Background Analysis: Historical Considerations on Kosovo
Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis - November 7, 2006

Analysis. By V. Groginsky, GIS Station Kosovo. The southern Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija is a region of many contrasts in landscape, culture, and historical perspective. From arid hills similar to eastern Afghanistan, to mountainous mining towns like those in Colorado, and wide fertile plains resembling parts of the American Mid-West, Kosovo has been the object of numerous foreign conquerors over the ages. Thracians, Ilyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Turks, Hungarians, Bulgarians, and Albanians have all vied for control of the region, but for the past 1,400 years it has been distinctly Serbian in character.

However, for the past 500 years, Kosovo has been undergoing a process of aggressive Albanization, which has accelerated exponentially over the past century. At the heart of the conflict lies a clash between waxing and waning nation-states, and the Westphalian concept of sovereignty.

Kosovo is the cradle of the Serbian nation and culture, the home of its ancient Orthodox Christian monasteries and site of its celebrated battles against Islamic conquest and foreign domination. Serbs can legitimately trace over 1,400 years of presence in the region, and repeated mass casualties to protect this heritage and territory over the centuries are well documented and indisputable.

Kosovo Albanians appeared in the region starting in the 15<th> Century, while it was under Ottoman Turkish domination, and many Orthodox Christian Albanians converted to Islam to curry favor with their foreign overlords. Moreover, as much as 40 percent of Kosovo Albanians' lineage can be traced directly to Serb ancestry, owing to large numbers of Serbs who converted to Islam and Albanized, in order to maintain their holdings or achieve social status through assimilation in the face of expansion by Albanian and Islamic societies. Whereas the Serbs have long sought accommodation with other nationalities, the Albanians are rejectionist, espousing exclusive ethnocentrism, which is, given the reality of their mixed bloodline, more of a cultural centrism.

The Serbs have a saying that "a convert is worse than a Turk", and like Bosnian Muslims and Croatians who were forced or voluntary converts from Orthodox Christianity, these populations are often at the extreme end of the national-political spectrum, known for their brutality towards their former brethren. In some regions, such as the Drenica region, renowned for Albanian nationalist extremism, almost 100 percent of the Serb population Albanized within the past century. Many in today's Kosovo Albanian separatist leadership have distinctly Albanized Serb names, and their national hero, Skender Beg, was an Albanian-Serb taken at early age as a blood tax by the Ottoman Turks to return first as a janissary, and then as an Albanian national liberator.

The Past Century

The Serbian majority has been systematically reduced to minority status, largely in three great migrations. The first was in 1690, when the Serbian Patriarchate and tens of thousands of Serbs fled Turkish reprisals due to a Serbian rebellious alliance with Austria. The second occurred in 1790, as Ottoman Turks lost control to Albanian violence, and hundreds of thousands of Serbs fled toward Austro-Hungarian lands. From 1876 to 1912, regional wars saw the flight of an additional 200,000 to 400,000. The Serbs attempted re-colonization in 1912 during the Balkan war, which in turn displaced Albanians. During World War I, the Serbs fled from the Austrian Army over the Albanian mountains in Winter, where they were continually harassed and ambushed by Albanians along their march to Greece. Casualties were estimated at 100,000.

During World War II, Kosovo Albanians sided with the Nazis, and formed several SS divisions, including the Skenderbeg Division. Germans and Albanians in Kosovo exterminated tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies, driving hundreds of thousands into exile, further north into Serbia. During the period of Tito's Yugoslavia, hundreds of thousands more fled the increasingly militant Albanian-dominated region. Tito's own policies -- such as the prohibition against Kosovo Serb refugees' return, open border with Albania, and subsidies for high Albanian natality -- contributed to the inversion of population demographics. Tito espoused "Strong Yugoslavia, Weak Serbia", and created facts on the ground to ensure it.

