Kosovo and Metohija - A Historical Survey(1), Prof. Dr. Dusan T. Batakovic
In the thousand year long-history
of Serbs, Kosovo and Metohia were for many centuries the state center and chief
religious stronghold, the heartland of their culture and springwell of its
historical traditions. For a people who lived longer under foreign rule than in
their own state, Kosovo and Metohia are the foundations on which national and
state identity were preserved in times of tribulation and founded in times of
The Serbian national ideology which emerged out of Kosovo's tribulations and Kosovo's suffering (wherein the 1389 St. Vitus Day Battle in Kosovo polje occupies the central place), are the pillars of that grand edifice that constitutes the Serbian national pantheon. When it is said that without Kosovo there can be no Serbia or Serbian nation, it's not only the revived 19th century national romanticism: that implies more than just the territory which is covered with telling monuments of its culture and civilization, more than just a feeling of hard won national and state independence: Kosovo and Metohia are considered the key to the identity of the Serbs. It is no wonder, then, that the many turning-points in Serbian history took place in the and around Kosovo and Metohia. When the Serbs on other Balkan lands fought to preserve their religious freedoms and national rights, their banners bore as their beacon the Kosovo idea embodied in the Kosovo covenant which was woven into folk legend and upheld in uprisings against alien domination. The Kosovo covenant - the choice of freedom in the celestial empire instead of humiliation and slavery in the temporal world - although irrational as a collective consciousness, is still the one permanent connective tissue that imbues the Serbs with the feeling of national entity and lends meaning to its join efforts.1
1 The Survey covers the
time between the establishment of the first Serbian medieval state in the
region of today's Kosovo and Metohia until 1989 and Milosevic's rising to
2 Cf. D. Slijepcevic, Srpsko-arbanaski odnosi kroz vekove posebnim osvrtom na novije vreme, (Himelstir 1983); D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, Beograd 1985; Zaduzbine Kosova, (Prizren-Beograd 1987); Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj istoriji, (Beograd 1989);German translation: Kosovo und Metochien in der serbishen Geschichte, (Lausanne 1989); Kosovo. Proslost i sadasnjost, Beograd 1989 English translation: Kosovo. Past and present, (Belgrade 1989). R. Mihaljcic, The Battle of Kosovo in History and in Popular Tradition, (Belgrade 1989).
1. The Age of Ascent (12th century - Medieval
State 1455 Ottoman conquest)
2. The Age of Tribulation (1455 - Albanian Colonization of Kosovo in 17th cent)
3. The Age of Migrations (End of 17th century - Migrations - 1804 Serbian Revolution)
4. The Age of Oppression (1804 - Albanian and Turkish Oppression - 1912)
5. The Age of Restoration (Balkan Wars 1912,
Liberation, WW1 and WW2)
6. The Age of Communism (1945 - Communist Dictatorship - 1989)
The Age of Ascent
Kosovo and Metohia, land lying in the heart of the Balkans where viutal trade routes had crossed since ancient times, was settled by Slav tribes between the 7th and 10th centuries. The Serbian medieval state, which under the Nemanjic dynasty (12th to 14th century) grew into a major power in the Balkan peninsula, developed in the nearby mountain regions, in Raska (with Bosnia) and in Duklja (later Zeta and then Montenegro). The center of the Nemanjic slate moved to Kosovo and Metohia after the fall of Constantinople (1204). At its peak, in the early the 14th century, these lands were the richest and the most densely populated areas, as well as state and its cultural and administrative centers.1
In his wars with Byzantium, Stefan Nemanja conquered various parts of what is today Kosovo, and his successors, Stefan the First Crown (became king in 1217), expanded his state by including Prizren. The entire Kosovo and Metohia region became a permanent part of the Serbian state by the beginning of the 13th century. Soon after becoming autocephalous (1219), the Serbian Orthodox Church moved its seat to Metohia. The heirs of the first archbishop Saint Sava (prince Rastko Nemanjic) built several additional temples around the Church of the Holy Apostles, lying the ground for what was to become the Patriarchate of Pec. The founding of a separate bishophoric (1220) near Pec was indicative of the region's political importance growing along with religious influence. With the proclamation of the empire, the patriarchal throne was permanently established at the Pec monastery in 1346. Serbia's rulers alotted the fertile valleys between Pec, Prizren, Mitrovica and Pristina and nearby areas to churches and monasteries, and the whole region eventually acquired the name Metohia, from the Greek metoch which mean an estate owned by the church.
Studded with more churches and monasteries than any other Serbian land, Kosovo and Metohia became the spiritual nucleus of Serbs. Lying at the crossroads of the main Balkan routes connecting the surrounding Serbian lands of Raska, Bosnia, Zeta and the Scutari littoral with the Macedonia and the Morava region, Kosovo and Metohia were, geographically speaking, the ideal place for a state and cultural center. Girfled by mountain gorges and comparatively safe from outside attacks, Kosovo and Metohia were not chosen by chance as the site for building religious centers, church mausoleums and palaces. The rich holdings of Decant monastery provided and economic underpinning for the wealth of spiritual activities in the area. Learned monks and religious dignitaries assembled in large monastic communities (which were well provided for by the rich feudal holdings), strongly influenced the spiritual shaping of the nation, especially in strengthening local cults and fostering the Orthodox doctrine.
In the monasteries of Metohia and Kosovo, old theological and literary writings were transcribed and new ones penned, including the lives of local saints, from ordinary monks and priors to the archbishops and rulers of the house of Nemanjic. The libraries and scriptoria were stocked with the best liturgical and theoretical writings from all over Byzantine commonwealth, especially with various codes from the monasteries of Mounth Athos with which close ties were established. The architecture of the churches and monasteries developed and the artistic value of their frescoes increased as Serbian medieval culture flourished, and by the end of the 13th century new ideas applied in architecture and in the technique of fresco painting surpassed the traditional Byzantine models. With time, especially in centuries to come, the people came to believe that Kosovo was the center of Serbian Orthodoxy and the most resistant stronghold of the Serbian nation.2
The most important buildings to be endowed by the last Nemanjices were erected in Kosovo and Metohia, where their courts which became their capitals were situated. From King Milutin to emperor Uros, court life evolved in the royal residences in southern Kosovo and Prizren. There rulers summoned the landed gentry, received foreign legates and issued charters. The court of Svrcin stood on the banks of Lake Sazlia, and it was there that Stefan Dusan was crowned king in 1331. On the opposite side was the palace in Pauni, where King Milutin often dwelled. The court in Nerodimlje was the favourite residence of King Stefan Decanski, and it was at the palace in Stimlje that emperor Uros issued his charters. Oral tradition, especially epic poems, usually mention Prizren as emperor Dusan's capital, for he frequently sojourned there when he was still king.3
Among dozens of churches and monasteries erected in medieval Kosovo and Metohia by rulers, ecclesiastical dignitaries and the local nobility, Decani outside of Pec, built by Stefan Uros III Decanski, stands out for its monumental size and artistic beauty. King Milutin left behind the largest number of endowments in Kosovo, one of the finest of which is Gracanica monastery (1321) near Pristina, certainly the most beautiful medieval monument in the Balkans. The monasteries of Banjska dear Zvecan (early 14th century) and Our Lady of Ljeviska in Prizren (1307), although devastated during Ottoman rule, are eloquent examples of the wealth and power of the Serbian state at the start of the 14th century. Also of artistic importance is the complex of churches in Juxtaposition to the Patriarchate of Pec. The biggest of the royal endowments, the Church of the Holy Archangels near Prizren, erected by Tsar Stefan Dusan in the Bistrica River Canyon, was destroyed in the 16th century.4
Founding chapter whereby Serbian rulers granted large estates to monasteries offer a reliable demographic picture of the area. Fertile plains were largely owned by the large monasteries, from Chilandar in Mount Athos to Decant in Metohia. The data given in the charters show that during the period of the political rise of Serbian state, the population gradually moved from the mountain plateau in the west and north southward to the fertile valleys of Metohia and Kosovo. The census of monastic estates evince both a rise in the population and appreciable economic progress. The estates of the Banjska monastery numbered 83 villages, and those of the Holy Archangels numbered 77.5
Especially noteworthy is the 1330 Decani Charter, with its detailed list of households and of chartered villages. The Decant estate was an extensive area which encompassed parts of what is today northwestern Albania. Historical analysis and onomastic research reveal that only three of the 89 settlements were mentioned as being Albanian. Out of the 2,166 farming homesteads and 2,666 houses in cattle-grazing land, 44 were registrated as Albanian (1,8%). More recent research indicates that apart from the Slav, i.e. Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohia, the remaining population of non-Slav origin did not account for more than 2% of the total population in the 14th century.6
The growing political power, territorial expansion and economic wealth of the Serbian state had a major impact on ethnic processes. Northern Albania up to the Mati River was a part of the Serbian Kingdom, but it was not until the conquest of Tsar Dusan that the entire Albania (with the exception of Durazzo) entered the Serbian Empire. Fourteenth century records mention mobile Albanian mobile cattle sheds on mountain slopes in the imminent vicinity of Metohia, and sources in the first half of the 15th century note their presence (albeit in smaller number) in the flatland farming settlements.
