P a r t T w o
That the imagination is, indeed, impressed and excited by certain names, is suggested by the fact that in 1912-1913, only Serbian theories were taken into consideration.
The recent finds in the domain of linguistics, archeology and history have shown that these theories, as they were formulated in the 19th century were based on myths. But myths, on account of their suggestive power, do not die easily. Some of them may prove extremely tenacious. Such had been, for example, the myth mentioned before, connecting the South Slavs with the Illyrians.
* * *
It had been clearly indicated by J.E. Thunmann, back in 1774, that the Albanians alone could possibly be considered as the descendants of the Illyrians. Their origin had been suggested even before (in a letter) by the philosopher Leibniz.
Aside from pointing out historical data, Thunmann also remarked that certain Illyrian names are still used by Albanians: Dasios = Dash; Dida = Dede; Bardhylis = Bardhe, etc. A. Boue, who from 1836 to 1838 journeyed across the Balkans accompanied by various experts, subscribed to Thunmann's theory. J.G. von Hahn exposed the same view in his learned work Albanesische Studien (Jena, 1853) basing his research on ethnography, history and linguistics.36
* * *
That the Albanians have been living in the coastal areas since ancient times is evidenced by the fact that the Albanian language is greatly influenced by Latin; not merely Balkan Latin, but also Latin in its archaic form, missing not only in Rumanian, but sometimes even in other Romance languages. Latin also affects the vocabulary dealing with the intellectual and spiritual domain. Scholars have explained this influence through long-lasting relations between the Romans and the ancestors of the Albanians. Had the latter not been living since ancient times on the Adriatic coast, these relations would not have been possible.37
On the other hand, some Greek words in Albanian show the sound pattern of ancient Greek, an indication that the words were transmitted in an ancient epoch and that the Albanians must have been living in the vicinity of Greece for the past 3 000 years.
As regards Slavonic, from which the Albanians, like the Rumanians, borrowed many words, it has in no way affected the structure of their language, an indication that the borrowing must have taken place at a date when the Albanian language was already formed. Moreover, its influence is dialectical and concerns vocabulary dealing with material things rather than with spiritual matters. In Albanian, the terminology of the church, both Catholic and Orthodox, is not Slavonic, but overwhelmingly Latin with some Greek.38
Yet the ancestors of the Albanians did not merely inhabit the coastal areas. As attested also by the Halstatt culture, the domain of the Illyrians was vast; it extended to the east and to the north. Some words, still used in a few Swiss dialects, denote an Illyrian origin. Thus, for example, in the Berner Oberland, the cow is still called lobe as in Albanian. Noteworthy also are the Illyrian finds on the left bank of Lake Neuchatel, connected with a culture known as La Tene culture (500 B.C. to 1 A.D.) and the recent
discoveries in Zurich ascribed to a much older civilization.
However, North Illyria was sparsely populated. The North Illyrian tribes eventually mixed with Celts and other invaders and little by little lost their identity. Only Southern Illyria, more densely peopled, survived. Appian, who wrote in the second century AD, maintained, citing the Greeks, that Illyria at that time stretched from the Adriatic Sea to the Danube. This included the important province Dardania, i.e., the region of Shkup (Skopje), Ni and Pritina. Ancient authors (Pliny) used to call the Southern Illyrians "Illyrii proprie dicti". They were divided into tribes, some of which managed to form small kingdoms. With its capital Scodra (Shkodra, Scutari) and its main seaport Ulqin, Illyria constituted, in the 3rd century B.C., a powerful federal state.
Fanula Papazoglu, professor of ancient history at the University of Belgrade, who has written extensively on the Illyrians (see among others, Les origines et la destinee de l'Etat illyrien - Illyrii proprie dicti, in Historia, Wiesbaden, 14, 1965, Heft 2), has also devoted a long chapter to the Dardanians in her work The Central Balkan Tribes in Pre-Roman Times...(Engl. Transl. from the Serbo-Croatian, Amsterdam, Hakkert, 1978, 664 p.). In this latter work she indicates that
Not one of the peoples with whom we have to deal in this book has such a claim to the epithet "Balkan" as the Dardanians... because they appear as the most stable and the most conservative ethnic element in the area where everything was exposed to constant change, and also because they, with their roots in the distant prehomeric age, and living in the frontiers of the Illyrian and the Thracian worlds retained their individuality and, alone among the peoples of that region succeeded in maintaining themselves as an ethnic unity even when they were militarily and politically subjected by the Roman arms...and when at the end of the ancient world, the Balkans were involved in far-reaching ethnic perturbations, the Dardanians, of all the Central Balkan tribes, played the greatest part in the genesis of the new peoples who took the
place of the old (p.131).
After pointing out that the Dardanians had founded Troy, that Dardanelles is a name derived from them, that Dardanians were also encountered in Italy, Prof. Papazoglu adds that when the Dardanians reappear in our sources as a historically documented people in the central part of the Balkans, they are related to the Illyrians. Illyrian elements have also been noted among the Dardanians in Asia Minor. This all increases the probability of the theory that the Illyrians belonged to the oldest Indo-European element in the Balkan Peninsula (see pp.131-134).
The Albanian scholar, Zef Mirdita, of the University of Prishtina, who, like his colleague of the University of Belgrade, has devoted much time to the study of the Dardanians, has also arrived at the same conclusions (see among others, Studime Dardane, Prishtinė, 1980).39
The Dardanians resisted the Roman invasions as much as did the rest of the Illyrians and after the Roman conquest were not annihilated or absorbed as were not annihilated or absorbed the Illyrians of the coastal areas (See Mirdita, "A propos de la romanisation des Dardaniens" St.Alb., 1972 II pp. 287-298).40
* * *
The extent of the territory inhabited by the Illyro-Albanians at the time of the arrival of the Slavs is suggested by place name. The well known Albanian linguist, E. Cabej, has remarked in "Die aelteren Wohnsitze der Albaner auf der Balkanhalbinsel im Lichte der Sprache und Ortsnamen" (Atti e memorie del VII Congresso internationale di scienze onomastiche, Firenze-Pisa 1961 I, pp.246-251) and in various other articles that names of small localities change in the course of years (thus many place names in present-day Albania, in Kosova and elsewhere in the Balkans are Slav),41 but not so those of cities, mountains and rivers:42 Various toponyms prove that at least since Roman times the Albanians have between living as well on the Adriatic and Ionian coasts as in the Western Macedonia - Kosova region, formerly called Dardania, for many geographical names, be they of Illyrian, Ancient Greek, or Roman origin - were transmitted with changes characteristic of Albanian phonetic rules. Such names are, for example, Nish (Naissos), Shkupi (Scupi), Oher,Ochrid (Oricium = Lychnos), Drisht (Drivastum), Shar (Scardus), Shkodra (Scodra), Mati (Amatia), Buna (Barbena), Ulqin (Ulcinium), Lesh (Lissus), Tcham (Thyamis), Ishm (Ismus), Durres (Durachium), Drin (Drillion), Zara (Zadar), Triest (Tregest), Tomor (Tomarus), Shtip (Astibos), Shtiponje (Stoponion).
* * *
J. Cvijic described the Albanians as "the most expansive race in the Balkans", and G. Jakic compared the expansion of the Albanians to a "devastating river". G. Stadtmueller contended that originally they were confined to the Mati area and to the mountains of the north.43 Yet the Albanian scholars maintain that in the light of the data cited above it becomes evident that far from expanding the territory of their ancestors, the Albanians have constantly been restricted to smaller areas.
