The Truth About The Balkans And The Horrors Of Albanian Nationalism Against The Serbs

“Anyone who knows the history of the Balkans knows that Kosovo is Serbia. It was Serbian hands that cleared the fields of Kosovo, built the villages and roads, and created the great Holy Places to the glory of God, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Saints. And it was Serbian blood that defended these treasures against the Turks in 1389 and again in 1912: against the Austrians in 1915; against the Fascist Germans, Italians, and Albanians during WWII.” — Professor Hatchet

You would think that the inevitability of death would make people peaceful, invoking them to realize their mortality, their finite time on this earth, and that life is short and that they must use their time for edification, contentment and peace. But no, there are too many people on this earth who will always kill humanity, will always choose death, and the the only language they understand is that of death. In their path to perdition, they will always choose rebelliousness, for it is in revolution that they can destroy the status quo, to devastate principles, to ruin happiness, to see their god of destruction reign with havoc. The disbanding of moral order, the toppling of law and the hailing of lawlessness makes the groundswell for stoking mass murder.  It is in light of this dark reality that we desire to write on the tragedy of the Balkans, on the rise of Albanian nationalism. A torrent of blood, the disregard for humanity — these things are what we will be discussing in this present article on the origins and rotten fruit of Albanian nationalism. For years we wrote of Ukrainian nationalism and history before the outbreak of war in 2022; and for years we have been writing on the turbulence in the Balkans, because we believe that — like with Ukraine — a storm of blood awaits the land of former Yugoslavia.

So many horrors occurred in the Balkans and in Kosovo, from massacres, mass kidnappings, and even kidnapping people to tear out their insides for organs trafficking. Let us go into detail on this nightmare. Let us go into detail on the tragedy of Serbia, how this nation was forced to go through a scourge of endless torment at the hands of bloodthirsty wolves. We shall read of the brutalities done to the Serbs by bandits; of the Albanian Golgotha when hundreds of thousands of people had to go through the callous and ruthless terrain of Albania and be incessantly ambushed by murderous and thieving gangs of killers; of the atrocities done by the Austro-Hungarian empire to the Serbian population in World War One; of the cruel massacres that were done by the Albanian fascists who killed for Nazi Germany, and of the crimes done by the Kosovo Liberation Army in the late 1990s. This is the roots of Albanian nationalism and tragedy of the Serbian nation. 


Albanian nationalism goes back to the 19th century. To learn more about this, let us inquire more into what was happening then, to the world around Albanian nationalism’s rise. In the year 1856, Russia lost in a war with the Ottoman Empire, the British, the French and the Kingdom of Sardinia, with over half a million Russian troops slain in combat. These Western powers fought the Russians to protect their ally, the Ottoman Empire. This is known as the Crimean War, and it concluded with the Paris Treaty. This treaty guaranteed the independence and territorial integrity of Turkey, protected the Ottoman Empire, ended the Holy Alliance between Russia, Austria and Prussia, and made the Black Sea into a neutral zone, shutting it down to all warships and prohibiting military fortifications and the presence of armaments on its shores, thereby weakening Russia’s position in Europe which was the goal of the British and French. Russia was also forced to give away Bessarabia (located at the mouth of the Danube River) to Moldavia. Both Moldavia and Walachia were also formed into autonomous states under Ottoman suzerainty (these two principalities later joined together to form Romania in 1881). The British and the French wanted the Ottoman Empire to be strong and Russia weak, because they feared that a powerful Russia could take Ottoman territory in the future, thereby threatening British dominance in Europe. 

Amongst the long-term outcomes of the end of the Crimean War and the Paris Treaty was the rise of nationalism amongst the nations controlled by the Ottoman Empire.  

From 1875 to 1878, there was a conflict known as the “Eastern Crisis”. On one side you had the Orthodox Alliance — Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece — backed by Russia; and on the other you had the Ottoman Empire who had their most tenacious defenders, the Albanians. On December 13th of 1877, the Serbs and Montenegrins declared war on the Ottoman Empire and were backed by the Russian Army. Albanians (called Shiptars at that time) unleashed a reign of terror against Serbs at this time. Shiptars slaughtered them, raped women and girls, forced them to work on Sundays and during major holidays, robbed Serbian churches and monasteries and committed various other atrocities. On June 23rd, 1880, the League of Prizren (whose origins will be discussed below) sentenced to death and executed fourteen prominent Serbs from Prizren. Anti-Serbian violence was the result of Anti-Serbian propaganda orchestrated by the Great Powers through their operating intelligence centers in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija. This resulted in the mass exodus of 400,000 Serbs from their old country from the Serbian-Turkish War in 1876 till the beginning of the Balkan Wars in 1912. About 1,500 Serbian families left Kosovo and Metohija in the period from 1878 to 1883.  

Fighting broke out in northern Albania between Serbs and the Ottoman Empire’s Albanian proxies. The Albanians fought enthusiastically for the Turks who promised them an Albanian vilayet (a province within the Ottoman Empire) centered in Bitol. Ottoman administrators — most of whom were Albanian — fled the territories and/or were expelled.


In the midst of this conflict there was the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78) in which the Turks lost, thereby losing territory. The Albanians did not want to cede any of their lands to the victors, and thus the spark of nationalism was ignited. On June 10th, 1878, over three-hundred Albanian delegates formed the so called “Prizren League” which wanted to create an independent Albanian state. After the war between Russia and Turkey, there was the Treaty of San Stefano — signed on March 3, 1878 — which gave away areas claimed by the League of Prizren to Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria. The treaty also gave Russia a huge position in the Balkans. This bothered the Austro-Hungarians and British so much so that they blocked the treaty from being enacted because a powerful Russia in the Balkans would have upset the European balance of power. 

Fight near Telish 1877, painted by Mazurovsky Viktor Vikentievich

The Albanian pursuit for autonomy was supported by Western Europeans. There was the Greçë Memorandum (also known as the Shkoder memorandum), written by Ismail Qemali (who would eventually become Albania’s first prime minister) and sent to British negotiator Lord Bikensfeld, promised that an autonomous Albania would act as a guard against pan-Slavism while securing access to the East for Western Europeans. Due to the Berlin Treaty (which followed the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878) in which the Ottomans lost), the regions of Plav and Gusinje were being ceded by the Ottoman Empire to the Principality of Montenegro, and this greatly angered the Albanians who went to war against the Ottomans in what is known as the Kumanovo Uprising. The uprising was organized by chiefs of the districts of Kumanovo, Kratovo and Kriva Palanka in the Vilayet of Kosovo (modern-day North Macedonia), and they sought liberation from the Ottoman Empire and unification with the Principality of Serbia which was at war with the Ottomans at that time. 

Ismail Qemali

The crumbling of the Ottoman Empire, so visible during the years of the Great Eastern Crisis (1875–1878), was seen by the Albanians as a sign that they could not rely on the Ottomans and this encouraged the Turkophile-oriented Albanian political and intellectual elite in Constantinople to start thinking more intensively about the future. Seeing territory that they considered Albanian being ceded out to Slavic Balkan countries was something that they did not want to allow. This provoked, starting in 1877, the members of the Committee of the Albanian Literary-Political Circle in Constantinople to design a project of territorial-administrative autonomy of the lands they considered Albanian. This was the brith of the League of Prizren. The program devised at the time was announced at the beginning of March 1878 at the Assembly in Prizren during the establishment of the “League for the Defense of the Rights of the Albanian People”, which consisted of Albanian intellectuals who wanted to keep the unity of Albanian inhabited areas in the Ottoman Empire.

The League’s founder was Paško Vasa, an Albanian of Catholic background who held anti-clerical views. In 1878 he wrote a poem calling for Albanians to no longer be divided on ethnic or religious identities:

“Albanians, you are killing kinfolk,

You’re split in a hundred factions,

Some believe in God or Allah,

Say “I’m Turk,” or “I am Latin,”

Say “I’m Greek,” or “I am Slavic,”

But you’re brothers, hapless people!

You have been duped by priests and hodjas

To divide you, keep you wretched..

Paško Vasa

Another founding member of the League of Prizren was Sami Frashëri, a supporter of Turkish nationalism against the Sultan and of secularism against theocracy. Frasheri wrote a book which was published in 1899 entitled, Albania – What it was, what it is, and what will become of it. In this book Frasheri envisioned a unified and independent Albania. “Albania cannot exist without the Albanians,” wrote Frasheri, “the Albanians cannot exist without the Albanian language, and the latter cannot exist without its own alphabet and without schools.” 

Sami Frashëri

In the midst of the Great Eastern Crisis, the Albanians were worried that chunks of Ottoman territory that they inhabited would be partitioned to other countries, on account of the Turks losing the war with Russia. To prevent this, Frasheri, alongside his brother Abdyl, Pashko Vasa, Jani Vretro and Hasan Tahsini, founded the Central Committee for Defending Albanian Rights in 1877. The movement demanded the territorial unity and integrity of Albanian inhabited land within the Ottoman Empire. On June 20th of 1878 (just months after the Turks lost to Russia in March of that year), Frasheri was one of ten signatories to a memorandum to Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and Count Andrassy, demanding that Albanians remain in the Ottoman state with their interests and traditions intact. 

For Frasheri, the greatest threats to Albania were its neighbors — the Serbs and Greeks — and he didn’t like that both Slavs and Greeks had schools in Albanian inhabited areas where they spoke their own languages. The solution to this, Frasheri said, was an independent Albanian vilayet within the Ottoman Empire and the formation of Albanian militias. He affirmed that it was the desire of the Albanians to read and write in their own language and this, he believed, could act as a guard against Greek and Slavic influence. Frasheri did not push for an Islamist theocracy, but for political Albanianism wherein Albanian Muslims would have their own mufti, Albanians Catholics their own archbishop and Orthodox Christians their own exarch. Frasheri knew that the Ottoman Empire would soon fall and wanted to prepare to have an Albania ready to preserve its nationality and form its own state. 


The Austro-Hungarian Empire had a strong interest in Albanian nationalism; it even had an interest to revive the Prizren League in 1889. Over four-hundred Albanian delegates reformed the League and renamed it the League of Peja (Pec). Unlike the original League with its nationalism, the League of Peja claimed that its agenda was to protect Islam.  

