PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY OF
THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE:
EXTRACTS FROM FEBRUARY 1993 REPORT ON THE
DESTRUCTION BY WAR OF THE CULTURAL HERITAGE
IN CROATIA AND BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA321
A. INFORMATION REPORT BY M. JACQUES BAUMEL
By Order 471 of February 1992 the Assembly Sub Committee on the Architectural and Artistic Heritage was asked to investigate the situation of the cultural heritage in central and eastern Europe. It immediately turned its attention to ex Yugoslavia and met in Ljubljana in April with representatives of the competent authorities from Slovenia and Croatia. An attempt was made on this occasion to establish contact with the authorities in Bosnia Herzegovina, but it was unsuccessful.
This was a new situation for which present day Europe was perhaps unprepared that of the cultural heritage in a situation of war.
Assembly concern for the cultural heritage in this area had been voiced through questions to the Committee of Ministers, but without any positive response either from the Committee of Ministers (see Doc 6628) or from the CDCC, despite the support of the Chairman of its Cultural Heritage Committee, Mr Jean Louis Luxen.
In this context it was clear that an initiative had to be taken. I therefore arranged for the twinning of my town of Rueil Malmaison with Dubrovnik, set up the Comité national d'aide humanitaire et de sauvegarde de Dubrovnik and took advantage of the invitation to observe the presidential elections in Croatia at the end of July 1992 to visit Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik with Mr Nic Tummers (former Chairman of the Committee): see Appendix A). An exhibition was subsequently mounted by Mr Tummers on the theme "Dubrovnik dans le mirroir de Guernica" for the Assembly part session in September.
Contact was also made with the Serbian authorities with regard to the fate of the collections removed from the museums of Vukovar...322
In the face of continued intergovernmental reticence, both in the Council of Europe and in Unesco, the Assembly seized the opportunity of sending a fact finding mission into the area. This mission was carried out by Mr Colin Kaiser (formerly Director of Icomos) and Mr Jean Claude Hatterer (staff photographer of the Council of Europe). In the circumstances, but in particular because of the lack of support from the European Community Monitor Mission (ECMM) and UNPROFOR, the area covered by this mission was limited to the regions of Dubrovnik and Mostar:323
At the latest session of the CDCC (12 14 January 1993), the Assembly representative, Mr Gunther Muller, was strongly supported by the Chairman of the CDCC's own Cultural Heritage Committee in recommending intergovernmental action by the Council of Europe, but not without a certain opposition.
The question is whether we are in a situation of war or cultural co operation. On the one hand Croatia signed the European Cultural Convention on 1 February 1993. On the other we can note that Unesco is reviewing the Convention on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict (The Hague 1954).
The Assembly's attention is drawn to the following reflections and the annexed
1. A cultural catastrophe in the heart of Europe
The wars in Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina are a tragedy for the peoples of these countries and for all Europe. They have led to a major cultural catastrophe for all the communities of the war zone whether Croat, Bosnian or Serb and also for our European heritage, which will emerge from the war singularly amputated.
2. The wide extent of destruction
Two thirds of the administrative districts of Croatia, which corresponds to about two thirds of this country's territory, have been touched by the war. In Bosnia Herzegovina, where the war continues, it is difficult to make an estimate, but it is certainly over two thirds of the country.
3. Everything is targeted
Everything is targeted, but especially the buildings in which men live. Churches and mosques are annihilated, palaces too, museum collections and archives, but it is more accurate to say that the worst destruction is reserved for cities and villages the heritage in which men live. Mr Kaiser's report describes two such areas the villages of the Croatian commune of Dubrovnik and the city of Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina.
4. Everybody's heritage is targeted
If there can be no doubt that the massive majority of the known damage has been done to the heritage of Catholic Croatians and Bosnian Catholics and Moslems, there are unfortunately cases of reprisals against Orthodox heritage and Serbian villages, and it is to be feared that such reprisals are continuing.
Even in the Commune of Dubrovnik there are unacceptable actions against the property of Dubrovnikers of Serbian origin even Dubrovnik, all of whose people, Croats and Serbs, have suffered together from Federal bombardment and occupation.
