Monday, July 25, 2005

New York Times Article


PRISTINA, Kosovo, July 22 - In the six years since NATO bombers forced Yugoslav troops out of this troubled province, progress toward resolving the entrenched enmity here between Serbs and ethnic Albanians has been slow. The United Nations, which has been administering Kosovo, now wants to broker a deal and step aside.

The negotiations are bound to be painful. Serbs are determined to keep Kosovo, their religious heartland, while ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the population, demand independence after suffering years of ethnic violence that culminated in the war of 1998 to 1999.

In one unusual peacemaking effort, a group backed by the British government has brought together eight politicians from two opposing camps - former Albanian guerrilla leaders on one side, and minority Kosovar Serbs on the other - for some exercises in getting along.

The group was divided into pairs, an Albanian and a Serb in each. Every day began with 15 minutes of staring into each other's eyes. Then they performed exercises - including climbing trees together and falling backward into each other's arms.

"We were trying to break their barriers down," said Scarlett MccGwire of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the group that organized the meeting.

They wanted to challenge the participants to see one another not as "terrorist" or "oppressor," but as human beings, Ms. MccGwire said.

To a surprising degree, the effort worked.

Xhavit Haliti, a founding member of the Kosovo Liberation Army, attended the encounter and found himself won over. "I would recommend it for all the party leaders," he said. By the end of the week, he said, he and his Serbian counterparts were going out to restaurants together and even shared a sauna.

But as successful as these exercises were, they also point to the tough road ahead in Kosovo, where the majority of each community still barely acknowledges the other.

Serbs face the possibility of living in an independent Albanian-dominated state. Diplomats say that if Albanians want to achieve anything like independence they will have to give the Serbs basic rights, like freedom of movement, as well as the right of those refugees who fled the region to return from Serbia.

The framework for the negotiations is still far from clear. The United Nations has commissioned a report to study if and when talks can start. Most diplomats expect the negotiations to begin by early October. The talks would involve local Albanian and Serb leaders, the Serbian government and representatives of leading industrial democracies.

While many Western officials privately acknowledge that independence is perhaps the only solution the Albanian population will accept, the Serbian government is hoping Kosovo will remain within Serbia, but be granted substantial autonomy.

Any resolution has to grapple with Kosovo's nearly complete division along ethnic lines, a rupture that goes back to June 1999, the month the Serb-dominated Yugoslav forces who were accused of committing atrocities against Albanians were forced by NATO troops to withdraw. As the soldiers left, the returning ethnic Albanian refugees sought revenge on their Serb neighbors, and forced up to 200,000 to flee.

Those Serbs that stayed in Kosovo - their numbers are seasonal and fluctuate between 70,000 and 130,000 according to local aid agencies - have led volatile lives.

Ethnic violence, which can dissipate for months on end, often reappears without warning. In March last year, 50,000 Albanians rioted across the province, attacking Serbs and other minorities and forcing 4,000 from their homes. Few Serbs remain in Kosovo's cities, with the exception of Mitrovica, which is divided down the middle along ethnic lines. Instead, most Serbs live in rural enclaves like Gracanica, the largest such enclave with a population of 5,000, just two miles south of Pristina.

Gracanica, like most Serbian villages across Kosovo, retains links with the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Serbia provides such basic services as health and education, and some documentation, like passports and birth and marriage certificates, services that rankle Albanians who regard the United Nations and their regional government as the only rightful authorities in the province.

"We live in two separate worlds," said Sasa Sekulic, a Serbian business owner in Gracanica. Forced to leave his home in Pristina by ethnic Albanian looters, Mr. Sekulic set up a small business making candy. He planned to sell it in Kosovo, but while Albanians are happy to sell him the ingredients, Albanian shops refused to stock his products after a television news show disclosed they were made in Gracanica.

Without the international community there to protect them, he said, most Serbs do not see a future in a Kosovo dominated by Albanians.

"You won't find us here," he said. "We don't want to live in an independent Kosovo."

Talks on Kosovo's final status are seen as inevitable, though. United Nations and NATO officials have concluded that the longer negotiations are put off, the higher the risk for more unrest.

The report on whether talks go ahead was commissioned by Secretary General Kofi Annan, and is being undertaken by the Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide. Mr. Annan is expected to make a recommendation to the Security Council next month.

Many Albanians see Kosovo's independence as a foregone conclusion, and one in which the Serbian government in Belgrade should have no say. Graffiti sprayed on the walls of the United Nations administrative headquarters in Pristina and elsewhere across the capital reflect that view. The slogan reads simply, "No negotiation, self-determination."

While the Albanian-dominated government is aware of the necessity of reassuring the Serbs, critics outside of Serbia and even some local politicians say government officials have been reluctant to turn their words into deeds.

"I think Kosovo's institutions are obliged to guarantee a good life the for the Serbs of Kosovo, to create the space for them to lead a better life," said Xhavit Haliti, the former guerrilla fighter, now a politician. "That is not happening." NY Times


Chris Blaku said...

"You won't find us here," he said. "We don't want to live in an independent Kosovo."

