Thursday, February 23, 2006

Southern Serbia: The second Kosovo?

Can Karpat, AIA Turkish and Balkan Section

It seems as though the Albanians of southern Serbia are “blackmailing” the Serbian authorities: Their demand for political and territorial autonomy will be more radical only if Serbia manages to divide Kosovo at the end of status negotiations. In this case, the Presevo Valley will be the compensation for northern Kosovo. Will Serbia face a second Kosovo? How further will the Serbian land disintegrate?

The dissatisfaction of the Albanians living in the three towns of Southern Serbia, Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja does not date from yesterday. A 1946 decision by the Yugoslav government to separate these three municipalities from Kosovo and place them under direct Serbian Republic jurisdiction was the beginning of the ethnic tension. In 1974 when Kosovo had been granted autonomy the status of these three towns did not change. In March 1992, during the period of the nationalist fire igniting the former Yugoslavia, the Albanians held an unofficial referendum in which they voted nearly unanimously to re-attach the Presevo Valley to Kosovo. The Albanians of southern Serbia are culturally and economically identical to those of Kosovo. The two Albanian communities speak the same dialectic (Gheg) and they have close relations with one another. Besides, this neighbourhood with Kosovo makes the assimilation of the Albanians of southern Serbia very problematic. In fact, there are not much Serb in the area to be assimilated with. Except Medvedja, the Albanians form the majority: in Presevo 90 percent of the population and in Bujanovac 54.5 percent (2002 census). In sum, nearly 70.000 Albanians live in the region. In 2000, the general dissatisfaction turned into an open unrest. The Liberation Army of Presevo-Medvedja-Bujanovac (UCPMB) made its first appearance during the funeral of two Albanians killed by the Serbian police in Dobrosin (a village near Bujanovac) on the 30th of January 2000. The Albanian insurgency was to last for 16 months.......


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