Political suicide of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s culture

An article by Dragan Maksimović / Translated by Mladen Vukovic

The article was  published at Deutsche Welle (www.dw.de) under the title “Političko ubojstvo kulture u BiH” on June 3, 2012, click here to read the original article in BCS.

Is Bosnia and Herzegovina a country that does not care about it’s culture? After the war, jurisdiction for the culture has been transferred unto entities and cantons. State does not have a strategy to protect and develop cultural heritage of it’s own country.

In the context of concern (or neglect) for cultural heritage of the country many ask are there groups in B&H who have right to „scoop more“ from the budget and those groups that are doomed. Examples for that are construction of Andrićgrad from one side and collapse of seven state cultural institutions on the other side.


Andrićgrad, Image from www. novosti.rs


Two years ago, Republic of Srpska government, municipality of Višegrad and director Emir Kusturica formed a company for construction of Andrićgrad which Kustirica is major owner. Even though there are no official data, estimation says that construction will go to around 15 million euros. For comparison, last year (2011.) from the state budget not even a single convertible mark has been allocated for the cultural institutions, some of which has already been closed for public. Project Ars Aevi in Sarajevo have also been under closure because of lack of funding as well as several other cultural institutions of B&H. „I can express absolute disappointment that Ministry of civil affairs does not support development of Ars Aevi project in a way that it is supposed to be based on all deserved cultural and long-term developmental components of this porject,“ said Ars Aevi project director Enver Hadžiomerspahić.

Who’s closer to the fire gets better heat

Problem is that after the war culture went to the jurisdiction of entities and cantons and for those cultural institutions of special importance on the state level jurisdiction was supposed to go to Ministry of civil affairs of B&H. Due to acceptance of budget last year those institutions never got the money and two years before for the culture in B&H only three million marks have been given which says enough about relationship of the state towards the culture in B&H. So, for certain project and cultural events whose managers are closer to the state treasury money is provided while those who are working sidewards or do not affiliate to any political party have to search for the many elsewhere.

Vlado Kerošević, actor from Tuzla and first man of Teatar Kabare Tuzla (TKT) says that concept of financing culture in B&H is chaotic and that culture as it is today in B&H, is consequence of government’s neglect. Kerošević reminds that culture as a term does not exist in the B&H Constitution so nobody feels responsible for its development. „It is absolute improvisation and who is closer to the fire gets better heat, who’s further gets less. Which means that those closer to the politicians gets more from the budget, from the grants which imply financing for certain events,“ says Kerošević.

Scandalous support for Kusturica

Concern for the culture, whether it is entities or cantons does exist, says executive director of National theatre of Republic of Srpska, master of theater arts, actress Ljiljana Čekić. But it is, she adds, problem that financial allocations for those institutions are small. Culture that is not financed from the government does not exist, Čekić supposes. „Culture cannot be self-financing, culture does not have market value by which it can survive and when they push us to be on the market, they are actually shuting down authentic culture.“

When it is about cultural heritage, B&H represents specific model in the world based that after the war cultural heritage has been integrated into establishing and keeping the peace in B&H. Committee for protection of national monuments which is from 2001. Independent institution, secures expert and based on scientific criteria, developed regard towards cultural heritage which is completely independent from influence of political leaders, says chairman of the Committee Dr. Amra Hadžimuhamedovič. She also emphasizes that problem on the national level is that there is no permanent budgetary line for implementing committees decisions. Decisions are made on the national level and register of heritage is made while entities have exclusive jurisdiction for implementing Committees decisions. Republic of Srpska government till now, 17 years after signing Dayton agreement, have not started to implement its obligations to secure financial, technical, law and administration measures for implementing Annex 7. Hadžimuhamedović says that in the light of the fact that Republic of Srpska governments no interest to rehabilitate war destroyed monuments as its cultural heritage, which is also its Dayton obligation, it is scandalous decision of RS government to support  the project of lowest artistic value in which Emir Kusturica is involved and which key consequence of pushing cultural heritage of B&H in oblivion.

Colonization of historical and cultural monuments

Hadđimuhamedović warns that there is also some sort of colonization of historical and cultural monuments from certain individuals which is politically directed project of destruction of historical and cultural heritage. Solution is strengthening state’s institutions. „I have to say that goal currently seems utopian because there is developed plan for destruction of entire institutional frame on the national level, even parts of the frame that are impossible to destroy because of Dayton agreement and that is Committee. We are faced with reduced authority and constant effort that this committee be submitted to the will of one ministry, one minister, political will. I speak specifically about the effort on Ministry of civil affairs which wants to completely „swallow“ the Committee for protection of national monuments and in that way to prevent its work.“

Last chance to survive

No matter what, fact is that for culture in B&H is given so little if you exclude „anomalies“, says film director from Sarajevo, Haris Pašović. Generally, it is about the crisis when it is about financing culture „so it comes to grave danger and if this trend continues, we won’t have serious culture in B&H. This is the last chance that together we do something for the B&H’s culture to literally survive. I am speaking about regular cultural functions,“ says Pašović.

National gallery of art has been closed on 1. of  September last year and similar fate for certain amount of time came to Historical and National museums of B&H. Other institutions of culture are in grave financial situations and the reason is same for all – unsolved legal status because of which the financing is not regular. Appeal to the government in this moment is only solution.

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