The country of Yugoslavia may no longer appear on any physical maps, but it remains on many people’s mental maps; though Yugoslavia may be dead forever as a political entity, it lives on as a cultural project.

Yugoslavia’s material and cultural production inspires many people to make art and products. And a lot of them have little or even no lived experience in or memory of it.

These are their stories.

Part 4 (of many): Designers (mostly).

With Tadej Anclin (3D monuments), Claire Condon (Yugopaperniks), and Dejan Medojević (Dejoslavija), and contributions by Mikal Ahmed and Igor Riđanović / Tito AI Chatbot. Featuring music by Detective Spook.

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Episode Transcript

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[JINGLE]

TITOBOT: This is Remembering Yugoslavia, a radio program about the country that I led for almost forty years and that unfortunately does not exist anymore. Everything fell apart after I died. But I am pleased there are many people who carry on Yugoslavia’s legacy. Here to present some of them is your host, Peter Korchnak.

PETER KORCHNAK: Thank you for that lovely introduction, Tito, I mean, Titobot.

The Tito AI Chatbot is the creation of Igor Riđanović who was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina and lives in the U.S. “I made the Tito’s AI voice clone just for the fun of it using some historical speeches,” Riđanović wrote to me in an email. “I had already written the chatbot app for some work related experiments. Then one evening I just put all those pieces together.

“I was curious to find out if hearing Tito’s voice would add another dimension to the GPT written answers (and I think it does). I was also eager to find out the reactions to my YouTube video. Since Tito has been a polarizing figure for a while now, I suspect the reactions will reflect that.”

The video features an 8-minute clip of the Josip Broz Tito AI Chatbot answering various questions in Serbocroatian. “Listen to the synergy of OpenAI’s GPT-4 and ElevenLab’s Multilingual V2 models, as they collaborate to bring Tito to life,” goes the description for the recording.

“I’m neither a lover nor a hater of Tito,” Riđanović concluded in his message. “He was a complex figure who requires and deserves ongoing evaluation.”

With that, let’s ask Tito, or rather the Tito AI Chatbot, a couple of questions.

Hello TitoBot, welcome to the Remembering Yugoslavia podcast.

TITOBOT: Hello Peter, it’s a pleasure to be here.

PETER KORCHNAK: What were your greatest accomplishments as Josip Broz Tito?

TITOBOT: One of my greatest accomplishments was leading the Partisans, the most effective resistance movement in occupied Europe, to victory against the Axis powers during World War II.

Furthermore, establishing the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War. This allowed Yugoslavia and other countries to avoid becoming a pawn in the power struggle between the two superpowers.

Also, I managed to keep Yugoslavia united and peaceful for several decades. Despite my efforts to promote brotherhood and unity among the different nationalities, the deep-seated divisions proved to be too strong.

PETER KORCHNAK: Let’s keep it lighthearted, shall we? What’s your favorite joke about…you?

TITOBOT: Well, there’s a lighthearted one that goes something like this: Why did I never play hide and seek with my comrades? Because good luck hiding when everybody wants to find you! It’s a humorous nod to my popularity as a leader.

PETER KORCHNAK: That’s great. One more for the road?

TITOBOT: Of course, here’s another one. Why did I always carry a pen? Because you never know when you need to draw a new border. This joke is a playful nod to my role in shaping Yugoslavia’s boundaries.

PETER KORCHNAK: Tito himself did not speak English. I found all of one recording of him speaking the language, in a media interview. I’m told he studied hard to memorize the words, and he sounds a bit like a caricature of himself. The video itself is worth a look, for the faces he makes at the end, it’s quite precious.

[SOUNDBITE]

PETER KORCHNAK: Here’s where AI offers an improvement, fictional as it may be, on historical reality.

As TitoBot said in the open, there are people out there who carry on Yugoslavia’s legacy through their art or other projects. I talk about them in the occasional Inspired by Yugoslavia series on this podcast; this is the fourth installment. I’ll talk to creators of two-dimensional graphic design and three-dimensional models of monuments.

