An indicative testimony of the state of affairs from the 18th century came from a Roman-Catholic Archibishop Mazarek, who himself was of ethnic Albanian origin, from the well-known family Mazrekus, immigrants to KosMet also. In his report from 1760 he writes:
„All the time, many Catholic families come from the mountains of Albania; being hot-natured, irascible and proud, and very much given to murdering people, they refuse to be trampled underfoot by the Turks, as the holy Gospel teaches. Not submitting to the Ottoman taxes, they go around armed all the time, day and night, and indeed kill one another for the slightest affront in word and deed …“
These intruders usually convert into Islam, for utilitarian reasons. As the same Mazarek testifies thirty years later, they had „filled and taken over“ the whole of Serbia, committing numerous outrages against Christians: Orthodox and Catholic alike. Mazarek complained that they were „the race which breeds fastest“, one family procreating „a hundred households“ in a few years. Though this should be taken with a grain of salt, there is a general consensus that there was a considerable flow of the ethnic Albanians from North Albania into KosMet since the mid-18th century.[i] In his report from 1791, Mazarek ended that he would like to include into the liturgy an extra prayer: „Ab albanensibus libera nos Domine“.
What was the situation in KosMet in the following centuries? I would quote here some historical examples, as the illustration of the general case.
In the early 21st century, a Serbian historian Dušan Bataković emphasized that the worst situation was at Metochia in the districts of Peć and Đakovica – both closer to the border with Albania. While the Serbs around Priština, Skopje, and Prizen could expect support from the Serbian and Russian consulates, the Serbian people living in Metochia were left to the mercy of the local Albanian tribes (“Arbanas fisses“):
“The law at Metochia was designed by heads of the local Arbanas fisses, whose will would determine the fate of the local Turkish officials. With the support of the local tribal ‘chetas’,[ii] they created a sort of the local parallel law, a mixture of the rules of Sheriat,[iii] Arbanas common law and tradition of the highwaymen from the highland tribes. Such a parallel system of the local order, which in some cases, with ‘giving bessa’, comprised the protection of life and goods of individuals and even entire fisses, did not hold for raya.[iv] Therefore the Serb emigration was especially the most pronounced in Metochia. Before the choice to convert into Islam,[v] or to be victimized, they used to run away, individually or with families, to Serbia. In an application to Serb representative at Porta, Serb from Peć begged for protection from ‘the evil, enraged and lawless Arnauts, to whom we have been left at mercy, without anybody to take care of us, so that they have started to exterminate us and we have been their victims since’”.[vi]
It has been estimated that between 1876 and 1912 some 150.000 ethnic Serbs were subjected to ethnic cleansing in KosMet by the Muslim Albanians supported by the Ottoman authorities.[vii] When the Serbian army liberated KosMet from the Ottoman occupation in 1912 during the First Balkan War,[viii] they found there 40% Serbs, 50% ethnic Albanians, and 10% others. However, the Albanians never accepted the new state as their own and a strong tension between Serbian state and KosMet’s Albanians has never ceased since.[ix] KosMet’s Albanians experienced the liberation from the Ottoman Empire as a mere change of foreign occupation and never practically recognized the state of Serbia up today. In order to remedy this situation, the Serbian PM Nikola Pašić decided to settle a number of the Montenegrins from Montenegro on the deserted lands, left from the migrated ethnic Turks, mainly landlords – begs.[x] The official rationale for choosing the Montenegrins was, as N. Pašić put it: „They are much like Albanians“. Whether he had in mind the presumed common (the Illyrian) origin of all Dinaroids and thus counter-attacked anticipated Albanian claims for the unique indigenous status in the area or just common mentality of the Highlanders, is, however, difficult to judge now.[xi]
These newcomers were regarded by the local Albanians as undesirable intruders. When in 1941 KosMet became a part of a Greater Albania created by B. Mussolini, a puppet fascist state controlled by the Italians and by the Nazi Germans from September 1943, the first thing to do by the central Government in Tirana was to expel those Montenegrins followed by the Serbs from KosMet.[xii] They mainly moved to Central Serbia and Belgrade.[xiii]
During WWII, the non-Albanian population in Kosovo-Metochia was subjected to persecutions, aimed at banishing all non-Albanian elements from the area. The Italian occupation forces tried to protect non-Albanians,[xiv] but nevertheless, many of them fled the region. It has been estimated that in the period 1941−1944 some 100.000. Serbs and Montenegrins left KosMet, with some 20.000 killed. On the other hand, the state border between Yugoslavia (KosMet) and Albania was wiped out and a regime of free crossing was established. The ethnic Albanian population, mainly from North Albania, fully took advantage of this new opportunity and massive migration from Albania to KosMet was going on during the wartime. Nevertheless, the situation was not too much changed after the war, as some 300.000 Albanians arrived from Albania to Yugoslavia (mainly to KosMet) after 1945.
