Serbs in Kosovo appeal to Russia for help

Results from the first round of the Serbian elections are in, and it's nationalist-leaning Tomislav Nikolic who's in the lead. While Kosovo's independence seems inevitable from a western point of view, Serbs in the area do not agree. Nikolic's pro-Russian rhetoric has been rewarded by the Serbian population there, who think that only the Russians can save them from independence. In the town Kosovska Mitrovica, support for Russia is more than evident. Our Estonian Observer tells us about the situation in the town.

Commentary and photos from our Observer Jekaterina

Jekaterina is a Russian lawyer living in Estonia. Here is her commentary and photos from when she visited Mitrovica.

Kosovo's independence looks inevitable, and almost no one in Serbia believes that there's any chance of stopping it from happening. But the people of Serbian Mitrovica still keep their faith strong and keep hoping. Most of this hope is in God, and in Russia; the only country that they believe can help their cause, unlike their own government or the international community."



Kosovska Mitrovica is a town divided by the Ibar river into two parts, northern, or Serbian, and southern, Albanian. They're connected by a bridge guarded by KFOR [NATO-lead Kosovo Force].




Walking the streets of this Serbian enclave you see President Putin stickers everywhere: on the door of a post office; on windows and walls; on street signs.



A banner hung in the main street: "Russia, help!"

Photos published 9 January 2008

Commentary from a blogger in the Ukraine

Vitaliy Portnikov is a blogger and political analyst who lives in Kiev. See his blog.

Tomislav Nikolic talks of a collaboration with Russia, which he understands as protection from Russia. Milosevic also tried to convince Serbs that Moscow will protect them. It's true that Russia took some steps in protecting Serbian interests; in fact, it is the only country that is opposing Kosovo's independence right now. But in moments when issues critical for Belgrade were at stake, it turned out that keeping normal relations with the West were more important for Russia than supporting Serbia. This is because of Russia's geopolitical position, which Serbs often choose to forget."

Posted 21 January 2008

Commentary from our Observer in Kosovska Mitrovica

Irina Antanasijevic is our Observer in Kosovska Mitrovica. She was a Kosovon refugee who now lives in Nis, Serbia, but teaches at the Mitrovica University.

For a start, Saying Nikolic is like Milosevic, is like saying Lenin is like a little Kerensky. This is a very superficial view of the situation.

The latest sociological studies showed that 80 percent of residents of northern Mitrovica believe in support from Russia. Hence there is a banner "Russia, help!" in the central square of the Serbian part of town. They hope that Russia can influence the situation, and if not recall, then at least put off Kosovo's independence, which seems to be inevitable.

Of course this is naïve, but Serbia can only hope for a miracle given its current situation; it's gone through an economic blockade, bombings, and had to go along with secession of part of its territory. So, the only thing they can do now is trust in God and in Russia (I guess their historical memory turned on). "Resistance" is being cultivated in Serbian society that is based on "Russia/the West" opposition. Serbs HAVE to go along to legitimize the actions of the Security Council and other international structures. They wouldn't be able to stand the pressure if it weren't for Russia's support. So now ‘russophobia' is being cultivated in society in order to get a "Yes" out of Serbia.

Serbia has long been divided into two camps - Western and anti-Western. Even Dostoyevsky wrote about ‘two Serbias', and not much has changed since then. Right now, with the elections, the opposition is made even more acute. A "strong" politician Nikolic talks of Russian gas that will give new jobs, new opportunities, he talks about Russian bases, a Russian province. But people don't want any bases or provinces; they don't want to make the country into a fighting rink. So some of them go and vote for the "western" politician Tadic. Tadic talks about going to Europe without a visa, and about doing away with our barbaric image, about the influx of tourism, etc. But he doesn't say that prices will become "western" while salaries will stay Serbian, he doesn't say that the transition will be another war, that the West demands fulfillment of the Hague convention. People don't care about visas, since they don't even have enough money to live, let alone travel, and they don't want to make Serbia into a base for raw materials and cheap labor.

Although Serbs are saying that they won't give Kosovo away, they have no influence over the matter. All work has been done for the declaration of independence; all institutes have been created, not by the Albanians, but by the UN that did this for the Albanians at the same time as the farce of "talks" was going on.

Serbs in Kosovo are a little more active about the issue, because they no longer have a choice. Their trust in the West was shaken after the bombings, and the eight year long presence of the UN mission has killed faith in Western democracy, since it only did the opposite. In Nis, they have only experienced the bombings.

