A Memorial Disappears: Croatia’s Petrova Gora Dismantled

Petrova Gora memorial in Croatia (Courtesy Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss)

Petrova Gora memorial in Croatia (Armin Linke)

Petrova Gora, the sculptural memorial to the partisan victims of World War II in Croatia, is being dismantled as we speak.

As reported on the AN Blog last year, the memorial was already abandoned and in disrepair, but new photographs taken on July 24th show that Petrova Gora has largely been stripped of its metallic skin. It is not clear yet who ordered or approved such dismantling of the memorial. Nor is it known to what extent or to what purpose this is being done.

Petrova Gora memorial in Croatia (Armin Linke)

Petrova Gora memorial in Croatia (Armin Linke)

Maroje Mrduljas, a leading architecture critic from Zagreb, said that parts of the monument’s facade notoriously have been stolen by the locals for use as building material on private property. Mrduljas recently spoke to the governor of the municipality about documents related to the security of the memorial as well as legal intentions to protect it. But Mrduljas discovered that Petrova Gora had never any legal documents to begin with. Thus it  became a convenient target for thieves gradually stripping the memorial of its material for personal use. The majority of the population, Mrduljas said, does not consider this edifice as a national memorial at all. For them, the symbolic meaning of the anti-fascist resistance has vanished along with the country of Yugoslavia.

Yet cast in heavy concrete, the basic structure of Petrova Gora memorial is virtually indestructible. Marko Sancanin, urbanist and director of Platforma 9.81 from Zagreb, said that he plans to discuss the current state of the Petrova Gora memorial with the Croatian Ministry of Culture.

Why is saving Petrova Gora important? Former Yugoslav politicians took a stand against the East Block through commissioning art and architecture inspired by American post-war modernism and the neutral visual force of abstract expressionism. For architecture, this ultimately led to an official policy of commissioning memorials based on American modernism. Petrova Gora is one of the clearest examples of this former Yugoslav policy. This object is not just a monument that belongs to one nation or to the expanded former Yugoslav nationalities–Petrova Gora belongs to a much wider and international public. It needs to be protected as an international symbol of anti-fascist resistance on its own ground.

Petrova Gora memorial in Croatia (Armin Linke)

Petrova Gora memorial in Croatia (Armin Linke)

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2 Responses to “A Memorial Disappears: Croatia’s Petrova Gora Dismantled”

  1. Jeff Johnson says:

    Aside from whatever architectural value the edifice may have, I think that it is profoundly sad that the local people could so callously forget the considerable suffering and sacrifice of the brave individuals who fought against Fascism. We all owe them our eternal thanks.

  2. Roy Rogers Oldenkamp says:

    How difficult would it have been, indeed would still be, for the local government of this impoverished area to hire an unemployed local to guard the property? A trailer and a live-in caretaker seems urgent. Why wasn’t this done previously? This should be a warning to other monuments and also Soviet era construction that is neglected. You can learn more next fall when my doc RUSSIA LOST: Architecture in Peril comes to screens worldwide.

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