Gračanica – The Serb’s Last Sigh

Muhammad XII of Granada (Boabdil) was defeated due to his cowardice. As a result the Arabs lost Iberia, which was the birthplace for many historic Arab thinkers, scientists and poets. His mother famously rebuked him after his loss, saying “ابك اليوم بكاء النساء على ملك لم تحفظه حفظ الرجال” (“thou dost weep like a woman for what thou couldst not defend as a man”). Similarly, the Serbs also lost Kosovo, which is considered to be their historic homeland and home to the most important of the Serbian Orthodox monasteries. There is a difference though. The Serbs were not defeated as a result of their cowardice. Serbs were regarded as one of the fiercest fighters in the entire European continent from the 14th Century onwards. On many occasions they have defeated their rivals, even when heavily outnumbered. They fought valiantly against the Ottoman Turks from the 14th to 18th centuries and did the same against an enormously powerful Nazi German Army during the WW2. The Kosovo Liberation Army, the ragtag army set up by the Albanians of Kosovo can’t even be compared with these powerful armies. But they were able to defeat the Serbs.

The KLA were able to defeat the Serbs, not because they were better armed or in any way better trained than their rivals.  If we take a look at the Balkans, it can be easily concluded that even with a huge population of around 6 million (scattered in Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Presevo), the ethnic Albanians have arguably the worst military in the entire region. Even the Bosniaks (with a population less than 2 million) are much better in military terms. But they turned their only advantage in to a deadly weapon. Even during the 1960s and 1970s, ethnic Albanian women in Kosovo were having more than 8 children each. The Serbs had less than 2, which made sure that their population will undergo a process of rapid ageing.

Kosovo always had an ethnic Albanian majority (especially after the Nazis and the Ustaše killed more than one million Serbs during the WW2). The proportion of Serbs declined from 64% in 1871 to less than 10% in 1991. Serbs declined not only in percentage terms, but in absolute number also. In 1999, the KLA launched an all out offensive to throw out the remaining Serbs from Kosovo. Even when outnumbered by ten to one, the local Kosovar Serb Police Force smashed the uprising, killing hundreds of insurgents. Slobodan Milosevic, the president of Yugoslavia was not satisfied with this result. He sent in thousands of Serb soldiers from Central Serbia to punish the local Albanian population. This was a fatal mistake. The Central and Northern Serbs, with no idea of who the real enemy is, started burning down even the neutral Albanian villages. KLA seized the initiative and began a propaganda overdrive. What happened next is history.

Right now, there are about 45,000 Serbs remaining in Kosovo Proper (excluding North Kosovo, which is under nominal Serb control). More than one-third of them live in the enclave of Gračanica in Eastern Kosovo. Most of the remainder is scattered around in small villages and outposts. They form the last remnant of a population which once ruled the entire region. Most of the population is elderly, with very few children. Moors had their last sigh at the mountain pass of Puerto del Suspiro del Moro. The Serbs of Kosovo will have their last sigh at the town of Gračanica.

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