The ethnic Albanians at KosMet readily accepted their new (national) state under the Italian patronage during WWII. They did not border much this kind of “presented independence”. After all, their first, original mother homeland, Albania, was a present from Austria-Hungary in 1912−1913.[xv] While the guerrilla war was going on in Yugoslavia, especially in the Independent State of Croatia, the ethnic Albanians fully cooperated with the Italian and German occupation forces. True, there were a few of partisan small units, organized by the Albanian communists, under the Communist Party of Yugoslavia’s supervision, which were the principal target of the ethnic-Albanian (in)famous SS Skanderbeg Division, the striking feast of the occupation forces. Generally, before the capitulation of fascist Italy in September 1943, the only ethnicity engaged in Yugoslavia in fighting occupation forces was, practically, Serbs, communist partisans, and royalist chetniks alike. The first was led by the communists, under the leadership of a Croat-Slovene Josip Broz Tito.[xvi] The other was organized and led by Colonel (later General) Dragoljub Draža Mihailović, who rejected the armistice of the Yugoslav royal army to the German Wehrmacht in April 1941 and organized guerrilla war in Serbia, the Independent State of Croatia (including Bosnia-Herzegovina), and Slovenia.[xvii] When after B. Mussolini’s Italy capitulated, it became clear who was going to lose the war, and, therefore, the Croats and ethnic Albanians started to join the existing winning communist partisan guerilla forces.
According to a former partisan testimony, the Albanians in Priština greeted enthusiastically the Italians in 1941, with “Viva Mussolini”, then Germans in 1943, after the Italian capitulation, by “Viva Hitler!”, and finally in 1944 communist partisans by “Viva Tito!”[xviii]
There has been, however, a controversy as to the real motivation of the ethnic Albanians in KosMet for changing sides and joining the Yugoslav communist forces at the end of the war. According to some prominent authors, J. B. Tito promised to Albanians that after the war KosMet would be allowed to join Albania. According to some other historians, what J. B. Tito had in mind was a kind of the Balkan (con)federation, which would consist of Yugoslavia (without KosMet), Bulgaria, and Albania (with KosMet).[xix] Most probably both options were on the market. What is of importance here was that until June 1948 there was still no border between Yugoslavia and Albania and the free traffic between two states continued, as was the case during the war.[xx] The Yugoslav newspapers were full of photos showing Albanian peasants, with cattle and oxen-drawn vehicles, crossing the border, heading towards the “promised land” of Kosovo-Metochia. According to the estimates by Serbian researchers, some 300.000 Albania’s Albanians moved from 1941 to 1948 to Serbia. On the other hand, KosMet’s Albanians offer the figure of only 326 immigrants. While the first figure appears probably exaggerated, the latter is surely ridiculously underrated.[xxi]
As a matter of fact, a fascist rule and the unification of KosMet with Albania were short-lived (from 1941 to 1944). By the beginning of December 1944, all territory of KosMet had fallen into the hands of the new Yugoslav communist authorities.[xxii]
Altogether, organized immigrant waves from Albania from the mid-18th century onward radically changed the demographic picture of KosMet in the favour of the ethnic Albanians followed by the ban for the WWII expelled Serbs and Montenegrins to return back to KosMet issued in March 1945 by the communist Yugoslav authorities.[xxiii]
KosMet after WWII
Nevertheless, KosMet’s Albanian nationalists were extremely disappointed with the final outcome of WWII in the region. They felt deceived by the Yugoslav (communist) authorities and adopted the same attitude towards the new Yugoslavia, as J. B. Tito designed it. Even before the war was over, in 1944 fierce fighting in North Serbia’s province of Vojvodina were still going on (the “Sremski front”) followed by a rebellion of KosMet’s Albanians at the district of Drenica (which was notorious for the Albanian nationalism, if not chauvinism). J. B. Tito engaged a large force, some 30.000 soldiers. Fierce fighting ensued and it was only in 1945 that the rebellion was crushed. The striking core of Drenica rebellion were so-called balists, the Albanian nationalistic guerilla movement during the war, who in its turn was a continuation of the kachacks (in Turkish, highwaymen) from the Ottoman time.[xxiv]
After WWII, Albania’s leaders Enver Hoxha and Koche Dodze came to Belgrade and offered Albania (with KosMet) to join Yugoslavia, as the seventh Yugoslav socialist republic. The Yugoslav political leadership turned them down and offered economic help instead. They dismantled a railway and a sugar plant and presented them to Albania. Moreover, J. B. Tito on his own waived Albania’s foreign debt of $9 million.
