Initiated in 1999, the “Joint History Project” publication sought to provide materials to history teachers in the Balkans that would challenge an ethnocentric teaching of the past. Published by the NGO Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe (CDRSEE) based in Thessaloniki, Greece, the project aimed to encourage critical thinking and debate as part of long-term reconciliation in the Balkans.
The project resulted in the production of five volumes, starting with medieval Balkan history and concluding with contemporary history.
This series of articles offers a critique about individual volumes of the project, analyzing how important historical Albanian events were portrayed and which of them were not portrayed at all. Furthermore, this series discusses how they should have been portrayed, based on the work of international authors such as Noel Malcolm, Oliver Schmitt, Peter Bartl and others who cover developments and events in Kosovo throughout various historical periods.
Such an examination is especially important considering that during the completion of the project, CDRSEE maintained close working relationships with all education ministries in the region and enjoyed the support of a total of 25 international donors, including the EU. Moreover, the project employed historians from the entire region, including Kosovo.
Follow this link to read the first piece on the Ottoman Period.
Follow this link to read the second piece on “Nations and States in Southeast Europe.”
Follow this link to read the third piece on “The Balkan Wars.”
A critique on “The Cold War” volume
The fifth volume opens with the ending of World War II, namely the liberation from the Nazi and Fascist occupation and the installation of new regimes in the Balkans, continuing with the Cold War, the dictatorships and democratic transitions, as well as their ideologies. Further, the volume addresses economics, demographics, society and culture. As would be expected, the end of the Cold War, i.e. the crisis of communism, occupies the final part of the volume, with the crisis of Yugoslavia during the 1980s at its center.
Chapter one, “Old States, New Regimes,” contains three subchapters. The first one “The End of World War II” that deals with the liberation, people returning home and reconstruction, and the second one, “New regimes,” which deals with the transition, opposition and repression, contains nothing about Kosovo or Albanians in Yugoslavia. Neither does the third one, although this is because its topic is “The Greek Civil War.”
These two subchapters should note that in the years immediately following World War II, Albanian opponents of the Yugoslav regime, mainly activists from the Albanian National Democratic Movement (NDSh), were convicted and executed, and that the Albanian civilian population was subject to repression. The subchapter should also relate the signing of the 1953 “Gentleman’s Agreement” between the President of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, and the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mehmet Köprülü, to ensure the deportation of tens of thousands of Albanians from Yugoslavia to Turkey. It should be stated that in order to enable the deportations, a violent campaign of the Yugoslav government was undertaken to collect weapons in Kosovo in 1955 and 1956. The part of the text dedicated to the opposition of the new regimes should present the illegal organizations of Kosovo Albanians that opposed the Yugoslav regime, the main ones being the NDSh and the Revolutionary Movement for the Unification of Albanians (LRBSh).
Chapter three, “Dictatorships and Democratic Transitions,” discusses the communist regimes, the military regimes, the persecution of citizens, the camps and prisons, the youth movement, and the democratic transitions, with both their achievements and failures. Here too there is nothing about Kosovo or the Albanians in Yugoslavia. Such issues as the military administration of Kosovo, which began in 1945, the persecution of Albanian citizens, their imprisonment, should have definitely been mentioned. It is most surprising that nothing about Kosovo and the Albanians in Yugoslavia is presented about the period following the end of World War II until the fall of the Yugoslav Interior Minister Aleksandar Ranković in 1966, otherwise known as the Ranković period.
No single case of police and military violence against Albanians is presented, yet there is mention of its reduction.
In fact, only toward the end of the last subchapter are Kosovo and the Albanians in Yugoslavia mentioned in a text accompanied by two photographs, compiled by the authors of the volume themselves, which reads, “Following the Brijuni Plenum in 1966, police and army violence against Kosovo Albanians diminished to a certain extent, while calls for the granting of extended autonomy to the region increased. During October and December 1968 massive demonstrations were organized in Priština and Tetovo, calling for self-determination, union, a constitution and a university, and above all for Kosovo gaining the status of a Republic. As a result, several improvements in the status of the Kosovo Albanians were made: A university was founded in Prishtina, the Constitution of Kosovo that provided a broader autonomy was passed, the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Kosovo was founded, etc.”
