Tuesday, November 12, 2013

FYROM Makeover: Europe's Flailing Capital of Kitsch.

The FYROM government has spent huge sums turning its capital, Skopje, into a neo-baroque architectural nightmare. The project's gaudy excesses camouflage a disastrous economy and troubling record on human rights. 

Jets of water spurt into the air in front of the warriors: red, yellow, blue, violet. The eight bronze men stare fiercely through the spray of the fountain, while far above their heads, Alexander the Great sits enthroned, raising one sword up at the sky. Wagner and Tchaikovsky blare out of the speakers and the water shoots more or less in time with the music.

Skopje has a new landmark: The Warrior on a Horse monument on the Plostad Maedonija, a square at the center of the city, is almost 30 meters (100 ft.) high, cost €10.5 million ($14 million) and is about as authentic as the imitation Grand Canal in Las Vegas. More heroes from Macedonia's (Greek) colorful history pose nearby, sculpted on a large, if somewhat misshapen scale. The feet of the saber-rattling flag-bearer, for example, are disproportionally large. 
On the other side of the Vardar river, near the entry to the old town, a statue of Philip II  -- Alexander's father -- shakes a colossal fist at the sky, while bronze horses jump out of a nearby fountain. New temple-like ministry buildings, a theater and a museum -- with its own line-up of 19th- and 20th-century poets and revolutionaries -- have been built between the monuments to the two kings.     

'Historical Kitsch'
And the construction project isn't finished: Numerous facades are still obstructed by construction cranes. Buildings are being retrofitted with the dictated sugarcoated new style that the local media diplomatically calls "baroque" or "neo-classical," and architects call "historical kitsch."
The redevelopment is called Skopje2014 and is costing VMRO, the conservative and nationalist governing party, hundreds of millions of euros. The official budget is €207 million -- which includes the renovated ministry buildings, the new national theater and triumphal arch.
Critics believe that's an impossible figure, that it won't buy half of what the plans call for. Even Skopje2014's overall theme -- a celebration of ancient Greeks and Slavic heroes -- has been condemned by experts because it ignores many of FYROM's ethnic groups and favors a small section of the national fabric.
According to news reports, the contracts for the project were made illegally. But the FYROM media have been restrained in their protest. "Too much criticism can quickly cost you your job. The VMRO has long had control over the media," says one journalist, who does not want to be named. There's a reason Skopje2014's monumental style has an authoritarian feel.
The case of Tomislav Kezarovski is yet more evidence of this: The journalist recently received a four-and-a-half-year jail term for having allegedly revealed the identity of a witness in a murder trial in 2008 -- an accusation independent observers claim is an attempt to muzzle a journalist critical of the government........etc.........http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/FYROM-capital-skopje-gets-kitsch-makeover-via-skopje2014-project-a-933154.html


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