Why Kosovo is not the ‘heart of Serbia’?
Author: Zlatoje Martinov
Uploaded: Thursday, 17 April, 2008
Article translated from the latest issue of Republika (Belgrade) examines the pattern of myth-making about Kosova that has long dominated Serbian political ideology
We have witnessed over the past months and years the revival of old and the creation of new myths about Kosovo. As in the 19th and 20th centuries, now again at the beginning of the 21st Kosovo is once more assuming a key place in the fate of Serbian society and each of its members. The trouble is that the constant production of this myth, and its consolidation in people’s minds, now no longer involves only nationalists as at the time of Slobodan Milošević, but also forces of a so-called democratic character, with only a small number of politicians and intellectuals (among whom the author of this text proudly numbers himself) resisting. For two centuries now we have been slaves to the myth of a ‘restoration of Dušan’s empire’and an all-Serb unity that could be achieved only by fulfilling ‘the Kosovo pledge’, and have sacrificed a good part of our European destiny and civilisational advance to it.
The second half of the 19th century was spent in conflicts over the basic direction in which the ship of state and nation should point. The current that won was the one which believed that the Kosovo ideal should be the basic meaning of every Serb’s life, and that all those who thought otherwise - and there were such people - should become the target of political repression and subject to uncontrolled violence by angry mobs (as in the Great National Eruption of 1887), or at best be described as national traitors by court poets. Tangible matters like the normal lives of individuals or the material development of society were sacrificed in the name of the myth and the metaphysical, irrational Beyond. The idea of a Normal Society was sidelined in favour of the idea of a Great State. When, after Turkey’s defeat in the Second Balkan War of 1912, Kosovo with its majority non-Serb population found itself after many centuries once again part of the Serbian state, it was not paid the attention worthy of a glorious myth: it was and remained the most non-Serb area of Serbia, and of the subsequent State of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, i.e. Yugoslavia, and also their most backward part in a material sense.
Many endeavoured, in the best Nazi manner, to make Kosovo Serb: for example, Vasa Čubrilović, who in his notorious St Sava lecture of 1937 offered a recipe on how to achieve ‘the final solution’. It was necessary ‘to drive a wedge’ resolutely and forever ‘and break up the Albanian triangle’ - advised the renowned professor and erstwhile member of ‘Young Bosnia’ - by having paramilitaries, ‘ostensibly without our government’s knowledge, attack and burn down their villages to make the Albanians emigrate’. He added: ‘... this will cause some noise, but if Stalin can today move whole nations from one end of Russia to the other, why should we not do something similar to the Albanians?’ There is not a word here about the material development of Kosovo, ‘the heart and soul of every Serb’. This divested the myth of its glorious aura, leaving behind only its political essence: struggle for a territory that would become purely Serb in ethnic terms.
It has remained like that to this day. In periods when state propaganda dies down, Kosovo in the popular mind is everything but ‘the heart’, everything but ‘the soul’ of Serbia.
Kosovo was lost long ago
Wars were waged for this territory, causing death and misery to innocent citizens on both sides, and in 1999 Kosovo was really lost. Today, politically in a formal sense too, since the new state has been recognised by a host of powerful states; ethnically, since there are there two million Albanians and 150,000 Serbs; and culturally, because a new national model has taken hold there. Yet the myth stubbornly persists. Most Serbs do not in fact have any emotional tie to Kosovo, most of them have never been to Kosovo, and such ties - if any - that remain are owed exclusively to the powerful media promotion of the newly created myth that the ‘Kosovo pledge’ remains to be fulfilled, and that ‘every Serb must subordinate his life to that aim’. And where such an ‘exalted aim’ is involved, any resistance to it is not only useless but also treated as high treason.
This is why today, at the end of March 2008, the few democratically minded people hesitate to declare publicly that Kosovo is in no way the heart of Serbia. That Kosovo is definitely not Serbia, but a new state in Europe. That the Serbian government’s policy consists of inciting violence, disorder and confusion in northern Kosovo, in order to provoke the Albanians to respond to Serb violence with their own stronger variety. That the government spends taxpayers’ money in the mad and fantastic hope that ‘Kosovo will again be Serb’. That it will join the EU and then block the entry into the Union of ‘the false NATO state of Kosovo’. The citizens of Serbia, however, for who knows which time in the modern Serbian history of the last two centuries, are also hostages to a myth, who can be disqualified from joining the process of Europeanisation and modernisation at the very start of the 21st century, condemned to wait for another chance, maybe in the next century. Provided, of course, that the vampire of the Myth does not once again rise.
Translated from a longer text in Republika (Belgrade), 426-427, April 2008.