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Dusan T. Batakovic: The Kosovo Chronicles

PART TWO: THEOCRACY, NATIONALISM, IMPERIALISM


ANARCHY AND GENOCIDE UPON THE SERBS

This era was marked by anarchy in Kosovo and Metohia. Following the great Eastern crisis (1878), anarchy encroached the bases of state policy, and its driving force became genocide upon the Serbs. Developing into a movement, the purpose of which was to exterminate a people, Albanian anarchy was adjusted by circumstances, lead by political motives, tribal, economic or personal gains, displaying itself in various ways. Muslim fundamentalism and religious fanaticism were interwoven with feelings of national and tribal belonging. Wavering between lucrative raids, blackmail, abduction and radical solutions by murder or the routing of entire families, the policy conceived to exterminate the Serbian people was never doubted. But it never could be carried out to the end, since every attempt of massive physical destruction or collective pursuit was threatened by subsequent international clashes and the military interference of neighboring Christian countries. Thus the ethnic Albanians applied the method of persistent violence day after day which, being radicalized in periods of crises, lead to a sure completion of their purpose - the extermination of Serbs in the Kosovo vilayet. The decisive turning point came with the Greek-Turkish war (1897). Recognized as an announcement of the approaching disintegration of the Ottoman Empire on the Balkans, it moved an avalanche of Albanian violence upon the Serbs.

Following the Kurds' brutal massacre of the Armenians, the European public, appalled by the barbaric methods of Sultan Abdul Hamid's policy, rightfully named him "the bloody Sultan". The Kurds of the Asia Minor expanses seemed to have proved their act in the same role as the ethnic Albanians had in the European provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The Greek Insurrection on Crete in 1896 anticipated a new danger for the safety of the empire. News on the massacre of Muslim followers upset conservative Albanian circles in Kosovo. At councils, held in the houses of notables and in mosques, they confirmed their readiness for vengeance.1

Pressured by the Great Powers, the Sultan announced a program of new reforms in 1896, anticipating equality for Muslims and Christians under the law and the introduction of Christians to administrative bodies. The announcement of the reforms exacerbated Muslim ethnic Albanians in Old Serbia and Macedonia. Their leaders, pashas and beys, tribal chiefs and standard bearers strove to maintain the possession of specially privileged positions in the structure of the feudal society and to sustain political supremacy in their regions. The Albanian émigrés and notables of southern Albania, used the announcement of reforms to renew the idea of autonomy. Feudal circles of Kosovo sent a delegation to Constantinople, headed by Mula Zeka of Pec, expressing readiness to defend in arms its homeland from external threat and requested for the reforms not to be implemented in Old Serbia. Beys in Pristina refused to give any consideration to the reforms, due to the "Serbian threat". The Sultan accepted their requests without hesitating.2

The declaration of war upon Crete was threatened by the possible involvement of Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro in the crisis. The Great Powers, especially parties holding most direct interest - Russia and Austria-Hungary, warned the Balkan state not even to think of warfare with the Turks. The beginning of the Greek-Turkish war in April 1897, accelerated negotiations between the two powers. The Dual Monarchy and Russia concluded a secret agreement in May to preserve the status quo on the Peninsula. Several months subsequently Austria-Hungary came to terms with Italy for joint influence in Albania.3

The 1897 war with Greece was a test of Albanian loyalty to the sultan. Around 10,000 Albanian volunteers enlisted in the Turkish army. The declaration of war stirred Muslim fanaticism among the ethnic Albanians, thus invigorating identification with the interests of the Ottoman Empire. It was due to them that Turkish troops penetrated deep into Thessaly, with Albanian volunteers exceeding in sacking Greek villages. Greece was defeated but Crete, with the aid of Great Powers, was on its way of achieving autonomy with the Greek prince as governor.

Albanian volunteers from Kosovo and Metohia regarded the outcome of the Crete crisis as an announcement of new divisions in the Turkish countries. Like many times before, they blamed the Serbs as the guilty party, suspecting their conniving with the authorities in Serbia. Following the conclusion of the truce, the ethnic Albanians retained their arms, since the Turks believed they would successfully defend the northern borders of the empire in case of another war. Embittered by the failure of their rumoring Serbia's preparation to war with Turkey, the ethnic Albanians then turned upon the unprotected Serbian populace more severely than ever.4 The Turkish authorities and Muslim clergy stirred the apprehensions of ethnic Albanians with news of imminent war with Serbia. In such an atmosphere, mass murders, robbery and violence spread to broad dimensions. The consulate in Pristina reported that following the victory over Greece, ethnic Albanians "have literally become enraged, perpetrating atrocities upon the Serbian rayah they never dared do before, even in their wildest years."5

Already next year, in 1898, the terror grew to a general movement to exterminate the Serbian rayah in Old Serbia. Reports from Serbian consulates in Pristina and Skoplje indicate that, in its scope and cruelty, this one exceeded all previous ones. The consul in Pristina, Svetislav St. Simic, warned that the position "of our [Serbian] people in Kosovo is no better than the position of the Armenians in Asia Minor in the years from 1894 to 1896".6 Lists of hundreds of severe crimes all pointed to the fact that the Serbs would soon disappear from Old Serbia unless preventive measures were undertaken. The consuls proposed for people in the Kosovo vilayet to secretly arm for defense against the tyrants. Frequent border conflicts effected a strain in Serbian-Turkish relations.

1 A large number of Albanians, especially those from Djakovica, took part in the Armenian massacre; see V. Berard, Politique du sultan. Pans 1897; for Albanian agitation: B. Perunicic, Pisma srpskih konzula iz Pristine 1890-1900, pp. 198.

2 D. Mikic, Drustvene i ekonomske prilike kosovskih Srba, pp. 44-45; D. T. Batakovic, Osnove arbanaske prevlasti, p. 40.

3 S. Skendi, op. cit., pp. 242-244.

4 Ibid., pp. 199-202.

5 B. Perunicic, Pisma srpskih konzula iz Pristine 1890-1900, pp. 269; Lists of violence, pp. 269-277, 293-299.

6 Ibid., pp. 311.

Serbia's Diplomatic Actions

Political conditions in Serbia did not allow for any broader actions to protect the Serbs in Turkey. Having returned to the country, King Milan undertook to govern the foreign policy. Requesting of the sultan religious concessions in Macedonia, the government of Vladan Djordjevic waged a Turkophilic policy. The foreign policy course pursued by King Milan, an old Austrophilic, induced the Serbian government to lose Russian support in the Porte, gained in 1895-96, during Stojan Novakovic's government. Becoming again the envoy to Constantinople, Novakovic proposed for the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohia to be supplied with guns, and then the issue of their protection may be raised. When the proposition was not adopted, he then proposed, to the government, at least diplomatic action with the Porte. With the assistance of consuls in Pristina (Todor P. Stankovic, then Svetislav St. Simic) detailed lists of brutalities performed by ethnic Albanians upon the Serbs in 1897-1898 were collected and submitted as a Serbian note to Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Tefvik Pasha. Novakovic requested for the Porte to undertake energetic measures to terminate the pogroms upon the Serbs and to form an admixed Turkish-Serbian investigating committee.1

The note dated May 26 contains the following statement: "During the past four years the Royal [Serbian] government was compelled more than once to draw the attention of the imperial government, to the disorder, and incredible and innumerable violent deeds continuously performed by the insubordinate and unruly Albanian populace on the Serbian-Turkish border, as well as on the bordering sanjaks. These crimes and attacks are directed solely toward the Christians of Serbian nationality, and it seems their purpose is to exterminate the people from those regions."2 Novakovic underscored that "The ethnic Albanians are well-armed and certain that no punishment awaits them, giving complete liberty to their cruel instincts, since there is nothing to hinder their fanaticism and unrestrained hatred. Crimes and robberies are daily occurrences, and not only do the perpetrators remain unpunished, they are not even pursued by the authorities. The number of fugitives fleeing across the border for their lives is enormous, and increases everyday. According to data the royal government disposes of, more than four hundred crimes were perpetrated in the Pristina, Novi Pazar, Pec and Prizren sanjaks within only a few months, last summer and winter. They were: murder, arson, banditry, desecration of churches, rape, abduction, robbery, raiding of whole herds. This number presents only several instances, one fifth at the most, of what really happened, since most of the crimes are never discovered, since the victims or their families dare not complain."3 The Porte delayed its reply so Novakovic requested to be received by the Turkish minister. He drew the minister's attention to the fact that the development of events suggested "that everything is carried out under orders from Constantinople and Yildiz, where a once extant notion was to hoop another Muslim iron ring around Serbia, like the ones once made of the Cherkezes", underscoring certain rumors "of an idea to organize a special corps named Hamid's Albanian army, like the well-known Kurd cavalier regiments".4

