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Refugees from the Balkan War (Photo: Carnegie Report, 1914, p. 152)



Refugees from the Balkan War
(Photo: Carnegie Report, 1914, p. 152)

Webdesign J. Groß

1914
Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace
:
Report on the Serbian Invasion of Kosovo during the First Balkan War

The International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars, consisting of noted figures such as Prof. Josef Redlich, Baron Paul d'Estournelles de Constant, Justin Godart and Henry N. Brailsford, set out to review the tragic events of the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. Much of the Commission's report is devoted to Macedonia and Bulgaria where the fighting was worst, but a small section is also devoted to the Serbian invasion of Kosovo in the autumn of 1912. Here is the text in question.

The orders given to the Slav armies were perhaps a trifle less barbarous [than to the Ottoman army]. It does not, however, follow that there was no intention of conquering the territory without maintaining an alien population there. "Orders of extermination" were not given, orders to the contrary were indeed given (see below). But in private conversations the same idea is constantly met. What proves that it was not a mere mode of speaking, is the fact that the Turkish population suffered at the hands of the Bulgarians, and the Albanian population at the hands of the Servians as well. As regards the Bulgarians, this is proved by the villages in which all the Turkish quarters were burned, and which were visited by the member of the Commission in Thrace. As to the Servians, we possess authentic evidence in the shape of a letter from a member of the Servian army, published in the Servian Socialist paper Radnitchke Novine, of October 9/22. The contents of this letter resemble only too closely the letters of the Greek soldiers. True, the reference here is to an expedition made to repress a revolt. "My dear Friend," writes the soldier, "I have no time to write to you at length, but I can tell you that appalling things are going on here. I am terrified by them, and constantly ask myself how men can be so barbarous as to commit such cruelties. It is horrible. I dare not (even if I had time, which I have not) tell you more, but I may say that Liouma (an Albanian region along the river of the same name), no longer exists. There is nothing but corpses, dust and ashes. There are villages of 100, 150, 200 houses, where there is no longer a single man, literally not one. We collect them in bodies of forty to fifty, and then we pierce them with our bayonets to the last man. Pillage is going on everywhere. The officers told the soldiers to go to Prisrend and sell the things they had stolen." The paper which published this letter adds: "Our friend tells us of things even more appalling than this (!); but they are so horrible and so heartrending that we prefer not to publish them."

The object of the Albanian expedition, referred to by the correspondent of the Radnitchke Novine, is known to have been the repression of the plans of the Albanians who had at this period revolted against the Servians. The Albanian revolt was represented by the Servians as the result of the activities of the Albanians in autonomous Albania, and at the same time of Bulgarian conspiracies. These two reasons are probable enough, but they do not exclude a third,— the state of mind of the Albanian population in subjection to Servia. This population had its own reasons for complaining of the Servian administration. The event is explained in a letter from Elbassan, published by a Bulgarian paper, (L'Echo de Bulgarie, September 28/October 11), and alleged to come "from a very reliable source." The Commission was not able to verify these statements, but there are no reasons for doubting them, in view of all that has been seen and heard:

"On September 20 last (new style), the Servian army carried off all the cattle of the Malesia of Dibra. The herdsmen were compelled to defend themselves, and to struggle, but they were all killed. The Servians also killed the two chieftains of the Liouma clan, Mehmed Edem and Djafer Eleuz, and then began pillaging and burning all the villages on their way: Pechkapia, Pletza and Dochichti, in lower Dibra; Alai, Beg, Machi, Para, Oboku, Klobotchichta, and Solokitzi, in upper Dibra. In all these villages the Servians committed acts of horrible massacre and outrage on women, children and old people. In the town of Dibra itself the authorities published an order to the effect that the bazaar was not to be opened on Sunday or the inhabitants to come out of their houses on that day. Forty-eight notables were arrested. When the Servians saw that the inhabitants of the pillaged villages, of which a list has been given above, had come to reclaim their cattle and were surrounding the town, they had the notables brought out of prison and killed them in the most shameless way. Henceforth terror and despair reigned among the Albanians of Dibra and the neighborhood, and they rose in revolt. They attacked the Servians with arms, or with hatchets, stones and sticks; they killed some of them and drove the rest out of the town. Nearly all of the men who were killed were Servian officials; the soldiers who remained alive fled to the other side of the Radika river."

After this story, the truth of the general description published by the same paper on October 3/16 need not be doubted:

"The following villages, with a mixed Albanian and Bulgarian population, were pillaged and burnt - Lochnani, Lissitchani, Gitoche, Dibrichta, Harlichte, Dessovo, Gradechnitsa, Ptchelopek. Many Moslem families from these villages, including women and children, were pitilessly massacred. On entering the village of Portchassie, the regular Servian army led all the husbands outside the village, and then brought the wives thither to exact money from them in the shape of ransom, if they wanted their husbands set at liberty. After the ransom had been paid, however, the wretched men were shut up in the mosque, which was then blown up with four shells. In the village of Sulp, seventy-three Albanians suffered a horrible death, and forty-seven others from the village of Ptchelopek were basely assassinated. Was it not the Prefect of Krouchevo, when the Servian army returned from the Albanian frontier, who openly told them to burn all the villages situated between Krouchevo and Okhrida?"

Thus the Albanian petitioners, who on September 21 addressed themselves to the Great Powers in the name of the populations of Djakova, Ipek, Plava, Goussinie and the ex-vilayet of Kossovo, did not exaggerate when they stated, as regards this other theater of the revolt, that "the Servian and Montenegrin regular troops undertook and did everything, from the first day on which they invaded the Albanian territory, either to compel the inhabitants to lose their nationality, or brutally to suppress the Shkiptar race."

Houses and whole villages reduced to ashes, unarmed and innocent populations massacred en masse, incredible acts of violence, pillage and brutality of every kind—such were the means which were employed and are still being employed by the Serbo-Montenegrin soldiery, with a view to the entire transformation of the ethnic character of regions inhabited exclusively by Albanians.

 

[extract from: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars (Washington: Carnegie Endowment, 1914) pp. 149-151.]

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Refugees from the Balkan War (Photo: Carnegie Report, 1914, p. 152)