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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    WED, 14 JAN 1998 22:06:45 GMT

    Letter of the Patriarch to Albanian Students

    More than Correspondence

    >From the stalemate position in which resolution of the Kosovo issue is at present, there is no way out, except to reject the whole possessive nationalistic "we-you" discourse. And this cannot be expected either from the Serbian Church or from the biggest part of the Serbian and the Albanian political forces, including the majority of the students on both sides. It is preposterous to cherish high hopes in trashy-romantic theories on "emancipated young generation" which will change the world, because, it is allegedly, resistent to the catastrophic prejudice of the elderly. Nationalistic perception of the world, however, is self-reproduced and transferred from generation to generation.

    AIM Belgrade, 7 January, 1997

    The letter of the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) to the Albanian students in Kosovo who are demanding that they be enabled to return to the premises of the University in Pristina, revealed to those who wish to see much about the stands and intentions both of the sender and those who it was addressed to. There is no doubt that all the participants in this correspondence tried to make their words sound tolerant and reasonable, but this did not eliminate from their "discourse" elements which aggravate or even prevent intelligable communication. The Patriarch evidently sincerely reproached repressive behavior of the Serbian police to Kosovo students - it is difficult to even imagine a different principled reaction of a Christian believer and priest - but he nevertheless warned the students that it was not clear how they imagined to return to the state university of a state they did not recognize. The state concerned is called the Republic of Serbia.

    In their reply, the Albanian students of Kosovo say that the University in Pristina was founded by a decision of the authorities of the province - which is supposed to imply that it was constructed solely by the money from Kosovo, without the money from the solidarity fund and similar mechanisms existing at the time in SFRY... - and that in 1991 Serbia occupied the Kosovo university like the entire Kosovo. In other words, as the Albanian students explicitly say, the University in Pristina does belong to the state, but that state is called the Republic of Kosovo...

    Almost all the relevant political forces on both sides of the Serbian-Albanian "wall of misunderstanding" commented the correspondence between Patriarch Pavle and the students. Differences in their assessments and conclusions are present to the extent to which their political commitments and views of the "national issue" differ, as the traditionally popular entertainment of the Balkan nations and their "excessively populistic" intelligentsia. Serbian politicians and distinguished intellectuals insist on respect of territorial integrity of Serbia as a precondition for the indispensable talks on the rights of the Kosovo Albanians. The Albanian politicians and social protagonists, on the other hand, refuse to settle down to mere criticism of police repression, and even to the principled stance against "apartheid" in Kosovo (the stance which is taken by civic and liberal forces in Serbia), but believe that it is necessary to negotiate about the "status of Kosovo". The only reply they wish to take into consideration is formal, legal and actual secession of Kosovo from Serbia, and probably the FRY. Even in phases. This shows that what we actually have in Kosovo can be defined - despite mutual honeymouthedness - as a conflict of possessive nationalistic discourses.

    The only true question for all the protagonists is, therefore: whose is Kosovo? Since it is impossible to give an answer to this question which would satisfy both parties, the present insupportable situation is maintained in Kosovo. All the attempts to express good will and "appeals to common sense" (which somehow always and primarily mean calling to reason of the others) are swinging in vacuum of the unobliging "democratic rhetoric".

    It is useful to be reminded of the prewar situation in Croatia and B&H: all the parties over there also referred to reason, tolerance and democracy, and then to their "inalienable historical rights", seeing no contradiction in this confusion of liberal and collectivisti rhetoric. All the three leading national forces in B&H - SDA, SDS, HDZ - contain the qualifier "democratic" in their names. All this "democracy", however, could not have prevented them from getting enthusiastically involved in a brutal war against unprotected civilian population of the other religions. The motive was again "clarification" concerning the exclusive right to control a certain territory. The result of such "ethnic engineering" awkwardly veiled by oaths of allegiance to democracy, is known only too well.

    Bajram Kosumi, vice-president of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo, pronounced what everybody thinks but mostly pretend not to know it: "The largest part of the letter deals with instructions of Patriarch Pavle to our students to recognize the Serbian state, and this is the contradiction I have mentioned. This is the stand promoted by the official Serbian policy, which does not wish to face the essence of the problem. The essence is not in police repression and return to the University, but in who will control Kosovo, whether it will be the people who live here or the Serbian regime from Belgrade.

    Politics, as an activity directly opposed to normal human lives, is capable of producing situations from which there is simply no reasonable way out. Accumulation of "the most expensive words" and possessive nationalistic rhetoric charged with an excess of negative emotions leads to a status of total blockade in which the protagonists are holding each other by the throat, unable to make a single movement which would set them free.

    Such a policy "wants it now and wants it all". That is why it turns out that it is impossible to leave large national historical issues aside and simply resolve problems of normal human living, such as the right to study or employment. For normal academic life political commitments should not be important, but neither will the Serbs recognitze the right of the Albanians to return to the University without a specific "declaration on loyalty to the Serbian state" - which they will never see - nor will the Albanians be willing to give up treating Pristina Univiersity as the official educational institution of the unrecognized meta-state of the republic of Kosovo.

    There is no way out of this stalemate position of the "war of symbols", except by rejection of the entire possessive nationalistic "we-you discourse". And this cannot be expected either from the Serbian Church or the majority of the Serbian and Albanian political forces, including most of the students on both sides. It is preposterous to cherish high hopes in the trashy romantic theories about an "emancipated young generation" which will change the world because, allegedly, it is resistent to the catastrophic prejudice of the elderly. Nationalistic view of the world is self-reproduced and transferred from one generation to the other. The difference lies only in the fact that the elderly wore different caps, while the young all wear earrings. If we recognize "sincerity and authenticity" as a political category, it turns out that in the treatment of the Kosovo problem - with the "students' issue" as the tip of the iceberg - language of sincerity and authenticity was used only by rare true liberals and more numerous true radicals. Those who did not shrink from complete rejection of the possessive nationaliostic discourse, or to adopt it completely, and in this way without any reservations reduce all controversies to the very fundamental one which is the source of all others: who is the master of Kosovo?

    All the others - including both parties in the latest correspondence and the largest part of the interested on-lookers - are keeping their fingers crossed in their pockets. Not necessarily because thy would intentionally tell lies, but because they are not capable of overcoming controversies of the language they use. True problems which will result from it remain to be seen.

    Tefil Pancic