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1941: Greater Albania

Map of "Greater Albania" - Ottoman Valayets c.1878
Map of "Greater Albania" - Ottoman Valayets c.1878

During the Second World War Kosovo was divided into three sectors. "The Bulgarians were given a small part in the east," writes Judah, "Mitrovica and the zinc and lead-producing Trepča mines were attached to German-occupied Serbia but the region was given a good measure of local control under Albanian leadership. The rest of the province, plus Albanian-inhabited areas of western Macedonia, were attached to Albania which had been conquered by the Italians in 1939."

At least to start with, the Kosovo Albanians were enthusiastic about the Italians. Although, of course, they were occupiers, they had also brought about the unification of almost all the Albanian-inhabited lands. The swing of the pendulum also gave those Albanians who were minded to do so the opportunity to wreak revenge on the region's Serbs, and especially the Serbian and Montenegrin settlers who had come to Kosovo over the last twenty years. In the wake of the Yugoslav collapse, armed gangs roamed the countryside, burning Serbian villages and killing and expelling Serbs. Where Serbs could retaliate, they did, but, given the preponderance of power, there was presumably little opportunity to do so. Carlo Umiltŕ, the Italian "Civil Commissioner" for Kosovo later described horrific scenes that he had witnessed. "The Albanians are out to exterminate the Slavs," he wrote, saying that Serbs were begging passing Italian lorries and vehicles to take them to safety. In one region between Djakovica and Peć he found villages where "not a single house has a roof; everything has been burned down…There are headless bodies of men and women strewn on the ground." Following the capitulation of Italy on 8 September 1943, Kosovo and Albania were immediately invaded by the Germans, who although in control, maintained the fiction that Albania was an independent country.

[p.27]

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

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