|Projekat Rastko Gračanica - Peć: Istorija: The Kosovo chronicles|
The development of events in Turkey, particularly war with Italy and disorder in Old Serbia and Macedonia, had created a peculiar disposition in the Balkan states. Albanian insurrections accelerated the conclusion of the Balkan alliance. Since February until August, the alliance between Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece was definitely confirmed. Realizing the impossibility of a peaceful solution to the Christian issue in Turkey, the allies decided to war. Owing to Russia's diplomatic moves, Central Powers consented to the Balkan states handling the destiny of the Balkan Peninsula. Estimating a certain victory for the Turkish army, Austria-Hungary calmly awaited war. The road leading to the realization of a historical mission - the liberation of compatriots under Turkish rule, opened in autumn, 1912. Beginning with October, the allies declared war to Turkey, the official reason being Turkey's denial to pronounce new reforms (with concessions equal to those given to the ethnic Albanians), the supervision of which would have been entrusted to the Balkan states.1
Shortly before the war, Serbia endeavored to win over the ethnic Albanians and isolate them from military operations. In a secret mission in Kosovo, two most distinguished intelligence officers Dragutin Dimitrijevic Apis and Bozin Simic aimed to come to an agreement with Isa Boljetinac and Idriz Sefer for ethnic Albanians not to take part in the upcoming war.2 Serbian Premier Nikola Pasic offered the Albanian leaders a "contract on the association of Serbs and ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo vilayet", whereby within the framework of the Serbian state organization, they were warranted freedom of religion, Albanian language in schools and society, administration of Albanian communities and administrative districts, preservation of the common law and finally, a special Albanian assembly to enact laws on religious, judicial and educational matters. At an assembly held in Skoplje on October 10, (and subsequently in Pristina and Debar), the ethnic Albanians decided to defend their Ottoman fatherland in arms and use weapons obtained from Serbia against its army.3
Commanding the third Serbian army for action in Kosovo was General Bozidar Jankovic, who had previous contact with the ethnic Albanians, which might have influenced their decision. A military announcement mentioned amiable disposition toward the ethnic Albanians providing they deserved it through proper conduct. Yet Austro-Hungarian agitators encouraged both Muslim and Catholic ethnic Albanians to move against the Serbian army, promising that troops of the Dual Monarchy are on their way from Bosnia to assist them.4
Isa Boljetinac received 63,000 guns from the Turkish authorities to organize resistance toward the Serbian army. Despite Boljetinac's strong agitation that "Islamism is in jeopardy", and the need to defend "Turkish soil", only 16,000 ethnic Albanians appeared at the frontier. They were committed with the defense of Kosovo together with a Turkish corps. Well armed and equipped, the Serbian army advanced toward Kosovo in exaltation. The feeling that the "Serbian covenant thought" was coming to life with the liberation of Kosovo, bleeding five centuries under Turkish reign, had created a remarkably high morale for combat. Identical feelings were born by Montenegrin units advancing towards Pec and Djakovica.5
Combats with the ethnic Albanians were severe only in the first skirmishes. The Serbian artillery easily scattered Albanian bashibazouk companies without encountering serious resistance. Following their defeat, Bairam Cur, Riza Bey and Isa Boljetinac fled to Albanian Malissia. After the liberation of Pristina (October 22), and victory in Kumanovo (October 23-24), war was resolved for Old Serbia and Macedonia. In Kosovo and Metohia, Serbs greeted the Serbian and Montenegrin armies with exhilaration. The entire third army attended a formal liturgy at Gracanica to mark the liberation of Kosovo. Military authorities issued proclamations in Pristina and other towns for ethnic Albanians to quiet down and surrender arms;
however, anti-Serbian agitation from tribal leaders drove many to flee and shelter in the mountains. Realizing they would not be persecuted after surrendering their arms, ethnic Albanians in Drenica and the Pec region finally laid down their guns. Serbian officers kept repeating that the Serbs were warring Turkey and not the ethnic Albanians. In the newly liberated areas Serbia established civil rule and administration. Kosovo and Metohia became part of the Lab, Pristina and Prizren district. Montenegro divided liberated Metohia into the Pec and Djakovica district.6
The liberation of Old Serbia was not, however, the final goal of the Serbian armies. The political and economical hoop encircled around Serbia, held tight by Austria-Hungary since the .Kg War (1906-1911), and the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina induced Serbian diplomacy to resolve the issue of its political and economic independence by gaining free exit to the Adriatic Sea, a plan similar to one made by Ilija Garasanin. The determination of the Serbian government to advance toward the Adriatic coast, to an ethnically Albanian area, was based on the evaluation that ethnic Albanians were "not a people, but tribes split up and mutually estranged, without a common language, alphabet and religion". The government was supported by the court, by civil parties, the army and the widest public.7
