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Kosovo Origins
by Hugo Roth
 

   

13. In order to understand why I ascribe such decisive importance to one telegram of the interpretation of Tito's aspirations and ambitions, I shall also cite a telegram with his signature sent eight months later in which he calls upon the Albanian military leadership to send their units to Yugoslavia to enable the formation of joint units in Kosovo and Metohia. A third document invites the 3rd and 5th Albanian brigades to join in the formation of a joint operational headquarters for the liberation of Metohia. As Enver Hoxha stated, Kosovo and Albania would be in the same federal unit in Tito's proposed Balkan federation.

14. Mita Miljkovic, Kosmet moje mladosti (Kosmet of my youth), NIN, Belgrade 1987

15. Albanian representative from Kosovska Mitrovica and its surroundings were unpleasantly surprised by this Geman decision and, aided by the Italians, they tried to get the decision changed so that Kosovska Mitrovica and its surroundings would be attached to the so-called Great Albania but the Germans paid no attention to the wishes of the Albanian quislings, Ali Draga, Ibrahim Lufti and Xharef Deva, although they later joined some parts of Montenegro and Macedonia to that state.

Transfer of the Object of the Game

Very soon after the end of the Balkan wars, the spectre of more suffering, death and new wars hovered over the peoples of that region while they were still living with the consequences of the recent warfare. Insatiability had insinuated itself into the desires of the power-brokers of Europe. The Balkan wars had disturbed them. Concord and a common purpose had united the small countries and this upset the plans of the large ones. It is interesting that the attention and significance accorded in major historical works to the process of uniting together in the Balkans, that "powder keg", and to the victory of the Balkan stateless was so slight and superficial that it passed from the merely symptomatic to being pure egoism. As if the only purpose of that egoism was to disparage and belittle all the efforts "of those who were only a hindrance to the organised decision-making of the great." It seems that both the political and intellectual ostracism of the small Balkan peoples and their states better suited those for whom the Balkans was but a playing-field for their own activities.

In order to document how insignificant was the space devoted to the Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913 we will give just two examples. The first text is from the voluminous work (639 pages) Chronologie universelle by Jacques Boudet, ed. Bordos, Paris, 1983 where in the section "1912" and under the title "The Balkan Wars" it reads: "Encouraged by a Russia desirous of controlling the Straits, Bulgaria and Serbia took advantage of the Italo-Turkish war in an attempt to exclude Turkey from Europe. They were joined in their plan by Greece and Montenegro. The defeated Turkey had to sign the Treaty of London on May 30th 1913 which virtually eliminated her from Europe. Squabbles between the victors: The Second Balkan war. The Bulgarians initiated hostilities against the Greeks and the Serbs on June 29th 1913 but, attacked from the rear by the Turks and the Romanians, she was quickly defeated.

The Treaty of Bucharest (see 1913). The anger of Serbian nationalism." Under the year "1913", there is written the following: "August 10th. The Treaty of Bucharest. Signed by the countries which participated in the two Balkan wars (see 1912). The defeated Bulgarians lost a great part of the territory which they had gained by the Treaty of London on May 30th. Macedonia was divided between Serbia and Greece. Bulgaria ceded Southern Dobruja to Romania; Adrianople returned to Turkey.

The second example is even more extreme. In the book History: Civilisation from its Beginnings by Alan Bullock, Rathbone Books Limited, London, 1962 (376) it says: "One of the consequences of the aspirations of young Yugoslavs was also the creation of the Balkan alliance of Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece which led to the Balkan war of 1912- 13 and the final removal of Turkey from the Balkans."

Just so much and not a word more about the most significant alliance of the Balkan countries ever created during their entire history. It should not be forgotten that that alliance was also joined by Romania in the Second Balkan war with the additional comment the alliance comprised of most of the Balkan states but not all. Those peoples from Balkan territories which were under the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the Albanian citizens of the Turkish empire, as subjects of these states, stayed out of this action to liberate the Balkans from foreign, non-Balkan states. Nevertheless, the specificity of Albania is reflected in the fact that at that time it acquired its independence and by a chance concurrence of events it later found itself alongside the other Balkan peoples.

