Projekat Rastko Gracanica-PecElektronska biblioteka kulture Kosova i Metohije
Projekat Rastko Gračanica - Peć: Istorija: The Kosovo chronicles



The Albanian national movement was born during the great Eastern crisis (1875-1878). The basis for its gathering contained the direct denial of liberatory aims of Serbian states and of the political and national rights of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia. Bound, in its matrix course, to the Islam concept of tribal autonomy within the framework of the Ottoman state, the Albanian movement radiated a peculiar intolerance toward European comprehensions of society. The movement for autonomy was, to the Muslim masses of Kosovo and Metohia, synonymous to the preservation of tribal and feudal privileges; to the conservation of the anachronous regime in which the Serbs had no place.

The outcome of the Eastern crisis brought Kosovo and Metohia under the direct influence of Great Powers. Subsequent to the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entrance of Austro-Hungarian troops in the northern parts of the Kosovo vilayet, the remote Turkish province became the key of dominion on the Peninsula. In Vienna, strong argumentation underscored that the Ottomans conquered the Balkan Peninsula only after the battle of Kosovo in 1389.

The formation of oppositional power blocks in Europe, with Austria-Hungary and Russia as their main exponents in the Balkans, was conducive to a clearer refraction of their mutual conflicting interests in Kosovo, Metohia and Macedonia than in other Ottoman provinces. Internationalization of the problem of Old Serbia, which intercepted German penetration to the east, heavily affected the local Serbian populace. Russia's influence on political issues in the Balkans, since the Congress of Berlin until the Young Turk Revolution (1908), was diminishing despite aims for its restoration and consolidation. Austro-Hungarian supremacy on the Balkans, destroyed in World War I, was based on mercilessly checking Serbian national interests and liberatory aims (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Novi Pazar sanjak, Old Serbia, Macedonia). Favorizing the ethnic Albanians and the conservative regime of Abdulhamid II, the Dual Monarchy made the Serbs of Kosovo and Metohia victims of a policy aiming to a total expulsion of Serbs in areas between the Una river and the Vardar river basin, mid Hungary and the Adriatic Sea.

Eastern Crisis and the Serbian-Turkish Wars

The great Eastern crisis inaugurated the issue on the survival of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. Uprisings in Bosnia and Herzegovina compelled the Porte, fearing interference from the Great Powers, to issue a firman of reforms for the whole Empire. The following year a reform plan, designed by Austria-Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Count Gyula Andrassi, was imposed upon the Porte to prevent Russian intervention. Serbia and Montenegro, emboldened by successful insurrections and the rebellion in Bulgaria, prepared for a liberation war and the unification of the Serbs. Crucial support was expected from Russia, but a somewhat larger response came only from Slavophile circles which sent around 3,000 volunteers to Serbia. Heading a Serbian army (subsequently the entire army), entirely devoid of a trained military cadre, was Russian General Mihail Grigorievich Chernaiev. With the agreement in Reichstadt (1876) and the military convention in Budapest (1877), Russia negotiated with Austria-Hungary: with free action and the declaration of war to Turkey the Dual Monarchy would be able to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina at the appropriate time. The destiny of the liberation movement was thereby settled beforehand.

The beginning of the uprising in Herzegovina and Bosnia in 1875 revived the hopes of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia that the time of liberation was drawing near. Harbingers voicing the approaching liberation were seen in dreams, interpreted by portents and extraordinary occurrences, while Serbian merchants demanded the payment of their dues before deadlines.1

Unfamiliar passengers seen in various parts of Metohia and Kosovo were regarded as Serbian Prince Milan in disguise, observing the battlefields of the upcoming combats. Shortly before the war, emissaries did actually arrive from Serbia. In Nis in 1874, a secret committee was formed with the task of preparing an uprising against the Turks. Before the commencement of war, a general of the Serbian army, Franz Zach, sent Todor P. Stankovic, member of the Nis committee and an authority on the local situation to Kosovo, to confer with notables in Pristina, Vucitrn, Gnjilane and Prizren on the upcoming war. The report was submitted to General Chernaiev who disapproved of the Serbs rising in Kosovo, expounding that Russia had not yet decided to engage in war. Several notables from Kosovo did, however, arrive in Serbia with the desire to obtain detailed instructions for the Joint action. Aksentije Hadzi Arsic, a merchant from Pristina, contacted the Russian diplomacy in Belgrade, endeavoring, with its assistance in Constantinople, subsequently in Odessa, to organize a course for transferring volunteers to Serbia.2

When the war began in June 1876, masses of Serbs from Kosovo and Metohia crossed over to Serbian territory, and with Macedonian volunteers, fought within the composition of the Serbian army. Numerous refugees fleeing Albanian terror sought shelter in Serbia. Serbs in Prizren and other places were called to join the Ottoman army in the composition of irregular troops (bashibazouk) and war with Serbia. Most of them saved themselves by paying high ransoms.

The ethnic Albanians and Turks received the declaration of war vexed and anxious. Around 35,000 (72 units with 550 men) Albanian volunteers responded to the sultan's call to defend their homeland. The first to advance to the front towards Serbia were ethnic Albanians of the Ljuma mountainous region. On their way toward the border, at the beginning of July, around 3,000 of them descended to Prizren, sacking the Serbian town. The Albanian volunteers took every advantage to pillage regions lying on their way. Again Kosovo and Metohia became a battleground where ethnic Albanians settled their accounts with the Serbs, blaming them for the outbreak of war.

Serbia and Montenegro fought with unequal success. The Montenegrins won two great victories whereas the poorly armed and insufficiently trained Serbian troops suffered defeats. Serbia soon agreed to a truce and then a peace treaty with Turkey on a status quo basis. In Constantinople the insane Murad V was deposed and Abdulhamid II proclaimed sultan. At the end of 1876, the Constitution was proclaimed, warranting freedom of religion and civil equality for all subjects of the Ottoman Empire.

Yet, nothing changed in Kosovo and Metohia. Terror upon the Serbs did not abate. At the end of December 1876, the church-school community of Pec complained to the pasha of Prizren that fifty Serbs were killed in the town and its vicinity from May to December. Complaints of oppression were sent to the grand vizier and Russian and Austro-Hungarian consuls in Prizren. An English Committee received refugees returning from Serbia to Kosovo following the unsuccessful war.3

A conference of ambassadors of the Great Powers disputed the destiny of the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople, at the beginning of January in 1877. The destiny of Serbs in other Balkan provinces except in Bosnia and Bulgaria was not mentioned. Thus a "Committee for the Liberation of Old Serbia and Macedonia" was founded in Belgrade presided by Archimandrite Sava Decanac. National notables composed a petition at the end of February with a hundred signatures, thus authorizing the Board was able to represent them with the Great Powers. The petition demanded that all countries in which Serbs lived be annexed to Serbia so as to sustain their faith and nationality. An alternate demand was to found a Serbian Exarchate, following the example of the Bulgarian one, with its seat at Pec, and encompassing Bosnia and Herzegovina.4

Russia's entrance to war with Turkey in April 1877, which Serbia and Montenegro were to join, had delayed the submission of the petition, but, nonetheless, the Committee resumed its work. Shortly before Serbia's repeated engagement in war, the Serbian prince and the Russian tzar received news from Kosovo on the slave-like treatment of the Turkish authorities upon the Christians.

At Russia's demand, after lengthy hesitation, Serbia entered war at the end of December, 1877, but only after Russia's conquest of Plevna, which sent off an unfavorable echo to the ruling Russian circles. A favorable condition for a move to liberate Skoplje and emerge in Kosovo was missed. The Kosovo ethnic Albanians advanced once more toward the border. The regular Turkish troops were engaged at the front with the Russians, while ethnic Albanians comprised the main force against the Serbs. Anxiety among them was higher than military enthusiasm. Fear of Russian victory ("Moskovits") and of its allies wrought commotion upon the ethnic Albanians, anxious about their future religious and tribal rights. Life in a Christian and Slavic state was inconceivable for the majority of ethnic Albanians; in combats with the Serbian army they put up stubborn resistance, especially in struggles for Prokuplje and Kursumlija.

But the Serbs were advancing steadily. Liberating Nis, Leskovac, Vranje and Prokuplje, the Serbian army emerged in Kosovo. Not knowing that Russia and Turkey had agreed to a truce, the voluntary regiment of Major Radomir Putnik took Gnjilane, while the advance guard of the Serbian army, under the command of Lieutenant Milos Sandic, reached the Gracanica monastery near Pristina toward the end of January 1878. On January 25, a solemn liturgy was performed in Gracanica to honor the victory of the Serbian army and Prince Milan, and a commemoration was held for the heroes of Kosovo in 1389. However, the concluded truce was inclusive of the Serbian army. The units were compelled to withdraw from Kosovo.5

According to the Peace Treaty between Russia and Turkey concluded in San Stefano on March 3rd, 1878, a bulk of the liberated territories, including those liberated by the Serbian army, were alloted to Bulgaria. prince Milan informed the Russian supreme command that "the Serbian army will not abandon Nis even if it were attacked by the Russian army". As a compensation, Serbia's border was extended to Mitrovica on Kosovo. Old Serbia remained under Ottoman rule. By the agreement, the Porte was obligated to issue a special reglément organique for Albania.6

The Committee of Sava Decanac then expanded its actions. Signatures for petitions were collected and sent to the Serbian prince, Russian tzar and delegates of the European powers. All the petitions demanded the annexation of Old Serbia and Macedonia to Serbia. The news that the Congress of Berlin had been convoyed for the revision of the San Stefano Peace Treaty was received by the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia as a possibility of emphasizing again the demands for annexation to Serbia. Delegates of the Pristina, Prizren, Djakovica, Pec and Vucitrn regions sent a petition to the participants of the Congress with 272 signatures, stamped with 126 county and monastic seals. On June 28, the Serbs of Gnjilane, Skoplje and Tetovo sent to the Russian tzar and British delegate in Berlin an appeal with nearly 400 signatures. A similar authorized appeal was sent to the Serbian knez. In a memorandum submitted to Russian Tzar Alexander II, national representatives complained of unbearable violence and the inferior position of the Orthodox people.7

