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Old Stone Bridge, Prizren, Kosovo | by Nikos Niotis
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Old Stone Bridge, Prizren, Kosovo

During the late 19th century the city became a focal point for Albanian nationalism and saw the creation in 1878 of the League of Prizren, a movement formed to seek the national unification and liberation of Albanians within the Ottoman Empire.

 

During the First Balkan War the city was seized by the Serbian army and incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbia. Although the troops met little resistance, the takeover was bloody with 400 people dead in the first few days; the local population would call the city 'The Kingdom of Death'. The Daily Chronicle reported on 12 November 1912 that 5,000 Albanians had been 'slaughtered' in Prizren. General Božidar Janković forced the local Albanian leaders to sign a declaration of gratitude to King Peter of Serbia for their 'liberation by the Serbian army.' Following the capture of Prizen, most foreigners were barred from entering the city, for the Montenegrin forces temporarily closed the city before full control was restored. A few visitors did make it through—including Leon Trotsky, then working as a journalist for a Ukrainian newspaper and reports eventually emerged of widespread killings of Albanians. In a 1912 news report on the Serbian Army and the Paramilitary Chetniks in Prizren, Trotsky stated "Among them were intellectuals, men of ideas, nationalist zealots, but these were isolated individuals. The rest were just thugs, robbers who had joined the army for the sake of loot... The Serbs in Old Serbia, in their national endeavour to correct data in the ethnographical statistics that are not quite favourable to them, are engaged quite simply in systematic extermination of the Muslim population". British traveller Edith Durham and a British military attaché were supposed to visit Prizren in October 1912, however the trip was prevented by the authorities. Durham stated " I asked wounded Montengrins why I was not allowed to go and they laughed and said 'We have not left a nose on an Albanian up there!' Not a pretty sight for a British officer." Eventually Durham visited a northern Albanian outpost in Kosovo where she met captured Ottoman soldiers whose upper lips and noses had been cut off.

 

After the First Balkan War of 1912, the Conference of Ambassadors in London allowed the creation of the state of Albania and handed Kosovo to the Kingdom of Serbia, even though the population of Kosovo remained mostly Albanian.

 

In 1913, an official Austro-Hungarian report recorded that 30,000 people had fled Prizren for Bosnia. In January 1914 the Austro-Hungarian consul based in Prizren conducted a detailed report on living conditions in the city. The report stated that Kingdom of Serbia didn't keep its promise for equal treatment of Albanians and Muslims. Thirty of the thirty-two Mosques in Prizren had been tuned into hay barns, ammunition stores and military barracks. The people of the city were heavily taxed with Muslims and Catholic Christians having to pay more tax than Orthodox Christians. The local government was predominately made up of former Serb Chetniks and corruption thrived. The report also noted that the Serbs were also dissatisfied with the living conditions in Prizren.

 

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Taken on November 27, 2013