Destruction of Albanian heritage in Kosovo

The architectural heritage of the Kosovo Albanians during Yugoslav rule was shown institutionalised disregard for decades prior to outright conflict at the end of the 20th century.[1][2] Numerous Albanian cultural sites in Kosovo were destroyed during the period of Yugoslav rule and especially the Kosovo conflict (1998-1999) which constituted a war crime violating the Hague and Geneva Conventions.[1] In all, 225 out of 600 mosques in Kosovo were damaged, vandalised, or destroyed alongside other Islamic architecture during the conflict.[3][4] Additionally 500 Albanian owned kulla dwellings (traditional stone tower houses) and three out of four well-preserved Ottoman period urban centres located in Kosovo cities were badly damaged resulting in great loss of traditional architecture.[5][6] Kosovo's public libraries, of which 65 out of 183 were completely destroyed, amounted to a loss of 900,588 volumes, while Islamic libraries sustained damage or destruction resulting in the loss of rare books, manuscripts and other collections of literature.[7][8] Archives belonging to the Islamic Community of Kosovo, records spanning 500 years, were also destroyed.[7][8] During the war, Islamic architectural heritage posed for Yugoslav Serb paramilitary and military forces as Albanian patrimony with destruction of non-Serbian architectural heritage being a methodical and planned component of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.[6][9]

Damaged and destroyed Islamic monuments during the Kosovo conflict (1998-1999)


Yugoslav PeriodEdit

Prishtina bazaar, being destroyed by labour brigades called Popular Fronts

For around five centuries being a province of the Ottoman Empire, numerous examples of Ottoman architecture existed in Kosovo.[10] In the aftermath of World War Two, Yugoslavia was governed by communist authorities who implemented various modernisation drives toward changing the architectural landscape and design of urban settlements.[11] These measures were aimed at altering the panorama of a settlement that was deemed to have elements associated with an unwanted Ottoman past and features deemed as "backward".[11] Starting from the late 1940s, architectural heritage in main urban centres of Kosovo began to be destroyed, mainly conducted by the local government as part of urban modernisation schemes.[10] During the 1950s this process was undertaken by the Urban Planning Institute (Urbanistički zavod) of Yugoslavia with the most prominent example in Kosovo of the socialist modernisation drive being in Prishtinë.[10] The Ottoman Prishtina bazaar contained 200 shops set in blocks devoted to a craft or guild owned by Albanians grouped around a mosque, located in the centre of Prishtinë.[10] These buildings were expropriated in 1947 and demolished by labour brigades known as Popular Fronts (Albanian: Fronti populluer, Serbian: Narodnifront).[10]

Prishtina bazaar, with construction of new buildings and destroyed and non-destroyed buildings

In 1952, the Yugoslav government founded the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Kosovo tasked with dealing with issues relating to cultural heritage in Kosovo.[12] During post-war communist Yugoslavia, only one Ottoman era monument the Tomb of Sultan Murad I was listed as a cultural monument, while state protection status was given mainly to Serbian Orthodox Church architecture in Kosovo.[10] The criteria for listing mosques as historic monuments was much more restrictive than for Serbian Orthodox architecture.[12] Buildings who had protection status received funding for historical preservation, while unlisted mosques, many from the Ottoman period that were renovated during this time was done without the Institute’s supervision often resulting in damage or original architectural elements being destroyed.[12] On the eve of the Kosovo conflict, only 15 mosques out of the 600 or more mosques had been awarded the status of historic monument, unlike 210 Orthodox Serbian churches, gravesites and monasteries that had been awarded the status of protected historic monument.[12]

Kosovo Conflict (1998-1999)Edit

Destroyed house with damaged Hadum Mosque in the background in Gjakove, 1999

The Kosovo conflict triggered a counter-insurgency campaign in 1998-1999 by Yugoslav Serb armed forces (VJ) fighting against Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) fighters that escalated into the Kosovo war (1999) and military intervention from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).[13][5][14] During the counter-insurgency campaign Yugoslav Serb forces targeted collections of various state archives and buildings, museums and libraries; Islamic libraries, Muslim theological schools and Sufi lodges (tekkes).[13]

Before the 1999 war, the reserve collection consisting of multiple deposit copies of publications at the National Library of Kosovo in Prishtinë kept for use within Kosovo for other libraries, was pulped at the Lipjan paper mill through an order by the Serbian library director.[15] During the 1999 war, 65 (a third of a total of 183) Kosovo public libraries were fully destroyed resulting in the combined loss of 900,588 volumes.[7] Kosovo school libraries were destroyed during the war.[7] In 1999, certain archives and collections were also removed from Kosovo into Serbia, such as the archive of the Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Kosovo from the organisation's building in Prishtinë by employees belonging to the Yugoslav Ministry of Interior.[13][16] The Yugoslav Serbian Ministry of Justice claimed that the removal of public records from Kosovo to Serbia in 1999 was "to prevent the Albanian secessionists from destroying or forging [them]".[16] Some Kosovo municipal registries were also burned where they were held.[16]

