THE END OF THE MYTH OF KOSOVO
By Sonja Biserko
In Serbs' collective consciousness the myth of Kosovo remains a crucial
moment of their entire history. It has played a significant role in the establishment of a
modern Serb state. And ever since the 1912-13 Balkan Wars the St. Vitus cult (emerging in
19th century) has been celebrated as the day of "heroic battle and victory over the
evil," symbolizing at the same time a ruthless revenge against everything Turkish or
Muslim in general. The St. Vitus Day was proclaimed a national, church holiday in 1919 -
that is only after the "final victory over the Turks."
In 19th century Belgrade failed in its attempt to turn Kosovo into a
predominantly Serb territory through colonization and nationalization, and to expel
Albanians to Turkey later on. The attempt to settle there refugees from Croatia and
Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1990s also failed. In fear of demographic growth of Albanians, Serb
nationalists began the search for a new solution. What they had in mind in the first place
was to cut it off. So in early 1980s they revived the myth of Kosovo and started
manipulating it so as to politically homogenize the Serbs. The rise of Serbian nationalism
through the myth of Kosovo opened the Serb question in ex-Yugoslavia. The plan was to have
Serbia's state borders moved towards Northeast.
NATO intervention in 1999 hobbled Belgrade's plan for solving the Kosovo
question through expulsion of Albanians. However, Belgrade regime, despite being defeated
in Kosovo, resumed its "old" strategy in new circumstances. The strategy is
pursued on two tracks: one that undermines the international mission in Kosovo, and the
other that prepares Kosovo for partition into entities. Not even the new democratic regime
demonstrated good will for finding a common ground with Albanians and creating conditions
a modus vivendi between the two peoples.
Serb nationalists hold that partition would finally solve the Kosovo
issue. However, it was only this spring that they "officially" proposed it.
Dobrica Cosic was the first to come public with the idea, advocating that "partition
of Kosovo and Metohija and demarcation between Serbia and Albania would lastingly settle
the Kosmet question." His phrase "demarcation between Serbia and Albania"
(rather than between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo) is in line with his definition of
ex-Yugoslav wars: the means for "recomposition of the Balkans." Cosic takes that
having "one-third of Kosovo" is an acceptable solution. "If we are not
prepared for liberating Kosovo once again, and we are not, then we should divide it with
Albanians. We should take Serb territories and monasteries and let Albanians have what has
become Albanian in the meantime. Otherwise, we shall be in permanent war with Albanians,
the war we cannot win," he argues.
Belgrade has never been serious about negotiations with Pristhina prior
to Kosovo's independence declaration. Not even the International Court of Justice's
advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo's independence declaration changed its attitude
towards Kosovo. Belgrade has never demonstrated its readiness to acknowledge the new
reality and Kosovo's new international status. On the contrary, it behaved as if nothing
The Serb elite saw the upcoming decision on Serbia's EU candidacy as its
last opportunity to bring to an end the "unfinished" Kosovo business. As of the
last spring some politicians have been openly advocating partition and thus putting it
officially on the agenda.
The international community tacitly backed the Kosovo government's
decision to take over Jarinje and Brnjak border crossing stations and thus consolidate
Kosovo's statehood. For its part, Belgrade responded by backing the "log
revolution." It put across a message that it still holds the status of Kosovo an open
The attempt to impose partition through barricades this summer failed
and compromised the ruling coalition with the international community at the point when
Serbia, on the eve of the candidacy decision, was expected to present itself in the best
light. And this only contributed to the impression that the Serb elite was actually not
after the country's membership of EU.
What both the regime and the opposition accomplished by manipulating
people's emotions about the situation in North Kosovo is that citizens are now more
hostile about European integrations and blame EU for what happened there. The media's
parroting about "new and new conditions imposed by EU" only added fuel to the
Slowed down reforms, tensions and conflicts in North Kosovo and the ban
on the Pride Parade testify of a deeper crisis in a much larger context. The political
class's inability to present Serbia as a democratic and reform-oriented country eleven
years after the ouster of Milosevic dramatically questions citizens' European prospects.
The resoluteness EU and KFOR manifested about the "log
revolution" in the North Kosovo laid bare the Serb elite's inability for rational
self-perception and realistic planning of the country's future. Their attitude towards
Kosovo in the past months definitely crushed the myth of Kosovo and presented them as
anti-modern and provincial politicians. The permanent national homogenization through the
myth of Kosovo undermines Serbia's democratic mobilization for a genuine advance towards
European future. Only rational political coordination and consciousness about public
interest can secure the country's progress.
All nations have their myths but only few actually live in them. Living
in a myth indicates inability to cope with real life. In his "St. Vitus Day and
Virtuous Cross" Miodrag Popovic warned long ago that historical reality was confused
with mythical reality and actual struggle for liberation with pagan tendencies (revenge,
slaughter, human sacrifice, glorification of heroic ancestors, etc.) - all of which may
indicate the societies with "untamed" mythical impulses. "As a phase in the
development of national thought, this myth was historically justified. But as a constant
mindset, the cult of St. Vitus may be fatal to those unable to untangle themselves from
its pseudo-mythical and pseudo-historical nets. In these nets modern thought, a man's
spirit, may suffer another lost battle, and intellectual and ethical defeat."