By David Binder
February 24, 2008
A question to ponder: If you now can transplant a human heart, implying amputation of the original heart, can you transplant the heart of a nation?
The question, outside the category of geography, is posed by what is happening these days with Kosovo-Metohija, the heart - heartland - of the Serbian nation.
My answer is: No.
Despite assertions of a few Albanian historians with academic pretensions echoed by some non-Albanian pseudo-scholars, the Serbian heartland remains forever Kosovo.Deranged efforts by pathological xenophobes to obliterate any signs of a Serbian presence - burning, bombing and looting monasteries, churches, houses; desecrating cemeteries, the saints in frescoes and icons - make the virtual absence of any Albanian cultural monuments in the province all the more stark. The contrast in terms of history could scarcely be greater.
Kosovo rests enshrined in Serbia's prayers, poetry, legend, architecture, painting, music - in graveyards and in the very soil. Just as it is impossible to think of the Serbian past without Kosovo, so it will be impossible to think about the Serbian future without Kosovo.
Those who may have thought the younger generation of Serbs was disenchanted with the subject and preferred to focus instead on "Europe" or some other popular contemporary theme, need only note the February 18 demonstration of thousands of Belgrade students carrying banners proclaiming "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia!"
(I have heard that Sumadija sometimes referred to as "the heartland of Serbia," but the late Sasa Nenadovic (1927-2006) from the town of Trbusani, disputed this with a grin, saying, that Sumadjia was "the stomach of Serbia, where we are getting sick all the time.")
Apropos "nation," some journalists and some politicians confused this term with "state" hailing the Pristina declaration of independence as the birth of the world's "193rd nation" - as counted in terms of members of the United Nations. This might work if there were two kinds of Albanians. Then each could be represented by one of the black eagles on their flag.
In my dictionary states can be sovereign. Nations cannot.
The stuttering, messy, and contradictory responses to Pristina's independence declaration - splitting the European Union and even the United Nations Security Council - show that the road ahead is rocky, and may be mined with explosive devices.
Then there are the costs. Before 1999 Kosovo swallowed the largest of all subsidies from Federal funds for decades without much visible effect. Since then the province has taken in 1.8 billion Euros from the EU alone (not to mention US or UN aid) with little to show for it except massive unemployment, little economic activity and considerable debt. Now it is promised a half billion Euros for the next three years.
The world might also keep in mind that Kosovo is not the last of Albanian demands. "Greater Albania," with chunks of `western Macedonia, southern Montenegro and northern Greece remains inscribed on the irredentists' banner. As Sasa Nenadovic warned twenty years ago: "To give them a republic might quiet some of them. But it would encourage others. It would be giving a finger to people who want your whole arm."
In 1999 he remarked: "Almost all of our history from the Battle of Kosovo Field onward we were fighting this or that enemy. That was the main preoccupation of us Serbs. True we lost some wars but we always thought of ourselves as winners." Then he added in a sardonic tone: "It can't be different now, can it?"
Obviously it can. But on another occasion, again with a touch of sarcasm, Nenadovic said of Serbs: "There is always a way out. That is the essence of our irresistible progress as well our permanent predicament - since we always manage to prolong, to postpone, to survive, we are also inclined to endure, if not to accept, almost anything. Where there is a will, there is hope, too."
Today Serbs could find solace in the fact their ancestors guarded the precious symbols of Kosovo for more than 500 years from the days of the bloody victory of the Ottomans, through their people's migrations in the 17th-18th centuries, to the ethnic purges of both world wars. Far be it from me to suppose that it might take another 500 years for Serbs to recover Kosovo physically. Rather, the history of the Serbs is a reminder that some historical events are clad in the cloak of immortality.