The central historical archive belonging to the Islamic Community of Kosovo containing community records spanning 500 years was burned down on June 13, 1999 by Yugoslav Serb police after an armistice and some hours before NATO peacekeeping troops came to Prishtinë.[7] Of Sufi lodges, the Axhize Baba Bektashi teqe in Gjakovë was burned during May by Yugoslav Serb soldiers using shoulder-launched incendiary grenades resulting in the loss of 2,000 rare books and over 250 manuscripts like a 12th century Persian manuscript.[17][8] The Hadum Suleiman Aga library (founded 1595) in Gjakovë, was burned down (March 24) by Yugoslav Serb troops resulting in the loss of 1,300 rare books and 200 manuscripts written in Aljamiado (Albanian in Arabic script), Arabic and Ottoman Turkish along with the regional archives of the Islamic Community spanning to the 17th century.[7][8] In Pejë, the library of Atik Medrese was burned down with only its outer walls remaining, resulting in the loss of 100 manuscript codices and 2,000 printed books.[8] In Ferizaj the Atik Medrese theological school dating from the Ottoman period was burned down with its remains being bulldozed.[8] The League of Prizren museum in Prizren was destroyed with rifle-propelled grenades by Yugoslav Serb police during March 1999.[6]

In the aftermath of the war, a report in August 1999 by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) documented that within Kosovo 155 mosques were destroyed, based on accounts by refugees.[18] According to the Islamic Community of Kosovo the duration of conflict resulted in an estimated 217 mosques being damaged, destroyed or demolished along with 4 madrassas (traditional Muslim schools) and 3 Sufi lodges.[19] Of the 498 mosques in Kosovo that were in active use, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) documented that 225 mosques sustained damage or destruction by the Yugoslav Serb army.[4] In all, eighteen months of the Yugoslav Serb counterinsurgency campaign between 1998-1999 within Kosovo resulted in 225 or a third out of a total of 600 mosques being damaged, vandalised, or destroyed.[3][6] Some Islamic architecture was damaged within the context of the fighting.[19]

Mosques and other Islamic buildings however in certain urban neighbourhoods and villages became the only targets of violence against architecture, while in other locations every mosque and all Islamic buildings became targeted.[3] Often at the conclusion of an attack on a village and the fleeing of the population from villages, towns and cities, attacks on mosques, other Islamic buildings and architecture were undertaken and widespread by the Yugoslav Serb army.[3][20] Attacks at times entailed the toppling of a mosque minaret, having minaret tops shot off, explosive devices placed in a minaret or within a mosque, bulldozing of mosques, fires started in a mosque, artillery aimed at a minaret and walls riddled with bullets.[21][22][4][17] The vandalisation of mosques also occurred, anti-Albanian and anti-Islamic vandalism, the graffiting of facades with images and text and in certain examples, anti-Albanian and pro-Serbian graffiti was inscribed on the walls of a mosque.[21][22][4] Graffiti left on mosques by the Yugoslav Serb army often had the words "Kosovo je Srbija" (Kosovo is Serbia), "Srbija" (Serbia), "Mi smo Srbi" (We are Serbs) while the most common graffiti was a cross with four Cyrillic Cs in each corner, a Serbian national symbol.[21] In an in depth survey conducted by Physicians for Human Rights of Kosovo Albanian refugees, it found they were often not present to see the destruction of Islamic architecture due to their flight.[20] These events were also corroborated in reports by human rights organisations regarding the activities of Yugoslav Serb forces and their intended victims being limited in seeing such destruction.[20] There were in some cases eyewitnesses to these attacks on historic monuments.[5]

Mosque with minaret top blown off in Skënderaj, Kosovo 1999

Vandalisation of Kosovo Albanian Catholic churches also occurred.[17] The Catholic Church of St Anthony located in Gjakovë had major damage done by Yugoslav Serb soldiers.[6] In Prishtinë, Yugoslav Serb officers ejected nuns and a priest from the Catholic church of St. Anthony and installed aircraft radar in the steeple which resulted in NATO bombing of the church and surrounding houses.[17] Additionally 500 or 90 percent of kulla dwellings belonging to prominent Albanian families along with historic bazaars were targeted; where three out of four well preserved Ottoman period urban centres located in Kosovo cities being badly damaged resulting in great loss of traditional architecture.[5][6] The targeted architecture sustained damage that was not collateral.[22] Monuments that were destroyed and damaged were in areas often at lightly-damaged and undisturbed situations, indicating that the damage done was deliberate and not a result of architecture being caught in the crossfire of military combat.[22] During the war (March–June 1999) the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 70,000 homes in Kosovo were destroyed.[22]