Stefan Dusan's Empire stretched from the Danube to the Peloponnese and from Bulgaria to the Albanian littoral. After his death it began to disintegrate into areas controlled by powerful regional lords. Kosovo and parts of Metohia came under the rule of King Vukasin Mrnjavcevic, the co-ruler of the last Nemanjic, Tsar Uros. The earliest clashes with the Turks, who edged their way into Europe at the start of the 14th century, were noted during the reign of Stefan Dusan. The 1371 battle of the Marica, near Crnomen in which Turkish troops rode rougshod over the huge army of the Mrnjavcevic brothers, the feudal lords of Macedonia, Kosovo and neighboring regions, heralded the decisive Turkish invasion of Serbian lands. King Vukasin's successor King Marko (the legendary hero of folk poems, Kralyevich Marko) recognized the supreme authority of the sultan and as vasal took part in his campaigns against neighboring Christian states. The Turkish onslaught is remembered as the apocalypse of the Serbian people, and this tradition was cherished during the long period of Ottoman rule. During the Battle of the Marica, a monk wrote that "the worst of all times" had come, when "the living envied the dead".7
Unaware of the danger that were looming over their lands, the regional lords tried to take advantage of the new situation and enlarge their holdings. On the eve of the battle of Kosovo, the northern parts of Kosovo where in possession of Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic, and parts of Metohia belonged to his brother-in-law Vuk Brankovic. By quelling the resistance of the local landed gentry, Prince Lazar eventually emerged as the most powerful regional lord and came to dominate the lands of Moravian Serbia. Tvrtko I Kotromanic, King of Bosnia, Prince Lazar's closest ally, aspired to the political legacy of the saintly dynasty as descendant of the Nemanjices and by being crowned with the "dual crown" of Bosnia and Serbia over St. Sava grave in monastery Mileseva.8
The expected clash with the Turks took place in Kosovo polje, outside of Pristina, on St. Vitus day, June 15 (28), 1389. The troops of Prince Lazar, Vuk Brankovic and King Tvrtko I, confronted the army of Emir Murad I, which included his Christian vassals. Both Prince Lazar and emir Murad were killed in the head-on collision between the two armies (approximately 30,000 troops on both sides). Contemporaries were especially impressed by the tidings that twelve Serbian knights (most probably led by legendary hero Milos Obilic) broke through the tight Turkish ranks and killed the emir in his tent.9
Military-wise no real victor emerged from the battle. Tvrtko's emissaries told the courts of Europe that the Christian army had defeated the infidels, although Prince Lazar's successors, exhausted by their heavy losses, immediately sought peace and conceded to became vassals to the new sultan. Vuk Brankovic, unjustly remembered in epic tradition as a traitor who slipped away from the battle field, resisted them until 1392, when he was forced to become their vassal. The Turks took Brankovic's lands and gave them to a more loyal vassal, Prince Stefan Lazarevic, son of Prince Lazar thereby creating a rift between their heirs. After the battle of Angora in 1402, Prince Stefan took advantage of the chaos in the Ottoman state. In Constantinople he received the title of despot, and upon returning home, having defeated Brankovic's relatives he took control over the lands of his father. Despite frequent internal conflicts and his vassal obligations to the Turks and Hungarians, despot Stefan revived and economically consolidated the Serbian state, the center of which was gradually moving northward. Under his rule Novo Brdo in Kosovo became the economic center of Serbia where in he issued a Law of Mines in 1412.10
Stefan appointed as his successor his nephew despot Djuradj Brankovic, whose rule was marked by fresh conflicts and finally the fall of Kosovo and Metohia to the Turks. The campaign of the Christian army led by Hungarian nobleman Janos Hunyadi ended in 1448 in heavy defeat in a clash with Murad II's forces, again in Kosovo Polje. This was the last concertive attempt in the Middle Ages to rout the Turks out of this part of Europe.11
After the Fall of Constantinople (1453), Mehmed II the Conqueror advanced onto Despotate of Serbia. For some time voivode Nikola Skobaljic offered valiant resistance in Kosovo, but after a series of consecutive campaigns and lengthy sieges in 1455, the economic center of Serbia, Novo Brdo fell. The Turks then proceeded to conquer other towns in Kosovo and Metohia four years before the entire Serbian Despotate collapsed with the fall of new capital Smederevo. Turkish onslaught, marked by frequent military raids, the plunder and devastation of entire regions, the destruction of monasteries and churches, gradually narrowed down Serbian state territories, triggering off a large-scale migration northwards, to regions beyond reach to the conquerors. The biggest migration took place from 1480-1481, when a large part of the population of northern Serbia moved to Hungary and Transylvania, to bordering region along the Sava and Danube rivers, where the descendants of the fleeing despots of Smederevo resisted the Turks for several decades to come.12
1 For a more complete
picture of Kosovo and Metohia's medieval past see: D. Kojic-Kovacevic, Kosovo
od sredine XII do sredine XV veka, in: Kosovo nekad i sad (Kosova dikur e sot),
(Beograd 1973), pp. 109-128; S. Cirkovic, Kosovo i Metohija u srednjem veku,
in: Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj istoriji, pp. 21-45 (with earlier bibliography)
2 R. Samardzic, Kosovo i Metohija: uspon i propadanje srpskog naroda, in: Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj istoriji, pp. 6-10; D. Bogdanovic, Rukopisno nasledje Kosova in: Zbornik okruglog stola o naucnom istrazivanju Kosova, Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, Naucni skupovi, vol. XLII, Belgrade 1988, pp. 73-80. For more details see: Istorija srpskog naroda, vol. I (Belgrade 1981).
3 S. Cirkovic, Vladarski dvorci oko jezera na Kosovu, in: Zbornik Matice srpske za likovne umetnosti, 20 (1984), pp. 72-77.
4 V. S. Jovanovic, Arheoloska istrazivanja srednjovekovnih spomenika i nalazista na Kosovu, in: Zbomik okruglog stola o naucnom istrazivanju Kosova, pp. 17-66.
5 D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, pp. 34-39; Zaduzbine Kosova, pp. 313-358.
6 D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, pp. 39-41; S. Cirkovic, Kosovo i Metohija u srednjem veku, pp. 34-36. More details in: B. Ferjancic, Les Albanais dans les sources byzantines, in: Iliri i Albanci, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Naucni skupovi vol. XXXDC (Belgrade 1988), pp. 303-322; S. Cirkovic, Les Albanais a la lumiere des sources historiques des Slaves du Sud, ill: Iliri i Albanci, pp. 341-359.
7 D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, pp. 75. More details in: R. Mihaljcic, Kraj Srpskog Carstva, Boj na Kosovu II, (Belgrade 1989).
