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1912: For Kosovo – Kumanovo

Dead in the Balkan Wars. Copyright by
Dead in the Balkan Wars

Especially in the nineteenth century Kosovo became a Serbian rallying call, or rather it gave focus, along with the pantheon of Serbian kings and heroes, to emerging Serbian nationalism. The latter part of the century was also the era of Serbian national romanticism. This is the speech given by Čedomil Mijatović, Serbia's foreign minister, to the Royal Academy in 1889, on the 500th anniversary of the historic battle:

An inexhaustible source of national pride was discovered on Kosovo. More important than language and stronger than the Church, this pride unites all Serbs in a single nation…The glory of the Kosovo heroes shone like a radiant star in that dark night of almost five hundred years…There was never a war for freedom – and when was there no war? - in which the spirit of Kosovo heroes did not participate. The new history of Serbia begins with Kosovo – a history of valiant efforts, long suffering, endless wars, and unquenchable glory…We bless Kosovo because the memory of the Kosovo heroes upheld us, encouraged us, and guided us.

The Balkan wars broke out in October 1912. Just before that the Turks had been weakened by yet another revolt in Kosovo, in which notes Judah, "most of the area had been taken over by Albanian rebels." Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro attacked almost simultaneously. "Within weeks," says Judah, "the Turks had been driven back, virtually to the gates of Constantinople. Montenegro seized Peć (Peja) and other parts of western Kosovo while Serbia took the rest. 'The single sound of that word – Kosovo – caused indescribable excitement', wrote one Serbian soldier as his unit came to rest at the battlefield of 1389." (Miloš Obilić is the legendary Serbian knight who killed the Sultan at the battle.)

When we arrived on Kosovo and the battalions were placed in order, our commander spoke: "Brothers, my children, my sons!" His voice breaks. "This place on which we stand is the graveyard of our glory. We bow to the fallen ancestors and pray God for the salvation of their souls." His voice gives out and tears flow in streams down his cheeks and grey beard and fall to the ground. He actually shakes from some kind of inner pain and excitement.

The spirits of Lazar, Miloš [Obilić], and all the Kosovo martyrs gaze on us. We feel strong and proud, for we are the generation which will realize the centuries-old dream of the whole nation: that we with the sword will regain the freedom that was lost with the sword.

"The decisive battle of the war," writes Judah, "took place at Kumanovo in northern Macedonia. After that a slogan was coined: 'For Kosovo – Kumanovo'" Then he notes that on 9 June 1999 Serbian commanders signed their effective capitulation to NATO in Kumanovo, following the 78-days of NATO bombing, hence, "in a way, Kosovo was won, and lost again, at the same place."

[pp: 15-16, 17-18]

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

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