Sava Decanac set off to Berlin with a petition signed by around 2,000 national representatives - priests, serfs, merchants and craftsmen. He submitted the petition to the German Chancellor Prince Otto von Bismarck who promised that the participants of the Congress would be told about the demands. Archimandrite Sava wrote a general appeal to every other delegate of the Great Powers, demanding the annexation to Serbia, or, at least, if possible, the restoration of the Pec Patriarchate. His memorandum dated June 3, 1878, reads: "This nation has been enduring sufferings unheard-of because it was left to the mercy of Turkish and Albanian renegades. Now, since the position of all the peoples of the Balkan Peninsula has improved, is it right that we should remain shackled to tyranny, is it right that we should further endure butchery from the Turks, that our homes should be burnt by ethnic Albanians, is it right that we should be subject to deeds worse than those committed upon animals in Europe. Considering we took part in the war for liberation, considering we rebelled against exploitation, considering we expressed our desires for freedom and unification with our brothers; if the old system is restored, Muslim fanaticism will be without limit, more brutal, we will be forced to endure sufferings never experienced before. We raise our voices once more to the European assembly, asking for mercy, not to leave us to this gory and cruel bondage. If it is unable to grant us freedom, let at least autonomy and personal safety be secured."8

Austria-Hungarian and Russian rivalry for dominance over the Balkans was not favorable to Serbia's requests. Delegates from Serbia and Montenegro delegates were not permitted to take part in the Congress. The Serbian government, relying upon Austria-Hungary, requested of Gyula Andrsssi the annexation of the Gnjilane region, beside the Nis sanjak. Minister of Foreign Affairs Jovan Ristic, in a memoir submitted to participants of the Congress, underscored that if Old Serbia were to remain under Turkish rule, the Serbs would be left to the merciless revenge of Muslims, which would bring Serbia to an unenviable position and only incur new troubles.9 Even though both countries acquired independence at the Congress of Berlin, the decision that Old Serbia was to remain under Turkish rule was received with great disappointment by the Serbs in Kosovo Metohia. Liberation from the Turkish yoke was delayed indefinitely.10

The decisions of the Congress of Berlin caused great discontent in Serbia. In a public proclamation, announced after the Congress, Prince Milan underscored: "Within a brief time of six weeks, you penetrated to Kosovo at the speed of lightning, where the victorious song of Serbia was sung at the gloomy church of Gracanica five hundred years later. [...] Your brilliant leap needed only a step further and victorious Serbian banners would have unfurled in Pristina, Skoplje and Prizren, the old capitals of the Nemajices, but alas, a truce concluded on January 19, [31] this same year, forestalled and stopped you."11

Fighting along with Serbia against the Turks, Montenegro tried to win over the Catholic Mirdits. In 1874 the Serbian agency in Constantinople contacted the Mirdit captain Marko, cousin of Bib Doda. In mid-1876 the Mirdits were ready to engage in war against the Turks if Montenegrin Prince Nikola warranted, in writing, that he would recognize their independence after the war. Receiving from Belgrade the reply "we accept completely", the Montenegrin Prince made his promise. Even though of anti-Slavic disposition, the. Mirdit Prince Prenk Bib Doda entered into conflict with Turkish authorities well rewarded.12

In the second war with the Turks, Montenegro came into conflict with north Albanian Catholic tribes, the Grudas and Hotis, and waged major battles with the Muslim bashibazouks. ethnic Albanians and Muslims of Serbian origin, on the stretch from Ulcinj on the Adriatic Sea to Plav and Gusinje in the mountainous region toward north Albania, severely clashed with Montenegrin forces. At the Congress of Berlin, aside to the independence granted it, Montenegro's territorial expansion had been confirmed: among other territories, Plav and Gusinje had been alloted to it, with strong resistance incurring from the Albanian populace. 13

1 V. Topic, Istocno pitanje, Sarajevo 1966 , pp. 168-170. J. H. Vasiljevic, Pokret Srba i Bugara u Turskoj posle srpsko-turskih ratova 1876. 1877-1878. godine i njegove posledice (1878-1882), Beograd 1908, pp. 266-274.

2 D. Mikic, Srbi Kosova u istocnoj krizi 1875-1878, Obelezja, 5 (1982), pp. 98-111; ibid., Kosovo prema radu Berlinskog kongresa i realizovanju njegovih odluka, Pristina 1980, pp. 243.

3 D. Mikic, Drustveno-politicki razvoj kosovskih Srba u XIX veku, pp. 243-345.

4 Ibid.

5 V. Stojancevic, Prvo oslobodjenje Kosova od strane srpske vojske u ratu 1877-1878, in: Srbija u zavrsnoj fazi velike istocne krize (1877-1878), Beograd, 1980, pp. 462-468; J. Popovic, op. cit., pp. 230-233; Savremenici o Kosovu i Metohiji 1852-1912, pp. 286-292.

6 D. Mikic, Albansko pitanje i albansko-srpske veze u XIX veku (do 1912), M. misao, 3 (1985), p. 143.

7 J. Hadzi-Vasiljevic, Pokret Srba i Bugara u Turskoj, pp. 17-36; Srbija 1878, Documents (edited by M. Vojvodic, D. R. Zivojinovic, A. Mitrovic, R. Samardzic), Beograd 1978, pp. 322-327.

8 Srbija 1878, 503; Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, pp. 291-292.

9 "In provinces located on this side of the rivers [Drina and Lim], events have created an entirely new situation. The Princedom [Serbia] was compelled to take up arms for the second time, and due to continual advancements, the region of its action covered almost all of Old Serbia. How was it to withdraw from the region and leave its populace to the revenge of Musloman without the land sinking again to another horrifying state by which no one would gain? The best way to secure the benefits of eternal peace in the region would be to satisfy the legitimate wishes of the people, to liberate and conjoin it to mother Serbia. "(Srbija 1878, pp. 449.)

10 Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, pp. 291-292.

11 B. Perunicic, Zulumi aga i begova u kosovskom vilajetu, Beograd 1989, p. 43.

12 D. Mikic, Prizrenska liga i austrougarska okupacija Bosne i Hercegovine i zaposedanje novopazarskog sandzaka (1878-1879. godine), Balcanica, IX (1978), p. 294; D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, 137-138; more elaborate in: B. Hrabak, Katolicki Arbanasi za vreme istocne krize (1875-1878), Istorijski zapisi, XXXV, 1-2 (1978), pp. 5-59.

13 N. Raznatovic, Crna Gora i Berlinski kongres, Cetinje 1979; D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, pp. 141.

The Albanian League

Military operations during the 1877-1878 war brought demographic disturbances in Old Serbia. From 1875, a surge of refugees from Kosovo and the neighboring areas crossed over to Serbian territory. At the bordering regions of Serbia, stretching between Mount Kopaonik and Jastrebac, around 200,000 Serbs sought shelter from the terror of ethnic Albanians, Turks and Cherkezes.

The triumph of the Serbian army and the liberation of southern Serbia caused a contrary migratory process. In the spaces from Prokuplje to Leskovac and Vranje, during the 19th century, the ethnic Albanians had settled, and, like their compatriots in Kosovo and Metohia, had supremacy in political relations, occupying frontal positions in the governing apparatus. When Serbian units liberated the Nis sanjak, withdrawing ahead of them, together with the defeated bashibazouks, were Albanian inhabitants of that region. In accordance with the consecrated Turkish traditions, in case of defeat, Muslims were called to leave the lost territories with the army. From Toplica and southern Pomoravlje, around 30,000 ethnic Albanians retreated with the Turkish troops, seeking refuge on the plains of Kosovo and Metohia. These refugees (muhadjirs), looking for space to settle, bereft of their belongings and lands, began to take vengeance upon local Serbian inhabitants, to plunder property and arrogate lands. The administrative authorities existed only nominally, since power was held by local ethnic Albanians who also attacked the Serbian inhabitants.1 In a complaint lodged to Prince Milan, the Serbs of Gnjilane stated that following the retreat of the Serbian army from Kosovo, acts of violence were tripled: "The exasperated ethnic Albanians broke into our houses and estates on the day the Serbian army withdrew from Gnjilane, devastating everything, fleecing us to our bare skin! And, alas, there is more! Every day one our brothers is killed, either secretly or in public."2

The ethnic Albanians were disturbed by the military fiasco, the arrival of muhadjirs and decisions brought by the San Stefano Peace Treaty. The penetration of the Serbian army caused panic and the flight of many ethnic Albanians further into Ottoman territory, toward Djakovica and Pec. Albanian leaders considered the expansion of Serbia and Montenegro, particularly their evident aspirations to acquiring Old Serbia, perilous to Albanian interests. Tribal chiefs from Pec, Djakovica, Gusinje, Ljuma, Debar and Tetovo conferred upon whether to accept, in peace, their in war lost lands, which they believed were "Albanian" territories, or to resist in arms the alteration of former frontiers, despite the Forte's standpoint. Toward the end of April, precautionary measures were undertaken in Djakovica in case of another Serbian, Montenegrin or Russo - Bulgarian offensive and to protect the supplies of arms, ammunition and food.3

The news of the Berlin Congress being convoked accelerated the national assemblage of ethnic Albanians. Even in the preceding decades, Albanian émigrés in Italy, Bulgaria and Romania pledged for the educational and national emancipation of their people, but their influence among the illiterate commoners of Muslim faith, bound to the tradition of the sheriat and tribal privileges, was entirely negligible. The "Italo - Albanian Committee" acted under the patronage of the Italian government, which saw it as a means of economic and political penetration to the Balkans. In Constantinople, an influential literary-political circle of Albanian intellectuals grew to become, in 1877, the "Central Committee for Defending Albanian Rights", propagating territorial-administrative autonomy within the framework of the Ottoman Empire. The plan of the Committee, published in the Tercuman - i Sark paper, anticipated the founding of a single Albanian vilayet that would encompass the Kosovo, Bitolj, Scutari and Janjevo vilayets. Plans were then already voiced for including even of the Salonika vilayet.4

For the first time since their foundation, the activities of Albanian committees met with some response from wider Albanian circles, due to a perilous psychosis on account of aspirations arising from the neighboring Serbian countries. Around 300 delegates assembled in Prizren from different regions, but mostly big landholders (pashas and beys), tribal chiefs and religious heads. At a congregation in the Prizren mosque, a "League for defending the rights of the Albanian people", more widely known as the Albanian League, was founded. The main board, composed of 60 members, presided over by Abdul Bey Frasheri, sent a memorandum to the Great Powers in Berlin on June 15, requesting for the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire to be preserved with its borders as they were prior to the war.5

The statute of the League, called Kararname (Book of Decisions) underscored fidelity to the sheriat law, Islam and the Porte, and the determination to defend in arms the totality of Ottoman territories. The first article of the Kararname underlines the League's "aim not to accept and to remain distanced from any government except that of the Porte and to struggle in arms to defend the wholeness of the territories". Article 2 states: "Our aim is to preserve the imperial rights for his revered majesty the sultan, our lord." Article 6 states a definite attitude toward the neighboring Balkan countries: "Having Balkan soil before us, we should not allow foreign armies to tread our land. We should not recognize Bulgaria's name. If Serbia does not leave peacefully the illegally occupied countries, we should send bashibazouks (akindjias) and strive until the end to liberate these regions, including Montenegro."6

The main demand of the Albanian League was to form from the territories of four vilayets: Scutari, Janjevo, Kosovo and Bitolj, a single "Albanian vilayet" in the Ottoman Empire. With its first step, the Albanian national movement defined the range of its territorial pretensions. The spaces of these four vilayets contained 44% ethnic Albanians, 19,2% Macedonian Slavs, 11,4% Serbs, 9,2% Greeks, 6,5 Walachs, 9,3% Ottoman Turks, 0,4% Jews, Armenians and Gypsies.7 The territorial demands of the national movement expanded to Old Serbia and Macedonia, regions where ethnic Albanians did not comprise the majority of the populace, thus bearing the germ of new clashes with the two Serbian states. It was based on extremely anti-Slavic and anti-Serbian determination.

