Upon the establishment of the Homeland War Museum in Dubrovnik, the first of its kind in the Republic of Croatia, the mobile guest exhibition “Dubrovnik in the Homeland War, 1991-1995” is opened in the Croatian History Museum based on the many years of professional cooperation between these two Museums.
We selected precisely this period to present to the Zagreb public, since this year is the exceptionally important twenty-fifth anniversary of the largest offensive operation conducted by the Croatian Army in 1992 – often unjustly neglected by the professional and scholarly public – which entirely liberated the Croatian south. Also, this year is the tenth after the initiation of the procedure to establish the Homeland War Museum of Dubrovnik.
Namely, in an attempt to preserve the historical memory of the Homeland War for posterity, in 2007 the City of Dubrovnik approved the Project on Establishment of the Homeland War Museum with the design solution for its permanent display as developed by Varina Jurica Turk and Mišo Đuraš, and also made the decision to house it in the premises of the Imperial Fortress on Srđ Hill – the symbol of the city's heroic defence in 1991. As part of the preparatory works on the future permanent display, the same two individuals organized the thematic exhibition “Dubrovnik in the Homeland War, 1991-1995,” which was opened on Victory and National Thanksgiving Day, 5 August 2008.
It was made possible by many years of systematic work involving the collection, protection, analysis and presentation of museum materials which testify to this exceptionally important period of recent history in Dubrovnik and Croatia as a whole. In this manner, all museum collections were enriched, becoming an inescapable wellspring of data for all of those who wish to engage in professional and scholarly research into the Homeland War.
The gathering of museum materials conducted in the first half of 2008 by Homeland War Museum project leader Varina Jurica Turk in cooperation with the ZNG Dubrovnik 1991 Association and defenders who distinguished themselves in Dubrovnik’s defence was particularly important. Through a well-planned campaign, a vast quantity of museum materials was gathered and processed, and thus preserved from destruction and oblivion; it consists of several thousand original wartime photographs and negatives, hundreds of hours of video footage, various items and documents.
The value of the project was acknowledged the Croatian Museum Association, which conferred its special recognition to Varina Jurica Turk in 2008. By this act, the museum profession in Croatia once more expressed its gratitude to all of Dubrovnik’s defenders and civilians for the exceptional contribution made by the city to the creation of the free and independent Republic of Croatia in the Homeland War.
In the meantime, work continued on the expansion of the museum collections and the now already permanent exhibition “Dubrovnik in the Homeland War, 1991-1995” with new content, even though the planned restoration of the Imperial Fortress had not even begun. With support from the Croatian Ministry of Culture, programmatic exhibitions were held: “The Croatian Army’s 163rd Brigade“ (2008), “Devastation of the Populace, Civilian Buildings and Cultural Monuments in the Dubrovnik Area” (2009), “’The City, That’s You’ – Development of the Croatian Armed Forces in the Dubrovnik Area during the Homeland War” (2010), “Days of Victory – Liberation of the Croatian South in 1992” (2012), and “Donations – The Foundation of the Homeland War Museum” (2014). As part of the museum project “Croatian Wartime Photography,” which is launched in 2013, and as a result of research in the photo-archives of the daily newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija and donations from prominent Croatian and Dubrovnik wartime photojournalists, three thematic exhibitions were organized and enlarged the Museum’s Photograph Collection with over 4,000 original documentary shots from the Homeland War.
I. Preparations for defence
The first thematic unit presents the course of events in the Dubrovnik area from the first multi-party elections and Croatia’s declaration of independence, through the preparations for defence and the establishment of armed units to the all-out Serbian-Montenegrin military attack on Dubrovnik which began on 1 October 1991.
II. Serbian-Montenegrin aggression, 1991
This unit covers the aggressor’s wartime operations, the resistance of the small number of poorly-armed defenders, the organization of defence, the establishment of Croatian Army units, and everyday life under wartime conditions filled with the suffering and sacrifice by the entire population under complete enemy encirclement for many months. A special place belongs to the City’s heroic defence, concluding in the final military and political defeat of the aggressor, with which Dubrovnik’s defenders and citizens wrote out the most resplendent pages of its rich history.
III. Days of Victory – Liberation of the Croatian south, 1992
The third unit deals with events in the Dubrovnik area after the Sarajevo Ceasefire (signed on 3 January 1992), the international recognition of the Republic of Croatia and the initial implementation of the Vance Plan in February 1992 until the final liberation of the temporarily occupied territories of southern Croatia at the end of 1992. Notable sub-units cover the victoriously concluded operation to liberate the Croatian south, when the Croatian Army marched to the internationally recognized borders of the Republic of Croatia, as well as the major events in the Dubrovnik area during Operation Storm, which signified the final victory against the aggressor in the Homeland War.
IV. Devastation of Dubrovnik in the Homeland War
The fourth thematic unit contains a comprehensive overview of the devastation of the wider Dubrovnik area during the Homeland War with data on slain and injured defenders and civilians, internees in Serbian-Montenegrin concentration camps, displaced persons and refugees, the damage sustained by civilian structures and businesses, and the destruction of the world’s valuable cultural heritage.
The exhibition presents over 350 items from the museum collections and video footage documenting the aggressor’s senseless destruction of the city and the suffering and killing of its population.
We believe that this exhibition constitutes a significant step forward in ensuring that Dubrovnik, a city of history, culture and the arts, will become recognized as a symbol of heroism and victory in the Homeland War.
Thanks to the sacrifice and casualties suffered by its defenders and civilian population in the aggressor’s unprecedented, senseless destruction of its highly-valuable cultural heritage, Dubrovnik gave Croatia a significant advantage in international relations and made an immeasurable contribution to its international recognition. Thus, it does not seem excessive to assert that Vukovar and Dubrovnik presented the world with the best testimony about the true nature of the aggression against Croatia, and the magnitude of the Croatian people’s just struggle for freedom and independence in the imposed, unscrupulous war of conquest waged by the aggressor.
The newly-established Homeland War Museum of Dubrovnik will certainly facilitate systematic professional and scholarly interest in the Homeland War and the promotion of the genuine human values forged within its crucible. By establishing the historical facts, it will successful resist the inappropriate attitude – quite present in Croatian society – toward this most important period of our history.
The importance of the Project is best reflected in the interest shown by experts and scholars, the comprehensive cooperation with veterans associations and similar institutions, and the over 500,000 visitors from Croatia and abroad who have come to see this exhibition up to the present.
The accommodation of the Museum in situ in the Imperial Fortress on Srđ Hill, a location where the most crucial battles were waged against the aggressor and where Dubrovnik defended its freedom, has largely contributed to the constant growth in the number of annual visits. Thus, in 2016, record numbers of 63,000 foreign and 12,000 domestic visitors were registered.
Varina Jurica Turk
Acting Director of the Homeland War Museum of Dubrovnik