In Kosovo, the destruction of historical architecture occurred within the context of the Serbian campaign of ethnic cleansing which followed a pattern that happened in Bosnia and was made worse, due to lessons of efficiency learned from that conflict.[6] The destruction of non-Serbian architectural heritage was a methodical and planned component of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.[6] Harvard University scholars Andrew Herscher and András Riedlmayer[6] note that the destruction of individual homes and properties in addition to historic architecture signified that the entire Kosovo Albanian population was targeted as a culturally defined entity during the conflict.[22]


In the aftermath of the Kosovo war (1999) reports from journalists and refugees about the destruction of Kosovo cultural heritage emerged and a need to investigate those allegations and to document damage arose.[23] The United Nations (UN) established a civil administration in Kosovo however one of its agencies the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that deals with cultural heritage issues had no plans to undertake such an examination.[23] Andrew Herscher and Andras Riedlmayer instead conducted research, raised funds and 3 months after the 1999 war ended went in October to Kosovo and documented damage done to cultural heritage institutions and buildings.[23] With the conclusion of the field survey, their findings and documentation were placed into a database, a final report was written with copies given to the Department of Culture of the UN Mission in Kosovo and the Office of the Prosecutor presiding over the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague.[23]

Trial of Slobodan MiloševićEdit

In the trial of Slobodan Milošević (2002-2006), Yugoslav Serb president during the Kosovo war (1999), the ICTY indictment against him referred to methods of persecution done against Kosovo Albanians to "wreak systematic and wanton destruction and damage to their religious sites and cultural monuments".[24] The prosecution in the trial sought to prove Milošević guilty of those actions and events.[24] In his defense, Milošević asserted that Kosovo Albanian heritage sites, in addition to Serb Orthodox historical and religious monuments were damaged by NATO bombing.[25] Yugoslav Serb authorities in several cases alleged that NATO destroyed monuments, however the investigative team led by András Riedlmayer found them intact like two Ottoman bridges and the Sinan Pasha Mosque.[25] Investigators absolved NATO of responsibility except for damage to a village mosque roof and a disused Catholic church damaged through an air blast after an nearby army base was struck by a missile.[25] Riedlmayer's report to the trial concluded that kulla dwellings and a third of mosques were subjected to damage and destruction, with three Ottoman period urban centres being devastated due to intentionally lit fires.[25] The report also noted that the Yugoslav Serb army, paramilitary and police forces and in some instances Serb civilians did those attacks, according to eyewitness accounts.[25] Riedlmayer found out that Yugoslav Serb forces used as bases of operation two Catholic churches which in international law was prohibited.[25] The investigative team noted that destruction and damage of Kosovo Albanian heritage sites were done during the 1999 war through ground attack and not air strikes.[25] With weeks left before the conclusion of the trial, no verdict was reached due to Milošević's death in March, 2006.[26]

Post war KosovoEdit

Panorama of destroyed Old Bazaar in Gjakova, 1999

Destruction of multiple Serbian churches occurred in a post-conflict environment done by members of the Albanian community, who viewed that architectural heritage as a surrogate for revenge against the Milošević government and its military forces for violence committed during the Kosovo conflict (1998-1999).[27][28] The Serbian government has used such attacks as a basis to petition the United Nations to allow its police and armed forces to return and guard historical monuments in Kosovo.[28] The petition did not succeed however, and the post-conflict attacks on Serbian cultural heritage have been used by Serbian cultural institutions to deflect focus from attacks on Albanian cultural heritage done during the war.[28] Those institutions reported upon the post-conflict damage done toward Orthodox Serbian heritage and produced reports that have been accepted by international cultural heritage institutions as neutral and objective assessments.[28]

Little awareness or concern has appeared for the cultural heritage belonging to Kosovo Albanians that was damaged during the war.[28] The Serbian government only once officially acknowledged that Albanian cultural heritage had been damaged within the context of an assessment of NATO war crimes, that also entailed the aerial bombing of several Albanian historical monuments.[28] Meagre legal attention toward severely damaged Islamic heritage has occurred apart from the ICTY's documentation of destroyed and damaged Kosovo mosques.[4] There has been a reluctance to acknowledge damage done toward Albanian cultural heritage in Kosovo by the international community.[29] The international community has viewed its mission in Kosovo as a humanitarian one to provide for Kosovo's populace and the issue of damaged cultural heritage has been sidelined toward focus on Kosovo's "reconstruction".[29]

The Islamic Community of Kosovo since 1999 has through funding from various sources been engaged in the reconstruction of 113 damaged mosques from the Kosovo conflict.[30] In all, some 211 mosques damaged due to the Kosovo conflict have been reconstructed through contributions from donors and local communities, non-governmental agencies and foreign governments such as assistance from some Muslim countries, in particular Turkey and Arab states.[31][4]