While Montenegrin troops besieged Scutari, Serbian regiments from Old Serbia entered Albania and occupied its northern ports. In the land of the Mirdits, Serbian troops were greeted cordially, whereas they were forced to penetrate Dukadjin toward the Adriatic Sea with arms.8
Reports of Serbia's glorious victories were received with anxiety in Vienna. Austro-Hungarian diplomacy warned Serbia not to advance its army further from Prizren. To prevent Serbia's exit to the sea, the Viennese government sent special emissaries to Albania to spread the idea of autonomy, and even called one of the most important Albanian leaders from Constantinople, Ismail Kemal. Through the Viennese press, he demanded an independent "Great Albania", encompassing the towns Bitolj, Janina, Skoplje, Pristina and Prizren. Embarking an Austrian ship, Kemal set off to Valona to proclaim independence of Albania. Gathering feudal and tribal leaders from the southern regions to his side, on November 28, 1912, Kemal proclaimed the formation of an independent Albanian state. The provisional government in Valona was a toy in Vienna's hands devoid of any influence with the people. All documents, including the proclamation of independence, were written in the Turkish language; not one member of his cabinet knew how to write in the Albanian tongue. Ismail Kemal consigned the military formation to refugee leaders from Old Serbia, Riza Bey Krieziu and Isa Boljetinac.9
Kemal's government sent messages to Serbian troops to withdraw from the territory of the new state. The Serbian army established civil rule north of the Durazzo-Elbasan-Struga line. The situation in Albania was on the verge of anarchy. The temporary government proclaimed an energetic severing of all ties with Turkey. Subsequent to the Young Turk coup d'etat, the mid-Albanian Muslim populace was disposed to Albania remaining within the framework of the Ottoman Empire. Rumors spread among the people that the Young Turks were advancing with large armies to reoccupy Albania. To the north, the Catholic Mirdits negotiated with Montenegro and Serbia on the creation of an autonomous state. The Mirdit mbret Bib Doda requested permission from the Serbian army for his fellow tribesmen to loot the Muslims. Within the Mata region, malcontents took down the Albanian flag and threatened to call the Serbian army;
in some places there was agitation to resist the Serbs. Ismail Kemal's government soon disintegrated. Disorder and mutual conflicts began within the first months following the proclamation of the independent Albanian state.10
Austria-Hungary considered the emergence of the Serbian army on the Adriatic Sea a serious injury to its interests. Belligerent military circles in Vienna proposed to attack Serbia whose northern borders remained unguarded. During December all tokens pointed to an upcoming Austro-Hungarian - Serbian war. After conferring with the Russian and Italian diplomacy, the Serbian government pronounced the following statement:
"We do not desire to raise the issue of our emergence at sea ourselves, but rather to let the matter remain within the hands of the Great Powers when war ends and peace is concluded. We should not disapprove of the creation of autonomous Albania if Europe should agree to it. We only believe that Albania will not abide by peace necessary to both the Balkan allies and the whole of Europe. Our desire is to have a port on our territory - yet we leave this issue for the Great Powers to resolve, when they solve other matters that will unfold from peace."11
The Austro-Hungarian incursion on Serbia was prevented by a conference of ambassadors of the Great Powers convoked in London toward the close of 1912, at the initiative of the French and British diplomacy.
Representatives of the Balkan states began peace negotiations with the Ottoman Empire. The conference of ambassadors argued the issue of Serbia's emergence at sea and the status of Albania, which would then enter into regulations of peace with Turkey. While Russia supported Serbian demands for Adriatic ports, Austria-Hungary's intention at the conference was to struggle for a larger Albania. France and Great Britain accepted the formation of Albania but feared Austro-Hungarian and Italian superiority in it. Thus the very first day the conference opened, the ambassadors reached the following agreement: "Autonomous Albania guaranteed and controlled exclusively by six powers under the sovereignty or suzerainty of the sultan. The exclusion of every Turkish element from the administration is understood." Ensuring the frontiers of Albania and Montenegro were "neighbored all the way", Serbia was denied emergence to the Adriatic Sea. As compensation, it was given a free and neutral trade port on the Albanian coast, to which Serbian goods would arrive by railway secured by international gendarmes under European control. Peace in Europe was saved, but, as Poincares pointed out: "Serbia paid the highest bill".12 The border issue presented a more serious problem. Since December
