A Historical Survey
Prof. Dr. Dusan T. Batakovic
5. The Age of Restoration (Balkan Wars 1912, Liberation, WW1 and WW2)
5. The Age of Communism (1945 - Communist Dictatorship - 1989)
After penetrating the Salonika front in the fall of 1918, the allied troops liberated Kosovo and Metohia and turned over power to the Serbian administration. There were sporadic revolts, especially after the founding of the Kosovo Committee in Albania which called men to fight for the creation of a Greater Albania. Serbian troops occupied Albanian border areas and tried to put in power Essad-Pasha, who was at the allied camp in Athens.
Italy, having assumed the role of Albania's protector after the collapse of Austria-Hungary, became the chief opponent of the newly proclaimed Yugoslav-state. Owing to a dispute over supremacy along the Adriatic littoral, Italy set up a puppet regime in Albania, encouraged its aspirations in Kosovo, Metohia and northwestern Macedonia, with the aim of turning Albania into a foothold for its advance and expansion into the Balkans.
At the Peace Conference in Paris, the Yugoslav delegation upheld the stand that Albania should be an independent state within the borders of 1913, but in the event such a solution was rejected, it demanded territorial compensation from the Drim River to Scutari. After strong external pressure and internal upheaval, the question of Albania's independence was resolved at the Conference of the Great Powers ambassadors in 1921, and the border with the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was finally drawn in 1926. Kosovo emigrants in Albania worked to expand the movement for the creation of a Greater Albania. Guerilla detachments were infiltrated into Yugoslav territory and, clashing with Yugoslav troops and the authorities, they created an unsafe border area which had to be placed under a special regime. The involvement of Yugoslav diplomacy in internal tribal, religious and political struggles in Albania was aimed at edging out a foreign influence and helping to establish a regime that would sever the continual subversive activities.
Owing to new political factors within the Yugoslavia and new international circumstances, the creation of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (which in 1931 became Kingdom of Yugoslavia), lent a fresh dimension to Serbo-Albanian relations in Kosovo and Metohia, and to state relations between Yugoslavia and Albania (although they had been defined by the inherited ethnic strife). The Albanian question once again became a means of political pressure on the new state, especially against Serbs as its driving force. With fascism and Nazism emerging, revanshist states defeated in World War I, unsatisfied with the set borders and the distribution of political power, rallying around Italy, tried to undermine the foundations of Yugoslavia in its most vulnerable spots - Kosovo, Metohia and Macedonia, lands where burden of five centuries of Ottoman rule opened the deepest civilisational chasms.2
The new state had the difficult task of severing feudal relations in Kosovo, Metohia and Macedonia, of carrying out the agrarian reform and of populating the area. The settlement of Serbs from the passive regions of Montenegro, Bosnia and Vojna Krajina in Croatia, was meant to bring about the desirable ethnic balance in the sensitive border region. The first step in pulling these regions out of their centuries-old backwardness was the abolition of the feudal system in 1919, when an end was put to serfdom and the serfs were declared owners of the lands they tilled. For the first time, native Serbs and many poor ethnic Albanian families obtained their own land. Colonization began in 1920 without being adequately prepared, thus the earliest settlers were on their own, and the authorities in charge of carrying out the task took advantage of rough edges of the reform to engage in various forms of abuse. After the first decade, the agrarian reform and colonization proved to suffer from major shortcomings, which were hardest on the settlers themselves. In principle, taking land away from private owners for the purpose of settlement was forbidden, though small lots of land were thus obtained for the purpose of reallocating holdings, and the owners were alloted land elsewhere. The pseudo-ownership rights of some ethnic Albanians who could not prove their ownership of the land they had been using after its real owners had left, created some confusion. Initially, settlers were mostly alloted untitled land, pastures, clearings, barren or abandoned land, forests and, to a lesser extent, lands of fugitive outlaws. Only 5% of the total amount of land was arable. During the two waves of colonisation, from 1922-1929 and from 1933-1938, 10,877 families, some 60,000 people settled on 120,672 hectares of land (about 15, 3% of the land). Another 99,327 hectares planned for settlement were not alloted. For the incoming settlers, 330 settlements and villages were built with 12,689 houses, 46 schools and 32 churches.3
