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Kosovo Origins
by Hugo Roth

1. Dusan T. Batakovic:
Kosovo - La spirale da la haine (The Spiral of Hatred), Edition L'Age D'Homme, Lausanne, 1993


Is Kosovo Next in Line?

A state entity cannot usually, for practical reasons, be so perfectly constructed that it satisfies all the conditions and requirements of an optimal organisation or to fit an ideal, planned, concept. This is logical because the coming into being of a state has almost never taken place in accordance with the wishes of its creators. States are most often formed in an area settled by tribes in close ethnic, spiritual, religious, political or some other connection. However, states are also formed according to the will of great powers. Delineated maps of some Asian and African countries, marked with an endless series of straight and regular lines in the form of geometrical figures, clearly demonstrate that powerful men drew borders with a ruler, according to their own conceptions, taking no account of the hydrological and geomorphological characteristics of the area and still less of ethnic, tribal, family and other connecting affinities between people.

Map 1: The Map of Kosovo and Metohija

When the desires and efforts of the conqueror were the reason for the creation of the new outlines of a state then those wishes were predominantly conditional upon the strength and possibilities of the aggressor or on the decisions of other interested great powers which had the decisive say concerning the limits of the remade borders. Nevertheless, it sometimes happened, albeit rarely, that the drawing of frontiers was also conditioned by the area itself where water or other obstacles, such as inaccessible massifs, separated differently organised groups with natural, inviolable, walls. Such natural obstacles were also to be found in the area which separates Kosovo and Metohia from Albania consisting of the mountains Prokletije, Junicka, Pastrik and Koritnik and the narrow valley of the river Drim which enables a hospitable but controlled means of communication to those for whom it is necessary. To put it simply, the Kosovo valley is bordered in the south by a band of difficult to traverse natural obstacles which means, de res natura, that Kosovo itself determines its affiliation as shown in map 1.

In passing, the quasi-separateness of Kosovo in the political-territorial sense appeared for the first time on the world stage when Kosovo was again united and joined with Democratic Federal Yugoslavia, a member of the victorious coalition after World War II and which, with the wholehearted support of his chosen placemen, was ruled by J. B. Tito. Fearing possible future Serbian mutiny, he constructed a tripartite Serbia, giving ethnicterritorial autonomy to Vojvodina and Kosovo, that is, according to the terminology of the time, the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and the Autonomous Region of Kosmet.

In the reconstituted community of six republics, therefore, Serbia was the only one which itself represented a collection of component units although there were stronger historical reasons that the other republics should be thus insofar as this system of autonomous areas be taken as some kind of political paradigm for the so-called new Yugoslavia. However, this system of autonomous areas was to serve one more aim which was carefully hidden at the time. Namely, for this new, end lessly ambitious leader of Yugoslavia, Kosovo was a manipulative means on the path to the Balkan "throne" and Serbia was to pay the price for that ambition.

Later on in this text, there will be more to say in the corresponding places about this variant and other similiar but different combinations which, as is already known, were never realised.

Let us return for short while to the aforementioned separateness of Kosovo about which there was some discussion on the previous page. During the time of the Occupation in World War II (1941-45), both Yugoslavia and Albania were defeated and subdued by the forces of the Axis powers. The army of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia capitulated (as did the Albanian army) but the exile King and government of Yugoslavia did not recognise the occupation of the country which, at the same time, meant neither did they the accept the dismemberment of the territory, an attitude which was accepted by the Allies. Having conquered Albania, however, Italy proclaimed the "personal union" of herself and subjugated Albania, having attached Kosovo to the so-called "Great Albania" - "L'Etatfantoche cree sous protectorat italien..." as Dusan T. Batakovic calls it in his book Kosovo - La spirale de la haine (1). But at the same time Italy also attached significant areas outside Kosovo to its occupied component of the so-called personal union.

Let us state immediately, that we should not have to occupy ourselves with it later in the text, that this was the only period in a millenium when Albania, at least formally and in appearance, was joined in some concocted symbiosis with Kosovo. On the other hand, however, the government of Serbian rulers over territories which today belong to the state of Albania was not an unknown phenomenon. Thus, for example, the pair Djuraj and Balsa II Balsic held parts of northern Albania (including Valona, Berat, Himara, Drac..) and Sava Nemanjic, son of the founder of the ruling family Nemanjic-Stefan, openly declared that both Pilots were part of the Nemanjic state and the Pilots are regions around the Drim, Skadar and Koritnik. Among other things Konstantin Balsic administered Kroj and the fortress of Danj, places which are today part of the Albanian state. Furthermore, the Despot Stefan, the first ruler to make Belgrade his capital, also possessed parts of presentday northern Albania together with the cities of Skadar, Drivat, Danj and Ljes. That we should not have to mention besides Radoslaus comes Albaniae in this long list St. Jovan Vladimir, Mihajlo Vojisavljevic, Konstantin Bodin, Dorde Strasimirovic and other feudal rulers and lords, we will cite only Emperor Stefan Dusan under whose aegis the greatest part of the Balkan peninsula was united including also the whole of Albania except for the city of Drac which belonged to the Venetian state.

