KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 26 November 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

KESTON NEWS SERVICE SPECIAL REPORT

YUGOSLAVIA/KOSOVO: PROTECTION OF ORTHODOX
HERITAGE IN DOUBT. Although Serbian Orthodox representatives
recently interviewed by Keston News Service in Yugoslavia insist that
swift official protection by UNESCO (United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organisation) is essential for the preservation of
sites such as Decani Monastery's fourteenth-century frescos, a UNESCO
representative told Keston on 22 November that no application for
protection under the World Heritage Convention had been received. Any
application would have to come from the Yugoslav government, the
representative said, for it was �wishful thinking� to expect Kosovo's
newly-elected leader Ibrahim Rugova to take any action on the matter. A
report prepared by an architectural adviser for UNESCO "to define
schedules � for protection and restoration of the cultural heritage" has
been criticised in some quarters.

YUGOSLAVIA/KOSOVO: PROTECTION OF ORTHODOX
HERITAGE IN DOUBT

by Geraldine Fagan and Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

"This place is more important than we all are, we don't deserve such
things," assistant to Abbot Teodosije, Fr Sava Janjic, commented while
gazing up at Decani Monastery's hundreds of fourteenth-century frescos
on 26 October. Although church representatives recently interviewed by
Keston News Service in Yugoslavia insist that swift official protection by
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organisation) is essential for the preservation of such sites, a UNESCO
representative told Keston on 22 November that no application for
protection under the World Heritage Convention had been received.

The majority of pre-sixteenth-century cultural monuments in Kosovo are
Orthodox - and although the Serbian Orthodox Church reports that 33
pre-sixteenth-century churches were seriously damaged or destroyed by
Albanian extremists after the arrival of NATO troops in June 1999, some
70 remain intact. According to Mirjana Menkovic of the Mnemosyne
Centre for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Kosovo and Metohia, the
five most important such sites are the thirteenth-century Pec Patriarchate,
fourteenth-century Decani Monastery, Gracanica Monastery and the
Church of the Mother of God in Ljeviska, Prizren, and the village of
Velika Hoca (Hoce e Madhe in Albanian), where four of the 13 churches
date from the fourteenth century. She believes they are undoubtedly on a
par with Studenica Monastery in Serbia, which was included on the list of
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1988.

None of those cited by Menkovic, however, is currently on UNESCO's
list, and a May 2001 report aiming "to define schedules for UNESCO
interventions, for protection and restoration of the cultural heritage" of the
province includes Orthodox sites in just two of its ten proposed
restoration/rehabilitation projects. Speaking to Keston on 24 October in
Belgrade, Menkovic called this report "shameless", while Fr Sava thought
that it indicated UNESCO to be "an organisation working under political
influence".

In the report, a copy of which has been obtained by Keston, its author,
architectural adviser Carlo Blasi, informs UNESCO representative in
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colin Kaiser, that he has visited "all main sites
and monuments" in Kosovo (some 40 are on his list), among them just six
Orthodox sites - the five cited by Menkovic and the "nice" eighteenth-
century Church of St George in Prizren. The two restoration/rehabilitation
projects involving Orthodox sites propose allocation of 500,000
deutschmarks (225,000 US dollars or 160,000 UK pounds) to Decani
Monastery and a total of 150,000 deutschmarks (68,000 US dollars or
48,000 UK pounds) to four churches in the village of Velika Hoca (it is
not specified which out of St John, St Nicholas, St Luke, St Stephen and
St Triphan). By contrast, four of the nine mosques visited by Blasi
(ranging from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries) are proposed
allocation of individual restoration projects. Gracanica, Pec Patriarchate
and the Church of the Mother of God in Ljeviska are absent from the
project list, as are dozens of other early medieval Orthodox sites.

Although purportedly a scientific document, the report is frequently
unscholarly in its evaluations. As "project background and justification"
for the restoration of Sinan Pasha Mosque (built 1615, although this detail
is not cited) for example, the following is offered: "[The mosque] is
situated on a rocky hill in the centre of the city and it is certainly one of
the most evocative monuments in Kosovo. It is entirely made of cut stone.
Steep and evocative stairs lead to the entrance. The external portico does
not exist anymore, it probably collapsed long [sic] time ago. The mosque
needs a complete restoration."

Blasi�s report also appears inconsistent. It argues that "places and
monuments to which UNESCO intervention now seems inappropriate
were not included, such as buildings completely destroyed and ones
already under restoration." Decani's mosque, however - given in the
report as being eighteenth-century but by "Serbian Barbarities Against
Islamic Monuments in Kosova", a 2000 publication produced by
Kosovo's Islamic community, as being built in 1851 - is proposed
allocation of 500,000 deutschmarks for restoration. According to "Serbian
Barbarities", "the mosque was burnt completely in 1998. Only its ruins
have remained." Accompanying photographs confirm that burnt and
ruined walls are all that is left of the main building.

While the report argues that restoration of this mosque is important
"because of the monument's historical importance and religious reasons,"
no explanation is given for the non-inclusion of other sites of historical
and religious importance, many of which are more ancient and/or in a
condition not excluded by the report as ineligible for funding.

Interviewed by Keston on 16 November, Andreas Szolgyemi, adviser to
the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on
religious issues in Kosovo and now in Hungary approaching the end of a
mandatory six months� sabbatical, said that he had contacted UNESCO
about protection of religious sites in spring 2000, but "they were very,
very uninterested".

Speaking to Keston by telephone from Paris on 22 November, Horst
Goedicke, the chairman of UNESCO's Intersectoral Working Group on
south-east Europe, said that he was not aware of the report by Carlo Blasi,
who, he stressed, was not a UNESCO staff member. A UNESCO fact-
finding mission would visit Kosovo within the next three months, said
Goedicke, commenting that "the burning issue there is the Orthodox
churches".

Regarding the possibility of protection of such sites, Goedicke explained
that UNESCO itself does not propose their inclusion on the organisation's
World Heritage List: "The initiative to put sites on the World Heritage
List must emanate from the national government on whose territory the
site is located." The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) would
not be the body to do this, he said, since it would involve an "extensive
interpretation" of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of
June 1999, which gave them executive mandate in Kosovo following the
civil war. Rather, he said, it was the responsibility of the Yugoslav
government, but UNESCO had to date not received any such request from
them. The only other possibility, he said, would be if Kosovo's newly-
elected leader Ibrahim Rugova "took it upon himself - but that's wishful
thinking." (END)