From the Media (101)

 Reiterer on Skopje, architecture, nationalism, etc. 

posted by istanbul 13 years ago

Gabriele Reiterer of DerStandard has recently written a piece on "Architektur und nationale Mythen" in SEE in the context of the current "Balkanology" exhibition in Vienna. The text, worth reading, is largely focused on recent events in Skopje: reconstructions, constructions, and debates about which. Read the full text (in German) here.

 Macedonia burning II 

posted by istanbul 13 years ago

Earlier this month the Macedonian Academy of Sciences has published its monumental, first "Macedonian Encyclopaedia", immediately sparking a furious response. The country's Albanian community is portrayed as the outcome of more recent (16th ct.) migrations (read an interview with that section's author here [in Macedonian]), which, according to a conventional Balkan rationale, means that their presence is less legitimate. The encyclopaedia moreover maintains that the UCK's offspring in Macedonia was trained and supported by British and American intelligence services -- a claim naturally upsetting the foreign diplomats. Furthermore, Ali Ahmeti, the leader of the coaltion party in the present government, is described as a "war crimes suspect". The Bulgarians were angry as well, finding it -- whichever sections in the texts they might refer to -- "unacceptable for a country aspirant for NATO and EU membership to resort to terminology typical for the ideology of the Cold War era"*. The consquent course of events: on September 23 members of the editorial board of the publication decided to "correct parts of the publication and start work on a second, revised edition"*. Four days later prime minister Gruevski "called for dialogue" on the encyclopaedia, recognizing that it offended the country's Albanians, incl. his own coalition partner,* with whom he agreed on September 29 "that the newly published Macedonian encyclopaedia should not affect interethnic relations. The coalition partners stressed that they will not allow anyone to profit from the situation or to harm multiethnic co-existence."* (Note: the party profiting from such tensions is Gruevski’s own VMRO-DPMNE.) The distribution of the encyclopaedia was stopped. Noting that the publication had "unintentionally become a source for new ethnic tensions", the academy "confirmed that they would correct inaccuracies, especially regarding Albanian minorities, but would keep the historical facts the same."* It has also promised to "make the corrections in cooperation with ethnic Albanian MANU members and scientists of non-majority communities in the FYRepublic of Macedonia."*

UPDATE 10-XI-2009: The editorial board responsible for the encyclopedia has been fired by the MANU: "The vote, after several hours of debate was 45-1, with two abstentions. MANU also decided that within a month, a new editorial board will be up and running, and will either correct controversial parts of the book or start fresh with a brand new encyclopaedia." Full article here.

 Macedonia burning I 

posted by istanbul 13 years ago

Last Wednesday a fire broke out in the St Jovan Bigorski monastery in W-Macedonia, not far from the border with Albania (cf. a short piece on BalkanInsight). This complex, visited by this blogger in June '09, holds what one of the region's "major works of art": a mid-19th ct. wooden iconostasis produced by one of the period's and region's most talented artist workshops, hailing from mountain villages in the immediate vicinity of the monastery. A sign of the times, they even including self-portraits (pic) among biblical scenes carved plastically into the wood. The iconostasis survived the fire unscathed; but the event reminds us of the temporality of art, especially that which is still in use according to its original function and thus not harboured (or "historically quarantined") in a museum. This brings to the fore once again the importance of the digitization of cultural heritage. The fact that in most Orthodox Churches in the Balkans you are not allowed to take pictures, for reasons not fully evident (in Ohrid I was once told I could not enter a church and/or take pictures because it hadn't been published about yet), certainly works against that.

 Prishtina after the "internationals" 

posted by istanbul 14 years ago

Jeroen van Marle, the "co-publisher" of the In Your Pocket Guide to Prishtina has contributed a piece to BalkanInsight, contemplating the future of the city past its "international" present: "The presence of thousands of foreigners working for the military, governments and NGOs in Kosovo for many years has utterly changed the capital Pristina. Not only has the physical infrastructure of the city been adapted to the needs of the foreign institutions ... but also the local services industry has adapted to accommodate the needs of the wealthy temporary immigrants". Thereby, he holds, "Pristina has changed from a rather dour provincial town into a self-conscious place that knows how to party but still realizes that much work is to be done in the morning." But what happens now that "Kosovo has reached independence and the international community is slowly focusing its resources and manpower on more troubled regions elsewhere"?. Van  Marle seems optimistic: "The demand for reliable information about Pristina and Kosovo has shown a steady upwards trend, indicating that Kosovo may already be more attractive than many living and working there may think." Read the full article here.

 Moving buildings in Bosnia 

posted by istanbul 14 years ago
A rather odd event took place in Divic/Bosnia recently: That community's mosque had been destroyed during the war in 1992 and was now to be rebuilt. In the meantime (and not by mere coincidence), however, a church had been built on the mosque's foundations. Proposals to built a new mosque nearby or to simply add a minaret to the new church were put down, the Islamic Community of Bosnia insisting on this particular site. The compromise reached: the Community paid almost 200,000 euros to move the church a couple of hundred meters away so that the mosque can be "rebuilt" on its original location. Some (quite rightfully) found it rather odd that the IC had to pay for this move, while local Serbs see it as a move toward improving interfaith relations. (Full article: here.)
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 Skopje Main Square Pt. ? 

posted by istanbul 14 years ago
Former Macedonian parliament member Mersel Biljali in an interview with SETimes about the government's plans for Skopje's main square (church, Alexander, more here):

Biljali: We are going backward instead of forward, especially with the so-called "antiquisation" -- that is, the process of renaming the airport and main highway after Alexander the Great, and the plan to place a grandiose monument on the public square. It is a bad practice, as history has shown multiple times. [...]
SETimes: The announcement that the church in the middle of Skopje will be rebuilt after it was destroyed in the 1962 earthquake has prompted calls to also rebuild the Burmali Mosque. How will this affect our multiethnic society?
Biljali: It is certain this situation will not have a positive influence, but rather will polarize things further, as has already been seen in some ways. See, in a multiethnic society you have to be very careful when you announce renovations, especially of religious buildings, because you can't favour only one ethnic group. In this case there are two different opinions. The first -- representing, I believe, the majority of Albanians and other non-Orthodox citizens, as well as many among the Orthodox as well -- is that there is no need for any religious building in the centre of Skopje. The second comes from supporters of the Burmali Mosque, who follow the logic of "let them build the church, because then we'll build the mosque". Building only one of the aforementioned sites could have a big impact.

