Chapter 9. Destruction of Cultural and Historic Sites in Yugoslavia


By Nina Posidelow and Athanasia Mantzouranis (Washington DC)


The following evidence will demonstrate the severity of NATO’s criminal attack on Yugoslavia’s cultural and historic sites.

The willful destruction of institutions dedicated to religion, charity, works of art and sciences and historical monuments by NATO’s political and military leaders is a violation of the laws and customs of war as recognized by Article 3(d) of the ICT Statute and the Geneva Convention of 1949. UNESCO’s ICOMOS identified 12 historic monuments in Kosovo, central Serbia and Vojvodina that have been totally destroyed and 39, many of which are listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, have sustained substantial damage by NATO air raids, as of May 1, 1999.

Churches, monasteries, mosques, forts, fortresses, monuments, cemeteries, memorials, archeological sites, museums and various historic or cultural sites and their contents have been damaged and even destroyed by NATO’s campaign of devastation. In addition to the structural damages sustained by these buildings, priceless and irreplaceable ancient frescos, literature, art, artifacts, and relics in many churches and monasteries are now compromised by the tremors and blasts of the NATO explosions. This damage inflicted by NATO is reprehensible and irreparable.

Furthermore, the situation has been exacerbated by the KLA. KFOR, under the auspices of NATO, is circuitously allowing the KLA to destroy, loot, burn, demolish and vandalize these sites by not enforcing the peace.

NATO’s political and military leadership and its responsible personnel have demonstrated a marked disregard for Serbia’s historical and religious heritage by targeting and destroying religious and historical landmarks that serve as an integral part of Serb national and religious heritage and history.


The following Archeological Sites, Monuments and Cemeteries, Mosques, Churches and Monasteries, Historic Sites, and Modern Monuments are a partial list, representing the most significant damage and destruction as a result of NATO air raids and KLA terrorism:

Archeological Sites

Several archeological sites have been damaged. NATO’s bombs have destroyed important clues and artifacts to the civilization of Europe. Novi Pazar Spa, protected by the UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage List, included four grave mounds from the late Bronze period, two dating back to the early Bronze period, remains of a chapel and shrine dating from 2nd-3rd century, remains of a 4th century church, remains of a basilica of the 6th century, and Turkish baths, dating from the mid-15th century. The multifaceted and significant site suffered damage due to repeated detonation in the area. Pavlovac, renowned for pottery, statues, sacrificial tables and dwelling structures of the Paleolithic Era (6000 BC) was damaged by NATO bombs on April 15. The archeological site of Vinca, a significant excavation site since 1908 of artifacts from 6000-5000 BC, was threatened by NATO bombs falling within meters. During NATO’s bombardment of Nis on May 11, missiles landed in Mediana, a palace complex built in the 4th century under Emperor Constantine the Great. The village of Balainac was bombed on May 14, endangering the Kuilina-Balainac archeological site, a Byzantine fortress of the 6th-7th century housing a bronze bust of Empress Theodora, wife of Emperor Justinian.


The Mausoleum on Cer, commemorating the first WW I Serbian victory and housing the remains of 3,500 soldiers, was structurally damaged due to NATO bombing on May 25th. The Stari Ras and Spocani Monument Area, a member of UNESCO’s World Natural and Cultural Heritage List, was endangered by NATO’s bombs throughout the campaign. Through monuments and old villages, this site represents the historical, spiritual and artistic continuity of the medieval Serbian state. The Mausoleum of Josif Pancic, first President of the Serbian Royal Academy of Science, suffered destructive damage from NATO bombs.


NATO bombs damaged the Hadum Mosque, built at the end of the 16th century. NATO’s bombs also weakened the wall stability and structural integrity of the Bairakli Mosque, 15th century, which houses the sarcophagus of Hairi-bey Miralai.

Churches and Monasteries

Repeated bombing near the Patriarchate of Pec, which is the spiritual seat and mausoleum of Serbian Archbishops and Patriarchs, has devastated the frescos of the 13th century, detaching them from the walls and waiting for imminent collapse. The church of Gracanica Monastery, recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage property, was built in the 1320s. It houses a significant collection of icons and has lost portion of its frescos, which have detached from the wall. The Decani Monastery, also a UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage site, is the richest treasure in Serbia, with 60 icons from the 14th century, old manuscripts and other liturgical objects. The extremely rare sculptures made of onyx and the structural integrity have been jeopardized by repeated bombings.

