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Formerly a country in Southeast Europe, Yugoslavia is currently the six nations of Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Kosovo. These six states that are now independent nations broke away from the country in the early 1990s due to a series of political upheavals and conflicts.

Stretching from Croatia and Slovenia bordering the Adriatic coast, through Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, until sloping down into Serbia and Macedonia — are hundreds of bold abstract artworks that were built during the 1960s and 1970s, which were intended to spread their country’s ideals and values to the masses across the land.

National Geographic along with photographer Sylvain Heraud traveled to the republics that emerged from Yugoslavia, as Heraud explains, “The idea of my work is to highlight these monuments and ask the question whether their messages have endured over time.”

With the Yugoslavian monuments looking to Western modernism for inspiration, its Soviet neighbors are a complete counterpart and essentially more repressive.

These different symbols scattered throughout reflected the particular style of past or current regimes, and while physically and conceptually heavy, the bold concrete structures conveyed powerful visual impact near sites during World War II. Since then, revolutionary Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito led the multicultural society until his death in 1980, trying to suppress any lingering bitterness from the war.

These conceptual monuments, originally meant to usher in a utopian future, however, some people consider them souvenirs of a better time, while others find them painful reminders of an unspeakable past — where some of the memorials have caretakers and house small museums, while others are completely ruined.

For more, you can check out the full coverage directly at National Geographic.

In other photography-related news, take a look at our favorite images from the recent solar eclipse.

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