I want to add with a quote from Dostoyevsky:

"Serbia knows that only Russia can keep it from perish in case of a great misfortune, and that Russia, with its great influence, will help Serbia keep the maximum of benefit in case of a great luck. Serbia knows this, and has hope in Russia, but she also knows that Europe is watching Russia with increasing mistrust, and so Russia's position is worried. To sum up, future will tell, but what will Russia do?""



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"What will Russia do?" That

"What will Russia do?"
That has, unfortunately, always been the question, spoken with a lot of emotions. Mentioning Russia gives hope. An old Serbian/Montenegrin proverb says "God is above, Russia is afar". It goes the same way for Kosovar Serbs now. People from Mitrovica just go and point out their last piece of hope, without critically observing the situation, hence "Rusijo pomozi".
No one can blame them for doing so, and, more important, no one MAY blame Russia for not wanting to go into war for Serbia, although people allow themselves to believe that emotions of many Russians are very much on that side.

Let's not overreact with saying Serbs may hope only in God and in Russia. There's not much more left, of course, but Serbian government does what it can do. There's a lot pressure on them from the people, but also from the West and they surely don't do that only not to lose their positions in authority. Serbia must not allow itself to become once again what it was during Milosevic, especially not in times like these.
From many perspectives, it is impossible to compare Nikolic with Milosevic, but radical's standpoints in the latest situation resemble FRY's negotiation team's attitude in 1999. in Rambouillet. I recommend reading Zivorad Kovacevic's "Diplomatsko pregovaranje". "Let's restore Serbian authorities and remove the UN troops." "Let's have bad attitude". "Let's not cooperate with The Hague". "Let's get drunk and curse on other people". It's not the image of Serbia anymore, and that is good, but unfortunately too late for defending Kosovo.

It is inappropriate (not to

It is inappropriate (not to say hypocrisy) to claim how Serbia looks forward to getting help only from Russia. WHOEVER might believe that that is the truth is either naive or has been focused too much on nationalist propaganda before the presidential elections. Serbs in Kosovo are prepared for independence. Everybody in Serbia is aware that the authorities are catching a straw just to protect the borders of Kosovo. Their foreign policy has changed long ago and no one even thinks that keeping Kosovo will bring any kind of benefit to Kosovar Serbs, or restore Serbia's jurisdiction there. Moreover, Serbia now also seeks anyone's understanding to help it protect its sovereignity. It's just as it is - let Kosovo stay inside Serbia, no matter the (political) costs.

So, nobody will really get disappointed if Russia doesn't help. They just ask Russia for engagement. If they don't save Kosovo, subjectively no one there shall blame Russia.

Kosovo separatism

It is strange to imagine for most Serbians, but from Russia’s standpoint it is imperative that no armed conflict ensues. It is simply not profitable to enter into an armed conflict for Russia at this time. They have problems of their own.

As for USA, it would be advantageous for both US and Albania to skip the diplomatic procedures and hurl right into a war. US is ready to fight since they have no border problems requiring their vast military. Although I believe that USA will not be able to support Kosovo Albanians for any length of time due to its economic struggle (which is about to escalate).

I find it disgusting that US allegiance can be assured by mentioning just a few key words: Independence, Freedom and Democracy. I would have thought that a country full of people would be harder to sway/control; I guess I was wrong...

Therefore, all the Serbians have to do is release the province into the hands of the Albanians, evacuate all Serbian people, and subsequently wage war and win the province while USA and Russia are in an economically vulnerable position. The Albanian army will no doubt interfere, but since they lack organization, a quick and bloodless victory is sure for Serbia.

About the Kosovar-Serbian-Russian connections and disconnections

From reading the text and seeing these photos, we can see what is really behind Serbia’s reluctance to accept Kosovo nationhood: religious fundamentalism.

From an atheistic, agnostic or non-Christian-Orthodox point of view, it is completely absurd to cling to a province just because back in 1389 there happened a battle in which an old Serbian kingdom lost.

To keep 2 millions of people who don’t want to be part of Serbia anymore just because the faith of 100-200 thousand people is an utter injustice, and even more unjust when we think what Milosevic have done do in Kosovo in the 1990s.

To ally the authoritarian Russian president like Vladimir Putin is to give even more evidence that the cause of the Serb Orthodox true-believers is wrong, and of the Kosovars is right.

