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The orthodox patriarchate in Peja
The orthodox patriarchate in Peja. Photo: flickr/ettermichaeljackson

Located on a trade route connecting Dubrovnik with the medieval mining towns of central Kosovo, Peja was a trade centre as far back as in the Middle Ages. Its name derives from the Turkish word for silk (ipek). In 1999 Peja's bazaar quarter was burned down by Serb forces. More than two-thirds of Peja’s buildings were damaged or destroyed, including many traditional stone kullas andOttoman-era homes. Today, streets named after British Premier Tony Blair, and US Generals William Walker and Wesley Clark keep memories of the recent war alive.

After 1945, in an effort to industrialise the town, the communist leadership established leather, shoe, wood and furniture companies. In 1968, Zastava, a Serbian car manufacturer, opened an outlet in Peja, becoming the town’s largest employer.

Today, however, little remains of the postwar industrial drive. Only a large brewery is still active, selling its beer in Kosovo and to the Kosovo diaspora.

The history of Peja (Pec in Serbian) is closely linked to that of the Serbian Orthodox Church. To protect the patriarchate from Bulgarian raiders in the 13th century the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church was moved from central Serbia to Peja. From 1557 until 1766 the town was the residence of the Church’s patriarchs and archbishops. Protected by high walls and beautifully located at the entrance of the Rugova Gorge, the monastic complex features outstanding examples of paintings from the 13th to the 17th century. According to the Ahtisaari Proposal, the Pec Patriarchy is to be a protected zone, in order to guard Serb Orthodox heritage in Kosovo.

May 2008

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