Albanian „Top Channel,“ citing a 1943 census, claims Orthodox Kosovo Albanians were „exterminated“, „converted to Serbs“ and their „churches taken over“ by Serbia

„The old churches in Kosovo have been mentioned often, which used to belong to native Albanians, and later, by deforming history, the Serbian church has taken them over“ – so begins the Albanian documentary film „The Truth that Serbia Hides about Kosovo“.

The film’s presenter, Marin Mema, who claims to be an investigative journalist and former football player, begins and ends in Prizren, visiting Serb-majority areas in central Kosovo along the way, claiming that until merely a hundred years ago, these sites were supposedly Albanian-majority places.

Moreover, he claims that a majority „Albanian Orthodox population“ lived in those places, which was then “registered as Serbs”, either by „repression“ – especially during the two Yugoslavias – or to receive „privileges“ – during the time of Serbia as a „Russian ally“ in the early 19th century.

The conclusion of the film refers positively to the first five years of the 1940s as the sole era of good politics that corrected injustices towards Albanians,

The film focuses, along with the narration, and the testimonies of three contemporary Albanian historians, as well as a fourth writer from the last century, on the data of the 1942-1943 population census in Kosovo, using it as the main argument for its thesis.

From 1941 to 1943, Fascist Italy, in cooperation with local political factors in Albania, created an expanded Albanian state that included parts of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, i.e. today’s Montenegro, western Macedonia, Kosovo and, part of Metohija. This country was officially known as the „Kingdom of Albania“.

The entity existed under the auspices of the Axis powers. To clarify the historical context, this invention from World War II is often referred to as „Greater or ethnic Albania“, i.e. the puppet state of Fascist Italy from that time.

That period was marked by the cooperation of Albanian leaders, along with some paramilitary structures, with fascist Italy, and from 1943, when Italy capitulated, until the end of World War II, with fascist Germany. In historiography, there is plenty of information about the cruel persecution of Serbs and non-Albanians at that time.

The film constantly laments this period of Albanian government, as something that was a serious state-building project, but which was destroyed by the creation of Yugoslavia, after World War II.

The film estimates that the number of Orthodox Albanians in Kosovo was greater than 10,200 – the figure from the 1943 census.

1943 census „dormant truth“ from the world

„It seems a terrifying reality, because the communities that were officially identified are now exterminated, as if they never existed“ – this is not the film’s description of Serbs in Kosovo, but „Albanians of the Orthodox religion in Kosovo“. According to the author of the film, there were thousands of Orthodox Albanians in Kosovo, but the Serbs „exterminated“ them, i.e. „converted them into Serbs“.

The film follows the trail of the census in Kosovo from 1943, which was carried out during the fascist occupation, whose data one of the Albanian historians interviewed in the film says is „the most accurate“, because „a serious government wanted to make the difference between the positive policies that are ready to be implemented with each group“.

„I emphasize, it was a positive policy, not a repressive one,“ said Albanian historian Ardit Bido.

The author of the film himself states that the Albanian government at that time „had no plan to distort the data, nor to carry out any interventions“.

„Their purpose was accurate identification in order to draft the necessary plans for implementation in these communities.“

While traveling through Serbian villages in Kosovo, this journalist described this information as a “dormant truth” until his film at least.

From Kuteli to Bido on „Slavicization“ and „Serbization“

The film is a program of one of the most famous televisions in Albania, „Top Channel“ – „Albanian footprints“, dealing with culture, heritage, and history, as well as „promotion of dormant parts“, and areas that belong to the „Albanian trace“, but also parts that are not known, or are „superficially treated in Albanian historiography“, reads the description of these shows on the channel of this major Albanian television.

„It is a fact mentioned often, even proven through various archaeological documents and data,“ says the narrator, speaking about the presence of Orthodox Albanians of Kosovo who purportedly disappeared after Serbs assimilated them.

Mitrush Kuteli – „excellent writer, critic and translator“ visited Prizren in 1943. In addition to the Muslim and Catholic cemeteries, he also visited Orthodox ones, where he discovered „very significant data“.

One of the interlocutors in the film is Ardit Bido, a young Albanian historian, who says that this Albanian writer attended a funeral in 1943 when he „heard Albanian words during the wailing“.

