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incidentally, the epic tradition of Kosovo was also a subject of discussion in a commemorative session of the Yugoslav academy of Sciences and arts (jaZU) in Za- greb on St. Vitus’ Day (Vidovdan). The speakers included two prominent Croatian scholars, Tomo Maretić and Fra- njo Rački.26 Despite an official ban on public memorials and travels to Serbia by austro-Hungarian officials, the anniversary was marked in Zagreb’s Orthodox church and through a number of smuggled news reports and articles. among those, the most remarkable is the article spon- sored by the Zagreb Catholic Bishop jurij Strossmayer who worked hard to build public support for thе celebration in Croatia. it appeared on St. Vitus’ Day in Obzor (“The Horizon”):
“Whenever the Serbs rose up to lead whatever part of their people to freedom, they always appeared with the wreath of Kosovo around their heads to say in unison: This, O People, is what we are, what we want, and what we can do. and we Croatians—brothers by blood and by desire with the Serbs—today sing: Praise to the eternal Kosovo heroes who with their blood made certain that the desire for freedom and glory would never die. Glory to them and to that people who gave them birth.”27
Clearly, in so much of the rhetoric related to this event, different aspects of the Kosovo tradition merged and co- mingled. Kosovo as a historical event, as a metaphor for freedom and as a popular epic tradition, all seemed to be interchangeable notions. The mobilizing power and emo- tional appeal of that “single word” in this period was im- pressive. The role that it played may be evaluated in more than one way, but with the examples that we have given we want to stress that even though Kosovo comes out as central to Serbian national imagination, at that particular moment in history, even if only briefly and collaterally, the inclusiveness of its interpretations by other South Slavic peoples shaped it into a metaphor for freedom they all longed for. just as the epic poems of Kosovo from differ- ent parts of Herzegovina, Serbia, Vojvodina, Bosnia or Croatia, which Vuk Karadžić had brought together in his collections, enhanced awareness of commonness in lan- guages and oral literatures of South Slavic peoples, while exposing the overlapping of some of their political inter- ests, so did the ideal of the fight for national liberation that Kosovo represented at that time help bring about the formation of the first South Slavic state after World War i. it is ironic that it played a very different role in the more recent history.
One hundred years later, when the 600th anniversary of the Kosovo battle was celebrated the situation looked quite different. Serbia was one of six republics of the Yu-
27 Quoted in emmert, Serbian Golgotha, p. 128.
De-Mythologizing “The Kosovo Myth”
goslav socialist federation, with Kosovo as an autonomous province nominally part of it, but in effect acting inde- pendently of it within the federal system. its majority al- banian population, feeling trapped in the South Slavic state from early on, was progressively disgruntled with their status and more assertive and demanding as they were becoming increasingly demographically dominant.28 The Serbian population in Kosovo, for their part, had their own grievances as a minority not directly protected by Serbi- an republican laws, but more immediately subject to the local majority albanian government. The dynamics of their tensed relationship was based on alternation of the op- pression of the Albanians by the republican and/or fed- eral Party apparatus, with the albanian oppression of the minority Serb population in the province. Neither people had their grievances properly addressed, but rather sys- tematically covered up or suppressed by the Party offi- cials, not only Serbian and albanian, but others from the federation as well. Until 1986 “Kosovo was not seen pri- marily as a Serbian but rather as a Yugoslav problem, which had to be solved at federal level. There was little under- standing and even less sympathy for the demands of the albanians in Kosovo.”29 Political goals of albanians, ar- ticulated by some in separatist terms and by others for the status of Kosovo republic within the federation, were not addressed in a realistic manner, but rather were perceived as a threat to the stability of Yugoslav federation.30 it was not really until the appearance of Slobodan Milošević on the Serbian and Yugoslav political scene (his election as a President of Serbia in 1987), that Kosovo became almost exclusively a “Serbian problem.” Milošević’s unilateral abo- lition of the autonomies of Vojvodina and Kosovo, guar- anteed by controversial 1974 Constitution, only brought further alienation of Kosovo and establishment of a po- lice state in which Serbs had control over all major insti- tutions.
28 Kosovo Census Data from the foundation of Yugoslavia to its end shows interesting variations: in 1921 albanians constituted 65.8%; in 1939 54.4% (due to directly or indirectly encouraged or forced mi- gration from Yugoslavia); after WWii (1948) there were 68.5% of al- banians, a remarkable increase during the war period, and steady increase all the way to 82.25 in 1991.Meanwhile, there were 33.1% of Serbs and Montenegrins in 1939, and 27.5% after WWii (1948); this percentage remains stable until 1971 when we see steady decrease from 20.9% to 10.9% in 1991, due to social, political and economic pressures. Mertus, Kosovo, 313- 16.
29 Nevenka Tromp-Vrkić, “Kosovo and the Desintegration of Yu- goslavia,” in Kosovo-Kosova: Confrontation or Coexistence. Ger Duijz- ings, Dušan janjić and Shkëlzen Maliqi, eds. (Nijmegen: Peace Re- search Center, 1997), p. 49.
30 The general Yugoslav perception was that albanians as an over- all minority within the country had all the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution: since 1968 they had even higher educational institutions in their language, extensive political and cultural auton- omy, freedom to practice religion (unlike their kin in albania), etc. This widespread view was accompanied with the knowledge that substantial financial support was going to Kosovo “from federal funds for economic development of underdeveloped regions.” Ibid.
  FranjoRakić,“BojnaKosovu:uzrociiposljedice,”inRadJAZU, XCVii (Zagreb, 1889): 1–68; Toma Maretić “Kosovski junaci i doga- djaji u narodnoj epici,” Rad JAZU, XCVii, (Zagreb, 1889), 69–181.

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