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

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

Prof. Slavenko Terzic, Ph.D
Institute of History of
Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Old Serbia In the Eyes of the "Merciful Angel": The Phenomenon of Historian as a Destructionist*

Our main attention in this text will be focused on the views presented in Noel Malcolm's "Introduction" to his book, and also on those contained in the section of his book dealing with the period 1817-1918, and, quite summarily, on some of his concluding remarks towards the end of the book. Noel Malcolm has written this book for political ends, or as he says at one point, to cater "to the practical needs of English readers".1 The history of the Serb province is presented as the history of the Albanian national minority in Serbia. The aim of Malcolm's book is to demonstrate that Kosovo and Metohija are "the Albanian land", and that they should stay that way. The design of everything in the book serves to satisfy the needs of the day, and that spirit permeates even the sections of the book dealing with the early Middle Ages or the Ottoman period. Malcolm's methodology, his general propositions, his usage of place or historical names or concepts, his usage of sources and, finally, his interpretations are there only in order to prove a preset thesis.

Noel Malcolm is not a naive forger. To the public at large, not to a more limited cricle of experts in the field, the book does meet a set of formal criteria of alleged thoroughness and scholarship. His notes are extensive, taking up 70 pages of his book. According to the listing appended to the text of the book, he has consulted manuscript materials contained in some fifteen archives and research centres, including the Archives du Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres in Paris, the Archivio della Sacra Congregazi-one della Propaganda Fide in Rome, the Archivio Segreto Vaticano in Vatican City, the Haus-, Hof and Staatsarchiv in Vienna, the Kriegsarchive in Vienna, the National Archives in Washington, the archives in London (Public Record Office) as well as manuscript holdings in the libraries of Paris, Venice, Oxford, Bologna, the Vatican, including even the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. His Bibliography contains over 870 entries - in English, German, French, Italian, Turkish, Serb, Albanian, Macedonian, Russian, Bulgarian and Rumanian. The bibliographical entries in Serb and Albanian are substantial in number. The entire conception of the book is illustrated with historical maps, which also serve the general idea of the author.

For a scholar who is neither versed in Slav studies nor a balcanologist, and who, judging by his scholarly credentials, until 4-5 years ago never had anything whatsoever to do with the history of the Balkans, it strikes one as unconvincing, even in sheer physical terms, that he could have managed to digest and synthesize, within 2-3 years, such a huge quantity of archives and archival holdings in so many languages, consulted such a massive literature in eleven European languages - a quite heterogeneous literature at that. But, even if he has managed to do so, even to superficial students of South-East European history it is obvious that scientifically dependable references to those allegedly massive materials are absent from his book! Even where a quotation is given, it is evident that it is there rather to prove the author's preset political thesis, and not to illustrate a complex picture of the past of this part of Europe. It is stunning that Malcolm, in spite of his alleged insight into such extensive archival materials and literature, has not advanced a step further than the many times repeated great-Albanian theses launched by national ideologists from Tirana and Pristina. All Malcolm's key theses are found in the 1995 Memorandum of the Forum of Albanian Intellectuals, signed by Rexhep Qosja.2 The only difference is that Malcolm's book appeared in English, in London.

The essential, methodological and professional failure of this book, however, is in its usage of sources and its interpretation of events. To be precise, the author selects from historical evidence only what corroborates his thesis. For instance, he refers to almost all works by Mary Edith Durham, but he ignores her first serious work, Through the Lands of the Serb, in which she touches on Metohija.3 Everything leads to the conclusion that by referring to such a mass of sources and literature in general, Noel Malcolm in fact wanted to conceal his real motifs while doing his best to conceal his mission as an advocate of the separatist movement of the Albanian minority in Serbia by an aura of alleged scholarship and thoroughness.

