Institute of the Serbian Academy of
Sciences and Art
to the Book of Noel Malcolm
Kosovo - A Short History
Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
By the Garb Only
Reading, from necessity,
the books by some Western, particularly American scholars, dealing with
the past of the Serbs and the Balkans, I recall the impressions that
are in my memory, for some reason, related to the socially committed
painter Georg Grosz. Today the flashes of those recollections of my
college days bring back a melancholy feeling that this is not a thing
remote or unknown. One of those prints shows two horsemen armed with
guns, a Nazi and a Bolshevik one, distributing from their saddlebags
books to Polish peasants, I believe history books. Reading the two volumes
by Noel Malcolm, one dealing with the history of Bosnia and the other
with the history of Kosovo, now I feel miserable and humiliated like
those Polish peasants on the eve of 1939 whose soul was catered to by
their powerful armed neighbours who care about their souls and write
voluminous and expensive books for that purpose. At present it is being
done in Russia, too.
This is classic war propaganda literature, as it was called once. It
is written to serve definite purposes of those countries and political
organizations paying for it. And I am trying to recollect what has survived
in my memory of my college Latin. Because the author of these two books
about which I write by necessity is an intellectual mercenary, salarius,
mercennarius scribae, the ancient "Epigonos, a philosopher only
by his garb", as Amian Marcelin calls him. The toga is speaking,
not knowledge and conviction. To publish, one after another, within
the short span of four years, two voluminous books, in order to prove,
on the basis of history, that the Serbs have invaded somebody else's
territories in Bosnia and in Kosovo, that can be accomplished only by
a man paid for his craft. Some people are paid for their skill in handling
arms, some for their skill in writing. The first lesson learnt by historical
methodology students is Droysen's rule that scholarship is only what
is written with scholarly intentions. If one in advance defines as his
aim to prove the political responsibility for claiming as one's own
what belongs to someone else, then that science lacks the main ground
on which it must stand. The books by Noel Malcolm are a subject more
fitting for international police to investigate than for scholarly criticism,
because it is the duty of that police to investigate the phenomenon
of hired labour.
In my review of Malcolm's first book, dealing with the history of Bosnia,
my initial point of departure was my doubts about the scholarly credibility
of the text. All the conclusions, the comments on sources as well as
the bibliography in this book are characteristic of Croatian political
emigrant writings, as well as of those by ideologists of the new Muslim
nation in Bosnia. The latter phenomenon reached its clearest expression
in the writings and authors identifying themselves, after 1990, as the
followers of the "Muslim Bosniac Organization" of Adil Zulfikarpasic
and Muhamed Filipovic. Zulfikarpasic became immensely rich through arms
reexport and trade, but he has founded, for the sake of his homeland
and people, a grand "Institute for Bosnian Studies" in Zurich.
In my review of that short history of Bosnia, which a former American
ambassador and the person responsible for the demolition of the state
of Yugoslavia, called "a pavanne for Bosnia", I proceeded
from the assumption that there are striking coincidences between the
views of the author and those of the people around Zulfikarpasic's Institute.
In the introduction to his new book, "Kosovo. A Short History"
Noel Malcolm acknowledges his debt to his "generous and ever-resourceful
friend" Ahmed Zilic. This lawyer from Sarajevo might have something
to do with history studies, only because he was a member of the central
committee of Filipovic's and Zulfikarpasic's "Muslim Bosniac Organization".
What kind of superior knowledge of Kosovo could this political agitator
possess which could be helpful to a British researcher?
In a book which, relying on someone else's, perhaps God's help, he has
put together in two years, Noel Malcolm has set himself the touching
task to arbitrarily turn upside down an entire picture so far established
by sober historical studies. The book can be understood only if, as
in reading the Quran, one reads its last sentence first: "When
ordinary Serbs learn to think more rationally and humanely about Kosovo,
and more critically about some of their national myths, all the people
of Kosovo and Serbia will benefit - not least the Serbs themselves."
Let us not invoke Droysen any longer, to spare his tortured bones from
upsetting in that other, better world, on account of Serb history, of
which he had known less than of any other.
While in his short
history of Bosnia (1994) Malcolm borrowed its thematic matrix, argumentation,
literature and thought pattern from Croatia-oriented intellectuals,
in this, short history of Kosovo, he placed the entire structure of
the book upon the foundations which had already been formulated by Albanian
nationalist ideology even before the book was conceived. Hence his tendency
to echo the naive literature which Albanizes the entire ancient period
of the history of the Balkans. The general summary of the scholarly
foundations of Albanian nationalist ideology formulated by Muharem Cerabregu
in 1996 (Distortionism in Historiography. 19th Century Falsifications.
A Contribution to the Historical Geography of Kosovo, New York, 1996)
anticipated the entire structure of Noel Malcolm's book. Cerabregu defined
the framework of that structure in six points: Kosovo cannot be the
historical cradle of Serbia because it used to be the ancient Roman
province of Dardania where the core of the Albanian people was formed;
Emperor Dusan's was not a Serbian empire; the claim, on the basis of
medieval churches as proof, that the Kosovo Battle in 1389 was fought
by the Serbs, is a fake, bearing in mind that the majority of their
army consisted of the Dacians, Poles and Hungarians, as well as that
it was the Albanians that were defending the Christian West, whereas
the Serbs were siding with the Ottoman Turks; Serb scholars have no
right whatsoever to assign to the Serbs the uprising of the Albanian
population of 1683-1690, after which the Serbs along with the Albanians
began to migrate to Austria. Cerabregu says that the majority of ancient
population of Macedonia was Albanian, that at present three out of four
million of Orthodox Albanians live in Greece, that it is an established
fact that the words "Apollo" and "Aristotle" are
Albanian words, the latter meaning in Albanian "rocky waterflow".
