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Kosovo Before 1989 -
Nightmare with the Best Intentions
Interview with Petar Makara & Tika Jankovic
Interviewer, Jared Israel

[Posted 6 March 2000]


With the continuing attack on Yugoslavia, led by the US and Germany, the question of what happened in Kosovo before 1989 has taken on increased importance. In this interview we discuss things known to people from Yugoslavia but not generally to the rest of us.
-- Jared Israel, Emperor's Clothes


Jared Israel: Tika, Petar, why don't you introduce yourselves.

Tika Jankovic: I'm Tika Jankovic, an electrical engineer.

Petar Makara: Petar Makara. Computer scientist. I was trained as an electrical engineer.

Jared Israel: I'm surrounded by engineers. OK. So you're both from Yugoslavia, from the Republic of Serbia; you both work in the US now. Tika I understand that you worked for quite awhile in Kosovo?

Tika Jankovic: Yes, for the Serbian Electrical Power Plants Association.

Jared Israel: I'm hoping you guys can clarify some things for people here, questions that aren't usually discussed in polite company about the relations between Serbs and Albanians. How did things get to the present nightmare? The West of course claims the Serbian government took away the Albanians' rights in 1989 and that this started an Albanian protest movement.

Petar Makara: That movement had nothing to do with oppression; no rights were taken away. It [the secessionist movement - J.I.] was an organized, sustained attempt to break away part of the country.

Jared Israel: There was no issue of Serbia suppressing the Albanians' cultural rights?

Petar Makara: The change instituted in 1989 had nothing to do with cultural autonomy. It was a long-overdue correction to a crazy and unjust political situation, which gave Kosovo power over the Serbian state as a whole.

The secessionists wanted Kosovo to become a full Republic because under the Yugoslav constitution of 1974 there was an ambiguous phrasing, which could be interpreted to allow a Republic to secede. In any event, if you were not a Republic, you definitely could not secede. So therefore, the Albanian secessionists of course wanted to achieve Republican status. But the 1989 changes went in exactly the opposite direction, and this infuriated them. The West, the US and Germany, encouraged them to rebel. The Western media completely distorted the situation; the truth simply was not told.

Jared Israel: Some people would answer you by saying, if that's true, why wasn't there trouble before 1989?

Tika Jankovic: There was trouble before 1989. There was a lot of trouble but it was the Serbs who suffered, so nobody talked about it.

Jared Israel: Actually during the '80's the NY Times did talk about Albanian terror against Kosovo Serbs. We have some of that posted on Emperors-Clothes. [1]

But can you give us some evidence?

Tika Jankovic: Evidence of my own eyes. The secessionists were not only terrorizing Serbs, they were actively sabotaging the economy in Kosovo.

Jared Israel: You heard this?

Tika Jankovic: I saw this. From 1972 to 1984 part of my job was to visit electrical power plants to maintain communication and data equipment and transmission links.

One of the worst places was the power station in the Kosovo town of Obilich. There were constant problems. A coal burning plant should have downtime of no more than 7-8% for routine maintenance jobs. That's about 1 month out of the year. This particular plant had downtime of over 50%. That's about half the year.

And even during the rest of the time, this plant was running at 350 MW when it had a capacity of 700 MW (700,000 kilowatts.) One or more of the three generators was always down due to sabotage by the Albanian personnel.

Jared Israel: Do you recall examples?

Tika Jankovic: One time they sabotaged the water storage. There is a huge artificial lake at the plant. It is used to cool the generators. One time I had to go there because a dead bull had been put in the lake blocking the grids that prevent large objects from getting into the water tunnel that leads to the generators. This reduced the flow of water, causing the generators to overheat.

Jared Israel: This was done by Kosovo Albanians?

Tika Jankovic: It happened only in Kosovo. Nowhere else in Serbia. And the Albanian personnel made no secret of their animosity to the Serbian State, which owned the plant. Everyone in the plant knew who had done it. But the local authorities, who were sympathetic to the secessionists or intimidated did nothing.

