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Bishop behind barbed wire

Mark Mardell | 20:38 UK time, Tuesday, 29 January 2008

This is the first time I have been to a church service held behind barbed wire.
Guard outside Gracanica monastery

Inside the chapel next to the Gracanica Monastery in Kosovo, a priest in white robes adorned with red crosses swings a silver censer, and the tinkling of bells and and the sweet, musty smell of incense fills the air.

His companion is preparing the host, behind a wooden screen painted with glorious icons.

Most of the congregation are nuns, clad head to foot in black. There are six other worshippers.

The youngest of them, a girl perhaps in her late teens, yawns and covers her mouth. The service started at seven and it is now nine and the ethereal rhythmic chanting is somewhat soporific.

Swedish sentry

Outside, a Swedish soldier stands in his sentry-post built into the side of the monastery, cradling an automatic rifle.

Coiled razor wire tops the wall and big concrete blocks stand in front of it. Not that his Grace, Bishop Artemije of the diocese of Raska and Prizren , has much time for United Nations soldiers.
Bishop Artemije

“Unfortunately, the destruction of our holy shines have been committed under the authority of the international community, in the presence of KFOR and UNMIK , so their presence here was not any guarantee or protection for our churches and monasteries.

“We can only presume what will happen to us if the Albanians would be granted independence of Kosovo. And I’m asking myself why would the international community sacrifice one historical nation and its cultural heritage in the 21st century. I wonder, why?”

Land of churches
There is no doubt Serbian churches were destroyed during and after the war and one American academic has made an interesting study of such destruction.

I have heard so many times how important Kosovo, the land of Churches, is to Serbs so I want to find out from a leader of the Serbian Orthodox faith how he sees it. The Bishop, a man with a rich voice, tells me: “Our main and historical seat is in Prizren but we were expelled from there in 1999 so this is our temporary residence now.

“The monastery of Gracanica and our other monasteries are like title deeds, witnesses, that Kosovo has always been and will always be part of Serbia. It is not only a question of territory, but a spiritual essence in giving identity to the Serbian people in general and to each Serb individually.

Inside Gracanica monastery

“And Kosovo is a symbol of eternal values which the Kosovo-Serbs determined for in 1389 in the famous Kosovo battle against the Turks . And Kosovo is the cradle of the Serbian spirituality because the biggest and oldest Serbian monasteries are here. It is the cradle of Serbian culture and Serbian statehood.

“What a heart is to a man that is what Kosovo is to Serbia and the Serbian people. And as no one can give his heart to anyone else and remain a man, alive, in the same way Serbia can never give up Kosovo and remain what it has been.

“What Jerusalem is to the Jewish people a kind of symbol of a historical, vertical line, that is what Kosovo is to the Serbian people .”

Kosovo lost

When I say that when I was in Serbia some people told me that Kosovo is already lost, the Bishop’s translator does a double-take and clearly believes she has misunderstood the question. She has not, and the Bishop chides me.

“First of all, you are still in Serbia now. Because Kosovo is Serbia and not only Serbia, but the centre of Serbia. I do not know who you have spoken to who has told you that Kosovo is lost, but Kosovo is not lost and will not be lost. It will always be in Serbia as an occupied part of its territory."

Will it ever be rejoined with the rest of Serbia, then, I ask. And if so, how?

“As God wills. I do not have a solution in my hands.”

Many Serbs say they will leave Kosovo when independence is declared and I am unsure whether they really will.

Those who have the opportunity to make a better life in Serbia have already gone and conditions would have to be significantly worse to force the remainder to hold to their emotionally spoken words. But one thing is sure, the Bishop is staying, and so is the barbed wire and the Swedish soldier.

Comments   Post your comment

I’m asking myself why

I your place, Mark, I would probably have said "If they're all like you, is it any wonder?"

Which is why I would never be any good at your job. Keep up the good work.

  • 2.
  • At 11:09 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Julia Gorin wrote:

Mark, it's great that you're doing this, and incomprehensible that my country (the U.S.) is at the forefront of creating a Serbian bogeyman when there are real and present threats facing us.

I'd like to send you a free copy of the booklet Hiding Genocide in Kosovo. I read it in a day; it was written by an international aid worker there. You won't believe what you're reading. And here I thought the movies "Hostel" and "Saw" were macabre! Try life as a non-Albanian in supremacist Kosovo. I'm not Serbian, by the way. Just an American who still hasn't caught her breath that the U.S. could bomb Europe at the turn of the 21st Century. Email me at the address above, and I can have this horror show of a booklet in the mail today.

  • 3.
  • At 12:02 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Zeljko Dobrilovic wrote:

Mark,

Why don't you now go and speak to the 'official' Kosovo Tourism agency and ask them what their take on Gracanica is? Who built it etc..Apparantly the Kosovars built it? Who are the Kosovars? Thats probably even a more confursing questions. As your journey will discover, the Balkans only has defined nationalities, there is no such people as the Kosovars..

But hey, as the 'official website' slogan states, 'History in the Making' They are not wrong, lets invent it as we go. Someone is bound to believe it.

I refuse to put a link to the website as such misrepresentations I will not assist in distributing.

I am however curious to see how my email to Joachim Rucker (Special envoy UN to Kosovo) will respond to my personal email regarding this matter. I will keep you posted.

Safe journey.