The activities of the League pointed to a breach in religious beliefs, varying degrees of national awareness and opposing conceptions of national future, all within the Albanian national movement.

The political activities of the League were controlled by notable landholders, religious heads and tribal chiefs who were by their positions, faith and conceptions profoundly bound to the Ottoman state and its ideology. Relying upon the lower layers of the Albanian and Muslim people, whose hostility for the Serbs paralleled the victories of Serbian armies, they gave the whole movement a pro-Islamic and legitimist character in the first year of its work. Abdul Bey Frasheri and delegates from south Albania, advocates of the so-called "radical movement", remained a minority in their propositions to sever all ties with the Porte. Yet, they coincided in designating the territorial extension of "Albanian countries":

the new independent state was to be composed of four principalities: 1) south Albania with Epirus and Janina; 2) north and mid Albania with the regions around Scutari, Tirana and Elbasan; 3) Macedonia with the towns Debar, Skoplje Gostivar, Prilep, Veles, Bitolj and Ohrid; 4) Old Serbia with the towns: Prizren, Pec, Djakovica, Mitrovica, Pristina, Gnjilane, Presevo, Kumanovo, Novi Pazar and Sjenica.8

In the conceived "Great Albania", their privileged position was taken for granted. Until the Eastern crisis, it was based upon their place in the system of the Ottoman state organization which allowed for the heedless exploitation of the subjugated populace. In the national programs of the League, preserving religious, tribal and political privileges, there was no room for non-Albanian peoples: their political inequality was not anticipated nor legal and economic protection warranted. Religious and ethnic intolerance acquired, on the other hand, a new content. The Serbs in Prizren were even compelled to sign and seal the petition of the League sent to the Berlin Congress.

The leadership of the Albanian national movement, originating mainly from feudal circles, saw, in the activities of the League, a means to preserve the existing privileges, an opportunity to liberate the lower strata from paying taxes, a continuity for free tribal self-government and space for demographic expansion. Common interests soon made the League an instrument of the new Sultan Abdulhamid II (1876-1909), inspirator of the pan-Islamic ideology. Its anti-Slav disposition was to benefit the sultan in revising the San Stefano Peace Treaty, to prevent international confirmation of territorial losses or new concessions at the Berlin Congress. The League was to act as a deterrent through which to preserve the totality of the Ottoman state. Thus, at the inaugural assembly of the Albanian League, there were delegates from Bosnia and Muslims from the sanjak of Novi Pazar, and subsequently, though with little success, Albanian volunteers were mustered to resist Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.9

The pro-Islamic and pro-Turk character of the League met with disapproval among Catholic Albanians in north Albania. Italian consul to Scutari, Bernardo Berio, believed that only the Catholics were true carriers of the idea of Albanian autonomy and breakup with the Turks. Prenk Bib Doda, hereditary prince of the Mirdits, did not wish to participate in the activities of the League for the preponderance of Albanian Muslims in its orders, beside holding different claims. A council in Scutari, independent of the League in Prizren, addressed the British Premier Benjamin Disraeli with the request for the formation of an independent Albania to bar Slavic invasion toward the Adriatic sea.

Diplomats of Great Powers with consulates in Prizren and Scutari (Russia, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, Italy) reported that the formation of the Albanian League was urged directly through aid from the Porte and haste from vilayet officials and military commanders. The Italian consul to Scutari observed "strange connections between the official bodies of Turkish authorities and a lawfully illegal movement", since the Turkish authorities paid for the arrival of Albanian delegates to Prizren and supplied the followers of the League with arms and ammunition.10 The same conclusions were drawn by a diplomat of the Dual Monarchy who warned that the activities of the League's local committee in Prizren evolved through conference with the highest officials in the vilayet, who "[...] armed the local Muslim Albanians with excellent guns, provided them with ammunition and granted authority upon their leaders exceeding the authorities of government bodies [...]". He had anticipated that the Porte "would no longer be able to induce the people to lay down their arms, and the consequences soon to arise will be situations on which the Porte will have to count".11

The decisions of the Berlin Congress sanctioned the expansion of Serbia and Montenegro, and, among other things, obligated the Porte to cede Plav and Gusinje. The failure of the Turkish state to defend its interests before the European powers caused the leadership of the League to gradually turn to ideas of total autonomy. Councils and branches had around 16,000 men in arms directed toward the Turkish authorities and army, being discontented by the outcome of events. The first attempt of the Porte to restore order caused a massive Albanian rebellion. The Empire's emissary, Marshall Mehmed Ali Pasha, who arrived to interpret the decisions of the Berlin Congress, was killed at the end of August 1878 in Djakovica.12

Resistance to the Porte increased with its attempts to collect taxes from the ethnic Albanians and carry out recruitment. In May 1879, the leadership of the League, overcome by the so-called "autonomous movement", demanded judicial and complete administrative autonomy from the Porte, and already in July, the decision was set to depose Turkish rule. Bodies of the League took over rule in Djakovica, Prizren, Pec, Mitrovica and Vucitrn. This kind of parallel rule lasted until 1880, when the demand for the total independence of Albania was underscored. All attempts made by Constantinople to pacify the ethnic Albanians were futile. The Porte then resorted to military measures. As it no longer needed favors from the League, a military campaign under the command of Dervish Pasha was dispatched to the rebelling regions. Beside sporadic conflicts with the ethnic Albanians, it took the towns controlled by the League and established Turkish rule. Instead of Plav and Gusinje, Ulcinj and its shores were ceded to Montenegro. Destroyed by military force, the League soon ceased to exist, while its most prominent leaders were arrested and deported to Asia Minor.13

Cautiously encroaching upon the political vacuum created after the idea for Albanian independence was expressed, was Austria-Hungary. To bar the expansion of the Slavic states, it defended the rights of ethnic Albanians, mainly the Mirdits. Count Andrassi believed that it was in the best interest of the Monarchy to direct Albanian resistance against the Serbs and Montenegrins, thereby sustaining traditional hostility between the ethnic Albanians and Slavs. Plans were discussed in Vienna for the creation of autonomous Albania to dam up Italian consolidation on the shores of the Adriatic.

Even though feudal layers abhorred the aspirations of the Dual Monarchy regarding the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the military occupation of the Novi Pazar sanjak, the ethnic Albanians received these decisions comparatively peacefully. The Austria-Hungarian diplomacy aided Albanian requests in its border dispute with Montenegro, while its agents, infiltrated from Bosnia, commended the order, security and improved living conditions introduced by the new government in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Forte's emissaries were convincing the ethnic Albanians that the Austria-Hungarian troops in the Novi Pazar sanjak arrived at the invitation of padishah. As it already had secure political strongholds in the Catholic missions in north Albania, the Dual Monarchy strove to win over the ethnic Albanians of Muslim faith. Its further penetration into the depths of the Ottoman Empire by way of the Novi Pazar sanjak depended mostly upon the ethnic Albanians and their political orientation. The destruction of the League was the first encouraging step in that direction.15

1 R. Pavlovic, Seobe Srba i Arbanasa u ratovima 1876 i 1877-1878. godine, Glasnik etnografskog instituta, 4-6 (1955-1957), pp. 53-104; D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, 137-138.

2 Srbija 1878, p. 324.

3 B. Hrabak, Prvi izvestaji diplomata velikih sila o Prizrenskoj ligi, Balcanica, IX (1978), p. 237.

4 B. Hrabak, Ideje o arbanaskoj autonomiji i nezavisnosti 1876-1880. godine, Istorijski casopis, XXV-XXVI (1978-1979), pp. 160-165.

5 S. Skendi, Albanian National Awakening 1878-1912, Princeton 1967, pp. 31-53.

6 B. Hrabak, Prvi izvestaji diplomata velikih sila o Prizrenskoj ligi, pp. 238-239. Article Kararname in: A. Hadri, Prilog rasvetljavanju Prizrenske lige (1878-1881), Perparimi, 1 (1967), 36-37; useful survey on the Albanian League by D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, pp. 142-148; cf. Lidhja Shqiptare ne dokumentet osmane 1878-1881, Tirane 1978; P. Bartl. Die Albanische muslime zur Zeit der Nationalen Unabhängigkeitsbrewegung (1878-1912), pp. 115-192.

7 By confessions, 52.8% were Muslim, 27.8% Orthodox, 15% Catholic. Among the Albanians 77% were of Muslim faith (H. D. Schanderl, Die Albanienpolitik Osterreich Ungarns und Italiens 1877-1908, Wiesbaden 1971, pp. 9-10). A statistics of the population in Old Serbia complied prior to the wars, by Austro-Hungarian consul to Prizren, Lipic, indicated that Albanians were not the ethnic majority in the Nis sanjak liberated by Serbia. In Leskovac 48.58% of Albanians lived, in Vranje 27.55%, whereas in Nis they were not even listed in the statistics. The Albanians were the majority in Toplice only in Prokuplje (57.86%) and Kursumlija (92.68%); B. Hrabak, op. cit., pp. 256-257.

8 B. Stulli, Albansko pitanje 1878-1882, Rad JAZU, 318, (1959), pp. 321-323; D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, pp. 144.

