Religious treasure from Kosovo and Metohija appears on Black Market
SERBIAN ORTHODOX DIOCESE OF RASKA AND PRIZREN
the looting seems to have continued after the first wave of vandalism
in summer 1999, despite the KFOR presence. A German soldier who was
assigned to guard a Serbian Orthodox church in Prizren has stolen a
valuable icon and several other items including a 300 years old house-dyptichon
with total value of 10.000 EUR. As a result he was sentenced to one
year of probation by the court in Cottbus near Berlin. The Serbian Orthodox
Church in Berlin has already received information from the German authorities
that the valuables will be returned to the Church in a short time. The
report by the BERLINER ZEITUNG (March 2002) is available at:
Kosovo and Metohija churches were rich in old medieval manuscripts
of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese
28 June 2002
RELIGIOUS ARTIFACTS FROM KOSOVO AND METOHIJA APPEAR ON EUROPEAN BLACK MARKET
PLUNDER OF THE SPIRIT
Looters offer medieval Serbian treasures such as old manuscripts and icons - We have made several attempts to go out in the field and assess the situation but have been prevented by UNMIK, says Aleksandra Fulgosi-Stojanovic of the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija
By Radmila Loncar
Following three years of systemic destruction of every centuries-old testimonial of Serbian Orthodox existence in Kosovo and Metohija, in the past few months, religious artifacts have begun to surface on the European black market. Old manuscripts and other rare items, as well as priceless Serbian medieval treasures originating from Kosovo and Metohija, are being illegally sold. The first instances of such crimes have already been registered in Greece, Germany and Slovenia.
"Instead of performing the duties with which he was charged and protecting the Orthodox bishop's palace and the Orthodox cathedral in Prizren, as well as the church treasures entrusted to him, a professional soldier betrayed the trust of KFOR international peacekeeping forces and behaved like a common criminal. He stole an extremely valuable icon from the church and several other items of lesser value. As a result he was sentenced to one year of probation by the court in Cottbus near Berlin." Thus reported the "Berliner Morgen Post" on 15 March 2002; however, the article entitled "Professional soldier loots church" failed to name the thief who was sentenced. Nikola Zivkovic, our well-known historian from Germany, informed "Vesti" of this news.
Smugglers in Greece
In December of last year, in the south of Europe, more precisely, in Thessaloniki, Greece, local press wrote that "four smugglers of Serbian religious and art objects" were arrested. According to the Greek police statement, "the leader of the group, Kostas Nano, and his wife had in their possession 17 engraved books dating from the 19th century and icons dating from the 18th century, as well as other precious objects from the Roman age. The criminals confessed that they bought the items in Albania from local dealers and that all originated in Kosovo and Metohija."
A third similar crime, "Vesti" learned from the Office for Combat against Organized Crime of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, was recently uncovered in Slovenia when local police arrested several Albanians and found them in possession of dozens of icons. Interpol was informed of the matter and later informed the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs of the case.
"The Department for the Protection of Cultural Treasures within the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija has received absolutely no official information. We know that, according to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, the UN civil authority in the Province is UNMIK, while Annex 2 states that the protection of cultural monuments and Orthodox churches is the exclusive responsibility of KFOR. We have made several attempts to go out in the field and assess the situation but have been prevented by UNMIK," says Aleksandra Fulgosi-Stojanovic of the Coordinating Center.
In the last month relations have been improving, she adds, and now they are in the phase of attempting to form a joint task force of UNMIK and the Coordinating Center for culture and cultural treasures; issues such as plunder of religious artifacts could also be addressed within this framework.
"Since there is an international protectorate in Kosovo and Metohija, which is guided by its own rules with respect to crimes relating to the devastation of cultural goods, as well as theft and illegal export of art and archeological objects, the situation appears very serious in several respects because UNMIK lacks good mechanisms to protect the cultural treasures in Kosovo and Metohija," explains Zeljko Jez, advisor to the head of the Office for Combat against Organized Crime in the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, for "Vesti".
He adds: "As a result of the lack of documentation, the failure by UNMIK police to develop procedures for crimes in this area and what I can only call their complete lack of engagement, there has been an increase in the illegal export of art and cultural goods from Kosovo and Metohija. We learned of this indirectly, through our cooperation with police in neighboring countries and through Interpol because, of course, the Serbian police have no authority in the region of Kosovo and Metohija."
Another serious problem, Jez notes, is "the extremely porous border with Albania and Macedonia which no one really controls."
The Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija of Serbia and Yugoslavia addressed letters to approximately fifteen foreign ambassadors in Belgrade asking them for their opinion regarding the destruction of the cultural treasures in Kosovo and Metohija. They were also called upon to assist in preventing the destruction, devastation and looting of these treasures.
"So far Italy, Greece, France, Russia and Bulgaria have shown goodwill, and we are still negotiating with Great Britain and the USA, to create joint expert teams which would visit cultural monuments, as well as that these countries provide funding for a protection program with the assistance of our country," says Aleksandra Fulgosi-Stojanovic.
Restoration of the Pec Patriarchate
With the mediation of the Italian NGO Intersos and through the efforts of the Coordinating Center, the Serbian Ministry of Culture, and the Serbian NGO Memosina from Belgrade, which is specialized in the treasures of Kosovo and Metohija, says Aleksandra Fulgosi-Stojanovic, a project of emergency restoration for part of the frescoes in the Pec Patriarchate is already being realized. A joint team of Serbian and Italian painters is working on this, with the intent of conducting all necessary assessments in order to propose a comprehensive program of restoration in this monastery, too.
Difficult to collect information
information we have about the condition of cultural monuments in Kosovo
and Metohija has been provided primarily by NGO's, such as, for example,
Memosina from Belgrade. The other source of information is the Serbian
Orthodox Church. We are in touch with priests who are also visiting
churches outside the Serb enclaves, and consequently they also inform
us of the condition of those churches," says Aleksandra Fulgosi-Stojanovic.
is going to happen with the treasuries of the Serbian Orthodox Church
KFOR SOLDIER LOOTED A CHURCH IN KOSOVO