 SEE governments adopt heritage declaration  

posted by istanbul 14 years ago
"The heads of eight Southeast European countries adopted a declaration Thursday (June 4th) on managing cultural heritage and making its protection a top priority. Issuing the joint statement were the presidents of Bulgaria, Albania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro, following their conference in Cetinje. UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura and Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis also attended the forum. Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu was not invited, as his country is not a member of the UN and UNESCO." (SETimes)

 Architecture and aggression in Skopje 

posted by istanbul 14 years ago
Yesterday (March 28, 2009) two groups of protesters clashed on Skopje's main square (video). One of which, curiously enough, was composed of students of architecture seeking to voice their concerns ("do not rape Skopje") over the planned construction of a new church (pic) on the said square, a critical public space in the centre of Skopje which they desired to remain open. The other group, reportedly five times as numerous, was not quite as peaceful. As Ana Petruseva blogs, "most of them were not even from Skopje but were brought in by buses from Gostivar and other towns to tell the people of Skopje they need a church." Later that day, Prime Minister Gruevski sided with the hooligans. Read the sad conclusion by the aforementioned blogger here; updates (in English) at; a facebook group ("the first architectural uprising") here.

 Urban mini-histories at the EEO 

posted by istanbul 14 years ago
In the Enzyklopädie des europäischen Ostens (EEO) run by the University of Klagenfurt ("ein Online-Nachschlagewerk zur Geschichte, Kultur und Politik") one now finds some concise but potentially helpful (and definitely more reliable than the wikipedia) urban histories. For Greece: Thessaloniki, Nauplio, Corfu, Athens; for Croatia: Zagreb, Rijeka, Split, Koprivnica, Karlovac; Montenegro: Ulcinj, Podgorica, Kotor; Kosovo: Prishtina, Prizren, Pec, Mitrovica, Djakovica; Bulgaria: Pleven, Plovdiv, Pliska, Sofia; Serbia: Belgrade, Novi Pazar, Nis, Novi Sad; Albania: Tirana, Berat, Durres, Elbasan, Korca, Kruja, Lezha, Vlora. I'm sure that I missed some, but for Bosnia we indeed only find Sarajevo.

 When Sofia's Roma "made the iron sing" 

posted by istanbul 14 years ago

Steve Lewis "makes the iron sing", writing about the fin-de-siecle wrought-iron works on Sofia's gates, and how those responsible for producing these elegant, playful devices were, in fact, or at least in many cases, the city's Roma. This supposedly "art-less" and "heritage/history-less" population has so left a "silent memorial". Read the full piece here.

 Prishtina rents soaring due to "internationals" 

posted by istanbul 14 years ago

In Prishtina, as we read on Balkan Insight, "rich foreigners keep rental prices soaring." While landlords profit from the massive presence of "internationals", locals - ready to pay half of the 5-600 euros purported in the article as an average for a central flat rented by a foreigner - increasingly go empty. According to a letting agent, it's the internationals who "unintentionally push up the average going rate by specifying what rent they are prepared to pay." This reminds me of the Sarajevo days when (according to an often related story) a vastly overpaid chauffeur in a dark suit would laugh at a university professor looking for bargains and say: "Look at you! All that education and you where are you now?" It strikes me as odd that international agencies seemingly haven't learned from past mistakes. "Stability" (their mission, ain't it?) is something else.

 Macedonia: Ottoman-period monuments due to be restored 

posted by istanbul 14 years ago

Macedonia seems very active recently what concerns archaeology and restoration of historical monuments; just have a look at the "Cultural Monuments" section on this website set up to promote these initiatives. Of the more recent monuments, the 16th-century Hamam in Debar and the 19th-century Bey's House in Tetovo, the latter to become an ethnographic museum (more here), are due for rehabilitation.

 Kosovo's building boom, Albania's cultural heritage, Sarajevo's gay parade 

posted by istanbul 14 years ago ran some potentially interesting stories about Kosovo and Albania that I wasn't able to access as they are "premium content" now (and I'm not yet ready to pay for internet content). Here, at least, the headlines and "teasters":

- Dangers Abound in Kosovo Building Boom: Construction firms are transforming Kosovo’s skyline with one high-rise after another - but as most have no planning permission, buyers could lose in the end.

- Developers Ravage Cultural Heritage of Albania: Historic sites are being flattened or transformed out of recognition by out-of-control real estate boom, muddles over property rights, corruption and a lack of funds to preserve listed buildings.   

- Gay Festival Tests Bosnia’s ‘City of Tolerance’: Sarajevo’s first gay festival has triggered public uproar and cast a shadow over the city’s once famous reputation for tolerance.

 New landmarks in Prishtina and Istanbul 

posted by istanbul 15 years ago

In Prishtina, which, after the declaration of Kosovo's independece meets increased interest by Croatian investors, the Balkans' highest skyscraper is to be built. The tender has been won by the Croatian company "Konstruktor" (...sounds like a character from Masters of the Universe), who will erect a 165m high structure. To be the biggest business project in Europe's newest capital city, the complex will encompass a business centre, a residential area, and a mall (more here). A different kind of landmark will rise in Istanbul: On the spot where the prominent journalist Hrant Dink was assassinated last year a statue (of a dove) will be crafted by the sculptor Mehmet Aksoy. The background to the dove motif is a sentence written by Dink a week before his death: "Doves are not killed in this country." (Slightly) more here.

 The decontamination of Veles 

posted by istanbul 15 years ago

During my recent visit to Skopje, I overheard people on the vegetable market inquire whether the tomatoes to be bought were from Veles or not. The reason: health alert. In a recent article in SETimes, Veles is referred to as "the most polluted city in Macedonia" due to its lead and zinc smelter. The good news: Following an NGO initiative, the old factory is now to be dismantled, and Veles will undergo a major cleanup. The factory was, in fact, abandonded already in 2003, but even after its closure raised levels of lead and cadmium were found in air, soil, and water. The 45-ha area around the smelter is now to be ridded of contamination with heavy metals.