As always, let me first acknowledge the latest supporters of Remembering Yugoslavia. Thank you, Gregg and Ben, for your generous contributions.

Like all the people you’ll hear from on today’s show, for me too Remembering Yugoslavia is a passion project. It takes countless hours to produce and the only way I can do this is with your support. So be like Gregg and Ben and many others and contribute to the show’s success.

Go to RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate and make your gift your greatest accomplishment today.

[SOUNDBITE – “Galaksija z 80a” by Detective Spook]

Yugopaperniks

CLAIRE CONDON: When the pandemic set in, and I realized that further travel plans were just not possible for a very long time, I thought about ways I could still explore these spaces and also ways I could help others explore these spaces.

PETER KORCHNAK: Claire Condon is a software developer from the United States; she spoke to me from Frankfurt where she lives. The spaces she’s talking about are Yugoslav-era World War II monuments.

CLAIRE CONDON: Because of the travel barriers, not only during the pandemic, but just in general that, that so many of them are in spots that are difficult for many people to get access to because of distance, because of language, because of lack of time off from work, I wanted some way to be closer to them, and to allow other people to be closer to them as well, if I could create something simple enough that I thought other people could enjoy it, as well.

PETER KORCHNAK: Condon makes paper models of Yugoslav monuments. I discovered them on Instagram where she posts as @yugo.paperniks.

How did you go from that experience to making the paper models? Are you an artist? Are you child at heart? How did that happen?

CLAIRE CONDON: I have a fine arts background, which had fallen into disuse.

PETER KORCHNAK: As an artist to one might expect you would be doing, I don’t know, drawings, paintings, that kind of stuff. Obviously, the spatial element lends itself so well to modeling. How, how did that process unfold?

CLAIRE CONDON: Unfold, good pun. [LAUGHTER]

So, I had had some good experiences in the past, making, for example, Halloween masks from 3D low-poly paper models, which one can find on anywhere online at this point. And I thought that probably the same concept could be applied to those spomeniks. And I was just learning 3D modeling for the first time. So it made a lot of sense to make these kind of low-fidelity interpretations, which would lend themselves to the kind of larger planes that you would need for a paper model.

In choosing the paper folding approach, I always wanted to create something that could be shared, that could be replicated and live in different places all over the world. And I wasn’t sure at first how to go about distributing these.

And there were a lot of failed attempts along the way, getting too detailed. And the paper just can’t hold up structurally to some of the things I was trying to do. So there was a lot of iteration. A lot of hours sitting on the couch, just gluing paper.

PETER KORCHNAK: Condon is aware of some of the implications of her project.

CLAIRE CONDON: Thinking through the ethics of myself being someone from the US, experiencing the cultural gift of another part of the world, I needed to find a way to connect the project back to taking care of that part of the world. Or at least those were my feelings about my obligation as an artist there.

I cannot suppose what the original artists wanted. But what they have done is create forms, so powerful, and so mysterious, and charismatic, that unlike many monuments around the world, the aesthetic is enough to draw people who are curious in to learn more. And I say that being one of those people myself, originally attracted by the aesthetic and now with a much deeper understanding and sense of the bravery and tragedy and the complicated circumstances under which all of these monuments were erected. I can’t say I have anything close to a deep understanding. But certainly move far more than I ever would have, without having fallen aesthetically for these monuments.

So I decided the most hands-off approach would be creating an Etsy store to digitally deliver the finished patterns. So that people could have access to them that at any time. I didn’t have to do a lot of maintenance on the store. And I wanted to choose prices that would be accessible to a wide range of people.

PETER KORCHNAK: The Etsy shop, YugoPaperniks, has five patterns for sale: Bubanj-Niš, Kosmaj, Kragujevac, Podgarić, and Popina. All patterns come with instructions in English and Serbian (the language choice made necessary by the nationality of Condon’s volunteer translator friend).

CLAIRE CONDON: The very small profits from the patterns I’m keeping track of and every once in a while when I have an opportunity, when I know someone who’s going to visit one of the spomeniks which has some caretaking organization or foundation around it, I will gather that money and making it make a matching contribution myself and then all of those get donated to whatever the people taking care of this monuments want to do with those funds.

