In addition to all the risks present in other countries in transition, cultural heritage in Yugoslavia is exposed to some quite specific threats. On the one hand, they are connected to the extremely acute economic crisis, which marked all the activities of the monumental heritage protection service during the past decade. Conditions in which protection institutions operate are still unfavourable, and to a great extent the chronic lack of funding for planned activities hinders or disables timely, expert, preventive and operative engagement. It equally hinders the determination of an adequate protective treatment, including conditions for maintaining and using protected heritage. Nevertheless, significant efforts are being made to define a well-conceived conservation policy, which would promote long-term conservation plans and determine the priority of interventions on the basis of the type and level of endangerment of the heritage. Re-establishment of international professional contacts and co-operation with international institutions and organisations in the conservation field is aimed at improving methodology and knowledge in this area. At the same time, it also creates opportunities for expert consulting on complex professional problems.

On the other hand, during the past decade, heritage in the territory of Yugoslavia was also exposed to dangers brought about by war operations. This applies especially to the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, where the cultural heritage is still inaccessible to experts of the protection service. However, attempts are being made as soon as an opportunity appears, and every possibility is used to gain information about the state of the monument fund in the terrain. Some of our experts visited a small number of cultural monuments of exceptional importance, such as the Pec Patriarchate, Decani, Devic, and Gracanica. At the moment, it is possible to begin conservation activities only in the northern part of Kosovo. Protective conservation and restoration works in Banjska Monastery, dating from the beginning of the 14th century, are now considered top priority. These works include the renovation of the church roof and conservation of the buildings of the once imposing monastery complex - now reduced to the level of archaeological remains - as well as the construction of temporary protection over the monumental, representative monastery refectory. This monastery - a cultural monument of great importance - has not been in use for a long time, which is another reason for its rapid decline.

Archaeological Sites

The situation in regard to the protection of archaeological sites of exceptional importance in Serbia has not changed much during the past year. The Roman town of Viminacium and the mediaeval settlement and cemetery in Celarevo are still endangered by the nearby industrial plants that exploit mineral deposits (brick clay), exactly from locations where archaeological remains can be found.

Current problems regarding the illegal use of metal detectors are solved by instituting criminal charges against the offenders, but these are still not effective enough to prevent this lucrative criminal activity. After the bulldozers have passed, whole archaeological layers are irretrievably lost, while ruined buildings and disturbed archaeological layers remain in the wake of prospectors with metal detectors. The protection service is persistently fighting to protect the rich archaeological heritage, but the prevailing difficult economic conditions still make the archaeologists powerless in the face of immediate communal needs.

Vernacular Heritage

Loss of original function and non-existing cultural property-management mechanisms are identified as very immediate dangers to monumental heritage as a whole, but especially in the case of vernacular architecture. Modern living conditions inevitably lead to the abandonment of traditional forms of housing, while the preservation of wooden architecture through a chain of open-air museums represents an excellent but unacceptably expensive conservation method. The only financially viable solution would be to devise new uses, which could ensure the survival and maintenance of this form, as well as other forms of built heritage.

Historic Towns and Urban Areas

The ‘insufficient age’ problem, relevant to modern architectural heritage in general, is especially pertinent to historic towns and urban areas. Because this heritage most often dates to the 18th-20th century period, it has still not focused the attention of either experts or users. Both groups find it difficult and slow to adjust to the idea that buildings that represent their everyday environment actually possess the characteristics of heritage monuments. Though exposed to degradation processes like any other immobile cultural property, this heritage is neglected in comparison to heritage of a much greater age, which imposes greater respect and responsibility from the protection service. The growth of town population, migrations, the demands of modern life, political instabilities, economic crises, and pauperisation - all are open problems whose specific victims are the towns and their architectural heritage. Illegal ‘wild’ construction, building extensions, destruction, demolition, change of function, traffic expansion, development projects that disregard the original urban matrix - these are the most frequent risks facing this kind of heritage. Even though great efforts are taken to find a more adequate conservationist approach, to innovate the legal and administrative systems, to control planning, and to achieve greater co-operation between the protection service and urban planning, it is becoming increasingly difficult to protect the endangered urban heritage, while the preservation of its authenticity is becoming a prime professional task.

