Crimes of War, Crimes of Peace: Destruction of Libraries during and after the Balkan Wars of the 1990s

Riedlmayer, Andras, J


Volume: 56 Issue: 1
Library Trends


Just as the Cold War came to an unexpectedly peaceful end in 1991, a series of wars engulfed the former Yugoslavia. The Balkan wars brought about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the forced dislocation of millions more, singled out for persecution because of their ethnic and religious identity. The violence against human beings was accompanied by the systematic destruction of the cultural record libraries, archives, and other cultural heritage. This article is an attempt to put the destruction of libraries during the wars in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo into a broader theoretical and legal context. It examines patterns and methods of destruction, the track record of legal and practical measures to protect endangered collections in time of armed conflict, the ongoing quest to bring those responsible for attacks on libraries to justice, the responses of the international community and of the library community to this cultural catastrophe during the war and in the post-war period, and the growing recognition of the nexus between cultural heritage and human rights. It also addresses the troubled aftermath of ethnic conflict and the perils of reconstruction in a post-war environment, in which libraries continue to be endangered by nationalist politics.

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