ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) – Croatia in 2006 will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla, an ethnic Serb who did pioneering work in electricity in the United States in late 19th and early 20th century, the country’s parliament decided Thursday.
The government will finance the finishing of restoration of Tesla’s home in a village in central Croatia and turn it into a museum. Conferences and lectures on Tesla’s work are also planned.
Tesla, born in 1856 to Serbian parents, studied and worked across Europe, eventually settling in New York in 1885, where he lived until his death in 1943. He was awarded patents on every aspect of the modern system for generating and distributing electricity – including in radio and the modern concept of radar – and experts see his work as being as important as that of Alexander Graham Bell.
Tesla is regularly named in polls of Croats as the country’s most important son, but his prominence was played down in the 1990s, during Croatia’s war with the rebel Serb minority over the country’s independence, because he was a Serb.
Since 2000, when pro-Western forces came to power and sought to remedy relations with Serbs, Tesla has regained some of his fame.
The government has already spent more than US$1 million (euro830,000) to restore Tesla’s birthplace in the village of Smiljan.
The government’s decision – supported by all parliamentary parties on Thursday – underlines its desire to end animosity in Croatia toward Serbs.
Damir Kajin, a deputy from the Istrian Party, said Tesla’s assertion that he was “equally proud of my Serbian parents and my Croatian homeland” should be a model for future relations between Serbs and Croats in Croatia.