Memorialization of the Past through Artistic Forms: Rememberance of the Partisan Movement during and after Yugoslavia


  • Jelena Vasiljević Institute for philosophy and social theory, University of Belgrade, Serbia



memory culture, art, Yugoslavia, partisans’ struggle, partisans’ monuments, partisans’ songs


In memory studies, the importance of textualization and visualization (cultural mediation) of the socially shared memories of the past is particularly emphasized. However, while the accent is on the issues of the reasons for some representations to become dominant in relation to others, why the preferred images of the past change over time, as well as of the circumstances and actors that facilitate these changes in the choice and representation of the “desirable” past, less attention is paid to the change in the dominant media through which these images are transferred. This paper examines the reasons behind certain socio-political circumstances and historical periods that render particularly relevant some artistic forms in collective representations of the shared past. Can the artistic forms themselves, as the media of transfer of the messages from the past, testify of the socio-historical function of collective memory, as well as of the society that “addresses” its past in this manner? Aiming for the affirmative answer to this question, the text discusses the favoured artistic expressions of the memory of the World War II in three chronological segments in the socialist Yugoslavia and after its collapse, when the memory is 1) marked and institutionalized as the narrative of the partisans’ struggle and victory; 2) disputed and reshaped as the “dissident” narrative; and 3) taken over from the former official memory and transformed into a form of social-cultural critique.


Apor, Peter and Oksana Sarkisova, eds. 2008. Past for the Eyes: East European Representations of Communism in Cinema and Museums after 1989. Budapest: Central European University Press

Assman, Jan and John Czaplicka. 1995. „Collective memory and cultural identity“. New German Critique 65: 125–133.

Assmann, Aleida. 2011. Cultural memory and Western civilization: Functions, media, archives. Cambridge University Press.

Barrett, Frederick S., Kevin J. Grimm, and Richard W. Robins. 2010. „Music-evoked nostalgia: affect, me-mory, and personality“. Emotion 10 (3): 390–403.

Begić, Sandina and Boriša Mraović. 2014. „Forsaken monuments and social change: the function of socialist monuments in the Post-Yugoslav space“. In Symbols that Bind, Symbols that Divide, edited by Scott L. Mo-eschberger and Rebekah A. Phillips DeZalia, 13–37. Cham: Springer.

Belov, Mikhail. 2020. „Historical revisionism in the criticism of post-Yugoslav historians“. Slavianovedenie (5): 43–56.–2.

Benedikt, Anderson. 1998. Nacija: zamišljena zajednica. Beograd: Plato

Berger, Stefan and Bill Niven, eds. 2014. Writing the history of memory. London: Bloomsbury.

Bernhard, Michael and Jan Kubik. 2014. Twenty Years after Communism: The Politics of Memory and Comme-moration. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bidney, David. 1955. „Myth, symbolism, and truth“. The Journal of American Folklore 68 (270): 379–392.

Boym, Svetlana. 2001. The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basic Books.

Calder, Barnabas. 2016. Raw concrete A Field Guide to British Brutalism. London: William Heinemann.

Denich, Bette. 1994. „Dismembering Yugoslavia: nationalist ideologies and the symbolic revival of genocide“. American Ethnologist 21(2): 367–390.

Ingrao, Charles. 2009. „Confronting the Yugoslav controversies: The scholars’ initiative“. The American Histo-rical Review 114 (4): 947–962.

Dragović-Soso, Jasna. 2002. Saviours of the Nation. Serbia’s Intellectual Opposition and the Revival of Natio-nalism. London: Hurst & Company.

Hoepken, Wolfgang. 1998. „War, memory, and education in a fragmented society: the case of Yugoslavia“. East European Politics and Societies 13 (1): 190–227.

Hofman, Ana. 2016. Novi život partizanskih pesama. Beograd: XX vek.

Hofman, Ana. 2020a. „Disobedient: Activist Choirs, Radical Amateurism, and the Politics of the Past after Yugoslavia“. Ethnomusicology 64(1): 89–109.

Hofman, Ana. 2020b. „’We are the Partisans of Our Time’: Antifascism and Post-Yugoslav Singing Memory Activism“. Popular Music and Society: 1–18.

Horvatinčić, Sanja. 2012. „The Peculiar Case of Spomeniks. Monumental Commemorative Sculpture in former Yugoslavia Between Invisibility and Popularity“. Paper presented at Lisbon Summer School for the Study of Culture. Lisbon, 9–14. 07. 2012.

Horvatinčić, Sanja. 2015. „Spomenik, teritorij i medijacija ratnog sjećanja u socijalističkoj Jugoslaviji“. Život umjetnosti: časopis o modernoj i suvremenoj umjetnosti i arhitekturi 96 (1): 32–59.

Jelenković Dunja. 2020. „The Film Festival as a Vehicle for Memory Officialization: The Afterlife of WWII in the Yugoslav Documentary and Short Film Festival, 1954–2004“. In Documentary Film Festivals Vol. 1, e-dited by Aida Vallejo and Ezra Winton, 101–122. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kataria, Shyamai. 2015. „Serbian Ustashe Memory and Its Role in the Yugoslav Wars, 1991–1995“. Mediterranean Quarterly 26 (2): 115–127.–2914550.

Kirn, Gal. 2012. „Transformation of Memorial Sites in the Post-Yugoslav Context“. In Retracing Images. Vi-sual Culture after Yugoslavia, edited by Daniel Šuber and Slobodan Karamanić, 251–281. Leiden, Boston: Brill.

Kirn, Gal. 2020. „The Mediatisation of the Yugoslav Partisan Struggle: Towards a New Counter-Archive“. In The Media of Memory, edited by Maruška Pušnik and Oto Luthar, 63–84. Leiden, Boston: Brill.

