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Kosovo Origins
by Hugo Roth

  

5. Milan Sufflay: Pravoslavlje i katolicizam u Albaniji (Orthodoxy and Catholicism in Albania), in Catena Mundi, Belgrade, 1992.

 

Non-Albanian Elements Within the Fabric of the Albanian People

The Albanian people has had a great number of neighbours during the course of its existence as well the previously mentioned wars waged against them, naturally in the region which is designated as the historical area of the Albanians. According to Dimitrije Tucovic, one of the organisers and leaders of the social-democratic movement in Serbia and writer of the book Serbia and Albania, this area was "... in the main a complex of great mountains separating the fertile lowlands of Old Serbia and Macedonia from the Adriatic sea." 

The area thus described is not identical with that considered to be theirs according to the Pan-Illyrian variant nor does it lie within the framework of that area designated as "IIlirii proprie dicti", that is, Illyria in the narrowest sense of the word, the real Illyria. Not only the neighbours of the Albanians but also scientific experts as well as Dimitrije Tucovic locate the Albanian area in a region which is smaller than the surface area of the present day Albanian state. 

Namely, according to the facts cited, there is no longer any question of the distinction between Illyrian and Albanian which is precise and distinguishes the concept of Albanian from that of Illyrian. Not disputing that present day Albanians are descendants both of the Illyrian tribe, the Albani, from the region Arbanon (the Byzantine name, Raban in Serbian and Arbanum in Latin) but also of the neighbouring and close-by Thracians, Dacomoesians, Moesians, Dardani and the Romanised Illyrians, the Vlachs and finally the Slavs, the contemporary researcher places the native land of the Albanians in the mountains of central Albania west of Lake Ohrid and Debar to the hinterland of Drac and from the river Mat in the north to the river Skumbi in the south. 

Whence such a contradiction concerning the location of old Albanian lands between, on the one hand, the majority of the world's contemporary experts and, on the other, Albanian experts who rely on the German archaeological and linguistic school of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? It is clearly a conflict between two conceptions with that of the Albanians relying on the traditional German view whose concepts and principles were subject to well defined German nationalist and expansionist aims including that of keeping in check the Slav-settled lands which were always regarded as potentially hostile. 

The answer, in short, lies in the efforts of Albanian nationalists to give their historical inheritance the desired territorial prefiguration which is supposed to serve as an allegedly scientific postulate and justification for the right to the Illyrian lands as a whole. The world has already in practice been acquainted with such atempts. Let us recall only the actions of the Nazis in winning their Lebensraum. The similarities in aspirations are great but the way of realising them is, indeed, much less so but the latter is conditioned by possibilities or impossibilities and therefore the paths to realisation are different. 

The portrayal of this part of the Albanian-Illyrian connection and the whole aspect of this problem seems significantly more detailed than it could be taking into consideration that contemporary science has achieved an enviable concordance with the facts. However, since Albanian policy for more than half a century has based its activity and pretensions on the premise that the Albanians are pure Illyrians, that, accordingly, they represent an ethnically pure population, that they are the exclusive inheritors of the Balkan- IIlyrian region, that the continuity of the Albanians has been preserved unbroken for two to three thousand years and similar things, it has been necessary to cite those elements and factors which approach the question of the origin of the Albanians without succumbing to nationalist and romantic emotion and which do not insist on any tendencies other than those whose aim it is to arrange the facts into known and accepted truths. 

Before we begin with the presentation of what is known about the non-Albanian elements within the Albanian nation let us engage in an examination of the rationality of the Albanian viewpoint. Even if we start with the completely unfounded aspects of Albanian wishes and imagine that the Albanians are the descendants, ethnically pure and the only descendants of all the Illyrians, what, on the basis of that, is supposed to happen or change? Would this mean that the Pan-Illyrian area, regardless of how large that is, should be cleansed of all other peoples? Or would it mean, perhaps, that all peoples settled on that land should accept Albanian tutelage or accept them in the leading role or voluntarily abandon, that is, give up the land to them? 

Can any national theory, stimulated by national egoism, aspire to the introduction of some new principles into world relationships and not claim such unrealistic views not only for themselves and all other sides in the dispute but also for those outside? Finally, how would such demands be realised? 

However, let us leave these hypotheses which are not so harmless as they might appear at first sight. This chapter began with the sentence "the Albanian people had a large number of neighbours" and this requires a description of those neighbours and their influence on the Albanian population. 