Case Study 1: Mileševa Monastery

Mileševa Monastery, with the Church of Christ’s Ascension, was built in 1219 by Prince Vladislav Nemanjic in the mediaeval county (župa) of Crna Stena, at the mouth where the Kosacanka flows into the Mileševka River. It is a cultural monument of exceptional importance. The position of the monastery complex on two river banks, on very argillaceous grounds formed by the river deposits, as well as the presence of subterranean waters and an abundance of atmospheric downfall, has caused a constant presence of moisture in the foundation of the church and the walls covered with 13th-century fresco paintings. Archaeological and geophysical research was undertaken in an attempt to solve this problem, resulting in a church circumference drainage-project, with an outlet into the Mileševka. The drainage was constructed by placing ‘Raudril-D’ drain outlet pipes (150 mm in diameter and enveloped in geotechnical felt material) on a concrete base at an average depth of 160-170 cm with a drop of 1%. Seven access shafts, one of which is also a collection point, were constructed. On the north side of the church, the composition of the soil along the drainage canal was altered using gravel with natural granulation, for better permeability and easier absorption of surface waters. After these interventions, experts will continue to monitor the dampness level of the church walls and take adequate steps on the basis of the data gathered. Archaeological excavations were done along the track of the drainage canal, with results that were very important for the historiography of the monastery complex.

Case Study 2: Church of St. Elijah in the Village of Ba

Strong earthquakes that struck Kolubara District in September 1998 (5.7 on the Richter scale) and April 1999 (5.4 on the Richter scale) were followed by a series of weaker local tremors, which caused the already existing damage on cultural monuments to progress. Some of them suffered heavy static damage, so that their use was prohibited and they lost their function. Three years after the first earthquake, very little had been done toward their repair and conservation, while new problems appeared. The built structures are now exposed to the direct effects of atmospheric precipitation, which speed up the decomposition of all the building materials. This effects ceilings and church bell-towers, and especially wooden roofs or buildings with walls made of unfired bricks or some other material placed between wooden beams.

Among the most severely damaged monuments is the church of St. Elijah in the village of Ba, located at the very source of the Ljig River, and placed on a plateau formed by deposits of calcified materials that the spring waters extract from the caves they emerge from. The church was supposedly built towards the end of the 14th or at the beginning of the 15th century. The renovation from 1872 was certainly a result of the local villagers’ efforts, when the cupola was removed.

The damage is located in the upper zones of the building. As well as the roof that has toppled down, the static stability of the arches has been severely disturbed, and the ceilings were shaken loose, causing large segments of mortar to fall off. Visible damage and cracks were also noticed on the north wall of the church and the bell-tower. The construction work on the renewal of the roof structure, including the central cupola, was completed and the roof was covered. The final conservation and skilled craft works remain to be done when sufficient funding is found (new layers of mortar on the church walls, both on the outside and inside, floor panelling, reconstruction and conservation of the iconostasis, construction of drainage and pavement around the church).

Case Study 3: Petkovica Monastery, Fruška Gora

The monastery church is dedicated to St. Paraskeve. The earliest certain facts about the monastery date from 1566/67. The triple-nave church has preserved its original shape, the only change being the brick bell-tower that replaced the original wooden one. The church is decorated with frescoes painted in 1588.

The church building, built in a combination of brick and stone, was completely shaken loose, as a result of damage from World War II. Static repairs of the building were executed and a new living-quarters building was constructed next to the church, enabling monastic life to resume in this monastery. However, there is still the problem of no paved road leading to the church, making the church practically inaccessible during the winter.

The frescoes in the church interior are in a very poor state. The characteristic damages that endanger the stability of the wall paintings are separation of the mortar layer from the wall (an estimated 50% of the painted surface suffer this separation), pulverisation of the painted layer, as well as the effects of moisture (both capillary and moisture penetrating through damage in the roof, at the juncture of the cupola and church nave). It is necessary to restore and conserve the wall paintings and to consolidate the mortar layer.

During the static repair of the church walls, a preventive conservation of the most endangered segments was achieved by injecting the separated layer of mortar, seaming the free edges of the damaged parts, and fastening the most endangered sections of the painted layer.

Case Study 4: Natural and Historic Cultural District of Kotor

The natural and historic cultural district of Kotor was inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1979. The 1979 earthquake caused damage to the city fortification walls, churches, residential and public buildings.

A significant danger factor for the heritage in this area is the fact that 20 years after the earthquake, many significant monuments have still not been renovated, and their deterioration has further increased due to atmospheric effects, vegetation, and human factors.

As well as the palaces, churches, archaeological localities, and others, this applies primarily to the Kotor fortification, the most important monumental complex in this city. Revitalisation of the fortress requires significant technical and financial expenditure, which this community does not possess. In this sense, numerous activities have been undertaken on the study, planning and launching a revitalisation process of the city fortifications. A renovation of the fortress was incorporated into the proposed UNESCO Participation Program and Japanese government technical aid for cultural heritage, while preparation is under way for the annual meeting of the Europa Nostra Scientific Council and the International Fortress Institute (in Kotor, October 2001, subject: Valorisation of the Kotor fortifications).

ICOMOS Yugoslavia