8 S. Cirkovic, Istorija srednjovekovne bosanske drzave, (Beograd 1964), pp. 133-140.
9 S. Cirkovic, Kosovo i Metohija u srednjem veku, pp. 39-41.
10 M. Purkovic, Knez i despot Stefan Lazarevic, (Beograd 1978).
11 Ibid. More details: R. Mihaljcic, Lazar Hrebeljanovic. Istorija, kult, predanje, Boj na Kosovu II, (Belgrade 1989).
12 Istorija srpskog naroda, vol. II (Beograd 1982), pp. 260-265; D. Bogdanovic, op. cit. p. 72.
The Age of Tribulation
For the Serbs as Christians, their loss of state independence and fall to the Ottoman Empire's kind of theocratic state, was a terrible
misfortune. With the advent of the Turks and establishment of their rule, the
lands of Serbs were forcibly excluded from the circle of progressive European
states wherein they occupied a prominent place precisely owing to the Byzantine
civilisation, which was enhanced by local qualities and strong influences of
the neighboring Mediterranean states. Being Christians, the Serbs became
second-class citizens in Islamic state. Apart from religious discrimination,
which was evident in all spheres of everyday life, this status of rayah also
implied social dependence, as most of the Serbs were landless peasants who paid
the prescribed feudal taxes. Of the many dues paid in money, labor and kind,
the hardest for the Serbs was having their children taken as tribute under a
law that had the healthy boys, taken from their parents, converted to Islam and
trained to serve in the janissary corps of the Turkish army.
An analyse of the earliest Turkish censuses, defters, shows that the ethnic picture of Kosovo and Metohia did not alter much during the 14th and 15th centuries. The small-in-number Turkish population consisted largely of people from the administration and military that were essential in maintaining order, whereas Christians continued to predominate in the rural areas. Kosovo and parts of Metohia were registrated in 1455 under the name Vilayeti Vlk, after Vuk Brankovic who once ruled over them. Some 75,000 inhabitants lived in 590 registrated villages. An onomastic analysis of approximately 8,500 personal names shows that Slav and Christian names were heavily predominant.1
Along with the Decani Charter, the register of the Brankovic region shows a clear division between old-Serbian and old-ethnic Albanian onomastics, allowing one to say, with some certainty which registrated settlement was Serbian, and which ethnically mixed. Ethnic designations (ethnic Albanian, Bulgarian, Armenian, Greek) appeared repeatedly next to the names of settlers in the region. More thorough onomastic research has shown that from the mid-14th to the 15th centuries, individual Albanian settlements appeared on the fringes of Metohia, in-between what had until then been a density of Serbian villages. This was probably due to the devastation wrought by Turks who destroyed the old landed estates, thus allowing for the mobile among the population, including ethnic Albanian cattlemen, to settle on the abandoned land and establish their settlements, which were neither big nor heavily populated.2
A summary census of the houses and religious affiliations of inhabitants in the Vucitrn district (sanjak), which encompassed the one-time Brankovic lands, was drawn in 1487, showed that the ethnic situation had not altered much. Christian households predominated (totalling 16,729, out of which 412 were in Pristina and Vucitrn): there were 117 Muslim households (94 in Pristina and 83 in rural areas). A comprehensive census of the Scutari district offers the following picture: in Pec (Ipek) there were 33 Muslim and 121 Christian households, while in Suho Grlo, also in Metohia, Christians alone lived in 131 households. The number of Christians (6,124) versus Muslim (55) homes in the rural areas shows that 1% of the entire population bowed to the faith of the conqueror. An analysis of the names shows that those of Slav origin predominated among the Christians. In Pec, 68% of the population bore Slav names, in the Suho Grlo region 52%, in Donja Klina region 50% and around monastery of Decani 64%.
Ethnic Albanian settlements where people had characteristic names did not appear until one reached areas outside the borders of what is today Metohia, i.e. west of Djakovica. According to Turkish sources, in the period from 1520 to 1535 only 700 of the total number of 19,614 households in the Vucitrn district were Muslim (about 3,5%), and 359 (2%)in Prizren district.
In regions extending beyond the geographic borders of Kosovo and Metohia, in the Scutari and Dukagjin districts, Muslims accounted for 4,6% of the population. According to an analysis of the names in the Dukagjin district's census, ethnic Albanian settlements did not predominate until one reached regions south of Djakovica, and the ethnic picture in the 16th century in Prizren and the neighboring areas remained basically unchanged.3
A look at the religious
affiliation of the urban population shows a rise in the Turkish and local
Islamized population. In Prizren, Kosovo's biggest city, Muslims accounted for
56% of the households, of which the Islamized population accounted for 21%. The
ratio was similar in Pristina, where out of the 54% Muslim population 16% were
converts. Pec also had a Muslim majority (90%), as did Vucitrn (72%). The
Christians compromised the majority of the population in the mining centers of
Novo Brdo (62%), Trepca (77%), Donja Trepca and Belasica (85%). Among the
Christians was a smattering of Catholics. The Christian names were largely from
the calendar, and to a lesser extent Slav (Voja, Dabiziv, Cvetko, Mladen,
Stojko), and there were some that were typically ethnic Albanian (Prend, Don,
After the fall of Serbia in 1459, the Pec Patriarchate soon ceased to work and the Serbian eparchies came under the jurisdiction of the Hellenic Ochrid Archbishophoric. In the first decade following Turkish conquest, many large endowments and wealthier churches were pillaged and destroyed, while some turned into mosques. The Our Lady of Ljeviska Cathedral in Prizren was probably converted into a mosque right immediately following the conquest of the town; Banjska, one of the grandest monasteries dating from the age of King Milutin, suffered the same fate. The Church of the Holy Archangels near Prizren, Stefan Dusan's chief endowment was turned into ruins. Most of the monasteries and churches were left unrenewed after being devastated, and many village churches were abandoned. Many were not restored until after the liberation of Kosovo and Metohia in 1912. Archeological findings have shown that some 1,300 monasteries, churches and other monuments existed in the Kosovo and Metohia area. The magnitude of the havoc wrought can be seen from the earliest Turkish censuses: In the 15th and 16th centuries there were ten to fourteen active places of Christian worship. At first the great monasteries like Decani and Gracanica, were exempt from destruction, but their wealthy estates were reduced to a handfull of surrounding villages. The privileges granted the monastic brotherhoods by the sultans obliged them to perform the service of falconry as well.5
Two brothers of different faith and historical roles - Patriarch Makarije Sokolovic and his relative (a brother?) Mehmed Pasha Sokollu (who was taken as a little child by Turks to be a yannisar)
The restoration of the Pec Patriarchate in 1557 (thanks to Mehmed-pasha Sokolovic, a Serb by origin, at the time the third vizier at the Porte) marked a major turn and helped revive the spiritual life of the Serbs, especially in Kosovo and Metohia. Mehmed-pasha Sokolovic (Turkish: Sokollu) enthroned his relative Makarije Sokolovic on the patriarchal throne. Like the great reform movements in 16th century Europe, the restoration of the Serbian Orthodox Church meant the rediscovery of lost spiritual strongholds. Thanks to the Patriarchate, Kosovo and Metohia were for the next two centuries again the spiritual and political center of the Serbs. On an area vaster than the Nemanjic empire, high-ranking ecclesiastical dignitaries revived old and created new eparchies endeavoring to reinforce the Orthodox faith which had been undermined by influences alien (particularly by Islamic Bekteshi order of dervishes) to its authentic teachings.
Based on the tradition of the medieval Serbian state, the Pec Patriarchate revived old and established new cults of the holy rulers, archbishops, martyrs and warriors, lending life to the Nemanjic heritage. The feeling of religious and ethnic solidarity was enhanced by joint deliberation at church assemblies attended by the higher and lower clergy, village chiefs and hajduk leaders, and by stepping up a morale on the traditions of Saint Sava but suited to the new conditions and strong patriarchal customs renewed after the Turkish conquest in the village communities.
The spiritual rebirth was reflected in the restoration of deserted churches and monasteries: some twenty new churches were built in Kosovo and Metohia alone, inclusive of printing houses (the most important one was at Gracanica): many old and abandoned churches were redecorated with frescoes.6
Serbian patriarchs and bishops gradually took over the role of the one-time rulers, endeavoring with assistance from the neighboring Christian states of Habsburg Empire and the Venetian Republic, to incite the people to rebel. Plans for overthrowing the Turks and re-establishing an independent Serbian state sprang throughout the lands from the Adriatic to the Danube. The patriarchs of Pec, often learned men and able politicians, were usually the ones who initiated and coordinated efforts at launching popular uprisings when the right moment came. Patriarch Jovan failed to instigate a major rebellion against the Turks, seeking the alliance of the European Christian powers assembled around Pope Clement VII. Patriarch Jovan was assassinated in Constantinople in 1614. Patriarch Gavrilo Rajic lived the same fate in 1659 after going to Russia to seek help in instigating a revolt.
