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Back from Berlin: Borders and Spaces in South-East Europe

November 20, 2019



Our team member Sanja Horvatinčić just came back from the conference "Borders and Spaces in South East Europe – Historical and Contemporary Imaginations and Practices of B/ordering" which was held at the Humboldt-Universität in Berlin on November 14 and 15, 2019. 


At the conference, Sanja successfully presented a paper on the topic of "Monuments beyond Borders: Yugoslav Monuments, Revolutionary Legacy and the Notion of National Borders".


We are bringing you her full abstract below in case you want to read about her recent research. You can find the full program of the conference here to see what other interesting topics were presented.


Sanja Horvatinčić
Post-doctoral Researcher
Institute of Art History, Zagreb, Croatia


Monuments beyond Borders: Yugoslav Monuments, Revolutionary Legacy and the Notion of National Borders


Monuments and memorial complexes that were conceived and built to create symbolic objects and places of memory to the WWII Anti-fascist resistance and socialist revolution (People’s Liberation Struggle), have recently gained unexpected international recognition and global popularity due to their architectural and sculptural features and qualities. It seems like the hopes and aspirations of some their authors – those who opted towards universality of artistic expression, forms that possess specific kind of eternal quality of meaning – came true. This ‘modernist dream’ is being disputed, with numerous experts and activists arguing that what we really have at hand it the mere banalization, post-colonial ruinofilia and de-contextualization or aestheticization of the social and political aspects of these, often forgotten and dismissed structures. What remains undisputed, however, is the fact that this specific, rather large and formally heterogeneous group of monuments, built in the period of socialism, was inspired by universal left ideas, such as ethnic, social and gender equality or internationalism, that are still relevant today. The question of how should new, socialist monuments look like, or be used by the revolutionized society or in which ways should they differentiate from the ‘old’ monuments that affirmed national identities and ‘counter-revolutionary’ historical episodes and individuals, was indeed one of the central topic of the professional and political debates throughout the period. 

Although they were fought for during the war, and remained there and were well taken care in the post-war period (both on the federal, republic and on the level of autonomous provinces), national borders – neither their physical location or symbolic meaning – were not common or explicit subjects of marking the territory and memorializing, except as mementos of the previous borders and fences. By looking at the chosen case studies, I will present several aspects through which we can analyses the nature of Yugoslav monuments in relation to the notion of national borders: monuments that commemorated former borders and division (e.g., the border between the Italian and the Yugoslav part of Rijeka, or the wire fence that surround the city of Ljubljana during the occupation), spatial monuments (memorial areas) that marked and commemorated alternative, ephemeral political spaces of the so-called “Liberated Partisan Territories”, and which, through the protection of nature, aimed at reproducing the particular kind of alliance of the Partisan guerrilla warfare with the natural environment, and, finally, the monuments or monument built by the Yugoslav authors (or commissioned by the Yugoslav authorities) to mark events, people and ideas beyond the national borders, including the counties of the global south.


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