Another time they raised the crane that was used to transfer heavy objects around the plant. They shoved it into the transmission lines causing short circuits and disruption of transmission.

A third time, they disabled the electrical supply to the huge magnets that pull metal objects out of the coal so they won't get into the furnace and plug up the ash grids. This is to give an idea of the imaginative and resourceful character of their sabotage. They were at war.

This electrical power plant is located about ten miles from the Belacevac coalmines, which supply the plant with coal. These acts of sabotage took place right on the premises of the plant.

Jared Israel: But that would damage power to the local Albanians.

Tika Jankovic: That was the level of their destructiveness. They wanted to hurt the economy.

Petar Makara: Throughout these times 70% of the Kosovo provincial government's budget came from outside Kosovo. 70%! And this was a state-dominated economy, so do you realize what this meant? It meant that Kosovo was essentially a free ride - the opposite of a colony. [It was] sucking vast resources from outside, especially the rest of Serbia. But this was not enough; the secessionists wanted to destroy Serbia. They had ruled Kosovo in World War II and they wanted to rule it again. So their strategy was rule or ruin. [2]

Jared Israel: How did the authorities deal with the sabotage?

Tika Jankovic: They did nothing. For example in the three cases I mentioned there was no investigation, no arrest, so of course no conviction.

Jared Israel: Did these secessionists include all the Albanians?

Petar Makara: No. There was a large hard core, and then there were different degrees of sympathy among many Albanians. Others were loyal to the state. But this movement was strong and determined and it had support from elements of the power structure and increasingly coming from the outside, from the US, for its own reasons. And it got worse in the second half of the 1980s when the Americans began to support secession openly. This had a big effect. It gave the secessionists 100 times more prestige.

Jared Israel: And this was done before 1989? Before Milosevic supposedly suppressed the Albanians?

Petar Makara: Before and after. The situation was understood in US military-intelligence circles quite early. The US Army puts out books on various countries every year, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses in each society. Looking for "cleavages." They pointed to Kosovo Albanians as one of the biggest secessionist-minded populations in the world - and this was back in 1982. And secession was openly encouraged by the US Senate as far back as 1987.

Jared Israel: I'll post some quotes from that army book at the end of this interview. [3]

Tika Jankovic: They wanted to damage everything Serbian so they did not care what harm it did, even if Albanians suffered too. I guess they figured the Albanians would get mad at the Serbian government, not at them. Or maybe they didn't care about ordinary people. This sabotage was a big attack on the economy of the state. And this wasn't starting in 1989. The terrorist movement has been active since 1941 without stop.

Jared Israel: ...[And] nothing was done?

Tika Jankovic: It was tolerated.

Jared Israel: Unbelievable. What about the power company managers?

Tika Jankovic: They did nothing. These acts were treated as non-events. And there was more than just sabotage. A definite anti-Serbian component existed in Yugoslavia. There were many unfair practices. For example, there was a special tax. It was not publicly mentioned but I found out about it later from former government people.

All companies in Serbia were required to take 10% of their wage fund and put it in a Kosovo Development fund and this was in addition to very generous funding from the state. So in effect, every Serbian worker was subsidizing Kosovo, without being told - 10% of their money.

Worse, much of this money ended up in private hands in Kosovo. There is evidence that some went to purchase property sold at bargain prices by Serbs who were forced to leave Kosovo due to terrorist harassment. The Serbs sold cheap; the property was then resold to Albanians at high prices. The authorities in Kosovo did nothing to stop this.

Jared Israel: It sounds like a nightmare.

Tika Jankovic: It was racism. And nobody was supposed to talk about it because, you see, there couldn't be racism in Yugoslavia.

Jared Israel: In the U.S. racism is based on color.

Tika Jankovic: Not in the Balkans. With the Roma people ["Gypsies"] they are darker skinned, and the racists hate them, but the Serbs have white backsides, just like Albanians and Croatians, two groups which have the worst prejudice.

