kosovo.net: History kosovo.net home page
kosovo.net : History : Kosovo Origins

Kosovo Origins
by Hugo Roth


16. G. Djuvara, A Hundred Projects for the Division of Turkey, Felix Alcan, Paris 1914.

17. Landsdowne, Henry Charles Fitzmorrris 1845-1927, Fifth marquess of Landsdowne, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

18. Dr. Vladan Djordjevic, Arnauti i velike sile (The Albanians and the Great Powers), pub. Tfg. J.M. Pavlovic & Co., Belgrade 1913.

Secession as a Hosanna

For some of the peoples of the Balkans Yugoslavia was only a temporary refuge. With the change in world political thinking it suddenly became an insurmountable obstacle to exactly those peoples which had so lightly and painlessly succumbed to the enticing promises which offered them an easy route to "Europe". Especially desirous of a "return to Europe" were the remnants of all those former fascist and extreme right-wing regimes now dispersed (but organised) throughout the world. When at the end of the sixties nationalists from Yugoslavia made ever more open contacts with their emigre predecessors in ideological separatism abroad, these contacts with those agitators who were drawn mostly from the ranks of the defeated in the Second World War gave full rein to the various plans whose ultimate aim was secession.

Associated in joint activities abroad, they also joined together for united actions in the country. For the Albanian national minority in Kosovo, the road to this kind of association was marked by a special divergence. Of course, this divergence was not an indication of the breadth, democratic virtues and fullness of their views but was exclusively a matter of their indiscriminate choice of allies and the acceptance of all possible "partners" in pursuit of their aim of separating Kosovo from Serbia and joining it to the single state of (Great) Albania.

The Albanians themselves did not have to say much about their branches in Germany, France, USA, Switzerland etc. since the press in those countries wrote about them because with their vociferous propaganda and public demonstrations the Albanians there tried to draw media attention to themselves. It was a similar situation in neighbouring Albania and, naturally, in Islamic countries but considerably less was known and heard about the extraordinarily well-prepared and organised centres in Slovenia and Croatia.

It sounds unnatural that a national minority whose intention it was to dismember and destroy a state received support for their aims from officials of the government of that same state. Namely, according to the constitution and according to logic, the last place to which the Albanians should have been able to turn would be the very government structures of the country which they were intending to destroy: It seems, however, that even logic has its reverse side which belongs to the well known arsenal of political games.

The plans of those holding power in Slovenia and Croatia gelled with the aims of the secessionists in the ranks of the Albanian national minority according to the principle - let us destroy Yugoslavia together!

The plan was realised. Secession succeeded. Yugoslavia was split up. Even Macedonia and Bosnia-Hercegovina managed to reap the benefit of that secessionism for themselves but as far as the Albanian national minority, that is, the Shiptars, was concerned its twoway connections and joint activities with Slovenia and Croatia was only one-way for these latter. When activities of this kind are successfully carried out, they always lead to the division of the country in question. As the saying goes in this part of the world, the Albanian national minority worked in this process of division to the advantage of their own detriment and so it is clear why the leaders of the Albanian conspiratorial parties in Yugoslavia so stubbornly claimed and assured the Shiptars in Yugoslavia that the secession of Kosovo was as certain as the falling of a ripe pear.

This division of Yugoslavia that has now taken place is neither the first nor, we are sure, is it the last in this region. The number of such divisions can be counted in the hundreds and this is really no exaggeration. We will confirm this with just one example which will also be very useful in showing us what role Albania played in the division of Turkey. We should not lose sight of the fact that the territory of Albanian then, that is, at the time of those divisions, was chiefly part of the Turkish empire.

The division of Turkey was the centuries long dream of a really large number of European and non-European countries. Some characteristics of the Turkish state, its government, its way of ruling etc. were factors which determined not only Turkey's being but also its relationship towards other countries and their relations towards it. We shall list some of those more important characteristics. First of all, the Turks were not indigenous either to Asia Minor or even less to Europe. The Oguska tribe, the Turks' predecessors, only arrived in Asia in the eleventh century, penetrating further west in the thirteenth century and, consequently, they were, in a way, new arrivals and for many peoples they were also intruders.

