Historical Institute of the Serbian Academy of
Sciences and Art
Belgrade, 2000

Response to the Book of Noel Malcolm
Kosovo - A Short History


About This Scientific Discussion
October 8, 1999

By Slavenko Terzic

The Discussion on Noel Malcolm's book Kosovo. A Short History was scheduled for early April 1999, but it had to be postponed owing to the NATO aggression. We invited some thirty colleagues to take part in the Discussion, notably historians but also art historians, archaeologists, Orientalists and political scientists. As a matter of course, we also invited the author of the book Noel Malcolm. We have recently received his letter (fax) telling us that he was not able to attend the Discussion.

Our historiography does not pride itself on a very rich tradition of scientific discussions. Many books have been published here (in Pristina and other Yugoslav centres), but also abroad, calling for impartial scientific appraisal. As a rule, these books used to be passed over in silence, or even met with a kind of haughtiness, and in the course of time such unscientific attitudes became an accepted system of knowledge which it was very difficult to counteract, and today it is even more difficult to do so.

Needless to say, the motifs for this Discussion are scientific. It was not organized because the book in question is worthy of it as a scientific work, but because it deals with a phenomenon deserving to be thoroughly discussed. Noel Malcolm's book Kosovo. A Short History is not a scientific work, yet the general public, and even some professional circles, have accepted it as an objective presentation of the past, notably the past of Kosovo. The publicity it has received in many media in the West as well as its eager inclusion in the holdings of many libraries bear witness to that.

Noel Malcolm's book is undoubtedly a phenomenon. In other words, it demonstrates the extent of the betrayal of the historical truth and the manipulation of the past of nations, regions or states for the sake of the political ends of the day. It was a commonplace view that such books are possible only in totalitarian societies. But we can see that the appearance of such books is also possible in a milieu which, until recently at least, could not be called totalitarian, and that it is possible within a historiog-raphy excelling in great authors and trustworthy works.

The colleagues about to talk about this book will throw light on various aspects of this work ranging from its basic methodological and theoretical approach, its research conception, to its documentary reliability and interpretation characteristics.

Noel Malcolm has begun his studies of South-East Europe recently, at the time when the process of disintegration of the Yugoslav state was beginning. So he very rapidly became an expert in the history of the "regions go-ing through a crisis" and of "unstable regions". He has produced a short history of Bosnia, to be followed by this one of Kosovo, so that he can be expected to manufacture "a short history" of Dagestan or Chechnya tomorrow. He resembles a little, in everything, a "holy warrior" brandishing a pen in his hand. With his "history" of the regions with which he deals he caters to the demands of the political moment. In this particular case, to the demands of the Great Albanian project and NATO political plans in South-Eastern Europe.