Page 594 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 594

Dušan T. Bataković
surroundings of Peć. it was not until mid-December 1918 that Serbian forces finally managed to crush albanian re- sistance and partially disarm the rebels. The Second Ser- bian army briefly introduced martial law and re-estab- lished civil administration only after the eventual resto- ration of law and order.119
Within the Serbian and the Yugoslav Realm: Reconstruction, agrarian Reform, Resettlement
after Montenegro’s unconditional decision to unite with Serbia on 26 November 1918, and the formation of a common Yugoslav state (the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) on 1 December 1918, Kosovo–Metohija re- mained an integral part of Serbia and her different po- litical units (oblast and banovina). The purpose of the cen- tralized system that was established was to give a com- mon, european-like Yugoslav identity to different religious, ethnic and national groups divided not only by their dif- ferent pasts, customs and traditions, but also by many related prejudices, stereotypes and self-referring grievanc- es. For the ruling Karadjordjević family, restorers of Ser- bia, liberators of Kosovo and founders of Yugoslavia, it was a tremendously difficult task to find a european-type pattern that would be able to unite disparate elements within the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and to reconcile their often opposing political traditions.
after the First World War, the role of the main pro- tector of albania and the certified interpreter of albanian interests was taken over by a new regional power—italy. Rome continued its old practice of stirring Serb-albanian conflict, now with the newly-established Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed the Kingdom of Yugosla- via in 1929), over supremacy in the eastern adriatic. For several years (1918–1924) Kosovo–and–Metohija remained a restless border area constantly threatened by albanian outlaws (kaçaks), supported by the “Kosovo Committee”, an organization of Kosovo emigrants struggling for a “Great- er albania”.
The Kosovo Committee in albania was financed by various italian governments. in Yugoslavia, as in pre-war Serbia, the ethnic albanians were a minority hostile to- wards the new state ruled by their former serfs. The Ko- sovo beys reached an agreement with Belgrade about their own privileges, satisfied that their kinsmen were guaran- teed religious rights but not adequate minority rights, de- prived of secular schools and wider cultural activities in
119 Bogumil Hrabak, “Učešće stanovništva Srbije u proterivanju okupatora 1918”, Istorijski glasnik 3–4 (1958), 25–50; idem, “’Reoku- pacija oblasti srpske i crnogorske države arbanaškom većinom sta- novništva u jesen 1918. godine i držanja arbanasa prema uspostav- ljenojvlasti”’,Gjurmimealbanologjike1(1969),255–260;andrejMit- rović, Ustaničke borbe u Srbiji 1916–1918 (Belgrade: Srpska književna zadruga, 1988), 520–522.
their native language.120 Nevertheless, Kosovo Muslim al- banians, as a predominantly conservative patriarchal com- munity, often preferred religious to communal schooling, and islamic to secular institutions.
The leading albanian beys from Kosovo, Metohija and north-western Macedonia founded the Çemijet political party in 1919. They made direct arrangements with Bel- grade, offering political support in exchange for partial exemption from the agrarian reform. Supported by the local Muslim population, mostly albanian, Turkish and Slav Muslims, the Çemijet won 12 seats in the Yugoslav Parliament in the 1921 elections, and was even more suc- cessful two years later (14 seats). The Çemijet, serving most- ly religious and social interests rather than political ones, gradually evolved into an organization that combined re- ligious affiliation with distinct national goals. as early as 1925, however, the party was banned by the Royal Yugo- slav authorities for its clandestine ties with the remain- ing kaçak groups and the anti-Belgrade government in Tirana. it continued, for a certain period of time, to oper- ate clandestinely, recruiting followers, mostly young men, for the albanian national cause.
To the challenge of both Kosovo albanians and their kinsmen from albania, Belgrade responded by taking two- fold measures. First, repopulation of Serbs in Kosovo was undertaken with the aim of restoring the demographic balance disturbed during the last decades of Ottoman rule. Second, as the initial step in pulling these regions out of their centuries-long backwardness, the feudal system was abolished in 1919. Serfdom was put to an end and former serfs were declared the owners of the land they tilled. For the first time, the native Kosovo Serbs as well as many landless Kosovo albanian families obtained their own land. Following the Decree on Settlement in Southern Regions (24 September 1920), colonization began in late 1920, al- beit without adequate preparations. it has been suggest- ed that implementation of the colonization project “was entrusted to feeble and unskilled officials”, which led to dangerous mismanagement.121
Thus the first Serb settlers were left to themselves, while the royal authorities charged with carrying out the resettlement project often took advantage of flaws of the reform to engage in various forms of abuse. Many Koso- vo albanians were deprived of their former property, at least partially. after the first decade of implementation, both the agrarian reform and colonization, although aimed to upgrade the economy and secure interethnic balance, proved to suffer from major shortcomings, which had the worst consequences for the Serb settlers them-
121 B. Krstić, Kosovo Facing the Court of History, 83.
Under the Treaty of Saint–Germain (1919), minorities in Ser- bia within the borders of 1913 (including Kosovo–Metohija) were excluded from international protection. Cf Radošin Rajović, Au- tonomija Kosova Pravno–politička studija (Belgrade: ekonomika, 1987), 100–105.

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