1912. several plans were in diplomatic emulation. Serbia demanded the borders to be drawn west of the Ohrid Lake and the Crni Drim river, so that Decani, Djakovica, Prizren, Debar and Ohrid would remain in its composition. Montenegro demanded north Albania until the Maca river, with Scutari, Medua and Alessio. Greece demanded north Epirus where the Albanian populace lived admixed with the Greek one. Autonomous Albania was to have been constituted from the remaining areas. The Austro-Hungarian proposition, contrary to the Serbian one, suggested the creation of Great Albania. The Monarchy demanded that Djakovica, Debar, Korcca, Janina and Struga belong to Albania, and "in the first round" both Pec and Prizren, as "compensational objects". It left Struga, Ohrid and Debar to Bulgaria if it were to make any claims. Italy supported Montenegrin claims but acutely opposed Greek ones. Russia and France maintained a medial solution by which Albania's frontier toward Serbia should stretch along the watershed of the Beli and the Crni Drim rivers to Ohrid. The Albanian delegation demanded the formation of "ethnical" Albania, inclusive of the towns Pec, Mitrovica, Pristina, Skoplje and Bitolj.13
The standpoint of the Serbian delegation was most wholly revealed by the aide-memoir submitted to the ambassador conference on January 8,
1913. It explicitly stated that Serbia was not opposed to the formation of autonomous Albania, but that its whole centuries-long struggle for national survival under Turkish rule, and subsequently for state independence from 1804 until 1912, would prove to have been senseless if those regions with admixed Serbian-Albanian populaces, where forceful Islamization, Albanization and the routing of Serbian inhabitants had been urged on for centuries, were to belong to Albania. Supporting its attitudes with historical, ethnographic, cultural and ethical rights, the Serbian delegation underscored that Kosovo and Metohia, where the towns Pec, Decani and Djakovica lay, were since time immemorial the sacred land of the Serbs, and that under no condition would any Montenegrin nor Serbian government consent to their belonging to someone else.14
The Serbian government was adamant in its defense of Kosovo, Metohia and west Macedonia. The entrance of either of these regions into autonomous Albania would create a new seedbed of conflicts through which Austria-Hungary would exert pressure upon Serbia. Stojan Novakovic, the first delegate at the conference of ambassadors, believed that by "demanding Prizren, Djakovica, Pec for Albania, Austria-Hungary desired to renew the barrier between Serbia and Montenegro, between Serbia and the sea".15 Pasic kept underscoring that he would never abandon Debar and Djakovica whatever the decision of the Great Powers, and that "only a stronger military force could rout the Serbian army from these regions". In a subsequent letter addressed to the Great Powers/Pasic underlined bitterly: "The lands and sanctity of Old Serbia are being taken away and given to one who has been devastating them until today."16
Serbia was forced to withdraw its troops from the Adriatic coast. Austria-Hungary gave in to Russia's demands, so Debar and Djakovica remained part of Serbia, while its demand to include Scutari in the new Albanian state was accepted, though the town was still besieged by Montenegrin and Serbian troops. The final agreement was reached on April 10, 1913, while the structure of Albania continued to be discussed in the months to follow. At the end of July, the Austro-Hungarian - Italian proposition was accepted by which Albania was to become a sovereign state with a hereditary prince. An International Control Committee was formed whose duty was to organize life in the country with the aid of Dutch officers. As the hereditary Albanian prince, among numerous candidates, an Austro-Hungarian was chosen, German Prince Wilhelm von Wied, cousin of the Romanian queen, interpreted in Belgrade as another attempt of Austria-Hungary to close the hoop around Serbia by way of Albania, Bulgaria and Romania.17
1 Prvi balkanski rat, Beograd 1959,147-176; cf. D. Bogdanovic, Knjiga o Kosovu, Ep. 165-176.
2 C. Popovic, Rod organizacije "Ujedinjenje ili smrt" - Pripreme za Balkanski rat, Nova Evropa, 1 (1927), pp. 313-315; M. Z. Jovanovic, Pukovnik Apis, Beograd 1957, pp. 649-651; Savremenici o Kosovu i Metohiji 1852-1912, pp. 351-353, 381-383.
3 Dj. Mikic, Albanci i Srbija u balkanskim ratovima 1912-1913, Istorijski glasnik, 1-2 (1986), p. 60; more elaborate in: D. D. Stankovic, Nikola Pasic i stvaranje balkanske drzave, M. misao, 3 (1985), pp. 157-169.
4 D. Mikic, Albanci i Srbija u balkanskim ratovima, p. 61.
5 J. Tomic, Rat no. Kosovu i Staroj Srbiji 1912. godine, Novi Sad 1913.
6 Prvi balkanski rat, pp. 46-417, 464-469-496; D. Mikic, Albanci i Srbija u balkanskim ratovima, p. 63.
7 The only opposition came from the leadership of the Socialdemocratic party headed by Dimitrije Tucovic. Concerned only for their narrow party and political interests, they used the entrance of the Serbian army into Albania to settle their accounts with the government policy and civil parties (cf. D. Tucovic, Srbija i Albanija, Beograd 1914).
8 I. Balugdzic, Kad se stvarala Albanija, Srpski knjizevni glasnik, 52 (1937), pp. 518-523; D. Djordjevic, Izlazak Srbije na Jadransko more i Konferencija ambasadora u Londonu 1912, Beograd 1956, pp. 11-12, 83-85.
