Will Albania’s Monuments Survive? + Translated Image Gallery

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“glory to the martyrs of the fatherland. your works are a source of inspiration for the generations of today and of the future.”

For decades the communist government of Albania constructed monuments all over the country honoring those Albanians who fought in the “War of National Liberation,” also known as world war 2. The war not only liberated the country from fascism but facilitated the take over of the country by Enver Hoxha and his fellow communists partisans. The communist government made the most of this connection and even today “national liberation day” is still celebrated, albeit some what begrudgingly given this association with the communist regime.

What interests me about these monuments is how they survived or didnt in post-communist Albania because these monuments find themselves in a kind of limbo: yes they are patriotic and yes they recognize Albanians who died for Albania but they also are products of arguably the worst communist regime in Europe. As a result of this ambiguous psychic and legal space they find themselves in, some are now destroyed, some are only neglected, some have been rebuilt, some are unchanged but symbols of communism have been removed, some are now features of restaurant patios, and some have survived the last 23 years maintained as they always had been.

Albania's most prominent mural was de-communistified

Albania’s most prominent mural was “de-communist-ified” and thus no longer has these prominent stars.

A project to document each lapidar, or monument, has been completed. See the project’s tumblr account here. The result of their entire project is available for free here. I definitely recommend checking out volumes 2 and 3 if you are interested in looking at lots of Albanian monuments 🙂

At the time this project was only just seeking funding I had coffee with the Dutch man behind the project and sent him the google map I had been making of each partizan veterans’ cemetery in the country. It was nice to finally chat with someone who shared an interest in these ubiquitous relics.

After living in Albania for two years and seeing these monuments and the completely destroyed industrial sector of the country, I realized that modern Albania displaced a dramatically different country. Modern Albania is living in the ruins of a lost civilization known as the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania with which it shares little in common although this lost civilization ended less than 30 years ago. These monuments are perhaps the clearest physical reminder of that lost civilization but the built legacy is everywhere from the architecture to the shape of cities. The psychic legacy lives on as well- just greet an older Albanian with “Death to Fascism” and watch as they reflexively respond “Freedom to the people.” This greeting and other communist era slogans or “parrulla” are to the Albanian psyche what these monuments are to the Albanian landscape.

Will these monuments survive? I’m afraid for many of them the Lapidar Survey will serve as their de facto obituary. Others will be safe until the Veterans Organizations that protect them today finally die off as their members die. Urban monuments, cemeteries nationwide, and monuments in the south will probably survive. With some cities and towns preserving their monuments and others disregarding them, the fate of these communist era monuments is, rather ironically, being chosen democratically.

Click on the images to see the full captions and translations.

This is by no means a complete collection. For my other posts on communist era art and architecture from Albania, see these posts below

Surviving communist era public Art

Translated Albanian communist Era propaganda

Albanian socialist realist art

An imgur gallery of more of my monument pictures.

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