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  Issue 73  Experiences from the region

A meeting of the network – Southeastern European Heritage

Cultural heritage is misused for political and ideological goals

Representatives of the regional SEE Heritage network, this summer (from 2nd to 4th July) had a working meeting in Macedonia and a public debate was held in Skopje on the topic “Cultural Heritage and its Misuse in Political and Ideological Causes”, and in Ohrid representatives of the inter-network organizations presented the news from the region, as well as the contents of the website of SEE Heritage.

The meeting was realized with support of the network program East-East: Partnership over Borders, New York, in the organization of FOSIM on behalf of the network in which there are civil societies from Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro and Serbia, and they work on protection and promotion of cultural heritage in the region.

During the public debate “Cultural Heritage and its Misuse for Political and Ideological Causes”, held in the Cultural Center “Mala Stanica”, the attention of the participants, representatives of non-governmental organizations, as well as the state and cultural institutions was drawn by the presentation of people who introduced the topics, D-r Vjeran Katunaric from the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb, Nebojsa Milikic from the Cultural Center Reks from Belgrade, and D-r Lazar Sumanov, representative of the National Committee of IKOMOS.

The goal of the debate was to raise awareness of the problem of using the heritage for realization of daily political agendas, religious, ideological and other motives, a problem which appears more frequently in the region and which has led to strained relationships between the nations and states. “The Age of the Nation: from Academic Discourse to Cultural Tourism” was the topic presented by Katunaric, according to whom cultural heritage as part of the collective memory should neither be misused for political goals, nor erased and changed. “The heritage has to be used with great care when presented as national, so that it would not be accepted in negative or political connotation” – said Katunaric, speaking about part of the actual misuses, which are present not only in the region, but also in the world. He pointed out that the heritage is used for achieving nationalistic goals, attracting tourists, but also that in the world museums an unjust difference is made by distinguishing between big and small nations and he pointed out the need for actualization of building interculturalism, which should come out of the conflict between the present imperialism and nationalism in the world, which is based upon the use of cultural heritage.

The impressive presentation by Nebojsa Milikic on the topic “Economy of Ethnization: Increased Interest in the Ethnic Component of Cultural Heritage”, had current examples from Serbia, Romania and Georgia. For him the insisting on preservation and reconstruction of the cultural heritage has its own problematic political and economic dimension.

“The increase of identification with the ethnic heritage and its manifestations in discovered and rediscovered folklore, corresponds in a disturbing way not only with the general increase of ethnic tensions, but also with the disturbing economic and political situation of status quo, not only in the region but also in part of the world” – said Milikic.

The present participants, with the presentation by Lazar Sumanov, were introduced to the contents of the so-called Ohrid Declaration of Protection of Cultural Heritage and Natural Disasters, passed after the war conflict in 2001. Sumanov spoke about the relation between cultural heritage and the “catastrophes” caused by man, and he also dealt with the destruction of part of the cultural heritage during the war conflict, as well as the destruction caused by carelessness and negligence of the values from the past.

During the meeting in Ohrid the members of the network discussed its Manifest, the membership criteria, its future activities like fundraising, promotion of activities and an agreement was reached on the topics for the next meeting.
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