Serbia cancels sale of dilapidated WWII anti-fascist memorial

A statue of 17-year-old Yugoslav World War II fighter Bosko Buha at the memorial complex. Photo: Vasilije Matovic/Wikipedia.

The state’s second attempt to sell bankrupt tourism company Putnik Prijepolje and its assets, including the Bosko Buha memorial complex in the southwestern Serbian municipality of Prijepolje, was halted on Tuesday, with no reason given.

The sale was scheduled for Friday but the Bankruptcy Supervisory Agency, which is in charge of public companies that have declared bankruptcy, said on Tuesday that it had decided “to cancel the sale of the bankruptcy debtor’s real estate. .. and withdraw”. announcement of the sale of [property] units”.

The memorial complex, named after teenage Yugoslav partisan fighter Bosko Buha, was built in 1964. Buha was killed in a Chetnik ambush in 1943, aged 17, and was posthumously decorated as the youngest hero of the people of Yugoslavia.

The memorial has the status of Immovable Cultural Property of Exceptional Importance in Serbia, and historians and activists have strongly criticized the privatization attempt.

The Ministry of Culture then indicated Monday evening to N1 TV that it called on the authorities “to react urgently and to take the appropriate measures to suspend the sale”.

The agency told BIRN on Tuesday that it had canceled the offer and withdrawn the announcement of the sale “to determine next steps…to find the best solution and obtain the highest degree of settlement for creditors. of the bankrupt debtor.

She also insisted that “from the point of view of the protection of immovable cultural property, there are no obstacles or obstacles to the implementation of bankruptcy proceedings”.

Milovan Pissari, a historian from the Center for Public History in Belgrade, said the sale itself is not as much of a problem as the fact that the memorial complex is in poor condition.

“Which is very problematic for me, which actually speaks to the attitude towards these places [memorials]is that nobody has done anything for decades to improve the situation,” Pisarri told BIRN.

“The fact that it is abandoned, that nothing is happening there, says more about the attitude towards the past than about the fact that someone is going to sell this part to rebuild a tourist center,” said he added.

After the construction of the memorial complex, the public tourism company Putnik finally took possession of it with the idea of ​​helping with its maintenance. Putnik built a hotel there and the site was a popular tourist center until the 1990s when Yugoslavia collapsed.

Putnik’s local subsidiary, Putnik Prijepolje, the current owner, went bankrupt in 2010.

It was not the first time the state tried to sell the Bosko Buha memorial complex. A similar effort in 2019 was also halted after public pressure.

Pissari said the attitude of the authorities towards this memorial is a small-scale example of the state’s attitude towards the communist partisan movement of World War II.

“No one wants to talk [about the Partisan movement] in Serbia for several reasons, firstly because they were communists and today everyone is anti-communist, secondly because they were Yugoslavs, so they fought for Yugoslavia, for a common state, and today the anti-Yugoslavism is unfortunately very strong,” he explained.

“The third thing is that Serbia has built its own artificial anti-fascism, which is actually based on the Chetniks – that is, those who fought against the partisans,” he added.

He argued that sites like the Bosko Buha memorial are “not interesting [to the authorities] not only in the sense of a culture of memory of the anti-fascist struggle, but also of all those values ​​which were the foundation of socialist Yugoslavia”.

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