Culture Supplement

The Serbian Church and the "religious fanaticism" of the Albanians of the Presheva Valley

The church in Vraje that began to be built around 1840

The church in Vraje that began to be built around 1840

Despite the lack of stability and argumentation of the thesis on the Arnautashes, promoted at the end of the 1957th century, this thesis was supported and revived by later authors. It is understood only for the purpose of justifying violence, murders and crimes against Albanian neighbors. One of them was the historian, but also the "expert" on the Kosovo issue, Dushan Batakovic (2019 - XNUMX). "Many Serbs accepted Islamization as a necessary evil, waiting for the moment when they could return to the faith of their ancestors, but many of them did not live to experience that day...Albanization began when the Serbs Islamized, washed away from national feelings, they started marrying Albanian girls", he wrote

As we have mentioned in the preliminary parts of this text, to justify the Serbian expansion and the politics of the nationalist circles of the time, Jovan Haxhi-Vasilevic saw the vast majority of the Albanians of the Presheva Valley as Albanianized Serbs or as Arnautashes. However, this author "deliberately omits" the use of these expressions, when in question are the marriages of Serbian women with Albanians from these areas at that time. When a Serbian woman married an Albanian, Haxhi-Vasilejviqi says that "she was Turkified and not Albanianized", while when a Serb converted to Islam, he calls her "arnautash" and not Turkish, so he was Albanianized and not turkish!

Despite the lack of stability and argumentation of the thesis on the Arnautashes, promoted at the end of the 19th century, this thesis was supported and revived by later authors. It is understood only for the purpose of justifying violence, murders and crimes against Albanian neighbors.

The Albanian woman with her Serbian boyfriend at the border

One of them was the historian, but also the "expert" on the Kosovo issue, Dushan Batakovic (1957 - 2019). "Many Serbs accepted Islamization as a necessary evil, waiting for the moment when they could return to the faith of their ancestors, but many of them did not live to experience that day...Albanization began when the Serbs Islamized, washed away from national feelings, they started marrying Albanian girls" - he wrote. (Ibid., "Poturica" ​​p. 245). In contrast to Batakovic, it is the Serbian culture and religion in the foreground, and not the love in the young Serbian Janjen, that convinces Fatima from Rahovica to run away to Serbia. Seeing the danger that threatened the two young men, the young Serb comes to the aid of an Albanian from Preševar who had previously been found with him in prison and aware that the worst has just happened, he orders Janjë: "These our they will eat his head. Look and cross the fence (border) until your head is on your shoulder. Leave dangerous jobs, because in this world there is not only Fatima (p. 82)". But it doesn't all end here, because that world beyond the fence (Serbia) is a place of culture and prosperity. "Their hearts were stricken—  now or never. O in heaven or in hell! Janja looked around in fear. Fate smiled on him –  not a living soul anywhere. The border guards, apparently overcome with sleep, had taken refuge in the outpost and were sleeping as they slept!...Only thirty steps left... his legs trembled...stay just twenty more...fifteen.... ten. Fatima knelt on Serbian soil, knelt down and fell to kiss the holy land of freedom and brotherhood...(p. 89)". This is how the Albanian woman and her Serbian boyfriend had experienced crossing the border between Serbia and the Province of Kosovo.

"Serbian money" and conversion to the Orthodox religion

While these two lovers had achieved their goal, Bajram Miratoca had fallen into trouble, because the asses was unable to free his beloved Zlata from the clutches of the priests of Kumanova. He had even asked for help in the neighboring Albanian village of Tërnava, and his family and friends had responded to Bajram's invitation and were now waiting for the moment when they would leave to bring Zlata to Miratoc. However, all this effort by Bajram and other Albanians who were ready to come out in support of him at that time, but also later, whenever the need required it, was interpreted as a manifestation of the "religious fanaticism of the Albanians" . The words that fit such a nationalist doctrine, the author Manojllo Gjorgjevic - Prizrenac, even said in his novel with the mouth of Fatima the Albanian: "Here is paradise, happiness is here. Everything here is beautiful and clean, everything is open and joyful. No, like us, you must always hide, you dare not take your eyes off anyone!... Oh, if only my unfortunate friends knew how beautiful it is here – they would all run away and not stay there as unmade slaves (p. 93)",  says Fatima, as she and her lover were returning from the church of Vraj, where they had set the time when the young Albanian woman would convert to the Orthodox religion! Yes, who were the religious fanatics of the valley in the west of the Ottoman centuries?

"There are countless cases when Albanians or Turks come to the homes of Serbs (in the eastern parts of the Presheva Valley) bringing some coffee, sugar or tobacco and stay there for days. Meanwhile, the Serb - the owner of the house does not have the courage and cannot, but does not even want to expel them from his house, because he hopes that the uninvited guest will either leave on his own, or that "facilities" will come. in home. But the Albanian or the Turk in this way slowly start to learn more about family relationships, they even start to mix in family relationships and when the master of the house rushes to his wife or daughter, then these women and daughters are placed under the protection of the Albanian aga. or Turkish", wrote Jovan Haxhi Vasilevic, angry about the behavior of the Serbs in the valley. (Ibid., Preševska p. 251).

