Friday, August 26, 2005

Thaçi: SRSG has no mandate over political status

According to Koha Ditore, PDK leader Hashim Thaçi says that the SRSG has no mandate over the political status of Kosovo and has called the statement of UNMIK chief, Søren Jessen-Petersen, for a compromise between Pristina and Belgrade, as hasty and problematic.

‘If he had in mind a compromise that implies less than independence for Kosovo, then his statement was hasty and problematic, but if he meant independence for Kosovo, then I agree that independence is a compromise for the people of Kosovo,’ Thaçi said for Koha Ditore.

According to Thaçi there should be no negotiations with Serbia on the political status of Kosovo. ‘There should only be negotiations with the internationals on the way to build the state of Kosovo and not about what status Kosovo should have. There is only one solution for Kosovars and that is respecting of the will of the people of Kosovo for an independent and sovereign state. Any other solution will be in complete contradiction to the will of the people of Kosovo,’ Thaçi said.

Referring to the statement of the SRSG that Kosovo institutions are lagging behind Belgrade in their preparations for status talks, PDK leader said that ‘working groups have been set up and they should accelerate the process of implementation of Kosovo’s statehood, not of negotiations with Belgrade. If the lack of preparedness of the current Government is being talked about in relation to status, then the current Government should not be identified with the will of the people of Kosovo,’ said Thaçi.

Thaçi also said that ‘no sheet of paper will be put on the table of talks unless all KLA senior officials were first released from UNMIK’s prisons,’ adding that for the people of Kosovo they are heroes and are innocent.


Anonymous said...

Guess they are going to rot in there...

Anonymous said...

by Srdja Trifkovic

Western media consumers may be forgiven for thinking that the history of Kosovo starts in 1989, when the Serbs supposedly abolished the autonomy of that hitherto happy and harmonious multicultural province. Indeed, the moral absolutism that was invoked by the proponents of intervention as a substitute for rational argument relied heavily on the presumed ignorance of history among their captive audiences.

History is not “bunk,” however, and unless we get our facts right about the past we are condemned to repeat its mistakes. As per Cicero, we’ll remain children forever. This brief summary of the history of Kosovo is presented not in order to advocate one side over another in the conflict in the Balkans, or to lobby for any particular set of policy options. It is presented because historical, political, legal, and moral arguments need to be cleansed of propagandistic spin if we are to have a proper debate. Because the treatment of the Kosovo episode by the media and politicians has been largely one-sided and propagandistic – and, at times, mendacious – that debate is sorely needed to restore balance in public perceptions and in policy making.


Though few English and even fewer American history books tell us much about her, in the 300 years which lie between the Norman Conquest of England and the death of Edward III, Serbia was one of the strongest and most culturally and economically advanced states in the whole of Europe.

The preconditions for the creation of the Serbian nation came about in the seventh century when part of the Serbian tribes settled in the Roman province of Dalmatia, along with other groups of Slavs. The Slavs spread out widely across the Balkan peninsula and formed a large number of small principalities. Byzantine writers of the day took notice of their number, and described them with the characteristic name “Sclavinia.” The Byzantine Empire scored a great success in 870 when it baptized the Serbian rulers. Mass conversion of the Serbs to Christianity soon followed, accompanied by strong political and cultural influences from the Empire. The path to unification was opened up on the basis of a common Christian culture.

A significant role was played by the translation of biblical and liturgical texts and by the alphabets adapted to the Slavonic languages. But the triumph of the Byzantine Empire during the rule of Emmanuel Comnen (1143-1180), when Hungary and the surrounding Serbian territories were subdued, was paid for by the sapping of the empire’s strength, so that after the death of the militant emperor there was a long period of crisis.

Serbia as a nation came into its own sometime in the 11th century, in the center of the Balkan peninsula, which at that time was within the vast realm of the mighty Byzantine Empire. A lighthouse between two continents, Constantinople in those days was a beacon light for all sorts of wayfarers: those in submission, those in power, those in revolt, those hungry for culture, and those driven by greed. As any potentate, Constantinople at that time had no friends in the whole world. Byzantium had very little reason to cherish the Slavs in the Balkan area, Serbs or Bulgars, because they proved to be a lasting nuisance from the time of their arrival, together with or before the marauding Avars.

To Byzantium, incursions of most barbarians were basically a passing irritant, for even when they ransacked the walled cities they soon left. Slavs, on the other hand, inherently were not nomadic types. Once having arrived, they tended to settle, and by doing so they changed the ethnic character of the area. Byzantine rulers, especially Emperor Basil II, tried to drive the Slavs out, particularly the Bulgars, but in the long run military valor gave way to political realism, which forced the beleaguered Byzantine emperors to accept Serbs and Bulgars as permanent inhabitants of the Balkans.

In time they learned to deal with the Slavs on almost equal terms, partly because there were more serious problems confronting them. There were the Persians, Muslim Arabs, and Seljuk Turks, who kept the Byzantines occupied in the east for several centuries. In the west the Normans and the Venetians were sapping Byzantium's military strength. The Slavs, for their part, exploited these troubles to expand and solidify their positions. Even after Constantinople managed to restore much of its imperial prestige, it was challenged in the north by the invading Magyars, who waged four successive wars against Byzantium.

This presented the Serbian ruler of Raska, Nemanja (1168-1196) an opportunity not to be missed. Talented and determined, Nemanja took advantage of the weaknesses of the Byzantine Empire and greatly extended his authority, territorially and politically. He ruled the best part of today’s Serbia (including the state’s heartland of Kosovo) and Montenegro. He also moved quickly toward full Serbian independence. It was not an easy task, and he was not continually successful in the process. There were times when his supporters, Hungary and Venice, could not help him. Facing the angry Byzantine Emperor Manuel I alone, Nemanja was defeated and taken a prisoner to Constantinople, where he was led through the streets with a rope around his neck, to the wild rejoicing of the crowds.

Since Raska was under the overlordship of Byzantium, Manuel thought that his humiliation of an unfaithful prince would be enough and let Nemanja return to his people. In addition, Nemanja was forced to pay tribute and to provide auxiliary troops. What really may have saved Nemanja's life was the proximity of Raska to the Western world. After all, at that time Christendom was seriously endangered by Islam, and the emperor badly needed the support of the West, and even of those annoying Slavs in the Balkans. In the confused evolution of developments, Nemanja sought to exploit the situation. He played the Latin world against the Greek, and in the process obtained from the West political recognition for Raska and a crown for his son Stefan.

Stefan Nemanjic (1196-1227) initially enjoyed the support of the Byzantine Empire and managed to maintain the heritage left him by Nemanja. Yet, when the situation changed after the western crusaders led by the Venetians conquered Constantinople, Stefan turned to the West. Through clever political maneuvering he managed to remove threats from Hungary, from the Latin Empire of the Crusaders, from the revived Bulgaria and from the newly independent rulers in the Byzantine provinces. In this period of turbulence and violent change, he managed to keep his own state intact. He improved its reputation and rank by receiving a royal crown from the Pope (1217), which among his descendants and heirs brought him the appellation of the “First-Crowned King” - Stefan Prvovencani.

The King’s youngest brother, Sava, sought to obtain a unified ecclesiastical framework within Serbia, torn – as it was at that time – between Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy under local leadership, the king supported the Orthodox tradition of the regions in the interior in spite of his relationship to the Catholic Holy See. Sava Nemanjic obtained agreement from the Byzantine Emperor and from the Patriarch to form a separate archbishopric. He was appointed Archbishop of Serbia in 1219 in Nicaea, and it was decided that his successors would be chosen and appointed by the Serbs themselves. This gave an impetus to the vibrant growth of the Serbian Church. New bishoprics were founded, with their sees in the monasteries where the priests were educated, and the books necessary for the life of the church were copied. Sava provided for a translation of the Byzantine code of church laws and rules for the use of the clergy, the Nomokanon.

The Serbian kingdom and its autocephalous church provided the framework for the flowering of an authentically national culture and arts. This is best evidenced in the Raska School which has given Europe some of the most notable examples of medieval architecture and painting (the monasteries of Studenica, Zica, Mileseva, Sopocani et al). Intra-dynastic disputes, bloody at times, did not stop Serbia’s growth in territorial scope, wealth, and cultural significance. Serbian medieval documents use the terms Rascian lands and Rascian king only in a few instances. Serbs nearly always referred to their territories as Serbian lands, especially in the post-Nemanja period. Merchants and diplomats from the coast city Republic of Dubrovnik, who maintained close links with Serbian authorities and courts, used Vatican nomenclature and called Serbia Slavonia, although subsequently they adopted the term Serbia. Because the two main caravan routes to Constantinople passed through Serbian territories, custom bills were due to Serbian rulers, complaints were filed, requests for protection or bailing out of jail submitted, down payments made, and court cases litigated. Thanks to all the resulting documents, filed in the Dubrovnik archives, historians have been able to reconstruct the fabric of life in medieval Serbia.

Medieval Serbia was an integral part of “the international community” of its time, relating on a state to state basis in matters of political, military, and cultural concern. Serbian royal courts communicated on levels of respect and honor in diplomatic relations with Venetian doges, Hungarian kings, Bulgarian tsars, and Byzantine emperors. In addition, they were connected through marital arrangements with most of them. The first wife of Stefan the First Crowned was Eudocia, daughter of Byzantine Emperor Alexis III. King Stefan Uros I married the French princess Helene (House of Anjou), and Stefan Dragutin married Katherine, daughter of Hungarian King Stephen V, just to name a few.

It is only natural that a society with its own alphabet, language, state, and autocephalous Church should have the urge to create its own literature and culture. A large body of Western medieval literature, such as the Old and New Testaments, liturgical books, theological treatises, dogmatic and apocryphal works, and chronicles and lives of the saints, was present either in the original or in translation. Major medieval novels, such as tales about Alexander the Great and Tristan and Isolde, were also known. But this was not enough. The need to have their own literature was strongly felt by Serbian rulers and their associates.

Among the Serbian medieval literati were ecclesiastics and lay people. Some of them were of royal blood (Nemanja’s two sons). Others were of peasant stock, monks or priests. Still others were foreign-born and educated, having found cultural refuge in Serbian courts or monasteries. The very proximity to the great Hellenic culture almost guaranteed that many cultured men would be roaming the Balkan spaces. Monastics, courtiers, and a maze of Slavic-speaking subjects of Venice, Byzantium, Hungary, and Bulgaria swarmed around Serbian literary centers. Knowing the Serbian language was an asset in other than literary activities. Venice and Byzantium, and later the Turks, quickly discovered that interstate and other correspondence was likely to be more efficient if carried out in Serbian.

Many Serbian rulers, in a manner of speaking, were seeking to pursue a "non-aligned" policy. On the one hand they fought Byzantium, but could never rid themselves of its spell. Serbia was never governed directly by Byzantium - but, as the well-known Byzantinist, George Ostrogorski, says, It is impossible to separate its medieval history from Byzantium. Constantinople was the cultural capital of the world at that time. No wonder that young, emerging, neighboring states should look to it as a model. The influence of the Romanized world, on the other hand, was far from negligible, and at times a source of great tension. In the entourage of Serbian kings, Roman Catholic courtiers, German guards, and French ladies wed to Serbian knights tried to interject aspects of Latin style, fashion, and mores. The most notable application of Romanized culture in Serbia is Stefan Decanski's (1321-1331) beautiful Monastery Church of Decani, built by a Franciscan friar and Dalmatian stone masons, with fresco works by artists of the Kotor school . It is known, however, that both King Milutin and later Stefan Decanski's son, Stefan Dusan, were occasionally annoyed by the Western influence but tolerated it.

Stefan Dusan (1331-1355), whose formative years were spent in Constantinople during his father's exile there, conquered half of it (Macedonia, Epirus, and Thessaly), and made Serbia the strongest empire in the Balkans. Serbia's territory in Dusan's time covered the vast area from the Danube to the lower Adriatic and the Aegean. He signed his edicts Emperor and Autocrat of the Serbs, Byzantines, Bulgars, and Albanians.

Dusan did not hide his ambitions to aspire to the throne of Byzantium. By 1345 his authority reached from Macedonia and Albania to Epirus and Thessaly. He wanted the powerful Greek clergy in Byzantium to recognize him. When the patriarch at Constantinople hesitated to crown him, he summoned the Serbian and Bulgarian bishops for a council at Skoplje. The bishops raised the Serbian archbishopric of Pec to the rank of patriarchate (1346), and in less than a month the newly elected Serbian Patriarch Joanikije II crowned Stefan Dusan emperor. Most of Dusan's imperial time was spent in the Hellenic area of his realm. Knowing Greek he felt at home there. Dusan replaced the Greek aristocracy with Serbian administrators, his comrades in arms, and gave them Byzantine titles. This could not have pleased the Greeks, but Dusan was more interested in courting Venetians, who could give him the ships necessary to take Constantinople.

