Sima Avramović

A short historical background of Kosovo and Metohia problem

The question of ethnogenesis and national origin became today a matter of political mystification. This is particularly the case at Balkans, where almost all ethnic groups or nations try to claim their deeply rooted origin: there are opinions and books according to which Serbs are stating that they are „the most ancient people“, Croats that they are offspring of the Etruscans, Slovenians that they are deriving from an ancient tribe Venets, Albanians that they are descendants of the Illyrians, the Thracians or the Pelasgians. All those, basically racist theories, are created to prove the claim that each of those nations have a stronger right to the territories, but they are all based on speculations and fictions, as reliable historical sources are completely missing.

The first period when the history of Kosovo and Metohia area could be reconstructed with some certainty, mainly owing to Francish and Byzantine sources, are the early Middle Ages. The first mention of the Serbian name in sources is connected with the 9th century, while Albanians were for the first time mentioned in 11th century sources, what does not necessarily means that the first are the older settlers than the second, or vice versa. The only certain fact is that Serbs are of Slavic origin, while the origin of Albanians is still disputed in the science, and that they both inhabited territory of powerful Byzantine state much before they were mentioned by their name in sources. Up to the 13th century Albanians did not represent a sufficiently clear historical entity, being nomadic shepherds and highlanders, while Slavs were mainly crop farmers and mainly stayed in the plains and river valleys incorporated closely into Byzantine state, particularly as they accepted Christianity quite early.

The first Serbian small feudal states of the 10th and 11th centuries leaned towards Kosovo. The first powerful Serbian state of Nemanjic dynasty was founded in 13th century with its center at the Kosovo and Metohia area, and this is why Serbs consider this region as its historical hearth and ancient homeland. This is indisputably documented both by Byzantine sources and dozens of Serbian charters and other written documents, as well as by toponyms (place names). This area became soon the political, economic and cultural center of the Serbian nation. The Serbian Orthodox church, as national religious organization since the birth of the state, was proclaimed autonomous (authocephal) in 1219 by St. Sava Nemanjic, one of three sons of the dynasty founder - Stefan Nemanja, while his second son Stephen was crowned by Pope as the first Serbian king in 1217. The leading monasteries (Gracanica, Decani, The Virgin of Ljeviska, Banjska, etc.) were built there. When the Serbian orthodox Church was raised to the level of Patriarchy in 1346, its seat was soon placed in the city of Pec (Pec Patriarchate) in Kosovo, which survived up to our days, along with thousands of monasteries. This is why Serbs consider Kosovo and Metohia as its „Holy Land“.

The western part of the Province of Kosovo - Metohia, was a direct dominion of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Middle Ages, and most land there remains the property of the many monasteries or the church (the name of this property is „metoh“, and therefore all this area is called Metohia today). The part of this area nowadays still has the same name - Metohia, which Albanian propaganda persistently avoid to mention. The Serbian Medieval State reached its climax during the rule of tzar Dushan, who made a strong state and enacted the famous Code of tzar Dushan in 1349, a huge legal codification in Serbian language.

Serbian state, together with the Byzantine empire, lost its independence after Turkish Ottoman invasions. The most important symbol of Serbian history is the Battle of Kosovo which took place on June 28, 1389. The strong resistance offered by the Serbs was broken in military sense, but the deaths of Prince Lazar and his soldiers became up to now in minds of Serbian people a spiritual triumph, death for „the Kingdom of Heaven“, a heroic sacrifice for the ideals of Christian civilization and salvation of Europe from Turks. The Battle of Kosovo is the seal of Serbian national identity and the key for understanding of its history and presence.

The Turkish invasion set in motion great ethnic masses in the Balkans. The first Serbian migration started in the 15th century, though not to great degree. In the 16th official Turkish records put Orthodox Christians in an absolute majority over Moslems (Turks and converted Albanians). During Turkish rule most of Albanian tribes converted into Moslems (almost 70%), about 20% of them accepted Orthodoxy, while about 10% accepted to be Catholics. This old division affects Albanian community even today, as Catholics live in towns, while Muslims are mainly located in rural districts. Urban Catholics tend to support the peaceful solutions, while the rural Muslims are the core of sc. KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army).

