On Serb monasteries and Belgrade intellectuals
One of the issues constantly raised by Serb intellectuals in relation to Kosova
is the fate of the Orthodox monasteries. Are the Albanians ready to carry on be
ing the guardians of Serb history?
In contrast to the systematic destruction of the Albanian cultural and religious
heritage carried out by Milosevic's Nazi hordes, the Albanian fighters, even
when they have had the opportunity to do so, have not destroyed Serb monuments
or monasteries. Neither Decani, nor the Patriarchate at Pec, nor Gracanica have
been attacked. Indeed, Albanians have tended to believe that monasteries such as
Decani or the Patriarchate are not just Serb, but also part of the heritage of
Kosova, for the ancestors of the Albanians too were Christian at the time they
were built. If meanwhile some animosity has been created towards the symbols of
Serb Orthodoxy in Kosova, this must be overcome.
What are your personal relations today with Belgrade friends and how do you see
them in future?
I lived for a long time in Belgrade, and then when I returned to Kosova I always
tried to keep in touch with normal people there, but now a time has come when
everything to do with Belgrade has become painful. If I was a vengeful kind of
person, I should say that Belgrade deserves the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah! But
since I am not, I wonder reproachfully: whose fault is it that they have not yet
left Belgrade and Serbia, that den of thieves and criminals! When all this
happened and a number of colleagues called me from Belgrade, I tried to speak
normally but could not shake off the idea of a contaminated city, since they, my
colleagues, are living there in that stench (if you'll pardon the expression),
in the midst of `target' revelries and a hypocritical pretence of `innocence'
and a stance of `what have we done to deserve this?', reflecting the most
cynical racism towards Albanians, since they supposedly `have no idea what is
going on down there in Kosova', `don't feel guilty', and are not the least bit
concerned with what their state and regime are doing in Kosovo. I feel ashamed
today of Belgrade and have the feeling I shall not set foot in it until it has
been thoroughly decontaminated. After all, it is not possible for all this to
have taken place - in Vukovar, and Sarajevo, and Srebrenica, and now Kosova -
and for `freedom-loving', `liberal' Belgraders to go on sleeping with clear con
sciences. If nothing else, they should have been deeply ashamed, instead of
playing the part of `innocent victims of NATO aggression'.
Disregarding state structures or political frontiers, can you at this moment im
agine Albanians and Serbs living together?
There can be no abstract form of living together that disregards the state
structure and ÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ
the political frontiers. At this moment the project that Dobrica
Cosic once called the territorial separation of Serbs and Albanians is being put
into practice. Cosic did not like the fact that Serbs and Albanians were inter
mingled on part of the territory; more precisely, he did not believe in living
together in a multi-ethnic milieu. But if NATO, which has decided to punish
Milosevic and the Serbs, succeeds in reversing the situation in Kosova and
creating conditions for return of the deported Albanians, it can be assumed that
all Serbs will withdraw from Kosova along with the defeated Serbian army. So in
both cases we get only an ethnically pure separation, without real preconditions
for living or working together. There exists also a third, softer variant of ar
tificial maintenance of a multi-ethnic Kosova, in which foreign forces would
guarantee and guard the presence of the Serbs and their cultural monuments in
Kosova. That is not any recipe for living together either. Living together is
possible only after the full defeat and denazification of Serbia. Naturally,
when all this passes and when all the war criminals have been sent to The Hague
and tried, there will arrive a time for good-neighbourliness and new relations.
It is easy to imagine good-neighbourly relations, even forms of economic and po
litical integration of the Balkans in 50 years time, but today it is difficult
because we are precisely in a period when genocide and a policy of final solu
tions are reaching their peak.
Have you heard of President Tudman's initiative for solving the Kosova crisis
and if so what do you think of it?
The Croatian president for a long time now has had no particular interest in
Kosova, still less in Serbia - or the `barbarian' Balkans in general. He put
forward his proposal for the partition of Kosova as a way of keeping alive his
notorious scheme for partitioning Bosnia. President Tudman seems to have made
the crafty calculation that since Belgrade and Russia have been humming behind
the scenes for days with the notion that the time has come to partition Kosova,
it would be no bad idea for him to assume authorship of the proposal. Partition
of Kosova fits in with his long-term strategy. It would serve as a precedent if,
by some happy circumstance, the same thing were to happen with the Croat-Bosniak
federation and it was all nicely carved up into ethnic plots to be attached to
the right motherland . . . Tudman has been and remains Milosevic's closest
You used to run the Open Society office in Prishtina, and I am interested in
your comment on the behaviour of the Open Society people in Belgrade. I was par
ticularly shocked by a radio interview with Sonja Licht, which differed only in
a few nuances from what regime intellectuals say in Serbia.
I did not hear those statements, but I have been told that they were astonish
ing. I have, however, had a chance to read the letter published on 16 April by
27 liberal Belgrade intellectuals, which was signed by Sonja along with many of
my friends and acquaintances from Belgrade. In that letter I found some formula
tions and positions that are truly scandalous and show that they are all blinded
by the explosions that have befallen them, so that they cannot see what is re
ally happening. In the preamble they make a fine statement about how they are in
principle against all violence, which is fine and acceptable at the level of
principles, only to go on and put into the same basket - as the active perpetra
tors of violence - NATO, the KLA and the Serbian military formations. Well, that
just won't do! It is quite impossible to treat as equal the violence of the eth
nic cleansing that Serbia is systematically carrying out in Kosova and the vio
lence of Albanian rebels defending their lives. Similarly, you cannot use the
same yardstick to measure the violence of the Serbian military formations and
the `violence' of the NATO alliance, which is intervening against active vio
lence and crime.
Shkelzen Maliqi has been one of the best known Kosova intellectuals for the past
two decades, writing for democratic papers and journals throughout the former
Yugoslavia and involved in most attempts at dialogue between Serb and Albanian
academics. These extracts have been translated from an interview with him car
ried out in Macedonia by the writer Miljenko Jergovic, in Feral Tribune (Split),
31 May 1999.