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2020-12-30 Monument politics in ex-Yugoslavia

During 2020 there have been many debates about monuments concerning demonstrations and riots connected to the Black Lives Matter movement. Monuments as of Edward Colston in Bristol, UK and of General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, USA have been vandalised and/or destroyed. 

My position when it comes to monuments is the following:

  • Monuments are not a result of “our history”, nor history in an objective and scientific understanding. Monuments are a result of politics, personal values, beliefs and affections – identity politics. For example, monuments over confederate army generals in southern parts of the USA the were not established directly after the American Civil War 1861-65 but during the beginning of 1900the s when racist and segregationist policies were developed in US-states as Aama. 
  • Democratic procedures and civilised conversations should lead to decisions if a certain monument should be created or removed. Instead of destroying monuments, a better solution is to have them in a museum. 

Due to my personal experiences from Bosnia, “monument politics” have been an interesting aspect. On Twitter, there is an account called “Spomenik Database” meaning “Monument Database”. It presents itself as an educational resource intended to catalogue and explore the former Yugoslavia’s abstract monuments & modernist architecture.

In a recent publication, Donald Niebyl writes the following: 

“As the dismantling of Yugoslavia began in the early 1990s and resulted in a series of bloody wars that lasted many years, an almost immediate process of WWII antianti-fascistorial removal and destruction began in many parts of that former country. Sources estimate that the number of Yugoslav-era monuments of this type destroyed reached into the many thousands, but total numbers are unknown. In Croatia alone, which suffered some of the worst bouts of monument destruction of the 1990s and 2000s, it is estimated that over 3,000 (or half of all its antifascist monuments) were either damaged or destroyed.” 

Niebyls article is based on 50 statues and figurative works that were destroyed, lost, removed then disposed of or hidden away from public view in the years after Yugoslavia started being dismantled. 

I have also written one article about a monument in the Bosnian town of Teslic were I was born in 1989. Former Yugoslavia can be seen as an area where “monument politics” can be studied. 

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