History of the Jews in Kosovo

History of the Jews in Kosovo

The history of the Jewish community in Kosovo largely mirrors that of neighboring Serbia, except during the Holocaust, when Kosovo was under Italian-Albanian control. The other exception is following the Kosovo War, when the province began its political separation from Serbia.

Ottoman Rule

Prior to the Ottoman Turkish conquest of the region, documentation on the Jews of the Balkans was sketchy. The Jewish communities of the Balkans were boosted in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by the arrival of Jewish refugees fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. Sultan Bayezid II of the Ottoman Empire welcomed the Jewish refugees into his empire. Jews became involved in trade between the various provinces in the Ottoman Empire, becoming especially important in the salt trade [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/serbia.html Virtual Jewish History Tour - Serbia and Montenegro ] ] .

The 1455 Turkish cadastral tax census [1] of the Branković lands (covering 80% of present-day Kosovo) recorded 1 Jewish dwelling in Vučitrn.

An Austrian statistic [2] published in 1899 estimated:
* 182,650 Albanians: (47.88%)
* 166,700 Serbs: (43.7%)
* Remaining 8.42%: Tsintsars, Turks, Circassians, Roma and Jews

Yugoslavian Rule

In the aftermath of World War I, Serbia merged with Montenegro, and then united with State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which was soon renamed Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The largely Albanian-populated Kosovo was included within Serbia. At the time, some 500 Jews resided in Kosovo. ["Jews of Yugoslavia 1941 – 1945", by Jasa Romano, Federation of Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia, 1980; pp. 573-590.]

The 1921 population census for the territories comprising modern day Kosovo listed 439,010 inhabitants:

By religion:
* Muslims: 329,502 (75%)
* Serbian Orthodox: 93,203
* Roman Catholics: 15,785
* Jews: 427
* Greek Catholics: 26

In 1941, Kosovo was incorporated into the Italian-ruled Greater Albania, and the local Jewish population was protected from the Nazi-led holocaust. In July 1943, when Italy left the war, the Germans took control of Kosovo and recruited the Skanderbeg Division of Albanian collaborators to defeat Yugoslav partisans and exterminate the Jews. In 1944, communist partisans recaptured Kosovo from Albania and made it part of Yugoslavia.

Post-war community

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia was formed in the aftermath of World War II to coordinate the Jewish communities of post-war Yugoslavia and to lobby for the right of Jews to immigrate to Israel [ [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Yugoslavia2.html Jews of the Former Yugoslavia After the Holocaust] ] . The Federation was headquartered in Belgrade, the capital of the post-war Yugoslavia.

More than half of the surviving Yugoslav chose to immigrate to Israel after World War II.The Jewish community of Serbia, and indeed of all constituent republics in Yugoslavia, was maintained by the unifying power of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Yugoslavia. However, this power ended with dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Yugoslav wars

The Jews of Serbia lived relatively peacefully in Yugoslavia between World War II and the 1990s. However, the end of the Cold War saw the breakup of Yugoslavia, and wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The war for Kosovo began in the 1990s, when Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic began consolidating power in Kosovo and the Kosovo Liberation Army waged a separatist insurgency. In 1999, international forces expelled Serb forces from Kosovo. During the conflict, the 50 remaining Jews in the capital city of Priština fled to Serbia, with which they had close cultural and linguistic ties.

Within independent Kosovo

The lone Jewish community in Prizren speaks Albanian and Turkish, and has remained for the time being. [Spritzer, Dina "Independence at a time of uncertainty for Kosovo's Jews" 02/17/2008 Jewish Telegraphic Agency http://www.jta.org/cgi-bin/iowa/news/article/2008021720080215kosovo.html] This community numbers around 50 members, divided among three families. There are no synagogues or Jewish schools. Unemployment is prevalent, and support for the community comes from the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee. There has been some amount of intermarriage with the surrounding Albanian community. The father of Prizren's Jewish community leader, Votim Demiri is Albanian. [ Jordan, Michael J. "Jews in Kosovo city share fate and struggle of Albanians" 12/03/1999 Jewish Telegraphic Agency http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/12633/edition_id/243/format/html/displaystory.html] Israel has good relations with the Kosovars, with Jerusalem sending massive humanitarian aid to the besieged Muslims during and after the 1998-1999 war with Slobodan Milosevic's regime. [Mizroch, Amir "Israel won't recognize Kosovo, for now" 2/19/2008 Jerusalem Post http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?c=JPArticle&cid=1203343699593&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull] At the same time, it also has strong economic ties with Serbia, and is reluctant to recognize the Republic of Kosovo, until it receives more international recognition, including that of the United Nations.

ee also


History of the Jews in Serbia


1.^ The original Turkish-language copy of the census is stored in Istanbul's archives. However, in 1972 the Sarajevo Institute of Middle Eastern Studies translated the census and published an analysis of it Kovačević Mr. Ešref, Handžić A., Hadžibegović H. Oblast Brankovića - Opširni katastarski popis iz 1455., Orijentalni institut, Sarajevo 1972. Subsequently others have covered the subject as well such as Vukanović Tatomir, Srbi na Kosovu, Vranje, 1986.

2.2.^ Detailbeschreibung des Sandzaks Plevlje und des Vilajets Kosovo (Mit 8 Beilagen und 10 Taffeln), Als Manuskript gedruckt, Vien 1899, 80-81.

3."Jews of the Former Yugoslavia After the Holocaust" Jewish Virtual Library http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Yugoslavia2.html

4. Spritzer, Dina "Independence at a time of uncertainty for Kosovo's Jews" 02/17/2008 Jewish Telegraphic Agency http://www.jta.org/cgi-bin/iowa/news/article/2008021720080215kosovo.html

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