Back Mitrovica - Next 

Mitrovica: 1908

Mitrovica
Mitrovica

High Albania by Edith Durham is a classic, and ought to be required reading for all students of the Balkans. In 1908 this redoubtable Englishwoman travelled through northern Albania and Kosovo, and travelled to Mitrovica by train from Pristina. In 1908 political developments made the region relatively safe but Durham writes that to catch the train from Pristina one had to travel three-quarters of an hour outside of town to reach the station – now in Kosovo Polje. On the way to get the train Durham is told by a man, her "Moslem travelling companion" that at the moment there were "very more people travelling" because the road out of town, normally deemed to dangerous, was currently safe from bandits. On the train Durham met an elderly Sephardic Jew and his wife from Pristina. They were on their way to Sarajevo to say goodbye to his brother before emigrating to Jerusalem.

The train ran through fertile land, cultivated fairly well, passing only one town, or rather village, of any size, Vuchitrn (wolf's thorn) said to be largely Serb.

Mitrovica, on rising ground at the very end of Kosovo plain, is small, but cleaner and less hopeless-looking than Prishtina. It is a new town made mainly since the railway; and, as it is on the junction of the Sitnitza and the Ibar, has a good and ample water supply, and fine vegetable gardens.

Durham writes that "the large majority" of the population were Moslems but "the number of Orthodox I failed to learn; they are building a large new church." This is probably the church of St Sava, now in south Mitrovica, that was begun in 1896 and torched during the riots of 2004. Durham writes: "Mitrovitza, though it looked so peaceful, is tinder waiting for the spark".

Almost one hundred years after Durham's visit Mitrovica is again on the frontline.

Mitrovica may be called a "frontier" town. Albanians and Serbs alike claim it jealously.

Durham lays part of the blame for tensions over Mitrovica on the shoulders of foreign powers, specifically Austria and Russia. While Austria is now no longer a world player, the echoes of 1908 can clearly still be heard today.

Austria (to gain her private ends) wins Albanian support by promising that never, never will she allow the sanjak to become Serb.

The town looked so peaceful that it was hard to believe that but six years years ago it had been the scene of fierce fighting, in which Shtcherbina, the Russian consul forced into the place in the teeth of Albanian opposition was killed. Of his gallantry on behalf of the Slav interests that he was sent to protect there can be no question, nor of indiscretion, alas! with which he set to work. Austria at once planted a consul to watch her own interests; and there the two most interested Powers watch to this day.

High Albania. Edith Durham. 2000.
[pp. 292-97 / Phoenix Press, London]

January 2007
Tim Judah

 Back Mitrovica - Next 
  1. Istanbul: Pamuk's City
  2. Istanbul: Swimming across the Bosphorus
  3. Salonika and the Jews
  4. Salonica: Slaves and Trade
  5. Thessalonika: 1923
  6. Ohrid: Rise and Fall
  7. Tornado of Dust - 1944
  8. Awake Romania - 1989
  9. Novi Sad: Nest of the Serbian nation
  10. Nis: War Capital, 1915
  11. Belgrade and the Selenites
  12. 1996: Serbia Calling
  13. Belgrade Train Station - 1964
  14. Srebrenica: Vengeance
  15. Srebrenica: Blood
  16. Srebrenica: July 1995
  17. Mealtime - Interwar years in Travnik
  18. Dayton: The Napkin Shuttle
  19. London Buses in Sarajevo
  20. The Museum and Bosnian Identity
  21. Foča: The Bosniak
  22. Kosovo: The Swiss Front
  23. Mitrovica: 1908
  24. Pristina: Kosovo like Namibia?
  25. City without traffic - Pristina 1966
  26. Durham in Pristina - 1908
  27. Tirana: 1962
  28. Zog's Tirana
  29. The Kotor - Constantinople Express
  30. Kotor and the Montenegrins
  31. The Rabbi of Stolac
  32. Dubrovnik: England, Wine and Wool
  33. Cetinje: Nikola Under the Elm
  34. Cetinje: 1858
  35. Dalmatia: Ships & Grapes
  36. Prophet of Yugoslavism
  37. The head of the world
  38. 1919: Mushrooms and Lies
  39. Sofia: Bulgaria's Jews during WWII
  40. Zamfirovo: Rural livelihoods in the mid-1990s
  41. Kosovo
  42. Romania: 1914
  43. Istanbul: Food and the frugal Turks
  44. Micklagard: Surprising, cosmopolitan Constantinople
  45. Sukhumi: The history of the region became ashes
  46. Black Sea: The coming of steam and rail
  47. Mestrovic: Motherhood and the Victor
  48. Rizvanovici, Bosnia: Gnashing
  49. Down the Danube with Magris: Ruse
  50. From Pristina to Tskhinvali
  51. Serbia, Historians and Hitler's War
  52. Balkan Strongmen: Bulgaria's Zhivkov
  53. Sarajevo: The Siege Within
  54. Turkey: Osman's Dream
  55. Durres 1961: Beijing on Sea
  56. Cetinje: Eggs for the Ladies
  57. Bosnia: Land of Immigrants
  58. Ottoman Croatia
  59. Harem: All the Sultan's Women
  60. Sibiu: Regime Change, European Style
  61. 1929: The Balkans and the Great Crash
  62. Rumeli and how the Balkans became the Balkans
  63. 1948: Stalin, Kosovo and Swallowing Albania
  64. Transforming Turkey: the 1950s
  65. McMafia and the Balkans
  66. 1916: Serbia in Corfu
  67. Princes Amongst Men
  68. Limp Shevardnadze
  69. Knin: War and Suburbia
  70. In the Mountains of Poetry
Paylaş: What are these?