5. Cleansing: ethnic, cultural and economic
How can it be that in 1991 and 1992 the full panoply of an army's artillery was turned loose on such towns as Vukovar, Mostar and Sarajevo?
The word ethnic cleansing is now in fashion, but it goes hand in hand with another kind of cleansing cultural cleansing. What else can the deliberate destruction of mosques and churches be called? In the commune of Dubrovnik the destruction of traditional villages of great architectural value followed the mass exodus of rural people in October 1991 before the Federal Army.
Yet cultural cleansing is also economic cleansing. The Commune of Dubrovnik was looted of wine, animals, farm and industrial machinery; its hotels were shelled and its tourist capacities severely damaged not least through the damage done to its cultural heritage. The industry of Mostar was also destroyed, and tourists may keep away until its minarets are restored.
6. The need for information and enhanced international co operation
Amazingly the picture of the extent of damage in Croatia is incomplete. The Croatian Government does not know what the situation of the heritage is in occupied Krajina and Slavonia. In Bosnia information is even more fragmentary. What is the situation on the battle fronts, and in the zones occupied by each of the parties, but especially the Serbs, who control about 70% of the territory of Bosnia Herzegovina? Without basic information the type that the fact finding mission found there is nothing we can do for war damaged heritage.
It is odd that we remain so ignorant, considering that the UN forces, the UNHCR, and the ECMM are active throughout much of the war torn territory. They have much information, but which they are unwilling to share. They could help heritage fact finding missions with transport, but they do not seem willing to share that either. The latest mission had to rely exclusively on the assistance of Croatians and Bosnians. If the international organisations are unwilling or incapable to help international missions, they could perhaps become more actively interested in the fate of the heritage and use the qualified personnel within their ranks as heritage observers and advisors.
7. Limitless technical and material needs
It is clear that the heritage of Croatia and Bosnia needs the technical know how of foreign experts. We cannot hide behind the false reasons that it is too early to take stock of the situation or that we should not patronise these people, for the Croatians and Bosnians demand that West Europeans finally take a real interest in their heritage, now and not later, when it may be too late.
Are these monuments stable? Can you convince our authorities not to pull them down? What can we do later with these buildings? Do you have craftsmen who will be able to help us? These are the questions that outsiders can bring answers to.
The material needs are limitless: emergency materials to cover buildings and shore up walls; standard building materials to repair roofs. Satisfying these needs goes beyond the capacities of private associations. Our states must organise this aid, and coordinate it.
Conclusion people the heritage in time of war
There is no reason to be ashamed of being concerned for the cultural heritage when men, women and children are suffering in war. When historic villages and residential districts and we are talking about regions where most people are living in historic buildings are destroyed or damaged, these people become refugees, reduced to the degrading experience of refugees, nourishing hatred and preparing the wars of tomorrow. In many cases however their homes can be repaired and they could return to them. All organisations that are interested in helping the Croatian and Bosnian heritage must function as one group. Each of us must pool our efforts rather than claim the glory for one little passing initiative. It does not matter for which country, for which organisation we work, for in reality we must work only for the people who suffer in the zone of war. It does not matter if we cannot solve all the problems at once; every little bit helps.
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SUMMARY REPORT ON THE VISIT OF A COMMITTEE DELEGATION
(31 July to 3 August 1992)
1. The invitation for the Assembly to observe the elections in Croatia on 2 August provided an occasion for a delegation composed of Mr Baumel and Mr Tummers (co authors of Written Question no.343 see Doc.6628) and accompanied by Mr Grayson (Secretary to the Committee) to visit Zagreb and Dubrovnik.
2. In Zagreb the question of the cultural heritage was raised with the President of the Cultural Community of Moslems in Croatia (a full report on war damage to Moslem buildings was promised) and later with the re elected President TuÞman. It was also discussed with the outgoing Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Mr Zarko Domljan, and with the Minister of Culture and Education Mrs Vesna Girardi-Jurki , on the occasion of a dinner offered by Ambassador Bozidar Gagro. The delegation also briefly encountered the former Yugoslav President, Mr Stipe Mesic.