9 V. Corovic, Odnosi izmedju Srbije i Austro-Ugarske u XX veku, pp. 396-401; D. Djordjevic, op. cit., p. 86.
10 Dj. Mikic, Albanci i Srbija u balkanskim ratovima, pp. 68-70.
11 V. Corovic, Odnosi izmedju Srbije i Austro-Ugarske u XX veku, pp. 410.
12 D. Djordjevic, op. cit., pp. 133-134.
13 Ibid., see M. Vojvodic, Skadarska kriza 1913, Beograd 1970.
14 Dokumenti o spoljnoj politici Kraljevine Srbije, VT/1, 136-142; D. Bogdanovic, op. cit., pp. 172-173.
15 Ibid., V/3, doc. 500.
16 Ibid., VI/1, 260, 379, 380; D. Bogdanovic, op. cit., p. 173.
17 D. Djordjevic, op. cit., pp. 141-143.
The situation in Albania and the border area toward Serbia was marked by anarchy, disorders and conflicts during 1913 and the first half of 1914. The commander of Scutari, Essad Pasha Toptani, surrendered the town to the Montenegrins on April 23,1913; in return, he was enabled to advance south with his army and military equipment and take part in the struggle for power. Already three mutually conflicting governments existed in Albania. As one of the most powerful landholders, Essad Pasha relied on the Muslim heads of mid-Albania. By wielding his influence between Durazzo and Tirana, he saw an opportunity to candidate himself for the still vacant Albanian throne, taking into consideration requests of the Albanian majority that did not want a Christian ruler. Already on May 5, 1913, he informed the Montenegrin prince of his intention to pronounce himself prince of Albania, expressing his wish to cooperate with the Balkan allies. He told the Serbian diplomat in Durazzo, Zivojin Balugdzic, that he wanted an agreement with Serbia. Hesitant at first, the Serbian government consented to cooperate with Essad Pasha, evaluating that "his overall behavior displayed an earnest wish for an agreement with Serbia, which he regarded as the focus for mustering Balkan forces".1
The second Balkan war was triggered off by Bulgaria in July, 1913. Dissatisfied with its territorial gains, it prepared to war its former allies. It sought support with Albania: ethnic Albanians gathered around Ismail Kemal were promised considerable territorial expansion if they advanced onto Serbia. Thus Sofia counted on the Albanian insurrection leading to the proclamation of autonomous Macedonia and its annexation to Bulgaria. Thus, somewhere in Macedonia, an Albanian-Bulgarian border would have been established. Conditions for armed incursions were favorable: around 20,000 ethnic Albanians who fled Old Serbia and Macedonia found themselves on Albanian soil, while their leaders Hasan Pristina and Isa Boljetinac sat in the government at Valona. Austro-Hungarian and Italian emissaries and agents, mostly the clergy and teachers, suppressed Essad Pasha's influence and appealed to the ethnic Albanians to rise against the Serbs.2
Individual surprise attacks on the most forward Serbian units and border stations began already during the second Balkan war. In the meantime, detailed preparations for a large incursion into Serbia were underway. Shipments of arms sent by the Viennese government kept arriving to Albania. Bulgarian komitadjis trained ethnic Albanians for guerrilla warfare. Small renegade groups were infiltrated into Serbian territory during May and June 1913 to check their guerrilla skills. Informed of the preparations for attack, the Serbian government sent Bogdan Radenkovic to try to influence his former friends among the Albanian leadership, but he returned without accomplishing his task.3
When the Serbian army was forced to withdraw to the restriction line behind the Crni Drim, a signal was given for a full force attack. At the end of September 1913, around 10,000 ethnic Albanians invaded Serbian territory from two directions - west Macedonia and toward Djakovica and Prizren. The initiator of the attack was Austria-Hungary. Ismail Kemal ordered the refugee Albanian leaders, Bairam Cur, Isa Boljetinac, Riza Bey and Elez Jusuf to attack Serbia with their parties, promising that with the aid of the Dual Monarchy and Italy, all conquered territories would belong to Albania. Essad Pasha refused to join them and warned Serbia not to approve of their action.4
The infiltrated companies were headed by Albanian leaders and Bulgarian officers in coaction with the Bulgarian komitadjis. Weak Serbian border troops and several gendarmes units were unable to withstand the attack. On the southern stretch, commanded by Bulgarian komitadjis, the companies managed to take Debar, Ohrid and Struga and advance toward Gostivar. To the north, Isa Boljetinac, Bairam Cur and Kiasim Lika took Ljuma, besieged Prizren and shortly occupied Djakovica. At the beginning of October, two divisions, the Troops of new regions, advanced from Skoplje and, having routed the ethnic Albanians from Serbian territory, crossed to Albania to continue their pursuit.5
The Vienna press published elaborate articles on great victories gained by the ethnic Albanians and demanded a revision of the borders. Ismail Kemal demanded an exclusion of those regions encircled by the insurrection from the Serbian state and proposed a plebiscite that would be implemented by the infiltrated companies. When the incursion was checked, the Vienna press spread rumors of alleged reprisals committed by Serbian troops upon the innocent Albanian people. Austro-Hungarian diplomacy endeavored to prove that an insurrection had broken out within Serbian territory, subsequently joined by ethnic Albanians from the other side of the frontier.6
To emphasize his pro-Serbian orientation, Essad Pasha took advantage of the commotion resulting from the incursion, and in Durazzo, on September 23, proclaimed himself Governor of Albania. Before the European public, which blamed the external activities of the Serbian army for the incursion, Serbia intended to compromise the government in Valona by proving that two of its ministers, Isa Boljetinac and Hasan Pristina, were the organizers and leaders of the incursion. Again the issue was brought up that the borders determined by the London conference of ambassadors were unfavorable for Serbia, since the outlaw seedbeds around Debar and Ljuma demanded by the Serbian delegation were seriously imperiling Serbian territory.7
Wilhelm von Wied arrived in Albania in March 1914. Pressured by the International Control Committee, Essad Pasha was compelled to enter a united government, but did receive two of its most important spheres of activity, the Ministry of War and Internal Affairs. Discontent of the Muslim Albanian populace with the government of the infidel prince culminated in a pro-Turkish uprising lead by Hadji-Qamil Feiza, a Young Turk officer originally from Elbasan. Incited by Muslim fanaticism and the unsettled agrarian issue, the uprising caused general anarchy. Austro-Hungarian and Young Turk agents inflamed discontent among the Muslim masses. Essad Pasha first supported the uprising, but was forced to emigrate to Italy in May, 1914, having been checked by the prince's followers.8
Simultaneously, with the aid of Austro-Hungarian secret services, Albanian leaders Bairam Cur and Isa Boljetinac were preparing for another incursion into Serbia. At the end of March, 1914, several hundred ethnic Albanians crossed the border, having received news that an uprising against the Serbs broke out in some villages near Orahovac. The uprising spread to four villages. Cur and Boljetinac planned to bring members of the International Control Committee to the rebelling areas, where the local ethnic Albanians would express their wish for Djakovica, Pec, Prizren and regions until the railway Urosevac (Ferizovic) - Mitrovica, to be annexed to Albania, as promised by Austria-Hungary. Tension at the borderline did not cease.9
1 I. Balugdzic, op. cit., 521-522; D. Mikic, Albanci i Srbija u balkanskim ratovima, pp. 75; more elaborate documentation: Dokumenti o spoljnoj politici Kraljevine Srbije, VI/2, Doc. No 75, 77, 80, 86, 93, 100, 105, 124, 130, 135.
2 Dokumenti o spoljnoj politici Kraljevine Srbije, VI/3, Doc. No 194, 239, 253,
3 B. Hrabak, Arbanaski upadi i pobune na Kosovu i u Makedoniji od kraja 1912. do kraja 1915. godine (Nacionalno nerazvijeni i nejedinstveni Arbanasi kao orudje u rukama zainteresovanih sila), Vranje 1988, pp. 33-38.