 "Bosnian Muslims Sue Serbs Over Destroyed Heritage" (Balkan Insight) 

posted by istanbul 15 years ago

In Banja Luka a landmark trial has been launched by the Bosnia's Islamic Community over compensation for more than 3000 buildings, among which many historical monuments, destroyed or damaged in the 1990s war. Hoped for are compensations "in excess of 60 million euro" and the punishment of individuals responsible. The suit had been filed already in 2000, but the first hearing was held only last year, after the country's constitutional court had ordered the process to start. Read a more detailed report here.

 Hamlet into Ghost Town: Pribovac 

posted by istanbul 15 years ago has run a feature on one locale on the "new" Serbia-Kosovo border. The teaser: New frontier, cutting remote village in Serbia off from its fields in Kosovo, is condemning it to slow death. Read the full article (yes, part of Balkan Insight's free content section) here.

 Tito to Theatre Square in Zagreb? 

posted by istanbul 15 years ago

Last month an estimated 2,000 people gathered in Zagreb demanding that the central Marshall Tito Square be renamed "Theatre Square", as it was still called some 60 years ago. According to the protest's organisers, a renaming be necessitated by that Tito was responsible for "mass killings, tortures, prosecutions and forbidding of pluralism." Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic meanwhile sees "no historical reasons to change the square's name", and also President Mesic criticized the initiative, blaming "some circles that are nostalgic for the times of the pro-Nazi Croatian regime". (1, 2)

 From the UNESCO sites in SEE 

posted by istanbul 15 years ago

SEtimes reports that "a chink" (a crack?) has appeared on Mostar's Stari Most (Old Bridge). Previously, UNESCO had forced Bosnian authorities to stop the construction of a hotel near the structure by threatening the country with the removal of the bridge from the World Heritage List. More positive from another World Heritage location in SEE: Greece has returned to Albania two antique statues that were stolen from the museum at Butrint in 1991.(*)

 A conflict of interests on Skopje's main square 

posted by istanbul 15 years ago

The "reconstruction" wave in Macedonia continues: After a fantasy Church of Saint Clement ("9-15th centuries", as the plate reads) had replaced a 15th-century mosque in Ohrid in 2002 (cf.), it is now in the capital that the next projects are due. On Skopje's main square the "Oficirski Dom" and a Church of Constantine and Helena, both destroyed in the disastrous 1963 earthquake, are to be reconstructed. The latest news is now that also Macedonia's Muslim community would like to see the Ottoman-period Burmali Mosque (pic) rebuilt on the square instead of the "Oficirski dom" (pic), which had replaced it in 1925. They stress that this idea isn't new, but already 20 years old, and that to rebuild the mosque along with the church would strenghten democracy and demonstrate committment to a multi-ethnic Macedonia. (1; 2)

 News from the cultural heritage front 

posted by istanbul 15 years ago

The 16th-century Hadum Mosque in Djakovica/Gjakova (Kosovo), more concretely its (early 19th-century?) wall paintings (pic), will be restored by the Swedish NGO Cultural Heritage Without Borders (CHWB); this time financed by UNESCO. It is, in fact, the first UNESCO-funded project in Kosovo following the international Donors’ Conference held in Paris in 2005. It's nice to see that now also wall paintings, not only architecture, become subject to expert restorations. [In Bosnia, some of these are now lost; not through the war, but through Saudi-funded restorations, during which the flamboyantly painted original interiors came to be whitewashed (cf. article by Michael Sells).] Another 2008 project of CHWB will be 15th-century hamam of Prishtina. At least a part of the funds for the project will not come from international donors, but by the municipality, which has secured 250.000 Euros for that purpose (read announcement).


posted by istanbul 15 years ago

The 16th-century "New Mosque" of Bitola (Macedonia) - now functioning as an art gallery - will be restored for re-use as a museum. I am a bit puzzled by the intention to restore this mosque "on the model of Aja Sofia in Istanbul", as is stated on the Macedonian ministry of culture's website (here). As with many (most?) mosque restoration projects in the Balkans recently, there is a Turkish participation; and, by the way, also Istanbul is seeing a wave of renovations of historical mosques: on the tramway line between Kabatas and Aksaray alone I spotted five newly polished ones yesterday...

 From the Media - Part 79 

posted by mh 15 years ago
More monuments: In the small Serbian town of Zitiste (near the border with Romania) a monument to the legendary on-screen boxer Rocky Balboa (played by Sylvester Stallone) has been unveiled (pic). The monument, built on initiative of the local Rocky Balboa Citizens' Association, was modeled after the one erected in Philadelphia in 1983 (pic), after having secured permission by the original sculptor. The mayor of Zitiste, interviewed by SETimes, explains: "We wanted to create a sort of tourist story. The goal is to make this town a brand. Zitiste has until now been known only for bad things -- floods, the pig plague" (and the Chicken Fest, one may add). The article continues: "Balboa was a logical choice for the monument, the association members say. The movie hero went from failed boxer to successful fighter, and eventually became champion of the world -- beating all his opponents and conquering his own demons. This, say Zitiste residents, is just what they plan to do in order to help their town prosper." On the context of this monument in a series of new monuments in Balkan towns, see also older postings here and on Sabine Ballata's ImagineSEE blog.
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 From the Media - Part 78 

posted by mh 15 years ago
BIRN attests a "catholic rebirth in Kosovo", complete with new churches, "as Kosovars of all faiths look to Europe to resolve their political destiny." In the Kosovar capital Prishtina the construction of a new cathedral (a very small picture here), dedicated to Mother Theresa, has entered its final stage. "When construction is complete, the headquarters of the Catholic Bishop of Kosovo will move from Prizren to Pristina – a symbolic move by the Church to the centre of Kosovo’s political and social life." Some non-Catholics, however, are (quite rightfully, I suppose) "annoyed by the fact that the cathedral is to be built in place of a high school [see graffiti and "discussion" here], while devout Muslims have been irritated that the go-ahead came after the province’s Muslim majority was denied permission to build an Islamic centre in Pristina." (See also a picture of the new Catholic church in Gjakova/Djakovica.)

