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K O S O V A
The Albanians in
Yugoslavia in light of historical documents
By Dr. S.S. Juka
edited in New York in 1984
Part: One | Two | Three
At present, nobody would think of considering the Slavs as
the descendants of the Illyrians. Nonetheless, in the first half of the 19th century, when
the nationalities problem - which before Napoleon was practically nonexistent - acquired a
preeminent importance, the belief that the Illyrians were the ancestors of the Slavs was
very strong.1 This conviction, which persisted in some circles until the turn
of the century and even beyond, evoked at that time much fervor and exaltation. These
feelings may be conveyed by a passage taken from Edmund Spencer's "Turkey, Russia,
the Black Sea, and Circassia" (London, 1854):
How flattering must it have been to a people (i.e. the Slavs) so long the bondsmen of the
Tatar and the Turk, the German and the Magyar, to be told in their own language (by the
preachers of panslavism) and in their own journals, that they were the descendants of
those illustrious Illyrians, who won by their valor the glorious epithet of the Slavon
(men of renown)2 from the great Macedonian chief - the conqueror of the world.
But all this was necessary - and much more that is fabulous and fanciful in their history
- to inspirit, to awaken a pride of race among a people who had been long sunk in abject
slavery ... (p.43).
In "Travels in European Turkey" (London, 1850): E. Spencer gives an account of
the Illyrian Empire:
...The Illyrians founded an immense empire extending from Epirus ... to the Danube and the
Black Sea and comprehending the whole of the maritime coast of Hungary to Venice and
Triest, with Istria, Carnolia, Carinthia, Styria, and Friuli... History and tradition
affords us many interesting details of the battles of the Illyrians with the ancient
Greeks and the Romans... Napoleon was well versed in the history of these people when he
flattered their national pride...(Vol. I, pp. 93-94)
* * *
As indicated by E. Spencer, the Illyrians fought, in fact, for a long time against the
Romans, who eventually conquered the whole of Illyria in A.D. 9. Many Illyrian soldiers,
who susbsequently served in the Roman army rose to high positions. Some became emperors
and viceroys: Claudius II, Aurelian, Probus, Diocletian, Maximilian, Constantius, Valens,
and Valentinian. Mention should also be made of Saint Jerome, one of the greatest scholars
of his time. The Illyrians gave to Byzantium three of its greatest emperors: Constantine,
who officially accepted Christianity; Justinius, who built Saint Sophia; and Justinianus,
famous for his Code of Laws. The philologist Paul Kretschmer went so far as to maintain
that the Illyrians actually founded Byzantium.
* * *
Proud of what they considered their heritage (see E. Spencer, Travels... I, p. 94), the
South Slavs became eager to recreate ancient Illyria by forming a union among themselves.
Napoleon, who following the Franco-Austrian War had formed the short-lived (1809-1814)
Illyrian Provinces, inspired in them the idea of calling their state-to-be Illyria. This
state was to comprehend Croatia, Slovenia, the Dalmatian coast with its hinterland Bosnia
and Hercegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Thrace.
However, by the time the dream of the South Slavs came true, i.e., by the time two great
Empires were overthrown and the South Slavic state was created on the ancient Illyrian
soil, it was evident that the country could no longer be called Illyria. For, by that
time, it had become obvious that the descendance of the Slavs from the Illyrians was but a
myth. Irrefutable historical documents demonstrated clearly that the Slavs were latecomers
in the region inhabited by them.
With the myth that had connected the Slavs with the Illyrians withered and died also the
legend of the mighty huntress Illyria who had given birth to three sons: Tcheck, Leh, and
Rouss (see E. Spencer, Travels... I, p.92). Yet the fact remains that the Illyrian myth
had kindled among the South Slavs the national idea by inspiring in them self-confidence
* * *
Illyrism originated in Croatia. The Austro-Hungarians used to consider it as a movement
inspired and supported by the Russians. The latter, however, often regarded its
propagators as Austrian agents.3
Russia, who was planning to exercise her own influence in the Balkans was brought, at
various occasions, into conflict with Austria. Owing to this fact, she could not fully
accept Illyria as the dynamic symbol for the unification of the South Slavs. Instead, she
found it more appropriate to make use of another term; she coined Great Serbia.4
Great Serbia was to comprise roughly the same territories as Illyria, but to these was to
be added North Albania.
Russia's role in the formation of the Balkan states is paramount. It has been rightly
remarked that without Russis's aid none of the Balkan nations would have probably achieved
independence. Albania is the only nation to have stood desperately alone in her struggle
When considering the problem of the Albanian borders, it is essential to be aware of the
dominant role played quite early by the Russians relative to the Balkan nations. For it is
a very common error to think that the unification of the South Slavs is an idea that
emerged after World War I and that the Albanian borders would probably not have been quite
what they presently are, had they been discussed with respect to Yugoslavia and not in
regard to Serbia and Montenegro, as was the case.
* * *
In 1878, at the Congress of Berlin, the idea of Great Serbia, which goes as far back as
the 18th century, served as a guideline relative to territorial claims, but it could not,
of course, be disclosed and openly discussed; it would have been premature. Indeed, even
for the sake of the future unification, it was much more appropriate to be first concerned
with the revindication of the South Slavs as single states and not as a group.
At the Congress, it was thus merely insisted that Serbia be aggrandized and that a seaport
be given to Montenegro, which was very poor.
In fact, when the French savant Ami Boue visited Montenegro in 1836, he was struck by its
poverty, claiming that it would be doomed to remain for a long time without resources
because neither Turkey nor Austria would be willing to conquer rocks; adding, however,
that Russia could have used her influence to induce Austria to ceding to Montenegro the
seaport Cattaro which was of no great importance to herself.5
Yet, forty years later, at the Congress of Berlin, there was no question of allotting
Cattaro (Kotor) to Montenegro. She was awarded, instead, Antebari (Tivar) and, a little
later, Dulcigno (Ulqin), a harbor which from 877 to 1560 had been the see of a Catholic
bishopric. It had practically never been under Slav rule. Moreover, its population was 95%
But the Principality of Montenegro, which was made up of rocks, did not merely need a
seaport; it also lacked pasture land. It was thus awarded Podgorica (recently Titograd),
Shpuza, the rich valleys of Plava and Gusigne, Hoti, Gruda, and Triepshi, which were
Albanian strongholds. As pointed out by Justin Godard, after the Treaty of Berlin,
Montenegro's territory doubled (L'Albanie en 1921, Paris, 1922, p.9.). Montenegro, on
account of her small size, was in an excellent position to extend her territory at
Albania's expense and at the same time come closer to Serbia, i.e., toward achieving her
goal of unification. As for Serbia, who was much pitied for her lack of access to the sea,
she received, in compensation, Kurumlija, Leskovac, Vranja and Ni, a region
whose population was mainly Albanian.
These important acquisitions made by Serbia and Montenegro were to be added later to the
greater nation that tese single states were planing to form.
* * *
The Albanians became alarmed when the preliminary Peace Treaty of San Stefano had created
a huge Bulgaria, which was to include territory nominally under Turkish rule, but
inhabited by Albanians. Since 1330, when the Bulgarians lost their independence, there had
been no noticeable uprising in the Balkan nation. In all probability, Bulgaria's
independence would not have come about without Russia's assistance.
Although the Albanians did not have anybody to back their claims, they reacted very
rapidly. In the fall of 1877, they formed a committee - Le Comite central pour la defense
des droits de la nation albanaise - whose purpose was to denounce the states that were
planning to expand their territory at Albania's expense.
The committee invited the neighboring countries to a peaceful coexistence, but added that
it was determined to defend Albania's national rights.
Albania was at that time a domain of the Turkish Empire comprising four vilayets or
provinces: Shkodra - which included the Dukagjini Plateau (Metohija), Monastir (presently
Bitolja), Janina, and Shkup (Skopje), presently in Macedonia. This latter province was
more readily called Kosova by the Turks in memory of the victory of a battle on the Plain
of Kossovo, the "Campo dei Merli" of old Venetian maps. The capital of this
province had at times been Pritina.6
* * *
Owing to the efforts of the committee headed by A. Frasheri,7 80
delegates representing all four provinces convened at the city of Prizren, in the Vilayet
of Shkup (Kosova) in June 1878, three days prior to the opening of the Congress of Berlin,
whose purpose was to reconsider the decision reached by San Stefano's preliminary Peace
Treaty. The assembly of these delegates was henceforth called The League of Prizren. Its
task was to defend Albania's rights.
Kosova became thus for the Albanians the center of their resistance and they have ever
since regarded this territory as a symbol of their struggle for independence.
* * *
Various letters, telegrams, petitions, and memoranda signed by Albanians inhabiting all
four provinces were dispatched to heads of state and ambassadors. Their reading reveals
the exasperation and bitterness of the Albanians, who, judging by their messages,
preferred to be annihilated rather than to be included in a Slav state.
Below are excerpts of a long memorandum; they convey some of the feelings experienced by
...To annex to Montenegro or to any other Slav state, countries inhabited ab antiquo by
Albanians who differ essentially in their language, in their origin, in their customs, in
their traditions, and in their religion, would be not only a crying injustice, but further
an impolitic act, which cannot fail to cause complaints, discontent and sanguinary
...notwithstanding their longing to escape the misfortunes which Turkish rule has
inflicted on them for five centuries, the Albanians will never submit themselves to any
Slav State which Russia may attempt to put forward; race, language, customs (...) national
pride, everything, in a word, is opposed to such a state of things; and it is neither just
nor prudent to free them from a yoke only to place them under another, which would in no
way ameliorate their social position.8
Yet despite all the requests sent to heads of state by so many Albanians, Albania was not
granted autonomy. Similar to Metternich who once claimed that Italy was merely a
geographic expression, but that there was no Italian nation, Bismarck declared that
"Albania is merely a geographic expression; there is no Albanian nation.9
* * *
Whereas Moslem Bosnia was assigned to Austria, Serbia (proclaimed an independent kingdom
by the Congress) and Montenegro were allotted regions whose population was purely
As soon as the Serbs occupied the ceded territories, the Albanians were asked to evacuate
them. With respect to the Albanians inhabiting those areas, Mr. Gould, Consul of Great
Britain in Belgrade, wrote to the Marquis of Salisbury, Secretary of the Foreign Office of
Great Britain, on Nov. 26, 1878:
I hear that the Servian Government has behaved with great and unnecessary harshness, not
to say cruelty, toward the Albanians in the recently ceded districts. If my information is
correct, and I have every reason to believe it to be so, the peaceful and industrious
inhabitants of over 100 Albanian villages in the Toplitza and Vranja Valley were
ruthlessly driven forth from their homesteads by the Servians in the early part of this
year. These wretched people have ever since been wandering about in a starving condition
in the wild country beyond the Servian frontier. They have not been allowed to gather in
their crops on their own lands, which were reaped by the Servian soldiery... I ...
casually stated to his Excellency (Ristic) that these facts had come to my knowledge, and
that should they be confirmed I felt certain Her Majesty's Government and the majority of
the Great Powers would call the Servian Government to account, and insist upon strict
justice being done to these unfortunate people, whose only crime was their belonging to an
alien race and another creed...10
Yet the Serbs did not stop their harsh measures against the Albanians. Tens of thousands
were brutally forced to evacuate these areas inhabited by them from time immemorial
without receiving any compensation for their losses.
The Servian government confiscated all property owned by the Albanians despite the
articles 35 and 39 of the "Berlin Negotiations" stipulating that the Albanians
living in the regions ceded to Serbia would have the same civil rights as the Serbs.
As to the number of the Albanians inhabiting those territories, various statistics and
extant documents give contradictory figures. According to a note of the administrative
divisions dating from 1873, the district of the Sandjak of Ni had about 100 000
Albanians. As regards the number of refugees, the figures given by Prof. J. Cvijic for
those who settled in Kosova is 30 000, that furnished by English documents, 100 000.
According to Turkish sources, the number of the Albanians who were forced to leave the
region amounted to 300 000.
On June 3, 1978, Rilindja (p.7), published a letter addressed by these miserable people
(who were deprived of all means and many of whom were sick) to the European Powers
requesting that at least a commission be set up to look into their serious problem.11
Leaving these helpless refugees to their sad fate, the Serbs colonized the region with
astounding rapidity. Referring to the colonization of the area by the Serbs, V. Cubrilovic
stated in his "Memorandum" (about which more will be told later) that
"Toplica and Kosanica, once Albanian regions of ill-repute, gave Serbia the finest
regiment in the wars of 1912-1918".
* * *
Since these territories forcibly annexed to Serbia belonged nominally to Turkey, the
Albanians could not oppose a marked resistance on account of the fact that they did not
have a state of their own and, consequently, were not provided with an organized army.
However, realizing that after the disintegration of the Turkish Empire, which was
imminent, land that had been theirs would remain under Slav domination, they felt very
bitter. They were thus quickly organized and armed by the League and despite every
difficulty defended heroically the districts that had been adjudged to Montenegro. As a
result, the latter failed to take them by force. These territories were to be ceded by the
Great Powers to Montenegro in 1913.
As for Ulqin (Dulcigno), it was quickly occupied by Albanian troops (which the League had
managed to organize in the meantime) as soon as the Turks evacuated it. The resistance of
these troops in that city was so fierce, that the Great Powers had to send seventeen war
vessels in order to compel the Albanians to yield, giving them a delay of three days.
Paying no heed to this naval threat, the Albanians resisted for more than two months. The
Turks dispatched, then, their own troops numbering eight battalions. As a result, the
Albanians found themselves encircled on all sides. After a desperate battle, they
surrendered to the Turks, who, after taking possession of Ulqin, handed it over to the
Montenegrins in June 1880.