No single case of police and military violence against Albanians is presented, yet there is mention of its reduction following the decision of the Central Committee of the Communist League of Yugoslavia Plenum held in Brijuni in 1966. This meeting saw Aleksandar Ranković dismissed as minister of internal affairs, the second most powerful politician after Tito in Yugoslavia, who was suspected of conspiring against him.
Regarding the 1968 demonstrations, when Albanians demanded equal rights with the other Yugoslav nations, the two photographs accompanying the above-quoted text are not from the 1968 demonstrations, but from the 1981 protests. The text itself addresses the 1968 demonstrations rather superficially and, apart from not naming their organizer — the so-called “Group 68,”— an illegal organization that was established specifically for these demonstrations, it also fails to provide the information that the legal political representatives of Kosovo had regarded them as hostile and chauvinistic. The above text attributes the improvement of the status of Kosovo Albanians in Yugoslavia entirely to these demonstrations. However, it ignores the fact that for this development, apart from the legal political representatives of Kosovo, the restoration of Albania-Yugoslavia relations in 1971, when they agreed to receive each other’s ambassadors, had also played a role.
Although there is ample material that could have been included, Chapter four, “Ideology,” provides no information about Kosovo or Albanians in Yugoslavia in any of its six subchapters entitled “Propaganda,” “Cults of personality,” “Versions of History,” “Education,” “Language Policy” and “Art.”
However, Kosovo and the Albanians in Yugoslavia could have been presented in each of these subchapters. The section on propaganda could have included posters or propaganda, cartoons drawn in Kosovo against Yugoslavia, while the cults of personalities section could discuss the cults that Albanians in Yugoslavia had created for the personality of Josip Broz Tito, Fadil Hoxha or Mahmut Bakalli on the one hand, and on the other for the personality of Enver Hoxha and that of Adem Demaçi. The section discussing the versions of history, as the volume offers different versions for the liberation of the countries considered, could have provided both official and unofficial versions of the liberation/occupation of Kosovo in 1945 or contrasting versions between history textbooks published in Kosovo during and after the communist regime.
During the period between the two world wars 200,000 hectares of land were seized, half were given to settlers who came from Serbia and Montenegro.
With regards to education, the authors could have followed the example of the way other countries were presented in this volume, i.e. including an extract on education from the Kosovo 1974 Constitution. The subchapter on art, which mainly deals with the culture of commemorating World War II, could include a photograph of the monument of two Kosovar fighters with different ethnicities, Boro Vukmirović and Ramiz Sadiku.
The language policy section presents codifications, language standardizations of some countries, including the 1972 Resolution of the Orthography Congress in Tirana. It should clarify that the official Tosk-dialect-based language, in use in Albania, was accepted as such by the Albanians in Kosovo and Yugoslavia in 1968.
Chapter five, “The Economy,” is split into five subchapters, “Agrarian reforms,” “Industrialization,” “Urbanization,” “Infrastructure” and “Finance.” There is nothing in the subchapter on agrarian reforms in Kosovo, yet the following data it should definitely be included: During the period between the two world wars 200,000 hectares of land were seized, half were given to settlers who came from Serbia and Montenegro, and over 13,000 families with about 70,000 members were settled on them, many of whom fled Kosovo during World War II due to violence exercised by Albanians; following World War II, an “Agrarian Reform Review Commission” was established, which looked into 11,168 disputed property cases, 4,829 of them fully confirmed the rights of the settlers; in 5,744 cases the settlers lost some of their previous properties, and in 595 cases they lost everything.
The section on industrialization presents the two industrial giants of Kosovo: The Kosovo Energy Corporation, only with a photo, and the Trepça Mine with a short text citing some propagandistic tones, taken from the company’s official website. Only Belgrade and Skopje appear in the section on urbanization, and not Prishtina or any other city in Kosovo. Infrastructure is only illustrated by the “Brotherhood-Union” highway connecting Zagreb with Belgrade; the finances section presents only the Bank of Ljubljana with its Frankfurt branch.
The 1981 protest — a superficial depiction
Chapter six, “Demography,” deals with “Migration,” ‘Minorities” and “Population changes.” The first subchapter contains nothing on Yugoslavia, while the second one presents only some excerpts from a 1956 report of the Macedonian Ministry of Internal Affairs, published by the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, on the emigration of Muslim Turks and Muslim Albanians from Macedonia in the mid-1950s. The report claims that most of the emigrants were Turkish Muslims and that many Albanians had applied to emigrate but that migration from regions with Albanian majority populations was prohibited. The authors of the volume claim that according to the documents between 1953 and 1957 about 105,000 Muslim Turks and another 5,000 Albanian Muslims “left” the People’s Republic of Macedonia.