* * *
However, until very recently, there had been no archeological finds to invest the assumption of the Illyro-Albanian continuity with firm and concrete support.
Before World War II, there were in Albania very few archeological discoveries connected with the Illyrians. Leon Rey, head of the French archeological mission in Albania, expressed doubts as to the possibility of finding any vestiges linked to prehelenic times. Prehistoric objects, numerous in Macedonia, were at that time completely lacking in Albania (L. Rey, "Lettre d'Albanie", Revue internationale des Etudes Bakaniques, 1937, 301-304). In L. Rey's time, among 25 excavation sites, only two were Illyrian and the finds - insignificant ones - were related merely to the Iron age (1 000-450 B.C.).
Things have changed since then. At the present time there are over 200 excavation sites connected with the Illyrians. In the past 25 years, archeology has acquired in Albania considerable significance. Various meetings have taken place in Tirana and much has been published on the subject by Albanian and foreign scholars.
Among the numerous publications, one may mention:
a) Les Illyriens et la genese des Albanais, Tirana 1972.
b) Actes du Congres des Etudes Illyrienns (two volumes), 1974.
- a) and b) contain the acts of the two important meetings held in Tirana in 1969 and 1972 which were attended by a considerable number of Albanian and foreign scholars).
c) Iliria (in Albanian, with abstracts in French), first volume published in 1971; Vol 10, 1980. Vol. 2, entirely in French, is devoted to Illyrian cities.
d) Two Albanian academic journals, Studia Albanica, and Studime Historike (see especially 1972, nos 2,3,4) also contain articles dealing with the Illyrians and the Albanian genesis.44
* * *
Tumuli from the Iron Age were found in Mat (north Albania), Dropull (south Albania), Vajze (southeast Albania) and other localities. The archeological finds of these places chow links with the Illyrian necropolia of Glasinac in Bosnia and of Trebnite in Macedonia. This culture, known in archeological literature as Glasinac Culture, is encountered in a region stretching from Epirus to the Drin (Drina) and Morava, comprising Montenegro, Kosova and Bosnia.
* * *
Other discoveries made are connected with a more ancient epoch, the Bronze Age. On account of the unifying elements between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, Albanian archeologists have concluded that the Illyrians as an indigenous population and that their ethos was formed during the Neolithic or Bronze Age - i.e., prior to 1 000 B.C. - and not during the Iron Age as it had been formerly assumed.
Noteworthy is the fact that inventory objects pertaining to the Bronze Age (around 1 500 B.C.), such as the double axe, etc., leave no doubts as to relations between Illyria and Crete, thus confirming what had previously been asserted by F. Nopcza and M.E. Durham by reason of ethnographical data. As regards archeological inventory, the unifying traits linking the Bronze Age to the Iron Age were also noticed relative to finds outside the borders of present-day Albania: at Zocavi near Prijedor, Ptuj. The Yugoslav
scholars Josip Koroec, Frane Stare and Alojz Benac, when studying these finds, concluded - prior to the Albanian archeologists - that since there is no cultural interruption between the two layers representing the two different epochs, it becomes evident that one has to deal with one and the same ethnos (see A. Stipcevic, op. cit., pp.17-18).
Considerable prehistoric agglomerations dating from the Eneolithic Age (1 600 B.C.) were also unearthed in various locations. Albania may now compare with any other European country considered rich in prehistoric finds.
* * *
Of special interest is the inventory connected with a more recent age, namely, the early medieval epoch for which historical data are wanting. Noteworthy, relating to this epoch, is the necropolis of Kalaja Dalmaces in north Albania.
Although more finds have been made recently at this locality, the necropolis was discovered at the end of the 19th century and much had been written about it at that time and later by well-known foreign archeologists: S. Reinach, Th. Ippen, P. Traeger, F.Nopcza, L.M. Ugolini, L. Rey, D. Mustilli and also by A. Degrand, French consul in Scutari, who discovered it. For the history of this necropolis see especially Hena Spahiu, "Gjetje te vjetra nga varezza mesjetare e Kalase se Dalmaces", (Ancient finds from the medieval necropolis of Kalaja e Dalmaces") Iliria I, Tirana, 1971, pp. 227-260; and S. Anamali, "De la civilisation hautemedievale albanaise", Les Illyriens et la genese des Albanais, pp. 184-187.
The finds - most of which are at the Museum St. Germain-en-Laye - were formerly attributed to the Illyrians. Yet archeologists connected them with the Illyrian culture of the Iron Age. At the present time, however, there is incontrovertible evidence that the inventory objects belong to an epoch that stretches from the 6th century to the 8th century A.D.
Similar finds, linked to the same epoch, were made recently in Shurdha, near Shkoder, Bukel (Mirdita), Kruje, Lesh and, not too long ago, also in south Albania. This culture, known in archeological literature as Koman culture (from a village near Kalaja e Dalmaces), shows striking ties with the ancient Illyrian civilization. Despite the differences inherent to each epoch, one can easily recognize the unifying traits: funerary rites, orientation of graves, building methods, etc. They indicate that the Koman culture is the continuation of the ancient Illyrian civilization and not a culture introduced by recent settlers. In certain areas, such as Tren and Maliq, different layers show a continuity stretching from the Neolithic to the medieval epoch.
Despite ethnological and archeological data suggesting that the Illyrian ethnos was formed on Albanian soil prior to the Iron Age, it might perhaps still be premature to maintain a categorical stand as to problems relating to such a distant past. Therefore, Prof. Cabej without opposing the assertion expressed by Albanian archeologists, kept a cautious attitude in its regard. He argued, however, that the Illyro-Albanian continuity from the Classical period to the Middle Ages, both in present-day Albania and in Dardania, is indubitable.45
* * *
Although in Kosova there have been no systematic excavations similar to those undertaken in Albania in the past twenty five years, the archeological material that is available leads to the conclusion that the ethnos of Kosova's inhabitants belonged to the Illyrian family. Burial tumuli, characteristic of the Illyrian culture, unearthed in Albania at various localities were also found in Kosova (near Prishtina and in Lastica near Gjilan); in the district of Kukės which has territorial links with Kosova; in the Dukagjini Plateau (Metohija), in Mjele (near Virpazar), Montenegro, and in the region of Ochrida.
The cultural heritage in Kosova shows the same unity of materials and building methods as in present-day Albania. These finds, which denote an advanced urban culture, also indicate the extent of the territory occupied by the Albanians at the time when the Slavs began to settle in the Balkans; they corroborate the claim made by Cabey on linguistic grounds.
* * *
As reported by Constantine Porphyrogenitus (Emp. from 913-919), the Slavs Started to come to the Balkans from the Ural and the Caspian Sea during the reign of Emperor Heraclius (610-641). They were often led by nomadic Turks.46 The region, called at that time Illyria, was inhabited by the aborigine population, the Illyrians, the ancestors of the Albanians.
It is generally admitted that the Slavs settled in the Danube area along the Dalmatian coast, and in Greece. But the question as to the exact territories occupied by them has not been elucidated as yet. From various sources - historical as well as linguistic - the conclusion may, however, be drawn that if the greatest part of the vast Illyrian territories was by the end of the 9th century already colonized by the Slavs, some areas were spared. These were Dardania, New Epirus, the southern part of Prevalitania and North Epirus.47 These territories correspond exactly to the region which before the Treaty of Berlin were inhabited by Albanians.
