Bosnia's national treasures on their knees

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Bosnia's national treasures on their knees

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Bosnia’s National Museum in Sarajevo is almost a miracle in itself, outlasting the Habsburg empire, and emerging bloodied but unbowed from two World Wars and a civil war siege.

But now the institution, along with the National Library, has a far more implacable foe: the politician. It is all about money, and a ‘who-should-pay’ squabble between Bosnians, Croats and Serbs who have failed to agree on most anything in the 17 years since the Dayton peace accord ended fighting.

“If we’re forced to close we’ll ask the local police to look after the building to prevent looting, and we won’t be held responsible for damp or cold damage,” said the museum’s General Manager Adnan Busuladzic.

The battle over funding for art has already closed seven national institutions and more are under threat, and this matters as they are among the most important guardians of the region’s multi-ethnic heritage.

Although the 1995 Dayton accord ended nearly three years of bloodshed, it created an uneasy Bosnian-Croat-Serb confederation whose partners have shown little signs of wanting to work with each other.