The League of Prizren in 1878 sought to create a Greater Albania autonomous from the Ottoman Empire throughout Albania, Kosovo, parts of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Greece. This was promoted at the Congress of Berlin, and the Second League of Prizren in 1943. The issue of militarist Albanian designs on the region was made known as early as 1912 when at a London conference Kosovo Albanian leader Isa Boletini said: "We will fertilize the land of Kosovo with the bones of Serbs." The invading Ottomans, Austrians, Tito, Albanians, and now NATO have killed or driven out the Serbs in waves, reducing their numbers from majority to minority status in less than two generations. The map which Hitler created of a Greater Albania based on the League of Prizren is espoused by current Albanian nationalists, and openly backed by some in Washington, Brussels, and elsewhere. Moreover, the US has re-created the Ottoman system, by empowering Albanians to persecute Serbs to further US designs on the region.

But as they had with the Turks, the Albanians still have plans of their own.

The Present, Tense

The Serbian province of Kosovo is nearing the artificially-imposed time limit for a "final decision" on its status as either an autonomous Serbian province, or an independent state, albeit an international protectorate. That "decision" has probably already been made, foretelling another human exodus.

The casual observer could be forgiven for attributing normalcy to present day Kosovo upon first glance. Pristina's cafes are filled with reveling Albanian and international patrons. Perhaps a quarter of the cars in urban areas are late-model BMWs, Mercedes, or Audis. New construction projects rise along many major roads and Albanian population centers. It appears that Albanian Kosovo is undergoing an economic boom. The Albanian flag waves proudly beside the Stars and Stripes, perhaps the only Muslim region where it does so. And a spirit of freedom pervades the majority Albanian society. But image is not reality, neither in media, nor in strategic issues. And Kosovo is neither normal nor stable.

Kosovo today is the nerve center of organized crime in Europe.

The Kosovo Albanian mafia - whose capos are the ethnic Albanian leaders of Kosovo (Hashim Thaci, Agim Ceku, Ramush Haradinaj, and hundreds of others), and US allies - control most of the heroin, arms, and white slavery/prostitution rings in Europe. Most of the luxury autos in Kosovo are stolen in central Europe, and given false papers; there are so many that prices are as low as 4,000 euros . Kosovo is the safe-haven for their laundered funds, often invested back into construction projects on real estate stolen from Serbs.

Kosovo Albanians have committed armed robberies in France with automatic weapons and RPGs, and have overtaken the Sicilian Mafia in Italy, largely due to their ruthlessness and closed society. Their criminal enterprises have been documented by law enforcement agencies to stretch throughout Western Europe and the US. Their money has allegedly bought off US senators and congressmen; their revisionist history and expansionist aims have been made official policy of the US Congress, and State Department. In Kosovo, their heroin labs are protected and heroin transported by units of the US military. During the Albanian insurgency of 1997-1999 (and through 2001 in Macedonia and Presevo), US Special Forces and British SAS armed, trained, and gave battlefield expertise to Albanian separatists waging brutal separatist campaigns in the region. During the war in Kosovo in 1999, the US military airlifted the Albanian UCK (Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosove : the Kosovo Liberation Army, also referred to as the KLA) terrorists into some Serbian villages, where every civilian was killed or expelled, for instance the village of Trpeza near Gnjilane.

One of Kosovo's Albanian warlords and Mafiosi, Hashim Thaci (who uses the nickname "The Snake", and who is a friend of former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and CNN ccorrespondent Christiane Amanpour, and whose Victory Hotel in Pristina is adorned with a Statue of Liberty and upside-down US flag; this is where KBR and Halliburton employees are housed) recently stated in Koha Ditore:

"... [O]rganized crime and mafia which has penetrated to the highest ranks of the government pyramid are the biggest dangers for Kosovo ... but what will happen after the status [ie: sovereignty recognition for Kosovo]? Who will stop the criminal gangs that have been installed by this weak government?"

Certainly it won't be the very criminals who are the prime culprits.

The official response of US Government officials to questions about the role of jihadist and radical Islamist elements in the Kosovo Albanian independence movement is that it is an inconsequential phenomenon, and that most Albanians are secular nationalists. The attitude of Western policy makers is that if the Kosovo Albanians are not given independence soon, they will be driven into the camp of Wahhabists out of frustration. Wahhabist influence is unrelated to Kosovo's status, and is already well entrenched.