10 B. Stulli, op. cit., pp. 337-341; B. Hrabak, Arbanasi i njihova liga prema okupaciji Bosne i Hercegovine, Prilozi instituta za istoriju u Sarajevu, 16 (1979), pp. 37-48; Cf. H. Kalesi, Napredne ideje nekih ideologa albanskog nacionalnog pokreta u drugoj polovini XIX veka o saradnji balkanskih naroda, in: Oslobodilacki pokreti jugoslovenskih naroda od XVI veka do pocetka Prvog svetskog rata, Beograd 1976, 225-242; D. T. Batakovic, Osnove arbanaske prevlasti na Kosovu i Metohiji 1878-1903, Ideje, 5-6 (1987), pp. 36-38.

11 B. Hrabak, Italijanski konzul u Skadru B. Berio o arbanaskom pitanju 1876-1878. godine, Casopis za suvremenu povijest 3 (1978), pp. 32-33.

12 B. Hrabak, Prvi izvestaji diplomata velikih sila o Prizrenskoj ligi, pp. 252, 262-263; B. Stulli, op. cit., p. 323.

13 B. Hrabak, Prvi izvestaji diplomata velikih sila o Prizrenskoj ligi, pp. 268-270.

14 J. Hadzi-Vasiljevic, Arbanaska liga, pp. 100-102,109-127; B. Stulli, op. cit., pp. 343-348; S. Skendi, op. cit., pp. 93-107.

15 D. Mikic, Prizrenska liga i austrougarska okupacija Bosne i Hercegovine, 297- 328; H. D. Schnaderl, op. cit., pp. 43-47.

Court-Martial in Pristina

The entire activity of the Albanian League was of clear and explicit Anti-Serbian character. The motives for its formation and the decisions of the Berlin congress caused severe oppression upon the Serbian populace. Albanian attacks on the Serbian border ended, as a rule, by depredating Serbian villages on the Turkish side. From the beginning to mid June 1878 alone, according to the information of French diplomats, 112 Christian Serbs were killed, mostly distinguished village hosts. Serbian houses were burnt, and those who attempted to escape were ambushed. In Gnjilane nine women were abducted and brutally tortured. Shortly before convoking the Congress of Berlin, at least 60 Serbs escaped terror from Pristina alone, even though, at the time, the bashibazouk leaders officially spoke favorably of Christian Serbs in petitions sent to the Porte.1

Fanaticized followers of the League believed the Serbs of Kosovo and Metohia to be the major cause for all Albanian misfortunes. An Albanian leader openly stated to Russian Consul Yastrebov: "We will attack the Montenegrins on Christmas and kill them. And if we fail - we will return to Pec and the vicinity and burn and saber all the Christians."2 Yastrebov's following report indicated that these were not mere threats:

"Three Albanians raped a thirteen-year-old girl from Dobrotin. The Serbs dare not complain to the authorities. Those who complained paid with their heads, and none of them trust the protection of a foreign government any longer. People are saying that atrocities as these [1879] were not committed even after the Crimean war, the general impression is that all have conspired to crush the Serbian element."3 In a complaint lodged to the Russian tzar in July 1879, the Serbs of Pec stated that since the beginning of the Eastern crisis, over 100 people were killed in the Pec district alone and that many atrocities were committed. The citizens of Pec pleaded with Alexander II to take them under his wing and help the Visoki Decani monastery in the Pec Patriarchate against plunder and blackmail committed by outlaws at the orders of Pec agas.4

Terror over the Serbs did not wane during the entire period of the Albanian League rule. Since 1880, when its leadership severed all tied with the Porte, the position of the Serbian populace was aggravated, since tribute had to be paid to both the Turks and ethnic Albanians: "The Serbs had two lords; they paid tribute to two rulers, maintained two armies, without having any protection or security."5 Yastrebov's reports dating 1880 and 1881 are filled with information on the plight of the Serbs - murders, robberies, arsons of houses and estates, and attempts to forceful conversion to Islam. One characteristic report reads: "The situation of the Christians in these regions is gloomy everywhere. Refugees from Serbia and Bosnia (muhadjirs) pillage Christian houses, especially in the Pristina, Gnjilane and Pec district. The same atrocities are committed by local ethnic Albanians, even though they gave their bessa not to disturb them, but the bessa is valid only for Muslims, it holds no obligation toward the Christians."6

Incursions into Serbian state territory were at full swing during the Albanian League, when the new Serbian frontiers were not yet secured. Military advance guards were attacked, cattle was raided and Serbian villages along the demarcation line were burnt. Following the Berlin Congress, Albanian incursions into Serbia increased: their raiding companies, sacking and burning everything in their wake, reached even Kursumlija. On their return, all Serbian villages on the Turkish side were attacked. Expecting an outcome and avoiding new conflicts, the Serbian government did not persecute the assailants out of territory. The petitions it sent to the Porte to stop the incursions remained without response.7

The ethnic Albanians assaulted the teachers of the Serbian Seminary at Prizren. They looked all over town seeking to kill one of them, someone named Petar Kostic, for writing a letter on the political situation in Prizren. Kostic was saved from certain death be fleeing to the Russian consulate; following a hearing in front of the Turkish authorities in the presence of Yastrebov, he was sent to Bitolj, since the Prizren authorities could nor warrant him safety.8

The reign of the Albanian League left hard consequences on the position of the Serbs in Old Serbia: "Created upon a reaction to the realization of the national liberational programs of Balkan Christians, especially the Serbs" - underscored Dimitrije Bogdanovic - "it was laid on the foundations of the Great Albania ideas, ignoring the rights of Serbs and other Slavic peoples of the Balkans, and of the Greeks, to live on their lands protected under the law. A clash was inevitable, and the aggressive anti-Serbian concept of the League permanently placed a burden upon the relations of these two peoples. Simultaneously, the Great Albanian concept of the League was offering itself to certain European powers as an instrument for their own penetration to the Balkans."9 Violence upon the Serbs had become, owing to the political programs of the League, one of the strategic determinations in the Albanian national movement. Until the Eastern crisis, violence upon the Serbs had been elemental rather than the result of a conceptualized policy. Routing Serbs from their hearths by perpetual oppression had become, owing to the political will of the League, a kind of religious and national duty obligatory to all ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo vilayet. The target of Albanian crimes in the decades to come were the Serbs of the Pec, Pristina and Prizren sanjaks.10

After the Serbo-Ottoman wars the Serbs were looked upon with distrust by both the Turks and ethnic Albanians. Even though they were unarmed, decimated and pressured by the surge of newly settled muhadjirs, the Serbs were considered an unreliable and potentially revolutionary element. Following the 1878 war, Turkey promised a pardon by a general decree for all subjects who had in any way violated authority. The Empire's amnesty was officially proclaimed, but the movements and behavior of the Serbs were regarded very suspiciously.

A false tip that the Serbs were preparing to rise in Kosovo on the very day Serbia was proclaimed a kingdom, resulted in the formation of a drumhead trial in Pristina, 1882. During five years of active work, based on suspicion but without substantial evidence, around 7,000 Serbs were butchered "for seditious conduct", and another 300 were sentenced to hard labor from 6 to 101 years. The most respected people were convicted, teachers and merchants, priests and serfs. Upon the pronouncement of a sentence, they were sent to prisons in Salonika or exiled to Asia Minor. Only in 1888, some of convicts that survived in prison were pardoned owing to the intermediation of the Russian and British diplomacy.11

Sima Andrejevic Igumanov published a book in 1882 Sadanje nesretno stanje u Staroj Srbiji (The currently unfortunate times in Old Serbia) filled with information on atrocities committed by the Turks and ethnic Albanians at the beginning of the drumhead trial's activities. Disturbed because Serbia would pay more attention to the sufferings of its compatriots in Turkey, he attempted to draw the public eye to the new swing of violence: "Our homeland has been turned into hell by dark crazed blood-suckers and masses of melting Asian tyrants, since banditry, violence, deletion, espionage, denunciation, daily arrests, accusations, trials, sentences, exiles, arrogation of property and life in many ways, the wails, mourns and burial of the executed, all these have become ordinary events everywhere in Old Serbia and Macedonia."12 Since Dervish Pasha's campaign against the League, the position of the Serbs in Pec and Djakovica has continually deteriorated; thus the people were preparing to emigrate to Serbia. From the Pec region alone, according to data collected by Yastrebov, around 1,500 families emigrated to Serbia since the wars to 1883. Upon collection of the tribute and tithe, the Serbs in Metohia were compelled to pay, beside for themselves, for those who moved, and often a part instead of Albanian Muslims. Their complaints to the authorities remained unanswered. 13

1 B. Hrabak, Prvi izvestaji diplomata velikih sila o Prizrenskoj ligi, p. 253.

2 V. Bovan, Jastrebov u Prizrenu, Kulturno-prosvetne prilike u Prizrenu i rad ruskog konzula I. S. Jastrebova u drugoj polovini devetnaestog veka, Pristina 1983, p.147.

3 Ibid., p. 146.

4 V. Stojancevic, Zalbe Srba Pecanaca na turske zulume 1876-1878. godine Arhivski pregled, 1-2 9 (1978) pp. 151-160.

5 J. Hadzi-Vasiljevic, Arbanaska liga, pp. 109.

6 V. Bovan, op. cit., pp. 160.

7 J. Hadzi-Vasiljevic, Arbanaska liga, pp. 6-10.

8 R. M. Grujic, Dva izvestaja konzula Jastrebova o akciji Albanske lige u Prizrenu 1880. god., Zbornik za istoriju Juzne Srbije, I (1936), pp. 403-406.

9 D. Bogdanovic; Knjiga o Kosovu, pp. 147-148.

10 P. Orlovic [Svetislav St. Simic], Pitanje o Staroj Srbi]i, Beograd 1901, pp. 3-11; D. T. Batakovic, Osnove arbanaske prevlasti, p. 37.

11 J. Popovic, op. cit., pp. 247-248; V. Bovan, op. cit., 168-171; Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, pp. 323-326

12 Savremenici o Kosovu i Metohiji 1852-1912, pp. 101.

13 Around 60 Serbian families from the Pec nahi that had returned to Turkey refused to resettle in the Pec nahi but instead, inhabited the villages on the slopes of Kopaonik where there were not many Albanians (V. Bovan, op. cit; pp. 174,178).

