The Monument to the Illegal Printing Presses of the Party is one of several hundred smaller socialist monuments scattered throughout Belgrade in an effort to mark as many locations as possible where communist resistance to the occupation took place. The monument belongs to a group of semi-abstract monuments executed in a combination of materials, here in bronze and concrete.
It stands at the site where one of the illegal printing presses had been located. Since the old building had been torn down, there appeared room for a new monument. The idea behind the monument seems to be that it should remain partially hidden, not easily noticed—just like the printing press had been.
While the monument was well maintained and frequently visited in times of socialist Yugoslavia, after its breakup it was left to ruin and thus prone to being vandalised. Without commemorations and receiving little attention from the public, the monument became virtually invisible to the public.
Today, it stands in a prominent position next to a busy street just a few meters from a bus station, close to a local court of law, a medical centre and across the street from the local county—yet seems to elude the attention of passers-by due to its form and current condition. A part of the monument, executed in metal and representing a printing press, was stolen years ago.
What is left of the monument stands next to a street as well as a field and is thus partly obscured by overgrown vegetation that had been planted next to it in its heyday. The monument is not listed as a heritage site and is not maintained by anyone.
Researcher Vladimir Dulović
2018 Neglected monument
Form of government
1982 Socialist Federal Republic
2018 Parliamentary Democracy
Spatial Planning Agency
1982 Urbanistički zavod Beograd
2018 Urbanistički zavod Beograd
Type of heritage and protection
Interview with Marko Stanković
MS: I don’t know. As a work, in principle, the way it is is the only correct way. If you’re making a public sculpture it should communicate with space, with observers, with those who use the space. I see benches but the question is whether anyone sits on those benches in front of the monument. But I don’t know how well this guy “nailed it”, how good he is. I also didn’t think of it as a sculpture, as a monument, so to me… I came along intimately and discovered it. And now I see these tags here, some kids defaced the monument. It’s a question of how they perceive it, would something like that happen to a monument to Prince Mihailo…
VD: And how did you feel while you were walking by the monument and looking at it, do you think that others who pass by – here we have a bus stop, the town hall – does anyone pay any attention to it?
MS: I don’t think so, I really don’t. Even I, as I said, had to kind of discover the monument. It was because I was a sculpture student so I thought about sculpture and I came across this object that didn’t look like it was part of, say, standard architecture.
VD: Because it’s a monument to illegal communist printing presses, from the beginning it is bound to be something, some kind of machines, something relatively abstract, etc. I imagine with some goal… Which is why this man was commissioned to make this monument. But how do you feel about the approach that leaves out any monumentality, it’s as though the monument is as illegal as those communist printing presses.
MS: Yes, yes, yes! In that sense, when you put it like that it makes sense: It was an illegal printing press so it doesn’t make sense to erect some 30-metre tall obelisk or whatever. In that sense, I’d say that it’s in keeping with what the monument represents. Although it is monumental. I don’t mean in the sense of size but that… Because I think that monumentality is not only something that’s big but the relationship of mass. It is monumental, it’s fairly simple, how can I put it, it reminds me of Egypt in its monumentality. Symmetry, simplicity, vertical…
VD: And the material is also quite different from what would be used today. What do you think about this monument compared with, say, those made in the last 20-30 years, as a contrast to most of those monuments?
MS: Well I think there are absolutely no more monuments like this.
Interview with Neda Kovačević
NK: Well, it all depends on how far the sculptor goes. I mean, I don’t know how much someone can, on the basis that there are some… One can’t know that it represents papers until they are told. Otherwise, it looks like some column. So I’m not sure that someone can get what it’s about at first glance, especially when the machine disappeared so quickly. That monument is pretty abstract.
VD: In essence it is, we could say, much less successful than this monument to Moša Pijade which is itself pretty imperceptible, and this one is even tucked away…
NK: We that’s right, in a way, for those not in the know it doesn’t represent anything. There is at the bottom, on the monument itself it says the name of the sculptor, the year and so on…
VD: And do you think that anyone maintains that monument, does anyone take care of it or attend to it?
NK: My feeling is nobody looks after it. That it’s like that, stolen, left like that, those parts sticking out. You can even see it sticking out where they took it. They simply took what could physically be removed. And that relief behind, that’s in that stone so it can’t so easily…
VD: And that damage. In fact theft of part of the monument, the metal parts of the monument. We know, for example, that when the old Simeon Roksandić sculpture of the boy who died at the Čukur Drinking Fountain, when the boy was stolen there was quite an outcry and then he was found, broken, in pieces. What do you think when the same thing happens to Partizan monuments or monuments from socialist Yugoslavia, what the reaction is? Has there ever been a reaction?
NK: I don’t think it has anything to do with which monuments they are. It depends on whether the police have a lead and can catch those who did it then… That’s what it depends on most.
VD: But have you, in your work with these monuments, ever simply arrived at a monument that was clearly once a monument but now parts of it are missing?
NK: Yes, I have. In my research I’ve discovered 80 monuments that were – it’s known they were, whether through lists, or stories about them in the media, in newspapers, et cetera or in lists of works by certain sculptors – but are simply no longer there. For example, you turn up and all you find is the plinth. The monument to Anastas Jovanović, for example, near the coach station. I simply found only the plinth.
Interview with Srđan Radović
SR: You know what, I support the practice of conceiving and building public monuments in the sense that it corresponds with the artistic trends of that era: High Modernism, abstraction, the beginnings of Post-Modernism and so on. On the other hand, what you’re alluding to, you have a point. Especially in the sense that abstract monuments to illegal communist printing presses can in a way be seen as counter-monuments, as some define very, very abstract monuments placed without the accompanying narratives and which assume knowledge on that event, person, et cetera, don’t serve any purpose. An abstract monument without other memorial narratives – through schools, literature, the media and so on – doesn’t perform it’s function. How that went was different from area to area. In this case, I think it wasn’t particularly recognisable. I tell you, I think that type of monument shaping is good in the sense that it corresponds with its own time. I don’t like the current trend of, let’s call it, re-traditionalisation, re-romanticisation in monument heritage with a high level of realism. Simply as a question of my personal taste. But again, you also have a point that the abstraction serves no purpose if it isn’t supported by something else. When the social and political system that supported it fell apart and when the narratives that supported the memories they evoked – that is, gave form to these abstract monuments – disappeared, then maybe the realistic form of the monument has shown to be more apt. Now, on the other hand, (a slight digression), on the other hand, we have the Voždovac town hall, in front of which are four socialist-realist figures erected in 1948 that are… They are by two sculptors whose names I’ve forgotten, one Slovene and one Serb. The sculpture is devoted to post-war reconstruction and development. I don’t know whether most people who work there even know what the sculpture is about. But it’s also very interesting that there, which is probably in line with what you’re saying about realistic, representative presentations correspond better with most people … who may now be reading into this – they see four figures, two male, two female, probably one is a peasant, the other a worker… They read something into it. There’s no abstraction there, it’s the gritty realism of the forties… They probably have no idea that it evokes post-war, communist renewal and growth, which seeks to throw off, among other things, the system that currently manages the municipality and so on. But they probably read new meanings into the monument which is minimally, actually not at all abstract. But there, simply that figurative reality of those monuments is probably more accessible than abstract art to the broadest possible public, to the stalls, and probably to the people who live and work there.