There are few instances of violation of historical facts and historical truth comparable to that committed by Noel Malcolm against the history of the Serbs and the entire area of Old Serbia, currently the southern province of the Republic of Serbia. Malcolm does not discuss Kosovo and Metohija within the history of the Serbs, or the history of Serbia, but within the history of the "Albanian lands". Throughout the book Kosovo. A Short History, he applies the term "Kosovo" as the only name for the area of Kosovo and Metohija, picturing it as a separate historical, political, cultural an even geographical entity from times immemorial, always in isolation from Serbia and the history of the Serbs. And, practically from the beginning to
the end, Malcolm challenges the theses of "Serb nationalists" and "Serb myths", as a rule trying to picture this area as a tragic prey of "the Serb conquerors".
In the very "Introduction" to his book, Malcolm rejects what he calls the "confused usage of the term Kosovo and Metohija". Parallel to already common terms such as the "Croatian Serbs", the "Bosnian Serbs", Malcolm is often happy to use the term the "Kosovo Serbs". The Albanians are for him the "Kosovars", and a part of a homogenous whole of the Albanian people, whereas the "Kosovo Serbs" are defined only by that regional attribute (Kosovo) and as isolated from Serbia.

The introductory section of Malcolm's book reveals, on one hand, his undeniably partial and undoubtedly clear political stance, and on the other hand his complete unawareness of the history of the Balkans, as well as his dilettante simplification of its subtle historical processes and problems. Malcolm says that there had never been ethnic wars in the history of this region, that Kosovo and Metohija are "the area with the worst human rights abuses in the whole of Europe", and that in fact primarily political leaders are to blame for the events taking place there.4 The aforementioned Mary Durham wrote down in 1903, during her trip through Metohija: "The story of Old Servia is one of uninterrupted misery. The suffering of the Christian peoples in the Balkans is no new thing. It began with the advent of the Turk, and will continue while he remains. As long ago as 1690 the intolerable lot of the Serbs of Old Servia induced no less than 37,000 stem families (zadruge) to emigrate to Hungary. The Albanians then spread over the vacated lands, which they have been permitted to harry with impunity ever since."5

In contrast to many well known historians stressing the important role of the religious factor in history, Malcolm is of the opinion that religion had no role among the Albanians, but that it does play an important role in the formation of Serb attitudes. Religion, he says, "has played almost no role at all" in the political mobilization of the Albanians, adding that "there is no Islamic political movement among the Albanians". However, the well-known British historian Harold W. V. Temperley has perceptively observed that "the Islamicized Serbs known as Arnauts are the bitterest foes of the Serb".6 Temperley was professor at Harvard and Cambridge and in 1921 he a represented Britain in the Commission for the Albanian borders. The unabashed intolerance of the Arbanasi (Arbanenses) in relation to the Serbs and Slavs and the gradual expulsion of the latter from the area settled by the Arbanasi are also convincingly described by H. N. Brailsford in his book Macedonia, published in 1905. Brailsford emphasizes that the Albanians "manifest a semifeudal terrorism" in relation to the Slav people.7

Even if we ignore the views of reputable Europeans, it takes no more than a superficial knowledge of the provisions of the 1878 Prizren League Statute or of later links of the Muslim Albanians with radical Muslim political movements to our day, including the former's training in well known religious centres of the kind, to conclude that Malcolm is either an ignoramus, or, simply, that he intentionally ignores the facts. The Croatian historian Bernard Stuli underlines precisely the pan-Islamic character of the League: in all sixteen articles of its Statute the political subjects of the League are simply Muslims. They refer to the "sublime religious law" Seriat), advocating alliance with "believers of the same religious affiliation in the Balkans", whereas desertion of the alliance is qualified, by Article 16, as disloyalty to Islam.8 That we are dealing with unprecedented partiality blind to the facts is shown by Malcolm's claim that the Orthodox Serbs, the "Orthodox side", in contrast to the Albanians, "constantly employs religious rhetoric to justify the defense of 'sacred' Serb interests", this being, in his opinion, "a classic example of religion being mobilized and manipulated for ideological purposes".9 According to Malcolm, the Albanians are not only tolerant -they are also guardians of Orthodox religious sites. What that tolerance looked like in the past is best shown today by some eighty Orthodox churches and monasteries, most of them medieval, torn down in Kosovo and Metohija since June 1999, in the presence and under the auspices of NATO forces at that!