PETER KORCHNAK: Condon won’t be quitting her job anytime soon. The project is temporarily dormant but she plans to continue making the monument models.

CLAIRE CONDON: I would very much like to keep making more models for the monuments which are suited to the kind of style, some of them are just not possible to pull off or would have to be too oversimplified and I couldn’t remain kind of true to the original as I’d like to.

And one thing that’s been important to me is to only sculpt or make patterns for the monuments that I’ve actually visited in person. And making it back to see more monuments has not lined up yet in my life since 2019.

Going forward, I plan to continue making time for this project. But I don’t know exactly when or how that will take take form.

[SOUNDBITE – “Galaksija z 80a” by Detective Spook]

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3D-Printed Monument Models

PETER KORCHNAK: Meet Tadej Anclin, a video producer in Ljubljana.

TADEJ ANCLIN: On my hobby side, I do 3D scanning. And that’s how I connected with Yugoslavian spomeniks, monuments.

PETER KORCHNAK: Anclin’s first 3D scan was a rock and he worked his way up to statues.

TADEJ ANCLIN: I’m actually coming from Velenje, where the biggest statue of Tito is. And I just simply tried to make a 3D scan of the Tito and it worked out. And at that moment, I was surprised how well the details get captured and how realistic it looks.

But I didn’t know what to do with it at that time. So I just play[ed] play around with it. I posted I posted 3D renders on Facebook and one of my colleagues said, “Hey, I’m working with this agency in Velenje, we want to use this as city project.” And they included this 3D model of Tito on Velenje webpage. And I was really excited like this went somewhere. And this gave me a boost to scan like literally every monument in Velenje but at the end, I didn’t do much with it.

I’m not sure how did I get to two Yugoslavian spomeniks. I stumbled upon Spomeniks Database website and it blew my mind how many others are there and even the shapes and the size of it, it’s kept me going like I really wanted to be there, and to feel the presence of the monuments.

PETER KORCHNAK: Two years ago, Anclin and his girlfriend took a road trip around the former Yugoslavia, visiting socialism-era monuments.

TADEJ ANCLIN: The mission was, I want us to 3D scan them as much as possible. There are hundreds of them, so I didn’t know which to pick. So I wrote to Donald and he replied me with [a] shortlist and suggestions.

PETER KORCHNAK: The list of monuments led to a road trip map led to a tedious process of creating digital copies of the three-dimensional objects using on-site photographs.

TADEJ ANCLIN: The goal is to capture as many visible angles as possible. So for some smaller statues 200 photos is enough. But if you know the size of Yugoslavian spomeniks, monuments, it takes from 500 to 2,000 photos. And sometimes you have to go with the drone as well because you can’t see the top of some monuments because it’s so high [sic].

PETER KORCHNAK: Anclin scanned some 30 monuments on that trip, in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Kosovo.

Then he printed them. I first saw the models earlier this year at the Day of Youth and Joy event in Kumrovec. He set up a small folding table at the edge of the vendor area, between a couple of vintage slash junk vendors. On the table, I spotted the monuments at Kosmaj, Kozara, Kragujevac, Kruševac, Mitrovica, Podgarić, Popina, as well as the Tito statue from Velenje (that is, with a tall plinth and a large, all caps TITO inscription) in gold and two different sizes.

TADEJ ANCLIN: When I 3D print models, I’m make different sizes, because some people have more space and some people less and I make from 10 centimeters up to 40 centimeters tall replicas.

PETER KORCHNAK: This was Anclin’s first time at Dan mladosti i radosti.

TADEJ ANCLIN: Because I really wanted to show people those replicas, those 3D prints, you know, because the people go there for a purpose of living the Yugoslavia. And this was the best time.

PETER KORCHNAK: One of the customers was a woman wearing a Young Pioneer cap who was enthralled by what she was seeing.

TADEJ ANCLIN: At the moment, when I started putting sculptures on the table, the lady stopped and asked, What else do I got? And she was so excited. She wanted to see everything. It gave me so good feeling like, like a good start. She was from Croatia, but I think she was like living really on [the] border or somewhere. She wanted to take all of them but she she couldn’t at the moment. She bought Kozara and Podgarić.