When the alliance of the Balkan states during the Balkan wars is analysed one more characteristic is discernible. In all of the states which united together the official state religion was Orthodoxy and this was the first and, until now, the only time that the Orthodox countries of the Balkans found themselves in a united joint action conducted for the common but also for the individual aims of each of those states. It is well known, however, that Bulgaria destroyed that unity in the Second Balkan war in opening hostilities against Serbia and Greece.

With regard to the consequences of the Balkan wars for the Albanian national minority in Kosovo and Metohia, it is well known that they accused the Serbs of oppression, terror and murder. The exaggerations in the Albanian accusations cannot lessen the fact that there were grounds for them (indeed, they were of considerably lesser scope than was ascribed to them) but, without wishing to justify whatever form of terror from whichever side, it should not be lost from view that the side which made those accusations was simultaneously that side which, during the long years of Turkish rule, as renegades who were Turkey's faithful subjects, committed surely the most heinous crimes against the Serbian population of Kosovo and Metohia and all of this took place at the instigation of Austro-Hungary and Turkey of which something has already been said.

It is well known that there was also further conflict later during the First World War when, in its retreat and flight from Serbia in the face of attacks from German, Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian and Turkish forces, the Serbian army sought its line of retreat and salvation through Albania.

Together with the battle of Kosovo in the history of the Serbs, the retreat through Albania was the most difficult and painful experience of the army and the refugees which followed it because they were exposed to murder, robbery and humiliation in such proportions that that retreat has remained etched in the memory of the entire people under the name "Golgotha".

During the Second World War, the occupation first of Albania and then of Yugoslavia (Albania was occupied by Italy and Yugoslavia by Germany, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria and the newly-created Ustasha state, the so-called Independent State of Croatia) gave rise to extremely contradictory circumstances which would be reflected both in the period after the end of that war and in the unusual transfer of the object of the game. New players would appear but neither would they distinguish themselves with a more original or effective means of approach.

It is known that Comintern appointed its Yugoslav branch in Albania the task of organising the Communist Party of Albania and intensifying the movement against the occupier but this only happened almost two years later when Yugoslavia itself had been defeated and occupied.

The course of the anti-Fascist struggles in Albania and Yugoslavia was roughly similar, at least in regard to its outward manifestations, declarative statements and aims. The general and united stand presented was: a common struggle and common paths leading to the expulsion of the occupier and the building of independent states under the direction of Tito and Enver Hodza. But, that well known word "but" appeared in respect of both leaders and the foundations of the proclaimed common front very quickly began to crumble.

It is well known that during the course of the National Liberation Struggle (NOB) in Albania, Enver Hoxha tried to avoid attending a meeting with representatives of the Bali kombtar but he also tried to avoid opposing their idea of a Great Albania which would not only necessarily include all of Kosovo but also other parts of Yugoslavia. This early indication of Hoxha's desire for Kosovo and Metohia, then the concealment of this desire after the liberation in changed circumstances and, finally, the repeated public avowal of these aggressive views after 1948 transferred the game from Albania to Kosovo.

On the other hand, in January 1944, the Yugoslav branch in Albania received a telegram with the following text: "... In our view, our comrades in Albania should work to harmonise as closely as possible their liberation struggle with ours. It is necessary to popularise the decisions of AVNOJ, the Federative structure of the peoples of Yugoslavia, the further possibilities of the other Balkan peoples joining this Federation, the creation of one strong and great Balkan state of peoples enjoying equal rights which would represent a powerful factor in Europe... and, at the same time, taken as a whole, would represent a great power." It is easy to recognise the "handwriting" of Josip Broz Tito not only from the meagre and cliche-ridden dictionary but also from the undisguised ambition, something which the team which collected his papers later were easily able to confirm. Clearly, Enver Hoxha wanted Kosovo in order to create a Great Albania but Josip Broz Tito wanted the Balkans in order to create a great state for "the great Tito".

It is interesting that, on one occasion, Stalin offered Tito Albania but never and in no wise the Balkans whereas, with the exception of Tito, nobody offered Enver Hoxha anything. 13

To what extent the expressed aspirations were compatible, in spite of a shared ideology and the "great, coordinated steps towards the common ideal of the creation of a community of proletarian internationalism", is also evident today from the still shadowy or, publicly at least, the still unexplained meeting known as the Bujan conference held between December 31st 1943 and January 2nd 1944. Offcially this was a conference of the Regional National Liberation committee of Kosovo and Metohia at which that committee was inaugrated.

