Amid fears of renewed violence with Albanians Serbs in Kosovo have been commemorating a medieval battle that lies at the heart of their claim to the province. The ceremonies came at the height of tensions between minority Serbs and majority ethnic Albanians over their homeland’s future status.
UN moves to set Kosovo on the road to independence have been blocked at the Security Council by Russia, an ally of Serbia. “We’re here to commemorate our day and also to say we will never give up Kosovo,” said a Serb at one ceremony.
The main events took place in two locations where the population is overwhelmingly Albanian. UN authorities ordered heightened security fearing the gatherings would be attacked by former Albanian guerrillas.
Albanian historian Enver Hoxhaj reflected the feelings of his community: “The ceremony for the battle in the past 20 years, actually served the Milosevic regime, and his party and radicalism and ethnic nationalism in Serbia.”
How ever the Albanians see it, the battleground is sacred soil for Serbs. The UN stepped in to ban a self-styled Serb volunteer guard who had planned to cross the border to give their own protection to the commemorations. Instead, those who attended the occasion were bussed to and from their communities under guard from international peacekeepers.
The ceremonies mark the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 in which a Turkish army defeated Serb forces, ushering in 500 years of Ottoman rule.