At the request of Serbia's envoy, the Porte ordered an investigation committee at the beginning of August, to check the assertions made in the Serbian notes. The party, headed by the sultan's adjutant, General Saadedin Pasha, visited certain areas in Kosovo and conducted a superficial investigation: instead of seeking the perpetrators, it strove to deny the complaints. The Serbian delegate Todor P. Stankovic was not permitted to participate in the operation. The investigation conducted with prejudice produced no results. Russian diplomatic officials, whose attendance was requested by the Serbian populace, were not permitted to watch its operation. Stankovic noted that only the British consul to Scutari checked the assertions made of the oppression, and having been convinced in the truth of the complaints lodged against the ethnic Albanians, submitted a report to his government.5

The entire investigation was reduced to establishing inaccuracies in citing the names of victims, perpetrators and places mentioned in the Serbian notes. Appealing to information received from local authorities, the Forte's committee maintained that "the attacks ascribed to the ethnic Albanians are either unfounded or exaggerated", and finally totally dismissed the Serbian assertions. Novakovic persistently collected additional data and submitted new notes. He warned that the ethnic Albanians, following Saadedin Pasha's mission, realizing they had no punishment to fear, continued performing their vicious deeds upon the Serbs with more enthusiasm.6

Without the support of the Great Powers, Serbia could accomplish nothing. The attempt to request the intermediation of their ambassadors in Constantinople was thwarted by Austria-Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Count Goluchowski, expounding that Russia would hinder any action benefiting Serbia on account of King Milan. The Serbian premier proposed a military demonstration on the Serbian-Turkish border, but the idea was abandoned at Goluchowski request.7

The diplomatic action was an utter failure. The Porte closed the issue with a protocolar apology. The Serbian premier, in his letter to Novakovic, somberly concluded: "The treatment of the Ottoman authorities, and Muslims in general, toward Christians in the Kosovo vilayet can be observed by the fact that over 60,000 Serbs fled their fatherlands and left whatever property they owned, to save their lives, from 1880 until today [June 1899]. This spring the ethnic Albanians killed many Serbs to arrogate their lands and drive them off, in which they have succeeded considerably, incurring thus the flight of several hundred souls to Serbia during the last few months."8

Not having met with understanding in Constantinople, the Serbian government was preparing to internationalize the issue of protecting its compatriots in Old Serbia. Preparing for the Peace Conference in the Hague (1899), a "blue book" titled Prepiska o Arbanaskim nasiljima u Staroj Srbiji 1898-1899 (Correspondence on Albanian violence in Old Serbia 1898-1899) was being compiled, in which the most important acts from correspondence with the Porte were published in Serbian and French, but were not submitted to the European public.9 Serbian refugees in Old Serbia sent a complaint of Albanian oppression to the Conference, in the form of a memorandum, which had previously been published in the Belgrade papers, but not discussed in the Hague.10

A French contemporary, while visiting Kosovo and Metohia, witnessed Serbian sufferings and protection given to the tyrants: "[...] whatever the complaints of local Slavs and charges brought by the Serbs, whatever reproaches made by Russia, it is obvious that neither the sultan nor the Porte would ever get involved against the ethnic Albanians nor would they restore order in the Kosovo vilayet. The ethnic Albanians in this Slavic country play and will continue to play the same role as the Kurds in Armenia. The captives of Islam and the servants of the lord [sultan] would, under these two bases, enjoy impunity whatever their crimes."11

Political commotion among the ethnic Albanians aggravated the position of the Serbs and violence increased. At the end of 1898, the autonomist movement was revived, incited by the sultan's order to collect whatever arms remained from the previous war. Albanian chiefs feared new reforms and the possibility of the Great Powers introducing Christian rule, like they did in Crete. In Pec, at the end of January, 1899, a large assembly of feudal and tribal notables was held to discuss opposition to reforms and expansion of tribal self-governing. Through influential beys, the Forte's attitude on the necessity of joint defense was underscored in case of incursions from Serbia and Montenegro.12

The assembly was immediately with pogroms upon the Serbs in Mitrovica. In Prizren due of boycott of Serbian goods and threats of massacre the Serbian downtown was closed. In April 1899, the ethnic Albanians set fire to Serbian houses in the Verici village of the Pec district. Every day the consulate received black news sent from Podrimlje and villages near Pristina. Consul Simic ended one of a series of lists on perpetrated crimes with the following words: "With such anarchic, truely barbaric conditions here, it is no wonder the emigration of our people, from these areas to Serbia, is increasing."13

1 Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, 322-323; M. Vojvodic, Srbija u medjunarodnim odnosima krajem XIX veka i pocetkom XX veka, Beograd 1988, pp. 224-225.

2 Prepiska o arbanaskim nasiljima u Staroj Srbiji 1898-1899, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Beograd 1899, p. 15.

3 Ibid., 16; in the note supplementation the number of murders, church raids, rapes and abductions, assaults, robberies and banditries (ibid., pp. 18-27).

4 Ibid., p. 28.

5 T. P. Stankovic, Putne beleske po Staroj Srbiji 1871-1898, pp. 103-104.

6 Prepiska o arbanaskim nasiljima u Staroj Srbiji 1898-1899, pp. 69-78, 87, 129 134-135; S. Jovanovic, Vlada Aleksandra Obrenovica, II, Beograd 1931, p. 76, cf. M. Vojvodic, op. cit., pp. 76-77.

7 S. Jovanovic, op. cit., pp. 76-77.

8 Prepiska o arbanaskim nasiljima u Staroj Srbiji 1898-1899, pp. 135-136.

9 Ibid., French title: Documents diplomatiques, Correspondance concemant les actes de violence et de brigandage des Albanais dans la Vieille Serbie (Vilayet de Kosovo) 1898-1899, Ministere des affaires etrangeres, Belgrade MDCCCXCIX, pp. 1-145; M. Vojvodic, op. cit" pp. 237-238.

10 D. T. Batakovic, Memorandum Srba iz Stare Srbije i Makedonije Medjunarodnoj konferenciji mira u Hagu 1899. godine, Prilozi za knjizevnost, jezik, istoriju i folklor vol. LII-LIV (1987-1988, pp. 177-183.

11 V. Berard, La Macedoine, Paris 1900, pp. 138-139.

12 M. Vojvodic. op. cit., pp. 225-226; D. Mikic, Drustvene i ekonomske prilike kosovskih Srba u XIX i pocetkom XX veka, pp. 46-47.

13 B. Perunicic, Pisma srpskih konzula iz Pristine 1890-1900, p. 407; details on the violence: 387-489.

Austria-Hungary and the Expansion of Anarchy

During the final years of the 19th century, vital stimuli to the expansion of Albanian arrogance was given through intelligence networks in the Kosovo vilayet, by the Austro-Hungarian diplomacy. Following the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the military occupation of part of the Novi Pazar sanjak, which could, under the decrees of the Berlin Congress, be extended to just beyond Mitrovica", the Dual Monarchy continually worked on deepening the chasm between Serbs and ethnic Albanians. Having experienced the unification of Germany and Italy to its detriment, it could not allow the unification of the Serbs, with the same consequences. The Kosovo vilayet, which separated two independent Serbian states, became the key to solve the Balkan issue. With support from Germany, Austria-Hungary made preparations to take its decisive step over Old Serbia in Germanic penetration to the East.

Austria-Hungarian influence in the Kosovo vilayet gradually grew through Catholic missions in north Albania, Metohia and consulates in Prizren. Skoplje and Scutari. Following the exodus of Serbs in 1878-1881, the abandoned Serbian estates in Metohia were settled, with the assistance of Albanian beys, by Albanian Catholics, the so-called Fandas, who were to become the main bearers of Austria-Hungarian propaganda among their compatriots of Muslim faith. A certain increase of Catholic inhabitants in Metohia made room for the opening of new ecclesiastical and educational institutions which became centers of the aggressive propaganda. Greater pressure emanating from Jesuit propaganda was also felt by the Serbian clergy. Phanariote Bishop Melentije freely allowed Catholic agitation to spread among the Serbs of the Pec and Prizren sanjaks.1 At the same time, the European public was presented with publications interpreting the historical evolution, the ethnic composition and political importance of Kosovo with seemingly expert argumentation. In a study of the Novi Pazar sanjak in Kosovo, Theodor Ippen endeavored to support his thesis on the ethnic unity of all territories with Bosnia, and thus indirectly with Austria-Hungary, on the basis of historical evidence, therefore denying the Serbs their character, emphasizing the importance of national individuality of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.2

The Balkan policy of the highest political and military circles of the Dual Monarchy regarded the Albanian populace as an element of outstanding importance. Anticipating the approaching disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the Peninsula, Austria-Hungary was preparing to establish order and impose its rule as mandator in Europe, as it had already done in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878. Penetration toward the Vardar valley and the Salonika Bay imposed the formation of autonomous Albania under its protectorate. An Albanian state like this would render impossible the unification of Serbia and Montenegro, and would curb influence coming from Italy.

