Kósovo or Kosóvo? In spite of what you may have heard, the stress in Serbian in this word is ALWAYS on the first syllable. For those of you adept at Serbian accents, it's a short falling stress on the first syllable (Serbian has pitch accents). Now, it's true that Albanians in Kosovo may stress the second syllable (though Albanians from Tirane stress the first), ALL Albanians spell the name "Kosova"--with an A. So maybe it's a political decision; but for consistency if you're stressing the second syllable, you should also spell it with an A. And you should refer to other Balkan countries as Shqiperi, Crna Gora, and Ellas, to name a few.

Another consistent problem is the absence of diacritics in most English language publications, which means, for example, that the name Milosevic is actually pronounced Miloshevich (the latter ch being softer than the ch in Decani below...). It should have a v over the s and a ´ over the c. Unfortunately I can read these on my browser, but can't produce them in PageMill, so you'll have to bear with me.

In 1975-76 I studied in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Since I was interested in medieval Serbian frescoes, I traveled around the country by bus and on foot to visit the major sites. Among these were several churches in what was then the Autonomous Province of Kosovo in Serbia.

a mountain pass in Kosovo

We drove through this pass on a bus coming into Kosovo from Montenegro (Crna Gora). The Albanian (Shqiperi) border is not far, with similar high, rugged mountains.

Pec (Pech) Patriarchate (13th-14th Centuries)

Pec was the center of the Serbian Church for part of the Ottoman occupation (Pet stotina godina pod turcima--500 years under the Turks). The cupola is squat because no church could be taller than the mosque. Note the mountains in the background; Albania is not far. I remember being impressed by the energy of the nightly korzo, the stroll through the downtown square by apparently the entire population. Pec has been bombed.

Gracanica (Grachanitsa)1315-22

South of Pristina. According to Serb reports, it may have been damaged in the bombing. There is a huge replica of this small jewel of a church in downtown Beograd.

Visoki Decani (Visoki Dechani) 1327-50

South of Pec. Probably designed by masters from Dubrovnik, or at least from the Catholic Adriatic coast. The architecture and carving are more Roman than Eastern Orthodox.

[Disclaimer: The text below was written in 1998 or 1999... The world has changed since then. I leave it here as an archive of what I was thinking at the time. Since then I have been to the former Yugoslavia: my boyfriend and I were in Bar in Crna Gora on 9/11 in 2001. It was strange to hear people talking about bombing -- "they bombed us, now someone bombed them" -- and then go to Beograd the next day to see the buildings bombed by the US.]

I am not defending Milosevic at all. As someone who spent time in Yugoslavia and even Kosovo, I was probably aware of the crisis before the average American. What worries me is the oversimplification of issues our media present. I can't see "the Serbs" as purely evil. I don't think we should overcompensate for the atrocities wrought by nationalist Serbs by painting everything in black and white and by denying historical facts just like the nationalist Serbs themselves.

This is what troubles me most: if we insist that Albanians have always been a majority in Kosovo and that Serbs do not consider Kosovo holy ground, then we are doing the same kind of mythmaking the Serbs do. I'm not saying they're right or justified at all in crimes against humanity, just that we can hold the two things in our minds at the same time. Frankly I thought we should intervene in 1992, if not earlier. Are Serbs committing atrocities? Surely yes. Are there innocent Serbs? Probably some. Are the Kosovo Albanians victims? Definitely yes. Are all the KLA good? Probably not. Real life is messy.

I liked the Kosovo Albanians I met. Now the Serbs are killing them. I liked a lot of Serbs. Now we're killing them. And I'm an American, and we're distorting some truths to justify killing people. ALL of these things disturb me, in different ways, and to different degrees. But if the degree of the atrocities against Albanians is the greatest by far, I still don't want to deny the other issues or pretend they don't exist.

And what about Vojvodina? Kosovo is home to a large ethnic Albanian population: different language, culture, religion; it was autonomous from 1974-1989. We refer to Pristina as the capital of Kosovo. And we bomb Novi Sad and call it "the second largest city in Serbia." What's up with that? Novi Sad is the capital of Vojvodina, home to a large ethnic Hungarian population: different language, culture, religion; it was autonomous from 1974-1989. Sounds like more distortion to me.