Photos of Abandoned and Mysterious Yugoslavian Monuments


Jan Kempenaers is an Antwerp based photographer and is attending the Royal Academy of Fine Arts at the University College Ghent in Belgium where he is working on a PhD in the visual arts about the picturesque landscape.

Kempenaers undertook a laborious trek through the Balkans in order to photograph a series of these mysterious objects for his book Spomenik.  These structures were commissioned by former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 70s to commemorate sites where WWII battles took place, or where concentration camps stood. After the Republic dissolved in early 1990s, they were completely abandoned, and their symbolic meanings were forever lost.  Kempenaers did not set out as a documentary photographer, but first and foremost as an artist seeking to create a new image. An image so powerful that it engulfs the viewer. He allows the viewer to enjoy the melancholy beauty of the Spomeniks, but in so doing, forces us to take a position on a social issue.










  • Powerful, imposing and ghostly….

  • Amazing photographs! I’m glad they were taken on an overcast day instead of a sunny one – makes the effect much more powerful.

  • These are really cool, wild sculptures, well shot.

  • Todd

    Huh, the Teen Titans headquarters is in Yugoslavia.

  • I like this for there otherworldly quality. Strange, bizarre and ego-centric monuments to Tito’s insanity. Fantastic images!

  • i come from the eastern bloc (slovakia) and i had – possibly still have – some pieces of the same artistic style around my home town. it wasn’t just tito 🙂 look here

  • Macedonium
  • Guru

    As remarked in the post before, the intellectual layout of your article isn’t very serious. The monuments remain “mysterious” only if you avoid any investigation (and questioning some local habitants would be enough). Declare the “symbolic meanings forever lost” is only the sign of complete ignorance of other cultures, and would be equal to declare the symbolic meaning of the Eiffel tower completely obscure, only because you’ve never been in France or ignore European culture/history (what could be the case of someone coming from Borneo or takatuka-land). I hope the book and the phd work of the author don’t follow this path…

  • Richard

    I felt compelled to respond to the description of the sculptures marking historic sites in Yugoslavia. I have to agree with the comments of “Guru”. There is much in the world other cultures have done that only require a bit of inquisitive nature to understand. The monuments depicted were intended to remind people of what happened at each of those sites. History, as taught in the west, may not have addressed the events, but the people of Yugoslavia surely have not forgotten. Tito was not insane. He accomplished hugely difficult tasks working to pull together disparate peoples within the borders of that country, while blazing the political path of the “Non-alignment” movement. Reviewing what happened in Yugoslavia following his death serves to show how hard he must have worked to keep that society functional during his time in power. If the photographer had inquired about those sculptures, he would have discovered that the people of the Balkans rarely forget a thing. They also do not forgive very easily, which may say something about the strife in the region today.

  • Alexander Pavlov

    Nice photography, poor text.

    If the photos weren’t so carefully cropped it would be easy to see some of the monunents are far from being abandoned.

    Also, doubt Tito personally comissioned every single one of them.

  • Wow, these are hauntingly beautiful and together tell a compelling story. I would love to travel to this location and make some of these images at night.

  • Can you imagine a civilization after 3000 years what will say about these?

  • Ritchie

    I love these photographs and the style of architecture.

    The while building with the ramp (6th one down) could be the building the Eloi feasted in from the original Time Machine.

    I do however wonder, as other people have mentioned, about the meaning of the monuments being lost.

    Usually there is a plaque of some kind.

  • evangelical

    If you didnt tell anyone anything they’d be just as flabbergasted now as I am. This article might as well say “mysterious stone objects found on lost Island off the coast of Norway. Thought to be built by Vikings to praise Thor.” No body would know the difference.

  • evangelical

    The eifel tower has no symbolic meaning. It was literally the dawn of ironworked buildings and some French ahole said “look what i can do with iron skeletal construction.”

    He had absolutely no other intent than to simply work iron as high as thought feasible at the time.

  • JohnnyG

    Although these are cool photos, the description that accompanies them is a bit overblown. These “mysterious objects” are not at all mysterious. And I don’t find myself taking any positions on social issues as a result of viewing the photos…

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