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

Kosovo Origins
by Hugo Roth


19. Aleksandar Stipcevic, Iliri, Zagreb, 1989, Skolska knjiga, p. 192

20. M. Suic, Illyrii proprie dicti, yr. CBI XII, 1975, p. 181

21. Fanula Papazoglu, Ilirska i dardanska kraljevina (The Illyrian and Dardanelle Kingdom) SANU, Belgrade, 1988, p. 165

Toponyms - the Witnesess of the Centuries

Toponymy is often used and yet more frequently abused in different nationalistic political games and efforts to prove rights to territories or possessions in the past. In the so-called "romantic fervour of the young state of an ancient people" and at a time of an obsessive industriousness aimed at convincing the world of an unbroken genetic line from the Illyrians to present day Albanians, every state institution dealing with propaganda, including academic institutions like, for example, the museum in Tirana, was enlisted in this task. The survey of the locality in that Tirana museum as well as the entire exhibition was directed at proving a longitudinal connection between the prehistoric Illyrian settlements and present-day population centres in the area of Pre-Illyria. Since that exhibition was of an internal educative and propaganda nature it was, so to say, unnoticed by the rest of the world. 

On the other hand, another exhibition held in July 1988 in Hildesheim near Hannover under the title "Archaeological treasures from Albanian lands" was the first of its kind to be held in a foreign country. With respect to the general thrust of the exhibition, however, the approach was no different. In their brochure, the organisers explained that with the Illyrians began the history of the Albanian people, descendants of an ancient tradition which can be measured in millennia. 

The German media displayed an ironic restraint towards the "proofs" of the Illyrian origin and uninterrupted continuity of the Albanian people. One article had the subtle heading "The people who want to rewrite history". Archaeological excavations are indeed the source for extraordinary material as is shown by the great number of findings and evidence beginning with that which shows that in a particular area there were people, settlements, nations etc. However, for proof of uninterrupted historical and genetical continuity over a period of six thousand years (the oldest object exhibited is so dated) someone is needed, if nowhere else, at least in the Balkans, who knows considerably more facts and evidence about the many migrations, different tribes and great admixture of populations than that which was on offer at these exhibitions. 

Among the missing facts are, in the first place, written texts and documents, in a word, paleographic material, and, alongside that, toponyms. It cannot be said that suitable attention has not been paid to these questions and that they have not been the subject of numerous investigations both by foreign researchers and by writers from Albania and Kosovo but the lack of so-called positive results is the consequence of two very important factors both of which we shall cite. There are no ancient texts of Illyrian origin from any Illyrian sources whatever: "The reason for this lies in the fact that not one text in that language, not one single sentence in the works of classical authors or even on stone monuments has survived to the present day..."19 

Identical testimony is also to be found in the text of Milutin Garasanin who cites M. Suic who also emphasises that a unified national awareness could not form among the IIlyrians because they were an "illiterate society" with a marked degree of provincialism. 20 

Most of what is known about the Illyrian language comes from Greek and Roman sources which mostly relate to personal and oronime names. Yet even this is insufficient to provide a firm basis for an uninterrupted link between the Illyrians and contemporary Albanians. 

The case is different with regard to the other element mentioned - toponyms. They are more precise witnesses to the presence of specific ethnic communities within a limited locality or a broader area inhabited by some community. Before any conclusions are drawn, however, it is necessary to establish guiding principles in respect of the possible consequences arising from knowledge of toponyms as proof of somebody's presence in a particular country. 

Toponyms are indeed the witnesses of the centuries-long presence of a people, preserving the names of settlements, individual geographical features, historical events etc., but toponyms of themselves cannot decide the affiliation of territories to contemporary political-administrative, state entities. The decision as to whom particular territories belong can and should be made by the personal choice, that is, by the self-determination solely of the nations who live on them. The purpose of the data which we shall present, therefore, is not documentation pro or contra but a scientifically based confirmation of proven facts. 

The majority of the toponyms in the Balkans are of Greek and Roman origin with the exception of some settlements with very ancient names, for example, Singidunum, the Scordian name for Belgrade, but this is completely understandable given the long duration of established Greek and Roman themes or provinces in the Balkans. Since it is the relationship between Albanian and Slavonic toponymy which interests us, however, we shall devote the following pages to this. 

Let us repeat, citing yet one more source, the fact about Illyrian illiteracy: "Since the IIlyrians and Dardan did not develop literacy in their language the only written memorials of theirs which remain to us are Greek and Roman inscriptions on stone..." 21 

This will make it easier for us to understand the above-cited detail that the predominant toponomy was Graeco-Roman. With the penetration of the Slav tribes, however, in the main starting from the fifth century AD, Slav toponyms spread more and more, reaching also to the south of the Balkans. By the ninth century, a great part of present day Albania was already covered with Slav, mostly Serbian, toponyms. We will show the extent and duration of this phenomenon according to the results of our investigations which demanded much patience but which enabled us to gather an imposing number of several hundred Slav toponyms in Albania from maps (scale 1:100,000 & 1:200,000) of the 1920s and 1930s. We rejected all those toponyms which underwent linguistic change, that is, Albanization, whereby the Slav form was altered in its outward expression. In order to avoid any confusion we have retained only those names whose form still shows today their origin and there are over three hundred of these "pure" toponyms which we shall now list. 

