Yugoslavia urges U.N. Security Council to halt "cultural cleansing" and restrain terrorists in Kosovo and Metohija
December 23, 1999
The call was voiced in a letter that head of Yugoslavia's U.N. mission Ambassador Vladislav Jovanovic submitted to Britain's U.N. ambassador Jeremy Greenstock and Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday, requesting that it be circulated as an official document in the Security Council.
Following is the official translation of the letter:
Since the arrival of the international presences in Kosovo and Metohija, the autonomous province of the Yugoslav constituent Republic of Serbia, this Serbian province has witnessed not only the loss of Serbian lives, but also a systematic destruction of the Serbian cultural heritage and the demolition of the churches, monasteries and other shrines of the Serbian Orthodox Church in areas in which the Serbian people has lived for centuries. This "cultural cleansing" is the most heinous crime of the eradication of historical and spiritual roots of a nation, an "ethnic cleansing" of the most hideous type. Regrettably, the destruction of cultural heritage may not be an altogether new phenomenon in the turbulent history of the Balkans; what is striking this time around, however, is that these atrocities have taken place under the auspices of the international community.
Since the deployment of the international security force (KFOR) and the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) supposedly to maintain peace, the destruction and desecration of Orthodox religious shrines in Kosovo and Metohija by ethnic Albanians has assumed added ferocity, motivated by nationalist hatred and religious intolerance. Albanian terrorists and extremists have set about destroying each and every trace of Serbian existence in these areas, irrespective of its significance as cultural heritage of a nation and of Europe as a whole. They are doing it in a deliberate and premeditated way and do not choose means: they dynamite, they bomb, and they mine.
Serbian Orthodox shrines are an important part of the sacral cultural heritage of Yugoslavia. They make up one specific whole of the entire cultural heritage of the Serbian people. Most of them have been preserved by the reconstruction of much older, often ancient churches and monasteries on which the winds of war or the passage of time have taken a toll. Built to fulfill religious and cultural needs, the churches and monasteries exemplify the Serbian-Byzantine architecture of the period, as well as the presence of the Serbian people in these areas since very early times.
According to the available data, corroborated also by statements of the representatives of UNMIK, 76 Orthodox churches, chapels, monasteries and other religious shrines have been vandalized since the deployment of KFOR and UNMIK.
Serbian Orthodox churches in Prizren, Orahovac, Djakovica, Vucitrn, Samodreza, Velika Reka, Donji Zakut, Musutiste have been burned; attempts have been made to burn down the Metropolitan's residence in Pec and the Church of the Holy Savior in Pristina; the church and Gothic frescoes at Dolac, the medieval mosaics at Kijevo and the Renaissance chapel of St. Nicholas and the cathedral church in Djakovica have been demolished, as well as the monastery of St. Mark at Korisa and the church at Rekovac. Over 10,000 icons and other sacral objects have been looted or destroyed. The Serbian Orthodox clergy in the monastery of Devic have been terrorized (one nun has been raped), as well as in the Church of St. Nicholas in Pristina and the monastery at Gorioc near Istok whose nuns have been expelled. Tens of thousands of books in the Serbian language and a large number of foreign books from various arts and sciences have been burned.
The Serbian Patriarch, His Holiness Paul, warned on behalf of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the guardian of the national and cultural-historic identity of the Serbian people, of the most recent, scandalous intent of Albanian extremists to seize and appropriate the Episcopal church of St. Mary of Ljeviska in Prizren and the monastery of Holy Archangels in an attempt to deny their Christian and Serbian origins and attribute them Albanian ones. The attempt to seize and appropriate the Serbian holiest shrines, rationalized by some Albanian scholars and historians, is only another form of aggression directed at the fundaments of the Serbian faith and nation.
The vandalism of Albanian terrorists and extremists is not met with appropriate measures and actions by KFOR and UMIK, whose task is to provide effective protection and security to Serbs and Montenegrins, as well as other non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija. Their passivity and, by extension, complicity in the commission of the acts of vandalism increase the feelings of fear and insecurity among the Serbs and other non-Albanians and are instrumental in perpetuating their exodus from Kosovo and Metohija.
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has earnestly hoped that its appeals and requests to the international community to protect the cultural heritage of Kosovo and Metohija would result in a timely and effective international protection of this cultural treasure. Regrettably, such protection has failed to materialize, just as similar appeals and requests by numerous Yugoslav and international expert organizations have been met with inaction and indifference.
Bearing in mind the aforementioned, I am writing to you with a request that the Security Council take most urgent measures to protect the religious and cultural shrines of the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija, the testaments of its presence and identity in these areas, effectively and without delay. In order to do so, the Security Council should implement appropriate mechanisms of international protection of cultural heritage.
In particular, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia requests that the monks and nuns and the clergy of the Serbian Orthodox Church return to their churches and monasteries and that expert teams of conservationists be allowed to access the sites, assess the damage and propose reconstruction and protection measures to save the historic, cultural and artistic heritage of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija which is of universal significance.
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