Email 06 June 2000
Original Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc.

Serbia: Kosovo's Libraries Cleansed Of Albanian Books
By Jolyon Naegele
Kosovo's libraries lost almost half their books over the last decade to
ethnic cleansing. RFE/RL correspondent Jolyon Naegele reports that a new
study says many of the libraries were purged of Albanian-language books
even before hostilities erupted in 1998.
Prague, 31 May 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The International Federation of Library
Associations estimates that at least $6.7 million will be needed to
rescue Kosovo's libraries, damaged by a decade of neglect and a year and
a half of fighting. It says most of the books that survived are either
outdated or irrelevant to locals because of their language or subject
     The association's report, just made public, says that Serbian
authorities followed a systematic policy of destroying Albanian-language
     The authors, two Scandinavian library experts, based their report
on a survey they conducted earlier this year in libraries throughout
Kosovo. The authors do not attempt to define who destroyed what when,
but rather they focus on the libraries' current needs. UNESCO, the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Council of
Europe supported the survey financially and logistically, along with
four Scandinavian librarians' associations.
     One of the co-authors is Carsten Frederiksen, deputy director of
the Copenhagen-based library federation. He says Albanian librarians had
been fired long before the war.
     "What has happened is actually that all ethnic Albanians in Kosovo
were removed from the libraries or fired or sacked about 10 years ago,
and that no new books in the Albanian language have been acquired since
1991. And in this sense you might speak of ethnic cleansing in the
libraries." The report says some 100,000 books in Albanian belonging to
the National and University Library were destroyed between 1991 and
1995, in what the authors of the survey describe as a "process of ethnic
cleansing." They say this process also occurred in almost all public
libraries in Kosovo during the 1990s. The torching of libraries in
Kosovar Albanian communities during the fighting in 1998 and 1999 was
just the culmination of a long policy.
     As a result, the survey says, "a large share of local public and
school libraries need total reconstruction of buildings and
     Last autumn, the National and University Library of Kosovo
(sponsored by the Kosovo Foundation for an Open Society), conducted its
own survey and found that two-thirds of Kosovo's 180 libraries had been
"annihilated" between 1990 and 1999. Over 900,000 books -- or almost
half of all library books in Kosovo -- had been destroyed.
     The Scandinavian report does not seek to duplicate that survey.
     But it does respond to controversial accusations made last year by
the Belgrade daily "Glas Javnosti" alleging that Kosovar Albanians had
destroyed at least four Serbian libraries and burned 2 million Serbian
books. The Scandinavian authors say this allegation is unfounded, and
they insist that Kosovo's public libraries never contained 2 million
Serbian books.
     The authors say they cannot absolutely rule out that ethnic
Albanians may have destroyed some libraries which the Belgrade
authorities had renamed "Serbian cultural institutions." But they say
they saw no indications in the libraries they visited that Serbian books
had been systematically destroyed. Rather, they say that in areas where
the greatest Serbian destruction of Albanian property occurred -- in
western and central Kosovo -- books in Serbian were the only ones that
     The survey lists the most pressing problems facing the National and
University Library as missing, damaged or outdated equipment, including
electricity and telephone lines. Missing Albanian books should be
replaced, the survey  recommends, and English-language university books
should be acquired.
     The Kosovo survey team has submitted its report to UNESCO and the
UN administration in Kosovo, UNMIK, including a three- to four-year
action plan.
     The plan proposes the formation of a temporary library consortium
that would include local activists, major international donors, and
international organizations to provide professional expertise and
advice. The plan also proposes 11 special programs that would address
such areas as administration, reconstruction, and training, as well as
set up a mobile library service, and cultural heritage and youth
     Frederiksen says "a very rough estimate" of the funding needed for
these measures is $6.7 million. He is optimistic about the chances for
raising this money.
     "Our intention is of course that some of the government agencies in
Europe or North America are willing to go into this project. And I think
that some of the Scandinavian countries, for instance, we have quite a
long experience both in public libraries and especially in mobile
libraries, which is one of the suggestions we make to be introduced in
     The survey says projects and activities so far have been sporadic
and largely ad hoc, and that at present, no systematic effort exists to
address the needs of Kosovo's libraries.
     But Frederiksen notes the Kosovo Foundation for an Open Society
already has responded to the recommendations of his report and has
initiated several projects. These include reconstruction of three public
libraries, translation of scientific literature for university use, and
delivery of Albanian-language children's books.
Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 06/06/2000
ęS D Stein

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