 From the Media - Part 77 

posted by mh 15 years ago
Porto Montenegro is the name of a business project to transform the 24-hectare shipyard of Tivat (Montenegro) into what an article at SETimes refers to as "a mega-yacht marina". A Canadian industrialist has purchased a 90-year lease on the site, on which he is planning to construct "approximately 200 apartments, 300 berths and many restaurants and shops", thereby establishing Tivat as a location on the popular Venice-Corfu cruising line. The mayor is now trying to convince Tivat's 13,000 residents, most of which closely linked to the ship-building industry (the shipyard was built in 1889 when still under Austro-Hungarian rule), "that the changes will bring long-term benefits."

 From the Media - Part 76 

posted by mh 16 years ago
A Thracian Art Museum will be opened in Haskovo (Bulgaria), financed through a 2,5m dollar grant by the Japanese government. Curiously, the museum will be an exact replica of the Thracian tomb in the village of Alexandrovo (see detail from one of the frescoes. The reason: "According to the experts the tomb should not be open to the public in order to better preserve the cultural and historical heritage. The objective is to preserve the valuable murals which need to be studied, conserved and restored." The tomb was only discovered in 2000.

 From the Media - Part 75 

posted by mh 16 years ago
SETimes ran a feature entitled "A day on Sofia's streets" some weeks ago. ("Horse-drawn carts competing with limos, would-be race car drivers testing their skills in the city centre, and the heady musical tastes of bus drivers all make getting around Bulgaria's capital a memorable, if hazardous, experience.") Read the full text here.

 From the Media - Part 74 

posted by mh 16 years ago
Three sites in SEE have just been added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites: the bridge over the Drina in Visegrad/Bosnia (see an older posting and the entry on, the old town of Corfu/Greece, and the Roman-period Palace of Galerius in Gamzigrad/Serbia. Bosnia-Herzegovina, after the addition of the Stari Most in Mostar in 2005, is so the only country represented only by bridges. Can it get any more symbolical?

 From the Media - Part 73 

posted by mh 16 years ago
The famous 16th-century Ottoman bridge over the Drina in Visegrad (Bosnia) is about to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Read a recent feature by Reuters here.

 From the Media - Part 72 

posted by mh 16 years ago
After a monument for Bruce Lee was put up in Mostar some time ago (see an older posting here), a fresh wave of new/old heroes and idols are now to be erected in marble and bronze in towns and villages in ex-YU, including Rocky Balboa, Tarzan, Winnetou, and Samantha Fox. Read the more detailed posting by Sabine Ballata on her ImagineSEE-blog.

 From the Media - Part 71 

posted by mh 16 years ago
Following the International Court of Justice's acknowledgement that genocide was committed in Srebrenica (eastern Bosnia) in 1995, Bosniak town council members have demanded a special status for the district within the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS), one of the two entities comprising Bosnia-Herzegovina. Deemed unconstitutional by RS Prime Minister Dodik, eventually a "special social-economic status" was yielded to Srebrenica Municipality. Dodik, SETimes, reported, "promised that the RS cabinet would step up efforts to implement social and economic projects in Srebrenica to improve the quality of life there, adding that 7.5m euros will be earmarked this year to finance return projects, rebuild the power network and build two new main roads." The RS cabinet moreover obliged "all relevant institutions and state-run companies to draw up economic development projects and ensure the equal employment of all constituent peoples' members in Srebrenica. It also requires the RS Privatisation Commission to conduct an immediate review of all privatisation deals conducted there." (Sources: 1,2,3)

 From the Media - Part 70 

posted by mh 16 years ago
Almost non-news: Talks between polticians from Belgrade and Prishtina on "Kosovo's cultural and religious heritage" have made no progress. One of the unresolved points of discussion in a meeting 2 weeks ago in Vienna was whether the monuments should be guarded by Serbian or UN police forces. (SETimes)

 From the Media - Part 69 

posted by mh 16 years ago
2008, 2010,... Istanbul on the road to disaster? First UNESCO threatens to withdraw the "World Heritage Site" honour if the deplorable situation of the historical peninsula's architectural and archaeological heritage does not improve until 2008 (see ICOMOS report/pdf). Then, hardly a year after Istanbul was designated to be Cultural Capital of Europe in 2010, the initial enthusiasm seems to have given way to the usual disintegration, as an article in the English-language Zaman suggests. (see also program for 2010). In other news real estate prices in Istanbul are reported to have reached EUropean dimensions, with rates higher than in Madrid, Stockholm, and Rome.

 From the Media - Part 68 

posted by mh 16 years ago
As BIRN reports, Romanians "return" to their late queen's beloved coastal resort of Balchik (in Bulgaria). "In 2006, Queen Marie’s palace and garden in Balchik was the second most visited museum in Bulgaria after the National History Museum in Sofia. Moreover, 70 per cent of the visitors to Balchik were Romanians."

 From the Media - Part 67 

posted by mh 16 years ago
An Interactive map of the Balkans, part of a new project by the European Stability Initiative, is to present "Balkan cities and their secrets": "Why is Novi Sad, one of the wealthiest places in Serbia and a centre of alternative culture, run by the Serb Radical Party? How is the relationship between Istanbul, the largest city of the region, and the rest of the Balkans changing? Is Tirana able to cope with its growth? What is the secret of the dynamism of Timisoara in Western Romania? What are the secrets of Pristina's past and present? To answer these and other questions ESI analysts have embarked on a journey from Rome to Istanbul across all of South East Europe. One output is our interactive map of the Balkans: a landscape of stories, books, people and, thanks to Irish photographer Alan Grant, fascinating pictures. "A work in progress, cities featured so far: Kotor, Tirana, Ohrid, Kicevo, Pristina, Peja, Mitrovica, Sarajevo, Travnik, Belgrade, Novi Sad, Temesvar, Leskovac, Plovdiv, Thessaloniki, Istanbul.