The Foreign Minister of the Dual Monarchy, Count Goluchowski, considered it of immense importance to Austro-Hungarian interest for the ethnic Albanians not to come under foreign influence, and proposed, in case the Ottoman Empire should collapse, that Austria-Hungary should support a separate autonomy for Albania, ruled by a foreign prince and under its protectorate; Serbia would then have to satisfy its aspirations by concessions made in the Pristina and Skoplje sanjaks. The joint Austro-Hungarian Minister of Finance Benjamin Kallay, demanded to win over the Muslim ethnic Albanians of the Kosovo vilayet. He particularly stressed the importance of propaganda to encompass the Pristina and Skoplje sanjaks, believing that if conflicts with Turkey should arise, all territories in which ethnic Albanians were a minority would belong to either Serbia or Bulgaria.3

In the 1897 negotiations, Russian diplomats were informed that if status quo on the Balkan Peninsula were to prove untenable, the Dual Monarchy would demand the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the division of Turkish lands in Europe, including the formation of an independent Albanian state between Janina and Scutari Lake under its protectorate. Aspiring toward their goal, Austro-Hungarian diplomacy considered the possibility of establishing a religious protectorate over Catholic ethnic Albanians which would then acquire political dimensions. Since the close of the 19th century, Franciscans infiltrated by Austria-Hungary had been checking the Italian and local Catholic clergy even in Albania.4

Wherever there were bribable and ambitious beys in Metohia, Austria-Hungary built strong bastions by lavishly bestowing money. At the assembly in Pec, at the beginning of 1899, aside to notables of Turkophilic and autonomous disposition, those of pro-Austrian inclination appeared as well. A group of tribal and feudal leaders, headed by the until recently sultan's favorite Haxhi Mulla Zeka, and Riza Bey Krieziu of Djakovica, openly recommended closer relations with the Dual Monarchy, as a potential protector of the ethnic Albanians and against neighboring Serbian states and possible reforms. The number of Austro-Hungarian followers grew in accordance with purchases made by Austro-Hungarian agents of Albanian notables. According to a Russian paper Novoe Vremja, about five to six million crowns of the Dual Monarchy's annual budget were set aside for Albanian propaganda and the payment of corrupt Albanian magnates.5

Agitation among the ethnic Albanians was lead through several directions. In Metohia, where clan chiefs quarreled over domains, agents were infiltrated, while Austro-Hungarian propaganda was observed to have spread owing to Bosnian Muslim religious heads. Catholic friars expounded to Muslim ethnic Albanians that Serbia and Montenegro were outposts on the Peninsula and that the neighboring Monarchy was their sole protector. Vienna papers, reporting on events taking place in Old Serbia (particularly the Politische Korrespondenz), regularly titled their news as coming from Albania, thus creating the impression that ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo vilayet comprised the majority of the population and that it was practically devoid of Serbs.6

The dimension of Austro-Hungarian political agitation could not pass by the Turkish authorities unnoticed. The district chief in Pristina noticed that Albanian assails upon the Serbs were encouraged by agitators of the Dual Monarchy. The vali of Kosovo, Hafis Pasha, attributed all Albanian unrest in Metohia (especially in Prizren 1899, subsequently in Skoplje), to operations carried out by Austro-Hungarian intelligence services. Their purpose, he believed, was to cause widespread unrest to provide Austria-Hungary with an excuse to occupy the Kosovo vilayet.7 Even the sultan, when confronted with a warning from the Russian ambassador that Albanian anarchy was planned, since only Orthodox Serbs suffered, "did not deny the presence of a foreign party operating through its agents".8 Suspicion as to the motives of the Albanian movement was also spread by Young Turk followers of Albanian origin, who gave statements abroad that ethnic Albanians were disloyal to the sultan and were waiting for the opportunity to secede from Turkey. Telegrams were immediately sent from Pristina, Prizren and other towns in Kosovo and Metohia, to the padishah with expressions of unequivocal faithfulness and loyalty.9

Foreign witnesses also observed the fatal influence of Austro-Hungarian propaganda in Old Serbia. A French scholar, Victor Berard, an expert on political trends in the Ottoman Empire, emphasized "that the mystery concealing the operation of Austrian agents and their entire propaganda network raised, in the eyes of blinded ethnic Albanians, this major power to even greater heights, skillfully interweaving them in the dexterously devised and woven network of their foreign policy".10 Bulgarian historian N. Marenin observed that aside to all the skill of its agents, Austro-Hungarian propaganda had succeeded with the ethnic Albanians owing to large amounts of money paid annually to those most prominent and influential among them. Marenin underscored that a favorable condition for bringing together the ethnic Albanians and the Dual Monarchy was their mutual interest to exterminate the Serbian populace in the area between the Drim river and Mount Kopaonik, i.e. between Serbia and Albania.11

Owing to the instigations of the Austro-Hungarian intelligence service, total anarchy reigned in Kosovo. Enboldened by protection promised by the Dual Monarchy and the sultan's confidence, the ethnic Albanians, filled with renewed energy, dashed to settle accounts with the Serbs. During 1900 and 1902 the crimes attained apocalyptic dimensions. The Pec nahi suffered the most since Catholic ethnic Albanians exceeded in oppression. Blackmail, robbery and murder extremely affected the Gnjilane and Pristina region. In Prizren, the Serbs dared not appear downtown. Schools and churches also bore the brunt of oppression. The pursuit of Serbian priests became frequent, ethnic Albanians regarded all distinguished national notables as Serbian spies and komitadjis. This anti-Serb disposition reached the point when even certain Turkish officials, in the army, administration, especially within the circle of religious heads, openly appealed to the ethnic Albanians to clash with the Serbs, arrogate their lands and force them to flee to Serbia.12

Anarchy attained such dimensions that the Porte was compelled to send new military contingents. Brigadier General Shemsi Pasha was sent to Kosovo to consolidate government authority, collect arms and capture the major violators. He frequently left Pristina to visit the vilayet, calm the ethnic Albanians, reconcile their quarreling chiefs and, though rarely, intervened to protect the Serbs. In Vucitrn he was compelled to protect the Serbs threatened by oppression in the Raznjane village. Raska-Prizren Metropolitan Dionisije escaped assassination twice, and so moved his seat to Gnjilane.13

A direct consequence of Austro-Hungarian influence was oppression executed upon the Serbs of the Ibarski Kolasin, in summer 1901. The Ibarski Kolasin was a woody area with over forty villages to the northwest of Old Serbia, inhabited almost entirely by Serbs who had preserved a certain kind of self-government, choosing their own local knez (leader).14

The extent of oppression compelled the Serbs from all parts of Kosovo and Metohia to appeal to the consulate in Pristina in 1897, demanding a secret delivery of arms for protection against the tyrants. Stojan Novakovic had proposed to arm the Serbian inhabitants gradually and organize them for defense back in 1896: "ethnic Albanians were evildoers, but they treated with respect those houses in Old Serbia which they knew had weapons and male heads."15 The consul in Pristina supported Novakovic's proposal, adding that Albanian assails upon the Serbs were encouraged on account of the latter having no arms, while these deeds left the Serbs faithearted.16

After the failure of the diplomatic mission with the Porte to protect Serbian inhabitants, the government of Vladan Djordjevic began, in spring 1899, the secret delivery of trophy guns remaining from the previous war with Turkey, to Serbs inhabiting the northern regions of the Kosovo vilayet. Since the beginning of 1901, exaggerated news of thousands of guns being smuggled to arm entire Serbian villages caused great alarm among the ethnic Albanians. The Turkish authorities conducted searches in the north regions of Old Serbia, and only at the beginning of July, owing to information procured by Albanian notable Isa Boljetinac, did they discover that most of the weapons were delivered to the Ibarski Kolasin.17

