chapter  2
36 Pages

The road to war in Kosovo

Kosovo had been a longstanding source of bitter enmity between Serbs and Albanians. The dispute had deeper origins than the ones which had dominated the earlier phases of the Yugoslavia crisis from 1991 to 1995. Kosovo (to Albanians it was known as Kosova) was a place crucial for the historical evolution of both peoples and significant in their respective nineteenth-century political awakenings (Cohen 2001: 4). The Serbs predominantly viewed it as their ‘Holy Land’ or Jerusalem. It had been at the core of their medieval empire. The battle of Kosovo Polje had been fought there in 1389. It was Kosovo that possessed the main religious markers that helped shape Serbian cultural identity, notably the monasteries erected in medieval times. Dobrica _osi^, a well-known Serbian writer, claimed in 1999 that Kosovo ‘is the source of major epic poetry and is the precious receptacle of the Serbs’ spiritual identity. It is not a piece of land, it is the Serb identity. With the loss of Kosovo . . . the Serb people has been spiritually mutilated’ (Cohen 2001: 4).