Page 824 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 824

bird is still a battleground. On one side, as before, are the Serbs, on the other the albanians—newcomers to Kosovo. as ever, Serbs are Christian and european, whereas neighboring albanians are still mostly Moslem, and Mid- eastern. For centuries, albanians had been the most sup- portive element of the Ottoman empire. They fought even the Young Turks’ attempts to modernize and Westernize Turkey. Dozens of Ottoman Grand Viziers were albanian. The albanians provided the Sultan with a personal body- guard, served as Ottoman gendarmerie as far as egypt, and, together with the Kurds, the Circassians, the Tatars, and other asiatic raiders formed the bashibozouk—the
dreaded irregular troops of the Ottoman empire.
For those who consider this history, suffice it to say that there are Serbs and albanians still living in Kosovo
today who remember the Ottoman times.
Like their asian counterparts, the Kurds, who com-
mitted the genocide of the armenians, the albanians owe a similar debt to the Greeks, the Bulgars, and the Serbs. Yet today, to those who do not know or care for the past, the albanians present themselves as the innocent victims of their ascendant neighbors.
The territorial status quo that the albanians are insist- ing on, today, is an outcome of centuries of loyal, quisling service in the Ottoman occupation forces, and later, in the armies of the italian Fascists and the Nazis. Unfortunate- ly for the albanian cause, their territorial gains—in Ko- sovo, Macedonia, or Greek epirus—are not of very old standing, especially when contrasted to the duration of Balkan ethnic memories.
in World War i, tens of thousands of non-combatant Serbs mostly refugee women and children, the old, the sick, and the wounded-were massacred by albanian ma- rauders in less than a week, as they made their way to- ward the allies waiting for them on the albanian coast. Further thousands died of the aftereffects of their alba- nian Golgotha (as the Serbs still call it today) on the ital- ian, British, and French ships that took them to safety in Greece, and elsewhere.
a quarter of all the Serbs who had retreated before the combined armies of the Central Powers were killed or sav- aged not by enemy in combat, but by merciless bandits who preyed upon unprotected strangers, and murdered for the clothes on the refugees’ backs.
in 1941, the albanians joined the fascist italians, and under their tutelage formed a Great albania which, among other non-albanian territories, encompassed Serbian Ko- sovo as well. albania, for the first time in history set up at austro-Hungarian insistence following the Balkan wars of 1912, never included the Serbian Plain of Kosovo. One of the first acts of the new fascist occupational regime in Kosovo was to expell over 100,000 Serbs out of some 400,000 who lived there. in 1943, the albanians provid- ed the Nazis with a full-fledged legionary SS division, the 23rd Gebirgs-division SS “Skanderbeg.”
Yet, after the war, as after the previous two wars (the Balkan and World War i), all this was forgotten and for- given by the victorious Serbs.
Moreover, the Communist government of Yugoslavia forbade Kosovo Serbs to come back to their hearths, in compliance with an accord reached by Tito and the al- banian communist leadership. True, for 20 years after the war, Yugoslav Communists ruled Kosovo by police and martial law, because in 1945 a whole division of the Yugo- slav army had been wiped out in an ethnic albanian up- rising.
But, in 1963, Tito gave the Kosovo albanians autono- mous status, and in 1966 fired the man he claimed was responsible for repression against them—his principal henchman, aleksandar Ranković. Unfortunately, Ranko- vić never did anything without explicit command from Tito.
The Communist Party in Kosovo, the courts, the ad- ministration, the police, business, industry, education— everything but the army-was turned over to ethnic alba- nians. The official language of this Serbian province be- came albanian, while its schoolchildren were educated with the aid of textbooks shipped in from neighboring, enver Hoxha’s albania.
From 1966 until today, the Kosovo albanians have me- ticulously worked at driving out of their region everyone who is not an albanian, or does not want to become one. Many thousands of ethnic Kosovo Turks have left for Tur- key, Kosovo Gypsies have been pressured into declaring themselves albanian, while Kosovo Serbs have been driv- en out, en masse. 200,000 of them have left in the last two decades, under pressure.
even according to the controlled, communist Yugoslav press, albanian chauvinists are using murder, rape, pil- lage, humiliation, property damage, desecration-their age- -old, proven methods to ensure their goal of an “ethni- cally pure Kosovo.” and all this is happening not in an occupied country at a time of war, but in a “socialist, self- managing” Yugoslavia—a legal state at peace, an honored member of the United Nations, an alleged friend of the U.S.
Unfortunately, also, there are no american, or any oth- er TV crews to cover the events, as in israel, Panama, or elsewhere. everything—as interpreted by the Yugoslav Government, and the U.S. state Department-falls within the scope of “internal affairs of a friendly state.” There are some well-meaning individuals in america who, in their enlightenment, call Serbian Kosovo “Kossova,” honoring the albanian usage.
Yet “Kossova” means nothing in albanian, while the various Kosovos in Yugoslavia have a definite meaning in Serbian—not to mention the emotional, historical, and cultural meaning of the epic of Kosovo for all South Slavs, who have survived 500 years of barbaric, often genocidal Ottoman occupation mainly on the strength of the Ko-

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