Under the leadership of Isa Boljetinac, the ethnic Albanians and Turks searched the Kolasin villages and forced the people to surrender their arms under brutalities unheard-of. Many were abused, beaten and wounded; one Serbian was beaten up and succumbed to wounds inflicted. Several hundred Serbs were shackled and taken to prisons in Mitrovica and Pristina. The arms investigation incited ethnic Albanians from other regions to set off toward Kolasin and seek guns in the villages. From January to August alone, around six hundred persons fled to Serbia. The disturbed public demanded energetic action from the government. The arms investigation ended only when Serbia's demands to the Porte were supported by Russia. Following the energetic intervention of the Russian ambassador to Constantinople, violence in Kolasin ceased, the arrested Serbs were set free, and Isa Boljetinac was moved out of Mitrovica. However, Austro-Hungarian delegates to the Porte claimed the pogroms in Kolasin were multiply exaggerated.18

Austro-Hungarian consular officials in Kosovo saw the affair at Kolasin as a sign of "great Serbian propaganda" in Old Serbia. All political moves made by the Serbian government in the Kosovo vilayet, including the inauguration of new schools, and financial help given to teachers and monastic fraternities, were considered a serious injury to the political interests of the Dual Monarchy. When Adem Zaim killed Hadji Mulla Zeka in Pec for tribal dissentions, at the beginning of 1902, Austro-Hungarian consuls announced that it was a Serbian conspiracy.19

1 Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, p.302; V. Bovan, op. cit.; H. Schwanda, Das Protektorat Östereich-Ungarans uber die Katholiken Albanians, Wien 1965; passim S. Skendi, op. cit., pp. 238-286.

2 Theodor Ippen, Novi Pazar und Kosovo (Das Alte Rascien), Wien 1892; ibid, Das Religiose Protektorat Osterreich-Ungarns in der Turkei, Die Kultur, 3 (1901-1902), pp. 298-310;

3 F. Hauptmann, Uloga zajednickog ministarstva finansija u formiranju Austro-Ugarske politike prema Albaniji uoci kretske krize, Radovi Filozofskog fakulteta u Sarajevu, IV (1968), pp. 35-45; H. Kapidzic, Pripreme za austrougarsko prodiranje u albansko etnicko podrucje iz Novopazarskog sandzaka, Radovi Filozofskog fakulteta u Sarajevu, VI (1971), pp. 415-430; cf. N.D. Schnadel, op. cit., pp. 54-74.

4 B. Hrabak, Kultni protektorat Austro-Ugarske nad Arbanasima (1897), Godisnjak Arhiva Kosova, XXIII (1987), p. 33-54; J. Sliskovic, Albanija i Macedonia, Sarajevo 1904, p. 80; V. Stojancevic, Diplomatska trvenja konzula velikih sila u Skoplju no. tamosnje Arbanase katolike pocetkom XX veka, Istorijski casopis, XVIII (1971), pp. 329-339.

5 V. Stojancevic, Austrougarsko-srpski sukob u kosovskom vilajetu na pocetku XX veka, in: Jugoslovenski narodi pred Prvi svetski rat, Beograd 1967 pp. 847-876.

6 D. T. Batakovic, Pokusaj otvaranja srpskog konzulata u Prizrenu 1898-1900, pp. 256-257.

7 V. Stojancevic, Prilike u zapadnoj polovini kosovskog vilajeta prema izvestajima austrougarskog konzula u Skoplju 1900. i 1901. godine, Istorijski casopis, (XII-XIII) (1961-1962), p. 290-291.

8 V. Corovic, Odnosi izmedju Srbije i Austro-Ugarske u XX veku, Beograd 1936, p. 15.

9 B. Perunicic, Zulumi ago. i begova u kosovskom vilajetu, pp. 169-170.

10 V. Berard, La Turquie et I'Hellenisme contemporain, Paris 1900, pp. 291-292.

11 N. Marenin, Albanija i Albanci, pp. 91-92; cited from P. Orlovic (S. St. Simic), Stara Srbija i Arbanasi, Beograd 1904, pp. 21-22.

12 Regarding the conference of the Serbian and Bulgarian rulers at Nis, Austro-Hungarian agitators reported it was secretly being held at Pristina. Among the Albanians a widespread conviction existed that a joint military intervention of the two countries was being prepared. The bessa was hastily given and conference on Joint defense began. (M. Vojvodic, op. cit., pp. 332-333).

13 V. Stojancevic, Prilike u zapadnoj polovini kosovskog vilajeta prema izvestajima austrougarskog konzula u Skoplju 1900. i 1901. godine, pp. 311-312.

14 M. Lutovac, Ibarski Kolasin, Antropogeografska istrazivanja, pp. 57-188.

15 Spomenica Stojana Novakovica, p. 196.

16 B. Perunicic, Pisma srpskih konzula iz Pristine 1890-1900, pp. 345-346.

17 M. Vojvodic, op. cit., 334; D. T. Batakovic, Istraga oruzja u Ibarskom Kolasinu 1901, Kosovsko-Metohijski zbornik SANU 1 (1990), pp. 269-284

18 Ibid., cf. S. Skendi, op. cit., pp. 201-202.

19 V. Stojanovic, Austrougarsko-srpski sukob u kosovskom vilajetu, p. 865.

Failure of Reforms

Pogroms in the Ibarski Kolasin sobered the public and ruling circles of Serbia. In Belgrade, public meetings were organized where demands were made for the government to initiate the issue of Serbian nationality in Old Serbia and Macedonia. In disputes announced on the issue of the survival of Serbs in Old Serbia, Svetislav Simic was the most outstanding.

In his discussion Pitanje o Staroj Srbiji (The Question of Old Serbia) Simic underscored the danger of Austro-Hungarian agitation among the ethnic Albanians and emphasized that the destiny of the Serbs and the Slav cause in the Balkans would unfold in Kosovo.1

The balance of forces, particularly Austro-Hungarian influence in Serbia and Russia's failure to confront its agitation in Old Serbia with more energy, tied the hands of the Serbian diplomacy in its attempts for a more efficient protection of its compatriots. Following the death of King Milutin, Vienna's most trusted friend in Serbia, King Aleksandar Obrenovic took the Russophil course in foreign policy, to calm tempers in the country. At the same time, at the invitation of the Serbian government, a group of Albanian notables arrived in Belgrade from Fed and Djakovica, among whom was the Pec leader Mehmed Zaim. They were lavished with rich gifts in money and arms and promised assistance if they helped to bring an end to violence upon the Serbs.2

The Serbian government initiated the issue of protecting Serbs in Turkey in 1902, and in August, bolteresred by the Montenegrin diplomacy, authorized its envoy in Constantinople to make the following demands to the Porte: 1) regular and for all equal application of law; 2) an end to the policy of encouraging ethnic Albanians. Propositions along this line were for either disarmament of the ethnic Albanians or allowance for the Serbs to carry guns; for reinforcement of Turkish garrisons wherever there were Serbian-Albanian inhabitants admixed; removal of corrupt Turkish officials and assignment of conscientious ones; inauguration of administrative and judicial reforms with larger Serbian participation in the administration and judiciary; implementation of agrary reform. Russia supported Serbia since none of the bases were touched regarding the status quo established with Austria-Hungary in 1897.3

To forestall the reform plan of the Great Powers, especially Austria-Hungary and Russia, which had the right to protect Christians in the Ottoman Empire under article 23 of the Berlin Congress, the sultan announced reforms in November 1902. The reform action of Turkey, headed by Hussein Hilmi Pasha as general inspector, anticipated a more rigorous application of the law, regulation of agrary duties, dismission of unconscientious officials and the enlisting of Serbs in the Turkish gendarme. Military authorities undertook to capture the most wanted criminals.4

The dimension of lawlessness and Serbian plight shocked foreign Journalists. Victor Berard wrote that life in places between Pec, Prizren and Pristina was marked with violence under the ethnic Albanians, arsons, rapes, vengeance, and real tribal warfare. Georges Gaulis noticed that due to the extent of oppression upon the Serbs, Old Serbia was, along with Armenia, the most wretched country in the world. Bearing witness to Albanian recalcitrance and their motives, he particularly stressed: "Those of Debar kill to rob, those of Djakovica kill from shear fanaticism, those of Prizren kill for their evil instincts, and those of Tetovo kill to try out their carbines."5

Following the Kolasin affair, Russia opened a consulate in Mitrovica to follow more closely Austria-Hungary's influence over Albanian moves and to protect the Serbs from violence. The Vienna legation exerted influence upon the Porte to prolong its inauguration. The ethnic Albanians received the news of the opening of the Russian consulate with open discontent and acute opposition. Isa Boljetinac threatened to punish anyone who dared rent his house to the Russian consul and openly spoke of forcibly routing him from Kosovo. Following the threats made to its staff, the Russian diplomacy demanded of the Ottoman authorities to arrest and rout the leaders of "Anti-Russian demonstrations". Isa Boljetinac agreed, after a lengthy persuasion from the authorities, to leave for Constantinople, "to visit" the padishah. The St. Petersburg press underscored the importance of the consulate opening in Mitrovica, where "at the central point between Old Serbia and Albania, [Russian] control emerges over ethnic Albanians".6

