Sunday, February 17, 2008

Keeping Kosovo on even Keel


Kosovo, a land steeped in blood and betrayal from ethnic violence between Serbs and Albanians in its long history, whose brutality will dwarf the Middle East conflict beginning in 1948, and whose viciousness will make the mafia wars look like backyard fistfights among children; has officially declared its independence from the Serbian Government at 15:00 local time, today. Its 92% Albanian population, celebrating the event with thousands cheering in its streets, braving freezing weather and waving flags; wonder how they came to this point, which they have wanted to happen for some time.

But, the Serbian government has expressed its defiance at the UN last Thursday, prior to the official declaration. "We shall never recognize Kosovo's independence. We shall not waiver, we shall not yield should this cowardly act go unchecked. Not now, not in a year, not in a decade. Never", according to its Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Serbia's ally declared, "support of unilateral announcement (of Independence) of Kosovo is not moral nor legal...Europeans are treating the same problems with double standards in different regions of the world". Russia has repeatedly stressed that US and European support for Kosovo's independence could lead to uncontrollable crisis in the Balkans. Minister Jeremic added that Serbia "shall undertake all diplomatic, political, and economic measures to impede and reverse this unprovoked attack on our sovereignty."

Kosovo, in ancient history up to the 19th century was known as Dardania, from the Albanian word Pear, literally calling it Pearland. Documents mention a Kingdom of Dardania as early as the 4th century BC. Conquered by Rome in the 1st century BC, it was later invaded by Barbarians between the 5th and 8th centuries. By the 9th century, it was snatched by the Bulgarian realm from the Byzantine Empire, until the Serbian invasion late in the 12th century who ruled for over 100 years. It became the central geographical unit of the Serbian state, which imposed a heavy burden on the Western Christian population; with their identity and culture threatened by the Serbian state church.The presence of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the region gave rise to the view that Kosovo is the cradle of Serbian civilization.

The Ottoman Turks followed in the 13th century bringing with them the Islamic faith. Albanians opposed the Turks and fought many wars with Serbs against the Empire. This led to several migrations throughout 5 centuries of oppressive Turkish rule. Some Serbs adapted Islam, while some fused with other ethnic groups. The conversion of many Orthodox Albanians into Islam was for the greater benefit of lesser taxes. The 500 years of Ottoman rule resulted in far-reaching changes in ethnic composition.

From 1871 through 1915, conflict among Serbs and Albanians saw the transfer of Kosovo's control between these two ethnic groups, through violent wars and ethnic cleansing. There were even wars between Muslim and Christian Albanians that diminished the Albanian population. Massacre of Serbs by Albanians and counter massacre of Albanians by Serbs continued unabated throughout much of the early 20th century, until the rise of Slobodan Milosevic beginning in 1991. The systematic cleansing of Albanians from the merciless Serbian paramilitary units epitomized the brutality, viciousness and inhumanity of the rivalry between these ethnic tribes that goes back several centuries. To view the Kosovo conflict only from the 1990s, is to see only the tip of a deeply rooted bitterness, nurtured by hatred and intolerance, and watered for several centuries by bloodshed.

The declaration of independence by the new Republic of Kosovo could be a prelude to a much larger conflict and taking of lives; which may leave the global community burdened by another flash point that would trigger a return to a more sinister version of the cold war. President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of planning to deploy missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic; and plans to build new bases in Romania and Bulgaria. "We have been put in a situation where we have to react", Putin said. He stated that Russia will respond to US and NATO military expansion near its borders and promised to "build new weapons with better characteristics than those being built by other countries... and a new turn in the nuclear arms race".

Kosovo hardly has any industries, its unemployment rate is almost 50%, and its borders are locked with the powerful Serbian Military, backed by Russia, threatening to reverse its declaration. Only the presence of the UN Mission, support of the Western countries, and security provided by NATO forces, keeps Kosovo from keeling over from the weight of Serbian power; like a thin thread that binds the sword over the head of the new Republic. Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, a former separatist guerrilla told Parliament, "The day has come. Kosovo is proud, independent and free". While its citizens continue to celebrate through the wee hours of the bitingly cold night and freezing winds, the country's long wait for its liberation may face renewed horror; with the potential of spreading chaos throughout Europe, in a very, very, short while.

