|Projekat Rastko Gracanica - Pec: Istorija: Response to Noel Malcolm`s book "Kosovo. A Short History"|
Ljubodrag Dimić, Ph. D
Faculty of Philosophy
The scholars and professionals intent on getting at the heart of the relationship between the Yugoslav state and its Albanian population have for decades lacked both analytical research reports concentrating on various aspects of the issue, and large scale synthetical attempts aiming at a general perception of the phenomenon as a whole. In the last few years the picture seems to be somewhat improving. Outstanding world historiographies now "produce" historiographical literature dealing with the "Albanian question". However, this literature, resting as it does on analogies, stereotypes, general appraisals, "definite truths", simply runs counter to crucial scholarly methodological conventions, obscuring all kinds of truth. It complies with political commendations echoing an irrational "infatuation" with the topic and, substituting critical analysis of a historical phenomenon for subjectivism, annuls the demarcation line between facts and their interpretation. On the basis of such, "suspicious" knowledge, accusations are launched with an "intolerable facility", political actions supported, generalizations made, problems "understood", events "described", generations of students "taught", decisions made. Hence it is no wonder that tragedies are generated by a "literal implementation of what one has learnt". The dominant political, ideological and propagandistic discourse only occasionally approximates the scholarly knowledge. It is on those grounds that that type of literature to which the book of our colleague Noel Malcolm belongs, calls for a protest on the part of the professional historian.
There are many things in Noel Malcolm’s book deserving severe professional criticism. In the short section "Kaçaks and Colonists" alone, numerous "stretched" theses and "adjusted" conclusion of the author (that the kaçak movement was as a preeminently political phenomenon (?); that the earliest resistance of the Albanian population was a "spontaneous response" to the revanchism of the Serb army in 1918 for the retreat in 1915 (?); that military clashes in Kosovo and Metohija in 1918 were on a large scale; that the Albanians and Montenegrins in the district of Peć were involved in a joint resistance where 200 people were killed (?); that cruel reprisals were carried out by the Serb army in January and February 1919 in which 6,040 people were killed and 3,873 villages burnt down (?); that the kaçaks represented as a movement whose members were unarmed (?); that the terror on the part of the authorities were the cause and source of the kaçak movement (?); that the cause for the revolt and rebellion was the "fact" that Kosovo had never been legitimately integrated into Serbia (?); that the Albanians, not being the citizens of Serbia, had a legitimate right to disobedience to an authority which was "illegal" (?); that the Albanians had had a "developed" school system which the Serbian army uprooted (?); etc). In this review we intend to critically analyze only two points central to the book Kosovo. A Short History. After all, in similar forms – as assertions, axiom which are self-evident, propositions which are accepted for granted – those two points occur elsewhere in literature (both Albanian and Serb). It is not our intention to underestimate Malcolm’s "effort", or to analyze the one-sidedness and propagandistic character of the historical sources he uses, his "research methodology", or the motives behind the writing of such a book. It seems to us more important to draw the attention of the reader to the complexity of the processes and the historicity of the events of which our colleague Malcolm voices his "assertions".