The least auspicious conditions for an uprising were actually in Kosovo and Metohia itself. In the fertile plains, the non-Muslim masses labored under the yoke of the local Turkish administrators, continually threatened by marauding tribes from the Albanian highlands. The crisis that overcome the Ottoman Empire in the late 16th century further aggrovated the position of the Serbs in Kosovo, Metohia and neighboring regions. Rebellions fomented by cattle-raising tribes in Albania and Montenegro, and the punitive expeditions sent to deal with them turned Kosovo and Metohia into a bloody terrain where Albanian tribes, kept clashing with detachments of the local authorities, plundered Christian villages along the way. Hardened by constant clashes with the Turks, Montenegro gradually picked up the torch of defending Serbian Orthodoxy; meanwhile, in northern Albania, particularly in Malesia, a reverse process was under way. Under steady pressure from the Turkish authorities, the Islamization of ethnic Albanian tribes became more widespread and the process assumed broader proportions when antagonistic strivings grew within the Ottoman Empire in the late 17th and early 18th century.7
It is not until the end of the 17th century that the colonization of Albanian tribes in Kosovo and Metohia can be established. Reports by contemporary Catholic visitators show that the ethnic border between the Serbs and Albanians still followed the old dividing lines of the Black and White Drim rivers. All reports on Kosovo and Metohia regard them as being in Serbia: for the Catholic visitators, Prizren was still its capital city. In Albania, the first wave of Islamization swept the feudal strata and urban population. Special tax and political alleviations encouraged the rural population to convert to Islam in larger number. Instead of being part of the oppressed non-Muslim masses, the converts became a privileged class of Ottoman society, with free access to the highest positions in the state. In Kosovo and Metohia, where they moved to avoid heavy taxes, Catholic tribes of Malesia converted to Islam. Conversion to Islam in a strongly Orthodox environment rendered them the desired privileges (the property of Orthodox and of the Catholics) and saved them from melting with Serbian Orthodox population. It was only with the process of Islamization that the ethnic Albanian colonisation of lands inhabited by Serbs became expansive.8
The ethnic picture of Kosovo did not radically change in the first centuries of Ottoman rule. Islamization encompassed part of a Serbian population, although the first generations at least, converted as a mere formality, to avoid heavy financial burdens and constant political pressure. Conversion constituted the basis of Ottoman policy in the Balkans but it was les successfull in Kosovo and Metohia, regions with the strongest religious traditions, than in other Christian areas. The Turks' strong reaction to rebellions throughout the Serbian lands and to the revival of Orthodoxy, embodied in the cult of Saint Sava, the founder of the independent Serbian church, ended in setting fire to the Mileseva monastery the burial place of the first Serbian saint. The Turks burned his wonder working relics in Belgrade in 1594, during a great uprising of Serbs in southern Banat. This triggered off fresh waves of Islamization accompanied by severe reprisals and the thwarting of any sign of rebellion.
Apart from Islamization, Kosovo and Metohia became the target of proselytizing Catholic missionaries at the end of 17th century, especially after the creation of the Sacra Congregazione de Propaganda Fide (1622). The ultimate aim of the Roman Catholic propaganda was to converts the Orthodox to Graeco-Catholicism as the initial phase in completely converting them to the Catholic faith. The appeals of patriarchs of Pec to the Roman popes to help the liberatory aspirations of the Serbs were met with the condition that they renounce the Orthodox faith. In spreading the Catholicism, the missionaries of the Roman Curia had the support of local Turkish authorities; a considerable number of the missionaries were of Albanian origin. Consequently, the propagators of Catholic proselytism persisted in inciting Catholic and Muslim Albanians against the Serbs, whose loyalty to Orthodoxy and their medieval traditions was the main obstacle to the spreading of the Catholic faith in the central and southern regions of the Balkans.9
Catholic propaganda attempts at separating the high clergy of the Serbian Orthodox Church from the people prompted the Pec Patriarchate to revive old and create a new cults with even greater vigor. In 1642 Patriarch Pajsije, who was born in Janjevo, Kosovo, wrote The Service and The Life of the last Nemanjic, the Holy Tsar Uros, imbuing old literary forms with new content reflecting the contemporary moment. By introducing popular legends (which gradually took shape),into classical hagiography Patriarch Pajsije strove to establish a new cult of saints which would have a beneficial impact on his compatriots in preserving their faith.
Parallel with the Orthodox Church national policy in traditionally patriarchal societies, popular tales gradually matured into oral epic chronicles. Nurtured through epic poetry, which was sung to the accompaniment of the gusle, epic tales glorified national heroes and ruler, cultivating the spirit of non-subjugation and cherishing the hope in liberation from the Turkish yoke. Folk poems about the battle of Kosovo and its heroes, about the tragic fate of the last Nemanjices, the heroism of Prince Lazar and his knight Milos Obilic, and, especially, about Kraljevic Marko (King Marko Mrnjavcevic) as the faultless and dauntless legendary knight who was always defeating Turks and saving Serbs, were an expression not only of the tragic sense of life in which Turkish rule was a synonymous to evil, but a particular moral code that in time crystalized into a common attitude towards life, defined in the first centuries of Ottoman rule. The Serbian nation's Kosovo covenant is embodied in the choice which, according to legend, was made by Prince Lazar on the eve of the battle of Kosovo. The choice of freedom in the kingdom of heaven instead of humiliation in the kingdom of earth constituted the Serbian nation's spiritual stronghold. Prince Lazar's refusal to resign to injustice and slavery, raised to the level of biblical drama, determined his unquenchable thirst for freedom. Together with the cult of Saint Sava, which grew into a common civilisational framework in everyday life, the Kosovo idea which, in time, gained universal meaning. With its wise policy the Patriarchate of Pec carefully built epic legend into the hagiography of old and new Serbian saints, glorifying their works in frescoes and icons.10
1 O. Zirojevic, Prvi
vekovi tudjinske vlasti, in: Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj istoriji, pp. 47-113
(with earlier bibliography).
3 M. Pesikan, Zetsko-raska imena na pocetku turskog doba, II, in: Onomatoloski prilozi, vol. IV (1983), pp. 218-243; 0. Zirojevic;, op. cit., pp. 90-92.
4. O. Zirojevic, op. cit., pp. 92-94.
5 Ibid, pp. 94-96.
6 R. Samardzic, Mehmed-pasa Sokolovic, (Beograd 1975); Idem, Ideje za srpsku istoriju, (Beograd 1989), pp. 125-128; Dj. Slijepcevic, Istorija Srpske pravoslavne crkve, I, Dusseldorf 1878, pp. 328-321.
7 R. Trickovic, U susret najtezim iskusenjima, in: Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj istoriji, pp. 119-126.
8 J. Radonic, Rimska kurija i juznoslovenske zemlje od XVI do XIX veka, (Beograd 1950)
9 J. Radonic, op. cit., pp., 8-11; Further documentation in: M. Jacov, Spisi Tajnog vatikanskog arhiva XVI-XL veka, (Beograd 1983)