Dusan may have grown up in Constantinople, but he also sought approval in the West, notably from Venice and the papacy, suggesting that he be regarded as “Captain of Christendom.” But to the Roman Catholic West, Dusan essentially remained an "Eastern schismatic" who was not to be trusted. In a sense they were right, because Dusan was seeking to shape the culture of his realm through the use of the Serbian clergy and nobility, recruited from the Serbian peasantry, anti-Western as much as anti-Eastern. He was not a successful soldier but also a lawgiver, a builder of churches and a generous patron of art and literature. The devotion with which he inspired the Serbian nation is reflected in the famous words in which the nobles of his Court answered his appeal for military help: “Wherever thou leadest us, most glorious Tsar, we will follow thee.” But Dusan died before he was fifty, and when his strong hand was removed, rival princes quarreled among themselves, instead of uniting against the growing menace of the Turks, who now crossed over into Europe and began to extend their conquests in all directions.

Serbia of the Nemanjic dynasty was without doubt a land of economic and cultural progress that surpassed the existing European average. Apart from the well-known monasteries and their impressive frescoes, there are smaller but masterly art objects from that era: golden cups and chalices, candlesticks and silver plates, jeweled reliquaries, delicate embroideries, book bindings, and artistic illuminations - produced by talented people in a society which gave them an opportunity to express themselves. As for the Serbian rulers, unlike those in the West, they did not build enduring castles, but each one of them felt duty-bound to build at least one monastery.


Kosovo is many diverse things to different living Serbs, but they all have it in their blood. They are born with it. The variety of meanings is easily explained by the symbolism and emotions that the word "Kosovo" embodies, clearly above anything that the geographic concept might imply. It is in Serbian blood because it is a transcendental phenomenon. Serbs who have a visual memory of Kosovo see it as a somewhat sleepy valley with surrounding hills seeming to have overstretched in their descent. Some 4,200 square miles in size (with an additional 2,000 square miles of adjacent Metohija), this cradle of the Serbian nation is carried by two broad-shouldered gentle giants, somber and dark Mount Kopaonik in the north, and white-capped and fair Mount Shara in the south.

In the heyday of Serbia’s medieval glory the region of Kosovo and Metohija was its very heartland. It was populated, since the early medieval times, by a homogenous Serbian population. Under the Byzantine rule, and until well after the area’s final inclusion into the Serbian House of Nemanjic (late 12th century) Kosovo and Metohija’s population was overwhelmingly Serb. This is confirmed by the many royal charters and by the recorded personal and geographic names in the area. The old toponims, names of mountains, rivers, and many towns and villages of Kosovo and Metohija (as well as northern Albania) are predominantly of Slav origin. The very name of the region - Kosovo and Metohija - is derived from the Serbian word kos (“the field of the blackbird”) and metoh, a word of Greek origin which means “church estate.” Albanian nomads accounted for about two percent of the total population in the western parts of the region, in the mountains along the present border region between Serbia and Albania.

Kosovo is good pastureland, as well as corn, wheat, and fruit land. Yet Kosovo peasants can barely scratch out a subsistence tilling the clayish soil that is exposed to winds that dry the ground. For these peasants, Kosovo provides a lean and meager lot. To others, Kosovo is a breadbasket. To those who descended from the slopes of the mountains, or who came there from poorer regions as homesteaders, Kosovo seems a promised land. Kosovo is a bottomless ancient mining pit, rich in zinc, lead, and silver, but it is not a melting pot. Some decades ago it was aptly described as “a plain where the Serbs bend over to work the soil, Albanians sweat in the mining shafts underground, Turks (largely spent and reminiscing about past glories) grow poppies and peppers, while the Gypsies fill the air with the sounds of life.” To the Serbs, that plain of suffering, of want, and of sacrifice is holy ground. They come there to clench their fists and shout at the earth where dead Turks lie. As Rebecca West has written, Dead Christians are in Heaven, or ghosts, not scattered lifeless bones ... only Turks perish thus utterly.

The Lord Almighty, some might say, must have predestined Kosovo as a battlefield, a rendezvous for hostile earthly encounters. It is a junction that led many a nation astray, if not to a dead end. Byzantines, Bulgars, Serbs, Magyars, Austrians, Albanians, and Turks - all marched through it at certain times, but in a sense got nowhere. Kosovo can be viewed as nature’s boxing ring where world ideologies (Christian, Bogomil, Muslim, Marxist, and most recently Atlanticist “liberal democratic”) each won individual rounds, but not the fight.

Not counting the War of 1999, there must have been six major human slaughters in as many centuries on this peaceful stretch of land. The soil in this valley appears to have fed on human flesh and blood. Kosovo is commemorated in that heartbreaking medieval embroidery made in 1402 in the stillness of the Serbian Monastery of Ljubostinja with the needle of the pious Serbian Princess Euphemia. She sketched her requiem in gold thread on a pall to cover the severed head of Prince Lazar:

In courage and piety did you go out to do battle against the snake Murad ... your heart could not bear to see the hosts of Ismail rule Christian lands. You were determined that if you failed you would leave this crumbling fortress of earthly power and, red in your own blood, be one with the hosts of the heavenly King ...

Kosovo is a grave, and a grave means death and dust. But it also means rebirth and a source of new life. Kosovo is therefore transcendental. Many battles have taken place there, but of all Kosovo battles only one counts in the formation of the psyche of a Serb. It is the one that began in the early hours of Vidovdan (St. Vitus' Day, June 15, 1389, June 28 by the New Calendar). The Turks had already been on the European continent for some time, seemingly unstoppable and intoxicated by easy victories over the rival and disunited infidels.

The Battle took place on the part of Kosovo Plain that the Turks called Mazgit, where the rivulet Lab flows into the Sitnica River. Today's visitors learn where Sultan Murad's intestines were buried, where the Turkish standard bearer (Gazimestan) fell, where grateful Serbia erected a "memorial to the fallen heroes of Kosovo," and where a marble column once stood (placed there on the order of, and authored by, Prince Lazar's son, Despot Stefan Lazarevic), which had the following inscription:

Oh man, stranger or hailing from this soil, when you enter this Serbian land, whoever you may be ... when you come to this field called Kosovo, you will see all over it plenty of bones of the dead, and with them myself in stone nature, standing upright in the middle of the field, representing both the cross and the flag. So as not to pass by and overlook me as something unworthy and hollow, approach me, I beg you, oh my dear, and study the words I bring to your attention, which will make you understand why I am standing here ... At this place there once was a great autocrat, a world wonder and Serbian ruler by the name of Lazar, an unwavering tower of piety, a sea of reason and depth of wisdom ... who loved everything that Christ wanted ... He accepted the sacrificial wreath of struggle and heavenly glory ... The daring fighter was captured and the wrath of martyrdom he himself accepted ... the great Prince Lazar ... Everything said here took place in 1389 ... the fifteenth day of June, Tuesday, at the sixth or seventh hour, I do not know exactly, God knows.

Following World War II, a redesigned monument was erected, a 100-foot tower, together with 25 acres of the surrounding land, where the famous Kosovo poppies supposedly sprout from the blood of the Kosovo heroes. The Serbian army in 1389 was encamped along the right bank of the Lab, an area suitable for both infantry and cavalry. The right wing of the Serbian army was commanded by Vojvoda Dimitrije Vojinovic. The left wing was under Vojvoda Vlatko Vukovic, sent by Bosnian King Tvrtko. Prince Lazar kept the command of the center for himself. The reserve was under the command of Prince Lazar's son-in-law, Vojvoda Vuk Brankovic. Prince Lazar had many reasons to worry about the outcome of the forthcoming encounter. Murad gave him no time to rally his vassals and tributary lords, some of whom were conspicuously slow in marshaling their troops.

From the time that the Serbian notables and Church dignitaries met in the city of Skopia (Skoplje), after the fatal battle in which King Vukasin and his army perished (Marica, 1371), and chose Lazar Hrebeljanovic as their leader, he enjoyed great popularity and respect. In addition to his personal qualities, he was also the husband of Milica, the great granddaughter of Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the Nemanjic dynasty. He, therefore, had some hereditary right to the throne of Serbia. Wise, charitable, cultured, and a skillful soldier, he defeated the Turks in encounters that took place in 1381 and 1386, but it was becoming ever more evident that Lazar was winning battles but losing the war.

Lazar’s Bosnian ally, Tvrtko I, defeated the Turks when they probed Bosnian territory (1386 and 1388). All this, however, made the Turks only more resolute, and as the year 1389 came, they were ready. The Eastern Christians in the Balkans were now faced not by scattered Turkish forces, but by a great army. Sultan Murad led his army straight toward Lazar's capital (Krusevac). There was a bloody Turkish assault on the fortress at Nis, which the Serbs defended heroically for 25 days. This is where Murad himself had an opportunity to evaluate the morale and effectiveness of the enemy. When Murad's scouts reported the concentration of a large Serbian army at Kosovo, he marched immediately to meet it. Thus, the Balkan Christians and the Muslims were locked in a decisive battle, a battle that the Muslims saw as an opportunity to break the backbone of Serbian resistance. According to Serbian bards and tradition, Murad sent the following message to Lazar:

Oh Lazar, thou head of the Serbians:

There was not and never can be one land in the hands of two masters.

No more can two sultans rule here ...

Come straight to meet me at Kosovo!

The sword will decide for us.

Lazar’s frantic effort to obtain help from allies such as the king of Hungary failed because it was difficult, if not impossible, to organize it on such short notice. Nevertheless, although ill-prepared, Lazar had no other choice but to face the enemy. Murad's advisers, a group of extremely skilled military veterans, insisted on immediate and fast action. Amassed in the area of today's Nis and Kumanovo, the Turkish generals were eager to meet the Serbs while still possessing the momentum of previously victorious campaigns.

Morale in the Serbian camp was not high at first. Lazar’s commanders were torn apart by local rivalries, ominous jealousies, and distrust. Historians are still trying to ascertain whether the revolts were real or simply used as excuses. Two of Lazar's sons-in-law, according to national tradition and accepted by some historians, were bitterly divided, under the influence of their wives. To make things worse, several well-known and gallant Serbian and Bulgarian princes were at that time already in the service of the Turkish conqueror, burdened by the obligations of vassalage. At that time feudal mores required the vassal to serve his lord and not his people.

Prince Lazar could have taken some moral comfort from the fact that he and his people were defenders of Christian civilization and that the forthcoming battle would probably be the last chance for Balkan Christians to repulse the Muslims. Among those who joined the Serbs were some Albanian princes. Even though no Albanian state had yet existed Albanian tribes were close allies of the Serbs, and friendly relations between Serbian and Albanian chieftains were the natural result of their common desire to get rid of first the Byzantine and then the Turkish opponents. John Castriota (of Serbian origin), the father of the most prominent Albanian, Skanderbeg, came to Kosovo at the head of a combined Serbian-Albanian force mobilized in the area of Debar. Among auxiliary troops were the volunteers led by Palatine Nicolas Gara (Gorjanski), another one of Lazar's sons-in-law.

Modern historians have had understandable difficulties in trying to decipher the realities of the Battle of Kosovo. They have had to sift through a myriad of often rhapsodic and idealized, mostly apologetical, renditions of relevant decisions and events. Contemporary chroniclers, and later a lot of biographers and "history writers," as a rule, had to keep in mind the interest of their protectors and sponsors, with objectivity not always their trademark. Groping through all this poetic license was unavoidable. But to the credit of epic writers, many of them provided data that were later corroborated by more reliable sources.

It is certain that Prince Lazar must have held a war council with his vojvodas on the eve of the battle. Some among those present must have had apprehensions about Serbian prospects, especially in the light of the hesitancy, lukewarm enthusiasm, and even disloyalty among some Serbian warriors. Prince Lazar could easily have agreed with the evaluation which a national bard put into the mouth of Vuk Brankovic: Fight we may, but conquer we cannot. Lazar could also have believed that some of his vojvodas were seriously thinking of passing over to the camp of the sultan, among them Milos Obilic, who was seen conferring with two other commanders and inquiring about Turkish battle deployment.

On the eve of the battle, Prince Lazar, according to the Chronicle of Monk Pahomije, asked for a golden goblet of wine to be brought to him. In his toast he mentioned three brave and dashing vojvodas as possible traitors, who were thinking of deserting me and going over to the Turkish side, including Milos Obilic. Prince Lazar appealed to Milos not to betray him, and drank a toast to him: Do not be faithless, and take this golden cup from me as a memento. Milos responded with a few words of noble indignation: Oh Tsar, treachery now sits alongside your knee, an allusion that Vuk Brankovic was responsible for this lack of confidence. This scene on the eve of the battle reminds one very much of the Christian saga of the Last Supper, where Lazar emerges as a Christ-like figure, aware of treachery among humans and of his own fate. Lazar behaved as a good Christian should, and had no rancor even toward those who failed him. Milos, too, behaved as a gallant Christian: For thy goblet I thank you; for thy speech, Tsar Lazar, I thank you not ... Tomorrow, in the Battle of Kosovo, I will perish fighting for the Christian faith.

It is indeed interesting that the Romanized West never saw Lazar and Milos, and their likes of Serbian Orthodoxy, as fighters for Christianity. It is well to recall, however, that before going into battle, Lazar left the Serbian people the famous statement, which they have eternally treasured and which is the essence of the Gospel Message:

The Earthly Kingdom is short-lived, but the Heavenly One is forever.

