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News 05 Jun 17

Serbian Activists Vow To Stop Church Moving Tesla’s Urn

After the Serbian Orthodox Church resumed its campaign to get Nikola Tesla’s urn moved to St Sava’s church, a group has vowed to keep it where it is – in a museum.

Filip Rudic
Nikola Tesla’s urn in his Belgrade museum. Photo: Filip Rudic/BIRN

After leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church again expressed a wish to move the remains of the scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla from his Belgrade museum, a group called “Leave Tesla Alone” has vowed to prevent any such attempt - as it did once before.

“We will always be there to defend the wishes of Tesla and his heirs who wanted him buried at the Museum,” Marko Marjanovic, one of the group’s organisers, said.

The director of Nikola Tesla Museum, Branimir Jovanovic, was not immediately available for comment but the museum has said it has not received an official request to move Tesla’s remains.

The Church, however, vows to continue striving for the transfer, calling his current place of rest “a disgrace”.

“The [Church] Council thinks that the earthly remains of the Serbian and world giant Nikola Tesla do not belong with museum exhibits – this fact is a unique precedent and a disgrace,” a Serbian Orthdox Church press release said on May 26.

For years, the Council, the Church’s governing body, has wanted to move the urn containing Tesla’s ashes to St Sava’s cathedral, also in Belgrade, or to the adjacent churchard.

But Marko Marjanovic accuses the Church of wanting to to claim Tesla’s remains mainly in order to promote St Sava’s into a major tourist attraction.

“They say Tesla should not be a part of a museum exhibition but they would make him part of a tourism exhibition,” Marjanovic said.

“They wish to appropriate him, but Tesla belongs to the entire world,” he added.

Tesla’s remains were almost moved in 2014, when Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej, Zorana Mihajlovic, then the outgoing Energy Minister, and Sinisa Mali, then head of the interim authority in Belgrade, signed an agreement to move the urn to the churchyard of St Sava’s.

In response, an initiative, “Leave Tesla Alone”, was formed. The group at one point attracted about a thousand people to a street protest.

The authorities then decided against moving the urn from the museum.

However, the director of Nikola Tesla Museum, who had opposed the transfer, was removed from his post soon afterwards.

A former leader of the protests against the removal of Tesla’s urn, ex-director of the Centre for the Promotion of Science Nemanja Djordjevic, hopes that there will be no need for more street protests.

“I do not think that in a secular state such a decision should be made without at least a public debate,” said Djordjevic, who is no longer affiliated with “Leave Tesla Alone” but still shares the same sentiments.

Controversy was stirred again in 2015, after Nikola Nikodijevic, president of the local assembly in Belgrade, said Patriarch Irinej had suggested moving the urn because the museum was allowing the performance of “satanic rituals around Tesla’s urn”.

The Serbian Church posted on its website a photograph of people sitting around Tesla’s urn, claiming they were holding some kind of seance or spiritual ritual.

Museum Director Branimir Jovanovic explained that the photograph actually showed a group of artists paying tribute to Tesla during a festival in April 2015.

“In a way, they were paying their respects, meditating, and everything was within the limits of decency. We take care that everything happening in the museum is respectful,” Jovanovic said.

The burial urn with Tesla's ashes has been in the museum since 1957, according to the wishes of his relatives.

Born in Austro-Hungarian ruled Croatia in 1856, Tesla died in New York in 1943. He had lived in the US since the 1880s, where he gained fame for his pioneering work with electricity.

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