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Kosovo Origins
by Hugo Roth
 

     
 

 

A Crucial Phase in Serbo-Albanian Relations

The Turkish incursion into the Balkans and the conquering of the entire Balkan area, including the Albanian region (1479), signifies a new, characteristic phase in the understanding of Serbo-Albanian relations. 

The circumstances in which the population of the time found itself in the Albanian hills were completely opposite to those experienced by the Serbian people. The battle at Kosovo in 1389 in which the rulers of the opposing sides were both killed, the Turkish sultan Murat I and the Serbian Prince Lazar, and about which historical science has still not said the last word, was of multiple significance for the Serbs and has remained so until today. The losing of an independent state, several centuries of servitude, a tribute in blood and many other serious consequences attendant on an occupation plus one other specific circumstance when Moslem invaders are in question - Islamization, represents one side and on the other, faced with the threat of oblivion, the idea and spiritual consciousness was born for the need to exist and survive, for spiritual unity, religion and other elements indispensable for realising these aims. As far as the Albanians are concerned, the Turks easily conquered them and their country because at that time they had already submitted to a majority of neighbouring states and so further Turkish penetration of the Balkans was only a question of tactics and strategy. In addition, as has already been mentioned, the Albanian tribes were not united or homogeneous and so serious resistance was lacking. In those crucial years in the history of the Albanian people, however, resistance to the Islamization of the country was also lacking and so the Turks subjugated all of the Albanians and very successfully converted the greatest part of that people to Islam. On the other hand, the Serbs, although defeated, nevertheless succeeded in temporarily halting the Turkish invasion postponing the end of their statehood from the battle of Kosovo in 1389 to the final collapse in 1459. Instead of the customary lament for the fallen and what has been lost which inevitably leads to hopelessness and self- destruction, instinctively but, at the same time, in a considered manner, the most appropriate method of cure was found, unique for that time. Kosovo became a mythological symbol and the nucleus of an all-encompassing movement for self-survival. The feudal army commander, Vuk Brankovic, became that indispensable sacrificial goat which is so necessary for the successful catharsis of a people. The personalities of Milos Obilic who sacrificed himself in killing the Turkish sultan Murat, the two heroes of the battle, Toplica Milan and Srdja Zlopogledja, together with the historically unconfirmed personalities, the Jugovic brothers, a very inventively selected surname which foreshadowed Old Serbia in the south because freedom moved and took root in the as yet unconquered north, symbolise heroism. However, the historical figure of the almost insignificant Kraljevic Marko, indisputably a Turkish vassal, was used in a more eloquent and useful way as the figure of the defeated but "resurrected" hero which was better than some outlaw hero few of which there could have been in that first period immediately after the defeat. The defeated hero who conquers is a supplemental mythic variant of the wished-for avenger which enabled Kraljevic Marko in a changed role to be both useful and indispensable in preserving the national spirit of resistance. Popular tradition gave him as such to the people and to a belief in the future. This was successful thanks to the artful sublimation of an historical experience primarily into spiritual resistance. 

If one also adds to this entire complex the most significant mythological construction on which the Kosovo myth, in fact, rests and which is embodied in "submitting to the heavenly kingdom" and not the earthly one, then the poetic spirit of the people achieved its intended aim for which not even the glorious Serbian victory over the same foe only three years earlier in 1386 at Plocnik was necessary. 

Victory from defeat was achieved through a general defensive reflex and by means of collective oral poetry the entire people, exalting the Kosovo myth as the source of Serbdom and Serbia, succeeded in preserving it, unbroken, for over six hundred years. 

Since we together with the reader have finally found ourselves at Kosovo, an explanation is required as to why only now Kosovo appears as the main subject in this book which has the word Kosovo in the title. The explanation would seem to have to be very complicated, almost a justification, because if the theme and title is connected to Kosovo then the absence of the chief subject of the theme is not a simple matter but, nevertheless, in essence, it is. Kosovo only appears now because before the Kosovo battle there were practically no Albanians in Kosovo, that is, their numbers were so small as to be virtually negligible. From the disappearance of the Dardanians, Peonians and Thracians, Kosovo was from the beginning Serbian. It is important and significant that it remained Serbian even after being conquered and taken over by the Turks and even after the famous Great Migration of the Serbs under Arsenije Carnojevic, the effect of which is debatable, came and went. Or, in short, the modern Kosovo syndrome connected to the Albanians appeared only recently. It probably seems astonishing but it is, nevertheless, correct and indisputable that until recently there were never any serious conflicts between the Albanians and Serbs at higher organisational levels and discounting individual, incidental cases. 

 

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