Kuteli saw women wailing half in Albanian, half in Serbian.

While visiting cemeteries, he concluded that these cemeteries have “slavicized nationalities”.

In the film, Bido says that „the process of assimilation began“, and that the Albanian language was „lost among the Prizren (Albanian) Orthodox“ at that time, but that „tradition, the crying, the songs , and customs had remained“.

The Serbian Orthodox Church as a manifestation of evil

And where there are Serbs, there are also churches, only these churches, according to this film, were Albanian, before the Serbs „took them over“.

Mema and Bido recall the alleged writings of Kuteli, in which he claims that some of the churches „were not Serbian“, but belonged to „Albanians and the Vlachs“, such as Gogs, who arrived from „southern and south-eastern Albania“.

„The Serbian Church not only appropriated these holy places in Kosovo, but used them politically, and to encourage hatred against Albanians,“ says the narrator.

Historian Emin Selaku claims that „material evidence“ – „shows that there were churches in remote parts of Kosovo that were used by Albanians until Serbia occupied Kosovo in 1912.“

In the film, Memo performs a „stand-up“ in front of the Serbian Orthodox churches he visits, but also shows photos of old Serbian monasteries, such as Visoki Dečani from the period when people dressed in Albanian costumes are seen in front of the monastery.

„Smart and tactical decision“ of the Albanian WW2 authorities in Kosovo: CENSUS

„At that time, Prizren had many families, which, as Mitrush Kuteli showed, began to assimilate,“ the film continues.

Ardit Bido says that in the 1940s, the Albanian government made a „very smart, tactical decision“ by sending a „conservative, Orthodox Albanian – Koco Tasi, as the chief inspector of Albania, to Kosovo“ when the census was conducted.

This census carried out by collaborationist authorities with the fascist and Nazi regimes is used in the film as crucial evidence for the thesis of the existence of „thousands of Albanian Orthodox in Kosovo“, who were exterminated, Slavized, and converted to Serbs, while their churches were taken over.

A 2000 franc fine for not participating in the 1943 census

Quoting part of the proclamation calling for the population census in 1943, the film reveals that those who did not respond to it, or provided wrong information, would be fined 2,000 francs.

Valid evidence from the period of the Albanian authorities in Kosovo, known collaborators of the Axis powers, i.e. the fascist and Nazi governments, which are hailed in the film, Bido states that there were very „interesting testimonies“ from that time.

„For example, the Albanian population has been identified in every village, the Orthodox Albanians who were losing their language. They were in the final phase of losing their language.“

With a tribute to Tasi as a high-ranking official of Albania from the last century, until 1942 when the prime minister of Albania appointed him as the governor of Kosovo from the position of chief inspector, the film underlined that, among others, his task was to pay great attention to the population census.

Bido claims that some villages in Kosovo were „purely Orthodox Albanian“, while some had Orthodox Serbs and Albanians.

For all the villages that Marin Mema visits in the film, still populated by Serb-majority, the data on Serbs from the 1943 census show only a small number of them, which is underlined in several places in the film, while an emphasis is placed on Albanians being the vast majority.

From Bresje, through Velika Hoča, to Goraždevac – „places of Serbian colonization and falsification“

Another historian, Qazim Namani, claims that there were Orthodox Albanians in Kosovo. Reportedly, through his research, he allegedly found a Serb who had Albanian origins, and who said that his family spoke Albanian until 1968.

„There was a significant number of Orthodox Albanians, but after World War II, measures were taken against them, so they became Serbs, and they were registered as such,“ says Namani.

Historian Qazim Namani is convinced that there were „thousands of Orthodox Albanians in Kosovo until World War II“, but that their numbers decreased precisely because of „these harsh measures“.

Part of the film was shot in the villages near Pristina-Bresje and Ugljare.

„Once, in this area, as in other areas in Kosovo, Serbian colonizers were brought, in various methods, who aimed to overthrow the ethnic structure. This is a well-documented fact, same as manipulated statistics, that aimed to falsely increase the percentage of the Serbian population. However, another fact was forgotten, which can be noted in the 1942-1943 census,“ the film narrator and author says.