Islamic charities entered Kosovo and rebuilt Ottoman period mosques destroyed during the war in the Gulf Arab style while also being responsible for destroying centuries old religious complexes and mosques under the cover of "reconstruction".[32] Journalists in Kosovo reported that assistance to local communities was dependent on them allowing permission for a particular Islamic charity to reconstruct local mosques.[32] Libraries, gravestones and mausoleums which were centuries old became subject to destruction by Islamic charities as they viewed them to be "idolatrous".[32]

Assistance from Western institutions and countries toward mosque reconstruction have occurred, such as the Italian government rebuilding two mosques in Pejë and Harvard University rebuilding a main mosque in Gjakovë.[33] The Jews in Kosovo also funded the rebuilding of a mosque in Gjakovë.[34] The protection, restoration and rebuilding of Islamic architectural monuments and heritage has not received much interest from Kosovo state authorities in contrast to architecture belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church.[4]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b Herscher & Riedlmayer 2000, pp. 109–110. "Reciprocally, architectural heritage associated with Kosovo’s Albanian majority has been subjected to institutionalized disregard in the management of Kosovo’s cultural heritage and, during the 1998-1999 conflict, catastrophic destruction. While this destruction constitutes a war crime in violation of the Hague and Geneva Conventions, it is also the counterpart to a sanctioned cultural heritage policy carried out for decades before the war."
  2. ^ Brosché et al. 2017, p. 250. "For instance, before the Kosovo War of 1998–1989, Kosovar cultural property such as mosques from the Ottoman age was, with a few exceptions, not protected by Serbian legislation."
  3. ^ a b c d Herscher 2010, p. 87. "The attack on Landovica’s mosque was reprised throughout Kosovo during the eighteen months of the Serb counterinsurgency campaign. Approximately 225 of Kosovo’s 600 mosques were vandalized, damaged, or destroyed during that campaign. In some urban neighborhoods and villages, mosques and other Islamic buildings were the only targets of architectural violence; in other settings, all mosques and Islamic buildings were targeted. In the trial of Slobodan Milošević, and in an emerging historical discourse, as well, the above serves as key evidence of the “ethnic” dimension of the violence inflicted against Kosovar Albanians, with mosques posed as objective ethno-religious signs or symbols. But this destruction provides, more fundamentally evidence of the performative dimension of “ethnic violence”—of the way in which violence “does not essentially limit itself to transporting an already constituted semantic content guarded by its own aiming at truth.”In Landovica, Serb forces toppled the minaret of the village mosque following their attack on the village and the flight of its inhabitants. This was typical of attacks on mosques and other buildings identified as examples of Islamic heritage."
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Mehmeti 2015, p. 72.
  5. ^ a b c d Herscher & Riedlmayer 2000, pp. 111–112. "Serb forces initiated a counterinsurgency campaign in March 1998, directed against the KLA and Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian population. In this campaign, as large numbers of Kosovo’s Albanian population were forcibly deported from their homes, the historic architecture associated with that population was systematically targeted for destruction. This targeting took place both as groups of people were being expelled from their places of residence, apparently to diminish these people’s incentive to return to their hometowns and villages, but also after expulsions took place, apparently to remove visible evidence of Kosovo’s deported Albanian community. The primary buildings singled out, by Serb forces for destruction in 1998 and 1999 were mosques; at least 207 of the approximately 609 mosques in Kosovo sustained damage or were destroyed in that period. Other architectural targets of Serb forces were Islamic religious schools and libraries, more than 500 kullas (traditional stone mansions, often associated with prominent Albanian families), and historic bazaars. Three out of four well-preserved Ottoman-era urban cores in Kosovo cities were also severely damaged, in each case with great loss of historic architecture."
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bevan 2007, p. 85. "A similar propaganda war developed when the conflict expanded into Kosovo, with both sides, Serbs and Kosovars, making sweeping claims regarding the extent of deliberate damage and cultural cleansing. The Serbian government and the Serbian Orthodox Church maintain websites that go further in charging NATO air attacks with causing enormous destruction to the churches and monasteries of their religious heartland. This damage was widely reported in the media internationally. Careful post-war research by Harvard University academics Andrew Herscher and András Riedimayer nailed many of the lies, while making an objective assessment of the very real and extensive damage to mosques, churches, archives and vernacular buildings made by forces on the ground. Two Ottoman bridges supposedly destroyed by NATO, for example, were in fact intact. Major damage to the Roman Catholic church of St Anthony in Gjakova, reportedly bombed by NATO, was actually committed by Serbian soldiers. The Memorial Museum of the League of Prizren was not destroyed by a 'NATO missile' but by Serbian police in March 1999 using rifle-propelled grenades. Although the priceless Serbian Orthodox heritage of Kosovo was damaged during the Kosovo conflict and after (and Serbia itself did indeed lose some buildings to NATO raids), it is the Muslim heritage, as in Bosnia, that was devastated by the war. A third of Kosovo’s historic mosques were destroyed or damaged, as were 90 per cent of the traditional kulla (stone tower-houses), as part of the Serbian campaign of ethnic cleansing that followed the pattern set in Bosnia, and made worse by the efficiency lessons learned there. The destruction of Kosovo's non-Serb architectural heritage was a planned and methodical element of ethnic cleansing."
