Peter Smith

Publications, Lectures and Other Stuff

Libraries and the War for Bosnia

From Franklin Lewis:

“On 25 August 1992, Bosnia’s National and University Library, a handsome Moorish-revival building built in the 1890s on the Sarajevo riverfront, was shelled and burned. Before the fire, the library held 1.5 million volumes, including over 155,000 rare books and manuscripts; the country’s national archives; deposit copies of newspapers, periodicals and books published in Bosnia; and the collections of the University of Sarajevo. 
“Bombarded with incendiary grenades from Serbian nationalist positions across the river, the library burned for three days; it was reduced to ashes with most of its contents. Braving a hail of sniper fire, librarians and citizen volunteers formed a human chain to pass books out of the burning building. Interviewed by ABC News, one of them said: “We managed to save just a few very precious books. Everything else burned down. And a lot of our heritage, national heritage, lay down there in ashes.” Aida Buturovi, a librarian in the National Library’s exchanges section, was shot to death by a sniper while attempting to rescue books from the flames.”

“Three months earlier Sarajevo’s Oriental Institute, home to the largest collection of Islamic and Jewish manuscript texts and Ottoman documents in Southeastern Europe, was shelled with phosphorus grenades and burned. Losses included 5,263 bound manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, and Aljamiado (Bosnian Slavic written in Arabic script); 7,000 Ottoman documents, primary source material for five centuries of Bosnia’s history; a collection of 19th-century cadastral registers; and 200,000 other documents of the Ottoman era, including microfilm copies of originals in private hands or obtained on exchange from foreign institutions. The Institute’s collection of printed books, the most comprehensive library on its subject in the region, was also destroyed as was its catalog and all work in progress.

“In each case, the library alone was targeted; adjacent buildings stand intact to this day. Serb nationalist leader Radovan Karadic has denied his forces were responsible for the attacks, claiming the National Library had been set ablaze by the Muslims themselves ‘because they didn’t like its … architecture.’”
—from András Riedlmayer, “Erasing the Past: The Destruction of Libraries and Archives in Bosnia-Herzegovina”

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This entry was posted on August 26, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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