As for the Kosovo Battle, all available information seems to confirm that Murad succeeded in surprising the Serbian army, as he had done at Marica in 1371. In accordance with the advice of his commander Evrenos Bey (of Greek origin), he launched his attack early in the morning while Lazar and his comrades were at prayers in the nearby Samodreza Church. It was there that news reached him that the enemy was already attacking his front lines. It was there, also, that he was informed that Milos and his two godbrothers, Ivan and Milan, had been seen riding out in the early dawn toward the Turkish lines. This must have strengthened his belief that the three vojvodas were indeed traitors, and that Vuk Brankovic was right when he expressed doubts about Milos. Lazar must have thought of the summons he had sent to all Serbs before the battle, which, according to the bards’ tradition, reads:

Whoever born of Serbian blood or kin comes not to fight the Turks at Kosovo,

to him never son or daughter born, no child to heir his land or bear his name.

For him no grape grow red, no corn grow white, in his hand nothing prosper.

May he live alone, unloved, and die unmourned, alone!

As Lazar blessed his soldiers, he led them into battle, the clash that was to decide the fate of Balkan Eastern Orthodox nations for a long period to come. The Turkish historian Neshri describes the first phase of the battle in the following words:

The archers of the faithful shot their arrows from both sides. Numerous Serbians stood as if they were mountains of iron. When the rain of arrows was a little too sharp for them, they began to move, and it seemed as if the waves of the Black Sea were making noise ... Suddenly the infidels stormed against the archers of the left wing, attacked them in the front, and, having divided their ranks, pushed them back. The infidels destroyed also the regiment ... that stood behind the left wing ... Thus the Serbians pushed back the whole left wing, and when the confounding news of this disaster was spread among the Turks they became very low-spirited ... Bayazet, with the right wing, was as little moved as the mountain on the right of his position (Kopaonik). But he saw that very little was wanting to lose the sultan's whole army.

But the quick thinking and decisiveness of the sultan’s son turned the flow of the battle. Among the Turks he was known as Ildarin (Lightning). He attacked the flank of the advancing Serbian force, and succeeded in repulsing and throwing into considerable disarray the hitherto victorious Christians. At that critical moment, a corps of some twelve thousand cuirassiers was supposedly withdrawn from the battle by their commander, Vuk Brankovic. Documentary evidence is scant, but he apparently either lost his nerve or thought it inadvisable to lose all of his men in a futile battle. His name, justly or not, still lives in ignominy among the Serbs as the epitome of treachery.

But Lazar was of a different disposition. He tried to rally his disheartened troops around him, and led them into a new attack, which failed. Inevitably, the morale of the Serbs plummeted. Wounded, Lazar was taken prisoner, and his army, rapidly falling apart, was beaten and dispersed on the early afternoon of that very day. Serbian chroniclers maintain that, as he was led to Murad’s tent, Lazar saw the wounded Vojvoda Milos there, and only then realized what heroic deed he had done. Deeply touched, Lazar gave Milos his blessing, as he realized that Milos had mortally wounded the sultan, striking him in the abdomen with a concealed dagger. Milos got access to Murad’s tent by pretending he had come to surrender and wanted to kiss the sultan’s foot.

There they were, in that tent, all the featured actors of the Kosovo drama, ready for the final Shakespearean resolution of the plot. One of Murad’s close advisers (Ali Pasha) lay dead already; he, too, a victim of Milos’ dagger. Prince Bayazet ordered Lazar and his nobles executed by the sword, in the presence of the dying sultan. The Serbian nobles asked to be beheaded first. Bayazet turned down their plea. But when one of Lazar’s vojvodas asked for permission to hold his own robe so that Lazar’s head would not fall to the bare ground, Bayazet, impressed by such loyalty, granted the request. Milos Obilic was beheaded first. Lazar’s last words were My God, receive my soul.

Murad lived long enough to see his enemies beheaded. As he died, his younger son Bayazet made sure immediately to eliminate his brother, Jacub, who had also taken part in the battle, and thus assure his ascendance. As Vidovdan 1389 came to a close and the sun went down behind the mountains of Zeta (Montenegro) in the west, the night that would last five centuries began.

For the Serbs, Kosovo became a symbol of steadfast courage and sacrifice for honor, much as the Alamo for the Americans of yesteryear - only Kosovo was the Alamo writ large, where Serbs lost their whole nation. To them, too, in the words of Sam Houston, the site of their defeat was to be remembered - and avenged.

Serbs were defending themselves and Christian Europe from the Ottoman invasion, and at Kosovo they were defeated. Prince Lazar and the cream of the Serbian nobility died heroically. Over the centuries the sacrificial courage of Prince Lazar and his army on that day in 1389 has epitomized the dictum that it was better to die heroically than to live under the alien yoke.

To the Serbs the lesson of that fateful St. Vitus Day is that eternal values must be placed before earthly ones, that spiritual force is superior to the force of arms, that by moral fortitude alone we can transcend our mortal frame and step from time into Eternity. The legacy of Vidovdan teaches them that the forces of darkness are defeated in the end and that those of light and virtue ultimately triumph - even when such victory may seem impossible - because there is God. Kosovo has redefined the Serbs as an eminently, quintessentially Christian nation.


The battle of Kosovo was one of the most decisive events in the whole history of South Eastern Europe. It meant not merely the fall of the medieval Serbian Empire and the conquest of the whole Balkan Peninsula by a barbarous Asiatic invader, but also an important stepping stone in the struggle of Islam against Christianity.

In the aftermath of the battle Serbia was ruled by Lazar’s son, Despot Stefan (1389-1427), who was an exceptional person. A dashing man of war, letters, and politics, he was the hero of the Battle of Angora (Asia Minor, 1402), where he fought as a Turkish vassal. Despot Stefan was a great benefactor, protector of refugees, writers, and artists. A humanist of wide culture, he was also an author in his own right. One of his poetic scripts is entitled Love Surpasses Everything, and No Wonder Because God Is Love. Another was the Ode to Prince Lazar, a beautiful text chiseled in the marble column which was placed at the spot of the Kosovo Battle. A third, An Ode to Love, was dedicated to his brother Vuk, whom he once fought at that very Kosovo Field. In Stefan's monastery, Resava, generations of monks, scribes, and artists have worked unremittingly to preserve the Serbian heritage.

Stefan Lazarevic had the misfortune of presiding over the declining days of his beloved country. Had he been Dusan's successor, instead of Lazar's, the history of the Serbian people might have been different. At a crucial time when Serbia had a chance to outdo Byzantium, Dusan's son Uros ruled (1355-1371). He was a weakling, lacking the necessary firmness and general leadership qualities. Stefan commanded respect and awe among the Turks and Tartars alike. At Angora he rode at the head of three gallant charges against Tamerlane, in an effort to save his surrounded suzerain.

Today, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see the situation clearly, but could King Vukasin and Despot Uglesa ever have anticipated Kosovo? Could the Hungarian kings have foreseen Mohacs? Could John VI Cantacuzenus have known what he was doing to himself, to Byzantium, and to the Christian world, by leaning on the support of his powerful but dangerous Muslim ally? And the countries of the West, could they have known what their insistence on ecclesiastical submission to Rome, as a price of aid, would lead to?

When in desperation, Byzantine Emperor Manuel II begged for assistance from the pope, the doge, and the kings of France, England, and Aragon, his plea for help in fighting against the "infidels" went unanswered. The emperor spent several years on this tragic mission to Venice, Paris, London, and other cities. Reconciliation between East and West, the Greek and the Latin worlds, Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, was a vexed question. The two sides did not attempt to do together what they were unable to achieve alone, i.e., to stop the Turks. One wonders, would there have been two sieges of Vienna (1529 and 1683) if Roman Catholic Europe had come to the aid of the Eastern Orthodox emperor (Dusan) in the 1350s?

Even the defeats at Nicopolis (a town in Bulgaria on the Danube, 1396), and Varna (1444), which wiped out all hopes for Christendom to clear the Balkans of Islam, could not bring unity. At Varna the Christian leaders did not have an opportunity to flee. King Vladislav of Hungary and Poland, and the pope's delegate, Cardinal Giulio Cesarini, fell on the field. Djuradj Brankovic, the last of the Serbian despots and a weak member of the Christian coalition, realized even before Varna that the coalition's chance for success was poor, and withdrew. This did not help, however, the despotate, which succumbed in 1459, 6 years after Constantinople fell to the Turks (1453). The black two-headed eagle of Byzantium moved to Moscow to become the symbol of the "Third Rome," nourishing the fancy of Balkan Slavs for centuries to come.

For the next half-century the Serbs retained some fragments of their self-rule and liberty; but in 1459 their country finally became a mere province of Turkey. The nobles were completely exterminated. Not content with seizing their country, the Turks used the unhappy Serbs as the instrument of their own enslavement. One boy in every family was torn away from his home, and brought up as a Turk and a Mohammedan; and thus were formed the so-called Janissaries, the famous crack regiments which made the Turks so long the terror of Europe. So completely were the Turks masters of Serbia, that no Christian dared ride into a town on horseback: if he failed to dismount when he met a Turk on the highroad, he risked being killed upon the spot. He was not allowed to have firearms, and was at the mercy of the Turkish soldiery when they chose to plunder. A proverb which dates from those terrible times says that grass never grows where the hoofs of the Turkish horses once tread.

In the books of travelers who passed through Serbia when she was still under the Turks it is possible to get some idea of the misery of the people, and of the cruelty of their rulers. What are now fertile and prosperous valleys, full of corn and pasture and little farmsteads, were in those days uncultivated and almost deserted lands. It was only in those districts which lay off the beaten track, where the soldiers and tax-collectors did not come so often, that the Serbs had any chance of living peaceful and settled lives.

From 1459 to 1804 Serbia ceased to exist as a state and a self-governing nation. How was it that she was able to rise again from the dead? There is hardly another instance of a nation that saved itself by its national poetry. It has been said that “every Serb is a half-poet.” When everything seemed lost, many turned into local bards to keep alive the memories of their people’s past glories by their songs, and ballads, and tales - always with an eye to the great days which would come again and console them for the miseries of the present. For centuries every village had its own singer, often a blind man, sometimes even a man gifted with the “second sight,” as the bards of the Scottish Highlands in past days. In the long winter evenings the villagers gathered round these singers and listened to them as they chanted, to the accompaniment of their primitive one-stringed fiddle (gusle), the adventures and victories of dead Serbian heroes. The battle of Kosovo was one of the most decisive events in the whole history of Europe. It meant not merely the fall of the medieval Serbian Empire and the conquest of the whole Balkan Peninsula by a barbarous Asiatic invader, but also the triumph of Islam over Christianity in the Balkans for 500 years.

For over five centuries every Serb has celebrated every year the anniversaries of the great battle, not only as a day of mourning for the lost day, but as an event to be remembered and avenged. St. Vitus Day (Vidovdan) was a proof that for the Serbian nation, as for every man and woman, death is followed by resurrection. It is difficult to grasp, in these post-modern times, how completely the story of Kosovo was bound up with the daily life of the whole Serbian nation. In Montenegro - whose people are Serbs, too - part of the national dress is a red cap with a black border. This black is a mourning band first worn for the defeat of Kosovo, and never again laid off; compare this with the legacy of the battle of Flodden, over which all Scotland mourned for many generations.


The end of the Serbian Despotate in 1459 was followed by the demise of the Kingdom of Bosnia (1463). The Ottoman Empire now ruled not only over the Serbs but stretched all the way from Mesopotamia to the Danube, and westward to the Adriatic. Serbs, Greeks, Bulgars, and Albanians were subjugated, and they had no idea how long their plight would last. At the same time, some among them concluded that life would be easier if they converted to Islam. Many others decided to move out - to Hungary, or to go to the Adriatic coast, to look for a haven in Venice or in Venetian-held territories in Dalmatia. Those who stayed and did not convert had one thing in common: all of them were classified as giaours, a category of despised infidels that lumped together all those who were not Muslim.

To the Turks, the Byzantine and Roman faiths were but two sides of the same coin, but the very fact of Turkish victory belied this assumption. It took them less than a century to annihilate three Christian Orthodox realms in the Balkans, divided and never assisted by Christian Western Europe. On the other hand, Christianity was the only single bond that the subjugated peoples of the Balkans now had in common. What else was there to hold onto, until the Islamic flood should recede? The Balkan peninsula became a two-realm society, Muslim and Christian, one privileged and the other discriminated against. It was up to each individual to decide whether he wanted to live and die as an exploited non-person – or make a compromise with his conscience and lead a more favored existence.

As Islamization progressed it took root better in some areas, among certain classes and in certain environments. The process was much swifter in Albanian and Bosnian lands than in Serbia’s former medieval state. The Albanians did not have an autocephalous Church, and their Christianity - whether Byzantine or Latin - had not become as integral in Albanian life; it remained either Greek or Italian. And in Bosnia the widely spread Bogomil sect had reinterpreted the tenets of Christianity to such an extent that Islam, with its facile, black-and-white repetitive monotheism, appeared more acceptable than either Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. But to understand the implications of Islamization it may be necessary to look at the tenets of the Prophet’s peculiar creed as it is – not as the corifei of modern Western “multiculturalism” want to portray it.