 From the Media - Part 66 

posted by mh 16 years ago
In Belgrade, cinemas are "becoming a thing of the past", maintains. The reason: illegal DVDs.

 From the Media - Part 65 

posted by mh 16 years ago
RFE/RL reports that UNESCO is to restore 7 cultural heritage sites in Kosovo (2 mosques, 3 churches, 1 monastery, and 1 hamam). 10 Million dollars had been promised by international donors in May 2005.

 From the Media - Part 64 

posted by mh 16 years ago
Major investments on the Adriatic coast: the Albanian port of Durres will be renovated until 2008 to improve its role as the country's major port for passengers and goods (read article at Further north, the newly independent Montenegro sees a boom in foreign investment (read "Could Montenegro become the next Monaco?"). In Tivat, in the bay of Kotor, an American investor (coincidentally the employer of the article's author at the same time) will convert an old factory site of 24ha into "the largest luxury yacht marina on the eastern Mediterranean with over 700 berths. It is expected to attract a high-end clientele and this is in line with some of the general trends in Montenegro's tourism strategy. The investment will bring massive infrastructure improvements. In essence, a whole new Tivat will emerge over the next three years."

 From the Media - Part 63 

posted by mh 16 years ago
An interesting feature clip entitled "Helping to reconstruct the Balkans" and dealing (mainly) with the restoration of damaged Serbian churches in Kosovo - 34 such monuments are now restored by the Council of Europe - can be viewed (stream) at EuroNews.Net. The promotional clip by the Kosovar Minister of Culture shown therein, with teenagers restoring a church while the minister explains that these destructions were perpetrated by a small, outlaw minority, may be worth special notice.

 From the Media - Part 62 

posted by mh 16 years ago
Gloomy news: This morning, shortly before worshippers were to gather for prayer, an anti-tank rocket was fired at a mosque in Jasenica near Mostar. Disturbing local Muslims during ramazan, it is speculated that this incident was meant as a retaliation for the desecration of a Catholic cemetery on Monday. (Sources:, Dnevni Avaz)

 From the Media - Part 61 

posted by mh 16 years ago

On the role of historical monuments in the Kosovo status negotiations, BIRN has recently run the article "Serbs and Albanians Play Politics with Heritage Sites".

 From the Media - Part 60 

posted by mh 16 years ago
Last year an Association of Multiethnic Cities of SEE, PHILIA has been founded, funded by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, with the goal "to increase regional cooperation and normalization of relations amongst the multiethnic cities of SEE, as well to develop new forms of cooperation between the municipalities and NGOs." 60 towns are already members now eligible for small grants issued within the network. The website provides some basic additional information about this interesting project, but seems not yet to be fully functional.

 From the Media - Part 59 

posted by mh 17 years ago
Funded by the European Cultural Foundation, Archis interventions (connected to the Dutch-international architecture magazine Archis) will organise a 5-day workshop on architecture and urban planning in Prishtina, “a city now devoid of any regulation in this field.” The workshop will result in a manual.

In other news (here) the Albanian port city of Vlora is now being connected with a six-lane highway ("Trans-Balkan road") to boost commerce and tourism.

 From the Media - Part 58 

posted by mh 17 years ago
An isolated remainder of Ottoman Athens around 1800, the rediscovered Benizelos mansion in the Plaka will be revitalized, as Ekathimerini reports. Under the supervision of the architect Yiannis Kizis (author of several articles/publications on traditional dwellings in Thessaly and Greece) will be restored and turned into a museum. The Benizelos mansion had long been in ruins, as previous restoration attempts in the 1980s had been blocked by the Ministry of Culture.

 From the Media - Part 57 

posted by mh 17 years ago
Bucharest's old town is now being restored, with the aim to "modernise utilities, but maintain the architecture and personality of the area", as can be read in an article at Over 300 historical buildings will be rehabilitated, archaeological studies of the main streets will be conducted. The project "A Beautiful Bucharest" has been initiated by the UN Programme in Romania.

 From the Media - Part 56 

posted by mh 17 years ago
Interesting constellations: Plovdiv, "only" a 5 hrs drive from Istanbul, may (or may not) become a destination for young Turkish females desiring to escape the ban on headscarves in educational institutions in their home country. As can be read in a BIRN article, Plovdiv's Medical Academy has received a request to grant places to 110 women from Turkey who want to attend lectures and, as fee-paying students, would contribute an extra 440,000 euro per year to the institution's budget, on the condition that they can wear veils.

 From the Media - Part 55 

posted by mh 17 years ago
"Building Boom Swallows Heritage Sites in Bulgaria: Precious archeological sites are disappearing under bricks and concrete in Bulgaria, as the law fails to take account of the pressure of the construction boom." Read full article at BIRN.

 From the Media - Part 55 - Part 2 

posted by mh 17 years ago
The mayor of Bucharest urged foreign investors to become involved in public-private partnerships to carry out renovation plans for Romania's capital. UNDP-backed renovation projects include infrastructure improvements, new parking lots, building a subway, and improving the environmental conditions, and are expected to begin later this summer. [full article]

In older news (May'06), plans and project have been made for a modernisation of Albania's main Adriatic port Durres, "up to European standards." [full article]

 From the Media - Part 53 

posted by mh 17 years ago
During the Kosovo talks earlier this month also the matter of cultural and religious sites in Kosovo has been discussed. Serbian demands for larger protection zones around Orthodox monuments have been declined by the Kosovo-Albanian side. [full article here]

 From the Media - Part 52 

posted by mh 17 years ago
Plans for the demolition of a Roma quarter in Sofia have gone all the way to the European Human Rights Court at Strasbourg. The conflict over the demolition erupted just days before Bulgaria was due to take over the presidency of "The Decade of Roma Inclusion". [read the full article at BIRN]

 From the Media - Part 51 

posted by mh 17 years ago ran an article about how an EU project for all 85 Macedonian municipalities has improved urban planning on the local (self-governmental) level. Over the past two years, regional training centres for municipal staff have been established in Skopje, Gostivar, Bitola and Stip.