  • 4.
  • At 12:34 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Milos Milosev wrote:

This side of the Kosovo saga is all too often neglected. Thank you for bringing it into the spotlight. While you were at it, you could have mentioned that the Gracanica monastery was built in the 14th century. So much for Serbs occupying and colonising Kosovo at the time of WWI. Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not believe Albanians have anything there that was built before the 19th century.

  • 5.
  • At 12:35 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Edmond Gashi wrote:

Dear Mark,

I wonder if these Serbs from Kosovo ever think of the new reality created in Kosovo, I am rely feeling very sorry for them, because they are living with nostalgia and heuristic ideas. The best option for them is to embrace the Ahtissari Plan which grants them the best ever known devolving minority rights and tandards.
I remain hopeful that they will live in peace with Albanians and will get of hands from hegemonic and suppression ideas of the past.

Uni Graz - Austria

  • 6.
  • At 12:38 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Milos Milosev wrote:

This side of the Kosovo saga is all too often neglected. Thank you for bringing it into the spotlight. While you were at it, you could have mentioned that the Gracanica monastery was built in the 14th century. So much for Serbs occupying and colonising Kosovo at the time of WWI. Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not believe Albanians have anything there that was built before the 19th century.

  • 7.
  • At 02:44 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Mary wrote:

I feel very badly that the west is complicit in trying to give away Christian Kosovo to a majority muslim population thinking it will pacify the muslim ummah...it is a huge mistake. Huge.

  • 8.
  • At 05:12 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Miriann Stepich wrote:

The issue of 90% Albanians in Kosovo seems to be
the rational for giving Kosovo to the Albanians. By
that measure, should the south of Texas and Florida
be turned over to Mexican and Latin Americans who
are the majority populations? I doubt it would ever
happen. The West has a more subtle reason.
Why would a territory anywhere be turned over to
people of one faith who have demonstrated others
are not welcome? Perhaps the West will have to
live through an era when Scotland gains independence, the Basques and many others follow
who will follow this precedent.

  • 9.
  • At 05:48 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • N. Ledkovsky wrote:

God save Kosovo-Metohija! The biggest mistake my beloved country (USA) ever made was bombing the wrong side. Unfortunately we still continue to support the terrorist KLA and advocate independence for these thugs. It is a travesty and a sin. God help Europe and the world if it is allowed to happen...

I think Margaret Thatcher said it best in 1999: "I am unmoved by Serb pleas to retain their grasp on most of Kosovo because it contains their holy places. Coming from those who systematically levelled Catholic churches and Muslim mosques wherever they went, such an argument is cynical almost to the point of blasphemy."

In his "Short history", Noel Malcolm clearly explains to English audiences that Kosovo is not and has not been the heart of Serbia. I do however believe that Kosovo does indeed define the essence of today's Serbia: a nation of aggressive expansionist impulses that dreams of recreating a long lost medieval empire.

  • 11.
  • At 08:25 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Armen Kouyoumdjian wrote:

No wonder these series from the Balkans are one unending praise of the "relatively tolerant" (sic) Ottoman Empire. Coming from the man who has consistently denied the Armenian Genocide, we should not expect less (as I mentioned to 1,700 Armenians from round the world assembled in mid-January on the Costa Fortuna cruise ship in an Armenian Geritage Cruise's 11th edition),

  • 12.
  • At 08:55 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Ilir wrote:

It is ridiculous to make such parallels between Kosova and Jerusalem, particularly by the head of the church. It is an undeniable fact that Serbs have moved to this territory later than anyone else.
Serbs soon or later have to realize that Kosova is lost, forever and ever.

  • 13.
  • At 09:20 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Milosev Jovan wrote:

His Grace Bishop Artemije is a symbol of what the West have done to the Serbs, we are all behind that barbed wire with him even if we aren't there.If the Serbs weren't cleanesed out of Kosovo(cleansed out of Krajina by Croats and parts of Serb teritory in Bosnia), over the last six hundred years, especially over the last sixty. The west stood by courted Tito and now is courting war criminals and drug trafficers in a vain hope that there will be peace(Maybe your heroin/cocain will be cheaper or hash). Peace without involving the custodians of that land by historical means and not purely by numerical might through ilegal settlement and violance, then no peace will ever be achieved only future conflict and the west is clearly to blame for when it happens. I could write a lot but i don't see a point as the BBC is a tool that has been used to vilify the Serbs and when did they come out and say hang on there is more to this than our goverment has led us to believe. The truth is out there but I'm not sure you can handdle the truth.

Why should the Serb people trust the EU who are trying to dissmember it continually. During the Nazi era serb lands were taken away, you should check the boders under Hitler and what Washington and the EU or some members of the Eu. Nazism is on the rise, the serbs were never like that or ever would be. The reason for fighting the Turks in 1389 might be baffling to a lot of westerners(as we stood no chance), but man doesn't live by bread alone.