The Slavs emerge as a strong population in the 10th century. But these Slavs are Bulgarians, not Serbs. It is they who in the 11th century named Belgrade48 the city that at present is Serbia's capital. The Slav toponyms that replaced the Illyrian and the Roman toponyms are also in many areas Bulgarian and not Serb.
It is now time to discuss the three issues mentioned in Part I:
* * *
a) Practically nothing was known about the Serbs before 1136 when Tihomir, who was merely a shepherd, became Grand Zupan.
In the 12th century, according to a contemporary chronicler, W. of Tyre, the Serbs were "an uncultured and undisciplined people inhabiting the mountains and the forests" and who "sometimes ...
quit their mountains and forests... to ravage the surrounding countries", (cited by W. Miller, Essays on the Latin Orient, 1921, p. 446).
The Serbs began to gain strength in the 13th century when Stefan Simon Nemanjic - previously Zupan - started using, in 1217, the title of king.49 At that time the Serbs had already taken much land from the Albanians. In 1217, they conquered Peja (Pec) which was to become in 1346 the see of the Serbian Patriarch. The greater part of Kosova, however, was not yet in their power.50 It was afterward that they got hold of it little by little. But the Serbian kingdom, within the short span of its existence was not marked by fixity. Its precarious stability is indicated by a striking array of capitals: Raka, Pritina, Belgrade, Kruevac, Smederevo, Belgrade again, Prizren, Banjska, Shkup (Skopje), Prilep, Smederovo, Kruevac again, Kragujevac.51 The names of these short-lived capitals suggest that the Serbs invaded and conquered, but then retreated and lost, because of some kind of opposition that they found. In this regard, it is interesting to note an observation made by V. Cubrilovic in his rather inhumane memorandum:52 "The Albanians are the only people during the last millennium that managed not only to resist the nucleus of our state, but also to harm us". This remark indicates that the Serbs were opposed by the aboriginal population.
When Stefan Duan was killed in 1355, the Serbian Empire included not merely Kosova; it encompassed practically all of present Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, and part of Hungary. Yet the Empire had no fixity and lasted merely nine years. It had been built up with the help of mercenaries and it disintegrated immediately after Duan's death because of the heterogeneous elements of which it was composed: Vlachs, Greeks, Albanians, etc.
* * *
Considering the fact that in the 12th century the Serbs were regarded as an uncultured and undisciplined people, that they began to gain strength in the 13th century; that their kingdom lasted a little over 100 years, and Czar Duan's Empire merely nine, it is reasonable to assume that during this very short span of time the aboriginal population could not have been annihilated no matter how difficult the living conditions might have been for them.
As for Kosova - which is incorrectly designated as the cradle of the Nemanjic, for the Serbian nucleus did not start in Kosova, but in Raka, i.e., north of the site of present-day Novipasar53 - the very names of the capitals of that short-lived Serbian state suggest that Kosova was not even abidingly its center. That state, as pointed out by many historians, does not seem to have had any permanence or center.
Neither was Stefan Duan's Empire lost to the Turks. When the Battle of Kosova took place, Serbia was insignificant and divided among various petty lords. Lazar Hrebljanovic, to whose share had fallen the Kosova Plain was merely a Knez, i.e., a prince or a simple count.54 His capital was Kruevac.
* * *
b) Some nations show restraint, shyness, or reluctance when it comes to exalting historical events and national heroes. India, for example, a country where thousands of myths originated, has refrained from underscoring the deeds of her national heroes.55 Conversely, it has become the characteristic of the Serb nation - as various scholars have observed - to glorify personages and events associated with nationalists pride. For imaginative, sentimental, or other reasons which shall not be examined here, the Serbs have created nationalistic myths as India has created religious ones.56 In so doing, however, they have insisted to the extreme upon the rights of their own nation which clash with those of other nations.
True, for instance, the Battle of Kosova, so greatly exalted by the Serbo-Montenegrins since Karadzic's time, was an important and sad event for the Slavs. However, when viewed objectively, one must concede that this battle, as specialist have not failed to remark - was not fought by the Serbs alone, but by a coalition of Balkan nations: Bulgarians, Greeks, Vlachs, and Albanians57 (including 10 000 Croats). As a consequence, these nations should be imparted the merit due to them. Various sources suggest that the most numerous troops were the Albanian and that they were placed in the front rows.57 Besides, the victory of the Turks in that battle is said to have been occasioned by the treason of Lazar Brankovic, Knez Lazar's son-in-law, who deserted to the Turks at the critical point of the battle with a large number of Serbs.58
The important role of myths becomes evident when one thinks that the Battle of Nikopolis on the Danube, where the army of Sigismond of Hungary fought in 1395 against Beyazit, was just as decisive as that of Kosova, and perhaps as important, according to some scholars, as the very capture of Constantinople by the Turks. Yet we are heedless of its importance because of lack of myths. The Turkish victory on this battle is also due to the Serb troops fighting on the Turkish side, Beyazid being married to the sister of Stefan Lazarevic.59
As to the hero of Kosova Battle, widely sung by the Serbs in the 19th century, most people will perhaps show surprise at learning that in all likelihood he was Albanian. His name, which was not recorded in Serbian church documents - perhaps for the simple reason that he might have been Catholic, perhaps also for other motives - became known to us thanks to a casual traveler and through Turkish documents: originally Copal - which is Albanian - it was Serbized, as were at that time other Albanian names, thus becoming Kopilic. In the 18th century, Kopil, Kopilic, underwent another modification and at present is merely known as Obilic.60
* * *
c) The Serbs did not merely make, by way of myths, the most of Stefan Duan's short lived Empire as well as of the Kosova Battle. Their purpose was also to prove that prior to the Turkish occupation, state and nationality coincided and that the Albanians in Kosova were but an adventitious population having colonized the region as a result of the Austro-Turkish Wars when the Serbs had to seek refuge in Hungary in order to safeguard their dignity.
Thus it was, and still is, repeatedly underscored that the Serbs who emigrated to Hungary were chiefly from the areas bordering on present-day Albania, i.e., from the region of Prizren, Djakova and Peja (Pec); the area which the Albanians call the Dukagjini Plateau and the Serbs Metohija.
J.G. von Hahn, who believed in the Illyro-Albanian continuity, had no doubts, when he visited Kosova that the Albanians had been living there since ancient times. He regarded the region of Sitnica as constituting a pure Albanian link between Dardania and Albania.61
As for A. Boue, although the Serbian exodus, which started to receive publicity at the beginning of the 19th century, was by the middle of that same century accepted as an indubitable fact, he was sure, when journeying in Kosova (1836-1838), that at the time of the Emigration the Albanians might have occupied certain districts evacuated by the Serbs in Novipazar and in the Dukagjini Plateau, but in doing so, they were merely recuperating their ancient territory, for, he pointed out, the Albanians are the descendants of the Illyrians and these used to inhabit the territory presently occupied by the South Slavs.62
In his turn C.E.N. Eliot argued that
The Turks are usually thought of as a destructive force, and rightly; they have destroyed a great deal and constructed nothing. But in another sense, they have proved an eminently conservative force for they have perpetuated and conserved as if in a museum, the strange meddling which existed in South-Eastern Europe during the last years of the Byzantine Empire (Turkey in Europe, 1965 ed., p. 16).