The announcement of the reform plan, more rigorous application of law, acceptance of Serbs in the gendarme service and news of the Russian consulate finally opening in Mitrovica, instigated the ethnic Albanians to rise. At the beginning of 1903, a large assembly of tribal chiefs was held at the Lucki Most near Djakovica. The ethnic Albanians blamed solely the Serbs for all the reforms. It was thus decided "to gradually kill the more prominent Serbs of the Pec nahi one after another, and compel the others to flee to Serbia or to be Turkized."7

The plans of the participants were to rout the Turkish authorities from Pec, kill the notable Serbs and then move to Mitrovica to confront the Russian consul. Severe persecution of the Serbs began immediately. In the Pec nahi alone ten people were killed within a few weeks. Following the meeting in Drenica, the ethnic Albanians decided to take to arms. Armed rebels raided Vucitrn on March 29, ravaged the local Serbian church, disarmed the Serbs accepted in the gendarme and set off to Mitrovica to rout by force Russian Consul Grigorie Stepanovich Shtcherbin.8

The Russian consul remained in town to supervise Turkish preparations for defense. Around 2,000 ethnic Albanians attacked Mitrovica on March 30. Following a decisive resistance of Turkish forces, driven away by artillery fire, the ethnic Albanians abandoned their plan to take the town. The next day a Turkish corporal, an Albanian, shot the Russian consul while the latter was visiting the outskirts of town. The assassin claimed he shot the consul in vengeance, denying affiliation to any movement, while the severely wounded consul succumbed to his wounds ten days hence.

The death of the Russian consul demonstrated the extent of Albanian anarchy, whereas the relation of the sultan and of the high ranking officials of the Porte toward their bearers was displayed in the stand to which they adhered. Diplomatic circles in Constantinople expected decisive measures to be undertaken against the ethnic Albanians. Abdulhamid II promised he would send military reinforcements to restore order in Old Serbia and to capture the rebels, but "fearing court revolution from his Albanian guards", he decided against the announced measures.9

Simultaneously, the sultan advised the Albanian leaders, who feared international conflicts for wounding and killing a Russian consul, to calm down. Agents of the Dual Monarchy and Catholic friars encouraged the ethnic Albanians of Mitrovica not to fear Russian retribution and to persevere in their opposition. The death of the Russian consul was a national tragedy to the Serbs, who saw in him a protector and a representative of a power they expected would end this anarchy and violence. The train, bearing the coffin of the deceased consul, was accompanied by several thousand Serbs, while funeral services were held in churches throughout Kosovo and Metohia.10

Anarchy in Old Serbia and disorder in Macedonia, where Bulgaria introduced companies to urge a rise and solve the problem of Macedonia to its benefit, compelled Austria-Hungary and Russia, being the two most interested major parties, to demand the implementation of reforms. They

announced their reform project in February 1903, while a detailed plan of the whole operation was designed at a meeting of the two tzars, Nikola II and Franz Joseph I in Murzsteg, at the beginning of October. Expecting war in the Far East, Russia strove to retain for a time, the status quo on the Balkans. Austria-Hungary intended to consolidate its positions with a reform action. Shortly before the meeting in Murzsteg, Count Goluchowski elaborated, to the tzar, the plan to divide Turkish lands in Europe:

make Romania as large as possible, a large Bulgaria, a weak Montenegro, a small Serbia and a free Albania. The Dual Monarchy would, as Golochowski believed, sooner engage into war than allow for the creation of a great Serbia or a great Montenegro.11

Succeeding to the throne following the killing of King Aleksandar Obrenovic (1903), was Petar I Karadjordjevic (1903-1921). The personal regimes of the last Obrenovices were replaced by the parliamentary monarchy. The democracy activated a huge political, national and intellectual potential that was unable to take full swing during the previous regimes. The termination of dependence upon Austria-Hungary marked an acute turnover in Serbia's foreign policy, which, relying upon Russia, set off to struggle for national liberation and the unification of the Serbian people. Conflict with Austria-Hungary began immediately with the reform issues in Turkey.

The reform action that was to have been implemented in the European provinces of the Ottoman Empire with the supervision of the Great Powers, was considered by the Serbs of Kosovo and Metohia a benefical solution against Albanian terror. Russia intended to secure supervision for itself on the reforms in Kosovo and Metohia, but the plan was soon thwarted. At Austria-Hungary's demand, at the beginning of 1904, the Northwest parts of the Kosovo vilayet, i.e. Kosovo and Metohia, were excluded from the reform action, explained as being one of an admixed population.12

The ethnic Albanians won a great victory with the exclusion of Kosovo and Metohia from the reform action; there was nothing to intercede their supremacy and unhamper their dealings with the Serbs. Left to fate, the Serbs remained the victims of a privileged ethnic populace. The years 1904 and 1905 are remembered by the unheard-of oppression upon the Serbian population. Turkish authorities undertook no measures whatsoever, the Porte would not heed the notes of protest sent by the Serbian government. Occupied with internal unrest and conflicts in the Far East, Russia was unable to support Serbian protests more decisively. Serbia tried in vain to establish contact with the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo. In Belgrade, the paper Albania was inaugurated to propagate Serbian-Albanian amicability, while Nikola Pasic strove to find adversaries of Austro-Hungarian propaganda among notables in Metohia. Finding no way to come to any agreement with tribal and feudal notables, the Serbian government paid some Albanian outlaws to protect Serbian villages in Metohia; since 1903 Montenegro also requited ethnic Albanians to protect the Serbs.13

The consul to Pristina, Miroslav Spalajkovic, reported at the end of June 1905, "there was not a day that one or two murders of Serbs were committed" in Kosovo and Metohia, adding that "nothing was done to stop Albanian banditry". He was particularly worried since "the reform forces pay absolutely no attention to these regions". Russian consul to Mitrovica, A. A. Orlov, assured him he was sending daily reports to the embassy on the situation in Kosovo and Metohia, but it showed no interest. Believing the Albanian misdeeds had gone too far, Spalajkovic proposed to the government to find a way "to interest the public of Russia, England and France in the wretched situation of Serbs in Old Serbia" and proposed to jar, through the press, "the passiveness and gross negligence of the official delegates of Great Powers, whose attention has now been solely diverted to Macedonia".14

Stretching from the Pec nahi to the plains of Kosovo and the gorge of Kacanik, the ethnic Albanians, fearing no sanctions, robbed, blackmailed, routed and killed the Serbian populace mostly in villages and on roads. During 1904, from Kosovo alone 108 persons fled to Serbia.15 The Serbian consulate in Pristina composed a detailed list of crimes committed upon the Serbs in 1906 - with names of the perpetrators, victims and types of oppression. In 1904, of 136 different crimes noted, 46 ended with murder. Many houses, crops and barns were burned, many people beaten and robbed, without sparing the children. A group of ethnic Albanians raped a seven-year-old girl. In 1905, from 281 cases of oppression, 65 Serbs were killed (at a wedding alone, recalcitrant outlaws killed nine of them).16 Reports from Serbian agents and consuls display that Fandas and Catholic ethnic Albanians, standing under the direct control of Austro-Hungarian propaganda, exceeded in the crimes.17

Pec and its neighboring regions suffered the most since there was no Serbian consulate nor foreign power which would, at least just by being there, somewhat lessen the crimes committed in the town and its immediate vicinity. In a complaint lodged to the consul, the Serbs of Pec reported that Albanian chiefs forbade their compatriots to protect the Serbs, "and to place komitadjis of 2-12 men in every village, so whenever they come across a Serb they do away with him".18 Rector of the Seminary in Prizren sent a list to the consulate in Pristina in 1906, containing the victims of violence under the ethnic Albanians of Pec and the vicinity - 38 murdered and five wounded in 1905; within the first three months of 1906, three murdered and one wounded. The perpetrators "of the committed crimes suffered no punishment whatsoever from the Turkish state authorities".19

The Serbs of Mitrovica appealed to King Petar I in 1905, entreating for a Serbian consulate to be opened in the town for their protection, adding that if the present situation were to continue, the Serbs would disappear from these areas. Emphasis was put on the short-lived joy for the expected introduction of reforms, which incurred "intensified Albanian hostility toward the Serbs", and, "there is not a single day when a Serb is not swept from the face of this earth, often many are; we cannot count the number of robberies and ordinary fights, there are too many of them".20

In summer 1905, Spalajkovic decided to visit Pec and its vicinity with two officials from the consulate, to convince himself of the horrid news arriving from there. Turkish authorities attempted to intimidate them with stories of Albanian ambushes on the roads. Milan Rakic penned in a private letter: "! should not forget my entering Pec for quite some time. First the passage through the Turkish quarter and downtown full of somber ethnic Albanians, a shuddering and ominous silence, then through the Serbian quarter, full of people, especially children and women yelling "welcome", throwing flowers at us and crying."21 The Turkish authorities forbade the Serbs and ethnic Albanians to visit the consul and talk to him, thus the Serbian diplomats returned to Pristina without accomplishing their task.22

The external political situation did not allow for Serbia to undertake greater national action in Old Serbia. Demands for the inclusion of Kosovo and Metohia in the reform actions were constantly sent to the Great powers. The aggravated position of the Serbs evinced the necessity to undertake measures for protecting the inhabitants, beside the educational-political action, which had achieved good results with its activities at schools and the restoration of churches. When it had become clear that due to Austro-Hungarian influence, endeavors to inaugurate reforms in the northwestern parts of the regions would not succeed, the alternative was to secretly arm those villages inflicted the most.

