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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 20:41 GMT
Croatia's precious artwork returned
The town of Vukovar
The town was reduced to rubble in the civil war
By the BBC's Alix Kroeger

Yugoslavia has returned more than 2,000 art works taken from the Croatian town of Vukovar 10 years ago when Croatia and Yugoslavia were at war.

After the fall of Vukovar in November 1991, soldiers from the Yugoslav National Army took a total of more than 8,000 artefacts, including icons of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The Yugoslav Government returned the first part of the collection as part of its normalisation of relations with Croatia.

Serbian bishop
Some of the artworks were medieval icons from the Serbian Orthodox Church

For the past 10 years, the entire collection has been stored in a museum in the town of Novi Sad in northern Serbia.

Now the remaining artefacts are due to be handed back by the end of the week.

Vukovar lies on Croatia's border with Serbia. Before the war it had a large Serb minority, and in 1991 it became a symbol of Croatia's fight for independence.

The town was reduced to rubble after a three-month siege by the Yugoslav army.

After it fell in November 1991, hundreds of civilians were killed, around 5,000 people were taken prisoner in Serbia and the rest of the town's Croat population was expelled - around 21,000 people in total.

Improving relations

The Yugoslav army then took the Vukovar art works, including precious medieval icons treasured by Serbia's Orthodox Church.

However, when Vukovar was returned to Croatian control in 1998 and its population became equally balanced between Croats and Serbs, there were calls for the artworks to be handed back.

Croatia's culture minister said Vukovar's wounds were still hurting but the return of the art works would provide both a great encouragement and a soothing remedy.

The BBC's Alix Kroeger
"For the past 10 years, the entire collection has been stored in Novi Sad"
See also:

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