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Kosovo Origins
by Hugo Roth
 

  

9. Dusan T. Batakovic, Kosovo Migrations, Catena Mundi, Belgrade, 1992. 

10. Milan Kovacevic, Kosovski procentni racun, Catena mundi, Belgrade, 1992. 

11. "Raya" was a name for Serbian slaved population under the domination of the Turks - Moslems in Serbia. 

 
 

 

Comings and Goings

There is too much lacking to be able to give a full picture of all the migrations to and from Kosovo, the migrational movements in their lesser or greater proportions as they are termed by the most significant student of Balkan matters, Jovan Cvijic. However, independently of the population movements and those others known as migrations and without the relevant statistical indicators, it is well known that before the famous battle of Kosovo (1389), there were practically no Albanians in Kosovo and Metohia. A few permanent but mostly temporary Albanian settlements were to be found only the mountainous border areas. 

All descriptions of the Serbian lands before the Kosovo battle speak of the Serbian people and when the battle itself is described, historical records talk of Serbian soldiers, of several hundred Croats brought by ban Ivan Horvat, of an army brought from Bosnia by Vlatko Vukovic (up to 5,000 men) and of several hundred "Albanian mercenaries". Without paying attention to the small number of Albanians, the focus should be directed at what kind of soldiers they were. They were mercenaries and it is well known (even today) that mercenaries are not draftees but are brought from abroad because, as it was also said from olden times, "they serve another, a foreigner". 

Let us once more cite Jovan Cvijic and his findings which explicitly state that "After the arrival of the Slavs in the sixth and seventh centuries, the Albanians retreated to the mountains and the Albanian coast especially south of Skadar - there they remained in isolation, giving no sign of a national or state life. At that time they only made scattered crossings of the Crni Drim valley towards the east and perhaps very occasionally to the northern border of Epirus in the south." 


Serbs                 Shiptars                     Albanins

Map 6: Percentual relation between the Serbs, Shiptars and Albanians from the 13th to 20th century

Let us add to this opinion, more precisely, this scientific finding, confirmed and accepted in specialist circles, one authentic historical fact found in the Decani Charter of 1330 where it says that of the 89 settlements within the Decani estates which comprised of Metohia and surrounding areas, only three were Albanian and they were outside Metohia itself. According to the Decani Charter, of the 3,432 households only 44 were Albanian, that is, all of 1.80 %.9 

While on the subject of charters, let us add that according to rulers' charters of the fourteenth century, Kosovo and Metohia was the most densely populated Serbian land with about 1,300 churches and monasteries. 

The Turkish land record census of 1445 (keeping in mind that this was at the time when the Turks had occupied almost all of the Serbian lands) shows that in Kosovo there were 12,844 Serbian households and 46 Albanian ones.10 

We possess Turkish census records of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries on the basis of which can be established the existence not only of Serbian but also of Albanian surnames in southern Metohia but in northern Metohia and Kosovo only Serbian surnames are noted as the well known linguist and researcher of this region, Dr. Mitar Pesikan, points out. It is significant that for this same period and even for the seventeenth century Turkish maps show that the entire population of Kosovo and Metohia was Serbian. 

Preserved in the Vatikan archives are the notes of the Bishop of Bar, Marin Bicaj, from 1610 in which the bishop cites that the population of Kosovo and Metohia consisted of Orthodox, Catholics, some Turks but not Albanians. 

Yet, despite the fact that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Serbian inhabitants of Kosovo and Metohia still formed a distinct or, to put it a better way, an intact majority, the middle of the eighteenth century represented a turning point when a certain change in the demographic relationships in the Kosovo region would come about. Namely, the process of the Islamization of the Albanians had reached such a degree that as many six Albanians had already acquired the position of Vezier in the Turkish empire. 

The Turkish conquerors found a solid bastion and powerful support in the subjugated Albanian population, to use the language of the time, for "keeping the Serbian raya 11. obedient." Nevertheless, two contrasting conclusions can be drawn from the known historical facts relating to that time. Firstly that the Islamized Albanian part of the population zealously performed their appointed task and secondly that the "Serbian raya" just as enthusiastically resisted and struggled against the vise, something which can be easily deduced from the many visible signs of resistance - rebellions, outlawry and finally the insurrections which resulted in the successful Serbian uprising of 1804. 

The year 1690 represented the climax in the aforementioned turning point. That was the time of the Great Migration of the Serbs which moved from the south northwards towards Pannonia, that is, towards Austria and Hungary. 

Both in Kosovo and Metohia and in other regions the native population thinned out and the land emptied which the Turkish authorities used to reward the Albanian Moslems, settling them mostly in Kosovo and Metohia and in Sandzak. The demographic picture of these areas began perceptibly to change so that the Albanians became a more and more pronounced and representative element alongside the remaining original inhabitants. 