"Kosovo", according to Cerabregu, derives from the Albanian
word for "high" and "wide" ("a high plateau").
There is a clear disproportion between the scanty knowledge, miserable
competence of the Albanian scholars and the grandiloquent theories that
they propose. The scantier knowledge, the more grandiloquent theories.
Cerabregu is of the opinion that world's scientific circles make a serious
mistake in not calling the Balkan Peninsula the Illyrian Peninsula.
According to this author, the latter is a compound word made up of the
concepts "Il" for "high" and "Ir" for
"hilly". The region, he claims, has been the homeland of the
Albanian people since times immemorial. The Serbs are a more recent
population in the region. They should not be allowed to think that Kosovo
represents their historical centre, "when it is known that they
have such a short history, without permanent dwelling territory? They
did not have adequate time to develop their own original culture there."
They (the Serbs) have usurped their present lands from the neighbouring
peoples, beginning from 1804, when they burnt Belgrade down, razing
it to the ground. All the Serb churches and monasteries have been erected
on the foundations of an earlier date places of worship which were not
theirs. In the manner in which it is attempted to bring up the issue
of who lived in Judea two thousand years ago and who has a right to
it, the Albanian ideology is trying, through this mythological scietific
works, to transplant this claim into Europe. "One must know",
says Cerabregu, "who is who in the Illyrian Peninsula. Who is the
native, and who is alien." Behind this philosophy of life "Either
we or they", a future is showing so horrible that it is too benign
to call it mythological. That philosophy of life represents opening
up the gates of ideology to the triumphal march of collective death.
Malcolm does not refer to this book by Cerabregu but he does dwell upon
Cerabregu's work dealing with Kosovo's historical geography. He does
not hesitate to build Cerabregu's entire list summarizing the Albanian
nationalist ideology into the structure of his own book. Malcolm made
sure not to reiterate the original claims of Albanian nationalist ideology,
which turns that entire literature into a part of modern entertainment
culture, so he sought some more convincing solutions to provide him
with proofs. His roots have, however, remained identical, and also the
entire Albanian moralizing on Serb mythological scietific works. Cerabregu
has written this book catering to the needs of Albanian politicians.
It is difficult to enter into a rational polemic with Noel Malcolm,
because his initial approach is not rational at all. His handling of
the history of Bosnia and the history of Kosovo, raises the essential
issue of his views of the
Bosnian and Albanian
people, the demonstration of their existence being his permanent concern.
A people must always have the attributes of a people, its members have
to share some characteristics identifying them as an entity. It need
not be a state, though each and every nation has tended to establish
its own independent state. Malcolm sees the Albanians, as he does the
Bosnians, as a homogeneous population, as a demographic group bearing
the respective name. The felicitous thing about it all is that his elementary
interpretations regarding the origin of individual peoples and ethnic
groups (such as the Serbs, Croats, Vlachs, Albanians and, in his interpretation,
certain - mythical - Bosniacs) in the two books do not go hand in hand.
In his former book - Bosnia. A Short History, published in 1994, Malcolm
claims that the Croats settled in the Balkans within north-western Croatia,
which they inhabit even at present, but that they "probably settled
even in a major part of Bosnia itself, except for the eastern strip
of the Drina Valley". Malcolm took over from the Bosnian historians,
especially from Muhamed Filipovic, a distorted translation of the record
of Constantin Porphyrogenitus describing the settling of the Serbs and
the Croats, separated in Bosnia by the rivers Pliva, Imota and Cetina.
Malcolm also took over, with the same, entertaining effect, the translation
by Cynamos saying that Bosniacs are a people different from the Serbs.
In this, his new history book, dealing with Kosovo, Malcolm flatly states
that the Croats originally settled in western Bosnia. He does not mention
the shame he incurred with his translations of Constantin Porphyrogenitus
and Cynamos, though in the meantime he must have read the originals
and he failed to disclose the truth. The Serbs settled in Rascia, the
north-western areas of Kosovo, and in Montenegro. Later, the Serbs from
Dalmatia Bosnia and northern parts of Serbia moved to Kosovo,. In any
case, Malcolm does his best to prove that Kosovo is not the historical
cradle of the Serbs. Several parts of Malcolm's two books seem to have
been written by two different authors.
As for Malcolm's first book, the one dealing with the history of Bosnia,
explaining the origin and nature of the Vlachs, the author drew heavily
on Dominik Mandic's theory but he toned down the fact that the Vlachs
are descendants of Roman legions in Pannonia that were interspersed
with African blacks. Malcolm is now complying with the standard theory
of Albanian nationalists that the Vlachs are survivors of a population
living in the Roman Empire, that they spoke a Latin language and are,
in origin, Albanians! The "Albanian-Vlach Symbiosis" has probably
been effected to the west of Kosovo. In view of the fact that there
were no Serbs there before the twelvth century, it is important because
there a Proto-Albanian population emerged deriving from the Dardanians!
So that stage - of the early medieval Kosovo - is relevant because it
was during that period that the "survival of the Albanians"
was secured. Next, according to Malcolm, Kosovo was the cradle of the
Vlachs. In the end, he concludes that "this is more a speculation
than a conclusion." It is useful, because "the idea that the
Illyrian Dardanians were ancestors of the Albanians may be of some sentimental
interest to Kosovo Albanians today". Malcolm does not agree with
Albanian historians that the Albanians represented the majority of the
population of Kosovo in the Middle Ages, but that before the coming
of the Turks it couldn't be known because by the Orthodox Church they
used to be registered as Serbs. His conclusion is that the Albanian
population has lived in Kosovo continuously throuth the history, but
as a minority.
