of Kosovo's Identity
A commentary by hieromonk. Sava on the statement of Ibrahim Rugova in which he pushes forward incorrect historical theories intended to negate the Serb Orthodox heritage in the province
Politicians Become Historians
The following text is an excrept from Ibrahim Rugova's press conference on August 25, 1995 in Pristina. In his speech Mr. Rugova gives his view of the history of Kosovo which is a typical example of the modern day Albanian use of misinterpreted history for political purposes.
What did Mr. Rugova say:
'Kosova was inhabited by the Albanians since the ancient times -Kingdom of Dardania within the Illyrian Kingdom. Afterwards it was one the Roman provinces. Whereas, during the Byzantium Age, Middle Ages, and through the Ottoman Empire, Kosova was a separate entity with a distinct identity', said President Rugova commenting on some renewed manipulations with the history and the Serbian myth on Kosova. Monasteries and churches in Kosova were originally Albanian later taken over by the Serbs who destroyed a large number of Albanian catholic churches. Albanians were, and still are of both catholic and orthodox faith. In Ulpiana - an ancient town near Prishtina - we have the first martyrs of christianity, Dr. Rugova said. He warned that all the manipulation with the historical and cultural monuments and remains in Kosova is done for it is very rich in natural resources." original text
In this text we can identify the basic elements of Kosovo Albanian new approach to the history of Kosovo which, reflects their political and territorial claims:
"Kosovo was inhabited by Albanians since ancient times"
Albanians are first mentioned in the 11th century under the name of Arber by Byzantine chronicles and their uninterupted link with Illyrians is highly disputable and cannot be proved by modern historical science. Arberia was situated in the central area of today's Albania and until 14th century there are no records of Arber (Arvanite, Albanian) settlers on the territory of Kosovo and Metohija.Therefore, between the 3rd century AD when Illyrians are last time mentioned as a distinct political factor and the appearance of Albanians/Arberians there are no events which prove any link between the two which makes this Illyrian theory more a romanticized myth than a historical fact. Since 18th century Albanians call themselves Shqiptar (Albanian) and their country Shqiperi (Albania). At the same time when these names are used by others Kosovo Albanians consider them derrogative. According to many Serb medieval chronicles and documents one may conclude that the number of Albanians in Kosovo was not exceeding 2% of population which was predominantly Serbian and it is only in the later period that the number of Albanians increased due to migrations in the Ottoman period. In fact, since Slav migrations in the VI and VII century today's region of Kosovo and Metohija had been inhabited by Slav population compared to central regions of Albania (around Kroja) where Slavs never managed to absorb the proto-Albanian ethnic core.Although we do not intend to support a theory according to which Albanians or their ancestors (whoever they were) never lived in the territory of today's Kosovo and Metohija - but only to underline a historical fact, which is also recognized by Malcolm despite his pro-Albanian position. In his book The Short History of Kosovo he abolishes one of the most popular quasi-historical Albanian claim saying: The idea that the great mass of the Kosovo population, behind the cover of their Serbian Orthodox names were albanians, who coninued to speak Albanian is simply not credible. If that were true then the names of most of towns and villages in Kosovo would have been Albanian, whereas in fact the great majority of them are Slav. Albanians have certainsly had a continuous presence in this region. But all the evidence suggests that they were only a minority in Medieval Kosovo" (p. 56-57).
2. Kosovo was always a separate entity throughout the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule.
WRONG: Kosovo has never been a separate political or ethnic entity in its history and in its present borders exists since the end of WW2. In fact the province always consisted of Kosovo (central and eastern part) and Metohia (western part) which have different cultural and geographical characteristics.
Kosovo has never been a separate entity until our own times, neither in political nor ethnical sense. Beside other periods, Mr. Rugova fails to mention the time between 12- mid 15th cent. of Serbian rule and simply jumps over from Byzantines to Ottomans. In the later Ottoman period there existed Kosovo Vilayet but as an entity which does not correspond to the area where Albanians lived. It was one of many administrative units which did not reflect any homogenous ethnic or political realities. Additionally, Mr. Rugova fails to mention that Kosovo is first mentioned under this name by Serbs, who gave the name to the central plain around Pristina. It had never been mentioned by that name (Kosovo/a) before it finally became a part of Serbian Kingdom in 12th century. Nevertheless, even in that time Kosovo was just a name for a fertile plain stretching from Mitrovica to Pristina and Kacanik, while the western part was called Metohia - (gr. metochia - monastery estates). The present administrative boundaries of Kosovo province were drawn by the communist authorities after the WWII when Kosovo was given a status of authonomy.