However, the Albanians of the Presheva Valley, more specifically those of Rahovica, in connection with the case of their fellow villager, could be accused of why, even after five centuries of Ottoman rule, they had remained faithful to their canonical custom, which in this particular case was related to collective shame that Fatima had caused them, from that day when the news reached Rahovica that their fellow villager was now alive and well in Vraje.

"A Turkish commissioner had started his circulation between Rahovica, the border and Vraja. In Vraja, the Turkish vice-consul from Skopje was ordered to take Fatima willingly or by force and return her to her father. The tribe of Fazli (Fatima's father) was up in arms and waiting at the border - and if Fatima was not handed over to them, then they would kill all the (Serbs) Christians and young Christians around the border area (p. 95)".

However, if Fatima had managed to cross the "Albanian-Serbian fence" without breaking her head for the mark she had caused to the people of Rahovica, Zllata had also sacrificed for Bajram.

"After three months, despite the organization of the strict guard, no one had believed that Zllata's love had been so strong for Bajram Miratoc, that one day she had managed to escape from the guards and reach Miratoc", testified Jovan Haxhi Vaslijevic (Ibid. Preševska p. 67).

The guilt of nationalism 

The mess of the nationalist campaign that engulfed the Preševo ​​Valley in the second half of the 1876th century, that is, when any event of ordinary life between Albanians and Serbs was interpreted according to different nationalist currents, which primarily aimed at achieving the realization of megalomaniac plans, about thirty years later the Serbian writer, Borisav Stanković (1927-XNUMX) explained it best.

"All the blame rests with the misunderstandings of nationalism! To that (nationalism, I note. trans.) that is called Bulgarophilism, Serbophilism... For what? Who does this serve?" Stanković asked in 1926, i.e. a year before he died. (Branimir Ćosić, Razgovor sa Borisavom Stankovićem in "Deset pisaca, deset razvoran", Belgrade 1931, pp. 17-31). Despite the fact that this author does not stand out for the presentation of the real image of Albanians in his works, which differs from the already stereotyped model of this period, it must have been personal life experiences that nevertheless made Stankovic reserved in the aforementioned statement in the ranks of nationalists, do not include the "tyrannical Albanians". Firstly, the Serbian realist Stankovic had spent his early childhood in the village of Lluçan in Bujanoci and secondly, according to a story by Haxhi-Vasilevic, the young Bora got to know the Albanian world and its relationship with the feminine world, precisely through the treatment of women in that time.

"Around 1850, the Bilaç Inn was run by the Greek Mano, whose wife died leaving him a daughter, but whom the Greek's second wife could not bear now! Annoyed, Mano's daughter got married in Bilaç where she accepted the Islamic faith. The family respected the Greek's daughter and kept alive the ties with the mother's family members, who were actually the second-generation friends of the writer, Borisav Stankovic". (Ibid. "Preševska oblast" p. 253)"

But if the Serbian realist Stankovic tried at least to stick to the truth, his opinion did not resonate as much, because he was never forgiven for not abandoning Belgrade in December 1914, when the Serbian capital was occupied during World War I. from the Austrian troops, therefore the recycling of nationalism through literature was continued by other writers, even with "world fame". One of those who was amazed by the interpretation of Njegosh's popular thought and belief was Ivo Andriq (1892 – 1975). In the novels of this author, such as "Omer Pashë Latasi", "Chronicle of Travnik", "Bridge over the Drin" or the story "Viti i turbult" clearly manifest hysteria and extreme hatred towards Muslims and especially towards converts. (Ibid. "Poturica", p. 236)

Coincidentally, the main character of the unfinished novel "Omer Pashë Latasi" is a famous military leader, who was a converted Slav and that, in the Presheva Valley, he is known for suppressing the Albanian uprising of 1842-1843, when the Albanian insurgents they occupied Vraja, in the war against the pro-Serbian Hysen Pasha. And what was the actual situation in the Presheva Valley at the time of this wild nationalist campaign, inclined to manipulate with dubious data and figures.

Precisely at the time of the events of establishing the border between the Province of Kosovo and Serbia, at the time of the loves of the Albanian Fatima with the Serbian Janjë and the Serbian Zlata with the Albanian Bajram, an excursion of Serbian students to the monastery of Saint Prohor of Pcinja, where once Albanian parents from the surrounding villages sent their sick children to be cured of the evil eye and other diseases.

"On November 20, 1896, after the end of the excursion, the teachers went to the kaymekami. He was a true gentleman... Many European countries would envy such an official... We have many reasons to rejoice that Kazaja e Preševo, which borders our kingdom, has a leader of like that! Only an official like the kajmekam of Presheva can raise the authority of his homeland. On the way back to the border in Zhbevc, the Turks received us very well. Each of the students received a gift from a lokum". (Ljubomir Davidović, "Izlet u manastir Sveti Pohor Pčinjski", in Nastavnik 1, Belgrade 1896, pp. 45-48). At that time, the kaymekam of the Presheva kazaya was Ihsan Bey, while the foundations of the local government in Presheva were laid by Hasan Kudretullah - effendija in 1878, when the kazaya was founded.

To be continued in the next issue of the Culture Supplement

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