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Nations and Nationalities

Aleksandar Ranković. Copyright by
Aleksandar Ranković

In the first two post-war decades power in Kosovo was returned, in the main, into the hands of Serbs. One reason for this was that there had been relatively few Kosovo Albanian communists and many of them were regarded with suspicion because, says Judah, of "what they saw as the great betrayal of the Bujan promise, ie., that post-war Kosovo would be allowed to determine its own future. Until 1966 security in Yugoslavia was in the hands of Aleksandar Ranković, who believed in good, old-fashioned style repression, especially when it came to any whiff of separatism. After his fall things began to change, not just in Kosovo but all over Yugoslavia. In 1970 for example Priština University opened and under the new constitution of 1974 Kosovo became a Yugoslav republic in all but name. It had its own assembly, police force and national bank and it was represented on the federal presidency along with the six Yugoslav republics and Vojvodina, Serbia's other autonomous province. However…it was still not a republic, much to the anger of many Kosovars, as was to be seen in demonstrations in 1981 and the fact that it was not a republic continues to haunt Kosovo today, as this legacy has complicated hugely the quest of Kosovo Albanians for independence. What was the reason behind the decision? "Following the Soviet model," writes Judah, Yugoslavia, "devised a piece of constitutional sophistry:"

The peoples of Yugoslavia were classed as either "nations" or "nationalities". The former were entitled to Yugoslav republics. They were the Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians. In 1971, they were joined by the Bosnian Muslims. By contrast "nationalities" were, in effect, cut off from an existing motherland. The most important of the "nationalities" were the Kosovo Albanians and the Hungarians who lived in Vojvodina in the north, both of whose people had existing states. This was, of course, so much legal gobbledegook because the real point was that nations – who had republics – were, under the constitution, theoretically possessed of the right to secede. So, under no circumstances could the Kosovo Albanians ever be allowed to become a republic lest one day they should actually try to exercise that right.


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

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