Islam has been synonymous with violence and intolerance since its earliest days. Like Bolshevism and Nazism, Islam is part religion and part ideology, and it seeks to impose uniformity of thought and feeling on the faithful, and to subjugate and ultimately to destroy its non-adherents. The beginnings of Muhammad’s public career are little known to most Westerners. A non-Muslim reading the Koran is tempted to conclude that Muhammad’s career was marked by a long string of killings, armed robberies, and rape, interspersed by a series of “inspired” pronouncements of varying coherence. Outsiders - the Jews of Medinah, or Muhammad’s Arabic kinsmen who were reluctant to accept his self-proclaimed divinity - could testify to his unique concepts of justice and mercy. When, in A.D. 626, for instance, six of Muhammad’s henchmen murdered an elderly Jew by the name of Abu Rafi in his sleep, they argued afterwards whose weapon had actually ended the victim’s life. The prophet decided that the person who owned the sword that still had traces of food on it was entitled to the credit (Abu Rafi had just finished his dinner before falling asleep).

If Abu Rafi’s murder was a kind of Kristallnacht, Muhammad’s attack against the tribe of Banu-‘l-Mustaliq, later in that same year, was a decisive step towards Endloesung. His followers slaughtered many tribesmen and looted thousands of their camels and sheep; they also kidnapped five hundred of their women. The night after the battle, Muhammad and his brigands staged an orgy of rape. As one Abu Sa’id Khudri remembered, a slight problem needed to be resolved first: In order to obtain ransom from the surviving tribesmen, the Muslims had pledged not to violate their captives.

We were lusting after women and chastity had become too hard for us, but we wanted to get the ransom money for our prisoners. So we wanted to use the Azl [coitus interruptus]. We asked the Prophet about it and he said: “You are not under any obligation not to do it like that.”

The members of the last surviving Jewish tribe in Medinah, Banu Qurayzah, were even less fortunate. Muhammad offered the men conversion to Islam; upon their refusal, all 900 were decapitated in front of their enslaved women and children. The women were subsequently raped; Muhammad chose as his concubine one Raihana Bint Amr, whose father and husband were both slaughtered before her eyes only hours earlier. This same man is explicitly upheld by all Muslims everywhere - from Los Angeles to Sarajevo, from Marseilles to Chechnya - as the paragon of godly, morally impeccable behavior, to be admired and emulated until the end of time. The prevalence of his name among Muslim men is symbolic of the covenant. Non-Muslims who look for mercy and compassion from these quarters will search in vain. Muhammad explicitly forbade his followers to make friends of Christians and Jews, and warned them of the sanction for disobedience:

He among you who taketh them for friends is one of them. [Koran 5:51]

But as the marauders could derive no material benefit from corpses, the lives of the conquered could be spared if they agreed to pay a hefty tribute to the Muslims. In his own lifetime, Muhammad thus established the model for subsequent relations between Islamic conquerors and their Christian or Jewish subjects. The option of conversion was always available, and to be on the right side of Allah - and of history, as it seemed for a long time - was not too demanding. God, the creator and sustainer of the world, rewarded all those who expressed their worship in prayer, almsgiving, and self-purification, and above all in unquestioning obedience to Muhammad. That “God is great, and that there is no God but God” was easily grasped by the nomadic tribes of the desert and, later, of the steppe.

Underdeveloped culturally and socially, the nomads had few theological and logical qualms about Muhammad’s claim that he was the sole spokesman for the authentic “religion of Abraham,” a religion that had been corrupted by Jews and Christian alike. Since Jerusalem was, for the time being, out of reach, Muhammad audaciously attributed to Abraham the founding of the old pagan sanctuary, the Ka’bah, which housed a piece of black meteoric rock that became the Muslims’ holy of holies. Later, non-Arab converts would translate “the crude and casual assertions of the Prophet” into a coherent teaching.

Between Muhammad’s death in A.D. 626 and the second siege of Vienna, just over a thousand years later, Islam expanded - at first rapidly, then intermittently - at the expense of everything and everyone in the way of its warriors. But Islamic models of culture and society - represented by the horsemen who swept across three continents in the decades after Muhammad’s death - were unable to induce the heirs of Christian, Middle Eastern, and Indian civilizations to attune their values and ways of life to the true faith.

There have been times when some Muslim lands were fit for a civilized man to live in. Baghdad under Harun ar-Rashid in the eighth and early ninth centuries, or Cordova under Abd ar-Rahman in the tenth, come to mind. These brief periods of civilization were based on the readiness to borrow from earlier cultures, to compile, translate, learn, and absorb - a bit like America before the closing of its mind. These cultural awakenings happened in spite of the spirit of Islam, which - unable to engender interesting ideas of its own - rejected others as a threat. But in subsequent centuries, cross-fertilization of elements from diverse regions and traditions became increasingly difficult: Islam was accepted or rejected in its entirety, regardless of local custom or tradition. An unprecedented rigidity was introduced into the relations between civilizations, reflecting the fundamental tenet of Islam - accurately restated a decade ago by Bosnia’s Western-annointed president, Alija Izetbegovic, in his Islamic Declaration – that “there can be no peace between Islam and other forms of social and political organization.”

Unleashed as the crudely militant faith of a barbarian war-band, Islam turned its boundary with the outside world into a perpetual war zone. For a long time, the outcome of the onslaught was in doubt. The early attack on Christendom reached as far west as Tours, in France, and almost enabled the Koran - in Gibbon’s memorable phrase - to be “taught in the schools of Oxford” to a circumcised people. The last attempt in pre-modern times, going through the Balkans, took the sultan’s janissaries – in 1683 - more than half-way from Constantinople to Dover. On both occasions, the tide was checked, but its subsequent rolling back took decades, even centuries. But for the millions of Christians and Jews engulfed by the deluge, those were centuries of quiet desperation interrupted by the regular pangs of agony. The materially and culturally rich Christian civilization of Byzantium and its budding Slavic offspring in Serbia and Bulgaria were reduced to dhimmis, “people of the Book,” whose advantage over pagans was that their life and earthly goods were ostensibly safe for as long as they submitted to Islamic rule.

That rule rested on the two pillars of Islamic ideology and political practice - jihad and Shari’a - that provided the quasi-legal framework for institutionalized oppression of the infidels. The story of the non-Muslims’ experiences under Islamic rule is as politically incorrect to tell, and therefore as little known in today’s West, as the remarkable life and exploits of Muhammad himself.

At first, the choice of the vanquished seemed to be not “Islam or death” but “Islam or super-tax,” but over time Shari’a ensured the decline of Eastern Christianity (and the remnants of Judaism, Nestorianism, Zaratustrianism…) and the sapping of the captives’ vitality and capacity for renewal. The practice of devshirme, the annual “blood levy” of Christian boys to be trained as janissaries, and the spiking of infidels were among its more obvious consequences.

The contemporary Western apologists for the Turks’ destruction of Christian communities in the East – and there are many – all share the fundamental anti-Orthodox bias which an astute commentator has dubbed Pravoslavophobia (Chronicles, February 1997). Their hatred of Orthodox Christianity is based precisely on the traditional Orthodox character of the front-line states bordering on Islam. Indeed, from this viewpoint, the desire of these countries to not only avoid Islamization but Westernization as well is a major count against them. This frame of mind is strongly reminiscent of that of the West toward the East during the last great Islamic offensive in Europe, as the dying Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Serbian states faced Ottoman conquest in the 15th century. The Orthodox East is being told that unless they submit to the West’s tutelage in political, social, moral, and economic matters - the collective “religion” of the Enlightenment heritage - yet again they will be thrown to the wolves; the West may even hold them while the wolves to devour them.

The immorality, not to mention the stupidity, of this approach should be obvious. The survival of Christian Orthodox civilization in the East should be hardly less important to the West than to the Orthodox themselves, and over the not-so-long term the West’s own fate may depend on its survival. The fact that the West cannot recognize this reality is part of the same inability to recognize its own internal vulnerability, with the forest of minarets going up first in Western Europe, and now in North America. In light of the growing volume of Muslim immigration, western (post) Christians will soon find out - sooner than they think, given western birthrates - that confronting the Islamic advance has become, as it has always been for eastern Christians, a simple matter of physical survival. By that time it may be too late for both.

At the end of this millenium, post-Christian “liberal democracy” expects to neuter Islam by reducing it to yet another humanistic project in self-celebration. Foreign policy strategists in Washington pander to its geopolitical designs, throwing smaller Christian nations - Serbs and Greek Cypriots today, Bulgars and Greeks tomorrow - to the wolves, hoping to balance the books for half a century of America’s “passionate attachment” in the Middle East. They do not seem to realize that such morsels will only whet the Islamic appetite, paving the way to a major confrontation in the next century. One way to avoid this is to open the gates and give up, and Islam’s proselytizers in the West are learning how to play the game. They act as if Islam were just another competitor in the marketplace of the secular political system, without giving up their ultimate claims and objectives.

Islam enters the new millennium with a strong hand. For starters, it is “non-white,” non-European, and non-Christian, which makes it a natural ally of the ruling Western elites. At the same time, it has an inherent advantage over Clinton, Blair, Schr–der, and Chirac, who are unable to generate an emotional response among the hoi polloi for their tepid ideology of multicultural mediocrity.

Muslim proselytizers also have an advantage over most established Christian denominations in the Western world, since the latter are no longer even “the Tory Party at Prayer” but - at best – “the Social Workers at Therapy.” Richly endowed with petro-dollars, Islam’s public relations front will use the symbols and vocabulary of the Dominant Tendency, and wait for its implosion. Islam should not be blamed for being what it is, nor should its adherents be condemned for maintaining their traditions: Luther would say that they kann nicht anders.

The remaining Christians in today’s Western world should not hate Islam, nor seek to ban it. They should, however, blame themselves for refusing to acknowledge the facts of the case, and failing to take stock of their options. Those who have lost their own faith have little right to point a finger at those who uphold theirs. In the present state of Western decrepitude, this process may well lead further millions to the conclusion that we should all become Muslims, since our goose is cooked anyway, spiritually and demographically. Those of us who do not cherish that prospect should at least demand that our rulers present that option fairly and squarely. If we do so, we shall but follow the example of the Serbs through the centuries.


The Turkish occupation did not mean the same thing for all Balkan nationalities. The Greeks, for example, who had played such an important role in the Byzantine world, were viewed with the greatest respect by the invader. The Turks were good fighters and eager to participate in the spoils of war, but when it came to bureaucracy and administration in general they were sadly lacking. It was not long after the fall of Constantinople that the city's Greek, Venetian, and Jewish communities began to bustle with activity and opulence. Someone had to provide the continuity in commerce, administration, and in understanding the affairs of the Balkan mosaic. By all standards, in the reality of the period, the Greeks were the most suited for this function. When it came to choosing who would represent the Christians and to provide spiritual leadership, the choice again fell to the Greeks. Having a Greek as Eastern Orthodox patriarch in Constantinople made a substantial difference.

For the Serbs, a glimpse into the extremity of their situation in that period is given by Konstantine Mihailovic of Ostrovica. Serving for ten years as a Turkish soldier under Sultan Mehmed II he later escaped and wrote Memoirs of a Janissary. One of the events he described was the fall of the Serbian mining town of Novo Brdo into the hands of the sultan. First, the sultan ordered all gates closed except one, through which all of the inhabitants had to pass, leaving their possessions behind. So they began passing through, one by one, writes Mihailovic,

and the sultan, standing at the gate, was separating males from females ... then he ordered the leaders beheaded. He saved 320 young men and 704 women ... He distributed the women among his warriors, and the young men he took into the janissary corps, sending them to Anatolia. ... I was there, in that city of Novo Brdo, I who write this ...

The shipping of Christian boys to Turkish schools to become janissaries, or if talented, to be a part of the administrative apparatus, was common practice. It was part of the tribute the Christian raya had to pay to the Turks, but it was not always the same in all regions. It is not clear whether it was a compliment or a punishment when the Turks took more male children from one area than from another. Serbs were trying to hide their boys, but some of those who were taken away fared much better in life. Because religion, not nationality, was the fundamental factor in the Turkish concept of governing, it was possible for a raja child to become a grand vizier of the Turkish sultan.

Wealth and material position were important factors affecting the decision to convert. This contributed to the new stratification of the society under Ottoman rule, and a new power balance among national groups. The balance was shifting, and as far as the Albanians and Serbs were concerned; it was shifting drastically in favor of the Albanians, to the detriment of good relations between them. The emergence of a significant number of Islamized Albanians holding high posts at the Porte was reflected in Kosovo and Metohija. Albanians started appearing as officials and tax collectors in local administration, replacing Turks or Arabs as the pillar of Ottoman authority. Local Serbs and Albanians, being divided first by language and culture, and subsequently by religion, gradually became members of two fundamentally opposed social and political groups.

With over thirty grand viziers of Albanian descent during Ottoman rule, the top policy-making machine was indeed saturated with people of Albanian stock. As far as the process of Islamization was concerned, Albanians showed themselves much more pliable than Serbs. The weight of their Albanian tradition proved a lighter burden. Theirs is the famous saying: Ku este shpata este feja (“Your faith is where the sword is”). First-class warriors, fascinated by swords and guns, used to discipline and obeying when ruled by a strong hand, the Albanians represented a much better medium to be cast into the Turkish mold than the individualistic and unpredictable Serbs.

