Kosovo: Land, Demography, Economy, And Religion (II)

Part I

Economy: Gastarbeiters and criminal business

In Kosovo-Metochia (KosMet) traditionally part of the gastarbeiters’ (guest workers) money is proliferated by financing criminal business but first of all a drug smuggling, which from the Middle East goes via KosMet to West Europe. It is one of the principal occupations of the young Albanian population, for many reasons. Apart from their unemployment, money earned by this traffic is used for buying weaponry, which has always played a very prominent role in the Albanian way of life.

The Albanians turn out ideal for  playing the role of the main ring in the chain of smugglers from the Middle East to West Europe and the USA at least for two good reasons:

  • Since they belong to the Muslim religion mainly, they have the easiest way to contact the producers and deal with them.
  • Being of “European complexion”, they are much more suitable for smuggling drugs across the Asiatic-European borders, unlike Turks, Afghans, Pakistanis, etc., easily recognizable by the European customs.[1]

Generally, the social structure of Albanian society, based on fis (or tribal) units, appears ideal for business of the mafia type. A father earning money in Germany can supply his 4‒5 sons (for instance) at home with the initial capital for this kind of business.

Hence, this sort of “private initiative” business provides the KosMet society with large capital, which is out of control and thus out of the public funds. It is never accounted for when estimating the regional incomes and when presented as the income per capita the official figures appear miserable indeed.

As for the weaponry smuggling, guns, etc., end generally on KosMet itself, it, therefore, provides a large earning for some families, but large expenditures for others, so that the net gain for the region cancels out. It was a practice of the small business held by the ethnic Albanians at green markets in ex-Yugoslavia, as in Zagreb, for instance, where they hold monopole in many branches. Again, the ethnic tights are here of the utmost importance, since the business is tightly bound with the feeling of belonging to the same nation, “endangered by the hostile environment”. Generally, the Albanian organized crime in West Europe and the USA has pushed down many “renowned” adversaries, like Italian, Chinese, etc.

moneylaunderHere, it will not be entered the question of corruption in this context, but, in principle, it cannot be avoided one issue relevant to the political problems related to the KosMet crisis and knot. All wealthy ethnic Albanians, in particular the KosMet Albanians, are supposed to contribute to the “common cause”, that is to the creation of a Greater Albania (the political project from 1878). While some of the gastarbeiters presumably donate the money voluntarily, it is not difficult to imagine the money exhortations, made by the criminal groups and organized crime. This phenomenon appears common to all  “patriotic movements” outside the motherland, and evidently, the passing from patriotism to crime requires a small step. Many murders reported among immigrants from various Balkan and Near-East countries are simply the outcomes of clashes between various criminal gangs.

Religion, church, and politics 

In order to better understand political events in both historical and current perspectives, it has to be turned the attention here to the role of religion in Albania and surrounding countries. Albania’s population consists of 70% Muslims, 10% Roman-Catholics, and 20% Greek-Orthodox (consisting mainly of ethnic Greeks and some Slavs). Though it has been widely accepted that religious division is of no importance to Albanians altogether, divisions do exist and, in fact, they are important in particular regarding the Orthodox Christians and the Muslims. The latter has a specific way of life and a distinct attitude towards women. Nevertheless, Albanian leaders, from the Rilindja movement in the 1870s to the present have persistently tried to suppress religious differences, in favor of national unity. One of the most prominent mottos of the First (Islamic) Prizren League (1878‒1881) was: ”Feja e shqiptarit asht shqiptaria”.[2] This is a remarkable slogan, widely ignored by external factors, taking it as a mere rhetorical figure. However, with the present-day experience with ethnic-Albanian nationalism and its ferocity, a parallel with religious fanatism imposes itself. One can not help recalling early Christianity in this context and the perplexity and animosity which the Antique world regarding its relentless marching through the Roman-Greek civilization and culture.

The Albanians at KosMet are overwhelmingly Muslim, with small admixtures of the Greek-Orthodox and the Roman-Catholics (60.000). Regarding the Muslim Albanians, they belong almost entirely to the Shiite sect (Bektashi), but in almost every village a family of Sunnites can be found.[3] As it became true later on, the Muslim religious organizations will play a crucial role in the KosMet issue.