The report that the authors of this volume cite is misleading, which is why they should have definitely included the following information: during that period the Yugoslav authorities had taken active measures to incite Muslims in Kosovo and Macedonia to declare themselves as Turks, which caused the number of “Turks” in Kosovo to rise from 1,315 in the 1948 census to 34,583 only five years later in 1953. Between 1945 and 1966, about 246,000 people emigrated to Turkey from all over Yugoslavia, more than half of this total being from the Republic of Macedonia, where the population registered as ‘Turkish” increased from 95,940 to 203,000 between the 1948 and the 1953 censuses. Detailed figures of emigrants from Kosovo have not been recorded, but according to historian Noel Malcolm, a total of 100,000 people throughout that period is not an unreasonable assumption.
There should have been something included about women’s education in Kosovo and their increased participation in public life.
In “Population Changes” the only thing about Kosovo and the Albanians in Yugoslavia is the claim of the authors in the volume that “[b]y 1980 the population explosion among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians had become Yugoslavia’s most pressing demographic problem. Between 1950 and 1983, the population of Kosovo grew by about 220 percent, while the Yugoslav total increased by only 39 percent […]. By 1980 Kosovo had become the most densely populated part of Yugoslavia (146 people per square kilometer), although it remained the country’s least-developed region.” Yet the authors of this volume do not explain why Kosovo was the least developed region of the country.
Chapter seven, “Society and Culture,” contains eight subchapters: “Gender,” “Religion,” “Youth Culture,” “Literature and Cinema,” “Consumerism,” “Tourism,” “Social Policy” and “Sport.” In none of them is there anything about Kosovo or the Albanians in Yugoslavia. Perhaps not in each of the above sections, but certainly in some of them there should have been something included about women’s education in Kosovo and their increased participation in public life, some extract taken from a work of a prominent Albanian writer, something on cinematography and sports. The exception here is the subchapter on religion, which correctly presents, by even providing a photo, the neighboring church and the mosque in the city of Ferizaj, as being “symbolic of religious tolerance between Muslim Albanians and Christian Serbs.”
The eighth and final chapter, “Times of Crisis,” consists of three subchapters “Cyprus 1974,” “Yugoslavia in the 1980s” and the “Crisis of Communism.” It goes without saying that the first subchapter contains nothing about Kosovo or the Albanians in Yugoslavia, but it is surprising that there is nothing even in the subchapter on the crisis of communism. The second subchapter presents the arguments of Mihailo Ðurić, a professor of Law in University of Belgrade, against the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution, for which he was imprisoned, as well as an interview with Latinka Perović, historian and Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist League of Serbia, in favor of the same Constitution of Yugoslavia. Nothing else. There is no mention in the volume of Kosovo’s gains under this new Yugoslav Constitution, although it would have been useful to present extracts from the text that grants the two Autonomous Provinces, Kosovo and Vojvodina, nominally parts of the Republic of Serbia, a very similar status to that of the six Yugoslav republics, especially in economic decision-making and in some areas of foreign policy.
Following the different stances on the constitution adopted in 1974, the volume’s editors present the Kosovo communists’ assessment of the 1981 Kosovo protests published in the daily newspaper, Rilindja, which condemn them as hostile. These are followed by the views of Serbia’s Communist Party, who qualify these protests as nationalistic, chauvinistic and counter-revolutionary.xf Their assessments also mention the emigration of Serbs and Montenegrins from Kosovo to Serbia and elsewhere in Yugoslavia.
The subchapter presents the late 1988 and early 1989 events against the abolition of Kosovo’s autonomy, including the march of 3,000 Trepça miners and the hunger strike of 1,000 miners.
The assessments of the protest organizers themselves are missing. There is nothing about the demands of these protests, and the killing of nine protestors along with the draconian prison sentences of hundreds of participants that are not mentioned at all. Writer Dobrica Ćosić’s speech in 1984, when he announced the establishment of the Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Thought and Expression and opposed Vojislav Šešelj’s eight-year prison sentence for his manuscripts, as well as the arrests and trials of some Serbian intellectuals, are included in the text. On the other hand, Adem Demaçi and his 28-year-long prison sentence are not mentioned at all.