Albanians Under the Sultan's Protection

Abdulhamid II discontinued the reform tradition of his predecessors, encouraged refeudalization and underscored pan-Islamism as the basic principle of his reign. As supreme head of Islam, he strove to consolidate the country internally through pan-Islamic ideology, and by restoring religious fanaticism had hoped to create a counterbalance to all national movements in the ethnically heterogeneous Empire. He believed the Muslim Albanians were natural enemies of the Orthodox Slavic population -Serbs above all - not wholely by religion, but also by race, historical traditions and national aspirations. Thus Muslim Albanians had imposed themselves as the best allies in crushing all Christian movements; the Christian revolts and national movements were, according to the sultan's most profound conviction, the basic cause of all unrest in the Ottoman Empire.

The padishah sought support for the new policy with the conservative feudal circles. He invited the most prominent Albanian chiefs of Old Serbia to Constantinople with the aim of binding them to him by bestowing gifts, decorations and promotions. Among his followers from Kosovo, the most outstanding were Ah Pasha of Gusinje and Hadzi Mula Zeka of Pec. Religious heads, the mullahs and softas, stirred up religious fanaticism among the illiterate and ignorant believers. Together with the feudal notables and upper classes of Albanian society, they blamed the Serbs as the source hazardous to Albanian interests and the stability of the Ottoman Empire. The formation of the drumhead court martial in Pristina marked the opening of a joint activity of Turkish authorities and Albanian notables in routing the Serbian populace of the Kosovo vilayet.1

The sultan's policy to use ethnic Albanians as the striking force in weakening the Serbian ethnicon in spaces neighboring Serbia and Montenegro, began to take on the form of a long-term political program toward the end of the eighties of the 19th century. With the chain of new muhadjir settlements the dense network of Serbian habitats was severed. The sultan and the Porte were creating a sort of Albanian military frontier toward Serbia.2

The settlement of the muhadjirs was encouraged by the Porte, while the Albanian feudal lords of Kosovo saw to their being properly settled in new habitats. Supporting them, however, was another burden upon the Serbs. Lab soon became an ethnically pure Albanian region. Along the northern borders of the Kosovo vilayet, in the Novo Brdo rivers, Kriva Reka and Gornja Morava with Izmornik, new muhadjir settlements were springing. In Kriva Reka alone the number of Albanian homes increased from 52% to 65%. The demographic situation was rapidly improving to the advantage of the ethnic Albanians; the muhadjirs had inundated mountainous rims hovering over the valley of Kosovo. Serving as an impenetrable rampart, Albanian villages provided a safeguard for the northern borders of Turkey.3

The policies of the Porte and the sultan's protection contributed to the consolidation of a belief held among the ethnic Albanians that a division of Turkish provinces in Europe would cause a division of the four vilayets they considered their own territory. Such policy promoted a stronger bondage of Muslim Albanians to the Ottoman state ideology. The destruction of the League did not raise the question of joint Albanian-Turkish resistance against the enemies of the Empire. Vali of Kosovo, Abdi Pasha, estimated, in 1883, that in case of war, the faithful ethnic Albanians would be sufficient in defending Old Serbia. Albanian and Turkish relations toward the Serbs as the seditious element encouraged new acts of violence. When a Serbian monk Martirije was murdered on his way to Pec, Albanian outlaws announced their scheme - all Serbian priests and noted people in Pec should be murdered. Then, they believed, there would be no fear in case they were to fall under Serbian of Austro-Hungarian rule. The vali came to Pec, but they told him there that the complaints of Christian Serbs were unfounded.4

Aside to practical political tasks assigned to them, the ethnic Albanians had partly to thank the immense influence of the padishah's body guards for the sultan's mercy and protection during his entire reign. Abdulhamid II rarely left his court in Yildiz, and in time became kind of a prisoner of his own personal guards, a fact observed at the Porte by all diplomats of Great Powers. Under its influence and owing to the intermediation of high officials of Albanian origin, the sultan tolerated all the unlawful acts committed by ethnic Albanians in Old Serbia - refusal to pay tribute, to provide recruits for the regular army, to respect the local vilayet authorities and answer to court for offences committed.

In Kosovo, Metohia and in the neighboring areas a division of government was tacitly established. Corrupt Turkish officials gladly agreed to cooperate with Albanian feudal and tribal circles. Due to high protection from Constantinople enjoyed by the ethnic Albanians, the few conscientious government officials in the Kosovo vilayet did not even try to pursue Albanian perpetrators and rebels since they were liable to be punished and replaced after their complaints were lodged directly to the sultan. Albanian feudal circles secured full economic and political dominance in the Kosovo vilayet without much effort.5

The policy of détente toward the ethnic Albanians and the toleration of violence committed upon the Serbian populace created a peculiar sense of might in the lower classes of Albanian society. The knowledge that they would not be punished whatever their offence, emboldened ethnic Albanians to an appreciable disregard for Turkish authorities. Social division increased the layer of outlaws (kacaks) who lived solely of banditry and raiding. Since their attacks were directed mostly to the Serbs, the Turkish authorities did not pursue them, except when required to do so by representatives of Great Powers, and subsequently, by Serbian diplomatic officials. However, even in then the perpetrators were not severely punished. The policy of impunity exercised upon the ethnic Albanians during the eighties, particularly the nineties, turned into anarchy, causing thus anxiety to both the vali of Kosovo and the Sublime Porte.6

Albanian risings, usually local ones breaking out from time to time characterized the whole period until the Young Turk Revolution. At the end of September, 1884, in the Prizren region, particularly in Ljuma, an Albanian rebellion broke out against an attempt of the Turkish authorities to list the population and its properties to determine the amount of new taxes. The rebelling ethnic Albanians of Ljuma drove out the administrative officials from Prizren and devastated the town. They dispersed only when the sultan promised them there wold be no listings nor tax-paying. The Turkish authorities attempted neither to pursue nor disarm them.7

The 1885 war of Serbia and Bulgaria, which soon ended with the defeat of the Serbian troops at Slivnica, upset the ethnic Albanians. Fearing danger, they gave their bessa (word of honor) which obligated all the tribes to discontinue mutual conflicts over estates and blood feuds. Fermentation was at its peak in Djakovica and Mitrovica, since ammunition was smuggled out of their arsenals in case of new international clashes. Large conferences of tribal chiefs were held in Vucitrn. Any implication of foreign peril or international crises in the vicinity of the Empire's autonomous regions (the unification of Bulgaria and East Rumelia in 1885, the Serbian-Bulgarian war), brought together Albanian tribes and Turkish administrative and military officials. 8

1 D. Mikic, Albansko pitanje i albansko-srpske veze u XIX veku (do 1912), pp. 144-146.

2 D. T. Batakovic, Osnove arbanaske prevlasti, p. 38.

3 D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, p 148.

4 V. Bovan, op. cit., pp. 180,183-184.

5 Ibid , p 39; Dj. Mikic, Drustvene i ekonomske prilike kosovskih Srba, pp. 24-25.

6 B Perunicic, Pisma srpskih konzula iz Pristine 1890-1900, Beograd 1985, pp. 306-359.

7 V. Bovan, op. cit., pp. 185-187

8 Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, pp. 274-277.

Activities of the Serbian Government

All attempts made by the Serbian government to establish contact with ethnic Albanians in Old Serbia were futile. The administration of Milutin Garasanin, incited by the rising in the Prizren sanjak, tried to approach the Albanian chiefs. The initiative came from the Serbian county chief in Nis who came into contact with certain Albanian chiefs of Prizren, Pec, Djakovica and Novi Pazar. Todor Stankovic, the county chief of Vranje, proposed to win over Albanian leaders first in areas along the Serbian borders, and then others, by promises that Serbia would liberate them from the Turks. The plan was to establish contact with all notable tribal chiefs from the Serbian border to Scutari. The cooperation particularly counted on was that of Montenegrin duke and writer Marko Miljanov was, renowned in north Albania as a hero and a friend of ethnic Albanians. Competent circles in Serbia strove, with Albanian cooperation, to end Austro-Hungarian influence among them. It soon proved that Albanian chiefs would not respond to offers for cooperation. Negotiations ended when the Bulgarian-Serbian war began.1

Serbia knew little of the happenings in Kosovo and Metohia in the eighties of the 19th century. News arrived from merchants and refugees, border guards and through the Prizren Seminary. Until the mid-80's, Serbia's activities on the national affairs in Turkey were discontinued due to internal unrest and war with Bulgaria.

By a secret convention with Austria-Hungary in 1881, Serbia was obligated to carry out its external affairs only in agreement with Vienna. The Dual Monarchy allowed for the possibility of expansion to the south, excepting the Novi Pazar sanjak. The friendly orientation of Prince Milan toward Austria, which had blessed his proclamation of king in 1882, displayed Serbia's helplessness to act on its own accord toward other countries. Its defeat with Bulgaria considerably weakened its positions on the Balkans.2

The national activities of Serbia toward Old Serbia could only develop within the narrow framework of ecclesiastical and educational actions. The first steps were taken in 1885 by widening the networks of educational and ecclesiastical institutions. Garasanin's government had been preparing books to be sent to Old Serbia since spring 1885. For the free distribution of books about Turkey, regarded by the authorities as a perilous means of anti-state propaganda, the Serbian books carried the seal of Sima Andrejevic's Fund in Belgrade. Rector of the Prizren Seminary Petar Kostic, was sent to Constantinople to obtain a license from the Turkish censors for the free distribution of books.3 A patriotic association St. Sava's Society" was founded in Belgrade, 1887, to revive national activities in Serbian countries under Turkish rule and promote a systematic search of the past and of contemporary political and ethnographic conditions. In 1887 the Ministry of Education opened a department for Serbian schools outside of Serbia to serve as contacts for the St Sava's Society. Since 1889, this department was taken over by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Serbian government has taken over the operation of national actions in Turkey.4

Following the Serbian-Bulgarian war a new era began with more active work on the national affairs. The defeat at Slivnica sealed the autocratic reign of King Milan (abdicated in 1888), issuing forth a breath of enthusiasm for the task of collecting national forces for activity in occupied Serbian countries.