When a network of the secessionist organization was discovered on KosMet in 1956, a Serb writer and politician Dobrica Ćosić suggested requisition of illegal arms in the province. He consulted J. B. Tito, who agreed, and the plan was approved in the Communist Party of Yugoslavia’s (the CPY) Politbirau and the Federal Government of Yugoslavia too. The ethnic Albanian leaders Fadil Hoxha, Džavid Nimani, and others from KosMet agreed as well. In the action, some 26.000 rifles, hundreds of machine guns, bazookas, two artillery guns, thousands of pistols, and a lot of ammunition were collected from the Albanian civilians. Of course, the Albanian leaders did not like it, but they had no choice at the time. When at the famous CPY Brioni plenum (in Croatia) in 1966, J. B. Tito decided to get rid of Aleksander Ranković, the most prominent Serbian communist political leader and until then the most loyal and devoted J. B. Tito’s aide and the chief of the Yugoslav State Security Service (OZNA/UDBA/SDB), this arms collecting was taken as the crown proof that the Serbs were ferocious with KosMet’s ethnic Albanians. However, in general, the policy of arms collecting is, of course, a ferocious business, in particular when the population considers weapons as personal property, like pocket watch or pipe.[xxv]
The political situation in KosMet was somehow settled down, at least temporarily. Serbia was partitioned into two autonomous provinces, the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and the Autonomous Region of Kosovo-Metochia (KosMet, which later became the province) and the rest, so-called Central Serbia. In 1963, KosMet became also proclaimed to be an Autonomous Province, to be further promoted in 1974 to a semi-independent political-territorial entity, with its own Parliament, police, educational system, President, etc. In fact, in 1974, KosMet became a separate autonomous republic with all political-national rights except for the right to secede. At least when J. B. Tito was still alive.[xxvi]
The autonomous province of Kosovo-Metochia
The Albanian nationalistic unrest which started in 1981 marked the way for the secession of KosMet, but it was clear even before what was the ultimate goal of the Albanian politicians from KosMet. When KosMet became a federal unit, albeit within only the formal status of Serbia’s province, by the (last Yugoslav) Constitution of 1974, the Albanians concealed no longer their intentions. But, the strategy for achieving secession from the SFRY (the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) was conceived a long time ago.
The status of the autonomous province, allotted to KosMet was meant to be the ultimate concession Serbia made to satisfy the demands of the local Albanian nationalists. However, it turned out that for the latter it was but another step towards secession, which was conditio sine qua non for the Albanian politicians in KosMet.
As a matter of historical comparison, Europe experienced this syndrome with Adolph Hitler and his demands for “rectifying the history”. While West-European politicians, making concessions, expected (or at least hoped) that Hitler will be satisfied with the latest one, A. Hitler took every new concession as a sign of West European weakness and encouragement for further pressing for new territories. When N. Chamberlain realized he was dealing with an insane person, it was too late and Europe was pushed into another bloody war in September 1939.[xxvii] What made A. Hitler superior to his adversaries was his irrational obsession with his political goals, which he presented to the world (both in and outside Germany) as the political and historical rights of the German people (whether he was sincere in this respect or not we may never know). But, one lesson the Europeans learned from A. Hitler affair – the driving force for his insane behaviour was his personal humiliation, which he skillfully projected onto the whole German nation. The Allies eventually won the war, but the final outcome, with tens of million victims and devastated continent, proves that irrational may win in real terms. Kosovo-Metochia’s ethnic Albanians played after J. B. Tito’s death in 1980 on the same card as A. Hitler and finally won in June 1999 after NATO’s aggression on Serbia and Montenegro by the creation of the mafia state of the Republic of Kosovo led by the Albanian gangsters from the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army.[xxviii]
Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
[i] About Serbian-Albanian relations in KosMet, see more in [Душан Т. Батаковић, Косово и Метохија у српско-арбанашким односима, Београд: Чигоја штампа, 2006].
[ii] Military unit, particularly used in the guerilla warfare, comprising 50−100 armed fighters.
[iii] Muslim juridical order.
[iv] A pejorative term in the Ottoman Empire, denoting a non-Muslim subject.
[v] The actual term was ”to become a Turk”, poturčiti se in the Serbian language, which was considered the most shameful act for a Christian at the time.