The kacak (renegade, outlaw) movement, which posed a growe threat to personal safety of settlers living in border areas during the 1920's was a major obstacle to efforts at stabilizing the political situation. The kacak movement, a remaining from the Turkish times, was mostly coordinated by ethnic Albanian emigrants from Kosovo, as a movement for the unification of Kosovo and Metohia with Albania. Operating separately were a number of outlaw bands which plundered the remote and poorly protected border areas, evading taxes and military service. The border military authorities responded to the perpetual assaults and murders of local officials, gendarmes, priests and teachers, to the looting of and setting fire to isolated Serbian estates, by driving out the perpetrators, using artillery in the worst of cases. The estates of the most dangerous outlaws were confiscated and the homes of their accomplices set afire as a warning. The 1921 amnesty for all crimes excepting murder produced only partial results: the outlaws surrended just before winter, but were back in the forests by spring. From 1918 to 1923,478 kacaks surrendered, 23 were captured and 52 killed. Most of those (231) who were captured or who surrendered were sent to military commands (they evaded regular military service), 195 were turned over to the courts, and 75 were acquitted. The kacak movement began tapering off in 1923 when on of the more liberal governments issued a decree on amnesty inclusive of more serious crimes. The amnesty and good relations with Albania helped bring an end to the kacak movement.4
The ethnic Albanian and Turkish population in Kosovo and Metohia were reluctant to reconcile with living in a European-organized state where, instead of the status of the absolutely privileged class they had enjoyed during the Turkish rule, they acquired only civil equality with what had previously been the infidel masses. In 1919 the leading ethnic Albanian beys from Kosovo, Metohia and northwestern Macedonia founded the Dzemijet, political party which in 1921 had 12 seats in Parliament and 14 two years later. The Dzemijet was banned in 1925 because of its ties with kacaks and the government in Tirana, but in continued to operate clandestinely. Besa, a secret student organization financed by Tirana and then by the Italian legation in Belgrade, propagated the annexation of Kosovo and Metohia to Albania. Because of their support to the kacaks and ties with Kosovo emigre circles, ethnic Albanians were regarded with suspicion in Yugoslavia, as a subversive element ready to revolt at a given opportunity and annex certain regions to Albania. Under the Constitution, ethnic Albanians, as a national minority, were guaranteed the use of their mother tongue in elementary schools, but everything was reduced to education in religious schools. The Yugoslav government wished to resolve the rights of minorities reciprocally, with the Serbian minority in Albania being allowed to open its own schools and the question of the Orthodox eparchy in Albania being resolved, but agreement was never reached. Not even the leading beys from the Dzemijet, who looked out solely for their own privileges, raised the question of the schooling for their compatriots. They were satisfied with religious schools for ethnic Albanian youth. Out of 37,685 pupils in 252 compulsory schools in 1940/1941, 11, 876 ethnic Albanian pupils attended classes in the Serbo-Croatian language.5
Discontent with the new state among the ethnic Albanian masses stepped up emigration to Turkey, in whose Muslim environment they felt at home. Many openly admitted that they could not bear being ruled over by members of the former infidel masses, Serbs, whom they pejoratively called Ski (Slavs). Emigration started right after the Balkan wars and many refugees who had fled to Albania to avoid conflicts with the authorities, returned to their homes after the war and the quelling of kacak operations. By the 1930's, thousands of ethnic Albanian and Turkish families had voluntarily moved to Turkey, and in 1938, after lenghtly negotiations, the Yugoslav and Turkish governments prepared a convention on the emigration of some 200,000 Muslims (ethnic Albanians and Turks) from Kosovo-Metohia and Macedonia to Turkey. Because the Turkish government abandoned the agreement and a lack of funds to dispatch the emigrants, the convention was never implemented. According to official figures, from 1927 to 1939, the number of ethnic Albanian emigrants in Turkey numbered 19,279, and 4,322 in Albania. In comparison with the 30,000 Serbs, Creates and Slovenes who emigrated annually for economic reasons to the United States and other transoceanic countries, migrations from far more backward regions to Turkey and Albania were not a remarkable phenomenon.6