3. In Dubrovnik the delegation met with the Mayor Mr Petar Poljanic and his Deputy Mr Nikola Obulen, with the Leader of the Croatian Special Guest Delegation Mr Hrvoje Kacic (the outgoing parliamentary representative for Dubrovnik and former Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Affairs), with Mr Bozo Letunic Director of the Institute for the Restoration of Dubrovnik (set up in 1979 by the municipality) and Mr Matko Vetma of the Dubrovnik Institute for the protection and conservation of cultural monuments (Ministry of Culture), and also with Mr Tomo Vlahutin, Director of the Dubrovnik Festival. Intermediaries included Mrs Vesna Gamoulin of the Protocol service of Dubrovnik and most importantly the interpreter guide Mrs Jagoda Lukavac.
4. Zagreb has suffered only one actual attack.
5. The Church of St Mark outside the Parliament building has now had its entrances covered with wooden boarding (chips are visible to the blackened 14 15th century sculptures) but restoration of its brightly coloured 19th century roof tiles with Croatian shield patterns and of the 17th century baroque bell tower is proceeding.
6. The room in his lodgings in which the Cardinal Archbishop of Zagreb, received the Assembly delegation showed considerable neglect (plaster holes badly bricked up, pictures missing, parquet loose).
7. The Moslem Cultural Centre (with its contemporary mosque and related administrative buildings) appeared in good condition. The carpets bore witness to being donated by the Republic of Iran.
8. Zagreb to Dubrovnik The delegation had to travel by air to Split (the road being unsafe between Knin and Zadar) and then was able to take the recently re opened coast road to Dubrovnik (with police and military escort).
9. There was no sign of damage until the Bosnian port of Neum, a ghost town now apparently in Croatian control.
10. At Slano (40km from Dubrovnik) the delegation stopped to be shown evidence of systematic destruction by the occupying Serbs ("one house per night"). A luxury hotel (Admiral) had been destroyed and most of the surrounding buildings. The local church showed no external signs of damage however and the steeple was still intact.
11. From Slano to the city of Dubrovnik (it was unsafe to go further south) war damage appeared fairly constant. Most buildings, whether ancient or modern, showed signs; the roadside was littered with rusting, burnt out vehicles; sunken hulls and mast heads marked former harbours.
12. Rueka Dubrova ka is an inlet and valley on the northern edge of the modern city of Dubrovnik long favoured by the local aristocracy which built there its summerhouses on a fairly standard plan of four rooms leading off from a central hall, usually with access to the sea and a private chapel. Some of these summerhouses are in private ownership (across the bay one was pointed out as having been bought and restored by a German), but most seem to be in some way local authority or state property. Privatisation has evidently still to be clarified. The delegation was able to visit two sites for the first time accessible to non military personnel since the Serbian occupation.
13. An ornamental staircase leads from the sea up to the Sorkocevic (Sorgo) Summerhouse (16 18th century) with its gallery of 16th century frescoes and beyond a formal garden with fish ponds etc. The summerhouse was recently restored (though not yet the frescoes) and the area developed (with considerable detriment to the surrounding park that can still be glimpsed from earlier photographs) by the ACI company chain as one of the main marinas on the Croatian coast. The marina had been attacked and then occupied by the Serbian forces; the yachts were sunk and the buildings, including the summerhouse, shelled and ransacked. The damage to the main fabric of the summerhouse seemed however relatively superficial and the frescoes untouched (although very much in need of repair from damp). The ACI chain was said to be able and willing to cover restoration costs; its title to the building is however not yet clear.
14. The Kaboga Summerhouse (16th century) is now cut off from its access to the sea by the modern coast road. Tucked under the shadow of the hills and facing north it remains a cool oasis. Its architecture is strong but restrained. Apparently the summerhouse has been unoccupied for some time; it is in need of repair (stone gutters etc) and access to the relevant quarries is now open. The municipal authorities are mainly concerned as to the use to which this and similar buildings can be put. Some are in private ownership, some are public institutions (see below), and some are being leased to the private sector.
