01 September 2005

Destruction of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Archives

by Christina Stephenson

“A Nation that forgets its past has no future”
Winston Churchill

Throughout the history of Bosnia, the archives of the country collected and protected the manuscripts and documents of the region. Unfortunately, in 1992 the archives and libraries were systematically attacked with incendiary grenades from the Serbians in their brutal quest to “cleanse” the region of all non-Serbians and evidence of their lives and history. Many one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable manuscripts were forever lost. Nearly every original source document and manuscript in the country was destroyed and the recorded history and legacy of an entire populace was effectively erased from existence.

In the National Archives alone, some 155,000 rare books and manuscripts were lost. The Oriental Institute lost one of the worlds finest collections of middle-eastern manuscripts. This collection consisted of over 5,263 manuscripts and over 7,000 Ottoman government documents. There are sad, but inspiring stories of librarians attempting to save what little they could from the destruction. On August 25, 1992, the night the National Library and Archive was bombed, 32 year old librarian Aida Buturovic went immediately to the library to rescue what materials from special collections could be reached. After being able to salvage a handful of items from the inferno, she was killed by a shell blast while returning home.

Considering all of the destroyed archives in Bosnia, the loss is staggering, and yet heroic efforts are currently underway to rebuild and reform as much of the collection as possible. While nearly all of the original documents in the country are lost forever, microfiche and other facsimiles made for scholars around the world exist for some of the material. These are being sought out and painstakingly copied. In a fortunate event, some 300 manuscripts were on loan to other institutions around the world, and are expected to be returned to National Archives when they are safely rebuilt. The efforts are slow going, but bit by bit the history of the Bosnian people is being recovered and restored to the people.


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(photo: Sarajevo Library Photo courtesy New York Times, 2003)

How to cite this document:

Stephenson, C. A. (2005). Destruction of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Archives. BiblioTech, 3(1). Retrieved [insert date here], from: http://www.sir.arizona.edu/lso/bibliotech/2005sep_vol3_no1/christina1.htm

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