After the Turks lost to the Russians in 1878, the Ottoman Albanian nationalists were willing to fight to prevent their lands from being partitioned amongst MontenegroSerbiaBulgaria, and Greece. This fueled anti-Ottoman fighting by Albanian militants. The League of Prizren, with an armed force of 30,000 fighters, launchd a revolution against the Ottoman Empire. They wanted to stop the town of Ulqin from being ceded to Montenegro. The Ottoman sultan deployed a great army under Dervish Turgut Pasha, who’s mission was to stomp the League and to eventually give Ulqin over to Montenegro. This led to the Battle of Slivova in which the Ottomans defeated the League of Prizren. One of the Albanian rebel leaders was Isa Boljetinac, a gangster who in fact protected Christians. In 1897, there was a lot of anti-Serbian violence, and from 1898 to 1899, Boljetinac was paid to protect the Serbian Orthodox community in Mitrovica and its surrounding areas. For these actions the Kingdom of Serbia awarded him a medal and a collection of weapons. The Sokolica monastery, positioned between Albanian villages, was protected by Boljetinac and his brother Ahmed. But this was short lived. In the time after 1900, the climate of cordiality seriously declined, and a violent hatred against Serbs raged.

The seed of nationalism planted by the League of Prizren grew into a tree of rotten fruit. The antagonism against Serbs was manifest in the early 20th century. In 1901, the Albanians in the Kosovo vilayet were mistreating the Serbian population. And the Albanians — unlike the Serbs — were well armed, keeping the weapons they used fighting for the Ottomans in the Greco-Turkish War of 1897. Albanians burned Sjenica , Novi Pazar and Pristina . The Albanians continued their rampage, massacring the Serbs in Pristina.

Serbs began to smuggle weapons from Serbia to defend themselves. Albanian crimes took on such a large scale that the Serbian government of Vladan Đorđević was forced to launch an extensive diplomatic campaign to protect Serbs in Kosovo. But these efforts did not bear fruit, and the Albanians intensified their atrocities against the Serbs who began to look for weapons to protect themselves. The Ottoman government found out about the weapons smuggling and commissioned Isa Boljetinac — the very one who was once protecting the Christians — to do an investigation. 

Once Boljetinac found out that most of the weapons ended up in Kolašin, the Albanians massacred the Serbs in this very area. The crimes that occurred here were massacres, rapes, blackmails, robberies and expulsions of local Serbs. The Russian government was outraged and intervened, and the violence in Kolasin stopped. But crimes done by Alabanians continued on in other regions. In the midst of the bloodshed there was a proxy conflict occurring between Russia and Austria-Hungary, with the former supporting the Serbs and the latter the Albanians. The Russians decided to open a consulate in Mitrovica in 1902 to observe Austro-Hungarian influence and to protect the Serbian population. This enraged the Albanians and Isa Boljetinac threatened to burn down all the Serbian houses that would rent a house or give food to members of the Russian consulate.

Isa Boljetinac

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was very interested in using the religious differences in the Balkans to its advantage. It sought to use the Albanian Catholics and Orthodox as a connection to Macedonia and as a way to sever Serbia from Montenegro. Looking at the history of tensions in the Balkans in the 20th century, Macedonia holds a central position. Macedonia, in the early 1900s, was not exactly the same Macedonia of day. The Macedonia vilayets were bound by Bulgaria in the north and by the Aegean Sea in the south.  It consisted of three Ottoman vilayets: Salonika, Monastir and Kosovo. The latter of the three pertains to our subject matter because — although it encompassed more land than modern day Kosovo — it consisted of modern day Kosovo, the land that Serbs and Albanians fought over in the 1990s. Macedonia consisted of Albanian Muslims and many Bulgarians and Christians of other ethnicities. There wasn’t only an Islamic-Christian split, but a split between Orthodox Christians — that is, between the Bulgarian Orthodox Church under its Exarch and the Greek Orthodox Church under its Patriarch. Regardless of these church differences, the Muslim Turks and Albanians equally, and brutally, persecuted both of them. After Russia defeated the Ottomans in 1878, the initial treaty that that war ended with was the Treaty of San Stefano.

In this particular treaty, Macedonia was to become a part of the principality of Bulgaria. But because the Treaty of San Stefano made Russia the leading power over the Balkans, the European powers rejected it and wanted it replaced. So the Treaty of San Stefano was replaced with the Berlin Treaty which left Macedonia in the hands of Turkey. And although the European powers pushed Turkey to implement reforms in Macedonia, the Turks simply evaded the issue, the Europeans never pressed it and the status quo was maintained. In the spring of 1902, Bulgaria — which was under Ottoman rule — signed a military convention with Russia. The Macedonian Committee in Sofia demanded that reforms for more freedom be given to the Macedonia and Adrianople vilayets (similar reform had been done in Crete). Soon, in September of 1902, there was an uprising in the Monastir vilayet (one of the vilayets within Macedonia). The Ottoman Empire responded with brutal atrocities. 

The Ottoman government then came up with some reforms, but they were never carried out. Austria-Hungary and Russia, in December of 1902, proposed a “Reform Scheme” which the Sultan accepted and approved, but like before, it was never brought to fruition. While the Russians and Austrians did work diplomatically to better the lives of Christians in the Balkans, they were not friends, but intense rivals vying for power in southeastern Europe. Austria considered the Balkans its sphere of influence, and any Russian penetration into the Balkans meant the weakening of Austria. Thus, Serbia — a strong ally to Russia — could not be allowed to grow strong in order to keep the Austrians in control and the Russians out. The Austro-Hungarian foreign minister, Agenor Romuald Goluchowski, declared that Serbia will never be allowed to unify with Montenegro, even if it meant war.

Agenor Romuald Goluchowski

In February of 1903, the Russian foreign minister, Vladimir Lamsdorf, went to Vienna and signed what is known as the “Vienna Program” on Macedonian reforms — and it was pretty much the same as what the Sultan had already approved of in December of 1902 but never carried out. August 2nd of 1903 marked the beginning of a major uprising in Macedonia, known as the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising, when tens of thousands of Bulgarian Macedonians — members of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization —, backed by Bulgarian soldiers, revolted against the Ottoman Empire. The name itself has religious meaning. Ilenden is a name for Elijah’s day, and the Preobrazhenie refers to the Transfiguration of Christ.

Lambsdorf Vladimir Nikolaevitsch (1844-1907)

The European powers demanded that the Bulgarians not get involved in the war and that the Ottomans have a more civil policy towards their Christian subjects. The struggle was concluded in 1904 with Bulgaria signing to agree that it would not back the Macedonian revolutionary movement and the Ottomans agreeing to undertake the Mürzsteg Reforms (to better the lives of Christians in the Balkans). Neither of these agreements were done. In the Ottoman Empire there were regions that were declared as autonomous. While technically being under Ottoman control, they effectively were independent states. So, both the Bulgarian Macedonians and the Bulgarians of Adrianople were demanding autonomy because it was as good as independence. It was for good reason that the Macedonians and Bulgarians wanted freedom from Ottoman rule. Let us take a moment to read of just one of many of the horrific massacres done to the Bulgarians by Ottoman hands. 


It was the year 1876, during the April Uprising. The men of Batak, led by Petar Goranov, made an attack on the Turks and began eliminating their leaders. The Ottomans unleashed on the town of Batak five thousand irregular soldiers known as the Bashi-Bazouk, led by Ahmet Aga. They were usually recruited amongst the Albanians, but these particular Bashi-Bazouk were mainly Pomaks, Bulgarian-speaking Muslims.

The Bashi-Bazouk surrounded the town, and after one battle the Bulgarian rebel fighters said that they wished to negotiate. Ahmet Aga promised that he would withdraw his troops only if the men of Batak got rid of their weapons. After the fighters laid down their arms, the Bashi-Bazouk attacked and beheaded them. Some of the rebel leaders managed to escape, but once the town was fully surrounded, there was no escaping. The Bashi-Bazouk went house to house, robbing and killing and setting the homes on fire. Some of the people took refuge in the church or in the homes of wealthy people because they were better constructed and more fortified. The Bashi-Bazouk arrived at the House of Bogdan and Ahmet Aga told them that if they surrendered they would be spared. More than two-hundred people were led outside; their clothes were taken off their bodies because the Bashi-Bazouk did not want their blood to stain the fabric.

Ottoman bashi-bazouk in Bulgaria, 1877-78

They were brutally murdered. Ahmet Aga spoke with some of the wealthy men — two of whom were the mayor, Trendafil Toshev Kerelov and his son, Peter Trandilov Kerelov — and told them that if the village was disarmed the Pomaks would leave Batak for good. Once the weapons were confiscated, all of the people — thousands of them — were beheaded, burnt alive or impaled. The murder of the leader Trendafil Kerelov was particularly violent and was described by a witness – his son’s wife Bosilka:

“My father in law went to meet the Bashi-Bаzouk when the village was surrounded by the men of Ahmet Aga, who said that he wanted all the arms laid down. Trendafil went to collect them from the villagers. When he surrendered the arms, they shot him with a gun and the bullet scratched his eye. Then I heard Ahmet Aga command with his own mouth for Trendafil to be impaled and burnt. The words he used were “Shishak aor” which is Turkish for “to put on a skewer” (as a shish kebab). After that, they took all the money he had, undressed him, gouged his eyes, pulled out his teeth and impaled him slowly on a stake, until it came out of his mouth. Then they roasted him while he was still alive. He lived for half-an-hour during this terrible scene. At the time, I was near Ahmet Aga with other Bulgarian women. We were surrounded by Bashi-Bozouk, who had us surrounded, and forced us to watch what was happening to Trendafil.” 

One of her children, Vladimir, who was still a baby at his mother’s breast, was impaled on a sword in front of her eyes. “At the time this was happening, Ahmet Aga’s son took my child from my back and cut him to pieces, there in front of me. The burnt bones of Trendafil stood there for one month and only then they were buried.”

Bashi-bazouk, 1908


Postcard of Batak, showing the heads of those massacred

This was the monster that we call the Ottoman Empire. Russia fought this monster and defeated it in 1878 in what is known as the Russo-Turkish War. The conclusion of that war was the Berlin Congress of 1878 in which the shape of Ottoman territory was upheld. Bulgaria, in accordance to the Berlin Congress — led by the Germans, the British and the French — was to be confined to the realm of the Turkish leviathan. It was this decision that sparked the Macedonian-Bulgarian revolt against Ottoman rule. This led to the formation the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) in Thessaloniki and a dense network of revolutionary committees of the Bulgarian population there. The Berlin Treaty — the result of the Berlin Congress — called for (in Article 23) equal rights between Christians and Muslims in administrative matters; the problem was that the Ottoman Empire did not do this. 