Soon after their arrival the Osmanlis launched campaigns of conquest and already by the thirteenth century Turkey had reached the Sea of Marmara, Gallipoli, Byzantium and Thrace and quickly even further. Right at the outset they thwarted the Crusaders' campaigns for Jerusalem and the Holy Land thereby earning from western countries the opprobrium they had already acquired from eastern ones (Russia, Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia). Hand in hand with its territorial expansion which spread ever deeper into Europe, Turkey also began to propagate its religion, still new at that time in Europe, as did the Arab invaders in their campaigns on the western and southern flanks of Europe, in Sicily, Algeria, Tunis, Spain etc., and there is no need to mention the possessions Turkey acquired in Asia. With these conquests, Turkey became a world power capable of opposing many of the moves made by the European powers. It is worth noting that the European countries started early with their plans for the division of Turkey but achieved no notable successes while Turkey remained a powerful state and it was still a world power in the nineteenth century.

We can find the most comprehensive source concerning the numerous plans for the division of Turkey in T. G. Djuvara's excellent book A hundred projects for the division of Turkey.16  The writer of this book which was published in Paris in 1914 was indeed very well qualified to deal with this theme. Djuvara was a Romanian diplomat who represented his country in Constantinople in his capacity as plenipotentiary there and he was also the Romanian diplomatic representative in Belgrade, Sofia, Luxembourg and Belgium.

We shall cite from his book some of the characteristic projects relating to the division of Turkish territories in the Balkans. Of the hundred projects which are dealt with in the text, eighteen are illustrated with maps of which some relate to the division of Turkish territories in Asia, some in Africa and the rest in Europe. The Balkans receives the most attention and so we have the opportunity to describe the European plans for the carving-up of Turkey aimed not only at ejecting the Turks from Europe but also securing a role and place in the Balkans for the European powers themselves.

Characteristic of the relationships of the great powers of the time was their attitude towards the newly-arrived, still incompletely formed but potentially dangerous power, the Turkish state. Already in 1270 Charles II of Sicily proposed the division of Turkish territories in the Near East in favour of the Crusaders. We shall not, of course, linger over this example since it deals with territories other than those which we are discussing but we mention it because it is an example which shows how early was the appearance of the need and desire for the diminution and elimination of the influence of the new power from territories which fell within the sphere of interest of particular European countries.

The speedy inroads made by the Turks into Europe and their successful conquest of European countries, even as far as central Europe, pushed European states into resisting the Turkish breakthroughs. However, while some openly opposed the Turks both militarily and politically, others, depending on the current disposition of strength, either concluded pacts opposing the Turkish enemy or openly jumped to aid them with military force. These political and military manouevrings continued and still continue to the present day.

We shall here cite the most typical and most significant proposals for the carving-up of Turkey but only those relating to the region of Kosovo and Metohia and the territories which today comprise Albania.

One of these proposals whose importance and significance was proportional to the rank and power of the person who put it forward came from the French king, Louis XIV. This proposal was made in 1685 , just two years after the defeat of the Turks at Vienna which made the proposal particularly apposite because the Turkish invasions and conquests had reached their high-water mark and there now ensued the indeed slow but, nevertheless, gradual retreat and diminution both of the territories held by the Turks and of their prestigious influence on world events.

The proposal is of interest because of several crucial points. The first relates to the conviction that it was possible to liberate Constantinople from the Turks, the second to the call that only France, Poland and Venice participate in the division of Turkish possessions and thirdly and finally that this proposal provided for the "unification" of the areas of, looking from the north southwards, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Dalmatia, Macedonia, Albania and Epirus, which would belong to the Venetian republic.

Louis XIV's proposal met with stiff resistance from England, Spain, Holland and Germany. This opposition resulted in a watered down version of this proposal from the French in the following year, 1686, according to which the possessions wrested from the Turks were to be divided amongst ten states - England, Austria, Spain, France, Venice, Poland, Portugal, the Vatican, Modena, Parma and the Maltese Knights. The architect of this "softer" version was Jean Copin, the French consul for the countries of the Near East. His proposed division of Turkish lands was similar to that of Louis XIV but the most important change was that Serbia together with Macedonia and part of Bulgaria appeared as a separate territory detached from Bosnia, Dalmatia, Montenegro and Albania and not under the patronage of Venice but of Austria.

With regard to this proposal of Jean Copin, also known as Pere (Father) Copin, it is particularly necessary to stress that his plan was not only derived from the proposal of his sovereign, Louis XIV, but also from his own text which bore the very suggestive title "Le Bouclier de l'Europe" (The defence of Europe!). It is symptomatic that another project (that of the Marquise D'Argenson) appeared half a century later in 1738 bearing the same warning title "Les Boucliers" - the Defenders!