Population census covering the inter-war period shows no major emigration of ethnic Albanians. According to the 1921 census there were 439, 657 ethnic Albanians in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (accounting for 3,67 of the country's total population), 15,000 less than prior to the liberation in 1912, and they lived in Kosovo, Metohia and in Macedonia. The 1931 census gives following figures: 505,259 ethnic Albanians (3,62% of the total population), lived in three administrative units (banovina): in Zetska banovina 150,062 (16%), in Moravska banovina 48,300 (3,36%), in Vardarska banovina 302,901 (19,24 %). Figures from the 1939 census show that the non-Slav population (ethnic Albanians, Turks, Gypsies, etc.) numbered 422,828 people, or 65,6%, the native Slav population accounted for 25,2% and the settlers (mostly Serbs) for 9,2% .7
After the Yugoslav army capitulated in the April war of 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was torn asunder: Serbia came under direct German occupation, and its individual parts divided among the allies of the Third Reich. During the April war, armed groups of ethnic Albanians attacked the army, unarmed settlers and native Serbs. Because of the Trepca mines, the district of Kosovska Mitrovica remained under German occupation, while the eastern parts of Kosovo where given to Bulgaria, and on August 12, 1941, the rest of Kosovo along with Macedonia and parts of Montenegro and Macedonia were annexed to Greater Albania under Italian protectorship. Almost all settlers houses were set afire within just a few days, their owners and families killed or forced to leave for Montenegro and Serbia. Forced migration is believed to have encompassed some 100,000 Serbs from Kosovo and Metohia. From 1941 to 1944, ethnic Albanians serving the Italian and German occupation authorities killed some 10,000 Serbs; the worst of suffer were Serbs in Pec and Vitomirica where ethnic Albanian volunteers formations wrought terror: before executing their victims they gouged out their eyes, sliced off their ears and severed other parts of their bodies. Dozens of Orthodox churches were destroyed, set afire and looted, priests and monks were arrested and killed and many Orthodox cemeteries desecrated. Divided up into several police and paramilitary formations, ethnic Albanians were in the forefront of the massacres, and the German command was forced to intervene to stop them. Ethnic Albanians used various forms of intimidation in an effort to drive away the remaining Serbs from Kosovo. After the collapse of Italy in 1943, Kosovo and Metohia came under German administration, which supported the Greater Albanian ideology of national leadership, helping the forming of the Second Albanian League at the and of 1943. The 21st SS "Scanderbey" division was formed out of ethnic Albanian volunteers in the spring of 1944. The Balli Kombelar, Greater Albanian organization, took the lead in ethnically purging Kosovo, warning the Serbian population to move out of Kosovo and Metohia before it was too late. The last migratory wave was registrated in the first months of 1944.8
Civil war in Yugoslavia (1941-1945) raged in Kosovo between the Chetniks, regular royalist forces, led by general Dragoljub Mihailovic, which operated mainly in northern parts of Kosovo, and partisan units of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) led by Josip Broz Tito. Both armies dashed with the occupational troops and ethnic Albanian formation. The CPY condemned the "the Serbian bourgeoisie's policy" in inter-war period, thus there were a few hundred ethnic Albanians in the partisan detachments. The policy of winning over ethnic Albanians and aid provided by CPY instructors in the forming and developing of Communist Party in Albania did not produce the expected results. Moreover, representatives of ethnic Albanian communists from Yugoslavia and Albania meeting at a conference in Bunaj (on Albanian territory), January 1-2,1944, adopted a resolution on the annexation of Kosovo and Metohia to Albania after the end of the war. The common ethnic Albanians saw both the partisans and Chetniks as Serbs, their age-old enemies.9
D T Batakovic, Oslobodjenje Kosova i Metohije, in: Kosovo i Metohija
u srpskoj istoriji, pp. 249-280
3 V. Djuretic, Kosovo i Metohija u Jugoslaviji, in: Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj istoriji, pp. 95-106; N. Gacesa, Naseljavanje Kosova i Metohije posle Prvog svetskog rata, in: Kosovo. Proslost i sadasnjost, pp. 95-106;M. Obradovic, Agrarna reforma i kolonizacija na Kosovu (1918-1941), Pristina 1981.