Malcolm does not explain in what ways the Albanians are to be legitimized
as a people, and not as a demographic group which counts because in
history it has existed along with others. The "Kanun of Lek Dukagjin"
emerged at a time when the Albanians were, under Turkish pressure, broken
into clans. The "Kanun" remained unchanged from the fifteenth
to the nineteenth centuries, then the Albanians tried to publish it.
Similar to the history of Scotland, clans and zadrugas (stem families),
emerging among the Albanians after the collapse of the central power,
as institutions organizing the society on the basis of common law under
the circumstances of survival. The idea of a homogeneous Albanian people
was revived during the rebellions caused by the Berlin Congress, when
the "Prizren League" was founded. The true historical root
of the "League" was completely autochthonous, emerging in
the early seventeenth century. The interclan councils (kuvends) played
a major role in it. So the clans, emerging in the history because of
the disintegration of the whole state, and later became again an instrument
for the formation of the nation and once again and in the some time
of the state as a whole. Malcolm uses the term "national renaissance",
but he knows about it as much as they knew about it three centuries
ago. After which state did the clans emerge?
Malcolm's book is not a history of a nation, and it is even less a study
of its historical making. This is a political treatise trying to prove
the presence of the Albanian population in Kosovo from its very beginnings.
Though they do not have their state, or some higher form of social organization,
the Albanians represent a special political factor everywhere. The Kosovo
Battle was not fought by the Serbs only, Malcolm says, so he meticulously
challenges that Serb myth which has become a historic symbol and trademark
of the Serb nation. Though Malcolm does not accept the current theory
of the Albanians that "the Albanians played a marked role"
in the Battle of Kosovo, his overall endeavour is calculated to consistently
demonstrate that it was a multiethnic clash with the Turks, including
even the Vlachs from Wallachia.
The participation of the Hungarians in the Battle of Kosovo is very
important because even some outstanding Serb knights whowere Hungarian
noblemen took part in it.
Milos Obilic is most probably a Hungarian, Malcolm goes on to say, though
his very family name "had a Vlach-Albanian background". Its
original form was "Kobilic", a derivation from the Hungarian
word "koborlovag" - "knight errant". If it owes
its origin to the Albanian or Vlach languages, then it is derived from
the word "kopile" (a bastard), which exists in both languages
but has different meanings. The existence of this word in the Serb language
is ignored. The nine Jugovic brothers are, of course, of Hungarian origin,
which is "evident" from the possibility that the "ugarovici"
was somehow turned into "Ugovici", which finally obtained
the Serb form.
The Albanians, in the same manner, played a very important role in the
Great Migration of the Serbs headed by Arsenije Carnojevic, as they
did generally throughout the war. Malcolm challenges the Serb mythology
related to the intended migration and the privileges promised by the
Habsburg emperor to the Serbs. The Serb historians have made up a mythology
of that migration following the example of Christ. They argue that the
Serbs, like Christ, appeared in three stages - that they died in 1690,
were buried, and were resurrected in 1912. The chapter dealing with
this Austrian-Turkish war offers much evidence found by Malcolm in various
archives, so that one has the impression that he might have really become
a serious scholar, had he already not radically compromised himself
as an intellectual mercenary and warmonger. All that snooping around
archives ended up with the conclusion that the Habsburg Emperor did
not recognize the Serbs as a people, that he invited them to move out
and granted them privileges.
He says, that the Serbs fabricated the key document (Inviatorium), because
the Austrian Emperor invited them to proceed with their rebellions on
the Turkish side of the border which had not yet been taken by the Turks.
Malcolm did his best to explain the concept of the "Rasciani".
He painstakingly searched for details concerning the differences between
Raska (Rascia) and Serbia, between the Orthodox and Catholic Rascians
and Serbs, only to end up by quoting the conciliatory definition given
by Lazaro Soranzo, in 1598, that the Rascians are "a people from
Serbia and Rascia who now live north of the Danube". The finale
of this entire analysis is the conclusion that the Serbs were not the
key agents in the rebellions of the Christian population, but the Albanians.
Noel Malcolm frequently points out, as he does here, that the popular
revolts against Turkish rule did not have a political, but exclusively
a resistance to the tax policy of the Turkish state.
This is an outcome of his joining the currently flourishing historiography
claiming that the Ottoman state was a just society, equally good for
the Muslims, Christians and Jews.
All those conclusions were generated by the estimate of contemporary
American geo-strategists - that the Western security was far better
than the existence of a stable Turkish and Habsburg state, during by
the sufferings of the independent nations of South-East Europe today.
To me, this strenuous attempt of Malcolm to shatter the Serb mythology
surrounding some of great Serb deeds (such as the Kosovo Battle, the
Great Migration, the Eastern crisis of 1875 is tantamount to saying
that last week football game between the Italian "Milan" and
German "Bayern" should be considered a game played by an Italian
one team versus a German team because the Italian team had a British
player in it.
The central issue, that of the birth of modern Albanian movement for
a unified nation and an independent state should have been explained
where the emergence and nature of the "1878 Prizren League"
had been discussed. Though he views it as a purely Albanian political
enterprize having nothing to do with the previously established Istanbul
Committee controlled by the Turkish government, Malcolm, nevertheless,
unconsciously describes the "Prizren League" as a purely Muslim,
conservative movement for the preservation of the old order of the Ottoman
state. They rejected the idea of the Latin alphabet, decreeing the reintroduction
of the Muslim law (seriat) and prohibited European clothing. Malcolm
over-emphasizes the responsibility of the Serbian government in Belgrade
for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Serbia during the 1877-1878 war,
yet he is expected to know that before the Berlin Congress in 1878 no
European country except Russia pursued the policy of the protection
of Muslim population. If they want to stay in a Christian state, their
religion does not enjoy civil protection. As a rule, during all wars
prior to the Berlin Congress in 1878, when an army of Christian states
was approaching, Muslim population was not to expect anything good.