 From the Media - Part 50 

posted by mh 17 years ago
A new and - in principle - interesting website on the architectural monuments of Southeast Europe has been launched: "was produced within the framework of the two-year project Encouraging the Use of the New Methodology in the teaching, Preservation and Promotion of Cultural and Environmental Heritage, funded by British Council Bulgaria [...]. The project’s target audience is mostly children aged 6–14 who live in South East Europe. Its objective is to raise their awareness of, and sensitivity to, cultural heritage in general, with a particular emphasis on the Region’s unique cultural heritage, and thereby, foster a sense of regional identity and a sense of shared responsibility and respect for the values of other nations, ethnic communities and religions." The design is attractive, the idea good, and some "bonuses" include plans and walkable 3D-models of some monuments (including the "unfortunately a bit damaged" [!] Aladza mosque at Foca). However, the basic information about the monuments, as well as the often poor quality pictures, appear to collected chiefly from existing websites (rather than more qualified sources), could well have been much more informative, and also much more accurate in some cases. But the intention is good, and to a 6-14 year old it probably does not matter much if a building is from the 15th or 19th century.

 From the Media - Part 49 

posted by mh 17 years ago
Following a news item by, there seems to be a new effort to rebuild the 16th ct. Ferhad Pasha mosque at Banja Luka. Destroyed in 1993, the reconstruction project's costs are assessed at around 8m euros. The minaret and other parts of the building have been found near the city.

 From the Media - Part 48 

posted by mh 17 years ago reported that the head of Turkey's Co-operation and Development Agency has expressed willingness to support the reconstruction of the Mehmed-Pasha Sokolovic Bridge on the Drina river, when visiting Visegrad (BiH) in late April. On the matter of Turkey sponsoring restoration projects for Ottoman monuments in the Balkans see also past postings on this weblog: 1,2,3.

 From the Media - Part 47 

posted by mh 17 years ago
Over the past couple of weeks the German daily "Die Zeit" has featured the five ex-YU capitals in its travel section: Skopje ("Wir sind der Balkan!"), Zagreb ("Friedlich und niedlich"), Sarajevo ("Kuenstler des Ueberlebens"), Ljubljana, and Belgrade ("Die Zukunft kann warten").

 From the Media - Part 46 

posted by mh 17 years ago
While by now it should be well-known that Istanbul will be Europe's Cultural Capital in 2010 (and the website hasn't been updated since the awarding of that title), a less distant cultural capital is Romania's Sibiu in 2007. Last month had devoted an article to this city.

 From the Media - Part 45 

posted by mh 17 years ago
As contrast to the previous posting, a week earlier a feature was reporting the lousy condition in Belgrade's Roma shantytowns ("Belgrade Roma Rot in Cardboard City").

 From the Media - Part 44 

posted by mh 17 years ago
According to a last week's article in, Belgrade is becoming a "potential hot spot for investors", while a magazine published by London's Financial Times recently nominated Serbia's capital as one of its European Cities of the Future for 2006-2007, citing economic growth and a rising investor interest.

 From the Media - Part 43 

posted by mh 17 years ago
IWPR's Balkan Insight has devoted an article to the controversial project for the National Salvation Cathedral in Bucharest. For models of this monstrous project, soon to claim Belgrade's Saint Sava Temple's title of being the largest Orthodox church in the Balkans, see
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 From the Media - Part 42 

posted by mh 17 years ago
During the last year the British Council has supported various initiatives related to the promotion of creative industries in SEE cities. While the one-year project is - as of March 2006 - officially over, outlines and updates concerning the projects in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Plovdiv, Prishtina, Skopje, Split, Tirana, and Tuzla can be accessed at

 From the Media - Part 41 

posted by mh 17 years ago
In recent days the possibility of the ceramics museum on central's Athens Monastiraki square being reinstated to its original function as mosque has been debated. The Church of Greece has also expressed support for the creation of a mosque in Athens - already promised for the Olympic Games in 2004 but never realized - and names the Monastiraki re-conversion as a possibility. Muslim organizations, however, have complained of not being consulted over this matter. [1],[2],[picture]

 From the Media - Part 40 

posted by mh 17 years ago
In the central Bosnian town of Jajce - where these days also a nomination for the UNESCO world heritage list is filed [1] - multilanguage signage with descriptions of historic monuments haven been put up within a British Council project entitled "Cultural Heritage - Royal Trail" [in the Bosnian translation alternatively "Path of Kings"]. The British Council has also funded the restoration of Krslakova kuca, a national monument which will be used as a workshop for the "first international school of old construction crafts" in Sarajevo, as well as a regional cultural heritage conference previously announced with the somewhat amusing title "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder". The program of this conference, which took place in Jajce last week, can be found here.

 From the Media - Part 39 

posted by mh 17 years ago
BIRN has recently run an article on the Montenegrin city of Herceg Novi, whose heart "beats for Serbia". "An influx of Serb refugees and pensioners has made this ancient resort town a bastion of pro-union feeling. [...] Local analysts say around 60 per cent of the population in Herceg Novi will vote for the continued joint state with Serbia. [But] Herceg Novi was not always the bastion of Serb feeling that it has become today. Generations back, the town, which lies only a few miles south of Dubrovnik, had a largely Catholic population and culture".

 From the Media - Part 38 

posted by mh 17 years ago
The renowned think-tank ESI (European Stability Initiative) now seems to have discovered cultural heritage as a new field of research. Together with a recently formed local NGO they are now preparing a case study of Pristina, where the situation, according to their findings, is "worrying. A pattern of neglect and destruction of cultural heritage, that began with communism in the 1940s and continued under Milosevic, remains in place. The public institutions charged with protecting cultural monuments are weak. The applicable law has not been enforced at all since 1999. Most international advice has been ignored." The fairly interesting project report "Future of Pristina" is accessible here.

 From the Media - Part 37 

posted by mh 17 years ago
After a six-year break, train service between Pristina and Skopje resumed on 27 February. Read the feature "Pristina-Skopje train a symbol of change" on

 From the Media - Part 36 

posted by mh 17 years ago
News from BiH:
  • In Banja Luka the army barracks, former headquarter of the army of the Republika Srpska, are now turned into a "University City", as reports. [the universities of Sarajevo and Mostar-East are (partly) housed in former barracks as well, by the way]
  • Sarajevo's Art Scene is this issue's feature in the SpikeArtGuide Osteuropa (in German) of the Spike Art Quarterly No.6.