And in few moments, people were already around the table, taking pictures, asking questions…

PETER KORCHNAK: Prices ranged from 20 to 60 euros, an event discount.

TADEJ ANCLIN: I wanted to make it as affordable as possible to them. But on Etsy, I sell them from 50 to 150. Around something like that.

PETER KORCHNAK: The 3D monuments stand was such a hit Anclin did not even see the rest of the event.

TADEJ ANCLIN: I really wish I had more time to catch the program and everything. I haven’t looked much around rather than the quick walk. The vibes from those really really enthusiastic people, I really want to experience that and be close to those happening.

PETER KORCHNAK: There’s more to it than selling the models for Anclin.

TADEJ ANCLIN: The best thing about this is preservation. Because at the time that you capture, it’s like the best version that there’s gonna exist in [a] digital way. So if I scan it today, next year, it will be, the corrosion and weather and vandalism, everything like that is destroying the monuments.

It already happened that a 3D scan got preserved. It was two years ago when we were at Mostar—

PETER KORCHNAK: —at the Partisan Cemetery created by Bogdan Bogdanović—

TADEJ ANCLIN: —we made a 3D scan, around 4,000 photos total. And a year later, we saw news that some vandalists [sic] broke literally every piece of stone on that memorial site. So the best preserved version there is I have it already in database and hopefully it will be released somewhere on the site and people will have access and see what was it before.

PETER KORCHNAK: Speaking of the Day of Youth, the holiday inspired one faithful Remembering Yugoslavia listener to create his own version of a famous board game. Mikal Ahmed left me this voicemail in response to my call in a past installment of this series for projects inspired by Yugoslavia.

MIKAL AHMED: During the pandemic, we were playing a lot of board games because we’re stuck at home. And one game we really loved to play was Ticket to Ride, which I’m sure many of your listeners might be familiar with. It’s a board game with a map of Europe and you get tickets connecting different cities on the map. And you collect cards to build trains to collect those cities and versions of this game for different countries in the world. Like there’s one for USA and one for India, one for Switzerland. I was inspired by this game to make a version for Yugoslavia. It was based on the Day of Youth relay race or 25th of may. Actually coincidentally, I even had this idea on 25th of May without realizing it. And I looked at those routes that the relay went and those became the train routes linking up all the different cities in form Yugoslavia, and that map is kind of full of of references to Yugoslavia railways, the tickets of all these pictures of the railways branding, and you know, images of Tito everywhere and tourists posters of Yugoslavia and yeah, it’s been very fun to play to try it out. And of course, my partner, their family hometown of Zavidovići, of course is in the center of the map that’s critical.

In the normal Ticket to Ride game you get a bonus if you have the longest route uninterrupted route of trains but in my Yugoslavia version you get your bonus depending on how many of the former republics you connect up with a single train route. So yeah, [an] incentive for greater brotherhood and and unity

PETER KORCHNAK: Fun stuff.

[SOUNDBITE – “Galaksija z 80a” by Detective Spook]

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Dejoslavija

PETER KORCHNAK: If you follow Remembering Yugoslavia on Instagram you more than likely follow @dejoslavija, which features original collage designs with a distinct nostalgic tinge. A recent design features the late actor Ljubiša Samardžić standing before the Belgrade Eastern Gate housing complex and about to get into a DeLorean, with the caption in Serbocroatian, “I’m going to Yugoslavia so I don’t have to see you all anymore.” Another is a send up of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon cover, where instead of a triangle prism there is a five-pointed star and the color band coming out on the other end is the tricolor of Yugoslavia’s flag; the caption: My home is on the other side of Heaven.

The man behind Dejoslavia, Dejan Medojević (Dejo), is a—

DEJAN MEDOJEVIĆ: —graphic designer from Podgorica, Montenegro, or in my world Titograd, Yugoslavia.

And my interest for [sic] Yugoslavia started when I was a little baby when my mom told me story about sleeping on the bench.

