Page 584 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 584

Dušan T. Bataković
Kosovo and Metohija, engaging at least 10,000 Serbs. They were joined by Montenegrin tribes, and Habsburg envoys even stirred up the Climenti (Kelmendi), a Roman Cath- olic tribe from northern albania, to join forces against the Ottomans. in the wake of the Habsburg defeat in 1739, thousands of Serbs, led by the new patriarch of Peć ar- senije iV jovanović–Šakabenta, fled to southern Hunga- ry followed by their Christian albanian allies.
Oh, in the year of Our Lord 1737 there was great un- rest when the Germans took [the city of] Niš [...] after came the pasha called by the name Köpörilu Oglu [...] and took Niš again [...] at that time Serbian Patriarch arsenije the Fourth fled. O, is there any way in which the Christian faithful did not suffer then and any torture by which they were not tortured? it is not possible at this time to write of this for fear of the Turks. Then Kosovo was plundered, as well. What else can i say: it was not in the days of Diocletian (when the Christians were horri- bly persecuted) as it is now, for God has unleashed it be- cause of our sins.63
Some of the landed property abandoned by Christian Orthodox Serbs was gradually settled by Muslim alba- nian nomadic tribes, whose obligations towards the Ot- toman Porte were rather different from those of Chris- tian Serbs.
islamization, New Settlement, albanization
Settlement of Muslim albanians first in Metohija and then in Kosovo proceeded at a slow pace. The number of Christian Orthodox Serbs in the region was still consid- erable while the refugees began to return to their homes after the large-scale Ottoman reprisals had lost momen- tum. This new albanian settlement in Kosovo and Meto- hija usually took place in waves of varied scale and inten- sity: once the abandoned land or rich estate was seized from its previous Slav owner, fellow albanian tribesmen were brought in to protect the vast expanses needed for their large herds and for potential settlement of their large extended families. in this population shift the social as- pect played an important role: as everywhere else in the Ottoman empire, cattle-breeders were constantly in con- flict with peasant tenant framers.
The emerging conflict was additionally fuelled by a so- cial and religious dimension: due only to the fact that he was Muslim by religion, an albanian cattle-breeder was allowed to carry a gun and could, without fear of punish- ment, persecute and rob an Orthodox Christian, in most cases a Serbian peasant, deprived of any means of self- protection. The series of Ottoman wars against the Hab-
63 Recorded by Petar Andrejić (Lj. Stojanović, Stari srpski zapisi i natpisi (Belgrade & Novi Sad: Serbian academy of Sciences and arts, Narodna biblioteka Srbije & Matica srpska, 1987), vol. V, Nos. 7734 and 7737.
sburgs during the eighteenth century weakened the cen- tral authority in Constantinople, inevitably giving rise to anarchy on both the central and peripheral levels of Ot- toman power and administration. Prior to the nineteenth century tribal-controlled and Muslim-inspired anarchy acquired large proportions, spreading all over Turkey-in- europe, including Kosovo–Metohija.64
Conversion of Christian Serbs to islam took place in the seventeenth and first half of the eighteenth centuries, when Muslim albanians began to exert a stronger influ- ence on political events in the region. Many Christian Serbs accepted islam in order to survive, waiting in vain for the right moment to re-embrace the faith of their an- cestors. The islamized Serbs preserved their language and observed their old customs (especially slava—the family patron-saint day—and easter) through several genera- tions. However, several generations later, the strong al- banian environment pressed them into adopting alba- nian dress and into using the albanian language outside their narrow family circle for safety reasons. Thus a kind of social mimicry developed which enabled the converts to survive, i.e. to avoid further discrimination for not be- ing in conformity with the prevailing social framework.
The enduring process of religious conversion also led to albanization, which, however, did not begin until af- ter the islamized Serbs, gradually divested of their previ- ous ethnic identity, began to marry girls from albanian clans and eventually became absorbed by the albanian- speaking Muslim community. Christian Orthodox Serbs used to call their freshly albanized compatriots Arnau- taši until the memory of their Serbian origin waned com- pletely, though old customs and legends about their an- cestors continued to be passed down from generation to generation.65
For a long time the albanized Muslim Serbs (Arnau- taši) felt themselves as being neither Turk nor albanian, because their customs and traditions set them apart, and yet, they did not feel themselves as being Serb either, the Serbs considering the Christian Orthodox faith as their foremost national attribute. even so, many Arnautaši re- tained their old surnames until the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The district of Drenica and the area of Prekoruplje (stretching from Klina to Lapušnik and Mališevo) as well as the Medjuvodje area in Meto- hija, converted to islam in the course of the eighteenth century, but continued to be bilingual into the early twen- tieth century. in the Drenica area, set between the plains of Metohija and Kosovo, the Arnautaši bore surnames pointing to their Serbian origin, such as Dokić, Velić, Ma- rušić, Zonić, Račić, Gecić. The situation was similar in Peć and its surroundings, where many islamized and alban-
65 Kosovo–Metohija dans l’histoire serbe, 113–139.
jovan Cvijić, La péninsule balkanique Géographie humaine (Paris: a. Colin, 1918), 343–355.

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