Map 2: Serbia (left, yellow) in the period of Emperor Dusan, second half of the 14th century on the Turkish map

In our opinion, however, these possessions and conquests should belong to the category of past memories because the contemporary world has to accept principles proclaimed by the world community and which guarantee the entirety of both one and the other, that means of each and every state, in which nations, exercising the right of self determination, have realised their statehood, respecting in doing so other relevant factors, especially the historical right to their own country. Albanian statehood was recognised in 1913 whereas Serbia realised that right in the early Middle Ages which, after several centuries of occupation by the Turkish empire, was reaffirmed in 1804, 1878 and 1918.

Curiously, due to its specificity, Serbian statehood was affirmed by the military defeat at Kosovo in 1389 which led to its collapse but at the same time to the spiritual aspiration to preserve the idea of Serbian statehood through "ceaseless struggle" and to renew the state.

It is in this sense that the title of this book is to be understood in that, although the battle of Kosovo was but one stage in the life of the Serbian state, the source of statehood, conceived at the defiant moment of its collapse, has remained through the centuries, right up until today.

A certain doubt can be raised by the early appearance of the name Albania which, from the Middle Ages onward, stretched across maps of the Balkans as well as on retrospective maps relating to the ancient period of this region. That is, if we recall the undisputed fact that the name "Albania" appears in world historical and political literature only from the 11th century and only from a foreign, not Albanian but Byzantine source, and the name 'Shiptar', the name which the Albanians give themselves, only in the 14th century (in the city of Drivat in the north of present day Albania), then the widespread use of the term "Albania" on the maps described appears paradoxical.

This early appearance, however, as well as the early ascribing of such a name to Albania, at a time when not even the Albanians themselves called the country thus and when their influence on European cartography was surely not felt, in fact did not come from them. The name entered into practical use thanks to the Anjou and Venetian rule of the land of the present day Albanians. (Charles of Anjou even proclaimed himself king of Albania).

Parallely with Venetian rule, the Crusaders also used to stop over very often at Drac and travel over Albanian territory with the result that besides the Italians (Venice, Genoa and the Kingdom of Naples), the greater part of Europe accepted and used the name "Albania" for most of the land which today belongs to Albania.

One of the first well-known maps on which the name of Albania appeared was that of Angelino de Laporto in 1325. This portolan map, one of those popularly called compass maps because of the instrument which enabled their composition, was made by a cartographer from Italy and the next in chronological order on which the word Albania appeared arose in 1339 from the pen of Angelino Dulcerto, also a cartographer from the Mediterranean area. His map is also of the portolan type which shows that the seaways were bringing Albania closer to the European world.

Slowly but surely, the name Albania also appeared on the so-called continental maps almost two centuries later. One of the first was the Mapamondo in 1513 made by Fr. Mauro, a cartographer also from Italy which clearly, because of the territorial proximity of these two countries, was not a result of chance.

In order to have some idea of how the territory where the state of the Albanian people is located today was portrayed, we will cite several representative examples. The famous cartographer, Ptolemy, known as the father of geography, in the 2nd century AD designated the area under discussion as Epirus; on the reproduction of the famous map called Poytingeran (the original was from the 4th century and the reproduction from Vienna in 1498) the title is the same but is given in a modified linguistic variant, Lepirum; on a map by Waldzeemuller from 1513, the name of a tribe called the Scirtoni is cited as it is on a map made in 1590 by Ortelius and on a reproduction of Ptolemy's map done in 1513. In Kiepert's Atlas antiques of 1884 which, as its name suggests, portrayed the ancient world, the name Epirus was also used with the comment that the name is of Dorian origin and that the original form was Apirus.

It is completely understandable that the older terms used as a name for this territory were completely different from later ones. Let us repeat that a communality of the scattered tribes and groups of different origin did not exist at that time and so neither did a common name. After the first maps of the fourteenth century and particularly those of the sixteenth, the name Albania would begin to appear on a regular basis. Distinguished cartographers would accept and consistently mark it, for example, Vavasori in 1539, Di Val in 1663, D. Cantelli in 1690, Sanson in 1692 etc.

However, in using the words "consistently mark" with regard to the name "Albania", it is necessary to stress that something else was also consistently marked on all maps without exception and that is that not one cartographer transferred, broadened or changed the territory on which those Albanian tribes lived but that all of them, as has already been said, consistently marked out the area of present day Albania, naturally of lesser size than the Albania of today and that means, never the territory of Kosovo, Metohia, Raska (Sandzak), Montengro or Serbia.

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