The arrival of Stojan Novakovic, a notable diplomat and one of the most renown scientists of his time, at the head of the Serbian legation in Constantinople in 1886, marked the beginning of a widely set educational-political activity in Serbian countries under Turkish rule. The whole national activity was switched over to diplomatic service. That very year Novakovic concluded a temporary consular convention with Turkey. By 1887, the first Serbian consulates were opened in Skoplje and Salonika. To crown the national activity, the network of new Serbian diplomatic missions was encircled by the opening of consulates in Pristina and Bitolj in 1889.5

The Serbian government sent the most able men into diplomatic service, educated at the best foreign universities (Paris, Vienna, St. Petersburg). In the consulate of Pristina alone diplomats with doctorates served (Miroslav Spalajkovic, Milan D. Milojevic, Milan Pecanac) and writers (Vojislav Ilic, Branislav Nusic and Milan Rakic) whose works, of which many were written during their stay in Kosovo, comprise the present-day classics of Serbian literature. These young highly patriotic men, delegates of a new generation of the Serbian intelligentsia, accepted distasteful tasks to help the mission of national liberation at the hardest place for a diplomatic position, in Pristina.6

Ties with Serbia and its attendance to the national affairs had immense importance in preserving national awareness with the people. An intensive action for education followed. Money for these educational activities in Kosovo arrived regularly, and new teachers were engaged. Within a short time a large number of new schools were opened and work was resumed in many of the old ones. The administration of Greek metropolitans over the Raska-Prizren Eparchy, which encompassed almost all of Old Serbia, hindered Serbia's aims to encircle its work on the national affairs. In 1885, Serbia began negotiations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, requesting for a Serb to be the metropolitan in Prizren and for Serbian archpriests to take over bishopric chairs in Skoplje, Veles, Debar, Bitolj and Ohrid. However, negotiations with the ecumenical patriarch were not successful. The Serbian government had, nevertheless, begun to prepare a monastic progeny for high ecclesiastical duties in Turkey. The monks selected accepted Turkish subjugation and went to study theology in Constantinople. 7

1 D. Mikic, Nastojanje Srba 1885. godine da saradjuju sa Arbanasima, posebno preko Marka Miljanova, Obelezja, 4 (1982), pp. 89-102.

2 V. Popovic, Istocno pitanje, p. 182.

3 P. Kostic, Prosvetno-kulturni zivot pravoslavnih Srba u Prizrenu, pp. 70-73.

4 S. Jovanovic, Vlada Aleksandra Obrenovica, I, Beograd 1929, p. 98; Dj. Mikic, Delatnost "Drustva Sv. Save" na Kosovu (1886-1912), Nasa proslost, VII-IX (1973-1974), pp. 61-87.

5 Spomenica Stojana Novakovica, Beograd 1921, pp. 171-173; daily reports on the position of Serbs and the political situation in the Kosovo vilayet were sent from Serbian consulates in Skoplje and Pristina until 1912. Several thousand documents of which only a part have been published were stored at the Archive of the Serbian Foreign Ministry: Arhiv Srbije, Beograd, Ministarstvo inostranih dela, Prosvetno-politicko i politicko odeljenje 1878-1912; Prepiska o Arbanaskim nasiljima u Staroj Srbiji 1888-1889, Beograd 1889; V. Corovic, Diplomatska prepiska Kraljevine Srbije, I, Beograd 1933; B. Perunicic, Pisma srpskih konzula iz Pristine 1890-1900, Beograd 1985; ibid., Svedocanstvo o Kosovu 1901-1912, Beograd 1988; ibid., Zulumi aga i begova u kosovskom vilajetu, Beograd 1988; Zaduzbine Kosova, Prizren - Beograd, 1987, (edited by R. Samardzic) pp. 607-738; Milan Rakic, Konzulska pisma 1905-1911, Beograd 1985 (ed. by A. Mitrovic).

6 J. M. Jovanovic, Nusic kao konzul, Srpski knjizevni glasnik, LIII (1938), 259- 269; M. M. Rajic, Konzulska pisma 1905-1911, pp. 8-23.

7 Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, p. 302.

Flaring of Anarchy

Already the first reports from the consulate in Skoplje showed that the position of Serbs was harder than it had been supposed in Belgrade diplomatic circles. In fall 1887, the government was informed of anarchy flaring on the stretch from Pristina and Prizren to the Montenegrin border. ethnic Albanians controlled the roads, attacked passengers and assailed Serbs in villages. Prior Rafailo of Decani sent the following message to the consul: "Sir! Old Serbia is lost! The Christians are being killed like animals; there are victims of death every day; we are like prisoners deprived of freedom - no one dares to move."1

The waning power of the Turkish authorities strengthened the obstinacy of ethnic Albanians. Their clans clashed in blood feuds. When the conflicts came to inter-tribal bloodshed, they ended by agreements confirmed by the bessa, not valid for Christian Serbs. Incursions into Serbian territory continued with increasing anarchy. Serbian garrisons were reinforced at the frontier. Serbian notes sent to the Porte demanding an end to these incursions remained unreplied. Stojan Novakovic believed "that the Turkish authorities themselves feared the Albanians; they were never able to undertake decisive measures against them; particularly the small authorities who carry out their orders in the rear lines, thus frequently good orders sent by older authorities remain without consequences".2

In an elaborate annual report on the position of the Serbian population in Serbia, 1888, Rector of the Prizren Seminary Petar Kostic underscored the danger of anarchy and violence upon the Serbs spreading. Certain villages, unable to defend themselves, sought protection from outlaws and their companies, paying in return high annual monetary compensations and often working for free (kuluk). Similar to the ancient endowments, Visoki Decani and the Pec Patriarchate which hired local Albanian clans for considerable material compensation and gifts in kind to protect them against bandits from other regions, the villages too soon felt the bitter side attending this protection - various additional expenditures. Without license and special monetary payments, local protectors would not approve weddings. Protecting villages soon became such a lucrative business that the raiding companies frequently battled over who would guard Serbian villages. Most of the Serbian villages, however, could not afford continual protection. A frequent occurrence, stated Kostic, was "for one family to bury two of its deceased killed by the rage of Albanians, at the same time".3

Again, like many times before, Serbian shrines bore the brunt of Albanian bandits. A dispute between two Albanian clans over the estate of the Decani monastery ended in an armed clash with many killed on both sides. The dispute arose over who would use the arrogated monastic land, cut down the trees in the Decani forests and benefit from the bans. The authorities would not get involved, while the monastic fraternity was compelled to feed and provide for both tribal armies. When the energetic Prior Rafailo of Decani attempted to oppose them, he was thrown out of the monastery and arrested by Turkish authorities who interned him in Constantinople.4

The beginning of activity undertaken by the Serbian consulate in Pristina (1889) coincided with a period of great pressure exerted upon the Serbs and open hostility toward everything that was Serbian. The opening of the consulate itself was interpreted by the ethnic Albanians as a policy of provocation and an intolerable attempt to supervise their activities. The seat of the Kosovo vilayet was moved to Skoplje in 1888, thus the Serbian consulate remained a solitary diplomat watchtower in a weakly supervised district.

Reports from Pristina were filled with information on innumerable atrocities - murders, arsons, blackmail, abduction of women, rapes, cattle-raids and so on. A petition sent by the Serbian consul to the district chief received an answered that Albanian tyrants were shielded by the vali of Kosovo himself: "Evil comes by itself, emanating form disharmony originating in Skoplje. I send all the guilty Albanians to Skoplje from where they are soon discharged with arms."5 Marinkovic warned that the ethnic Albanians were systematically assailing certain Serbian villages, urging them to move by threats and murders. A common slogan was: "Go to Serbia - there is no survival for you here." It was the hardest in the Pec nahi. Reports demonstrate that ethnic Albanians forcibly invaded Serbian houses. On their way to the Serbian frontier, the refugees were fleeced as a rule. Seven families of 73 members on their way to Serbia from a village near Pec were robbed of both their cattle and movables by the ethnic Albanians.6

The anarchy soon took on the form of a movement to drive out the Serbs. The Russian consul to Prizren, Teodosie Lisevich, upon evaluating the anarchy in Kosovo and Metohia, concluded that the ethnic Albanians aimed to squeeze in between Serbia and Montenegro and thus deprive Old Serbia of its Serbian character. Albanian terror spread toward the Novi Pazar sanjak, where the inhabitants were almost all Orthodox and Islamized Serbs. In April and May 1889 alone, around 700 persons fled Kosovo and Metohia to Serbia. All refugees gave warnings that the remaining Serbs would also be compelled to seek salvation by flight.7 All these events were followed by the decreasing number of Serbs who owned estates. The Turks imposed taxes so high, thus compelling the Serbs to sell their estates at reduced prices, or they were left without them on account of Albanian outlaws using the right to adopt abandoned lands, upon which the Turkish authorities looked with affinity.8

The culmination of anti-Serbian disposition was the murder of consul Luka Marinkovic in Pristina in June, 1890. The Serbian government maintained, upon information received from Serbs in Pristina, that an Albanian conspiracy was responsible, but the Porte tried to present the murder as a display of Muslim intolerance toward Christian foreigners. Serbia demanded of the Porte to undertake drastic measures against the ethnic Albanians, and the Russian ambassador to Constantinople, supporting the Serbian demands, warned the Turkish officials that anarchy would spread to such dimensions that any step taken toward pacification would be difficult to effect. But the Porte had not the slightest intention to intercept the unbridling ethnic Albanians. Pressured by the Serbian and Russian diplomacies, the murderers of the Serbian consul, muhadjirs from Prokuplje, were severely punished, but the inspirators of the assassination were never found. The Serbs who appeared as witnesses at the trial fled to Serbia fearing vengeance.9

The situation in Kosovo did not change much after the arrival of the new consul Todor P. Stankovic. The consulate was no longer the target of attack, instead, reports sent to Belgrade brought new black lists of numerous atrocities. Stating forbidding numbers of terror committed upon the Serbs, Stankovic underscored that due to the flaring of anarchy and weak connections with agents in regions remote from Pristina, he had been able to discover only about an eighth of the committed crimes. He warned that the Turkish authorities in the Pristina sanjak extended scarcely more than a degree from the city districts. Since he had lived in Metohia before the Eastern crisis, Stankovic took to comparing figures of the population census at the beginning of the seventies with those of the nineties and reached a figure pointing to three quarters of the total population inhabiting the Pec nahi being driven out by ethnic Albanians.10 Following accounts related by some Serbs from Pec in 1907, twenty years earlier around 20,000 Serbs moved to Serbia and Montenegro before the Albanian terror, while 300 Albanian families from Malissia were settled in there place by Pec notable Hadji Mula Zeka.11

The Serbian emissary to the Porte endeavored through diplomatic means to protect the Serbian populace in Old Serbia. However, it was all futile. He met with no compassion in Yildiz, the sultan's court, nor with the Turkish ministers. Having scrutinized the situation, Stojan Novakovic warned the government in May, 1891, that the sultan, and perhaps the Porte, "were working on destroying our element and strengthening the Albanian one. This activity began right after the war during the Albanian League and has not been ceased since."12

Some progress to bridle the Albanian anarchy in Kosovo and Metohia was made through intermediation of the Russian diplomacy in 1892. It requested of the Porte to curb the anarchy, secure public safety and protection for the Christians. When the European press took more interest in events taking place in Old Serbia, news of violence committed upon the Serbs reached the European public. The Porte ordered the authorities in the vilayet to end all pursuit of the rayah, punish the bandits and stop the killings among ethnic Albanians on account of blood feuds.13

Official Serbia, torn asunder by internal dissension and impeded by its political duties to Austria-Hungary, was unable to aid its compatriots in a more decisive manner. Activities on national affairs evolved solely through diplomatic legations, often owing to the personal initiative of an official.

