In 1937 a Memorandum to the Royal Yugoslav Government was presented by Vaso Chubrilovic on solving the “Albanian Question” in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
A Bosnian Serb Vaso Chubrilovic (1897−1990) was a historian, teacher, university professor, minister, a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and politician. In his youth before WWI, he was a member of the secret patriotic organization and political movement the Young Bosnia and participated in the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir of the throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia in Sarajevo (administrative center of Bosnia-Herzegovina). After WWII, he was a high school teacher in Yugoslavia and professor of history at Belgrade University. Vaso Chubrilovic was as well as politically active as a political adviser for the Royal Government of Yugoslavia. After WWII, he became a member of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (later the Union of the Yugoslav Communists) and due to this membership held various posts in the socialist Government of the Yugoslav Federation. At the same time, he was one of the most prominent members (academician) of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgrade.
In 1937, Vaso Chubrilovic presented a Memorandum to the Royal Government of Milan Stojadinovic on solving the “Albanian Question” in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Memorandum itself was a product of the author’s fear, vision, and even collective Serb paranoia about Muslim Albanian banditry, the policy of ethnic cleansing of Serbs, and terror over the local Christians in southern parts of Yugoslavia but primarily in the region of Kosovo-Metochia which at that time was divided between Serbia and Montenegro. It is of extreme importance to note that this fear of Albanian banditry and terror became in many aspects a reality during WWII and after 1945 up today especially after June 1999 when NATO occupied Serbia’s Autonomous Province of Kosovo-Metochia.
The 1937 Memorandum – historical background
The author of a Memorandum starts with the historical background of the “Albanian Question” on the territory of Yugoslavia by stressing the fact that this question is old and it has to be solved. The “Albanian Question” became important for the South Slavs in the Middle Ages but its importance became decisive by the end of the 17th century when a great number of ethnic Serbs have been displaced northwards from their former ancestral lands of the medieval Serbian state (Kosovo-Metochia, Rashka, and the western parts of the Vardar Macedonia) and were supplanted by the Muslim Albanian highlanders who have been supported as the Muslims by the Ottoman authorities. The Albanian highlanders came down from the North Albanian mountains to the fertile plains of Kosovo-Metochia. By penetrating to the north, Muslim Albanians spread in the direction of the South and West Morava Rivers and, crossing Mt. Shara (on the very border between Kosovo-Metochia and the Yugoslav Macedonia) descended in the direction of the Vardar River. In such a way, by the 19th century, the Albanian triangle was created – a wedge which based on its Debar-Rogozna axis in its ethnic hinterland, penetrated as far into Serbian lands as the city of Nish and separated Serbian ancient territories of Rashka from Vardar Macedonia and the valley of the Vardar River.
This ethnic Albanian wedge that is inhabited by the warmonger and anarchist elements of Albanian primitive highlanders resulted in the gradual process of hampering any strong cultural, educational, and economic connection between Serbian northern and southern lands in the 19th century before the 1912−1913 Balkan Wars. That became the focal reason why Serbia was constantly unstable, until 1878 (when Serbia got international recognition of her political independence on the 1878 Berlin Congress), when Belgrade managed to establish and maintain continuous connections with Vardar Macedonia (part of Ancient Serbia), via the town of Vranje and the Mt. Black Mountain nearby the city of Skopje, in order to exercise the cultural and political influence within the region of the valley of the Vardar River. That was anticipated for the reason of favorable geographical and transportation connections as well the historical traditions in this region.
However, although the Bulgarians obtained their state independence later than Serbia (in 1908), at first they had greater success (since 1870 when the Bulgarian Exarchate was established by the Ottoman Sultan). This explains why there are permanent settlements of South Slavs from the city of Vidin in the north (in North Bulgaria on the Danube River) to the town of Ohrid in the south (in Vardar Macedonia near the border with Albania). Serbia started to cut pieces off this ethnic Albanian wedge since the time of the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman yoke in 1804−1813. Vaso Chubrilovic continued his Memorandum by the claim that from the time of the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in 1918 (since 1929 the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), it became the duty of the state to eliminate the remains of the Albanian triangle (that was created by the occupation of Serbian land and terror over the local Serbs). Otherwise, the Albanians will continue their banditry way of penetration into Serbian territories and ethnic cleansing of the Serbs.