Under the private initiative of several notable and wealthy citizens of Belgrade who organized the first company, comprised of patriot volunteers and refugees from Old Serbia and Macedonia, to fight Bulgarian komitadjis in Macedonia in 1902, chetnik action came under the wing of the state gained further swing in 1904. Kosovo and Metohia were not encompassed by the chetnik action, although it did instigate organized arms delivery to the most imperilled Serbian villages. When a chetnik detachment was passing through Metohia on its way to Macedonia, in 1905, it was discovered and killed in the village Velika Hoca, the home-town of its leader Lazar Kujundzic. Fear of mass Albanian vengeance encroached upon the Serbs, thus compelling Kujundzic's mother to deny the murder of her son before the authorities. At the demand of Albanian tribes, the houses assisting the komitadjis were burned in retribution; frightened by the emergence of the Serbian company, ethnic Albanians were ready to search Serbian villages, those that resisted would be burnt and their chiefs killed.23

In summer 1907, another Serbian company passed through Kosovo and was received by the locals of the Pasjane village. It was soon discovered, and was destroyed following a pitched battle with the ethnic Albanians and Turks. The discovery of komitadjis vexed the ethnic Albanians who feared the expansion of chetnik action and the inclusion of Kosovo and Metohia in the reform action. Feuding Albanian tribes immediately expressed solidarity. After confirming their besa, together they set off to search Serbian villages; many innocent people died in the pursuit for komitadjis and hidden arms.24 An assembly was held in the large mosque of Prizren; the ethnic Albanians of Ljuma demanded the extermination of Serbs. Milan Rakic discovered the demands of the people in Ljuma: "[...] for the assembly to determine the day when all ethnic Albanians would rise in arms and carry out a general massacre of Serbs. The reason stated by the people of Ljuma for the extermination of Serbs was that peace among the ethnic Albanians was impossible as long as there were Serbs in these regions, since the Serbs were always complaining to foreigners, bringing about bidats - reforms - with their complaints, and recently, they had started to infiltrate companies from Serbia."25 The assembly decided that the Serbs were to be killed secretly, one by one; Albanian companies were to be formed to rout the chetniks from Serbia, and attacks upon Serbian state territory would be repeated in retribution. New persecutions ensued immediately.26

Complaints from Pec, Vucitrn, Gnjilane and other regions in Kosovo showered the Serbian government and its consulates in Pristina and Skoplje. The ecclesiastical-educational community and fraternity of the Pec monastery sent an elaborate petition to the Montenegrin government in 1907, demanding Montenegro and Serbia to open a consulate for the protection of the people:

"In the town of Pec there are 500 houses at most and around 4,000 Orthodox souls; the Pec nahi numbers around 1,200 homes plus, amounting to about 16,000 souls of Serbian nationality. Together with Djakovica and its vicinity, the number totals around 20,000 souls plus. It is known - and people still remember, that during the past 25 years the same number of families and souls were moved out, mostly to Serbia, and many died, all due to oppression under the fanatical savage ethnic Albanians - Muslims and the rotten savage Fandas, who are of Catholic faith [...] They are the most dangerous evildoers, haiduks and oppressors, who are systematically eradicating the Serbs from these regions; forcing them to move; killing them like wild animals; burning their houses, barns, villages and mercilessly stealing their food, seizing, plundering, fleecing - blackmails of 2,5,10, 20 and 50 Turkish liras; abducting men, women, children and girls to slavery. Well, those are the means through which they operate. In this manner alone, the Fandas came from that savage Malissia and settled more than 300 houses during the past 20 years, arriving naked and barefoot, while today most of them are wealthy men; on account of settling on the foundations of Serbian houses, occupying Serbian homes, fields and pastures, while still robbing and taking by force. There is also oppression upon the Serbs under Fandas and ethnic Albanians, most of which were Turkized 60,100-200 years ago on account of the oppression, to keep their lands."27

Montenegro failed to open its consulate in Pec. Serbia strove for at least one of the Great Powers (Russia, Great Britain or France), to open a consulate in Pec, but this initiative bore no fruit either.28 The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs made several proposals to establish contact with the ethnic Albanians, but none were adopted, since all attempts performed on terrains soon failed. Even the plan of vice-consul Milan Rakic had no visible effect; in 1907, he believed the best solution was to place Albanian guards over Serbian villages.29

Violence ceased intermittently, particularly in 1907 when Austria-Hungary aimed to expand the reform action to the Presevo and Gnjilane districts, ethnic Albanians began to abhor the expansion of Austro-Hungarian influence which seriously threatened to imperil their supremacy in Old Serbia. News of the Austro-Hungarian army arriving in Kosovo brought several thousand ethnic Albanians together in Ferizovic simultaneous to the breaking out of the Young Turk Revolution. Tribal chiefs arrived from all regions of Kosovo and Metohia. The conference lasted two weeks, and due to the agitation of the Young Turks, a telegram was sent from the conference to the sultan, demanding the restoration of the constitution.30

1 P.O. (S. St. Simic), Pitanje o Staroj Srbiji, Beograd 1901.

2 V. Stojancevic, Prilike u zapadnoj polovini kosovskog vilajeta, pp. 314-315.

3 V. Corovic, op. cit., 18-19; Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, pp. 323-324.

4 V. Stojancevic, Prilike u zapadnoj polovini kosovskog vilajeta, pp. 31, 317-325.

5 G. Gaulis, La mine d'une Empire, Abdul-Hamid ses amis et ses peuples, Paris 1913, 325-326; details 325-356; V. Berard, La Macedoine, 101-125; ibid., Pro Macedonia, Paris 1904; ibid, La mart du Stamboul, Paris 1913. Cf. D. T. Batakovic, Les Francois et la Vielle Serbie, in: Rapports franco-yougoslave, Zb. radova Istorijskog instituta, vol. 10, Belgrade J1989, pp. 138-150

6 D. T. Batakovic, Pogibija ruskog konzula G. S. Scerbine u Mitrovici 1903. godine, Istorijski casopis, XXXIV (1987), pp. 311-312 (with older bibliography); S. Martinovic, Decembarski i Becki program reformi u Turskoj 1902/1903. godine i stav Rusije prema Albancima, Obelezja, 3 (1985), 63.

7 V. Corovic, Diplomatska prepiska Kraljevine Srbije, I, Beograd 1933, 597-599, cf. British documentation in: Further correspondence Respecting The Affairs Of South-Eastern Europe, Turkey, 3 (1903), London 1903.

8 D. T. Batakovic, Pogibija ruskog konzula G. S. Scerbine, pp. 312-313.

9 Ibid., p. 318-319.

10 Ibid., p. 320-323.

11 V. Corovic, Borba za nezavisnost Balkana, Beograd 1937, pp. 123-125.

12 B. Perunicic, Zulumi ago i begova, pp. 306-312.

13 Conflicts among clans in Metohia did not abate. At one moment Bairam and Murtez Cur sent a message to King Petar I that he and 10,000 fellow tribesmen from the Krasnici clan were enemies of Austria-Hungary. The offer to cooperate was not accepted. See: Dj. Mikic, Albansko pitanje i srpsko-albanske veze u XIX veku (do 1912), pp. 150-151.

