Culture Supplement

"Sins" and the Albanianization of Serbian women

Serbian camp on the Bulgarian border, Vraje, October 31, 1915

Serbian camp on the Bulgarian border, Vraje, October 31, 1915

One of the "stamps" of time, which will mark the overworked Albanian back in the last Ottoman centuries, will be the kidnapping of non-Albanian women and their violent conversion. How far it had gone in the dramatization and mythologising of this issue is shown by the fact that on the walls of some local Serbian churches in the villages of the Preševo ​​Valley and Anamorava, which were erected recently, even frescoes can be found, where figures of "sacrificed Serbian women" in order not to fall alive into the hands of "Albanian robbers"

"We cannot say that the vast majority of local Serbs were Turkified (Albanized) in a violent way, so there was also voluntary Turkification (Albanization) and this was especially manifested in Serbs who lived in mixed environments with Albanians. Personally, I think that the majority of Serbian women have been Turkified (Albanized) voluntarily and never by force", said Jovan Haxhi-Vasilevic ("Muslimani naše krvi", Belgrade 1924, p. 66", p. 66) . 

However, the arguments of this author were left aside, when the above-mentioned Serbian nationalist circles, unfortunately supported at that time also by the international center of the time, managed to brand the Albanians with a guilt, which was contrary to tradition and canonical custom theirs. 

So, one of the "stamps" of time, which will mark the overworked Albanian back in the last Ottoman centuries, will be the kidnapping of non-Albanian women and their violent conversion. 

How far it had gone in the dramatization and mythologising of this issue is shown by the fact that on the walls of some local Serbian churches in the villages of the Preševo ​​Valley and Anamorava, which were erected recently, even frescoes can be found, where figures of "sacrificed Serbian women" in order not to fall alive into the hands of "Albanian robbers". And secondly, in the framework of political propaganda in this direction, with the idea of ​​the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, the compilation of reports on the so-called urban violence in Old Serbia was initiated. The reports were summarized in a special book also published in French entitled "Documents Diplomatiques - Correspondance concerning les actes de violence et brigandage des Albanais dans la Vieille - Serbia (Vilayet de Kossovo 1898 - 1899)" published in Belgrade in 1899. 

But, if the Serbian women were the ones who kept Serbianism alive in these places, as Manojllo Gjorgjević - Prizrenac presents it, in the novel "Bloody Scarf", taking for example the mother of the main protagonist of the novel, Janjë, who in her hesitations son to change his faith, because this is what Fatima and her family wanted, she rushes at him, cursing "why her son wasn't born crippled or blind, why she didn't run out of milk when Janja was born ” and finally insisting to convince his son that, if he changed his religion, then “in this world he will be a disgrace and in that world he will remain outside the mercy of God!” Therefore, from the words of Janja's mother, it is clear that the greatest curse against the defenders, however, falls more on men than on Serbian women. "A Serb who does not respect his religious rites and customs is not considered a Serb. Such an apostate among the Serbian people is considered a lost son, because he has lost the importance of Serbianism", says Aleksov in his efforts to clarify the psychological state of Serbian society on the verge of the outbreak of violence, vengeful hatred in different historical periods , starting from the end of the XIX century, until the last and bloody wars of the nineties in the former Yugoslavia. (Ibid., "Poturica" ​​p. 238). But why did the "braves" of the descendants of Tsar Lazar and Stevan Singjelic in the Presheva Valley deserve this exclusion from the ranks of the nation. "When 30-40 years ago, two Serbian girls voluntarily converted and accepted the Islamic religion, and for their action they were seen with disgust in the whole of Morava and Moravica, encouraging the upheaval of the whole life of the local Serbs - on the other hand, the Serbs of Upper Pcinja are happy when an Albanian or Turk "leads" their wives or daughters, or both at the same time, going with them to weddings and gatherings and to various assemblies, so that the Albanian or Turk disposes of them the whole family of pchinjas, as if with his harem; and all the more so that these Pčinja (Serbian) men hang around these Albanian or Turkish men with great pleasure, because then they get the opportunity to drink alcohol until they become drunk and become corks, fatten their bellies or melt away smoking. ", Haxhi Vasilevic testified, detailing that "many Serbian residents claim to have an Albanian or Turkish housemate, with the sole purpose of taking revenge on a close relative or neighbor. So they put the Albanian or Turkish agallars in front of their enemy! And it is a fact that in Upper Pchinje there are cases when a man beats his wife, daughter or daughter-in-law, because she has previously refused to please the "wife"! (Jovan Haxhi Vasiljevic, "Južna Stara Srbija, Presevska oblast", Knjiga II, Belgrade 1913, pg. 250)

In the framework of Serbian political propaganda, with the idea of ​​the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, the compilation of reports on the so-called Albanian violence in Old Serbia was initiated. The reports were summarized in a special book also published in French entitled "Documents Diplomatiques - Correspondance concerning les actes de violence et brigandage des Albanais dans la Vieille - Serbia (Vilayet de Kossovo 1898 - 1899)" published in Belgrade in 1899