The first mosques in KosMet were built in the 16th century, as compared with the earliest extant Christian churches and monasteries, which date from the 9th century. These monasteries are scattered all over KosMet. But the most ancient and valuable examples are concentrated in Metochia region, as one could infer from the very name Metochia (monastery estate), without further inquiries. The most important among them are all Serbian: Visoki Dečani, Bogorodica Ljeviška (Prizren), Pećka Patrijaršija (near Peć) and Gračanica (near Priština). The latter church appears the pearl of the Byzantine style architecture and is recognized to be one of the World Heritage, protected by UNESCO. It is in this church that the most (in)famous fresco eye digging occurred. It concerns the figure of Queen Simonida, a wife of Serbian King Milutin (1282‒1321), who was the founder of the monastery. Another significant (presumably unique) figure among the frescoes is Eustahie, a famous grammarian and orator at Constantinople, from the 12th century, later the archbishop at Thessaloniki.[4]

As a rule, the Ottoman authorities, in principle, did not destroy Christian churches, although there were occasional exceptions. Generally, the Ottoman Empire was rather tolerant to a certain extent towards ”infidels”  and their shrines. The Albanians themselves used to respect monasteries and even protected them from their compatriots. However, this protection has been widely used as general proof that Albanians were friendly with the Serbs who lived in their neighborhood, but this protection deserves some scrutinization. It concerns the nearby fis (tribe), which makes a deal with a monastery. The latter pays for their protection and proclaims the master of the fis vojvoda, with the meaning of duke, though of the local importance. Moreover, if the fis kills somebody in the course of “protection”, it is the monastery which “pays the bill”, that is paid to the family of the deceased the amount prescribed by the 15th-century Albanian Canun  (law codex). In fact, this kind of protection resembles very much a similar institution widely practiced by the Sicilians, in particular in the USA. Obligation to reward the blood feud implies the incorporation of the monastery staff into the Albanian traditional society and its ethos. If we are aware that the said protection is from the same Albanians, the overall picture attains a cynical connotation (with the mild taste of blackmail).

Religion is tightly bound to  “the soul of the nation”, even if people happen to be emancipated from the faith. The Serbs are mostly identifying themselves with the Serbian Orthodox Church (the SOC), even atheists. It was the SOC that was instrumental in preserving the Serb identity under foreign rules of the Ottoman Empire, Austrian Empire, Austro-Hungary, Venice, etc. Though a small number of Serbs have adopted Roman-Catholic confession, they consider themselves as Serbs, but the rest of their “tribal compatriots” regard them as “outcasts”. On the other hand, those who were converted into the Muslim religion have been written off by the rest of the Slavic population and do not consider themselves Slavs any longer. This concerns particularly Bosnian Slavs (Serb and Croat alike). The curious, if not tragic position those Slavic Muslims have found themselves after first Yugoslavia was founded in 1918 has been vividly described by Mehmed Meša Selimović,[5] a Muslim Bosnian writer, presumably of Serb origin, in his highly acclaimed novel Dervish and Death. Apart from the Turkish population in the Balkans, the Bosniaks, Slavic Pomaks in Bulgaria, and Albanians are the only Europeans whose ancestors (were) converted into Islam. The Bosnian Muslims were on their way to return to the Slavic roots, under Josip Broz Tito’s rule, but this process has been abruptly interrupted by the secession of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992, and the strong Islamization of most of this population is evident today. A Yugoslav communist regime did not suppress any particular confession, but by the very separation of church from the state and vigorous efforts to secularize the society, it uprooted the very rationale for religious fanatism, even ordinary practice. Most Muslims abandoned nutritious taboos, like no-eating pork, etc., and used to name their children in neutral terms, like flower-like, tree-like, etc., appellations, instead of Arab, Turkish, or Persian names. Nonetheless, after 1992, the process has been reverted and Bosnia and Herzegovina have become Muslim springboard (platzdarm) in Europe.[6]

Vandalism of Albanian Kosovars
The vandalism of Albanian Kosovars in the destruction of Orthodox churches and monasteries

Destruction of religious shrines appears one of the best signs as to the ultimate aims of adversaries in an armed conflict. Events in Croatia after mid-1991, but particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina after spring 1992, illustrate very well this phenomenon. If a shrine in a village, or town is destroyed, this is a clear message to the inhabitants of the relevant confession – ethnic cleansing.[7] The rationale is obvious since it is the shrine that is supposed to be maximally protected against demolition and thus remains as the clear testimony as to whom the land belongs (or belonged). The situation of the Serb Orthodox monasteries and churches in KosMet is the case in point.

