Page 729 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 729

design a program, but when it came to realizing it, the Ser- bian colonists, the ones who were brought to Kosovo to “re-Serbianize” it, were the most vocal victims of that real- ity. The problem had nothing to do with nationalism. The state had to make due; there was no UNRRa or other relief agency, and the Hoover european Rehabilitation program concentrated mainly on Belgium.
The insufficient response to the problems of Kosovo and Metohija, whatever the reasons, undoubtedly opened up an opportunity for anti-state (mainly anti-Serb) elements in the area to fan the flames of disappointment. as the armed but spotty opposition to the new state was dying out and life seemed to return to a type of normalcy, the Kosovo program, if it can be called that, was mainly visible through the work of the Special Commission whose task was to redistribute the lands obtained in the agrarian reform. it is estimated that about 60,000 Serbs from Bosnia, Herze- govina, Lika, and Montenegro homesteaded in the region, through the agency of this commission. it was a frustrating task and a tiresome process, consuming great energy, time, and cost, mainly because there were no reliable documents to work with. The land that had belonged to the former spahis and beys had no deeds, and some of this property was claimed by many families and institutions (churches, cooperatives, clans, and tribes) as “usurped” in the past. There were lands belonging to “outlaws” hiding in the woods or who had crossed over into albania. There were proper- ties so atomized and dispersed that it was impossible to put them together. There were pieces of land that nobody claimed, or that the spahis were not even aware of owner- ship vested in them. Most of the land available for home- steading belonged to Turks who had left with the Turkish army, or who had moved to asia Minor. Some of this mi- gration continued until the late 1930s. about 40,000 Turks left Kosovo and other South Serbian regions, and many departed from Bosnia as well. another 40,000 were alba- nians who, being Muslims, declared themselves Turks. The official policy of the Belgrade government was to encour- age Turks and albanians to leave. in the process there were some injustices and abuses, but this was not the intention of the law. Cases of overreaction, revenge, and misuse of authority were reported, but they were a far cry from the situation which existed at the beginning of the century, when the Serbian population was terrorized by the alba- nians on the loose with no strong government authority to stop them. in general, it can be said that after 1918 there was no revenge on the part of Serbia against Turks or alba- nians because of their misdeeds against the Serbs through- out the centuries.
One lesson that the members of the anti-Yugoslav Koso- vo Committee in exile, and local albanian outlaws, learned was that the Yugoslav army and gendarmerie would not tolerate albanian excesses as had the Turks. Belgrade could not be blackmailed as Constantinople had been. attacks on frontier posts or individual terrorists, acts against the
Serbian Patriarch Gavrilo performs the rite of krsna slava
Military parade of the participants of 1912–1918 wars,
photos from Pravda No 58, june 29, 1939
police or other authorities were harshly dealt with, and those giving sanctuary to guerrillas were severely punished if they could be located.
all of this had some unfortunate consequences: name- ly, it prevented the normal integration of albanians into the social life of the new state and it antagonized the cen- tral government to which albanians had been turning for help. Finally, it hurt primarily and most of all those among the albanian population who needed help most.
One should note that Serbs from Serbia itself were the least interested in settling in Kosovo or of profiting from the opportunity. Those who came to Kosovo were Serbs from other areas. inhabitants of Serbia proper never cast their eyes on neighboring lands, because they had no need for them. This is why a Serbian peasant is still sincerely taken aback when he hears anyone accusing him of “hege- monism.” Of all those Serbian peasants in army uniform who roamed the vast latifundias of liberated South Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia—not a single one stayed there after his release from the army. Neither did any one of them show any desire to settle there. They were startled by the number of landless farm laborers in all those regions, and
Between Two World Wars

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