The Serb historian of today has no moral right to justify the attempt
of his 1878 government to displace the Muslim population, but it is
his obligation to say that the international law was responsible for
it, as well as that Muslim population remained only in the areas where
it was not predominantly urban, the latter resorting to migration as
soon as an army which was not their own was within sight. Where the
Muslims were farmers, e.g. in Montenegro, Bulgaria and Bosnia, the laws
and regulations made it possible for them to stay in place. The Serb
historian cannot ignore the fact that all migrations have a moral and
humane aspect, but it is not his duty to abuse it by turning it into
political propaganda and promote the idea of the "twisted"
character of his own nation.
The main weakness of Noel Malcolm's books is their author's strikingly
arbitrary way in which he interprets the formation of a national consciousness
and the processes leading to the establishment of an independent state.
The entire existing scholarly literature dealing with the Albanians
defines, as the crucial issue, the relationship of Islamic and secular
motives in what is called a "Nation's Building Process". I
believe that it was so far interpreted in a most satisfactory way in
Stavro Skendi's book The Albanian National Awakening 1878/1912 (1967).
World historiography generally has been tormented by the question why
national revivals, viewed as historical processes leading to independent
national states, had a delayed emergence in all Islamic societies. For
the idea of independence to be victorious, a new social structure must
appear in a society because the feudal order in of a community cannot
generate an independent nation.
Instead of summing up the existing historiographic works dealing with
the relationship of Islam and the nation, Noel Malcolm starts by stating
that the Albanians have always been a separate nation because they have
had their "Kanun of Lek Dukagjin", and have always shielded
themselves from other Balkan peoples proclaiming during their great
rebellions the Islamic law (seriat). I doubt that Malcolm has read the
"Kanun of Lek Dukagjin", which was recently published in our
translation (1986). The others, too, who use that law as a proof, had
better respect a demarcation line which is to be strictly respected
by any serious scientist, namely the fact that the history of nations
has known great laws and not that they have won their independent states
thanks to the re-institution of those ancient laws while fighting for
independence. An identical case would be had the Serbs, after the Congress
of Berlin, reinstituted "Emperor Dusan's Code", or the "Vasojevicis
Code in Twelve Points", which correspond to the Albanian kanun.
Noel Malcolm, however, explains the establishment of modern Albanian
national state in precisely that way. He says that the proclamation
of the seriat law and the "Kanun of Lek Dukagjin" before and
following the foundation of the Prizren League (1878) represented the
project that would result in the establishment of a new state independent
from the Turkish Empire.
The case is just the opposite. Contemporaries of these events have always
stressed that the Albanian nationalist movement was burdened with Islamic
goals and that for that reason it was not recognized in time as a nationalist
movement. The scholar and political emissary Baldacci Antonio wrote
as early as 1899 that the Albanians were "almost incapable of the
national idea but were on the other hand fanatically religious",
and so split their national movement into three wings. The conclusion
to be derived is that the reinstitution of a common law code rather
represented an obstacle to the winning of national independence than
vice versa. The question is still unsettled of what in the "Kanun
of Lek Dukagjin" is authentically from the fifteenth century, and
what are later amendments and additions. The version translated into
our language says that the suitors going to negotiate the purchase of
a bride are obliged to bring with them coffee, sugar and edible oil.
The prices for more beautiful girls were fixed in Austrian early twentieth
century currency. In addition, Malcolm believes that "Kanun"
proposes a philosophical definition of the nation. In the "Kanun"
there are quite detailed specifications of the roads to be used by individual
clans, but also of the importation roads to be used by the people as
a whole. By his conclusion that this law remained unchanged from the
fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, Malcolm has contributed an epoch-making
discovery to world civilization - that coffee was not introduced into
Europe by seventeenth century Turkish tradesmen, but that it was used
by the Malesors two hundred years before that. Following that line of
thinking, he would have to conclude that the definition of the nation
within the rationalistic philosophy was contained in the code of the
Albanian clans, which prescribed blood send and bese in the 15th century.
Here in the Balkans there is enough local nonsense, so I don't see any
need to import it from a more civilized country such as Britain.
Modern Albanian nation emerged from the bases of that people which were
a result of historical development. It is both an advantage and tragedy
of the Albanian people that one or another of the great world powers
has always played an important role in its striving for independence.
Mr. Malcolm is expectably ignorant on the role of Austro-Hungarian administration
in stirring up the initial steps in the Albanian nation-building process.
In Sarajevo and Dubrovnik existed centres in which the projects of language
standardisation, national alphabet and the first history handbooks were
elaborated. They worked under the supervision of distinguished historian
Leopold Thallocy from Vienna. He organized the design of the national
insignia, such as the coat of arms and the flag. A red banner with the
doubleheaded black eagle was selected. In the Sarajevo "State Archive"
is preserved even the bill by which a painter in Vienna in 1897 was
paid 15 florins "fur Ausfuhrung des Wappens sammst Fahne".
Contemporary Albanian historians (Luan Maltezi) are wrong in believing
that the flag and coat of arms are stemming from mediaeval times. Thallocy
himself wrote in German a Populare Geschichte der Albanesen. It was
translated in Turkish and published "in geheim" in Alexandria
(Egypt). The book had to "help awakening the national feeling and
the sense of common dependence of Albanians with no difference in language
and religion". A natural nation-building process in the European
type missing, people in Vienna attempted an artificial and virtual one.