In regard to Ulqin, M.E. Durham wrote: "The naval demonstration was instigated by
Gladstone. Dulcigno remains a monument of diplomatic blunder...it is a constant reminder
to the Albanians that they may expect no justice from Europe, and it has enhanced their
hatred for the Slav". (High Albania, London, 1909, p.9).
Owing to the passionate and tenacious resistance of the Albanians, the battle of Ulqin
received much attention in Europe and elsewhere. Some of the numerous reports published in
French newspapers as well as in the New York Times in 1880 are interesting to read. Below
are merely two passages picked at random:
...There are said to be 8 400 Mohammedans and 4 000 Catholic Albanians in the district
with a sprinkling of Slavs and Gypsies. These people are not on the friendliest terms with
their Montenegrin neighbors, but they hate the Turks quite as much...The Albanian League
declares ... that the territory of Albania is sacred... (NYT, Sept. 13,4:3).
Dulcigno12 humorously described...
... That sweetly named town, as is well known, belongs to Albania, which in turn belongs
to Turkey. The Great Powers of Europe, after a pleasant consultation in Berlin, in Prince
Bismarck's back parlor, decided that it should be a good thing if Montenegro, an
independent principality which from lack of seaport has hitherto been compelled to
restrict itself to brigandage instead of piracy, were to have a convenient seaport like
Dulcigno... (NYT, Sept, 4:5).13
* * *
The Catholics resented their annexation to Montenegro just as much as did the Moslems, if
not more. The loss of Ulqin inspired the Franciscan Father Ndue Shllaku to address the
population of that town in terms the reading of which still moves Albanians to tears.
The other fights with Montenegro were sung by Father Gjergj Fishta, a Franciscan, in his
Epic The Lute of the Highlanders, one of the great masterpieces of Albanian literature. In
this strong and moving work, Fishta shows the Albanian Catholics side by side with their
Moslem brothers in their fight against the Montenegrins.14
Yet the admirable contribution of the Catholics to the national cause was completely
ignored by the West, as had been the numerous petitions sent to the Powers by Catholic
tribes, who begged not to be annexed to Montenegro.
The Albanians, who had reacted in a most courageous and dignified way were to find out
that their heroic fights for the national cause were described as a resistance of Moslem
fanatics to Christianity and to Christian civilization and that the League of Prizren was
presented as being supported by the Turks. For propaganda purposes, Slav Orthodoxy,
chauvinistically national in character, was equated with Christianity and its universal
Whether the Albanians had any premonition that the decisions of the Berlin Congress would
constitute for them only the beginning of a series of other iniquities and humiliations,
is hard to say. The admirable activity they displayed in the years that followed, suggest
that they kept believing in human justice.16
* * *
To be sure, there were, among foreigners, individuals who considered the plight of the
Albanians in an objective way and who tried to assist them. Thus Lord Goschen, British
Ambassador to Constantinople, wrote to Earl Granville, Secretary of the Foreign Office of
Great Britain, on July 26, 1880:
... I venture to submit to your Lordship, as I have done before, that the Albanian
excitement cannot be passed over as a mere maneuver conducted by the Turks in order to
mislead Europe, and evade its will. Nor can it be denied that the Albanian movement is
perfectly natural. As ancient and distinct a race, as any by whom they are surrounded,
they have seen the nationality of these neighboring races taken under the protection of
various European Powers, and gratified in their aspirations for a more independent
existence. They have seen the Bulgarians completely emancipated... They have seen the
ardent desire of Europe to liberate territory inhabited by Greeks from Turkish rule. They
have seen the Slavs in Montenegro protected by the great Slav Empire of the North with
enthusiastic pertinence. They see the Eastern question being solved on the principle of
nationality and the Balkan Peninsula being gradually divided, as it were, among various
races on that principle. Meanwhile, they see that they themselves do not receive similar
treatment. Their nationality is ignored, and territory inhabited by Albanians is handed
over in the north to the Montenegrins, to satisfy Montenegro, the protege of Russia, and
in the south to Greece, the protege of England and France. Exchanges of territory are
proposed, other difficulties arise, but it is still at the expense of the Albanians, and
the Albanians are handed over to Slavs and Greeks without reference to the principle of
nationality. (Public Record Office, London, F.O. 424/100 pp.31-34).
This is but a brief passage of a long letter which shows Lord Goschen's admirable insight
relating to the Albanian question and hence to the Balkan problem. In this letter Lord
Goschen points out that the Turks were using, in regard to Albanians, "cajolery"
and "every other means but the promise of independence" because, as he remarks,
"if the Turks lose Albania, they lose their cause in Europe". Lord Goschen adds
that on account of this fact and since the Albanians are very eager to detach themselves
from Turkey, it would be a blunder on the part of the Western Powers to overlook the
Albanian nationality. In his opinion, a large Albania would "facilitate the future
settlement of the Eastern question in Europe". Lord Goschen feels sorry that Kirby
Green, Consul of Great Britain in Shkoder, failed to understand the Albanian problem.
Above all, he is indignant as to a ruthless plan worked out by Captain Sale who proposed
to tell the Albanians that if they rebelled against the decisions of the Great Powers,
"their villages would be uprooted and they would incur a further penalty in the
contraction of their boundary". Lord Goschen is convinced that the Albanians do not
deserve such treatment "because, after all, in their attitude of resistance, and in
their deep-rooted objection to a portion of their countrymen being handed over to an alien
rule, they are simply acting on the same principle of nationality as have formed the basis
of the recent treatment of the Eastern question".
Referring to Captain Sale's memorandum relative to the plan already mentioned, Lord
Goschen remarks in the same letter:
...as the memorandum contained the suggestion that a British agent should be employed to
influence the Albanians by fear as to the private and not only the political consequences
of resistance, and as this memorandum will remain on record amongst the Archives of the
Embassy, I have thought it my duty to record my strong protest against the plan it
Similar to Lord Goschen, others were equally disturbed by the iniquities to which the
Albanians were subjected, but their efforts to assist them were thwarted. With respect to
Kosova's population, Lord Fitzmaurice (British representative on the Eastern Rumelian
Commission created by the Treaty of Berlin to work out an agreement with the Porte) wrote
to Earl Grey:
The extension of the Albanian population in the north-easterly direction toward Prishtina
and Vranja is especially marked, and is fully acknowledged even upon maps such as that of
Kiepert, generally regarded as unduly favorable to the Slav element, and that published by
Messrs. Stanford in the interest of the claims of the Greek Christian population... the
recent Albanian movement has a more vigorous hold on this eastern district than perhaps
upon any other ... The vilayet of Kosova with the exception of a Serb district extending
eastward from Mitrovitza, may be said to be Albanian. (May 26, 1880).17
The iniquities committed in regard to the Albanians are occasionally acknowledged even by
Slavs. Thus N. Todorov writes:
The Albanian people who had also risen in armed struggle, were denied the right to
self-determination and were abandoned to their fate against the vast human and material
resources of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the encroachments of their neighboring Balkan
states". (Todorov, The 0Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 and the Liberation of
Bulgaria", East-European Quarterly, 1980, Vol. 14, No. 1, p.15).
* * *
The Great Powers eventually left the Balkans in the hands of Austria and Russia. The
influence of the latter, however, grew stronger as time went by.
In regard to Kosova, Russia sent priests to Serbian monasteries situated in the region
exalting, together with the Orthodox faith, heroes and deeds pertaining to Serbian
legends.18 They opened schools which were hotbeds of Slav propaganda. Clearly,
her purpose was to colonize the province where the Serbs were but an insignificant
The West knew little at that time about the Balkan states. In fact, the ignorance was such
that some missionaries who went to Macedonia to support the Bulgarian cause confessed that
formerly they had been ignorant of the fact that there were Bulgarians in the Peninsula;
they had thought that only Greeks lived there. Practically nothing was known, of course,
relative to the Albanians; those unfamiliar with the question could be told anything.
Thus, when two Russian consuls in Kosova and Monastir were killed by Albanians (who acted
in self-defense), these acts were described as being committed by 'Moslem fanatics'. The
two propaganda agents were presented as martyrs; their funerals were grandiose. Since
Christianity was equated with civilization and Islam with backwardness, the Christians
were regarded as the allies of the Great Powers. Thus the Catholic Albanians who are
animated by patriotic feelings were ignored by design. The Albanians were depicted merely
as backward Moslems and as allies of the Turks.
* * *
Many books and articles were published by the South Slavs for the purpose of showing the
ferocity of the Albanians, their backwardness, their despicable behavior, their lack of
discipline, etc. Vladan Djordjevic, former Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Serbia, went
even so far as to claim that until "as late as the 19th century", there had been
Albanians with tail in their rear! Djordjevic even referred the reader to J.G. Von Hahn's
scholarly work, Albanesische Studien, where, he asserted, he had found the information.19
The purpose of all these writings was, of course, to draw a picture that gives to the
non-specialist a very poor idea of the Albanians so that these, by dint of being despised
by others may, in their innermost soul, start to despise themselves.20
* * *
To be sure, there are established scholars - be they geographers, historians,
anthropologists, or serious travelers and explorers - who have expressed opinions of a
very different kind: H.N. Brailsford went even so far as to maintain that "from
Byron's day downward it would be hard to find a Western European who has learned to know
the Albanians without admiring them" (The New Republic, March 1, 1919). In fact those
who had nice words on behalf of the Albanians were so numerous that the Serb S. Protic
(Balkanicus) considered the tendency to praise the Albanians as highly ethical individuals
and to describe them as "unusually gifted", to have become a fashion.21 The
fact remains, however, that the latter writings were not accessible to many. The
influential French daily Le Temps, published merely articles favoring the Slavs and
Greeks, for France was then Russia's ally.22
Unknown or misunderstood by the outside world, the Albanians had to fight, under the most
difficult conditions, both their neighbors and the Turks without being supported by any
* * *
In order to achieve national unity with a delimited territory, the League had requested
the Porte, in July 1878, to turn Albania into one vilayet. The request had not been
granted. As a consequence, the Albanians, under their gallant leader Isa Boletini, a
native of Kosova, openly took a stand against the Turks. All their activities were
centered in the Kosova region, which became the cradle of their national struggle and thus
acquired a special meaning for them.23
In 1912, when the Albanians seized Shkup (Skopje) and were about to enter Monastir
(Bitolja), the Turks called a truce and granted them autonomy uniting the vilayets of
Shkodra, Janina, Kosova, and part of Monastir. As a result of this Albanian victory, the
government of the chauvinistic Young Turks Party was overthrown. The weakness of Turkey
became thus evident.
The Albanians had administered a heavy blow to the Turks and rightly hoped for approval
and sympathy, for, as Lord Goschen had rightly pointed out back in 1880, if the Turks lost
Albania, they would lose their cause in Europe. Instead, the Albanian victory triggered
the Balkan wars, the purpose of which was the annexation of Albanian-inhabited territories
that were under Turkish rule.
At that time, Montenegro had been free from Ottoman rule for over forty years; Serbia and
Greece for over eighty. These states, being independent, had their regular armies. When
attacked on all sides (by the Greeks, the Montenegrins, and, of course, by the Serbs, who
entered Kosova), the Albanians, aware of the great danger, hastened to raise their flag
and declared their neutrality.
* * *
The atrocities perpetrated by the Serbo-Montenegrins during the Balkan wars on the
Albanian population were acknowledged by the Serbian socialist Dimitrije Tucovic
(1881-1914) in his book Srbija i Albanija (published in 1946):
The bourgeois clamored for a merciless extermination and the army executed the orders. The
Albanian villages, from which the people had made a timely flight, were burned down. There
were at the same time barbaric crematoria in which hundreds of women and children were
Brutalities committed by the Serbo-Montenegrins are also described in the Carnegie report.
They may be best summed up in two short paragraphs taken from Mary Edith Durham's Twenty
Years of Balkan Tangle (1920):
No Turks ever treated Armenians worse than did the two Serb peoples treat the Albanians in
the name of the Holy Orthodox Church (p.235).25
As for the Balkan Slav and his vaunted Christianity, it seems to me all civilization
should rise and restrain him from further brutality (p.238).26
It should be reiterated that the unbelievable massacres were in no way committed as a
result of a struggle between Christians and Moslems, as it was at that time believed by
Gladstone and stressed in his speeches.27 They were solely motivated by
the desire to decimate the Albanian race. Not only Kosova was coveted, but all of North
During World War I, Albania's neutrality was not respected and mass massacres continued.
At the turn of the century, the reports of the Ohio journalist J.A.Mac Cahan concerning
the Bulgarian uprising, had shocked the West; as known, Russia used these accounts as a
pretext to march against the Turks. By contrast, the Albanian cause did not benefit from
the Carnegie report, nor by the frequent and moving declarations of philanthropists and
journalists who, like M.E. Durham, were eyewitnesses to
mass massacres of women and children, simply because it was not in the interest of the
Great Powers to take Albania's defense.28
* * *
The well-known Swiss geographer H. Hauser, rightly pointed out that the principle of
nationality, like all other principles, cannot be applied in a strict and equitable manner
given the fact that most places constitute, with respect to the population inhabiting
them, a mosaic.29
This mosaic of nationalities was particularly striking in the Balkans. Here, more than
anywhere else, there was need for what H. Hauser suggested, namely: good will, compromise,
and a fair system of guaranties. It is an undeniable fact that relative to Albania no
appeal was ever made to compromises and good will; and no system of guarantees was ever
applied to her. The expediency of her neighbors prevailed. No matter what the problem at
stake Albania was always the loser.
