Motherland Or Mothership? Striking Communist Relics That Can Still Be Visited Today
As governments and countries change, often the buildings and monuments that defined their era are torn down in an attempt to erase or correct the past. But, like ghosts set in stone, some stay behind as reminders of a completely different mode of thinking. These Communist relics are bold, they’re bizarre, and sometimes they’re downright perplexing. Prepare yourself for the imposing, otherworldly landscape of a bygone era that was REALLY into concrete.
1. Monument To The Revolution – Podgarić, Croatia
Star Wars fans, eat your heart out, because this is not only one of the most bizarre Communist relics still around today, but it also has an uncanny resemblance to the Galactic Empire’s TIE fighter spaceships. But here’s the catch: this wacky sculpture was built a full decade before Star Wars even existed!
Located in present-day Croatia, this monument is dedicated to the resistance of the local Yugoslav partisans who fought against the Germans and their collaborators during World War II, and successfully defeated them. While it’s absolutely unforgettable, one has to ask: what exactly about this baffling structure hints at its meaning?
2. Buzludzha Monument – Bulgaria
Motherland or mothership? Some Communist relics are just massively perplexing. Back in the 1970s, Bulgaria’s ruling Communist Party decided it was high time to give themselves one giant pat on the back — and spent sums roughly equivalent to $35 million to build this monstrosity on a lonely peak in the Balkan Mountains, in honor of…well, themselves.
Looking more like a UFO crash site than anything else, preparing the mountaintop to be graced by this monument meant blowing it up and leveling it flat with TNT. Since the fall of Communist rule in the country, this monument has been abandoned. Since then people have even shot at the red star, thinking it might contain rubies. Much to their likely disappointment, they were instead showered with glass.
3. Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship Memorial – Varna, Bulgaria
Unnerving military motifs, severe lines, huge proportions? Check, check, and check. This bombastic fossil of the Communist era has all the characteristics of the government-sponsored style typical of its times. With its origins in a design competition between local creators, the monument looms ominously over the Bulgarian seaside city of Varna.
Since the early 1990s, the inside of the site has been coated with graffiti. Despite the fact that this structure is intended to celebrate friendship across Communist nations, nothing about it is particularly friendly. Let’s be honest, does the sight of massive, expressionless soldiers really inspire feelings of warmth and comfort?
4. Tjentište War Memorial – Bosnia & Herzegovina
Don’t let the breathtaking natural beauty of the towering mountains and dark green forest in the background deceive you. While it may look quiet and peaceful today, back in 1943, this area saw one of the largest battles of the Yugoslav Partisans against their German, Italian, and Bulgarian foes during World War II.
Located deep inside the Sutjeska National Park in present-day Bosnia & Herzegovina, those thickets of trees are renowned for being some of the last primordial forests in all of Europe. Like many Communist relics, its form raises more questions than answers. This monument to the Partisan victory perhaps suggests a pair of angel wings bursting out of the ground.
5. Monument To The Soviet Army – Sofia, Bulgaria
During the Communist era in Europe, the Soviet Union’s allies may have made a strong effort to celebrate and glorify their national identities. But at the end of the day, it was the USSR who was pulling the strings. As such, many of those places built monuments quite literally praising a foreign country.
And when sucking up to your boss is no longer the name of the game, let’s just say things can get a little awkward. Since 2011, local vandals in Bulgaria’s capital have found some rather creative ways to reimagine this memorial to Soviet World War II soldiers.
6. Ilinden, Kruševo – North Macedonia
How would you feel about having this unusual structure as your final resting place? This alien-looking compound with its unforgettably puzzling shape reminiscent of a naval mine is named Ilinden. Also known as the Makedonium, it’s one of the best-known monuments in the former Yugoslav country of North Macedonia.
While it’s both a tribute to the Macedonian struggle for freedom from the Ottomans and again during World War II, it has yet another purpose. Buried inside it is a national revolutionary hero from long before the Communist times — alongside a local pop star, who was killed in a car crash in 2007.
7. House Of Soviets Moscow Square – St. Petersburg, Russia
When the Soviet Union at last fell and the Communist system was paved over, it made sense that many reminders of that way of life were quickly erased, destroyed, or rebuilt. Yet here, in a business district of Russia’s second largest city, the hammer and sickle are still displayed front and center — and it’s unlikely they’re going anywhere.
Statues are often the easiest item to remove or topple when regimes fall. But this monument to the leader of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Lenin, still watches over what was once the capital of the Russian Empire. Despite what he symbolizes, he’s standing tall even today. Remember, his embalmed body is still on display in Moscow.
8. Former Ministry Of Highways – Tbilisi, Georgia
Whatever game of Jenga they were trying to play here, this building looks like it’s definitely won. Not only does this impossibly unusual design manage to hold together as a fully functional building, but it’s still in use to this day. It seems suitable to hold a cutting edge art gallery, but this complex was originally designed for Soviet Georgia’s Ministry of Highways.