Only after the institution of communism, after 1945, the Albanian people,
following the Russian model of rapid urbanization, tried on its own
to shape its future on realistic foundations. Only then a society was
created that served as a weak but anyway sufficiently firm basis for
industrialization. By that time the social leadership of Muslim owners
of large estates had been steering the development of Albania towards
the building of an Islamic, not European nation.
Noel Malcolm tried to prove that modern Great Albania was being created
according to the geographic distribution of that people from prehistory.
He reduced the entire problem of the creation of the nation to the permanent
ability of the Albanian people to restore that totality of theirs. He
quotes the words uttered by a Skopje bishop towards the end of the eighteenth
century to the effect that the Albanians are a "people increasing
in number in a most rapid manner", that they massively move to
Kosovo, and that he demanded that the prayer "Ab albanesibus libera
nos Domine" should be introduced into Catholic churches, because
that settling "has taken over and crammed the entire Serbia".
The bishop goes on to say that this was accompanied by anarchy and Islamization
of the immigrant Catholics. However, Malcolm rejects the theories that
in that way, due to these processes after 1690, Kosovo lost its character
of a Serb ethnic region. He is hanging on to his thesis that Kosovo
is not the cradle of the Serb people, that there the Serbs were newcomers
and that there the Albanian-Vlach symbiosis functioned as a solid foundation
on which to develop to this very day.
If Noel Malcolm did contribute anything to the elucidation of the genesis
and character of the Vlachs, it is only his absurd success in linking
this issue with allegedly inferior and superior civilizations in the
Balkans. The literature dealing with the issue of the Vlachs belongs
to two categories. One category presents archival research and derives
conclusions from the findings of that research. Serbian scholarship
had a good beginning, it has attained enviable results, but its mission
has not been completed the way it was began. The evident fact that the
Serb people in the Balkans is not that same people that migrated from
the north in the early Middle Ages has been used by some authors to
fabricate it into the ideological issue about the inferiority of Byzantine
civilization. This ideological alternative is legalized in current world
scholarship by Noel Malcolm. He too proceeds from the assumption that
the Vlachs were an ethnic group once, that in the seventeenth century
there are traces of their language, and that this process continues
down to modern times.
It is still questionable whether the Slav appellation "Vlah"
was applied to all persons speaking Latin or a Latinate language really
referred to a homogeneous ethnic group. In Slovenia and Poland even
today the Italians are called Vlachs, and that name is even today applied
to the citizens of the Rumanian province Wallacchia, of Valois and Wales.
It is obviously not a Slav word as it is held to be. Did the entire
Illyrian population during the disintegration of the Roman Empire use
the same Latinized variant, and is the assertion justified that they
all constituted a homogeneous ethnic group? The most absurd thing is
that Malcolm does not specify the sources from which he quotes trying
to explain these specific issues. He quoted the words of Lazaro Soranzo
from 1598 discussing the differences between the Rascians and Serbs,
but why doesn't he also use the data by the same author pertaining to
the Vlachs and geographical distribution of the Albanian population?
Soranzo was a native of the province of Veneto, inhabited by the Veneti,
an official in the Roman Curia, and his descriptions of the Balkans
were written on the ground of possible plans to stir up the Christians
to rebel and expand the union. His description is rather a testimony
that the population under discussion was not a separate ethnic group
but a nomadic community of cattlebreeders which in its turn was not
an ethnic group, that its language was Slavicized, that its retaining
of the original name was a social phenomenon. In his book of 1598 ("L'Ottomano.
Dove si da pieno ragguaglio, non solamente della potenza del Signor
ma ancora di varii popoli, siti, citta, e viaggi con
altri particolari di stato, necessarii a sapersi"), Soranzo says
about the Morlachi and Vlachs: "But having mentioned the Morlachi,
I would not like to leave them without saying who they are. In those
areas all Christian inhabitans of the mountains are called Morlachi,
in particular those living in the mountain in Lika being situated between
Novigrad and Senj. In principle, the Slav word 'Morlakija' has emerged
since the Barbarians came to Italy, because when passing through Wallacchia,
they gave that name even to peoples living at the Adriatic Sea, seeming
to mean that they lived at the sea coast. Because by the names 'Vulachi',
or 'Vuloschi' - the way the Turks use the name 'Franks' for the French
- pass all Italians." The opinion that there we deal with a mountain,
cattle-breeding population is almost identical to that of Stojan Novakovic
voiced early in this century. We could only add that there is no evidence
that they were united through ties characterizing an individual ethnic
group, but that to them the Serb language furnished, earlier than it
is believed, that internal integration instrument. Even Noel Malcolm
states that no traces of that Vlach language have survived except for
personal names and toponyms, though he asserts, giving no evidence,
that this language did exist in the 17th century. The language, not
mixed marriages, integrates numerous clans and vernaculars.
The Albanians as a people were integrated into one whole late in history.
The strengthening of the clan structure and common law after the coming
of the Turks delayed that process. The name "Albanians" itself
emerged late. The first great Albanian historian Wassa Effendi thought
in 1879 that the word "Albania" was coined by foreign travellers
as late as the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; that their real name
was 'shqiptar'; that this word, on the other hand, was not in use but,
for the sake of identification, always religious affiliation of the
person was given. Prior to the institution of communism in 1945 a general
feeling of community did not prevail, and religion always was an obstacle
in its way.
The question of the historical boundary lines between the Albanian people
and the Serbs is not settled yet. Soranzo says that the Rascians and
the Serbs are one entity, that at the Council of Constance they "sono
ditti Sirfi". Soranzo then goes to explain that they are "the
people living from the Albanian mountains all the way up to the Danube".
