Kosovo may revise Ottoman history

09/09/2011

As students in Kosovo head back to class this month, they may be seeing some changes in their history classes.

By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 09/09/11

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Some textbooks in Kosovo might get a makeover. [Reuters]

During a recent visit to Pristina, Turkish Minister of Education Omer Dinçer requested that the government remove part of the history texts regarding the Ottoman rule in Kosovo.

The response from Pristina was fast. After the meeting last month, Education Minister Rame Buja confirmed that a special commission has been appointed to make certain changes in the books. The commission has visited Turkey, and is verifying historical facts, he said.

"The new history books in Kosovo will be available in the next school year," Buja said.

However, not everyone is on board for the changes.

Analyst Ndue Ukaj says that history cannot be changed because facts cannot be altered, even if the Turkish and Kosovo ministries want that.

"Turkey must show greater tolerance towards Albanians, to accept the historical facts and repent for the destruction of numerous invasions they have done to the Albanians. The period of Ottoman history is what it is," Ukaj says.

He warns that such a move might harm inter-faith relations among the Albanians. "Christians will not accept any form of alienation in history."

Turkish Ambassador to Kosovo Songul Ozan told RTK that the project does not aim to change history.

"With this agreement, it is intended that future generations learn [history] … cleared of bias," said Ozan.

Balkan Policy Institute Executive Director Seb Bytyci said that the review of history should happen for the sake of science.

"[It] is productive if it's done for the sake of academic rigors. But if it's done for political purposes, it will create new conflict and would complicate the Albanian-Turkish relations," Bytyci said.

Olsi Jazexhi, a PhD candidate who studies Albanian nationalism, pointed out that many countries in the region have changed their historical narrative.

"After the fall of Communism, the books where the West was seen as hostile were changed. [Textbooks were also reviewed] after the break up of Yugoslavia, when the international community asked [countries] to remove hate stories that spurred the conflicts in the Balkans," he explains.

Jazexhi says that a review of history in Kosovo and Albania is necessary to clear the books of communist ideology.

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"The history of the Ottomans shown in a more positive and non-confrontational way will make the Albanians feel closer to the Turks as a result of the common religion they have," he argues.

Kosovo political commentator Fatlum Sadiku says that while a review of history regarding the Ottoman period is needed, historians in Kosovo are scared to do it.

He says Kosovo needs its own history, not the history written in Tirana or Belgrade.

"Kosovo should have its specific history, [free of] myths … and free of notions offensive to certain periods, and against certain nations."

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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