4 B. Gligorijevic, Fatalna jednostranost. Povodom knjige B. Horvata "Kosovsko pitanje", Istorija XX veka, 1-2 (1988), pp. 179-193.
5 R. Rajovic, Autonomija Kosova. Istorijsko-pravna studija, (Beograd 1985), pp.
6 B. Gligorijevic, op. cit., pp. 185-192
7 Ibid, pp. 187-191.
8 D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, pp. 199-210; V. Djuretic, op cit., pp. 311-318; A. Jeftic, Hronika stradanja Srba na Kosovu i Metohiji (1941-1989), in Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj istoriji, pp. 405-414.
9 V. Djuretic, op. cit., pp. 320-325
The evolution of Kosovo and Metohia political status in communist Yugoslavia cannot be comprehended without some knowledge about the CPY's national policy in the inter-war period. As a section of the Communist International (Comintern), the CPY worked after World War I to destroy the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as a "Versailles creation" in which "Greater Serbian hegemony" oppressed the other nations in the state. Following Moscow's instructions, the CPY adopted the stand in 1924 that Yugoslavia's non-Serbian nations should be allowed to create their own separate national states and that minorities should be allowed to join their parent states: Albania, Hungary and Bulgaria. The policy of destroying the "Versailles system" in Europe, as an instrument of imperialist powers -Great Britain and France, was to be completed in the case of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by the breaking up of the Serbian lands.
When the Comintern changed its political course in 1935, deciding to preserve the Yugoslav community with the a view to grouping together anti-fascist forces, the CPY changed its course too, leaving the question of settlement of position and status of the minorities for a later date. Contrary to the prewar thesis that a strong Serbia guaranteed a strong Yugoslavia, the communists upheld the view that the only way to establish a stable state was by federalizing Yugoslavia and breaking the supremacy of the Serbs. In its proclamations to the people of Kosovo and Metohia, the CPY blamed the Serbian bourgeoisie for the mistreatment and persecution of the ethnic Albanian population, thus indirectly shifting the blame from the ruling structures of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to the entire Serbian nation.2
Communist rule was thus established in 1945 with such stands regarding the national question. After a strong ethnic Albanian revolt in the winter of 1944/1945, representatives of the new authorities voted in July 1945 that Kosovo and Metohia remain within Serbia. In September that same year, a separate autonomous region called Kosmet was formed, and in northern Serbia, the autonomous province of Vojvodina. This solution set the precedent only in Serbia: the borders of other Yugoslav republics were drawn so as to remedy as much as possible the "injustices" done in the inter-war period, although their ethnic structures gave cause for creation of autonomous units. The policy of pacifying Serbia and the Serbs as a hegemonic nation was implemented by the CPY leadership, headed by Josip Broz Tito, with the slogan "brotherhood and unity" of all Yugoslav nations, Serbian communists, imbued with Yugoslavism and the proletarian internationalism, followed Tito's political conceptions to the last without realizing its far-reaching effects.3
The extent to which Serbian lands were of the disposal of Yugoslavia's communist leadership is evident from conceptions about the internal borders in the projected Balkan federation of communist countries. In negotiations with the leader of the Albanian communists, Enver Hoxha, Tito promised to concede Kosovo and Metohia to Albania if it entered the Balkan federation. After Yugoslavia broke with Stalin and Cominform in 1948, Enver Hoxha's Albania became a dangerous center of propaganda and subversive activities against regime in Yugoslavia, ultimately aimed at annexing Kosovo, Metohia and parts of Macedonia to Albania, where "Albanianism", embodied in the idea of creating a Greater Ethnic Albania, entered the foundation of state ideology.4