In 1903, ten years after the IMRO’s creation, the uprising began. It first erupted in Bitola, and then followed in Lerinsko, Kostursko, Ohrid and Kichevsko. In Krushevo they declared a republic, and even though it only lasted ten days, it was the biggest success of the uprising. On August 18 – during “Preobrazhenie” (the Christian holiday of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Hence the name of the uprising), the Bulgarians in the area around Thessaloniki-Thrace rose up against Ottoman rule. On September 17th of 1903, the revolutionary leaders asked Sofia — the Bulgarian capitol — to declare war on the Ottoman Empire. But Bulgaria at that moment was under the control of the Great Powers — Britain, Germany, Austro-Hungary, France — and was under threat of attack, and so only expressed protest against the Ottoman Empire’s attack on the insurgent Bulgarian population. In the two months of the conflict, there were two-hundred and eighty-nine battles in Macedonia and Thrace, with just over twenty-six thousand fighters facing a force of 350,000 Ottoman troops.

Over two-hundred villages and towns were burned down and over thirty-thousand people fled Bulgaria. The Ottomans took vengeance against the rebels by slaughtering thousands of civilians. 2,400 houses were burned and 4,694 people killed. Hristo Silyanov, a historian who fought in the uprising, wrote: “The uprising in Bitola and Odrin (nowadays Edirne) was massive. The entire people rose to their feet and tied their fate – life, property and honor – to the outcome of the struggle. No uprising in the Balkans is worth so much devastation and innocent human sacrifices in such a short time.” The uprising was overwhelmed by Ottoman forces and the conflict was over by October of 1903. 


In September of 1903, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia visited the Austro-Hungarian emperor Francis Joseph at the Austrian castle in Mürzsteg. They both signed a memorandum almost identical to the “Vienna Program”, which demanded that one Russian and one Austro-Hungarian civil agent oversee reforms of the administration, judiciary and local gendarmerie in the Macedonian vilayets be done by the Ottoman government. The Mürzsteg Agreement placed the three vilayets of Macedonia under the control of the great powers, Austria-Hungary, Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy. Part of Russia’s and Austria-Hungary’s Murzsteg Agreement was to bring about security and order in the three vilayets of Macedonia, supposedly with the help of the Ottoman authorities. The Murzsteg plan also ensured help for civilians who had suffered in the fighting that took place in the Bulgarian uprising. Goluchowski wrote of “humanitarian action” and “pacifying action” in several reports when describing the conditions of civilians. 

Because of their geographic closeness to, and history with the Balkans, Russia and Austro-Hungary held the highest positions as mediators. The Russians and Austrians wanted to be the top powers in the Balkans, but the British, Germans, French and Italians also had strong interests in southeastern Europe. The Russians and Austrians kept a diplomatic line while still maintaining their positions by giving the British, French, Germans and Italians limited partnership but not one that exceeded the Russian and Austrian positions. This was known as the “Two+Four” concept, the Russians and Austrians being the “two” and the British, Germans, French and Italians being the “four.” These reforms are known under the title of the Mürzsteg Agreement.

Sultan Abdul Hamid resisted the Russian-Austrian proposal, not wanting his empire to be under any foreign influence. After much resistance, he accepted the proposed reforms on November 25th of 1903. The Russian and Austrian representatives worked under Huseyin Hilmi Pasha, the Inspector-General of Macedonia at the beginning of 1904. Under the Mürzsteg program, each of the Great Powers placed a representative as an advisor to the Ottoman official in charge of reforming the gendarmerie in each province. For example, Russia appointed an advisor to the sanjak (administrative division) of Thessaloniki, while Austria-Hungary to the sanjak of Uskup; France to the sanjak of Siroz; Britain to the sanjak of Drama. While Russia and Austria were working together diplomatically, the two were rivals over who was going to control the Balkans. 

Count Agenor Maria Adam Goluchowski, a Polish-born Austrian statesman who is credited with the detente between Russia and Austria-Hungary, stressed that the two powers must on “the contrary keep more than ever in our hands the management of the affairs of the Balkan peninsula”. Russia and Austria-Hungary called for the Ottomans to implement Article 23 of the Berlin Treaty, which would allow Christians equal positions in the creation of laws in the Balkans: “The Sublime Porte shall depute special commissions, in which the native element shall be largely represented, to settle the details of the new laws in each province.” (Article 23) But Goluchowski suspected that the Sultan would not allow this. And he was right. In the first year of the Mürzsteg program’s implementation, the Ottoman government obstructed the agreement as Turkish troops caused trouble for villagers. The Balkan Committee declared that the Reform Scheme had brought about no real improvement for Christian rights under Ottoman rule.  

Something happened in that year of 1904, something that would dramatically shift the Murzsteg Agreement and expose the true intentions of the Austrians. Japan and Russia went to war, with the Russians losing in 1905. With this crushing defeat, Russia’s reputation as a powerful nation crumbled, and Russia lost much of its influence in the Balkans. In 1907, Austria refused to support the judicial reforms in the Balkans, and the Ottomans rejected financial reforms. The Austrians, in the face of a weakened Russia, showed their true pro-Ottoman colors. In 1908, the Sultan put his stamp of approval on the construction of a railway from Mitrovica to Thessaloniki, which Austria-Hungary favored and didn’t care if it was against the Mürzsteg Agreement. In 1909, the Mürzsteg Agreement was officially cancelled. 

In the prior year — 1908 — the sultan Abdul Hamid II was overthrown by Turkish nationalists known as the “Young Turks.” This was seen as the end of oppression, but the Turks did not get nicer or gentler with Christians. The Young Turks, in fact, continued anti-Christian violence the biggest example of which was the genocide of the Armenians during the First World War. What preceded this anti-Serbian violence was Albanian nationalists revolting against the Ottoman Empire. There were numerous Albanian revolts against the Young Turk government one of which took place from May to July of 1910. This revolt was sparked by anger towards the Young Turks’ policy of centralization, especially taxes that were imposed in the beginning months of 1910. The Albanian rebels were backed by the Kingdom of Serbia which simply saw the Albanians as proxies against the Ottoman Empire. The Albanians made an attack on the Ottomans in Pristina and Ferizaj, killed an Ottoman commander in Pec and blocked the railway to Skopje at Kacanik Pass. As a response, the Ottomans imposed martial law in Kosovo. At the end of the conflict — on July 24th of 1910 — Ottoman forces took over the city of Scutari (Shkoder) and crushed the revolt. The Ottomans set up martial courts and summary executions ensued. A huge number of weapons were confiscated and many villages were set on fire. A new wave of violence against Serbs by Albanians and Turks occurred in the second half of 1911. In the words of Dusan T. Batakovic: 

“In the second half of 1911 alone, Old Serbia registered 128 cases of theft, 35 acts of arson, 41 instances of banditry, 53 cases of extortion, 30 instances of blackmail, 19 cases of intimidation, 35 murders, 37 attempted murders, 58 armed attacks on property, 27 fights and cases of abuse, 13 attempts at Moslemization, and 18 cases of inflicting serious bodily harm. Approximately 400,000 people fled Old Serbia for Serbia in the face of ethnic Albanian and Turkish violence, and about 150,000 people fled Kosovo and Metohija, a third of the overall Serbian population in these parts.” 

Even though the Serbs supported the Albanian nationalists against the Ottomans — giving them weapons and even homes to take refuge in — the Albanians still turned against the Serbs, showing just how deep the hatred was. The Serbs and Montenegrins backed the numerous Albanians uprisings that took place from 1910 to 1912, in order to undermine the Ottoman Empire and Austro-Hungarian influence. In fact, the Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pasic offered an agreement for the Kosovo vilayet, guaranteeing freedom of religion, the speaking of the Albanian language in schools and courts, and even a separate Albanian assembly, all of which would have been within Serbian governance. The Albanians rejected the deal because they felt threatened by it. The Serbs realized that for Christian survival to continue, they needed to unite with the other Christian peoples of the Balkans against the Turks. And so they formed the Balkan League — Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria — and their mission was to fully drive out the Ottomans from the Balkans.

On October 6th of 1912, the Balkan League declared war on the Ottoman Empire. Thus was the beginning of the First Balkan War. Serbia and Bulgaria agreed that northern Albania and Kosovo belonged to Serbia. Albanian nationalists — as opposed to doing an uprising as in the past — fought for the Ottomans since they wanted Kosovo to be Albanian. Within the first decade of the 20th century, Albanian nationalism was undermining the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans. It did not matter if the empire was no longer under a sultan and now under the secularist Young Turks. The Albanians revolted against Ottoman rule for an autonomous Albanian state within the empire, with the desire to fulfill what was demanded by the League of Prizren in 1878. The Albanians made their demands to the central government (the Sublime Porte) for an autonomous Albania that would be formed from Kosovo, the most beloved land of the Serbs. In the First Balkan War, the Albanians sided with the Ottomans because they believed that by defending Turkey they were standing by the idea of an ethnic, Greater Albania.   

The Serbs and Montenegrins embraced the war as their chance to bring justice for Kosovo. Volunteers from all over Serbia were anxious to enlist in the military, instilled with a sense that they were fighting for a holy cause. Montenegrin troops marched into Pec, Decani and Djakovica. The Albanian nationalist movement fled to Albania and made a declaration of independence backed by Austro-Hungary.

In this conflict, Kosovo and Metohija were liberated from Ottoman rule and Kosovo was added to the Serbian Kingdom. The Serbs and Montenegrins occupied the northern Albanian part of the Adriatic coast. As a response to the Balkan League’s success, Vienna supported a delegation of eighty-three Albanians — both Christian and Muslim — in the Assembly of Vlora where, in November of 1912, a proclamation of Albanian independence was made. As far as the geopolitical interest of Austro-Hungry went, Albania was to serve as a bloc to Serbia’s objective of gaining territorial access to the Adriatic Sea between Durres and Shëngjin. Having access to Albania’s coast was seen by Serbia as the only way to prevent being surrounded by the jaws of Austro-Hungary. Serbian forces stormed northern Albania, taking Allesio, Elbasan, Tirana and Durres with little effort and resistance. So filled with joy were the Serbian soldiers to see the sight of the north Albanian coast as theirs, that they jumped into the sea in celebration. But Austro-Hungary gave its demand attached to a threat: withdraw from northern Albania or we will attack Serbia’s northern borders. The Serbs acquiesced. The Great Powers recognized the creation of the autonomous state of Albania at the Conference of Ambassadors in London (1912-1913). 