The Albanians’ readiness to come to terms with the conquerors gave them an upper hand. This was the beginning of a tragic division, of separate roads for them and for the Serbs. The former became the rulers and the latter the ruled. This parting of the ways is best seen in the deterioration of relations between neighboring Montenegrin and Albanian tribes. Living under similar conditions in the isolated highlands, having similar life patterns, traditions, and history, they were a world apart from the rest of the Balkans. They populated the roadless mountain areas that invaders had no particular desire to visit as long as their control was acknowledged by regular tax contributions and tributes. Their elected local leaders, together with their priests, ruled in strict observance of their traditions and customs. The Turkish judiciary never bothered the Christians unless Muslim rule or people were involved. Through common experiences and alliances in local conflicts, as well as opposition to outside influences, the binding word besa (oath, promise) often meant mutual protection.

The symbiosis that engulfed the clans of different ethnic cities was noticeable and evident until quite recently, and traces of it can be found even today. A French traveler was taken aback, when in the late years of the 18th century he visited Herzegovina. It was the Christian holiday of St. Ilija (Elijah), but to his amazement he noticed that Muslims were going to the mosque, splendidly lit. His agitated curiosity and inquiry were given a laconic answer: It's Ilija in the morning, Alija in the evening. One can still see Albanian Muslims of Kosovo or Macedonia, men and women and children of the same family, descending from their hills and visiting Serbian monasteries. Men, wearing their white skullcaps, in their white serge trousers braided with black lace, followed by their women, bringing their infant children or alone, waiting for the priest to admit them to the Serbian place of worship. They arrive in reverence of the Holy Mother, or a saint whose icon is in the church or, more often, of relics of some Serbian king, sanctified in the monastery and known to help where Mohammed and Esculap had failed. No wonder, a Serbian priest would comment after such visits (always on Friday), they were Christians once.*

In the 14th and 15th centuries the great majority of Albanians were Christians, Orthodox or Roman Catholic in the north, predominately Orthodox in the south. Members of the north Albanian tribe, Malisori, celebrated Saint Nikola's Day - their patron and protector, just as he is of the Montenegrins. Both could be heard singing their national ballads, to the accompaniment of the gusle. The Malisori would sing about King Marko and Prince Lazar; the Montenegrins would sing about Skanderbeg.

Until recently it was not unusual to see Albanians visiting with their Christian friends on Christian holidays, or participating in the dancing and feasting (albeit with wine and pork dutifully avoided), attending weddings and baptisms. Usually these were the traditional ties of friendship, a legacy from the old days when the respective families were closely knit, living through periods of harmony or quarrels, but never inimical hostility. These were the days of stable family life, when young men went abroad only to return with money saved, and then continued to live in the manner of their fathers. Old Albanians in Kosovo still remember that their fathers would never begin any project on Tuesday, the day of the Serbs’ defeat.

The Monastery of Pec, which was the seat of the Serbian patriarch (1346-1556 and 1557-1766), maintained close and friendly relations with the Albanians of the rugged area of Rugovo, which provided shelter to Patriarch Arsenius IV in 1737, when he had to hide from the pursuing Turks. The Albanians continued to provide guard service to the Patriarchate in Pec and the Decani Monastery, but in recent years with notable lack of success. But coexistence was severely strained by the zealous converts to the Prophet’s faith. Some left a bloody trail in their forceful Islamization drive against the Serbs. An old Serbian religious inscription, made in 1574, reads: This is where great Albanian violence took place, especially by Mehmud Begovic in Pec, Ivan Begovic in Skadar, Sinnan-Pashic Rotulovic in Prizren, and Slad Pashic in Djakovitsa - they massacred 2,000 Christians ... Have mercy upon us, Oh Lord. Look down from Heaven and free your flock. Probably the most notorious among the converts was Koukli Bey and his followers who used force in their attempts to Islamize the area of Pastrik, Has, and Opolje at the end of the 18th century. Remembered as an arch-enemy of the Serbs is another Islamic convert, Grand Vizier Sinan Pasha, who ordered the remains of Saint Sava transferred from the Mileseva Monastery to Belgrade and there burned on a pyre in 1594.

The phenomenon of Islamization, and all that it meant in terms of personal welfare and social advancement, was the main cause of the estrangement between the two groups. To the Albanians, Islam was an opportunity that they could not let pass. It was a vehicle not only to get even, but, in addition, to outrank the Greeks and the Slavs. Islamization was continuous one, but its fervor and intensity were not. At certain periods, in certain areas, with certain people, the process would explode, usually triggered by some violent event. Something would happen - such as some Albanians siding with Venice in a dispute with the Porte, or the Serbs joining the Austrian army in its incursions. The aftermath would be intensified Islamization. Pressures would be applied, and on such occasions Serbs would usually show more intransigence than Albanians. The Albanians could never understand that inherent Serbian hostility toward the Turks, but then they had no Kosovo in their heritage.

The latent Serbian-Albanian conflict came into the open during the Holy League’s war against the Ottoman Empire (1683-1690). Many Serbs joined the Habsburg troops as a separate Christian militia. The Albanians - with the exception of the gallant Roman Catholic Klimenti (Kelmendi) tribe – reacted in accordance with their recently acquired Islamic identity and took the side of the sultan’s army against the Christians. Following the Habsburgs’ defeat a considerable number of local Serbs, fearing Muslim vengeance and reprisals, withdrew from Kosovo-Metohija led by their Patriarch, Arsenije III Crnojevic. On their way they were joined by many people from other parts of Serbia and moved to the neighboring Habsburg Empire, to today’s Vojvodina.

Two generations later yet another Austro-Ottoman war provoked further Serb migrations (1739), led by another Patriarch, Arsenije IV Jovanovic-Šakabenda. Fertile farmlands thus abandoned by the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija were gradually settled by the neighboring Muslim Albanian nomads. This settlement proceeded at a fairly slow pace at first, because the number of Orthodox Serbs who had stayed put - or who had returned after the reprisals had diminished and the situation calmed down - was still considerable. The pattern of Albanian settlement developed in uneven waves, but typically, upon the seizure of a plot of Serb-owned land, fellow tribesmen were brought in from the mountains to protect the acquisition and to help expand the considerable space needed for the herds. Thus an age-old pattern of social rivalry could be discerned: migrant herdsmen (Albanians) were in constant conflict with the settled farmers (Serbs).

This fairly familiar pattern of social conflict was enhanced by the religious dimension, however. As a Muslim, an Albanian herdsman could persecute and rob a Christian Serb peasant with complete impunity. At the same time, new wars the Ottomans waged with the Habsburg Empire during the 18th century, and the pronounced weakening of the central authority in Constantinople, stimulated the growth of anarchy that made the position of Christians in the Balkans increasingly intolerable. In Kosovo and Metohija a process of social mimicry followed. In order to protect themselves from attacks by the growing number of Muslim squatters, many Serbs accepted the outer characteristics of the Muslim Albanian population. They were obliged to accept the national costumes and language of Muslim Albanians in public communication, while they used their own language only within their families. Less resistant Orthodox Serbs converted to Islam and afterwards, through marriages, entered Albanian clans. They were called Arnautasi. Their first and second generations secretly celebrated Christian feasts and retained their old surnames and customs, but eventually – and inevitably - they were assimilated into the new ethnic milieu.

As for the remaining Orthodox Serbs, the religious gap between them and the Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija became the defining trait of their respective identities. It fully shaped their relations in the age of nationalism in the 19th century. The social realities were reflected at the level of religious affiliations: many Muslim Albanians considered Islam the religion of the free people, while Christianity - especially Orthodox Christianity - was the religion of slaves. The persistence of such beliefs among many Albanians was noticed by European consuls as late as the beginning of the 20th century. For many Albanians, Islam was a means for social promotion, but their ethnic identity, derived from the common tribal and patriarchal tradition, engendered far stronger loyalties and collective identities.

One must credit all Balkan people with their capacity for survival. But while some did it the hard way, others compromised and adapted to what they probably regarded as a temporary and unwelcome situation at first. The tragedy unleashed by NATO on March 24, 1999, proves that Serbs fall into the first category. The Kosovo legacy seemingly does not let them act differently. Their Albanian neighbors are survivors, too, but they assured their continuity in an easier way - such as Islamization in Turkish times, or contemporary media-sanctioned victimhood. This does not imply some form of congenital “duplicity,” but rather a pragmatic approach by an intelligent survivor.

By the early 1800s a new factor - no less critical than ethnic or religious difference – further impeded communication between the two nations. This was the disparity in political outlook and core concepts. The Serbs had a clear idea about their statehood, while the Albanians, with occasional blips of Albanianism, were for the most part Turkish-oriented. While the Serbs dreamed of their Serbian state, the Albanians tended to identify with the Ottoman Empire of which they were a part. Albanian patriot Sami Bey Frasheri, in his history of Albania written in Turkish in 1899 and later translated into German, describes the Albano-Turkish affinity in the following words:

Turks were finding devout and courageous co-fighters in Albanians, while Albanians found the Turkish kind of governing very much to their taste. In Turkish times, Albania was a wealthy and blossoming country because Albanians were riding together with Turks in war campaigns all over the world and were returning with rich booty: gold and silver, costly arms, and fine horses from Arabia, Kurdistan, and Hungary.*

By the early 1800s the Balkan peninsula looked more and more like the proverbial “powder keg,” and Serbia with its uprisings (1804 and 1815) was the fuse. The Serbs were soaring upward, carried on the wings of national liberation, and the Greeks were not far behind. The Albanians, pulled down by the weight of the aging Ottoman Empire, saw that the Serbs and Greeks could not be held down. They were undecided about their options.

For nine crucial years the Serbs battled the Turkish armies (1804-1813) and only two years later after being “pacified” they rose again. These two open insurrections sent shock waves throughout the Balkans and central Europe. In 1813 Karadjordje went into exile and Serbia’s dream seemed crushed, but in the popular mind Karadjordje came to be viewed as the avenger of the Serb's defeat at Kosovo as the courageous leader of the Serbs. His achievments paved the way for another attempt, and only two years later came the Second Uprising (1815), under Milos Obrenovic. He insisted on absolute obedience from his followers, and soon obtained considerable autonomy for the pashaluk of Belgrade (1817). A consummate politician, in his dealings with the Turks Milos combined bribes and flattery. He opened one door after another, and obtained his goals without much bloodshed.

In Milos’s time the Serbs made a clear distinction between Turks and Albanians. The former were city dwellers, landholders, or artisans, while the Albanians were a sort of Muslim proletariat. Most Turks in Serbia could not come to terms with life under increasingly independent Christian rule, and moved to Turkey, but this was not the case with the Albanians. Economically, the tables were turned against the Turks: in an increasingly open society they were losing their lands, while in the cities they no longer had the monopoly on the professions. In the words of a contemporary observer, “The Turks sat grumbling, smoking their chibuks, drinking coffee, watching Christians taking the initiative.”

Albanians, a much more aggressive segment of the Balkan Muslim world, could not just sit by and watch the Christians take over. Yet they faced with two fronts. On the one side were the Serbs, newly confident and assertive. On the other front was the Turkish "protector," who offered little protection but still imposed new restrictions and made new demands and obligations. Since Albanians were unsurprisingly unwilling to stand up to the Serbs and to Constantinople at the same time, the end of the 19th century presented them with the urgent need to develop some form of central authority to coordinate their actions. They also needed a national ideology and a national program.

With the passage of time, relations between Serbs and Albanians, instead of becoming more conciliatory, were getting worse. As the Serbian state was growing in size and political importance in Balkan affairs, Albanian fears and animosity grew apace.


Uneven levels of national integration among Serbs and Albanians in the age of nationalism, in the 19th and 20th centuries, gave fresh impetus to the old religious rivalries. In the Kingdom of Serbia (1912-1914), during the Great War (1914-1918), in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918-1941), and during the Axis occupation (1941-1945) those conflicts were transferred into new rivalries, this time involving a strong international component related to the changed roles. Ethnic Albanians, former bearers of the Ottoman state and its religious tradition, became a minority in 1912 that was strongly antagonistic towards the state ruled by the Serbs, their former serfs. Finally, Titoist ideological manipulation invoking the national question within communist Yugoslavia (1945-1991), along with the constantly growing social differences, came as the final coup to every attempt at establishing inter-ethnic communication that would be based on individual, instead of on collective rights.

* * *

The dawn of nationalism in the Balkans was announced by the Serbian uprising in 1804. Die Serbische Revolution as Leopold von Ranke called it, was characterized by the desire for the creation of a national state based on the small farmer's estate and on a democratic order derived from social background. By having stirred all the Balkan Christians, the Serbian revolution initiated an irreconcilable conflict with the Ottoman rule which the Balkan Muslims, primarily the Albanians and the Bosnian Muslims, were the first to defend. The old religious conflict acquired a new explosive charge called nationalism. Kosovo and Metohija was ruled by renegade Albanian pashas who, like the conservative Muslim beys in Bosnia, wanted to preserve a status quo as a guarantee of their privileges. Both the Islamicized Albanians and the Bosnian Muslims persecuted the rebellious Orthodox Serbs. Simultaneously, they came into open conflict with the reform-oriented sultans who saw the salvation of the Ottoman Empire in its rapid “Europeanization.”

Ever since obtaining internationally recognized autonomy (1830) the Serbs slowly but surely progressed towards the establishment of an independent nation-state according to the French model. Serbian nationalism was secularized, derived from a mixture of German Voelkisch cultural matrix based on the common language and the popular tradition, and Jacobine experiences, whose aim was to overcome the religious differences, with clear desires for liberal solutions coming from the population's social homogeneity.

