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Stabilization and Progress in the Western Balkans

Proceedings of the Symposium 2010, Basel, Switzerland September 17-19

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Edited By Dusan Simko and Ueli Mäder

For more than a decade, the Balkans have been a centre of crisis – armed conflicts have brought death, expulsion, destruction and untold suffering to the people. The postwar efforts of the West have failed to bring lasting stability and real progress so far.
The Symposium at Basel University was an interdisciplinary event where complex issues were elucidated by historians, geographers, sociologists and political scientists. The event enabled East and West European scholars and their American counterparts to exchange their somewhat divergent views. The speakers covered a broad range of subjects: historical causes, aspects of postwar economic and social development as well as sociocultural consequences of the democratization process. Special attention was devoted to the situation of minorities, the refugee problem and the security situation in the fragile states of the West Balkans and also to the responsibility of the EU and USA for the general stagnation in the area.
The Symposium was intended to illustrate differing interpretations of the events of the past ten years and to encourage discussion between speakers and participants at the event.

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DUŠAN T. BATAKOVIC - The Kosovo Aftermath: Challenges and Perspectives - 109

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109 DUŠAN T. BATAKOVI The Kosovo Aftermath: Challenges and Perspectives Imagining Kosovo: Opposing Historic Views The very word Kosovo (kos in the Serbian language means ‘black- bird’) has opposite meanings for the rival ethnic communities. To the Serbs, Kosovo with Metohija represents an area considered to be the ‘Serb Jerusalem’, whose spectacular cultural development and eco- nomic rise in mediaeval times was brought to a halt by the Ottoman conquerors. The battle of Kosovo – in the Field of the Blackbirds (Kosovo Polje) – in 1389, between Serb and Ottoman armies, marked by the death of both rulers, came to symbolize, for the Serbs, their struggle for liberty against oppression and their plight under the domi- nation of a foreign conqueror. After centuries of Ottoman rule, the suffering of Kosovo had grown to legendary proportions according to Serb epic ballads. Kosovo developed into a central pillar of mod- ern Serbian identity, being a sacred land, the heartland of Serbian culture, art, and both spiritual and political traditions. Furthermore, Kosovo is perceived as a holy land from which Serbs have been driven out for centuries and continue to be expelled by rival ethnic groups even today. This was, as witnessed by Serbian sources, the result of an orchestrated and systematic effort perpetrated primarily by the Muslim Albanians – legal and illegal immigrants into the region, set- tled for social, religious and political reasons in various periods dur- ing the rule of the Ottomans, the Italian fascists, and Tito’s commu- nists.1 In contrast, ethnic...

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