Vienna even appointed a German prince, Wilhelm von Wied, to be ruler over Albania (but his rulership only lasted six months). The Ottoman Empire — now defeated — was coming to its end, having been reduced to Istanbul and its surrounded lands. It was forced to sign the Treaty of London on May 30th, 1913, which meant the end of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. Serbia kept Kosovo as it was truly Serbian land. Albanian nationalists — backed by Turkey and Austria-Hungary — did raids in Serbian territory to destabilize the Serbian administration in the newly liberated lands. Their goal was to get the Kosovo Albanians to revolt against Serbian rule.

The Austrians still wanted Kosovo and the First World War was their opportunity. After Gavrilo Princip — a member of the nationalist Mlada Bosna organization — murdered the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo in June of 1914, Austria declared war on Serbia. 

The goal was to control Serbia — and in turn, block out the Russians — and this was the reason why the Austrians were backing Albanian terrorists in Kosovo. Serbia, in turn, supported an ally in Albania named Essad Pasha Toptani, an ally of the Entente who was fighting the pro-Ottoman and pro-Austrian Albanian militants. Albania was violently divided between pro-Ottoman (and pro-Austria) and pro-Entente forces. The latter of the two was headed by Serbia’s ally, Essad Pasha.


Essad came from the noble Toptani family which founded Albania’s capital city, Tirana. In 1908, after serving as a commander for the gendarmerie, he joined the Young Turks and became a member of parliament. In 1909, in the toppling of the Sultan Abdul-Hamid, it was Essad who was the main messenger to inform the Sultan that he would no longer be in power, stating: “the nation has deposed you.” What enraged the Sultan most of all was that Essad would do this after his family, the Toptanis, benefited so much under royal rule as it gained benefits and key positions. 

Essad Pasha

Essad Pasha was at odds with the Albanians who were pro-Ottoman and pro-Austria because, for him, to be mainly reliant on these empires — while Italy and Greece were making territorial claims on Albania — would be deadly to his country. Essad preferred working with his neighbors, Serbia (and, in turn, Montenegro) to have a more stable Albanian state. Albania was also split between Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim. The Catholics living in northern Albania wanted to separate from the rest of the country, while the Orthodox in Northern Epirus were supporters of Greece. Essad, not trusting the Catholics nor the Orthodox, believed that by narrowing the borders of Albania to where it would be a Muslim country, giving the Christian areas over to his Christian neighbors, Albania would be much more stable as a religiously unified country. 

In May of 1913, Essad Pasha told the Montenegrin king, Nicholas I, that he wanted to proclaim himself King of Albania and was ready to cooperate with the Balkan League since Albanians owed their freedom to the Balkan peoples (since they fought the Ottomans). In a meeting in Duress Essad told the Serbian diplomat, Zivojin Balugdzic, that he wanted an agreement with Serbia. The Serbian government was hesitant at first, but in the end it fulfilled the demand. Essad, of course, had his rivals. Amongst these were Hasan Pristina and Isa Boljetinac, who strove to combat the influence of Essad Pasha. To do this they agitated for an attack on Serbia to stir up an uprising of the Albanian people in Kosovo and Metohija against the Serbian government. After the First Balkan War, in which the Balkan League defeated the Ottomans, the Slavic Christians began to kill one another over land. Bulgaria wanted to control north Macedonia and not share it with Serbia and Greece. In March of 1912, months before the First Balkan War, Serbia and Bulgaria signed a secret agreement which determined their future borders, effectively sharing northern Macedonia between them. 


During the First Balkan War, the Serbs advanced far south of the agreed demarcation, down to the Bitola–Gevgelija line (both in Serbian hands). Meanwhile, the Greeks were successful in advancing north, taking Thessaloniki before the Bulgarians arrived. When Bulgaria asked Serbia to abide by their previous border agreement, Serbia, embittered by the fact that it was pushed out of Albania, refused. On May 19, 1913, Serbia and Greece made a secret pact, essentially agreeing on their new border lines and formed an alliance in the case of an attack by Bulgaria or Austria-Hungary.  On May 21st, Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Geshov signed a protocol with Greece agreeing on a permanent dividing line between the two countries’ militaries, effectively accepting Greek rule over southern Macedonia.   

There was also the split between Bulgaria and Russia that preceded the Second Balkan War. The rift went back to a dispute between Romania and Bulgaria over a town called Silistra. After the First Balkan War, Romania demanded the town and Bulgaria offered instead some small border changes, but excluded Silistra. Romania threatened to occupy Bulgarian territory by force, but Russia intervened and prevented hostilities. The result was the Russian brokered Protocol of St. Petersburg on the 8th of May, 1913, in which Bulgaria agreed to give Silistra. The Bulgarians were now enraged with the Russians and refused to see them as a reliable ally. Bulgaria’s refusal to review its pre-war agreement with Serbia during Russia’s second initiative for mediation, finally led Russia to end its alliance with Bulgaria. There was a very strong nationalistic aspiration in Bulgaria’s agenda; it wanted to engulf both Eastern and Western Thrace and all Macedonia with Thessaloniki, Edirne and Constantinople. On November 5th, 1912, Russia warned Bulgaria that if it tried to take Constantinople that Russia would attack Bulgarian forces. Regardless of this warning, the Bulgarians tried to take Constantinople, but lost in the battle of Çatalca in November of 1912.

By mid-June, Bulgaria found out about the agreement between Serbia and Greece in case of a Bulgarian attack.  On the 27th of June, Montenegro announced that it would be on the side of Serbia if Bulgaria and Serbia went to war. Skirmishes had been occurring in Macedonia between Serb and Bulgarian troops, and Russia tried to prevent the crisis from escalating any further, since Russia did not desire to lose either of its Slavic allies in the Balkans. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, on June 8th, sent an identical letter to both King Peter I of Serbia and Czar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, offering to act as mediator according to the pre-war Serbo-Bulgarian treaty. Bulgaria’s response was so full of conditions that it ended up just being an ultimatum.

The Russians realized at this point that Bulgaria had already made the decision to go to war with Serbia.  The signs of Bulgaria entering the warpath was seen in the fact that it had replaced its pacifist prime minister Ivan Geshov with anti-Russian politician Stoyan Danev.  Bulgaria was now crippling the Balkan League, which was Russia’s only defense against Austrian’s expansion in the Balkans.

Thus, Bulgaria’s dismantling of the Balkan League angered the Russians to the point where it completely cut off ties with Bulgaria. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonoy declared to Bulgaria’s new Prime Minister Stoyan Danev: ”Do not expect anything from us, and forget the existence of any of our agreements from 1902 until present.” Serbia and Greece tried to calm tensions with Bulgaria by proposing that each of the three countries reduce their militaries by one fourth. But Bulgaria rejected this. On June 16th, the Bulgarian high command, under the direct control of Tsar Ferdinand, ordered Bulgarian forces to commence a surprise attack on both the Serbs and Greeks without a declaration of war. The plan was to neutralize Serbian forces and take north Macedonia and to do the same to Greek forces to take Thessaloniki. 

Before the Bulgarian attack, there were 20,000 Albanians in Kosovo, Metohia and western Macedonia, led by Hasan Pristina and Isa Boljetinac, to fight the influence of the Serbian ally Essad Pasha. The Bulgarians trained anti-Serb Albanians in guerrilla tactics, with money and weapons that came from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Essad Pasha refused to join their cause and warned the Serbs not to allow this training to continue. At the end of September, 1913, around 10,000 Albanians, backed by Bulgaria, charged into Serbia from three directions and were led by Isa Boljetinac, Bairam Cur and Kiasim Lika. Alongside them, Bulgarian officers and their troops took Ljuma and Djakovica, and besieged Prizren.

But they were soon crushed by two Serbian divisions. Essad Pasha used the victory to proclaim himself governor of Albania in Duress in late September, 1913. On February 1st of 1914, the Great Powers forced Essad to step down. In return, they gave him the right to lead the Albanian delegation to travel to Neuwied on the Rhine to offer the Albanian throne to the Austrian Prince Wilhem zu Wied. Soon, Essad led a faction in the revolt against Prince Wilhem. Essad tried to take as much land in Albania as possible, but he was eventually defeated by the Albanian governor of Elbasan, Aqif Pasha Elbasani. When Essad refused to lay down his arms, armed forces under Dutch gendarmerie officer Johan Sluys went around his home in Durres and shelled it until he surrendered. Essad was then exiled to Bari in southern Italy. He eventually travelled to the Kingdom of Serbia where on September 17th, 1914, he signed the secret Treaty of Serbian-Albanian Alliance. 

In the summer of 1914,  the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Serbia, Nikola Pasic, sent 23,000 troops into Albania to back Essad. With Serbia’s support, Essad was able to defeat the Albanian supporters of the Central Powers and established his own government in central Albania. Serbia now had an ally with much territory in Albania and this would prove life saving in the First World War.


When Italy joined the war on the side of the Entente, there was a hope that the military pressure on Serbia from the Germans and Austrians would abate. But, when Serbia’s neighbor, Bulgaria, joined the war, this gave the Germans and Austrians more confidence in vanquishing Serbia. The German army from the north and the Bulgarian army from the east advanced towards Kosovo with the sole aim of wiping out the Serbian army. 

In 1915, the Serbian army alongside hundreds of thousands of Serbian refugees, being hunted down by Austrian and German forces, were forced to retreat through Kosovo and across the towering mountain passes of Albania and Montenegro. They eventually reached Greece, on the island of Corfu, where, with the help of her allies, they rebuilt their forces.

This is known as the Albanian Golgotha. Out of the 400,000 Serbian soldiers and civilians who treaded upon the brutal winter wilderness, 160,000 civilians and 77,455 soldiers died. Austrian aircraft, not caring about the divide between civilian and soldier, hit columns of refugees in what has has been called by Miranda Vickers, ”the first-ever aerial bombardment of civilians”. There were Albanians who prowled the wilderness like ravaging wolves, looking for any group of Serbs who would be the easiest to slaughter. But not all of the Albanians were bloodthirsty during this horrid journey. Essad Pasha — who had made an alliance with Serbia, provided protection to all the Serbs who travelled through the territories that he governed. But when one was in Albanian territory not under Essad’s watch, it was open season on the Serbs.

During the Great War, Vienna armed the Albanians and this backing resulted in the 1915 declaration of Jihad (holy war) against the Allies, especially the Serbs and Montenegrins. As the Nazis formed an Albanian SS division (SS Skanderberg) to kill the Serbs, the Austrians backed and armed the Albanians against the Serbs during the First World War. The Serbs were ethnically cleansed from their own lands by the Austro-Hungarian and German troops (Bulgaria controlled the eastern and southern parts of Serbia, two-thirds of Kosovo and part of Macedonia). 