  • 14.
  • At 09:53 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • arian wrote:

The only thing that Kosovo is similar to Jerusalem that Jewish people sufferd same as we did from Serbs ,we were deported and killed almost the same like Jewish.Like an Albanian i am very sorry that i have to listen these words from a man that belives in God much more then the others and instead talking about peace and prosperity beetwen people he distribute hate.We are tired of this lies about Kosovo was always serbian land and the Churches ,we have to look forward because the reality is different,and i expect that Bishop does his job without politics in Democratic Kosova without any fear in peace

  • 15.
  • At 11:06 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Bayich. A. (Serb, Bosnia) wrote:

Mark, you overemphasize sacredness of Kosovo to Serbian population. As a Serb I agree Kosovo is important part our cultural heritage and I respect that. However, I don't support the idea that Kosovo has to be part Serbia.
Serbs don't fight for Kosovo's land but they ask for the respect of international community. We don't need Kosovo but can't accept a humiliation .
Let's explain. The double standards used by the West are the problem. The West said: "the republic border of Yugoslavia are unchangeable ".That decision hurt the Serbs the most in 1991. Now the same people are saying: "The border of Serbia could be changed". Why? Again, it could hurt the Serbs the most.

I can go further. In same time the EU is making pressure on Bosnia to create a stronger government. The Muslims are 43% of Bosnia's population and they have a slightly better demographic growth. So, the strong government is a way to the Muslim rule in Bosnia (kind of Turkey)in the twenty years time. That would ruin the Bosnian Serbs.
As you see, this is a "consistent" policy.

The West never really supports the Serbs in Croatia an they almost disappeared there.
The north part of Kosovo could easily be emptied of Serbs if US and EU recognise Kosovo in nowadays borders.

The independence of Kosovo would be the final stroke to Serbs rendering them the absolute losers in "Yugoslav wars". Whatever our sins were we didn't deserve such destiny.
We can't accept that!

  • 16.
  • At 11:29 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Bayich.A. wrote:

Mark, you overemphasize sacredness of Kosovo to Serbian population. As a Serb I agree Kosovo is important part our cultural heritage and I respect that. However, I don't support the idea that Kosovo has to be part Serbia.
Serbs don't fight for Kosovo's land but they ask for the respect of international community. We don't need Kosovo but can't accept a humiliation .
Let's explain. The double standards used by the West are the problem. The West said: "the republic border of Yugoslavia are unchangeable ".That decision hurt the Serbs the most in 1991. Now the same people are saying: "The border of Serbia could be changed". Why? Again, that could hurt the Serbs the most.

I can go further. In same time the EU is making pressure on Bosnia to create a stronger government. The Muslims are 43% of Bosnia's population and they have a slightly better demographic growth. So, the strong government is a way to the Muslim rule in Bosnia (kind of Turkey)in the twenty years time. That would ruin the Bosnian Serbs.
As you see, this is a "consistent" policy.

The West never really supports the Serbs in Croatia an they almost disappeared there.
The north part of Kosovo could easily be emptied of Serbs if US and EU recognise Kosovo in nowadays borders.

The independence of Kosovo would be the final stroke to Serbs rendering them the absolute losers in "Yugoslav wars". Whatever our sins were we didn't deserve such destiny.
We can't accept that!

  • 17.
  • At 02:23 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Ljooba wrote:

There's a factual error in this article. Head and leader of Serbian Orthodox Church is Patriarch Pavle (Paul), with official title His Holiness the Archbishop of Pec (Kosovo-Albanians changed its name to Peja), Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Patriarch of Serbs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavle%2C_Patriarch_of_Serbia

  • 18.
  • At 04:12 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • gary walsh wrote:

I too have visited Kosovo after 1999, I saw first hand the distruction left behind by the serb army, Bishop Artemije needs to accept the fact that a great injustice was do the the Kosovo albaninas since 1989, they suffer a brutal oppression by the serb governemnt . As a religious leader the bishop could be apart of the healing needed in Kosovo. Did he ever speak out aganinst the crimes commited in Kosovo against the albanains? Did he ask forgiveness from the albanian Kosovo for these crimes? He now needs to accept the new reality that has dawned in Kosovo. Belgrade will never rule there again . The Bishop can be apart of the new Kosovo that will emerge , he can have a role in the reconcilation process between the citizens of a independent kosovo both serbs and albanians . The past has been lost forever , the bishop would do well to put his emergies and influence to reconcile those two peoples into a bright new future .I pray he will do that .

  • 19.
  • At 04:39 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Micheal wrote:

I really like this blog, we are again seeing the other side of the story, the Serb side. I beleive it is always more interesting to hear this side of the story as they seemed to have suffered a lot.

I bet a lot more people know about the so called "massacres" that the Serbs commited than about all the churches and monastaries that the Albanians destroyed and the Serbs they ethnically cleansed in recent years. All under the supervision of KFOR? My gosh! Thank you for this enlightenment.

  • 20.
  • At 06:16 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Michael Genung wrote:

It's heart-breaking that such a simple priciple as respecting the religious beliefs of others apparently cannot be put in place. There has to be some hidden agendas as well as the "not-so-hidden" agendas fomenting these ongoing conflicts. Identifying these agendas and clearly identifying those who are forwarding these HIDDEN AGENDAS could possibly be of help. In the meantime, we pray that G-d's will be done~!~!~!

  • 21.
  • At 07:38 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Ralph J. Masterjohn wrote:

I am a Greek Orthodox Christian born in the USA in Massachusetts. The saddening thing about what Nato did u8inder President Clinton's direction, was to bomb and slaughter its greatest friend in the area, Serbia. Of course Kosovo is Serbia, the main part of Serbia. Deep friends and allies with the US in two world wars, they pinned down many divisions of Hitler and thus helped him be defeated by the Russians after the battle of Stalingrad. The Press portrayed the Serbs as barbarians, but they are sheep of Christ as members of the Holy Orthoso Church. The Lord will rid Kosovo of the enemy that has invaded, who were trained by the Al Quaida, whom we are supposed to be fighting! Unbeievable! Ralph

  • 22.
  • At 10:59 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Gabrielle Nikolin wrote:

I respect your solitary effort to try to find the truth or at least to hear the otherside.

