Page 725 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 725

World War i and New Tutelage for albania Alex Dragnich and Slavko Todorovich
As the end of World War i approached, and Serbia inched ever nearer to the fulfillment of its war aim— the unification of all South Slavs in one indepen-
dent state—relations with albanians took a new turn. The mighty albanian protector, and the main instigator of anti- Serbian attitudes in the area, austria-Hungary, was about to leave the historical scene. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was about to be replaced by italy, which during the war had settled albanians in Serbian areas, cer- tainly not a friendly act. Moreover, italy had the support of the West, which Vienna did not. The entente had made numerous promises to italy in the Secret Treaty of London (1915), and italy wasted no time in seeking to achieve its objectives.
But italian and Serbian (Yugoslav) claims to former austro-Hungarian territories overlapped. Serbia wanted Scutari, as a natural part of Montenegro, the real hinter- land of the city. in vain, Montenegrins had spilled so much blood for it in the recent past. The new government in Bel- grade wanted a degree of influence in albania, especially in the northern part, and a few frontier “corrections.” in gen- eral, Belgrade could live with the borderline drawn by the 1913 London Conference. also, as it turned out, Yugoslavia was among the few voices among the allies, pleading for an independent albania, free of any Great Power patronage.
The Serbian (Yugoslav) position was markedly different from the italian. The disparity was not only with respect to territorial demands and ambitions, but mainly in the con- ceptual aspect of the demands. italy, which had begun with an interest in the albanian littoral, now wanted half of al- bania and was pushing the Great albania concept, which meant the incorporation of Serbian lands, such as Kosovo, into the new albanian state. There was no way that such a proposal would be acceptable to a nation that had just come out of the war a winner.
Belgrade’s position on Kosovo was not negotiable and had not changed one iota since the discussions at the Lon- don Conference of ambassadors (january 1913). Serbia could not allow the Kosovo area to be a “malignant tumor” that would affect Serbia’s state power. and, Serbia never con- sidered Kosovo as “small change” or a “bargaining chip” to be used by diplomats at the negotiating table. Finally, the Serbs could have used the right of conquest argument, since
the Turks had conquered it from them, but chose not to do so. Rather, they stressed Serbia’s historic, cultural, and mor- al rights.
The historic, cultural, and moral reasons which guided Belgrade in opposing foreign pretensions to Kosovo were fully presented to the London meeting in 1913, and did not change in 1919 in the Royal Yugoslav format, and are just as valid today, some 70 years later, although in a diametrically different ideological context. The memorandum submitted by Serbia’s delegates to the 1913 conference, read in part:
“Today the majority in those areas are arnauts [ethnic albanians], but from the middle of the 14th century until the end of the 17th century that land was so pure Serbian... that the Serbs established their Patriarchate in Peć... and near Peć is the Serbian monastery, Dečani, the most famous monument of Serbian architecture and piety from the 14th century. it is impossible to imagine that [these] would have been built in a region in which the Serbian people was not in a majority. The region in which are found Peć, Djakovi- ca, and Dečani, is the most holy among all Serbian lands. it is impossible to imagine any Montenegrin or Serbian gov- ernment which would be in a position to yield that land to arnauts or to anyone else... On that question the Serbian people cannot and will not yield, nor enter into any agree- ments or compromises, and therefore the Serbian govern- ment is not in a position to do so...“
One cannot overemphasize the moral impact that the liberation of Kosovo (cradle of the nation) had as a fulfill- ment of Serbia’s historic mission. Rational Western diplo- mats had difficulty understanding this. Operating in soci- eties where traditional values are, if necessary, also nego- tiable, they viewed Serbia’s history in terms of “progress” made in a brief span of time. They could not understand the uncompromising position of the Serbs when it came to losing a few cities here and there compared to the overall national advantage gained in only a few years. The “some you lose, some you win” philosophy could not be applied to Kosovo. Serbia just could not accept the entente’s concept of giving certain Serbian lands to Serbia in exchange for giving other equally historic Serbian lands to someone else.
european diplomatic big guns like Lloyd George (who in 1919 said, “i’ve got to polish off Pašić“) or izvolski (who once called Pašić, “this old conspirator“), as well as British

   723   724   725   726   727