10 R. Samardzic, Usmena narodna hronika (Novi Sad 1978).
The Age of Migrations
The Serbs stepped again onto the historical scene in the years of the European wars that swept the continent from the forests of Ireland to the walls of Constantinople in the late 17th century. The Turks finally withdrew from Hungary and Transylvania when their Ottoman hordes were routed outside Vienna in 1683. The disintegration of Ottoman rule in the southwest limbered up the Serbs, arousing in them hope that the moment was ripe for joint effort to break Turkish dominion in the Balkans. The neighboring Christian powers (Austria and Venice) were the only possible allies. The arrival of the Austrian army in Serbia after the fall of Belgrade in 1688 prompted the Serbs to join it. Thanks to the support of Serbian insurgents, the imperial troops penetrated deep into Serbia and in 1689 conquered Nis: a special Serbian militia was formed as a separate corps of the imperial troops.1
After setting fire to Skoplje (Uskub), which was raging with plague, the commander of Austrian troops Ennea Silviae Piccolomini withdrew to Prizren where he was greeted by 20,000 Serbian insurgents, and with whom he reached an accord on fighting the Turks with joint forces. Shortly afterwards, Piccollomini died of the plague, and his successors failed to prevent their troops from marauding the surrounding regions. Disappointed by the conduct of the Christian troops from which they had expected decisive support, the Serbian insurgents abandoned the agreed alliance. Patriarch Arsenije III Crnojevic tried in vain to arrive at a new agreement with the Austrian generals. The restorer of the Ottoman Empire, Grand Vizier Mustafa-Pasha Koporilli, an Albanian by origin, took advantage of the lull in military operations, mustered Crimean Tatars and Islamized Albanians and mounted a major campaign. Despite assurances of help, Catholic Albanian tribes deserted the Austrian army on the eve of the decisive clash at Kacanik in Kosovo, on January 1690. The Serbian militia, resisting the Sultan's superior hordes, retreated to the west and north of the country.2
Turkish retaliation, in which the Serbian infidels were raided and viciously massacred lasted a three full months. The towns of Prizren, Pec, Pristina, Vucitrn and Mitrovica were hit the worst, and Serbs from Novo Brdo retreated from the Tatar saber. Fleeing from the brutal reprisal, the people of Kosovo and the neighboring areas moved northwards with Patriarch Arsenije III. The decision to end the massacre and declare an amnesty came belately as much of the population had already fled for safer areas, moving towards the Sava River and Belgrade. Other parts of Serbia were also targets of ghastly reprisals. In the Belgrade pashalik alone, the number of taxpayers dropped eightfold. Grand old monasteries were looted from Pec Patriarchate to Gracanica, and the Albanian tribe Gashi pillaged the Decani monastery, killing the prior and seizing the monastery's best estates.
At the invitation of emperor Leopold I, Patriarch Arsenije III led part of the high clergy and a sizeable part of the refugees (tens of thousands of people) to the Habsburg Empire to the territory of southern Hungary, having received assurances that the Serbs would there be granted special political and religious status. Many Serbs from Kosovo and Metohia followed him. The new churches built along the Danube they named after those left in old homeland.
The Great 1690 Migration was a important turning point in the history of the Serbs. In Kosovo and Metohia alone, towns and some villages were abandoned to the last inhabitant. The population was also decimated by the plague, whatever remained after the Turkish troops. The physical extermination along with the mass exodus, the burning of grand monasteries and their rich treasuries and libraries, the death and murder of a large number of monks and clergy wreaked havoc in these regions. The position of the Pec Patriarchate was badly shaken; its highest clergy went with the people to Austria, and the confusion wrought by the Great Migration had a major influence on its abolition (1766).3
The hardest consequence of the Great Migration was demographic upheaval it caused, because once the Serbs withdraw from Kosovo and Metohia, Islamized Albanian tribes from the northern highlands started settling the area in greater number, mostly by force, in the decade following the 1690 Great Migration of Serbs, ethnic Albanian tribes (given their incredible powers of reproduction) was posing a grave threat to the biological survival of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia. Colonies set up by the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Metohia and the neighboring areas provoked a fresh Serbian migration toward the north, encouraged the process of conversion and upset the centuries-old ethnic balance in those areas. Supported (depending on circumstances) by the Turks and the Roman Curia, ethnic Albanians, abyding by their tribal customs and hajduk insubordination to the law, in the coming centuries turned the entire region of Kosovo and Metohia into a bloody battleground, marked by tribal and feudal anarchy. The period following the Great Migration of Serbia marked the commencement of three centuries of ethnic Albanian genocide against Serbs in their native land.
The century after the Great Migration saw a fresh exodus of the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohia, and a growing influence of ethnic Albanians on political circumstances. Ethnic Albanians used the support they received from the Turkish army in fighting Serbian insurgents to seize the ravaged land and abandoned mining centers in Kosovo and Metohia and to enter in large numbers the Ottoman administration and military. More and more Catholic ethnic-Albanians converted to Islam, thereby acquiring the right to retain the estates they had seized and to apply the might-is-right principle in their dealings with the non-Muslim Serbs. The authorities encouraged and assisted the settlement of the newly Islamized ethnic-Albanian tribes from the mountains to the fertile lands devastated by war. The dissipation of the Turkish administrative system encouraged the ethnic-Albanian colonisation of Kosovo and Metohia, since with the arrival of more of their fellow tribesmen and compatriots, the local pashas and beys (most of whom were ethnic Albanian) acquired strong tribal armies which in times of trouble helped them hold on to their position and illegally pass on their power to their descendents. The missionaries of the Roman Curia did not heed to preserve the small ethnic Albanian Catholic population, but endeavoured instead to inflict as much harm as possible on the Pec Patriarchate and its dignitaries, and, with the help of bribable pashas, to undermine the cohesive power of Serbian Orthodoxy in these areas.4
The next war between Austria and Turkey (1716-1718) marked the beginning of a fresh persecution in Kosovo and Metohia. Austrian troops, backed by Serbian volunteers, reached the Western Morava River where they established a new frontier. Ethnic Albanians collectively guaranteed to the Porte the safety of the regions in the immediate vicinity of Austria, and were in return exempted from the heaviest taxes. Towards the end of the war (1717), a major Serbian uprising broke out in Vucitrn and its surroundings: it was brutally crushed and the troops sent to allay the rayah and launch an investigation, perpetrated fresh atrocities. Excessive dues, robbery and the threat of extermination put before the Kosovo Serbs the choices of either converting to Islam or finding a powerful master who would protect them if they accepted the status of serfs. Many opted for a third solution: they moved to surrounding regions where life was more tolerable.5
The following war between Austria and Turkey (1737-1739) ended with the routing of the imperial troops from Serbian territory. The border was reestablished at the Sava and Danube rivers, and Serbs set out on another migration. Patriarch Arsenije IV Jovanovic, along with the religious and national leaders of Pec, drew up a plan for cooperation with the Austrian forces, and contacted their commanders. A large-scale uprisings broke out again in Kosovo and Metohia, engaging some 10.000 Serbs. They were joined by Montenegrin tribes, and Austrian envoys even stirred up the Kliments, a Catholic tribe from northern Albania. A Serbian militia was formed again, but the Austrian troops and insurgenta were forced to retreat in the face of superior Turkish power: reprisals ensued, bringing death to the insurgents and their families. Serbs withdrew from the mining settlements around Janjevo, Pristina, Novo Brdo and Kopaonik. In order to keep the remaining populace on the land, the Turks declared an amnesty. After the fall of Belgrade, Arsenije IV moved to Austria. The number of refugees from Serbia, including Kosovo and Metohia, along with some Kliments has yet to be accurately determined, as people were moving on all sides and the process lasted for several months. The considerably reduced number of taxpayers in Kosovo and Metohia and in other parts of Serbia points to a strong migratory wave.6
Unrest in the Ottoman empire helped spread anarchy in Kosovo and Metohia and rest of Serbia. Raids, murder, rape against the unarmed population was largely committed by ethnic Albanian outlaws, who were now numerically superior in many regions. Outlaw bands held controll over roads during Turkey's war with Russia (1768-1774), when lawlessness reigned throughout Serbia. Ethnic Albanian outlaws looted and fleeced other regions as well, which sent local Muslims complaining to the Porte seeking protection.