4 Dokumenti o spoljnoj politici Kraljevine Srbije, VT/3, Doc. No 406, cf. Doc. No 347, 351, 359, 378, 379, 418.
5 B. Hrabak, Arbanaski upadi i pobune na Kosovu i u Makedoniji, pp. 52-64.
6 Dokumenti o spoljnoj politici Kraljevine Srbije, VI/3, Doc. No 407, 408, 409.
7 B. Hrabak, Arbanaski upadi i pobune na Kosovu i u Makedoniji, pp. 57. 60-61.
8 B. Hrabak, Muslimani severne Albanije uoci izbijanja rata 1914, Zbornik za istoriju Matice srpske, 22 (1980), pp. 52-53.
9 B. Hrabak, Arbanaski upadi i pobune na Kosovu i u Makedoniji, p. 93.
The direct cause leading to World War One was the assassination of Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo, by Serbian students (on St. Vitus' Day, June 28th, 1914), thus symbolically marking the commencement in the outcome of Austro-Hungarian and Serbian confrontation. Serbia's victories in the Balkan wars proved its military, political and economical strength; in the Yugoslav provinces of the Dual Monarchy, national movement grew, turning to Belgrade as the pillar of national and South-Slavic assemblage. War with Serbia turned over from a considerable delay of punitive expedition to a war to destroy the Serbian state. The Viennese diplomacy found reliable allies first with Albania and then with Bulgaria.1
The opening of the war found the borderline between Serbia and Albania unrestful and unconsolidated. Essad Pasha, follower of Balkan cooperation, was in emigration, while civil war raged in Albania. The insurgents, called "Ottomans", demanded a Muslim for a ruler, and for the flag, and the character of state administration to be Ottoman. Refugee Albanian leaders from Kosovo, organizers of the previous incursion into Serbia, did not take part in the uprising; they awaited the opportunity to incite a rebellion and seize Kosovo, Metohia and west Macedonia from Serbia.
Two days before war was declared to Serbia, consular officials in Albania received orders from Vienna to assist the Albanian insurrection on Serbian territory. Bairam Cur, Hasan Pristina and Isa Boljetinac obtained money, arms and ammunition from Austro-Hungarian consuls to prepare for the insurrection. In Constantinople, a contract was concluded for Austria-Hungary to finance and urge the insurrection, while the Young Turks would handle the propaganda, military organization and operations of the insurrection. Incursions onto Serbian territory and the Albanian insurrection in Kosovo, Metohia and Macedonia were to have been the basis for opening another front against Serbia, which had, after the Austro-Hungarian attack, distributed its troops along the border with the Dual Monarchy. The at first small-scale attacks were recorded already at the beginning of August, 1914. Turkish and Austro-Hungarian association was growing closer, thus sealing the destiny of Prince Wilhelm von Wied. After several unsuccessful attempts to crush the insurrection, abandoned by his volunteers, the prince left Albania for good at the beginning of September, 1914.2
Shortly before the war, Serbia strove to win over some of the chiefs of mid and north Albania for cooperation. The agents cruised Albania endeavoring to make contact with dissatisfied chiefs. It was soon disclosed that Albanian tribal and feudal chiefs were inconstant, bribable and unreliable, that they easily changed sides for money and, being without a clear political conception and strong national awareness, cared most of all about their personal and tribal interests. Internal political polarization between them was determined by religious affiliation which ascended over national feelings.3
Incursions into Serbia, though mostly skirmishes with bordering stations and gendarmes never ceased since the war began. Even though small in number and always rapidly checked, they increasingly disturbed competent circles in Serbia. Informed of preparations for new incursions of broader dimensions, on the delivery of arms to Albania and the arrival of Young Turk and Austro-Hungarian officers to join Albanian companies at the Serbian-Albanian borderline, the government sought a way to neutralize the preparations for the insurrection. Military circles proposed a preventive military intervention.4
With the departure of Prince von Wied, no one held power in Albania. At an assembly, a senate of rebelling towns in mid and north Albania chose Essad Pasha for their leader, while the Serbian government immediately appealed to him to take over rule. Nikola Pasic contracted with him an agreement of friendship, aid and customs union, in Nis, mid-September, 1914. Aided by Pasic's government, supplying him with money and arms, Essad Pasha mustered around 5,000 Albanian volunteers, crossed over to Albania and entered Durazzo at the beginning of October without strife. He immediately formed a government and proclaimed himself Premier of Albania and Supreme Army Commander.5
At the beginning of November, Turkey engaged at war on the side of the Central Powers and declared Holy War (jihad) to the Entante and its allies. Essad Pasha was considered an enemy to Islam, being a friend to Serbia, and therefore, an ally of the Entante. The declaration of jihad caused a new pro-Turkish insurrection of Muslim-fundamentalist forces, this time against Essad Pasha. The rapidly spreading insurgent masses were lead by Young Turk officers. The entire movement was of anti-Serbian orientation; the insurgents demanded the restoration of Albania under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire, with Kosovo, Metohia and west Macedonia included in its composition. Greece and Italy benefited from the new opportunities. The Greeks took north Epirus, while Italian troops first occupied the island Sasseno and then Valona.6
Essad Pasha's position in Durazzo was becoming increasingly uncertain. Thus the Premier appealed to the Serbian government more than once for military intervention in Albania. In December, 1914, Serbia successfully withstood an Austro-Hungarian offensive. The Serbian government feared that following their defeat north, the Austro-Hungarian state and military circles would urge the ethnic Albanians to war Serbia, which imposed preventive military action as a solution.