Whilst the Albanians remained and lived on in a Serbian-controlled Kosova, despite the most massive oppression of the late 20th century, the Serbians refuse to stay in a democratic Kosova under international supervision. What is the reason for this absurd behavior? Perhaps, the reason can be found in the fact that the Serbs are guests of the Kosovar region, and have never really belonged there. The majority of Serbs living in Kosova today, arrived via the colonial program of the early 20th century. A good percentage arrived as refugees from Croatia and Bosnia, and these aforementioned groups of displaced Serbians are accustomed to relocation. They refuse to live in an independent Kosova because it is not theirs.

Anonymous said...

Also, notice the ease with which they move away, to Serbia.

Chris Blaku said...

It resembles the ease with which they moved into Kosova.

Anonymous said...

The games EU made them play are just hilarious. Imagine Haliti with Rada in the sauna sucking on suckers Made in Gracanica, all this in the name of multi-ethnic Kosova. :)

On another note, I wonder where Haliti was when PDK lead the government, why didn't he try harder to make Serbs feel more at home then? Its sickening to use this kind of political manouvering to get at the government.

Anonymous said...

You know, its like that scene in Lord of the Rings, when the Dark Lord is destoryed and all the Orcs and Trolls run into the mountains and away from the Shire, Rohan, Gondor, and even Mordor. See, the Serbs are the forces of the Dark Lord, their lord Mr. Milosevic, has fallen, and now they must run, for their behaviour (imagine an Orc living amongs Hobbits) is unacceptable :)

Anonymous said...

Chris you say the majority of Kosova Serbs arrived via colonisation. The facts of the colonisation are well-known, but you obviously wouldn't deny there was already an in digenous Serb minority. Since you seem to be fairly knowledgeable, can you tell me if you know of any hard evidence of what percentage of Kosoavar Serbs are descended from colonists and how many from indigenous Serbs? Also, what do you make of the Serb nationalist claims that Tito refused to allow the Serb colonist families back into Kosova after 1945 - which if true suggests the majority today are not colonist-descended.

Chris Blaku said...

Due to the unfortunate blockage and destruction of any historical documents that would argue the population case favorably for the Albanians, it is extremely difficult to assess the indigenous Serb presence in Kosova. According to the inflated Belgrade numbers, the Serbian Albanian population in Kosova was roughly even at the turn of the century, a figure that is disputed by nearly all international circles, in my opinion however, the "indigenous" Serb population makes up, at most, a quarter of the overall Serb population in Kosova. That figure is highly generous due to a number of reasons.

First of all, the term indigenous is highly disputable when it comes to the Serb presence in Kosova. Throughout the course of history, one would be hard pressed to locate the direct descendants of modern day Serbians living in Kosova, despite excellent record keeping by the Serbian Orthodox Church on its flock. The fact is, due to harsh living conditions, the Serbians were often leaving and re-entering Kosova. It can be hard to even classify the Serbians as indigenous, as they had to, at some point in time, have arrived from the North. But for the sake of argument, we may classify indigenous as pre-colonization for the time being. The Serbs arriving from the North, primarily from Vojvodina, met their brethren in Kosova with reservations, due to the different living conditions and traditions of the Serbians in the region. Overall however, the Serbs managed to co-exist with each other, and as can be seen from the recent Serbian behavior, culturally, the Kosovar Serbs adapted more to their northern brethren and eventually shed their old traditions. It was estimated in 1945, after heavy modernization with the more culturally progressive northern Serbs, that the Kosovar Serbians birthrate was only slightly below that of the Kosovar Albanians, which can lead us to eliminate the theory that the Serbians were merely out-bred by their Albanian neighbors. This point taken to a further extent would suggest that prior to the colonization and assimilation with the advanced northern Serbians, the Serbians birthrate may have indeed been higher. The Serbians would be hard pressed to find a time in Kosovar history, when their presence was a substantial minority, let alone the majority that they claim.

Furthermore, the fact that Serb nationalism, strong during the colonization periods but having its momentum built ever since the Russian-inspired momentum of Serbian independence in the mid-1880's, was the driving force behind the colonization of Kosova, it can be concluded reasonably that the Serbians were actively moving to Kosova to fulfill their own patriotic obligations prior to the Ottoman retreat. It was clear that the Serbians intended to occupy Kosova, directly and indirectly, to fulfill their religious and nationalist aspirations, the majority of which were written by the Orthodox Church in an effort to give the southern Slavs access to the vast mineral resources that made the Nemandji dynasty so rich prior to the Ottoman invasion.

Additionally, it should be noted that the majority of documents and historical records that suggest anything in favor of the Albanian idea of history, have been destroyed by the Serbian Government systematically. This in itself suggests the falsehood that the Serbian ideas of history entail, moreover, helps to credit the Albanian historians with uncovering history that was destroyed and hidden. If the Serbians had been substantial, or even had a reasonably active indigenous population, why destroy any record of Albanian inhabitants within Kosova? If their cause is just and correct, why falsify and hide?

