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news 05 Jan 13

Kosovo and Serbian Experts Discuss History

In a lively debate, historians from Kosovo and Serbia agree that the written history of the two nations can include many different perspectives.

BIRN Pristina

In the second episode of the TV debate series “Tema”, two historians from Kosovo and two from Serbia debated on the topic “Is it possible to write history without insulting others?”

Jusuf Buxhovi and Enver Rexhaj from Kosovo and Cedomir Antic and Momcilo Pavlovic from Serbia often agreed to disagree during the debate, but they all emphasised the need for mutual cooperation between Kosovo and Serbian historians.

The four historians participating in the debate, which was organised by Internews Kosova and BIRN, acknowledged that in the past, the history of the two nations was written recklessly.

In addition, they noted, many biased books have been used in the educational institutions of both countries. Because of this, they said, urgent intervention is needed to review the historiography of both nations based on accurate scientific data.

The men agreed that both sides lack scientific objectivity in the writing of the countries' histories, while the Kosovo academics argued that this is made further difficult by an “embargo on relevant documents” by the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Historian Jusuf Buxhovi said that Kosovo is in a situation where it hasn’t yet produced many history textbooks, let alone works that could confront what he called the nationalistic and hegemonic literature written by some Serbian historians.

“In 1944, the third elaboration of Vaso Cubrilovic was published and addressed to Tito. The program was accepted and he was appointed Minister of Forestry. The genocide in Kosovo was conducted on the basis of this program. Gentlemen, these are the facts. We have some 40-50,000 recorded victims,” said Buxhovi, and added that Serbia owes Kosovo an apology.

Antic, meanwhile, said that history should not be pulled down to the political level with requests for apologies. He argued that if equal arguments are applied, without double standards, the results would not be satisfactory for either side.

“If you don’t admit that your history has been forged, that someone may call you a Serb-turned-Turk, who was then turned Arnaut, then don’t request that the heritage of King Milutin, which was raised during the medieval Serbian state, be called Kosovo's heritage. It may be in the territory of an independent Kosovo, but it cannot become the cultural heritage of Kosovo,” said Antic, who holds a post at the Institute of Balkans Studies of the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts.

Rexhaj, the director of the Archaeological Institute of Kosovo, argued that the cultural and religious heritage of Kosovo was appropriated by the Serbian Orthodox Church, while the former Serbian despots were in fact vassals of the Ottoman Empire.

According to him, Serbian despots were in full Ottoman service, as there was no Serbian state at the time, but rather a union of nobles. Rexhaj urged a thoughtful examination of the written history of the two countries.

“We in the Balkans are small states. We have produced many great histories. We have produced reckless publications. Today, to start compiling accurate history we have to turn to the revision of history. To identify acceptable references, not just from Serbian or Albanian historiography, but to find a balance from European historiography of the Balkans as well,” he added.

Pavlovic, who is the director of the Institute of Modern History, said that the problem between Albanians and Serbs on the issue of history lies with the interpretation of facts and assessment of certain events and processes.

“It would be fair to mention that the perspective of Albanians is this, while the perspective of Serbs is that. To me this is legitimate- the so-called multiple perspective approach. There must still be limits, because not everything between Serbs and Albanians is disputable,” he added.

The four historians also agreed that history textbooks should not contain hate speech, and shouldn’t hesitate to tell the truth, both in Serbia and Kosovo.

Irrespective of the significant differences between the opinions of the four men, they all offered to cooperate and share information and documents in their further scientific research.

The premiere of the debate will be aired on January 7 at 22:30 on RTV21.

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