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Destroy the Old Build the New

We inherited a town without an identity

The story of old Pristina since 1945 is a story of destruction and wasted opportunities.

In the early communist era, this destruction of the past was the result of deliberate policy. The slogan of "urban development" in the 1950s was "destroy the old, build the new". As one book from 1959 noted proudly:

"Until the end of World War II, Pristina was a typical Oriental town. After the Liberation following the Second World War, Pristina experienced rapid development in every respect, and it is now day-by-day developing into a modern town. Old shop fronts and other shaky old structures are quickly disappearing to make room for fine, tall, modern-style buildings."

The "shaky old structures" which were demolished included the covered bazaar, one of the largest in the region; the spiritual centre of the town, comprising a mosque, the main Catholic Church and the Synagogue; an old Ottoman Hamam and a large number of Ottoman town houses.

But unlike elsewhere in Europe (including, for instance, Sarajevo or Skopje) no attempt was made to preserve the historic centre of what had for centuries been one of the most important towns in the region

'In this city without a river
I stand as a stranger,
I take revenge on time with a glass of raki
I'm thinking of you'

'Hero of a city without a river', song by Migjen Kelmendi

Even the natural geography of the old town was hidden. In the 1950s, Vellusha River, flowing down from the Germia hills in the East, was covered up. In the late 1970s also the Pristina River was covered, flowing West of the old town centre. The two rivers were simply turned into a sewage system. By the late 1980s Pristina had become a town without rivers and a town without a visible past.

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