Christians in the Balkans tried many times to liberate themselves from the Turkish rule. Although Ottoman Empire ruled Serbia for 5 centuries the Christian people have never lost their feeling thet they live under the foreign rule and foreign and unfriendly islamic civilization
During the last Austro-Turkish war (1788-1791); a sweeping popular movement again took shape in northern Serbia. Because of the imperial forces swift retreat, the movement did not encompass the southern parts of Serbia: Kosovo, Metohia and present-day northern Macedonia. The peace treaty of Sistovo (1791) envisaged a general amnesty for the Serbs, but the ethnic Albanians, as outlaws or soldiers in the detachments of local pashas, continued unhindered to assault the unprotected Serbian population. The wave of religious intolerance towards Orthodox population, which acquired greater proportion owing to the hostilities with Russia at the end of 18th century, effected the forced conversion to Islam of a larger number of Serbian families. The abolition of the Pec Patriarchate (1766), whose see and rich estates were continually sought after by local ethnic Albanian pashas and beys, prompted the final wave of extensive Islamization in Kosovo and Metohia.7
Those who suffered the most during these centuries of utter lawlessness were the Serbs, unreliable subjects who would rise every time the Turks would wage war against one of the neighboring Great Powers, and whose patriarchs led the people to enemy land. Although initially on a small scale, the Islamization of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia began before the penetration of ethnic Albanians. More widespread conversion to Islam took place in the 17th and the first half of 18th centuries, when ethnic Albanians began to wield more influence on political events in these regions. Many Serbs accepted Islamization as a necessary evil, waiting for the moment when they could revert to the faith of their ancestors, but most of them never lived to see that day. The first few generations of Islamized Serbs preserved their language and observed their old customs (especially slava - the family patron saint day, and the Easter holiday). But several generations later, owing to a strong ethnic Albanian environment, they gradually began adopting the Albanian dress to safety, and outside their narrow family circle they spoke the Albanian language. Thus came into being a special kind of social mimicry which enabled converts to survive. Albanization began only when Islamized Serbs, who were void of national feeling, married girls from ethnic Albanian tribal community. For a long time Orthodox Serbs called their Albanized compatriots Arnautasi, until the memory of their Serbian origin waned completely, though old customs and legends about their ancestors were passed on from one generation to the next.8
For a long time the Arnautasi felt neither like Turks nor ethnic Albanians, because their customs and traditions set them apart, and yet they did not feel like Serbs either, who considered Orthodoxy to be their prime national trait. Many Arnautasi retained their old surnames until the turn of the last century. In Drenica the Arnautasi bore such surnames as Dokic, Velic, Marusic, Zonic, Racic, Gecic, which unquestionably indicated their Serbian origin. The situation was similar in Pec and its surroundings where many Islamized and Albanized Serbs carries typically Serbian surnames: Stepanovic, Bojkovic, Dekic, Lekic, Stojkovic, etc. The eastern parts of Kosovo and Metohia, with their compact Serbian settlements, were the last to undergo Islamization. The earliest Islamization in Upper Morava and Izmornik is pinpointed as taking place in the first decades of the 18th century, and the latest in 1870s. Toponyms in many ethnic Albanian villages in Kosovo show that Serbs had lived there the preceding centuries, and in some places Orthodox cemeteries were shielded against desecrators by ethnic Albanians themselves, because they knew that the graves of their own ancestors lay there.9
In the late 18th century, all the people of Gora, the mountain region near Prizren were converted to Islam. However they succeeded in preserving their language and avoiding Albanization. There were also some cases of conversion of Serbs to Islam in the second half of 19th century, especially during the Crimean War, again to save their lives, honor and property, though far more pronounced at the time was the process of emigration, since families, sometimes even entire villages, fled to Serbia or Montenegro. Extensive anthropogeographic research indicates that about 30% of the present-day ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo and Metohia is of Serbian origin.10
1 N. Samardzic, Savremena
strana stampa o Velikoj seobi Srba, Istorijski Casopis, vol. XXXII (1985), pp.
79-103; R. Trickovic, Velika seoba Srba 1690. godine, in: Kosovo i Metohija u
srpskoj istoriji, pp. 127-141.
2 N. Samardzic, op. cit., pp. 136-139.
3 R. Trickovic, Ustanci, seobe i stradanja u XVIII veku, in: Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj istoriji, pp. 149-169
8 J. Cvijic, La peninsule balkanique. Geographic humaine, (Paris 1918), pp. 343-355. 9 A. Urosevic, Kosovo, (Beograd 1965); D. Slijepcevic, Srpsko-arbanaski odnosi kroz vekove, pp. 95-127.
10 J. Cvijic, Osnove za geografiju i geologiju Makedonije i Stare Srbije, I-III, (Beograd 1906-1911).
The Age of Oppression
The series of long-scale Christian national movements in the Balkans, triggered off by 1804 Serbian revolution, decided more than in the earlier centuries, the fate of Serbs and made ethnic Albanians (about 70% of whom were Muslims) the main guardians of Turkish order in the European provinces of Ottoman Empire. At a time when the Eastern question was again being raised, particularly in the final quarter of 19th and the first decade of 20th century, Islamic Albanians were the chief instrument of Turkey's policy in crushing the liberation movements of other Balkan states. After the congress of Berlin (1878) an Albanian national movement flared up, and both the Sultan and Austria-Hungary, a power whose occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina heralded its further expansion deep into the Balkans, endeavored, with varying degrees of success, to instrumentalize this movement. While the Porte used the ethnic Albanians as Islam's shock cutting edge against Christians in the frontier regions towards Serbia and Montenegro, particularly in Kosovo, Metohia and the nearby areas, Austria-Hungary's design was to use the Albanians national movement against the liberatory aspirations of the two Serbian states that were impeding the German Drang nach Osten. In a rift between two only seemingly contrary strivings, Serbia and Montenegro, although independent since 1878, were powerless (at least until the Balkan wars 1912-1913) without the support of Russia or other Great Power to effect the position of their compatriots within the borders of Ottoman Empire.1
During the Serbian revolution, which ended with the creation of the autonomous Principality of Serbia within the Ottoman empire (1830), Kosovo and Metohia acquired special political importance. The hereditary ethnic Albanian pashas, who had until then been mostly renegades from the central authorities in Constantinople, feared that the flames of rebellion might spread to regions they controlled thus they became champions for the defense the integrity of the Turkish Empire and leaders of many military campaigns against the Serbian insurgents, at the core of the Serbian revolution was the Kosovo covenant, embodied in the "revenge of Kosovo", a fresh, decisive battle against the Turkish invaders in the field of Kosovo. In 1806 the insurgents were preparing, like Prince Lazar in his day, to come out in Kosovo and weigh their forces against the Turks, However, detachments of Serbian insurgents reached only the fringes of northern Kosovo. Metohia, Old Raska (Sandzak), Kosovo and northern Macedonia remained outside the borders of the Serbian principality. In order to highlight their importance in the national and political ideologies of the renewed Serbian state, they were given a new collective name. It was not by chance that Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic, the father of modern Serbian literacy, named the central lands of the Nemanjic state - Old Serbia.2
Fearing the renewed Serbian state, Kosovo pashas engaged in ruthless persecution in an effort to reduce number of Serbs living in their spacious holdings. The French travel writer F.C.H.L Pouqueville was astounded by the utter anarchy and ferocity of the local pashas towards the Christians. Jashar-pasha Gjinolli of Prishtina was one of the worst, destroying several churches in Kosovo, seizing monastic lands and killing monks. In just a few years of sweeping terror, he evicted more than seventy Serbian villages between Vucitrn and Gnjilane, dividing up the seized land among the local Islamized population and mountain folk that had settled there from northern Albania. The fertile plains of Kosovo became desolate meadows as the Malisor highlanders, unused to farming knew not to cultivate.
The revolt of the ethnic Albanian pashas against the reforms introduced by the sultans and fierce clashes with regular Turkish troops in the thirties and forties of the 19th century, emphasized the anarchy in Kosovo and Metohia, causing fresh suffering among the Serbs and the further devastation of the ancient monasteries. Since neither Serbian nor Montenegro, two semi-independent Serbian states, were able to give any significant help to the gravely endangered people, Serbian leaders form the Pristina and Vucitrn regions turned to the Russian tsar in seeking protection from their oppressors. They set out that they were forced to choose between converting to Islam or fleeing for Serbia as the violence, especially killings, the persecution of monks, the raping of women and minors, had exceeded all bounds. Pogroms marked the decades to come, especially in period of the Crimean War (1853-1856) when anti-Slav sentiments reached their peak in the ottoman empire: ethnic Albanians and the Cherkeses, whom the Turks had resettled in Kosovo, joined the Ottoman troops in persecuting Orthodox Serbs.
