At the end of the 80s, the well-known architect from Belgrade, Bogdan Bogdanović was returning from Mitrovica, traveling with an Albanian driver in a car with Mitrovica plates. In one of his many interviews with the Yugoslav media, in December 1989, he said that during this experience he had understood what it meant to be an Albanian in Yugoslavia. “They did everything to us during the journey: They honked their car horns, they whistled, threatened that they would run us over with a truck.”
On the verge of the former Yugoslavia’s destruction, Bogdanović labeled — the Serbian repression and apartheid in Kosovo that would intensify during the 90s — as fascism. He added that, “The Serbian people, us Serbs, our children and grandchildren, will carry it in our consciousness.” Bogdanović considered the destruction and killing of cities and people in Kosovo, as well as the lack of awareness of it, a moral tragedy for the Serbs.
Bogdanović is part of the Serbian intellectuals group that opposed the drastic oppression of Albanian human rights in Kosovo by Serbian authorities. Beginning from the abolition of Kosovo’s autonomy from Serbia on March 23,1989 and up to the entrance of NATO’s troops on June 12, 1999 and beyond. The violations culminated during 1998-1999 with war crimes and crimes against humanity; with the killings of nearly 10,000 Albanian civilians, the rapes of thousands, especially women; the deportation of nearly one million Albanians; the burning and destruction of about 100,000 houses, as well as other intangible and material damages.
In order to collect the thoughts of Serbian intellectuals who have opposed the state repression toward Albanians in the 90s, the ADMOVERE organization launched the project “Other Serbia,” with support by KFOS. For this reason, there was wide study of articles and interviews published over three decades in daily newspapers and weekly publications in Kosovo, Serbia, and beyond.
In the first edition published in 2021, there are fragments from articles and interviews from one of the most remarkable intellectuals, the architect Bogdan Bogdanović, in which he talks about the brutal violation of the human rights of Albanians in Kosovo during the 90s.
Bogdanović, a loud critic
Bogdanović was born in 1922 in Belgrade and was a part of the anti-fascist resistance from 1941. Educated in architecture in Belgrade, after the Second World War he designed over 20 monuments for the victims of war and fascism. Two of them, the one in Jasenovac and the other in Vukovar, were internationally recognized.
He lectured on urbanology at the University of Belgrade and other than being the author of many articles, be it for architecture or political commentary, many of which were published in international journals as well, he was also the author of a few books. In the 1980s he led the Belgrade Municipality, while in 1981 he resigned from the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts because he did not agree with the nationalist policies of this institution. At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, being a flaming leftist, he strongly opposed Serbian nationalism.
The ADMOVERE edition on Bogdanović includes fragments where he had supported Kosovo’s independence during the 90s and its relations to Serbia, but also on Albanian-Serbian relations in general. For example, he opposed the double standards of the Serbian regime’s representatives during the 90s, who for Krajina in Croatia supported the autonomy with the right to secede, while they categorically denied it for Kosovo. Further, Bogdanović is the first Serbian who from 1990 publicly said that in Kosovo it was now too late even for a republic, taking into consideration Albanians’ wish for unity as a legitimate right.
Additionally, he did not support the Serbian complaint that the demographic situation in Kosovo was changing with an increase in the Albanian population. His argument was that for 100 years Kosovo was a part of Serbia, Serbs left there and one of the reasons for this was displacement to richer areas, selling their land to Albanians for a good price. His idea was that the territory where about 2 million Albanians live who make up over 90% of the population of that territory, belongs to the people who live there. This should be told to the Serbian people, even though everybody knows it, but they do not have the strength or courage to admit it.
Following this, Bogdanović said “We gave Kosovo, but we took Vojvodina” and added that when Kosovo was the crib of the Serbian kingdom, Belgrade belonged to Hungarians. According to him, Serbia should understand that to gain friends is more important than to occupy territories and that the Serbians’ national interest is to be friends with Albanians and to keep in Kosovo that part of the Serbian population who wish to live there. He said that the temples will be in the home of friends, referring to the stories of how Albanians had preserved them; for example, the Patriarchate of Peja that was preserved by the Kelmendi people from Rugova.