15. The Rijeka inlet would seem in architectural heritage terms to pose a problem similar to that of the Golden Horn and Bosforos. It cries for a sensitive overall plan which at present seems to be lacking and in part because of the present hostilities. The internal Croatian solution is to propose taking the present coast road, the "Adriatic Highway", over a new bridge at the mouth of the inlet. This seems to have prompted the construction of a tower building dormitory township on the northern shore which is far more obtrusive than the evidence of Serbian occupation and consequent damage to this area. Another solution is to take the main south bound traffic on a motorway built back behind the main coastal hills. Even if this might seem to make little sense in the present situation (where might such a road lead?), it is essential to the survival of planning control in the Dubrovnik area.
16. (North ) western coastal suburbs of Dubrovnik There remain a number of easily identifiable historic villas, some in private ownership. The delegation visited the Palaca Sorkocevic (16th century), now the seat of the Academy of Science. Although a prominent and most magnificent building, it was shelled in the latest attacks on 8 June 1992 (a large calibre shell case was produced): the parquet of the main salon is ripped apart and the floor unstable, the stone work of the open loggia is damaged, the whole library is covered with dust and debris. At one end books line the walls on two tiers and there is a feeling of study, at the other there is a gaping hole and broken glass and plaster.
17. North ( east) of Dubrovnik The Serbian forces have now withdrawn from the heights overlooking Dubrovnik, but for fear of mines it was only possible for the delegation to get up to the easternmost position. Even from there the vulnerability of the old city was clearly apparent. Proceeding further inland the delegation was forced to turn back when it met with the Croat/Serb fronts. Damage was apparent everywhere and most constructions showed signs of shelling (it was not possible to reach buildings of special cultural interest in this area).
18. The port of Dubrovnik (Gruj) and port buildings have been damaged. So too have most of the hotels that the delegation visited. They now serve as refugee centres or military barracks and briefly as polling stations. The Hotel Argentina in which the delegation was lodged was the only hotel apparently open to foreigners; the EEC Observers and journalists were based there; there were no signs of damage but the lifts, as everywhere in Dubrovnik, were not working.
19. The delegation was not able for lack of time to visit the islands nor, but for reasons of security, the (south ) eastern suburbs and airport.
20. Dubrovnik Old City The homogeneous medieval walled city is registered on Unesco's World Heritage List. Restoration has been carried out by the municipal Institute for the restoration of Dubrovnik (set up after the 1979 earthquake). In 1981 the Croatian Parliament set up a Committee for the renovation of cultural monuments in the Dubrovnik region and three years later a Professional advisory commission. The former is presided over by President TuÞman and chaired by Mr Domljan (who has also been compiling a topological inventory of Croatian art for the Institute of Historical Studies, Zagreb); the Secretary is Mr Davarin Stipevic (Ministry of Culture). Experts from France, Italy and Unesco are co opted members of the advisory commission. The Venetian model of independent private organisations is being avoided by the Croatian authorities. Approximately one third of the old city is in private ownership, one third belongs to the Church and one third to the municipality.
21. More recently the old city has been an obvious target both for Serb shelling and for Croatian counter propaganda. Shelling occurred in November and December 1991 and again in May and June 1992. The first phase was monitored by experts sent in by Unesco (Bruno Carnes and Colin Kaiser) and the question is now being co ordinated by Gisele Hyvert, but it has been extensively documented by the Croatian authorities (and an exhibition should be mounted in Unesco later in September this year). The only practical measures so far taken have been the removal of tons of rubble from streets and destroyed houses; the boarding up of external sculpture to protect it from shrapnel; the removal into safer places of movable items (books, pictures etc); temporary re roofing and shoring up.
