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Bos/Hrv/SrpShqipМакедонски 19 Jun 12

Best-Selling Kosovo History Upsets Albanians and Serbs

A controversial new history of Kosovo by Jusuf Buxhovi has anoyed the official guardians of history in both countries – but its author is unrepentant.

Arber Selmani

A Kosovo Albanian Professor has succeeded in annoying both historians in Serbia and also those from his home country.

Jusuf Buxhovi’s trilogy on Kosovo’s history, published in February, claims among other things that Albanians, not Greeks, founded the city of Troy.

He also insists that Kosovo was the spiritual and cultural centre of Albania for millennia, and dismisses Serbia’s claims that it was the heart of the Serbian medieval empire as a “myth”.

Serbian officials have said that the “book is without any scientific bases”. But some of his peers in Kosovo have made similar comments, and he was dropped from the programme to mark 100 years of Albania independence in May by Minister of Education Rame Buja.

In spite, or perhaps because, of the controversy, Buxhovi’s book is selling fast, with 12,000 copies already purchased, and plans to publish an English version of the book in the autumn.

Q: Serbian officials say your book is without any scientific basis as it overlooks the Serbs and describes Kosovo as a spiritual center and state of Albania. How do you respond?

A: The Serbian reaction to rmy book was to be expected, given the well known hegemonic politics of Serbia that has damaged their nation and others during the last few decades. This [history] has now been unmasked as false precisely based on scientific arguments, which are not unknown even to Serbian historians.

Accusations that I have overlooked the Serbs are not true. Those who look at my book will see that Slavs in general, and Serbs in particular, are not exempt from my account, after they first arrived in the 12th century. What is shown, however, is their true, objective role.

This is documented by many Serbian authors who do not agree with the hegemonic conceptions of Serbian academics, who, from Vaso Cubrilovic up to Dobrica Cosic, were pursuing anti-Albanian, anti-Croatian and anti-Bosnian programmes.

I quote Milan Budmir, Jericek and many Serbian and foreign authors who take objective attitudes towards the Albanian and Serbian sides, outside the trap of myths, where Kosovo is seen as the “Cradle of Serbia” and the “Centre of the Serbian Church”.

To affirm that Albanians have their played part in Christianity is not a revisionist historical thesis but a reality that the entire scientific world accepts.

Q: What about the reaction of Slavenko Terzic, scientific advisor to the Institute of History in the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Serbia?

A: The prejudiced reactions of Terzic and others, without even seeing and reading the book, shows that they cannot take the scientific truth, especially when that truth comes from Albanian researchers.

If they had a little scientific sense they would have the patience to go through my book and confront themselves with the scientific arguments, not deal in low political smears.

The political reactions from the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Serbia show that there was no scientific approach, just a political one. An academy that has put science at the service of hegemonic politics has shown that it still remains in this hegemonic mindset.

Therefore, it is no surprise that even after the international intervention of NATO in 1999, when Kosovars experienced genocide under [former Serbian leader Slobodan] Milosevic, this “science” retains the same language and continues to publish books that prompt hatred of Kosovars and Albanians.

Q: What is the book about, why did you decide to publish it, and what are the reasons why you decided to look at this?

A: The History of Kosovo is in three volumes: “Antiquity and Middle Ages”, “Ottoman Empire” and “From London Conference to international protectorate”, and includes the spiritual history of Albanians from antiquity to our time. This spiritual history also includes Slavs and Greeks, but sees their arrival in accordance with new realities.

So far, many of these studies observed Albanians without scientific objectivity.

This happened because the Serbian state, Montenegro and Greece, after they obtained national independence in the 19th century, tried to erase the ethnic area of Albania, so that Albanians couldn’t find a place on the Balkan state map.

In the first part, antiquity, I tried to connect the Illyrian thesis [claimed as ancestors of the Albanians] with the Pelasgic one [claimed as ancestors of the Greeks], while in the “Middle Ages” I see the Arbërit [the descendants of Pelasgian-Illyrians] in the Byzantine context.

This is the point of my disagreements with Serbian historians who insist on seeing the Albanians as “settlers” from Asia. Also, to these historians, my assessment of the time close to Ottoman conquests in the Balkans is unacceptable. In this context, the process of Islamisation of the Albanians, but also of Christians, is seen in a different way, where the Serbs are not always so “brave” and anti-Ottoman, but were vassals and more cooperative with the Ottomans.

So, these and other issues, which are looked at differently from current stereotypes, build the frame of my “Kosovo”, which appears as a critical history not only in relation to the Greater-Serbian history, but in a large measure also with the ideologies in Tirana and Pristina.

Q: How is your book doing in terms of sales?

A: The book is doing so well that we can now say it deserves the epithet of “a must-have family book”. The interest in this book is extraordinary, unprecedented so far in all Albanian areas, which is proven by the book’s three reprints in three months, with 12,000 copies sold.

Now we have a fourth print run. It should be said that the book has not only sold well in Kosovo, but also recently in Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro. Especially in Macedonia the book is flying off the shelves.

Q: What has been the reaction of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Kosovo?

A: The Academy of Sciences and Arts of Kosovo and other scientific institutions in Kosovo - the Institute of History, Institute of Albanology and the History Department in University of Pristina - are unfortunately not keen on a scientific focus. With their “work”, they exclude themselves from science.

Our academics and scientists deal with pedagogical issues with lectures at private faculties and most of them are well paid consultants of the government and some have even become political party militants.

They feel comfortable leaving the major scientific issues to idealists, whose work is not good to anyone.

Q: What do you think of the decision of the Minister of Education, Rame Buaj, to exclude you from talking at an event marking the centenary of Albanian independence?

A: With this arbitrary action, unprecedented in our country so far, Buja has sent three messages to the international community and to Belgrade and Turkey.

To the first, he wanted to say that the current political class will remain inside the Ahtisaari package, where Kosovo is treated as a multi-cultural society.

To Belgrade, it says that we will respect agreements about handing over the Christian heritage of Kosovo to the Serbian Orthodox Church. And to Turkey, it says we accept the interventions from Ankara on revising the history of Ottoman Empire.

This article is funded under the BICCED project, supported by the Swiss Cultural Programme.

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