In 1878, Lord Goschen and Lord Fitzmaurice had been in favor of a large Albania comprising
the Albanian-inhabited territories of the four vilayets.30 But, at the
Congress of Berlin it was decided -as already pointed out - that territories indisputably
Albanian be handed over to Montenegro and to Serbia. Places connected with Albanian
history and national pride, like Janina, Arta, Preveza, were allotted to the Greeks, who
within a relatively short period of time were to exterminate the overwhelming Albanian
population inhabiting them. No system of guarantees was applied. Albanians, numbering
hundreds of thousands were to be forcibly sent to Turkey.
The manner in which Albanian territories were ceded to neighboring states clearly
indicates how arbitrary decisions that make history may be. And one cannot but agree with
Mircea Eliade (The Myth of the Eternal Return), who, with respect to the theory that
valorizes historical events, to which the 19th century attached so much importance,
pertinently remarked that such a theory could have been established only by thinkers who
know nothing about injustices and miseries caused by history.
Also, in 1913, those in charge of assigning to Albania her borders gave no consideration
to the very problem of her survival. The fertile pasture lands, the regions rich in
minerals and other resources, where nearly two-thirds of the Albanian population lived,
remained outside the borders assigned to her.31 As Lord Fitzsimmons
rightly remarked, "Albania was to start her career as a state mutilated from her
birth". Indeed, as a nation humiliated in her pride, she had no place among her
sister nations. She was doomed to poverty, bitterness, and complete isolation.
In regard to Kosova, a territory where Albanians displayed their most important activities
for the independence of their nation and a region which, as some scholars contend, is the
cradle of the Albanian people, the principles of ethnicity and self determination were not
observed. Nor had they been taken into account when districts indisputably Albanian had
been allotted to Montenegro and Serbia by the Treaty of Berlin. At that time, the
principle of history had been ignored as well.
* * *
When, following World War I, the Dalmatian question was discussed, the fact that the West
Adriatic coast had previously belonged to the Venetians, Austrians, Hungarians, and - in
parts - to the Turks, and that, moreover, Slav colonization of the Coast was a relatively
recent event in history (for, although the Slavs had settled in some parts of the Coast
already in the 7th century, colonization was still going on as late as the beginning of
the 20th century),32 did not have an adverse effect relating to the
claims of the South Slavs. According to M.R. Vesnic, ...except for historical arguments...
no present day consideration would authorize Italy to spell out such pretentions.
Economically, geographically, and from the point of view of morale, these shores are
inseparable from the hinterland which is Yugoslavia.33
Thus, disregarding historical considerations, Yugoslavia was allotted territories that
were vast beyond her wildest dreams: to her devolved the beautiful Dalmatian Coast, where
the Slavs had not ruled before, except for brief periods of time (a claim contested by the
Hungarians) on some portions of it; to her was ceded Macedonia where the Serb population
was insignificant and to which the Serbs had no claims before 1885;34 to
her was allotted the Vojvodina (Banat) where a certain number of Serbs had been hospitably
allowed to settle in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The newly created state of
Yugoslavia also retained territories which, regardless of the principles of ethnicity and
self-determination had been previously granted to Serbia and Montenegro by the Treaty of
Berlin and forcibly annexed by them.
* * *
Yet when the Albanian borders were delimited in London in 1913, problems pertaining to
economy, geography, ethnicity, morale - in short, to all those important factors to which
so much attention was to be accorded after World War I with respect to Yugoslavia - were
not taken into account. The problem of Albania's survival as an independent state was thus
completely ignored by those in charge of tracing her frontier.
Relating to Kosova, history - that very factor which in regard to the Dalmatian Coast was
not to be considered weighty - eventually acquired such decisive import as to make it
seemingly compelling for the Great Powers to disregard completely the principles of
ethnicity and self-determination.
With respect to the principle of history, the term Stara Srbija (Old Serbia), employed by
the Slavs to designate "Kossovo", proved very effective.
* * *
Faust, when translating the New Testament into his mother tongue, rendered with
"action" the meaning of "logos", thus writing: "at the beginning
was action".35 As prototype of modern man, Faust did not believe in
the fascination and power of the word, as traditional doctrines do. Since then, however,
sociologists and anthropologists, especially Frazer, have pointed out the magic that not
merely traditional doctrines, but also the so-called primitive peoples attach to certain
words and names, the use they make of them in myths, and how these myths affect them. In
his turn, Freud has rightly remarked that the primitive mind is contained in all of us. We
are impressed by words. Indeed, the suggestive power emanating from some particular words
and names that affect our unconscious, especially when used in myths, surpasses action.
More exactly, words may become dynamic symbols; they automatically generate action owing
to the very magic contained in them.
In fact, Old Serbia acquired for the Serbs a magic power similar to that contained in
a. It was asserted that Stara Srbija was the cradle of the Nemanjis, the Serbian kings.
Special emphasis, in this regard, was laid on the Glorious Empire of Stefan Duan.
b. Of foremost importance was considered the Battle of 1389 against the Turks on the Field
of Kosova. It was somehow implied in various writings that Czar Duan's Empire was
sacrificed on that battle which was said to have been fought by the Serbs alone to protect
c. The Serbs who wanted to prove that the Albanian-inhabited region had formerly been
ethnically Serb, underscored and proclaimed widely what it became known as the Serbian
Exodus or the Emigration of the Serbs to Hungary. It was stressed that the Serbs, as a
result of the Austro-Turkish wars of 1690 and 1735, had been obliged to evacuate the
region and emigrate to Hungary under the leadership of their bishop, Arsenije III
Crnojevic. And that, subsequently, the land, once vacant, had been colonized by the
ferocious Albanians assisted by the Turks. The Albanians inhabiting Kosova were thus
considered as recent settlers who had no right to be there.
These important issues which played a paramount role in the delimitation of the Albanian
borders shall be discussed in PartII.
P a r t T w o
That the imagination is, indeed, impressed and excited by certain names, is suggested by
the fact that in 1912-1913, only Serbian theories were taken into consideration.
The recent finds in the domain of linguistics, archeology and history have shown that
these theories, as they were formulated in the 19th century were based on myths. But
myths, on account of their suggestive power, do not die easily. Some of them may prove
extremely tenacious. Such had been, for example, the myth mentioned before, connecting the
South Slavs with the Illyrians.
* * *
It had been clearly indicated by J.E. Thunmann, back in 1774, that the Albanians alone
could possibly be considered as the descendants of the Illyrians. Their origin had been
suggested even before (in a letter) by the philosopher Leibniz.
Aside from pointing out historical data, Thunmann also remarked that certain Illyrian
names are still used by Albanians: Dasios = Dash; Dida = Dede; Bardhylis = Bardhe, etc. A.
Boue, who from 1836 to 1838 journeyed across the Balkans accompanied by various experts,
subscribed to Thunmann's theory. J.G. von Hahn exposed the same view in his learned work
Albanesische Studien (Jena, 1853) basing his research on ethnography, history and
* * *
That the Albanians have been living in the coastal areas since ancient times is evidenced
by the fact that the Albanian language is greatly influenced by Latin; not merely Balkan
Latin, but also Latin in its archaic form, missing not only in Rumanian, but sometimes
even in other Romance languages. Latin also affects the vocabulary dealing with the
intellectual and spiritual domain. Scholars have explained this influence through
long-lasting relations between the Romans and the ancestors of the Albanians. Had the
latter not been living since ancient times on the Adriatic coast, these relations would
not have been possible.37
On the other hand, some Greek words in Albanian show the sound pattern of ancient Greek,
an indication that the words were transmitted in an ancient epoch and that the Albanians
must have been living in the vicinity of Greece for the past 3 000 years.
As regards Slavonic, from which the Albanians, like the Rumanians, borrowed many words, it
has in no way affected the structure of their language, an indication that the borrowing
must have taken place at a date when the Albanian language was already formed. Moreover,
its influence is dialectical and concerns vocabulary dealing with material things rather
than with spiritual matters. In Albanian, the terminology of the church, both Catholic and
Orthodox, is not Slavonic, but overwhelmingly Latin with some Greek.38
Yet the ancestors of the Albanians did not merely inhabit the coastal areas. As attested
also by the Halstatt culture, the domain of the Illyrians was vast; it extended to the
east and to the north. Some words, still used in a few Swiss dialects, denote an Illyrian
origin. Thus, for example, in the Berner Oberland, the cow is still called lobe as in
Albanian. Noteworthy also are the Illyrian finds on the left bank of Lake Neuchatel,
connected with a culture known as La Tene culture (500 B.C. to 1 A.D.) and the recent
discoveries in Zurich ascribed to a much older civilization.
However, North Illyria was sparsely populated. The North Illyrian tribes eventually mixed
with Celts and other invaders and little by little lost their identity. Only Southern
Illyria, more densely peopled, survived. Appian, who wrote in the second century AD,
maintained, citing the Greeks, that Illyria at that time stretched from the Adriatic Sea
to the Danube. This included the important province Dardania, i.e., the region of Shkup
(Skopje), Ni and Pritina. Ancient authors (Pliny) used to call the Southern
Illyrians "Illyrii proprie dicti". They were divided into tribes, some of which
managed to form small kingdoms. With its capital Scodra (Shkodra, Scutari) and its main
seaport Ulqin, Illyria constituted, in the 3rd century B.C., a powerful federal state.
Fanula Papazoglu, professor of ancient history at the University of Belgrade, who has
written extensively on the Illyrians (see among others, Les origines et la destinee de
l'Etat illyrien - Illyrii proprie dicti, in Historia, Wiesbaden, 14, 1965, Heft 2), has
also devoted a long chapter to the Dardanians in her work The Central Balkan Tribes in
Pre-Roman Times...(Engl. Transl. from the Serbo-Croatian, Amsterdam, Hakkert, 1978, 664
p.). In this latter work she indicates that
Not one of the peoples with whom we have to deal in this book has such a claim to the
epithet "Balkan" as the Dardanians... because they appear as the most stable and
the most conservative ethnic element in the area where everything was exposed to constant
change, and also because they, with their roots in the distant prehomeric age, and living
in the frontiers of the Illyrian and the Thracian worlds retained their individuality and,
alone among the peoples of that region succeeded in maintaining themselves as an ethnic
unity even when they were militarily and politically subjected by the Roman arms...and
when at the end of the ancient world, the Balkans were involved in far-reaching ethnic
perturbations, the Dardanians, of all the Central Balkan tribes, played the greatest part
in the genesis of the new peoples who took the
place of the old (p.131).
After pointing out that the Dardanians had founded Troy, that Dardanelles is a name
derived from them, that Dardanians were also encountered in Italy, Prof. Papazoglu adds
that when the Dardanians reappear in our sources as a historically documented people in
the central part of the Balkans, they are related to the Illyrians. Illyrian elements have
also been noted among the Dardanians in Asia Minor. This all increases the probability of
the theory that the Illyrians belonged to the oldest Indo-European element in the Balkan
Peninsula (see pp.131-134).
The Albanian scholar, Zef Mirdita, of the University of Pritina, who, like his
colleague of the University of Belgrade, has devoted much time to the study of the
Dardanians, has also arrived at the same conclusions (see among others, Studime Dardane,
The Dardanians resisted the Roman invasions as much as did the rest of the Illyrians and
after the Roman conquest were not annihilated or absorbed as were not annihilated or
absorbed the Illyrians of the coastal areas (See Mirdita, "A propos de la
romanisation des Dardaniens" St.Alb., 1972 II pp. 287-298).40
* * *
The extent of the territory inhabited by the Illyro-Albanians at the time of the arrival
of the Slavs is suggested by place name. The well known Albanian linguist, E. Cabej, has
remarked in "Die aelteren Wohnsitze der Albaner auf der Balkanhalbinsel im Lichte der
Sprache und Ortsnamen" (Atti e memorie del VII Congresso internationale di scienze
onomastiche, Firenze-Pisa 1961 I, pp.246-251) and in various other articles that names of
small localities change in the course of years (thus many place names in present-day
Albania, in Kosova and elsewhere in the Balkans are Slav),41 but not so
those of cities, mountains and rivers:42 Various toponyms prove that at
least since Roman times the Albanians have between living as well on the Adriatic and
Ionian coasts as in the Western Macedonia - Kosova region, formerly called Dardania, for
many geographical names, be they of Illyrian, Ancient Greek, or Roman origin - were
transmitted with changes characteristic of Albanian phonetic rules. Such names are, for
example, Nish (Naissos), Shkupi (Scupi), Oher,Ochrid (Oricium = Lychnos), Drisht
(Drivastum), Shar (Scardus), Shkodra (Scodra), Mati (Amatia), Buna (Barbena), Ulqin
(Ulcinium), Lesh (Lissus), Tcham (Thyamis), Ishm (Ismus), Durres (Durachium), Drin
(Drillion), Zara (Zadar), Triest (Tregest), Tomor (Tomarus), Shtip (Astibos), Shtiponje
* * *
J. Cvijic described the Albanians as "the most expansive race in the Balkans",
and G. Jakic compared the expansion of the Albanians to a "devastating
river". G. Stadtmueller contended that originally they were confined to the Mati area
and to the mountains of the north.43 Yet the Albanian scholars maintain that in
the light of the data cited above it becomes evident that far from expanding the territory
of their ancestors, the Albanians have constantly been restricted to smaller areas.
* * *
However, until very recently, there had been no archeological finds to invest the
assumption of the Illyro-Albanian continuity with firm and concrete support.
Before World War II, there were in Albania very few archeological discoveries connected
with the Illyrians. Leon Rey, head of the French archeological mission in Albania,
expressed doubts as to the possibility of finding any vestiges linked to prehelenic times.