  7. ^ a b c d e f Riedlmayer 2007, p. 124. "By the end of the eleven week war, 65 of Kosovo’s 183 public libraries, a third of the total, had been completely destroyed. The Kosovo public library network’s combined losses were assessed at 900,588 volumes. More than a third of school libraries in Kosovo were also destroyed in the war (Fredericksen & Bakken, 2000). A number of religious libraries and archives of Kosovo’s Islamic community were also burned. Among them was the Islamic endowment (waqf) library of Hadum Suleiman Aga in the western Kosovo town of Gjakova/Djakovica, founded in 1595 and burned by Serb troops at the end of March 1999 with the complete loss of its collection of 200 ancient manuscripts and 1,300 old printed books. Another irretrievable loss was that of the central historical archive of the Islamic Community of Kosovo, in Priština, with community records going back more than five hundred years, which was burned by Serbian police on June 13, 1999, after the armistice and just hours before the arrival of the first NATO peacekeeping troops in the city (Riedlmayer, 2000)."
  8. ^ a b c d e f Frederiksen & Bakken 2000, pp. 38–39. "The burning on 24 March of the library of Hadum Suleiman Aga in Djakovica with holdings of ca. 200 manuscripts and 1,300 rare books in Ottoman Turkish, Arabic and Aljamiado (Albanian in Arabic script), and the regional archives of the Islamic Community (KBI) with records going back to the 17th century. The destruction of the Bektashi tekke (dervish lodge) of Axhize Baba in Djakovica (Gjakova), which had one of the most valuable collections of Islamic manuscripts in the region. The fire consumed 250 manuscripts and more than 2,000 rare books; the computerized catalogue was burned along with the library. The tekke was burned to the ground at the beginning of May 1999 by Serbian troops using shoulder-launched incendiary grenades. The library of the Atik Medrese, in Peja, was burned to the ground, with only parts of the outer walls still standing and its collection of 2,000 printed books and ca. 100 manuscript codices a total loss. The Ottoman-era theological school, the Atik Medrese in Urosevac (Ferizaj) was also burned down and the remains levelled by bulldozer."
  9. ^ Herscher 2010, p. 13. "One aspect of this consolidation involved the narration of late-socialist vandalism against Serbian Orthodox graves and cemeteries as "ethnic violence" carried out by Kosovar Albanians against Serbs; another involved the postsocialist destruction of Islamic buildings posed as Albanian patrimony by Serb military and paramilitary forces."
  10. ^ a b c d e f Herscher 2010, pp. 29–30. "Kosovo was a province of the Ottoman empire for five centuries and its territory contained many examples of Ottoman architecture, yet only one Ottoman-era monument, the Sultan Murat Turbe, was classified as “cultural monument” in this period; the other such monuments were drawn from the patrimony of the Serbian Orthodox Church.... Premodernity was reified not only by preservation of its treasured signs, however, but also by the elimination of its obsolete components: an abject heritage whose purpose, in modernization, was to be destroyed. This destruction was also institutionalized in socialist modernization. By the 1950s, this modernization was the responsibility of the Urban Planning Institute (Urbanistički zavod) in the capital cities of all republics. Before then, however, destruction was also planned and managed by local governments as part of urban modernization schemes. In Kosovo, beginning in the late 1940s, the destruction of abject heritage took place in each major city, most prominently in Kosovo’s capital city of Prishtina. The modernization of Prishtina was initiated with the destruction of the Ottoman-era bazaar (čaršija) at the center of the city: in 1947, the provincial government expropriated the buildings in the bazaar in the name of urban renewal and then demolished them.... Laid out in the fifteenth century, Prishtina’s bazaar was composed of some two hundred shops arranged around a mosque (xhami in Albanian, džamija in Serbian); these shops were owned by and operated by members of Prishtina’s Albanian community. The shops were set within blocks, each devoted to a particular guild or craft.... Like other public works at the time in Yugoslavia, the destruction of Prishtina’s bazaar was organized by labor brigades called Popular Fronts (Fronti populluer in Albanian, Narodnifront in Serbian)."
  11. ^ a b Herscher 2010, pp. 28–29.