The place where it was held was Bunjaj (and not Bujan) which was both then and now within Albania in that part which is called Malesia. The first imprecise or incorrect point relates to the name of the village in which the conference was held. Namely, according to many assertions, Enver Hoxha himself in his writings renamed this village, calling it Bunjaj instead of Bujan. Why he did so is easier to understand today when it is realised that a resolution was passed at that conference concerning the joining of Kosovo and Metohia to Albania. In addition to all of this, one should not lose sight of the time when this conference was held: the Second World War was still going on and neither one of these two states was as yet liberated and the Yugoslav anti-fascists were fighting for the liberation and restoration of the whole of Yugoslavia.

It is not of little importance that the newly given name, Bujan, is Serbian and means in that language something which is luxuriant, very fertile (in German, urig; in English and French the spelling is the same, luxuriant, although pronounced differently and the Italian expression is rigoglioso) whereas Bunjaj has no meaning in Serbian. It was clearly necessary to give the conference which passed a resolution about attaching Yugoslav territories to Albania a Serbian gloss especially since the place itself was all of twelve kilometres as the crow flies from the Yugoslav border. The majority of delegates at that conference were Albanians and Shiptars. Nevertheless, in this attempt the Albanian side made a scriptural error. The Albanian text of the resolution is illogically signed "the Committee for Kosovo and Dukadjin" and this resolution was similarly signed when published in a bulletin of the Albanian newspaper Zeri i populit. In other words, Dukadjin is written instead of Metohia but that signature no longer appeared in later publications. Mita Miljkovic, one-time functionary at Kosovo, gave an explanation for this. 14 He said: "It is my opinion that this was because 'Dukadjin' already encompassed a part of Albanian territory and so it was not necessary to unite with Albania an area which already belonged to it."

When the text of that resolution reached Serbian fore, they rejected and annulled it thereby bringing an end to this Albanian attempt at territorial aggrandisement. If all European and world political games were directed in the past at Albania, using it as pawn to thwart Serbian or Yugoslav plans in the Balkans, after the Second World War and particularly in the last two decades the focus of the game has shifted to Kosovo. The aim continues to be based on old theses but the new players have also introduced new plots and twists.

The period after the Informbiro (IB) resolution of 1948 seemed to the Albanian leadership to be suitable for fulfilling their aspirations towards Kosovo and Metohia but neither their wishes nor their efforts bore fruit. The infighting among the countries of the Eastern bloc were welcome to the Western world and a useful opportunity for undertaking various actions but changes in borders then lay outside that which could be tolerated with regard to the principle of preserving the balance of power.

The internal, long-term plans and aims, however, had been determined and things set in motion. Aware that a campaign of agression would not bring any kind of result, the Shiptar population of Kosovo attached themselves to all of those whose aims were the destruction of Yugoslavia, separatism and the creation of independent states or the joining of severed parts of the Yugoslav territories to those states which had a large or, even, a not so large national minority on Yugoslav soil.

It is not possible to ascribe the beginning of the break-up of Yugoslavia to the Albanian national minority in Kosovo and Metohia although it is known that the roots of their desires stretch back to the second half of the last century but one can ascribe to them without a doubt their "avantgarde" role in provoking excesses, protests, demonstration, strikes, sabotage and other forms of action calculated to draw the attention of foreign factors, using means and methods which were not practiced by demonstrators in the Balkan countries.

It can be said without hesitation that the actions of the Albanian national minority directed against Yugoslavia, more exactly and precisely, against Serbia, were always co-ordinated and carried out from several centres outside Kosovo but most often with those in Yugoslavia and in neighbouring Albania. That co-ordination within Yugoslavia, especially in the political sense, was carried out with the separatist currents in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Hercegovina and with extremists from the Sandzak. Nor should be lost from view the involvement of a significant number of gastarbeiter and emigrees together with their mentors in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, USA, Sweden, France etc.

With this kind of support, the Albanians were convinced they were on to a sure thing but, like every other "story", this one also has its preface.