However, not enough is said about the real reason Kosovo is important to everyone. In the end, it is always about the money! Kosovo has gold, silver, pure lead, zinc,cadmium, lithium, and has the largest reserves of copper in the world west of Russia. It also has 17 billion tons of coal and oil reserves, mineral springs and huge electric power plants. It is a cash cow for the Albanians,aka ex-KLA moslem extremists. That is why partition is unacceptable to them.

Irrespective of your earlier piece showing delapadated mines and an ancient infrastructure-make no mistake
Kosovo is about location, money and greed.

Sovereignty is not negotiable for any people including Serbia. Kosovo is a Serbian word and it has been Serbian for 1000 years.

Before that it belonged to the Roman Empire. Maybe we should just give it to the Italians!!!

  • 23.
  • At 01:11 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Bill wrote:

Looks like a U.N. and (unfortunatly)U.S. sanctioned muslim theft of European territory. I'm sure the jihadists will have a party destroying Serbian churches, monastaries and culture.

  • 24.
  • At 08:44 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • arian wrote:

The only thing that Kosovo is similar to Jerusalem that Jewish people sufferd same as we did from Serbs ,we were deported and killed almost the same like Jewish.Like an Albanian i am very sorry that i have to listen these words from a man that belives in God much more then the others and instead talking about peace and prosperity beetwen people he distribute hate.We are tired of this lies about Kosovo was always serbian land and the Churches ,we have to look forward because the reality is different,and i expect that Bishop does his job without politics in Democratic Kosova without any fear in peace

  • 25.
  • At 10:01 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Mark, at a time when the UK Parliament is debating the EU Reform Treaty (aka Constitutional Treaty) - a matter crucial to the continued sovereignty of this country - it is a shame that you have been packed off to report on the interminable (and unsolvable in our lifetimes) squabbles of the Balkans.

I think you ought to come back home and shed light on the EU debates taking place here to ensure that we don't get shunted into into any political or economic 'union' with these quarrelsome nations.

  • 26.
  • At 11:36 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Julien - Suisse wrote:

Adrian said: ''i am very sorry that i have to listen these words from a man that belives in God much more then the others and instead talking about peace and prosperity beetwen people he distribute hate.''

Such a mature way of looking at the situation, isn't this what we all in need for a more peaceful world? Shame on the Bishop.

  • 27.
  • At 01:31 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Ilir wrote:

Why is it that every time Mark writes about the reality in Kosovo you always gets some Serbs comments trying to use every ridicules claim about the Albanian people.
It just clearly shows that for the vast majority of Serbs is not Kosovo where the problem is, but their hatred against the Albanian people fulfilled by their extremist clerics.
The politicians in Serbia and the head off the Orthodox Church in Kosovo are manipulating and brainwashing people in Serbia. These are the same guys who supported and encouraged Milosevic with the mass murder of innocent civilians in Kosovo that shocked beyond believe the civilised world. One million people were forced to live their properties and were forced to cross the border to Albania. The rape of girls of little as 14, killing of elderly and disabled people, innocent civilians were forced to pack the Trains and left with no food and water for days… All this crimes are well documented and for those who seems to forget so quickly I suggest their look at the BBC archives.
Is this what the cleric intended by comparing the Jewish suffering with that of the Kosovo’s? Sadly not!!!
I suggest that this cleric find some time in Kosovo to visit the families that got destroyed by the war.
As he ever visits any Kosovo families that got destroyed by the killing machine of Milosevic?
As he ever call for peace and tolerance between the people in Kosovo?
As he ever visit the Orthodox Monastery in Albania, which by the way are much older that the one in Kosovo?
As he ever visit the Christian churches destroyed in Kosovo and ex-Yugoslavia by the Serb military?
Sadly not again!!!
In its place we read the most sickness attacks against the Albanian people and most times even against the journalists that have the guts to write the factual reality in Kosovo.
The Albanians people did not come for no were!!!! They are not and never were emigrants in Kosovo!!!
If anyone wants some historic facts should read Noel Malcolm. Kosovo: A Short History.
The Albanians are the people of Kosovo and they only will make that place free and democratic.
Independence and the respect off the minorities is the only way forward.

  • 28.
  • At 02:13 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • F. Berisha wrote:

Attempting to portray this issue as a religious one, as some comments here seem to do, is an old and discredited propagandist ploy. It has no basis in reality. Most Albanians today, in Kosova or elsewhere, don't give a monkeys about religion. The ones that do are generally as moderate as they come, whether they're Muslim, Catholic or Orthodox Christian. A lot of Muslim Albanians can still recite ancestor names up to their Catholic or Orthodox creed. And the only reason they converted in the first place was to finally get out of the super-oppressive, discriminating law-code of the Serbian Tzar Dusan and enjoy some life-changing benefits the new Ottoman system brought at the time. Suddenly they could prosper, in business, crafts, arts, military or politics. Albanians, many of them from Kosova, made countless generals and a total of 42 Grand-Viziers (or Prime Ministers in today's speak) in the history of the Ottoman Empire, an unusually high number for such a small nation/region. How many even made it previously to the Serbian-run local government structures in places where they actually lived? Well, the records show not many, if any. And the final proof of the fallacy of the religious argument, if one needed more, is that the Albanian national hero who's revered more than any god by Albanians everywhere, is Gjergj Kastrioti Scanderbeg. The Athleta Christii himself! The one who successfully fought the Ottoman Empire and its new religion for thirty-odd years! So how could they possibly revere such a figure if they're supposed to be Jihadists!? It just doesn't make ANY sense.
What is much nearer the truth is the fact that Serbian kingdoms and governments continuously and actively engaged in a policy of severe discrimination - and at times mass extermination - towards the autoctonous Albanian population in this region. This simply had to be stopped - whether there's churches built there or not. Serbia WILL at last lose the power it has wielded over this region, and this is a develpment that's long overdue.

  • 29.
  • At 02:28 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • BEHAR wrote:

You people, most of you, are so unbelievably naive. Anyway, who has ruled whom for so many years? Who was denied the right to free speech, the right to education, the right to work for so many years?

My name is Behar I am a Kosovo Albanian and I come from Mitrovica.

My father was shot point blank in the center of my hometown in 1999 by Serbian policemen, two of whom were my first neighbors. Soon after that, my brother was beaten by the same policemen in front of our house, in front of my mom's eyes. Many much more horrible things happened to most of the Kosovo Albanians. The world should appreciate the offer we're giving to Serbs now- the offer to live together in peace regardless of the past. How difficult, do you people, think this will be for me? It eats me from the inside because I want to take revenge but I have a big heart! I am ready to 'forget' the past and for the sake of all of us, to try and construct a bright future.

I am a Muslim, as is the majority of the population, and there is not one day that I do not pray for the American people, for Bill Clinton and his family, all the British together with Tony Blair and his family, who all together saved me and the rest of my family and many other Kosovo Albanians from the Serbian brutal regime. I feel like I owe my life to these people.

God bless America! God bless Great Britain!

Behar - Mitrovica, Kosovo.

  • 30.
  • At 04:08 AM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • Lyndal wrote:

Mark

Thank you for your insight, it will be interesting for Europe once Kosovo is granted independant.
However I would like to obtain a copy of 'Hiding Genocide in Kosovo'a booklet, I have search Google but unable to source this anywhere.

Lyndal

  • 31.
  • At 02:59 PM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • Alexander Sterr wrote:

The independence of Kosovo is full of hidden agendas. Germany will approve (they invaded in WW II and commitetd atrocities and never forgave Serbs for holding them up for invasion of Russia) they prematurely recognised Croatia (who supported them in WW II and who committed the WORST and BRUTAL war crimes and massacres in WW II). Austrians fall in the same category (supported Hitler in WW II and who fought Serbia in WW I and who lost the war never forgave Serbia). Spain is worried about the Basques declaring independence. France could lose Corsica because it is basically Italian and stolen from Italy by Napoleon (he being Corsican), Finland's Altisai who was paid to recommend independence should look at his own country Finland who have denied independence to the Laps who own the land but they stole it from them. Italy is part of the WW II problem as they invaded Yugosalvia and tried to steal Montenegro but failed when Hitler failed and so they have a grievance against the serbs. The Albanians in Kosovo actually run around with an "Albanian" flag - there is no such a thing as a Kosovan flag - the Albanians will make Kosovo a province of Albania. Do not insult me by saying there is no hiden agenda.
As for the USA, when you are being led by a boofhead who knows nothing about history or geography you are going to get crazy decisions.
As for the UK, well it is now the US's poodle and is too scared to stand up to the world bully.
Granting independence to Kosovo will alow other people to do the same (Serbs in Republic of Srpska, Serbs in Croatia, Basques in Spain, Laps in Finland, West Papua New guinea in Indonesia, Acheans in Indonesia, Corsicans in France, etc etc). fancy telling someone 20 years ago that you could recognise a separatist group as acountry without UN approval - they would have laughed themselves stupid - it is nothing short of ignorant to do so
As far as the EU goes - it is fast becoming a farce - you resubmit the same basic document and call it a treaty (initially calling it a "constitution" and after it was rejected by a few EU countries at referendum) and you do not have the courage to submit it to the people to referendum because you know it will be rejected - you would never get away with it in Australia, Mate.
Wake up to yourselves, Europe! Europe has lost its moral compass - maybe it never had one! certainly looks like it?

  • 32.
  • At 11:27 PM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • Spiro Jankovich wrote:

There are 2 sides to every story and a blind person would have a hard time identifying an elephant. It is a cruel fate that the Serbs are facing but they are used to it because they have always been manipulated by foreign powers. It makes me sad that my adopted country for the sake of political expediency bombed a sacred part of a nation that was an ally in 2 wars. Kosovo will be independent, Pandoras box has yet to be opened. You will see a part of Crna Gora being coveted and then there will be a part of Macedonia and the world will once again look away because oil money speaks and the world will listen or else.

  • 33.
  • At 11:57 AM on 02 Feb 2008,
  • Realist wrote:

It is very confused, for people who are not involved in Ballkans, to understand the Kosovo Issue. But this issue could be studied as simple as that, trying to ask ourselves some basic questions;

Does Kosovo history existed before year 1389?

Who are Illyrians and their descendents?