That Noel Malcolm is not really a researcher by any truly scientific standards and that his interpretation is firmly rooted in political prejudices is demonstrated by his total acceptance of a set of recognizable stereotypes. Resembling, on one hand, the Marxist theses assuming that the harmony among peoples as a whole is disturbed only by their social elites or leaderships, and, on the other, hand the "Golden Age" of the English struggle, waged throughout the nineteenth century, against anything Slav, and particularlythat which is Orthodox Slav and capable of establishing links with Russia. At times he uses the language of the nineteenth century, and the reader might rather picture him lounging in a Bosphorus palace at the time of the preparations for the Berlin Congress (1878) than as a calm scholar doing his best to understand and explain the history of a part of Europe. But even so, he is imbued with more onesidedness and partiality than any English consul in the nineteenth century Balkans. Instead of elucidating, he obscures things and causes confusion.

Malcolm intentionally discusses the relations between the Serbs and the Albanians within the framework of "Kosovo", trying through his regionalist prism to cut off all ties between the Serbs of this area and other Serbs. These acrobatics of his serve to promote the Albanian national minority in a part of Serbia into the rank of the pivotal and state-oriented factor, whereas the Serb people in that part of their own country is allotted, by Malcolm and some other current interpretations, the "status" of a national minority. The reader can only imagine what the history of Spain or France or Germany or any other country would look like if the history of their respective regions inhabited by national minorities were interpreted in relation to Spaniards, Frenchmen, Germans or any other majority people of any country. In order to minimize the importance of the historical evidence pertaining to the relations between the Serbs and the Albanians, that is to the processes brought about by the beginning of an increasingly massive migration of the Arbanasi into Old Serbia since the late 17th century (the relics of the celebration of a family's patron saint day - the slava of the Serbs - among the Arbanasi, as well as of cutting a special Yule-log at Christmas - the badnjak of the Serbs), Malcolm gives very general sociological definitions of the problem through phrases such as "ethnic-linguistic assimilation in both directions", and "folk-religious syncretism" in the Balkans. "The slava", he writes, "which has pre-Christian origins, was popular among Catholics and Muslims in northern Albania as well as Catholics in Dalmatia, Bosnia and Slavonia…"10 Of course, Malcolm does not happen to conclude that the Arbanasi could be the Serbs converted to Islam or Catholicism. One should consult the ethnographical map of Serbia published in 1909 in London by Alfred Stead showing that the numbers of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija were very small in size and that they were mostly "Albanized Serbs".11 In order to deepen the regionalist dimension of the Serb presence in Old Serbia and minimize the proportions of Islamization and the turning the Serbs into Arnauts, Malcolm even claims that in Kosovo and Metohija "over many centuries" there was no clearcut ethnic division between Serbs and Albanians. The Serbian colonists in the 1920s, he says, felt the "local Serbs" as foreign as "the alien Albanians".12

Malcolm interprets the life of the Serbs in Old Serbia, that is in Kosovo and Metohija, as the centre of their political, spiritual and cultural life, by concealing decades- -long ethnic cleansing of the Serbs with phrases about the harmonious and almost idyllic life before 1912. The Serbs and the Albanians fought, says he, "as allies" at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, and they ("including even Muslim ones [Albanians]") rose up towards the end of the seven-teenth century "to throw off Ottoman rule".13 All this has been repeated many times by Albanian historians without a single shred of evidence to support the claim. Typical of Malcolm's "history of Kosovo" is that he interprets the past of this area in isolation not only from the history of Serbia and the Serbs, as we have already said, but also from the general currents of European history. By his magic wand, Malcolm has placed the history of this area under a bell jar, probably intending to make such pseudo-scientific interpretations as his "history" of Bosnia and now of Kosovo and Metohija serve as models for the writing of a presumably radically new history of Europe.