It is not superfluous to note that the Austrian authorities also attempted through the Catholic Church to acquire for themselves a favourable position both in Albania and in Kosovo and Metohia. Their success was partial and in their reports, Catholic Church inspectors state that there "is still a large Orthodox population in Kosovo and Metohia." 

The eighteenth century was the time of a significant Islamization of Kosovo. This time numerous Serbs succumbed to Islamization together with those recently arrived Albanians who had not come within its scope in Albania. When this is connected with the later migrations of the Serbian population during the period 1804-13, after the Crimean war 1853-6 and, finally, once more during the time of the "Eastern Crisis" 1875-78 then one has the essential outline of that which the policies of the so-called Tito's Yugoslavia would fill in and complete. The far-reaching decisions of that regime, however, will be described more fully in the next chapter. In the war which Turkey started against Russia, Serbia and Montenegro in 1876, almost all of the Albanians took the Turkish side with the honourable exception of two tribes, the Miridites and the Malisors, who resisted taking part in the war against the Serbs, supporting and showing solidarity with their struggle for liberation. 

At that time the situation was made more difficult by two significant events. One of these was the attempt by Imperial Russia to spread its influence deep into the Balkans giving Bulgaria in the San Stefano Treaty of March 3rd 1878 territory in the south west as far as the Crni Drim river valley. This episode was short-lasting and was ended with a revision of that decision at the Congress of Berlin in June and July 1878. The other event related to the forming of the League of Prizren in the same year which was a kind of response on the part of the Albanian people to the outside threat to the Turkish empire (?!) (from Italy, Austro-Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece) because it was thought that this also threatened the privileged status of the Albanian people within the Turkish empire. At the same time, however, this was also an acceptance of the nationalist demands which had appeared in the newly-awakened Albanian national consciousness. 

The precursor of that awakening was the feudal hero of the fifteenth century, Djordje Kastriota, the famous Skenderbeg. The resistance continued into the sixteenth then to the eighteenth and particularly the nineteenth centuries, in the latter in the form of armed rebellions in 1831-37, 1840-5 and 1855-69. 

Interesting is the dichotomy which appeared during those centuries - on the one hand, the Albanians peacefully accepted Islam while, on the other, their highlander, freedom-loving spirit fiercely opposed the Ottoman authorities which was just as difficult for the Albanians as it was for all the other Balkan peoples and which also meant material impoverishment together with both psychological and physical subjugation and humiliation. 

The Albanians say of themselves that they are the sons of the land of the eagles which, in a figurative sense, is a very attractive expression since it offers a picture of all of the characteristics which are ascribed to eagles. They are lords of the heights, rulers of the endless blue of the skies, the mightiest of all birds on the European continent. Furthermore, they are a symbol of the freedom to go where one wills and all of this comprised in one maxim marks them as rulers of the bird world. This symbol has indeed also been used by other peoples which is completely natural because other peoples also had the need to present themselves in the best possible way through the use of a noticeable symbol. However, because the eagle is essentially a symbol of power and might, we meet for who knows how many times with an inadequate judgement about ourselves. This is so characteristic of those who thirst for power which always seems somehow to slip out of reach. Let us return, however, to the League of Prizren and the relationship between the Albanians and the world with which they were in contact. The League of Prizren took some strange turns which spoke much of the still undefined aims and wants of the Albanian people. Namely, the demands of the League related to acquiring autonomy while retaining and preserving the sovereignty of the Sultan which also meant retaining complete Turkish sovereignty over the Albanians. As a kind of contradiction to this position, there are also appeared the demand that the so-called Kosovo vilayet be attached to the Albanian autonomous territory. 

This demand and position demands a twofold commentary. Firstly, it is a reflection of some extreme hopes and desires for conquest which show the unreality of the Albanian position of that time because that demand was absurd in expecting simultaneously to acknowledge another's sovereignty, that of the Turks, in tandem with a demand that the Turks concede to them one of their posses signs gained by conquest, the aforementioned Kosovo vilayet. 

As long as it suited her in this political game, Turkey supported Albanian demands for autonomy while, understandably, she did not want to hear a word said about the other demand, that Kosovo be joined to the autonomous area. However, shortly after relations with the European powers had been put right, not only did Turkey no longer pay any attention to the Albanian desire for autonomy but she also took fierce action against the League, stifling it in blood. The comment on the attachment of the Kosovo vilayet is more an answer to the contemporary assertions made by Yugoslav Albanians (Shiptars) that, during the time of the Turks, the entire Albanian-Moslem area was united, representing a unified ethnic region, assertions which represent pure self deception or the deception of their uninformed co-nationals because no-one has ever sought that something be attached to that to which it already belongs, that is, that which is already within the framework of its unified area. In marking out its possessions, namely, the Turks did not pay much attention to the conquered peoples but divided their empire into administrative units and in representing their territories on their maps, they were guided by the principle of when they were first conquered. 