Western military intelligence officials have extensively documented the inroads made by jihadist /terrorist elements, and their presence throughout Kosovo, and links to global Islamist terror networks and narco-mafias is widely known. In many areas, young Kosovo Albanians are being converted to the Wahhabist faction, and are highly visible in their telltale short haircuts, beards, and ankle-length pants. As well, many Arabs are present from the Middle East and France, presumably leaders of jihadist cells. Moreover, anti-Western jihadist sermons are now a regular feature at many of the new mosques. Iranian and Middle Eastern radical imams are preaching jihadist rhetoric in mosques in Prizren; al Qaeda linked mosques exist in Urosevac and Talnivoc. Many Albanians including moderate imams are concerned about the growing power of Wahhabist influence. Western military intelligence officials have stated that the findings of their investigations into the jihadist terror networks are routinely ignored or blocked by NATO, UN, and US officials.

Kosovo Albanian nationalists as well have voiced concern over the rising influence of Wahhabism in Albanian society. Writing in the Albanian-language daily Express, Genc Morina stated:

"The warriors of pure Islam", as the Wahabists like to call themselves, began their activity in Kosovo and the beginning of the 1990s ...

The NGOs still active under the auspices of the Saudi Joint Committee for the Relief of Kosovo and Chechnya, which came to Kosovo after the most recent 1999 war, are profiting from poverty in the suburbs of Kosovo cities but also to a large degree in the surrounding villages...

... Islamic Education Foundation (IEF) is offering Kosovo children "an education" in over 30 Q'uranic schools throughout Kosovo. The children are being offered 50 euros to learn certain ayats and suras from the Q'uran by heart. In schools built with funds from the Saudi Joint Committee for the Relief of Kosovo and Chechnya and with the assistance of the Islamic Education Foundation, work is being done to create a new generation of loyal Muslims - not (loyal) to Kosovo but to the Islamic internationale . Ever in the service of this project in mosques identified as "theirs" Wahhabi activists have opened Internet cafes to attract children ...

On top of the above-cited facts mujahedin activists have also targeted other parts of the Kosovo population. Widows, people fired from their jobs, peasants, unemployed youth, some "intellectuals" are receiving financial means (150 euros and other kinds of assistance) to lead a completely Islamic manner of life in its most radical form.

There are two very distinct Kosovos easily visible today. In minority enclaves (Serbs, Gypsies, Gorani, Egyptians, Croats, Turks, Ashkali and others), populations live in a state of constant fear from Albanian intimidation or attack, which occur almost daily. Not one Jew remains. Serbs are routinely murdered with no legal recourse, as the "justice" system is entirely in the hands of ethnic Albanians, placed there by Hashim Thaci and United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) officials. Prosecutor Ismet Kabashi, an Islamist, is one such example. While nine percent of the Kosovo Police Corps are ethnic Serbs, they are mere stage-props, as the real power is in the hands of its Albanian core which temporarily maintains a facade of minority tolerance to appease their backers in the "international community".

Since 1999, more than 1,000 ethnic Serbs have been kidnapped and murdered, with few of the bodies recovered. Few ethnic Albanians have been arrested or tried for these murders, or for the destruction of over 130 historic Serbian churches, the countless monuments and graveyards vandalized, or the ethnic cleansing of 230,000 Serbs and other minorities.

Those minorities which remain do so in conditions very different from the majority Albanians. Serbs and other persecuted minorities venture out of their hamlets and enclaves at great risk, and having been completely disarmed by KFOR/NATO, have no means of defense even within them. Armed incursions by Albanian attackers still occur, and are often directed against isolated, vulnerable, and often elderly civilians. Even if Serbs had the means to defend themselves, the Albanian leadership waits for any possible excuse to launch another pogrom against Serbs, such as that of March 2004, where thousands of Serbs were expelled under the watchful eyes of NATO troops, and dozens of centuries' old churches demolished. The pretext was the drowning of some Albanian boys in a river, purported by Albanian radio to have been chased there by Serbs and their dog, but the incident turned out to be an accident. The pogrom was centrally directed, well organized, and methodical.

