20 years have now past since the deliberate destruction of the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina also known as Vijećnica.
What has happened since?
Vijećnica, one of the most representative of Sarajevo’s buildings and a former bastion of books and knowledge, burnt during a summer night in 1992. Despite of extraordinary efforts of firemen, employees and book lovers, approximately 2 million library items and a great part of its special collections were consumed in the flames.
Dr. Ismet Ovčina, the current Director of National and University Library (NULB&H), had this to say:
NULB&H is a custodian of Bosnia–Herzegovina (BH) cultural and historical heritage and [such a great loss is] a thorn in anyone’s side connected with preserving the continuity of BH sovereignty. Documents from a thousand years of state history in the stormy Balkans are its treasure.ʺ
Many important items were saved from the flames, including: manuscripts, postcards, maps, graphics, personal archives and various original documents from different periods of BH development. Unfortunately, only 19,700 items from these special collections could be saved from the original 200,000.
The Director of the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dr. Adnan Busuladžić, explained that the NULB&H experienced two culturocides: first in 1992 with the burning of Vijećnica and now with the present situation—as the NULB&H is in danger of perishing along with the six other cultural institutions of the BH state.