June 2, 2016 / 12:05 PM / 4 years ago

Dispute erupts in Serbia over plan to move Nikola Tesla's ashes

BELGRADE (Reuters) - A dispute has broken out in Belgrade over what should be done with the remains of Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American revered as one of the world’s greatest inventors.

The proposed location where the monument to Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla will be erected, is pictured in front of St. Sava temple in Belgrade, Serbia, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

The ashes of the man who developed, among other things, the alternating current electricity supply system widely in use today, are preserved in a gold-colored sphere in the Nikola Tesla museum in the Serbian capital.

The Serbian Orthodox Church wants to move the ashes to a cathedral in the city, but the museum and others are resisting the plan.

Tesla was born of Serbian parents in 1856 in what is now Croatia and died in New York in 1943. His ashes were later brought to Belgrade.

Most of his work was done in the United States but in Serbia he is a national hero. He developed the electric motor and did pioneering work in radar, radio and x-rays. Elon Musk named his Tesla electric car in honor of the inventor.

Church leaders have been campaigning for Tesla’s ashes to be relocated to the grounds of Saint Sava’s cathedral, one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world.

“The museum needs to exist, that is not in doubt,” Radivoje Panic, a priest at the church, told Reuters. “But the remains should not be in a corner there, where they are not visible to everyone. Here they would be visible to everyone.”

The Church issued statements this week calling for the remains to be moved to Saint Sava’s. “The Serbian Orthodox Church had always been present in the life and deeds of the great Nikola Tesla,” it said.

Others say Tesla was a scientist whose remains should not be in any church.

“I just don’t believe Tesla belongs in a church,” said film and theater director Gorcin Stojanovic, a leading voice among those campaigning against moving Tesla to Saint Sava’s. “He was not an ancient king, nor a saint. He was a scientist.”

In a statement, the Tesla museum said only that it had not been officially informed of the proposal to move the ashes by “an appropriate state institution”.

Some saw economic motives at work.

“The dispute between the Tesla museum and the Serbian Orthodox Church about Tesla’s urn is just a struggle for tourists. They don’t care about Tesla and his last wishes,” Nebojsa Krstic, an adviser to former Serbian President Boris Tadic, tweeted on Thursday.

Reporting by Ivana Sekularac and Giles Elgood; Writing by Giles Elgood; editing by Ralph Boulton

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