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The Kitsch Capital of Europe: Skopje & It’s Statues

A rejuvenation project led to the erection of a ridiculous number of statues in the Macedonian capital of Skopje that has turned the city into one of the kitsch capitals...

A rejuvenation project led to the erection of a ridiculous number of statues in the Macedonian capital of Skopje that has turned the city into one of the kitsch capitals of Europe.

The reason for the crazy amount of statues in Skopje, North Macedonia is both hilarious and sad. Before we explore these statues, we need to go into the reason why they are even there.

In 2010 there was a major redevelopment project announced titled “Skopje 2014.” This was a project financed by the then-ruling nationalist party VMRO-DPME. The official purpose of the project was to give Skopje a more “classical appeal.”

The project was set to build colleges, museums, government buildings, and monuments depicting historical figures from the region of Macedonia.

The Controversy

This was controversial for a number of reasons:

  1. It was seen as politically controversial in nature due to the fact that it attempts to forward the narrative of Macedonian history (a super controversial thing that would take an entire article to get into). In very broad strokes, this narrative proposes that a Macedonian identity has always existed from antiquity through the Middle Ages and into the present. Which, according to many critics (especially Greek critics), is simply not true.
  2. The wild costs which have been estimated from anywhere to €80 million to €500 million which has caused many in the city to wonder why the money wasn’t being spent on something like infrastructure as the city lacks simple things like good roads. The government said in 2013 it had spent 200 million on the project.
  3. Allegations of a possible money laundering scheme were brought up in 2013. A municipal review commission detected illegal procurements worth at least €8 million. To support this the commission wondered why the former mayor had favoured two Italian firms for bronze and marble statues despite their quotes being 220% costlier than the actual price.

The project was able to gain traction as the city was in shambles after an earthquake in 1963 that destroyed about 80% of the city. A lot of the buildings that faced destruction were the neoclassical buildings found in the city centre, hence the classical rejuvenation. There was also the idea to revamp and remove the former communist style buildings.

Regardless of the decision making behind it, the city has started becoming a tourist attraction precisely because of this perceived frivolous spending. But it isn’t because people think it’s good, it’s because it is kitsch, some even going as far as to call it a “mini-Vegas.”

There are so many statues that there is a game tourists and backpackers play in the city. The aim is to see how many statues you can find around the city in 24 hours. One writer said they saw 68 different statues!

Here are a few of my favourites.

Sculptures of famous Macedonian people on the Art Bridge
Statue of Alexander the Great and fountain in downtown Skopje
Skenderbey statue
Just look how many massive statues there are in the city centre!
Some of them are weirder than others
Monument of the Boatmen of Thessaloniki with the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia opposite the Bridge of Civilizations crossing the Vardar River.
Skopje Macedonian Gate
King Marko
Statue of Philip II of Macedonia
The statue of Blessed Mother Teresa in her native city Skopje

If that tickled your fancy, check out our list of the must-see palaces of Russia!


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