If we pass over the actions undertaken against the pre-war Kingdom of Yugoslavia, taking into consideration the political constellation in which the Yugoslav state found itself at that time, we can freely maintain that the open agressive attacks on the lives and property of the Serbian population of Kosovo and Metohia arrived with the Second World War occupation when the Axis powers destroyed the Yugoslav state and introduced their own rule with the help of quislings who were, without exception, to be found among every nation and national minority in the country.

The occupation of Kosovo and Metohia had its own peculiarities. The greatest part of it was occupied by the Italians who had almost two years earlier conquered Albania and so they joined these two occupied territories into one whole, combining it with the country of the occupier - Italy - into a so-called personal union. However, Kosovska Mitrovica and its surrounds (especially including the mines) were not given to Italy but were kept for themselves by the Germans l5 while Bulgaria received part of the Urosevac and Gnjilane region.

The remaining part of Kosovo and Metohia, that is, parts of Vucitrn, Podujevo and Novi Pazar, was retained by occupied Serbia and attached to the Drinska Banovina but its local administration was entrusted to the Albanian minority. Later, during 1942, further alterations and redispositions were made but these were more of tactical than strategic significance. Hitler's Germany, therefore, not only dismembered Yugoslavia but also Kosovo and Metohia.

The illusion of the personal union, a Great Albania, their own government and similar things was very pleasing to certain of the Albanian social classes and so the government of the occupier found amongst many of them zealous executors of their ideas and plans particularly with regard to the Serbs in the occupied territory. 

We have already shown that the idea of a Great Albania had been theoretically worked out, accepted and propagated both amongst a great number of Albanians in the mother country and amongst the Albanian national minority in Yugoslavia. The Germano-Italian occupation provided a great opportunity for that idea to be put into practice in a temporary form under the aegis of the occupiers. In order to provide documentary evidence for this, let us cite some of the Italian sources of the time which say: "... Police units were composed chiefly of collaborationist Albanian elements. Albanians served in the gendamerie which was set up by the governor's decree no.15. The gendamerie had a broad judicial, administrative and political competence and there were three gendamerie district commands with 64 district and 440 gendarmerie stations. The volunteer Albanian militia which was founded in August 1943 had the task of crushing the liberation struggle of the population of this region... The first task of the Italo-Albanian authorities was to introduce Fascism into this region. The Fascist party of Albania undertook a series of measures to draw the population into their party and so it founded branches (federate) in Pec, Prizren and Pristina ... The Great Albanian nationalists had already at the beginning of the occupation undertaken various measures for the denationalisation of the population and its assimilation by changing them into members of the Albanian nation ... schools into which were brought a great number of teachers from Albania also served that purpose ..."

It is superfluous to detail further everything which came out of that wholly vassal relationship to the occupier, a relationship which was wrapped in a glittering foil of deceit and which the backward, indoctrinated people of Albanian origin experienced as the path to the fulfillment of their longings.

It is known what an occupation brings and what it gives. How a person relates and reacts to it depends on the self-awareness of the individual and the majority of the people. It is a shame to have to say that the Albanian national minority of Kosovo and Metohia behaved towards the occupier with benevolence and with hopeful expectation.

As late as December 1944, no success had been recorded in forming a single Partisan brigade whose composition was predominantly made up of inhabitants of Albanian origin. Their response until that time had been only in groups, detachments and other similarly small units. In addition, it should not be forgotten that by December 1944 the victory of the Allies was already certain nor that the number of personnel in each Partisan brigade was less than that of a peace-time battalion, namely, in 1944, there were no more than nine hundred soldiers. Accordingly, the contribution of the Albanian minority to the struggle against Fascism was minimal.

On the other hand, in the case of the pursuit of a detachment of a few dozen men commanded by Fadilj Hodza in 1943, the Italian authorities easily mobilised 10,000 Albanian volunteers. This fact only illustrates the mood and orientation the consequences of which are felt even today.

Although there is no special reason in connection with our theme to deal further with the occupation period, there are, nevertheless, some crucially important and, in their consequences, fateful events which we should not overlook.

