Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Future of Kosovo's Past

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Future of Kosovo's Past

Article excerpt

Six years ago, when the international community put an end to the oppression of the Albanian majority in Kosovo by the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, the change was spectacular: Kosovo was freed from a nightmare that had lasted more than a decade.

But the enforced peace that followed did not end the feelings of revenge and hatred that set the different peoples of this region against each other - feelings fueled by the violence and destruction that had led to calls for international intervention.

And despite the presence and commitment of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and support from the broader international community, sporadic violence continued.

The targets of this destruction were often places that embodied the spiritual values of a religious or ethnic community, its very heart or its soul; places that represented symbols of identity and emblems of a common history. Hundreds of churches, mosques, and traditional and distinctive kulla, or tower houses, were thus razed or terribly damaged.

The violence also overshadowed the small but significant steps that were being made by a range of dedicated partners to help rebuild Kosovo and heal its gaping wounds.

UNESCO would argue here that culture is a vital component in any social-political reconstruction, or healing process. This is especially true in a region such as Kosovo that is so pregnant with history, culture, and tradition.

Kosovo has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Recent archaeological finds date back to the early Neolithic period - the 6th millennium BC - and include various anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines of fertility and painted ceramics. In classical antiquity, there were highly urbanized centers of refined culture in the area of present Kosovo.

The Middle Ages and the Ottoman period witnessed the birth of outstanding architectural monuments such as 14th-century churches and monasteries of unique aesthetic accomplishments, and mosques of great stylistic perfection, as well as impressive fortresses, urban centers, and bridges.

The Monastery of Decani is a UNESCO World Heritage site and universally recognized as a fine example of medieval religious architecture in Europe, as is the Monastery of Pec, which is also the seat of the Serbian Orthodox patriarchs. …

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