Conflict and Natural Disasters
NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999
Many buildings were distroyed. Historical buildings.
Igor Vasiljevic
NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999
In October 1999, four months after the end of the war, the architect Andrew Herscher and I went to Kosovo to carry out a post-war survey of wartime damage to built heritage. During our fieldwork, we visited and checked every architectural monument and site in Kosovo for which there had been an allegation of damage during the war -- religious architecture (Orthodox, Catholic, Islamic) as well as historic civil architecture, Serbian as well as Albanian heritage.

We published several articles based on the preliminary results of our field work in Kosovo. One of these, from the US/ICOMOS Newsletter (Aug. 2000), is also available on ArchNet --

Following two more visits to Kosovo, we submitted our findings as an expert report to the UN war crimes tribunal. You can read our expert report, which has been posted on the Web, in English at

and in Serbian translation at

We found that many historical buildings in Kosovo had indeed been damaged or destroyed during the March-June 1999 war. However, we were rather surprised to find that none of the damage to historic building and heritage sites was in fact due to bombardment from the air. We had taken seriously the allegations in the Yugoslav government's White Book and those made by the Institute for the Protection of Monuments of the Republic of Serbia; we visited and checked every site for which such damage had been alleged. However the claims were not substantiated. Some buildings reported to have been damaged by the NATO bombing turned out to be completely intact; in other cases, it was evident both from the nature of the damage we saw and from the statements of eyewitnesses we interviewed that this destruction was the result of attacks from the ground and not aerial bombardment.

What we found was extensive and systematic destruction of Kosovo Albanian heritage (mosques and other Islamic religious buildings, traditional Albanian houses [kulla], etc.), all of it attributable to attacks from the ground by Serbian forces during the war. We also recorded damage to Serbian heritage in Kosovo; all of the damage to Serb heritage sites that we documented occurred after the end of the air war in June 1999, the result of attacks by returning Kosovo Albanians.

Our survey and thus our conclusions were limited to Kosovo. It is possible that in Serbia proper the situation with respect to war damage may have been different. However, in the absence of independent assessments it is hard to know how much one can trust such claims from Serbian official sources, given the unreliability of similar claims made by the same sources regarding damage to heritage sites in Kosovo.
Andras Riedlmayer
NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999
I didn't conduct anything like a comprehensive survey while I was there, but it appeared that quite a lot of the Islamic architecture in Kosovo that was damaged or destroyed had been restored, whilst much of the Orthodox Christian heritage that was damaged or destroyed remains in its ruined state.

I heard that a lot of the traditional, multicultural, Balkan Islamic architecture was not so much restored as replaced with ultra-Orthodox Islamic architecture, as Said Zulficar revealed happened to the
  • Bula Zade Mosque.
  • I also heard that a lot of the Orthodox Christian material had been left unrestored in order to highlight the Serb(ian Orthodox) community's persecution.

    I've put my (as-yet-unfinished) photo archive of Kosova/Kosovo up on the web.

    Best wishes,

    Sam Hardy
    Sam Hardy
    NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999
    Dear Andras,

    This is quite a coincidence for me. Just last week, we had a lecture and presentation by Andrew Herscher about his works in Kosovo and his perceptions of the situation.

    The presentation and his views gave me quite an insight into the way events are 'happening' across the globe, the way they are managed and 'projected', the 'forces' behind and the hidden 'agendas'.

    The perspective of 'damage' to historical sites could be used to understand the larger picture of what is happening and what probably is expected in future.

    In coming to the conclusion, probably that's what you were supposed to do, that the damage to historical structures are a result of retaliation by Albanian forces, you are slowly beginning to shift the perspective and focus from the 'Air attack', which itself needs 'independent assessment' to the 'atrocities' of retaliating forces.

    I sometimes think that is this the victory of a systematic and planned 'propoganda' machinery which unipolar world is trying to put in place, or is it that we simply are not in state to understand what is happening?

    NATO baombing in Kosovo may not have damaged the historic sites, but do you disagree that it had severely paralyzed civil life which is a big war-crime, as you may like to put it. The economic embargos on Iraq after defeat in Kuwait war killing I don't kow how many people and ruining lives. All that just vanishes into record, books because slowly we are fed a very different imagery of the past-war, and develop our idea about that incident based on those limited perspective.

    And this process of taking 'control' of physical spaces is slowaly being extended to taking control of 'mental' and imaginative spaces. Something similar to what George Orwell and Aldous Huxley was imagining. I am saying this because we are so easily shifting from what is at the back to what appears as the front.

    Vaibhav Kaley
    Dessau, Germany
    Vaibhav Kaley


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