February 9, 2019 - In 2019 Boka Navy will mark few significant jubilees for Kotor and Boka Bay, and realize a representative exhibition on the Navy in Montenegro and then in some European cities. In addition to planning foreign visits, the organization also focuses on selecting, processing and preparing about 800 documents from the history of the oldest maritime organization in the world, said in an interview for the daily newspaper Pobjeda the Boka Navy Admiral, Dr. Antun Sbutega.
In 2019 Boka Navy marks 1210 years since its foundation
. What is the Boka Navy today? Must it be much more than participation in the St. Tryphon’s festivals and dancing the St. Tryphon’s round dance?
Boka Navy connects its roots with 13 January, 809, when the relics of St. Tryphon came in Kotor. It links to his cult and the town of Kotor. After the Church, it is the oldest existing institution in Montenegro and the oldest maritime organization in the world and by this unique one. Boka Navy's Heritage is an exceptional historical memory, tradition, moral, spiritual and cultural values. We are nurturing tradition, participate in the festivals defined by the Statute, and dance the ancient round dance. But, it is far more than that, an active factor in cultural life and civil society, as evidenced by numerous activities last year. The Navy participated in the 100th anniversary of the rebellion of sailors in Boka and guest abroad, in Piran and Trieste.
We work intensively with the Montenegrin Maritime Museum, Navy of the Army of Montenegro, Kotor's Historical Archives, Kotor's Music School, Kotor Art Festival, City Music in Kotor, Tivat and Herceg Novi, other cultural institutions and are involved in numerous cultural projects. With the funds approved by the Ministry of Culture, we procured new uniforms, while the restoration of an ancient weapon was underway. We have publishing activity, and through the site, social networks and media, inform the public about the events.
What are Boka Navy’s plans for 2019? What do you plan to accomplish?
The plan is ambitious, and we hope to realize it as well as the previous one. Among other things, the Navy will participate in ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Earthquake on the Montenegrin Coast, 40 years after the entry of the Kotor area into the UNESCO Natural and Cultural Heritage List, 60 years after the establishment of the oldest unit of the University of Montenegro- Faculty of Maritime Studies in Kotor. We plan a representative exhibition about the Navy in Montenegro, and then in some European cities. We are working on a selection, processing and preparation project for about 800 documents from the Boka Navy History.
The Admiralty and You personally in public performances insist on the universal, multi-ethnic and multicultural character of the Navy. Why is it so important to emphasize?
The Navy is a real example of universal, multiethnic and multicultural values, which are also the fundamental values of Montenegro, as written in its Constitution. Unfortunately, we are witnessing that from various sides the so-called identity issues, that is to aggressively insist on ethnic, national, religious and other affiliation, contradicts their identity, falsifies history in a primitive way, which has often been the cause of the tragedy. And the Boka Navy is exposed to political and media pressures trying to deny its fundamental values and falsifying its history. That is why in December 2016, in Pobjeda, we published the text "Whose is the Boka Navy" to whom we have nothing to add or subtract.
The candidacy of the Boka Navy by Montenegro for entry to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage is undergoing. When we could expect the finalization of this process and what benefits could the Boka Navy and Montenegro have?
I would say that the most critical success of the Boka Navy in the last two years is the nomination for UNESCO, the first non-material good of Montenegro. We received a great deal of support from the Presidency of Montenegro, the Government, especially the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the municipalities of Boka Bay, the institutions of culture, civil society and citizens. The making of the Nominating Application Document was a complex and long-term job, conducted in cooperation with the experts of the Ministry of Culture headed by Milica Nikolic, whom we are very grateful for her support and help. The Montenegrin diplomatic network and the Ministry of Culture are following the candidacy process. UNESCO has informed that the nomination was technically satisfactory and that it was in the evaluation procedure. We believe that in the UNESCO's Nobility Committee in December this year in Bogotá, the Navy will finally be enrolled in Representative List. It will have immense importance for the Navy, but also Montenegro's promotion in the world as culture is essential for forming images of states, especially those that are not well known. I am convinced that this will be significant for a world that will reveal the marvelous values of the Navy.