The 1937 Memorandum – the fundamental Yugoslav mistake
However, the state of Yugoslavia did not stop Albanian occupation and terror for several reasons.
The most significant reason was basically a mistake of the state authorities of Yugoslavia as they forgot where they are and, therefore, they wanted to solve all the focal ethnic problems of the troubled and bleeding Balkans by using Western methods. The Ottoman Empire brought to the Balkans the customs of the Sheri’s Law, according to which victory in war and the occupation of the land confers the right to the lives and property of the subject inhabitants (in this case of the Christian Serbs). Even the Balkan Christians learned from the Ottoman authorities that not only state power and domination, but as well as home and property are won and lost by the sword.
The concept of the relations of private ownership of land in the Balkans was to be softened to some extent by laws, ordinances, and other international agreements issued under pressure from Europe. However, this concept has been to some degree the focal lever of the Ottoman state and the Balkan states to this day. It is not necessary to refer to the remote past as it can be mentioned in several cases of the recent period. For instance, the removal of ethnic Greeks from Asia Minor to Greece and of ethnic Turks and other Muslims from Greece to Asia Minor, the recent removal of Turks from Bulgaria and Romania to Turkey. While all the Balkan states, since 1912, have solved or are on the way to solving the problems of national minorities by mass removals, the Yugoslav state stuck to slow and sluggish methods of gradual colonization.
Nevertheless, the results of such minority policy were negative and it is in the best way shown by the statistics from the 18 districts which comprise the Albanian triangle. From such evidence, it emerges that the population is greater than the total increase in Serb population from natural growth plus new settlers. In other words, statistics show that from 1921 to 1931 the ethnic Albanian population increased by 68.060 while the Serbs show an increase of 58.745. Consequently, a difference was 9.315 in favor of the ethnic Albanians. It has to be remarked that such birth-rate situation was possible in Yugoslavia called by all her enemies as “prison of nations”. However, in the cases of all Yugoslav neighbors, the balance between ethnic majority and minorities was clearly going in the favor of the first group like in Greece, Albania, Romania, or Bulgaria.
The Memorandum’s author is further writing about the fact that taking into account the intractable character of the Albanians, the pronounced increase in their numbers, and the ever-increasing difficulties of colonization by the old methods, with the passage of time this disproportion will become ever greater and eventually put into question even those few successes the Yugoslav state has achieved in its policy of colonization after WWI (in Kosovo-Metochia). It has to be noticed here that all of those Serb colonists (some 100.000) from the interwar period have been expelled from Kosovo-Metochia during WWII by the fascist Albanian authorities of a Greater Albania committing in this way an act of genocide and ethnic cleansing at least according to the UN Genocide Convention from 1948 (came into force in 1951).
The focal cause for the lack of success of the Yugoslav policy of colonization in the regions populated by Albanians was, according to the author of the Memorandum, that the best land remained in the hands of Albanians (who took it from the Serbs). Vaso Chubrilovic concluded on this place that the only possible way for the Serb mass colonization of those regions was to appropriate (in fact, Serb) land from the Albanians (in fact, to return the land to the legal owners – the Serbs). The crucial point of the Memorandum was that the Serbs lost the historical opportunity to solve the “Albanian Question” within Yugoslavia immediately after WWI during the time of the mass Albanian rebellion and anti-Yugoslav actions of the Muslim Albanian armed bands who did not want to live in Yugoslavia settled predominantly by the Christians. According to the Turkish example of settling the “Greek Question” in Turkey in 1922−1923, the “Albanian Question” in Yugoslavia could be settled in a similar way – in this case by fostering part of Albanians to return back to their homeland of Albania, by not legalizing their usurpations and by buying their properties. Here, it has to be mentioned that only Serbophobic Croats and Albanians claim that Vaso Chubrilovic in this Memorandum advocated forcible expulsion of all Albanians from Yugoslavia that is not coming from the text itself.
