Between the 1960s and 1980s, the federal states of the former Yugoslavia erected monuments of an imposing size. These spomeniks (“monuments” in Serbo-Croatian) were raised in memory of the local populations who resisted the atrocities of the 20th century and praised the experience of a more egalitarian and antifascist socialist society.

In the 1990s, the Yugoslav Wars broke out and resulted in the country fracturing into several independent states. Some monuments were abandoned; others were destroyed. This series depicts these spomeniks in Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia that have survived.

“Les Symboles Invisibles” asks the question whether the monuments’ messages have endured over time. Indeed, the resurgence of violence between the states of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s raises the question of whether these symbols of peace had any impact on the relationship between people.

This question is also relevant to the whole of Europe, where tolerance and living together are once again undermined. History would lead us to wonder whether these symbols—and their meaning—have not become wholly invisible.

—Sylvain Heraud

Editor’s Note: Heraud’s project was recognized by the jury of the LensCulture Exposure Awards 2017—don’t miss the work from all 44 of the outstanding, international talents!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like these previous features: a photo series that explores the bygone grandeur of breathtaking Soviet buildings in Abkhazia, a partially recognized state on the coast of the Baltic Sea; YU: The Lost Country, Dragana Jurisic’s series on the denial that surrounds her country and nationality; and Fairy Tale from Russia, a series full of cinematic, dream-like shots, none of which were staged.