Archive for ivo andric

University of Graz, pay respect to Visegrad genocide victims!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 26, 2012 by visegrad92

University of Graz, pay respect to Visegrad genocide victims!

From 4-6 October 2012, a symposium on Ivo Andric will be held in Visegrad. It is co-organized by the Institute for Slavic studies, University of Graz and by the Municipality of Visegrad.  The symposium will deal with all segments of Ivo Andric’s work but there is no mention of the use of Ivo Andric in the justification o genocide against Bosniaks.

Full program of the symposium can be found at the Institute’s website.

Write to University of Graz, Institute for Slavic Studies and express your protest:

Institut für SlawistikKarl-Franzens-Universität Graz

A–8010 Graz, Merangasse 70/I

Tel.:             +43 (0)316 380-2520      

Fax: +43 (0)316 380-9773


Univ.-Prof. Dr. Peter Grzybek

We call upon University of Graz to pay respects to our victims by visiting Straziste cemetery on 4 October before the start of the symposium.

Related links:

1.Of Bogumils and race, Prof. Micheal Sells

2.The saddest eyes I have ever seens, Prof. Micheal Sells

3.Visegrad and Ivo Andric, In memory of Jasmina Ahmetspahic, Prof.Micheal Sells

4.Mehmed-pasa Sokolovic Bridge, A Monument to Genocide

Univerzitet u Grazu, odajte pocast visegradskim zrtvama genocida!

Od 4-6 Oktobra 2012. Godine, odrzat ce se simpozijum o Ivi Andricu u Visegradu. Organizatori su Institut za slavistiku, Univerziteta u Gracu i Opstina Visegrad. Simpozijum ce se baviti sa mnogo segmenata djela Ive Andrica ali ni u jednom slucaju se nece baviti upotrebom njegove literature za opravdavanje genocida nad Bosnjacima.

Pisite Institutu za slavistiku i izrazite svoje nezadovoljstvo:

Institut für Slawistik

Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz

A–8010 Graz, Merangasse 70/I

Tel.:             +43 (0)316 380-2520      

Fax: +43 (0)316 380-9773


Univ.-Prof. Dr. Peter Grzybek

Pozivamo Univerzitet u Gracu da odaju pocast nasim zrtvama 4 oktobra prije pocetka simpozijuma na mezarju Straziste.


Mehmed-pasa Sokolovic Bridge:A Monument to Genocide

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2009 by visegrad92

Image: Mehmed-pasa Sokolovic Bridge built by the Ottomans. Hundreds of Bosniaks(Bosnian Muslims) were murdered and thrown off the bridge into the Drina River by Bosnian Serbs. Picture Copyright © Velija Hasanbegovic

Witness X(Zeljko Lelek case, Court of Bosnia&Herzegovina):

“Zeljko Lelek, Mile Joksimovic and Vlatko Pecikoza arrived almost at the same time at the bridge. Lelek was in a taxi driven by Bosko Djuric. They took out two women out of the car, both were in their early 20s, one was carrying a five to six month old baby. Vlatko grabbed the baby from her and said ‘Let the baby have some fresh air’. He took it and threw it up in the air. Lelek was holding a knife and caught the little body on it,” the witness said, adding that Joksimovic then forced the mother to lick the child’s blood “in order to stop the bleeding”.

Witness KB(Zeljko Lelek case, Court of Bosnia&Herzegovina):

“I saw them bringing two older people whose hands were tied. One was wearing a French beret on his head. They lined them up by the water and forced them to go into the water. When the water was up to their waist, the men started shooting. People fell down and I was sick from watching it,”

Witness Hasan Ajanovic(Vasiljevic, Lukic case):

“Lukic told us to wade out into the water,” he said, interviewed by telephone from a Western European country that he insisted not be identified. “I did not hear the first shot, I suspect because Lukic’s gun had a silencer. But I heard the screams and then the other shots. Meho’s body fell on top of me. I lay with my face in the sand until night. I swam across the river and escaped. The water stank of death.” (Source)

Image: From Joe Sacco’s “Gorazde: A Safe Area”

Witness Mesud Cocalic:

“The bodies were often slashed with knife marks and were black and blue,” he said. “The young women were wrapped in blankets that were tied at each end. These female corpses were always naked. We buried several children, including two boys 18 months old. We found one man crucified to the back of a door. Once we picked up a garbage bag filled with 12 human heads.”(Source)

Witness Hasena M. :

“watched them put my mother and sister astride the parapet, like on a horse. I heard both women screaming, until they were shot in the stomach. They fell in the water – the men laughing as they watched. The water went red.” (Source)

Image: From Joe Sacco’s “Gorazde: A Safe Area”

Witness Hasnija Pjeva:

“If the Drina River could only speak, it could say how many dead were taken away,”(Source)

The abysses behind the façades of eastern Bosnia

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2009 by visegrad92

Author: Martin Woker, Visegrad
Uploaded: Monday, 21 July, 2008

A moving report translated from ‘Neue Zürcher Zeitung’ (Zurich) outlines the problems faced by those who would like to market the Bridge over the Drina in the small town of Visegrad in eastern Bosnia. The Visegrad authorities are hoping for a boost from the fact that the bridge has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But the town is a place still burdened by the terrible crimes committed there in the recent war.

Sometimes a paint-job renovation can really work wonders. Thus, for instance, in the shady garden of the Hotel Visegrad in the small town of the same name in eastern Bosnia. The furniture has been freshly painted and the façade of the inn also glows in new colours. The tables are well occupied at lunchtime today, mainly by locals, as one can tell from the licence plates of the cars in the parking lot. Five years ago the place still looked completely run-down and was hardly frequented by visitors. Its garden restaurant is located next to the eastern end of the stone bridge, which was built 420 years ago to make a difficult and dangerous river-crossing easier on the highway leading from Sarajevo to Istanbul. This spring, UNESCO’s secretary-general, Koichiro Matsuura, visited and bestowed a certificate on the bridge, which had been inscribed on the World Heritage List the previous year. Since that time, Bosnia-Herzegovina is now represented by two sites on UNESCO’s list: the bridge over the Neretva in Mostar, and the one over the Drina in Visegrad.

A stage for three and a half centuries

Unlike the bridge in Mostar, which was completely destroyed in the recent war and became a much-photographed object once again only after being rebuilt four years ago, the Bridge of Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic in Visegrad is at least in part an original structure that bears witness to ‘the cultural exchanges between the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire and the Mediterranean world, between Christianity and Islam, through the long course of history,’ in UNESCO’s formulation. What is understood by such cultural exchanges was described by the author (and

diplomat) Ivo Andric, who grew up in Visegrad living with his aunt and died in 1975, in his most famous work, The Bridge on the Drina. The novel was part of his Bosnian trilogy, which earned him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1961. Andric’s works were required reading in the schools of the former Yugoslavia.

‘The bridge is about two hundred and fifty paces long and about ten paces wide save in the middle where it widens out into two completely equal terraces placed symmetrically on either side of the roadway and making it twice its normal width. This was the part of the bridge known as the kapija, the gate. Two buttresses had been built there on each side of the central pier which had been splayed out towards the top, so that to right and left of the roadway there were two terraces daringly and harmoniously projecting outwards from the straight line of the bridge over the noisy green waters far below. … That on the right as one came from the town was called the sofa. It was raised by two steps and bordered by benches for which the parapet served as a back steps, benches and parapet were all made of the same shining stone. That on the left, opposite the sofa, was similar but without benches. … On this part of the terrace a coffee-maker had installed himself with his copper vessels and Turkish cups and ever-lighted charcoal brazier, and an apprentice who took the coffee over the way to the guests on the sofa. Such was the kapija.’

In the 400 pages that follow, the kapija to a certain extent forms the stage for a lively tableau, extending over three and a half centuries, of life in Andric’s home town and of its Muslim, Christian and Jewish inhabitants. For a long time the bridge freed Visegrad from its geographically marginal position and brought travellers from all the world to the little town. The aim of the present local authorities is to find a way to latch on to this tradition. Opposite the hotel stands a new pavilion, recently built and still closed and empty but already marked as a tourist information centre. Right around the corner, built in a daring Yugo-modernist style, is the tall Robna kuca. That is what almost all department stores were called in the former Yugoslavia. In Visegrad, where the sparse traffic makes pedestrian zones unnecessary, this relic of a vanished era has not only survived but, it appears, it has even gotten a new paint job. Nevertheless, this Visegrad is hardly a boom town, but thanks to the bridge that is supposed to change soon.

