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June 27, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 351
Waiting for NATO

Liberation and unification

by Aleksandar Ciric

With no less enthusiasm and cartographic talent, this disintegration was closely followed by international mediators - from Gutierez to Vance, Owen and Stoltenber, to Richard Stoltenberg and the already famous "whisky corridor" to Gorazde. How will Albanian maps be drawn? Ibrahim Rugova stated this week that an independent Kosovo is the objective of the battle waged by Kosovo's Albanians, that this objective will not be given up, and that it can only be preceded by an international protectorate as a transitional solution. Essentially - nothing new. Last year's public opinion polls in Kosovo, the first after ten years, clearly showed the political division of the local population along ethnic lines. Albanians are not accepting any sort of solution except an independent Kosovo. Also unanimously, Kosovo's Serbs are not accepting any form of autonomy which could be "given" to Kosovo.

The fact that the mentioned opinion poll included more educated segments of the population of both nations does not reduce worries in terms of the strength of their convictions or the depths out of which there is no coming back. On the contrary, the seemingly milder options of the kind like Demaci's "Balkania" - a confederation of Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo - or the status of a third republic in FR Yugoslavia, were refused point blank, just as all differences (not only political ones) between Kosovo's Albanians were pushed into the background, at least as far as the public is concerned.

Admittedly, the MUP of Serbia and the one whose orders they follow are more responsible for Albanians uniting than any kind of Albanian "national unity", regardless of whether Kosovo or neighboring states where Albanians are living as minorities is concerned. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is ever more frequently changing their slogan “clirim”, liberation as the objective of their struggle, to “clirim dhe bashkim”, liberation and unification (see article "State of Imbalance" in last issue of NDA).

The dream of small peoples of moving into a bigger national home often ends with a tortured awakening from a nightmare. The experiences of those Serb political leaders who "drew" borders between Karlobad-Ogulin-Karlovac-Virovitica in the past several years, or who saw Serbia from Triest to Vladivodstok, could be educational in this sense, even for Slobodan Milosevic, with "his" Serbia from Horgos to Dragac, whose survival has been seriously brought into question in the past several months.

For, despite professors of Greek and Latin, history does not teach us life. Instead of the saying about the teacher of history, our local saying should be that every Balkanization (i.e. state splintering) begins with the unification of people. In this sense, Albanians are facing a great prospect. More of them appear to be living in Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, and Greece than in their home state (3.2 million).

That is why maps of a "Greater Albania" always attracted attention and in the Balkans caused anger which was mostly politically orchestrated.

The case of Albania supports yet again the experience that "Communist" regimes carefully cultivate national feelings of their people. Greater Albania was most frequently heard in the time of Enver Hoxa, the protégé of Belgrade, then of the Kremlin, and then of Peking. The map which we are publishing in this issue represents the "ethnic territory" in which Albanians make up the majority of the population, according to the opinion of the Albanian author/historian Bejtulah Dostanij. It was originally published in the British monthly, WARREPORT, in February of 1994, with accompanying texts about the development of the crisis in Kosovo. which at the time could have appeared as far-fetched to someone from Belgrade, given that "our cause" was developing famously in Croatia and Bosnia.

It ended the way it did. Judging by all accounts, we are once again witness to another "unplanned" beginning of an end in Kosovo.

TORTURED HISTORY: After the 1981 demonstrations in Kosovo, the flower of Serbian media threatened chosen segments of our population with "counterrevolution" and "separatism" in Kosovo. It appears that the genie was released from the oil lamp with the slaughter in Paracin, when as Albanian recruit, Aziz Kellmendi killed five soldiers while they were sleeping. Only after that did the Yugoslav National Army release figures about the number of uncovered illegal groups of Kosovo's Albanains - mainly Marxist-Leninist and national-liberation formations of soldiers in service, but also of active lieutenants and other officers. By silently stopping to send recruits into the army, without any explanation, the state at the time gave up on a part of its sovereignty. In this regard, FR Yugoslavia is truly its inheritor. Everything else is known: internal differences on "legal interpretations and respective politics" toward events in Kosovo, beginning with 1981 were, at least publicly, one of the main reasons for the disintegration of SFRY, which had physically begun a decade later.

In contrast with Serb revolts, the tradition of Albanian revolts is virtually unstopped since the middle of the last century. The reason for the revolt headed by Mustafa Pasi Busatlij in 1829 was the attempt at centralization by the Ottoman Empire. Similar resistance to state authority in the interest of local feudal lords continued in 1835, 1837, 1844, 1847, and 1875.

Still, in the wars between Turkey, Serbia, and Montenegro (1876-1878), Albanians were on the Turkish side as "basibosuks" (irregular army), organized into 75 units of 550 soldiers each. Refusing fusion with annexed Turkish territory bordering Serbia and Montenegro according to the Berlin Congress, they simultaneously fought both against the Turkish and the Montenegrin armies; however, in 1897 around 10,000 Albanians fought on the Turkish side against Greece. After the Turkish Revolution of 1908, they once again rose against state centralization, in a series of revolts such as the 1909 Drenice Revolt, that is to say the revolt in Lab, Kacanik, Gnjilani and other places in 1910. One year later, in the First Balkan War, Albanians fought on the Turkish side against Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece. With the 1913 London Conference of Great Powers an independent Albania was formed with its borders being established (even though border haggling with Serbia and Montenegro lasted until 1920). Since then, Kosovo and Metohija have been part of Serbia. The Turkish colonization of Albanians in bordering territories of the Ottoman Empire was replaced by Serb colonization from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosna, and Lika. In the Second World War, the Italian and German occupational government formed Albanian militia units, with strong influence from the National Front (Bali kombetar) with its center in Albania. Relatively wide support from the Albanian population was secured by the introduction of education in Albanian, by allowing the carrying of arms, by tax policies, and the return of land divided in the agricultural reform which was carried out by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. That is why the new government of the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia was received with considerable resistance in Kosovo in 1944 and 1945, which was snuffed during two months of fighting in Drenica at the beginning of 1945. TOWARD THE END: From such a shortened perspective, without mentioning the revolts and demonstrations of the fifties and sixties, of actual creation of a state which was called the Socialist Autonomous Region of Kosovo and Metohija according to the Constitution of SFRY, of the 1981 "counterrevolution", of popular insurgence which began in Kosovo in 1986, of triumphant lifting of autonomy by the regime in the newly "united" Serbia, of the threatened commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo in 1989, and especially of the police and gubernatorial self-will of authorities toward the citizenry - today’s events in Kosovo do not appear at all new or accidental, or even unpredictable. The only uncertainty is how dearly the citizens of Serbia will pay for this, whether they wish to or not.

Countered with the fearful kind and extent of this price, it is of little consequence whether the woodsman from the famous anecdote will ultimately appear in the guise of NATO, KLA, Boris Yeltsin, or Slobodan Milosevic. In any case, Albanians will forever be indebted to Serbs for their independence, even unity, if that is what they want.

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