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Shkëlzen Gashi

The Kosovo War during 1998–1999 in the history textbooks in Kosovo and Serbia

Theoretical background/framework

This paper explores the presentations of the Kosovo War 1998–1999 in Kosovan and Serbian primary and secondary-level history textbooks and theorizes about how they influence and function as collective memories about this time period. Using grounded theory, it tries to find if the textbooks of these countries contribute for reconciliation and reconstruction of a multi‐cultural society.

Research questions

  1. How the history schoolbooks in Kosovo and Serbia present the crimes committed by Serbian army and police against Albanians, and the crimes of the Albanians armed groups against the Serbs?
  2. Do the textbooks from Kosovo and Serbia mention the meetings, agreements, and collaboration of the political and military representatives of the Albanians with their Serb counterparts?

Research design

I have analyzed the content of the present primary and high history textbooks of Kosovo and Serbia (published by the Libri Shkollor publishing house (Prishtina), and by Zavod za udžbenike (Belgrade)). In addition to this, the international sources, regarding the events in Kosovo during 1998–1999 were taken into consideration with their respective arguments.

Findings

The school textbooks of both sides present only the crimes of the ‘other side’, presenting themselves as victims, and the other as the aggressor. The Serbian textbooks mention not a single Albanian killed by Serbian/ Yugoslav forces during the armed conflict in Kosovo, while in the textbooks of Kosovo there is mention of not a single Serb killed by the UÇK and NATO forces during and after the armed conflict. The textbooks of Kosovo and Serbia also exaggerate the crimes of the ‘other side’.

The Kosovar textbooks describe the crimes of the Serbs against Albanians as “bloody terrorist acts”, “nationalist violence and terror”, “national terror and genocide”, or “the horrible scenes of barbarism of the bloody squadrons”. It is rare that these textbooks offer information to quantify the Serbian crimes, and when it is offered, it is in an exaggerated form.

The Serbian textbooks describe the crimes of the Albanians against the Serbs as “the attacks of local gangs of Albanians”, “Albanian terror against Serbs”, or “robberies and the confrontations of terrorist groups with the forces of order”. Again, these textbooks generally do not give data for these crimes.

In all textbooks from the two countries there is no mention of the meetings, agreements, and collaboration of the political and military representatives of the Albanians with their Serb counterparts.

The conclusion is that the two countries do not sow the seeds of reconciliation in the next generation. Taking into account the above mentioned considerations, it could be said that Serbia and Kosovo promote inter-ethnic hatred, not only between the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia, but also between the citizens of Kosovo itself – Albanians and Serbs – since the history schoolbooks published by the Ministry of Education in Kosovo are used from the Albanian pupils in Kosovo, while the history schoolbooks published by the Ministry of Education in Serbia are used, not only in Serbia, but also by the Serbian pupils in Kosovo.

Author

Shkëlzen Gashi, Senior researcher for different institutions