Albanian bandits, seeing the tired, freezing and starving Serbs, ambushed them and picked them off.  Children and women were mercilessly abducted and taken away by Albanian gangs.  One officer followed the attackers with his soldiers, entered their village and freed a large number of captured children and women. In the diary of a French soldier who was with the Serbs during the horrific march through the wilderness, we read:

“…At dawn the regiment moved on, but after two hours we stopped. We did not move further that day: the fog was so thick that one could not see more than two paces; and it started to rain. We had to wait for the other units from our division. In the evening, heavy shooting started behind us, most likely in the same place where we spent the night, and it lasted until deep into the night.

The Albanians stole all the horses from our divisional quarters and all the provisions they were carrying, all the horned cattle, all the Komorji cattle and the cattle of the two field hospitals. The commander of the divisional chamber, Major Nenadović, fought alone with a carbine in his hand and managed to save half of the people, while the other half was killed and wounded. There were many Albanians. They shot from the mountains and from cover, so it was impossible to fight them. Ours were on a narrow path, below them was a precipice, and above them were steeply rising rocks. The Albanians roamed the mountains like wild cats and there was no real resistance to be thought of.”

“I had no idea that out of 40,000 Serbian children,” wrote Serbian writer Branislav Nušić, “36,000 would find their graves in snowy abysses and stinking ponds in a month, and that Serbia would simply throw an entire generation of its youth to the beasts for slaughter, like unnecessary meat.” “I, too, faltered,” remembered Čedomir Popović, “lagged behind, dragged myself, slept in a ḫod, nibbled on kernels of corn. My body was freezing, my soul was freezing, I was filling my mouth with snow to fool hunger… But I kept going.”

After this nightmare called Golgotha had ended, and the Serb army revived itself on the Greek island of Corfu, they left the isle on mid-May 1916 for the Thessaloniki front, and on September 15, 1918, it launched a victorious offensive and accomplished the liberation of Serbia. 

During the First World War, Serbia was divided between the Germans, Austro-Hungarians and Bulgarians. In the Bulgarian Occupational zone, the government commenced a policy of Bulgarianization that targeted the Serbian population. “Bulgarian politics in eastern and southern Serbia and Macedonia is a very well organised one. We talk about Bulgarisation, which permeates all segments of society: administration, army, church and education,” writes historian Milovan Pisarri. When the Bulgarian military entered Serbia in 1915, one of the first steps of the Bulgarian government was to eradicate the Serbian intelligentsia, which included priests, merchants and teachers or “everyone who Bulgarians perceived as guardians of the Serbian national spirit”, writes Pisarri. “When Serbian teachers were liquidated, they brought in teachers from Bulgaria, introduced Bulgarian and banned Serbian, and changed people’s surnames. The same was happening with the church: they brought in Bulgarian priests and introduced a new calendar, respected by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church,” he explained.

The Serbs decided to revolt. And fighting broke out in February of 1916 in what is known as the Toplica Uprising. The battles were fierce and thousands were killed. The Bulgarians decided to do a massacre of thousands of Serbian men, taking them to the town of Surdulica and slaughtered them. Colonel von Lustig, an Austro-Hungarian liaison attached to the German 11th Army, reported:

“It is known that most of the Serbian intelligentsia, i.e. functionaries, teachers, priests and others, withdrew with what was left of the Serbian Army, but a certain number of them gradually started to return for psychological or material reasons. Here, in [Bulgarian]-occupied territory, it is virtually impossible to find either them or those that did not flee; they have “gone to Sofia“, as the new Bulgarian saying goes. These men were handed over to Bulgarian patrols (usually komitadji) as suspects without any judicial procedure, with the order that they should be “taken to Sofia”. The patrols usually return the next day without them. Whether they are taken 20 or 200 kilometers, it is all the same. The patrols pack up spades, disappear into the mountains and quickly return, but without the prisoners. Bulgarian officers do not even try to conceal the executions, they boast about them.”

Few eyewitnesses survived what took place in Surdulica; the ones that did testified that at first the men were killed by shooting, then by bayonet to save ammunition, and then they were beaten to death by the butts of rifles and blunt objects. Around nine thousand men were murdered in Surdulica. Rape in Serbian villages was commonplace. Serbian villages and towns were looted and burned and wells were poisoned to discourage people from returning. (See Boyd, The Other First World War, ch. 3)

The Bulgarians put Serbs into camps most of which were built after the Toplica Uprising. “We often connect train deportations to WWII,” writes Pisarri, “but that was also happening in WWI – armoured trains carrying unknown number of people, a lot of them dead as they were travelling with no food and water and in awful conditions, including women and children,” he added. “I managed to reconstruct the events and made a small map of 18 camps on Bulgarian territory. I remember from the testimonies that the camp Sliven [in the eastern part of the country] was among the most horrible ones, where several thousand captives lived in barracks, without roof or bed, often without water, and were submitted to forced labour,” Pisarri said.

When it comes to atrocities and Austria, the evils that took place in World War Two are what get the most attention. But very little focus has been made on the evils that were done by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Serbia during World War One. Reading about what took place in Serbia under Austro-Hungarian occupation, one finds an utter horror so heinous and egregious that it is shocking that this has not gotten the attention it deserves. We have heard of the Holocaust, of the Armenian Genocide and Nanking, but there is not much discussion on Austro-Hungarian atrocities done in Serbia. I understand the geopolitical reasons why Austria wanted to control the Balkans, but what the Austro-Hungarian military did was beyond geopolitics. It was as if they had an army full of serial killers.  

Rodolphe Archibald Reiss put together many accounts of eyewitnesses to the atrocities. In one eyewitness account of an Austro-Hungarian soldier documented by Reiss, it says: “the men were given the order to bayonet all living creatures, women, men and children, without distinction. A private of the 79th Regt. told him that, near Drenovatz, the Austrian officers made a ring of 26 persons round a house, and then set fire to the house, thus burning the 26 victims.” In another account it reads of how Austrian troops abused Serbian draftees, and after using them, ordered the extermination of the Serbs: 

“[Austrian] hospital sergeant in the 28th Infantry Landwehr Regt., deposes that before crossing the frontier the officers abused the Serbs [drafted in the Austro-Hungarian army from Bosnia and Krajina] in every possible way, calling them “barefoot,” “gipsies,” “assassins,” “brigands,” etc. All soldiers of Serb nationality were forbidden on pain of death to own to their race — it was considered an act of treason. The officers gave out that they would finish with the Serbs in a week. Witness crossed the Drina [river which divides Bosnia and Serbia] with other troops during the night from the 12th to the 13th of August [1914], and at about 2 o’clock in the morning they passed near Mali Zvornik [town]. From Zvornik they went as far as Ljubovia. The officers told them to shoot all that was Serbian…”

In another account it describes the murder of the elderly and children:

“All men, old men and children, were captured and driven before the troops with bayonet thrusts. These people were questioned as to the position of the Serbs and the vv. If their answers failed to satisfy the [Austrian] officers they were shot immediately. In most cases, when the troops entered a village the greater number of the hostages, or even all of them, were killed. These unfortunate people were almost always old men or children…”

In one account it speaks of Croatian soldiers, fighting for the Austrians, committing inhumanities:

“In [Velika Reka village]… there was an inn. The innkeeper was bayoneted by Corporal Begovitch. The innkeeper’s wife, who had witnessed the scene, wrenched the rifle from the Croat and killed him. Other Austrians threw themselves upon her and ripped her body open from end to the end with a bayonet. Her child was killed with the same weapon. The house was completely sacked…”

The urge to slaughter everything was given a sense of empowerment and encouragement:

“The Hungarians and the Croats were the worst, but the men were incited by their officers to commit atrocities. Wherever the regiment passed through the officers urged them to kill everything, cows, pigs, chicken, in fact everything whether it was required for the subsistence of the army or not. The men got dead-drunk, with “schnaps” in the [Serbian wine] cellars. They allowed the liquor to run out of the barrels, so that often the cellars were inundated with alcohol…”

A Croat soldier relished in the fact that he murdered a woman, some elderly people and a child: 

“An Austrian soldier, one Doshan, a Croat, boasted of having killed a woman, two old men, and a child, and invited his comrades to go with him to have a look at his victims.”

A corporal of the 28th Landwehr Regiment recounted that “in [the Serbian town of] Shabatz the Austrians killed over 60 civilians beside the church. They had previously been confined in the later. They were butchered with the bayonet in order to save ammunition… There were several old men and children among the victims.”

A Serbian woman named Draga Petronievitch recounted that “within the church, behind the altar, the Austrian officers violated young Serbian girls.” A seventy-five year old Serbian man named Mihailo Yankovitch “was killed with rifle shots. The male organ was cut off and placed in his mouth.” In the district of Breziak, “the Austrians killed 54 persons in various ways. Most of them were disembowelled with great sabres”. A 21 year old Serbian woman named Mirosava Vasilievitch, was “violated by about 40 soldiers, genital organs cut off, her hair pushed down the vagina. She was finally disembowelled, but only died immediately after this being done.” An entire family — the Petrovitches — was slaughtered. A record of what happened to them reads as such:

Lazar Petrovitch, aged 46, one hand cut off and eyes put out.
Militza Petrovitch, aged 45, breasts cut off.
Dobria Petrovitch, aged 18, eyes put out.
Stanka Petrovitch, aged 14, eyes put out, nose cut off.
Ana Petrovitch, aged 7, ears cut off.

The bodies of the Petrovitches “were found in a ditch with their dog, pinioned and all died together, including the dog.” Another family, the Pavlovitches, were massacred. The record itself is a thing of horror: 

Zhivko Pavlovitch, aged 50, cut in pieces.

Stanitza Pavlovitch, aged 50, cut in pieces, and eyes put out as well 

Zorka Pavlovitch, aged 18, cut in pieces.

 People — who never even fired upon the Austro-Hungarian troops — were butchered in these heinous ways. Reiss writes how “The bodies of Zhivko Boitch, aged 70, and his daughter-in-law, Pelka, aged 25, and her infant, aged 4 months, were found later on. The bodies had been cut to pieces.” A sixty year old woman named Smilia Vasilievitch, from Breziak, witnessed the murder of Smiliana Vasilievitch. “After having killed her mother the Austrians wanted to violate the daughter Mirosava, but the girl defended herself. … Yovan Milovanovitch, aged 90, and the woman [Smilia Vasilievitch] saw the soldiers put out Mirosava’s eyes, cut off her ears, and strip off her skin….” 

