Exodus of Serbians stirs province in Yugoslavia
The New York Times, July 12, 1982
By MARVINE HOWE, Special to the New York Times
Danilo Krstic and his family are hardworking wheat and tobacco
farmers, Serbs who get along with their Albanian neighbors.
"You have to love the place where you live to stay on the land
here," Marko Krstic, the oldest son, told visitors to the farm at
Bec, a few miles from the Albanian border. There have been no
serious troubles between Serbians and Albanians in Bec, but
Serbs in some of the neighboring villages have reportedly been
harassed by Albanians and have packed up and left the region.
The exodus of Serbs is admittedly one of the main problems that
the authorities have to contend with in Kosovo, an autonomous
province of Yugoslavia inhabited largely by Albanians.
Rioting Brought Awareness
Last year's riots, in which nine people were killed, shocked not
only the troubled province of Kosovo but also the entire country
into an awareness of the problems of this most backward part of
Yugoslavia, which is made up of many ethnic groups.
In June a 43-year-old Serb, Miodrag Saric, was shot and killed
by an Albanian neighbor, Ded Krasnici, in a village near
Djakovica, 40 miles southwest of Pristina, according to the
official Yugoslav press agency Tanyug. It was the second
murder of a Serb by an Albanian in Kosovo this year. The
dispute reportedly started with a quarrel over damage done to a
field belonging to the Saric family.
The local political and security bodies condemned the murder as
"a grave criminal act" that could have serious repercussions,
according to the press agency. Five members of the Krasnici
family have been arrested and investigations are continuing.
The authorities have responded at various levels to the violence
in Kosovo, clearly trying to avoid antagonizing the Albanian
majority. Besides firm security measures, action has been taken
to speed political, educational and economic changes.
Past Errors Acknowledged
Privately, some officials acknowledge that the rise of Albanian
nationalism in a society that is based on the principle of the
equality of nationalities is the result of past errors - at first
and discrimination, and more recently failure to act against
divisive forces or even recognize them.
"The nationalists have a two-point platform," according to Becir
Hoti, an executive secretary of the Communist Party of Kosovo,
"first to establish what they call an ethnically clean Albanian
republic and then the merger with Albania to form a greater
Mr. Hoti, an Albanian, expressed concern over political
pressures that were forcing Serbs to leave Kosovo. "What is
important now," he said, "is to establish a climate of security and
The migration of Serbs is no ordinary problem becuase Kosovo
is the heartland of Serbian history, culture and religion. Serbs
have been in this region since the seventh century, long before
they founded their own independent dynasty here in 1168.
57,000 Have Left Region
Some 57,000 Serbs have left Kosovo in the last decade, and
the number increased considerably after the riots of March and
April last year, according to Vukasin Jokanovic, another
executive secretary of the Kosovo party.
Mr. Jokanovic, former president of the Commission on
Migration set up after last year's disturbances, said the cause of
Serbian migration was "essentially of a political nature."
The commission has given four basic reasons for the departures:
social-economic, normal migration from this underdeveloped
area, an increasingly adverse social-political climate and direct
and indirect pressures.
Mr. Jokanovic, a Serb, called the pressures disturbing and said
they included personal insults, damage to Serbian graves and the
burning of hay, cutting down wood and other attacks on
property to force Serbs to leave.
The 1981 census showed Kosovo with a population of
1,584,558, of whom 77.5 percent were ethnic Albanians, 13.2
percent Serbs and 1.7 percent Montenegrins. The population in
1971 of 1,243,693 was 73.8 percent Albanian, 18.4 percent
Serbian and 2.5 percent Montenegrin.
Ex-Defense Minister Concerned
In a recent visit to Kosovo, Nikola Ljubcic, head of the Serbian
Presidency and a former Minister of Defense, expressed
particular concern about the continuing exodus of Serbs.
"An ethnically clean Kosovo will always be cause for instability,"
Mr. Ljubicic said, adding that Yugoslavia "will never give up one
foot of her land."
Conversations with Serbs and Albanians in different parts of the
province showed that that they were generally troubled about
the Serbian migration but did not know what to do about it.
Some people described it as "psychological warfare" but were
at a loss to explain who was at fault.
In Pristina, the provincial capital, with its skyscrapers and
bustling streets, people said they felt relatively secure because
the authorities maintained "a close watch." Although the army
remains at a distance and has not had to intervene, there is a
strong militia presence.
Things appear relaxed on the Corso, Pristina's main street. As in
other Yugoslav cities, every night from about 6 to 10 the main
thoroughfare is closed to traffic and practically everyone turns
out for a stroll, encounters and discussions.
Different Sides of Street
What is special about Pristina is that it has always been Serbs on
one side of the street and Albanians on the other. Residents say
Albanians have been encroaching on Serbian "territory" since
After the crackdown on Albanian nationalists - about 300 have
been sentenced - they are said to have changed tactics, moving
to the villages, where there is less security control.
In some mixed communities, there were reports of farmers being
pressured to sell their land cheap and of Albanian shopkeepers
refusing to sell goods to Serbs.
"We don't want to go because we have a large farm," a Serbian
farmer's wife said in a village near Pristina. "Our property hasn't
been touched, but there are the insults and the intimidation, so
we feel uncomfortable." Several neighbors have left, she said,
and her own sons who were planning to build a new house have
stopped "to see how things will turn out."
There have been many changes since the riots, but most people
in Pristina agree with Mr. Ljubicic that more could be done. The
main thrust of the changes is economic. "We're going to change
the economic structures with more emphasis on agriculture, the
processing industry, small business and handicrafts," Aziz
Abrashi, the Economics Minister, said in an interview.
"Ninety-nine percent of the Albanians have no wish to live in
Albania," Mr. Abrashi, an Albanian, said, "but they view the rest
of Yugoslavia and are aware of the higher living standards. Our
young people want the same good life, the nice houses and cars,
and they can't get them if they can't get jobs."