Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cultural genocide 1992

From the FAIFE listserv, mid-May:

On this day 15 years ago: Burning books

Fifteen years ago this day, on 17 May 1992 gunners of the Serb-led Yugoslav army bombarding the Bosnian capital shelled and burned down the Oriental Institute in Sarajevo (Orijentalni institut u Sarajevu), destroying six centuries of records of Bosnia's history and intellectual life. The resulting blaze consumed the Institute's entire collection, including 5,263 manuscript codices dating back to medieval times and more than 300,000 archival documents, as well as the Oriental Institute's research library and catalogues.

Three months later, on 26-27 August 1992, Gen. Mladic's gunners loosed a concentrated barrage of incendiary shells on the National and University Library of Bosnia-Herzegovina, turning some 1.5 million books to ashes and charcoal -- the single largest act of deliberate book-burning in modern history.

The ashes have cooled long ago, but the damage to culture remains. Adam Lebor reported in 2000 on the efforts of Bosnian scholars to defy those who sought to rob them of their culture and history.

[PHOTO]: Ferman (rescript of the Ottoman sultan), dated 23 December 1832, authorizing the reconstruction of the Old Orthodox church in Mostar. The original decree, part of the judicial records of the Ottoman kadi's court in Mostar, was among the 300,000+ archival documents destroyed on 17 May 1992, when the Sarajevo Oriental Institute was bombarded and burned by
Serb forces.

[PHOTOS]: Views of the burned-out Oriental Institute, which occupied the upper two floors of this Austro-Hungarian-era building in the center of Sarajevo. The photo of the interior, taken in late May 1992, shows the top floor open to the sky with the remains of thousands of burned books, manuscripts and historical documents carpeting the floor.

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