  12. ^ a b c d Herscher & Riedlmayer 2000, pp. 110–111. "While the construction of religious buildings in Yugoslavia was restricted from the establishment of Tito’s Communist government in 1945 until the relaxation of church-state relations in the mid-1970s, the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Kosovo, founded in 1952, institutionalized the production of cultural heritage in Kosovo and provided another field on which an ideology of culture would play itself out. By the time of last year’s war, some 210 Serbian Orthodox churches, monasteries, and gravesites were listed as protected historic monuments in Kosovo, including over forty churches built between the 1930s and the 1990s. In contrast, only fifteen of the more than six hundred mosques in Kosovo were listed as historic monuments, even though well over half of these mosques date from the Ottoman era (fourteenth through nineteenth centuries). As the criteria for considering mosques as “historic monuments” were far more restrictive than those for Serbian Orthodox buildings, Kosovo’s cultural heritage was materially transformed: while listed buildings received all funds designated for historic preservation, the renovation of unlisted mosques was undertaken without the Institute’s supervision and frequently resulted in the damaging or destruction of original architectural elements."
  13. ^ a b c Herscher 2010, p. 11. "The 1998-99 counter-insurgency campaign conducted by Serb forces in Kosovo comprised such a catastrophe, as its targets included the buildings and collections of various state archives, libraries, and museums; and Islamic libraries, theological schools, and Sufi lodges. Some archives and collections were also removed from Kosovo into Serbia proper; in 1999, for example, the archives of the Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Kosovo were taken from the institute's building in Prishtina/Priština by staff from the Yugoslav Ministry of Interior, as of the writing of this books, these materials remain in the ministry's possession."
  14. ^ Koktsidis & Dam 2008, pp. 164–171.
  15. ^ Teijgeler 2006, p. 158. "The situation of the archives in the Kosovo Conflict also applied to the libraries. At the beginning of October 1990, ethnic Albanian faculty arid students were ejected by Serbian police from classrooms and offices, and the University of Priština became an apartheid institution reserved for ethnic Serbs only. At the same time, non-Serb readers were banned from the National and University Library and Albanian professionals were summarily dismissed from their positions at the libraries. The acquisition of Albanian-language library materials effectively ceased. No records and printed books relating to the Albanian community were acquired after 1990 and only 22,000 items were added to the collections in Kosovo in that period. A few years later a number of library facilities in Kosovo were converted to other uses. Parts of the National and University Library building in Priština were turned over to a Serbian Orthodox religious school; library offices were used to house Serb refugees from Croatia and Bosnia. For almost a decade, Kosovar Albanians, the majority of Kosovo’s inhabitants, were not allowed to set foot inside their libraries. The Library’s reserve collection — multiple deposit copies of publications in Albanian kept for exchange and for distribution to public libraries elsewhere in Kosovo — were gone; they had been sent to the Lipljan paper mill for pulping before the war by order of the Serbian library director (Riedlmayer, 1995, 2000a)."
  16. ^ a b c Teijgeler 2006, pp. 157–158. "As early as March 1991, records appear to have been deliberately removed. When the Serbs finally withdrew in 1999 public records and archives comprising almost the entire documentary base for the orderly functioning of government and society in Kosovo were removed; some municipal registries were even burned on the spot. The Ministry of Justice in Belgrade announced that public records in Kosovo had been removed to Serbia ‘to prevent the Albanian secessionists from destroying or forging [them]’ (Jackson and Stepniak, 2000). Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Kosovars, who were deprived of their personal documents when they were expelled in the spring of 1999, whose passports or licences have expired, who wish to register a marriage, buy or sell property, settle a legal dispute or claim an inheritance, are left stranded in a legal and documentary limbo (Frederiksen and Bakken, 2000; MacKenzie 1996; Riedlmayer, 2000a)."
  17. ^ a b c d Schwartz 2000, p. 161. "Elsewhere in Gjakova, the Axhize Baba Bektashi teqe, the largest and oldest in the city, was burned in May, with the loss of 2,000 rare books and more than 250 manuscripts, including a 12th century manuscript in Persian. One of the Bektashis told Riedlmayer, "Five hundred years of Bektashi history and culture in this area perished in the ... roof collapsed, and the library of the Atik medresa was burned, with 2,000 books and around 100 manuscripts destroyed. Riedlmayer also found sites where all that remained of mosques were bulldozed, empty lots. Albanian Catholic churches were also vandalized. Riedlmayer learned that Serb officers had installed anti-aircraft radar in the steeple of St. Anthony's Catholic church in Prishtina, after ejecting the priest and nuns; NATO bombing of the radar, and therefore the church and surrounding houses, would have been labelled an atrocity."
  18. ^ Human Rights Watch 2001, p. 145.
  19. ^ a b Tawil 2001, p. 11. "The Board of the Islamic Community of Kosovo estimates that 217 mosques were damaged, demolished or destroyed as well as four Medresses (traditional Islamic schools) and three Tekkes (traditional Sufi prayer halls). Although some of these buildings were damaged in the course of the fighting, it is clear that others were deliberately targeted."