Bold plans

At least that’s how the future looks to Milan Milicevic, the town’s current mayor and a member of the Serbian Democratic Party, founded by Radovan Karadzic. The chain-smoking town father first presents the visitor with an English edition of Andric’s novel, autographed by the mayor himself. Then he lays out his bold plans, which are to culminate in a close partnership with the

city of Mostar and are to include a project to rebuild a narrow-gauge railroad that was abandoned in the 1970s. All that is to be for the enjoyment of future hordes of tourists, who can come here to admire a newly re-established Orthodox monastery and, of course, the bridge, which is to be artfully restored in the near future by a Turkish firm, at a cost of 3 million euros.

At present, says Milicevic, most of the visitors come from Serbia or from the Republika Srpska, as the entity created during the recent war calls itself. But the first Japanese and Germans have already been sighted. An upswing in tourism is expected, he says. But where in Visegrad are all these foreign visitors supposed to stay overnight? Those coming from the Dalmatian coast could not possibly do the excursion as a day-trip. No problem, says the mayor. In the town and its vicinity there are three hotels with more than 400 beds.

One of these stands in a lonesome, wooded side-valley a bit further downstream and is part of a spa resort called Vilina Vlas. On the steps leading into the barely 30-year-old building (also built in the unmistakable Yugo-style) two cigarette-smoking gentlemen are standing, one of them with crutches. They are here to take the cure in the healing waters of the hot springs, which contain radioactive elements. The hotel is still awaiting privatization. The city administration, its present owner, has had some of the walls freshly painted, which however has not really improved matters. Seven cars and a tour bus (with Serbian licence plates) stand in the parking lot. Most of the 160 beds are not taken, despite the moderate price charged for room and board. Unthinking visitors from rich Europe might possibly appreciate the down-at-the-heels exoticism of the place. Unless they thought first to enter its name into an internet search engine.

Whoever does that will encounter abysses of human perversion that would shake even the most blunted sensibilities. Those who come across the research of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network [BIRN] concerning the events of April 1992 in Vilina Vlas will find themselves transported into a wartime reality that could not be more terrible or more repulsive. The hotel served as the headquarters for the Serb militia in Visegrad during that period, while they were carrying out the so-called ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the area. At the same time it also served as a provisional prison for abducted Muslim civilians, mainly women and girls who were systematically raped in the hotel rooms. There are credible witness testimonies of the most severely abused female captives, who saved themselves from their tormentors by leaping across the balcony railings and committing suicide. The principal perpetrator and leader of the militia was a man born in the region, 25 years old at the time, by the name of Milan Lukic, who in the early spring of 1992, when fighting first broke out in the Drina valley, left his place of residence in Zurich in order to turn the idea of a Greater Serbia, promoted by figures such as Vojislav Seselj and other war criminals, into a reality in his homeland.

What was required to achieve this aim was the expulsion of all non-Serbs from Visegrad and its surroundings. In the 1991 census, 62 percent of the slightly more than 21,000 inhabitants had identified themselves as Bosniaks (Muslims), while only half as many were Serbs. Thus, just as in other regions of Bosnia affected by ‘ethnic cleansing,’ terror was employed as the principal method of driving out the Muslim majority population in Visegrad. The indictment issued against Milan Lukic by the UN tribunal in The Hague lists a series of executions and murders of Muslim civilians. Women, men, old people and children died locked inside houses which were set on fire by Lukic’s militiamen. Rapes, however, are not mentioned in the indictment.

Unpunished crimes

Bakira Hasecic, president of the association ‘Women Victims of War in Bosnia and Herzegovina,’ has bitter things to say about this fact. She herself comes from Visegrad, a survivor of rapes and other abuse along with her two underage daughters, and she is sure that she would always recognize Milan Lukic again, since he is missing an index finger. The event that prompted the founding of the association was a one-day organized return of Muslim women to Visegrad to visit their destroyed homes. What caused most indignation during the visit, says Hasecic, was that she and the other women recognized three of their former tormentors, although the men were now wearing the uniforms of the regular police of the Republika Srpska. The three later may well have been brought before a court. But the shock the women suffered finally prompted them to establish the association. Prior to that, the subject of rapes had been treated as strictly taboo in Bosnia. ‘It was very difficult for us to admit it publicly,’ says Hasecic, ‘we had to lay bare our souls to do it.’