 From the Media - Part 35 

posted by mh 17 years ago
The Macedonian Cultural Heritage Office has announced that it will focus its attention on the revitalization of bazaar quarters over the next 3 years. Among the projects listed as priorities are "Bitola’s old town core, street Marshal Tito and the Bazaar, Ohrid’s old town core, bazaars in Skopje, Struga, Prilep, Kratovo and Gevgelija, town of Krusevo, part of Strumica’s urban architecture, as well as urban parts of Skopje’s center." (1). In other news it was reported that a 17th ct. Turkish hamam in Gevgelija will be restored and adapted for re-use as an art gallery, with financial support from Turkey. (2).

 From the Media - Part 34 

posted by mh 17 years ago
The Observateure Urbaine d'Istanbul has released its quarterly newsletter (Electroui23.pdf, in French), documenting media coverage on urban issues. A couple of the more interesting headlines (in English) can be found below.

 From the Media - Part 33 

posted by mh 17 years ago
As reported in the WUS Austria Newsletter, an architectural competition for the design of the new premises for UN Agencies in Podgorica has been launched in the mountainous Austrian province of Tyrol. Declared an "Ecological State" in 1992, Montenegro has turned to Austrian architects for their "extensive expertise in building along ecological principles".

 From the Media - Part 32 

posted by mh 17 years ago
Also reported by SEEtimes, a new Adriatic Euroregion (including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Serbia-Montenegro and Slovenia) was formally launched last Monday in Venice. Under the auspices of the Council of Europe, the Adriatic Euroregion is supposed to serve as a tool for Balkan co-operation and integration with the wider European area.

 From the Media - Part 31 

posted by mh 17 years ago
Entitled "To find Belgrade's last philosophers, hail a taxi", SEEtimes has recently run a feature on taxi-driving in Belgrade."If you flag down a cab in Belgrade, you won't just get a cheap ride, but a complete and detailed cardiogram of politics, economics and every other aspect of Serbian society."

 From the Media - Part 30 

posted by mh 17 years ago
Cultural Transitions in Southeastern Europe - The Creative City: Crossing Visions and New Realities in the Region will be the title of a seminar to be held at Dubrovnik's Inter-University Centre (IUC) on May 8-14, 2006. Mainly targeted at post-graduate students, the impact of creative industries on urban cultural development models, on cultural policies, and on regeneration of SEE cities will be discussed. The CfA is available on

 From the Media - Part 29 

posted by mh 17 years ago
The city council of Rijeka has decided to reduce its cultural budget by 18%, mainly cutting down on the financing of cultural programmes, while the infrastructural costs of public institutions (by now alreadt 84% of the budget) will remain at the same level. A full-length article is available at the SEE Portal.

 From the Media - Part 28 

posted by mh 17 years ago
The Viennese newspaper Der Standard recently ran a travel article on Sarajevo. After a stroll through the old town "Bacarija" [sic], and reference to a Gazi Husrev-beg from the 14th (not 16th) century, the author also informs us that the Holiday Inn is now turned into Southeast Europe's biggest congress and hotel complex by an Austrian business group, with room prices starting at about 100 EU. More interestingly, we also learn that the Italian star-architect Renzo Piano is still looking for a site for his Museum of Contemporary Arts.
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 From the Media - Part 27 

posted by mh 17 years ago
A recent article by presents a rather optimistic view about the Ottoman-period monuments in Greece which, after years of neglect, are now finally given attention. Special interest is devoted to the restoration of the 19th century Muhammad Ali complex at Kavala and its re-opening as a luxury Hotel. But how accessible is this "Imaret Hotel" really to an interested public? I will try to find that out on the occasion of a brief trip to northern Greece next month.

 From the Media - Part 26 

posted by mh 17 years ago
The 16th century Hudavengigar Mosque in Plovdiv (also dzhumaya- or cuma camii) will be restored by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB). Six of the mosques nine domes are in critical condition and cracks are visible on the western wall. Concrete restoration plans have existed since March 2003, when the IBB had sent a team to Plovdiv, and obtained the necessary permits from the Bulgarian authorities. While the works were supposed to have started already in september 2004, the restoration project funded with 2,7m YTL of Istanbul's budget was now confirmed to begin. A member of Turkey's Democratic People's Party (CHP) has criticized the city's international initiatives, stating that such actions are to be undertaken solely by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

 From the Media - Part 25 

posted by mh 17 years ago
The Greek city of Patras, the official Cultural Capital of Europe in 2006, is already in crisis. According to a survey, only 16% of Greeks have heard of the event. Criticism has been voiced that no proper marketing efforts had been undertaken, and that the organisation of Patras 2006 was only begun in April 2005 because the Greek government had been preoccupied with the Olympic Games (2004) for too long. The artistic director has resigned on January 3, while the funding for several initiatives is still not secured. The cultural year will start with a Leonardo-da-Vinci exhibition on January 10. The peak of the program is supposed to be the 6-weeks carneval (starting on January 21) which, as critics noted, does in fact have a long tradition in Patras and is celebrated annually anyway. (Source:

 From the Media - Part 24 

posted by mh 17 years ago
SETimes recently ran an article about the planned twin Dubai Towers (150m) for the Maslak area in Istanbul's northern periphery busy with similar projects ("Mashattan" etc.). According to analysts, the prospect of Turkey becoming the first Muslim state to enter the EU has prompted a surge of interest among Arab investors. For those reading Turkish, the weekly newspaper digest of the TAYProject is also a good source for up-to-date information on matters of preservation and urban development in Turkey.

In other news on SETimes we learn that the northern city of Kumanovo has been designated "Macedonia's Cultural Centre" for 2006.

 From the Media - Part 23 

posted by mh 17 years ago
A posting (in German) about the neglect of the Jewish Cemetery of Sarajevo can be found on my colleagues' weblog at Redaktion.

