Historical Dictionary of Kosova
Historical Dictionaries of Europe, No. 44
Press, Lanham, Maryland, Toronto and Oxford 2004
lvi + 289 pp.
Kosova, unlike the other places covered
in this series, is not a state ... although it may well become
one. It was "born," if you will, out of the last phase
in the bitter and deadly wars that tore apart the former state
of Yugoslavia, after the Serb majority unleashed yet another
wave of ethnic cleansing, this time against the ethnic Albanians
of the region. The separation took place amidst massive bombing
by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), largely at
the behest of the United States, neither of which knew quite
what to do with Kosova after the war. And thus it came under
the supervision of the United Nations Interim Administrative
Mission (UNMIK) and may remain so for a while as its future is
decided. If that decision hinges on the wishes of the people,
it will indeed become a state and no doubt draw closer to Albania.
That is perhaps the rub and may explain the hesitation and uncertainty.
While Kosova is a new and sometimes awkward
addition to Europe, and to the broader world community, it should
not be an entirely unexpected one. It was forged over the centuries,
and not just since 1998. Thus a broader general knowledge of
its past-its long and tortuous history, its economic and social
structure, its cultural achievements, and especially its ethnic
and religious composition-would seem extremely useful in charting
its future. This Historical Dictionary of Kosova is a
major contribution to such knowledge as one of the very few recent
books that considers the whole picture and not just the specifically
political aspects. This is done first in a not so brief chronology,
not so brief for a land that is theoretically only a few years
old, and the general overview of the introduction. Most of the
information is contained in the dictionary section, again far
larger than one might suspect, and not only because of its history.
For there are also many outstanding politicians, professors,
writers and artists at work today, in all the communities (of
which once again there are more than expected). The bibliography
is particularly welcome, not because it provides an endless list
of books and articles, but because there are regrettably few.
This volume, like the Historical Dictionary
of Albania, was written by Robert Elsie. He is one of the
appallingly scarce real specialists on Albanian affairs, of which
until recently Kosova was an important if somewhat neglected
subbranch. Thus he approaches this task with a much broader view
and considerably more insight than most other writers, some of
whom only became "specialists" once the war broke out
and will move on to other more newsworthy specializations as
events dictate. Dr. Elsie's experience with the region reaches
back three decades, during which time he has learned the language,
studied the history and culture and traveled widely. He has written
extensively, including more than thirty books and countless articles,
on one aspect or another, ranging from politics to literature
and much else in between, to say nothing of numerous translations.
This book, which should be read in conjunction with the volume
on Albania due to the many points in common, is thus another
welcome addition to his continuing effort to enable others to
understand a still obscure but amazingly interesting part of
Kosova is an ancient land, yet it
was only recently "discovered" by the Western world.
It first caught the attention of the media during the Yugoslav
wars of the 1990s as another problem looming on the horizon,
somewhere behind Bosnia. Since that time, a flurry of books has
been written about Kosova, the vast majority of which have concentrated
on the 1998-1999 Kosova War, the appalling political oppression
and human rights situation under Serb rule, the resulting humanitarian
and security crisis, the current issue of status and independence
and the international politics thereof. Despite all of this sudden
attention and the institutionalized presence of the international
community there since 1999, Kosova as a country is still not
The Historical Dictionary of Kosova
endeavors to rectify this problem and to present Kosova in a
broader framework. It focuses not only on many of the above-mentioned
issues, which are still worthy of attention, but also hopes to
inform the interested reader about Kosova as a country with a
rich culture and a long history, indeed with several cultures
and, one might say ironically, several histories. Kosova is more
than just a bothersome security crisis for the West. It is a
European country of some two million people, a land of poets
and writers, painters and sculptors, scholars and artists. It
is a land of cultural monuments, including finely ornamented
Ottoman mosques and old Orthodox churches and monasteries, of
oriental bazaars, of battlefields and of breathtaking landscapes.
Kosova is also a country with substantial natural resources and
a young and optimistic population teeming to keep its homeland
free and, at the same time, to make it an integral part of Europe.
It is a young democracy with potential, yet one that has unquestionably
inherited many grave problems from the somber past.