So, Bad Gorilla would accept

So, Bad Gorilla would accept that Texas,California etc. should go back to Mexico. After all there are more central american ethnic population than anglo-saxon conquerers over there. Why then keep the Basque people away from forming their own state, after all since it is recognized that they are of a completely different ethnia, and have been fighting for their own homeland for ages. How about the Kurds etc.? No, Bad Gorilla, it won't happen because the EU and the USA would never permit the partition of their own countries, or that of their "allies".

What a load of rubbish from

What a load of rubbish from bad gorilla. Saying that all that is driving Serbs to hold onto Kosovo is religious fundamentalism.

What about Albanian Muslim Fundamentalism? Their fundamentalism is driving them to take territories which belong to another country and make them their own simply because they want a Muslim state. No amount of denying this will convince anyone that this is not their aim.

If they want to live in a multi ethnic society then they should accept living in Serbia for Serbia IS a multi ethnic society. Instead they drove most of the Serbs and other non Albanians out. So who is a fundamentalist now?

Since when did Serbia become a fundementalist society? Present us with some evidence of this fundamentalism. It was the Serbs who were occupied at various times not the other way around.


Oh, that is nonsense, you are writing about the Kosovo independence and religion.

Do you know what democratic constitution is? It states that a country has it's own borders - and one territory, which could not be parted.

What are albanian separatists doing? They demolish everything serbian, we know the facts, ruined remains of cultural heritage evidence for themselves.
Shiptars pretend to breed "Kosovo nationhood" on a territory, which constitutionaly belongs to Serbia.

From any point of view it is perfectly absurd and insane to support albanian separatists.

Kosovo is Serbian land

since IX century kosovo was part of serbia.It's real name then was ''RASHKA''.Albania was created in 1913. afther Balcan wars.So how something that belong to Serbs since IX century can be Albanian?

About the the supposed “Serbian rights” over Kosovo

First of all, for most of its history in the last 1500 years, Kosovo was not part of anything that could be called “Serbia”. The Albanians’ presence in the region are more ancient than the Slavic Serbo-Croatian-speaking peoples, wich arrived in the region around the years 600-800 from the region that today is the corner between Slovakia, Ukraine and Poland.

The Serb nationalist version that “Kosovo had Serbian majority before the Croat Communist dictator Tito brought the Albanians to weaken the Serbs” is a lie, since any ethnographic map made before the existence of Yugoslavia shows that Kosovo was massively populated by Albanian-speaking peoples.

And just to remember, between 1878 and 1913 Serbia was an independente country without Kosovo, and as far as we know it had no major problems because of that. To the contrary, Serbia really got into big problems after it engaged in expansionist wars of conquest, when it annexed Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo more by brutal military force than popular appeal.

About “Albanian (and Bosnian) Muslim Fundamentalism”… come on, people. The Muslims from Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and even Serbia are pretty secular, and ou know that. Any photo from the streets of Sarajevo, Tirana or Pristina will show mostly shaved men without turbans and women in jeans, without anything resembling a hijab, niqab or burca. It’s very probable that Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro have more bearded men and head-scarved women than Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania…

About “destruction of Serb cultural heritage and Muslim War against Christianity”… well, everybody knows that Milosevic (and sadly, many top members of the Serbian Orthodox Church) manipulated the Orthodox religion to get political, financial and territorial gains. Many Orthodox churches and seminaries were reconstructed from stone ruins or built anew in Kosovo and Belgrade-controlled areas in Bosnia with this objective, at the same time that Serbian forces destroyed centuries-old Mosques and Catholic churches in the same regions to justify the “rights of Serbs over the Sacred land of Greater Serbia”.

Kosovars were not in war against Christianity, since they did not destroy Christian Catholic or Protestant churches (and just to remember, many Kosovars and Albanians are Catholic). In fact, they were in war against the policies of Slobodan Milosevic, who wanted trough war to expand the territory of Serbia beyond the territories of Central Serbia and Vojvodina — the only two who are really governed from Belgrade, today.

And about other separatist causes, I just want to say that in democracies, separatism has much less force and reason to be — just compare the situation of Quebecers in Canada and the Romansh in Switzerland with the situation of Chechens in Russia and the Tibetans in China to see that.

A good Serbia is a democratic, secular, non-fanatical, and European Serbia. A good Serbia is a Serbia that don’t go beyond the Drina River and a Serbia without Kosovo. That’s all.