Incursions of broader dimension announced Hasan Pristina's attempt to organize an insurrection in Serbia in February, 1915, with a company numbering around 200 men. Three bordering villages on Serbian territory joined the insurgents, but in the first clash with a stronger Serbian unit, Hasan Pristina's company was crushed and banished to Albania.7 Pro-Turkish insurgents besieged Essad Pasha in Durazzo and demanded of him to recognize the sultan's power and declare war to Serbia. Pasic thus believed it was best to intervene immediately rather than wait for Austro-Hungarian and Young Turk officers to muster an Albanian army against which a whole Serbian army would be forced to fight. When a Serbian diplomat reported at the end of May that Essad Pasha's position was desperate, and since Albanian companies had then attacked the Serbian border at two places, the Serbian government decided to move its army and take strategic positions in Albania. Around 20,000 Serbian soldiers invaded Albania from three directions. In only ten days the Serbian troops crushed the rebellious movement, took Elbasan and Tirana and liberated the besieged Essad Pasha in Durazzo. A special Albanian regiment was formed from Serbian troops in Albania to implement thorough pacification in Albania and consolidate Essad Pasha's position.8 Essad Pasha did not succeed in establishing power in all the northern and middle regions of Albania. In the Mirdit region, Isa Boljetinac, Bairam Cur and Hasan Pristina were hiding, while in the Mat region, pasha's relative Ahmed Bey Zogu strove to come to an agreement with the Serbian military authorities; at his personal request he went to Nis for negotiations with Pasic.9
Serbia's military intervention met with general complaints in allied circles, especially with Italy, whose claims to the Albanian coast, warranted by a secret London Treaty (1915), were thus jeopardized by the entrance of Serbian troops. Pasic replied to protests sent by ally diplomacies that it was only a matter of temporary action and the troops would withdraw after consolidating Essad Pasha's regime. To secure Serbian positions in Albania after the war was over, the Serbian government contracted a secret agreement in June, 1914, in Tirana, anticipating an actual union between the two countries. Essad Pasha consented to rectify the border to Serbia's advantage, and in return received warranty of Serbia's support for his choice of ruler to Albania.10
The beginning of the German - Austro-Hungarian offensive against Serbia in autumn, 1915, Bulgaria's engagement in war on the side of the Central Powers and its attack on Serbia, forced the Serbian army to war on two fronts and withdraw to the interior of the country. Bulgaria's incursion into Macedonia threatened to cut off the retreat of the Serbian army to Greece. Its retreat and Bulgaria's penetration into the depths of Macedonia emboldened ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Metohia and Macedonia. Masses of ethnic Albanians recruited into the Serbian army became deserters, and many joined the Bulgarians who gave them arms. With Austro-Hungarian advance-guards, they attacked Serbian soldiers whom they awaited in the Ibar valley.
When the Serbian army reached Kosovo, followed by many refugees, various diversions and surprise attacks on field trains were effected. In many villages ethnic Albanians refused to provide food for the refugees and soldiers. In Istok, on November 29, 1915, a company of Serbian soldiers lagging behind was massacred. Near the St. Marko monastery in the vicinity of Prizren, ethnic Albanians of the Kabash clan deceitfully disarmed and then killed 60 Serbian soldiers. After the Serbian army retreated from Pec, ethnic Albanians pillaged many Serbian homes and sacked shops. Austro-Hungarian guards prevented them from entering the hospital in Pec, in front of which they gathered to massacre the wounded soldiers. They set ambushes near Mitrovica, killed soldiers and looted refugees. Serious crimes were committed in Suva Reka and other regions of Kosovo.11
At the end of November, after the Bulgarians cut off all connections with Salonika, the Serbian Supreme Command decided to withdraw the army to Albania and make the necessary reorganizations there. The withdrawal of the Serbian army through Albania, in winter 1915-1916, has been retained as the "Albanian Golgotha". With the entrance of the Serbian army into Albania, Essad Pasha issued an announcement appealing to the Albanian people to help the amicable army and sell their food. In regions under his immediate control, Albanian gendarmes considerably helped to ease the withdrawal of the starving army, inflicted by disease, through impassable mountains covered with snow. Essad Pasha's gendarmes took care of overnight stays, food supplies and guarded the roads.