Peculiar as it may be, this building is actually quite inventive in how it takes the nature surrounding it and incorporates it. The trees were not cleared to make way for the building, instead they themselves dictated the direction of the odd building’s architecture. Today, it houses the Bank of Georgia.
9. Monument To 1300 Years Of Bulgaria – Shumen, Bulgaria
It’s not for certain, but something about this statue tells us that there’s more to it than meets the eye. Not every country can claim to have been around for more than a millennium, so when Communist Bulgaria celebrated its nation’s 1,300 anniversary in 1981, it was obviously going to be as big of a deal as possible. Naturally, that meant some especially odd commemorative art.
A vast stairway from the nearby city of Shumen leads to this fossil, filled with giant, imaginatively freakish statues that look as though, with the right spells, they could come to life as Transformers. Some Communist relics are deeply baffling, but some are just so out there that you can’t help but kind of love them.
10. The Motherland Calls – Volgograd, Russia
Some Communist architectural relics look badly out of place, fossils from a lost era. But others still hold up against the test of time, and are just so jaw-droppingly bombastic that you can’t help but be dazzled and impressed by how immense they truly are. You might know this statue’s location better by its former name: Stalingrad.
The Battle of Stalingrad during World War II was the largest and most brutal battle in the history of warfare. So it was only fitting that the monument in its memory ought to be rightfully massive, and this statue does not disappoint. Once the tallest statue in the world, it is now the largest in Europe, and the highest statue of a woman on Earth, without a pedestal.
11. Baikonur Cosmodrome – Kazakhstan
It may not look like much today, but this badly decaying hangar was once the epicenter of what could be called the biggest contest of the 20th century: the Cold War. Not far away from the abandoned dust-coated rocket, the Soviet Union made history by firing the first satellite into space, Sputnik, and then the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin.
While the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the middle of a vast desert in Kazakhstan still functions today for rocket launches, other parts of it have fallen victim to the ravages of time, becoming yet another forgotten set of relics of Communist-era architecture that tell tales of a time when the USSR dominated the Space Race.
12. Grūtas Park – Druskininkai, Lithuania
Lithuania was the first country to declare its independence from the Soviet Union, so you can imagine that when all was said and done, there were a lot of Communist relics that the Lithuanian people were more than eager to rid themselves of. Many forgotten statues and sculptures found a new home here, in Grūtas Park, as a tourist attraction.
What were once intended as tools used by a state to inspire its population and inform them who their idols ought to be, have now been chopped to bits and serve as selfie fodder. Here in the park, visitors can climb all over these cold, silent carvings once called heroes, or perhaps take revenge on stone Stalin for his crimes against humanity.
13. National Library Of Kosovo – Pristina, Kosovo
At first glance, this bizarre Communist relic, the strangest of the strange of former Yugoslav architecture, will leave you scratching your head. It looks like an ode to a beehive covered in fences, and if you try to guess what purpose it serves, chances are, a library would likely be among the last things that come to mind.
Yet as uninviting as the building looks from the outside, inside is a treasure trove of books, historical documents, newspapers, archives, and even exhibitions. Though many of its contents were ransacked or destroyed during the war in 1999, it has been renovated — though you wouldn’t know it judging from how it appears. Never judge a book by its cover!
14. Žižkov Television Tower – Prague, Czechia
It must be taller, they said. It must be weirder, they said, and it must dominate the city skyline. The result is this eyesore, one of the most notoriously resented relics of Communist-era architecture. This unsightly television tower disrupts Prague’s gorgeous skyline of medieval church spires and brick roofs. Building it even destroyed part of a historical Jewish cemetery in the Czech capital.
So a local artist decided he had to intervene. David Černý was already famous for splashing an invading Soviet tank with bright pink paint, and getting arrested. After Communism ended, in 2000 he spiced things up for Prague’s skyline by adding 10 faceless babies to the television tower, making the already imposing structure even creepier.
15. Cape Tarkhankut, Ukraine
When the Iron Curtain fell and the Soviet Union ceased to exist, many of the monuments and buildings that celebrated its heroes were seen as obsolete or even hated, and were torn down and destroyed. But one place along the Black Sea coast in Ukraine has come up with a unique idea for these spare parts.
This underwater museum is filled with Communist-era architectural relics that include different heads of figures like Lenin, Marx, and Engels. To visit it, you’ll have to strap on some scuba gear, but there’s something about these old fossils slowly decaying and being covered with algae and sea life that makes them all the more spooky.
16. Memento Park – Budapest, Hungary
He’s late, he’s late, for a very important date! As far as Communist-era statues go, you can’t go wrong with a hyper-dramatic representation of a disproportionately muscular peasant, cap and all, rushing forward in the spirit of revolution. Unfortunately for this fellow, Hungarians were more than eager to be rid of everything he stands for.
The country had tried several times to be rid of their oppressive Communist regime, and when they at last succeeded in 1989, this statue and many others like it were swiftly earmarked for destruction. They found a new home in Budapest’s Memento Park, which even includes the boots smashed off of a statue of Stalin.
