic realism. welcome to the mythical world of SOCIAL MODERNISM.

    btw, check this out:
    more info here:
    and here:

  15. That is an awesome story! I really hope that one day I do get to visit before some of these fall even worse into ruin.

    I appreciate your corrections - I just happened to stumble across these one day and doubt I would have labeled them as "soviet" or "socialist realism" had I not read it somewhere else first considering I know absolutely ZERO about any of this!

    Thanks for commenting and I will definitely check out the sites and SOCIAL MODERNISM! ; )

    1. Yes, you should read up on Yugoslavia. It is extremely offensive to these people to be labeled Soviet ... It is very much like calling South Americans "Yanks", very few would appreciate it. Yugoslavs were very proud of their successful struggle against the Soviets and forming a whole new global political movement called the Non-Aligned Movement with iconic figures such as Tito, Nehru and Nasser.

  16. check this:

  17. Thanks for the link Fabian! That building looks badass!

  18. ...And then I read that they are WWII memorials in the former Soviet Union I was like "aww shit." Guess I can't....

    Please correct:
    These monuments are in the former YUGOSLAVIA which was NEVER part of the Soviet Union...

  19. um... the TITLE of this post also has 'Soviet' in it which you forgot to quote...

    I might have corrected it before but now I rather enjoy the rude comments about my mistake. Carry on!!

  20. Those are not Soviet. They are from the former Yugoslavia.

  21. those are not soviet, most of theese sculptures/monuments are from ex-Yugoslavia, and Yugoslavia was never a part of a soviet union

  22. The monument (1971)comemorates the battle with germans in WW II. at Sutjeska (river) and it is place where 3301 partisans were buried. Sculptor name is Miodrag Zivkovic.