• Home  / 
  • Travel
  •  /  History Written in Blood: Peace Monuments

History Written in Blood: Peace Monuments

Brandenburg Gate

“Si vis pacem, para bellum.” – If you wish for peace, prepare for war.

At least that’s what the Romans used to say. If there is one thing Eastern Europe has had more than enough of, it is wars. Below you’ll find 5 peace monuments from Eastern Europe. Perhaps not so surprisingly the history of most is not entirely peaceful.

The Brandenburg Gate quadriga, Berlin, Germany

Brandenburg Gate quadriga, originally built to represent peacePhoto by א

The Brandenburg Gate was built at the end of the 18th century by Friedrich Wilhelm II to represent peace. On top of it is was a quadriga with the figure of Eirene, goddess of peace in it.

What’s not so peaceful about it?

After Napoleon defeated the Prussians in 1806, he used the gate for a triumphal procession and then took the quadriga to Paris. It stayed there until Napoleon was defeated in 1814 when the Prussians took it back to Berlin. This was when the statue was given the iron cross (a recent military symbol of the Prussians) – making it Victoria, goddess of victory (not peace). The square near the gate was also renamed to Pariser Platz.

In the 20th century the Nazis held many parades and processions at the gate, exploiting it for propaganda purposes. The gate and the quadriga on top were both greatly damaged during the Battle of Berlin. The gate was full of holes from explosions and bullets; from the quadriga only a small part from one of the four horses survived (currently in the Märkisches Museum). Both East and West Berlin helped the reconstruction effort around the mid 1950s.

But from the beginning of the next decade for almost 30 years, the Brandenburg Gate was right next to the Berlin Wall, a product of the Cold War. In 1987 Ronald Reagan made his famous speech here at the Brandenburg gate:
“Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Peace Statue, Budapest, Hungary

Peace Monuments: statue in Budapest (aka Liberty Statue)Photo by Daniel Stockman 

It was erected in 1947. The woman holding a palm leaf over her head is the symbol of peace today.

What’s not so peaceful about it?

It is situated on top of the Gellért Hill right next to the Citadella – a fortress built by the Habsburgs to assert their power in Budapest following the revolution of 1848. (You can see it on the above picture behind the statue). It was garrisoned even after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 for 30 years.

Soviet soldier near the peace statue with a flag and a submachine gunPhoto by Yelkrokoyade

The statue itself was built on Soviet order to commemorate their liberation of Hungary during World War II. The original inscription read: “To the memory of the liberating Soviet heroes The grateful Hungarian people 1945”. The original composition contained other statues as well. The dragon-slaying man and the torchbearer are still there but the third one isn’t. It is a statue of a Soviet soldier with the stereotypical Soviet submachine gun PPSh-41. This one was removed and destroyed by a crowd during the revolution in 1956, but a copy was put in its place soon. It remained there until the 1990s. The inscription on the central statue was changed to: “To the memory of those all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary”.

Peace bell, Tirana, Albania

Peace bell in Tirana with the Pyramid behind itPhoto by praccus

This memorial to peace was made in 1999.

What’s not so peaceful about it?

The metal for casting it came from bullets fired during the 1997 rebellion. And like the Budapest statue, its place is a bit peculiar as well. Do you see that pyramid behind the bell on the picture? It is now a conference center, but originally it was a museum about the great deeds of Enver Hoxha, an Albanian dictator.

Lennon Wall, Prague, Czech Republic

Lennon wall, PraguePhoto by dental ben

Originally just an ordinary wall. Sometime in the 1980s people started covering it with Lennon images and lyrics, as well as personal and anti-communist messages.

What’s not so peaceful about it?

The authorities obviously didn’t like it and tried to put an end to it. They repainted the wall several times, installed CCTVs and even guards in night shift. But it couldn’t be stopped; new graffitis appeared again and again. The wall still stands and it keeps evolving, accepting new layers of graffiti – obviously with less anti-communist messages and more of those promoting love and peace.

Bob Marley statue, Banatski Sokolac, Serbia

Bob Marley statue, Serbia

In South Banat District district of Serbia you can find a tiny village of about 400 people: Banatski Sokolac. This village is “slowly dying. Houses and estates are being sold underprice. Social life takes place in two pubs and two stores. There is also a primary school (up to four grades), which hardly has several pupils”.

But what’s cool about it? An annual, free two-day rock/reggae/blues/funk festival held in the school yard! It was during this festival in 2008 when Croatian rock star Dado Topić and Serbian musician Jovan Matić unveiled the statue of Bob Marley — fighter for freedom armed with a guitar.

I don’t want to argue with the wisdom of the Romans, but maybe the Roman empire is not the ultimate authority on peace – after all she left the doors of the temple of Janus open most of the time. As Major-General Sir Frederick B. Maurice (Second Boer war and WWI veteran) responded to their saying:

“I went into the British Army believing that if you want peace you must prepare for war. I believe now that if you prepare thoroughly and efficiently for war, you get war.”

About the author

János Gömöri

János lives in Budapest. He is interested in music, history, coding and linguistics.

Leave a comment: