Description and photos of the Lapidars (Monuments), statues, bas reliefs and mosaics
Here you will find a list of those Albanian Lapidars which I have been able to visit, photograph and then write about what the images represent. The numbering system is that established in Volume 1 of the Albanian Lapidar Survey – carried out in 2014 by researchers and photographers of the Department of Eagles.
After the list of the lapidars recorded in the Albanian Lapidar Survey there is a list of other Socialist Realist art works, statues, bas reliefs, mosaics, etc., which were outside the remit of the project of 2014 but which complement the major monuments.
This is followed by a few examples of how reaction seeks to fight back against Socialist advances by the promotion of ignorance, mysticism and even a return to pre-Christian superstitions – sometimes using the tools of the Socialist period to do so. This includes a couple of monuments to those who were in the country to seek dominance of the people and their land and not for the independence of the country from foreign control but to seize the wealth of the people and the country’s resources for the interests of capitalism and imperialism.
Evolution of lapidars in Albania – part of the struggle of ideas along the road to Socialism. A history of how the lapidars in Albania evolved during the country’s ‘Cultural Revolution’, from the mid-1960s, into some of the most impressive works of art worthy to stand with the best in the catalogue of Sociaist Realist Art.
ALS 1 – Monument to the Partisan, in central Tirana, commemorating the liberation of the city on 17th November 1944, the work of the sculptor Andrea Mano. The first of the sculptural lapidars, being installed in 1949.
ALS 5 – Monument to People’s Heroes Vojo Kushi, Sadik Stavaleci, Xhorxhi Martini, in Tirana.
ALS 8 – The memorial stone to the original location of the Martyrs’ Cemetery, located in Tirana Park close to the centre of Tirana.
ALS 9 – Monument to the young people’s anti-fascist group Debatik, in Tirana Park, not far from the post-Socialist monuments that celebrate the German Fascist dead as well as those of the British imperialists.
ALS 12 – The statue of Mother Albania, by the sculptors Kristaq Rama, Shaban Hadëri and Muntaz Dhrami, created in 1972 and which stands guard over the graves of the martyrs of the War of Liberation against Fascism.
ALS 13 – Monument to the Artillery – Sauk, in the hills above Tirana, at the point where the Partisan artillery fired upon the Albanian Quisling government, by the sculptors Kristaq Rama, Shaban Hadëri and Muntaz Dhrami (1968).
ALS 21 – Memorial to the Peze Conference of 16th September 1942 which established the organisational structure for the forthcoming struggle for liberation against the Fascist invaders, first the Italian and then, when Italy fell to the Allies, the Germans (1970).
ALS 33 – Monument to the 20th Brigade, Librazhd.
ALS 34 – Librazhd Martyrs’ Cemetery.
ALS 38 – Monument at Pishkash.
ALS 98 – Monument to the First School, Proger.
ALS 99 – Monument to the First Communist Party Cells, Proger.
ALS 100 – Monument to the Martyrs of the National Liberation War, Proger.
ALS 167 – People’s Hero Mujo Ulqinaku, Durrës.
ALS 168 – Durrës War Memorial mosaic. Artists Nikolet Vasia, Gavril Priftuli and F SH. The architect was Kristo Sitiris (1870-1953).
ALS 194 – Lushnjë Martyrs’ Cemetery.
ALS 306 – Monument to those Partisans who died in the Liberation of Fier.
ALS 307 – Fier Martyrs’ Cemetery.
ALS 308 – Monument to the 11th Brigade, Fier.
ALS 309 – Monument to Petro Sota and the 1943 Nazi Massacre, Fier.
ALS 376 – Martyrs’ Cemetery, Gjirokastër.
ALS 398 – The monolith to the Partisan on the approach road to the ‘Stone City’ of Gjirokastra.
ALS 414 – Glory to the martyrs who fell on 9th October 1944 for the liberation of Sarandë, Qafë Gjashtë.
ALS 438 – Drashovicë Arch, sculptor; Mumtaz Dhrami – probably the grandest of all the Albanian Lapidars.
ALS 477 – Bestrovë Mosaic.
ALS 504 – Mushqete Monument – Berzhite. In the last days of the fight for the National Liberation of Albania by the Communist led Partisan army a crucial battle took place along the road from Elbasan to Tirana, south-east of the capital. To commemorate this battle the Mushqete Monument was erected at Berzhite. The work of sculptor Hector Dule and the architect K Miho.
ALS ? – Bas Relief and Statue at Bajram Curri Museum – one of the last of the major Socialist Realist bas reliefs beside a statue of the Independence fighter who gave his name to the town. This all sits in front of the (now looted and closed) city museum.
Socialist Realist statues, mosaics and bas reliefs
‘The Albanians’ Mosaic, National Historical Museum, Tirana – the finest, and without a shadow of doubt the biggest, revolutionary mosaic in Albania. Has been the victim of reactionary ‘rewriting of history’ – more exactly cultural vandalism. One of the artists involved in its creation was also responsible for some of those post-Socialist changes. Possibly the model for the Judas character in the Sacred Heart Church after taking his thirty pieces of silver. Pieces fall from it every winter and might eventually disappear as it will be considered too dangerous to allow to remain and no money found for its proper restoration. Ranks with the Arch at Drashovicë as being one of the truly monumental examples of Socialist Realist art in Albania.
Traditional Musicians and Dancers – a stone bas relief just outside the southern city of Gjirokastra
Gjirokastra College Bas Relief – This small relief, at the bottom of the stairs into a high school in the old part of Gjirokastra, commemorates an event in 1942 when the local students from the gymnasium (college), together with their teachers, demonstrated against, and clashed with, the occupying Italian fascist forces.
