The Boka Navy Kotor is today, above all, a traditional, memorable organization, but also a cultural institution that is linked to the continuous thread of the long and burning history of Boka Kotorska. For more than 12 centuries, the Navy has had different functions. Always linked to the cult of St. Tripun and the Catholic Church, the oldest seafaring organization in the world, and, besides the church, one of the most long-standing organizations in general, was the military, humanitarian and professional organization of sailors. The importance of this cultural fact has been recognized by the Ministry of Culture of Montenegro, which formed the Professional Team, which in cooperation with the Boka Navy worked on the application for one year, so on 31 March this year, the Boka Navy was officially nominated for protection on the Representative List of Intangible Heritage of the World UNESCO.
In the final phase of the preparation of the application for protection on the UNESCO list, the Boka Navy has paid great attention to the national and international public, but not because of its extraordinary cultural value, but primarily because of the controversy that came to the topic: Who does the Boka Navy belong to?
The Republic of Croatia, together with the Croat organizations in Montenegro, tried to prove that the Boka Navy was primarily the legacy of the Croatian people in Boka, and because of this fact, Montenegro cannot itself claim this cultural good for UNESCO protection. Since the organization never had national features and was always linked only to Boka and Bokelians, these unfounded claims were rejected professionally.
"For me, it’s the end of the story. Our candidacy is accepted and with a great degree of certainty we can expect that next year in November, the Boka Navy will be included as the first Montenegrin good on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity," said the first man of the Boka Navy, Admiral Dr. Antun Sbutega.
"The proclamation of the Boka Navy with the legacy of the World will be important not only for the Boka Navy and Boka Bay, not only for Montenegro and the worldwide promotion of its not well-known history, but also for the world, due to the fact that we speak of the oldest seafarer organization in the world, and cultural, artistic, historical heritage related directly and indirectly to the Boka Navy, what she still inspires. We, for example, have excellent cooperation with Kotor Art and every year at least one of the concerts in the frame of the festival was inspired by the Boka Navy. So two years ago, we had composers from the region, who were given the task of composing new melodies inspired by the Boka Navy Round Dance for the concert that opened the festival," explains Admiral Sbutega.
Along with the publicity that the Boka Navy did not seek, but provided great interest to the national and international public, in the candidacy year for UNESCO status, the Boka Navy has realized more than 45 different activities. "We had great cooperation with all the institutions of the city and state. In cooperation with the Bishop's Ordinariate of Kotor and the State Protocol, the Navy participated in the reception of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of Vatican. We have established very good cooperation with the Union of Seafarers and the Association of Naval Captains of Montenegro. After several years, we have established a successful cooperation with the Faculty of Maritime Studies in Kotor," explains Sbutega.
“I have to highlight the excellent cooperation with the Municipality of Kotor, as well as civil society organizations and cultural institutions, especially with the Historic Archives of Montenegro in Kotor," said Sbutega, pointing out that these activities were possible thanks to the intensive work of all members of the Boka Navy.
The very good cooperation of the Boka Navy with the Italian Community of Montenegro led to the presentation of the Boka Navy at the biggest regatta in the world.
"From 11-14 October, we will be the guests of Trieste and Piran. Thanks to the Italian Community of Montenegro, we have been contacted and invited to participate in the opening ceremonies of the largest existing regatta in the world, which is Barcolana in Trieste. The Jubilee 50th edition involves more than two thousand sailboats of different sizes and categories. In Trieste, at the main square Piazza dell’Unita d'Italia, we will perform the Boka Navy round dance and have the reception of the Mayor of Trieste. After that, we will, together with the Italian Navy, continue to participate in the regatta ceremony. During this journey, we’ll also be the guests of the Community of Italians in Piran, where we have planned the performance of our folklore group, which will inaugurate not only the Boka Navy round dance, but also other folklore dances of Boka. More than 60 people are involved in this expedition. In addition to the Navy's Main Board, the representative of the Steering Committee, and our folkloric group, 17 members of Kotor City Music, who will play in our performances, are traveling with us. This visit is important not only for us and for the promotion of the Boka Navy, but also for the promotion of Boka Bay and Montenegro, as well as for establishing and strengthening the connection with Trieste, which has been our main gate to the world for over 100 years," explains Boka Navy’s Admiral.
The visit to Trieste and Piran is just one of the activities in international promotion planned by the Boka Navy in the coming period. "In anticipation of nomination on the World Heritage List, we plan some very ambitious activities, which we hope will be realized," says Sbutega.
The Boka Navy next year plans to organize a representative exhibition, the main theme of which is the Boka Navy, but not only the history of the Navy, but the 1210 years of history, spirituality and culture in the area of Boka Bay. "We plan to organize this exhibition in Rome in May or June next year and then, in the fall, when we are hoping to enter the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Heritage, and we plan to send the same exhibition to Paris. Of course, these exhibitions will certainly be followed by the performances of the Boka Navy's Main Squadron, and we hope that we will be able to perform the Round Dance of Holy Tripun at St. Peter Square in the Vatican and later in Paris at the Champs Elysees or another popular location. Of course, these are very ambitious and expensive projects, but we hope to realize them. We have great support from the Montenegrin Government, the Ministry of Culture, the Kotor Municipality, the President of the State. Of special importance is cooperation with the institutions of Kotor, starting with the Diocese who owns a large number of exhibits to be presented at this exhibition through the Maritime Museum, the Historical Archive, the Museum of the City of Perast, etc. The next day we are planning a meeting of the Initial Committee. For the time being, these are only the plans conditioned by numerous factors. We are communicating with embassies in our country, announcing that the project is moving. Will we succeed, it is early to speak, but we will do everything we can to make these exhibitions happen. Not only because of us, the Boka Navy, not just because of Boka Bay, but also because of Montenegro because of its promotion in the world, which is the reason for the strong support we have from state institutions," says Sbutega.
The Boka Navy's report on the work over the past year will be presented to the public at the regular annual assembly of the organization, which is traditionally held in November when detailed plans for the following year will be presented. Boka Navy could be proud also for the fact that for the first time ever, the whole history of the organization and maritime tradition of Boka Bay will be published, a long 2,5 millenniums. The book is going to be published by the Boka Navy and Maritime Museum of Montenegro and presented to the public within the celebration of the Day of Kotor Municipality. The promotion is scheduled for 20 November at the Maritime Museum at the Grgurina Palace, and the author of this important publication is Admiral Antun Sbutega.
"This is a very comprehensive book with a huge bibliography, which is trying to cover everything that is most important in our maritime history in the course of 2,5 millenniums, from the Old Ages, from Illyrians and Romans to today," says the Doctor of Economics, a longtime professor at the Faculty of Maritime Studies in Kotor, later Ambassador of Montenegro to the Vatican and Rome, Antun Sbutega.