Established under the 1946 Constitution, the autonomy of Kosovo and Metohia was considerably by the 1963 Constitution, and after inter-party strife and fall of Tito's deputy and chief of the State Security Service, party strife and fall of Tito's deputy and chief of the State Security Service, Aleksandar Rankovic (1966), accused in Kosovo and Metohia of taking a discriminatory attitude towards ethnic Albanians, the purging on a large-scale of Serbian cadres in high offices in the administration and police started. They were accused by ethnic Albanian communists of persecution and abuse of innocent people, particularly in drives of Security Service to confiscate weapons, although Serbs suffered from the persecutions just as much as ethnic Albanians. The Serbian Orthodox church suffered most of all. Church lands came under the blow of agrarian reforms, monastic property was confiscated, priests and monks were arrested and convicted and in 1950 in Djakovica, one of the biggest churches in Metohia was destroyed in order that a monument for Kosovo partisan be erected.5
Mass demonstrations by ethnic Albanians (mostly students) in Kosovo and Metohia in November 1968 (under the slogan "Down With The Serbian Oppressors"), showed that the struggle against abuses by the state security bodies was turning into a revanchist policy towards Serbs and Serbia, and that at its roots lax the idea of a Greater Albania. The demonstrations were staged during a major political upheaval over the reorganization of the Yugoslav federation, changes resulting from the 1974 Constitution, when the federal status of Kosovo and Metohia (renamed the Province of Kosovo, since Metohia had a Serbian and Orthodox connotations) was legally sanctioned as a constitutive element of the Yugoslav state. The autonomous province of Kosovo, a political community with many elements of statehood (it was even granted the right to a Constitution), and only formally dependent on Serbia, served the plans of secessionists who wanted to drive the Serbian population out of these regions and create an ethnically pure Kosovo. The policy of ethnically purging a territory is racist, and the means to effect it are always violent.6
The normalization of Yugoslavia's relations with Albania in 1971 and the free exchange of ideas, teachers and school books encouraged the Albanization of Kosovo and Metohia. In less than a decade, Kosovo's leaders managed to impose the ethnic Albanian language as the official language in the province and impose, though the system's legal institutions, discriminatory attitude to the Serbian population. The extent of the discrimination was most evident when the so-called principle of ethnic representation was applied: job hiring and enrolment at higher institutes of learning were done according to the size of the population. For instance, out of five job vacancies only one Serb could be hired, regardless of the applicant's qualifications and abilities. The same principle was applied at the University: only one out of every five registrated students could be a Serb. The 1981 population census showed a drastic decline in the Serbian and Montenegrin population, but also in the Turkish, Gypsy and Islamized Slav minorities in Kosovo and Metohia. While Serbs were leaving their native land for northern Serbia, many members of non-Slav minorities were pressured into declaring themselves as ethnic Albanians. Along with growing number of emigrants from Albania, this substantially increased the total number of ethnic Albanians in the Province and their representation in the local administration, schooling and culture.
The majority of Serbs (with the exception of the thin layer of high-ranking officials) were subjected to various forms of pressure, ranging from being deprived of employment and promotion, to threats and blackmail; in villages, as in the last century of Ottoman rule, by the usurping of property, physical assault, the setting of fire to houses and harvests, stealing livestock, attacks and rape of women and children, murder at one's doorstep. The local administration gave out lands abandoned by resettled Serbs to emigrants from Albania, and many lots were illegally taken over by neighboring ethnic Albanian families. Since all administrative power, from the judiciary to the police, was in hands of ethnic Albanians, they passed verdicts in favor of their compatriots whenever deciding on inter-nationality disputes. The injured Serbian parties had no one to complain to because the Republic of Serbia did not have judicial jurisdiction over Kosovo, and when they wrote to the federal bodies, their appeals remained unanswered. Dignitaries of the Serbian Orthodox Church were, from 1945 onwards, the most persistent in lodging complaints to the highest state bodies aboud the stepped-up physical and psychological pressures suffered by Serbs, citing hundreds of examples, from the desecration of graves to the raping of nuns, but their petitions had no impact.