Kulić, Vladimir. 2014. „New Belgrade and Socialist Yugoslavia’s Three Globalisations“. International Journal for History, Culture and Modernity 2 (2): 125–153.

Kulić, Vladimir. 2019. „Yugoslavia: Brutalism and sophistication“. Arq: Architectural Research Quarterly 23 (4): 381–383.

Kuljić, Todor. 2006. Kultura sećanja. Beograd: Čigoja.

Kuljić, Todor. 2020. „Delatni potencijal sećanja levice: o samorefleksiji poraza“. Politička misao: časopis za politologiju 57 (1): 7–25.

MacDonald, David Bruce. 2003. Balkan Holocausts?: Serbian and Croatian victim centred propaganda and the war in Yugoslavia. Manchester University Press.

Mihelj, Sabina. 2014. „The persistence of the past: Memory, generational cohorts and the ‘iron curtain’“. Con-temporary European History 23(3): 447–468.

Miljački, Ana. 2019. „Review: Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980“. The Jour-nal of the Society of Architectural Historians 78 (3): 368–370.

Mould, Oli. 2017. „Brutalism redux: Relational monumentality and the urban politics of brutalist architecture“. Antipode 49 (3): 701–720.

Nadkarni, Maya and Olga Shevchenko. 2004. „The politics of nostalgia: A case for comparative analysis of post-socialist practices“. Ab Imperio 2: 487–519.

Naumović, Slobodan. 2009. Upotreba tradicije. Beograd: Institut za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju i IP „Filip Višnjić“ a.d.

Nora, Pierre. 1989. „Between memory and history: Les lieux de mémoire“. Representations 26: 7–24.

Norris, David A. 2012. „Jovan Radulović’s Golubnjača (Dove Hole): Analysis and Context of the Stories and the Play Which Was Banned in Yugoslavia (1980–1984)“. The Slavonic and East European Review 90 (2): 201–228.

Pavasović Trošt, Tamara. 2018. „Ruptures and continuities in nationhood narratives: Reconstructing the nation through history textbooks in Serbia and Croatia“. Nations and Nationalism 24 (3): 716–740.

Petrović, Tanja. 2011. „The Political Dimension of Post-Socialist Memory Practices: Self-Organized Choirs in the Former Yugoslavia“. Südosteuropa. Zeitschrift für Politik und Gesellschaft 3: 315–329.

Petrović, Tanja. 2013. „The Past that Binds us: Yugonostalgia as the Politics of the Future“. In Transcending Fratricide. Political Mythologies, Reconciliations, and the Uncertain Future in the Former Yugoslavia, edi-ted by Srđa Pavlović and Marko Živković, 129–148. Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft.

Pušnik, Maruša. 2019. „Media memorial discourses and memory struggles in Slovenia: Transforming memori-es of the Second World War and Yugoslavia“. Memory Studies 12 (4): 433–450.

Rabikowska, Marta, ed. 2013. The Everyday of Memory: Between Communism and Post-Communism. Bern: Peter Lang.

Rieser, Max. 1966. „Problems of artistic form. The concept of form“ The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criti-cism 25 (1): 17–26.

Spaskovska, Ljubica. 2014. „The Yugoslav Chronotope–Histories, Memories and the Future of Yugoslav Stu-dies“. In Debating the End of Yugoslavia, edited by Florian Bieber and Armina Galijaš, 241–253. London, New York: Routledge.

Štiks, Igor. 2020, „Activist Aesthetics in the Post-Socialist Balkans. Resistance, Rebellion, Emancipation“. Third Text 34 (4–5): 461–479.

Šuber, Daniel and Slobodan Karamanić, eds. 2002. Retracing Images. Visual Culture after Yugoslavia. Leiden, Boston: Brill

Tamm, Marek. 2013. „Beyond History and Memory: New Perspectives in Memory Studies“. History Compass 11 (6): 458–473.

Tileaga, Cristian. 2012. „Communism in retrospect: The rhetoric of historical representation and writing the collective memory of recent past“. Memory Studies 5 (4): 462–478.

Todorova, Maria and Zsuzsa Gille, eds. 2010. Post-communist Nostalgia. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Vangeli, Anastas. 2011. „Nation-building ancient Macedonian style: the origins and the effects of the so-called antiquization in Macedonia“. Nationalities Papers 39 (1): 13–32.

Velikonja, Mitja. 2009. „Lost in transition: Nostalgia for socialism in post-socialist countries“. East European Politics and Societies 23 (4): 535–551.

Velikonja, Mitja. 2010. Titostalgija. Beograd: XX vek.

Volčič, Zala. 2007. „Yugo-nostalgia: Cultural memory and media in the former Yugoslavia“. Critical Studies in Media Communication 24 (1): 21–38.

Wachtel, Andrew. 1998. Making a nation, breaking a nation: Literature and cultural politics in Yugoslavia. Stanford University Press.

Wachtel, Andrew. 2006. Remaining relevant after communism. The role of the writer in Eastern Europe. Chi-cago: The University of Chicago Press.

Zakošek, Nenad. 2007. „The heavy burden of history: Political uses of the past in the Yugoslav successor sta-tes“. Politička misao 44 (5): 29–43.

Zvijer, Nemanja. 2014. „Presenting (Imposing) Values through Films. The Case of the Yugoslav Partisan Films“. Images 2 (2):




How to Cite

Vasiljević, Jelena. 2021. “Memorialization of the Past through Artistic Forms: Rememberance of the Partisan Movement During and After Yugoslavia”. Etnoantropološki Problemi / Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 16 (3):899–915.