Was Nikola Tesla a Serbian or a Croat? This debate erupted again as Croatia plans to place a statue of the inventor and discoverer of alternating current born in 1856 on future euro coins. In 2023, the country hopes to replace the kuna with the euro. In a contest about who or what should hold back, Tesla won handsomely.
Serbia reacts as if it were a wasp sting. “It will mean the appropriation of the cultural and scientific heritage of the Serbian nation, since it is indisputable that the famous scientist identified himself as a Serbian by birth and lineage during his lifetime,” Belgrade’s central bank wrote in a statement. The Bank will take appropriate action towards the relevant EU institutions to draw their attention to the inadequacy of such a proposal, if Croatia goes ahead with the plan.
But who is he now? As is often the case, both countries have a point. Tesla was born in a village in present-day Croatia. At that time, it was part of Austria-Hungary. His parents were Serbs, like most of the inhabitants of that region at the time. After studying in two Croatian cities, Graz and Paris, the genius moved to the United States at the age of 28, where he became an American citizen.
However, both Croatia and Serbia see plenty of reasons to claim Tesla. Both Zagreb and Belgrade have Tesla Museums. In Serbia, the inventor appears on the 100-dinar banknote. In addition, Belgrade Airport is named after him.
Croatia is not considering changing its plans for Euro coins. “Tesla spent less time in Serbia than he did in Oklay,” President Zoran Milanovic said, referring to the village he was glimpsing when asked to respond. “Maybe it is not appropriate for Croatia to take over Tesla, but less so for Serbia.” Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovich adopted a more moderate tone. “We see the fact that Tesla, who was born in Croatia, is Serbian, as an added advantage. I don’t see how that could be a problem. If I were the Serbian Central Bank, I would have said: Bravo!”
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