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Kosovo Origins
by Hugo Roth

2. Dimitrije Bogdanovic
A Book About Kosovo, Knjizevne novine, Belgrade, 1990, p. 158

Unrealised Possibilities

When the desire for independence and for the expulsion of the invader flared amongst the majority of the peoples of the Balkans (among others only smouldered) in the fourth decade of the nineteenth century, the entire Balkans was divided between the Turkish and Austro-Hungarian empires except for Montenegro (which was independent) and Serbia which had wrested autonomy for herself.

A national programme for the complete liberation of the Serbian people was formulated in the 1840s and the role which liberated Serbia was to undertake. This idea first appeared in the Nacertanije (The Draft) of Ilija Garasanin in 1844. The liberation of all South Slavs was the chief aim of Serbia but within the framework of the liberation of all non-Ottoman peoples and together with them. Namely, Garasanin attached great significance to winning over the Albanians in a broad-based campaign against the Turks. In a memorandum to Prince Mihailo written at the end of 1860, he points to the need to work on detaching the Albanians from the Turks "... so that, in the event of an uprising, they would not impede the activities of the Serb-Greek alliance. Nevertheless, economic underdevelopment, cultural backwardness and the absence of any kind of national centre present a great difficulty." (2)

By stressing this citation, I am drawing the reader's attention to some characteristics not only of the economic but also of the cultural situation of the Albanian people of that time because this was not a period when the Albanian masses were calm but a time not only of frequent rebellions against the Turks but also of terror directed against the Serbs.

It is interesting that this was also the period when the uprising of the Serbs in the Nis region and the uprisings which that rebellion stimulated in other areas (southern parts of Serbia and parts of western Bulgaria) were quashed by the Turks with the help of the Albanians who were themselves also rebelling, both against the proposed introduction of a legal system on the European model (in Turkey) and against the Serbs for which the building of an Orthodox church in Vranje was found as a motive. That attempt to build the church provoked a shocking reaction among the Albanians, egged on by religious fanaticism, which culminated in them binding Serbs to trees and then setting them on fire.

Uprisings by the Albanian anti-reformists spread to several places, the Turks crushing an Albanian rebellion in Kosovo in 1843-4, another one arising in Djakovica in 1846, a rebellion by several Albanian tribes etc., until the ending of the Crimean war in 1856 when the Porte itself joined the Albanian anti-reformists. The period of quiet lasted only until 1869 when in that year and again in 1876, the disorders were renewed.

It sounds a little unreal today but during that time of terror, the Serbs saw the Turks as the exclusive cause of all of their tribulations and it was not until the liberation wars of 1877-8 that the first serious conflicts between the Albanians and the Serbs came about and the first hostilities between the Serbs and the main body of the Turkish army which was not composed of Turks but mostly of Albanian detachments. The numerical relationship between the Albanian and Turkish units in some sectors was as much as 5:1 in favour of the Albanians. On that occasion, in 1878, major Radomir Putnik for the first time liberated the monastery of Gracanica, the greatest Serbian medieval monastery which had until then been under Turkish rule. This first liberation, however, was of limited duration because the Russo-Turkish peace of Adrianople in 1878 required the withdrawal of the Serbian army to a demarcation line determined by Russian and Turkish negotiators.

A much greater misfortune befell members of both the Albanian and Serbian sides at that time and that was the waves of refugees who, depending on the battlefield situation, were fleeing from one country to the other. Around 200,000 Serbs from Old Serbia and Kosovo fled to Serbia as a result of Albanian and Turkish terror. After the Russo-Turkish peace at Adrianople, about 30,000 Shiptars whom the Turks had settled in the region of Toplica and southern Pomoravlje had to return to Albania.

Thus the situation remained until 1918 when Kosovo and Metohia was finally liberated from the Turks.