Prehistoric objects, numerous in Macedonia, were at that time completely lacking in
Albania (L. Rey, "Lettre d'Albanie", Revue internationale des Etudes Bakaniques,
1937, 301-304). In L. Rey's time, among 25 excavation sites, only two were Illyrian and
the finds - insignificant ones - were related merely to the Iron age (1 000-450 B.C.).
Things have changed since then. At the present time there are over 200 excavation sites
connected with the Illyrians. In the past 25 years, archeology has acquired in Albania
considerable significance. Various meetings have taken place in Tirana and much has been
published on the subject by Albanian and foreign scholars.
Among the numerous publications, one may mention:
a) Les Illyriens et la genese des Albanais, Tirana 1972.
b) Actes du Congres des Etudes Illyrienns (two volumes), 1974.
- a) and b) contain the acts of the two important meetings held in Tirana in 1969 and 1972
which were attended by a considerable number of Albanian and foreign scholars).
c) Iliria (in Albanian, with abstracts in French), first volume published in 1971; Vol 10,
1980. Vol. 2, entirely in French, is devoted to Illyrian cities.
d) Two Albanian academic journals, Studia Albanica, and Studime Historike (see especially
1972, nos 2,3,4) also contain articles dealing with the Illyrians and the Albanian
* * *
Tumuli from the Iron Age were found in Mat (north Albania), Dropull (south Albania), Vajze
(southeast Albania) and other localities. The archeological finds of these places chow
links with the Illyrian necropolia of Glasinac in Bosnia and of Trebnite in
Macedonia. This culture, known in archeological literature as Glasinac Culture, is
encountered in a region stretching from Epirus to the Drin (Drina) and Morava, comprising
Montenegro, Kosova and Bosnia.
* * *
Other discoveries made are connected with a more ancient epoch, the Bronze Age. On account
of the unifying elements between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, Albanian archeologists
have concluded that the Illyrians as an indigenous population and that their ethos was
formed during the Neolithic or Bronze Age - i.e., prior to 1 000 B.C. - and not during the
Iron Age as it had been formerly assumed.
Noteworthy is the fact that inventory objects pertaining to the Bronze Age (around 1 500
B.C.), such as the double axe, etc., leave no doubts as to relations between Illyria and
Crete, thus confirming what had previously been asserted by F. Nopcza and M.E. Durham by
reason of ethnographical data. As regards archeological inventory, the unifying traits
linking the Bronze Age to the Iron Age were also noticed relative to finds outside the
borders of present-day Albania: at Zocavi near Prijedor, Ptuj. The Yugoslav
scholars Josip Koroec, Frane Stare and Alojz Benac, when studying these finds,
concluded - prior to the Albanian archeologists - that since there is no cultural
interruption between the two layers representing the two different epochs, it becomes
evident that one has to deal with one and the same ethnos (see A. Stipcevic, op. cit.,
Considerable prehistoric agglomerations dating from the Eneolithic Age (1 600 B.C.) were
also unearthed in various locations. Albania may now compare with any other European
country considered rich in prehistoric finds.
* * *
Of special interest is the inventory connected with a more recent age, namely, the early
medieval epoch for which historical data are wanting. Noteworthy, relating to this epoch,
is the necropolis of Kalaja Dalmaces in north Albania.
Although more finds have been made recently at this locality, the necropolis was
discovered at the end of the 19th century and much had been written about it at that time
and later by well-known foreign archeologists: S. Reinach, Th. Ippen, P. Traeger,
F.Nopcza, L.M. Ugolini, L. Rey, D. Mustilli and also by A. Degrand, French consul in
Scutari, who discovered it. For the history of this necropolis see especially Hena Spahiu,
"Gjetje te vjetra nga varezza mesjetare e Kalase se Dalmaces", (Ancient finds
from the medieval necropolis of Kalaja e Dalmaces") Iliria I, Tirana, 1971, pp.
227-260; and S. Anamali, "De la civilisation hautemedievale albanaise", Les
Illyriens et la genese des Albanais, pp. 184-187.
The finds - most of which are at the Museum St. Germain-en-Laye - were formerly attributed
to the Illyrians. Yet archeologists connected them with the Illyrian culture of the Iron
Age. At the present time, however, there is incontrovertible evidence that the inventory
objects belong to an epoch that stretches from the 6th century to the 8th century A.D.
Similar finds, linked to the same epoch, were made recently in Shurdha, near Shkoder,
Bukel (Mirdita), Kruje, Lesh and, not too long ago, also in south Albania. This culture,
known in archeological literature as Koman culture (from a village near Kalaja e
Dalmaces), shows striking ties with the ancient Illyrian civilization. Despite the
differences inherent to each epoch, one can easily recognize the unifying traits: funerary
rites, orientation of graves, building methods, etc. They indicate that the Koman culture
is the continuation of the ancient Illyrian civilization and not a culture introduced by
recent settlers. In certain areas, such as Tren and Maliq, different layers show a
continuity stretching from the Neolithic to the medieval epoch.
Despite ethnological and archeological data suggesting that the Illyrian ethnos was formed
on Albanian soil prior to the Iron Age, it might perhaps still be premature to maintain a
categorical stand as to problems relating to such a distant past. Therefore, Prof. Cabej
without opposing the assertion expressed by Albanian archeologists, kept a cautious
attitude in its regard. He argued, however, that the Illyro-Albanian continuity from the
Classical period to the Middle Ages, both in present-day Albania and in Dardania, is
* * *
Although in Kosova there have been no systematic excavations similar to those undertaken
in Albania in the past twenty five years, the archeological material that is available
leads to the conclusion that the ethnos of Kosova's inhabitants belonged to the Illyrian
family. Burial tumuli, characteristic of the Illyrian culture, unearthed in Albania at
various localities were also found in Kosova (near Pritina and in Lastica near
Gjilan); in the district of Kukes which has territorial links with Kosova; in the
Dukagjini Plateau (Metohija), in Mjele (near Virpazar), Montenegro, and in the region of
The cultural heritage in Kosova shows the same unity of materials and building methods as
in present-day Albania. These finds, which denote an advanced urban culture, also indicate
the extent of the territory occupied by the Albanians at the time when the Slavs began to
settle in the Balkans; they corroborate the claim made by Cabey on linguistic grounds.
* * *
As reported by Constantine Porphyrogenitus (Emp. from 913-919), the Slavs Started to come
to the Balkans from the Ural and the Caspian Sea during the reign of Emperor Heraclius
(610-641). They were often led by nomadic Turks.46 The region, called at that
time Illyria, was inhabited by the aborigine population, the Illyrians, the ancestors of
It is generally admitted that the Slavs settled in the Danube area along the Dalmatian
coast, and in Greece. But the question as to the exact territories occupied by them has
not been elucidated as yet. From various sources - historical as well as linguistic - the
conclusion may, however, be drawn that if the greatest part of the vast Illyrian
territories was by the end of the 9th century already colonized by the Slavs, some areas
were spared. These were Dardania, New Epirus, the southern part of Prevalitania and North
Epirus.47 These territories correspond exactly to the region which
before the Treaty of Berlin were inhabited by Albanians.
The Slavs emerge as a strong population in the 10th century. But these Slavs are
Bulgarians, not Serbs. It is they who in the 11th century named Belgrade48 the
city that at present is Serbia's capital. The Slav toponyms that replaced the Illyrian and
the Roman toponyms are also in many areas Bulgarian and not Serb.
It is now time to discuss the three issues mentioned in Part I:
* * *
a) Practically nothing was known about the Serbs before 1136 when Tihomir, who was merely
a shepherd, became Grand Zupan.
In the 12th century, according to a contemporary chronicler, W. of Tyre, the Serbs were
"an uncultured and undisciplined people inhabiting the mountains and the
forests" and who "sometimes ...
quit their mountains and forests... to ravage the surrounding countries", (cited by
W. Miller, Essays on the Latin Orient, 1921, p. 446).
The Serbs began to gain strength in the 13th century when Stefan Simon Nemanjic -
previously Zupan - started using, in 1217, the title of king.49 At that
time the Serbs had already taken much land from the Albanians. In 1217, they conquered
Peja (Pec) which was to become in 1346 the see of the Serbian Patriarch. The greater part
of Kosova, however, was not yet in their power.50 It was afterward that
they got hold of it little by little. But the Serbian kingdom, within the short span of
its existence was not marked by fixity. Its precarious stability is indicated by a
striking array of capitals: Raka, Pritina, Belgrade, Kruevac, Smederevo,
Belgrade again, Prizren, Banjska, Shkup (Skopje), Prilep, Smederovo, Kruevac again,
Kragujevac.51 The names of these short-lived capitals suggest that the
Serbs invaded and conquered, but then retreated and lost, because of some kind of
opposition that they found. In this regard, it is interesting to note an observation made
by V. Cubrilovic in his rather inhumane memorandum:52 "The Albanians
are the only people during the last millennium that managed not only to resist the nucleus
of our state, but also to harm us". This remark indicates that the Serbs were opposed
by the aboriginal population.
When Stefan Duan was killed in 1355, the Serbian Empire included not merely Kosova;
it encompassed practically all of present Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, and part of Hungary.
Yet the Empire had no fixity and lasted merely nine years. It had been built up with the
help of mercenaries and it disintegrated immediately after Duan's death because of
the heterogeneous elements of which it was composed: Vlachs, Greeks, Albanians, etc.
* * *
Considering the fact that in the 12th century the Serbs were regarded as an uncultured and
undisciplined people, that they began to gain strength in the 13th century; that their
kingdom lasted a little over 100 years, and Czar Duan's Empire merely nine, it is
reasonable to assume that during this very short span of time the aboriginal population
could not have been annihilated no matter how difficult the living conditions might have
been for them.
As for Kosova - which is incorrectly designated as the cradle of the Nemanjic, for the
Serbian nucleus did not start in Kosova, but in Raka, i.e., north of the site of
present-day Novipasar53 - the very names of the capitals of that short-lived
Serbian state suggest that Kosova was not even abidingly its center. That state, as
pointed out by many historians, does not seem to have had any permanence or center.
Neither was Stefan Duan's Empire lost to the Turks. When the Battle of Kosova took
place, Serbia was insignificant and divided among various petty lords. Lazar Hrebljanovic,
to whose share had fallen the Kosova Plain was merely a Knez, i.e., a prince or a simple
count.54 His capital was Kruevac.
* * *
b) Some nations show restraint, shyness, or reluctance when it comes to exalting
historical events and national heroes. India, for example, a country where thousands of
myths originated, has refrained from underscoring the deeds of her national heroes.55
Conversely, it has become the characteristic of the Serb nation - as various scholars have
observed - to glorify personages and events associated with nationalists pride. For
imaginative, sentimental, or other reasons which shall not be examined here, the Serbs
have created nationalistic myths as India has created religious ones.56 In so
doing, however, they have insisted to the extreme upon the rights of their own nation
which clash with those of other nations.
True, for instance, the Battle of Kosova, so greatly exalted by the Serbo-Montenegrins
since Karadzic's time, was an important and sad event for the Slavs. However, when viewed
objectively, one must concede that this battle, as specialist have not failed to remark -
was not fought by the Serbs alone, but by a coalition of Balkan nations: Bulgarians,
Greeks, Vlachs, and Albanians57 (including 10 000 Croats). As a consequence,
these nations should be imparted the merit due to them. Various sources suggest that the
most numerous troops were the Albanian and that they were placed in the front rows.57
Besides, the victory of the Turks in that battle is said to have been occasioned by the
treason of Lazar Brankovic, Knez Lazar's son-in-law, who deserted to the Turks at the
critical point of the battle with a large number of Serbs.58
The important role of myths becomes evident when one thinks that the Battle of Nikopolis
on the Danube, where the army of Sigismond of Hungary fought in 1395 against Beyazit, was
just as decisive as that of Kosova, and perhaps as important, according to some scholars,
as the very capture of Constantinople by the Turks. Yet we are heedless of its importance
because of lack of myths. The Turkish victory on this battle is also due to the Serb
troops fighting on the Turkish side, Beyazid being married to the sister of Stefan
As to the hero of Kosova Battle, widely sung by the Serbs in the 19th century, most people
will perhaps show surprise at learning that in all likelihood he was Albanian. His name,
which was not recorded in Serbian church documents - perhaps for the simple reason that he
might have been Catholic, perhaps also for other motives - became known to us thanks to a
casual traveler and through Turkish documents: originally Copal - which is Albanian - it
was Serbized, as were at that time other Albanian names, thus becoming Kopilic. In the
18th century, Kopil, Kopilic, underwent another modification and at present is merely
known as Obilic.60
* * *
c) The Serbs did not merely make, by way of myths, the most of Stefan Duan's short
lived Empire as well as of the Kosova Battle. Their purpose was also to prove that prior
to the Turkish occupation, state and nationality coincided and that the Albanians in
Kosova were but an adventitious population having colonized the region as a result of the
Austro-Turkish Wars when the Serbs had to seek refuge in Hungary in order to safeguard
Thus it was, and still is, repeatedly underscored that the Serbs who emigrated to Hungary
were chiefly from the areas bordering on present-day Albania, i.e., from the region of
Prizren, Djakova and Peja (Pec); the area which the Albanians call the Dukagjini Plateau
and the Serbs Metohija.