Of them, those living in Dardania and those living near those mountains
are capable of making various stirrings (i. e. rebellions: "possono
far molti moti"). Those are the Piperi, Kuci, Clementi, Bjelopavlici
and others in the lands of Plave. Among them there are many Albanians
living as Catholics". As for the Albanians, or their part which
he calls the "Dukagjins", he says that they "live in
the Sar mountains (Scardo) bordering with Prizren or Prizderma as it
is called by the Slavs, or Perenopolis as it was called in ancient times,
and it is situated in Dardania near the borders of Albania, and is inhabited
by more Albanians than Serbs. From the Adriatic Sea, Albania is divided
by highest mountains." Soranzo states that the Albanians cannot
be expected to take part in any rebellions, because they are all siding
with the Turkish state.
The Croatian historian Milan Suflaj outlined, in 1925, the origin of
the Albanian people, which was first mentioned by Byzantine authors
in the eleventh century. They were descendants of the ancient Illyrians
and re-established themselves "with a powerful nucleus around Kruja".
Both Byzantine and Latin sources used for this people the name Arbanasi
(Arbanenses)", and after 1271 "almost exclusively" Albanians.
In the second century, Ptolemy mentions them as "Arben", whereas
Albanopolis is his name for Kruja. North of this centre, they had flexible
borders, and in the south their borders were fixed. Towards the end
of the twelvth century their northern boundary lines approached the
road Skadar - Prizren, whereas in the fifteenth century they spread
out to include Bar and reach as far as Kotor and Podgorica. In the fourteenth
century they expand, encompassing "the quadrangle Bar-Avlona-Ohrid-Prizren".
In the Middle Ages, in the quadrangle from Ulcinj, Dubrovnik and Prizren,
up the Drim river and as far as the Prokletije and Ljuma, a symbiosis
of the Albanian-Vlach cattlebreeding population with the Slav agricultural
population is accomplished. Due to Turkish raids, the next three centuries
witnessed migrations by the Serbs and Croats towards the Danube and
Drave, whereas Albanian migrations northwards followed in a slow succession.
Scientific circles have always paid due attention to wars and violence
as factors changing the demographic structure of these regions, but
the largest depopulation was brought about by the "modernization
of agriculture and institution of ciftliks in the seventeenth century
Here as elsewhere, the price for progress was social oppression."
Yet, the great wave of Islamization among the Albanians was already
under way between 1620 and 1650. In that period more than 300.000 Albanians
adopted Islam, and as early as 1610 a papal legate emphasized the propaganda
carried out by fanaticized hojas and mullahs. Waves of a massive migration
took place in the following century, after the 1690 migration.
The question remains to be settled how just the estimate of Noel Malcolm
in this book is that "the Albanians of Kosovo today are in many
ways a politically mobilized people, but religion has played almost
no role at all in that mobilization". Religion is a political factor
on the Orthodox side only. This view is not confirmed by other researchers
of the role of Islamic religion in current Albanian nationalistic movement.
Their general point of departure is that the Muslim factor represents
the pivotal pillar of the society, whereas Islam as religion represents
an instrument in the building of a national identity.
Noel Malcolm's book has a very important function in the escalation
of the Kosovo crisis. Like other books produced about the history of
Bosnia, this is a text designed to justify the policy of interference
and military intervention. In December 1992 the American President Bush
warned Serbia's President that the American army was going to intervene
in Kosovo and in Serbia should any conflict take place in Kosovo as
a consequence of Serbia's actions. The American President Clinton repeated
that warning in 1993. Prior to the stationing of 500 hundred American
soldiers to Macedonia in 1998, the political literature was designed
to "enlighten" that part of the public opinion in Western
countries supported by their governments. Quite in accordance with this,
Noel Malcolm, beginning the story of his book says that after the disintegration
of Yugoslavia, "the wars themselves were launched not by ordinary
civilians but by armed forces directed from above". In the history
of Bosnia and Croatia, he says, there had been no ethnic wars, except
for some conflicts caused by political leaders, and the target of all
of his argumentation are the Serbs and their political and cultural
leadership. Like the works of Marc Wealer and Robert Donia, this book
is a source of the accusation that the Serbs are responsible for the
Yugoslav crisis in 1992.
Among the many meanings that future historical studies will be uncovering
in the Kosovo crisis and the war started on March 24th 1999, the most
significant one raises the question of what the western countries expect
from it. Do they expect that, on the ruins of the order established
in 1918 and then restored in 1945, they will ley the foundations for
better societies and make it possible for those peoples to join more
easily the community of more developed European countries? Judging by
their workings so far, the western countries do not seem to have set
the foundations for future democratic societies in that area. One would
rather say that Malcolm's book and similar literature are failures in
The most dependable analysis of the consequences of the destruction
of the communist state in Albania was given by the Italian scholar Morozzo
della Rocca (1998). A naturally vital nation, the Albanians represent
the youngest population in Europe. Its 35% are aged under 15, and only
7% are older than 60. A poll conducted in East European countries in
1995 found that only 32% of the population in Hungary were convinced
that capitalism was better than the crumbled communism, in Russia 35%,
in Bulgaria 46%, in the Czech Republic 62%, and in Albania 81%. However,
it was these most devoted believers in capitalism who possessed the
economy, which an analyst likened it "to a retired person living
on international aid and cheques sent by emigrants". Among all
East European countries, in Albania the transition towards capitalist
economy of the free market was effected most rapidly. In the market,
the only home products are onion and garlic. The new government designed
plans for the reconstruction of economy based on trade. While in times
of communism a university diploma was viewed as social privilege, after
the collapse of communism the educational system was affected more deeply
than any other domain. Shunning the school has been increasing, the
number of college students has been decreasing. Worst of all, the idea
that the nation and state do represent the main refuge of political
security collapsed. Though they are devoted nationalists, the Albanians
during the new crisis do not seek support in their own nation but in
their one-time clan, to their communal family (zadruga) and to the common
law (the "Kanun"). Instead of the democratic laws, which are
improvised when the need arises, the individual there places his trust
in the provisions of the common law buried long ago. Beyond one's own
family and clan nothing is respected. National unity is supported by
the Orthodox part of the population, whereas the Muslim minority keeps
resisting it. In the five years after the crumbling of communism, the
population of their capital was doubled. The reasons for this are in
the simple fact that in the thriving of "small scale" trade,
at booths and in open market places, around a thousand dollars are annually
made - seven times as much as in highland towns. The peace-loving politics
of their government and their "pacifism were not a result of choice,
but of necessity" because there was no longer the army. The industry,
built with difficulty by the communists, has collapsed. Some textile
goods and shoes are still manufactured, mainly by women. Men hawk about.
