By Elvira Jukic
Bosniak rights campaigner Bakira Hasecic says building of Andric Grad forms part of a Serb drive to “finish off what they didn’t complete in the war”, that is, make Visegrad a truly Serbian town.
“Whenever I go to Visegrad and look at the construction of Andric Grad, I see that this is not the same town anymore,” Bakira Hasecic told Balkan Insight.
Hasecic leads the women’s association of war victims and is herself a displaced person from Visegrad, still fighting for the rights of Bosniaks and other victims in the eastern Bosnian town that was awarded by the 1995 Dayton peace deal to the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska.
The Bosnian Serb government has since given a concession on 30,000 square metres in the town to the famous but controversial film director Emir Kusturica to build a mini-town called Andric Grad, to be erected on the mouth of the Drina river.
Andric Grad is to be built as part of a public-private partnership. Kusturica will be the largest contributor to the project, while the Republika Srpska will provide part of the funding and the town of Visegrad will provide the location and infrastructure.
The concessioner is obliged to pay some 26,000 euro to the budget of the Republika Srpska entity and 2.2 per cent of the annual income made from Andric Grad.
Hasecic says the mock town, which according the plans centres on an old-fashioned Serbian church, forms part of a Serbian agenda to take over Visegrad and “finish off what they could not during the war”, which is to make it a totally Serb town of it.
Before the war the town was mainly Muslim. According to the 1991 census, the municipality was home to some 21,000 people of whom around 13,500 were Bosniaks [Muslims] and only around 7,000 were Serbs.
Since the ethnic cleansing campaigns of the 1990s, those figures have changed radically and about 95 per cent of the inhabitants of the town today are Serbs. The new census will contain the exact results in 2013.
Hasecic said families of victims are especially offended by the Andric Grad project because it will be built at the same site where many war crimes against Bosniaks occurred during the 1992-5 Bosnian war.
“And yet the Visegrad authorities wouldn’t let us build a monument to our victims at that place,” Hasecic told Balkan Insight.
The mini-town will include some 50 mainly stone buildings and be based on novelist Ivo Andric’s Nobel’s prize-winning book, The Bridge On the Drina.
Construction started in June 2011 and will take four years and will cost between 10 to 12 million euro.
Kusturica last year said Andric Grad will feature stone streets, gates and towers and include a cinema, theatre, marina, gymnasium, craft workshops, hotels, sports facilities, a new building for the Visegrad municipality, galleries, churches and a han.
He is expected to use the new mini-city in his planned movies Pancho Villa and The Bridge on the Drina. The filmmaker previously built an idealized traditional Serbian village in Serbia near Mokra Gora, called Drvengrad.
As Balkan Insight recently reported, the Sarajevo-based Foundation Public Law Centre has criticized the Bosnian Serb entity for donating 3 million euro from its state budget to the movie director to build Andric Grad, allowing him to bypass public procurement law.
About the author: Balkan Insight
The Balkan Insight (forner the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes.
BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention.
Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.