The St. Paraskeve Church, built in the 16th century and decorated with exceptionally valuable fresco painting, was destroyed. Voilovica Monastery in Pancevo, built in 1405, suffered damage by NATO bombs to the church roof and windows. The Visitation of the Virgin Monastery, founded in the 16th century, suffered cracked walls and the roofs of the old residential houses are damaged. The St. Trinity Monastery suffered many attacks resulting in cracks in the walls and damage to the roofs of the residences. In the Early Byzantine Church of Nis, damage was inflicted upon the 4th century crypt, which is a rare monument decorated with frescos. St. Marc’s Church in Belgrade, which houses the remains of the Emperor Dusan, was built in 1930s. It suffered damage to the windows, facade and domes on April 23. Rakovica Monastery, built in the 16th century, housed remains of several members the Serbian Royal family. That monastery suffered damage to the walls of the church and other buildings, and one unexploded NATO missile fell into a residential building. NATO bombed the city of Kursumlija 34 times, rendering severe structural damage to the 12th century churches of St. Nicholas, Church of Virgin, and the remains of the late Roman and Early Byzantine basilicas of the 4th-7th century. The Church of Descent of the Holy Spirit, 1818, having been bombed at least 5 times, has suffered repeated damage. Vrdnik Monastery on Fruska Gora Mountain, built in the 16th century, which once housed the relics of St. Prince Lazar, was repeatedly bombed and the walls of the church are left cracked, and its windows destroyed. Also on Fruska Gora, the 15th century Staro Hopovo Monastery was bombed and damaged. The nearby Novo Hopovo Monastery, built in the 16th century, significant for its fresco paintings and the iconostasis by the famous Serbian baroque painter, Kracun, suffered severe damage to the vaults, arches and frescoes. The shrine of St. Romanos, dating to the 11th century, at the St. Romanos Monastery has been left in fragile condition after nearby bombing. The Virgin Ljeviska Cathedral in Prizren, built by King Milutin in 1306 on the foundation of a basilica from the 9th century, is in peril due to repeated bombing; paintings of significant value as the most successful frescos of the Byzantine period are now severely damaged.

In Korisa, St. Marc’s Monastery, built in the 15th century, was burned by the KLA.

The KLA has also burned the 15th century St. Trinity Monastery and its collection of manuscript books and icons in Musutiste. The Presentation of the Virgin Monastery, from the 15th century, was robbed and burned by the KLA.

Historic Sites

On April 27th, NATO’s bombs collapsed the ramparts of the 15th century Zindan Gate portion of the Belgrade Fortress. Repeated NATO bombings collapsed the ceilings and fissured the walls of Prince Milos’ Residence, erected in 1831, now housing the Historical Museum of Serbia. The medieval city of Rusevac, founded by Prince Lazar in 1371, the capital city of Serbia until 1402, was repeatedly bombed by NATO; and on April 12th, the Old High School, 1880, was damaged. The National Museum in Leskovac suffered losses to its facades and some of the most important exhibits during NATO’s bombing on April 2nd. The Museum of Genocide and Memorial Park in Kragujevac were badly damaged. The nearby Archives building was also ruined. NATO’s attacks on Nis damaged the Nis Fortress with remnants of the 5th century settlement, Bali Bey’s Mosque of the 16th century, and Roman buildings with mosaics dating from the 2nd-4th century. The Village near Kraljevo lost significant examples of folk architecture and folk masonry along with cemeteries to NATO bombs. The Tower and ramparts of the 15th century Vrsac Fortress were severely damaged as a result of NATO bombs.

Modern Monuments

The National Museum, housed in a luxurious villa of 1927 in Nis, was severely damaged. The TV Tower on Avala Mountain, renowned for modern architectural and structural concepts, was completely destroyed during NATO’s April 30th attack. The Museum of Modern Art in Belgrade, ranking among the most significant examples of modern architecture in the world, suffered damage to its exterior, its exhibits, and to the outdoor sculptures under NATO’s bombs. The Synagogue in Nis, also housing an art exhibit, suffered exterior and structural damage as a result of NATO’s May 7 and 8 bombing. The Nis Symphony Orchestra Building, erected in 1902, was also severely damaged. That same bombing attack devastated the Greek Consulate and the University Reiterate Buildings in Nis. NATO’s bombardment in Cacak cracked the windows, walls and ceilings in the 19th century Old Court Building, and the Primary School built in 1902. The Ministry of Defense in Belgrade, the most important work of Yugoslavia’s most prominent modern architect Nicola Dobrovic, has been devastated.


The evidence is concrete and unmistakable. NATO has violated international laws, including Article 3(d) of the ICT Statute and the Geneva Convention of 1949, through this campaign of destruction. NATO targeted these sites to demoralize the population by bombing what is so precious to their identity. NATO and its political and military leaders and its responsible personnel are therefore charged with Crimes against Humanity, which cannot be dismissed as "collateral damage" and must not go unpunished. NATO has destroyed the irreplaceable: the history, culture and honor of the Yugoslavian people. This evidence reveals NATO’s blatant destruction of the history of an entire culture and spiritual heritage, in a systematic attempt to eradicate it.



Commission of Inquiry
c/o International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
phone: 212 633-6646
fax: 212 633-2889


novisad1.jpg (10925 bytes)
war crimes

Table of Contents: Selected Research Findings