The next crowned heads to propose plans for the division of territories taken from the Turks were the Russian empress, Catherine II, and the Austrian emperor, Josef II. Their 1722 agreement for the carving-up of Turkey was very simple as is shown in map no. 17 on which their proposals are marked. All Turkey's European possessions were to be divided between Russia and Austria with Turkey keeping only Asia Minor except for Constantinople which was to go to Russia. Their plan 
to divide Turkey met stiff resistance, principally from France, and came to naught but the royal personages did split up Poland. Despite the fact that their plans were not realised it is worth noting that the proposed border between Russia and Austria almost exactly corresponded with the eastem border of present day Yugoslavia except that part of present day Greece's eastern territory just south of the Strumica river was given to Russia.

Not long after this still-born attempt, in 1777, the secretary to the prince of Moldavia, P. De Kara, inspired by the geo-political aspirations of Prussia, proposed a new plan for the division of Turkey. With this plan, Prussia attempted to thwart Russian aspirations, limiting her to the possession of the Crimea, Georgia and eastern regions of Asia, including parts of China, but preventing her from access to the Balkans. According to De Kara's plan Prussia would get Bessarabia, a part of Romania and stand between Russia and Austria. The latter would get the northern Balkans while the central region (Albania, Macedonia and Rumelia) would go to Venice and the southern part (Greece and the Aegean islands) to France.  This proposal too, of course, was not realised because it had more opponents than beneficiaries and Turkey was still fairly well established in the Balkans.

It is interesting that in 1788 there appeared in a manuscript of the French historian and philosopher, P. de Volney, a kind of simplified version of the plan put forward by the Russian empress Catherine and the Austrian emperor Josef dividing the Balkans in two with a geometrically straight line along the axis Vidin - Corfu, one half for Austria and the other for Russia. This line divided the south of present day Albania from the north, with each ruler receiving their share.

A completely new approach appeared in the first half of the nineteenth century in the proposal of the Greek diplomat and first Greek president, J. Capodistria (see map no. 19). For the first time, according to his plan of 1828, there is no room for a single non-Balkan state in the area south of the Sava and Danube rivers (to Orsava), east of the Una river, then from Orsava along the upper edge of Romania southwards to the farthest southern tip of Greece. Only Croatia, Slavonia, Dalmatia and Vojvodina stayed under Austro-Hungarian rule. The rest of the Balkans was to be divided into five kingdoms, Dachia, Serbia, Macedonia, Epirus and Greece, and Constantinople was to be proclaimed a free city.

Map 8: The proposed partition of Turkey according to Kapodistria

Two elements stand out in this proposal. Firstly, that not only Bosnia and Hercegovina were to be within the Serbian kingdom but also the northern part of Bulgaria as far as the Black Sea. This second point (Bulgaria as part of the Serbian kingdom) can be understood if it is realised that Capodistria sent his proposal to the Russian emperor Nicholas, hoping for the latter's sponsorship. The second specific element relates to the kingdom of Epirus which would consist of the old Epirean territory, including the whole of present day Albania and the part of Macedonia south of Tetovo and Skoplje (which remained within the Serbian kingdom) together with a part of northern Greece.

It is clear that Capodistria clearly understood the significance of Karadjordje's struggle to free Serbia and the Balkans of the Turkish yoke as well as the scope of the Greek Heteria of which he himself was a member. All of this demonstrates that the significance and challenge of the Serbian uprising went far beyond the borders of Serbia and was a stimulus for the liberation of the entire Balkans.

Let us mention in passing that Capodistria had his followers of whom one was A. C. Dandolo whose plan  was a modification of Capodistria's, introducing, among other things, a kingdom comprising Cyprus and other islands in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. His plan separated Bulgaria from the Serbian kingdom, joining it to that of Epirus, and the free city of Constantinople was no longer to be the border city between Europe and Asia Minor because his plan provided for the return of the European area around Adrianople to Turkey. Dr. Dandolo presented his ideas in the book Quelques mots sur la question d 'Orient (A few words on the Eastern Question) which he published in 1853.

The last proposal which we show in map no. 9 already leads us into the twentieth century. The author of the plan is unknown (as are the authors of some other plans which have not been mentioned). Something is known, nevertheless, of his origin and his field of expertise, namely, that he was of Romanian nationality and was a member of his country's diplomatic service. He proposed the creation of a confederation of Balkan states in the area of the former Turkish Balkan empire to be divided into eight zones: Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Greece. It is interesting that while independence is foreseen for the other states, this Romanian diplomat establishes a form of autonomy for Albania and Macedonia because he entrusts their rule to an Italian governor!

