Iconic spomenik memorials explored in new photo book

FUEL has published a new book exploring the fascinating and obscure architectural phenomenon of spomenik memorials.

SPOMENIK MONUMENT DATABASE by Donald Niebyl is the largest collection of spomeniks published to date.

Spomenik – the Serbo-Croat/Slovenian word for monument – refers to the pioneering abstract memorials built in Josip Tito’s Yugoslavia between the 1960s and the 1990s.

They mark the horror of occupation by Axis forces and the triumph of their defeat during World War II.

Through these imaginative creations, a forward-looking socialist society, free of ethnic tensions, was envisaged.

Lepoglava © Donald Niebyl, courtesy of FUEL

An unrealised future

Each spomenik in the book has been extensively photographed and researched by the author, making this the most comprehensive survey of an obscure and fascinating architectural phenomenon.

While each represents different things to different people, the primary intent of spomeniks was to commemorate the crimes which occurred during the region’s brutal occupation and celebrate its revolution against fascism.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of the monuments are thought to have been built across the Republic of Yugoslavia.

Ranging from the size of multi-storey buildings to fridges they dominated the landscapes in which they stood.

However, in the following years of war, scores were vandalised or destroyed making those remaining a poignant reminder of an unrealised future.

Ostra © Donald Niebyl, courtesy of FUEL

Donald Niebyl

American writer and researcher Niebyl has spent the past three years travelling thousands of miles across the Balkans to extensively document these abstract memorials. This is his first book.

He has also started a website, Spomenik Database, as a free worldwide educational resource on the monuments.

Niebyl hopes people will use the database to educate themselves and others about these often misunderstood historical artefacts.

He also hopes it will be a resource for would-be adventurers looking to experience the spomeniks for themselves.

Kozara © Donald Niebyl, courtesy of FUEL


Written by Donald Niebyl and published by FUELSPOMENIK MONUMENT DATABASE, is a 208-page hardback.

The book also includes a French-fold dust jacket that opens to a map.

It is available to buy from fuel-desgn.com for £22.50.

SPOMENIK MONUMENT DATABASE will be officially launched at the Calvert 22 Bookshop on Thursday, September 27.

The evening will include a talk and Q&A by the author.

To book visit calvert22.org/spomenik-monument-database

Main image: Tjentiste © Donald Niebyl, courtesy of FUEL

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