An eyewitness addressed as “Dr. P,” who was an Austrian Army Surgeon of Serb nationality,  recalled that before crossing the frontier of Serbia, Croatian officers had addressed their troops in the following fashion:

“You must not allow anything to live, not even a child in mother’s womb. But you must not spend your cartridges on killing these people. As every body has two holes, let your bayonets go in at the one and out at the other.”

In the end, Serbia lost 25% of its overall population during the First World War, and 52% of its adult male population. The United States recognized the valor and the suffering of the Serbian people. On July 28th, 1918, the Serbian flag was raised over the White House and all public buildings in Washington. President Woodrow Wilson declared in a speech in honor of the Serbs:

“So valiantly and courageously did they oppose the forces of a country ten times greater in population and resources that it was only after they had thrice driven the Austrians back and Germany and Bulgaria had come to the aid of Austria that they were compelled to retreat into Albania. While their territory has been devastated and their homes despoiled, the spirit of the Serbian people has not been broken. Though overwhelmed by superior forces their love of freedom remains unabated. Brutal force has left unaffected their determination to sacrifice everything for liberty and independence… the principles for which Serbia has so nobly fought and suffered are those for which the United States is fighting… this oppressed people who have so heroically resisted the aims of the Germanic nations to master the world.” 

On December 1st, 1918, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was proclaimed by Serbian Prince Alexander. For the first time since King Dusan, all Serbs lived within the same state. The first superpower to recognize the Kingdom was the United States. The Albanians living in Kosovo did not want to be under the Kingdom, but desired to be part of Albania. In 1921, the Albanians submitted a petition to the League of Nations demanding unification with Albania. Albanian separatism — called the Kachak movement — was spawned, with Albanian guerrillas waging a war on the authorities. The Serbian government and the Albanian minister for the interior (who had made a secret pact) hit the movement hard and it eventually dissipated after its leader, Azem Bejta, was captured. In 1929, the Kingdom was renamed Yugoslavia.  


Before the outbreak of World War Two, the Albanians were key collaborator of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in the Balkans. Through various political, military and religious organizations and associations, they supported the idea of “the Greater Albania” along with extreme Anti-Serb sentiments. The Germans had a strong interest in the Balkans for — amongst other reasons — its natural resources. For example, before the onset of the Second World War, the Germans tried to buy off the bonds of the Trepca lead mine from English shareholders, because its resource was needed for the German war machine. Kosovo and Metohija were a geo-strategic space between Kosovska Mitrovica and the Trepca mine.

The German Counter-Intelligence Service, Abwehr, held a large network in Kosovo and Metohija prior to the Second World War. The intelligence service’s Head Office was right in Kosovska Mitrovica and its main agent, Xhafer Deva, had formed an organization called Merhamet (Mercy). It was presented as a humanitarian organization. But this was a front for its real operation, which was stirring up the ethnic antagonism of the Albanians against the Serbs, for the interests of Nazi Germany whose objective was to recruit the Albanians for military formations that would be committing atrocities during the Second World War. 

Xhafer Deva

On April 7th, 1939, just five months before the eruption of the Second World War, Italy invaded Albania. The country was overtaken in just five days, forcing the Albanian ruler King Zog I Ahmed Bey Zogu, to flee to Greece.

The King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, accepted the crown given to him by the Parliament of Albania. The Royal Albanian army was then integrated into the Royal Italian Army.  An Albanian Fascist Party was established with Albanian Black shirts, based on the Italian Fascist movement.

After the Axis Invasion of Yugoslavia on April 6th, 1941, Italian Albania expanded into other parts of Yugoslavia. Parts of Montenegro were given to Albania, while Kosovo and Metohija was severed from Serbia and made part of Albania. This Kosovo-Metohija region, alongside the surrounding territory annexed to Greater Albania was called “New Albania”. Kosovo and Metohija were divided between three invaders: the Italians who backed the creation of “Greater Albania”, the Germans who were holding Kosovska Mitrovica and Trepca and the Bulgarians who got a smaller part of Kosovo. On June 29th of 1941, Mussolini issued a decree establishing “Greater Albania” constituting not only Kosovo and Metohija, Plav and Gusinje, but also parts of Western Macedonia – Debar, Tetovo, Gostivar and Kitchevo.

The Albanians in Kosovo were given control by Italy over Kosovo and were encouraged to open Albanian-language schools (something that was demanded by the pioneers of Albanian nationalism in the League of Prizren). To further establish Kosovo being a part of Albania, the Italian fascists granted Albanian citizenship to the Albanians of Kosovo and allowed them to fly the flag of Albania. The Italians delegated authority to aghas and beys, trusted fascists and hodjas, and in former gendarmerie stations, Albanians formed militia units. The lust for blood was stirring and rising, and would soon erupt with its demonic manifestation. The Italians brought over an imam, Tahir Hodja, from northern Albania to the region of Plav to help organize volunteer units. In July of 1941, in Plav, in front of the Vulnetars (Albanian volunteers’ militia), he declared a speech for massacres: 

“The soul of every believer will go to Jannah, if you show no mercy in revenge to the Vasojevic tribe [a major Serbian tribe]. You will make no sin if you burn their homes, cottages and yards, if you steel their cattle and rip out their crops. Seize their girls and women and take them to be yours, while men, even in cradles, kill to each and everyone, leaving no trace of our old blood enemies, the Vasojevics”.

Serbs and Montenegrins — who had settled in Kosovo from lands devastated by the First World War and were allocated with a piece of land through the Agrarian Reform — were murdered and driven out. Within 1941, 11,168 families were expelled from Kosovo and Metohija, taking refuge in Serbia and Montenegro. Between 1941 and 1944, one hundred thousand Serbs were driven out of Kosovo and Metohija and were banned from returning in the post-war period by the Communist regime. On the other hand, 75,000 Albanians who settled in Kosovo and Metohija during the Second World War were granted Serbian citizenship after the war. 

Albanian nationalists, such as members of the Albanian nationalist paramilitary, Balli Kombetar (National Front), took advantage of the situation and attacked their Serb neighbors — killing around ten thousand people by the end of 1941 — and burned down the homes of as many as 30,000 Serbs and Montenegrins by the end of the war, in the cause of jihad and creating a ‘pure’ Albanian state. Albanian members of volunteer units would come to Serbian villages and order locals not to cultivate the land, as it did not rightfully belong to them. Carlo Umilta, an Italian diplomat traveling through Kosovo and Metohija in 1941, wrote in his memoirs of the horrors of that year: “The Albanians are out to exterminate the Slavs…People stand in the streets waiting for our military trucks and vehicles to pass by, begging our soldiers to take them to Old Serbia and Montenegro, awaiting the salvation there”. Umilta visited Pristina, Djakovica and Pec, and in one region he found villages where “not a single house has a roof; everything has been burned. There were headless bodies of men and women strewn on the ground”. 

Mid’hat Frashëri, leader of Balli Kombetar


Balli Kombetar fighters entering Prizren in 1944

The Muslims in the cities Plav and Gusinje stirred up the old blood rage against the Serbs, and held a meeting in which the mobs were heard screaming: “No mercy for the Serbs! Capture them all and shoot them at the Orthodox cemetery!” As a result, a mob captured around fifty prominent Serbs from Plav and surrounding areas and shot them all at the Orthodox cemetery on the east side of Plav. 

Marko Bogdanović from the village of Zrza, remembered:  “On the seventh day of April, the Arnauts [Albanians] rose up in an uprising and on that occasion burned down all the settlers’ houses.” In 1941, the Albanian nationalists attacked the Deviča monastery where they murdered Damaskin Bošković and there is even a photo of the killing happening:

Damaskin Bošković being murdered

He was beaten with rifle butts and tortured, dragged over thorns and stones, and finally shot to death, in the middle of October, 1941. After the murder, the Albanian thugs razed the monastery to the ground. 

In September of 1943, the Albanian nationalists and fanatics founded the Second League of Prizren — continuing on the very movement of the First League of Prizren — and it was this organization that would carry out most of the intelligence and military actions on behalf of the Germans. 

In that same month, Italy capitulated to the Allies, thus leaving control over Albania solely to the Germans. To help Germany control Kosovo without having to use too many German troops, the decision was made to form an Albanian SS division. Such was the birth of the SS Skanderberg for which 6,491 Albanians were chosen and inducted. The Albanians in the Skanderbeg Division were mostly Muslims, of the Bektashi (Sufi) and Sunni sects of Islam, but the division also contained several hundred Albanian Catholics, followers of Jon Marko Joni.

In August of 1943, Fascist Italy was being crushed by the Allies and so the Germans deployed the 2nd Panzer Army to the Balkans to control areas previously occupied by the Italians. One of these areas was Albania. The Germans took control of all Albanian forces who collaborated with Fascist Italy, including the Albanian nationalist paramilitary, Balli Kombetar (National Front), which had been committing atrocities on the Serbs and Montenegrins. It was led by Midhat Frasheri and Ali Klissura whose political objective was to incorporate Kosovo-Metohija into a Greater Albania and to ethnically cleanse the region of Orthodox Serbs. According to one report on the brutal violence against Serbs by Albanian fanatics under Italian Fascist rule:

“Armed with material supplied by the Italians, the Albanians hurled themselves against the helpless settlers in their homes and villages. Accoring to the most reliables sources the Albanians burned many Serbian settlements, killing some of the people and driving out others who escaped to the mountains. At present other Serbian settlements are being attacked and the property of indviduals and of communities is either being confiscated or destroyed. It is not possible to ascertain at the present the exact number of victims of those atrocities, but it may be estimated that at least between 30,000 and 50,000 perished.” 

Numerous Albanians were recruited into the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian), which had mainly Bosnians and Croats in its ranks and operated in the German backed Independent State of Croatia. For six months the division had about a thousand Albanians from Kosovo and the Sandzak who made up the 1st Battalion of the 2nd regiment. In early 1944, preparations for the the creation of the The SS Skanderberg division began.  The division (whose name was given by Goebbels personally) sought to create an ethnically pure Kosovo, purged of Orthodox Serbs, Jews and Gypsies — the untermenschen (subhuman) according to the Germans — who were targeted for extermination. While it was a Muslim Balkan division, the SS Skanderberg was placed under the complete Command of German commissioned officers. Even the sub-officer positions were rarely given to Albanians, with the exception of some fanatics.