J.G. von Hahn, who believed in the Illyro-Albanian continuity, had no doubts, when he
visited Kosova that the Albanians had been living there since ancient times. He regarded
the region of Sitnica as constituting a pure Albanian link between Dardania and Albania.61
As for A. Boue, although the Serbian exodus, which started to receive publicity at the
beginning of the 19th century, was by the middle of that same century accepted as an
indubitable fact, he was sure, when journeying in Kosova (1836-1838), that at the time of
the Emigration the Albanians might have occupied certain districts evacuated by the Serbs
in Novipazar and in the Dukagjini Plateau, but in doing so, they were merely recuperating
their ancient territory, for, he pointed out, the Albanians are the descendants of the
Illyrians and these used to inhabit the territory presently occupied by the South Slavs.62
In his turn C.E.N. Eliot argued that
The Turks are usually thought of as a destructive force, and rightly; they have destroyed
a great deal and constructed nothing. But in another sense, they have proved an eminently
conservative force for they have perpetuated and conserved as if in a museum, the strange
meddling which existed in South-Eastern Europe during the last years of the Byzantine
Empire (Turkey in Europe, 1965 ed., p. 16).
* * *
That some people followed the Austrian army and were allowed to settle in Hungary is a
historical fact that cannot be denied. Yet no historical documents are available regarding
the number of people who emigrated, nor the exact areas affected by this emigration. The
figure of 37 000 families,i.e., about 350 000 people, claimed by some historians, cannot
be supported by any indisputable nor plausible evidence. This figure is, as it seems, the
result of the arbitrary interpretation of the word void mentioned in some church document.
* * *
Despite the lack of historical proof in support of the Serbian assertion, the exodus,
widely and abundantly advertised throughout the 19th century, was unquestionably accepted
even by very critical minds. The event was so frequently mentioned and the publicity it
received was such that it eventually became a commonplace: it has been mechanically
repeated by all those who in various capacities have had to deal with the question.
Newspapermen did not fail to refer to it again when reporting on the recent events that
took place in Kosova.
Prof. A. Hadri of the University of Pritina pointed out that the appeal to the
Balkan peoples to rise against the Turks was not merely made by the Patriarch Arsenije
Crnojevic, but jointly by him and the Albanian Archbishop of Skup (Skopje), Pjeter
Bogdani. According to Hadri, there were about 20 000 rebels, Serbs and Albanians, some of
whom emigrated north of the Danube. This figure does not tally with that claimed by the
The historical error concerning various aspects of this emigration and the faulty
interpretation of the word void used in church documents were already pointed out by a
Serb himself - the well-known historian J. Tomic, in a passage which, surprisingly, has
not received the attention it deserves considering the fact that it dates from 1913. It is
contained in Les Albanais en Vieille-Serbie et dans le Sandjak de Novi-bazar, Paris,
"This retreat of the southern and south-eastern population toward the north is known
in Serbian history as the emigration of the Serbian people to Hungary under the Patriarch
Arsenije Crnojevic. This event has lead in some instances to a few errors which for more
than a century and a half, have been repeated from one book to another. One of those
errors concerns the very regions that were hit by this emigration. If one opens at random
any history book of the Serbian people one never fails to read everywhere as if it were a
firmly established fact that during this emigration the Serbian regions of the Southwest -
i.e., the regions of Prizren, Djakovo, Ipek - were the ones that suffered the most and
remained vacant. This claim is incorrect and must be amended once and forever. Indeed,
when presented in this manner the facts do not correspond to the reality. If this
historical error has persisted for so long it is because the question has not been
sufficiently studied. One has relied on notes and chronicles written by Orthodox priests
and the 'void' mentioned in them has been identified with the ruin of the Serbian people;
in reality, it refers to Orthodoxy.
It is an established fact that in the Turkish Empire the Serbian people were equated with
the Orthodox element. The Serbs were always inseparable from the Orthodox Church; thus,
their interests coalesced with those of Orthodoxy See: Dix ans, etc.)...
During the epoch with which we are concerned, Orthodoxy in those regions was very hardly
hit. A void was created in the Orthodox Church. Never was any Serbian region diminished by
so many priests, dignitaries, and simple ministers as that particular area at that time.
Neither had ever such a conjunction of circumstances occurred that rendered the situation
of the Serbs as distressful as it was then. As a consequence, deprived of its best
defenders and supporters in the battle against Islam, the population of Orthodox Serbia
found itself more than ever subjected to the double process of Islamization and
Albanization. This population did not evacuate the territories bordering on Albania
proper; however, after being subdued, it was forced to an accelerated Islamization and
Albanization. In terms of the Serbian national idea, this process may be equated with the
disappearance of Serbian life, since it is this Islamized and Albanized population that
has produced the worst enemies of the Orthodox faith with which the Serbian people and the
national idea are identified. We have sufficient proofs confirming the fact that the
stream of the Orthodox Serb emigration did not, indeed, affect the neighboring territories
of Albnia proper and that, consequently, the way the facts were presented by priests in
their notes and chronicles does not correspond to the reality. The decline of Serbian life
in the regions of Prizren, Djakovo, and Ipek must therefore not be interpreted as the
result of an emigration, but should more readily be considered as the subjection of the
Serbian people to Islamization and Albanization which, owing to the circumstances, had
become at that time particularly intense giving rise to the gravest violence on the part
of the Moslems.
A direct proof that the Serbian land was not evacuated by the Orthodox population is the
very existence of this same population until now. Still another proof is the steady
decline of Serbian life which may be noticed starting with the beginning of the 18th
century. However, aside from this fact of foremost importance, these events can also be
confirmed by extant information dating back to that very epoch. Indeed, as it was
indicated before,63 the Orthodox Serbs of Luma declared themselves
against Austria. It goes without saying that these Serbs did not need to emigrate and even
less to flee with the Austrian troops, for their attitude gave them the right to remain
where they were. In fact, they did not move. Moreover, it is well known to us from extant
documents of that era that in this region numerous Serbs as well as Catholic Albanians
withdrew from the Austrian Army as a consequence of some unfortunate proceedings on the
part of the Duke of Hollstein. These people joined the Turks even before the latter had
driven back the invader. Those Serbs did not feel any need, either, to flee from the
Turks. Nor could they possibly place themselves under the protection of Austria. A man
sent to Ipek during the first half of January 1690 came back with a monk of the
patriarchy. Upon his return to Kutchi, this man recounted the looting of the churches and
monasteries as well as the slaughters of priests and monks by the Turks, but he did not
report any emigration of the people. On the other hand it was indeed not at all easy for
the patriarch and his suite to flee because the Austrians were followed very closely by
detachments of Turkish soldiers. As a consequence, there could, of course, be no question
of any exodus of a slowly moving crowd. After this region was again occupied by the Turks
who continued their chase, any flight became impossible for the people. If a mass
emigration had taken place, how was it then possible for the same patriarch, Arsenije III,
to work the following year, as he did with the Serbs of Brda and Montenegro in order to
organize another uprising of the people on behalf of Austria?
On the other hand, one should again stress the fact that it was physically impossible for
the people of that geographic area to emigrate en masse because the Turks, streaming into
the region behind the Austrians, already occupied the greatest part of it even before the
secret departure of the patriarch. Lastly, it was in the middle of the winter at a time
when the roads are impossible to find.
As a consequence, there was no mass emigration of Orthodox Serbs from those regions at
that time although this has been repeatedly asserted until now. Emigration and flight took
place only whenever it was possible, i.e., wherever the Turks did not appear suddenly and
the people could leave the area before their arrival. This was the case in the Sandjak, in
Kosova, Upper Morava and Serbia within its former boundaries. These regions where the
Austrians had made a longer halt were abandoned by the Orthodox Serb population that
crossed the Danube and the Save. These emigrants were joined by a flow of people, a
progressive migration, still headed for the north. As for the areas bordering on Albania
proper, only a few single individuals and those who remained in the army as volunteers
were able to flee immediately following the withdrawal of the Austrian army. The others
left to side with the Turks. This is established by three facts:
a) Among the emigrants with fairly well-known names surrounding the patriarch there is not
a single one from the region bordering on Albania proper.
b) The absence of an ancient population in the Sandjak may be explained solely by a
migration that started out from a distant zone.
c) The traditions among the Serbs who became Moslem and Albanian, is proof that this
population is old ...64(see pp. 35-41).
* * *
The recent examination of Turkish catastral registers has revealed that, in fact, J. Tomic
was right: the area bordering on present-day Albania could not have been evacuated. In the
16th century, the number of people inhabiting the mountainous areas around Dukadjini
Plateau (Metohija) was too insignificant. According to Albanian scholars, even assuming -
without any valid reason - that the population had doubled in the 17th century and that
all of the highlanders had departed from the mountaineous region, their number would not
have sufficed to fill the area, nor to affect the population of Kosova-Metohija (Kosmet)
had that population been previously Slav. But Turkish catastral registers clearly indicate
that in addition to being small, the population of the mountains was also stable.65
J. Tomic argued, besides, that following the Austro-Turkish wars, the population of the
region was forcibly Albanized and Islamized.
To this claim, one may reply that:
1) The region of Prizren, Djakova, and Peja is marked by the tribal66 system as
North Albania. Aside from the fact that this system constitutes a link between the two
units, it must be borne in mind that no outside man can belong to the tribe, least of all
Albanized Serbs. Therefore Tomic's remark at the end of the passage that "the
tradition among the Serbs who became Moslem and Albanian is proof that this population is
old", does not seem to make much sense.
2) At present, there are two million Moslem Slavs, the Bosnians. In 1974 they have
inaugurated a Moslem university, which is the only one of its kind in Europe. Since these
Slavs were merely Islamized, the question, of course, arises as to why the other Slavs
were, as maintained by Tomic, Albanized in addition to being Islamized.
3) Contrary to the Vilayet of Kosova which was 90% Albanian, that of the Sandjak of
Novipazar was, at the turn of the century, mixed. Whether those Albanians are recent
settlers in that region, as claimed by Tomic, has, to my knowledge, not been established.
Be it as it may, the fact remains that the two populations did not mix. Although both
Moslem, they kept their individuality.
4) Kosova was not Islamized in the 18th century following the Austro-Turkish Wars.
According to the Turkish registers, Kosova as a whole was already 65% Islamized back in
1520.67 In certain areas Islamization seems to have been particularly
strong; thus Prizren (which in addition to the Orthodox population also had a Catholic
minority) was 80% Moslem (see M. Ternava's article in Fjala, Prishtine, Spring 1980); the
population of Shkup (Skopje) in Macedonia, was 74% Islamized.68
It is significant that Peja's population, still mostly Christian in 1483 (105 hearths
Christian; 33 Moslem) had turned overwhelmingly Moslem (90%) by 1582 (142 hearths
Islamized, 15 Orthodox, the latter mostly with Albanian names).69 This
happened at a time when the Patriarch of Peja (Pec) was granted power by the Porte (1557)
thanks to the efforts of the Serbian Grand Vizir Sokolovic whose brother - or uncle - was
an Orthodox ecclesiastic.70
* * *
At this point it is opportune to give some consideration to the problem of religion:
Although there have been conversions also in Bulgaria and Cyprus, the fact, nonetheless,
remains that the most significant ones occurred among the Bosnians and the Albanians. In
1520, i.e., eighty years after Bosnia's conquest by the Turks, Sarajevo was 100% Moslem.71
The Bosnians admit that they did not regard the Turks as oppressors, that on the contrary,
they welcomed them as liberators.72
The Albanians cannot say the same thing about themselves, for their numerous fights
against the Turks are an undeniable historical fact. The Albanian national hero who
distinguished himself in these combats was compared to Charles Martel73 who in
732 halted the Moorish invasions at Poitiers, thus saving western Europe from the Moslem
Voltaire asserted that if the Greek emperors had been comparable to Skanderbeg, the
Eastern Empire would have been preserved.75 The French savant Ami Boue, drawing
a parallel between the Albanian leader and Stefan Duan, portrayed the latter as a
mere conqueror but pointed out that Skanderbeg is remembered as one of the bravest
soldiers that has ever existed.76
During the 25-year span that preceded the Turkish invasion, the Albanians were at the
height of their power; as regards moral prestige, they had plenty of it. Relating to
territories, according to the Byzantine chronicler L. Chalcocondiles, the land of Gjon
Castriota, Skanderbeg's father, extended between the kingdom of Sandalj, king of Bosnia,
and Epirus.77 N. Iorga mentions a document from the archives of Venice,
dating from 1413 which calls Gjon Castriota "dominum partium Bosniae";78
this presupposes that the territories northeast of Shkodra (Scutari) were under
Castriota's sway.79 Also, in 1420, Gjon Castriota granted to the inhabitants of
Ragusa the privilege to exercise trade in his territories until Prizren,80
an indication that this latter town was under Gjon Castriota's rule. Besides, according to
Ami Boue (who points out that between the Greeks and the Albanians the differences are
very slight), the Albanians inhabiting Greece were so excited about Skanderbeg's deeds
that in 1454, they would have easily subdued the two despots, Demetrios and Thomas, and
Greece would have come under their sway.81
It becomes evident that under these circumstances the Turks would not have been welcomed
by them. In fact, the Albanians who fled to Italy following the Turkish invasion of their
land were very numerous. They are said to have made up one-fourth of the nation's
When thinking of these facts and considering that the fights of the Albanians against the
Turks constitute a glorious episode in the history of the Albanian nation, the question,
of course, arises as to why so many of these firm opponents of the Ottomans gave up
There is no doubt that in the Balkans the Turks used pressure at times, especially perhaps
in regard to the Albanians because they resisted them longer than other Balkan nations,
but also on account of their links with the Pope, i,.e., with the West, which were suspect
to the Porte. On general, however, the Turks strike as having been extremely tolerant in
matters of religion. In fact, various data lead to the assumption that practically all
conversions were in a way, voluntary. At the present time, it seems therefore simplistic
to think that "after the Battle of Kosova whole populations were butchered or
compelled to adopt Islam.83 Neither may those who remained Christian be
regarded as angels and martyrs, nor should those who embraced Islam be depicted as
The religious problem is, as are most problems, more complicated than it seems at first
sight. Up to now, scholars have not been able to study it properly on account of
insufficient documents. Therefore, in many respects, there have been conjectures of a
controversial order rather than definite conclusions drawn from objective historical
evidence. The conversions of the Bosnians, for example, have often been attributed to the
eagerness of the Bosnian nobles to secure their feudal rights. Yet the Bosnians themselves
consider their acceptance of Islam as a means to preserve their identity for they do not
identify themselves with the Serbs.84
As far as the Albanians are concerned, since they provided Turkey with numerous energetic
and most able statesmen and reformers, various scholars, contending that they had a
privileged position in the Turkish Empire, have imputed these conversions to utilitarian
motives, such as the desire to have access to high positions,85 if not
simply to avoid taxes.