The attacks culminated with the March 1981 attempt to set fire in the Pec Patriarchate, when the large living quarters burned down, together with the furniture and library. The arsonists were never discovered and the investigating authorities kept claiming that the fire had broken out because of a breakdown in the electrical installations. The handful of Serbian communist officials who did speak out against Kosovo's overt Albanization during the 1968-1981 period were dismissed from their posts on charges of being chauvinists and hegemonists. The Serbs who collaborated with the ethnic Albanian communist leadership in the Province were rewarded with high posts in the federal bodies.7
The Albanization of Kosovo and Metohia was especially bolstered by the Province's unhindered communication with Albania, from where professors came to the Pristina University in the seventies, spreading Greater Albanian propaganda. With the import of textbooks from Tirana, whole generations of young Albanians were raised in the spirit of Greater Albanianism and in hatred for Serbia and Yugoslavia. Political officials and scholars from Tirana moved freely about Kosovo, spreading sentiments and calling for the creation of a large ethnic Albania. Huge sums of money allocated by the Yugoslav federation for Kosovo's economic growth (Serbia's was the biggest share) were spent on building large state institutions for the local bureaucracy which tried to set up national institutions as swiftly as possible: the Academy of Science of Kosovo, the University, institutes for Albanian language, history and folklore, museums, the theater, television, radio, newspaper and publishing houses. Paradoxically the Yugoslav state financed the secessionist movement in Kosovo and Metohia itself.
Assessing that, with the death of Josip Broz Tito (May 1980), the Yugoslav state was on The verge of collapse, Kosovo's ethnic Albanians staged large-scale demonstrations in March and April 1981, with the blessing of the Province's authorities, glorifying the regime of Enver Hoxha and demanding that Kosovo be declared a republic, since, under the Yugoslav Constitution, only republics have the right to secede. The establishment of Kosovo as a republic would denote a transitional phase toward full independence and then unification with Albania.8
Ethnic Albanian national and political dominance in Kosovo and Metohia was enhanced by a large demographic explosion, as their number tripled from about 480,000 in 1948 to 1,227,000 in 1981. Meanwhile, from the early sixties onwards, the number of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia steadily declined. According to official figures, 92, 197 Serbs and 20, 424 Montenegrins (Serbs from Montenegro) moved to Serbia and other regions from 1961 to 1980. After the secessionist revolt of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Metohia in the spring of 1981, another 38,000 Serbs and Montenegrins moved out under duress. Their emigration has still not been stemmed.
The injuriousness of the policy of narrowing Serbia's sovereignty and deliberately neutralizing Serbs in communist Yugoslavia is best illustrated in the case of Kosovo and Metohia, where the Serbs, although formally in their own state (Republic of Serbia) were forcibly reduced to a minority with limited civil and national rights. Thanks to the organized actions of the Province's local administration, which had backing from federal bodies, the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia were forced in many cases to leave, owing to the atmosphere of unsafety, fear and persecution. After almost a decade of waiting in vain for the federal Yugoslav bodies to stop Kosovo's further Albanization and halt the exodus from Kosovo and Metohia, a large-scale Serbian movement erupted, aided by the ecclesiastical circles and the Belgrade liberal intelligentsia, demanding that the 1974 Constitution be changed and Kosovo returned to Serbian sovereignty. The movement, which spread to encompass Serbs from all over Yugoslavia, regardless of their ideological convictions, emerged (afterwards carefully manipulated by new leadership in Serbia), prior to the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo (1989), heralding, not only symbolically, the return to the eternal foothold of Serbian national entity - the Kosovo covenant.
V. Djuretic, op. cit., pp. 326-335.
3 K. Cavoski, Uspostavljanje i razvoj kosovske autonomije, in: Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj istoriji, pp. 379-383
4 V. Djuretic, Kosovo i Metohija u Jugoslaviji, pp. 329-333; More details in: B. Tonnes, Sonderfall Albanien - Enver Hoxhas "Einiger Weg" und die historischen Ursprung seiner ideologic, Munchen 1980.
5 V. Djuretic, op. cit., pp. 334-341.
6 Large documentation in: R. Rajovic, Autonomija Kosova. Istorijsko-pravna studija, Beograd 1985
7 Kosovo. Proslost i sadasnjost, pp. 151-257. Cf. J. Reuter, Die Albaner in Jugoslawien, Munchen 1982, pp. 43-101; S. K. Pavlowitch, The Improbable Survivor. Yugoslavia and its Problems 1918-1988, London 1988, pp. 78-93.
8 M Misovic, Ko je trazio republiku Kosovo 1945-1985, Beograd 1987.