The Albanians took advantage of the next opportunity for acquiring independence which arose as a consequence of the wars of liberation waged by almost all of the Balkan peoples in 1912, wars known to history as the Balkan wars and which were waged against the Turkish empire. The Albanians did not take part in them but they did raise a rebellion in Vlora (Valona), formed a provisional government, then proclaimed independence and, finally, acquired international recognition of their independence in 1913. 

However, we are obliged to portray the demographic changes which took place in the century preceding the acquisition of independence by the Albanian state. Here is an excerpt from the statistical table given by S. Gopcevic in chapter XX of his book, Makedonien und Altserbien:

The vilayet of Kosovo:
 
Serbs - Christians 415,300 Serbs- Moslems 236,420
Turks, Cirkassians & Yuriks 39,050 Albanians 106,270
Greeks 20 Tzintzars-Christians 1,170
Jews 1,750 Gipsies 12,380
 

The vilayet of Kosovo consisted of the following towns: Pristina, Skoplje, Gnjilane, Kratovo, Kocani, Stip, Tetovo, Palanka, Radovic, Kumanovo, Prizren, Djakovica and Vucitrn. 

The numerical relationships in the entire Turkish region of Old Serbia and Macedonia were as follows: 
 
Turks, Cirkasians & Yuriks 231,000 Serbs 507,820
Tzintzars 4,800 Bulgarians (Pomaks) 21,000
Albanians 130,000 Greeks 3,000
 

As can be seen from the data for the second-to-last decade of the nineteenth century (1880-90), the number of Serbs was still almost four times greater than that of the Albanians. However, this was just that period when the penetration of the Albanians became stronger and was more systematically carried out particularly with the intervention of Austro-Hungary who encouraged the Albanians to root out the Serbs (most actively between 1901-05) and it is estimated that from about 1880 until the Balkan wars, about 150,000 Serbs were driven out of Kosovo and surrounding areas. 

The first census held in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1921 gives the following picture: the number of Albanians in the (entire) Kingdom was 439,657 which was 3.67% of the population. 

Later censuses give the following numbers in relation to Kosovo: 
 
Year 1948 1953 1961 1971 1981
Albanians 496,242 524,559 645,605 916,168 1,227,424
Serbs 171,911 189,869 237,016 228,264 209,792

Some explanation is needed here, even the simplest, because numbers are easily forgotten but if we transform them into ratios then their effect is clearer and more understandable. Even a superficial glance at the table shows us in which direction it was moving and the trend displayed by the data concerning the numbers of Serbs and Shiptars in Kosovo. Let us compare it with the results from Gopcevic's books. In 1880, the total number of Serbs was almost four times greater than that of the Shiptars. According to the 1921 census, the ratio between the number of Siptars and Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia was fairly equal but there were still less Shiptars (although the demographic consequences of the Balkan wars and the First World War were catastrophic for the Serbs). The data for the following years expressed in percentages show that the ratio of Serbs towards the Shiptars passed into the so-called negative balance: in 1948 it is expressed as 2.88:1 in favour of a Shiptar majority! The data for 1953 give the ratio 2.76:1; for 1961, 2.73:1; for 1971, 4.01:1 and for 1981, 5.86:1 while later calculations point to a further trend in an identical direction. 

The fact that one century brought about an extremely unsatisfactory demographic situation for the Serbs in which, from a ratio of four inhabitants of Serbian nationality towards one Shiptar, it came to a complete "turnaround", in other words, that, in an unbelievably short time, it came to an unbelievable change in numbers in favour of the Albanian national minority (in the ratio of 1:6) can only be explained by the beguilement of the Serbian people into following a policy directed against their own interests. 

There exist data of the number of Serbs driven out of Kosovo from the end of the eighteenth century onwards. Also known are the general numbers of those who perished during the occupation of 1941-5 as are the approximate numbers of refugees from the Italian-occupied zones in Kosovo and Metohia. There are also details of the numbers of those killed in towns and villages etc. Then, fairly precise statistics have been gathered concerning the natality rate (according to these statistics, the Albanian national minority hold first place in Europe and they also hold a very high position on the world table). Also available are fairly precise data about the number of Albanized Serbs and even about Albanian citizens who, without holding Yugoslav citizenship, live in Yugoslavia (in part these are Albanians settled in Kosovo by the Italian authorities during the occupation and in part refugees from Albania from 1945 right up until the collapse of the old Yugoslavia). It seems, however, that there was never any systematic study of these data or that there was not supposed to be. All of this demonstrates that it is not a question of the usual reasons for migrations, because of economic, social or similar reasons, rather it is clearly a matter of a series of planned political and tactical moves starting with the Turkish settling of the Albanian Moslems, then the Austrian moves followed by those of the Italians and the Germans, then by Albania and finally on the part of the Albanian national minority in Kosovo. 

In order to have a better understanding of why and how Albania is encroaching on Yugoslavia, we shall have to return to some of the events which had a crucial role in the creation of the Albanian state. 

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