Noel Malcolm is right diagnosing national discrimination of the Albanians in culture and education. Yet, that story is simplified at best, deriving as it does from an one-sided and incomplete analysis of the "measurements and actions" which the state apparatus of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was trying to implement in the education in Kosovo and Metohija. In doing so, the author ignores the totality of the relationships of the conservative national set up of the Albanian society, closed for all external influence, distrustful in relation to anything modern on the one hand, and on the other hand to the educational policy of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Malcolm did not find it necessary to carry out a thorough analysis of the patriarchal, clan and family relationships characteristic of the Albanian population, of their life in the fis and the "household" communities, of their spontaneous self-sufficiency and dependence on collective experiences, common law regulations, forms of their internal relatedness and solidarity characteristic of that patriarchal set-up. Only such an analysis he could been enabled Malcolm to reach more reliable conclusions concerning the readiness of the Albanian society in Kosovo and Metohija to accept the state and its educational policy. Genealogical yarns about their common descent, tradition, collective memories, legends, ancient customs, clan consciousness, but also the existence of common estates (pastures, forests, waters), as the material background of a life uniting all blood clansmen into an economic community, the vestiges of feudal and steam families (zadrugas) and the çiftçi production relationships, in addition to an extensive economy, the principle of a primitive exchange of goods, and so on – these are only some of the additional elements standing in the way of communication and making it impossible for the integration of the Albanian society into the social, economic, educational and cultural currents of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The existing historical elaborations of those issues have also ignored the archaic views of the Albanians, their ethical and moral norms of behaviour, general illiteracy and the overall, the decisive impact of these on life style, thinking and responses of the collective community. The institution of the ruling and authoritarian stratum (agas, beys, elders), the exclusivist policies of Islam, the Şeriat. The Turkophile and Turkophone feelings among the urban Albanians, faded cultural habits, the absence of tradition, the influence of Italy, and so on, all these only reinforced the conservatism of the Albanian national set-up and produced its antagonism to the state as well as its distrust in every influence, including the educational-cultural influence.
Was the Yugoslav state the only responsible factor? – As for this, perhaps a testimony more telling than any other is an attempt of the Islamic Religious Community to make education "the foundation and only way to promote the religious and cultural principles of the sublime Islam" among the Albanian population. A series of proclamations to the Muslims in the South, some of them translated "into Albanian" – into the Albanian dialect spoken there that is – "intended to enable our imams in the South to make our Muslims aware of the outstanding importance of literacy". It was emphasized that "the initiative must be taken by ourselves", in other words, that the imams themselves must do their best to eradicate the causes responsible for such difficult circumstances, and that the "religious officials know best that the Muslims themselves are the most responsible ones in this respect: their failing to be aware and ignorance of the importance of education as well as their serious prejudices pertaining to schooling." Only second in importance were, according to the Ulema-Mexhlis in Skoplje, a low economic level, poor functioning of educational authorities, insufficient attention by religious officials and bodies.
What was the educational policy of the Kingdom (of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) in Kosovo and Metohija like? For the state and national minorities, the question of schooling and education was one of the decisive questions – because it concerned the vital interests of both the state and national minorities themselves. The particular political aspirations of the state community, organized in a unitarian way and composed of a variety of cultural and historical legacies, with its uneven set-up of cultural and educational institutions (in the first decade of the existence of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, in the wake of former times, education was regulated by as many as 37 different laws and acts), called for a school which would be able to carry out its educational and cultural integration function adjusting itself to new circumstances and at the same time safeguarding the interests of the state.
The school was designed to educate young people in the spirit of national unity, loyalty to the King, the Karadjordjević dynasty and the fatherland. That testifies that, in the educational policy, the state-national moment prevailed over the "cultural-pedagogical" one. Through that educational policy, the state and national interests were to be safeguarded and two essential tasks to be accomplished: 1) the state language was to be spread and its position reinforced, elementary literacy encouraged, knowledge of the past improved, this being not merely a national but even more a state and social-economic issue; 2) the faith in beneficial effects and necessity of schooling, studying and acquiring of skills. This conception of educational policy of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia) did not differ from those of other European countries of the time, not even from the educational policy in the Kingdom of Albania. The educational policy vis-à-vis national minorities was determined by the realistic politics of the state, so that the endeavor to safeguard the State and national safety through schools and education at the same time prevented the cherishing of national individuality and national culture from being abused for political purposes. On the other hand, national minorities, including the Albanian minority, found that school and educational laws and their implementation were the "indispensable basis and essential prerequisite for their own cultural and economic survival and development".
