Memorial Centre of the Attacks on Zagreb 1991/1995
A small museum exhibition with a very specific theme, namely the two aerial attacks on Zagreb
during the Croatian
War of Independence 1991-1995.
More background info:
The centre commemorates two separate attacks on Zagreb
during the Croatian War of Independence (aka the Homeland War in Croatia
), one right at the beginning of the conflict, and another towards its end.
The first attack
came on 7 October 1991
and was an aerial bombardment raid by the Yugoslav Air Force
, who used some 30 to 40 planes, mostly MiG-21s, to attack various targets within Zagreb, in particular the Banski Dvori
, the then seat of the President of Croatia. Because of that it was suspected that the attack was intended to be a “decapitation strike”, though the Yugoslav government in Belgrade
denied this (or even that this was an officially authorized attack to begin with).
The Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman, and the other high-ranking politicians he was meeting with on that day luckily escaped from being harmed, but there was substantial damage to the building, especially from two direct-hit bombs that detonated 5 metres above their target for maximum impact.
One civilian was killed and a few injured by this aerial attack, which was quickly condemned by the Croatian leadership and also by a few Western governments abroad. The very next day the Croatian parliament voted in favour of seceding from the Yugoslav Federation
(but they probably would have done that without the attacks anyway).
, and much worse, attack
on Zagreb came much later, namely on 2 and 3 May 1995
, at a time when the Croatian Army was making progress in the south seizing back territory previously under Serb occupation. In retaliation for these advances the then Serb Krajina military
used Yugoslav-built M-87 “Orkan” missile launchers
(which have a range of some 50 km) to fire cluster-bomb
projectiles into the centre of Zagreb
This was a pure terror bombing operation targeting civilians. Seven were killed and some 200 were injured, many seriously. Amongst the targets hit was a children's hospital and the National Theatre. One policeman was killed during the clear-up of unexploded bomblets from the cluster munitions.
Since this was a deliberate attack on innocent civilians, and because cluster bombs were used (which have subsequently been banned by the majority of nations), the attack was declared a war crime at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
in The Hague and the Serbian commander of the forces that launched these attacks was sentenced to 35 years' imprisonment.
The Memorial Centre, which is a separate branch of the Zagreb City Museum, was opened on the 18th anniversary of the rocket attacks in 2013.
What there is to see:
The exhibition is a very visual one. In the anteroom a text panel provides some basic background information about the attacks, but in the first room it's an audiovisual installation that dominates. Panels/screens in the shape of open books are used for projections of video animations that combine images of MiG-21 fighter jets in flight with some general statistics/figures about the 1991 aerial attacks by the Yugoslav Air Force. In addition there are plenty of photographs illustrating the damage inflicted by the bombardments. One original artefact on display is a battered settee from the Banski Dvori Presidential Palace that was a main target of the attack (see above
The second room is about the 1995 rocket attacks (see above
) and is also illustrated with plenty of photos, some of them quite graphic images of bloodied victims, as well as various newspaper clippings. There are some information panels in Croatian and English, but the non-English newspaper clippings are not translated.
Those killed in the attack are honoured by seven stelae with red tops into which their names are engraved.
In the centre of the room is a display of two shattered glass panels and in between them, on a piece of pavement, lie two cluster bomblets such as were used in the rocket attacks. Amongst the other displays is a pair of ballet shoes that used to be belong to the prima ballerina of the Croatian National Theatre who was also injured in the attack on 3 May 1995, when bombs hit the theatre during rehearsals.
A third room has a lecture theatre as well as some panels providing information about the subsequent trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
in The Hague (see above
Back in the anteroom, various books and brochures are on display while the walls are lined with large photos of post-war Zagreb
and especially various building projects that have changed the cityscape since the war. It thus ends on a positive, forward-looking note.
All in all
I found the memorial centre an interesting and visually very appealing addition to Croatia
's other war-related museums/sites. Obviously, there is no “balanced” approach here, but due to the narrow topic the one-sidedness of the exhibition is quite understandable. Definitely worth seeing when in the city.
at Ul Frana Petrića 4, right in the city centre of Zagreb
, just steps away from the Old Town and main square.
Access and costs: centrally located and thus easy to find; free
The Memorial Centre is just round the corner from the main square (Trg Bana Josipa Jelačića) in downtown Zagreb
, just one block down Ilica Street and then less than a hundred yards down Ul Frana Petrića. So it's walkable from just about anywhere within the city centre. Otherwise numerous trams and buses stop at Trg Bana Josipa Jelačića round the corner.
The centre is on the upper floor and its opening times are: Tuesdays to Saturdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sundays to 2 p.m., closed Mondays and on public holidays.
Time required: between half an hour and 45 minutes.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
see under Zagreb
If you go to Vukovar
you can see one of those M-87 “Orkan” self-propelled missile launchers, like those that were used in the 1995 attacks on Zagreb, on display at the Homeland War Memorial Centre
. They also have a piece of wreckage of a MiG-21 fighter jet such as were used in the 1991 attacks. The Homeland War Museum in Karlovac
has another piece of such a MiG-21 wreck.
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
see under Zagreb
- Memorial Centre 1 - bombing damage
- Memorial Centre 2 - animation
- Memorial Centre 3 - exhibition room
- Memorial Centre 4 - names of victims
- Memorial Centre 5 - shattered
- Memorial Centre 6 - cluster bomblets
- Memorial Centre 7 - damaged symbolism
- Memorial Centre 8 - ballerina shoes
- Memorial Centre 9 - look to the future