Page 432 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
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Bishop atanasije (jevtić)
Congress of 1878, left the newly liberated areas and moved to Kosovo and Metohija. They were called “muhadžeri“and they were especially bloodthirsty; the Serbian population in the Gnjilane area and throughout Kosovo and Metohija suffered especially by their hand during this time. During this period from 1880 to 1912 approximately 150,000 Serbs were expelled from Kosovo.35 During this time the awaking of national consciousness among the albanians also began and the creation of the so-called Albanian League support- ed by the Ottoman Porte and even promising the alba- nians autonomy within the Ottoman empire in order to win the help of the albanians in keeping the Serbian Chris- tian population subjugated and preventing Serbian rebel- lions for liberation.
This is how the renowned anthropologist and geogra- pher of the Balkan Peninsula, jovan Cvijić, described the tragic situation of the Serbian people in Kosovo and Meto- hija in the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century:36
In the years between 1876 and 1912, according to anthro- po-geographical and historical data, approximately 150,000 Serbian refugees fled from the region of Kosovo and Meto- hija... I traveled throughout the districts of Old Serbia for the purpose of scientific study for 20 years full years (prior to 1912) as well as through Macedonia, Epirus and Thessaly, and can state with complete confidence that land (Old Ser- bia) is the land of greatest anarchy and violence, not only in the Balkan peninsula but perhaps in the world I am con- vinced that this will be confirmed by the English politicians and travelers who have conducted autopsies of Old Serbia There is no government or else it is powerless Two popula- tion groups of different religion live intermixed and human relations between them are unregulated and there are no standards One is the Muhammadans, especially the Alba- nians, all of whom are armed; the other is the Serbs, who are forbidden to carry arms In some areas strongmen are in complete control who are surrounded by units of armed men, mostly of Albanian extraction, and the entire land seethes from outlaws who, like the former, live by looting and theft Because of such banditry and attacks the Serbs were forced from their villages and they were settled by the Albanians Especially depleted are Serbian herdsmen in the high pas- tures of the mountains of Old Serbia because almost all of the Serbs’ livestock has been stolen These Albanian groups of outlaws are coming chiefly from central and northern Albania The expelled Serbs are going to (northern) Serbia Thus in Old Serbia there are villages which have been forc- ibly settled by Albanian colonists while the Serbs who have
35 For more detailed information regarding the suffering of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija after the Berlin Congress of 1878 through 1912 see Zadužbine Kosova (Endowments of Kosovo).
36 jovan Cvijić in: Zadužbine Kosova (Endowments of Kosovo), pp. 580–581. We note that this description, unfortunately, in many ways resembles the situation of the Serbian people in the period since the arrival of international KFOR forces in Kosovo and Metohija.
deeds (tapije) to the lands have been expelled; just in the period from 1876 to the beginning of the Balkan War (1912), there are about 150,000 of them in Serbia But all the local (Kosovo and Metohija) Serbs could not flee to (the state of) Serbia and many are becoming cifcije to the Arbanas ban- dits or begs Because of this many Serbs have converted to Muhammadism... usually only the man of the household while the wife refused to permit the conversion of the chil- dren to a different religion... however, frequently entire fam- ilies were Islamized Serbian women and girls are constant- ly kidnapped and converted to Islam It is true that in more recent times women or girl must appear in person before a Turkish court in which a Serbian priest takes part and de- clare that she desires to change her religion Frequently priests are successful in eliciting the exact opposite statement from the women before the court, that is, that they do not wish to change their religion and then they would return to their homes I have heard very touching stories of scenes of this sort However, once the woman returns home the husband or father (of the woman) becomes subject to great danger and if they do not quickly flee to Serbia generally they are killed by the Albanians The Islamization of these Serbian peasants is completely understandable because with Islam- ization comes the end of all their suffering and misery In these districts as well there are secret or crypto-Serbs who from external appearance have adopted Albanian customs, especially their manner of dress and behavior, and who in addition to the Serbian language, are fluent in Albanian Near the town of Gnjilane there are Serb crypto-Catholics who have gone even further and accepted Islam as well but who on their own hearths, in their homes, are still Chris- tians... It is very rare that anyone be held accountable for these crimes, and even when this does occur, as a rule the perpetrators are not punished This awful situation has not improved even with the introduction of a constitution in 1908 What is more, due to Young Turks’ desire for Otto- manization, the situation of all Christians in Turkey has deteriorated... Many church and monastery properties have been nationalized (by the Young Turks) and settled with Mu- hammadans who emigrated from Bosnia and who, it is true, speak only the Serbian language The same Muhammad- ans were settled on the meadows and pastures of Serbian villages in order to take away the peasants’ means of subsis- tence That is how they destroyed the compact Serb masses and created oases of mixed Christian-Muhammadan pop- ulation... by Turkish administration and Albanian crimes and violence! For even the most compassionate people of Western Europe these are nevertheless faded images For us Serbs these are acts, events leading to the destruction of our people... The former center of the Serbian state is of concern to the people Our most beautiful church buildings from the Middle Ages—Gračanica, Dečani, Peć, Sopoćani, Banjska andothers—areinOldSerbia Atthecenterofthisregionis Kosovo, for us a tragic memory, for it is there that in 1389 a battle between the Serbs and their allies on the one side and

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