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Kosovo Origins
by Hugo Roth


26. Hitherto in the text we have only spoken of the first two leagues of Prizren and so we shall here offer only the most basic details about the so-called Third League of Prizren. That League was constituted on the 20th October 1962 in New York and its organisers were Shiptar emigrants from Kosovo and Metohia. The initial founders were Midhad Vranica and Ismet Berisha and the declared aim was for the joining of Kosovo to a Great Albania.

27. History of the Albanian Party of Labour, Tirana 1971 (Russian edition) p. 82

28. RAdosin Rajovic, Autonomija Kosova, Ekonomika, Belgrade 1985., p. 265  

April Days, 1987

Two declarations which we would like to mention contain the essence of the Shiptars' efforts and aims, that is, the essence of their aspirations which have stretched through three Leagues of Prizren 26, the kacak uprisings and rebellions to the oath sworn in 1936 at the graveside of the "Albanian patriot", Bajo Topulija, in Djirokaster by the young Albanian intellectual and future master of Albania, Enver Hoxha, and which he himself published: "There will be a struggle for.... the true unification of the nation!" 27

The second arises from the time of the Second World War when the Albanian masses supported the slogan of Fascist Italy for the "expansion of Albania", from the so-called counter-revolution of 1981 in Kosovo and Metohia which manifested itself in demonstrations and armed attacks to the statement of the present president of Albania, Dr. Sali Berisha, published on May 6th 1994: "at the end of the day, the international community must take concrete measures because sanctions, threats and ultimata are not enough. Encouraged by the hesitancy shown by the world, Serbia now can only understand the language of force, the sound of gunfire. It is still not too late for military intervention .."

Our understanding and answer is that here it is a question of the political marketing, ideology, nationalism, pretensions and vanity of the "great" leaders of the people but it is also above all an attempt to transform the developed, cultivated, resource-rich and agriculturally and industrially strong Kosovo and Metohia into an economic reservation for the uncultivated, desolate and poverty-stricken Albania.

The assumption of the Shiptar leaders from Kosovo and Metohia that, thanks to their pre-eminent position (the wealth of individual members of the Shiptar community in Yugoslavia, open lines of communication with all of the more important political world centres, established political connections with many states and diplomats) in relation to their motherland, the selfisolated Albania, they will have political predominance and be able to transfer the centre of their planned Great Albania to Kosovo and Metohia is illusory to an absurd degree. First of all this is because Albania would never agree to it and such a construction whereby Kosovo and Metohia would be separated from Yugoslavia but would have Albania "at its back" would be economically disastrous for both, that is, for Albania and for Kosovo and Metohia. The variant, however, whereby Kosovo and Metohia would be attached to the Albanian political authorities, that is, to Albania, would be until the exhaustion of Kosovo and Metohia, a real boon for Albania but such a combination would be of short duration and so, on the basis of all that has been said, the following question sounds completely logical:

Would it have not been incomparably more natural for both the citizens of Albanian nationality and the Albanian state authorities to have opened up and to have concentrated on developing the economic, cultural, educational and other means and characteristics of their people instead of fuelling the misguided notion that all the economic woe and backwardness of that people would be resolved by the attachment of Kosovo and Metohia. It has to be realised, however, that this way of thinking was not exclusively that of Albanian leaders. They were directed to it through the centuries by the conquerors of their country - the Turks, the Italians, the Austrians - clearly completely in accordance with the typical attitude of all enslavers which can be comprised in the following sentence - let us buy your obedience and submission to our rule and in exchange we offer you your illusory right to usurp from others the fruits of their labours and to use the right to take possession of their land. This happened in its most blatant form during the Second World War when the enslaved Albanians from Albania and Shiptars from Yugoslavia "forded it" over Kosovo and Metohia while, in fact, working for the occupiers of both their own and of the Serbian people.

It is also necessary to add the following comment for the truth about Albanian aspirations for the lands of others: history has confirmed of old the once upon a time quiet but also the "not so quiet" infiltration and penetration of Albanian families, groups and clans from the Albanian homeland into the Kosovo Greek Epirus and Metohia regions. These influxes were inspired by the wish for the usurpation and use of fertile pastures, cultivated fields and meadows. In normal circumstances, such movements in the search for pastures within the bounds of a state does not represent anything unusual, anything out of the ordinary. However, when this is continually carried out not for reasons, shall we say, of a pastoral nature but with political, aggressive intentions with no respect for established borders then it is not surprising that one can expect that the wronged party will react and prevent, sometimes after the event, these kinds of assaults.