The regions to which Essad Pasha's authority did not stretch, particularly Ljuma, Mirdits, Drims and partly in Mati, the Serbian army was forced to clear with guns, on its way toward the Adriatic Sea. In Mirdits, Mat and other regions, Catholic friars called to the ethnic Albanians to confront the Serbian army in arms. Rumors spread that Prince Wilhelm von Wied was arriving from Prizren with Austro-Hungarian troops, ethnic Albanians avoided confrontation with large military formations; they preferred to wait in ambush in high gorges for lagging soldiers and refugees, and then and murder them. The heaviest battles were waged in the Mirdits by a Combined Regiment of the Serbian army that fell into ambush at the gorge of the Fani river. Around 800 ethnic Albanians commanded by a Catholic friar let the army pass through only after they were given large quantities of supplies from the field train. In places where there were no armed assaults, the ethnic Albanians refused to rent rooms for overnight stay and sell food.12
General chaos encircled the withdrawal of the Serbian army, with Essad Pasha endeavoring to restore order with his gendarmes; but chaos and fear caught hold of his people and disobedience ensued. Still, most of his troops protected the Serbian army during its retreat and, whenever necessary, fought together with it against Albanian companies that joined Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian troops. After much turmoil and long marches toward the south, the Serbian army was transferred by allied ships from Albania to Corfu. Squeezed in between Bulgarian and Austro-Hungarian troops, Essad Pasha was forced to submit to the Italians; escorted by a Serbian emissary, with a thousand most devoted followers, he crossed over to Italy by boat.13
Kosovo and Metohia were divided into two Austro-Hungarian occupational zones: Metohia entered the General Government "Montenegro", while a smaller part of Kosovo with Kosovska Mitrovica and Vucitrn became part of the General Government "Serbia". The largest part of Kosovo (Pristina, Prizren, Gnjilane, Urosevac, Orahovac) was included in the composition of the Bulgarian Military-Inspectional region "Macedonia".14
In Metohia and Kosovo, Austro-Hungarian authorities aimed to win over the Albanian and Muslim populace: schools and the local administration were conducted in the Albanian language. Albanian inhabitants were obviously privileged. The occupational authorities of the Dual Monarchy immediately established contact with the leaders. Many refugee chiefs returned from Albania, while beys from Kosovo and former Turkish officers from Sandzak cooperated most closely with the new authorities. Hasan Pristina and Dervish Bey handled the conscription of volunteers who were assigned either to the Bosnia-Herzegovinian gendarmes or the Turkish corps fighting at the front in Galicia. A bulk of Albanian volunteers entered the service of Austro-Hungarian military command in Kosovska Mitrovica and served in small posse regiments. At the beginning of 1917, Dervish Bey was nominated as commander of a distinct volunteer battalion (a force of 400 men), comprised mainly of ethnic Albanians.15
The Bulgarian occupation of Kosovo has been retained by its great oppression, internment of civilians, forced Bulgarization, and the persecution and murder of priests. The former Raska-Prizren Metropolitan Nicifor, was interned in Bulgaria and killed. Serbian priests suffered the most, being persecuted and murdered on both occupational zones by ethnic Albanians and Bulgarians. Bulgarian authorities assigned ethnic Albanians and Turks to all village communities as chiefs, officials and gendarmes, who helped their compatriots to raid and plunder without disturbance, to win trials against Serbs in courts, and murders were often hushed up. In certain villages, Turks and ethnic Albanians oppressed the Serbs of Kosovo in conjunction.16
In the area between Juzna Morava and Kopaonik, a komitadji movement had been growing since 1916, under the leadership of Kosta Vojinovic-Kosovac of Mitrovica, which at the beginning of 1917 turned into a large national insurrection with its seat at Toplica. ethnic Albanians took part in persecuting Serbian komitadjis in the Mitrovica district. The armed resistance was aided by many Serbs from Kosovo. Attempts made by insurgent leaders to win over ethnic Albanians through negotiations failed. Albanian companies attacked the insurgents, and in October, 1917, special Albanian and Turkish units were formed to fight them.17
After being transferred to Corfu, the Serbian army, reorganized and supplemented by volunteers, was disposed along the Salonika front along with allied troops. Crossing over from Italy to Paris, with the aid of the French diplomacy, Essad Pasha arrived at Salonika and formed a new Albanian government which acquired the status of an emigrant ally cabinet, owing to Serbian and French intermediation. A special army unit was formed from around 1,000 gendarmes (Essad Pasha's camp and Albanian archers), and disposed in juxtaposition to the Serbian Ohrid regiment as part of the French East Army. Premier Nikola Pasic's idea was to admix the forces with Serbian ones and direct operations toward Kosovo and north Albania.18
In autumn, 1918, subsequent to the penetration of the Salonika Front, a widespread national insurrection developed in Serbia. When the Austro-Hungarian troops abandoned the line Skoplje-Pristina, the insurrection spread to Kosovo and Metohia. French and Serbian troops commanded by General Tranier emerged in Kosovo at the beginning of October, liberating Pristina, Prizren, Gnjilane and Mitrovica. Serbian komitadji companies, lead by Kosta Milovanovic Pecanac, met with French troops in Mitrovica and immediately set off to Pec. Serbian komitadjis surrounded the town, compelling the considerably stronger Austro-Hungarian troops to surrender; then the French cavalry trotted into town. Divisions of the second Serbian army also arrived in Kosovo and established civil and temporary martial law.19
After the arrival of Serbian and French units, the Albanian people bore themselves coldly and with reserve. When the bodies of troops continued to advance toward Montenegro, ethnic Albanians began to assail solitary soldiers at the end of October. The reason was the injunction given by Serbian military authorities to collect all state property left from the Bulgarian administration. Obtaining supplies from communities with arms left behind, the ethnic Albanians began to assail Serbian civil and military authorities, while the injunction to surrender arms met with heavy resistance. Community seats, villages and small military garrisons were attacked, while during November entire villages in Drenica and around Pec deserted the Serbian authorities. Until mid-December, Serbian forces crushed Albanian resistance and carried out the action of disarmament with great difficulty.20
The Austro-Hungarian monarchy was disintegrating. In Belgrade, on December 1, 1918, the union of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was proclaimed into one kingdom under the Karadjordjevic dynasty. In Kosovo, the military and civil authorities had no time to celebrate. The Albanian resistance, helped by agitation from Albania, with Italy behind it, announced a new, kacak (outlaw) movement.