In Albania there are more Mercedes-Benz cars than in Italy. The society
is being feudalized. Under the circumstances of the collapse of all
central state institutions, men are constantly armed. The majority of
the male population plans to emigrate to Italy and western countries,
but even for that bypassing the law is a must.
Bearing all this in mind, one cannot but conclude that the only historical
project to lay the foundations of a European type of society came from
the dethroned communism which, in spite of its overall political tyranny,
was laying solid foundations for urbanization and an industrial community.
At present that part is played by foreign governments, particularly
by the Italian government. All their efforts end up in Tirana and Drac
and the only vent affecting the society in a positive way is the readiness
of the Italian government to have the Albanians as seasonal workers.
Former communists of the Orthodox south have put an end to the general
collapse brought about by the earlier Muslim government.
This gloomy picture of the future is not an Albanian exception. The
situation in presentday Yugoslavia is similar, especially in its Montenegrin
part, where feudalization has the upper hand, falling back on one's
clan and the common law, the black market thriving - the only sign that
something is changing.
The messages of Noel Malcolm's book dealing with Kosovo open the gates
to historical hopelessness, not to the prosperity of emancipated nations.
To me, the meaning of his books dealing with the history of Bosnia and
Kosovo, including the dubious background of financial and research support
making them possible, is revealed to me by the American bombers whose
distant droning I can hear through my window. If something in this contribution
of mine remains inappropriately said, it is accounted for by circumastances
- I gathered material for it during several spells in February 1999,
and I started writing it on March 24th, when the American bombers started
rending the quietness of our sky. Both this book and the war for which
the literature of its kind have supplied the requisite ideological foundations,
throw all these nations back, at least temporarily, into the past when
common law was the basis of social and state organization.
1. Milorad Ekmecic:
Shorter History (Noel Malcolm, Bosnia. A Short History), "Dialogue",
15, Paris 1995; "Istorijski casopis", 1993-1994, 323. - The
critical review was written for the London "Times Literary Supplement",
but it it was returned saying that they had already published a review
of the book.
2. Warren Zimmermann: A Pavanne for Bosnia, in "The National Interest",
No. 37, Fall 1994, 75. "Pavanne" or "Pavana" is
a court dance originally from South Europe. After 1535 it spread into
Europe from Pavia, after which it was named.
3. The book "Bosnia. A Short History" 1994, is dedicated to
"Ahmed and Zoran". The identity of the two persons becomes
clear only from the preface to "Kosovo. A Short History" 1998,
from this reference to Ahmed Zilic. "Zoran" is Zoran Pajic",
professor at the Sarajevo Law Faculty, who at the time of the publication
of the book was staying in Great Britain. He is Enver Redzic's son-in-law.
During the entire civil war in Bosnia he sided with the Muslims.
4. Noel Malcolm: Bosnia. A Short History, 8.
5. Noel Malcolm: A Short History, London, 1998, 11.
6. Ibid, p. 24. - On the settlement of the Serbs in Kosovo, p. 11.
7. Ibid, 40.
8. Ibid, 115.
9. Ibid, 221.
10. Ibid, 72, 74.
11. Ibid, 145.
12. Ibid, 225, 226.
13. Stjefan Konstantin Djacovi: Kanon Leke Dukadina, Zagreb, 1986.
14. Antonio Baldacci: L'Italia e la questione albanese, 1899, 2.
15. See the analysis in Milorad Ekmecic: Stvaranje Jugoslavije 1790-1918.
II. Belgrade 1989, 118, 119.
16. Noel Malcolm: Kosovo. A Short History, 173.
17. Soranzo's book contains a thorough list not only of the powers of
the ruling Turk, of his dealings with various princes, of his actions
against Christianity, of what we could have been done on our part to
suppress those actions. In addition, it offers information concerning
various peoples, places, towns and roads, as well as other details about
the state worthy of attention. (Milano, 1598). - My quotation is from
the Italian translation from Latin (Ferrara, 1607, 103).
18. Wassa Effendi: Etudes sur l'Albanie et les Albanais, Constantinople,
1879, 19, 20.
19. Lazaro Soranzo: L'Ottomano, 167. About the Council of Constance
see the Introduction, LXXXVIII.