The Serbians would have one believe that the Albanians, in a state of alleged priviledge during the Ottoman occupation, were able to occupy Kosova. The reality is, that the Serbians themselves were the priviledged population under the Ottoman empire, due to the fact that they never hesitated to adapt and interact with the occupying force. Numerous Serbian noblemen gave away their sisters and daughters to Ottoman generals in order to receive the heightened status within the Empire that they did, i.e. the daughter of Serbian hero Knez Lazar, who led the Battle of Kosova in 1389, was married off to the Sultan Beyazit I, whose father killed Knez Lazar. These conveniently forgotten facts are absent in the pages of Serbian history, and are likely to be excluded going forward.

The Serbian nationalist claims that Tito refused to allow Serb colonists back into Kosova after 1945 is a minute detail, due to the fact that the majority of colonists had not left in the first place. The fabrications of Belgrade are extensive, and their details must be woven through with a fine toothed comb. The fact remains, that the majority of Kosova's current inhabitants are descendants of colonists, who were given free land to inhabit their alleged historical homeland. Again, a large percentage are also refugees from the wars of the 1990s, and were conveniently relocated from Croatia and Bosnia into Kosova, to prepare for the final solution of the Albanians, which almost came about in 1999, and would have, had it not been for the intervention of the United States.

Keep in mind, the Serbians seem to refuse to live in an independent Kosova, because they never belonged there. The Albanians spent a century under foreign Serbian rule, and five centuries under foreign Turkish rule, yet remained steadfast in their desire to remain in Kosova. Such a phenomenon can only be explained in the most simple of forms, they belonged there to begin with.

Anonymous said...

What a weird distortians of history by mr. Blaku:

It was not no fun to be a Serb before 1912 in Kosovo. Read High Albania from Edith Durham if you want to check (there other witnesses too).

After 1912 the Serbs where behaving the way they did because that is how they had been treated by the Ottoman empire.

Most statistics indicate that the composition of the population was about the same in 1950 as in 1912. The Serb immigrants had been driven away and were resettled in the Vojvodina after WWII (Tito had driven out 250.000 Germans so he had some houses to fill). And the Albanians who had emigrated before the war were replaced byu new immigrants from Albania.

The period after 1945 developed well for the Albanians and at the end of the 1960s they had a large extent of self rule. Unfortunately they overplayed their hand and instead of building their country they started to making the life of the local Serbs unpleasant. And so at the end of the 80s they had a dirt-poor country with very angry Serbs.

Did they learn from this? No! They just keep building the same hell again.

Anonymous said...


Chris Blaku said...

As a matter of fact 1:52 blogger, the treatment of Serbians at the hands of Kosovars was commendable by every unbiased source in history. Official policy of the League of Prizren was to defend the rights of all inhabitants of Albanian lands, Serbians included. Case in point, chieftain Idriz Seferi was known to commonly execute his direly needed soldiers upon learning of any pillage or crime committed against the Serbian households in Kosova. Isa Boletini was often witnessed to perform similar actions, as was Hasan Prishtina. It can easily be argued that these names represent the collective tide and ideology of the Albanian majority in Kosova, despite strong Serbian aggression from the North into Albanians lands only years prior (With the Serbians annexing land north of Kosova and the Montenegrins taking Ulqin by force).

For you to excuse the behavior of the Serbians after 1912 because of Ottoman treatment is proposterous, as the Albanians suffered dearly under the Young Turks, however displayed a sense of brotherhood amongst their Balkan brethren, despite the obvious aggression of their Orthodox neighbors.

The only statistics that issue the population figures you cite are of Serbian origin, and you cannot seriously attest to their accuracy. The height of Serbian population in Kosova was immediately following the deportations of Albanians and at the climax of the colonist operation, where at best, the Serbians numbered a touch under 20% of the population, a highly generous figure.

The common Serbian mythology associated with constant emigration on the Albanian behalf from Albania into Kosova is well known to respected historians, and has been documented extensively by Noel Malcolm in his book, Kosova. Malcolm cites over a dozen instances where Serbian population manipulation has been used to deceive the census figures taken on the demographic characteristics of Kosova. After World War 2, it is a fact that more Albanians left Kosova for Albania than the common Serbian belief, which is the direct opposite. Numerous Albanians preferred the iron fist of Enver Hoxha to the Tito's velvet glove.

Do not suggest that the Albanians should have been lucky to be given a large degree of self rule on the land they inhabited predating the very existence of a Serbian people. The Serbians themselves are victims of an overplayed hand, as they have found themselves today... Hungry and alone.

The life of local Serbians under Albanian rule has been, and will be superior to the treatment of Albanians under any foreign Slavic or Greek rule. By the end of the 1980's, Kosova was not a country, but a region with a revoked autonomy and a ruler, Slobodan Milosevic, that played on the nationalist lies and historical falsifications to answer the Serbians victimized whining in Kosova. As the Serbians have shown, it is a characteristic of theirs to complain and blame everyone else for their issues. In the 1980's they blamed the Albanians, today they blame the entire World, everyone except them.

The Albanians, in six years, have advanced Kosova as a democracy to heights that the Serbians could have never imagined. In the next ten to twenty years, the Albanians in the region will possess the most powerful democracy in the region.