Two sc. „great migrations“ of Orthodox Serbs from Kosovo and Metohia, both leaded by Serbian Patriarchs, took place in 17th and 18th century, affecting about 200.000 people. Serbs joined a common European struggle against the Turks, but after defeat of Austria by Turks they suffered a severe retaliation by the Turks, so that a lot of them had to move from their homeland. Migrations of Serbs from Kosovo and Metohia area weakened the Serbian ethnic element, and it became afterwards more or less a constant tendency. In the same time at the beginning of the 18th century Albanians started penetrating into lands of the South Slavs. During the 19th century for the first time we meet the notion of „Greater Albania“. Owing to long-lasting Turkish occupation of almost five centuries, Albanians who converted into Muslims were favored and succeeded to take over a great part of Serbian historical territories, while Serbs were expatriated gradually through the many years of terror under the Turkish yoke.

Particularly by the end of 19th century, after the Congress of Berlin of 1878 to 1912, from the territory of sc. „Old Serbia“ (the historical name for the region of Kosovo, Metohia and some neighboring areas) Serbs were physically exterminated by Turks, who drove them mainly to the new created independent Serbian state. In those thirty years about 400.000 Serbian people left this region.

After the World War I, the first Yugoslav state was created in 1918, as a successor of the Serbian state, and it encompassed Kosovo and Metohia. In that time Albanian population amounted about 180.000. After the World War II in 1945 the number of Albanians increased, as some of them were moved from Albania in fertile Kosovo and Metohia valleys inhabited by Serbs, with the help of Italian fascistic occupation regime and the Axis powers during the War.

Today, Albanian propaganda claims that there are almost 2 millions of them at Kosovo and Metohia, what is evidently exaggerated. It is worth to stress that Albanians boycotted last three censuses (1971,1981 and 1991), so that they voluntarily disabled a proper estimation of number of the Albanian population at Kosovo and Metohia. But, the fact is that the number of Albanian population is enormously higher than before the World War II. The reason is that the majority of Albanian residents in Kosovo today are not of either of Albanian ancient communities, but are Albanian refugees who resettled in the province during or after the War.

Thousands of Serbs were forced by Yugoslav communist ruler Tito (who was a Croat by origin) to leave their homes in order to leave space for Albanians and were never allowed to reclaim their property or to come back to their homes. This is performed by a special Law enacted in 1946! Instead, he encouraged more Albanians from Albania to come into the province of Kosovo and Metohia (estimated at least about 300.000) and began subsidizing these people as an ethnic group. Owing to a very high birthrate as well and further uncontrolled mass immigration, the situation soured from the mid 1960s, as the Albanian population at Kosovo and Metohia reached almost 75%. So, the Serbian people was reduced to the status of minority.

At that time, Tito instituted a national payroll tax of 1% to subsidize development of Kosovo, but this soon turned into a welfare subsidy. Serbs in Kosovo at the time were required to study Albanian language from 7th to 12th grade. According to the Constitution of 1974, the Federal Parliament included the delegation formed mainly from Albanians from Kosovo, while on the contrary, no representatives from Serbia were part of the Parliament of the Province of Kosovo. Nevertheless a high degree of autonomy and full participation in Serbian state and Yugoslav federal government, from the early 1980s Albanians began pressure for even greater autonomy, refusing to speak Serb. They began openly discriminating against the Serbs natives of the province, hoping to drive the Serbs out by different forms of violence, taking over their property at rock-bottom prices.

The „quiet ethnic cleansing“ of Serbian population by Albanians during last twenty years has the consequence that Albanians claim now that 90% of the Kosovo population are Albanians, what is also questionable, as no census of Albanians was performed for thirty years owing to their boycott. The „quiet ethnic cleansing“ of Kosovo performed by Albanians, was the final step before creation of Greater Albania. None of Albanian negotiators at peace-talks tried to hide that the only aim they want is independence and separation of Kosovo and Metohia from Yugoslavia. No need to say that it would be the beginning of a new page in the history of the world: if Albanian minority in Yugoslav province of Kosovo and Metohia got independence by means of separatist war and forms a new state, it will be an explicit political sign that destabilization of other states by separatist has a chance to be successful.

Hodie mihi, cras tibi. Today it is about Kosovo and Metohia, tomorrow it could be about any other country. TUA RES AGITUR.

Dr Sima Avramovic
Professor of Legal History, Faculty of law, University of Belgrade

Први пут објављено: 1999
На Растку објављено: 2007-11-25
Датум последње измене: 2007-11-25 13:44:12

Пројекат Растко / Косово и Метохија