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Seeing the Albanians through Serbian Eyes: The Inventors of the Tradition of Intolerance and Their Critics, 1804–1939

Written by  Djordje Stefanovic, this article appeared on the third issue of volume 35 of the journal European History Quarterly in 2005.
The emergence of the ideologies of "moral murder" is one of the conditions for the escalation of ethnic conflicts into ethnic cleansing or genocide. By studying Serbian political discourse and corresponding state policies, this article fills some of the gaps in existing knowledge on the treatment of Albanians by the Serbian and Yugoslav state before 1939. The troubled incorporation of the Albanian minority into the Serbian state, when compared with similar nation-state building processes in the Balkans, enables us to extend Miroslav Hroch’s theory of the rise of minority nationalisms in Eastern Europe. An élite’s visions of minority populations and state policies cannot alone explain the opening or closing of the opportunities or ethnic cleansing. However, they do enable us to understand why and how the political élite might try to pursue such opportunities. The evolution of the Serbian vision and policies towards the Albanians was influenced by wider European nation-building models, as well as by a clientelistic relationship with some of the Great Powers. The Serbian élite faced a fundamental tension between an uncritically accepted model of the homogeneous nation-state and the complex multi-ethnic reality of the Balkans. Since the entrenched visions of the Albanian Muslims were particularly negative, the Serbian élite applied the most exclusionary policies towards the Albanians.


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