Let me tell you some examples. Take the University of Pristina in Kosovo. This was mainly Albanian. It enjoyed privileges not given to Belgrade University. For instance the Electrical Engineering Department in Pristina had up-to-date lab equipment, but in Belgrade the equipment came from World War II reparations. Ancient stuff. I used to work with Hungarian generators built in 1939. I saw this equipment when I was a student in Belgrade University in the early 1950s and later I taught there in the 1970s and there it was still, the same equipment.

Petar Makara: I used those same Hungarian generators!

Jared Israel: It sounds like discrimination in the US. You have a white school district with new books and lab equipment; the black school district has old books or half the books have fallen apart.

Tika Jankovic: We saw this in Dr. Martin Luther King's speeches. We followed the Civil Rights movement and we saw the mirror of our position. The Albanian secessionists were like those American whites who hated Black people.

The goal was political: the overall Yugoslav government included an anti-Serb bias and the Albanians were seen as the most reliably anti-Serbian force; so therefore the government simply transferred wealth from Serbia proper into Kosovo province to strengthen the hand of this anti-Serbian power.

Jared Israel: You know, the weird thing is, I was just talking to a woman from Vojvodina, in the north, the other end of Serbia, and she said everyone got along perfectly well, there was no tension. There were Hungarians, Roma people, Serbs, Croatians; they all hung out together.

Petar Makara: They still do. Yugoslavia had the most extremely tolerant nationality policy in the world. But the place where all the nationalities mainly existed in Yugoslavia was the Serb Republic. Slovenia and Croatia, except the Krajina section, were mainly one ethnic group. But Serbia was a tower of Babel. My wife is an American linguist and she was amazed when she visited my hometown [in Serbia - J.I.] and saw the building signs in seven, eight languages. And these were not worldwide languages, English or French, these were small local languages. Hungarians, for instance, have schools and all aspects of the legal system available in Hungarian; schools right through to the doctoral level. Where else is that true? And all financed 100% by the state.

Serbs in inner Serbia could go along and not necessarily experience racism. But in areas like Kosovo or the Krajina, in the Croatian Republic, it was a different matter.

Jared Israel: Brotherhood plus anti-Serb racism? It sounds schizophrenic.

Petar Makara: It was. There were many good things about Yugoslavia, but also there was this injustice and a dark past. In World War II horrible racist crimes were committed there. The US and the Vatican helped to sneak many of the culprits out of Yugoslavia to South America or the US or Canada. In Yugoslavia itself, these crimes were not discussed.

Tika Jankovic: A big part of the populations of Kosovo, Croatia, what is now Bosnia, took part in genocide against Serbs, Roma and Jews during World War II. Over a million people were slaughtered.

Petar Makara: In the Independent State of Croatia, whole villages of Serbs were wiped out and the bodies pushed into mountain crevasses. One of President Tito's first acts after the war was to order that these crevasses be sealed in concrete. The people could not even mourn their dead. And this was done under the formula of brotherhood and unity - in other words this brotherhood and unity between Croats and Serbs was so sacred that they were ordering Serbs not to talk about what had been done to them. Obviously in Serbian families they could among themselves say what they went through but for many decades this was not to be a common conversation between common people. It wasn't a complete secret because there were some books about it but they didn't go too much into the numbers of people killed.

Tika Jankovic: The Yugoslav state included many former fascists. A good example is [late Croatian President Franjo] Tudjman. Tudjman was a Nazi who transformed himself into a Communist General. He had this miraculous transformation along with many like-minded Croatians when he realized that the Germans would lose World War II. They loved Germany but they loved being on the victorious side more. So, suddenly, these fascists became revolutionary socialists. Lovers of brotherhood, though they had slit their brothers' throats a month before. This trick was unfortunately successful in too many cases.

Serbs forgive and forget easily. It is a flaw in our character. We were raised wrong for this world.