3. Monasteries and churches in Kosovo were Albanian and the Serbs occupied them destroying Albanian Catholic churches.
WRONG: There are no historical records of any specifical Albanian Roman Catholic church in Kosovo until later Middle Ages. Before today's province became part of Serbian Kingdom there had existed Orthodox Byzantine churches as the entire area was under the religious and cultural influence of Constantinople. In fact until late Middle Ages Roman Catholic religion in Kosovo and Metohija is completely insignificant element beside numerous Serb Orthodox churches and monasteries built by Serb rulers and nobility since 12th century onwards.
This is a very popular theory among Albanians who try to find any possible explanation how it happens that "on the ethnic Albanian soil of Kosovo" only Serb Orthodox medieval churches survive until today. This theory is even supported by some western historians like Miranda Vickers although she does not base her presumption on a single concrete example. Noel Malcolm is more cautious and even recognizes that "the first reference s to specific Catholic churches in Kosovo - at Prizren, Trepca, Janjevo and Novo Brdo - come from the middle of Dusan's reign p. 52 SHof Kosovo"(ie second half of the XIV c) In fact problem with this theory of adoption as well as a similar claim that Serb kings imposed Orthodoxy on Catholic Albanian is more a matter of fiction. Before the Serbs included Kosovo within their state this region was under the Byzantine rule and predominantly populated by Slavs of Orthodox faith under the Archdiocese of Ochrid. It is true that some Byzantine cathedrals and churches were enlarged and reconstructed by Serbs, like Bogorodica Ljeviska and Gracanica where Byzantine Orthodox churches had existed before. Existence of any Latin Albanian churches in this area prior the Serb or during the Byzantine rule is not known to the historical science nor can it be proved by any archeological excavation. This, of course does not mean that there were no Roman Cahtolics in the area, but simply that their number and importance was so insignificant to attract any special historical interest. Even Malcolm recognizes that the existing Roman Catholic churches which were built in XIVc were those of Dubrovnik, merchants and Saxon miners and not of any Albanian Catholic population. Suprisingly to many, in the territory of Kosovo there is not a single medieval church (or its remains) which was built specifically by Albanians, not a single fresco or monument bearing any inscription associated to the Albanian ethnicity... simply nothing at all. Also, there are no records at all that Serbs destroyed any Roman Catholic church in Kosovo in the Middle Ages. Old Roman Catholic churches survive there where there was a real influence of Rome in that period, and that is the Albanian coast and the area around Skodra. The sad truth is that Albanian Moslems destroyed many Christian churches and monasteries, just like they are destroying and desecrating them now.
4. There are Albanians of both Catholic and Orthodox confession.... and the Roman city of Ulpiana gave first martyrs.
RIGHT...BUT: In Kosovo and Metohija there are no Orthodox Albanians nor any Albanian Orthodox church while the Albanian R.Catholic community does not have continuity with the ancient times. The Christian continuity from the early church up to our own day can be directly traced through numerous Christian monuments (Byzantine and Serb) only within the Orthodox Christian tradition.
At the end of his speech Mr. Rugova finally said the truth with an exception that in Kosovo there are no Orthodox Albanians. Christian tradition in the area of Kosovo and Metohija is dominantly Eastern Orthodox and Slav in its character. Ulpiana was an ancient Roman merchant city in which early Christian martyrs Florus and Laurus suffered for Christ. The Orthodox Church glorifies these martyrs and consecrates churches and chapels in their honour. Among Kosovo Albanians there has never been any special cult of these holy martyrs of Ulpiana, especially not among Moslem Albaninas to which Mr. Rugova belongs.
It is important to mention that not a single Kosovo Albanian politician, including Mr. Rugova, did anything to stop the destruction of more than 100 churches and monasteries after the war. No one of them has ever visited any monastic community. With such a highly unresponsible behavior for a "moderate and democratic oriented politician", Mr. Rugova proved in fact that he did not believe what he had previously said. Because if he or his colleagues had really considered these churches and monasteries to be Albanian, they would have probably be the frist to protect the cultural heritage of Kosovo or at least stop their comaptriots in destruction of centuries long Christian tradition in this region.
To finish with an anecdote which the author of this commentary personally heard and saw.....
Mr. Rugova tried to find a plausable explanation for the destruction of the Serb churches after the Kosovo war. At the meeting with the US President Clinton on Nov. 23, 1999, both Albanian and Serb leaders including Bishop Artemije were present. The Bishop gave to the President a book about destroyed churches and Mr. Clinton looked reproachfully at Mr. Rugova and Mr. Thaci asking them how they can stop these attacks. Suddely Mr. Rugova exclaimed..... These were political churches!. In that moment, Bishop Artemije just showed to the President a photo of one of many destroyed medieval churches. An unpleasant moment of silence interrupted the course of the meeting...