Albanians who were already members of the Handschar division were brought over to the SS Skanderberg. Muslims from Bosnia and Herzegovina also joined the ranks of Skanderberg. According to one estimate, 60% of Skanderberg’s members were Muslim Bosnians while the remaining 40% were Albanians. After Italy’s capitulation to the Allies, ten thousand Albanians joined the SS Skanderberg division. The most egregious members of the society joined the ranks of the division. Criminals from Kosovo and Metohija, guilty of the most heinous of crimes, were allowed to escape justice if they joined the SS Skanderberg. The unit became responsible for securing Germany’s position in the the regions of Kosovo and Metohija, Kukes in Albania, Plav and Gusinje in Montenegro and Western Macedonia. At the same time, this SS division secured for Germany the railway from Kosovska Mitrovica to Skoplje, really the part that was going through the Albanian territory and the railway from Kosovo Polje to Pec. 

SS Skanderberg officers

Its main recruiter was Xhafer Deva, an intelligence agent working for the Germans and who became Minister of Interior of the so-called “Greater Albania” after the capitulation of Italy. He organized many conferences to present recruitment propaganda for the SS Skanderberg. Speeches were given by imams and fascist intellectuals and also by Divisional Commander SS Untergruppenfuhrer August Schmidhuber. Men were given promises of a comfortable life and privileges in the “New European Order” created by Germany. The Germans also brought over one hundred and forty Muslim soldiers who deserted the Soviet army and used them to stoke up the local Muslim populations to join the SS unit. 

Paying a visit to the imams who made provocative speeches was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. It was in fact the Mufti who trained these Albanian imams —all fifteen of them — in the Centre for Imams’ Training located in Berlin (founded by the Mufti himself). The Mufti’s activities were superintended by Reichsfuhrer-SS Himmler who, alongside the Mufti, envisioned the development of “good SS members and soldiers by awakening and strengthening the faith [Islam]” (Dželetović, 2012:102, brackets mine). During the First World War, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared a jihad (Islamic holy war) against the Serbs through the rage of the Albanians. During the Second World, the Third Reich — Germany and Austria — declared another jihad. The song of history, yet again, rhymes with the prose of destruction. It wasn’t just Muslims who partook in the inhumanities. The Albanian nazis had their imams, but the Albanian Catholics who joined the SS unit had their priests backing them. Massacres were done for both ethnic and religious ideology. Serb Orthodox Cemeteries were desecrated and Serbian churches and monasteries were destroyed and turned into torture chambers. 

The Mufti

The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseni, held central place for recruiting Albanians for the division, using the hodjas (imams) to influence people into joining the Nazis. The Mufti visited the division to give the recruits his blessing, and during his visit he did not forget to give a Nazi salute.

The Mufti giving the Nazi salute

As was with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the main threat to the German Reich in the Balkans was Serbia, and so (just like the Austro-Hungarians did) the Germans backed the Albanians against the Serbs. 

In a document prepared by the Office of the Holy Synod of Archbishops in 1945, one can read of the horrific destruction done by the Albanian fascists in Kosovo and Metohija:

“Anyone who would pass through Kosovo and Metohija today would find a sad picture. He would find thousands of burned and destroyed and completely deserted houses, he would find many churches and monasteries destroyed, he would find entire villages completely deserted. According to the testimony of Gavrilo Kovijanić, a professor from Peć (refugee), it was already in 1941 that [they destroyed] 65% of the Serbian settlement houses in the Peć county and 95% in other counties in Metoḫija, so that only incinerators remained. Orchards were cut, plows were trampled, and cemeteries were largely destroyed.” (Brackets mine) 

In a testimony given on July 20th, 1941, the priest Dimitrije Šekularac, stated: 

“I left the parish because I was previously robbed by Arnaut. Bare souls, me, my wife and our six children ran away the moment I had to be killed, and maybe my family too, because many Serbs fell (killed) and Serbian women and children were tortured. My real observations from those dark days are this: Our army retreated in disorder from Kačanik and other places. Gendarmerie leaves his stations and also retreats, Arnaut conscripts escaped from the army, brought weapons, changed clothes, and many in military uniform are already at work. They are attacking Serb soldiers, gendarmes and others, fighting is going on on all sides. Houses are set on fire, prominent citizens are killed if they are not in the army. The screams of women and children can be heard. Cry after cry. No one can help anyone. The German army has not yet arrived, ours is in disarray. Anarchy rejoices. Arnauts have no compassion. They beat, kill, rob. The Serbian people are in a panic. He is evacuating, but he doesn’t know where. We are trying to come to a conversation with our (Arban) leaders, and primarily with the presidents of municipalities, who in Yugoslavia enjoyed privileges and were favored by our government. To our regret and bitter surprise, they became more dangerous for us than the others.”

 Branislav Leskovac, a student from Prizren, recalled how after the Italians invaded Kosovo, “Around April 20, 1941, the first arrest of the Serbian population was made in Prizren. About 20-30 people, all of whom were representatives of the former Yugoslav government. All the detainees were imprisoned in the municipal building of Prizren, where they were all beaten with rifle butts and sticks. I, Branislav Leskovac, I watched from the window of my house when the prisoners in the municipal yard were being beaten wildly. After a few days, 5 people were separated from this group of prisoners, who were all shot outside the city. The victims were: two Marjanović brothers, law students, Andrija Fišić, Samardžija and Popović, a retired gendarmerie sergeant, whose name we do not remember, and a potter, called Kokolja, whose name we do not know. Of these victims, Kokolja and Fišić were slaughtered with knives, as their eyes were gouged out before their death.”

In the course of 1941, the formation of the new Albanian government in Kosovo was carried out. Military power was strictly in the hands of the Italians. But this began to change as well. Initially, the gendarmerie was purely Italian, but after a year it became a mixed Albanian-Italian police force in which the Albanians dominated in numbers. But still, the chief of police — called the Questura — was Italian. The Albanian police officers were drunk off of their authority and did a great number of arrests of the Serbs with the intention and hopes of mass executing them. But these murders were prevented by the Italian military. Notwithstanding, the more gentle nature of the Italians could not stop the bloodlust of the Albanians.Within 1941, there was a massive expelling of the Serbian settlers from the villages around Prizren. As the exiles fled to Serbia and Montenegro, their properties were confiscated and all newly constructed homes were demolished. Murders of Serbian villagers were done by individual Albanians, and crimes went unsolved.

For example, on December 9th, 1943. in Prizren, Stevan Bačetović, a cafe owner, was dragged out of his house by members of the Albanian gendarmerie, butchered and thrown into the city garbage dump. His corpse, all dismembered, was found a few days later in this garbage dump. Many of the murders were documented by local Orthodox churches of which the victims were members.  Abbot Sava, of the the Istok parish in Metoḫija, compiled a list of 102 Serbian names of “all named Orthodox Serbs…killed by Arnaut [Albanians]”.

Parish priest Borislav Kevkić of the Lipljan parish, compiled a list of sixty Serbs murdered or killed in battle by Albanians. The list gives the name and the way that the person was killed. An example reads as follows: “Spasa Milićević, killed by a rifle on the road in 1941; Bogdan Cvejić, killed in Pristina; Zafir Spasić, killed in his yard in Asovo; Velibor Marković, killed at the age of 19; Đorđe Aksić and his wife Mirjana, killed on the same day; Ilija Radjenović, killed at his home with a rifle; Jovan Denić, killed by a rifle, and his son Jordan together; Nikola Lazić, killed on the road”. In the archives of the Raško-Prizren Eparchy there is a list of priests murdered by the Albanian nationalists. It speaks of how Andrija Popović and hieromonk Nikodim from the Gorioča monastery were murdered by Albanians in order to intimidate the Serbian population to make them flee and emigrate.

It speaks of a priest named Todor Sekulić, from Ljubižda near Prizren, who succumbed to wounds sustained from the explosion of a bomb planted in the Dečani monastery by the Albanian fascists in October of 1942.  All the churches in all the settler villages of Metoḫija were destroyed to the ground, which were already burned in April of 1941, and the Serbian population was killed and expelled. The Gračanica and Sokolica monasteries were looted, the Samodreža church was ransacked, the frescoes and icons were destroyed, the church’s vessels and apparitions were broken and torn. In the church of St. Peter and Pault, during 1943-1944, the Albanian authorities kept the Serbs, about 100 of them, from the East and the surrounding villages detained day and night, and this lasted for months, and people were not allowed to go outside, so they had to defecate in the church. And the church of the Gorioča monastery served as a prison for them during the mass arrest of Serbs.

In July of 1944, the SS Skanderberg, alongside the “Prinz Eugen” division (which consisted of Croats, Romanians and Albanians) showed their true demonic embodiment in the villages of Velika and Gornja Rzanica in Montenegro. During the second half of July of 1944, fierce battles erupted between the anti-fascists and the Prinz Eugen and Skanderberg divisions, around Andrijevica, Velji Krs and Balja. The SS divisions were defeated, and fled across the Lim valley to break through the Cakor Pass and Rugova Gorge towards Pec. These fleeing SS officers came to the village of Gornje Luge where they took two women and five children, forced them inside the house of Miladin Culafic and burned them alive. They came to the village of Ulotina, forced three children and a woman inside the home of Novica Soskic and set the whole house on fire, cooking the people alive. While in the village of Gracanica, the SS officers seized a 16-year old girl named Saveta Mijovic and began to try to rape her. She held on for dear life onto an oak tree, as the criminals pulled her hair. They then bludgeoned her with the butt of a rifle; as she lied on the ground, fainted, they murdered her. 

They arrived at the villages of Velika and Gornja Rzanica where, for two hours and fifteen minutes they butchered 428 people, 120 of whom were children. Milovan Celebdzic, in his book, The Ballists, wrote: “This poor village of Montenegrin highlanders has experienced the slaughter of unthinkable proportions. There were arson fires in houses, cottages and sheds, with people in it. Burnt human flesh could be smelt miles away. Girls were killed while defending their honor. They raged to frenzied SS soldiers and Ballists and were killed by bullets or fire to which they have been thrown alive”.

Before the massacre, the imam Sait Hodja Sahmanovic (who served as an intelligence officer for the SS Prinz Eugen) would walk through Velika telling the villagers that if they stayed in their homes the Nazis would not harm them, and that they should welcome the SS officers with bread. There were villagers who knew that the Nazis were coming thirsty for blood, and hid in shelters in the woods, and there was Sait to tell them to return back to their homes. Accompanying Sait were three old men who told the Velikians to prepare plenty of food for the coming soldiers. This was all a way to make the locals comfortable. “The Germans will not harm anybody they find in his house,” Sait told the locals, “you should offer them with bread and salt, as the soldiers are hungry, but if they find someone in shelter or out of house, will be shot immediately.”

