“A Place Beyond Belief”. Installation by Nathan Coley. 2012. Photograph by Martin Godwin.
Identity and Conflict : Cultural Heritage, Reconstruction and National Identity in Kosovo
Author: Anne-Françoise Morel
The year 1989 marked the six hundredth anniversary of the defeat of the Christian Prince of Serbia, Lazard I, at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in the “Valley of the Blackbirds,” Kosovo. On June 28, 1989, the very day of the battle’s anniversary, thousands of Serbs gathered on the presumed historic battle field. They carried nationalistic symbols and honoured the Serbian martyrs buried in Orthodox churches across the territory. They were there to hear a speech delivered by Slobodan Milosevic in which the then-president of the Socialist Republic of Serbia revived Lazard’s mythic battle and martyrdom. It was a symbolic act aimed at establishing a version of history that saw Kosovo as part of the Serbian nation. It marked the commencement of a violent process of subjugation that culminated in genocide. Fully integrated into the complex web of tragic violence that was to ensue was the targeting and destruction of the region’s architectural and cultural heritage. As with the peoples of the region, this heritage crossed geopolitical “boundaries.”
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