In front of a church in Bresje, the journalist admits that „some Serbian citizens still live here“, which is why, he recalls, the Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, announced a visit to this place in the past.

„But few mention that once, in this village, there was a large number of Orthodox Albanians. Furthermore, Orthodox Albanians used to be a majority here.“

While admitting that this data „may sound strange“ to some, Mema presents the information from the 1943 census as evidence.

He says that Bresje had 590 inhabitants at that time, of which 90 were Muslim Albanians, and 355 „Orthodox Albanians“, while „only 142 were Serbian citizens“.

„Orthodox Albanians were a majority in this village,“ states the narrator, adding:

„Today is different. Here, same as all over Kosovo, not a single family has remained to declare themselves publicly as Orthodox Albanians.“

He also took a walk to Ugljare, from where he cited the following data: 587 inhabitants, of which 12 declared themselves as Muslim Albanians, 28 Serbs, and 547 as Orthodox Albanians.

„The Albanian majority in this village is very clear,“ he added.

While wondering how the change came about, he states that the Kosovo Office often claims that Serbs are facing an unfriendly environment, even threats, adding that such claims are mostly „aimed at igniting issues, rather than based on truth“.

For him, the bigger problem is that in this, as well as in other villages where Serbs live today, no trace of the former Orthodox Albanian majority can be found.

„It is almost unbelievable that the Orthodox Albanians were once the majority of the population here,“ the author himself admits.

Another historian, Emin Salak, claims that one of the key reasons why their number „has decreased so much“ is that it is not only about the Orthodox, but that they have just been weakened and that this „damaged the whole process“.

According to him, the reason why they became Serbian is based on the „privileges offered at that time“.

Bresje, Ugljare , and other places he visited within the area of Kosovo Polje, according to this census, which is quoted the entire time in the film, „had 1291 Orthodox Albanians“.

Next on the map was Velika Hoča. Regarding the region of Orahovac, he states that „only 2.7 percent“ of those who lived in this region were Serb, and that Albanians constituted 97%.

He says that Velika Hoča has 700 inhabitants now, most of whom are ethnic Serbs today. Moreover, he claims that the „Illyrians population lived there“, and developed viticulture and agriculture.

Strolling through the streets of this Serbian village, the author mentions how the history of this place is „cold“ today.

„Streets have Serbian names, also the identifying symbols, but things were different in the past, even in Hoča, at least based on documents.“

According to the census from 1943, the place was home to 957 Orthodox Albanians at the time, and only five Serb residents.

„This data may seem incredible today since the ethnic structure of this village has changed drastically,“ he stated several times in predominantly Serbian towns.

The Albanian historians he cites also agreed with this claim, alleging that until the middle of the 20th century, the majority population of Velika Hoča was Albanian, and that „due to being converted to Serbs, the Orthodox Albanians were exterminated.“

„Many Serbian families that live today in Kosovo know very well that their origin is Albanian,“ alleged Qazim Namani.

Salaku adds: „There have been cases of senior citizens telling us that they come from Orthodox Albanian families. But with the passing of time, their children and nephews have consequences, and they haven’t declared their Albanian origin.“

„It’s hard to imagine that in the 1940s, 90% of the population here was Albanian.“

They also visited Goraždevac, for which they said that it used to be considered an Albanian village during World War II.

„There is a chance that many of today’s Serbian residents may be the successors of those Orthodox Albanians who were a majority even here,“ claim the Albanians in this film.

Of the 1,050 inhabitants listed in the film crew’s favorite census, 40 of them were Muslim Albanians, 240 were Serbs, 132 were Albanian Muslim Roma and 638 were Orthodox Albanians.

„Unfortunately, this village has turned into an area of tension, repeatedly. Politicians who seek conflicts tried to take advantage of the current residents, when many of them, many of today’s families may be of Albanian origin, as long as documents show that Albanians here were a majority,“ says Martin Mema, trekking through the streets of Goraždevac.

They cite specific surnames of Serbian families from villages in Kosovo, which they claim are of Albanian origin, alleging that some members of the same family in Goraždevac would simultaneously declare themselves as Albanians, while other members of the family would declare themselves differently, that is, as Serbs.