Nevertheless, this was never done in the case of the Albanian intrusions. Namely, in the state which "belonged to one man (and so it was even called Tito's Yugoslavia) not one of the series of different mass influxes of Albanian people into the territories of Yugoslavia was ever subjected to customary state measures, either administrative or of any other kind. On the other hand, to their astonishment and impotent anger, the Serbian "colonists", driven out of Kosovo and Metohia by the Fascist terror during the Second World War, were forbidden by a government decree of 1945 to return to the Kosovo and Metohia region. At the same time, that same government, making no objection of any kind, tolerated the settlement and continued residence in that region of all those citizens of neighbouring Albania who, under the aegis of the Italian and German occupation authorities, took advantage of the latter's benignity and encouragement and settled on Yugoslav soil.

It is wholly comprehensible that this kind of position corresponds with the aspiration of the Albanian leadership to take over this region so that this old homogeneous Serbia region would gradually be completely transformed into a heterogeneous area by means of increased Albanian settlement and their rapid birthrate and later, applying other methods, once more into a homogeneous area but this time formed of the Albanian national minority.

If we have offered an answer to the first question, and we hope that we have, then it remains for us to add this conclusion: the first "pastoral usurpations" of Serbian lands also had as their basis the aim of taking control of economic resources. At this point I would like to point out that the source of this kind of attitude should be sought in the influence which the Code of Laws of Leka Dukadjin had on that people. That law code laid down then (in the Middle Ages) that it was necessary to bow before those more powerful but to take from those who were weaker! The psychological effect of this message has permeated the consciousness of the Albanian people to the present day.

The second question which requires an answer relates to the problem of the attitude of the authorities and people in Kosovo and Metohia and, of course, in Yugoslavia towards the events in that region. Put simply, what has been the attitude, primarily of the Serbs, to the Kosovo and Metohia syndrome? Without any exaggeration, we are convinced that that relationship is the essence both of the entire problem and of its resolution.

It is not customary for conclusions to be cited at the beginning of the exposition of a problem under consideration but this time, however, we are forced to do so because many circumstances impel us. Simply put, the chauvinistically-minded Shiptars have operated in a compact, concentrated and like-minded manner whereas, in contrast to them, a veil of confusion has hovered around the Serbian population, preventing them from finding direction. This situation is, without a doubt, the product of the general attitude towards Serbia, that is, of the state organisation which arose after the Second World War by which Serbia was split into three - so-called Serbia proper, Vojvodina and Kosovo and Metohia.

This situation was tacitly accepted, the government had so decided and in some state bodies this was even formally adopted and it was clear to everyone that decisions which had come through Party committees would not change. This bothered the masses but confirmed government functionaries in the conviction that no-one would be able to change the direction of the actions which they had chosen and the measures they carried out. This does not mean, however, that all of their decisions were passed without a word of criticism or protest but, at that time, this was reduced to individual acts or, in the most optimal circumstances, to the actions of small groups of like-minded people.

One of the first people in the postwar life of this state to oppose a decision connected to the Serbian problem in Kosovo and Metohia was Sreten Vukosavljevic, a sociology professor and national deputy directly after the First World War who, after the Second World War, was minister for agrarian reform and colonisation in Tito's first government. He energetically opposed the famous law on the revision of the distribution of land to colonists proposed at the session of the Presidency of AVNOJ held on August 3rd 1945 declaring that the proposal for this law had not come from his ministry although his ministry was responsible for such matters. On that occasion he gave the prescient warning "... I am not in favour of making new mistakes, perhaps more serious ones, under the guise of correcting old ones!"

Today, one can only mention with sadness the words of that man who saw much further than many others who did not want to hear and so who had learnt very well how to "listen".

It is a well known and proven fact that exceptions prove the rule and so it was also in this case. Standing alongside Sreten Vukosavljevic was Marko Vujacic, vice-president of AVNOJ, who attempted to explain that the colonists were not some kind of"gendamerie of the old regime" which was one of the "arguments" used to "explain" the policy but that "... the greater part of the colonists in Kosovo and Metohia and Macedonia were peasants from Serbia and Montenegro who had left their hills and rocky plains and set off, hungry for land, searching for better conditions searching for better soil." 28

The outcome, alas, is well known. The law was passed. There was no place in Kosovo and Metohia for the Serbian colonists who had been settled there by the prewar Yugoslavia. There was even too much space for the Albanians settled there by the Italian occupation authorities but the indicator on the statistical scale moved clearly and to a large degree towards one side!

Also heard was the voice of the academic, Vasa Cubrilovic, historian and politician, a member of the "Young Bosnia" organisation which carried out the assassination of the Grand Duke Ferdinand in 1914, who warned in a report to the Serbian Cultural Club in 1937 that, by not settling Kosovo, the state was neglecting its own interests and was working against itself. He maintained this sobering view after the Second World War as well but, except for insulting and fierce attacks by Shiptar secessionists on his character, there were no reactions of any other kind.

