What there is to see:
You can already see the monument towering above the city from far away. Not only is it tall itself (some 150 feet / 50m), it also stands at the top of a hill immediately to the north-west of the inner city core, so it is visible from almost anywhere within the inner city.
But it is worth getting up close. To do so you can either make your own way up the hill – it's not far from the city centre but quite a steep walk – or do it as part of a guided tour. Visiting the monument, comfortably by car, is included in the so-called “post-socialist tour
” of Bratislava
offered by the alternative operator "Authentic Slovakia"
– see their sponsored page here
Whatever way you get there you will most likely start at the main entrance that faces south towards the Hrad and Old Town. There's a large relief greeting you that depicts a sentimental scene of soldiers with long coats, helmets and machine guns, one of whom is kneeling to kiss a flag. Inscriptions in Slovak and Russian to the sides of the relief declare: Eternal glory to the heroes who fell in battle for the freedom and independence of our motherland.
Stairs lead to a balcony level above the relief from where you get a splendid view of the hills around, the Hrad, Most SNP and parts of the Old Town (see Bratislava
Along the main approach path leading to the monument you pass an information panel in five languages (including English) that spells out some basic historical facts and expresses gratitude to the Soviet
soldiers who gave their lives fighting Nazi Germany
to liberate the city.
In fact, this gratitude waned significantly when the post-war Soviet domination of Slovakia
first saw to the creation of communist rule in the CSSR
and especially after the Soviets violently reinstated it with the crushing of the Prague Spring
by Warsaw Pact
troops in 1968. But the original gratitude for the liberation from Nazism still seems to stand. The very fact that the monument remains in place and appears well maintained can be seen to demonstrate this.
As the approach path widens into the square in front of the monument, note the groups of statues to the left and right. These depict girls holding flowers and some kind of banner with an inscription, in a totally kitsch variety of the socialist realism
Proceeding forward you come to four square patches covered by grass – these are the mass graves of the Soviet soldiers. Two more such mass graves extend eastwards down the slope of the hill. In addition to the mass graves there are also some 300 individual, named graves. At the eastern perimeter stands a wooden Orthodox Cross.
The main monument has the shape of a tall obelisk standing on a square base with colonnades on all four sides. At the top of the obelisk stands a single soldier wielding a Soviet flag and trampling on a broken swastika – classic symbolism. You can also find it at the Soviet War Memorial
in Treptow Park in Berlin
The walls of the colonnaded base of the monument bear the place names and dates of important battles of the Soviet liberation of the Slovak lands, up to and including the battle of Bratislava
, and most importantly perhaps Dukla
, in October 1944.
The central door at the front of the monument is a heavy bronze affair with some war-themed reliefs. Some are quite gruesome, especially the one that I interpreted as depicting Nazi German retributions after the Slovak National Uprising (see Slovakia
, Muzeum SNP
), with a woman grieving at the feet of a hanged man. Others show happier scenes of reunions and victorious soldiers.
Flanking the steps in front of the monument are two more ensembles of socialist-realist statues, this time male figures of soldiers and civilians arm in arm after the struggle of the war.
In the wooded hillsides around the monument and the mass graves are a few more points of interest, namely a couple of WWII
-era bunkers as well as a field of stelae entitled “Alexandr Dubček's Peace Meadow” (Dubček was the Slovak head of the CSSR
who had dared to suggest a communism
-with-a-human-face approach that so angered Moscow
in 1968 and who subsequently spent two decades under house arrest in Bratislava
– actually in a villa not from from the Slavin monument!).
All in all this is well worth a visit. It's a splendid example of typical monumental and glorifying Soviet memorial art and a solemn cemetery at the same time. (Although, the solemnity is somewhat broken by the fact that this also appears to be a popular spot for young couples to hang out at.)
at the top of the Slavin hill just to the north-west of the inner city core of Bratislava
Access and costs: a stiff uphill walk – and then free to enter – or by guided and chauffeured tour (which obviously costs).
To get to the monument independently you can walk it from the Old Town centre of Bratislava
. It is only about a mile (1.6km), but it's up a steep hill. So if you want to avoid that get a taxi – or go on a guided tour that includes Slavin.
If you decide to walk it you can start from the square outside the presidential palace and head west along Tolsteho street, which turns into Kuzmanyho. When you get to Vlickova cut straight across into Donovalova. At its western end turn right into Mi喨kova and take a sharp left turn into Na Slavine. This takes you straight to the main entrance.
The monument is freely accessible at all times.
Time required: roughly half an hour (plus time for walking there and back!).
Combinations with other dark destinations:
In general see under Bratislava
If you are coming on foot by yourself, then the Goat's Gate cemetery
, located roughly halfway between the Hrad (Bratislava castle) and Slavin, can conveniently be worked in en route – see under Bratislava
Combinations with non-dark destinations: Steep as the ascent to the top of Slavin Hill may be, it can be an interesting walk because of all the villas and mansions you pass in this rather posh quarter of the city.
- Slavin 01 - monument and sculptures
- Slavin 02 - kiss that flag
- Slavin 03 - happy socialist girls
- Slavin 04 - with flowers
- Slavin 05 - the main monument
- Slavin 06 - trampling on a swastika
- Slavin 07 - TV tower in the background
- Slavin 08 - decisive battles commemorated
- Slavin 09 - commemorative door
- Slavin 10 - grim detail
- Slavin 11 - socialist brotherhood
- Slavin 12 - socialist monumentalism
- Slavin 13 - mass graves
- Slavin 14 - view back towards the city centre
- Slavin 15 - seen from Most SNP