The Washington Times, March 31, 1998
COMMENTARY; Pg. A21
Kosovo's violence, past and present
Kosovo - The United States, which played a crucial role in creating Yugoslavia 80 years
ago and repeatedly supported its sovereignty until 1991, now contends that the remaining
Yugoslavia is no longer sovereign within its own state frontiers.
This change was made public March 9 by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in a
statement in London. Referring to the Kosovo issue between the Albanian minority and the
Slav majority in Serbia she declared: "We must first acknowledge that this crisis is
not an internal affair of the FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, comprising Serbia and
Montenegro). The violence is an affront to universal standards of human rights we are
pledged to uphold." She accused Belgrade of "ethnic cleansing" of Albanians
in Kosovo - where they already constitute 90 percent of the population - and she
threatened "severest consequences."
Let's call it the Albright Doctrine, a parallel to the Brezhnev Doctrine of "limited
sovereignty" for states subject to Moscow created ex post facto to justify the 1968
Soviet Bloc invasion of Czechoslovakia to protect "socialism." One could brand
the Albright Doctrine ex post facto, as well, given the heavy sanctions and other
penalties imposed on what remains of Yugoslavia by the Clinton administration since 1993.
The little-known region in question, Kosovo -Metohija, has been contested by Serbs and
Albanians for almost 300 years, mostly under the sinister aegis of the Ottoman Turks, whom
the Serbs resisted and the Albanians served.
Kosovo was the birthplace of the Serbian nation, which settled there between the 7th and
11th centuries. Kosovo derives from kos, the Serbian word for blackbird. Metohija means
"church lands" and refers to the fact that the Serbian Orthodox Christian
church, an offshoot of the Byzantine Greek church, conferred vast properties on Serbian
monasteries there, which numbered in the hundreds. The Serbs founded their dynasty in
Kosovo in the 13th century. The residence of their emperor, Dusan, was in the Kosovo city
Although they would like to be seen as the descendants of Illyrians and the Dardanians who
lived in the region in classical times, Albanians were not documented until the 14th
century as inhabiting the fringes of Kosovo - well over 600 years after those ancient
peoples vanished from recorded history. There are no Albanian toponyms in Kosovo.
What is now called ethnic cleansing commenced in the late 17th century under the Ottoman
Turks, when thousands of Serbs fled the repressive conditions of Kosovo, moving northward
across the Danube. Over the next two centuries Albanian clans migrated to the partially
vacated lands, settling among the remaining Serbs.
In the last 100 years of Turkish rule ending in 1912, some 150,000 Serbs were driven out
of Kosovo in campaigns that involved killing, rape, burning of churches and plunder,
mostly at the hands of Albanians serving the Turks.
Brutal tides of ethnic cleansing continued to sweep back and forth across the area, the
size of Connecticut, to this day. Albanians say that between 1918 and 1941 some 300,000 of
their people were expelled by the Serbs from Kosovo, deported mostly to Turkey and some to
Albania. About 60,000 Serbs were settled in the area.
During World War II amid the Italian Fascist and Nazi occupation there was an Albanian
resurgence in Kosovo; some 10,000 Serbs were killed and 100,000 forced to flee. About
100,000 Albanians moved into Kosovo from Albania.
At war's end the process was reversed. An Albanian fascist revolt centered in Drenica was
crushed with great bloodshed by the victorious Yugoslav Partisans. From 1950 to 1966 under
the the Communist government of Josip Broz Tito, 400,000 Kosovo Albanians were deported to
Turkey, according to Albanian authorities.
From 1966 to 1989, increasingly aggressive actions by newly autonomous Kosovo Albanians
caused more than 130,000 Serbs to leave Kosovo.
The main effect of these movements over the last seven decades, combined with an
extraordinarily high Albanian natality rate, was to reduce the percentage of Serbs in the
Kosovo population to its current 10 percent - down from 61 percent in 1929.
One recurring theme in the Kosovo drama is the farmland around the western town of
Drenica, which had been given in the 13th century to the Serb monastery of Hilandar, yet
500 years later became a center of Albanian nationalism. In 1839 Drenica was listed as
refusing to pay taxes or supply recruits to the Turkish sultan. There were Albanian
uprisings at Drenica in 1903, 1905, 1910 and 1944.
Starting two years ago, masked gunmen of the shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) began
creating a no-go zone for Serbs in the Drenica area, again the heartland of an Albanian
independence movement. There the Jasari clan carried out the ambush killing of four Serb
policemen on February 28. There, in following days, Serb policemen killed scores of
Albanians, including Adem Jasari, a UCK chieftain.
Let us make no mistake. Under international duress, the Albanian Kosovars may settle today
for a measure of autonomy. But their goal is independence tomorrow and, ultimately, a
Greater Albania stretching from Macedonia in the southeast to Montenegro in the northwest.
Our hegemony-minded secretary of state and her friends in Congress ought to become aware
of that and of Kosovo's violent history before they pursue the Albright Doctrine any
David Binder covered the Balkans for the New York Times.