As regards Islamization, the role played by the Balkan Churches has received very little
attention although the pressure wielded by these churches against one another has often
been stressed with respect to other matters. It is in connection to these churches that
this problem shall be considered in this essay. * * *
The corruption of the Greek church has already been pointed out by different scholars.
In this regard, a passage from Sir C.N.E. Eliot's Turkey in Europe (first published in
1900) is illuminating:
"There was a strong party for the reelection of Jeremias, who, finding that the Porte
refused to accept his candidature, offered 40 000 ducats if his brother Nicephorus could
be elected. Metrophanes, by unheard of efforts, collected a like sum and laid it at the
Sultan's feet. "The man is worthy of his office", said his Majesty; "let
him alone". In 1620, the Grand Vizier demanded from Timotheus 100 000 ducats, on the
ground that he had named 300 Metropolitans during his 10 years tenure of office. Cyrillus
Lucaris, the successor of Timotheus, was deposed by the Jesuits and their party for 40 000
ducats and reinstated for 180 000 more.
"Naturally, these enormous sums did not come from the pockets of the Patriarch. As
the Turks treated him, so he treated his own subordinates. The tribute of the Patriarchate
was paid from the money received from consecrating bishops, the bishop paid his money from
consecrating priests, who in their turn found the wherewithal by insisting on payments
from their flocks for the performance of the simplest religious rite. The visitations of
Metropolitans were dreaded almost as much as those of Pashas, and the whole fabric of the
Church seemed converted into a vast mechanism of extorting money from the unhappy
Christians for the most shameful purposes" (pp. 246-347 - 1965 ed.).
Not only ecclesiastical, but also educational matters were in the hands of the Greeks.
"Their object was to Hellenise the Christian races of the Ottoman Empire, which meant
that those unfortunate populations had to submit to a double yoke: Turkish and
Greek".86 Eliot also adds that under these conditions, "It is hardly
surprising to find that this dark period was characterized by numerous conversions"
(op. cit., p. 50).
These conversions become, indeed, understandable when one thinks that the non-Greek
populations had to pay huge sums to keep in Constantinople a patriarch whose aim was to
prevent the development of their own cultures and to suppress their own languages. In
fact, according to Turkish catastral registers, at the beginning of the 16th century,
Gjirokastra's and Vlora's populations were overwhelmingly Christian (53 hearths Moslem as
against 12 257 hearths Christian for the former city; 1 200 Moslem
against 14 304 Christian for the latter).87 At the beginning of the 20th
century, the Christian population of these two cities had dwindled; they were
C.and B. Jelavich have remarked that the Greeks who had high positions in the Turkish
Empire88 used their authority to oppress the rights of other nations in the
Balkans, especially those of the Serbs.
Also, when examining the Bosnian problem, C. and B. Jelavich have pertinently indicated
that the Bosnians, situated as they are, between Orthodox Serbia and Catholic Croatia,
found themselves torn by disputes between the two churches and they were compelled first
to have recourse to the Bogomil heresy and after the Turkish conquest to embrace Islam.89
These two remarks by C. and B. Jelavich are relevant. The first about the Greeks in regard
to other nations may apply also to the Serbs with respect to the Albanians. When
reflecting on the second remark pertaining to the conversions of the Bosnians, who first
turned Bogomil, then Moslem in order to keep their identity, the question arises as to
what were the Albanians before embracing Islam.
Of late, the Albanian scholar Dhimiter S. Shuteriqi has expressed the opinion that the
Albanians also, like the Bosnians, might have been Bogomil.90 There are,
however, no extant documents to support this conjecture with incontrovertible evidence.
It is assumed that Skanderbeg was Catholic on account of his close connections with four
different popes. Yet, one of his brothers, Reposh, was a monk in an Orthodox monastery as
were other north Albanians. These data do not simplify the religious problem as regards
* * *
The Albanians, we are told, were under the jurisdiction of Rome until 731 when Leo the
Isaurian placed Illyricum under the Patriarchate of Constantinople (K. Jirecek, Geschichte
der Serben, p. 47). However, as pointed out by N. Iorga, Illyricum had received its first
missionaries from Rome quite early,91 which meant that it adhered to
Western civilization. The Albanians, on account of the geographical position of their
country and for various other reasons, found themselves obliged, in the course of years,
to vacillate between the two churches. Yet they managed to keep alive their Western
background. Perhaps they never severed completely their ties with Rome. According to A.
Cabej, of all the Balkan nations - including even Rumania - Albania sided more with the
West than with the East. It is also interesting to indicate that the Albanians who settled
in Italy following the Turkish invasion, many of whom still use the
eastern rite, were never required to sign any document proclaiming their union with the
Vatican as is the case with other Eastern communities. Nor did they abjure Orthodoxy. This
presupposes that their links with Rome had never been broken.92
The Serbs, evangelized many centuries after the Albanians, did not receive their
missionaries from Rome. In Stefan Duan's Code of Laws, there are indications that
those who had links with Rome were persecuted.
According to Law no. 6, "The ecclesiastical authority must strive to convert such
(i.e., Catholics) to the true faith. If such a one will not be converted..., he shall be
punished by death. The Orthodox Tsar must eradicate all heresy from his state. The
property of all such as refuse conversions shall be confiscated... Heretical churches will
be consecrated and open to priests of Orthodox faith".
According to Law no. 8, "If a Latin priest be found trying to convert a Christian to
the Latin faith, he shall be punished by death".
According to Law no. 10, "If a heretic be found dwelling with the Christian he shall
be marked on the face and expelled. Any sheltering him be treated the same way".93
It is evident that under such rigid laws it must not have been easy for the Kosovars to
keep their ties with Rome. In fact, the recent examination of Turkish catastral registers
has revealed that in the 15th and 16th centuries many Albanians in Kosova were Orthodox.94
It goes without saying that the Albanians were not persecuted merely on religious grounds.
In fact, in 1332, Father Brocardus (Gulielmus Adae, a French Dominican, Archbishop of
Antebari) remarked that "The Albanoi are oppressed under the intolerable and very
hard servitude of the most hateful and abominable lordship of the Slavs because they are
overburdened with taxes, their clergy is lowered and humbled, their bishops and abbots
often imprisoned, their monastery and priests lost and destroyed, their nobles deprived of
These persecutions against the Catholic Albanians continued during the Turkish occupation.
The Yugoslav scholar Jovan Radonic (Rimska Kurija i Juznoslavenske zemlje XVI-XIX veka,
Beograd 1950,pp. 269, 473, 511-512) has revealed that the Patriarch of Peja had the
authorization of the Porte to place the Catholics under his jurisdiction, threatening to
impale the Albanians who would dare to address themselves to the Pope.
In 1664, Andre Bogdani, Archbishop of Shkup (Skopje), informed his congregation in Rome
that the Albanians were more persecuted by the Orthodox Church than by the Turks (see Mark
Krasniqi "Les Albanais dans l'oevre d'un diplomate russe", "Gjurme e
Gjurmine, Prishtine, 1979, pp. 291-391).
The question of religion is, indeed, closely related to that dealing with national
Being evangelized by Roman missionaries, the Albanians did not have a national church of
their own similar to that of the Slavs. Pressed by the Greeks in the south and by the
Slavs elsewhere their conversion to Islam seems to have been a means to preserve their
* * *
The conversions have been detrimental to the Albanians in more than one way: during
Ottoman rule, they had to serve as mercenaries in the Turkish army. Sent to far away
countries, they were decimated in wars or succumbed to climates to which they were not
used while the other nations of the Balkans cultivated their land and grew in population.
In the 19th century, their desperate efforts to shake off Ottoman rule were ignored by the
West and whereas the other Balkan nations were not merely allowed but also aided to
constitute themselves as states, the Albanians, the oldest nation in the Balkans, were
denied the right to do so.
It is because of their conversions that they lost the greatest part of their territories
to neighboring states for Gladstone favored the Christians whom he considered as the
allies of the Western Powers whilst he regarded Moslems as inferior; civilization being -
according to him - equated with Christianity.
Religion was also taken as a pretext for plans made by neighboring states to transplant to
Turkey the Albanians who as a result of peace treatise had remained in the territories
ceded by the Great Powers to neighboring states.
The Albanian scholar and diplomat, F. Konitza, pointed out that the Albanians are fully
aware that the conversions are cause of many of their grievances and misfortunes while
remaining at the same time perfectly conscious that if they had remained Christians, they
would have been absorbed by their neighbors. Konitza implies thereby that between the two
alternatives, the Albanians had no choice.
* * *
Giving further consideration to the Turkish registers pertaining to Kosova - which to this
date may be regarded as the most reliable source of information relating to religion and
ethnicity - the Albanian scholars have pointed out that in the light of the various data
contained in these registers, the conclusion must be drawn that many Albanians had become
Orthodox and were in the process of being Slavized. One may notice, for example, that many
of them had added Slavic suffixes to their Albanian names. Thus, one encounters names such
as Gjon Leshovich, Mark Bushatovich, Gjin Progonovich (Albanian names except for the
suffix). Sometimes even the first names are Slavic: Radoslav, Jovan, Bogdan, Radislav,
Bozhidar, Petko, etc. There are cases when both names are purely Slavic as to make it
impossible to tell that one has to deal with Albanians were it not for certain remarks
added to them such as 'son of Gjin', 'son of Tanush', 'son of Arben', (which are
indisputably Albanian names) or simply Arbanas, i.e., Albanian. Sometimes, the only
indication as to the ethnos is the village which has an Albanian name or the section of
the city marked 'Albanian'.96
These names have not failed to become the subject of a controversy. In fact, the Albanians
consider as Albanian, despite their Slavic names, all those for whom some indication was
found as to their Albanian ethnicity.
The Yugoslav scholars did not observe the same guideline. A. Handzic,97
for example, who has published various foreign documents attesting that the Albanians were
present in Kosova prior to the 17th century and who was also the first to point out that
many of the individuals who had Slavic names were in reality Albanians on account of the
indications mentioned above, when it came to statistics, he listed as "Slavs"
all those who had Slavic names regardless of other data. Therefore the conclusion he
reached was that in the 15th century, the Albanians, although present everywhere in
Kosova, did not constitute the majority of the population. Conversely, the Albanian
scholars maintain that the population was overwhelmingly Albanian, because of the fact
that Slavic names - given the political situation - may not be considered as a criterion
of ethnicity without taking into account other data.
Be as it may, the fact remains that in the 15th century, according to the registers, the
Albanians were, contrary to the opinion that had prevailed until recently, everywhere
present in Kosova.
* * *
With regard to the Turkish registers relative to Peja, the Albanian scholars content that,
if the population of that city had been Slav, the numerous conversions at the very epoch
when the patriarch was granted power by the Porte, would be unfounded and
incomprehensible. These scholars regard the conversions as a clear indication that Peja's
population was Albanian; they maintain, furthermore, that these conversions were, for
their co-nationals, a means to keep their national identity.98
That the Albanians in Kosova are an aboriginal population is attested by the very Serbian
Chrysobulls of the 13th and the 14th centuries. On the other hand, Turkish chroniclers
mention Albanian uprisings in Kosova in the 15th century.99 The archives
of Dubrovnik also testify for the same epoch. As for 17th century, important are, among
others, the writings of the Turkish chronicle Evlija Celebi which clearly indicate that
prior to the Austro-Turkish Wars the Albanian population was overwhelmingly present in
Western Macedonia, in Montenegro and in the Vilayet of Kosova (E. Celebi, Putopis,
Sarajevo, 1973, pp. 136-137). Mention should also be made, for the same epoch, of pastoral
reports - that of the Papal Envoy, Pietro Massarechi (Mazreku, born in Prizren who
succeeded M. Bizzi) dating from 1623 specifies that at that time, the population of
Prizren was made up of 12 000 Moslem Albanians, 200 Catholic Albanians and 600 Serbs and
that the population of Shkup (Skopje) was also mainly Albanian.100 Likewise,
the Austrian documents pertaining to the Austro-Turkish Wars give evidence that the
Austrian army was continuously in touch with an Albanian population. These documents refer
to Prizren as the Capital of Albania and to Pjeter Bogdani, Archbishop od Shkup, as
Archbishop of Albania.101 Various incidents linked to the Austro-Turkish
Wars, as related by T. Ippen (in Novibazar und Kossovo,(das Alte Rascien) eine Studie,
Vienna, 1892), who used Austrian War documents - as did J. Tomic - make it obvious that in
Kosova the Austrian army had to deal with an Albanian population.
The fact that Shkup (Skopje) had an Albanian Archbishop, implies that that city had an
Albanian population. Also, it is well known that among those who followed the Austrian
army was an Albanian tribe, the Kelmendi (Clementi), from the region of Ni, which
suggests that the area was inhabited by Albanians.