The brotherhood of Decani and the Pec Patriarchate turned to the authorities of Serbia for protection. Pointing to the widespread violence and increasing banditry, and to more frequent and persisted attempts by Catholic missionaires to compel the impoverished and spiritually discouraged monk communities to concede to union. Prior Serafim Ristic of Decani loged complaints with both the sultan and Russian tsar and in his book Plac Stare Srbije (Zemun 1864) he penned hundreds of examples of violence perpetrated by the ethnic Albanians and Turks against the Serbs, naming the perpetrators, victims and type of crime. In Metohia alone he recorded over one hundred cases in which the Turkish authorities, police and judiciary tolerated and abetted robbery, bribery, murder, arson, the desecration of churches, the seizure of property and livestock, the rape of women and children, and the harassment of monks and priests. Both ethnic Albanians and Turks viewed assaults against Serbs as acts pleasing to Allah acts that punishing infidels for not believing in true God: kidnapping and Islamizing girls were a way for true Muslims to approach Allah. Ethnic Albanian outlaws (kayaks) became heroes among their fellow-tribesmen for fulfilling their religious obligations in the right way and spreading the militant glory of their clan and tribe.
Eloquent testimonies to the scope of the violence against the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia, ranging from blackmail and robbery to rape and murder, come from many foreign travel-writers, from A. F. Hilferding to G. M. McKenzie - A. P. Irby. The Russian consul in Prizren observed that ethnic Albanians were settling the Prizren district underhidered and were trying, with the Turks, to eradicate Christians from Kosovo and Metohia. Throughout the 19th century there was no public safety on the roads of Metohia and Kosovo. One could travel the roads which were controlled by tribal bands, only with strong armed escort. The Serbian peasant had no protection in the field where he could be assaulted and robbed by an outlaw or bandit, and if he tried to resist, he could be killed without the perpetrator having to face charges for the crime. Serbs, as non-Muslims, were not entitled to carry arms. Those who possessed and used arms in self-defence afterwards had to run for their life. Only the luckiest managed to reach the Serbian or Montenegrin border and find permanent refuge there. They were usually followed by large families called family cooperatives (zadruga), comprising as many as 30-50 members, which were unable to defend themselves against the numerous relatives of the ethnic Albanian seeking vengeance for his death in a conflict with an elder of their clan.
Economic pressure, especially the forced reducing of free peasants to serf, was fostered by ethnic Albanian feudal lords with a view to creating large land-holdings. In the upheavals of war (1859, 1863) the Turkish authorities tried to restrict enterprising Serbian merchants and craftsmen who flourished in Pristina, Pec and Prizren, setting ablaze entire quarters where they worked and had their shops. But it was the hardest in rural areas, because ethnic Albanians, bond together by tight communities of blood brotherhoods or in tribes, and relatively socially homogeneous, were able to support their fellow tribesman without too much effort, simply by terrorizing Serbs and seizing their property and livestock. Suppression in driving of the Serbian peasantry, space was made for their relatives from northern Albania to move in, whereby increased their own prestige among other tribes. Unused to life in the plains and to hard field-work, the settled ethnic Albanians preferred looting to farming.
Despite the hardships, the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia assembled in religious-school communes which financed the opening of schools and the education of children, collected donations for the restoration of churches and monasteries and, when possible, tried to improve relations with the Turkish authorities. In addition to monastic schools, the first Serbian secular schools started opening in Kosovo from mid-1830s, and in 1871 a Seminary (Bogoslovija) opened in Prizren. Unable to help politically, the Serbia systematically aided churches and schools from the 1840s onwards, sending teachers and encouraging the best students to continue with their studies. The Prizren seminary the hub of activity on national affairs, educated teachers and priests for all the Serbian lands under Turkish dominion, and unbeknownst to authorities, established contact on a regular basis with the government in Belgrade, wherefrom it received means and instructions for political action.
Ethnic circumstances in Kosovo and Metohia in the early 19th century can be reconstructed on the basis of data obtained from the books written by foreign travel writers and ethnographers who journeyed across European Turkey. Joseph Miller's studies show that in late 1830s, 56,200 Christians and 80,150 Muslims lived in Metohia; 11,740 of the Muslims were Islamized Serbs, and 2,700 of the Christians were Catholic Albanians. However, clear picture of the ethnic structure during this period cannot be obtained until one takes into account the fact that from 1815 to 1837 some 320 families, numbering ten to 30 members each, fled Kosovo and Metohia ahead of ethnic Albanian violence. According to Hilferding's figures, Pec numbered 4,000 Muslim and 800 Christian families, Pristina numbered 1,200 Muslim, 900 Orthodox and 100 Catholic families with a population of 12,000.3
Russian consul Yastrebov recorded (for a 1867-1874 period) the following figures for 226 villages in Metohia: 4,646 Muslim ethnic Albanian homes, 1,861 Orthodox and 3,740 Islamized Serbs and 142 homes of Catholic Albanians. Despite the massive departure of the population for Serbia, available data show that until Eastern crisis (1875-1878), Serbs formed the largest ethnic group in Kosovo and Metohia, largely owing to a high birth rate.
The biggest demographics upheaval in Kosovo and Metohia occurred during the Eastern crisis, especially during the 1876-1878 Serbo-Turkish wars, when the question of Old Serbia started being internationalized. The Ottoman empire lost a good deal of territory in its wars with Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the second war with the Turks, Serbian troops liberated parts of Kosovo: their advance guard reached Pristina via Gnjilane and at the Gracanica monastery held a memorial service for the medieval heroes of Kosovo battle... After Russia and Turkey called a truce, Serbian troops were forced to withdraw from Kosovo. Serbian delegations from Old Serbia sent petitions to the Serbian Prince, the Russian tsar and participants of the Congress of Berlin, requesting that these lands merge with Serbia. Approximately 30,000 ethnic Albanians retreated from the liberated areas (partly under duress), seeking refuge in Kosovo and in Metohia, while tens of thousands of Serbs fled Kosovo and Metohia for Serbia ahead of unleashed bashibozouks, irregular auxiliaries of Ottoman troops.4
On the eve of the Congress of Berlin in the summer of 1878, when the great powers were deciding on the fate of the Balkan nations, the Albanian League was formed in Prizren, on the periphery of ethnic Albanian living space. The League called for the preservation of Ottoman Empire in its entirety within the prewar boundaries and for the creation of autonomous Albanian vilayet out of the vilayets of Kosovo, Scutari, Janina and Monster (Bitolj), regions where ethnic Albanians accounted for 44% of overall population. The territorial aspirations of the Albanian movement as defined in 1878, became part of all subsequent national programs. The new sultan Abdulhamid II (1878-1909) supported the League's pro-Ottoman and pro-Islamic attitude. Breaking with the reformatory policy of his predecessors, sultan adopted pan-Islamism as the ruling principle of his reign.
Unsatisfied with the decisions taken at the Congress, the League put up an armed opposition to concession of regions of Plav and Gusinje to Montenegro, and its detachments committed countless acts of violence against the Serbs, whose very existence posed a permanent threat to Albanian national interests. In 1881, Turkey employed force to crush the League, whose radical wing was striving towards an independent Albanian state to show that it was capable of implementing the adopted reforms. Notwithstanding, under the system of Turkish rule in the Balkans, ethnic Albanians continued to occupy the most prominent seats in the decades to come.
Albanian National Movement which developed by the end of the 19th c. had a role to unify all territories in the Balkans where Albanians live in one state - the Serbs were a greatest obstacle to this idea
The ethnic Albanians' religious and ethnic intolerance of the Serbs took on a new, political tone. The strategic objective of their national policy was to systematically edge the Serbs out of these regions. The sultan's policy of forming a chain of ethnic Albanian settlements to secure a new border towards Serbia and to let ethnic Albanians, as advocates of Islam, crush all unrest by Serbs and other Christians in the Empire's European provinces, turned Kosovo and Metohia into a bloody battle-ground in which the persecution of the Serbian populace assumed almost apocalyptic proportions. From 1876 to 1883, approximately 1,500 Serbian families fled Kosovo and Metohia for Serbia ahead of Albanian violence.5
Surrounded by his influential guard of ethnic Albanians, the Abdulhamid II became increasingly lenient toward Islamized Albanian tribes who used force in quelling Christian movements: they were exempt from providing recruits, paying the most of the regular taxes and allowed at times to refuse the orders of local authorities. This lenient policy towards the ethnic Albanians and tolerance for the violence committed against the Serbian population created a feeling of superiority in the lower strata of Albanian society. The knowledge that no matter what the offense they would not be held responsible, encouraged ethnic Albanians to ignore all the lesser authorities. Social stratification resulted on increasing number of renegades who lived solely off banditry or as outlaws. The policy of failing to punish ethnic Albanians led to total anarchy which, escaping all control, increasingly worried the authorities in Constantinople. Anarchy received fresh impetus at the end of the 19th century when Austria-Hungary, seeking a way to expand towards the Bay of Salonika, encouraged ethnic Albanians to clash with the Serbs and disobey the local authorities. Ruling circles in Vienna saw the ethnic Albanians as a permanent wedge between the two Serbian states and, with the collapse of the system of Turkish rule, a bridge enabling the Dual Monarchy to extend in the Vardar valley. Thus, Kosovo and Metohia became the hub of great power confrontation for supremacy in the Balkans.