* * *
That some people followed the Austrian army and were allowed to settle in Hungary is a historical fact that cannot be denied. Yet no historical documents are available regarding the number of people who emigrated, nor the exact areas affected by this emigration. The figure of 37 000 families,i.e., about 350 000 people, claimed by some historians, cannot be supported by any indisputable nor plausible evidence. This figure is, as it seems, the result of the arbitrary interpretation of the word void mentioned in some church document.
* * *
Despite the lack of historical proof in support of the Serbian assertion, the exodus, widely and abundantly advertised throughout the 19th century, was unquestionably accepted even by very critical minds. The event was so frequently mentioned and the publicity it received was such that it eventually became a commonplace: it has been mechanically repeated by all those who in various capacities have had to deal with the question. Newspapermen did not fail to refer to it again when reporting on the recent events that took place in Kosova.
Prof. A. Hadri of the University of Prishtina pointed out that the appeal to the Balkan peoples to rise against the Turks was not merely made by the Patriarch Arsenije Cernojevic, but jointly by him and the Albanian Archbishop of Shkup (Skopje), Pjeter Bogdani. According to Hadri, there were about 20 000 rebels, Serbs and Albanians, some of whom emigrated north of the Danube. This figure does not tally with that claimed by the Serbs.
The historical error concerning various aspects of this emigration and the faulty interpretation of the word void used in church documents were already pointed out by a Serb himself - the well-known historian J. Tomic, in a passage which, surprisingly, has not received the attention it deserves considering the fact that it dates from 1913. It is contained in Les Albanais en Vieille-Serbie et dans le Sandjak de Novi-bazar, Paris, Hachette, 1913.
"This retreat of the southern and south-eastern population toward the north is known in Serbian history as the emigration of the Serbian people to Hungary under the Patriarch Arsenije Crnojevic. This event has lead in some instances to a few errors which for more than a century and a half, have been repeated from one book to another. One of those errors concerns the very regions that were hit by this emigration. If one opens at random any history book of the Serbian people one never fails to read everywhere as if it were a firmly established fact that during this emigration the Serbian regions of the Southwest - i.e., the regions of Prizren, Djakovo, Ipek - were the ones that suffered the most and remained vacant. This claim is incorrect and must be amended once and forever. Indeed, when presented in this manner the facts do not correspond to the reality. If this historical error has persisted for so long it is because the question has not been sufficiently studied. One has relied on notes and chronicles written by Orthodox priests and the 'void' mentioned in them has been identified with the ruin of the Serbian people; in reality, it refers to Orthodoxy.
It is an established fact that in the Turkish Empire the Serbian people were equated with the Orthodox element. The Serbs were always inseparable from the Orthodox Church; thus, their interests coalesced with those of Orthodoxy See: Dix ans, etc.)...
During the epoch with which we are concerned, Orthodoxy in those regions was very hardly hit. A void was created in the Orthodox Church. Never was any Serbian region diminished by so many priests, dignitaries, and simple ministers as that particular area at that time. Neither had ever such a conjunction of circumstances occurred that rendered the situation of the Serbs as distressful as it was then. As a consequence, deprived of its best defenders and supporters in the battle against Islam, the population of Orthodox Serbia found itself more than ever subjected to the double process of Islamization and Albanization. This population did not evacuate the territories bordering on Albania proper; however, after being subdued, it was forced to an accelerated Islamization and Albanization. In terms of the Serbian national idea, this process may be equated with the disappearance of Serbian life, since it is this Islamized and Albanized population that has produced the worst enemies of the Orthodox faith with which the Serbian people and the national idea are identified. We have sufficient proofs confirming the fact that the stream of the Orthodox Serb emigration did not, indeed, affect the neighboring territories of Albnia proper and that, consequently, the way the facts were presented by priests in their notes and chronicles does not correspond to the reality. The decline of Serbian life in the regions of Prizren, Djakovo, and Ipek must therefore not be interpreted as the result of an emigration, but should more readily be considered as the subjection of the Serbian people to Islamization and Albanization which, owing to the circumstances, had become at that time particularly intense giving rise to the gravest violence on the part of the Moslems.
A direct proof that the Serbian land was not evacuated by the Orthodox population is the very existence of this same population until now. Still another proof is the steady decline of Serbian life which may be noticed starting with the beginning of the 18th century. However, aside from this fact of foremost importance, these events can also be confirmed by extant information dating back to that very epoch. Indeed, as it was indicated before,63 the Orthodox Serbs of Luma declared themselves against Austria. It goes without saying that these Serbs did not need to emigrate and even less to flee with the Austrian troops, for their attitude gave them the right to remain where they were. In fact, they did not move. Moreover, it is well known to us from extant documents of that era that in this region numerous Serbs as well as Catholic Albanians withdrew from the Austrian Army as a consequence of some unfortunate proceedings on the part of the Duke of Hollstein. These people joined the Turks even before the latter had driven back the invader. Those Serbs did not feel any need, either, to flee from the Turks. Nor could they possibly place themselves under the protection of Austria. A man sent to Ipek during the first half of January 1690 came back with a monk of the patriarchy. Upon his return to Kutchi, this man recounted the looting of the churches and monasteries as well as the slaughters of priests and monks by the Turks, but he did not report any emigration of the people. On the other hand it was indeed not at all easy for the patriarch and his suite to flee because the Austrians were followed very closely by detachments of Turkish soldiers. As a consequence, there could, of course, be no question of any exodus of a slowly moving crowd. After this region was again occupied by the Turks who continued their chase, any flight became impossible for the people. If a mass emigration had taken place, how was it then possible for the same patriarch, Arsenije III, to work the following year, as he did with the Serbs of Brda and Montenegro in order to organize another uprising of the people on behalf of Austria?
On the other hand, one should again stress the fact that it was physically impossible for the people of that geographic area to emigrate en masse because the Turks, streaming into the region behind the Austrians, already occupied the greatest part of it even before the secret departure of the patriarch. Lastly, it was in the middle of the winter at a time when the roads are impossible to find.
As a consequence, there was no mass emigration of Orthodox Serbs from those regions at that time although this has been repeatedly asserted until now. Emigration and flight took place only whenever it was possible, i.e., wherever the Turks did not appear suddenly and the people could leave the area before their arrival. This was the case in the Sandjak, in Kosovo, Upper Morava and Serbia within its former boundaries. These regions where the Austrians had made a longer halt were abandoned by the Orthodox Serb population that crossed the Danube and the Save. These emigrants were joined by a flow of people, a progressive migration, still headed for the north. As for the areas bordering on Albania proper, only a few single individuals and those who remained in the army as volunteers were able to flee immediately following the withdrawal of the Austrian army. The others left to side with the Turks. This is established by three facts:
a) Among the emigrants with fairly well-known names surrounding the patriarch there is not a single one from the region bordering on Albania proper.
b) The absence of an ancient population in the Sandjak may be explained solely by a migration that started out from a distant zone.
c) The traditions among the Serbs who became Moslem and Albanian, is proof that this population is old ...64(see pp. 35-41).