20. For the quotations from Lazar Soranzo, cf. Ibid, 174-175; Dr. Milan
Sufflay: Srbi i Arbanasi. (Njihova simbioza u srednjem vijeku), Beograd,
1925, 27-28 - on the homeland of the Albanians after Ptolemy's reference
in the second century in Macedonia and around Kruja. - On the quadrangle
from Dubrovnik and Ulcinj as far as Prokletije and Luma, 75; on the
withdrawal of the Serbs and Croats under Turkish pressure and coming
of the Albanians to their areas, 79. Sufflay quotes from Stavrou: Etudes
sur l'Albanie, Paris, 1922; Thalloczy: Die albanische Diaspora. Illirisch-albanesischen
Forshungen, 1; other literature. In the foreword for that book, Stanoje
Stanojevic (1922) shared Sufflay's opinion that on the Slav-Albanian
borderlines "two worlds, the Eastern and the Western, have been
facing each other, sometimes in a friendly, but mainly hostile way for
thousands of years ", III.
21. George Joffe: Muslims in the Balkans, in the collection F. Wgarter
and H. T. Norris (eds): The Changing Shape of the Balkans, UCLA Press,
London, 1996, 83. Joffe quotes from F. Braudel: The Mediterranean and
the Mediterranean World in the Time of the Reign of Philip II, London,
22. Ataullah Bogdan Kopanski: Islamization of Albanians in the Middle
Ages. The Primary Sorces and Predicament of the Modern Historiography,
in Islamic Studies", Vol. 36, No. 2/3, Islamabad 1997, 196.
23. Noel Malcolm, o. c., Introduction, XXVIII.
24. Nathalie Clayer, Mohhamad Khalid Masud: National and Religious Identity
among Albanian Muslims after the Political Upheaval from 1990, "Islamic
Studies". Vol. 36, No. 2-3, 407, 411.
25. Hugh Miall: Kosovo in Crisis - Conflict Prevention and Intervention
in the Southern Balkans, published by "Peace and Security, the
International Institute for Peace Research Qurterly", Vienna, Vol.
XXX, June 1998, 7. The extent of the coincidence between the historical
picture of Bosnia and Hercegovina arising from Noel Malcolm's book and
the political measures taken by a high-ranking international official
implementing them in practice can be seen from a report of the SRNA
News-Agency (by Branka Novakovic) from Amsterdam, dated November 3,
1998. The Bulletin of the paper Inter, published by non-governmental
associations close to OESCD and the Office of a high-ranking international
official, is quoted there. It advocates the establishment of a "civil
society in Bosnia and Hercegovina, where there will be no national traits
or identity, in order to create a specific Bosnian environment".
It is asserted that it is in the interest of the European Community
and NATO to be stationed there until 2000: "Immediately after the
establishment of mixed population municipalities in the Republic of
Srpska and weakening of the national block power, the second stage of
unification is to follow which should include a reform of the media
and school system, i.e. the establishment of a neutral and impersonal
We will try to exert our influence so that maximal shared
elements are introduced in the educational system in both entities -
says the project report aaccepted by the World Bank, which allotted
17 million DEM for its implementation, the Republic of Srpska obtaining
only 5% of the sum. Additional funds will go to the Republic of Srpska
if it complies with the media and school system reform, including changes
in the interpretation of history, especially of the Turkish occupation
period, a different treatment of Serbian epic poems, disavowal of Serbia's
school curricula and turning religious instruction into an elective
course. The Latin alphabat and the jekavian dialect are particularly
emphasized, because they are used in the larger part of Bosnia and Hercegovina."
It is concluded that "the Muslim party too participated, with several
persons, in the composition of the educational system reform referred
26. Noel Malcolm: Kosovo, XXVII, XXVIII. On page 340 he discusses the
"Declaration 216" signed by Serbian intellectuals and the
"Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts" of
the same year. He does not quote from the official edition by the Academy
but from a French translation of an earlier version, in Grmek, Didara,
Simac: "Le nethoyage etnic. Documents historiques sur une ideologie
serbe", Paris 1993. In contrast to Samuel Huntington - Clash of
Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York, 1996, 260-261
- that this protest was a natural reaction of Serbian national elite
against the changes in the ethnic structure of Kosovo effected through
demographic expansion, Noel Malcolm doggedly blames the breaking out
of the civil war on the "Memorandum" of 1986. However, he
toned down that conclusion a lot.
27. Roberto Morozzo della Rocca: Socio-Cultural Aspects of the Albanian
Crisis", in "The International Spectator. A Quarterly Journal"
of the "Instituto per affari internationali". Vol. XXXIII,
No. 2, Roma 1998.
28. Ibid, 71.
29. Ibid, 74.
30. Similar conclusions are drawn by Giuseppe Milunco: Albania nella
storia, Lecce 1997, and by Patrizia Resta: Un popolo in cammino. La
migrazione albanese in Italia, Lecce 1996. A comprehensive overview
of the problem is given by Maria Teresa Ianitto, in "Italia contemporanea",
212, settembre 1998, 699. The migration of the Albanians to Italy has
been going on since the 15th century. In central Italy the areas of
the "Arberesh" immigrants have emerged who use their old dialect,
differing from both variants of the modern Albanian language, Geg and
Tosk. The clans and bajraks were crushed as late as the days of communism,
which established "la famiglia nucleare". After the fall of
communism migration continued, mainly to Italy, where the migrants first
concentrate around the remaining "Arbersh" communities. Maria
T. Ianitto challenges the theories that the myth of ethnic unity existed
throughout the past. In March of 1991 28000 fugitives from Albania migrated
to Puglia. Europe first received them anti-communist heroes, but when
in three days in the same year new 28000 escaped, the authorities sent
them back noiselessly from the border. The emigrants do not tend to
form an "ethnic or national group": "Dal canto loro gli
albanesi in terra straniera non tendono a formare un gruppo etnico o
nazionale: si raccogliono in piccoli gruppi familiari di tipo prarilineare"
(p. 700). This is a process similar to that characteristic of some southern