Firstly, directly following the occupation and the "uniting" of Kosovo to the similiarly occupied Albania, all Serbs and Montenegrins who, after 1918, had settled in the Kosovo region of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, then called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (SHS), were expelled. The land and property of the expelled families were distributed by the occupation authorities among newly-settled Albanians. In all the literature and publicist material since the liberation in 1945, those expelled people are called colonists which is not only a misnomer for that category of people but is also a word with pejorative overtones. Namely, in this case it is a question of citizens of the Kingdom of the SHS who were enabled (and helped) to settle in their own state, on land abandoned by the erstwhile invader (the Turkish empire) most of which was uncultivated and neglected and so which needed to be cleared and put in order. Let us also add, and life confirmed this, that it was a question of a hard-working and capable element which, for the first time in the history of Kosovo and Metohia, liberated the region from feudalism and brought about improved economic production both in agriculture and in the fledgling modern mining industry. It should not be forgotten that the mine of Trepca only began modern methods of production in 1932.

Let us open the second point with the statement that with the arrival of the occupier and the return of the land to the Albanian agas and begs, feudalism was brought to the twentieth century especially in agriculture. Having resumed their power, the ages and begs exercised great influence both on the political ideology and on political life, naturally in accordance with the ideas of those who had gifted them that power.

The number of those expelled has not been exactly established (the reasons for which are given in the next chapter) but the lowest figure cited is about fifty thousand people. The final count did not end with this number however. The next event that we will mention significantly increased the total.

It was natural that the Serbs of Kosovo and Metohia did not accept this forced expulsion because in leaving Kosovo they could not escape the occupier since all the Serbian territories were occupied and in any other place they would have had, as the popular saying puts it, neither house nor home whereas they at least had a roof over the heads in Kosovo. That the expulsion of the settlers was planned and organised is shown, however, by the following facts. Parallel with the expulsions, spreading from the border to the interior, the mass burning of the settlers' villages in Metohia was carried out, the majority of them being razed to the ground. According to the data known to us, those burnings were started by Albanians who came to Metohia from Albania and they were joined by their co-nationals from Metohia who in the course of three months extended the burning of the settlers' villages to the whole of Metohia with the exception of Dobrusa and Vitomirica. In order that their plan be executed as effectively as possible, the expulsions from Metohia were channeled in a predetermined direction, through the Rugovo gorge via which it was possible to leave Metohia.

All texts dealing with these expulsions comment on this, finding in it confirmation that this persecution was well organised in advance because the Rugovo gorge was strategically the most favourable location for eventual extermination which, as is known, did not take place because it would have probably provoked fierce armed resistance which would kept the Serbs in the occupied Kosovo and Metohia region.

In connection with this, the slogan "an ethnically pure Kosovo " was used openly for the first time although this was not the first time as the readers of the previous pages have learned that such ideas were put into practice in these areas.

The next event that we feel we should describe relates to the rebellion of armed Albanian outlaws. Let us turn our attention to the time of that rebellion and the moment when it reached its height. Serious actions took place at the end of 1944 when Italy was no longer numbered among the occupiers and only Hitler's Germany remained and the most decisive actions were carried out at a time when the collapse of Fascism was more than certain and they continued even after the fall of the Axis powers and their defeat by the Allies. The continued rebellion in Kosovo caused the introduction of a military regime which would only be abolished at the end of June 1945. Since this rebellion was conducted by the hitherto active collaborators and adherents of the German occupation authorities it can with justice be termed the last Fascist action in the Second World War and simultaneously the first and only armed Fascist activity after the end of that war because it extended from the last days of the war through to the first days of general peace in Europe.

Finally, in concluding this chapter which has described the period from the collapse of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to the establishing of the Democratic Federative Yugoslavia it is essential to underline one consequence arising from the events of that time whose effect is felt even today. It concerns the transfer, settlement and emigration of two to three hundred thousand Albanians from Albania to Kosovo and Metohia which led to an imbalance, hitherto rarely created in such a short time span, between the Serbian people and the Albanian national minority in these areas.

Although the period which follows confronts us with completely new relationships and different problems, guided by the dictates of reality, we shall continue with the theme of immigration and forced emigration, that is, of a unique and specific variant for which it is very difficult to find a model anywhere else in the world. Among the broadest but, strange to say, very silent strata of Yugoslav society this phenomenon is called "the forbidden return".

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