He used it as an excuse     

In addition to the comprehensive developments in the Balkan boiling pot of the late 232th century, as an entry into the new century, there was a need to project the future, of course, the schematism of the "us" and "them" or "others" model from Belgrade's political circles. Of course, the Presheva Valley of that time, but also later, despite the dominance of the majority of the Albanian population, was subjected to the aforementioned scheme. Parallel to the promoted Euro-Ottoman reforms, towards the middle of the 1813th century, as is known, the influence of Russia as a power also increased and the activity of this state at this time was oriented towards the organization of the movement for the liberation of the Slavs of Central and South-Eastern Europe. Although Serbia aimed at the realization of the project of "Greater Serbia" in the imagined medieval model, on the other hand, Bulgaria, in addition to targeting Macedonia, tried to attach the "Greater Bulgaria" to the provinces, starting from the province of Zaječar. today up to the Presheva Valley. However, among other things, the neighbors of the Albanians had already managed to install such models of hatred within their national corps, that even the later Nazis would envy them. "The extermination of the 'false and abominable Turks' in the popular consciousness acquired the importance of ritual purification, national catharsis, and thus the (future) massacres of non-Serbs gained religious apotheosis, despite the fact that the killing was contrary to the basic teachings of the church. " (Ibid., Poturica pg. 1851). The most meritorious for inciting the avalanche of murders and massacres, relying on this achieved popular consciousness, was Petar Petrović Njegosh (1847-XNUMX) and his work "Crown of the Mountains", which according to various researchers is based on a false legend. This has even been affirmed by some Montenegrin researchers in recent years. And only a few years after the publication of this work (XNUMX), the author of the novella "Bloody Scarf", Manolljo Gjorgjevic - Prizrenac, Albanian from Rahovice, has smeared the nationalist spirit of Njegosh's work, first by placing the main characters in different class positions , it also means religious. 
"The characters of this tragic event do not belong to the same social categories, but also to the same religious faith," he wrote.

Jovan Haxhi-Vasilevic, "Muslimani naše krvi", Belgrade 1924

Bajrami e Zllata and Janja e Fata

Meanwhile, a few years earlier, also in one of the largest villages of Preševo ​​in Miratoc, a passionate love had been born between an Albanian and a Serbian woman. 

To the northwest of Tabanoc (today the border crossing between Serbia and North Macedonia) is the village of Sopot. Before the wars of 1876-1878, several prominent Serbian houses stood out in this village. One of the most powerful Serbian families was the Stojković family. The daughter of that house Zllata was a true beauty. Bajrami from Miratoc, a village very close to Sopot, fell in love with this girl. Fearing that their daughter would convert and embarrass them, Zllata's parents were forced to house their daughter in the Orthodox Church's diocese in Kumanovo. Even the priests in this church were convinced that Bajram Miratoca was determined to violently convert Zlata and always organized a guard around the metropolis. Haxhi Vasilevic further remembers that "at that time I lived in that house, even though I was a child, I remember what the servants of the house took to protect Zlata so that the Albanians would not rob it". (Ibid. Haxhivaslijevic, Preshevska oblast p. 145) 

While at the time of the birth of these loves on the Kosovar-Serbian border, the city of Vraja had just passed to the Serbian side and only the muffled voice of the lonely imams in the mosques of Vraja was the last memory of the Ottoman-Albanian presence there. Now, but even later, Vraja would be transformed, and by Serbian political and cultural circles it was seen as the gateway to "Old Serbia" or the Kosovo Province. And, to measure the national pulse of the non-Albanians in the Presheva Valley, at this time two emissaries taught these areas: the Serbian historian and politician Stojan Novaković (1842-1915) and Spiridon Gopčević (1855-1928). 

"Presheva, along with Moravica and Morava, as well as Bujanoc as the only habitable center in the south, a little further from the border in Turkey, are cut off from the center and from their natural environment (Serbia!), and now live on these Balkan shores , surprised not knowing where to keep them!", Novaković demanded the answer in the autumn of 1886. (Stojan Novaković, "S'Morave na Vardar", 26-28 oktobar 1886, Belgrade 1894) However, unlike Novaković perfid, the next emissary who was tasked with researching the state of national consciousness of the non-Albanian population of this area, encountered an even denser fog. When in the spring of 1888 the railway line Vraje - Bujanoc - Presevo - Skopje was launched, the man known by the pseudonym Leo Brener, otherwise well-known Spiridon Gopčević, paid by the Government of Serbia and various Serbian nationalist organizations, which had been in support of the expansion of Serbia towards the south, he had taken the train route to reach the Albanian lands and his main complaint was that why the train had to cross most of Serbia only at night and the travelers had no chance to enjoy themselves saw the beautiful Serbian landscapes. 

"In order to learn more about the population of this region (of the Presevo Valley) I decided to travel by train", writes Gopçeviq at the beginning of his "scientific" mission! The first traveler I met was from Bilaçi (currently a residence in the municipality of Bujanoci). Seeing that he was in the company of Albanians, I asked him if he was like that too. "I am not Albanian", he answered. "Be Serbian", I continued. He was surprised and began to explain to me: "I know that in all probability we are Serbs, but we have a habit of saying that we are Bulgarians!" Why so, I asked. "I don't know, that's how we're used to it," he finally told me. (Spiridon Gopčević, "Makedonien und Alt-Serbien", Wien 1889). 

Said and written a few years later in contrast to the aforementioned authors, a Serbian historian also seems to have been closer to the truth about the identities of the two neighboring peoples, the Albanians and the Serbs. 

"There are opinions that the Serbian nation was constituted in the seventies of the XIX century. However, I think that the situation of the Serbian nation in the eighties of the XVIII century should be examined. For example, the Albanian nation was created much earlier before the Albanian state!", said the historian Andrej Mitrović (1937-2013, in his paper "O nekim zamanja izučavanja i razvitka srpske nacije" published in the book "Postanak i razvoj srpske nacije ”, in 1979, in Belgrade (pp. 243 – 247)

To be continued in the next issue of the Culture Supplement