Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said the Croatian town of Gospic should reinstall a renovated statue of the celebrated ethnic Serb scientist that was destroyed by a blast in 1992.
"I appeal to the Gospic authorities to find a decent place for that monument, which I consider to be the heart of Gospic, but it's up to them to decide," Milanovic said in the Croatian parliament on Wednesday.
He said that there were "touristic and economic" reasons for restoring the Tesla monument that was destroyed in a night-time explosion staged by unknown attackers in February 1992 during the Balkan conflict.
Inventor Tesla, one of the 20th Century’s scientific greats, was born near Gospic, but in the 1990s, Croatian nationalists tried to play down the fact that his ethnic origins were Serb.
The attack on his statue took place during a period when monuments were destroyed across Croatia for political reasons, including more than 3,000 memorials to the World War II Partisan movement.
The Gospic monument was a replica of a statue by Croatian artist Frano Krsinic, and identical works stand in Belgrade and at Niagara falls, where Tesla performed some of his experiments.
The statue was restored at the Zagreb visual arts academy’s foundry in 2006, when the 150th anniversary of Tesla's birthday was celebrated, in a collaboration between the Croatian and Serbian culture ministries.
"The monument is completely finished," Nikola Cerjanc, the deputy director of the foundry, told media recently, describing the artwork as a "masterpiece".
Several years ago, Gospic mayor Nikola Kolic rejected the possibility of bringing the statue back. "We will put [wartime Croatian President] Franjo Tudjman's monument in that place," Kolic said, although he did not fulfill his promise.
Tesla was born in 1856 in Smiljan, near Gospic. Despite his innovations in the field of electrical engineering, he died in poverty in New York in 1943.