The case of the former mayor of Novo Brdo, Srboljub Maksimović, is also mentioned, who allegedly „admitted that he is of Albanian origin“ on the national television of Kosovo.

The Gašić family is also mentioned, with a specific mention of Bratislav Gašić, as someone of Albanian origin.

Selaku claims that the Albanian families who took on Serbian nationality are now part of the state structures of Serbia, and that some of them implemented measures against Albanians.

Many other villages that this film crew from Albania visited, they say, follow the example of these and other villages.

The film claims that Orthodox Albanians lived in Kijev near Mališevo, Mohljan, Večane, Ločane… There were reportedly 238 Orthodox Albanians in Djakovica alone, but:

„It was dangerous to treat this topic.“

Allegedly, there were no study programs about it for decades, it was not even possible to do research on it even in Albania, „except during World War II“.

„Even though World War II was going on, these people worked hard to develop education in Kosovo, and to grow national awareness,“ Nemani says, praising the Nazi-friendly authorities in power during World War II.

Selaku added that during the time of Yugoslavia and under the rule of the Serbs, the Albanians were under severe repression, citing as example the fact that „the liturgy in the church was held in the Serbian language and that all this had a great impact on the Orthodox Albanians.“

„Many elements led to this mass assimilation. It is true that from 1942 to 1943, a large number of Kosovans were declared as Orthodox Albanians. However, the mutilation in their national identity had started much earlier,“ Albanian historians stress in the film.

“Separation of Albanian lands“

In the second part of the film, this author returns to the middle of the 19th century. He claims that at that time, Serbia, with the strong support of Russia, „worked hard to attract Orthodox Albanians from Kosovo.“

After 1836 and later, Serbia also opened schools in places where these Albanians were the majority, while, on the third hand, the church exerted „huge pressure on the separation of Albanian lands“ – „promising benefits to the families who accepted slavicization“, and that this is precisely the period when „a huge separation started between Albanians“.

The film fails to clarify which territories were specifically discussed, however, the Serbian authorities did not have effective power at that time over the Turkish vilayets based on which today’s Kosovo was formed. According to the project of Greater, that is, ethnic Albania, part of the „Albanian lands“ includes today’s southern part of central Serbia.

One of the historians in the film states that the same process took place in Chameria, where „the only thing that had to happen“ was for the Albanians to accept Orthodoxy, to deny their Albanian origin and Muslim religion, and if they converted to Orthodoxy – in this part of the Greek epirus and southern Albania – they would have privileges. Otherwise, their property will be confiscated and given to someone else.

Where is the propaganda?

At the end of the film, the author returns to Prizren, with the message that Mitrush Kuteli’s census remains strong in this city even today.

He says that there were as many as „5,256 Orthodox Albanians“ in the Prizren region and that the Church of the Holy Savior, „the famous Albanian church of Gog was portrayed as Slavic by Serbian propaganda and historians“.

Standing before the Church of the Holy Savior, Mema says that „the Serbs burned this holy place several times“, because „the Vlach refused masses in the Serbian language“, and that this is exactly what Kuteli wrote.

He complained that „these Orthodox Albanians in Kosovo“ are „almost not mentioned at all“, and that „ancient churches are massively portrayed to foreigners today as Serbian cultural heritage“, while the population of Orthodox Albanians has practically disappeared from Kosovo, but that there are still documents proving that they were once a large community that was on a rise in Kosovo.

Historians express the hope that the remainder of historical facts will be brought to the fore after the Liberation in 1999, while the author states that further work needs to be done on the documents from 1943.

„Time has done its part, but that does not mean that assimilated families should not try to undust their identity. Documents show colonizers brought by Serbia in Kosovo, but among them, various ways were used to hide the thousands of Orthodox Albanians, whose national identity was changed. Many churches and monasteries, not only the frequently mentioned ones, used to belong to Albanians, without a doubt…“ – identical messages are repeated throughout the film.

In conclusion, Martin Mema, who presents himself as an investigative journalist, claims that he showed the data „without any influence or emotions“, and that „there should be no hesitation to tell the truth“, because:

„Truth helps with moving on, and the Kosovo Orthodox Albanians are a fact. Their existence can never be denied.“

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