Unable as diplomatic representatives of a small country to effect anything more tangible for their people, the Serbian consuls wielded all their faculties to promote education. The extent of lawlessness and increasing distrust toward everything that was Serbian resulted in some schools closing down, and the hindering and impeding of efforts undertaken to promote education. Todor Stankovic earned great merits as a consul in the opening new schools in Kosovo and parrying Bulgarian propaganda. Branislav Nusic, a renown Serbian comedist, who worked several years at the consulate in Pristina, helped open the first Serbian bookstore and renovate of a primary and secondary school in Pristina. The promotion of education in 1893 was regarded as a considerable success in Serbia, since through the Serbian schools Serbian nationality was indirectly recognized, presented in all regulations as rum millet, i.e. a religious category belonging to the Constantinople Patriarchate. The success was even more greater since the Bulgarian Exarchate, and under its influence the Turkish authorities, continually strove to present the Serbian schools as Bulgarian. Under the imperial irada of 1893 and the regulation on education of 1896, the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia could freely open schools and thus indirectly acquire recognition of their nationality.14 However, insurmountable lists of oppression upon the Serbs often exceeding all known ways of torture with their brutalities, continued to arrive in the seat of the Serbian government. Within only six months Nusic reported on the devastation of eight Serbian churches and the persecution of priests.15

Extremely dissatisfied and disturbed by the development of political conditions and the position of Serbs in Old Serbia, the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs considered the possibility of wielding a more favorable influence on the educational and national development of Old Serbians by reorganizing the network of consulates and uniting national actions. Slobodan Jovanovic, one of the greatest Serbian historians and lawyers, then young official at the Ministry, was sent in 1894 on a tour to visit consulates in Turkey, while Branislav Nusic, the vice-consul in Pristina, obtained approval to travel through the region between Prizren and Scutari.

Jovanovic informed that there was little the consul could do to protect the people from Albanian violence; that it was isolated and continually under surveillance; and proposed a move to Mitrovica, which had a railroad track and livelier merchants contacts. But, consequential to the serious violence and the helplessness of the Serbian consul before the authorities, he observed growing disagreements and quarrels among the people and that some citizens of Pristina strive to adapt to the hard conditions by cooperating with Turkish authorities.16 Traveling through Metohia and north Albania, Nusic noted that the Serbs in Pec and the vicinity were extremely estranged; the breach was so deep that they informed against each other to the authorities.

Disharmony among the Serbs, as an expression of an insufferable political situation and continual living under extraordinary conditions, dangerously undermined their ability of a joint resistance against Albanian terror and the abuse of Turkish authorities. Nusic wrote on it in his book on the life of Serbs in Kosovo: "Public life in Turkey is a bad example of citizenry virtues since it is regulated by laws that are bad, or very good but not enforced, or even worse, enforced upon people whose prejudices and vices are stronger than law. While the law applies to one, it fails to apply for another [...]. Conditions like these compel the people to contrive conditions for peace and survival. Thus upon encountering these people one often comes across reservation and dishonesty, traits not indigenous to these people. Frequently betrayed and exposed, more often innocently destroyed, it has became distrustful and will rarely reveal its inner feelings."17

The Serbs were not very successful in courts either. A qadi boasted in 1891 of having solved two cases out of one thousand, for a period of over 18 years, in favor of the Serbs. When the litigants were Serbs, he made his decision according to which side gave him a bigger bribe. 18

1 B. Perunicic, Zulumi aga i begova u kosovskom vilajetu, pp. 48-50..

2 Ibid., p. 52.

3 Ibid., p. 62.

4 D. T. Batakovic, Memoari Save Decanca o visokim Decanima 1890. godine, Mesovita gradja, XV (1986), pp. 117-136.

5 B. Perunicic, Pisma srpskih konzula iz Pristine 1890-1900, p. 30.

6 Ibid., pp. 40-41, 67-73.

7 B. Perunicic, Zulumi ago i begova u kosovskom vilajetu, pp. 69-78.

8 D. Mikic, Drustvene i ekonomske prilike kosovskih Srba, p. 42.

9 B. Perunicic, Pisma srpskih konzula iz Pristine 1890-1900, J. Popovic, op. cit., Pp. 251-153.

10 B. Perunicic, Pisma srpskih konzula iz Pristine 1890-1900, pp. 94-97.

11 B. Mikic, Nastojanje Srba na otvaranju ruskog ili engleskog konzulata u Peci 1908. godine, Obelezja, 1 (1977), p. 154.

12 Istina o Kosovu, Beograd 1988 (M. Vojvodic).

13 Ibid.

14 Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, p. 301.

15 Zaduzbine Kosova, pp. 631-636; B. Perunicic, Pisma srpskih konzula iz Pristine, pp. 152-188, 190-191.

16 R. Ljusic, Izvestaj Slobodana Jovanovica o poseti srpskim konzulatima u Turskoj iz 1894. godine, Istorijski glasnik, 1-2 (1987), pp. 193-215.

17 B. Nusic, Opis zemlje i naroda, Beograd 1986 , pp. 88.

18 "Velika Srbija", No 51, Beograd, 8/20. XII 1891.

Religious, Educational and Economic Conditions

Serbian national gatherings in Turkey were possible only under the wing of the church. Since plans for restoring the Pec Patriarchate could not be realized, Serbia and Montenegro undertook a joint action in the mid-90's, demanding for the bishopric chairs in the Raska-Prizren and Skoplje Eparchies to be occupied by metropolitans of Serbian nationality. The transition of these two Eparchies to the rule of Serbian metropolitans through ecclesiastical institutions, would strengthen national and political activity in Old Serbia.

Following the death of Greek Metropolitan Melentije, a Serb, Archsyncellus Dionisije Petrovic (1896-1900) was consecrated the Raska-Prizren bishop with the joint effort of the governments of Serbia and Montenegro, bolstered by the Russian diplomacy in Constantinople. Carrying out orders from the Serbian government, the new metropolitan implemented a wide reorganization in ecclesiastical and educational institutions, opened new schools, renewed teaching staff, created new church-school communities, and, in keeping with the orders of the Serbian government, united the activities on national affairs.1 Serbia endeavored to open a consulate in Prizren to enable facile communication with the metropolitan. Due to great resistance from ethnic Albanians who threatened to burn Serbian towns and sent critical protests to the Porte, the consulate was never opened.2

The national, ecclesiastical and educational activity pursued by Dionisije and his successor Nicifor Peric (1901-1911) reflected mostly in the opening of new schools and invigorating the educational autonomy of the Serbs. Turkish administrators and Austro-Hungarian diplomats regarded them as agents of "Great Serbian propaganda" and tried to obstruct every move they made. The Turkish authorities were determined to limit the religious and legal rights of Serbs in Old Serbia. Considering schools seedbeds of national propaganda, Turkish authorities endeavored to impose a compulsory study of the Turkish language and to implement a rigorous supervision of the curriculum and teachers in Serbian schools.3

The metropolitans also clashed with the administration of church-school communities, who, being unused to central church governing, showed no appreciation for measures undertaken by the former, thus giving cause for misunderstandings and mutual suspicion. The harshest conflict occurred when the administration of the Visoki Decani monastery was deferred to Russian monks from Mt. Athos. With the principle agreement from the Serbian government, Metropolitan Nicifor negotiated in 1903 to defer the administration of Decani to the monks of the Russian skits St. John the Eloquent on Mt. Athos. The Russian monks were brought to protect the Serbs in Metohia from Albanian oppression, to restore monastic life in the impoverished monasteries and to bar Austro-Hungarian influence and Catholic propaganda. As far as the protection of Serbs was concerned, the Russian diplomacy was expected to provide assistance aside to the monks of Mt. Athos. The agreement concluded in 1903 without instructions from the Serbian government caused many misunderstandings. The Russian monks usurped power of the monastery. The metropolitan and Serbian government endeavored to supplement the agreement and limit their administration, causing a breach between the Serbs of Metohia, those who were followers and those who opposed the Russian monks. A dispute between the Russian and Serbian government entailed. Dissension and quarrels resulting from the Decani issue considerably affected national activity in Metohia.4

After the Eastern crisis the Serbian farmers were faced with new troubles. Emigration to Serbia and the settlement of the muhadjirs disturbed relations in villages. The muhadjirs and various other tyrants, unhampered by the Turkish authorities, assailed Serbian estates, committing brutalities of all sorts. Toward the end of the eighties, when economic pressure had become too hard to bear, entire villages were preparing for emigration to Serbia, particularly in the Ibarski Kolasin. The Turkish authorities replied to complaints lodged by the Serbs: "If you cannot take it, seek better", thus encouraging emigration.5

Even though there were no principle differences between Serbian and Albanian chiflik farmers, the Muslim and Catholic ethnic Albanians were nevertheless in a better situation. Overall lawlessness, assails and murders compelled many Serbs to turn from previously free heirs or herdsmen to chiflik farmers. Unlike the Serbs, ethnic Albanians were unreliable serfs, being used to robbery and seizure, and the feudal lords dared not pursue them. Halil Pasha Mahmudbegovic complained of their obstinacy and recalcitrance to the Serbian consul: "[...] while we still own Serbian chiflik farmers you could say we are lords of the chifliks, but when they move out, and the ethnic Albanians take their places, then we are no longer lords of the chifliks. When an Albanian settles on a chiflik, he is peaceful 2-3 years, and gives a quarter to his master; but as soon as he builds his tower, he becomes a greater lord than the real lord."6

