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1918-24: The Kaçaks

 Bajram Curri (1862 - 1925)  Hasan Prishtina (1873 - 1933)
Bajram Curri (1862 - 1925) - Hasan Prishtina (1873 - 1933)

For Kosovo Serbs the return of Serbian rule in 1912 was a liberation. For Kosovo's Albanians by contrast, it was conquest. With the First World War the Serbs lost Kosovo again but then in 1918 they were to return although now Serbia, as a state, had been subsumed in the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes or Yugoslavia. For Albanians this was nothing short of a reconquest and in many parts was resisted by kaçak brigand cum freedom fighters. This was strongest, writes Judah, in the years 1918-24.

In the autumn of 1918 prominent Kosovo Albanians, based in Shkodër (also called Shkodra), in northern Albania had founded the Committee for the National Defence of Kosovo which became known as the KK or Kosovo Committee. Just like the KLA in the early part of 1998, it smuggled arms across the border from Albania and coordinated, as best it could, raids within Kosovo and the two other areas of Yugoslavia with substantial Albanian populations, western Macedonia and parts of Montenegro. The best-known of the kaçak leaders were Bajram Curri, Hasan Bey Prishtina and Azem Bejta. Significantly, bearing in mind that the heartlands of the revolt which began in 1998 were the villages of the central Drenica valley, fighting blew up there following the KK call to revolt on 6 May 1919. This was Azem Bejta's territory. He and his wife came from the village of Galica. According to [British historian Noel] Malcolm, "it is estimated that there were 10,000 active rebels at this time. But the kaçaks, only half of whom had rifles, were no match against the machine gun units of the Yugoslav army, which drove them off towards the mountains near Peć, destroying many villages as it did so and carrying out further reprisals afterwards." The legend of Azem Bejta lived on in Drenica, but even his fame was overshadowed by that of his wife Shota Galica, who had also taken up arms. In the event, apart from small groups which were never subdued, the end of major kaçak resistance came when the Yugoslav government helped Ahmed Zogu to return to power in Tirana in December 1924 in exchange for his suppressing the KK.

[p. 24]

Kosovo: War and Revenge. 2002, Second Edition. [Yale University Press]

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