* * *
The recent examination of Turkish catastral registers has revealed that, in fact, J. Tomic was right: the area bordering on present-day Albania could not have been evacuated. In the 16th century, the number of people inhabiting the mountainous areas around Dukadjini Plateau (Metohija) was too insignificant. According to Albanian scholars, even assuming - without any valid reason - that the population had doubled in the 17th century and that all of the highlanders had departed from the mountaineous region, their number would not have sufficed to fill the area, nor to affect the population of Kosova-Metohija (Kosmet) had that population been previously Slav. But Turkish catastral registers clearly indicate that in addition to being small, the population of the mountains was also stable.65
J. Tomic argued, besides, that following the Austro-Turkish wars, the population of the region was forcibly Albanized and Islamized.
To this claim, one may reply that:
1) The region of Prizren, Gjakova, and Peja is marked by the tribal66 system as North Albania. Aside from the fact that this system constitutes a link between the two units, it must be borne in mind that no outside man can belong to the tribe, least of all Albanized Serbs. Therefore Tomic's remark at the end of the passage that "the tradition among the Serbs who became Moslem and Albanian is proof that this population is old", does not seem to make much sense.
2) At present, there are two million Moslem Slavs, the Bosnians. In 1974 they have inaugurated a Moslem university, which is the only one of its kind in Europe. Since these Slavs were merely Islamized, the question, of course, arises as to why the other Slavs were, as maintained by Tomic, Albanized in addition to being Islamized.
3) Contrary to the Vilayet of Kosova which was 90% Albanian, that of the Sandjak of Novipazar was, at the turn of the century, mixed. Whether those Albanians are recent settlers in that region, as claimed by Tomic, has, to my knowledge, not been established. Be it as it may, the fact remains that the two populations did not mix. Although both Moslem, they kept their individuality.
4) Kosova was not Islamized in the 18th century following the Austro-Turkish Wars. According to the Turkish registers, Kosova as a whole was already 65% Islamized back in 1520.67 In certain areas Islamization seems to have been particularly strong; thus Prizren (which in addition to the Orthodox population also had a Catholic minority) was 80% Moslem (see M. Ternava's article in Fjala, Prishtinė, Spring 1980); the population of Shkup (Skopje) in Macedonia, was 74% Islamized.68
It is significant that Peja's population, still mostly Christian in 1483 (105 hearths Christian; 33 Moslem) had turned overwhelmingly Moslem (90%) by 1582 (142 hearths Islamized, 15 Orthodox, the latter mostly with Albanian names).69 This happened at a time when the Patriarch of Peja (Pec) was granted power by the Porte (1557) thanks to the efforts of the Serbian Grand Vizir Sokolovic whose brother - or uncle - was an Orthodox ecclesiastic.70
* * *
At this point it is opportune to give some consideration to the problem of religion:
Although there have been conversions also in Bulgaria and Cyprus, the fact, nonetheless, remains that the most significant ones occurred among the Bosnians and the Albanians. In 1520, i.e., eighty years after Bosnia's conquest by the Turks, Sarajevo was 100% Moslem.71
The Bosnians admit that they did not regard the Turks as oppressors, that on the contrary, they welcomed them as liberators.72
The Albanians cannot say the same thing about themselves, for their numerous fights against the Turks are an undeniable historical fact. The Albanian national hero who distinguished himself in these combats was compared to Charles Martel73 who in 732 halted the Moorish invasions at Poitiers, thus saving western Europe from the Moslem peril.74
Voltaire asserted that if the Greek emperors had been comparable to Skanderbeg, the Eastern Empire would have been preserved.75 The French savant Ami Boue, drawing a parallel between the Albanian leader and Stefan Duan, portrayed the latter as a mere conqueror but pointed out that Skanderbeg is remembered as one of the bravest soldiers that has ever existed.76
During the 25-year span that preceded the Turkish invasion, the Albanians were at the height of their power; as regards moral prestige, they had plenty of it. Relating to territories, according to the Byzantine chronicler L. Chalcocondiles, the land of Gjon Castriota, Skanderbeg's father, extended between the kingdom of Sandalj, king of Bosnia, and Epirus.77 N. Iorga mentions a document from the archives of Venice, dating from 1413 which calls Gjon Castriota "dominum partium Bosniae";78 this presupposes that the territories northeast of Shkodra (Scutari) were under Castriota's sway.79 Also, in 1420, Gjon Castriota granted to the inhabitants of Ragusa the privilege to exercise trade in his territories until Prizren,80 an indication that this latter town was under Gjon Castriota's rule. Besides, according to Ami Boue (who points out that between the Greeks and the Albanians the differences are very slight), the Albanians inhabiting Greece were so excited about Skanderbeg's deeds that in 1454, they would have easily subdued the two despots, Demetrios and Thomas, and Greece would have come under their sway.81
It becomes evident that under these circumstances the Turks would not have been welcomed by them. In fact, the Albanians who fled to Italy following the Turkish invasion of their land were very numerous. They are said to have made up one-fourth of the nation's population.82
When thinking of these facts and considering that the fights of the Albanians against the Turks constitute a glorious episode in the history of the Albanian nation, the question, of course, arises as to why so many of these firm opponents of the Ottomans gave up Christianity.
There is no doubt that in the Balkans the Turks used pressure at times, especially perhaps in regard to the Albanians because they resisted them longer than other Balkan nations, but also on account of their links with the Pope, i,.e., with the West, which were suspect to the Porte. On general, however, the Turks strike as having been extremely tolerant in matters of religion. In fact, various data lead to the assumption that practically all conversions were in a way, voluntary. At the present time, it seems therefore simplistic to think that "after the Battle of Kosovo whole populations were butchered or compelled to adopt Islam.83 Neither may those who remained Christian be regarded as angels and martyrs, nor should those who embraced Islam be depicted as opportunists.
The religious problem is, as are most problems, more complicated than it seems at first sight. Up to now, scholars have not been able to study it properly on account of insufficient documents. Therefore, in many respects, there have been conjectures of a controversial order rather than definite conclusions drawn from objective historical evidence. The conversions of the Bosnians, for example, have often been attributed to the eagerness of the Bosnian nobles to secure their feudal rights. Yet the Bosnians themselves consider their acceptance of Islam as a means to preserve their identity for they do not identify themselves with the Serbs.84
As far as the Albanians are concerned, since they provided Turkey with numerous energetic and most able statesmen and reformers, various scholars, contending that they had a privileged position in the Turkish Empire, have imputed these conversions to utilitarian motives, such as the desire to have access to high positions,85 if not simply to avoid taxes.
As regards Islamization, the role played by the Balkan Churches has received very little attention although the pressure wielded by these churches against one another has often been stressed with respect to other matters. It is in connection to these churches that this problem shall be considered in this essay. * * *
The corruption of the Greek church has already been pointed out by different scholars.
In this regard, a passage from Sir C.N.E. Eliot's Turkey in Europe (first published in 1900) is illuminating:
"There was a strong party for the reelection of Jeremias, who, finding that the Porte refused to accept his candidature, offered 40 000 ducats if his brother Nicephorus could be elected. Metrophanes, by unheard of efforts, collected a like sum and laid it at the Sultan's feet. "The man is worthy of his office", said his Majesty; "let him alone". In 1620, the Grand Vizier demanded from Timotheus 100 000 ducats, on the ground that he had named 300 Metropolitans during his 10 years tenure of office. Cyrillus Lucaris, the successor of Timotheus, was deposed by the Jesuits and their party for 40 000 ducats and reinstated for 180 000 more.
