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Profile: Mahmut Bakalli
Mahmut Bakalli was a participant or observer in the following events:
Mahmut Bakalli, president of the League of Communists’ Kosovo Provincial Committee, resigns and is replaced by Veli Deva, also a Kosovar Albanian. Bakalli is blamed for not seeing a series of demonstrations that have rocked the province coming, although at a committee meeting on March 8 he did say there was a lack of basic goods and that conditions had to be alleviated for those without jobs or with low wages, as well as students. The next month another senior official resigns and in all six of the nine committee members leave their positions. In his last speech, Bakalli blames “subversive propaganda” from Albania, and says letting the situation get out of hand is his responsibility. In September 1981 a report by the Serbian and Kosovo committees of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia will blame Bakalli’s administration, saying it did not warn the Yugoslav and Serbian governments, though it allegedly knew the Marxist-Leninist Party of Albanians in Yugoslavia was planning demonstrations and that Albanian nationalism was increasing. Veli Deva is a former committee president and has the support of Albanians, for opposing Serb chauvinism, but is also against the Albanian government. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 201, 208; Kola, 2003, pp. 161-162]
Pristina University students begin protesting over dormitory and dining hall conditions at the school. The protest grows and hundreds of protesters go off campus, where they are blocked by police. The police try to detain the alleged organizers, which brings out more people overnight, and begins to radicalize their demands. In coming weeks and months, the government and media will blame many groups and countries for the demonstrations, but in interviews years later with Albanian scholar and diplomat Paulin Kola, Kosovan nationalist Xhafer Shatri will say that he thinks the events were unplanned. On the morning of March 12, the crowd is dispersed with tear gas. More demonstrations will erupt in a week.
The Students of Kosovo - Because unemployment is high in Kosovo, many Kosovars turn to further education, making Kosovo’s ratio of students to population the greatest in Yugoslavia—274.7 out of 1,000, while Yugoslavia’s national ratio is 194.9. One in three Kosovars is a student of some kind, yet educational facilities for Albanians are underfunded. Pristina University has 36,000 full-time and 18,000 extension program students, two-thirds more than planned when the university was created, forcing some students to share beds. About 80 percent of the students are in programs such as Islamic art, Albanian history, or folklore, graduating more students than there are available jobs in these fields. Their professors are generally poorly qualified, more than half lack PhDs, and they generally produce little new research and are not well regarded by their colleagues elsewhere in Yugoslavia. The student body is generally disaffected. Many ignore Rilindja, an Albanian language newspaper in Pristina, which covers university news on Wednesdays, and prefer TV and radio from Albania rather than Yugoslavia’s Albanian stations.
Economic Conditions - Kosovo is the poorest part of Yugoslavia, and Albanians are generally poorer than Slavs—for example, in 1980 67,000 Kosovars were unemployed, over 10 percent of the population and the highest rate in Yugoslavia. Out of every 1,000 people newly employed in Kosovo in the early ‘80s, 258 are Montenegrin, 228 Serb, and 109 Albanian, though the majority of Kosovars are Albanians. By 1988, Serbs will be 23.6 percent of the population and have 36 percent of the jobs, and Montenegrins will be 2.5 percent of the population and have 9.3 percent of the jobs. Mahmut Bakalli, president of the Kosovo Provincial Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, is unable to change Kosovo’s economic relations with the rest of Yugoslavia, which pays very little for natural resources obtained from Kosovo. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 196-197, 199-200, 216; Kola, 2003, pp. 156-157]
Protesters, now including workers, farmers, police, soldiers, and members of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, along with the students, continue to demonstrate, and in greater numbers, demanding the release of those arrested earlier and more. Some say that Kosovo should be a Yugoslav republic, instead of an autonomous province, or join Albania. Many Serbs agree with Tihomir Vlaskalic, president of the Central Committee of the Serbian LCY, who says, “We have taken it for granted that Kosovo has its own Republic in Yugoslavia—the Socialist Republic of Serbia.” On March 26, students in Pristina attack Serbs and Monenegrins, and rob and burn houses and businesses. Students in Podujeve, Vucitern, Gjakova, Gjilan, Ferizaj, and Mitrovice join in on April 1-2. Serbia calls in the Yugoslav police and army and fighting occurs during a state of emergency, prohibition on gathering, and a curfew on April 2, throughout Kosovo. Thirty thousand soldiers and tanks are deployed, which some Albanians see as an occupation. Kosovo LCY President Mahmut Bakalli urges the military and police not to guard the radio and TV studios, because it would inflame the public. The last large demonstration is the May 18 occupation of Pristina University dormitories, which is ended by police using tear gas on May 19. The university is closed and its University Council is disbanded. High school students are expelled for demonstrating. More than 1,000 LCY members will be expelled or unilaterally removed from membership, and 11 LCY basic organizations will be disbanded during the emergency measures. Two months later martial law will end, but major towns are patrolled by security forces and covert officers of the Yugoslav Ministry of the Interior afterward.
Casualties - From March 11 to April 2, nine Albanians and a Serb policeman are killed, according to the Yugoslav government. In 1989 a Yugoslav source will say the wounded include 75 Albanians (55 of whom were wounded by gunshots), three militia with serious injuries, and 127 with less serious wounds. Kosovar Albanian sources say as many as 1,000 are killed and even more hurt. Amnesty International will later say that the Serbian LCY Central Committee was told more than 300 were killed. In 1992 the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, located in Pristina, will find only 13 Albanians known to have been killed.
Government Countermeasures - Around 1,400 Albanians are given prison terms of up to 15 years, 3,000 given sentences of up to three months in prison, and 6,000 are otherwise punished. During the summer break, almost 300 students are given trials as brief as a few hours, and given up to 15-year prison terms. In June, the government says 506 people were summarily fined or jailed for up to 60 days under the Code for Petty Offenses. By August 31, another 245 people are given one to 15-year prison terms by the federal authorities and 60 people are convicted in September. The education minister of Croatia and other Croatian and Slovenian authorities will say Serbia should be less draconian. Many professors will be blacklisted in the Komunist magazine. The Kosovo Committee of the LCY calls for a 10 percent smaller student body at Pristina University and dispersal of some departments elsewhere in the province. When the fall semester begins in September, Albanian history, literature, language, culture, and art courses will be censored. Translated Serbian textbooks replace uniformly banned textbooks from Albania. The number of Albanian students, and their former quota of two-thirds of the student body, will be reduced annually.
Continuing Unrest - For years after spring 1981, government offices, monuments, and Serb graves will be vandalized and subversive literature circulated in Kosovo, western Macedonia, and parts of Montenegro. Slavs will begin to leave Kosovo out of intimidation rather than for economic reasons, and refer to threats, attacks, murder, arson, and vandalism. Many settle in Smederevo, Kragujevac, Nis, Kraljevo, Svetozarevo, and Belgrade. Belgrade residents insultingly call them Vrcani, and reportedly Slavs from Kosovo are considered tainted by association with Albanians. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 197 - 209, 212-213; Kola, 2003, pp. 157-158, 162]
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