Except for a certain kind of ethnic solidarity, Albanian nationalism developed under unfavorable circumstances: the tribal organization and the religious and social divisions ensured the domination of conservative layers of beys and tribal chiefs. Defending their old privileges, the Albanians, just like the Bosnian Muslims, became, in the declining Ottoman Empire, an obstacle to its modernization. Shaped by the Islamic civilizational framework the Muslim Albanians (around 70% of the entire population), were unable to successfully coordinate their privileges with the needs of modern nations. Until the Eastern Crisis (1875-1878), the Albanians moved around in a vicious circle between general loyalty to the Ottoman Empire and the defense of their local interests which meant resisting the central authorities' measures. The beginning of the Albanian national integration was therefore not based on cultural unity, and even less on liberal European-type principles.

Albanian nationalism was of an ethnic nature, but clearly burdened by conservative Islamic traditions. Simultaneously, this nationalism was more than half a century behind the other Balkan nations in defining its aspirations. The Albanians, similarly to other belated nations (versp”tete Nation), when confronted with rival nationalisms, sought foreign support and advocated radical solutions. In Kosovo-Metohija and in western Macedonia, where the Serbs and the Albanians were intermingled, with the system falling apart and with the growing social stagnation, it was anarchy that reigned: there the Christians were the principal victims and the Muslims were their persecutors.

The Albanian League (1878-1881), formed on the eve of the Congress of Berlin, on the periphery of the Albanian ethnic space, in Prizren, called for a resolution of the national question within the frameworks of the Ottoman Empire. Conservative Muslim groups prevailed in the League's leadership and paramilitary forces. Dissatisfied with the Porte's concessions to the European powers, the League tried to sever all ties with Constantinople; in order to prevent further international complications, the sultan Abd¸lhamid II (1876-1909) ordered military action and destroyed the Albanian movement.

The internationalization of the Albanian question began and, until the Balkan wars (1912-1913), it had two compatible directions. First of all, it was characterized by a renewed loyalty to the Porte due to the proclaimed pan-Islamic policy in order to encourage the Albanian Muslims to stifle Christian movements which were endangering the Ottoman empire's internal security. The persecution of and violence against the Serbs in Kosovo-Metohija and in Macedonia were an integral part of the pan-Islamic policy of sultan Abd¸hamid II. The result was at least 60,000 expelled Serbs from Old Serbia (vilayet of Kosovo). Refugees from Old Serbia and Macedonia sent a memorandum to the Conference in the Hague in 1899, but their complaints about systematic discrimination perpetrated by Muslim Albanians were not officially discussed.

Secondly, the Albanians, especially Roman Catholics, sought foreign support from those Powers which, in their desire to dominate the Balkans, could help Albanian aspirations. While Italy’s activities among the Albanians were based on establishing influence among their Roman Catholics in the northern region and in the cities along the Adriatic coast, Austria-Hungary had more ambitious plans. After the occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (1878), the Dual Monarchy planned to penetrate further into the Balkans, towards Salonika. For Vienna the Albanians in Kosovo-Metohija and western Macedonia were a bridge towards the Vardar river valley.

The very slowness of the Albanians’ national integration was favorable to a broad action by the Dual Monarchy: the Albanian Èlite - divided among three religious communities, just like the nation itself - consisted of people of unequal social statuses, speaking different dialects. In order to overcome such differences Vienna launched important cultural initiatives. Books about Albanian history were printed and distributed, national coats-of-arms were invented and various grammars were written in order to create a unified Albanian language. The Latin script, supplemented with new letters for non-resounding sounds, was envisaged as the common script.

The most important cultural initiative was the “Illyrian theory” about the Albanians’ origin. The theory about the Albanians’ alleged Illyrian origin was launched from the cabinets of Viennese and German scientists where, until then, it only had the form of a narrow scientific debate, and it was skillfully propagated in a simplified form. According to this theory, for which reliable scientific evidence has not been found to the present day, the Albanians are the oldest nation in Europe created through a mixture of pre-Roman Illyrian and Pelasgian tribes from an Aryan flock (Volksschwarm). A hugely questionable scientific thesis about the ethnogenesis of a nation was turned into the mythological basis for national integration, which - in the fullness of time - became the main pillar of the Albanians’ modern national identity… and the basis for their territorial aspirations.

The way in which Vienna used the Albanian national movement against the “Greater Serbian danger” in its conflict with the Serbian movement for unification, was similar to the way in which Russia tried to manipulate the Serbian question, during the Serbian revolution, in its wars with Turkey. But the results were different. The Serbs successfully got rid of Russia's tutelage creating, with many difficulties, a modern parliamentary state (1888-1894,1903-1914) that conducted its own independent national policy; the Albanians got from Vienna an important framework for further cultural emancipation but its price was a permanent rivalry with Serbia and Montenegro. Although deeply distrustful towards the Albanian movement, both Serbian kingdoms tried, on several occasions, to establish cooperation with the Albanian leadership and to resolve mutual disputes without the interference of the Great Powers. The support to the Albanian insurrections against the Young Turk pan-Ottoman policy (1910-1912), prior to the liberation of Kosovo (1912), were obvious expressions of such efforts.

A major problem for the Albanians, in terms of national ideas, was that they were divided into three distinct segments: those in the interior regions, those on the periphery, and those living abroad. Those in the interior were very conservative; they deeply distrusted their compatriots abroad; they believed firmly in Muslim solidarity (with the Turks); and they nursed a degree of animosity toward their Christian compatriots or who were susceptible to Latin, Slav, or Greek influences. They lived insulated in their feudal mentality, which meant that a few more decades would be needed before they would be ready for the nationalist "yeast" that was working so well in the border regions. Hence, the interior and the periphery were poles apart - while those living abroad were insistent in seeking to take the reins of the national awakening movement.

It is perhaps understandable why the Albanian patriots found it necessary to start the national "awakening" process in the border regions, where the mentality was somewhat less conservative, if not rather radical. These regions, as a rule, experienced some Greek and Slav influences. This may explain why Bitolj, Ohrid, Kicevo, Debar, Prizren, Pristina, Djakovica, and Skadar attracted the "revolutionaries." There was a definite philosophical affinity between the outsiders and border region Albanians.

Turkish administration had contributed greatly to that affinity. When setting up multinational areas under their rule into vilayets (districts), the Turks purposely drew the dividing lines in such a way so as to encompass several nationalities in a district, instead of separating them. Whatever the rationale for such a policy, it kept rivalry alive and prevented a common front against the Turks. The Albanian leaders were aware of Turkish perfidy. The first point of their national demands insisted on "Albania to be constituted as a single vilayet." The difficulty with this was that the four districts demanded by the Albanians, as drawn by Turkish administrators, included numerous Greeks, Serbs, and Bulgarians.

When in 1912, Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, and Bulgaria declared war on Turkey, neither Austria nor the Albanians were ready for the Balkan blitz. Certain Serbian emissaries had talked with some Albanian leaders, exploring the possibilities of joining in an insurgency against the Turks. But the Albanians could not at that time fathom the military weaknesses of the Turkish army, so they stayed aloof. Most of them were against the Young Turks, but not Turkey; when the Young Turks consented not to push reforms, Albanian animosity was appeased. Albanian unrestricted violence against the defenseless Serbian population in Kosovo and elsewhere, in the period 1903-1912, had made them overconfident. They murdered the Russian consul in Mitrovica with impunity. Serbian consuls in the area were sending back reports that sounded like real horror stories, and the Serbian premier, Nikola Pasic, deplored the "difficult situation facing the Serbs in the area." Turkish authorities were either unable or unwilling to stop the Albanian harassment of Serbs.

When informed of rumors about an Albanian assault on Prizren, many local Turks began packing and heading south for safer cities. Everything pointed to total chaos, which culminated in the massive march of some 15,000 Albanians on Skoplje (August 12, 1912). Even when earlier Sultan Mehmed V himself came to Kosovo, Albanians, enraged by the Turkish reforms, were not listening anymore. Armed Albanian units occupied Djakovica, Mitrovica, and finally entered Skoplje. And Turkey, in a state of political transition, felt that action against the Albanian insurgents could wait. In the meantime, the Balkan powers had moved swiftly in their war against the Ottoman Empire.

The Serbs defeated the Turks at Kumanovo (October 23, 1912), and met with the Montenegrin forces in Metohija (October 29). The Montenegrins liberated Pec and Djakovica, while the Serbian army entered Pristina and Prizren. Kosovo was free, and one of Vienna's prime aims in the Balkans - the prevention of a common border between Serbia and Montenegro - had been nullified. When Serbia realized that there was an opportunity to reach the sea, its army crossed the river Drim. It pushed through Albania, entering the cities of Ljes, Kroja, and Tirana. On November 29th it took the port of Drac. The Albanians, during this sweep, fought in the ranks of the Turkish army. As their front collapsed, they started to trickle off and desert.

The Great Powers were surprised; Vienna was stunned. The Germans took it as personal humiliation, because the top Turkish officers were their pupils. Francis Ferdinand in Vienna called the Serbs “a bunch of thieves, murderers, no-goods, and hooligans,” as Vienna was preparing for a diplomatic denial of Serbia’s achievements. Top leaders among Albanian nationalists (Ismail Kemal, Faik Konitza, Fan Noli, and others) were caught unprepared for the Turkish defeat. Overnight all Albanian eyes turned toward Vienna, the only possible savior by virtue of the diplomatic and military power it could wield.

The London Conference of Ambassadors was called (December 17, 1912) to decide on Albanian frontiers, and on the withdrawal of the occupation forces. The future of the victorious Serbian exploit did not seem bright. Austria-Hungary, which had been surprised by the Balkan powers' swift action, was adamant. It insisted on a Serbian pullout, and the creation of a separate Albanian unit. The Conference of Ambassadors decided on the ‘creation of an autonomous Albania, under the sovereignty and suzerainty of the sultan and under the exclusive guarantee of the six Great Powers.’ In the spring of 1913, independence was substituted for autonomy, and Austria-Hungary and Italy were entrusted with the task of working it out. By the end of July 1913 the ambassadors finally decided it would need a body of “six plus one” (six representatives of the Great Powers and one Albanian) to set up the new administration. German Prince Wilhelm von Wied was chosen to become hereditary prince of Albania, but he did not stay long enough to get to know his subjects: he left in a hurry, as soon as he learned that Francis Ferdinand was felled by a shot of a young Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo.

A lot of squabbling and bargaining took place during the early months of 1913 at ambassadorial meetings in London. The participants agonized over the death of Turkey, the birth of Albania, and the demands of the Balkan allies. Serbia and Montenegro worried but little about the form of the Albanian state, or its status. As far as they were concerned, creating an independent state in their immediate neighborhood was a blessing. It was always better to have a small, hopefully reasonable, nation at your border than an insatiable imperialistic Great Power, be it Italy, Turkey, or Austria-Hungary. The main concern of the Serbs was the boundary lines, and a convenient outlet to the sea. When it became clear that they would be deprived of the latter, the Serbian team concentrated on the boundary line.

As far as the Albanians were concerned, one would have expected that of the three items on their agenda, national independence, domestic system, and frontiers, the last would have the lowest priority. But this was not the case. The most "awakened" among them were from the border areas. If they had to choose between living in Slav Serbia or Muslim Turkey, they would always opt for Turkey: arrangements were of secondary importance. It was a precise reversal of the Serb strategy of old: When a century earlier Milos was in a similar dilemma he first attended to the principle of self-rule, leaving geography for later.

Before the curtain fell on Serbia and Montenegro the two small brothers showed the world what hearts beat in them. On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Old Pasic was eating his lunch in a local pub when the courier brought him the sealed envelope. His only comment to a bystander was: “This is the end of Austria. Lord Almighty will help us to come out winners.”

The European powers went to war in 1914 for a variety of deeper reasons, but the direct cause was the crisis between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, resulting from the murder of Archduke Francis Ferdinand by a young Serb nationalist in Sarajevo. This event was the culmination of an intractable conflict between Austria’s Balkan expansionism and Serbia’s, at least implicit, Piedmontism. Regardless of whether Serbia’s dynamism aimed merely at the unification of all Serbs, or for the more ambitious objective of the “liberation” of their South Slav brethren, the Monarchy perceived it as a serious threat. It watched with consternation the triumph of Serbian arms against Turkey in 1912 and Bulgaria in 1913, and the subsequent doubling of its territory. The shots fired in Sarajevo were seen in Vienna as an opportunity to settle the scores with a small but tough and increasingly assertive adversary while there was still time to do so.

With a blank check hastily granted from Berlin, the Monarchy presented Serbia with an ultimatum that contained extravagant demands. It was not meant to be accepted: Austria-Hungary willed the war, and rushed into it, fuelled by a heady brew of crude Serbophobia that blended anti-Slav racism and a peculiarly Central-European brand of anti-Orthodox Roman Catholic integralism. By going ahead with the attack the Monarchy activated the system of alliances, and duly ignited the continent.


As the end of World War I approached, and Serbia inched ever nearer to the fulfillment of its war aim - the unification of all South Slavs in one independent state - relations with Albanians took a new turn. The mighty Albanian protector, and the main instigator of anti-Serbian attitudes in the area, Austria-Hungary, was about to leave the historical scene. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was about to be replaced by Italy, which had the support of the West, which Vienna did not. The Entente had made numerous promises to Italy in the Secret Treaty of London (1915), and Italy wasted no time in seeking to achieve its objectives.