Map 9: The porposed partition of Turkey according to the unknown Rumanian diplomat

With this move into the twentieth century we conclude this review of some of the proposals for the division of Turkey or, to put it more precisely, of the attempts to replace Turkey with some other imperial power in the Balkans, to eject Turkey from the Balkans altogether and, finally, that the other imperial powers who had pretensions to and tried to establish their rule in the Balkans should experience the same fate. However, there are still some other specific points which need to be noted of which three are particularly crucial. The first is that not one proposal provided for some kind of independent or secessionist Kosovo and Metohia. The second, even more important, is that no-one ever proposed that Kosovo and Metohia be attached to Albania and, finally, the third shows us that right into the twentieth century no-one seriously considered constituting the divided Albanian tribes into an independent state and not even the Albanians themselves attempted this because, let us not forget, the 1878 League of Prizren spoke only of autonomy within the framework of the Sultan's empire. The academic, Milorad Ekmecic, gives a general appraisal of this in his book The Creation of Yugoslavia in which he says: "Characteristic of the Albanian national movement of 1878-1903 is the failure of attempts to integrate itself under the leadership of the educated intelligentsia by way of cultural and political institutions. Split into Christian and Moslem parts, not even that cultural elite itself was in a position to reconcile the two opposing tendencies in forming a new nation - one European which wished to establish an independent Albania as a European nation, the other, Moslem, which could not detach itself from the Islamic tradition and its Ottoman state heritage. At the crossroads of two centuries, the Albanian movement found itself on the defensive - it had to reconcile all of its projects with the developing Macedonian question and the moves of the Great Powers in the Balkans. It was a time that saw the onset of social anarchy reflecting popular distrust of the state system, local rebellions which could not be merged into one national mould and outlawry."

This does not mean, however, that there were not external suggestions and efforts to create an illusion of an Albanian national community but these were always as a counterbalance to another, rival, side with the aim of frustrating that rival's plans.

One of the first proposals for an independent Albania came from the English diplomat, Lord Fitzmorris 17 in 1880 an account of which is given by Dr. Vladan Djordjevic in his book The Albanians and the Great Powers (Arnauti i velike sile).l8 According to the plan of the English diplomatic service Albania was to consist of parts of present day Albania with the addition of parts of Kosovo and the vilayet of Bitolj.

This proposal is hardly mentioned in political literature because the proponent itself (England) was unusual since, at that time, Britain did not intercede for the Albanians at all in contrast to Austria and Italy who were the most prominent champions of Albanian "interests". Existing and operating in both these states at that time were state institutions responsible for the alphabet, language, writing, books, national propaganda etc. of the Albanian people.

In spite of all of its activities undertaken for the "benefit" of the Albanians, however, Austria was the country which energetically opposed the English idea. The reasons for this opposition, on the surface contradicting the Austrian position and propaganda in favour of the Albanians, were clear and easy to understand. The Austro-Hungary of that time had no need for any kind of Albanian state because it possessed all of Bosnia and Hercegovina, the Sandzak and that piece of territory which leads from the Sandzak to Mitrovica and so it was convinced that it could itself take Kosovo and the Bitolj vilayet. Austria particularly relied on this because the territories it held at the time divided Serbia from Montenegro and the Serbs in some of its Balkan possessions from the Serbs in the Kingdom of Serbia and so it did not expect an unpleasant surprise from that quarter. In addition, by opposing the English, Austria kept the favour of Turkey while simultaneously setting Turkey against its latent competitors, England and Russia.

Just thirty years later, on August 14th 1912, the Austro-Hungarian diplomat, Count Leopold Berchtold, circulated a note seeking autonomy for the Albanians with several more elements of independence than were contained in Lord Fitzmorris's proposal. When Austro-Hungary made this request, however, neither Kosovo nor the Bitolj vilayet were any longer in the game. In the face of the onrush of the united Balkan states an attempt had to be made to save what could be saved. The card played by Austro-Hungary was Bulgaria and a planned new state of Albania and, it has to be admitted, it succeeded in both cases. Already in 1913 Bulgaria found itself in opposition to the other Balkan countries and by the beginning of 1913 Albania was already a recognised state. These successes, however, were only short-term because the beginning of the First World War was in the offing and its finish confirmed the disappearance of Austria as a great power from the stage and, therefore, from the Balkans. There was simply no longer any Austrian rule in the Balkans. 


<< Previous | Home | Next >>

Copyright ©1999 kosovo.net.
All rights reserved.