A copy of the monumental bronze statue of Nikola Tesla originally made by acclaimed Croatian sculptor Frano Krsinic was installed in the Croatian town of Gospic on Tuesday.
Culture Minister, Nina Obuljen-Korzinek, said at the unveiling that this is “yet another opportunity to express respect for the great Croatian and American inventor of Serb descent.” The 3.1-meter statue was installed in a town square several kilometers away from Tesla’s birthplace of Smiljan just outside Gospic, which today houses the Nikola Tesla Memorial Center.
The sculpture unveiled on Tuesday was erected to replace an identical statue which had been put up in 1981 and blown up in February 1992. Identical copies of the statue also stand at the site of the first hydro-electric power plant in the world at Niagara Falls State Park (gifted to the US in 1976) and in front of the University of Belgrade’s School of Electrical Engineering (erected in 1963). The new copy in Gospic was made from a cast taken from the Belgrade statue.
Tesla was born in an ethnic Serb family near Gospic in 1856, at a time when Croatia was part of Austria-Hungary. He went to school in Karlovac, and later studied and worked in Graz, Maribor, Prague, Budapest, and Paris, before moving to the United States in the 1880s, where he made a name for himself as an eccentric inventor who made seminal discoveries in the field of physics and electricity.
At the time of his death in New York in 1943, much of modern-day Croatia was ruled by the fascist Ustasha regime which persecuted ethnic Serbs, especially in Serb-populated areas of central Croatia. In post-war communist Yugoslavia Tesla was celebrated for his legacy of visionary inventions, but during the resurgence of nationalism and the violent breakup of the country in the early 1990s the statue was one of many public monuments which fell victim to vandalism or demolition.
“I believe that Tesla’s life will serve as a reminder to young people that one should always believe in knowledge, in one’s dreams, and always work for the common good,” Obuljen-Korzinek said on Tuesday at the unveiling ceremony.
A memorial center dedicated to Tesla opened in Smiljan in 2006, which includes some of his inventions as well as the rebuilt house of the Tesla family. Before the pandemic, the center would get more than 40,000 visitors a year, and local authorities said they have plans to expand the display and the facility so that it can receive up to to 250,000 visitors per year.