  20. ^ a b c Herscher 2010, pp. 87–88. "Though widespread, most violence against mosques and Islamic architecture occurred after the populations who used those buildings had been expelled from their villages, towns, and cities. In the most comprehensive survey of Kosovar refugees, for examples, less than half of respondents reported seeing mosques or other places of worship attacked. [18] Reports by human rights organizations on the actions of Serb forces during the counterinsurgency also corroborate the limited visibility of violence against religious sites to their intended victims. The initial audience of violence against putative ethnic “signs” or “symbols,” that is, was composed of the authors of that violence. Considered instrumentally, violence against architecture is understood to intend the eradication of its targets."; p.168. [18]."Physicians for Human Rights"
  21. ^ a b c Herscher 2010, pp. 88."Typically, rather, they were transformed through particular sorts of damage and vandalism: mosques were vandalized; minarets were toppled or their tops were shot off; walls were riddled with bullets; and facades were graffitied with texts and images (Figures 3.5—3.8).... As graffiti, some of the representations comprised by violence were linguistic texts. Frequent graffiti on mosques were “Srbija” (Serbia), “Kosovo je Srbija” (Kosovo is Serbia), and “Mi smo Srbi” (We are Serbs) (Figures 3.6—3.8). In these graffiti, that is, Serbs represented that they were Serbs and that Kosovo was Serbian: the very presumptions of Serb collective agency in Kosovo. The most common graffiti was a cross with the Cyrillic C in each corner (Figures 3.6 and 3.8). This cross, a Serbian national symbol, was used by Serbs in Kosovo during the 1998—99 war to identify their homes and apartments to Serb military and paramilitary forces; identified as such, these properties were marked as Serb-occupied so that military and paramilitary forces passed over them as they moved through towns and cities to expel Kosovar Albanians. Yet these forces often graffitied this same symbol on mosques, appropriating a representation of ethnic identity and ethnic space and inscribing it on a representation of ethnic alterity."
  22. ^ a b c d e f Herscher & Riedlmayer 2000, p. 112. "The damage sustained by these buildings was not collateral. Damaged and destroyed monuments were often situated in undisturbed or lightly-damaged contexts, and the types of damage which monuments received (buildings burned from the interior, minarets of mosques toppled with explosives, anti-Islamic and anti-Albanian vandalism) indicate that this damage was deliberate, rather than the result of monuments being caught in the cross-fire of military operations. In a number of cases, eyewitnesses have also been able to precisely describe attacks on historic monuments. While the United Nations High Commission on Refugees has estimated that 70,000 homes were destroyed in Kosovo from March to June 1999, the destruction of historic architecture has a unique significance in that it signifies the attempt to target not just the homes and properties of individual members of Kosovo’s Albanian population, but that entire population as a culturally defined entity."
  23. ^ a b c d Riedlmayer 2007, pp. 124–125 "Reports by journalists and refugees during the Kosovo war, indicating that the destruction of cultural heritage that had accompanied ethnic cleansing in Croatia and Bosnia during the wars of the early 1990s was now happening again in Kosovo, suggested the need for a systematic postwar field survey to examine allegations and to document the damage. As the United Nations was taking over civil administration of the territory, it seemed logical that UNESCO would conduct such a survey. But inquiries with UNESCO headquarters in Paris revealed that the international body had no such plans. In the end, it seemed like the only way to make such a survey happen was to do it on one’s own. After raising the requisite funds and doing a considerable amount of library research, I went to Kosovo in October 1999, three months after the end of the war, in the company of architect Andrew Herscher, to document damage to cultural heritage buildings and institutions (Herscher & Riedlmayer, 2001). After completing our field survey, we consolidated our findings and documentation into a database and wrote up a final report, copies of which were presented to the Department of Culture of the UN Mission in Kosovo and to the Office of the Prosecutor of the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague."
  24. ^ a b Armatta 2010, p. 92. "One of the methods used to persecute the Kosovar population was to wreak systematic and wanton destruction and damage to their religious sites and cultural monuments, according to the indictment. Such destruction committed on political, racial, or religious grounds is a crime against humanity. Through the testimony of Andras Riedlmayer, an international expert on the Balkan cultural heritage of the Ottoman era, the prosecution sought to prove Milosevic guilty of it."