How many Albanians live outside their borders? and WHY?

Does Albanians (in their history) occupied any other country?

What is the Serbian's Chusch story in Kosovo? have they ever been Albanian Catholic Churches?

Why Albanians were killed and deported for as long as 600 years?

Does the International comunity helped Albanians just because they are Albanians? or because they understood the Serbian nationalist brain?

Does the Bishops belong to God or nationalism?

We all belong to Reallity, Democracy and Liberty!

Thanks


  • 34.
  • At 12:12 PM on 02 Feb 2008,
  • Gezim Disha wrote:

No wander this so called “servants” of God live behind barbed wires. They gave their blessing to the ethnic cleansing. And now with their lies, hysteric propaganda they’ve turned this supposedly houses of God into houses of ethnic hatred.
Aren’t they supposed to preach love and peace?
I would suggest to His Grace to stop being a messenger of dark forces, sticks to the original purpose of the church or he can go and find his “Jerusalem” back where his ancestors came from.
After all, Albanians were devoted Christians long before his destructive barbaric tribes for ancestors arrived in the Balkans.

  • 35.
  • At 08:45 PM on 02 Feb 2008,
  • astrix wrote:

The Bishop is correct, Kosovo is not lost and the moment SErbs start to think it is lost then it will be. The Albanians who settled in This medieval serbian territory converteed to islam to gain favour. This is something the Serbians could have done in 1912,1914, 1941 however as this was not the case the Austrian /Germanic /turkish yoke was revoked at great cost to Serbia. The Albanians today as in 1914, 1940 with their german support continue to undermine Serbia. Serbia has some tough decisions to make but with the right resolution (leader) Kosovo will remain Serbian without a doubt. P.S. please do not rely on the anti-slavic Britwish and US. ~Look at History!!

  • 36.
  • At 03:19 AM on 03 Feb 2008,
  • B. Deva wrote:

Dear Mark,

Article is interesting, although I would like to hear more about the Albanian side of the story. Balkan's nations are very nationalistic. The Balkan's history is twisted by every nation. Unfortunately, the stronger party writes the history.

Church has a big influence in Serbian politics. Unfortunately the Serbian church instead of promoting tolerance, it pushed toward Serbian nationalism whose actions lead to inter-nationalistic hate. This was witnessed during the wars in former Yugoslavia (Croatia, Bosnia and then Kosovo). Serbian leader Karadzic, who is still wanted by Hague tribunal for war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia, was often welcomed by Serbian Church, and his actions were acknowledged and motivated by the Church.

Orthodox churches in Kosovo were once preached by Albanian priests or at least Byzantium priests, but as the time progressed these churches were adopted by Serbia. As Serbian bishops claim, It is not accurate to say that this is a Serbian Heritage since we all know that there was no concept of nation or country before and during the Ottoman Empire. Byzantium era consisted of many groups of people and tribes.

Kosovar Albanians always identified Serbian Church as a political instrument of Serbia and not as a religious institution. This is the main reason that some religious objects were damaged during the riots in 2004 although Albanians are known for their religious tolerance.

Serbia (together with Russia, and Greece to some extent) are the only countries in Europe where church has a strong influence over the state.

Middle east is facing the current situation because of the non-separation of Church and the State, and this church-state connection must be avoided in Serbia.

Peace,

  • 37.
  • At 10:58 AM on 08 Feb 2008,
  • Laert Dogjani wrote:

Astrix 34 "The Albanians today as in 1914, 1940 with their german support continue to undermine Serbia."

Please don't fill this blog with such repeated stupidity, lies and propaganda.


Serb officials have yet to say "sorry". You still "measure" faith by churches, monasteries and their size and age. What happened to the intangible "measurements" peace, respect, humility and so on. Together with the greeks you associate nationalities with religion. An orthodox is greek or serb. Hence, you had a problem with catholic croats, muslim bosniaks and albanians. Do you know why albanians in fyrom and kosova are "more" muslim than those in Albania? Because it helped them maintain their identity under your pressure, discrimination and persecution.

"As god wills", reminds me of "God wills it". If even "man of faith" still live the time of the crusades, I need not wonder what the general population thinks. In fact, the majority of serb people do not believe their army killed any people in Kosova. It is amazing how in the age of information you manage remain so brainwashed.

  • 38.
  • At 05:14 PM on 09 Feb 2008,
  • Dr. Milena Bajich wrote:

Oppression being what it is has lead many people to feel frustrated, disregarded and forgotten. History is re-written to benefit the victors and life seemingly goes on. St. Nikolai Velimirovich (who became a bishop in the 20th century), a fantastic example of a well-educated individual who tried to teach and help his oppressed people gain knowledge of who they are (while under communist oppression), taught many about the Orthodox faith. Along with teaching about faith, he also taught about the meaning of the Kosovo battle of 1389. He discussed it in a way that Serbs would understand. St. Lazar, the Tsar of Serbia, in 1389, insisted that the soldiers going into battle first recieve Holy Communion prior to going into battle with the Ottoman Turks. Often misinterpreted by the West and mistaken for martyrdom, they do not understand the powerful meaning of the act of receiving Holy Communion prior to the battle or at least they are not aware that this action took place(an unprecedented act at the time).
Thus, it is not about territory so much as it is about the soul of Serbia. Back in 1389, the Serbs may have lost a battle but never their heart nor their faith. They waited. They waited until they were free from their oppressors. They waited for a free Kosovo. But another group, the communists, quickly oppressed the Serbs again.
Tito freely gave terrirtories of Serbian heritage to Albanians, granting sovereignty and certain rights to Albanians that was not his to give and while he gave to the Albanians, he took away from the Serbians. Leaders, being what they are, influenced by many things not the least which is greed, pounced on the area when Tito died. Once again, more Serbs were extracted from the area. It seems that the only ethnic cleansing that happened in the 1990's, happened to the Serbs. Once again, the Serbs find themselves in a similar situation as they did in 1389.
Once again, they turn to their faith. Once again, even if they have to wait, they wait for the soul of Serbia to be reunited with the body of Serbia. Because it is not what is on earth that matters but what awaits us all...
Dr. Milena Bajich

