Groundless accusations

               The visit of Hans-Christof von Imhoff, an expert from the
               International Museum Committee, to Belgrade, Novi Sad and
               Vukovar - for the purpose of establishing the lists of the
               works of art the Serbian government was rescuing in an
               organized manner in the war-affected regions and matching
               them with the Croatian lists and claims - was followed up by
               the now usual accusations from Zagreb about a "big robbery"
               of Croatia. Such accusations are "substantiated" by claims
               that as much as ten thousand to forty thousand works of art
               are missing (in some cases it is claimed that these figures
               relate to the territory of Vukovar alone).

               On his visit to Novi Sad, Mr.Imhoff saw things for himself
               and said to an AFP correspondent that "that everything that
               was possible to be rescued in Vukovar, was rescued largely"
               and that "it seems that the Serbian authorities which were
               seeing to the safety of the paintings, did a good job of it".

               This is what Dejan Radovanovic, an art historian from the
               Institute for the Protection of Historical Monuments of
               Vojvodina, had to say about this.

               The rescuing of cultural goods from the Vukovar and other
               war-afflicted districts began towards the end of December
               1991, at the request of the Orthodox Bishop Lukijan of Osijek
               and Baranja. This very delicate and highly responsible task
               was assigned to the Crisis Committee of the Ministry of
               Culture. Thus, a number of specialist teams from the Museum
               and the mentioned Institute came to the localities concerned
               while bullets still whistled about to the accompaniment of
               detonations. A honourable role was played in this mission by
               the self-sacrificing and courageous specialists from Novi

               One of the permanent participants in this mission lasting
               several years is Dejan Radovanovic from the Institute for the
               Protection of Cultural Monuments of Vojvodina. He said that
               only materials from Orthodox churches were being evacuated
               initially, as requested by Bishop Lukijan.


               - The first material was evacuated to Novi Sad on 5 December
               1991 - said Mr.Radovanovic. - It was the heavily damaged
               iconostasis from the St.Nicholas Church in Vukovar, which was
               extracted from the rubble and brought to Negoslavci. It was
               packed up, a receipt was signed for it and it was then taken
               with the permission of military authorities to the Matica
               srpska (MS) Art Gallery in Novi Sad, where it was subjected
               to a complete conservation treatment.

               QUESTION: While trying to put out a fire in a Franciscan
               monastery early in December of 1991, members of a Yugoslav
               People's Army unit found in the cellar of that building some
               metal cases containing paintings, cardboard boxes containing
               applied arts items, and some other unpacked paintings and
               items. How much of that material was there and what was done
               with it?

               - The teams of specialists from Belgrade and Novi Sad
               inspected the material, made a list of all items and since
               there was no suitable place for storing it in or around
               Vukovar, they decided to have it transported to Novi Sad and
               stored in the museum depots there. This shipment consisted of
               about 450 items from the Town Museum, the Franciscan
               monastery, the Bauer Collection and the Art Gallery.

               QUESTION: This was followed by the clearing up of the heavily
               damaged Vukovar Museum building?

               - Yes. That was done by a team of archaeologists from Novi
               Sad and Belgrade. The state of the material and of the
               museum, collection and art gallery buildings was such, that
               the staff of the re-established Vukovar Museum decided to
               have the material transferred to Novi Sad.

               The materials from Orthodox churches were evacuated
               concurrently. The museum materials from the cultural history
               collection and items from the Bauer Collection and the Art
               Gallery were stored together, and detailed museological
               processing (involving the preparation of new museum cards,
               photographing and preventive conservation) are under way. The
               mentioned material, consisting of more than 2,000 items,
               called for the involvement of a specialist for the purpose of
               looking after it. This was arranged for in 1992, in agreement
               with the Crisis Committee of the Ministry of Culture.


               QUESTION: Did the team of archaeologists from Novi Sad and
               Belgrade, and their colleagues from the Vukovar Museum,
               manage to evacuate the archaeological material which was
               buried partly in September 1991, and if so, to where?

               - They certainly did. Unfortunately, most of the material was
               not buried, so that most of it was smashed and burned in
               fires. The material was stored properly and processed, i.e.,
               it was identified, listed, cleaned and packed in more than
               700 boxes. This material also included a part of a numismatic
               collection, which was sealed in a metal container and sent to
               Novi Sad.

               - The material from Orthodox churches, consisting of
               iconostases and icons from Vukovar, Dalj, Opatovac, Bobota,
               Marinci and Koprivna, was transferred to the institutions
               which can take care of them professionally. The iconostases
               from the churches in Vukovar, Vodice and Dalj have been
               conserved so far, while the conservation of the iconostasis
               from the chapel of the Bishop's Palace in Dalj is under way.

               QUESTION: So, you are sure that you know that there exist
               full and accurate records concerning the present whereabouts
               of the evacuated exhibits?

               - In all receipts relating to the materials taken over, it is
               stated that the iconostases and icons are being transferred
               on a temporary basis to Novi Sad, i.e., to the Matica srpska
               (MS) Art Gallery and the Institute for the Protection of
               Cultural Monuments there, for the purpose of being conserved
               and restored, after which it will be returned. The Institute
               for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Vojvodina has
               staged with the cooperation of the Ministry of Culture, two
               exhibitions depicting the calamity of Vukovar: in the Sava
               Centre of Belgrade in April 1992 and in the Yugoslav Cultural
               and Information Centre in Paris, towards the end of May of
               the same year. The exhibits are still in Paris because of the

               QUESTION: Is the truth about the fate ("devastation") of the
               Vukovar and other cultural treasures known, for instance,
               to the UNESCO departments concerned?

               - The international public has been informed on more than one
               occasion - through publications, exhibitions and letters and
               other communications addressed to UNESCO and ICOM - that a
               part of the exhibits from the Vukovar Town Museum, the Bauer
               Collection and the Art Gallery, has been evacuated to Novi
               Sad. The general public in Croatia has also been informed
               accordingly through the interviews given by Marko Omcikus and
               myself, which were published in Vecernji list (Zagreb) on 23
               December 1991. During their visits to Vukovar, UNESCO
               representatives were told that a large portion of the
               material is kept in Novi Sad. Although they were invited to
               visit the institutions in which it is kept, they showed no
               interest in doing so. Neither did Mr.Keiser, a representative
               of the Council of Europe, while visiting Novi Sad. It was
               only Mr.Hans-Christian von Imhoff that visited Belgrade and
               Novi Sad concerning this matter, from 6 to 13 February 1995.

               The interest shown by the Council of Europe in the cultural
               goods from Vukovar results from the long ago addressed and
               continuously renewed Croatia's protests about the
               "humiliation and theft" of cultural treasure from Vukovar. It
               is an established fact that such treasure was not put in a
               safe place even by the liberation of Vukovar, that many items
               have disappeared before 19 November 1991, that much of the
               material has been damaged beyond repair, and that as of
               December 1991, everything possible was being done towards
               rescuing the remainder.

               Vlado Micunovic