One cannot and should not overlook the powerful public resonance of the declaration of the famous writer, later for a short time also president of Yugoslavia, Dobrica Cosic, at the 14th session of the Party leadership of Serbia in 1968, given under the title "A criticism of the ruling ideological conception of the national question'. His words struck deep at the Party establishment in Serbia and Yugoslavia and they brought serious repercussions for him but they also contributed to Dobrica Cosic meriting the title of being the greatest and most significant Serbian dissident.

One should not pass over some of his statements and prescient warnings from that time. Citing only some excerpts from the aforementioned speech delivered on the 29th of May 1968, that is, more than a century ago, we experience his farsightedness today as an insulting neglect of the truth with the ominous consequences which are still stalking us now.

The text which follows was also published in his book Stvarno i moguce (The real and the possible) in 1982 when the possible was being rapidly approached and I am reproducing parts of text because the possible has come to pass: "... I think that it is not possible to know how widespread is the belief that the formula 'self-managing rights and the self management of nations', in the name of state sovereignty as an expression of equality, in the name of nationality as a social priority, in the name of territorial autonomy, bears the concept of a primitive, disintegrated, particularised, inevitably bureaucratised and poverty-stricken society."

"...A thorough and objective analysis has not been made of the political situation in the provinces, particularly Kosovo and Metohia, a situation which, judging by all that is known, is burdened with severe problems and some regressive tendencies. We can no longer not know how widespread is the conviction in Serbia of the worsening of relations between Shiptars and Serbs, of the sense of imperilment felt by Serbs and Montenegrins, of the wishes of skilled people to leave Kosovo and Metohia, of inequality before the courts and the lack of respect for the rule of law, of blackmail and extortion in the name of national affiliation."

"...the true extent of the chauvinistic mood and nationalistic psychosis among the Shiptar people is not seen; the irredentist and separatist mood and aspirations among certain segments of the Shiptar nation is unjustifiably underestimated. Political truth is thereby not only being betrayed but an essentially problematic broad mindedness of the 'representative of the so- called bigger nation' is being displayed whereby the equality of the Shiptar people is being morally impoverished, equality in the responsibility for the progress and fate of the Republic of Serbia and of Yugoslavia, responsibility for co-operation and a common life together."

"...In the present conditions in the Kosovo and Metohia area only two forms of statehood are possible - Yugoslav and Albanian, that is, one or the other. A combination of the two having positive consequences is not possible, at least, not in the present circumstances."

"...The Serbs and Montenegrins did not usurp Kosovo and Metohia nor did they wrest them from the Shiptars in war and, consequently, they are neither occupiers nor conquerors. Kosovo and Metohia is the ancient and original homeland of the Serbian people. The Serbs cannot today base their national policy in Kosovo and Metohia on historical rights nor, naturally, on the concept of the Pec Patriarchate nor by retaining the present socio-political form and situation at any price. On the contrary. But the Shiptars of Kosovo and Metohia should also not forget that Serbs have lived together with them in Kosovo and Metohia for centuries, that the great works of medieval Serbian culture and the national liberation myth were created in this area, that the Serbian people made great sacrifices and gave an enormous amount for the liberation and advancement of Kosovo and Metohia, that nearly three hundred thousand Serbs and Montenegrins live there."

These are typical extracts from his speech but, instead of any kind of conclusion, here are the accompanying comments to the cited speech which are published in Cosic's book:

"Delivered on May 29th 1968 at the 14th session of the Central Committee of the League of Communists (SK) of Serbia at which inter-national relations within the Socialist Republic (SR) of Serbia were discussed. The leading political functionaries of the SR of Serbia and all speakers at this session fiercely attacked and condemned this speech as grossly nationalist, socially irresponsible and politically false. The speech of Jovan Marjanovic, professor of contemporary history who died in 1981 was also condemned."

There was also Jovan Sotra, writer of the famous letter to Tito about the situation in Kosovo and Metohia which made it impossible for anybody, least of all from the state leadership, to try to argue as a justification for their policies that there was no data about the happenings in Kosovo and Metohia or that "the factual state on the ground has still not been suffciently studied", a phrase which was often used for a lack of action or for the suppression of the facts.

Also worthy of mention are the names of Milos Sekulic, Blazo Radonjic, Novica Stojanovic and especially Kadri Reufi;, a functionary of Turkish origin who together with the aforementioned and many other Serbs defended the rights of the Serbs and who defended the rights of his own Turkish people threatened by the onset of Albanian national chauvinism which at that time, at the beginning of the 1 970s, was in full flight in parallel with the nationalist movements in the western republics of Yugoslavia.