And there was also bias among many who had not been fascists. Tito himself had a formula: a weak Serbia means a strong Yugoslavia.

Petar Makara: And you see we wanted this brotherhood and unity - we passionately wanted it. I believed in it myself.

Jared Israel: It's not such a bad thing to believe in.

Petar Makara: Yes, but not if you allow yourself to be abused. We lied to ourselves that this sacrifice of silence was needed for the greater good. The lesson here is: you cannot have social equality if you sweep injustice and racism under the rug. It must be exposed, discussed, resolved.

Tika Jankovic: Almost a million died in the Jasenovac concentration camp alone. But after the war this racist murder was never discussed. Nothing was done. Nobody rustled the feathers so dogs could sleep.

So when the Albanians committed all this terror during the 1970s the Serbs were hushed up. There was no effort to bring the terrorists to justice. They were protected by certain state authorities.

The Serbs driven from Kosovo were given strict orders by police in Serbia not to tell anyone why they had left. And it was in this sense, of the Serbs trying to bend over backwards to make brotherhood and unity work, that Serbs cooperated in silence. This was told to me by friends who admitted finally why they left Kosovo. They had been victims - but they were frightened and at the same time ashamed, and they went along with the police orders.

Jared Israel: Victims are often frightened and ashamed. They blame themselves.

Tika Jankovic: So you must understand, when Milosevic came to the famous meeting near Pristina in 1987 it was a revelation. Do you know about this?

Jared Israel: The meeting where the Serbs were supposed to come and air their grievances?

Tika Jankovic: Yes, the Serbs had been protesting against Albanian terror and finally the party leaders in Belgrade called this hearing in Kosovo. 1987. Over 10,000, maybe 15,000 showed up. This was not expected. The room was too small. Most of the people were kept out. The police were abusive. The people protested. The police attacked with much violence. So Milosevic came outside and - well he didn't really make a speech, the way people say. He told the police to stop. He said, "Nobody should beat you."

Jared Israel: Seems reasonable.

Tika Jankovic: It stunned the nation. You see, Serbian officials were not supposed to complain about mistreatment of Serbs. They were supposed to be good boys and keep people in line and hush the angry ones. And this man said, "Nobody should beat you." He was challenging the system.

Jared Israel: On that Internet discussion list I mentioned earlier [before the interview - J.I.], some people were supporting a group of Albanian miners. They claimed they were locked out of the Trepca Mining complex in northern Kosovo for racial reasons by the Serbian government in 1990. Do you have first hand information on this?

Tika Jankovic: Not first hand but reliable second. I will try to get you more details, but I know the situation. I was in the States then, but I visited Yugoslavia twice a year. During my visits, I talked with engineers. They told me of the continuing sabotage by Albanians of electrical power plants in Kosovo. I talked with engineers who had been involved in correcting damage caused by the flooding of shafts in the Trepca mines and other sabotage. This was an ongoing process before '89.

Jared Israel: This gets back to the charge that Milosevich crushed the Albanians in '89.

Tika Jankovic: That's simply a big lie. Goebells technique. Almost funny. In 1989 the change was to alter the rules so all Serbian citizens had the same constitutional rights. Before this the Kosovo Provincial Assembly could veto decisions by the Serb Republic's Parliament. Do you see what this meant?

Whatever the Serbian Republic decided, the Kosovo Province of Serbia could veto the measure. The [Serbian] Parliament did not have the same right over decisions made in Kosovo. Do you see how crazy this was? And we tolerated it! We let the tail wag the dog. Like sleep walkers.

Petar Makara: This would be like Chicago being able to veto any measure passed by the Illinois State Senate. It made Kosovo the dictator over Serbia.

Tika Jankovic: It came from a constitutional change instituted in '74. It was masterminded by Eduard Kardelj, a Slovenian close to President Tito. This was of course an effort to put the anti-Serb forces within Serbia in a position to dominate the Republic. This is what got changed in 1989. The extremely generous autonomous institutions were not touched. Later the secessionists, under Rugova, boycotted these institutions - schools and hospitals and so on - but the Serbian government kept them going, for those who wanted to use them.