This candidature caused numerous reactions in Croatia. Why was the joint nomination of the Navy for UNESCO by Montenegro and Croatia not possible?
These reactions were inadequate, excessive and without valid arguments. Being subject of the Assembly of Montenegro, the Croatian Parliament, and the European Parliament, and we were also exposed by an incredible media campaign that challenged Montenegro's right to this candidacy, insisting that the Navy is the first cultural heritage of the Croats. We do not need to know who we are, we have learned it well in 1210 years. The joint nomination was not possible and because the Navy did not come from Croatia to get an official bid for a joint application, and above all, because the arguments highlighted about our history and identity are not true. The Prime Minister of Montenegro has put forward a clear position, which is the attitude of the Navy, and Montenegro has independently nominated the Navy. However, the coordinated action of a part of the institutions and diplomacy of the Republic of Croatia, the Croatian brotherhood of the Boka navy 809, which separated from us in 1991 and the Croatian National Council in Montenegro, try to continue to UNESCO to challenge our candidacy. It does not concern us because we are sure of the validity of the nomination and our arguments. The Navy is older than states and nations in this area and has accumulated valuable experience, values and collective wisdom for the ages, thanks to which it has endured numerous dramatic historical reviews, and will do so.
Boka Navy, Tivat, photo by Antonela Stjepcevic
Do you expect that in the event of Pope Francis' visit, his meeting with members of the Boka Navy would be an indispensable part of the protocol?
During the visit of the Secretary-General of Vatican cardinal Pietro Carolin of Montenegro last year, in agreement with the state protocol, the Boka Navy welcomed him and danced in his honor. We believe that if we come to a historic visit to Pope Francis of Montenegro, we will have the opportunity to meet him.
The Boka Navy was a co-author of that book with the Montenegrin Maritime Museum, thanks to the funds of the Ministry of Culture. It is a 522-page book of A4 format, with 1137 footnotes and about 750 bibliographic monographs. It is the first book on this topic that covers maritime history in the territory of today's Montenegro from Illyrian and Roman times to the present. It is a result of the naval tradition of my family over a period of more than four hundred years, a research that I started in my youth, the fact that I had been teaching at the Faculty of Maritime Studies for a long time, my degree and my doctoral degree in maritime science and decennial work. Although written following the scientific methodology, I tried to make it attractive to all readers.
Are maritime affairs in Montenegro just a glorious past? Do you have data that deny that stereotype?
Maritime affairs in the territory of Montenegro have a history of about 2,500 years. Naval tradition is deeply rooted here, especially in Boka, and is an essential factor in the development of maritime affairs. Over the years, naval affairs have been going through several crises, but have the vitality to be renewed. One of the gravest crises began in 1991, in the time of the collapse of Yugoslavia, wars, and sanctions that hit maritime affairs. But most of the fleet, port and shipbuilding and other activities, albeit weakened, survived that period but had a dramatic fall in the coming years due to inadequate maritime policy in the country. Later on, there was a sure recovery of ports and shipping, while shipbuilding disappeared. Today, we have two shipping companies with only four vessels, which do not show the ability to operate on the maritime market successfully. Port of Bar is a small and poorly-used capacity. Even today, Montenegro has no naval policy.
Meanwhile, there has been a rapid development of nautical tourism and arrivals for cruise ships. In Montenegro, there are 6- 7 thousand seafarers, of which over 95% are sailing on foreign companies, earning revenue of 200-300 million per year. How I have managed to establish Montenegro is by seafarers number compared to the number of inhabitants in the world's first place. There are numerous problems in the process of naval education and the recognition of their authority in the world. The Boka Navy has the task of promoting maritime affairs and working with seafarers' associations to solve problems in this area.