Page 730 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 730

alex Dragnich and Slavko Todorovich
felt good about helping them to become landowners, pro- viding them an opportunity to freely exercise their political and civil rights. Still, a few years down the road accusations of “Serbian hegemonism” were rife.
What happened in Kosovo after World War i was not just a “change of occupiers,” the Serbian master replacing the Turkish one, as some circles like to portray the situa- tion. The fact is that, after centuries of social immobility, Kosovo suddenly went through a revolutionary change. The Serbian liberation of Kosovo, in a small way, resem- bled the Napoleonic push through europe. it opened ma- ny doors to the albanians. That they were unable or un- willing to use them is another matter.
One of the most unfortunate things for the albanian masses of Kosovo was their being abandoned by their lead- ers. as if that was not enough, these same leaders insti- gated Kosovo Schipetars to act against the Yugoslav au- thorities. The mushrooming of “committees for the libera- tion of Kosovo,” in albania and elsewhere, resulted in the sending of terrorists and irredenta literature into the Koso- vo area, sometimes allied with Bulgarian, Croatian, Hun- garian, and Comintern terrorists. in spite of such activity, an increasing number of Kosovo albanians began to real- ize that accommodation, if not assimilation, was the most reasonable course to follow.
in the main, Serbian political parties took Kosovo seri- ously, seeing in it an opportunity to fill a vacuum and there- by collect some votes before others gained this support. The leading Radical Party, the strong Democratic Party, the broadly based agricultural bloc, and the Communist Party—all showed up in Kosovo. already in 1919, the Koso- vo albanians formed their own political organization, called “Dzemijet.” They held their annual congresses, published the group’s paper Moudjaeda (Struggle), and conducted a variety of cultural programs. in the November 1920 elec- tions Dzemijet elected 8 national representatives; in March 1923 this number grew to 18. Later the membership split, as many found that the strong and influential Serbian par- ties were of greater benefit and more likely to deliver. By the end of 1925, Dzemijet went out of existence, and the former members either joined the pro-government coali- tion groups or the opposition coalition.
joining a Serbian party did not, however, mean conver- sion, as later developments would show. in 1941, many of those who had joined Serbian parties became protagonists of Great albania (under italian occupation). They were the ones that italian foreign minister, Count Ciano, had as early as 1939 called “daggers pointed at Yugoslavia’s back.“
if the political consciousness of the albanian voter in Kosovo was not on the same level as that of most other Yugoslav citizens, it was not the fault of the Belgrade re- gime. Some of the accusations against Belgrade, even by well-meaning Western liberals, that Yugoslavia was run- ning a “political Bastille” make no sense at all, and reveal a pitiful lack of familiarity with the actual state of affairs. Poor-
ly or not at all educated Muslim voters (whether albanian or Bosnian) were easy prey to all sorts of political opera- tors, susceptible to bribes, responding to demagoguery, and liable to be affected by various scare tactics. in the Con- stituent assembly elections of 1920, 22 political parties and groups participated. is this a way to run a prison? The Com- munist Party, which campaigned as a champion of the “rights of national minorities to independence, including the right to secession,” came out with 59 seats (out of 419). Many dispossessed Muslim beys and hodjas cast their votes for the Communists (a protest vote), and asked their fol- lowers to do the same.
What really mattered was that the albanian minority in Yugoslavia, thanks to its myopic leadership, made two faux pas at the very beginning: rebellious, it chose the wrong ally; introvert, it locked itself in its own cocoon. The third, and indeed fatal, mistake which it would make much later was to accept the offer to develop within the confines of that very same cocoon (the autonomous province).
even when in the 1930s it became obvious that alba- nians had already begun to participate in Yugoslav day-to- day reality—culturally, professionally, and politically—the residue of the unfortunate 1918 beginning was still notice- able. Perhaps there were too many people around who would not let it be forgotten. To let the forgetting take place required a longer span of time than the 20 years of the first Yugoslavia. When World War ii came, the bedlam started all over again. Now, after a lapse of half of a century, forget- ting seemingly is not even considered.
it may be instructive at this point to indicate what was happening on the albanian side of the border. in 1918, as the war ended and the dawn of a new day came to Kosovo, some 3,000 albanian men, members of the “volunteer ar- my,” were poised on the albanian side of the frontier, wait- ing for an order to invade and to liberate Kosovo. Their leaders were members of the Kosovo elite that coordinated earlier “revolts” against the Turks at the beginning of the 20th century. Many of them held high positions in the Turkish bureaucracy, and some were members of the par- liament in Constantinople (Hasan Priština, isa Boletini, Bajram Curri, Dervish Mitrovica). all of them relentlessly bombarded the League of Nations with denunciations of Belgrade. None of them paid any attention to the political personalities that were emerging in albania itself: Ymer Vrioni, evangjeli Pandeli, Bishop Fan Noli, and “flag bear- er” ahmet Zogu. The members of the Kosovo Committee, over- confident, enjoyed full italian support, and felt that they could even challenge the Tirana government. Bajram Curri, a member of the Committee, went so far as to as- semble a few thousand warriors in the region of Kukes, and sent them to fight the government.
in the years immediately following the world conflict, albania was still experiencing birth pangs and had no need for an arrogant committee from Kosovo. The country was in strife; the liberals (headed by a Harvard-educated Or-

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