It is also the duty of the professional historian to subtly analyze and give an appraisal of the issue of the education of the Albanian population. That issue cannot be either grasped or accounted for by falling upon propositions and conclusions deriving from formal-judicial norms valid in the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The discussion of that issue needs to include the reasons that determined the national and state policies in education, an insight into the educational policies of the Islamic Religious Community, a closer study of Yugoslav-Albanian relations, a thorough insight into British and Italian Balkans policies, an empirical comparison between the proclaimed and the real. In terms of formal legality (internationally recognized agreements; St. Germaine Treaty with Austria of September 10th, 1919; Minority Protection Agreement of December 5th, 1919; state-legal obligations: the Constitution of 1921). The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was legally responsible to provide its religious, ethnic and language minorities with "appropriate privileges" in elementary education and, on "certain conditions", the teaching in their mother tongue. That legal obligation, though, lacking precision and clarity, gave the state authorities and legislator the right to decide on the modalities through which the minorities would be provided with elementary school teaching in their mother tongue. Legally, that matter was never definitely settled in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The "rationale of the state and national" policy was accounted for by the educational authorities of the time by "vital concerns of the state and the nation", by "vital concerns on which the peace and development of the state and the nation depend", by the "deficiency of the Arbanas (Arbanenses) teaching personnel", by the "absence of willingness and desire among the Albanian population for education", by the need to make, in the areas where "our population" was for centuries subject to permanent oppression and de-nationalization implemented by means of schooling in the language of that state", to make education "sufficiently national" in the areas threatened at one and the same time economically, ethnically and culturally, and so on. Such a position was reinforced by the rejected request on the part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia) to the Peace Conference that all the territories of the Kingdom of Serbia should be exempt from the Agreement on the protection of minorities and that its provisions should apply only for the territories joined to Serbia (to the state of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes after January 1st, 1913). Considering the Agreement of the protection of minorities as violation of her sovereignty, as an imposed obligation, and as a burden which the great powers (England, France, Italy, Japan) had not accepted as their own, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes endeavored, and in the case of the Albanian population succeeded, in ignoring and overlooking the stipulations of that Agreement.
An insight into the archival evidence related to the cultural and educational situation in Kosovo and Metohija in the early decades of the twentieth century clearly shows that the claim that during the Austro-Hungarian occupation the Albanian culture flourished and that the coming of the Serbian army brought that "progress" to an end is definitely untenable. Before 1912 in the area of Kosovo and Metohija there existed state Turkish-language schools (Sibian-Mektebs, Iptidan-Mektebs, Ruzdis, Idadias, Medreses) and national-confessional schools. Among the national-confessional schools a special status was enjoyed by Catholic-Arnaut schools, in which teaching was offered in the Arnaut language and Latin writing. The status of the schools in the Turkish school system was guaranteed by the circular De propaganda fide (1880) by which the Vatican authorized Austro-Hungary to protect the Catholics in Northern Albania and Kosovo and Metohija and intercede with the Porte on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church in matters of freedom of religion, the right of the Catholic clergy to religious service, the right to repair the existing and erect new churches, as well as the right to open confessional schools. Austro-Hungary maintained the Catholic-Arnaut schools in Kosovo, Metohija and Macedonia through its consul in Skoplje and the Catholic bishop in Prizren, using such educational concessions to spread its political propaganda among the Albanians. The Catholic-Arnaut schools were opened in Prizren (two for boys and two for girls), Ziuma (provisional), Uroševac (for boys), Stubli (for boys), Đakovica (coeduational), Peć (co-educational), Zlokućani (for boys), Budisavac (for boys), Skoplje (four grade).