World War One forestalled the formation of a clear policy for ethnic Albanians within Serbian borders, even though all those that had not taken part in rebellions against the Serbian authorities were warranted civil rights. Two Balkan and one world armed clashes, which deepened the old and created new hatreds between Serbs and ethnic Albanians, had direct political aims, being supported by the warring sides, above all Austria-Hungary and Turkey, and in Albania by allied Italy. Yet Serbia had, on the contrary, persistently striven to create a counterbalance to the anti-Serbian movement helped by Vienna and Constantinople, through cooperation with Essad Pasha and a series of tribal chiefs in mid-Albania, and to build a foundation that would bring ethnic Albanians and Serbs closer. Contracts signed with Essad Pasha in 1914 and 1915 were, first, a draft of possible ways of contact (a real union with small territorial concessions), second, security in case the destiny of Albania would again be resolved without Serbia's participation when the war was over.
Essad Pasha Toptani's fate, whose political plans for the future of Albania were based on support and cooperation with Serbia, displayed a prevailing strong anti-Serbian disposition among ethnic Albanians, who would benefit from the aims of the Serbian army to capture and include within the composition of the new state Scutari with the neighboring Serbian villages. Due to widespread Italian influence, under whose wing a temporary Albanian government was formed, Essad Pasha's repeated attempts to regain power in Albania, where he still had many followers, produced no positive results. Despite delegates supported by Italy in the name of Albania, with Serbia's assistance Essad Pasha brought another unofficial delegation to the Peace Conference in Paris, April 1919, and, appealing to the legitimacy of his government and the declaration of war to the Central Powers, requested permission to return to his country. His struggle ended with shots fired by assassin Avni Rustemi on June 13,1920 in Paris.
1 .More elaborate: A. Mitrovic, Srbija u prvom svetskom ratu, Beograd 1985. passim
2 Ibid., 218-224; B. Hrabak, Arbanaski upadi i pobune na Kosovu i u Makedoniji, pp. 124-145.
3 B. Hrabak, Muslimani severne Albanije uoci izbijanja rata 1914, pp. 49-80; D. T. Batakovic, Podaci srpskih vojnih vlasti o arbanaskim prvacima 1914, Mesovita gradja, XVII-XVIII (1988), pp. 185-206.
4 B. Hrabak, Arbanaski upadi i pobune na Kosovu i u Makedoniji, pp. 147-151.
5 D. T. Batakovic, Esad-pasa Toptani i Srbija 1915. godine, in: Srbija 1915, Beograd 1986, 300-306; for details see: B. Hrabak, Elaborat srpskog ministarstva inostranih dela o pripremama srpske okupacije severne Albanije, Godisnjak Arhiva Kosova, II-III (1966-1967), pp. 7-35.
6 M. Ekmecic, Ratni ciljevi Srbije 1914, Beograd 1973, 377, pp. 383-385; cf. J. Swire, Albania, The Rise of A Kingdom, London 1930. passim
7 A. Mitrovic, op. cit., pp. 225-226.
8 M. Ekmecic, op. cit. p. 344; for more details see: D. T. Batakovic, Secanje generala D. Milutinovica na komandovanje albanskim trupama 1915. godine, Mesovita grada, XIV (1985), pp. 115-143
9 Ahmed Zogu attempted to impose himself upon Serbian competitive authorities as Esad-pasha's rival. He promised, given the necessary warrants, he would turn to Serbia's side. An agent of the Serbian government accompanied him always; more elaborate: D. T. Batakovic, Ahmed-beg Zogu i Srbija, in: Srbija 1917, pp. 165-177.
10 D. T. Batakovic, Esad-pasa i Srbija 1915. godine, 308-310; cf. Sh. Rahimi, Mareveshjet e qeverise serbe me Esat pashe Toptanit gjate viteve 1914-1915, Gjurmime albanologjike, VI (1976), pp. 117-143. "
11 P. Kostic, Crkveni zivot pravoslavnih Srba u Prizrenu i okolini u XIX veku, pp. 141-143; B. Hrabak, Stanje na srpsko-albanskoj granici i pobuna Arbanasa na Kosovu i Makedoniji, in: Srbija 1915, pp. 80-85; idem., Arbanaski upadi i pobune na Kosovu i u Makedoniji, pp. 186-195.
12 O. Boppe, Za srpskom vojskom od Nisa do Krfa, Zeneva 1918; P. de Mondesir, Albanska golgota, memories and war pictures, Beograd 1936; Kroz Albaniju 1915-1916, Beograd 1968.
13 D. T. Batakovic, Esad-pasa Toptani i Srbija 1915. godine, pp. 315-124.
14 A serious crisis broke out in 1916 over the issue on dividing occupational zones between Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary (Istorija srpskog naroda, VI/2, Beograd 1983, pp. 146-148).
15 A. Mitrovic, op. cit., pp. 329-393.
16 J. Popovic, Kosovo u ropstvu pod Bugarima, Leskovac 1921; on the persecution of the clergy: Zaduzbine Kosova, pp. 745-750.
17 More elaborate in: M. Perovic, Toplicki ustanak 1917, Beograd 1973; A. Mitrovic, Ustanicke borbe u Srbiji 1916-1918, Beograd 1987.
18 Petar Opacic, Solunska ofanziva 1918, Beograd 1980, pp. 358-375.
19 B. Hrabak, Ucesce stanovnistva Srbije u proterivanju okupatora 1918, Istorijski glasnik, 3-4 (1958), 25-50; ibid., Reokupacija oblasti srpske i cmogorske drzave arbanaskom vecinom stanovnistva u jesen 1918. godine i drzanja Arbanasa prema uspostavljenoj vlasti, Gjurmime albanologjike, 191969), pp. 255-260; A. Mitrovic, Ustanicke borbe u Srbiji 1916-1918, pp. 520-522.
20 B. Hrabak, Reokupacija oblasti srpske i cmogorske drzave, pp. 270-279.
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