Milunka Vucetic went to the SS officers with his brother to do what Sait recommended, and this is what happened:

“I approached the house of Milovan Vucetic. Around afternoon an army from Ivanpolje came into the area. We decided to take them bread, salt, which we had. When the army approached, I saw how in the olive grove Tomislav, the son of Milovan Vucetic, played. Two soldiers took him, a third ran over…one took out a knife and began to skin the child alive from his eyes downwards. I could not watch what occurred. I began screaming and his mother Leposava-Lepa ran over to protect him. She was killed.”

Dušan Simonović witnessed the slaughter of his children at the hands of the SS Skanderberg:

“That’s how my daughters died: Zorka aged 14, Krstinja aged eight, and son Milorad aged two. Son Mato was four years old. They caught him alive, and cut off both of his legs at the knees, tied him up and hung him on a plum tree and turned his head downwards”

Radoje Knezevi, a survivor of the Velika massacred, remembered:

“I was only 11 years old when Hitler’s Division “Skanderbeg” and “Prinz Eugen” burned down the village of Velika and killed about 428 persons. Our family paid a heavy price that day. On that day my mother Stojanka was killed and then her body burned. The same fate befell my two brothers Nedeljko (5 years old) and Ratko (11 months old). My sister Raba (18 years old) was killed as she was trying to protect her mother and young brothers, And she too was burned.” 

Divna Vucetic, a survivor of the massacre, recounted:

A soldier approached with a gun…I told him that I wanted to bring him bread, as I was ordered to. He replied to that: “Germany has bread!” He spoke our language [Serbian] perfectly. He then shot at me, killing my son Boza in my lap, and wounding me in the right hand.

In the house of Tomica Gojkovic, out of twenty-three members, nineteen were murdered and only four survived by mere chance. The killers took Mileva and Novka Stesevic and tossed them alive into a burning house. When they tried to rape Danica and Mileva Tomovic, and faced strong resistance, they cut the victims with knives and threw them into the fire. They took a pregnant woman, Milica Simonovic, ripped open her guts and the baby fell out. Ten pregnant women were murdered in Velika. The killers had a very sick and sadistic desire, to see the baby alive outside the womb so that the horrified mother — now eviscerated and gutted — could see her living child moments before the both of them were slain. Before the eyes of horrified mothers, children were butchered in utmost horrors; they were skinned alive, their arms and legs cuts off and then they were thrown into flaming houses.  In the midst of flames and razed homes, cries, wails and screams resounded through the billowing smoke, the sky tainted with the thickest clouds from the lofty fires in that horrid day. 


Such was the face of Albanian nationalism, showing its true colors. That spirit that manifested in the League of Prizren, which spoke of freedom and rights, showed its true colors in these blood stained villages, where children were skinned alive, where people were not even allowed to be born, where flames and smoke conquered the air, where harrowing cries and sorrows, agony and torment were seen as entertainment, and life was not held as sacred, but as the object of sport. And there was Germany, as they were in the First World War, stoking up cruel hands against their Serbian enemy. And would anything change after the war? Would the talk of a new Germany prove right in the era after Europe was engulfed in darkness? Germany still continued its same policy of backing the Albanians against the Serbs and of working to dismantle Yugoslavia.

“Germany insisted on a very rapid breakup of Yugoslavia without any preparation” wrote Noam Chomsky on the conflicts that tore Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s. “In fact, Germany insisted that it was going to go through it alone if necessary, which means Europe had to go along.” The Germans would back the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which was led by the sons and grandsons of those very SS Skanderberg officers who committed the horrors in Serbia and Montenegro. The apple did not fall far from the tree, neither for the Germans nor the Albanians. The mission of the KLA was the same as their nazi predecessor: “Greater Albania.” The strategy of the KLA was simple: “assassination of Muslims who do not cooperate, (2) assassination of Serbian police, and (3) a reign of terror against Orthodox Christians.” The logic was that violence against civilians and police officers would provoke a heavy response, and the KLA would then play victim to get other Muslims to join the cause against Serbia. By the end of 1998, three hundred civilians and police officers had been killed by the KLA; more than five hundred people had been wounded and two hundred and eighty people were abducted. The KLA was a terrorist organization that was being armed and trained by the jihadists of Osama bin Laden, as we read from Ben Works: “There is no doubt that bin Laden’s people have been in Kosovo helping to arm, equip, and train the KLA… There is a monster being created here, but in important ways it’s a monster of our own making.” 

It was a monster of Germany’s making. German civil and military intelligence services were training and equipping the KLA with the goal of establishing Germany’s influence in the Balkans, just like Germany trained and armed the SS Skanderberg to secure its position in the region. “The black-uniformed KSK (German commandos) elite troops,” wrote French journalist Roger Faligot, “previously active in Bosnia tracking down Serbian war criminals, have been involved in training commandos in Northern Albania.” Funding for the KLA came through a foundation called The Fatherland’s Call, which had branches in New York, Bonn, Dusseldorf, Stockholm, Bern and other European capitals. The Washington Post wrote in July of 1998 that in Germany alone, funds ran at $1 million a month. 

When NATO was bombing Serbia for seventy-eight days, NATO and the KLA acted as allies. Regardless, during this time Milosevic’s government managed to dislodge the KLA from all of its seven strongholds. Most of the KLA fled from Kosovo and went Albania. NATO and Yugoslav military officials then signed the Military Technical Agreement (better known as the Kumanovo Agreement) which called for the complete withdrawal of Yugoslav troops from Kosovo. NATO soldiers slowly marched into Kosovo after the Yugoslav troops departed, leaving a gap for the KLA to fill. The Albanian thugs took advantage of this absence of security and took over numerous cities in Kosovo, starting with Prizren which was in the German sector. Amidst the ravenous KLA criminals, the Germans were unable to provide security for the Serbs. Because of this, the Serbs, led by Bishop Artemije, fled to Pristina. In numerous cities the KLA appointed its own government and began committing atrocities on the Serb and Romani populations. In a report from the Guardian, published on June 26th of 1999, it reads:

 Human Rights Watch researchers have compiled compelling evidence that the KLA is committing widespread violence against Serbs and, in some cases, ethnic Albanians and gypsies.

Their report – following investigations in Orahovac, Prizren and Pec – details KLA involvement in five murders, four abductions, one rape and 14 detentions, 12 of which included physical abuse.

In Prizren, according to the campaign group, two elderly ethnic Serbs – Trifa Stamenkovic, aged 85, and Marija Filipovic, 59 – described the murder of their respective spouses by KLA soldiers.

Stamenkovic and Filipovic, close neighbours in a traditionally Serb area both went out on errands last Monday. When they returned home Stamenkovic’s 73-year-old wife, Marika, and Filipovic’s husband, Panta, 63, had both been stabbed to death and had their throats cut.

In another incident, a researcher visited the village of Belo Polje and was shown the bodies of three ethnic Serbian men, each of whom had been shot through the head. The men were Radomir Stosic, 50, his uncle, Steven Stosic, 60, and their friend, Filip Kosic, 46, all of whom were killed on 19 June.

Human Rights Watch also reports abductions of Serbian as well as ethnic Albanian men – many of them over 50.

Twelve detainees- most of them ethnic Serbs – described being beaten by KLA soldiers while in custody. These victims included four women, one of whom is 73.

Two of the victims displayed puncture wounds to their legs, consistent with being stabbed. Representatives of humanitarian organisations providing medical care in Prizren told the researcher they had treated 25 civilians with similar injuries, which victims claimed had been inflicted by the KLA. Most of the victims were older men.”

Another article published by the Guardian on August 3rd of 1999 speaks of massacres of Serbs and Romani:

“Most of the kidnappings and murders of Serbs and Gypsies in Kosovo have been committed by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army exploiting the unwillingness of peacekeepers to intervene, according to a Human Rights Watch report published yesterday.

The Nato-led K-For troops are failing to stop uniformed KLA members terrorising ethnic minorities in the Serbian province, the report says.

The first detailed report on violence in Kosovo since the war ended, it condemns the KLA leadership and K-For for not doing enough to stop the atrocities.

The report documents the killing of 40 Serbs and two Gypsies, and 30 cases of beating and kidnapping. By the end of July peacekeepers had reported 198 murders since their arrival in mid-June. More than 164,000 Serbs have fled since then.

It describes the murder of two Serb neighbours in the southern town of Prizren: Marica Stamenkovic, 77, and Panta Filipovic, 63. Days after the Yugoslav army withdrew, KLA men started harassing them and their spouses, and beating the men.

Trifun Stamenkovic, 85, returned home on June 21 to find his windows broken. “When I entered the house … I saw only my wife’s knees. Her knees were bloody.” German peacekeepers said his wife had had her throat cut.

Panta Filipovichad his throat cut the same morning.

Gypsies have been attacked by ethnic Albanians, who accused them of collaborating with Serbian forces during the ethnic cleansing. A Gypsy man said he was abducted in Pristina by KLA men and taken to a KLA base in the district of Dragodan and beaten.

He was threatened by a man who said he was a KLA commander for Dragodan and Pristina.

“He had scissors and told me: ‘We’re going to cut your fingers and ears off’.””

On July 23rd, 1999, British KFOR troops heard gunfire and rushed to where the sound was coming from. They discovered the fourteen bodies of Serbian farmers. They were seized by the KLA as they were returning home after harvesting wheat, and executed. On that night, Slavica Popovic was awakened by the ringing of her phone only to be told that her father Momcilo, her 17-year-old brother Novica and two of her uncles were amongst the murdered farmers. “Some of pictures we saw later show some of them with heads cut off and eyes burned,” she said.  

Probably the most disturbing crime of the KLA was the kidnapping of people to murder for their organs for trafficking. It has been at a mainstream level that the KLA only did this to a “small” number of people. But according to former UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, the KLA kidnapped three hundred people for their organs, before and after murdering them. According to France 24:

“Kosovo Albanian leaders have been implicated in the war-time trafficking of organs taken from hundreds of Serbs, according to a book by former UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.

The book entitled “The Hunt: Me and War Criminals” alleges those involved in the trafficking included leaders of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which fought Serbian forces at the time in mid-1999.

Del Ponte wrote that around 300 prisoners, including women and other Slavs, were kidnapped and transported from Kosovo to Albania, where they were locked up and had their organs removed.

“These organs were then sent from Tirana airport to private clinics to be implanted in patients abroad who paid,” she said in the book… The victims were deprived of a kidney before being imprisoned again in sheds or other buildings until they were killed for other vital organs, she wrote … ‘Leaders of an intermediate and high level of the KLA were well-informed and were implicated in an active way in the smuggling of the organs.’”

Such are the horrors of Albanian nationalism. And with tensions rising between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo and Serbia, should we really be optimistic about the Albanian side?