Bosnia and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Bosnia and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Contemporary Muslim World

Bosnia and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Author(s): Helen Walasek

Reviewed by: Abdullah Drury, University of Waikato, New Zealand

 

Review

This book is the outcome of over twenty years of research and active fieldwork by Helen Walasek, currently an Associate of the Bosnian Institute in London and former Deputy Director of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Heritage Rescue Agency. She has gathered a team of impartial scholars and is particularly eager to challenge the popular discourse of regional nationalisms, political chauvinisms and propaganda that suggested all factions to the 1990s conflict in Bosnia were equally guilty of the devastation of each other’s distinctive cultural and religious architecture, buildings and monuments. ‘The early hypothesis of an equivalent and mutual destruction of religious and cultural heritage by all three principal warring parties in the conflict ... is not borne out by the evidence and expert assessment’ (p. 60) The violence directed at buildings was seldom the response of angry mobs reciprocating in some punitive tit-for-tat episode or the unfortunate outcome of the moving frontline of battle, but rather the deliberate and organised effort to eradicate all signs that other ethnic groups had ever lived in certain topographies. The example of Banja Luka is telling. The city was never threatened by any advancing armies and the demolition of the city’s 16 mosques and several Roman Catholic churches (not to mention other religious sites such as cemeteries)...


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