  25. ^ a b c d e f g Armatta 2010, pp. 93–94 "Riedlmayer, associated with Harvard University, provided a report of his investigations of war damage to cultural and religious sites in Kosova. Based on a two-year study that he undertook with the architect and Balkan specialist Andrew Herscher between July 1999 and the summer of 2001, sponsored by Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the report concluded that three out of four urban centers dating to the Ottoman years were devastated as a result of intentionally set fires. Serbian police, army troops, paramilitaries, and in some cases Serb civilians perpetrated these attacks, according to eyewitnesses. In addition, traditional Albanian residential buildings, called kullas, were targeted for destruction. Over one-third of all mosques in Kosova were damaged or destroyed. While Milosevic asserted that NATO bombardment was responsible for damage to Kosova Albanian heritage sites as well as for damage and destruction to Serbian Orthodox religious and historical monuments, Riedlmayer’s study absolved NATO of responsibility for all but damage to the roof of one village mosque and to a disused Catholic church, damaged by an air blast during a missile strike on a nearby army base. In several cases where Serb authorities alleged complete destruction of monuments by NATO (such as the Sinan Pasha Mosque and two Ottoman bridges), investigators found the monuments completely intact. Riedlmayer described how investigators reached their conclusions that damage was not caused by air strikes.... Throughout the province Riedlmayer and his co-investigators found damage and destruction of Kosova Albanian cultural heritage sites from ground attack during the war and what appeared to be Kosovar attacks against Serbian cultural heritage sites after the war. He also learned that Serbian forces used two Catholic churches as bases of operation, which was prohibited by international law. Riedlmayer later testified to similar destruction of Islamic religious and cultural sites during the Bosnian war."
  26. ^ Riedlmayer 2007, pp. 126
  27. ^ Herscher 2010, pp. 14."Part III examines the destruction of architectural surrogates of unavenged violence in postwar Kosovo. After the 1998—99 war, calls for retribution for prior violence inflicted by Serb forces against Kosovar Albanians circulated through Kosovar Albanian public culture. The postconflict destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries was narrated as a form of this retribution, with architecture becoming a surrogate for the agencies deemed responsible for the violence to be avenged—initially the Milošević regime and its military forces. The fabrication of architecture as a surrogate for unavenged violence, however, not only mediated an already constituted concept of violence but also ramified on that concept; the destruction of churches and monasteries represented not only revenge for the violence of the 1998—99 war but also a continuous sequence of actual or imagined violent acts stretching back to the medieval construction of churches on crypto-Albanian religious sites. The destruction of architectural surrogates of violence thereby elicited a potentially endless justification for destruction rather than a politics of justice."
  28. ^ a b c d e f Herscher & Riedlmayer 2000, pp. 112–113. "The Serbian government has used these attacks as the basis to petition the United Nations to allow the return of its troops and police to Kosovo to guard historic monuments. While this petition was unsuccessful, the postwar attack on Serbian cultural heritage has been appropriated by Serbian cultural institutions as a means to deflect attention from the assault on Albanian cultural heritage that preceded it. These institutions have reported only on the postwar damage sustained by Serbian Orthodox heritage and these reports have been regarded as neutral and objective assessments by international cultural heritage institutions. As a result, there has been little awareness of or concern for the damaged cultural heritage of Kosovo’s Albanian majority. The only official acknowledgment by the Serbian government that damage was done to Albanian cultural heritage in Kosovo was made in the frame of an assessment of NATO war crimes, which ostensibly included the aerial bombardment of several Albanian historic monuments."
  29. ^ a b Herscher & Riedlmayer 2000, p. 113. "The international community in Kosovo has also been reluctant to acknowledge the damage that was done to Albanian cultural heritage in Kosovo. The initial UNESCO report on the state of cultural heritage in Kosovo after the war was based primarily on information supplied by Serbian cultural heritage institutions. More generally, however, the international community has conceived of its mission in Kosovo as simply a humanitarian triage to provide for the basic needs of Kosovo’s ravaged postwar population, a population which is dealt with less as peoples with distinct and valuable cultural heritages than as generic refugees. As some commentators have pointed out, the NATO intervention in Kosovo was based on an ideology of victimization: “when NATO intervened to protect Kosovar victims, it ensured at the same time that they would remain victims, inhabitants of a devastated country with a passive population.” The same ideology also underlays the bracketing-off of cultural heritage from what is called the “reconstruction” of Kosovo."
  30. ^ Blumi & Krasniqi 2014, p. 503.
  31. ^ Ismaili & Hamiti 2010, p. 293.
  32. ^ a b c Ghodsee 2009, p. 137.
  33. ^ Mehmeti 2015, pp. 72–73.
  34. ^ Mehmeti 2015, p. 73.


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

  • Targeting History and Memory, SENSE - Transitional Justice Center (dedicated to the study, research, and documentation of the destruction and damage of historic heritage during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. The website contains judicial documents from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)).