One Monument, One Town, Two Ideologies: The Monument to the Victory of Bolzano-Bozen

Stefano Kerschbamer


This article offers a critical reading of the first major attempt to publicly come to terms with the presence of an invasive and ideologically charged fascist monument in the border town of Bolzano-Bozen, in South Tyrol, Italy. The ‘Monument to Victory’, commissioned by Mussolini and inaugurated in 1928 to celebrate the annexation of the province after WWI, is the symbolic centre of a discourse that divides the town along an ethno-linguistic axis. To this day, this creates ongoing political tensions, fostering extreme views in both Italian and German speaking communities. To neutralise this symbolic power while preserving its supposed artistic value, a permanent exhibition inaugurated in 2014 inside the artefact tries to offer an historical explanation and contextualisation, and foster a new, inclusive and democratic discourse around the past. This article discusses this exhibition as a counter-monument, which directly challenges the ideology of the original. In interpreting the scientific aims and choices of the historians involved, and the architectural and curatorial strategies, it questions their dialogical underpinning discourse. The results lay bare an agenda to establish the site as a new monologic myth of origin for the democratic town of the future; one that aims at producing a ‘democratic and reconciled’ citizen through a prescriptive perlocutionary experience.

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