14 B. Perunicic, Svedocanstvo o Kosovu 1901-1913, pp. 267-269.

15 Ibid., pp. 227-228.

16 Zaduzbine Kosova, pp. 672-690.

17 Ibid., pp. 696-197; B. Perunicic, Zulumi ago. i begova, pp. 350-355.

18 Zaduzbine Kosova, p 672-690.

19 Ibid, p. 697; settlements were one of the reasons for emigration from the Kosovo vilayet to the USA: J. Pejin, Iseljavanje iz kosovskog vilajeta i drugih krajeva pod Turcima u SAD 1906-1907 godine, Istorijski glasnik, 1-2 (1985), pp. 49-54.

20 B. Perunicic, Svedocanstvo o Kosovu 1901-1913, pp. 255.

21 M. Rakic, Konzulska pisma, pp. 55-56, cf. B. Perunicic, Svedocanstvo o Kosovu 1901-1913, 252-253; Savremenici o Kosovu i Metohiji, pp. 374-375.

22 M. Rakic, op. cit., pp. 57-60, 315-317; Savremenici o Kosovu i Metohiji, pp. 374-376.

23 M. Rakic, op. cit., pp. 41-46, 304-313, a considerable number of literary works wrote about the killing of the company and the heroic act of Lazar Kujundzic's mother. The most reknown is a drama called Lazarevo vaskrsenje, by Serbian literary Ivo Vojnovic from Dubrovnik.

24 M. Rakic, op. cit., pp. 131-136,138.

25 Ibid., p. 135.

26 Ibid., pp. 135-136.

27 B. Perunicic, Svedocanstvo o Kosovu 1901-1913, p. 289.

28 D. Mikic, Nastojanje Srba na otvaranju ruskog ill engleskog konzulata u Fed 1908. godine, pp. 161-165.

29 M. Rakic, Konzulska pisma, pp. 94-106.

30 Z. Avramovski, Izvestaji austrougarskih konzula u Kosovskoj Mitrovici, Prizrenu i Skoplju o odrzanoj skupstini u Ferizovicu, Godisnjak Arhiva Kosova, II-III (1970), pp. 310-330; B. Hrabak, Kosovo prema mladoturskoj revoluciji 1908, Obelezja, 5 (1974), pp. 108-126.

 

Young Turk Regime

The Young Turk Revolution in 1908, the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the proclamation of Bulgaria's independence, essentially altered the balance of forces in the Balkans. The reform action of the Great Powers had ceased. The Young Turks restored the Constitution of 1876, proclaimed equality of all subjects of the empire, regardless of religion and nationality, and announced radical political and social reforms. The promises of the Young Turks were greeted by the Serbs as an opportunity for national affirmation and free political organization. In Skoplje, seat of the Kosovo vilayet, the Serbian Democratic League was formed on August 10, with a temporary central committee presided over by Bogdan Radenkovic. The formation of district committees ensued immediately at meetings in Pristina, Vucitrn, Mitrovica, Gnjilane and Urosevac, of which the most distinguished national representatives, teachers, priests, craftsmen and merchants were a part. The paper Vardar was founded in Skoplje to propagate the principles of the League, writing on the position of Serbs. Vardar devoted special attention to oppression, because after the expiration of the besa confirmed in Ferizovic, the ethnic Albanians again began to assail the Serbs. The League and the paper pledged for the decrees of the constitution to be applied upon ethnic Albanians as well, who recognized the new regime but displayed no readiness to support the law.1

Having reached an agreement with the Young Turks, the Serbs stated their candidates in several districts to the election campaign for the Turkish Parliament. In Kosovo and Metohia they aimed to become candidates for envoys in the Pec, Prizren and Pristina sanjaks, but the mandate was received only in Pristina where Sava Stojanovic was elected. At the assembly in Constantinople (272 seats), two more Serbian envoys entered, from Skoplje (Aleksandar Parlic) and Bitolj (Dr. Janicije Dimitrijevic), while Temko Popovic of Ohrid was elected senator.2 A large assembly of Ottoman Serbs was held in Skoplje on the Visitation of the Virgin in 1909, with 78 delegates present, 44 from Old Serbia and 34 from Macedonia; the Organization of the Serbian People in the Ottoman Empire was established, which was to grow into a representative body of all the Serbs in the Ottoman Empire.3

The annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, by which the decrees of the Berlin Congress were partially violated, and the project to build a railway through the Novi Pazar sanjak, announced the unconcealed purpose of Austria-Hungary to rule the Balkan Peninsula. The meetings held against the annexation were attended also by ethnic Albanians. Frightened by Austro-Hungarian aspirations, many Albanian notables made attempts to approach the Serbs.4 Bairam Cur of Djakovica proposed to Bogdan Radenkovic a joint confrontation to the annexation, while the Mahmudbegovices of Pec negotiated with Serbian diplomats. Simultaneously though, Austro-Hungarian followers among the ethnic Albanians severely opposed this approach toward the Serbs. While comparative peace reigned in Gnjilane and Pristina, oppression upon the Serbs in the Pec nahi continued. The ethnic Albanians spoke in a threatening voice that the proclamation of the constitution was only temporary and that they would never allow the infidels (djaurs) to enjoy the same rights as the Muslims.5

Notwithstanding individual crimes, the situation in Kosovo and Metohia was tolerable until the unsuccessful coup d'etat in Constantinople, in April 1909. Abdulhamid II attempted to depose the Young Turks, and, having been defeated, was compelled to renounce the throne. His brother Mahmud V Reshad was proclaimed sultan. Within the Young Turk leadership, a pan-Ottoman inclination prevailed, which considered all subjects of the empire an inseparable Ottoman whole. The Serbian organization was renamed the Educational-Charitable Organization of Ottoman Serbs, but its operation was soon limited. Under various decrees and laws, the activities of many Serbian societies were forbidden, lands were confiscated from churches and monasteries, the work of schools and religious committees was hindered. The law on the exchange of deeds and the inheritance of estates greatly upset the Serbs, since many of the real owners fled to Serbia in the preceding period. Many of the estates were divided among the muhadjirs (Muslims who settled in Kosovo after the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina). The new laws also upset chiflik farmers, whom the agas could drive off the land and settle Muslims instead, or exact double taxes.6

At the beginning of the Young Turk reign, ethnic Albanians, like other peoples in Turkey, founded national clubs and educational societies that became seats of national congregation and political agitation. Autonomist inclinations revived. The pan-Ottoman ideology of the Young Turk leadership, centralization of administration, introduction of regular military service and a new tax policy ruffled the ethnic Albanians. Instead of protection from Abdulhamid II who tolerated anarchy, they were confronted with the resolute Young Turks who had no understanding for their special rights. The first conflicts in Kosovo and Metohia arose in 1909 when the Turkish authorities attempted to execute a list of the population for conscription and the collection of taxes. At the anniversary of the Revolution in 1909, the ethnic Albanians held a congress in Debar, where the demand for introducing military obligation was rejected, the issue of creating a separate autonomous region encircling all territories on which ethnic Albanians lived was brought up, and intolerance toward the neighboring Serbian countries was expressed with acute emphasis.7

Despite gulfs in religious differences, political disagreements, unequal economic interests, owing to the centralist measures of the Young Turks, a high degree of national solidarity was soon attained within the leadership of the Albanian movement. Persistent strivings of the Young Turks to introduce military service and new taxes exacerbated ethnic Albanians of all confessions, having been exempt of them during the reign of Abdul-hamid II. Skirmishes between regular armies and the rebellious ethnic Albanians soon proved the power of invincible clans, and the Young Turks were soon compelled to concessions. The punitive expedition of Djavid Pasha in fall 1909, and the too rigorous measures in north Albania did not bring the desired results.8

Another Albanian insurrection broke out in spring 1910, after the repeated attempt of the authorities to collect taxes. Opposition in Kosovo and Metohia was particularly strong in the Djakovica and Lab region. Turkish troops, commanded by Torgut Shefket Pasha, mercilessly crushed the insurrection and undertook to seize arms, but pacification was only a temporary solution. Albanian committees increased agitation to create an autonomous Albania and fomented discontent among ethnic Albanians in all regions of the empire. Insurrections in Yemen and Lebanon, disorder in Crete and the Italian incursion on Tripoli put the Young Turks in a difficult position. The Malissors used the new clashes to rise in north Albania. Montenegrin King Nikola I, in line with the Malissors, supplied the rebels with arms and provided shelter for refugees, expecting the Albanian insurrections to weaken Turkey. Among the 3,000 ethnic Albanians hiding in Montenegro were leaders form Old Serbia, Isa Boljetinac and Suleyman Batusa. A memorandum (Red Book) was sent from Cetinje to the Great Powers and the Young Turks demanding recognition of the Albanian nation and autonomous Albania.9

