Partisan Memorial Cemetery in Mostar destroyed

The Partisan Cemetery in Mostar, one of the most important monuments of the anti-fascist struggle of the Yugoslav people and a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has suffered the most extensive damage a three-decade history of vandalism.

All memorial plaques with the names of young Mostar men and women who died in the national liberation struggle were torn to pieces. Until Tuesday, June 15, over seven hundred stone slabs were an integral part of the necropolis of the Partisan Cemetery in Mostar, one of the most important monuments of the anti-fascist struggle and memorial architecture of the SFRY. The cemetery, designed by the famous architect Bogdan Bogdanović, was built in 1965. It has been vandalized several times since 1992, but never to this extent.

Commenting on the demolition of the memorial plaques via social networks, the Mayor of Mostar, Mario Kordić stated that he strongly condemned vandalism and expected of all institutions to punish the culprits. According to Al Jazeera, Kordić wrote on his Facebook profile that: “While the city administration is preparing projects for the protection and revitalization of all cultural monuments in our city of Mostar, several vandals are systematically destroying them.”

However, the president of SUBNOR (Yugoslav Partisan Association) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sead Đulić, points out that the devastation of the cemetery cannot be interpreted as an act of hooliganism with no political background and the sole responsibility of an isolated group of reckless destroyers.  Instead, in his words, the ones behind the criminal act belong to “a well-organized neo-Nazi and neo-fascist group run by politics in Mostar”. Đulić emphasized that the SUBNOR of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) considers the Mayor of Mostar to be responsible for the destruction of the monument because the law sanctions both inaction and lack of protection of cultural heritage, adding that the SUBNOR of BiH will demand penalties for all perpetrators.

Đulić also linked the destruction of the memorial plaques to the reconstruction of the Partisan Cemetery which has been announced by the city administration several months ago, provoking fear that the cemetery might get relocated. The local Association of Anti-Fascists and Fighters of the People’s Liberation War (UABNOR) also fear that the recently announced renovation would be harmful to the necropolis and protested the reluctance of the authorities to protect and adequately maintain the monument. Four months ago their representatives asked in vain for an appointment with the mayor, and publicly appealed to him to stop the devastation of the necropolis late May.

“The authorities ignore our request to talk, while continuing to promote the renovation of the Partisan Memorial Cemetery. Even a superficial analysis of such announcements provides the basis for the conclusion that the alleged renovation is in the function of further devastation,” UABNOR Mostar stated.

Namely, the City Administration brought the reconstruction of the Partisan Cemetery in connection with the works on preparing the trim track at a nearby location.

“The mayor should know that the complex of the Partisan Memorial Cemetery is not part of any ‘trim track’ but a separate protected complex, and that the trim track is located on the same hill, but on the other side. Insisting that the Partisan Cemetery is a part of the trim track offends the victims memorialised there, but also their families and all admirers of their noble struggle. It seems to us that all this is part of a long-standing plan to make the conversion of this attractive space, which bothers post-war politicians in Mostar “, it is emphasized in the above-mentioned statement. In addition, the statement points out that the government keeps turning a blind eye to harmful activities in the complex, including the existence of an illegal parking lot at the very entrance of the cemetery. At the same time, not even the minimal funds from the city budget are spent on maintaining the cemetery.

Over 500 participants in the People’s Liberation War from Mostar and the surrounding area were buried at the Partisan Cemetery in Mostar. Built from 1960 to 1965, damaged in the war between 1992-95, the memorial was reconstructed and reopened to the public in 2005, and became a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2006. It was renovated in 2018, after which it was supplied with video surveillance and guarded until 2020. The city authorities of Mostar promise to repair the latest damage.

Street protests are also unofficially called for in the wake of the demolition of memorial plaques, which were carved out of stone from old houses damaged in the Second World War.

I.K.

Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić

This article was ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in Serbian on June 15, 2022.

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