[vi] Dušan Bataković, Politika, Beograd, 2007-04-29, 31.
[vii] See more in [Радован Самарџић и други, Косово и Метохија у српској историји, Београд: СКЗ, 1989, 209−280].
[viii] See [Борислав Ратковић, Митар Ђуришић, Саво Скоко, Србија и Црна Гора у Балканским ратовима 1912−1913, Друго издање, Београд: БИГЗ, 1972; Владимир Ћоровић, Наше победе, Београд: Култура, 1990].
[ix] See more in [Чедомир Антић, Српска историја, Београд: Vukotić Media, 2019, 237−242].
[x] This land was distributed among the local Muslim Albanians who had been working on the land held by the Turkish begs, and newcomers.
[xi] About the psychological characteristics of the peoples from ex-Yugoslavia, see in [Владимир Дворниковић, Карактерологија Југословена, Београд: Просвета, 2000].
[xii] See more in [Branko Petranović, Srbija u Drugom svetskom ratu 1939−1945, Beograd: Vojnoizdavački i novinski centar, 1992].
[xiii] The Serbian historiography claims that c. 100.000 Serbs and Montenegrins have been expelled from KosMet by the ethnic Albanians during WWII alongside with c. 20.000 killed, according to the relevant historical sources [Душан Т. Батаковић, Косово и Метохија: Историја и идеологија, Београд: Чигоја штампа, 2007, 222−224].
[xiv] As they used to protect the ethnic Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia from the Nazi Croat Ustashi regime’s persecutions, pogroms, and genocide. About the Serbian holocaust in the Independent State of Croatia during WWII, see in [Milan Bulajić, The Role of the Vatican in the Break-Up of the Yugoslav State, Belgrade: The Ministry of Information of the Republic of Serbia, 1993].
[xv] See more in [Петер Бартл, Албанци од Средњег века до данас, Београд: CLIO, 2001, 138−148].
[xvi] About his biography, see in [Перо Симић, Тито: Феномен 20. века, Београд: Службени гласник−Сведоци епохе, 2011].
[xvii] About the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland led by General D. Mihailović, see in [Коста Николић, Историја Равногорског покрета, Београд: Српска реч, 1999, I−III, 1999].
[xviii] It has to be noted similar behaviour in Albania, regarding their commitments after WWII, first to Yugoslavia, then to the USSR, then to China, and finally to the USA.
[xix] This plan, nevertheless, was shattered by J. V. Stalin in June 1948, who did not like J. B. Tito to become so influential and prominent figure within his potential Balkan empire and who finally understood that J. B. Tito was a British marionette in the Balkans.
[xx] It simply means that it was no border between Albania and Yugoslavia from 1941 to 1948.
[xxi] About the Titoist policy on KosMet in 1944−1945, see in [Перо Симић, Тито и Срби, Књига 2 (1945−1972), Београд: Laguna, 2018, 37−48].
[xxii] Robert Elsie, Historical Dictionary of Kosova, Lanham, Maryland‒Toronto‒Oxford: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2004, 3.
[xxiii] Službeni list DFJ, No 11, Beograd, 1945.
[xxiv] See more in [Branko Petranović, Istorija Jugoslavije 1918−1988, Narodnooslobodilački rat i revolucija 1941−1945, Beograd: Nolit, 1988].
[xxv] See, for instance, the case of the Timok Rebellion in East Serbia in 1883 [Владимир Ћоровић, Историја Срба, Београд: БИГЗ, 1993, 661−670].
[xxvi] See [Миодраг Зечевић, Југославија 1918−1992, Београд: Просвета, 1994, 145−292].
[xxvii] However, the historians know very well that all territorial and other concessions given by the “Western democracies” to A. Hitler from February 1933 to August 1939 have been done for the very reason: to prepare as better as the Third Reich for the final Western crusade against the Soviet Union (i.e., Russia). Nevertheless, the British and French diplomacy simply made a crucial mistake by the proclamation of the war to A. Hitler’s Germany on September 3rd, 1939 as they wrongly believed that Hitler-Stalin Pact from August 23rd, 1939 was a sincere one against the West. About this historical time, see in [Aliaksandr Piahanau (ed.), Great Power Politics Towards Central Europe 1914−1945, Bristol, England: E-International Relations, 2019].
[xxviii] Hannes Hofbauer, Eksperiment Kosovo: Povratak kolonijalizma, Beograd: Albatros Plus, 2009; Пјер Пеан, Косово: „Праведни“ рат за стварање мафијашке државе, Београд: Службени гласник, 2013.