Documenting the Destruction of Balkan Waqf Institutions

Episode 305

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The destruction of Ottoman-era waqf institutions in the Balkans during the wars of the 1990s was extensive, from masjids and tekkes to bridges and libraries. A bibliographer at Harvard's Fine Arts Library, András Riedlmayer, traveled throughout the region to document this destruction during and after the wars. In this podcast, Riedlmayer describes his work on waqf institutions in the Balkans and his testimonies about the destruction of culture for international war tribunals over the last two decades. We discuss the fate of antiquities during wars and the ethical implications for historians, collectors and museums.

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Contributor Bios

András Riedlmayer is the bibliographer in Islamic Arts and Architecture for the Agha Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard’s Fine Arts Library. He specializes in the history and culture of the Balkans, and documented the destruction of cultural heritage in Bosnia and Kosovo during the wars of the 1990s.
Shireen Hamza is a doctoral student in the History of Science department at Harvard University. Her research focuses broadly on the history of science and medicine in the Islamicate Middle Ages, and more specifically on the history of medicine and sexuality.
Gwendolyn Collaço is a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University's joint program for History of Art and Architecture and Middle Eastern Studies. She specializes in Ottoman painting and social history. Her dissertation analyzes costume albums produced by bazaar artists and their translations into European turquerie across media.

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Episode No. 305
Release Date: 10 March 2017
Recording Location: Harvard University
Audio editing by Shireen Hamza
Music: Istanbul'dan Ayva Gelir Nar Gelir - Azize Tozem and Sari Recep; Ben Yemenimi Al Isterim - Hafiz Burhan; Nazmiye - Rizeli Sadik
Special thanks to Kara Güneş for permission to use the composition "Istanbul"
Images and bibliography courtesy of András Riedlmayer


Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina - The Ferhadija Mosque, built 1579 by Ferhad Pasha Sokolović, photo taken before the war. Photo from Ekrem Hakkı Ayverdi, Avrupa’da Osmanlı Mimarî Eserleri: Yugoslavya (Istanbul, 1981)
Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina - The Ferhadija Mosque, after it was blown up by Bosnian Serb forces on 7 May 1993. Photo by Bedrudin Gušić (1993)

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina - The Old Ottoman Bridge (Stari Most), built 1567-66; photo ca. 1900. Photo in the collection of the Fine Arts Library, Harvard University
Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina - The Old Ottoman Bridge (Stari Most), after its destruction by Croat nationalist forces on 9 November 1993. Photo by András Riedlmayer
Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina - The Old Ottoman Bridge (Stari Most), rebuilt in 2004. Photo by András Riedlmayer
Peja (Turk.: İpek, Serb.: Peć), Kosovo - Xhamia e Kuqe (Red Mosque), built before 1755; burned down by Serbian troops 27 March 1999. Photo (1999) by András Riedlmayer
Prishtina, Kosovo - Historical Archive of the Islamic Community of Kosovo, torched by Serbian police 13 June 1999. Photo (1999) by Oleg Popov.
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina - Burned-out interior of the Oriental Institute in Sarajevo, with the ashes of 5,300 Islamic manuscripts and more than 200,000 Ottoman archival documents, after it was shelled with incendiary munitions by Serb forces on 17 May 1992. Photo (1992) Courtesy of the Oriental Institute in Sarajevo
Bosanska Krupa, Bosnia-Herzegovina - (L to R) the Roman Catholic church, the Town Mosque, and the Serbian Orthodox Church face each other around the market square. Photo by András Riedlmayer

Select Bibliography

Targeting History and Memory: The ICTY and the investigation, reconstruction and prosecution of the crimes against cultural and religious heritage.[Interactive Website]. The Hague: SENSE Centre for Transitional Justice, 2016.

 Riedlmayer, András. “Foundations of the Ottoman Period in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s," in Balkan'larda Osmanlı Vakıfları ve Eserleri Uluslararası Sempozyumu, İstanbul-Edirne 9-10-11 Mayıs 2012. Ed. Mehmet Kurtoğlu. Ankara: T.C. Başbakanlık Vakıflar Genel Müdürlüğü, 2012, pp. 89-110.

Riedlmayer, András. "Banja Luka's Ferhadija Mosque Rises Again," Bosnian Institute News (London), 3 March 2008.  

Riedlmayer, András. "Crimes of War, Crimes of Peace: Destruction of Libraries during and after the Balkan Wars of the 1990s," in Preserving Cultural Heritage, ed. by Michèle Cloonan and Ross Harvey. Library Trends 56.1. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007, pp. 107-32.

Riedlmayer, András. "Convivencia under Fire: Genocide and Book-Burning in Bosnia," in The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation, ed. by Jonathan Rose. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001; rev. ed. 2008, pp. 266-92. 


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