It would not be good to leave someone out but, nevertheless, only those are mentioned here whose words or deeds were clearly distinguished in the maelstrom created by the frenzy and deafening hullabaloo of the Shiptar secessionists which would reach a crescendo with the cry "Kosovo - Republic". The aforementioned personalities were bulwarks in the defence which prevented a breach in the walls but they could not alter the course or tide of events, the time for that had not yet come. That arrived with the April days of 1987.

On those days, the 24th and 25th of April 1987, Kosovo was visited by Slobodan Milosevic in his capacity as the president of the presidency of the Central Committee of the SK of Serbia. During his talks with representatives (citizens of Serbian nationality) from Kosovo Polje, Gnjilane, Vitina, Klina and other places, fighting broke out, in fact an attack by baton-wielding police in an attempt to disperse the crowd which had gathered in front of the building in order to follow the talks between their representatives and Milosevic.

It is necessary to understand the circumstances in which that gathering was held. It was one of the very rare talks at the highest level which had been held with the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia for years. The gathering consisted of citizens who wanted to express their dissatisfaction with their status and the treatment shown them, especially by leading Shiptars. To put it simply, this was a call and a demand for protection.

It is clear that Milosevic found himself at the right place and that the stance he took and the declaration that he made launched the people on a campaign which led to fundamental changes not only in Kosovo itself but to changes which marked a watershed in the later state and political orientation of Serbia.

The newspaper, Politika, portrayed this, among other things, in a short text thus: "... Slobodan Milosevic sought to appeal to the people. There were no loudspeakers. The president of the Party went out to meet the crowd which was shouting "they are beating us, they are beating us!" To that Slobodan Milosevic replied "Nobody has the right to beat the people!" And then he declared "The use of batons does not come into consideration. The police aren't here to keep some kind of order, you yourselves are keeping it."

In his speech on that occasion Slobodan Milosevic said, among other things: "You're not going to abandon your land, are you, just because it is difficult to live there, because you have been forced to by injustice and oppression? It has never been in the spirit of the Serbian and Montenegrin people to yield in the face of obstacles, to become demoralised when it is necessary to fight, to become demoralised when the going gets tough."

This is a short but quintessential portrayal of the most important aspects of that crucial event. We have emphasised the sentence which was most often to be quoted later. This is also very understandable because this was the first time after forty or so years that something was said which in a very specific way denied the established policy, a policy which was not even publicly mentioned.

It seems to us, however, that this was not only the denial of a policy but that the real meaning of this cry was a call for democracy because to free the citizens of a country from repression, from the very fear of repression, is undoubtedly a significant step towards to democracy.

Strongly critical of the "growth of Serbian nationalism" in their consideration of the "situation in Yugoslavia", many people (primarily politicians and journalists) stressed that these events as well as those which followed were the heralds of new waves of anti-Yugoslavism, anti- Communism and anti-Titoism and the return of Serbian Orthodoxy and similiar things - in short, great changes. It seems, however, that one significant aspect of the new conception of the role which the Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohia displayed soon after these events was minimised.

This was the self-awareness, renewal and rejuvenation which led the citizens of that province onto the political stage even outside their territory and with their departure on protest meetings to Vojvodina in the north of Yugoslavia in 1989 they made a significant contribution to the movement which the Croatian and Slovenian readerships termed the "yoghourt revolution" and which led to constitutional changes of which the most important was the change of the absurd status of Serbia in Yugoslavia, that is, that the decisions of the majority of the Serbian people in Serbia depended on the consent given, or denied, them by the autonomous provinces. With the reduction of their autonomy to making decisions which affected only themselves and not the whole, the unified action of Serbia within the framework of Yugoslavia was made possible.

This together with other changes which primarily related to personalities would bring an end to a period in which Serbia was the hostage of the decisions of the national minorities in her autonomous provinces which had had until then the incomprehensible right of veto over all decisions of the federal authorities.

To conclude this short review of those crucial events and not to say that there was resistance both fierce and not so strong to this kind of resolution of the problem would be an oversight. Clearly the fiercest resistance came from the Shiptars and their mostly illegal organisations. Many in their ranks understood that their activities were at low ebb and so they tried to avert this with noisy action. Less strong but more subtle were the objections of political opponents from within the Serbian ranks who stigmatised these actions as being populist, nationalist and the rule of the mob. Their attitude sprang from the conviction that this modus operandi did not correspond with the needs and aims of democracy. Responses to this followed, of course, but it was important that these dialogues cleared the way for the development and establishment of the pluralism of ideas which is a very good foundation for democracy.


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