Here I quote a note in the Belgrade pro-Western daily news Danas, by the columnist B. Andrejić, entitled „Church and Mosque“:

In the “Kosovo indictment” at Hague Tribunal against Slobodan Miloshevic, there is a place, at first sight, insignificant one, which haunts me for months. Without any wish to defend him whose, in the Indictment unmentioned sins are bigger than all of those accounted for, at least as far as I am concerned, I wished if many others give a thought about it. 

Both he and collaborators have been accused as responsible for the demolishment of a mosque in a purely ethnic-Albanian village  Bela Crkva.[8] 

Does it occur to anybody, in particular to those under the title of  ‘international factors’, this condensed history, those destinies placed into the civilization mismatch between the name of the village and the destruction of the mosque crime? (In other possible cases – the destruction of a church). 

Those who do not appreciate this will solve nothing. These appear to be the majority (for the time being?).”

This short note is the essence of the crux of the matter (or the crux of the matter of the essence) of the “KosMet issue”. It speaks eloquently more than all Security Council resolutions, all fables on the “Kosovo mythology”, all syntagmas like “actual reality”, all arguments like “Serb spiritual vertical”, all mantras like “the right of the majority”, “self-determination”, etc., etc.

Bela Crkva is a common toponym among the Slavs (there are several others in Yugoslavia). The majority of newly built churches are white (fresco painted) and some villages or towns are recognized by their new church and the name is born out. Evidently, Bela Crkva once was a purely Serb village. When ethnic-Albanians became first “the overwhelming majority” the mosque was built up, then as the time evolved the village was purged from “extraneous elements”, the church destroyed, but the name remained. (Those who worry about the latter “betrayal” should be calmed down – when KosMet becomes “independent”, those mismatches are rectified and no traces of the previous “extraneous elements” are going to be preserved. This, actually, has already happened, for example, with the traces of the Byzantine-Slavic region of the “Koman Culture” in Albania.

When on March 16th, 2004 an accident occurred on the bank of Kosovo river Ibar, next three (March 17−19th) days, 29 Serbian Orthodox churches were burnt all over KosMet by ethnic Muslim Albanians (“Kosovo Kristallnacht”). It has to be noted that the “even distribution” of the destroyed Serbian Orthodox shrines is a clear signal of the well-planned action of wiping out “non-Albanian elements” from KosMet. That a “spontaneity” concerning these matters appears highly improbable testifies to the “avenge” in Central Serbia, immediately after the pogrom, when two mosques, one in Belgrade and one at Nish, were burned the next night. The perpetrators have never been arrested, but it was not difficult to trace the instigators of these misdeeds, the so-called Serb Radical Party (SRS), whose supporters come mainly from the refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, apart from the Serbian social losers. Since the SRS expected to be blamed for this crime, they quickly moved and presented to both Muslim communities in Belgrade and Nish with a PC, with a theatric manner, characteristic for this subversive social movement, disguised as a political party.[9] The Government of Serbia condemned the misdeeds but did not pursue the case further.

Unfortunately, we still don’t know how many mosques at KosMet were demolished by the Orthodox savages. In the course of “Yugoslav wars” (1991−1995), many shrines have been deliberately destroyed, Roman Catholic, Muslim, and Orthodox (the Croats and Bosniaks destroyed around 300 Serbian Orthodox churches in WWII within the territory of the Independent State of Croatia). It is claimed by KosMet Albanian leaders that out of 500 mosques on KosMet only 300 survived the fighting in 1998−1999 but this figure may be taken with the grain of salt.

