Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office




Plans for expelling ethnic Albanians from Kosovo have some historic precedents in Serbian nationalism. One advocate of such action was Vasa Cubrilovic (1898-1990). He was a follower of the chief nineteenth century ideologist of Serb nationalism, Ilija Garasanin (1812-74). Garasanin had, in 1846, produced a document (Nacertanje), which outlined proposals for Serbia's future political expansion. It proposed the resurrection of a Greater Serbian empire to replace the Ottomans in the Balkans.

  Cubrilovic was a member of the Mlada Bosnia group of young terrorists who planned the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. By the 1930s he had become a respected historian at Belgrade University. He was critical of the government's programme of colonisation in Kosovo for failing either significantly to shift the ethnic balance within Kosovo or to improve security on the border with Albania.

  In 1937 Cubrilovic proposed, in a lecture given at the Serbian Culture Club and in papers submitted to the government, the mass eviction of Albanians to Albania and Turkey. He suggested that the only solution was to use force and, as a prerequisite, to generate fear. He suggested a whole range of eviction methods ranging from persecution for trivial offences and economic exclusion to burning down Albanian villages and city quarters. He called for this colonisation programme to be placed in the hands of the Army.

  Some of Cubrilovic's proposals were implemented in the 1930s. Albanian land-holdings were restricted to below the minimum level for subsistence, police harassment increased and in 1938 an agreement was signed with Turkey on the deportation of some 200,000 Muslim Albanians. It was not properly implemented because of the onset of the Second World War and also because of lack of money. Historians such as Noel Malcolm estimate that during the period 1918-41 some 90,000 to 150,000 Albanians and other Muslims emigrated from Kosovo.

  Following World War II, Cubrilovic made a seamless transition from Serb nationalist to Communist adviser. He became one of the most influential figures in the Serb Academy of Arts and Sciences. He renewed his pre-war thesis suggesting that expelling Albanians (as well as Germans and Hungarians) was the only way of dealing with the minority problem in the new Yugoslavia. In 1953 the agreement between Yugoslavia and Turkey designed to encourage Albanian emigration to Turkey was reactivated. There are no detailed figures relating to Kosovo. But Noel Malcolm estimates that in the period 1945-66 some 100,000 Kosovo Albanians, Bosnian and Sandjak Muslims emigrated to Turkey.

  In the late 1960s the prominent Serbian writer Dobrica Cosic began to criticise Belgrade's policy towards Kosovo. He opposed the policy of devolution to Kosovo and Vojvodina, raised concerns about Albanian nationalism and irredentism in Kosovo and drew attention to Serb emigration from Kosovo. He was expelled from the League of Communists in 1968.

  In the 1980s a draft Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts called for redressing the ethnic balance in Kosovo in favour of the Serbs and Montenegrins. The draft also listed Serb grievances in the other Yugoslav republics and effectively revived the so-called "Serbian Question", ie the position of Serbs in Yugoslavia. This helped trigger the rise of Serb nationalism by providing an ideological platform.

  From the late 1980s Cosic and other members of his nationalist dissident clique were considering plans to partition Kosovo, giving Serbia its holy sites and key mineral resources. Some Serbs feared that, without partition of Kosovo, Serbs would be a minority in Serbia within 25 years. In the late 1990s extreme Serb nationalists emerged, such as Seselj and Arkan, who made frequent use of the Kosovo issue to whip up support. During the Federal elections of December 1992 Seselj demanded the expulsion of all Albanians from Kosovo. Arkan's assertion, that 1.5 million Albanians had entered Kosovo from Albania during the previous 50 years and should be regarded as "tourists", had the same clear implication.

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