The ‘Hanged Women’ of Gjirokastra – This is a statue of Bule Naipi and Persefoni Kokëdhima, two Partisans, who were executed by the German Nazis in 1944. From that time they became known as the Hanged Women of Gjirokastra.
Mother Albania Expelling The Priest and The Military – a fine example of Socialist Realist sculpture depicting a woman stating unequivocally that the past was no longer welcome in Albania.
The bas reliefs and mosaics of the Vlora Palace of Sport – both the inside and outside of public buildings were often decorated with images promoting the new society. Here there are images, in bas relief on the external walls and mosaics in what would have been the main entrance hall.
Bashkia Mosaic – Ura Vajgurore – a mosaic beside the main entrance to the town hall in Ura Vajgurore – a few kilometres north of Berat. It depicts the activities that made the area prosperous during the Socialist period – now all virtually abandoned and left to rot.
Traditional Wedding Mural in Peshkopia – a large mural in the restaurant of what used to be the main state-run tourist hotel in the north-eastern town of Peshkopia. It shows a local wedding which combines the traditional practices of the region together with the new social relations that were being established during Socialism.
Radio Kukesi bas-relief – a simple, yet striking stone bas relief on the facade of the (still) radio station in the north-eastern town of Kukes, close to the border with Kosovo. The radio station broadcasts the news of the new Albanian man marching towards the future.
Emblem over Party HQ, Peshkopia – Socialist imagery took many forms but this (now rusting) large metal cut out of the map of Albania, on which is superimposed a pickaxe and rifle (the symbol of the Party of Labour of Albania) is quite unique. It stands atop what used to be the Peshkopia Party headquarters.
Krrabë Miners Panel – a stone bas relief that is located on the side of the entrance to what used to be the community centre in the mining village, to the south of Tirana on the road to Elbasan. The mines have long since closed but the existence of the bas relief reminds us of the history of the region under Socialism. Also there’s an example of the decoration that would have been outside of buildings that had a connection to the Party of Labour of Albania.
Tobacco Factory, Durrës – a stone bas relief which celebrated the uprising and strike in 1940 of Durrës tobacco workers against the Italian Fascists who had invaded the previous year. Unfortunately the long abandoned tobacco factory was demolished a few years ago to make place for one of the many, incredibly ugly and massive private universities that have sprung like an infestation throughout the country. The fate of the panel is, at this time, unknown.
Liri Gero and the 68 Girls of Fier – Liri Gero was one of the many teenage Albanian men and women who joined the Partisans in the fight for National Liberation against the Fascist, first Italian and then German, invaders. She ended up being captured and tortured to death. The statue hidden away behind the National Art Gallery in Tirana is dignified in its depiction of the young peasant woman. The contemporary statue in the centre of Fier is an insult to her (and that of the other Partisans’) memory.
National Art Gallery ‘Sculpture Park’ – Tirana – the very much ‘unofficial’ and sometimes difficult to approach collection of major Socialist realist statues (including ones of the great Marxist-Leninists VI Lenin, JV Stalin as well as local Partisan heroine Liri Gero) which are stored at the back of the National Art Gallery in Tirana.
1971 National Exhibition of Figurative Arts – Tirana – The article below was first published in New Albania, No 6, 1971. It discusses the general idea of art in a socialist society, how the Albanians saw ‘Socialist Realism’ with mention of a handful of works (out of 180) that were displayed at the National Exhibition of Figurative Arts in Tirana in the autumn of 1971.
Bourgeois, reactionary and religious art, sculpture and architecture in post Socialist Albania
Anti-Communist paintings – Shkodër Franciscan Church – not in any sense Socialist but an interesting example of how the reactionary forces in a post-revolutionary society use the cultural development of that Socialist past to attack it. If nothing else it demonstrates the anti-progressive nature of the Catholic Church. Unique pictures – at least I haven’t seen their likes elsewhere – and worth the trip to Shkodër to see them.
Resurrection of Christ Greek Orthodox Cathedral – Tirana – there doesn’t seem to be any money to improve the infrastructure in Albania but plenty for building churches and the new Resurrection of Christ Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tirana has taken a big chunk of that budget.
The dordolec, the ‘evil eye’ and superstition in Albania – the answer to all those questions that visitors ask themselves when they are travelling around Albania – what’s that blow up toy (and various other items) doing hanging from a building?
Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tirana – the Magdalen is you’ve not seen her before, as well as the Last Supper and the Annunciation.
German Fascist Memorial in Tirana, Albania – Albania was probably the first country in Europe to establish monuments to the Fascist invaders between 1939 and 1944 – but unfortunately not the last (Poland and Ukraine having also decided to curry favour with Western capitalism in such a manner).
The English Cemetery in Tirana Park – British involvement in Albania in the latter years of the Second World War wasn’t to assist the Albanian people in their battle against German Fascism – but to try to ensure that elements within the Albanian establishment that were favourable to the ideas the British ruling class were attempting to spread across post-war Europe would eventually gain control. The activities of the British in the immediate post-war years, especially with what is often referred to as ‘The Corfu Incident’, and their attempts to undermine the new Socialist government in Albania into the 1950s demonstrates their true intentions. The English Cemetery brings with it a twist that’s missing in the German cemetery – the large, red, marble stone that dominates the space was originally the grave stone of the great Albanian Communist and Marxist-Leninist, Enver Hoxha, when he was interred next to Mother Albania in the National Martyrs’ Cemetery in the hills above Tirana.
Panagia Monastery Church – Mother of Christ – Dhermi, Albania – an old church with some interesting murals depicting what is in store for sinners whern they enter Hell.
No, Vladimir Ilyich and Uncle Joe, you shall not go to the ball – the statues of the Marxist-Leninist leaders are ‘under wraps’ in November 2012.