Baba Babin Babinja Babja Balaban Banja Bastare Bastrice Bezani + Belgrad Belice Belje Belove Belovode Berzeste Bistric Biserka Bistrica Bistrice Blace Bobostice Bodin Bodriste Bordani Borici Borje Borova + Borovjani Bradosnica Bratomira Breska Bresnik Brezdan Brostani Budisa Bukmira Buzgara Valjana Valjusa Varvara Veles Veljcan Gora Vernica + Vila Vodica Vojnika Vrakule Vranista Vranista Vrepska Vulcani Gabrica Gajtani Glava Gline Golem Golemi + Golik Goloberdo Goljovisti Gorica Goroselj Gostiviste + Grabom Grabova Grabove Grabovice Grabovo + Gradac Gradec Gradiste Gradiskije Grazdani Grazdenik Graliste Gracen Gracani Grace Grozdani Gruda Darda Debrova Desmira Dobra Dobric Dobruna + Dragan Dragavoja Draginje Dragobija Dragostun Dragove Dragus Draci Dracove Drasovice Drenove Drovjani Drugana Dusmani + Dvoran Oeriste Zepa Zupiste Zagora Zagorican Zagradec Zagradi Zagradcani Zapat Zaradiste Zavaljan Zvezda Izviri Izgara Izgoralec Jablanit Janjan Jezerces Jerka Jubica Kamare Kamenica + Kamicani Kamnik + Kapica Karista Kasarna Kilaziste Klena Klenja Klisari Kovaci Kovaciste + Kovacica Korite Kosan Kosina Kosmaci Kosovec Kosovo Kosteni Kostenja Kostican Kotor Kosarista + Kosovica Krajni Krasta Krstac Kula Lepusa Leskova Leskoviku Leskovinu Lesnica Lestice Livadasi Livadi Likova Lisan Lovina Lozani Logavista Lopusa Lubinja Ljesani Ljivadi Ljubonje + Mali Mucalj Maliseva Malibarde Malina Manastirec Memlista Mecka Milica Miljusi Mirovna Mocani Moglice Mogra Monastir Negovani Nepravista + Niksi + Nikolara Nikolica Nikoijica Nivice Novasela Novoselo Oblika Osojna Padina Pastani Pepeli Pestani Plana + Plovista Podgora Podgorani Podgori Podgoria Podgradec Pogradec Pojata + Polidani Poposina Porobani Potkozani Prekal Prekali Prenista Prodani Radan Radicina Radimiste Radimniste Rajce + Rahovice Rastan Rec Redi Recit Rodokalj Rovica Sama Sanista Sebista Selca Selec Seleka Selence Selenica + Sepetova Slabinje Slatina + Slova Sopot Sovjani St. Javore Stani Staravec Stare Starov Starova + Stebilova Stranik Strelca Suha Suhodoli Sv. Dimitrije Ternova Topljana Torovica Trasani Trebinje Treske Tresova Trosan Tuceni Ulova Uljmiste Ustinje Cerkovica Cernjeva Catiste Cesme Coban + Siroka Sistevac Skola Stit Sticeni Sumica

(the + sign alongside the name of a place indicates that the same name appears on the maps two or more times for different places). 

We have already pointed out to our readers the fact that a not inconsiderable part of the fabric of the Albanian people is woven from the Slav people so that such a large number of Slav toponyms should come as no surprise. However, this is not a complete list of Slav, that is, Serbian toponyms. I have already said that only those forms which today point to a Serbian origin are given so that I draw the reader's attention to a precise map marked with Serbian toponyms on Albanian soil composed by the Bulgarian academic, A. Selisgev, for his book Slavyanskoe naselenie v Albanii, Sofia, 1931 and which was republished in the anthology Iliri i Albanci by the Serbian Academy of Arts & Sciences (SANU), Belgrade. 1988, p. 230. The knowledge that for decades the Albanian authorities have claimed there is no Serbian national minority in Albania, however, will probably remain an open wound for Serbs and probably the chasm born of these marked contradictions will continue to stimulate hurtful and painful memories of an altered and lost part of the Serbian people. 

With regard to Kosovo and Metohia, on the other hand, for which we have given detailed demographic and statistical data, the situation is different to an unbelievable degree. 

Namely, in that area there is not one single toponym whose origin could be found in the Albanian language. All of the toponyms in that area which in historical literature was designated as Old Serbia are either Serbian or Slavicised Roman names and the Shiptars who live there today call some villages either by names translated into Albanian or use some Turkish names arising from the time when these regions were under Turkish rule. 

This unique and indisputable fact that there are no Albanian toponyms in Kosovo and Metohia evidently does not fit in with the numerous demands, statements and wishes of the secessionist parties and chauvinistic Shiptars and Albanians because they have always constantly avoided this theme. 

<< Previous | Home | Next >>

Copyright ©1999 kosovo.net.
All rights reserved.