After the Balkan wars, in the years 1913-1915, the Catholic-Arnaut schools resumed their activities undisturbed, serving the political purposes of the Habsburg monarchy. It is striking that these schools did not try to increase the numbers of pupils attending them (Stubline 18, Uroševac 12, Skoplje 36, Prizren 164). The Turkish state schools were officially closed and state Serb-language schools were established instead. The new administration did not manage to carry out its intention in full, so that a number of mektebs, tekkes and other schools attached to mosques and other buildings used for religious purposes continued their work. In state schools all courses, except religious ones, were taught in Serb. For Muslim children a preparatory pre-school grade was introduced in which only the language was taught. Religious instruction for Muslim children was in Turkish and Arab languages. Some statistics say that 2,245 Muslims attended the state schools in the new areas. The Austro-Hungarian rule in Kosovo and Metohija was too short-lived (1914-1918), and under almost unbearable, war circumstances, no "blooming" of the cultural-educational life of the Albanians was possible. The rights in education granted the Albanian population were solely of propagandistic character. The Catholic-Arnaut schools continued to function as before. For the first time, Arnaut-Muslim schools were established. Available sources do not corroborate the claim of Albanian historians that approximately 300 schools of this type were established. A study carried out by the educational authorities of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918-1919 mentions only a few Albanian-language schools using the Arab writing. None of these schools survived the war. The same reports mention a larger number of Turkish religious schools in which religious instruction was in Arab (as "the holy language") and Turkish. Responding to frequent demands of the imams in the South that Muslim children should have at their disposal Turkish-language schools, the Ministry of Education issued a special circular (September 3rd, 1919) placing a ban on the "opening up of Turkish schools", which did not mean closing up of the already existing ones. This circular, signed by the education minister Svetozar Pribićević on August 23rd, 1920, ordered that "all non-national schools… stop functioning as of 1 September 1920". The aforementioned reports of the Ministry of Education do not mention Albanian-language schools.
The state schools should also be mentioned. For the sake of "enlightening the people", the educational authorities of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia tried to contribute to the educational and political integration of that ethnically heterogeneous area, by opening up, as soon as the Kingdom could afford it, elementary schools and various types of elementary, secondary and higher schools. In the regions inhabited by the Albanian population, but also by the Serb population, the state established circa 1,4000 schools, 486 school buildings were erected, over 100 libraries were put up, circa 2,000 teachers were employed. In 1924-1925 the schools were attended by 14,415 Muslim and Albanian pupils. According to the statistics covering 1927-1928, there were 72,243 male and 232 female students of Albanian origin. In the schools in the Vardar Banovina (a regional unit), in the academic year 1929/1930, in the classes composed only of Albanian children there were 4,092 boys and 148 girls. The available statistics show that these students received religious instruction in Turkish and Arab, but also in Albanian.
In contrasts to state elementary schools, which attracted only a minor percentage of the Albanian children of the school age, the Muslim religious-educational institutions were attended by almost all Muslim children above the age of five. The curricula of Sibian-Mektebs consisted of the basics of Islam, religious ritual, the students were trained in the reading of the Koran. In fact, in the Islamic world, Sibian-Mektebs are not considered to be real schools but are rather viewed as a set of courses using as textbooks the Koran (in the "holy", Arab language), the Koran primer (in Arab), and The Conditions of Islam (in mother tongue), whereas, owing to the age of the trainees, all necessary explanations and comments are given in the mother tongue of the pupils. Such schools in Kosovo and Metohija, as school supervisors have recorded, employed about 50 muftis and about 600 imams, "among whom none knows the Serb language, but all were raised in a spirit hostile to us". This was why the authorities were distrustful in relation to this type of schools. During the dictatorship period (1931-1934), 451 new Sibian-Mektebs were opened, and the same tempo continued during the next few years. Another type of Muslim schools were medreses, in which teaching was partly in Albanian. In these schools many books in Albanian published by the Albanian Muslim Community were used. In 1927, the number of privately supported medreses was increased to 73. The educational authorities reported that privately supported medreses, "without which in South Serbia there is almost no town… do not serve our state in the least" and that their students had almost no knowledge of the state language. It should be added that before the new Law and Statute of the Islamic religious community were passed (1936), the educational authorities had an impact on the teaching regime in the Muslim religious schools. By these documents, only the Ulema Mejlis in Skopje became responsible for this type of schools, for their curricula and syllabi and for religious instructors. One should add that the educational administration annually provided circa twenty scholarships for the Albanians, subjects of the Kingdom of Albania. The Vakif Centre in Skoplje also granted a substantial number of scholarships (between thirty and a hundred) for studies at the University of Belgrade. All this shows that the cultural-educational emancipation of the Albanian population was also under way thanks to legal activities, in spite of the exclusivist policy of the educational authorities. The state was not ready to meet the needs of this population of its citizens to a larger extent, but, on the other hand, the Albanian society itself, in the grip of its clan and religious conservationism, did not try to communicate with state authorities. Under such circumstances, education was clearly given a "national and political role" to an extent exceeding the role adequate to it. To examine this phenomenon thoroughly, to analyze it and state the findings of that analysis impartially, using the universal language of science, that is one of the tasks of the profession simply disregarded by Noel Malcolm.