17. Lenin Statue – Sucleia, Moldova
While many places were all too ready to see the physical representations of Communism disappear, the town of Sucleia in Moldova just wasn’t ready to part with their statue of Vladimir Lenin. In fact, they liked him so much that they decided to have him revamped. There was just one problem.
When the townspeople received their newly-restored statue back, they were shocked to discover that the head was just a tad too big for the body. As the story goes, Lenin’s 140th birthday anniversary was coming up, and they didn’t have time to get the statue redone for the celebrations. So now they’re just stuck with this wonky fellow.
18. Pyramid Of Tirana – Tirana, Albania
It has served as a nightclub, a radio station, and even as a NATO military base during the Kosovo War. It’s been vandalized and smashed. Now, it’s the Albanian capital city’s most renowned eyesore, and like so many fossils of Communist architecture, it’s just sitting there. But what exactly is this pyramid?
The building was originally built as a memorial to the deceased Communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, by none other than his daughter. However, the Albanian people did not share her feelings about dad. They smashed his gravestone, and this pyramid fell into neglect. But rather than waste it, today there are plans to turn it into an IT learning center for interested youth.
19. Courage Monument – Brest, Belarus
Whoever this giant stone fellow is, it’s safe to say he’s not having the best day. But there’s certainly a good reason for his unhappy state. The Soviet Union had the highest losses of any country during World War II, and the city of Brest in present-day Belarus was no exception.
Brest’s old fortress and the entire city were awarded the titles of Hero Fortress and Hero City by the Soviet Union, in honor of their brave and unsuccessful defense against the German invasion. The statue is certainly one of the more severe Communist structural relics, but it’s not hard to understand why.
20. Trebjesa Hill – Nikšić, Montenegro
There are moments when a structure is just so jam-packed with symbolism that it becomes downright confusing, and this puzzling architectural fossil in Montenegro is a perfect example of that. Like so many other massive concrete structures in the countries of former Yugoslavia and the rest of Eastern Europe, it is a monument to the fallen fighters in World War II.
No one has been quite able to figure out what the different shapes on this war memorial actually mean. It could be a gear, a watch, or even a flower symbolizing rebirth. It’s just so abstract that at a certain point all you can do is shrug.
21. Monument To The 1st Split Partisan Detachment – Košute, Croatia
In case you were wondering, yes, this is yet another one of the many relics sprinkled across formerly Communist Europe that was originally built as a World War II memorial. But while many of them have been abandoned or renovated, this one has truly suffered the scars of time.
During the chaos that came across all the parts of Yugoslavia as the country fell apart in the early ’90s, this strange spiny sculpture also fell prey to attack. It would be one thing to just vandalize it and tag it up, but that didn’t seem to be enough. It was blown up and completely destroyed.
22. The Fist – Makljen, Bosnia & Herzegovina
If this site was originally known as ‘The Fist,’ then you might be wondering, how on Earth does it resemble a human hand? And you would not be wrong for thinking that. Once upon a time, in the peak of Communist rule in Yugoslavia, this monument represented a giant white fist of the then-dictator, Josip Tito.
This was a site of many national ceremonies honoring the Yugoslav fighters of World War II, and even managed to outlast the destructive wars in Bosnia throughout the 1990s. But once the NATO peacekeeping troops pulled out of the area, it was open season. The monument was dynamited in 2000.
23. Treptower Park – Berlin, Germany
If there’s any one place whose personal history stands as a stark reminder as to how clashing politics can tear worlds apart, then it’s definitely the German capital, Berlin. Few human constructions could be as symbolic of separation and isolation as the infamous Berlin Wall. But when the wall fell, what happened to the rest of the stone ghosts in formerly-Communist East Berlin?
Despite how painful the memory of Communism was for Berliners, surprisingly enough, some of its biggest monuments ended up living on. This Soviet War Memorial remained, because removing it would be disrespectful to the more than 7,000 Soviet soldiers killed in battle that are buried nearby.
24. Freedom Hill – Ilirska Bistrica, Slovenia
This weird, mushroom-like complex of structures is the interior of a war memorial in Slovenia. From the outside, it looks like a hollow box with arching pillars inside. But when you learn what’s underneath it, you might feel a bit more creeped out than you had thought you would be.
These pillars resemble the stalagmites and stalactites in the caves of the surrounding area. This eerie architecture that has survived the Communist era has been kept in such good condition for a key reason. Beneath the monument is a mass grave of 284 partisans who died trying to liberate the town in World War II.
25. Liberation Monument – Prague, Czechia
This most peculiar of Prague’s Communist relics deserves some explanation. Tucked away in a small park opposite the main railway station in the Czech capital, it shows a Soviet soldier at the end of World War II. He is greeted by a Czech villager boy, who is giving him a bouquet of lilacs — and giving him a big old smooch.
Considering how repressive Communist societies were towards gay people, this monument may seem surprising at first glance. But believe it or not, this smooch was its own social phenomenon in the Communist times, called the Socialist fraternal kiss. A well-known example of it appears on the Berlin Wall.
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