In Versailles in 1919 the newly-created Yugoslav state was among the few voices among the allies pleading for an independent Albania, free of any Great Power patronage. This position was markedly different from the Italian view. Italy, which had begun with an interest in the Albanian littoral, now wanted half of Albania and was pushing the Great Albania concept, which meant the incorporation of Serbian lands, such as Kosovo, into the new Albanian state. Belgrade's position on Kosovo was not negotiable and had not changed since the discussions at the London Conference of Ambassadors (January 1913): Serbia could not allow the Kosovo area to be a "malignant tumor." In addition, Serbia never considered Kosovo as small change or a bargaining chip to be used by diplomats at the negotiating table.

The historic, cultural, and moral reasons which guided Belgrade in opposing foreign pretensions to Kosovo were fully presented to the London meeting in 1913, and did not change in 1919 in the Royal Yugoslav format. They are just as valid today, eight decades later, although in a diametrically different ideological context. The memorandum submitted by Serbia's delegates to the 1913 conference, read in part:

Today the majority in those areas are Arnauts [Albanians], but from the middle of the 14th century until the end of the 17th century that land was so pure Serbian ... that the Serbs established their Patriarchate in Pec ... and near Pec is the Serbian monastery, Decani, the most famous monument of Serbian architecture and piety from the 14th century. It is impossible to imagine that [these] would have been built in a region in which the Serbian people was not in a majority. The region in which are found Pec, Djakovica, and Decani, is the most holy among all Serbian lands. It is impossible to imagine any Montenegrin or Serbian government which would be in a position to yield that land to Arnauts or to any- one else ... On that question the Serbian people cannot and will not yield, nor enter into any agreements or compromises, and therefore the Serbian government is not in a position to do so.

One cannot overemphasize the moral impact that the liberation of Kosovo had as a fulfillment of Serbia's historic mission. Rational Western diplomats had difficulty understanding this. Operating in societies where traditional values are, if necessary, also negotiable, they viewed Serbia's history in terms of "progress" made in a brief span of time. They could not understand the uncompromising position of the Serbs when it came to losing a few cities here and there compared to the overall national advantage gained in only a few years. The "some you lose, some you win" philosophy could not be applied to Kosovo. Serbia just could not accept the Entente's concept of giving certain Serbian lands to Serbia in exchange for giving other equally historic Serbian lands to someone else.

European diplomatic big guns like Lloyd George (who in 1919 said I’ve got to polish off Pashich) and British public opinion molders such as Wickham Steed and R. W. Seton-Watson, were plainly annoyed with Serbia's stubbornness. Once again, the Serbs had an image problem in Western Europe. The Serbian Government could not get rid of the burden which history has placed upon her shoulders - the prejudice in Western Europe about the historic mission of Serbia, which is to open the door to the Russians in the south of Europe ... Britain viewed Serbia exclusively from that perspective.

Following First World War, Rome continued with its old practice of stirring Serbo-Albanian conflicts, now as a function of the conflict with the newly established Kingdom of Serbs Croats and Slovenes (renamed Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929) over dominance of the eastern Adriatic coast. Kosovo-Metohija was an unquiet border province where Albanian outlaws (kaÁaks) and activists of the "Kosovo committee", an organization of emigrants which, in its struggle for a "Greater Albania", was financed by the Italian government operated. In Yugoslavia, like in pre-war Serbia, the ethnic Albanians were a minority that was antagonistic towards the state ruled by their former serfs. The Kosovo beys who led the ethnic Albanians, agreed with Belgrade on their privileges neglecting the fact that their kinsmen were not guaranteed adequate minority rights.

Belgrade responded with twofold measures: on the internal level, it carried out a recolonization of Serbs in Kosovo in order to restore the demographic structure disrupted in the last decades of Ottoman rule and tried to establish security by severe military and police means in the region bordering on Albania; for this reason the colonists were the victims of retaliation carried out by ethnic Albanian outlaws. On the foreign level, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia reacted by actively interfering in the internal political clashes in Albania and by helping to organize the liquidation of the most prominent ethnic Albanian emigrants from Kosovo like Bairam Curri and Hasan Prishtina, but without the strength to have a decisive influence on Tirana.

What happened in Kosovo after World War I was not just a "change of occupiers," the Serbian master replacing the Turkish one, as some circles like to portray the situation. The fact is that, after centuries of social immobility, Kosovo suddenly went through a revolutionary change. The Serbian liberation of Kosovo, in a small way, resembled the Napoleonic push through Europe. It opened many doors to the Albanians. That they were unable or unwilling to use them is another matter.

One of the most unfortunate things for the Albanian masses of Kosovo was their being abandoned by their leaders. As if that was not enough, these same leaders instigated Kosovo Schipetars to act against the Yugoslav authorities. The mushrooming of "committees for the liberation of Kosovo," in Albania and elsewhere, resulted in the sending of terrorists and irredenta literature into the Kosovo area, sometimes allied with Bulgarian, Croatian, Hungarian, and Comintern terrorists. In spite of such activity, an increasing number of Kosovo Albanians began to realize that accommodation, if not assimilation, was the most reasonable course to follow.

In the main, Serbian political parties took Kosovo seriously, seeing in it an opportunity to fill a vacuum and thereby collect some votes before others gained this support. The leading Radical Party, the strong Democratic Party, the broadly based agricultural bloc, and the Communist Party - all showed up in Kosovo. Already in 1919, the Kosovo Albanians formed their own political organization, called Dzemijet. They held their annual congresses, published the group's paper Moudjaeda (Struggle), and conducted a variety of cultural programs. In the November 1920 elections Dzemijet elected eight deputies; in March 1923 this number grew to 18. Later the membership split, as many found that the strong and influential Serbian parties were of greater benefit and more likely to deliver. By the end of 1925, Dzemijet went out of existence, and the former members either joined the pro-government coalition groups or the opposition coalition. Joining a Serbian party did not, however, mean conversion, as later developments would show. In 1941, many of those who had joined Serbian parties became protagonists of the Greater Albania under Italian occupation. They were the ones that Italian foreign minister, Count Ciano, in 1939 called "daggers pointed at Yugoslavia's back. "

The Albanian minority in Yugoslavia, thanks to its myopic leadership, made two blunders at the very beginning. Rebellious, it chose the wrong ally; introvert, it locked itself in its own cocoon. Even when in the 1930s it became obvious that Albanians had already begun to participate in Yugoslav day-to-day reality - culturally, professionally, and politically - the residue of the unfortunate 1918 beginning was still noticeable. Perhaps there were too many people around who would not let it be forgotten. To let the forgetting take place required a longer span of time than the 20 years of the first Yugoslavia. When World War II came, the bedlam started all over again.

On the eve of that war, on January 21, 1939, Count Ciano and Yugoslav premier Milan Stojadinovic conferred in Belgrade about the "Albanian question." Stojadinovic was told of Italy's intention to occupy Albania, and apparently was promised Skadar in return, as well as the cessation of anti-Yugoslav propaganda with regard to Kosovo. A few days earlier, King Zog had received an Italian plan - in effect an ultimatum - for a reorganization of the state, which amounted to a loss of independence and practical annexation. With 30,000 Italian troops landing at four Albanian ports, Zog fled, and the Albanian parliament offered the Albanian crown to Victor Emmanuel III. In the meantime, Stojadinovic had resigned, and Ciano felt no obligation to his successor.

The Italian occupation was humiliating to many Albanians, but the Kosovo Albanians felt encouraged by it. Their dream of a Great Albania was to become a reality - after the fall of Yugoslavia in 1941 - even if under the aegis of the Italian crown. After Yugoslavia's defeat in the April war of 1941, its territories were granted to a number of satellite pro-Nazi states. Kosovo and part of western Macedonia were annexed, as compensation, to an Albania which was from 1939 under Italian occupation.

The immediate consequence of the creation of Mussolini’s Greater Albania was the merciless persecution and expulsion of around 100,000 Serbs, while over ten thousand were the victims of the punitive actions of various Albanian militias. In the same period, around 75,000 people moved to Kosovo from Albania. New persecutions of the Serbs followed the capitulation of Italy (1943), when Kosovo fell under the direct control of the Third Reich. The Albanians in Kosovo wholeheartedly supported their new masters, which was reflected in the creation of the Nazi-sponsored "Second Albanian League." Thousands of young Albanians enthusiastically enlisted in the SS "Skenderbeg" division, and embarked on a new wave of violence against the remaining Serbian civilian population.


The attempt to achieve a historical reconciliation of the Serbs and Albanians within the framework of the new social project - Soviet-type communism - proved to be impossible: the geopolitical realities remained unchanged, while the old rivalry over territories only acquired a new ideological framework.

Tito, in seeking to win over the Albanians of Kosovo during his wartime struggle to seize power, led them to believe that after the war they would have the right of self-determination, including the right of secession. But his decision at the end of the war to make Kosovo-Metohija an autonomous unit within Serbia was not warmly received. Nevertheless, several other actions of the Tito regime began to change the character of Kosovo-Metohija rather radically in favor of the Albanians. Some 100,000 Serbs were forced out of Kosovo during World War II, and they were not permitted to return. Moreover, with each passing year, more and more Serbs were forced to leave, between 150,000 and 200,000 in the 20-year period 1961-1981 alone. In the meanwhile, immediately after the war, over 200,000 Albanians were brought in from Albania to Kosovo region - and over the years Kosovo Albanians gained increasing control over events in the province.

Realpolitik forced communist ruler J.B.Tito to preserve Yugoslavia's integrity in order to become its legal successor. Simultaneously, he had to take into account the feelings of the Serbs, the communists and partisans who constituted the majority of his forces. The ethnic Albanian rebellion against communist Yugoslavia at the beginning of 1945 intensified the need for Kosovo-Metohija to remain part of Serbia, within the new Soviet type federal system. But even this solution was only tentative. The project of a Balkan federation which, apart from Yugoslavia and Albania, was also to include Bulgaria, and where Kosovo would, in accordance with Tito's idea, belong to Albania, had a twofold meaning. For Tito it was the achievement of his personal ambition to become the ruler of the Balkans reshaped into a Balkan federation under his rule. On the other hand, for communist leader of Albania Enver Hohxa this was an attempt to achieve Kosovo's annexation to Albania through mutual agreement between communist "brethern". The severance of relations with Albania in 1948, done as part of Yugoslavia's conflict with the Cominform, stopped the second wave of the immigration of ethnic Albanians into Yugoslavia favored by the Tito's government in order to obtain further influence on Albania. The number of those immigrants has not been precisely determined to the present day.

Decreeing the creation of new nations immediately after 1945 - first the Macedonians (by using linguistic criteria) and Montenegrins (by state tradition), and then also the Bosnian Moslems by religious criteria (1968) was aimed at reversing the political and military domination of the Serbs in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. According to Milovan Djilas, one of Tito’s closest aides at that time, the division of Serbs in five out of the six republics was aimed at diminishing the "centralism and hegemonies of the Serbs", as one of the main "obstacles" to the establishment of communism.

In communist Yugoslavia, the Serbo-Albanian conflicts were only part of the complex concept for resolving the national question which was carried out in phases and in the name of "brotherhood and unity" by Josip Broz Tito. Being a Croat, brought up in the Habsburg milieu marked by the fear of "the Greater Serbian danger" and on Lenin's teaching that the nationalism of big nations is more dangerous than the nationalism of smaller ones, Tito was consistent in stifling “Greater Serbian hegemony.” The first two decades of his bureaucratic centralism (1945-1966) were necessary for the communist leadership to avoid the debate on genocide perpetrated against the Serbs during the civil war. The centralism also aimed to consolidate communist power: during that period Tito relied on Serbian cadres (Aleksandar Rankovic) with whom he emerged victorious from the civil war. Among the victims of the State security service (UDBA), headed by Rankovic, as ideological enemies there were Serbs and ethnic Albanians alike. Together with ethnic Albanians who were persecuted for supporting former "Balli Kombetar" nationalist forces (actions of confiscating guns), the Kosovo-Metohija Serbs, especially Orthodox priests, were constantly arrested and monastic properties destroyed or confiscated. The biggest Orthodox church in Metohia, built in Djakovica in the1920s was demolished in 1950, and in its place a monument for Kosovo-Metohija partisans was erected.

The decentralization based on the plans of Tito's closest associates, Edvard Kardelj - a Slovene, author of almost all the Yugoslav constitutions, and Vladimir Bakaric - a Croat, aimed at strengthening the competencies of the federal units, led to the renewal of nationalisms. The creation of the national-communism formulated by Edvard Kardelj as party ideology was directly promoted by Tito himself. National communism made republican and provincial parties the bearers of the national and state sovereignty. National homogenization was imposed, a process that in Kosovo-Metohija took the direction of creating a national state of the Muslim Albanians. Endeavors to create nation-states in areas marked by republican (and in the case of Kosovo-Metohija also provincial) boundaries, was also the beginning of the ethnic and religious discrimination of minority nations within the federal (provincial) entities.

National-communism that emerged in Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Kosovo in the late 1960's and early 1970's was supported by Tito in order to preserve his undisputed authority challenged by the reform-orientated 'liberals' in Serbia. In the last phase of Tito's rule, marked by the (con)federal Constitution of 1974, he became, similar to Leonid Brezhnev in the USSR, the main obstacle to any further liberal evolution of the system.