PETER KORCHNAK: The bench story is a popular one among those who miss Yugoslavia and the sense of security it provided. The country was so safe, you could sleep on a park bench, undisturbed and unharmed.

DEJAN MEDOJEVIĆ: Then I read some books or something. And I realized that Yugoslavia is [the] only logic way for our people from this from this place. That story about brotherhood and unity, isn’t it logic? I don’t know how people don’t recognize that idea, how someone can be against that. Or should we have every year some war about I don’t know, religion, or nation, or I don’t know what?

As the tagline in my account description says, If you love something that doesn’t exist, you have to create it yourself. I do it by design. So I do this because I want to live it like it exist[s]. I want to feel it. I want to find people who thinks like me. I want to show people that we don’t need a state, organization or politicians to tell us when we should love each other, on when we should go to war, or whatever. If so, Svemirko has gigs in Belgrade, Nikšić, or Ljubljana, isn’t that already Yugoslavia? For me, it is. I really don’t need some kind of, I don’t know paper to tell me it is Yugoslavia now or it’s not. So literally, my goal is to make Yugoslavia spirit, which will exist through all systems, countries, unions, or whatever is coming in the future.

PETER KORCHNAK: Dejoslavia was created by accident.

DEJAN MEDOJEVIĆ: It was my private account. One day, I shared the poster for Svemirko, the band. They shared it, then followed me and I got about 300 new followers that day.

Then I decided to post my other designs about Yugoslavia.

PETER KORCHNAK: Dejo and I spoke on the third anniversary of Dejoslavia.

DEJAN MEDOJEVIĆ: You asked me what is Dejoslavia? I really can’t say now, because I don’t know yet. Is it a final project and name, or just one step? I don’t know, really. For now it is Yugoslavia page. And the goal is creating Yugoslavia spirit. Maybe someday I’ll change my name and concept. But maybe not, we will see.

PETER KORCHNAK: Dejo finds inspiration for his creations in Yugoslav-era graphic design.

DEJAN MEDOJEVIĆ: Literally I cannot find ugly logo or poster. Even package design for everyday products was kind of artistic. Even communist typography with big strong letters was artistic for me. And all of it somehow makes sense, you know.

And most of my inspirations come from ex-Yugoslavia music. When I find lyrics which sounds nostalgic, I try to find a way to relate it with Yugonostalgia. Also, I can find it in non-Yugoslavia music and movies.

PETER KORCHNAK: Dejoslavia posts new images about once or twice a week. You could easily say they evoke nostalgia. Medojević was born a few years after Yugoslavia disintegrated.

DEJAN MEDOJEVIĆ: Because I said I want to live it, maybe I’m just Yugoslav, I’m not Yugonostalgic. I’m Yugoslav. I feel that one hundred percent. I really want to live it, not to think about the past.

PETER KORCHNAK: The response has been positive to the feel-good designs.

DEJAN MEDOJEVIĆ: Feedback is very good. From time to time, I got messages from whole world actually, and non-Yugoslavia people, from Italians, from Polish people. It’s crazy sometimes. But some people just want to say how they like what I do.

And I need to say my favorites are from the people who doesn’t like Yugoslavia or communism. From time to time, I got messages like, Hey, I don’t like Yugoslavia and I hate communism but I like your work please do with more of this, all the best. And that people every time, they have some pictures, you know, on their on their accounts, like some Chetniks or Ustaša or whatever, you know

PETER KORCHNAK: A newer initiative is football shirts of Team Yugoslavia at the 1990 World Cup. Both blue and white versions are available for sale.

Dejo also has big ideas for the future.

DEJAN MEDOJEVIĆ: That is actually my biggest problem because all of my ideas for projects are too big for my possibilities.

I can tell you a list.

First, I actually want to write a book about Yugoslavia. But not with historic facts, just my imagination of Yugoslavia. And I have storyline already, like whole story from start to the end. But I am not a writer, I don’t know how to write, where to start. Maybe AI can help me [LAUGHTER].

PETER KORCHNAK: The other idea is even bigger.