That conversation took place two years ago, on the occasion of a showing of the award-winning Bosnian film Grbavica, which is based on the theme of a girl born as a result of a wartime rape and her relationship with her mother. At the time, Hasecic and other women victims from Visegrad could not understand why Milan Lukic, who was arrested in Argentina in the summer of 2005, was not charged also with rape, even though there was more than enough judicially relevant evidence for it. According to a report by BIRN, the prosecutors in The Hague have recently asked the court to expand Lukic’s indictment to include charges of rape, torture and abuse of prisoners. The acceptance of this request by the court would mean a partial success for the association of women victims: a result of their tirelessly maintained public pressure.

Function as a meeting place lost

Their insistence on reminding the public of the countless atrocities which took place only 16 years ago, and which for the most part have not led to prosecutions of those responsible, necessarily brought Hasecic and other victims of the war into the foreground of UNESCO’s festive certification of the bridge. On the bridge they placed a memorial tablet (which has long since been removed again), and they read out a list of the names of all the victims of the war from the Visegrad region: 3,000 according to their count, while other sources speak of between 1,200 and 1,500 dead. In any case, Visegrad is no longer the town described by Andric. Only a very small number of the expelled Bosniaks have returned to their rebuilt houses. Their exact number is unknown. The ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the region has been accomplished; what remains is a town robbed of its Balkan multiculturalism and thereby deprived of its richness.

On the day after the murder of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand, on 28 June 1914, writes Andric, an official announcement was posted on the kapija: ‘… printed in fat letters and framed with a broad black border. It announced to the people the news of the assassination of the crown prince in Sarajevo, and expressed outrage over this misdeed. But not one among those who passed in front of the announcement stopped to read it, but all passed by the poster and by the guard posted there with their heads lowered, walking as fast as they could.’

As of three months ago, a plaque placed at the end of the bridge announces its world-wide significance as a heritage site. The inscription arouses the interest of very few tourists who have come to visit the bridge on this early summer day. The locals who would pass it with their heads bowed are not to be seen. The historic structure has lost its function as a meeting place. The last time that the kapija served as a stage, for the time being, was during the summer of 1992. It was a stage for the murder of innocents, whose bodies disappeared into the Drina. But there is neither a novel nor an inscription to bear witness to that. And it is also not mentioned in the new tourist guidebooks that are gradually starting to appear again in Bosnia. Could it be that the paint-job renovation has achieved the effect it aimed for? Let us hope not.

Translated by András Riedlmayer from Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 11 July 2008. Martin Voker is the newspaper’s South-East Europe correspondent

Source: Bosnian Institute

The Saddest Eyes I’ve Seen: Visegrad, Ivo Andric, and Christoslavism

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 29, 2008 by visegrad92

by Michael Sells, 7/3/96

1. The Woman from Visegrad

A young woman from Visegrad was speaking. She was a quiet woman with a steady, clear voice, and the saddest eyes I have ever seen. We had come to the square in Philadelphia to participate in a demonstration against the Clinton administration’s acquiescence in the genocide then occuring in Bosnia, and the woman from Visegrad had been invited to tell her story at the event.

In calm, measured language she spoke about the extermination of the Bosnian Muslims in the Southeast Bosnian town of Visegrad during the spring of 1992. Her story was a first person testimony that brought to life what I had been reading in the human rights reports and war-crimes testimonies about the assault on Visegrad in 1992.

The famous bridge on the Drina river at Visegrad was used as a killing ground by Serb religious nationalist militias, and was the scene of sports killings. Muslims captives would be taken to the bridge for prolonged torture, then thrown of the bridge. The sport was to see how well one could shoot them as the fell down into the Drina river far below. As is the case in the entire Republika Srpska and most of the territory occupied by the Croatian HVO, all the mosques in town were dynamited.

The woman from Visegrad explained how her family was slaughtered on the bridge. Her brother was thrown off and killed. Her husband was blown to pieces in her arms.