For one thing, it is widely known that from the late seventeenth century down to 1912 a bitter struggle was fought between Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire as the champion of the spirit of Islam in Europe, the spirit of the militant Islam at that embodied by the advancing Ottomans. Beginning with the siege of Vienna in 1683 and all the way to 1912, that struggle was both longlasting and bloody, and its main victims were particularly the Christian peoples of the Balkans - notably the Serbs, Greeks and Bulgarians. Nowhere were those bitter conflicts of the European Christian world on one hand, and the Ottoman-Islamic world on the other hand being so intensely refracted as then in Old Serbia and in Kosovo and Metohija in particular. Among a host of authors writing to that effect one can point to the former State Secretary of the USA Henry Kissinger, who has in recent years repeatedly stated that this conflict of two civilizations and social models was most intense precisely in this relatively small area. Malcolm confidently concludes relying on no serious analysis of the events and processes in question: "What really turned the division between Orthodox Serb and Muslim Albanians into a more general and systematic conflict was the politicization of the issue in the nineteenth century, which arose during the growth and expansion of the Slav Christian states in the Balkans." In reality, from the first moment of the "conquest" - as Malcolm calls it -of Kosovo and Metohija by Serbia and Montenegro in 1912 hostility and hatred was created "on a scale that the region had never seen before.14 Thus we come to the key claim revealing the essence of Noel Malcolm's approach - the idea that all problems in Kosovo and Metohija started with the liberation of these areas from Turkish rule in 1912. On the contrary, the truth is that their liberation, as well as the liberation of other areas that had been under Turkish rule was a prerequisite for their social and cultural modernization and reintegration into the European Christian civilization.

Malcom announces the format of his book at its very beginning, by his challening the claims presented in the memorandum of the Serbian government early in 1913. In his attempt to invalidate the civilizational, historical and ethnic evidence, he, in addition to his lame interpretation, makes a series of factual errors. The latter range from his claim that the Serbian Patriarchate as an institution has had no continuous history, to the claim borrowed from Albanian historiography that the Great Migration (Velika Seoba) of the Serbs from Kosovo is largely "mythology", that it is "invented", and to crown it all, to the claim that Kosovo was not a part of Serbia for several hundred years prior to 1912 "because there was no Serbia of which it could be a part". Had he looked at any 17th or 18th century map of Europe, for instance the map of the humanist and cartographer Giacomo Cantelli da Vignola published in 1689 in Rome under the title Il Regno della Serbia detta altrimenti Rascia he would have learnt that Kosovo and Metohija represented the centre of Serbia and that the southern borders of Serbia ran along the river Drin in what is today northern Albania."15 In the reports of the 17th century missionaries from Rome Prizren was described as "the principal town of Serbia" and "the most beautiful place in Serbia". In his report of 1633, Petar Masarek even points out that many Serbs live in Albania - in the bishoprics of Skadar, Ljes and Zadrimje.16

In his book Kosovo. A Short History Noel Malcom displays a very unusual, one can say even anti-European approach, presumably following in the footsteps of old Turkophile politics of nineteenth century British cabinets. In essence, he sharply criticizes the European Christian liberation movement of the last few centuries. But when discussing expulsions of Muslims, he does not as much as mention Austria, or Hungary, or Croatia, or Polish troops, but sees only the Serbian army and its crimes. It is known that in the early decades and the mid-nineteenth century Turkey, under the pressure of the great powers, resorted to internal reforms meant to alleviate the position of its Christian subjects. The toughest opponents to those reforms were Bosnian and Albanian beys, whose resistance Malcolm sees as an expression of nationally conscious liberation and state-oriented aspirations. When Muslims, for instance, flee Bosnia and Hercegovina after the Austro-Hungarian occupation, then it is not an act of expulsion of muhaxhirs, but "because they did not want to live under 'infidel' administration"; yet when they flee from the territory liberated by Serbia in 1878, then it is solely on account of "ethnic cleansing", which was a means of "Serbian state policy to create an ethnically 'clean' territory".17