DEJAN MEDOJEVIĆ: Shop or bakery or whatever, with three kiosks in blue, white and red colors. Actually, I found a perfect place in Podgorica for it. Now I just need a lot of money. That’s science fiction.

One realistic is Yugoslav clothing brand. There actually already exist some brands but I have ideas for that. I think I can do it in maybe a better way. But I’m a little perfectionist.

PETER KORCHNAK: But that’s not all.

DEJAN MEDOJEVIĆ: My biggest dream is—and maybe I will start to work on that, you know—to make some kind of festival with Yugo in name, maybe Yugonights or something like that, festival with music stand up for any kind of art.

And interesting is that 25 May and 29 November are exactly six months apart, you know. So maybe the festival can be two times on year every six months. Maybe it’s not so science fiction like the others.

PETER KORCHNAK: When we met in Podgorica last March, Medojević was planning a trip to Croatia and Slovenia. When we spoke, in July, he had returned and brought back some memories.

DEJAN MEDOJEVIĆ: I have to tell you about a mystical moment that I experienced on the way to Sarajevo. You will think that I’m crazy, but I feel that in that way, so what I can do nothing.

You know how much I’m in love with Yugoslavia. And one of the reasons why I love Yugoslavia is the beautiful monuments. And my favorite is the monument on Sutjeska, Tjentište, you know. And I traveled with by bus, and I didn’t know that the monument can be seen on the road to Sarajevo. And when I got on the bus, I fell asleep. And after a few hours, I woke up with my head on the window. And as soon as I opened my eyes, the first landscape I saw, it was the monument, that monument on Sutjeska, with beautiful green grass, blue sky. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. You probably think I’m crazy now, but at that moment, I felt like was on drugs. It was very special moment for me, you know, sleeping all the time, didn’t know that monument is there, and just wake up in front of [the] monument.

You asked me where I see Yugoslavia. And in Zagreb, I found it in people, you know. Every time when I lifted my head up to see buildings or whatever, random person from street asked me, am I need some help for search something [sic]? In three days, I think three times I had that experience. And in Skopje, really, in Skopje people were incredibly nice, in taxi bookstore, especially in restaurants. I think they give us a bigger plate with more food just because we are from another ex-Yugoslavia country. The plates were like, whole room of food, meat, and potatoes.

[BACKGROUND MUSIC – “Galaksija z 80a” by Detective Spook]

PETER KORCHNAK: Do you do something or have a project, art, or business, or hobby, or anything else that’s inspired by Yugoslavia? Go to RememberingYugoslavia.com/Contact and write or tell me about it.

TITOBOT: Of course, I have another one! Why did Tito never write a book? Because he believed that actions speak louder than words, and his actions wrote the history. Tito was such a man of action that he let his deeds narrate the story instead of a book. He truly believed in the power of actions over words.

[BACKGROUND MUSIC – “Rainmaker” by Petar Alargić]

PETER KORCHNAK: Next on Remembering Yugoslavia:

NINA PLATIŠA: Dancing kolo was a great way for us to meet everybody who had come over; it was a way for my parents to sit around with the other parents who were watching their children, you know, attempt these kolo steps and connect and, and try to understand the new network and community and how people, you know, were finding their way through these difficult times.

PETER KORCHNAK: On the next episode of Remembering Yugoslavia, in another Diaspora Voices segment, I’ll talk to two diasporans, in Canada and Australia, about their experiences of a country that no longer exists and that they don’t even remember.

Tune in wherever you listen to podcasts, follow to make sure you don’t miss out, and subscribe to support us.

[OUTRO MUSIC – “Jugoslavijo / Od Vardara pa do Triglava” by Horn Orchestra]

PETER KORCHNAK: That’s all for this Inspired by Yugoslavia episode of Remembering Yugoslavia, thank you for listening. Find additional information, links, embeds, and the transcript of this episode at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.

Outro music courtesy of Robert Petrić.

Additional music courtesy of Detective Spook, thank you!

The track “Rainmaker” by Petar Alargić licensed under Creative Commons.

I am Peter Korchňak.

Ćao!

TITOBOT: Smrt fašizmu!

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