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August 3, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 252
Serbian-Ethnic Albanian Dialogue

Getting Rid of the Myth

by Slobodan Kostic

A group of ethnic Albanian authors rallied around the MM literature magazine organized talks on war and peace last weekend and called in authors from Belgrade rallied around the Belgrade Circle. It was the first meeting in 10 years after a break in almost all links between the two communities. The first meeting but only semi-public since the philosophers, sociologists, critics and theoreticians talked in the Pristina offices of the Fund for an Open Society on a quiet Saturday morning, far from the public and media

Talks between Serbian and ethnic Albanian writers started but were almost immediately discontinued in the late 1980s in Kosovo. Years went by but locals still remember what Milan Komnenic told them: "Gentlemen we are at war." Culture soon became one of the battle fields.

Maliqi, the moving force behind MM and organizer of the meeting, recalled his impressions on Saturday afternoon and said he thinks the most important thing is that the meeting happened at all. He wanted to avoid any mystification and added that it was a meeting "of normal people who just want to talk". "One communication line to Europe leads through Belgrade for the Albanians," he said. "For years there were no tribunals here because everything was limited to daily politics. We also forgot how to debate."

The meeting included many prominent ethnic Albanian writers and was held in Serbian ("You should learn Albanian as the language of the future," one speaker said). The debate was dispersed and fragmented and got some form in debates on the Gulf War and Bosnia, the rise of nationalism in Serbia and ethnic Albanian-Serbian relations and even touched on recognition, an issue which Obrad Savic opened.

"Democratic society can be detected through the recognition of others," Savic, editor of the Belgrade Circle magazine, said.

"Nationalists talk to nationalists because they have their codes and language. That’s the language of Despic and Cosic who have their counterparts here. The only thing they don’t agree about is who Kosovo belongs to," Maliqi said and added that their words are the potential for war. And that was the main topic of the meeting.

"Describing crime without the prospect of punishment makes talk meaningless," said Mufail Limani, editor of the Albanian-language magazine Zeri and added that criminals are now talking of peace in Bosnia. "It isn’t enough to appeal for peace. It’s not enough to call Serbs and Albanians to want peace since that word is soiled with blood and crime. Without punishment for the people who committed crimes any talk of war and peace is meaningless."

"Who’s going to punish them? You," philosophy teacher Miladin Zivotic asked.

"Maybe I will," Limani answered drawing laughter.

Before all that Zivotic was portraying some Serbian intellectuals who he believes prepared the war. A couple of days after the meeting, Zivotic said the meeting in Pristina was a gathering of people who want to use cultural links to get out of the political blockade. "Both sides want to get rid of nationalist myths," he said.

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