Collection of the land tithe was leased. The leasees fined the Serbs without limits, while their complaints remained unanswered. Common hostility toward the Serbs had spread among Albanian feudal lords. To expand and reinforce their estates, they assisted the settlement of Albanian chiflik farmers in spite of sporadic conflicts. In certain regions of Kosovo, overbearing beys and agas succeeded, through oppression, to compel compact Serbian villages to massive emigrations. In a village near Pec, the agas drove out even those Serbs who owned land. In the vicinity of Prizren, by terrorizing Serbian chiflik farmers for twenty years, ethnic Albanians of the Kabash clan succeeded in decreasing the number of Serbian houses of a single village from 40 to nine. In the sanjak of Pristina, particularly in Lipljan and Gracanica, where the inhabitants were solely Serbs, until 1904, feudal lords drove away the Serbs and settled Albanian chiflik farmers.7

Serbian town-dwellers, mostly merchants and craftsmen, lived comparatively safely in towns. The main obstacle for expanding their businesses was the regard of the Muslim trade district. With the renewal of Muslim fanaticism in 1897, ethnic Albanians and Muslims began the boycott of Serbian goods, lasting intermittently until 1912. Upon the initiative of Metropolitan Nicifor, Rector of the Prizren Seminary, and a series of notable Serbs in Prizren, an idea was initiated to found a Serbian monetary bureau to revive staggering businesses. With financial support from the Belgrade capital, the Serbian government, the consulate in Pristina and support from Russian consuls in Prizren and Mitrovica, the first monetary bureaus sprang up. In Prizren in 1901 the "St. George Church Fund" was founded to aid operations of the Serbian trade district. In subsequent years similar funds or societies in Pristina were founded ("St. Nikola Church Fund"), in Mitrovica (St. Sava Church Fund) in Fenzovic ("St. Tzar Uros Church Fund"), and many merchant-guild societies were founded in Gnjilane and Vucitrn. With their unification around 1912 the first Serbian banks emerged in Kosovo. 8

1 N. Raznatovic, Rod vlade Crne Gore i Srbije na postavljanju srpskih mitropolita u Prizrenu i Skoplju 1890-1902. godine, Istorijski zapisi, XXII, 2 (1965), pp. 218-275; Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, pp. 303-305; Archimandrite Firmilijan Drazic was appointed administrator of the Skoplje metropolitan in 1897, and as Serbian metropolitan, in 1902.

2 D. T. Batakovic, Pokusaji otvaranja srpskog konzulata u Pristini 1898-1900, Istorijski casopis, XXXI (1984), pp. 249-250.

3 Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, pp. 305-307.

4 D. T. Batakovic, Decansko pitanje, Beograd 1989 (with earlier literature).

5 D. Mikic, Drustveno-politicki razvoj kosovskih Srba u XIX veku, pp. 247-248.

6 T. P. Stankovic, Putne beleske po Staroj Srbiji 1871-1898, p. 105.

7 D. Mikic, Drustveno-politicki razvoj kosovskih Srba u XIX veku, pp. 250-251.

8 B. Hrabak, Poceci bankarstva na Kosovu, Istorijski glasnik, 1-2 (1982), pp. 57-83.

The Decline in Population

Violence and emigrations caused a continual decline of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia since the Eastern crisis until liberation in 1912, despite a high birthrate. In his book Kosovo, Opis zemlje i naroda (Kosovo, A Description of the Country and People), (1902), B. Nusic expounded the reason for emigration most clearly: "Following the Serbian-Turkish war, emigrations of broad dimensions took place for two reasons. The ethnic Albanians, citizens of Kosovo, took to avenge themselves upon the Serbs, who were their rayah, on account of the war. While going to the war and returning from it, they set fire to Serbian homes, raided their cattle and to Serbia, the frontier of which was now closer, thus facilitating their flight. On the other hand, the bulk of ethnic Albanians who were driven out stayed in Kosovo, there being the closest to the lands they abandoned in Serbia. These newcomers, known as muhadjirs, inundated Kosovo and drove out the Serbs from their lands to make space for themselves.[...] Thus the ethnic Albanians simultaneously flooded Serbian villages from two sides: from the mountains, by descending toward the Sitnica, and from the Serbian borders. Today, one could hardly finger out villages void of ethnic Albanians, whereas countless of villages inhabited by Serbs existed just until recently. The latter have retained their Serbian names but there is not a single Serbian house in them."1

An unreliable, but indicative Turkish state census, listed shortly before the Eastern crisis in 1873, exhibits the following ethnic and religious picture: in the Pristina, Vucitrn and Gnjilane kazas (districts), there were 19,564 Christian and 34,759 Muslim male tax-heads. The Serbs numbered the most in the Gnjilane kaza: 11,607 to 12,544 Muslims. In the Vucitrn kaza there were 250 Christian toward 800 Muslim heads, in the Pristina 400 to 3,000, in Gnjilane 400 to 250. Of 7,850 male Muslims in Pristina, one half spoke Turkish, the other Albanian. In Pec, of 9,105 persons one third spoke Serbian, the second Turkish and the third Albanian.2

A list of Serbian homes in the Raska-Prizren Eparchy composed in 1899 by Metropolitan Dionisije, amounts to 8,323 Serbian village houses and 3,035 houses in the towns of Kosovo and Metohia, which comes to 113,580 persons with the average number of 10 persons per family. In comparison with official information from the Serbian government that from 1890 to 1900 around 60,000 Serbs emigrated from Kosovo, Metohia and the neighboring regions to Serbia, statistics show that the number of Serbs in villages had declined by at least a third since the Eastern crisis. Serbian houses remained most numbered in towns, where they were comparatively protected from violence: in Prizren (982), Pristina (531), Pec (461), Gnjilane (407) and Orahovac (176), and the least in the small towns Djakovica (70) and Fenzovic (20).3

Statistics of the population of the European vilayet of the Ottoman Empire carried out in Vienna in 1903, based on official Turkish censuses and research conducted by consular departments, shows the following ethnic disposition in Kosovo and Metohia:4

  Pec sanjak Pristina sanjak Prizren sanjak
Orthodox Serbs 23,750 73,400 14,200
Catholic Serbs - 6,600 -
Muslim Serbs 13,250 43,000 13,000
Muslim Albanians 96,250 73,500 45,300
Catholic Albanians 9,300 50 5,000
Orthodox Albanians - - 900
Tzintzars (Romanians) 300 270 2,000
Turks 250 3,000 6,400
Jews 50 350 100
Gypsies 1,350 8,530 4,300

According to Austro-Hungarian statistics, the immediate region of Kosovo and Metohia was composed of 111,350 Orthodox, 69,250 Muslim and 6,600 Catholics Serbs, totaling 187,200. Albanian Muslims numbered 215,050, Catholics 14,350, and Orthodox 900, totally 230,300. The Austro-Hungarian statistics should not be wholely trusted, considering the political interest of the Dual Monarchy for ethnic Albanians, and the time of its collection: at the beginning of the reform action in Old Serbia and Macedonia.

The most complete statistic of the population of Kosovo and Metohia is the census composed by the Serbian consulate in Pristina in 1905. Three sanjaks were encompassed in the census: the Pristina, Prizren and Pec sanjaks. The total number of Orthodox Serbs in this particular census amounted to 10,346 homes with 206,920 inhabitants. Official data, sent by officials of the Raska-Prizren Eparchy to the consulate, totaled to 10,164 homes.5

  homes inhabitants
Orthodox Serbs 10,346 206,920
Muslim Serbs who became Albanians 15,600 390,010
Catholic Serbs 108 1,750
Muslim Serbs from Bosnia 50 1,200
Protestant Serbs - 1
Catholic Albanians 260 1,560
Albanians 1,000 20,000
Turks 270 3,230
Jews 50 300

Shortly before the liberation of Kosovo in 1912, according to research conducted by Ivan Kosancic, the number of Serbian houses in the Pristina, Pec and Prizren sanjaks were the following:6

sanjak in towns in villages total
Pristina 1,531 12,517 14,048
Pec 643 3,238 3,026
Prizren 982 1,148 2,400


The stated statistics show a relative increase in the number of Serbian homes. It is hard to suppose their number increased in the first decade of the 20th century, since the entire documentation preserved points to an increase of emigrations to Serbia. The increasing number of Serbian homes noted by the consulate in Pristina, and subsequently by Kosancic, would more likely refer to disintegration of family groups, when from one family group, comprised of 20-30 members, several new hearths were created.

The man of most authority concerning ethnic relations in Old Serbia is Jovan Cvijic. In 1911 he published the results of his research: in the Pristina sanjak there were 14,048, in the Pec sanjak 3,826, and in the Prizren sanjak 2,400 Serbian houses, with around 200,000 inhabitants. If this data were compared with the statistics from the first half of the century, indicating the existence of about 400,000 Serbs in Kosovo and Metohia, then Cvijic's evaluation that from 1878 to 1912, around 150,000 persons moved to Serbia, is quite convincing.7

1 B. Nusic, Kosovo, Opis zemlje i naroda, pp. 76-77.

2 V. Nikolic-Stojancevic, Leskovac i oslobodjeni predeli Srbije 1877-1878, Leskovac 1975, p. 10

3 S Novakovic, Balkanska pitanja, Beograd 1906, pp. 515-527; Prepiska o arbanaskim nasiljima u Staroj Srbiji, Beograd 1899, pp. 136.

4 Haus. Hof, und Staatsarchiv - Wien, Politisches Archiv, XII, k. 272, Nationalitaten und Religions-karte der Vilajete Kosovo, Salonika, Scutari, Janina, und Monastir; cf also P. Barti, op. cit., pp. 52-64.

5 B. Perunicic, Svedocanstvo o Kosovu 1901-1913, pp. 246-248; the consul increased the final number by 20%, (not taken into account in the above table), believing the information provided by parish regents inaccurate, since the latter reduced the number of parishoners for the sake of their income.

6 I. Kosancic, Novopazarski sandzak, Beograd 1912, 16-18; Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/1, p. 266.

7 J. Cvijic, Osnove za geografiju i geologiju Makedonije i Stare Srbije, III, Beograd 1911; ibid., Balkanski rat i Srbija, Beograd 1912; cf. J. Dedijer, Stara Srbija. Geografska i etnografska slika, Srpski knjizevni glasnik, XXIX (1912), pp. 674-699.

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