The Endangered Monuments of Croatia

Ljubljana, October 8, 1991

To Art Historians and Artists of the World:

A vicious war is raging on the territory of Croatia in spite of several ceasefire agreements signed during the past few weeks by all parties involved. Its consequences so far have been catastrophic with regard to loss of life as well as in villages and towns leveled to earth. The insanity of the warcraze does not spare hospitals, mental institutions, schools, libraries, not to mention homes, factories, and communication facilities. The neighboring countries are receiving refugees in ever growing numbers. The future of the sparse population which has remained in the disaster areas is in ashes. Fear, despair, and human tragedy loom over Eastern Slavonia, Bania, Herzegovina, and Dalmatia. Since Guernica no national armed forces have been engaged against their own nation to such an extent. This is happening again in Croatia.

The Slovenian Society of Art Historians is calling attention to perhaps a less obvious aspect of the intoxication with violence. Not only the population but also the cultural heritage of Croatia is being condemned to systematic destruction. The Hague Convention banners displayed on all major historic and cultural monuments are serving as targets for field guns and planes. The symbols of Croatian culture, historic urban structures, cathedrals, castles, mansions, and museums, are vanishing one after another.

From the information available we select only a few outstanding victims: the museum and the Baroque mansion Eltz in Vukovar are destroyed, the neo-Gothic cathedral in Osijek and the neo-Romanesque cathedral in Djakovo are badly damaged, the old town in Varazdin with a number of Baroque townhouses damaged, the Renaissance cathedral of Sibenik has been bombarded from the sea, a number of churches in Slavonia and Bania are in ruins. The escalation of hostilities is seriously threatening the Dalmatian towns of Zadar, Trogir, Split, and Dubrovnik whose monuments belong to the most splendid art-historic treasures of Western culture.

All these monuments are prominently marked by banners displaying the Hague Convention signs in accordance with international agreements. In spite of this, they are perishing. Therefore the acts of the aggressors represent the most blatant insult to international legal and civil norms; moreover they are an acute form of war crime. We are convinced that no political or strategic aims can ever justify the damage inflicted upon the cultural heritage of the Croatian nation, Europe, and the world.

Art historians of Slovenia appeal to all our colleagues, professional associations, and institutions of the world to address their protests to the representatives of the Yugoslav government, the Yugoslav Armed Forces, the European Community, and UNESCO. Do not allow the crimes to spread. We need your support and assistance to save the monuments of Croatia. Some of our distinguished colleagues and friends from Trieste and Gorizia have already joined our action. Please, join us.

As I write Yugoslav Navy shells are hitting Dubrovnik…

Andrej Smrekar, Ph.D.
Acting Director, National Gallery of Slovenia
Stane Bernik, Ph.D.
President, Slovenian Society of Art Historians

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