On the other hand, the expulsion of the Serbs into Central Serbia and ethnic cleansing of Old Serbia is explained by Malcolm from quite a different standpoint. Then it is a consequence of "local hostilities", "the general stagnation" and "poor administration of the vilayet", as well as the "attractions of life in Serbia (a fully independent country from 1878)". When the fate of the Serbs is at stake, Malcolm speaks of "migration". When the fate of the Albanians is at stake, he speaks of "uprooting". Here is an example of his interpretation of the ethnic cleansing of Old Serbia: "There was no Ottoman state policy of expelling Serbs, and therefore no symmetry in principle between these migrations of Serbs and the uprooting of the Albanians in Serbia."18 Niko Zupanic's claim that some 150,000 Serbs left Kosovo between 1876 and 1912 is, in Malcolm's opinion, an exaggeration, yet he ignores the identical claim voiced by the well-known historian Konstantin Jirecek at the University of Vienna in 1913.19 Though his list of sources includes many quite marginal entries, Malcolm, in accordance with his determination to ignore any evidence not fitting his thesis, does not as much as mention the book The Lament of Old Serbia (Plac Stare Srbije) published in Zemun in 1864 and dedicated to an English defender of Christians - William Denton. As a matter of course, Malcolm does not as much as mention the diplomatic documents describing the crimes of the Arbanasi in Old Serbia in the period 1898-1899 published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Serbia.20 One is even more amazed by the fact that he does not mention English diplomatic papers, for instance those published in London in 1904. A few pieces of evidence from those papers follow. Sir George Bonham writes to the Marquess of Lansdowne on 7 May 1901 that forty Serb families were compelled to escape to the Kingdom of Serbia owing to Albanian terror.21 Another English diplomat, Mr. Young, also writes to The Marquess of Lansdowne on 9 September 1901 as follows: "Old Serbia is still an area of disturbance owing to the lawlessness, vendettas and racial jealousies of the Albanians."22 In the same report, Young goes on to say that oppression of the Serb population continues and that 600 Albanians, helped by 50 Turkish soldiers, "quartered on a village of sixty households, reducing it to destitution".23 Young's report of December 1901 testifies that between the spring and December of that year 250 families were driven by Albanian terror into the Kingdom of Serbia.24 These are only some obvious instances of Malcolm's ignoring of the historical facts which do not support his thesis.

Malcolm's picture of the ethnic and religious structure of Kosovo and Metohija is even more drastic. At one point, Malcolm claims that in the 1830s in the area of "West Kosovo" - which is in fact Metohija - the proportion between the Muslims and the Christians was circa 58% : 42%. When he finds it fitting, Malcolm sticks to general evidence, evading exact data offered by historical sources. The ethnic, political and religious circumstances in the 19th century are reflected in numerous documents by foreign authors, such as Ami Bue, Joseph Muller, Johan
Georg von Hahn, Ivan Stepanovich Yastrebov, Alexander Gillferding, Victor Berard, Gaston Gravier and others. In 1838 Joseph Muller published the data about the population of the Pec, Dakovica and Prizren districts in Metohija. He states that in the towns of Pec, Dakovica and Prizren there lived 31,650 Orthodox and Muslim Serbs, as compared to 23,650 Muslim and Catholic Arbanasi.25