Haaarrrwwwwk...Twoooooph...Ting!

8 comments:

Blogtommy said...

After seeing the news of this yesterday I purposely stayed away from reading anything at all about it in preparation for your take D. I'm happy I did. This appears to be a very dangerous and perhaps quite short lived independence. It will be interesting to see how the Western News Media (oh and the west in general) treat this crisis.

T

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Tommy
What made you think I would write about this? You're taking me for a ride eh? :-)

It is very scary Tommy, and the words of Putin makes it clear they won't take this sitting idly by. He has also invoked Russia's right to deploy and develop better missiles should the US push through with it's deployment in Eastern Europe.

My question is, why would the US do this? Why would they want to provoke? It doesn't make sense. Somebody must be preparing to make a killing out of these deployments. (pun intended but not meant to trivialize). --Durano, done!

Kim said...

I too thought of you Durano when I heard this on the news....
and you have presented a very thorough account indeed...

one wonders whether Kosovo will ever find peace and stability...

images of the country's flag flying between the US and European flags bear witness to the irony of the situation it seems....

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hello Kim,

I have attempted to summarize the long history of violence between these two ethnic groups to provide a clear perspective. I hope I did justice to it. I also didn't want the post to be too long :-)

The violence as the modern world knows it, was much publicized only in the 1990s; but both sides are guilty of unspeakable indignities and inhumanities toward one another - much like the Irish wars against Britain and between their two religious groups. Also, the dislocation of families through forced migration has occurred for centuries, conducted by both ethnic groups.

Kosovo is really Albanian territory, but the improvements and developments done by the Serbs have conditioned them (Serbs) to look at Kosovo as their own cradle of civilization. The transfer of controls has blurred the entire landscape. Looking at Kosovo, there's more of Serb influence all around (art, structure, architecture); however, it can also be claimed that this was achieved because they were illegally occupied for over 100 years.

The presence of the UK and US flags, which I didn't want to show with this post, is to highlight the support of these two countries for the cause of the Albanians. It however bolsters Russia's suspicion that the Independence Declaration was instigated by the UK and US who prodded the Albanians to do so. Knowing that Serbia is a Russian ally, these two countries supported the other side. Either they are deliberately provoking Russia, and want a proximate distance from where they can monitor; or, they are building alliances with a new Muslim state to add ammunition versus the claim of Al Qaida that they are anti-Muslims, or both.

Its all a confusing power play of international politics, one in which they are playing with the lives of so many people, and laying other lives - perhaps their own citizens' - on the line.

Hope I have made this clearer. Thanks for the visit. I assumed you were busy painting when I visited twice or thrice during the weekend. :-) --Durano, done!

Kim said...

thanks for the detailed explanation Durano....
certainly a confusing power play and again...religious differences
...play a major part in the equation too ...

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Kim,

Yes, it's intolerance all over again. The explanation is my pleasure. I really am an explainer, I think. :-)
--Durano, done!

Tapline said...

Durano, Excellent Histoy lesson. It is my understanding that many Christian Churches have already been destroyed this year and many mosques built with Saudi Arabia's financial help. I read it somewhere. As far as Russia, With all of his retoric he, Putin must do something or lose face. We will see what the fallout will be...Many senarios have been played out and they are all bad, in the long run....stay well....

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Tapline,

Yes, Putin can't afford to lose face, and that's the dangerous part. If they don't get their arguments supported at the UN, he will also deploy missiles and start another arms race - and another cold war.

The last thing we need is another cold war. We need cooperation to save the environment, and the hunger that stalks the world would require attention, especially when the ecological balance is destroyed.

Putin may also finance independence movements where there are tribes or ethnic groups that seek independence like in Spain, or even the American Indians! :-) --Durano, done!