Kosova can’t get unstuck in time

Serbs in Kosova inaugurated their own assembly June 28 at the divided city of Mitrovica—in defiance of the Albanian-led government and the UN. Forty-five members were elected in May during Serbia’s general and municipal elections. The ballot was declared illegal by the UN and Kosova’s official government, which has been recognized by 43 states. People from across Serbia gathered in Mitrovica to show support for the new assembly. Kosova’s President Fatmir Sejdiu called it “an attempt to destabilize Kosova.” An unnamed UN spokesman quoted by the BBC called the assembly a “virtual reality.”

BBC noted that the assembly was opened on St Vitus day, “when Serbs remember their defeat by invading Ottoman forces in 1389—an event that lies at the core of the Serb claim to Kosovo.”

Actually, the Battle of Kosovo was, of course, when Serbia lost the territory. It marked the end of a Serbian kingdom with Kosovo as its heartland, and the rise of Belgrade as the center of Serb power. Before 1389, the Serbian kingdom had various seats of power including Ras, Prizren and Prishtina (in contemporary Kosova); Skopje (Macedonia) and Shkodra (Albania). After the battle, Serbs massively fled north (an obvious analogy to 1999’s Operation Allied Force for contemporary Serbs). A reduced Serbian kingdom survived along the Danube River under Hungarian protection, before also succumbing to the Ottomans in 1459. Belgrade itself held out under direct Hungarian rule until it was finally taken by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1521. Serbia did not regain Kosova until the First Balkan War of 1912. (See our historical primer, War at the Crossroads).

What’s more, St. Vitus’ Day (Vidovdan to the Serbs) has echoed through the past century in key—in more recent years, generally humiliating—moments in Serbia’s history. On June 28:

1914: Arch-Duke Ferdinand is offed by a Serb nationalist in Sarajevo, sparking World War I
1919: Treaty of Versailles creates Yugoslavia, ruled by the Serb royal family
1920: Kingdom of Yugoslavia approves constitution
1948: Tito’s Yugoslavia expelled from Cominform, making official the Tito-Stalin split
1989: Slobodan Milosevic holds rally at scene of 1389 battle, opening his “Greater Serbia” campaign
1991: Slovenia secedes, opening the Wars of the Yugoslav Sucession
1999: NATO occupation of Kosova underway following June 10 “peace” agreement
2001: Milosevic is extradited to The Hague for war crimes

With Belgrade and Moscow refusing to recognize Kosova’s independence and the UN and the West refusing to recognize the new Serb assembly, the lines are drawn for further escalation. It seems 2008 can now be added to the above list…

See our last post on Kosova. Also note that two years ago on St. Vitus Day, Serbia Prime Minister Kostunica did his own mini-emulation of Milosevic’s 1989 performance.

  1. the end is not in sight
    The New York Times completely missed this. They did announce, however, that Serbs got a new prime minister on St Vitus day 2008: Mirko Cvetkovic, “a low-key technocrat” from Tadic’s party.

    Kostunica will now be able to spend all his time on his pet project: returning Kosovo to Serbia.
    There is no reason for Serbian-Albanian conflict over Kosovo to end – ever. It can be an ongoing simmering plague just like the conflict between Jews and Arabs over Israel/Palestine. I don’t see either side ever giving an inch.
    The only difference being that in the case of Kosovo, the West supports the weaker party in the conflict, so it has to keep continuing military presence in the region, while in the cae of Israel, it is enough to send money.

    1. Serbia and Kosovo it is not
      Serbia and Kosovo it is not like Israel and Palestine. Not at all.

      Kosovo is a country on its own, and so is Serbia, so neither needs to “give and inch” as you say, or take anything for that matter.

      1. Kosovo
        Kosovo is not a country in legal terms. It is a province of Serbia with broad autonomy. However, legal terms & legal borders don’t seem to mean much when the world’s only super power says otherwise. This along with the fact that many people outside the Balkans care very little for what is actually going on. We, as Americans only care & get negative about wars & conflicts that are not going well for us!(ie – Iraq)