Pilot study: “Preserving heritage: the experience of Bosnia and Herzegovina”

We are pleased to present the pilot study “ Map Renovation”on the experience of Bosnia and Herzegovina in heritage preservation.

The country survived the Bosnian genocide and the war of 92-95, and the capital city experienced the longest siege in modern history. The destruction of heritage in Bosnia was extremely extensive, and it is officially established that the country’s unique multicultural heritage was a military target. The case of Bosnia is of great importance for the development of international law in the field of cultural heritage, as well as the right of people to restore it. The project studies the context, nature and extent of the destruction, the reaction and actions of the international community. The study examined how local institutions and volunteers acted and the role of various initiatives in the period of post-war reconstruction.

After legitimately declaring its independence from Yugoslavia through a national referendum in 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) experienced war and the genocide of Bosniaks, one of three main ethnic groups.

Perhaps the most important historical feature of BiH was the compact living in one space of different ethnic groups: Bosniaks (predominantly Muslims), Croats (predominantly Catholics), Serbs (predominantly Orthodox). Typical smaller towns and villages could have a Catholic church, a Muslim mosque, an Orthodox church, and sometimes a Jewish synagogue within meters of each other. Such evidence of the coexistence of religions was being violently eliminated. The independent status of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was supported by Bosniaks and Croats, did not satisfy a part of the Serbian population, which saw its future as part of a large mononational state. The illegitimate declaration of independence of territories, predominantly inhabited by Bosnian Serbs, which were later became known as Republika Srpska and the massive personal arming of the serbian population in BiH only confirmed the seriousness of the Serbs’ intentions.

The war in Bosnia led not only to a huge number of human casualties, but also to large- scale destruction of urban structures and cultural objects. Such events had a significant impact on the global experience of heritage preservation, because they allowed to verify in practice the effectiveness of the existing specialized inter- national institutions and pointed out the short- comings in the approaches to the protection of culture and rights to it. Today, almost 30 years after the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the process of restoring the destroyed cultural heritage remains one of the important tools for achieving the much-needed justice for Bosniaks and asserting their right to exist.

Targeting cultural identity, damaged heritage sites and landmarks, erasing traces of culture, – it is the reality of Ukraine and the recent past of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We discussed the modern challenges and key risks of heritage preservation, restoration, and rebuilding with Bosnian and Ukrainian specialists. Watch the full discussion here.

The experience of Bosnia and Herzegovina in heritage restoration is extremely valuable for Ukraine in the context of preserving culture and national identity. Knowledge about the activities of the international community and the role of local initiatives in the reconstruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina will help to set up the processes of effective cooperation with partners and achieve positive results in the restoration of cultural heritage in Ukraine.

Read the full study here: