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News 09 Jul 12

Serbia, Bulgaria Museums Reject Macedonian Plea For Copies

Serbian and Bulgarian museums holding archeological treasures found on Macedonian soil have turned down a Macedonian request for them to hand over copies.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

In May Serbia handed copy of one mask to Macedonia | Photo by: vlada.mk

Archeologist Pasko Kuzman, head of the Macedonian Cultural Heritage Bureau, says that national museums in Belgrade and in Sofia had “turned us down politely”.

Macedonia hoped to be able to display copies of four golden burial masks, a big bronze bowl and an ancient war helmet, all dating from the 5th and 6th century B.C. in its new archeological museum, set to open this year in the centre of Skopje.

Most of these valuables were excavated near the southwestern town of Ohrid in the first half of the 20th century. They were taken away along with several hundred other artifacts. Modern Macedonia was part of Serbia after the Balkan wars of 1912-1913.

For now Macedonia will be able to display only two such valuable masks in the new museum, one of which is original, found in 2002 near Ohrid.

The other is copy of one in Belgrade that the former Serbian Minister of Culture Predrag Markovic in May handed over to Macedonian authorities upon his visit to Skopje.

Markovic said the museum replica was a gift of friendship to the Macedonian people and Macedonian state.

According to Kuzman, the head of the Serbian national museum, Tatjana Cvijeticanin, in a recent letter had politely apologized about the others, saying the other artifacts were fragile and could not undergo a process of copying.

“Personally I do not believe this. The bowl is not fragile at all and besides, today there are 3D non-invasive methods of making replicas that do not require physical contact with the artifacts,” Kuzman told the daily newspaper Dnevnik.

He said the Bulgarian museum was even more polite in its refusal, agreeing to make copies of the artifacts displayed there - but only for a price of 100,000 US dollars each.

The new Archeological museum in Skopje | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

“There are many ways to turn someone down!” Pasko jested.

He adds that after this outcome the Macedonian bureau is seriously considering a formal demand for the restitution of the original artifacts.

However, he says that, observing similar practices around the world, the chances of actual restitution taking place are slim.

Macedonia for now can count on Turkish help to obtain a copy of a valuable sarcophagus with a relief of the Ancient warrior Alexander the Great, which is in a museum in Istanbul.

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