We have to draw attention to the use of the expression Albanian "people" because it is an expression very rarely used when it is a question of borders. That is to say, when one talks about borders it is usually about the borders of a state. In this case, the expression "people" is intentionally used because the concept of state borders with Albania can be considered only from 1913. All earlier boundaries can only relate to the neighbourhood of peoples because the first state of the Albanians and hence the first state borders only date from the aforementioned year. 

In the Hellenistic period not even the term "people" can be used but only the word "tribe", that is, "tribes" and so we shall begin our review of the neighbouring tribes with map no. 4 which gives a visual representation of the disposition of the tribes in the Hellenistic period in the Albanian, Greek and our southern regions which means Kosovo as well. The map dates from 1884 composed by the Weimar Geographic Institute according to the famous Kiepert edition. 

There is no need to list all the tribal names on the map. Every interested reader will easily observe that a large number of different tribes are distributed throughout this area belonging to the previously mentioned ethnic groups, primarily the Illyrians, Thracians, Hellenes, Epirotes, Poeonians etc and, later, the Celts, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines and Slavs. The mixture of tribes clearly does not suggest ordered ethnic groups but the penetration of individual tribes into the Balkan region. 


Map 4: A map from the famous Kuipert atla drawn up by the Weimar geographical Institute and which shows the different and heterogeneous tribes in the area of the ancient region of "Albania"

It is characteristic that the following phase, essential to the understanding of the Albanian-Illyrian conundrum, sees the virtual disappearance of the Illyrian tribes due to their Romanisation. The Illyrians no longer existed either as tribes or as ethnic and political communities and so they do not appear on maps of the Middle Ages portraying the political, historical or geographical situation of the time. 

Of significance during the period after the Romanisation of the Illyrian population throughout virtually the entire Balkans which had, until then, belonged to the Roman empire, was the formation of a certain number of strong independent states such as those of Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and others together with possessions belonging, amongst others, to the Hungarians, Venetians and Austrians. 

In that interval, thanks to Byzantine sources, the name Albanians is first mentioned from Ptolemy in the eleventh century (1079) and a significant part of the area they inhabited progressively but in a fairly compressed period of time came under the authority of Serbian rulers and administrators. 

However, even before those conquests, areas were gifted to Slav nobles and Serbs were even chosen to lead Albanian insurgents. This happened for the first time in the ninth century when, during his imprisonment in Prespa, the Serbian Zupan, Vladimir, married Kosara, the daughter of Emperor Samuil who bestowed him with the princedom in northern Albania. 

Fifty years later, the people "called out for emperor' Tihomir to lead an uprising against the Greeks in central Albania. Just before his death, Petar Dejan, an insurgent from Nis, united his warriors with insurgents from central Albania who also "cried out" for him to be "emperor". However, since something has already been said about other cases, we shall end with the last personality, the Despot Stefan Lazarevic, who, even during the time of the great Ottoman penetrations into the Balkans in the second quarter of the fifteenth century, succeeded in spreading the territory of the Serbian lands into that of present day Albania. 

In short, for almost four centuries certain parts of the territory which today belongs to Albania were under the authority of medieval Serbian rulers. The conquests of that time, regardless whether they were really conquests, could not be characterised as international conflicts in a contemporary sense, at least not in relation to the Albanian population of the time because the Albanians were then still not structured or constituted as a self-standing body. 

Let us recall that it was only in the fourteenth century that the name Shchipetar as the Albanians call themselves today first appeared among them and this was originally a family name in the city of Berat in the north of the country. The first mention of the Albanian nation was in 1595 when Marco Gini spoke about "la mia natione Albanese".(5) 

Let us add one significant detail to this there were neither independent nor even vassal Albanian state or feudal communities at that time, that is, at the time when Serbian rulers held authority over the Albanian area. 

All of this has been presented in order to explain the facts concerning the non-Albanian components which were woven into the corpus of the Albanian people. One thing is certain and that is that all those invaders established direct contact with the indigenous population which led to an admixture of different ethnic groupings and to part of the invading people remaining in the conquered territory. We have cited a majority of those peoples individually based on Kiepert's map and on this occasion only the Serbs are not mentioned and so we are adding them to the previous list on the basis of everything that has been said. 


Map 5: A map designating only the most important Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches in Kosovo. According to historical data (D.T. Batakovic: Kosovo, La spirale da la haine, p. 17,) there were more than 1300 of them. There is not a single one Albanian cultural or religious monument from the period before the Turkish occupation in the 15th century on the territory of Kosovo and Metohija.

 

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