  • 39.
  • At 10:34 AM on 10 Feb 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Often misinterpreted by the West and mistaken for martyrdom, they do not understand the powerful meaning of the act of receiving Holy Communion prior to the battle. [#38]


No, most of us don't. Because, even if most of us have been raised in Christian faith (Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, you name it) many of us know that some of the biggest atrocities in the history of mankind were commmited in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Forget the (un)Holy Inquisition and Dark Ages: if Cortez and Pizarro had "spread the Gospel" today the way they spread it back then, they would have been accused of ethnic cleansing. Just like Karadic and Mladic are today.

  • 40.
  • At 10:58 PM on 15 Feb 2008,
  • Milosev Jovan wrote:

The Serbian people have continually assumed that in every century they would again find it necessary to defend their rights to their land, self-determination, and freedom of worship. History in the Balkans continuously repeats itself! In 1690, more than 180,000 Serbs were forced from Kosovo and, again, an equal number were exiled in 1737. After the Congress of Berlin, in 1878, another 150,000 Serbs were expelled. This ongoing trend took on tragic proportions following the war in Crete between Turkey and Greece in 1897. Diplomatic efforts to stem the tide of atrocities against Serbs were useless, but documentation remains to testify to the crimes committed against the Serbian population. The Balkan war of 1912 was fought not only by Serbs but by Montenegrins, Bulgarians, and Greeks to liberate their people from centuries of uninterrupted Islamic aggression. The situation is little changed today.

To understand Kosovo, the American people need to compare the current Balkan crisis with its own American Civil War in which just 4% of the population lost their lives compared to Serbia who lost 52% of her adult male population in WWI and another 26% of her overall population in WWII. Readers of this forum need reminding that during the American Civil War it was the loyal Virginia citizens who refused to secede from the union and formed the state of West Virginia in 1863. Certainly Serbs deserve the same rights to remain in their union, a union which was internationally recognized as a nation in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin.


Above text written by William Dorich, author of the 1992 book, "Kosovo"

  • 41.
  • At 06:49 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Milena wrote:

Big THANK YOU Alexander Sterr, Jovan, Ralph, Miriann, Julia, Bayich, Atrix and other knowlegeable and thinking people of this sad, brainwashed world for repeating some crucial historical and political facts with respect to Kosovo, Serbs and Albanians. It is comforting to see that some of us could still see and think even though bombarded on a daily basis by the propaganda of various regime-serving media such as CNN, (sadly) BBC and armies of "jurnalist". Yes, we all have to work in order to live, none of us are truly free but I am grateful I do not have to earn my bread as journalist serving the oppressive regimes of US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, etc. What a sad life when you have to forget the basic moral scruples in order to survive. Even more sad is when you see that the majority of them seems to came to believe in lies they write/make!

Let me just remind all - we are part of history (even though it seems we never learn anything positive from it) and what happened before our short time in this world makes who we are and what we will do; we cannot and should not forget that.

The fact is - Serbs are not and never were occupators, we were always faiting our own occupators, defending the very own lives of our children and our livelihood and building our lives and country from ashes several times in every centery.

Let's repeat what Jovan and others pointed out:

After resisting centuries of islamic invasion and oppression and sacrifying themselves for the higher cause in 1389 in Kosovo and defending the doors of Europe (remember that the bells on Notre Dame in distant Paris prematurely declared Serbs victory on Kosovo - note that Serbs were allies of France then, not Albanians or Croats) and never converting to islam (as our Albanian friends did, since it was opportune, as they wrote themselves below), in 1690, more than 180,000 Serbs were forced from Kosovo and, again, an equal number were exiled in 1737. After the Congress of Berlin, in 1878, another 150,000 Serbs were expelled. This ongoing trend took on tragic proportions following the war in Crete between Turkey and Greece in 1897. Diplomatic efforts to stem the tide of atrocities against Serbs were useless, but documentation remains to testify to the crimes committed against the Serbian population. The Balkan war of 1912 was fought not only by Serbs but by Montenegrins, Bulgarians, and Greeks to liberate their people from centuries of uninterrupted Islamic aggression.

