Originally Published 2008-08-14 00:00:00 Published on Aug 14, 2008
Is the United States in the process of creating a brand new Muslim bloc? If that be the case, it would know that the execution of the plan necessarily involves the cessation of Kosovo from Serbia in the name of "Self-Determination". This, Russia will not allow at any cost. Belgrade is Moscow's Slav ally. And, in a complex way, the Albanian-Serb and the Washington-Moscow stand-off links up with the global scramble for energy sources. While the world's eyes are riveted on the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan, an eyeball to eyeball confrontation is shaping up in the Balkans where, historically, conflicts easily get out of hand. Saeed Naqvi recently traveled extensively through the Balkans and Europe, meeting key figures in the political circles of the region. In this paper, he presents his analysis of the situation prevailing in the Balkans.
Independence for Kosovo: Secession or Self-Determination?
In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, drama begins when a ship is grounded on the rocky shores of Illyria and breaks up, leaving the passengers in various stages of survival. According to Albanian scholar Muharem Cerabregu, the name Kosovo derives from an Illyrian root “Kasa”, which means valley. Illyria is the ancient name of the region, stretching from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro, the countries where ethnic Albanians live today. What would have been a contiguous bloc, overwhelmingly Muslim, was parceled into separate provinces, states, nations, because the Balkans were always a gateway to invasions, passage for the crusades, site of historic battles and the clash of Empires.
The Serbs or the Southern Slavs arrived in the Balkans around 7AD. The final Ottoman conquest of the region took place in 1450. Serb dominance lasted for 800 years, but it was only in the last two centuries that the Serbs actually ruled Kosovo.
The Eastern Orthodox Church broke with the Papacy in the 11th century. This could be one reason why some of finest cathedrals and monasteries of the Southern Slavs are located at the eastern end of the Balkan land mass. This is where Kosovo is. The western extremity was too close to areas under hostile Roman Catholic sway.
Some of the most precious monasteries the Serbs built are, therefore, in Kosovo. One such, which must surely rank among the world's most beautiful, is the monastery of Decan off the northern province of Pec, about 50 km from Prishtina, capital of Kosovo. During the non-aligned summit in Belgrade in 1961, President Tito arranged for the visiting leaders to fly to Decan. Jawaharlal Nehru was among the guests. Greek Cypriot leader Archbishop Makarios, who was a friend of Nehru and Tito, persuaded the latter to choose the site. Nehru was keen to see how a Communist state had preserved an ancient Orthodox Christian monastery. The violent disintegration of Yugoslavia three decades later, followed by 78 days of US bombing to protect the Albanians of Kosovo from Serb excesses directed by Serb communist leader Slobodan Milosevic, could not have been imagined by any of them. Today, the Italian contingent of NATO protects Decan, just as the rest of Kosovo is protected by tanks of other NATO members.
The hallowed plains of Blackbirds on the outskirts of Prishtina have more emotional appeal for Serbs than any cathedral. In 1389, it was here that Serbs fought the epic battle of Kosovo against the Turks and lost. Why do Serbs “celebrate” this defeat? Because the “defeat” is tied to a powerful legend. On the eve of the Battle of Kosovo, Prophet Elijah is said to have appeared to Prince Lazar and offered him a choice: victory in battle and an earthly empire or “apparent” defeat and eternal life in heaven. The prince fought valiantly, but the Turkish army won, thus paving the way for Prince Lazar's rise to heaven as promised by Prophet Elijah. Enshrined in the story is the concept of constant struggle, a perpetual holy war. A more mundane interpretation of the outcome of the battle of Kosovo is that the Serb army engaged the Turks in such fierce combat that it tired out the Turkish troops, effectively impeding their advance into Europe.
Before his appearance in the court at The Hague for war crimes, Milosevic wailed that this was no way to treat Serbs who had protected Europe from the Turks so many times in history. To strengthen his nationalist platform, he inscribed “1989” over the date 1389 already inscribed on the monument commemorating the battle of Kosovo. The significance of 1989 was that this was the year when Milosevic ended Kosovo's autonomy and brought it under Belgrade's direct rule. In Serbia, where myths have a long echo, Milosevic sought to create around himself the halo of a latter day Prince Lazar.
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