Everyday life of the Yugoslav state in the areas inhabited by the Albanian and Serb population abounds in terror. Noel Malcolm is right stating that, but he is goes astray concentrating only one of its faces. What do the surviving historical sources show? The crime typology in the territory of the Third Army Zone includes as striking items: murders, suicides, attempted murders, armed robberies, robberies, treason, espionage, kidnapping, raping, banditry, arson, assaults, cattle rustling, property appropriation, burglaries, frauds, disputes over land ownership and property, insults, and many other things. Everyday functioning of the civil and military authorities is strikingly marked by the mentioned criminal acts. The crucial characteristics of political, economic, cultural, religious and ethnic relations in that area are its day to day, precarious nature.
The crime reports covering the regions, districts and municipalities of the Third Army Zone, preserved only for the early four months of 1920, stress a high rate of murders. The names and crime locations indicate that the majority of both the victims and felons were the Albanians (Muslims). They represent as much as 78.3% of the persons murdered. The number of murdered Serbs was also high, the available evidence showing that it was 20.81%. Other victims represent only 1.16% (only in two cases the victims were identified as Romanies or Turks). The total number of the murdered persons included women (2.89%). The victims included notorious outlaws and kaçaks (13.29%), but also representatives of military and civil authorities (9.83%). These included a large percentage of the Albanians – municipal officials, village mayors, village commissioners, gendarmes or their superiors (47.6% of all representatives of the authorities).
The available sources also show that the murderers were for the most part Albanians. Their share in the total of the murders was outstanding – amounting to 79.19%. Out of a total of the murders committed by the Albanians, the majority were committed within their own ethnic population. To be more precise, that share was 80.29% out of a total of the murders committed by the Albanians. The impenetrableness and autarchy of the Albanian society, a self-oriented and self-sufficient community, made it almost impossible for the authorities to fathom the motives for the murders. Nevertheless, in a number of cases, investigation found out that the motive was blood feud (17.52). In a clan society, blood feud is considered as a virtue serving to protect the individual and the family, but for a legal state that the Kingdom of Yugoslavia tended to become, it was essential to sanction the guilty and cut the crime circle. The statistics say that blood feud was the motive for approximately one out of three murders among the Albanians (3l.39%). The reasons were debts, individual hostility, disputes, old hatreds, misunderstandings and many other things. Women were often the occasion for murder. Abductions of women, raping, abuse of female members of the household, adultery, promiscuity, suspected infidelity, immorality etc, were the offenses that the patriarchal Albanian society sanctions severely. So it is no wonder that, in the available sources, those offenses occasioned 4.38% of murders. Also frequent were murders with theft as a motive, as well as murders committed for money, arms, property, estates and anything else potentially leading astray to robbery. The assaults on the representatives of the authorities and their murders were for the most part motivated. More often than not, they were acts of revenge accompanying disarmament campaigns and field searches. The violation of law naturally led to the animosity toward the authorities. A number of Albanians employed by the state was murdered (3.65% of a total number). The evidence shows that the authorities managed to arrest and sanction only ten murderers (7.30%). The others became outlaws, joined bandit and kaçak gangs, escaped to other parts of Kosovo and Metohija or left the country and found a safe refuge in the neighbouring Albania. So murders and punishment evasion were one of the essential generators of outlawry.
A mixture of morals, beliefs and law is discernible in every action of the clansman. Bes (word of honour) and disloyalty, guaranteed safe travel and surprise attacks, conspiring with the fugitives (kaçaks) and refusal of "bread breaking" (a symbol for refuge offering), the solidarity characteristic of the clan and fis as well as revenge resting on the principle "blood for blood, two heavy wounds for one death, a wound for a wound, murder for honour and face" – these were different faces of the clan morals and law. That way of regulating mutual relationships was by its nature in an irreconcilable conflict with the positive state law. Only seldom, depending on the interests of the moment and the status of the individual and his family, the state was allowed to take legal measures prescribed against the criminal. So it is no wonder that, in spite of the attempts of the authorities, in certain districts (Vučitrn, Drenica) investigation was efficient at least to some extent.