The Office of the Ombudsperson in Kosovo goes further in describing the events of March 17, 2004. According to the IVth Report of the Ombudsperson's Institute in Kosovo July 12, 2004:

"... [T]his onslaught was an organized, widespread and targeted campaign. Minority areas were targeted, sending a message that minorities and returnees were not welcome in Kosovo. The Secretary-General saw this as a targeted effort to drive out Kosovo Serbs and members of the Roma and Ashkalija communities and to destroy the social fabric of their existence in Kosovo. It also showed a lack of commitment among large segments of the Kosovo Albanian population to creating a truly multi-ethnic society in Kosovo."

A Human Rights Watch report is particularly instructive of how the Albanians operated in creating the larger conflict:

"...The KLA was responsible for serious abuses in 1998, including abductions and murders of Serbs and ethnic Albanians considered collaborators [sic : loyal to] the state. In some villages under KLA control in 1998, the rebels drove ethnic Serbs from their homes. Some of those who remained are unaccounted for and are presumed to have been abducted by the KLA and killed ... The KLA detained an estimated 85 Serbs during its July 19, 1998, attack on Orahovac. Thirty five of these people were subsequently released, but the others remain missing as of August 2001. On July 22, 1998, the KLA briefly took control of the Belacevac mine near Obilic. Nine Serbs were captured that day and they remain on the ICRC's list of the missing. In September 1998, the Serbian police collected the 34 bodies of people believed to have been seized and murdered by the KLA, among them some ethnic Albanians, at Lake Rodanjic, near Glodjane. Prior to that the most serious KLA abuse was the reported killing of 22 Serbian civilians in the village of Klecka ... The KLA ... engaged in military tactics which put civilians at risk. KLA units sometimes staged an ambush or attacked police and army outposts from a village, and then retreated, exposing villagers to revenge attacks ... Most seriously, as many as 1000 Serbs and Roma [gypsies] have been murdered or have gone missing since June 12, 1999...elements of the KLA are clearly responsible for many ... of these crimes...There is also a clear political goal in many of these attacks: the removal from Kosovo of non-ethnic Albanians in order to better justify an independent state."

One US UN official stated that the total Albanian deaths in the 1998-1998 war with Serbia was 2,700 to 2,900. This included both civilian and military, and included combat deaths and summary executions. Serbian High Command, possibly Pres. Slobodan Milosevic, ordered that bodies be removed from Kosovo, and hidden in Serbia. After the fall of Milosevic, the Serbian Government turned over 800 bodies of Albanians, who had been buried in a mass grave at Batajnica. Included in the figure were women and children. Similarly, refrigerated containers containing dozens of bodies were disposed of. Most remains have been returned to the Kosovo Albanian Administration.

However, the international community has, like in Bosnia and Croatia before, been indifferent towards military excesses when the recipient population was Serb. Video and photographic documentation is plentiful of Albanian excesses against non-Albanian civilians, yet even the few who have been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) are given wide reign in Kosovo. Of those who have been indicted, among the more than 100 actual war criminals, most were indicted for crimes against fellow Albanians. (Ramush Haradinaj killed hundreds of Albanians in the Drenica region for refusing to give their sons to the KLA. The bodies he disposed of in a lake near Djakovica had to be dredged up when he was tipped off that it would be searched by international forces, to avoid a political embarrassment.)

See also:

Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, March 19, 2004: New Kosovo Violence is Start of Predicted 2004 Wave of Islamist Operations: the Strategic Ramifications.

Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, October 25, 2005:
Special Report 1: New Evidence Highlights Albanian Link to Explosives Used in London, Madrid Bombings .
Special Report 2: Jihadist Terrorist Leader Returns to the Balkans as Actions Intensify to Promote Kosovo Independence .
Special Report 3: Heroin Production Facilities Flourish in Kosovo Area Under US Military Protection .

Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, January 25, 2006: Death of Kosovo's Albanian President Ibrahim Rugova Delays Status Talks and Increases Likelihood of Violence .

Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, October 27, 2006: Growing Evidence of Complicity of UN and Western Officials in Support for Jihadists in Kosovo .

Copyright2006 Defense & Foreign Affairs/International Strategic Studies Association
Reprinted with Permission.