Gazimestan Memorial Tower

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September, 2020

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During our five-day trip to Kosovo, we stopped at the Gazimestan Memorial Tower after visiting the “Adem Jashari Memorial Complex”: On route, we passed many roadside cemeteries to those killed during the Kosovo War in the late 1990s.

Whilst the Adem Jashari Memorial is dedicated to those killed during the Kosovo War, Gazimestan, built in 1953, pays tribute to those killed in the Battle of Kosovo on 15 June 1389. The 30,000 Turkish troops were led by Sultan Murad and the 20,000 Serbs, by Prince Lazar. There are many conflicting accounts of what happened, including who were the victors, with the only certain fact being that both Sultan and Prince were killed, although the exact circumstances of their deaths are still unclear. We later visited the nearby Sultan’s tűrbe or “tomb”:

According to our Bradt guidebook, the imposing Gazimestan Tower was previously guarded by KFOR, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force, but now the Kosovo Police Service has taken over. Nevertheless, at the entrance, we had to handover our passports which were retained for the duration of our visit.

The design of the 25m tall brick tower and surroundings is said to capture the mood of the communist leadership at the time. An inscription in Cyrillic at the bottom of the tower, is a stark reminder that every Serb was expected to perform his patriotic duty and sacrifice his life in defence of Kosovo. When translated it reads:

Whoever is a Serb or of Serb birth,
And of Serb blood and heritage,
And comes not to fight in Kosovo,
May he never have the progeny his heart desires,
Neither son nor daughter,
May nothing grow that his hand sows,
Neither dark wine nor white wheat,
May he rot in rust as long as family’s knees exist.

It was here at this memorial that what became known as the ‘Gazimestan Speech’ was given on 28 June 1989 by Slobodan Milošević, then president of Serbia. It was the centrepiece of a day-long event to mark the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo.
I asked innocently if we could go up the tower and although our guide appeared surprised, we walked around the back and found the door open. The 100+ steps were easy to climb as they were even and wide and in blocks of around 10 with inscriptions on each landing, again in Cyrillic.

The open viewing area had a bronze map showing the battlefield lines. There was a good view over the surrounding plains, but unfortunately, we couldn’t see the Sultan’s tűrbe although it wasn’t hard to miss the smoking chimneys of Kosovo A and B power plants.

Once back on the ground, we spotted the tubes of brown concrete cut on an angle which are said to symbolise brutal architecture. If viewed from above, they form the shape of a star.

Helen Jackson

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