"Naturally, these enormous sums did not come from the pockets of the Patriarch. As the Turks treated him, so he treated his own subordinates. The tribute of the Patriarchate was paid from the money received from consecrating bishops, the bishop paid his money from consecrating priests, who in their turn found the wherewithal by insisting on payments from their flocks for the performance of the simplest religious rite. The visitations of Metropolitans were dreaded almost as much as those of Pashas, and the whole fabric of the Church seemed converted into a vast mechanism of extorting money from the unhappy Christians for the most shameful purposes" (pp. 246-347 - 1965 ed.).
Not only ecclesiastical, but also educational matters were in the hands of the Greeks. "Their object was to Hellenise the Christian races of the Ottoman Empire, which meant that those unfortunate populations had to submit to a double yoke: Turkish and Greek".86 Eliot also adds that under these conditions, "It is hardly surprising to find that this dark period was characterized by numerous conversions" (op. cit., p. 50).
These conversions become, indeed, understandable when one thinks that the non-Greek populations had to pay huge sums to keep in Constantinople a patriarch whose aim was to prevent the development of their own cultures and to suppress their own languages. In fact, according to Turkish catastral registers, at the beginning of the 16th century, Gjirokastra's and Vlora's populations were overwhelmingly Christian (53 hearths Moslem as against 12 257 hearths Christian for the former city; 1 200 Moslem
against 14 304 Christian for the latter).87 At the beginning of the 20th century, the Christian population of these two cities had dwindled; they were overwhelmingly Moslem.
C.and B. Jelavich have remarked that the Greeks who had high positions in the Turkish Empire88 used their authority to oppress the rights of other nations in the Balkans, especially those of the Serbs.
Also, when examining the Bosnian problem, C. and B. Jelavich have pertinently indicated that the Bosnians, situated as they are, between Orthodox Serbia and Catholic Croatia, found themselves torn by disputes between the two churches and they were compelled first to have recourse to the Bogomil heresy and after the Turkish conquest to embrace Islam.89
These two remarks by C. and B. Jelavich are relevant. The first about the Greeks in regard to other nations may apply also to the Serbs with respect to the Albanians. When reflecting on the second remark pertaining to the conversions of the Bosnians, who first turned Bogomil, then Moslem in order to keep their identity, the question arises as to what were the Albanians before embracing Islam.
Of late, the Albanian scholar Dhimiter S. Shuteriqi has expressed the opinion that the Albanians also, like the Bosnians, might have been Bogomil.90 There are, however, no extant documents to support this conjecture with incontrovertible evidence.
It is assumed that Skanderbeg was Catholic on account of his close connections with four different popes. Yet, one of his brothers, Reposh, was a monk in an Orthodox monastery as were other north Albanians. These data do not simplify the religious problem as regards the Albanians.
* * *
The Albanians, we are told, were under the jurisdiction of Rome until 731 when Leo the Isaurian placed Illyricum under the Patriarchate of Constantinople (K. Jirecek, Geschichte der Serben, p. 47). However, as pointed out by N. Iorga, Illyricum had received its first missionaries from Rome quite early,91 which meant that it adhered to Western civilization. The Albanians, on account of the geographical position of their country and for various other reasons, found themselves obliged, in the course of years, to vacillate between the two churches. Yet they managed to keep alive their Western background. Perhaps they never severed completely their ties with Rome. According to A. Cabej, of all the Balkan nations - including even Rumania - Albania sided more with the West than with the East. It is also interesting to indicate that the Albanians who settled in Italy following the Turkish invasion, many of whom still use the
eastern rite, were never required to sign any document proclaiming their union with the Vatican as is the case with other Eastern communities. Nor did they abjure Orthodoxy. This presupposes that their links with Rome had never been broken.92
The Serbs, evangelized many centuries after the Albanians, did not receive their missionaries from Rome. In Stefan Duan's Code of Laws, there are indications that those who had links with Rome were persecuted.
According to Law no. 6, "The ecclesiastical authority must strive to convert such (i.e., Catholics) to the true faith. If such a one will not be converted..., he shall be punished by death. The Orthodox Tsar must eradicate all heresy from his state. The property of all such as refuse conversions shall be confiscated... Heretical churches will be consecrated and open to priests of Orthodox faith".
According to Law no. 8, "If a Latin priest be found trying to convert a Christian to the Latin faith, he shall be punished by death".
According to Law no. 10, "If a heretic be found dwelling with the Christian he shall be marked on the face and expelled. Any sheltering him be treated the same way".93
It is evident that under such rigid laws it must not have been easy for the Kosovars to keep their ties with Rome. In fact, the recent examination of Turkish catastral registers has revealed that in the 15th and 16th centuries many Albanians in Kosova were Orthodox.94
It goes without saying that the Albanians were not persecuted merely on religious grounds. In fact, in 1332, Father Brocardus (Gulielmus Adae, a French Dominican, Archbishop of Antebari) remarked that "The Albanoi are oppressed under the intolerable and very hard servitude of the most hateful and abominable lordship of the Slavs because they are overburdened with taxes, their clergy is lowered and humbled, their bishops and abbots often imprisoned, their monastery and priests lost and destroyed, their nobles deprived of their possessions".95
These persecutions against the Catholic Albanians continued during the Turkish occupation.
The Yugoslav scholar Jovan Radonic (Rimska Kurija i Juznoslavenske zemlje XVI-XIX veka, Beograd 1950,pp. 269, 473, 511-512) has revealed that the Patriarch of Peja had the authorization of the Porte to place the Catholics under his jurisdiction, threatening to impale the Albanians who would dare to address themselves to the Pope.
In 1664, Andre Bogdani, Archbishop of Shkup (Skopje), informed his congregation in Rome that the Albanians were more persecuted by the Orthodox Church than by the Turks (see Mark Krasniqi "Les Albanais dans l'oevre d'un diplomate russe", "Gjurme e Gjurmine, Prishtine, 1979, pp. 291-391).
The question of religion is, indeed, closely related to that dealing with national identity.
Being evangelized by Roman missionaries, the Albanians did not have a national church of their own similar to that of the Slavs. Pressed by the Greeks in the south and by the Slavs elsewhere their conversion to Islam seems to have been a means to preserve their national identity.
* * *
The conversions have been detrimental to the Albanians in more than one way: during Ottoman rule, they had to serve as mercenaries in the Turkish army. Sent to far away countries, they were decimated in wars or succumbed to climates to which they were not used while the other nations of the Balkans cultivated their land and grew in population.
In the 19th century, their desperate efforts to shake off Ottoman rule were ignored by the West and whereas the other Balkan nations were not merely allowed but also aided to constitute themselves as states, the Albanians, the oldest nation in the Balkans, were denied the right to do so.
It is because of their conversions that they lost the greatest part of their territories to neighboring states for Gladstone favored the Christians whom he considered as the allies of the Western Powers whilst he regarded Moslems as inferior; civilization being - according to him - equated with Christianity.
Religion was also taken as a pretext for plans made by neighboring states to transplant to Turkey the Albanians who as a result of peace treatise had remained in the territories ceded by the Great Powers to neighboring states.
The Albanian scholar and diplomat, F. Konica, pointed out that the Albanians are fully aware that the conversions are cause of many of their grievances and misfortunes while remaining at the same time perfectly conscious that if they had remained Christians, they would have been absorbed by their neighbors. Konitza implies thereby that between the two alternatives, the Albanians had no choice.
