Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Speaking of Ruins: A Dream

 So, if you saw the previous post, it will help explain this one. If not, scroll down first and read about the house built on the ruins of another.

I have this odd dream, where I spend some time repairing on their site, or recreating on a different scale here, the Monument to the Fallen of the 1st Balkan War.

I find something haunting about this monument in particular, and ex-Yugoslavian monuments in general, that is breathtakingly beautiful and sad. And one of my stupider dreams is to go clean this on in Barutana up. It sits half way between the old (like 1900s) capital and the current Capital. So between Cetinje (Capital of the old Kingdom) and Podgorcia (the new Capital since Yugoslavian times). Podgorcia was now as Titograd up until Tito passed. It's airport code is still TGD.

Cetinje is a beautiful and peaceful old capital on about 15,000 people set in a small valley, just over the pass from the Adriatic. I have posted picture before. It is a small town Capital I love. It is so small, cute, easy and 12 miles from the Adriatic.

Here is the thing about the Yugoslavian Monuments (or Spomenik), they are works of impressionist art. Not just art, but art that was mean to drive a sense of country a sense of belonging, where there was little history of integration. 

After World War I they (including President Wilson) took Serbia, one of the allies, and gave it Bosnia and Croatia (from Austria Hungary), Macedonia and Kosovo (from the Ottoman Empire) and then threw in Montenegro, which had also been an ally, but was a little country. That entire area was then called, for a short time, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Only later shortened to Yugoslavia (Southern Slavs).

This was a cobbled together country, but did alright during the interwar period (1919 - 1939), but was quickly attacked during World War II. During the war, the Croatians were organized into a facsist Nazi satellite that pursued Yugoslavian partisans with a bit too much gusto.

Montenegro was given to the Italians. Parts of Serbia to the Hungarian puppet state. 

During the war Tito, a man Croatian with Bosnian, Serbian and Slovene ancestry fought against the various occupying powers with a nationalist force of Yugoslavs. Ultimately winning back much area and driving out first the Italians and Greeks, then the Nazis. Tito was a hero and a leader.

After the War, Tito organized Yugoslavia as a socialist country, but with the distance from the Soviet Union, they pursued a unique path. They were the only Eastern European country to take US Marshal funds to rebuild. They steered a non-affiliated path like Sweden and Switzerland after the war.

They actually started the political movement in 1970s called Non-aligned Movement, which is now the largest block of nations at the UN.

But Tito still needed to bring theYugoslavia back to life. First he built many resorts that took advantage of the Adriatic coast and lured the glitterati of the time, including  Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. If you ever get a chance, look at the crazy concrete resorts of Croatia before the wars of independence. Or the 1984 Olympics site in Sarajevo.

But Tito was still left with a country that had been torn apart and set against itself by the Fascists. So he turned to these monuments to built a sense of historical pride in a country without a shared history. 

These monuments, without a shared history to fall back on, united the various histories into a compelling narrative, albeit one that did not survive the death of Yugoslavia.

Yugoslavia, and the monuments, did well while Tito was alive. But he happened to die in 1980, just as the political climate around the world changed. The Soviet Union collapsed into pieces in 1989, and the Yugoslavian country fell apart starting in 1990 and continued through the 90s. The various parts of the country fought each other, particularly Serbia and Croatia first directly, later via the Bosnian War.

After the various wars of independence, the idea of a Yugoslavian Nation was dead. And the monuments around the country, including this one, mainly fell into disrepair.

I can't fix the United States. AND I can't ignore the hatred and anger I see most days in media, Congress and people's view of each other. I see, in the sadness of Bosnians a mirror of the my own desperation. They long for the time under Tito when Yugoslavs got along with each other and had a common goal.

I long for a time, maybe never a real one, when Americans listened to each other, and gave one another respect and honesty. I cannot fix America.

But I dream,  and sometimes, I dream that I can clean concrete, pull weeds and revitalize the idea of unity in Yugoslavia. And I can dream it because I don't speak the language. And I don't have the hate. I just see the sadness and loss. And I see the grime and weeds, those I can fix.

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