The history continued when Austrians invaded Serbia in WW I and committed the worst attrocities against Serbian civilians - women and children - before they lost the war and never forgave Serbia); when Germany (never forgaving Serbs for holding them up for invasion of Russia) invaded in WW II and commited atrocities as well (when both my grandfather and his two brothers (18 and 21 years old) were killed by German firesquad in Serbian town of Kraljevo along with several thousand other civilians just because they were Serbs); during the same time, WW II, over 500,000 Serbs were killed by Croats (ustashe) in concentrations camps (i.e., Jasenovac) formed in German satelite nazi state of Croatia (NDH). (Nevertheless, Croatia was immediatelly and prematurely recognized by "western democracies" after dismantling of Yugoslavia while they continue to punish Serbia by all means available.) During the last 50 years in Tito's Yugoslavia and this civil war, Serbs were systematically cleanesed out of Kosovo by Albanians (it is estimated that over 300,000 Albanians from Albania proper was "imported" into Serbia's Kosovo province during the Tito/Enver Hodha rule), cleansed out of Krajina by Croats (and their ally US during the last civil war) and parts of Serb teritory in Bosnia all the way after the WW II and particularly during the break of Yugoslavia.

After all of the above, in that "genocidal" Serbia today, these are the demographic data according to the United Nations record from 2003:

Serb 62.6%, Albanian 16.5%, Montenegrin 5%, Yugoslav 3.4%, Hungarian 3.3%, other 9.2% (1991)

Religions: Eastern Orthodox 65%, Muslim 19%, Roman Catholic 4%, Protestant 1%, other 11%

And these are some demographic data for Serbian province of Kosovo:

1948-1968:
(Wikipedia) Most of the territory of today's province is occupied by Italian-controlled Greater Albania, massacres of some 10,000 Serbs, ethnic cleansing of about 80 to 100,000 or more (including all of the colonists) and settling of 100,000 of Albanians from Albania.

1948: 727,820-733,820 total inhabitants:
498,242 Albanians (68%)[19]
171,911-171,914 Serbs (24%)
28,050 Montenegrins (4%)
11,230 Roms
1,315 Turks

A most comprehensive (October 2002) estimate (for the 1.9 million inhabitants) for these years:

88% Albanians
6% Serbs
3% Muslims (Bosniacs and Gorani)
2% Roma
1% Turk

Please see the hystoric demographic data for Croatia, Bosnia and other former republics of Yugoslavia showing the same trend - cleansing of Serbs from each.

Who was doing ethnic cleansing here; who has hiden agenda?


  • 42.
  • At 07:09 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"when Austrians invaded Serbia in WW I and committed the worst attrocities against Serbian civilians..." [#42]


If I recall correctly Austrians invaded Serbia, when a Serbian terrorist(Gavrilo Princip) killed Archduke Ferdinand (and his wife) in circumstances similar to those in which a Pakistani terrorist has killed recenly Benazir Bhutto.

BTW Last time I checked that Serbian terorist has been considered a national hero. Just like thugs responsible for massacres of Vukovar and Srebrenica.

  • 43.
  • At 11:42 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Tony wrote:

"If I recall correctly Austrians invaded Serbia, when a Serbian terrorist(Gavrilo Princip) killed Archduke Ferdinand (and his wife) in circumstances similar to those in which a Pakistani terrorist has killed recenly Benazir Bhutto."

If one recalls anything, than one should recall full set of facts, rather than manipulate them and present white lies.
That goes for the entire forum here.

Gavrilo Princip was a young communist idiot, and a good excuse for the Austrohungarinas to finaly start the war. They have been longing have a war since end of 1800's. - refer to history books/internet for more facts (before you comment).

It is through the same Austrohungarina empire that the Albania has become the state - first time ever in 1912!
Ever since albanians came to the region, and Serbs were there centuries before them, they have been doing ethnic cleansing against ALL NON ALBANIANS around them.
Have a look at history books or on the net - what was the Albanian population in 1918, 1941, 1945, 1980, 1998 and also as as percentage of the Kosovo population.
Even baboons would realize that such population boom is not possible under the normal circumstance!
They have been populating Kosovo (mainly immigrating from Albania-entire families with herds of sheep!), on purpose and with the plan - for over a century - with the aim of creating a greater albania.
I do no appreciate comments from people who got all their "facts" from CNN/BBC/NBC/ etc.
If you are not informed on the matter, rather stay out of it.

US does not care about human rights !(what about Ruwanda, Zimbabve, Turkey, etc. - where is Sadam's nuclear bomb?!)
US politicians just care about the oil & money.
That's all what it boils down to.

It is the ignorant people who just "take" whatever is served to them through the above media - and not only about Serbia, but about all the world matters as a whole.

  • 44.
  • At 03:26 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Artan, Prishtina wrote:

It is obvious that a lot of people know very less about history. Some of them go back 700 yrs ago mentioning the Lost Battle of Kosova in 1389 where Serbs, Albanians Hungarians etc, lost the battle, and now some say Kosovo is the heart of Serbs. This is very funny. If going back in time, lets go further. How about Illyrians, history knows that Albanians are descendants of Illyrians, first data exists before Christ in Greek literature. Illyrians (Albanians) existed where there were no Serbs, no Slavs at all in Balkans. The territory of Illyria is bigger than the entire former Yugoslavia. So now, would not it be funny if Albanians say "Hey, this is where Illyrians lived, this is our heart land, so now, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Serbia, half of Bulgaria, Hungaria should leave because those lands were Illyrian?"
History says that slavs came in balkans around 7th century and populated weakened Illyrian tribes since they were in wars with Rome and Greece.

Have any of you claiming that Kosova belongs to Serbia read anything about ancient history. How ridiculous is to say that, arguing because of a lost battle 700 yrs ago?
Why can't people just live in the present?

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