While not neglecting the ethnic minorities
of Serbs, Bosniacs, Roma and Turks, the present volume departs
from the realities of modern, postwar Kosova, as a primarily
Albanian-speaking territory with an as yet undefined political
status under United Nations administration, and as a country
that, if the will of the overwhelming majority of its inhabitants
is respected, is on the road to political independence.
The majority of the 379 entries in this
Historical Dictionary of Kosova are person entries. They
comprise not only figures of history, but also contemporary public
figures and political leaders, as well as individuals who have
made notable contributions to the arts and scholarship. Where
not otherwise stated, these persons are of Albanian ethnicity.
Since a large proportion of the material in this dictionary has
never appeared in English, it is to be hoped that most readers
will discover new information to make Kosova more accessible
A few technical remarks must be made
from the outset. Users of this volume should note that cross-references
in each dictionary entry are printed in boldface type. The dates
given at the start of person entries for births and deaths are
provided here in the year/month/day system, which is used, for
instance, by the Canadian government to avoid confusion between
the international day/month/year system and the month/day/year
system widely followed in the United States.
Kosova, Kosovo, Kosov@? Preference has
been given in this volume to the standard Albanian form "Kosova"
over the traditional Serb form "Kosovo" as a sign of
respect for the long-suffering population there. English usage
of eastern European toponyms is in flux at the moment, and now
that Byelorussia has become Belarus and Moldavia has become Moldova,
there is no reason why the traditional form "Kosovo"
should not be replaced by "Kosova." It is, at any rate,
the form "Kosova," with stress on the middle syllable,
that will no doubt prevail in the future. The variant "Kosovo"
is, however, retained here for institutions set up by the United
Nations that use this form officially, as well as for specifically
Serb organizations and terms such as "Kosovo and Metohija."
With regard to other place names, a thorny
and complicated issue here as elsewhere in the Balkans, preference
has been given in this dictionary to the forms in current usage
in Kosova, i.e., predominantly the standard Albanian toponyms.
Thus, Gjakova appears rather than Djakovica, and Peja rather
than Pec, despite the fact that the international community initially
fossilized the old Serb forms for official usage. This step was
taken at the time for practical rather than political reasons.
Most official maps of former Yugoslavia were printed in Belgrade,
using the Serb, or at least Serbo-Croatian (now also called BCS)
forms of place names in Kosova. When international intervention
became inevitable, Western military officials, and later the
United Nations, utilized these maps and adopted the Serb forms
of towns and villages in Kosova as a matter of course. To make
things more confusing, they lopped the diacritic signs off the
Serb forms. This has resulted in many cases in the use of toponyms
that do not exist in any language. There is no more justification
for writing "Pristina" in English than there would
be for writing "Wasington."
The Albanian forms of place names often
cause confusion in themselves because they can be written with
or without the postpositive definite article, e.g., Prishtina
vs Prishtinë and Prizreni vs Prizren. In line with recommended
international usage for Albanian toponyms, feminine place names
appear here in the definite form, and masculine place names in
the indefinite form, thus: Prishtina, Mitrovica and Peja rather
than Prishtinë, Mitrovicë and Pejë; and Prizren,
Gjilan and Kaçanik rather than Prizreni, Gjilani and Kaçaniku.
As if this were not enough, some toponyms have been changed recently
and others are in the process of being changed. Vushtrria is
widely accepted over the old Vuçitërn, but Besiana,
Burim and Theranda have not yet overtaken the traditional terms
Podujeva, Istog and Suhareka. It has always been difficult being
a mailman in Kosova. Place names and street names change with
every new regime. To assist the reader, a list of major place
names in the various forms is given below.
It remains for me to express my gratitude
to the people who have assisted me in the preparation of this
book. Thanks go, in particular, to Janice Mathie-Heck of Calgary,
Alberta, for her revision of the manuscript, to Bejtullah Destani
of the Centre for Albanian Studies in London, England, for many
an obscure detail, and to the Academy of Sciences and Arts of
Kosova in Prishtina for its gracious assistance with material.
Editor's Foreword, by Jon Woronoff
Map of Kosova
Abbreviations and Acronyms
Overview of Major Place Names in and around Kosova
List of Kosova Political Parties and Organizations
List of Heads of Government and State
About the Author