22. The Assembly delegation made an extensive tour of the old city. The walls, though scarred, seemed in good condition but gave a misleading impression. From them it was possible to identify the extent of the shelling from holes visible in roofs; on further inspection on the ground each of these holes revealed a tragedy inside. Certain buildings had been completely gutted by fire (for example that of the contemporary painter Ivor Grbic), others had been extensively damaged. The roof of the building which had served as the central office for the Dubrovnik Festival had burnt, the archives had been destroyed and the surviving floors felt unsafe; however earlier frescoes had been discovered on the walls (the building has for this reason been given a temporary covering). It should be noted that the principle of construction in Dubrovnik has been to isolate buildings with stone or alleys and this has proved effective in limiting the spread of damage. Monuments seem to have suffered more from shrapnel than direct hits: damage was noted by the delegation to the balustrade in the 14th century cloister of the Franciscan Monastery, paving in the main street Placa (this is now largely boarded up, but no frontages have disappeared) and the Jesuit Staircase. Dramatic direct hits have been made however on the dome of the 15th century drinking fountain by the Pile Gate and on that of the Bell Tower (happily reinforced after the 1979 earthquake).
23. Perhaps the most striking change in Dubrovnik is the lack of people, whether locals or tourists. For considerable periods from November last year the town was without water and electricity (the lifts still do not work); much of the population left (although over 50% returned to vote on 2 August); the tourist industry is at a standstill (only the Hotel Argentina receives foreign visitors; this and the others that are not totally destroyed house refugees and soldiers). A 9pm curfew is still imposed. There are no tourists, no obvious shops. This year's Festival was a symbolic affair lit with candles.
24. With regard to protection of their cultural heritage in time of war the Croatian authorities have acted properly, even if on occasion after the event: for example repeated appeals to remove to a safer place the Franciscan library in Dubrovnik were only heeded after the monastery had been hit. The appropriate flags have been flown (both of The Hague Convention and of Unesco); but these do not repel shells unless they are backed up by action by the international community.
25. With regard to the documentation of damage the Croatian authorities have again established an excellent basis but one which has to be verified by independent international experts. For some time the Croatian Ministry of Education and Culture has published a record of "War damages and destructions inflicted on the cultural monuments, sites and historical centers in Croatia" (the latest update is for the period of May June 1992). Much has to be evaluated, in particular in the light of the situation preceding the present war. It is unfortunate that Unesco has not yet shown signs of publishing the results of its various missions to Dubrovnik. Unesco's interest remains very closely limited to the confines of the historic city of Dubrovnik "within the walls". The modern reality is however very much more than just what goes on within the old city walls. A wider assessment remains therefore urgently necessary not only in the whole region of Dubrovnik but also throughout the territory of Croatia as a whole. This has been indicated in the written question by MM Baumel and Tummers (no.343 see Doc 6628).
26. Such an assessment should also reveal the immediate and long term needs for heritage protection in Croatia. Apparently nails (and tiles, if Unesco does not produce them soon) are urgently needed. The quarries for stone for the Placa in Dubrovnik for example are accessible, but considerable cost is involved. The conservation effort should be co ordinated with the economic reconstruction and planning of the whole area. The Old City of Dubrovnik cannot be isolated from the surrounding town and outlying villages which are no less in need of immediate attention. Clearly planning has to be reviewed and a financial aid scheme has to be set up with short, medium and long term objectives.
27. With regard to action on the European level, it can be noted that as a gesture of support, Mr Baumel has offered to twin his town of Rueil Malmaison with Dubrovnik, has launched a National Committee for humanitarian aid and protection (of Dubrovnik) and proposed that the French Ministry of Culture send a team of experts to restore a specific monument (for example the seat of the Dubrovnik Festival). An appeal was made by the Institute for the restoration of Dubrovnik for subscriptions to permit the publication of a book "Art treasures of Dubrovnik" with 45% of the proceeds going to restoration of the monuments. The idea of European solidarity could however also be more widely extended to cover other towns and villages in Croatia (and why not also Bosnia Herzegovina?) along the lines of the connections established with the Romanian villages when they were under the threat of Ceaucescu's systematisation planning.
28. The present visit was short and inevitably superficial. There was certainly much that the delegation did not see. This report lays no claims therefore to being a definitive statement. In due course supplementary evidence will it is hoped be added.
29. A final observation at this stage could however be that the Serb forces have not irrevocably destroyed the heritage of the Croatian coast but have managed to arrest the tourism from which it lives. It should also be understood that everything in this report should be read as secondary to the personal suffering of those directly involved.