As Tito's only legacy there remained the common, but ideological army, and the bulky party-bureaucratic apparatus, divided along republican and provincial borders. Those borders, although allegedly administrative, increasingly resembled the borders of self-sufficient, covertly rival national states, linked from the inside only by the iron authority of the charismatic leader. The important cohesive element on the international plane was a common fear of a potential Soviet invasion.

Within such a context, Kosovo-Metohija had an important role: first it was an autonomous region (1946 Constitution), then an autonomous province within Serbia (1963 Constitution) and finally an autonomous province only formally linked with Serbia (Constitutional amendments 1968-1971 and 1974 Constitution). Kosovo’s competencies were hardly any different from those of the republics, although the Leninist principle concerning the right to self-determination was reserved for the republics only. Kosovo owed the change of its status within the federation not to the freely expressed will of the people of Serbia - Serbs and ethnic Albanians alike - but exclusively to the ideological concepts of a narrow circle of national-communist hard-liners around Tito.

After the reconciliation with Moscow (1955) and the gradual normalization of relations with Albania (1971), Tito favored the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. His Communist apparatchiks in Pristina of Albanian nationality saw this as a long awaited opportunity for a historical revenge against the Serbs. The erasing of the name of Metohija, as a Serbian Orthodox term, from the name of the autonomous province (autumn 1968), symbolically indicated the political direction of the ethnic Albanian communist nomenklatura in Kosovo.

What began as the "Autonomous Kosovo-Metohija Region" (1947), became the "Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija" (1963), and ended up as the "Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo" (1969). These may seem to be insignificant semantics, but under Yugoslav conditions it meant ascending from a faceless geographic entity to a "constituent element of the federation." The 1969 formula was subsequently used by the Albanians to demand the status of a republic in the Yugoslav Federation, which could in turn lead to the riddance of Serbia's tutelage. This dawned upon the Serbian Communists only later, when the statistics on the rapidly growing Albanian majority became alarming. In 1946 the Albanians made up about 50 percent of the population of Kosovo, but by 1981 it was 77.5 percent. The corresponding percentage for Serbs and Montenegrins had dropped to about 15 percent (Yugoslav statistics list Serbs and Montenegrins separately). Thus, as the Albanian goal of an ethnically pure Kosovo almost turned into a reality, that reality became increasingly unbearable for those who could not pack up and leave.

After 1969 Kosovo got its own supreme court and its own Albanian flag. Belgrade University extension departments at Pristina were upgraded to the level of an independent university. This is when the leaders of Pristina's youth turned away from Belgrade and toward Tirana. Belgrade could not provide either Albanian teachers or Albanian textbooks. Tirana was more than glad to oblige. In ten years (1971-1981) it sent to Kosovo 240 university teachers, together with textbooks written in the Albanian literary language. At the same time came the aggressive folklore that Shukrija was talking about: Albanian historic and socialist movies, Albanian TV and radio, and sport and cultural exchange visits.

Economically, Kosovo was moving ahead in unheard of leaps, with an annual industrial growth rate of 30 percent. With 8 percent of the Yugoslav population, Kosovo was allocated up to 30 percent of the Federal Development Funds. The Kosovo authorities, it was discovered later, used large sums from these funds to buy up land from Serbs and give it to Albanians. Investment loans were given for periods as long as 15 years, with a 3 year grace period and an interest rate of a mere 3 percent. Kosovo, always considered one of the "underdeveloped" areas of Yugoslavia, now received priority treatment. In a five-year period in the 1970s, for instance, some 150 million dollars were jumped into it annually. Moreover, of one billion dollars of World Bank development credit to Yugoslavia, Kosovo got 240 million or 24 percent. It is estimated that in the 1980s some 2,100 million dollars have been poured into the Kosovo economy. Much of the cultural support, social services, and educational aid was never to be repaid (i.e., financed by Serbia or the federation).

In view of all this aid, it is often asked why did Kosovo persistently lag so far behind other parts of the federation? Why was it among the poorest regions of Yugoslavia? Demographic reasons are usually cited, the Kosovo area having a birth rate of 32 per 1,000 (the highest in Europe), and the largest families (6.9 members). Other explanations given are Albanian backwardness, lack of management skills, corruption, investing in unproductive prestige enterprises, unrealistic and over-ambitious planning.

While the economic lag was felt by both Albanian and Serbian inhabitants of Kosovo, the cultural isolation was a singularly Albanian phenomenon. This is why Kosovo Serbs resented being forced to learn Albanian and to attend schools with instruction in the Albanian language. Then came the escalation of Albanian expectations, primarily among the burgeoning ranks of the younger generation. The near-unanimous demand of the Albanian minority for the creation of a republic of Kosovo (with the right to self-determination, including secession) was advanced in 1981, only a year after Tito's death. It disrupted the sensitive political balance in the federal leadership.


In the early 1980s the attempt to hush up the Albanian question in Kosovo with a classic communist purge and with spectacular but inadequate legal and police measures soon failed. Together with visible attempts to minimize the problem of the forced emigration of the Kosovo Serbs, these measures resulted in the deep frustration of the whole Serbian nation in the years that followed. The Serbs gradually started to realize that the Titoist order was based on the national inequality of the Serbs in Yugoslavia.

Even before the 1974 constitution, the Kosovo Albanians persecuted the Serbs. They desecrated their churches, stole or destroyed their property, employed duress to get them to sell their holdings, and engaged in other acts designed to force them to leave Kosovo. Even Serbian professionals with whom the Albanians were satisfied were told, as a condition of their continued employment, that they must learn Albanian. The Serbs' growing national frustration was skillfully used, after a party coup in 1987, by Slobodan Milosevic, the new leader of the Serbian communists. Instead of party forums he used populist methods, taking over from the Serbian Orthodox Church and the liberal intelligentsia the role of the protector of national interests. Thus, the protection of the endangered Serbs in Kosovo became a means of political manipulation.

Milosevic’s intention to renew the weary communist party (“League of Communists”) on the basis of new ostensibly national ideals - as did the national-communist in other republics more than a decade earlier - was in fact an exact opposite to the movement in Eastern Europe. In Poland, Hungary and elsewhere an irreversible process of communism’s demise by means of “genuine” nationalism was launched. At that moment, for most of the Serbs, preoccupied by the Kosovo question, the interests of the nation were more important than the democratic changes in Eastern Europe, especially since Milosevic had created the semblance of the freedom of the media where former historical and ideological taboos were freely discussed. Democracy in Serbia was blocked by the unresolved national question: practice has once again confirmed that those two ideologies, nationalism and democracy, exclude each other.

Most Albanians held to their radical stands: they responded with a relentless series of strikes and demonstrations aware of the fact that the abolition of the autonomy based on the 1974 Constitution meant, in fact, the abolition of all elements of Kosovo statehood. Their actions only strengthened Milosevic positions as the Serb national leader. The polarization within the republican leaderships in regard to the Kosovo issue became public. The support of Slovenia and later on Croatia to the Albanian requests definitely cemented Milosevic's charisma. The results were the limitation of autonomy, unrest and brutal police repression in Kosovo.

In this manner the old dispute over whether Kosovo is or is not part of Serbia became seemingly ideological. Serbia, thanks to Milosevic, acquired the dangerous image of “the last bastion of communism in Europe,” while the Albanians - because of their resistance to the regime ruling “the bastion,” which mostly had a passive, non-violent form - obtained the halo of Western-approved victimhood in their supposed search for democracy and human rights.

The secessionist movement of the Albanians in Kosovo, derived from the logic of the Titoist order and based on ethnic intolerance, led to the homogenization of the Serbs in Yugoslavia, directly producing Milosevic, the neo-communist quasi-nationalist. This, in accordance with the domino effect, resulted in the homogenization of the other Yugoslav nations. In a country with such mixture of various nations, due to the inability of the communist and post-communist leaderships to place democratic principles above narrow national interests, ethnic mobilization directly led to the civil war. In that sense, the disintegration of Yugoslavia is the belated revenge of Tito's ideological heirs. The Serbo-Albanian conflict lost its Titoist dimension. Under Milosevic once again, albeit temporarily, it became Serbia’s internal question.

Slobodan Milosevic, who became head of the Serbian communists in 1986, went to Kosovo to investigate in 1987, and there he uttered the famous phrase: “No one will beat you again.” His first step was to amend the Yugoslav Constitution, thus permitting Serbia to change its own constitution with respect to the status of the autonomous provinces within its boundaries. This was done in late 1988, with the reluctant but eventually unanimous agreement of the other five republics in the Yugoslav federation. Two key sentences serve to explain that need: The Socialist Republic of Serbia . . . should be able to carry out indispensable functions on the whole of its territory. And: The right of the Serbian people to form its state, as other peoples of the Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia, was not accomplished because the constitutional principle that the provinces are integral parts of the Socialist Republic of Serbia was not consistently realized in practice. With this act, the republics of Yugoslavia recognized the validity of the Serbs’ concern. Deceitfully, Slovenia and Croatia were later to blame the breakup of Yugoslavia on Serbia’s actions concerning Kosovo.

To amend Serbia’s constitution, the consent of the provinces was also necessary. Vojvodina gave its consent in February 1989 and Kosovo in March. The amendment takes away the right of provincial assemblies to veto acts of the Serbian parliament, because it says that the latter has the right to amend the constitution. But there are three conditions. The provinces may give their opinions; if they are rejected a six-month waiting period ensues; and if they are still rejected, the provincial assemblies may force a referendum.

The new Serbian constitution of 1990, did not, as widely alleged, revoke Kosovo’s autonomy. It merely reduced it to the 1963 level, which was still considerable, but the Albanians rejected the decrease and engaged in civil disobedience. They refused to participate in all governmental institutions—schools, police, medical facilities—and set about creating their own informal ones. They even went on strikes in governmental enterprises, which resulted in firings. In the end, they proclaimed Kosovo an independent state. These acts prompted the Belgrade government to establish a military presence - which the Albanians dubbed "occupation" - in the province. The stage was set for the subsequent tragedy.

* This sub-chapter is partly based on The Saga of Kosovo, by Professor Alex N. Dragnich and Slavko Todorovich (Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1984). Used with the permission of the authors.

* The author witnessed, in the summer of 1997, the arrival of an Albanian family to the walled-in monastery of Sveti Vraci near Orahovac, in Kosovo. They placed a sick boy (stricken by a strain of muscle-wasting disease, the abbot was told) under a coffin containing the relics of a Serb saint, and left him there overnight in the sincere conviction that the power of the Orthodox Christian martyr would help cure the young Muslim, sound asleep under his bones.

* Was war Albanien, was ist es, was wird es werden? [What was Albania? What is it? What will it be?], Vienna and Leipzig, 1913.

* This and the ensuing sub-chapters are largely based on an essay by Dr. Dusan Batakovic. Reproduced with the permission of the author.

Anonymous said...

Dude, you are one SSM (Serb Spamming Machine)...get a life :)

Anonymous said...


International officials against the appropriation of Serb monasteries
Radio Serbia and Montenegro - Tuesday, August 23 19:46

Representatives of the Contact Group, the OSCE and UNMIK most severely condemned the writing of the Pristina EPOKA E RE newspaper, which claimed that Serb medieval monasteries in Kosmet are allegedly Albanian cultural monuments. At a meeting in Pristina, international officials assessed such an unfounded and aggressive language of hate as unacceptable in Europe today. Representative of the Serbian Orthodox Church Sava Janjic pointed out that this was a shameless attempt to alter history generating hate towards the Serb people, the Serbian Orthodox Church and culture, which has been present in the province for ten centuries.

Clinton said...

There are some ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, loyal to former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic! Many of them are mambers of UDB ( Serbian State Security), informants, and spies!
Just to list some of them:
1. Shaban Fazliu
2. Muharrem Ibraj
3. Brahim Bucaliu
4. Sylejman Salihu
5. Hysni Topalli
6. Bajram Luri
7. Mejdi Sejdiu
8. Avdi Sejdiu
9. Isuf Sejdiu
10.Azem Haliti
11.Ahmet Gajtani
12.Muhamet Grainca
13.Riza Noka
14.Lutfi Ajazaj
15.Ali Shukriu
16.Fahri Pajaziti
17.Rizah Pajaziti
18.Destan Shabanaj
19.Basri Pllana
20.Hilmi Hetemi
21.Avdi Musa
22.Rexhep Kamenica
23.Rexhep Jashari
24.Vesel Jashari
25.Rexhep Haxhimusa
26.Hebib Koka
27.Ramadan Jashari
28.Hamit Zariqi
29.Shaban Hamiti
30.Emin Hamiti
31.Islam Govori
32.Halil Govori
33.Mustaf Bucaliu
34.Shaip Salihu
35.Izjah Zariqi
36.Jusuf Zejnullahu
37.Remzi Kolgeci
38.Qamil Gashi
39.Basri Xheladini
40.Afrim Shijaku
41.Abdullah Uka
42.Ejup Bajgora
43.Skender Kabashi
44.Dervish Rozhaja
45.Rasim bejtullahu
46.Rrustem sefedini
47.Xhevdet Hamza
48.Bedri Qerimi
49.Sylejman Shaqiri

and many other renegades!