The only protection for the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia until the end of 1880s came from Russian diplomats, Russia being the traditional guardian of the Orthodox and Slav population in the Ottoman Empire Russia's waning influence in the Balkans following the Congress of Berlin had an unfavorable impact on the Serbs in Turkey. Owing to Milan and Alexander Obrenovic's Austrophile policy, Serbia lost valuable Russian support at the Porte in its efforts to protect Serbian population In Kosovo and Metohia, Serbs were regarded as a rebellious, treasonous element, every move they made was carefully watched and any signs of rebellion were ruthlessly punished. A military tribunal was established in Pristina in 1882 which in its five years of work sent hundreds of national leaders to prison.
The persistent efforts of Serbian officials to reach agreement with ethnic Albanian tribal chiefs in Kosovo and Metohia, and thus help curb the anarchy failed to stem the tide of violence. Belgrade officials did not get a true picture of the persecutions until a Serbian consulate was opened in Pristina in 1889, five centuries after a battle in Kosovo. The government was informed that ethnic Albanians were systematically mounting attacks on a isolated Serbian villages and driving people to eriction with treats and murders: "Go to Serbia -you can't survive here!". The assassination of the first Serbian Consul in the streets of Pristina revealed the depth of ethnic Albanian intolerance. Until 1905, not a single Serbian diplomat from Pristina could visit the town of Pec or tour Metohia, the hotbed of the anarchy. Consuls in Pristina (who included the well-known writers Branislav Nusic and Milan M. Rakic) wrote, aside to their regular reports, indepth descriptions of the situation in Kosovo and Metohia. Serbia's sole diplomatic success was the election of a Serbian candidate as the Raska-Prizren Metropolitan in 1896, following a series of anti-Serbian orientated Greek Bishops who had been enthroned in Prizren since 1830.
Outright campaigns of terror were mounted after a Greaco-Turkish war in 1897, when it appeared that the Serbs would suffer the same fate as the Armenians in Asia Minor whom the Kurds had wiped out with blessing from the sultan. Serbian diplomats launched a campaign at the Porte for the protection of their compatriots, submitting extensive documentation on four hundred crimes of murder, blackmail, theft, rape, seizure of land, arson of churches. They demanded that energetic measures be taken against the perpetrators and that the investigation be carried out by a joint Serbo-Turkish committee. But, without the support of Russia, the whole effort came to naught. The prime minister of Serbia observed with resignation that 60,000 people had fled Old Serbia for Serbia in the period from 1880 to 1889. In Belgrade, a Blue Book was printed for the 1899 Peace Conference in the Hague, containing diplomatic correspondence on acts of violence committed by ethnic Albanians in Old Serbia, but Austria-Hungary prevented Serbian diplomats from raising the question before the international public. In the ensuing years the Serbian government attempted to secretly supply Serbs in Kosovo with arms. The first larger caches of guns were discovered, and 190l saw another pogrom in Ibarski Kolasin (northern Kosovo), which ended only when Russian diplomats intervened.6
The widespread anarchy reached a critical point in 1902 when the Serbian government with the support of Montenegrin diplomacy again raised the issue of the protection of the Serbs in Turkey, demanding that the law be applied equally to all subjects of Empire, and that an end be put to the policy of indulging ethnic Albanians, that they be disarmed and that Turkish garrisons be reinforced in areas with a mixed Serbian-ethnic Albanian population. Russia, and then France, supported Serbia's demands. The two most interested parties, Austria-Hungary and Russia, agreed in 1897 to maintain the status quo in the Balkans, although they initiated a reform plan to rearrange Turkey's European provinces. Fearing for their privileges, ethnic Albanians launched a major uprising in 1903; it began with new assaults against Serbs and ended with the assassination of the newly appointed Russian consul in Mitrovica, accepted as a protector of the Serbs in Kosovo.
The 1903 restoration of democracy in Serbia under new King Petar I Karadjordjevic marked an end to Austrophile policy and the turning towards Russia. In response, Austria-Hungary stepped up its propaganda efforts among ethnic Albanians. At the request of the Dual Monarchy, Kosovo and Metohia were exempt from the Great Powers Reform action (1903-1908). A new wave of persecution ensued: in 1904,108 people fled for Serbia from Kosovo alone. Out of 146 different cases of violence, 46 ended in murder; a group of ethnic Albanians raped a seven-year-old girl. In 1905, out of 281 registrated cases of violence, 65 were murders, and at just one wedding, ethnic Albanians killed nine wedding guests.7
The Young Turk revolution in 1908, which ended the "Age of Oppression" (as Turkish historiography refers to the reign of Abdulhamid II), brought no changes in relations between ethnic Albanians and Serbs. The Serbs' first political organization was created under the auspices of the Young Turk regime, but the ethnic Albanian revolt against the new authorities' pan-Turkish policy triggered off a fresh wave of violence. In the second half of 1911 alone, Old Serbia registrated 128 cases of theft, 35 acts of arson, 41 instances of banditry, 53 cases of extortion, 30 instances of blackmail, 19 cases of intimidation, 35 murders, 37 attempted murders, 58 armed attacks on property, 27 fights and cases of abuse, 13 attempts at Islamization, and 18 cases of the infliction of serious bodily injury. Approximately 400,000 people fled Old Serbia (Kosovo, Metohia, Raska, northern and northwest Macedonia) for Serbia ahead of ethnic Albanian and Turkish violence, and about 150,000 people fled Kosovo and Metohia, a third of the overall Serbian population in these parts. Despite the persecution and the steady outflow of people. Serbs still accounted for almost half the population in Kosovo and Metohia in 1912. According to Jovan Cvijic's findings, published in 1911, there were 14,048 Serbian homes in Kosovo, 3, 826 in Pec and its environs, and 2,400 Serbian homes with roughly 200,000 inhabitants in the Prizren region. Comparing this statistics dating from the middle of the century, when there were approximately 400,000 Serbs living in Kosovo and Metohia, Cvijic's estimate that by 1912 about 150,000 refugees had fled to Serbia seems quite acceptable.8
The Serbian and Montenegrin governments aided the ethnic Albanian rebels against Young Turks up to a point: they took in refugees and gave them arms with a view to undermining Turkish rule in the Balkans, dispelling Austro-Hungarian influence on their leaders and curbing the violence against Serbs. But it was all in vain as intolerance for the Serbs ran deep in all Albanian national movements. Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece realized that the issue of Christian survival in Turkey had to be resolved by arms. Since Turkey refused to guarantee the Christians the same rights it had promised the ethnic Albanian insurgents, the Balkan allies declared war in the fall of 1912.
1 D. T. Batakovic, Od
srpske revolucije do istocne krize: 1804-1878, in: Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj
istoriji, pp. 172-208.
2 D. T. Batakovic (ed.), Savremenici o Kosovu i Metohiji 1852-1912, (Beograd 1988), Forward, pp. XVII-XXXVII.
4 D. T. Batakovic, Ulazak u sferu evropskog interesovanja, in: Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj istoriji, pp. 216-231.
5 V. Bovan, Jastrebov u Prizrenu, (Pristina 1984), pp. 180-185.
6 Documents diplomatoques. Correspondence concernant les actes de violence et de brigandage des Albanias dans la Vielle Serbie (Vilayet de Kosovo) 1898-1899, (Belgrade MDCCCXCIX), pp. 1-145
7 List of violence, in. Zaduzbine Kosova, pp. 672-697.
8 D. T. Batakovic, Anarhija i genocid u Staroj Srbiji, in: Kosovo i Metohija u srpskoj istoriji, pp. 271-280.