The interrelationship between Kosovo, the Serbs and the Albanians (in the sense of the Albanian national minority) was from the beginning some kind of litmus test according to which the "interested parties", in this case that meant deeply involved parties, carefully analysed the Yugoslav political scene in order to acquire for themselves every essential advantage for the preparation and realisation of their own activities. Today, after more than a decade has passed since the moment when planned and organised action for the breaking up of the Yugoslav community began and which caused and enabled the secession of Slovenia and Croatia to be carried out successfully, it is incomparably easier to analyse the events than it is to foresee when and how this intentionally provoked process of destabilisation, dismemberment and disuniting of what was once considered to be a successful uniting of the Yugoslav peoples will end.

Since we know that that process began at Kosovo, it is natural that we try to analyse how and why it started just there.

The first of the conclusions of an analysis of the Kosovo syndrome arises from the customary and logical premise that all the components of a crisis are necessarily interrelated. With some previous knowledge of the Yugoslav crisis, it is understandable why Kosovo was intentionally the first flywheel to be put into energetic motion. The role of Kosovo was to examine possibilities for creating ways and means for the secession of the western Yugoslav republics. The intention was so evident and transparent in its obviousness that all blame for the passivity of the political structure of the time lies at the feet of that structure's functionaries and exponents.

However, that initial assay also "contained" the final act, that is, the epilogue to the Yugoslav drama which, after fulfilling the aims of secession was supposed to execute the final strike at the body of the remaining Serbian community. It was not foreseen for the movement of the Albanian national minority that, being the first in motion, it should also be the first to be ended because their secession would have obliged the Yugoslav community to take energetic counter-action which, in practice, would have made the prepared secession of Croatia and Slovenia impossible. Indeed, as soon as the secession of Croatia and Slovenia was accomplished, interest in the Kosovo question was demoted from the headlines to the back pages under the possible rubric - now that you have done your job, stew in your own juice! It is very indicative that the side which was most active in stirring up and assisting in all the turbulence in Kosovo, even to the melodramatic sending of food parcels to rebellious strikers and similar things, now undertakes nothing, offering hardly even any "moral" support. The follow-on has been left to others which is a worthy indicator of the Slovenian and Croatian attitude and aims on account of which that work was done for them.

It remains only to explain why it was just the Albanians from Kosovo who have been left holding the hot.potato. The answer is not at all complicated but is in fact very simple. The Albanians of Kosovo are a national minority and the European democratic and pseudo-democratic public collect the most points for its charitable activities in the "protection" of national minorities. Therefore, any stirring up of national minorities in order to extort the fulfillment of any justified or unjustified demands can be of benefit only to a third party in the realising of its aims.

Another contributory factor to the flare up of the Yugoslav crisis was the disharmonious approach of the western powers to Yugoslav problems and their policies were born from this disharmony. That approach has been so well documented and explained that it remains only for me to recall that the scale of their attitudes varied from preserving the integrity of Yugoslavia to haggling over which of the federal units of that state be awarded which kind of new status and which should be put up to auction for eventual acceptance to the United Nations. It may sound blasphemous but let us recall among others that woeful Badenter commission and its conclusions and let us declare that all of that really was ultimately inconsistent and inconsequential but only on the surface and at the intermediate stages.

As a natural outcome of these attitudes it could be expected that those for whom it was necessary and who in this way conduct a joint world policy would leave a "handle" as a guarantee for continuing direct influence on the development of the situation and tactics in the region. This was indeed done and the remnant of the former integrated state was chosen to bear the burden and pay the price for the regional dispositions to be carried out. Yet, after the re-allocation of all the new members of the United Nations, what was left of Yugoslavia was left in a tragicomic position, neither recognised nor unrecognised, like a slowly heating pressure cooker but with the release valve in somebody else's hand.

It is probable that today there is not one objective observer who does not know what was intended with Kosovo from the very beginning. What was wanted was a potential flashpoint, always on hand for when it would be necessary and useful. Such an approach has led to what we have today in Kosovo, two opposing positions which with their means, methods and aims give direction to a significant majority of their respective adherents. These are today the Serbian community, already now numerically smaller but a state creator on the territory of their own state, and the Albanian (Shiptar) community, today more numerous but a representative of the international defined status of a national minority in the state of another people, in this particular case, of the Serbian people.

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