Page 606 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 606

Dušan T. Bataković
tive rights and were confined to their claims for unre- stricted majority rule in a territory defined as “the Repub- lic of Kosovo” within the Yugoslav federation.
Protests of Kosovo albanians provoked another wave of ethnic mobilization. it was the Trepča albanian min- ers’ protest of November 1988 followed by a similar al- banian miners’ hunger strike in january 1989 that gener- ated a series of albanian-organized solidarity strikes in Belgrade-based, state-owned companies throughout Ko- sovo and Metohija. in addition, between November 1988 and September 1989 mass strikes or other work boycotts took place in at least 230 companies throughout the prov- ince, producing a tremendous loss of two million work- ing hours. albanian-sponsored strikes soon became the chief weapon of the independent Trade Unions of Koso- vo (BSPK), organized in 1990 to substitute the provincial Federation of Trade Unions (FTU). On 3 September the BSPK called for a one-day general strike to protest against the dismissals of 15,000 albanian workers. The general strike of Kosovo albanians, fully boycotted by the Prov- ince’s thirty-five percent Serb and non-albanian popula- tion, managed to halt most of the big companies all over Kosovo and Metohija and demonstrated the power of eth- nic mobilization and solidarity. However, the strike failed to achieve its aims; rather, Serbia responded by firing an additional 5,000 workers who had refused to comply with the strict rules of workers-self-management that were still a legal obligation for all workers in Yugoslavia.
Conflicts, Parallel Worlds, Confrontation
The final result of the limitation of Kosovo autonomy imposed by Serbia was another huge wave of unrest and, in turn, severe police repression. as albanian protests con- tinued, the Yugoslav leadership, at the request of the au- thorities of Serbia, deployed the federal army forces to Kosovo and Metohija in February 1989. During the ensu- ing March protest some protesters, some of whom were armed, were killed while hundreds were arrested in con- flicts with the federal army. That same month, the alba- nian communist leader azem Vllasi and another fourteen albanian communists were sentenced for “counterrevo- lutionary activities undermining the social order”, for or- ganizing the riots of miners at Stari Trg and albanian eth- nically motivated demonstrations throughout Kosovo.182
By the 26 March 1989 amendments to the Constitu- tion of Serbia, the autonomy of both Serbian provinces, Kosovo (with the term Metohija reintroduced) and Vo- jvodina, was reduced to the level enjoyed under the 1963
182 it was later that their sentences were abolished under the pres- sure of the international and Yugoslav public. Cf Hugh Poulton, The Balkans Minorities and States in Conflict (London: Minority Rights Group, 1991), 67–68.
Constitution.183 The limitation of autonomy meant in fact the removal of all constitutional provisions perceived or treated as elements of potential Kosovo statehood. it also ended the unrestrained, ethnically motivated political domination of albanians in the autonomous Province of Kosovo.184
The albanian members of the dismissed communist assembly of Kosovo responded on 2 july 1990 by pro- claiming the Republic of Kosovo within Yugoslavia, i.e. a federal unit separate from Serbia. Furthermore, the Ko- sovo albanian representatives, fully ignoring the politi- cal rights of Kosovo Serbs and other national communi- ties and ethnic groups, adopted their own albanian “Con- stitution” at an assembly held secretly in Kačanik on 7 September 1990. These acts, followed by a widespread al- banian boycott of all official Serb-dominated institutions, from schools to hospitals, were regarded by Serbian au- thorities as illegal attempts at secession.185
Belgrade’s immediate response was to fire all Kosovo albanians who challenged the restored statehood of Ser- bia. The next measure was harsh police retaliation against often violent Kosovo albanian protesters. Unyielding in their aim to obtain independence from Serbia, Kosovo albanians at first chose a strategy of passive resistance, personified by ibrahim Rugova, a prominent communist intellectual that became leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), a political party functioning as a mass albanian national movement. Rugova’s policy was to re- fuse all contact with official Belgrade and the Serb-dom- inated authorities in Kosovo, labelling them illegal insti- tutions that violated 1974 Kosovo autonomy. Furthermore, throughout the early 1990s, Kosovo albanians adamant- ly rejected frequent calls, supported by the international community, for a democratic compromise through po- litical compromise with the anti-Milošević democratic forces in Serbia. Kosovo albanians, therefore, invested nothing into the promotion of democracy or human rights in Serbia. The majority of Kosovo albanians boycotted all post-1990 multiparty parliamentary elections in Serbia while in parallel denouncing Milošević’s communist re- gime as pursuing “colonial” and “apartheid” policy.
The only beneficiary of the situation was Milošević, who rose to power through being perceived as the main protector of discriminated Kosovo Serbs. in practice, Mi- lošević manipulated the Kosovo issue for his own short- term needs, primarily as a safe reservoir for at least twen- ty-six parliamentary seats needed for maintaining his un- disputed power in Serbia. in return, Milošević tolerated
183 “Ustav Republike Srbije”, Službeni glasnik Republike Srbije 1 (Belgrade 1990).
184 Cf “amandmani na Ustav Srbije 1989”, Službeni glasnik SR Sr- bije 11 (Belgrade 1989).
185 Cf Shklzen Maliqi, “a Demand for a New Status: The albani- an Movement in Kosova” in Veremis & Kofos, eds., Kosovo Avoiding Another Balkan War, 210–218.

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