The Wahabbit Balkans

When “wars” became imminent, many “external factors” considered they were entitled to “extinguish the fire” which was about to burn unfortunate Yugoslavia. Some Arab countries, Saudi Arabia in particular, were quick to support the Muslims, first in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then in Serbia, especially the Albanians at KosMet. Since they were rather short with water, they started pouring another liquid (they possessed in abundance) over the fire. Particularly worried for the fate of mosques in these regions were Wahabbits in Saudi Arabia, not only for their destiny in the unstable region but generally. Since they were the truest and even the only guardians of Muhammad’s faith and confessional institution, the Wahabbits strongly condemned the dangerous and treacherous deviations of some Muslim mosques concerning the prohibition of visual decorations of mosques. Any diversion from the most abstract and decorative figures on walls of mosques was proclaimed as inappropriate, even blasphemous.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci will go to The Hague on Monday to be interviewed by international war crimes prosecutors

Unfortunately for the Wahabbits, it turns out that many mosques in the Balkans were subject to these distortions of the Prophet’s inheritance. And such spoiling of the pure Islam was intolerable, of course. There was only one inconvenient circumstance – the local religious compatriots were reluctant to destroy their mosques, even for the sake of religious orthodoxy. However, fortunately for the Wahabbits, fate (or somebody else) showed grace and sent the “wars” to Yugoslavia. Now the task was much easier – it was just sufficient that a mosque was damaged and a new one was readily built au lieu of the old one (properly destroyed for the purpose). A scratch or hole of a bullet, a crack on the wall (from old age or otherwise), damaged decoration, or something like that was sufficient to proclaim the building useless and erect a new one, more beautiful and “older” than the previous one. According to a Cairo daily, hundreds of mosques in Bosnia and Herzegovina and KosMet were thus destroyed and re-erected according to the strict Wahabbite religious rules (and money).

The profit was multiple. Not only concerning Wahabbism as such but Islam in general. The statistics of shrines destroyed by infidels greatly improves, the sympathy for the Muslim cause in Europe is raised, and the presence of fundamentalist Muslim countries is strengthened. The demolish-and-build stratagem appears beneficial to both sides: local Muslims get new mosques and the Wahabbits new (at least potentially) ideological and political supporters.

At the present, it is not possible to estimate how many of those alleged destroyed mosques were victims of the “Orthodox” savages (Vandals would not be an appropriate term), and how many fell victim to the “Wahabbite cause”.  In any case, however, they have been victims of religious conflicts, albeit in an indirect way.[10]

Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.


[1] A “White Al-Qaeda” is also composed of white-European Muslims like Albanians and Bosniaks.

[2] “Religion of the Albanians is Albanianism”. It should be compared with a Zionist Golda Meir’s answer to the question if she believed in God: “I believe in Jews, and Jews believe in God”.

[3] Miss Mary Edith Durham (1863‒1944), an author of the traveling book High Albania, was surprised when managed to visit Serbian Orthodox monastery Devich near Prishtina that the iguman was in fact an Albanian, from a Christian family at Peć (Ipek in Turkish).

[4] Documentary videos about these four most important Serbian monasteries at KosMet are available here:

https://vimeo.com/20792233 (Bogorodica Ljeviška)

https://vimeo.com/20790288 (Pećka Patrijaršija)

https://vimeo.com/20787926 (Visoki Dečani)

https://vimeo.com/20783452 (Gračanica).

[5] Diminutive of Mehmed, in its turn, corrupted Mahomet.

[6] Regarding Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslim tradition and historical development see [Mark Pinson (ed.), The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Their Historic Development from the Middle Ages to the Dissolution of Yugoslavia, Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1996; Robert J. Donia, John V. A. Fine, Bosnia and Hercegovina: A Tradition Betrayed, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994].

[7] The case in point is the destruction of the Ferhadia Mosque, a masterpiece of Muslim architecture, in Banja Luka, at present the capital of the so-called Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

[8] White Church in English. Mosque in Turkish is called jami, džamija (jamiya) in ex-Serbo-Croat.

[9] The local Muslim communities were too weak and scared to press for a rigorous investigation and punishment.

[10] It is estimated that in KosMet, West Macedonia, the Rashka region in Serbia, North Montenegro, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are built three times more mosques during the last 25 years than during 400 years of Ottoman rule.

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One Comment
  1. Like in Kosovo, Wahabbies destroyed after the war mosques in Bosnia. However, Bosniaks accused Serbs to do that during the war

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