* * *
Giving further consideration to the Turkish registers pertaining to Kosova - which to this date may be regarded as the most reliable source of information relating to religion and ethnicity - the Albanian scholars have pointed out that in the light of the various data contained in these registers, the conclusion must be drawn that many Albanians had become Orthodox and were in the process of being Slavized. One may notice, for example, that many of them had added Slavic suffixes to their Albanian names. Thus, one encounters names such as Gjon Leshovich, Mark Bushatovich, Gjin Progonovich (Albanian names except for the suffix). Sometimes even the first names are Slavic: Radoslav, Jovan, Bogdan, Radislav, Bozhidar, Petko, etc. There are cases when both names are purely Slavic as to make it impossible to tell that one has to deal with Albanians were it not for certain remarks added to them such as 'son of Gjin', 'son of Tanush', 'son of Arben', (which are indisputably Albanian names) or simply Arbanas, i.e., Albanian. Sometimes, the only indication as to the ethnos is the village which has an Albanian name or the section of the city marked 'Albanian'.96
These names have not failed to become the subject of a controversy. In fact, the Albanians consider as Albanian, despite their Slavic names, all those for whom some indication was found as to their Albanian ethnicity.
The Yugoslav scholars did not observe the same guideline. A. Handzic,97 for example, who has published various foreign documents attesting that the Albanians were present in Kosova prior to the 17th century and who was also the first to point out that many of the individuals who had Slavic names were in reality Albanians on account of the indications mentioned above, when it came to statistics, he listed as "Slavs" all those who had Slavic names regardless of other data. Therefore the conclusion he reached was that in the 15th century, the Albanians, although present everywhere in Kosova, did not constitute the majority of the population. Conversely, the Albanian scholars maintain that the population was overwhelmingly Albanian, because of the fact that Slavic names - given the political situation - may not be considered as a criterion of ethnicity without taking into account other data.
Be as it may, the fact remains that in the 15th century, according to the registers, the Albanians were, contrary to the opinion that had prevailed until recently, everywhere present in Kosova.
* * *
With regard to the Turkish registers relative to Peja, the Albanian scholars content that, if the population of that city had been Slav, the numerous conversions at the very epoch when the patriarch was granted power by the Porte, would be unfounded and incomprehensible. These scholars regard the conversions as a clear indication that Peja's population was Albanian; they maintain, furthermore, that these conversions were, for their co-nationals, a means to keep their national identity.98
That the Albanians in Kosova are an aboriginal population is attested by the very Serbian Chrysobulls of the 13th and the 14th centuries. On the other hand, Turkish chroniclers mention Albanian uprisings in Kosova in the 15th century.99 The archives of Dubrovnik also testify for the same epoch. As for 17th century, important are, among others, the writings of the Turkish chronicle Evlija Celebi which clearly indicate that prior to the Austro-Turkish Wars the Albanian population was overwhelmingly present in Western Macedonia, in Montenegro and in the Vilayet of Kosova (E. Celebi, Putopis, Sarajevo, 1973, pp. 136-137). Mention should also be made, for the same epoch, of pastoral reports - that of the Papal Envoy, Pietro Massarechi (Mazreku, born in Prizren who succeeded M. Bizzi) dating from 1623 specifies that at that time, the population of Prizren was made up of 12 000 Moslem Albanians, 200 Catholic Albanians and 600 Serbs and that the population of Shkup (Skopje) was also mainly Albanian.100 Likewise, the Austrian documents pertaining to the Austro-Turkish Wars give evidence that the Austrian army was continuously in touch with an Albanian population. These documents refer to Prizren as the Capital of Albania and to Pjeter Bogdani, Archbishop od Shkup, as Archbishop of Albania.101 Various incidents linked to the Austro-Turkish Wars, as related by T. Ippen (in Novibazar und Kossovo,(das Alte Rascien) eine Studie, Vienna, 1892), who used Austrian War documents - as did J. Tomic - make it obvious that in Kosova the Austrian army had to deal with an Albanian population.
The fact that Shkup (Skopje) had an Albanian Archbishop, implies that that city had an Albanian population. Also, it is well known that among those who followed the Austrian army was an Albanian tribe, the Kelmendi (Clementi), from the region of Ni, which suggests that the area was inhabited by Albanians.
* * *
The recent study of catastral registers has not only indicated that in the 15th century the Albanians were overwhelmingly present in Kosova and Western Macedonia; it has also shown that they were not merely shepherds, as they were often said to have been, but held all kind of positions and practiced professions which are not normally characteristic of a nomadic population. That study has also revealed that in contrast to the Albanians who were sedentary, the Serbs appear as a nomadic population.102
Objective research has therefore established that what has been called Old Serbia, a term suggesting Serbian tradition and permanence, is in reality a region inhabited ab antiquo by Albanians which was only for a period of time under Serb rule.
* * *
It is undeniable fact that until recently (but especially so during the Middle Ages) state and nationality seldom coincided. The desire to invade and conquer is, indeed, a characteristic of many peoples and races. England was invaded by the Normans and ruled by them; the Arabs held sway in Spain from 756 to 1492; Calais was for two centuries under the domination of the British; Poland stayed for a long time divided between Russia, Germany and Austria. Needless to say that many more examples may be cited. There are places that remained, in fact, for centuries under the nominal rule of various invaders, alien to the population inhabiting them. The South Slavs, who were themselves, as a race and as a nation, under the domination of Turkey, Hungary, and Austria, should be in a better position than most people to feel and admit that in the past state and nationality were very seldom identical and that the transient power over something does not give claim to a permanent possession.
Indeed, temporary conquerors do not normally use the adjective "old" to describe territories which they once held under their sway. The French do not find it appropriate to call "Old France" territories once occupied by the short-lived Napoleon's Empire. Nor do the Turks name "Old Turkey" the Balkans where they ruled for over five centuries. The Bulgarians do not refer to Belgrade as "Old Bulgaria", despite the fact that that city belonged to them from the 9th century until the 11th; neither is this city called "Old Hungary" although Belgrade, which was Serbia's capital only briefly in the 12th century, fell under Hungarian control before being captured by the Turks in 1521. As for Ragusa, recently Dubrovnik, it was founded in the 7th century by the Romans and the Illyrians fleeing the incursions of the Slavs. Later, it fell under the rule of Byzantium, then under that of Venice, and finally of Hungary. The Turks held it from 1526 until 1806. Only since 1918 do the Slavs have control of it.
* * *
The term "Old Serbia", which, like all expression that are well chosen, has a tremendous suggestive power, was employed for the first time by Vuk Karadzic at the beginning of the 19th century. Yet Karadzic applied it practically to the whole Balkan peninsula. "Old Serbia" at that time was synonymous with what was also called "Great Serbia". But the chances to annex Bulgaria and Thessaly waned. The term was thus no longer applied to those regions and at present nobody considers these places any longer as "Old Serbia". Curiously on John Bugarsky's map, published in Belgrade in 1845, there is one area marked "Old Serbia or Present-day Albania". It is the region of Bielopolje separating Montenegro from Serbia - a clear indication that the term was used to designate various areas depending on the possibilities regarding territorial claims offered by political circumstances. Thus the limits traced by Prof. Cvijic for "Old Serbia" in 1909 differed considerably from those used by the same scholar in 1911. Since there was nobody to protect Albania's rights, the term was eventually used to designate merely the region that at present is identified with Kosova-Metohija (Kosmet). As for the Albanians, they call "Old Serbia", Serbia before 1878.