She spoke directly to the U.S. government of President Bill Clinton. She said: we don’t ask you to fight for us, we didn’t ask you to send soldiers, we only asked you to allow us to try to defend ourselves. She spoke calmly, without hate, but with a kind of infinite disappointment, both at what had been done to her family, but more centrally, at the way the Western powers had acquiesced in it through their arms embargo and justified it through their rhetoric.

After she spoke, people in the audience came up to her. Even though she had explained that her arm had been right torn off during the atrocities on the Drina bridge, people instinctively reached to shake her hand. In her loose-fitting, long sleeved garment, one had to look closely to notice she did not have a right arm.

How could her former neighbors, schoolmates, and friends–as well as the people she had never met who came in from Serbia proper to join in the killings–justify such deliberate cruelties against the civilian Muslim population of Visegrad? The religious mythology of Ivo Andric can help provide a clue.

2. Ivo Andric’s Bridge on the Drina

As the Muslim people and culture of Bosnia-Herzegovina were destroyed armies and militias fighting on behalf of religious nationalism, most of the Christian world remained indifferent. Those who cared, tended to comprise two groups. One group was made up of former tourists to Yugoslavia, particularly those who visited Sarajevo for the 1984 Olympics, who had seen and met these people there and knew they were not the fundamentalist fanatics, Nazis, or “age old Balkan haters” presented in the propaganda justifying the genocide.

A second group consisted of those who have read the works of Ivo Andric, Yugoslavia’s Nobel prize winning novelist, particularly his most famous novel, The Bridge on the Drina. The second group comprises a number of influential reporters, and the categories supplied by Andric have become embedded within the typical account of the genocide in Bosnia. Yet even though many people came to appreciate Bosnian through Andric, his ideology of race and conversion leads them–as will be shown below–without realizing it, into categories of thought that have been used to justify the genocide.

Andric1s historical novel takes place at Visegrad. The story begins with the efforts to build the famous Ottoman Drina river bridge at Visegrad, a bridge commissioned by Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic, the Bosnian native son who went on to become a minister to the Ottoman sultan and marry Princess Ismahan, grandaughter of Suleiman the Magnificent. Three vignettes from the beginning of the book have haunted us during the recent tragedy.

In the first vignette, the builders are unsuccesful in many attempts to construct the bridge; after much tragedy, they are told that they need to wall up two Christian babies in masonry of the bridge in order to appease the fairies (vila). The story is later said by the narrator to be merely a legend, yet as a symbol it contains the quintessence of Andric’s views of race and religion: the essence of the Slavic race is walled up within the encrustations of an alien civilization.

This theme of the Christian essence of the Slavic race being imprisoned within Islam is further dramatized by the main character in the historical novel, Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic himself, who was brought to Istanbul as part of the Devsirme system, whereby Ottomans would select young boys from around the empire, take them to Istanbul, train them, and put them in key political, military, and administrative positions.

Though rising to the heights of power and influence, to the point that he could even establish a relative of his as Patriarch of the Serb Church, Sokolovic is viewed by Andric’s narrator as hopeless and doomed within the alien racio-religious world he must inhabit.

In the second incident, a Serb worker who tries to sabotage the bridge is punished with impalement. The description of the impaling is a graphic, passion story, modeled after depictions of the crucificixion of Jesus. Readers of Andric continual cite this scene as one indelibly impressed on their memories.

For religious nationalists, this crucifixion is not the impalement of a single Serb revolutionary at the orders of a single, particular, cruel Ottoman administrator. It is the eternal, always occuring impalement of the Serb nation by the Turks and by those Slavs who, by converting to Islam, become “Turk.” It is that “Serb Golgotha” that Serb clergy began speaking about again in the late 1980’s as an unchangeable fact within Balkan history.

Andric1s dissertation of 1924, recently published in English, provides a clear outline of the religious mythology at the based of The Bridge on the Drina. In The Development of Spiritual Life in Bosnia under the Influence of Turkish Rule, Andric marks out a remarkably stylized version of history, founded on the notion of the essence of races and the religious tendencies of those racial essences. The Slavic race’s essence is Christian.

Any any conversion from Christianity to another religion, is not only a betrayal of the race, but an actually transformation into the alien race of the new religion. In the follow-up posting I will trace the development of this idea in Andric’s dissertation.

Michael Sells