The political change was met with fury by secessionist-minded Albanians. They exacerbated their sabotage as a protest against the loss of veto power. The Western media and politicians like [Senators] D'Amato and Dole made this a pivotal point in attacking Serbia, presenting it as a loss of autonomy, which was a purposeful misinterpretation.

Jared Israel: A lie?

Petar Makara: A big lie.

They tolerated being part of Serbia only as long as they could mistreat the Serbs and Roma and get huge financial rewards from Serbia and hold political power over the state. Where else did a minority exercise power and privileges like this? Only in places like South Africa, really.

Tika Jankovic: The secessionists had made sure those who worked in the Trepca Mines were their supporters. And these people continuously conducted sabotage for many years to undermine Serbia. In 1989 these attacks increased. They did it in two ways. They damaged equipment and facilities and they refused to work. This was a conscious effort to punish Yugoslavia, which derived much profit from the mines.

They went on strike repeatedly in this period so finally they were replaced to get the mines working - a life or death matter for the Yugoslav economy, which was under draconian pressure from the International Monetary Fund at the time. But when the government did send in loyal citizens to work in the mines, the international press cried "racism". It was presented as oppression of poor Albanian working class.

Jared Israel: Apparently these highly oppressed workers have been paraded around for the past ten years to influence well-meaning people, saying all they wanted was Workers Control and Kosovo Autonomy.

Tika Jankovic: All they wanted was to bring Serbia to its knees. There are strikes and then there are strikes. These were not workers of sincere character. These were pawns of a movement for Greater Albania. And they were abetted from outside - from the US and Germany.


 Footnotes & Further Reading

A collection of Emperor's Clothes articles on the breakup of Yugoslavia is posted at

[1] For newspaper accounts of Kosovo in the 1980s go to http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/benworks/1980news.html

[2] During World War II Kosovo was part of a fascist state run by the forebears of today's secessionists.  See "The roots of Kosovo fascism," at

[3] The Army book in question is part of the "Area handbook series." It's called "Yugoslavia, a country of study."

The Army country studies are thorough. This one from 1982 has a 31 page bibliography. In the forward, Dr. William Evans-Smith, Director, Foreign Area Studies, The American University, Washington, DC, writes:

"The study focuses on historical antecedents and on the cultural, political and socioeconomic characteristics that contribute to cohesion and cleavage within the society. "

If one were of cynical bent one might say the US Army needs to understand socio-political divisions in countries which may be the targets of future operations

But back to the subject. Keep in mind that this was published in 1982, long before the supposed start of the Albanian 'protest' movement. Here is one quote about Kosovo Albanians:

[Excerpt from Army country study starts here]

"Yugoslavia's largest national minority was its Albanian community, in 1981 numbering some 1.6 million, nearly 7 percent of the population. Most Albanians were concentrated in Kosovo where they constituted roughly 80 (eighty) percent of the population; another quarter million resided in neighboring Macedonia and Montenegro. All told, an estimated one-third to one-half of all Albanians lived in Yugoslavia - making them one of the largest potentially irredentist communities in the world...

"Some demonstrators [in the 1981 Albanian riots] suggested that the proposed Kosovo republic ought to include Albanians in Macedonia and Montenegro too. Some extremists even voiced secessionist sentiments calling for a 'Greater Albania.'"

[Excerpt from Army country study ends here]

Note that in 1982 the Army recognized, at least for its own readers, if not for the general public, that the demand for Greater Albania was in itself extremist. This was precisely what the US-backed KLA is openly pursuing today. And it is what Ibrahim Rugova (the supposedly moderate Albanian leader) has advocated since 1990.

The book was published by Headquarters, Department of the Army (DA Pam 550-99), Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC. It is available in libraries.

-- Jared Israel
Emperor's Clothes


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