* * *
The recent study of catastral registers has not only indicated that in the 15th century
the Albanians were overwhelmingly present in Kosova and Western Macedonia; it has also
shown that they were not merely shepherds, as they were often said to have been, but held
all kind of positions and practiced professions which are not normally characteristic of a
nomadic population. That study has also revealed that in contrast to the Albanians who
were sedentary, the Serbs appear as a nomadic population.102
Objective research has therefore established that what has been called Old Serbia, a term
suggesting Serbian tradition and permanence, is in reality a region inhabited ab antiquo
by Albanians which was only for a period of time under Serb rule.
* * *
It is undeniable fact that until recently (but especially so during the Middle Ages) state
and nationality seldom coincided. The desire to invade and conquer is, indeed, a
characteristic of many peoples and races. England was invaded by the Normans and ruled by
them; the Arabs held sway in Spain from 756 to 1492; Calais was for two centuries under
the domination of the British; Poland stayed for a long time divided between Russia,
Germany and Austria. Needless to say that many more examples may be cited. There are
places that remained, in fact, for centuries under the nominal rule of various invaders,
alien to the population inhabiting them. The South Slavs, who were themselves, as a race
and as a nation, under the domination of Turkey, Hungary, and Austria, should be in a
better position than most people to feel and admit that in the past state and nationality
were very seldom identical and that the transient power over something does not give claim
to a permanent possession.
Indeed, temporary conquerors do not normally use the adjective "old" to describe
territories which they once held under their sway. The French do not find it appropriate
to call "Old France" territories once occupied by the short-lived Napoleon's
Empire. Nor do the Turks name "Old Turkey" the Balkans where they ruled for over
five centuries. The Bulgarians do not refer to Belgrade as "Old Bulgaria",
despite the fact that that city belonged to them from the 9th century until the 11th;
neither is this city called "Old Hungary" although Belgrade, which was Serbia's
capital only briefly in the 12th century, fell under Hungarian control before being
captured by the Turks in 1521. As for Ragusa, recently Dubrovnik, it was founded in the
7th century by the Romans and the Illyrians fleeing the incursions of the Slavs. Later, it
fell under the rule of Byzantium, then under that of Venice, and finally of Hungary. The
Turks held it from 1526 until 1806. Only since 1918 do the Slavs have control of it.
* * *
The term "Old Serbia", which, like all expression that are well chosen, has a
tremendous suggestive power, was employed for the first time by Vuk Karadzic at the
beginning of the 19th century. Yet Karadzic applied it practically to the whole Balkan
peninsula. "Old Serbia" at that time was synonymous with what was also called
"Great Serbia". But the chances to annex Bulgaria and Thessaly waned. The term
was thus no longer applied to those regions and at present nobody considers these places
any longer as "Old Serbia". Curiously on John Bugarsky's map, published in
Belgrade in 1845, there is one area marked "Old Serbia or Present-day Albania".
It is the region of Bielopolje separating Montenegro from Serbia - a clear indication that
the term was used to designate various areas depending on the possibilities regarding
territorial claims offered by political circumstances. Thus the limits traced by Prof.
Cvijic for "Old Serbia" in 1909 differed considerably from those used by the
same scholar in 1911. Since there was nobody to protect Albania's rights, the term was
eventually used to designate merely the region that at present is identified with
Kosova-Metohija (Kosmet). As for the Albanians, they call "Old Serbia", Serbia
* * *
According to Theodor Ippen, if the term "Old Serbia" should be used at all, it
should apply solely to that district which is situated between Ibar and Sitnica, whose
southern border is the river Lab, i.e., to the area once called "Old Rascia"
(Rascia = Serbia) whose capital was Ras located north of present Novipazar. Ippen remarks
that this region too used to be Albanian (even the name Ras, he points out, goes back to
an Albanian etymology), but it was there that the Southern Slavs formed their first
nucleus in the 12th century under Nemanjic; it should in no way be applied to the
territory of Kossovo:
The use of the expression 'Old Serbia' would be, if applied to a limited territory, after
all justified, in as much as here (in Raka) the old Serbian state, which in its
early stage may be identified with Rascia, originated. But he term 'Old Serbia' is used by
chauvinistic Serbs to designate regions, such as Prizren, Gjakova, Ipek on the one hand
and, on the other, Iskup, which geographically and ethnographically belong to Albania and
Macedonia. 'Old Serbia' is therefore applied, for political purposes, to regions which
ethnically speaking were never Serb (Ippen, op.cit., p.4).103
* * *
In the sight of these facts, the Albanians maintain that the principle of history invoked
by the Serbs in support to territorial claims, is not based on any solid facts.
Serbian Churches in Kosova
It is an undeniable fact that people feel the need to build whatever they establish
themselves. It is therefore normal that when they move away, they leave monuments behind.
Suffice it to mention in this regard the famous mosques of Spain where the Arabs ruled for
more than seven centuries. Some nations inherit monuments found by them in conquered
territories. Thus Istanbul contains, aside from Hagia Sophia, many other Byzantine
churches. These Christian places of worship stand amidst a Moslem population. Their fate
is - mutatis mutandis - comparable to the Moslem monuments of Spain.
Similar to other nations, the Yugoslavs inherited from those who had previously ruled over
the territories presently inhabited by them, various monuments associated with different
civilizations that flourished in those areas throughout the centuries - for instance, on
the Dalmatian coast, works of art built by the Romans and the Venetians add charm to the
beautiful coast attracting a great number of tourists.104 These monuments are
well preserved by the Yugoslavs. Conversely, the Serbo-Montenegrins thought it appropriate
to destroy practically all Turkish works of art. The beautiful 17th century mosque of
Podgorica, recently Titograd, was thus demolished despite the loud protests of the
Bosnians. In Belgrade and its surroundings alone over 260 mosques, some of which were of
undeniable artistic value, were razed.105 The Serbs have also demolished or
damaged Albanian Catholic Churches.106
It is evident that places of worship as well as works of art represent the very spirit of
a nation; to destroy them is tantamount to ruining the nation itself. The urge to conquer
is more often than not accompanied by the need to annihilate the very spirit of the enemy.
In this regard, it is perhaps not inappropriate to point out that the Greeks, who in 1766
eliminated the autocephalous Church of Peja and the following year, the Bulgarian Church
of Ochrida, also destroyed Serbian manuscripts and monuments. In 1825, the Metropolitan
Ilarion is said to have burned publicly all the Slavonic books in the old library of
One could also point out the fact that during the Balkan Wars, the Bulgarian army,
responsible for many other destructions, turned into a stable the monastery of Gracanica,
damaging the frescoes on the walls.108
Many Catholic churches were damaged or demolished by the Serbs.
In the light of these facts, one appreciates more fully the attitude of the Albanians with
regard to Serbian places of worship situated in a region where the population is
overwhelmingly Albanian and Moslem. But before giving any details a few words about these
churches become compelling.
In the region bordering on present-day Albania, there are three important monasteries
(restored at high cost between the two World Wars):
1) The Patriarchate of Peja, built in the 13th century and aggrandized in the 14th. Its
religious importance is well known, but from the point of view of architecture it is not
2) The monastery of Decani, built in 1325-1335. Its architect was Vita of Cattaro, a
Catholic brother. It is the most beautiful of the three monasteries.
3) The Church of Devica in Drenica, built by the Despot Georg Brankovic, mentioned in
documents only in 1578. From the point of view of architecture, this church is less
important than the two others.
All three of them are situated in isolated areas. According to A. Slijepcevic, these
monasteries were not so much intended to be places of worship; rather, they constituted
landmarks either in conquered territories or away from from state rule. In the latter
case, they were like attempts to "rapprochments".109
Medieval Serbian documents clearly indicate that the villages surrounding the Serbian
monasteries were inhabited by Albanians, who contributed to their maintenance.110
It is now time to point out that these places of worship would have been destroyed in the
course of years had it not been for the Albanians. It is to them that they owe their
existence. For centuries, the guardians of these churches - the vojvods, as they are
called - have always been Moslem Albanians, elected by the neighboring villages of these
churches. There were times when the Albanians experienced bitter and inimical feelings in
regard to the Serbs, especially following the Berlin Congress, when tens of thousands of
their co-nationals inhabiting the regions ceded to Serbia and Montenegro were brutally
driven out of their homes and forced to leave the region. There were also times,
especially at the turn of the century, when the Albanians, disobeying the Turks, held sway
in those territories, where they constituted over 90% of the population. It was thus in
their power to reduce to ashes those places of worship. But they did not do so despite the
fact that they were fighting the Serbs. This surprising attitude is due to the Albanian
Code of Laws (the Code of Laws of Lek Dukagjini, rightly regarded as the bible of the
North Albania), which penalizes those who do not show respect for churches even if they
are not their own. Numerous were the vojvods killed while defending one or the other of
these monasteries. Orthodox priests sent to their families letters of praise and
Considering these facts, Serb propaganda that depicts the Albanians as vandals who damage
Serbian churches seems both mean-spirited and undignified, especially when one thinks that
even poets have put their talents to the service of a defaming propaganda by describing
the Albanians as destroyers. In this regard, mention should be made of a widely advertised
poem by the well-known Serb poet, Rakic, where an Albanian is described as having damaged
the eyes of one of the frescoes at Gracanica112 representing Simonida.113
Since there is irrefutable proof that this act was not committed by any Albanian and owing
to the fact that Rakic - who at the turn of the century was consul of the Kingdom of
Serbia in Pritina - must have been fully aware of the truth, his poem is more than
Regarding these churches, those who cause damage are Serb school children, who put their
signature wherever they can. Mark Krasniqi in one of his two illuminating essays devoted
to these churches has even reproduced the signature of the Serbian Consul in Monastir,
which he found in Gracanica. Using the Cyrillic alphabet, the Consul had written clearly
and in a conspicuous place: "D.Bodi, Srpski Konsul u Bitolju, 1893".115
A leap shall now be made into the present time to point out that the unjust attitude of
the Serbs has not changed.
On March 16, 1981, a fire broke out at the convent of the sisters at Peja, a fairly recent
construction without architectural value. Although the convent is at a good distance from
the patriarchate, which was in no way touched by fire, the casualty was presented to the
press in such a manner as to suggest that the patriarchate itself had suffered damages.
Accused were the Albanian "irredentists".
As a result of a court investigation, Judge Hoti, a Kosovar, declared that the casualty
was due to inadequate electrical installation. Although damages had been minimal, the
Fedral Government allotted for the restoration of the convent sums that were surprisingly
high. The case, however, seemed closed. It has been reopened of late.
It is understandable that, hurt in their pride, the Albanians have come to view these
churches, which they have so magnanimously defended, as symbols of injustice.
Kosova Between The Two World Wars
At the outbreak of World War I, the illiteracy of the Serbs was over 83%.116
However, the South Slavs, who had been under Austrian rule and subsequently served
in the administration of the newly created state of Yugoslavia, enabled Serbia to progress
between the two wars. As for the Albanians who remained under Slav rule, the period that
began in 1913 and ended in 1941 was one of regression and mourning. Progress was
completely denied to them. The few Albanian schools that had finally been permitted by
Turkey shortly before the outbreak of the Balkan Wars, were closed by the Yugoslav
Government. No education in the Albanian language was tolerated. Unprecedented pressures
of all kinds were wielded on the impoverished population. New settlers - non-Albanians -
were established in the region. Under a so-called Agrarian Reform, the Albanians were
deprived of their land and compelled to cede it to the Serbo-Mongtenegrins, who little by
little set out to colonize the whole area. The man responsible for this colonization,
which was not performed in a very humane manner, was Djordje Kristic, the head of the
agrarian commission that had its headquarters in Shkup (Skopje). In his book The
Colonization of South Serbia, published in Sarajevo in 1928, he tells how rapidly the
ethnic composition was changing in a region which before 1913 "did not have a single
Yet soon, the Yugoslavs decided upon means even more cruel in order to eradicate Albanian
element faster and more efficiently. It was thus resolved that tens of thousands should be
removed to Turkey or to the State of Albania.
There was some concern that obstacles of international import might arise, but in a
memorandum to the Royal Government on March 7, 1937, Dr. Vaso Cubrilovic had this to say:
At a time when Germany can expel tens of thousands of Jews and Russia can shift tens of
millions of people from one point of the continent to another, the shifting of few hundred
thousand Albanians will not lead to the outbreak of a World War.
The Albanians intended to be expatriated were not to be allowed compensation for their
loss of property.
The means that were to be used for this removal are explicitly mentioned by V. Cubrilovic.
Below are picked at random and transcribed some recommendations contained in his
...agitators to advocate the removal by describing the beauties of the new territories in
Turkey; refusal to recognize the old land deeds; ruthless collection of taxes; threats;
withdrawal of permits to exercise a profession; dismissal from state, private and communal
office; destruction of cemeteries; ill-treatment of clergy. Conflicts between Albanians
and Montenegrins should be prepared and encouraged and should be either presented as
conflicts between clans or attributed to economical reasons. These will be bloodily
suppressed with the most efficacious means. In the colonization process, the role of the
police should be of foremost importance; settles should be mostly Montenegrins because
they are arrogant and merciless and would drive the Albanians away with their behavior;
from the ethnic standpoint, the Macedonians will unite with us only when they enjoy true
ethnic support from the Serbian motherland, which they have lacked to this day; this they
will achieve only through the destruction of the Albanian block. Settlement should begin
in villages, then in towns.118
The plan to begin colonization first in villages was based on previous experience and had
worked out well; namely, along the Dalmatian coast. In fact, Austria, thinking that the
Italians, on account of their advanced culture, were more of a threat to them than the
Slavs, had allowed and encouraged Slav settlements in the rural areas. As a result, Fiume
and Triest, whose population had remained Italian, eventually looked like islands immersed
in the rural Slavic population surrounding them.