The evidence shows that the Serbs were the victims of Albanian murderers in 19.71% cases. State employees made up a significant percentage of the victims. Shooting at the Serbs representing the state authorities was tantamount to shooting at the state, public order, laws, institutions symbolized by those individuals. In addition, the murders of the Serbs by the Albanians has been accounted for by such motives as greed, cattle rustling, of arms and money robberies, land appropriation, intimidation, religious and ethnic intolerance, stirring up migration, interfering with the colonization and agrarian reform processes. The generator of the terror over he Serb population was a combination of the ethics of the clan society, identifying virtue with every action directed against members of another clan (ranking from murder, kidnapping, promiscuity and robbery to theft and deception), and the hostility in relation to the state tolerating only the customs which are not in conflict with the law, and religious exclusivity, as well as the enticing idea of Great Albania.
Only 5, or 2.89% out of a total of 173 murders committed in the Prizren, Metohija, Kosovo, Ohrid and Zvečan districts during the early four months of 1920, were committed by members of the Serb ethnic population. The available evidence shows that three victims of these were the Albanians, and two were the Serbs. The investigations found that the motives for the crimes committed by the Serbs against the Albanians were as follows: self-defense, greed and the victim’s status as a representative of the authorities. The motives found in cases of the murders of the Serbs by the Serbs were feud and revenge.
According to the reports which have been preserved, the authorities also had an important share in murders. The Serbs were predominant in the authorities enforcing law, but it was not unusual that on the local level if was enforced by the Albanians too. The available evidence shows that 17.34% of a total of murders were committed by of civilian or military authorities. In 96.66% cases the victims were the Albanians. The investigation reports say that the main motives for these murders were law enforcement and implementation of legal obligations. The military and civilian authorities killed 12 notorious outlaws and kaçaks (43.33% of all committed murders). No investigation was conducted of these cases. Three Albanians (10%) were killed during defense activities on the part of attacked military and police patrols. Twelve Albanians (40%) were killed on account of their resistance in the course of disarmament campaigns, household searches, for disregard of orders, and in skirmishes with the authorities. The killings occurred when chasing outlaws, during household searches, assaults on patrols, in attempted escapes, in self-defense, etc. One assumes that during law enforcement there were cases of stretching of their authority, arrogance, haughtiness, but in such cases no investigations were conducted.
In 8.67% cases (10 killed Albanians and 5 Serbs) the perpetrators of the crime were not identified – it remained unknown whether they were the Albanians, the Serbs or the law enforcement agents. One assumes that the motives of those crimes were for the most part greed, hot temper of the victims and their mistreating of others, outlawry, immorality. The bodies of the dead were found on the road, in the forest, in the field, in the house, and the investigations did not identify the murderers. The impenetrableness of the Albanian society did not make it possible to trace the murderers, whereas when the Serbs were the victims there were no leads which could at least determine the general course of investigation.
Plunders, robberies and thefts were a particular aspect of the terror which burdened the life in the areas of Kosovo, Metohija and western Macedonia. The available evidence for the first four months of 1920 record 206 offenses of the kind. Most frequently – in 69.42% of the cases – the victims were the Albanians (in 143 plunders and robberies). The targets of a high percentage – 25.73% of the cases – were the Serbs and their property (53 robberies and thefts). Frequently, outlaws and robbers also attacked police stations, hotels, courts of law premises, state stables, religious objects, foreign missions, etc. In some cases, out of revenge entire villages (such as Krnjine and Tučepi) were ravaged and burnt down.