 From the Media - Part 22 

posted by mh 17 years ago
In Mostar's Veliki Park a monument to Bruce Lee was erected in November 2005. In a divided Mostar, for the initiators this action "represents an attempt for the public spaces to regain their meaning, at the same time questioning the significance of monuments and symbols, both old and new. While politics and ideology have occupied and poisoned all segments of everyday life, in Mostar and in the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we would like to remind ourselves by building up the monument that a significant part of our lives, memories of our childhood and the first real values of life have nothing to do with politics or the great narrations". More on this remarkable project can be found on the Policies for Culture website.

 From the Media - Part 21 

posted by mh 17 years ago
Last week the UNESCO-hosted conference "Cultural Heritage - A Bridge towards a Shared Future: Second Conference of Ministers responsible for Culture in South-Eastern Europe" was held in Venice. [more info in the subtext]

 From the Media - Part 20 

posted by mh 17 years ago
SETimes informs us that "twelve new monuments were added to the list of protected national monuments and historic objects in Bosnia and Herzegovina during a session of the state-level commission in charge of related projects. The additions include churches, mosques and the Stari Grad (Old Town) in the municipality of Glamoc."

 From the Media - Part 19 

posted by mh 17 years ago has recently published two articles related to the eastern Serbian town of Pirot ("Between Political Gathering and Tavern: Turn-of-the-Century Pirot" and "Mutual Dependence through Public Performance: Tito’s 1965 Visit to Pirot"), as well as one article about the restoration of cultural heritage in Anatolia to boost tourism in non-coastal Turkey.

 From the Media - Part 18 

posted by mh 17 years ago
None less than filmmaker Emir Kusturica has received the 2005 Philippe Rotthier European Architecture Award for his reconstruction of a traditional village on the Bosnian-Serbian border near Visegrad. Built for his most recent film "Life is a miracle", the village was christened "Küstendorf" (strangely, German for "coastal village"). More information, as well as pictures of the village, handshakees of the likes of Kostunica and Karadjordjevic, and a sharply dressed elder cultural attache of the Belgian embassy, see this and this website.

 From the Media - Part 17 

posted by mh 17 years ago
SEtimes reports that "Albanian and Italian archaeologists have started joint works on the site of an unidentified ancient town, situated near Gjirokastra. The project is being funded by the Italian Embassy in Tirana as well as the Albanian government."

 From the Media - Part 16 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 17 years ago
From September 8-17 the project "Operation: City" took place in Zagreb. Part of the project "Zagreb - Cultural Kapital of Europe 3000", the initiative focuses on the issue of culture in urban development, and more specifically adressed the transformation of one of the abandoned spaces in downtown Zagreb. More information (Croatian/English) at

 From the Media - Part 15 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
An article published earlier this summer in the news section of discusses plans for housing developments for Belgrade's Roma living in slums under the Gazela Bridge. Read the article "What to do with the Romas" here.

 From the Media - Part 14 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
Thanks to a blog in Sabine Ballata's ImagineSEE Weblog I was pointed out to a quite interesting article about the contemoporary art scene in Prishtina published in the Viennese quarterly Spike Art.

 From the Media - Part 13 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
Among this years's winner of the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards one of the awarded projects is in Southeast Europe; the Hill Church of Sighisoara (Romania) was awarded winner under the category "Architectural Heritage".

 From the Media - Part 12 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
The Artist's Corner section of the Policies for Culture website features a perspective on the debate of the opening of Romania's National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest and its consequences.

 From the Media - Part 11 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
On Friday (July 8) a new daily overnight train connection between Istanbul and Thessalonica has started operating.

 From the Media - Part 10 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
A recent article in IWPR's Balkan Crisis Report, "Foreign raiders plunder Kosovo's heritage" reporting an alarming case in Novo Brdo, highlights the poor protection of historic sites in the UNMIK-controlled province.

 From the Media - Part 9 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
A public art project called "Leaps of Faith", supported by the European Cultural Foundation, has been opened in the UN-controlled buffer zone dividing the Cypriot city of Nicosia.

 From the Media - Part 8 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
The 15th century Mustafa Pasha mosque in Skopje will be renovated under a $10,000 project, jointly launched by the Macedonian National Centre for Conservation and the Turkish Embassy in Macedonia.

 From the Media - Part 7 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
On Saturday (May 21), eight Southeast European presidents pledged to strengthen efforts for the preservation and promotion of the region's cultural heritage and signed an according declaration.

 From the Media - Part 6 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
The donor conference reported about earlier in this weblog has managed to raise $10-15 million for the restoration and preservation of Kosovo's cultural heritage, in particular the rebuilding and protection of nearly 75 cultural and religious monuments that were destroyed or damaged during the 1998-1999 conflict

 From the Media - Part 5 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
Between May 12-14 500 experts from 50 countries will have convened in Vienna's city hall on a UNESCO conference to discuss possibilities for development of historic cities.

 From the Media - Part 4 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
A donor conference aimed at raising money for the preservation of Kosovo's cultural heritage opened today (Friday, May 13) in Paris.

 From the Media - Part 3 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
A new project aimed at establishing joint University structures at the city of Mostar, where both Croat and Bosniak sides entertain seperate universities, has been approved by the European Commission. The first meeting of the steering committee took place between 25-27 April 2005 in Granada with representatives from the universities of Mostar, Granada (Spain) and Oulo (Finland).

 From the Media - Part 2 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
A group of artists caused a major public scandal by organising a fake opening of a Contemporary Art Museum in Sofia to draw public attention to the need for such a museum in Bulgaria.

 From the Media 

posted by maximilian hartmuth 18 years ago
Balkan cities become e-municipalities with open source

The Bulgarian city of Kardjali serves as a pilot within the framework of the project “Support to e-government initiatives at local level through free and open source software in South East Europe”.


Welcome to [BalkanCities], a weblog established to serve a "community of interest" holding stake in a diverse but interconnected range of topics (Urban and Architectural History, Cultural Heritage, -Policy, -History, -Studies, Urban Life and -Development) related to the study of cities of Southeast Europe. Readers are encouraged to participate in this process, either through adding comments to existing postings or posting news to the editor, Maximilian Hartmuth. To subscribe to the notification service (a roughly monthly digest), send a blank email to this address.
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