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Robert Elsie

Anna Di Lellio: The Battle of Kosovo 1389
An Albanian epic
Translations by Robert Elsie

ISBN 978-1-84885-094-1
I.B. Tauris in association with
the Centre for Albanian Studies, London 2009
199 pp.

The 1389 Battle of Kosovo holds enormous significance in the formation and development of the modern Balkan states. What has given this single battle such resonance, more than six centuries later, and what does it reveal about the tangled complex of identity in the contemporary Balkans?

The enduring power of the Serbian national myth, inspired by the epic of the resistance against the Ottomans on the Kosovan battlefield, is still visible throughout the ruins of Yugoslavia, is widely known and often told. Robert Elsie’s beautiful new translation brings a little-known Albanian account of the Battle brilliantly to life. This is the tale of Sultan Murat I’s campaign in the Balkans and his assassination by the Albanian knight Millosh Kopiliq, Miloš Obilić in the Serbian tradition.

Anna Di Lellio’s commentary explores the significance of the Albanian epic for post-war Kosovo, where it reinforces a collective identity built on a myth of resistance against foreign oppressors, and on a strong identification with a European, predominantly Christian, civilization. The Battle of Kosovo 1389 argues for a critical reading of the poem as an alternative narrative, not an alternative true story of the historical battle. It is an important addition to our understanding of the Albanian debate on national and cultural belonging, as well as the more general issues of national memory and identity.

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