As a rule, the investigations did not make a record of the social structure of the persons which had been attacked, robbed or suffered financial losses. In the agrarian society, most frequent victim was the villager, though in the towns thefts were increasing in number too. The target was particularly the population of artisans and businessmen, in other words those members of the population whose activities were inseparable from travel and which, carrying along their goods and money, was exposed the danger of being attacked by outlaws. A direct and indirect analysis of the occupations attacked and goods robbed shows that the target of the outlaws were artisans and businessmen (butchers, bakers, shoemakers, barbers, café owners, etc.). Whether the Albanians or the Serbs, they make up almost one third of a total of the victims of raids and robberies (28.64%), which exceeds by far the percentage of their participation in total numbers of the population.
It should be noted that theft in the clan society is considered as an offense which is paid for with one’s life, or as a virtue economically profitable for the individual, family or the clan. If the goods had been skillfully stolen from a member of another brotherhood or clan, the person who committed theft was protected by his fellow clansmen. There was no objective and impartial criterion for judging that kind of offense. An offense which was not accounted for was not considered as immoral. On the contrary, an offense accounted for stained the "face" and honour of the clan and was subject to sanctions. The clan society rejected with indignation the measures of the state authorities and its attempts to have the objective criteria of the law define what was lawful. The testimonies given during investigations or in state courts of law never yielded expected results because the witnesses, observing the customs, more often than not observed the interests of the party in whose behalf they had been summoned and disregarded the purpose of testimony – to reach the truth.
Anything could be the target of bandits and robbers – from barber tools and leggings to stable manure. Cattle were their favourite prey. Especially oxen were in great demand at illegal markets, so robbers most frequently targeted them. A branchy illegal cattle market and established channels of its appropriation, their transportation across the border and selling them abroad, made the investigation results in the majority of such cases quite meager. Horses and stallions, cows and calves, buffalo, sheep and lambs, goats and kids, were also in demand. Hundreds and thousands of heads of neat cattle and sheep and goats would simply disappear without a trace. Businessmen were deprived of all sorts of goods. Food was also in particular demand – flour, what, Indian corn. The prey included gold, jewelry, money, construction materials, oxen hide, bed sheets and quilts, dishes, carpets, laundry, clothing, footwear, pieces of furniture, arms and anything else of value. The evidence shows that the prices for the grabbed and stolen goods were different. The value of the goods and money appropriated in the notorious great robbery of the well-known Rajević trading house in Peć was estimated at 250,000 dinars. As a rule, a team of stolen oxen cost between 3,000 and 5,000 dinars, a cow – approximately 1,000 dinars, a sheep – approximately 120 dinars, 100 kilograms of wheat or a bag of flour – approximately 120 dinars. In contrast to the robberies in which businessmen or cattlemen were deprived of their food, money or cattle in some cases worth even several hundred of dinars, there were thefts in which the goods stolen was hardly worth several tens of dinars.
The ways in which the bandits and robbers got their prey were various. Ambushes and assaults on businessmen and travelers, cattle seizing, burglaries, tearing down household walls and fences, breaking into courtyards and stables, arsons, petty thefts and pick-pocketing were part of everyday life. The most frequent assaults on the part of organized groups of Albanian outlaws and robbers took place on the roads. They rustled the cattle from pastures, committed burglaries, robbed tradesmen and broke into their shops. Battallions of "organized Arnauts" were expert in smuggling, blackmailing and selling the rustled cattle. The starving soldiers grabbed food, broke into households and seized bedclothes, laundry, jewelry. The law enforcement did their best to decipher various handwritings of the culprits, yet these most frequently remained far from the hand of the Law.
Knowledge is never final, but anyway its substance distinguishes it essentially from "assertions" of the "final truths", well "designed" and "wrapped" models, easy solutions, facile answers.
1. The extant reports cover the area of the Prizren (5), Metohija (4), Kosovo (4), Ohrid (4) and Zvečan (4) districts for January, February, March and April 1920. The most frequent first names and surname in the reports are recognizably Albanian, but, due to the Serbian transcription, sometimes it is impossible to tell whether they are Albanian or Muslim. – AJ, MUP, 14-181-677; AJ, MUP, 14-183-677; AJ, MUP, 14-183-679, AJ, MUP, 14-184-680.
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