Bogdanović made several accurate forecasts on the political developments during the 90s, even many years before they took place. Three of them are extraordinary: First, that the President of the Yugoslav Federal Republic, Slobodan Milošević will sit on the defendant’s bench to respond to war crimes in front of many people; the second, if the Serbian people start a war in Kosovo, they will shamefully lose it; and third, Belgrade will be bombed.
His opposition toward Serbian nationalism in the 90s is best illustrated by a long letter, which at the end of the 80s he sent to Milošević. This letter and other anti-nationalist critiques toward Milošević sparked the attempts to break into his apartment, threats of lynching, and at the end, expulsion from the party. Attacks against him, in 1993, caused him, together with his wife, Ksenija, to move from Belgrade to Vienna, where he died in 2010.
Other voices against oppression
While Bogdanović is one of the most known, there are a few other Serbian intellectuals who similarly critiqued repression toward Kosovo Albanians. So, as part of the “Other Serbia” project, upcoming ADMOVERE publications will also include fragments from other opposition intellectuals’ articles and interviews. Even though there were only a few of them, they did exist and now, unfortunately, are no longer in this world. They are: Sociologist Bogdan Denitch (1929–2016), diplomat Ilija Đukić (1930–2002]), historian Ivan Đurić (1947–1997), director Lazar Stojanović (1944–2017), dissident Mihajlo Mihajlov (1934–2010), head diplomat Miloš Minić (1914–2003), writer Mirko Kovač (1938–2013), lawyer Srđa Popović (1937–2013), and others.
All of these intellectuals were inspired by Serbian social democrats like Dimitrije Tucović, Kosta Novaković, Dušan Popović, Dragiša Lapčević, Triša Kaclerović, and others, who during the years 1912-13, when Serbia occupied Kosovo, opposed the fearful crimes of the Serbian state toward the innocent, civilian Albanian people in Kosovo.
As an example, an article by social democrat Tucović, in Belgrade’s socialist newspaper “Radničke Novine” of the time, says: “We did attempt, premeditated murder on an entire nation.” An editorial article in this newspaper said that it possessed data for crimes so terrible of the Serbian forces toward Albanians, that it preferred not to publish them at all. Unfortunately, those crimes were repeated right after World War I, in 1918-1919, then during the period between the two World Wars; at the end of World War II (1944-1945), then during the years 1946-1966; and at the end of the last decade of the past century (1989-1999).
The “Other Serbia” project not only offers models of the intellectual who opposes injustice and crimes committed by state authorities led by their “compatriots,” regardless of their excuses but also honors the intellectual who in this manner expresses and puts their life in danger; showing amazing courage that in no way should pass without deserved recognition. Unfortunately, these personalities are seen by the Serbian people as traitors and have been discriminated against, tarnished, anathematized, and attacked, while Albanian people viewed them with distrust and they were therefore ignored.
Postwar Kosovo does not have a street, square, or school named after the architect and humanist Bogdan Bogdanović, even though he was a creator of a few monuments erected in Kosovo, like the Monument of the Miner in Mitrovica. Further, he also harshly opposed the closing of Albanian schools by the Milošević regime in the early 90s. And even though he was the loudest Serbian intellectual who not only opposed Kosovo’s occupation by the Serbian regime — but also supported its independence — Kosovo’s Assembly did not even invite him to the ceremony of the Declaration of Independence, on February 17, 2008.
Therefore, in the end, it should be said that this publication tries to be a modest recognition toward the great contribution of the extraordinary intellectual Bogdanović for his protection of the human rights of Kosovo Albanians. As well as for his contribution toward the peaceful and amicable separation of Albanians and Serbians, and their cohabitation based on mutual tolerance and understanding.
Cover Image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.