* * *
According to Theodor Ippen, if the term "Old Serbia" should be used at all, it should apply solely to that district which is situated between Ibar and Sitnica, whose southern border is the river Lab, i.e., to the area once called "Old Rascia" (Rascia = Serbia) whose capital was Ras located north of present Novipazar. Ippen remarks that this region too used to be Albanian (even the name Ras, he points out, goes back to an Albanian etymology), but it was there that the Southern Slavs formed their first nucleus in the 12th century under Nemanjic; it should in no way be applied to the territory of Kossovo:
The use of the expression 'Old Serbia' would be, if applied to a limited territory, after all justified, in as much as here (in Raka) the old Serbian state, which in its early stage may be identified with Rascia, originated. But he term 'Old Serbia' is used by chauvinistic Serbs to designate regions, such as Prizren, Gjakova, Ipek on the one hand and, on the other, Iskup, which geographically and ethnographically belong to Albania and Macedonia. 'Old Serbia' is therefore applied, for political purposes, to regions which ethnically speaking were never Serb (Ippen, op.cit., p.4).103
* * *
In the sight of these facts, the Albanians maintain that the principle of history invoked by the Serbs in support to territorial claims, is not based on any solid facts.
Serbian Churches in Kosova
It is an undeniable fact that people feel the need to build whatever they establish themselves. It is therefore normal that when they move away, they leave monuments behind. Suffice it to mention in this regard the famous mosques of Spain where the Arabs ruled for more than seven centuries. Some nations inherit monuments found by them in conquered territories. Thus Istanbul contains, aside from Hagia Sophia, many other Byzantine churches. These Christian places of worship stand amidst a Moslem population. Their fate is - mutatis mutandis - comparable to the Moslem monuments of Spain.
Similar to other nations, the Yugoslavs inherited from those who had previously ruled over the territories presently inhabited by them, various monuments associated with different civilizations that flourished in those areas throughout the centuries - for instance, on the Dalmatian coast, works of art built by the Romans and the Venetians add charm to the beautiful coast attracting a great number of tourists.104 These monuments are well preserved by the Yugoslavs. Conversely, the Serbo-Montenegrins thought it appropriate to destroy practically all Turkish works of art. The beautiful 17th century mosque of Podgorica, recently Titograd, was thus demolished despite the loud protests of the Bosnians. In Belgrade and its surroundings alone over 260 mosques, some of which were of undeniable artistic value, were razed.105 The Serbs have also demolished or damaged Albanian Catholic Churches.106
It is evident that places of worship as well as works of art represent the very spirit of a nation; to destroy them is tantamount to ruining the nation itself. The urge to conquer is more often than not accompanied by the need to annihilate the very spirit of the enemy. In this regard, it is perhaps not inappropriate to point out that the Greeks, who in 1766 eliminated the autocephalous Church of Peja and the following year, the Bulgarian Church of Ochrida, also destroyed Serbian manuscripts and monuments. In 1825, the Metropolitan Ilarion is said to have burned publicly all the Slavonic books in the old library of Trnovo Patriarchate.107
One could also point out the fact that during the Balkan Wars, the Bulgarian army, responsible for many other destructions, turned into a stable the monastery of Gracanica, damaging the frescoes on the walls.108
Many Catholic churches were damaged or demolished by the Serbs.
In the light of these facts, one appreciates more fully the attitude of the Albanians with regard to Serbian places of worship situated in a region where the population is overwhelmingly Albanian and Moslem. But before giving any details a few words about these churches become compelling.
In the region bordering on present-day Albania, there are three important monasteries (restored at high cost between the two World Wars):
1) The Patriarchate of Peja, built in the 13th century and aggrandized in the 14th. Its religious importance is well known, but from the point of view of architecture it is not important.
2) The monastery of Decani, built in 1325-1335. Its architect was Vita of Cattaro, a Catholic brother. It is the most beautiful of the three monasteries.
3) The Church of Devica in Drenica, built by the Despot Georg Brankovic, mentioned in documents only in 1578. From the point of view of architecture, this church is less important than the two others.
All three of them are situated in isolated areas. According to A. Slijepcevic, these monasteries were not so much intended to be places of worship; rather, they constituted landmarks either in conquered territories or away from from state rule. In the latter case, they were like attempts to "rapprochments".109
Medieval Serbian documents clearly indicate that the villages surrounding the Serbian monasteries were inhabited by Albanians, who contributed to their maintenance.110
It is now time to point out that these places of worship would have been destroyed in the course of years had it not been for the Albanians. It is to them that they owe their existence. For centuries, the guardians of these churches - the vojvods, as they are called - have always been Moslem Albanians, elected by the neighboring villages of these churches. There were times when the Albanians experienced bitter and inimical feelings in regard to the Serbs, especially following the Berlin Congress, when tens of thousands of their co-nationals inhabiting the regions ceded to Serbia and Montenegro were brutally driven out of their homes and forced to leave the region. There were also times, especially at the turn of the century, when the Albanians, disobeying the Turks, held sway in those territories, where they constituted over 90% of the population. It was thus in their power to reduce to ashes those places of worship. But they did not do so despite the fact that they were fighting the Serbs. This surprising attitude is due to the Albanian Code of Laws (the Code of Laws of Lek Dukagjini, rightly regarded as the bible of the North Albania), which penalizes those who do not show respect for churches even if they are not their own. Numerous were the vojvods killed while defending one or the other of these monasteries. Orthodox priests sent to their families letters of praise and gratitude.111
Considering these facts, Serb propaganda that depicts the Albanians as vandals who damage Serbian churches seems both mean-spirited and undignified, especially when one thinks that even poets have put their talents to the service of a defaming propaganda by describing the Albanians as destroyers. In this regard, mention should be made of a widely advertised poem by the well-known Serb poet, Rakic, where an Albanian is described as having damaged the eyes of one of the frescoes at Gracanica112 representing Simonida.113 Since there is irrefutable proof that this act was not committed by any Albanian and owing to the fact that Rakic - who at the turn of the century was consul of the Kingdom of Serbia in Pritina - must have been fully aware of the truth, his poem is more than objectionable.114
Regarding these churches, those who cause damage are Serb school children, who put their signature wherever they can. Mark Krasniqi in one of his two illuminating essays devoted to these churches has even reproduced the signature of the Serbian Consul in Monastir, which he found in Gracanica. Using the Cyrillic alphabet, the Consul had written clearly and in a conspicuous place: "D.Bodi, Srpski Konsul u Bitolju, 1893".115
A leap shall now be made into the present time to point out that the unjust attitude of the Serbs has not changed.
On March 16, 1981, a fire broke out at the convent of the sisters at Peja, a fairly recent construction without architectural value. Although the convent is at a good distance from the patriarchate, which was in no way touched by fire, the casualty was presented to the press in such a manner as to suggest that the patriarchate itself had suffered damages. Accused were the Albanian "irredentists".
As a result of a court investigation, Judge Hoti, a Kosovar, declared that the casualty was due to inadequate electrical installation. Although damages had been minimal, the Fedral Government allotted for the restoration of the convent sums that were surprisingly high. The case, however, seemed closed. It has been reopened of late.
It is understandable that, hurt in their pride, the Albanians have come to view these churches, which they have so magnanimously defended, as symbols of injustice.