An even more telling instance is Malcolm's handling of the sources contained in the book A Detailed Description of the Plevlje Sancak and the Kosovo Vilayet published in Vienna in 1899. Quoting from this work, he writes that, according to Austrian statistics, in the 1890s, the population of the "regions" of Kosovo (including neighbouring areas such as Ljuma), consisted of 72% Muslims and 28% non-Muslims. "We can assume", he says, "that most of the non-Muslims were Serbs."26 If we look up the pages 80-81 of this book, we will see what Malcolm failed to note. First of all, the Austro-Hungarian statistical reports have precise headings: "Serbs - Orthodox, Catholic, Muslims", and "Albanians - Catholics - Muslims". Secondly, if we want to see the structure of the population of Kosovo and Metohija, we need not add to it the statistics relating to the neighbouring towns of Gostivar, Tetovo, Ljuma, Rozaje and Berane. When speaking only of the area of Kosovo and Metohija, that is of the towns of Mitrovica, Vucitrn, Pristina, Gnjilane, Presevo, Pec, Dakovica and Prizren sandzak including the nahiye of Rahovce, the statistics read as follows: Serbs - Orthodox, Muslam and Catholics - 166,700; Albanians - Muslims and Catholics - 182,650. In terms of percentage, these numbers amount to 43.70% Serbs, 47.88% Albanians, whereas the remaining 8.42% cover the population consisting of Orthodox Tsintsars, Ottoman Turks, Cherkesses, Romanies and a small number of Jews.27
In short, the book before us is not a history of Kosovo and Metohija. Noel Malcolm produced an inadmissible forgery and discredited himself as a serious scholar and history researcher of any format. From fragments of the reality of that area he has put together a construction that has nothing at all to do with the real life of that area. That is the destructive essence of the "Malcolm" phenomenon. The only surprising thing is that this unprecedented moral and professional degradation could befall a historiography rich in great names and traditions such as the English. So Malcolm's book amounts to a political pamphlet supporting the Albanian cause, concocted in anticipation of an international conference designed to pave the way for the "solution" of the so-called "Albanian issue", in fact for the establishment of Great Albania.


* The expression "Merciful Angel" in the title of this paper is a synonym for violence, since that was the official name of NATO's punitive expedition against Serbia and FR Yugoslavia. In this case that stylistic figure, stands for the violation of the past of the Old Serbia, and in the first place of its central part - Kosovo and Metohija.

1 Noel Malcolm, Kosovo. A Short History, Macmillan, London 1998, XI.
2 Bujku, 28 October 1995.
3 Mary E. Durham, Through the Lands of the Serb, London 1904, 303-345.
4 Noel Malcolm, Kosovo…, XXVII.
5 Mary E. Durham, Through the Lands of the Serb, 310.
6 Harold W. V. Temperley, History of Serbia, London 1917, p. 309.
7 N. H. Brailsford, Macedonia. Its Races and Their Future, New York 1971, p. 90, 274-277.
8 Bernard Stulli, Albansko pitanje (1875-1878), Rad JAZU, Vol. 318, Zagreb 1959, 323.
9 Noel Malcolm, Kosovo…, XXVIII.
10 Ibid, p. 198.
11Servia by the Servians, Compiled and Edited by Alfred Stead, With a Map, London (William Heinemann), 1909. (Etnographical Map of Servia, Scale 1:2.750.000).
12 Noel Malcolm, Kosovo…, XXIX.
13 Ibid, XXIX.
14 Ibid, XXX.
15IL REGNO DELLA SERVIA detta altrimenti RASCIA descritto da Giacomo Cantelli da Vignola.- Roma, Gio. Giacomo de Rossi, 1689.
16 Quoted in Zaduzbine Kosova - spomenici i znamenja srpskog naroda, Prizren - Beograd 1987, 607-609.
17Noel Malcolm, Kosovo…, 229.
18Ibid, 229-230.
19Dr. Konstantin Jirecek, Albanien in der Vergangenheit (in) Illirisch albanische Forschungen, Zusammengestellt von Dr Ludwig von Thalloczy, I Band, Munchen und Leipzig 1916, 86-87.
20 Documents diplomatiques, correspondance concernant les actes de violence et de brigandage des Albanais dans la Vieille Serbie (Vilayet de Kosovo) 1898-1899, Ministere des affaires etrangeres, Belgrade MDCCCXCIX, 1-145.
21Turkey, No. 1 (1903). Correspondence, Respecting the Affairs of South-Eastern Europe, London 1904, p. 45.
22 Ibid, p. 88.
23 Ibid, p. 89.
24 Ibid, p.102.
25 Dr. Joseph Muller, Albanien, Rumelien und die Osterreichisch-montenegrinische Grenze, Prague, 1844.
26 Noel Malcolm, Kosovo…, 194.
27Detailbeschreibung des Sandzaks Plevlje und des Vilajets Kosovo (Mit 8 Beilagen und 10 Taffeln), Als Manuskript gedruckt, Vien 1899, 80-81.