Despite the strong opposition of the Kosovars to the plan for their settlement in Turkey,
the agreement with the Turkish government was made. Yugoslavia was prevented from carrying
out the plan because of the outbreak of World War II.119
+ + + + + +
Kosova During World War II
As a result of Yugoslavia' capitulation in 1941, Kosova - except for some districts ceded
to Bulgaria - was annexed to Albania. It was a great relief for the Kosovars to be able to
breathe freely after so many years of humiliation, and unspeakable misery. Albanian
schools were founded everywhere, books and newspapers started being published and an
Albanian radio station was established.
The joy was, however, short-lived, for Albania was at that time engaged in anti-fascist
guerilla war and the inhabitants of Kosova joined them in their struggle for freedom.
There were several political parties in Albania during the war. As time went on, however,
the non-communist parties received less and less support from the West; as a result, the
Communist Party eventually grew stronger owing to the ties existing between the communists
in Albania, Greece, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.
The Montenegrin writer, Mark Miljan (1833-1901) who, having lived a long time among the
Albanians subsequently wrote about them, pointed out their qualities and their
shortcomings. He remarked, among other things, that they are quick-tempered but that they
would never betray anyone even if it were in their own interest to do so. Trust, he
asserted, characterizes them and it is thus quite easy to take advantage of them.
This trait of their personality is reflected in their attitude toward the Yugoslavs during
the war years. The communist Albanians were convinced that the spirit of the Yugoslav
communists was totally opposed to that of the former Royal Government of Yugoslavia. They
saw in Communism true brotherhood among men and sincerely believed that the miseries of
the Kosovars were a thing of the past since they were due solely to the greed of a selfish
bourgeois society. Thus, the Communist Albanians helped the Yugoslavs in a selfless
manner. The Kosovars, erasing from their minds the atrocious memories of their great
sufferings, formed various guerilla bands and fought side by side with the people of the
nation which had been toward them most cruel and unjust. Here is what E. Hoxha said with
respect to Kosova.
Our aim is to continue the joint struggle (i.e., the resistance movements in Albania,
Yugoslavia and Greece) and to forget the past, because we are fighting our common enemy;
at the conclusion of the struggle we who have fought shoulder to shoulder with the
greatest understanding will settle any misunderstandings. The national liberation movement
has the task of making the Kosova people conscious of their aspirations... We must see
that the people of Kosova decide for themselves which side to join, Albania or Yugoslavia,
and to oppose the Yugoslav regime which would attempt to oppress them.120
+ + + + + +
Kosova After World War II
It was agreed that the Albanians of Yugoslavia should be able to chose their destiny with
the right to self determination, including secession.121 The Kosovars had
fought the Nazis and the Fascists hoping that Kosova would become one with the motherland
only to realize that the Yugoslavs did not intend to keep their promise. Bitter and
resentful, they rose in protest. But their uprising was bloodily suppressed. Thousands of
Albanians were placed in a concentration camp near Pritina where they endured
In 1945, when the province of Kosova was officially restored to Yugoslavia by the force of
arms, the principle of self-determination was not applied. Kosova was not even annexed
with the status of a republic; it was attached to Serbia, first as a "Region"
and then as an "Autonomous Province". Yet the question for the Yugoslavs was
again how to deal with the Kosovars, since it was no longer possible to do away with them.
In order to destroy any hopes that the Kosovars might have to join the rest of their
countrymen, Serbia's ambition had always been the partition of Albania between Yugoslavia
and Greece. The Serbian Nobel prize winner, Ivo Andric, who admitted this view, expressed
his thoughts in a memoir addressed to the Government of the kingdom of Yugoslavia in
January 1939. In his opinion it was the only way to solve the problems pertaining to the
Communist Yugoslavia thought of doing better: she strived to annex the whole of Albania.
Her efforts were thwarted.
As for the Kosovars, they found themselves in a very difficult plight because of the
partition of the territory inhabited by them into three republics: Serbia, Montenegro and
Macedonia. Thus, for example, Shkup (Skopje = Uskup), once the capital of the Vilayet of
Kosova, was ceded to the Republic of Macedonia. The splitting was done in an arbitrary
way, most detrimental to the interests of the Albanian population, for if the Albanians
were granted some rights in the recently created Autonomous Province of Kosova, these
rights were denied to the other Albanians inhabiting the Republics of Macedonia and
As regards education, the Albanian schools that had been opened during World War II were
not closed. However, they deteriorated rapidly for lack of financial governmental support.
Little by little, the teaching of the Albanian language, as well as courses in Albanian
history were not tolerated. Although the Albanian population is larger than that of
Macedonia, Macedonian is an official language in the SFRY, whereas the Albanian language
has no status.
Also, the Albanians started to be harassed by the secret police and to be subjected to
discriminations that manifested themselves in all aspects of life. Colonization by Serbs
and Montenegrins resumed again, whereas reports were released that the Slavs were leaving
the area. Thousands were imprisoned, especially intellectuals. Those who were arrested
were not allowed lawyers and were sentenced to several years in jail, where they had to
endure the most painful and humiliating tortures. Over 200 000 Kosovars were forced to
* * *
Recently, there has been much talk about the alleged growth of the Kosovars. The ignorance
of many journalists concerning an area where not too long ago the Slav population did not
exceed 15% is reflected in many of their remarks. One of them wrote that "the birth
rate of the Albanians in Kosova is so high that the Albanians will soon outnumber the
Serbs". According to Steven Erlager (Globe, June 18, 1981, p.3) the birthrate of the
Kosovars is 26 per 1000 (sic), whereas other Yugoslavs average only 3 per 1000 (sic). He
adds that on account of this prodigious birthrate, the Kosovars have become in Yugoslavia
a butt of jokes.
Yet figures speak for themselves: After World War I, the Albanians in Yugoslavia were
almost as numerous as those within the borders assigned to the state of Albania. At
present, according to statistics, the SAR had, as of ten years ago, nearly three million
inhabitants, whereas the Albanians in Yugoslavia are, at present, according to 1981
statistics, a little over one million and a half. Considering the alleged high birthrate,
the question, of course, arises as to why the number of the Albanians does not match their
Noteworthy also is the fact that in 1840, the Serbian state had less than 900 000
inhabitants; Montenegro numbered merely 80000. At that time the Albanians were over 1 600
000. At the present time Serbia's population is more than three times larger than
* * *
In 1966, the Yugoslav Communist Party was shaken by disturbing events that took place
within the party. As a result, Tito suddenly realized that the rights and the interests of
the Kosovars had been neglected and that there had been arbitrary and impermissible
actions taken against them. Although the whole truth was not disclosed, the plight of the
Kosovars was - albeit partially - openly admitted. Responsible for the crimes, Tito
argued, were Rankovic and his agents.
As a result of several uprisings in Kosova, the Yugoslav constitution was revised and in
1969, the Kosovars, notwithstanding the fact that they were not allowed to form their own
republic, were allegedly granted full equality with the other ethnic groups.
The Institute for Albanology was then reopened and in 1970 even an Albanian University was
founded in Pritina. The Albanians displayed great energy, new magazines and journals
started being published and considerable research was undertaken. Despite the fact that
professors were very poorly paid, as compared to those teaching outside Kosova, the
University of Pritina grew so fast that within a very
short period of time it became the third largest university in Yugoslavia. As of April
1981, it had over 35 000 students.
The situation in Kosova seemed greatly improved. In reality, it had changed only on the
surface. The Serbian conservative circles were working hard underground to repress
progress as regards education and culture. In the mid-seventies courses in Albanian
language, history and literature were reduced and sometimes abolished in elementary and
On other hand, Yugoslav police had been continuously arresting Kosovars much before the
mass demonstrations of March 1981.
Among the Kosovars in Yugoslav prisons are some very promising writers and poets. A
Kosovar poet who had been living abroad for 15 years was arrested and imprisoned when he
went back to visit his native town. After months in jail, he was freed thanks to the
intervention of the League of Writers and because the German and the Austrian press took
his defense. A prisoner much bewailed by all Albanians is the brilliant writer, Adam
Demaci. His novel Serpents of Blood, published in 1958 was an overnight success. Demaci,
48 years old, is almost blind. He has been incarcerated for 20 years. Presently, he is in
a prison 500 miles far away from his family.
* * *
Of great concern became also the problem dealing with economy. In articles published
abroad, Kosova is described as poor. The Yugoslavs call attention to the alleged
resentment of richer republics to the financial contributions they are obliged to make to
the fund for the development of backward provinces and republics. This claim is granted
credibility. Elizabeth pond, staff correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor wrote
from Belgrade that the local press and television reports emphasize the ingratitude of the
Kosovars for all the money and efforts the more developed parts of Yugoslavia have
lavished in trying to modernize Kosova. As a result, those who are unfamiliar with the
question may conceive admiration and even pity for the charitable attitude of the Yugoslav
government with respect to the Kosovars. However, the Autonomous Province of Kossovo is
one of Yugoslavia's richest region, perhaps the richest, in mineral as well as other
resources. In fact, the Albanians argue that if the region had not been so rich, the
Serbian legends originating in the 18th and 19th centuries would not have been created.
The exploitation of Kosova's mines by the Serbs, the billions of kilowatts generated from
its thermal power stations, and the selling of Kosova's meat and wheat on European markets
bring millions to Yugoslavia. The poverty of the Kosovars is due to the fact that only the
most exploitative investments are made in the region.
* * *
In The Burden of the Balkans, 1905, M.E. Durham quotes an Albanian newspaper saying:
"The Slavs are a brave people; they may have all sorts of other qualities too. That
is not the question. Our hatred does not extend to individuals, not even to national
groups, but to the spirit of aggression..." (p.56). Also, Justin Godard of the
Carnegie Commission who witnessed the ill-treatment of the Albanians by the Serbs praised
the Albanians for not blaming the Serbian people, but merely "La Serbie
officielle", adding that all nations in their relations with one another should be
able to make this distinction between the people and the government (op.cit., p. 234).
The Albanians in the People's Republic of Albania seem to have maintained toward the South
Slavs an attitude reminiscent of that spirit pointed out by M.E. Durham and J. Godart. In
an article published in Albania (Paris, 1981), the Albanian novelist, I. Kadare, remarks
that the Albanian people, although perfectly conscious of the inequalities, have chosen
not to react in a chauvinistic way in regard to the chauvinism of the Serbs, i.e., not to
use eel against evil, but to maintain an attitude of restrain characteristic of the
Yet whereas the Government of Albania, in an effort to maintain good relations with
Yugoslavia, has kept purposely in the background illuminating personalities, both national
and foreign (such as for example, Father Gjergj Fishta, the greatest of all Albanian
poets, and M.E. Durham), on account of the unfriendly sentiments toward the Serbs exposed
in their works, the Yugoslavs have not made gesture of a similar order toward the
Albanians. Of late, various new books have been published in Yugoslavia, which - mutatis
mutandis - are not different from those that were published by the Serbs at the turn of
the century. In this regard mention should be made especially of a novel, Zatocnici, in
which its author, Mihailo Lalic, uses a language that is most insulting to the Albanians,
calling them 'garbage', and using on their behalf various disgraceful epithets. Far from
being criticized, Lalic received, instead, recognition and praise. He is the recipient of
a national award. The purpose of all these writings is, of course, to humiliate the
Albanians and not let them take pride in their identity.
In the light of all these facts, there is no doubt that the Kosovars were harassed. When
thinking of the demonstrations that took place in Kosova in 1981 and calling to mind the
brutality of the police and the means used on an unarmed population demonstrating in a
peaceful manner, one feels particularly disturbed by some of the recommendations contained
in V. Cubrilovic's memorandum, such as "conflicts should be prepared and
encouraged...attributed to economic reasons" and then "bloodily suppressed with
the most efficacious means...the role of the police should be of foremost
importance". The Macedonians should enjoy "ethnic support...through the
destruction of the Albanian block".
The parallel between the recommendations and the recent events in Kosova is, indeed
striking. The Albanians maintain that the details worked out in 1939 are still finding
their application at the present time: the Kosovars seem to have been provoked by design.
After the bloody suppression of their demonstrations and killing of thousands of their
co-nationals, the Kosovars are now being deprived, bit by bit, of that relative freedom
granted to them by Tito in 1968.
This time the target of the repression has been the Kosovar intelligentsia: writers,
poets, students, and especially professors of the University of Pritina, who by
their intensive research in Albanology have revealed the true facts of history in the
light of which it has become evident that the Albanians are not an adventitious population
in Kosova but indeed have their roots there.
* * *
F. Piy Margall proposed back in 1876 the principle of Federation as a solution to the
nationalities problem, expressing the opinion that national minorities included in a
foreign state would eventually accept willingly what they would have instinctively
rejected, provided they are granted equality of rights and conditions.
Under the SFRY (Socialist Fefederal Republic Yugoslavia) government, the Kosovars have
been treated as harshly as they were under the government of the Kingdoms of Serbia and
Yugoslavia, despite the fact that the principle of nationality is supposed to constitute
Very little has been written about the Kosovars, their fate may be described by what a
statesman is supposed to have said with respect to oppressed population, "The death
of a person is a tragedy; deaths of thousands of people are merely a matter of
The Berlin Congress in 1878, committed an incalculable blunder, by "empowering the
thief to guard the bank". It allowed Serbia to massacre Albanians and destroy their
land. As if the Balkan wars were not sufficient, the Serbs started the First World War;
the Second World War was the child of the First War. After the abominable savagery in
Bosnia, the Serbs are slaughtering the Albanians in Kosova again. The permanent peace in
Balkans can be secured only, if the Berlin's blunder is reversed: Serbia must be returned
to its pre-Berlin Congress borders, i.e., into its real historical and national Serbia of
Note: The above
material can be FREELY distributed.
In fact, it is expressly encouraged by Dr. Juka.