Given that the above-mentioned views of the Serbian communists about the 1981 protests also mention the departure of Serbs and Montenegrins from Kosovo to Serbia and elsewhere in Yugoslavia, it should have been added that this was one of the segments of the Serbian propaganda against Kosovo aimed at eradicating its autonomy. The authors should have provided the explanation that some of the main reasons for those movements out of Kosovo were the mismanagement of the economy in Kosovo and the unemployment rate, which was the highest in Yugoslavia.
Finally, the subchapter presents the late 1988 and early 1989 events against the abolition of Kosovo’s autonomy, as provided by the 1974 Constitution, by the Serbian government led by Slobodan Milošević: The march of 3,000 Trepça miners, and later that of dozens of thousands of Albanian citizens from all over Kosovo toward Kosovo’s capital; the hunger strike of 1,000 miners in mines hundreds of meters underground. These events and the reactions to them, including excerpts from Slobodan Milošević’s speech delivered in Kosovo on June 28, 1989 on the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, are related quite correctly, truthfully and inclusively, helping readers understand these developments properly.
A summary of exclusions
The sections dealing with the period following the end of World War II in 1945 to the fall of the Yugoslav Minister of the Interior Aleksandar Ranković in 1966, otherwise known as the Ranković period, contain nothing about Kosovo or the Albanians in Yugoslavia. There is no mention of the military administration, the sentencing and execution of Albanian opponents to the Yugoslav regime, the violence and terror against the Albanian civilian population, the expulsion of tens of thousands of Albanians from Yugoslavia to Turkey, or the existence of illegal Albanian organizations that opposed the Yugoslav regime.
In this volume, Kosovo and the Albanians in Yugoslavia are mentioned only a quarter of a century after the end of the World War II, when the 1968 protests are presented with two photographs, that are actually from the 1981 demonstrations. These protests are treated superficially, their organizers are not named, there is no mention that the legal political representatives of Kosovo had qualified them as hostile and chauvinistic, the advancement of Kosovo Albanians status in Yugoslavia is attributed exclusively to these protests.
Regarding industrialization, two Kosovo industrial giants are mentioned, the Kosovo Energy Corporation with a photo and the Trepça Mine with a short text containing some propagandistic tones, taken from the company’s website. There is nothing about the agrarian reforms affecting the Albanians in Kosovo and elsewhere in Yugoslavia, yet data should be presented to show that during the period between the two world wars 200,000 hectares were seized in Kosovo, half of them were given to the settlers, and that over 13,000 families with about 70,000 members had settled on them.
In the sections on demographics, migration and population changes, the authors should definitely have included information that the Yugoslav authorities had taken active measures to encourage Muslims in Kosovo and Macedonia to declare themselves as Turks. This is why the number of “Turks” in Kosovo had risen from 1,315 in the 1948 census to 34,583 five years later, in the 1953 census. It should be clarified that between 1945 and 1966 about 246,000 people from all over Yugoslavia emigrated to Turkey and that over half of this total was made up of refugees from the Republic of Macedonia, where the population registered as “Turkish” between the 1948 and the 1953 censuses had increased from 95,940 to 203,000. Detailed figures of emigrants from Kosovo have not been recorded, but a total of 100,000 people throughout that period is not an unreasonable assumption.
The chapter on society and culture has almost nothing on Kosovo or the Albanians in Yugoslavia. There is nothing in terms of Kosovo’s developments under the Constitution of Yugoslavia, while extracts from the text that granted Kosovo a status much like that of the other Yugoslav republics would have been a useful addition. The authors present only the negative assessments of the 1981 Kosovo protests made by the communists of Kosovo and Serbia, but the assessments of the protest organizers themselves are missing. There is no mention of their demands, the killings of nine protestors or the draconian prison sentences of hundreds of protesters.
The events of late 1988 and early 1989 against the abolition of Kosovo’s autonomy, based on the 1974 Constitution, by the Serbian government led by Slobodan Milošević, along with reactions to them, including excerpts from Milošević’s speech held in Kosovo on June 28, 1989 on the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, are related quite correctly.
This series of articles were written by the author as part of a project titled “An analysis of alternative textbooks of CDRSEE” by the ADMOVERE organization, with financial support by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, which operates via the Swiss Embassy in Prishtina, and it does not necessarily reflect the views of the donor.
Feature image: From “Teaching the modern history of Southeast Europe,” edited by K2.0.