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Stecaks in Sabici

By 1st Lt. Philippe Mouret
First published in
SFOR Informer#125, October 31, 2001

Foreign legionnaires and alpine infantrymen from the French Battle Group (FRBG) restored the ancient cemetery of Sabaci to its original state.

Sabici - The village of Sabici is about 15 kilometres south of Sarajevo, set back from Mount Igman, at the bottom of the Bjelasnica massif, where the 1984 Olympic games took place. Living conditions there are very basic and it is often described as "a village at the end of the world." Situated at an altitude of 1,000 metres, access is by dirt tracks and snow is sometimes present from November till May.
Bogomilism
Nevertheless, the place has been occupied for many centuries. In particular, a necropolis comprised of "stecaks" (gravestones) from the Bogomils sect era is located there. This Christian group started in the 10th century in Bulgaria. "Bogomil" comes from Bulgarian words "Bog," God, and "Mil," friend. Followers of this faith had a dualist conception of Creation, with Good and Evil. They inspired another movement which expanded rapidly in the 11th century in the southwest of France: Cathars or Albigensians. In the 13th century, these last sects, as well as the Bogomils, were considered heretics by the Roman Church and were driven off by the crusades. Favorable reception of Bogomil faith in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is attributed to the wish of local principalities to escape the influence of their neighbours, Croats (Catholics) and Serbs (Orthodoxes) (see SFOR Informer #118, July 25, 2001).
During the war which affected BiH in the first part of 1990's, Sabici was for a long time on the front line between Bosniacs and Bosnian-Serbs. Between 1993 and 1995, French blue helmets from Infantry Battalion No. 5 (BATINF 5) of United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) set up a check-point there. The building of shelters there led to the discovery of new vestiges of the necropolis next to the Moslem cemetery.
Projects
After the conflict, the Institute for the Protection of Sarajevo's Historic, Cultural and Natural Patrimony organised a campaign of archaeological excavations which took place last July and August. After the project ended, BiH authorities and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) made a request to the French Embassy that troops of its contingent restore the site to its original state.
Engineering works were done on Oct. 16 by a detachment from the 2nd Engineer French Foreign Legion Regiment (2e rgiment tranger de gnie, 2e REG) and from the 27th Alpine Chasseurs Battalion (27e bataillon de chasseurs alpins, 27e BCA), sent by the FRBG from Multinational Division Southeast (MND-SE). Engineering equipment consisted of a front-loader and a tipper lorry from the Foreign Legion's Direct Support Field Troop, and a tactical fuel lorry from the alpine Command Support and Logistics Field Squadron from Petrol and Ammunitions Supply Service.
Soldiers sent to Sabici have been very efficient, they accomplished in a day a project that had been planed to take four days.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: France
Miscellaneous