In fall 1911, Boljetinac requested arms from Serbia, and the Montenegrin government proposed to Belgrade to aid the insurrection before another power benefited from it. Serbian Premier Milovan Milovanovic regarded the Albanian insurrection and its ties with Montenegro suspiciously. Fearing that Austria-Hungary would introduce the army to restore order in the Kosovo vilayet, Milovanovic believed that flaring the insurrection was not in the interest to Serbs.10

The Serbs soon found themselves cleaved between the Young Turks and ethnic Albanians. The Young Turk authorities oppressed the Serbs more severely than the preceding ones. After the proclamation of extraordinary conditions and drumhead court-martial (urfia) in May 1910, an action to seize arms was executed, with many people beaten, while several Serbs died as a result of the hits inflicted. Local tyrants made avail of the disorders and uprisings to sack Serbian homes.11 When Sultan Mahmud V Reshad arrived in Kosovo in summer 1911 to offer amnesty, another wave of violence was tossed upon the Serbs. The settling of accounts was accompanied by murders, abduction, robberies, arson and oppression. Since July to November 1911,128 robberies, 35 arsons, 41 banditries, 53 abductions, 30 blackmails, 19 examples of frightening, 35 murders, 37 attempts to murder, 58 armed assails upon property, 27 examples of fights and abuse, 13 attempts to Turkize and 18 examples of serious injuries inflicted were recorded in Old Serbia.12 The disastrous extent of violence urged Serbian consuls to make energetic demands from the government to arm the Serbs in Kosovo again.

Yet, events rapidly followed one another. The Young Turk regime was in a state of crisis, new elections were announced. Belgrade expected the Young Turks would win the elections, so instructions were sent to Kosovo upon that line. After a large conference of Serbs in Skoplje, in March 1912, a new electoral agreement was concluded with the Young Turks. The ethnic Albanians, exacerbated opposers of the Young Turk regime, began anew their attacks upon the Serbs. Their chiefs urged the masses on; the frightening of Serbs, blackmail and murders were resumed.13

The general Albanian insurrection had begun preparations in January 1912. Hasan Pristina and Ismail Kemal of south Albania supervised the preparations. Pristina's task was to gather the people and collect the arms, while Kemal was to contact Albanian committees and propagate Albanian interests in European centers. It was settled that the insurrection in the Kosovo vilayet was to begin in spring, and then it was to spread to other regions inhabited by ethnic Albanians. In July 1912, the insurrection spread over all of Kosovo; refusing to shoot Muslims, the rebels were joined by officers, soldiers and gendarmes. The vali of Kosovo personally returned to the ethnic Albanians arms seized two years before. War with Italy, uprisings and unrest all over the empire and danger of international involvement compelled the sultan to replace the Young Turks, dissolve the Parliament and yield to the demands of the ethnic Albanians.

Yet, they would not surrender. Around 15,000 rebels, dissatisfied with the pacifying promises of the sultan, moved south and took Skoplje. The committee sent from Constantinople to enter into negotiations, was given requests by Hasan Pristina, in the name of the insurrection, comprising 14 articles: special laws for Albania based on the common law; the right to carry arms, amnesty for all rebels; assignment of officials who speak the Albanian language and are familiar with their customs in four vilayets (Kosovo, Scutari, Bitolj and Janjevo); recognition of the Albanian language as official; curriculum and religious schools in the native tongue;

ethnic Albanians to serve in the army only on this territory; building of roads and railtracks, additional administrative divisions; trial for the Young Turk government. After a week of negotiating with the authorities, which accepted most of the conditions, the rebels dispersed.14

The leadership of the insurrection was comprised of people of different political affiliation and social status. On the one hand there were the military commanders of the insurrection, prominent tribal chiefs and former outlaws (Bairam Cur, Isa Boljetinac, Idriz Sefer, Riza Bey Krieziu), among whom there were followers of the old system and Austrophils. On the other hand, there were former diplomats and unhappy politicians (Hasan Pristina, Jahia Aga, Hadji Rifat Aga and Nexhib Draga), who held differed views on the future of ethnic Albanians both as compared to the first group and among themselves. Their official petitions did not contain demands for the territorial autonomy of ethnic Albanians, nor was the Porte ready to comply to such a demand. Abhorring intervention of the Balkan states, Hasan Pristina and Nexhib Draga, the major negotiators, were satisfied with the resolution of the Albanian issue within the framework of Ottoman legitimitism.15

The attitude of the rebels toward the political status of the Serbs in Old Serbia was, despite individual cooperation, basically one of intolerance. The Skoplje paper Vardar warned that the Serbs in Old Serbia did not mind that Turkey had met with the national demands of the ethnic Albanians: "We only think it unfair that we Serbs are excluded, whose desires and interests, like in this case, as always, remain heedless".16

The Serbian government strove to use the Albanian insurrection to further weaken the Turkish system and its leadership and to drive out Austro-Hungarian influence in its leadership. The consul of Pristina negotiated with influential leaders - Bairam Cur, Isa Boljetinac and Riza Bey, while sons of Boljetinac were guests of the Belgrade government. Many leaders were paid large sums out of funds of the Serbian government or they were given arms. Owing to this, in a draft of demands, an article was inserted which anticipated the recognition of rights demanded by the ethnic Albanians to apply to Serbs as well. Due to the insistence of several of the leaders, particularly of the pro-Austrian affiliated Hasan Pristina, this article did not enter the official Albanian requests.

The Albanian national movement felt, despite periodical aid from Montenegro and Serbia and constant negotiations and political reliance upon them, in the bases of its seemingly contradictory aspirations, profound intolerance for Serbs in the Kosovo vilayet, as the most permanent component. The fact that no one even thought of recognizing the right of the Serbs to national institutions and independent political activity, was displayed by the escalation of Albanian violence in 1912. Periodical attempts of individual tribal chiefs to approach distinguished Serbian representatives in Turkey were merely tactical acts of conformation without permanent political importance. Intolerance toward the people which, though thinned out, were still the majority, was exhibit in all plans and programs of Albanian leaders. Ever since the reign of the Albanian League, until the beginning of the second decade of the 20th century, the Serbs in Kosovo, Metohia and the neighboring regions, were deprived of the most fundamental rights to human freedom and even minimal civil rights. Albanian and Young Turk confrontation, fear of the involvement of the Balkan states and Austria-Hungary only temporarily suppressed their voluminous intentions with the Serbs.

1 Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, pp. 330-333.

2 Elaboration: D. Mikic, Mladoturski parlamentarni izbori 1908. i Srbi u Turskoj, Zbornik Filozofskog fakulteta u Pristini, XII (1975), pp. 154-209.

3 Rod narodne skupstine otomanskih Srba, Skoplje 1910; Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, pp. 335-338.

4 Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, pp. 335-336.

5 Zaduzbine Kosova, p. 704.

6 Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, 340-342; see elaborate documentation: B. Perunicic, Zulumi aga i begova, pp. 460-529.

7 I. G. Senkevic, Osvoboditelnoe dvizenie albanskogo naroda v 1905-1912 gg, Moskva 1959, pp.. 140-145; S. Skendi, op. cit., pp. 391-394.

8 Ibid.

9 D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, pp. 159-160.

10 V. Corovic, Odnosi izmedju Srbije i Austro-Ugarske u XX veku, pp. 350-351;

more elaborate: B. Hrabak, Arbanaski prvak Isa Boljetinac i Crna Gora 1910-1912, Istorijski zapisi, XXXIX (1977).

11 M. Rakic, Konzulska pisma, 201-214; Zaduzbine Kosova, pp. 707-708.

12 Zaduzbine Kosova, 716; additional documentation, pp. 717-728.

13 Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1,345-347, cf. Dokumenti o spoljnoj politici Kraljevine Srbije, V/2, Beograd 1985.

14 B. Hrabak, Arbanaski ustanci 1912, Vranjski glasnik, XI (1975), pp. 339 passim.

15 Ibid., pp. 323-324.

16 Ibid., p. 325, Serbian agent in Kosovo, renowned writer Grigorije Bozovic, observing the Albanian movement in summer 1912, noted the following: "The negative aspect of this movement as far as the Serbs are concerned, is that the Arnauts are on the verge of becoming a nation, and they wish to settle their issue in Kosovo, and that they are neither the conquerors nor the conquered. We fall between them and the Young Turks, and both will throw their rage at us. A positive move is that the Albanians are beginning to unfetter themselves from Turkish fanaticism; Muslim solidarity and hypnosis are slackening; they are very aware that they are at enmity with the Turks and, most important, they speak of Serbia with sympathy and regard it an amicable country." (Ibid, pp. 320.)


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