Nevertheless, in the next part of the Memorandum, the author deals with the focal mistake of the Yugoslav post-WWI concept about the right to possession of the land, instead of taking advantage of the concept of the Albanians themselves about their ownership of the land they had usurped but the Yugoslav state not only legalized all of these usurpations but worse still, accustomed the Albanians to West European ideas of private property. Before that, the Albanians could never have had these ideas. Therefore, in this way, the Serbs ourselves handed them a weapon to defend themselves, to keep occupied the best land for themselves and make the nationalization of Kosovo-Metochia as the region most important to the Serbs practically impossible.
The 1937 Memorandum – the geostrategic importance of the Albanian bloc
The ethnic Albanian bloc around Mt. Shara had great national, state, and geostrategic importance for Yugoslavia as this micro-region is connecting the regions around the valley of the Vardar River with the ancient Serbian territories. The continuity of Serbian statehood and ethnic life in compact masses was interrupted by the Albanian occupation of Serbian land and, therefore, until the ancient uninterrupted connection of Serbia and Montenegro with Vardar Macedonia is re-established, the Serbs will not be secure in their own possession of this territory. Ethnically speaking, the Macedonian Slavs will fully unite with the Serbs only if they will enjoy true ethnic support from the Serbian motherland, which they have lacked to this day. However, such support the Macedonian Slavs can get only when the Albanian bloc is destroyed and consequently the Albanian occupation of Serbian land will stop.
From the military and geostrategic points of view, the ethnic Albanian bloc was occupying one of the most significant positions of Yugoslavia that were the starting point from which the Balkan rivers are flowing to the Adriatic Sea, the Black Sea, and the Aegean Sea. The holding of this strategic position to a large degree determines the fate of the Central Balkans but in particular the fate of the focal Balkan communication line from the Grand Morava River via the South Morava River to the Vardar River. Historically, it was not accidentally that many decisive battles for the fate of the Balkans have been fought on this communication line. In the 20th century, the Memorandum’s author claimed, only that country which was inhabited by its own people can be sure of its security.
Here it has to be stressed that in practice, the history of all Balkan states in the 20th century except Serbia, Montenegro, and Vardar Macedonia was a time of ethnic homogenization which resulted in either expulsion or assimilation of ethnic minorities. For instance, present-day Albania almost does not have ethnic minorities and an extremely brutal policy of the assimilation of ethnic minorities was done after WWII at the time of the communist rule of Enver Hoxha (1945−1985). Nevertheless, Vaso Chubrilovic continues with the constatation that it was an imperative duty for Yugoslavia not to allow these geostrategic positions of the highest importance to be in the hands of a hostile alien element (the Albanians). This element is more dangerous as it has the direct support of its own national state of the same race (Albania) which always was hostile toward Yugoslavia and Serbs. It was true that Albania was not a powerful state but even in such conditions, Albania became a base of Italian imperialism and penetration into the Balkans, i.e., Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav ethnic element, which will be willing and able to defend its own land and its state, is the most reliable instrument against the Italian penetration into Yugoslavia.
Besides the bloc of Albanian 18 districts in Yugoslavia, the Albanians and other national minorities in the other parts of the southern regions were dispersed but, therefore, have not been so politically dangerous to the Yugoslav national and state existence. In other words, if the Yugoslav state will succeed to nationalize the region around Mt. Shara it would mean eliminating Albanian irredentism forever and at the same time ensuring Yugoslav state and national power within these territories.
For Vaso Chubrilovic, the danger of Albanian irredentism and banditry for the Yugoslavs could not be eliminated by means of gradual colonization alone as the Albanians were the only people who managed not only to resist the nucleus of Serbian states Rashka (Serbia) and Zeta (Montenegro) but as well as to harm the Serbs, by pushing Serbian ethnic borders northwards and eastwards. Whereas in the past Serbian ethnic borders have been shifted to Subotica in the north (before 1918 in South Hungary after WWI in North Yugoslavia) and the Kupa River in the northwest (today in Croatia), the Albanians drove Serbs from the Skadar region (today in Albania) that was in the 11th century the capital city of Serbian state of Zeta and from Kosovo-Metochia.
To be continued