TODAY there is undoubted evidence that the Yugoslav party leadership was ready for a plan for Kosovo and Metohija to gain autonomy, but in Albania.
And why was that plan not implemented? In the course of that border combinatorics, the ministers of foreign affairs of the great powers, the allies, announced their agreed position: the borders of Yugoslavia, which were established before the outbreak of war, are recognized.
In that situation, who could or could agree to the separation of KiM? Not even a right hand like the one in Comrade Tito could sign such a document. Over time, there was a border change, but not between Yugoslavia and Albania, but between federal Serbia and the autonomous region of Kosovo and Metohija. Here’s how:
During the preparation of the new constitution (1963), a territorial change was made throughout the country. New municipalities and counties were formed. Then the comrades from Pristina sent a request to Serbia to give them the municipality of Lesak, which was part of it. The motive was: there is a plant of the “Trepče” combine, and all Serbs work there. As the plant belongs to one production unit and in order to improve the national structure in the combine, where Albanians dominated, this merger had its full meaning. The request of the comrades was accepted in December 1959.
DURING those events, Miloš Minić, the Prime Minister of the Serbian government, also spoke. He came out with the idea that “the conditions are ripe” for abolishing both the province of Vojvodina and the autonomous region of Kosovo and Metohija in Serbia. They, he warned, became an obstacle for the further planned development of Serbia, and as the regions got larger territories and responsibilities, the provinces, Minic believed, became an obstacle on that path.
It was a bombshell that reverberated in Novi Sad and Priština, but also beyond.
Macedonian Vidoje Smilevski got into a polemic with Minic, sharply criticizing him. It quickly became known that he was encouraged to do so by his friend Kardelj. Comrade Tito was also surprised and worried, wondering how such an idea could be conceived in Minic, from whom it was least expected.
Minic did not suffer the consequences of this political outburst. That is why he had a conversation with Broz, who told him that “the time has not yet come” for the provinces to be abolished!
Minic was not replaced and removed from the scene. On the contrary.
Soon, however, the “moment” came for the Republic of Kosovo to advance from an area to a province, and then, together with Vojvodina, to improve and become equal to the republics in terms of competences and rights. Their only right “to secede” was denied.
ORGANIZER AND GOVORNIK
THE DOMINANT personality in Sandžak was Rifat Burdžević (1913-1942), a native of Bijelo Polje. Rifat lost his father in the second year of his life, but at the age of twelve, as a gifted student, he was sent to the Great Madrasa “King Aleksandar I” in Skopje. And there he was first among the best, which opened his way to the Faculty of Law in Belgrade. He immediately approached the student organizations. He was taken over by the communists, with the recommendation that he was a good organizer and speaker and that Karl Marx was his idol.
SANDJAK is a Turkish word and originally meant – flag. Over time, the flag spread to the area, which the sultans gave to their most prominent military leaders to administer.
After the First Balkan War (1912) and the liberation of Serbia from Turkish slavery, the word sandžak was suppressed in the territorial organization of Serbia and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. No sandjak was mentioned.
An empire was extinguished, the sultans disappeared. Sandžak was resurrected by the illegal KPJ in its project of creating a federation instead of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. On the eve of the Second World War, in Zagreb in 1940, party committees for – Slovenia, Croatia, BiH, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Vojvodina and Dalmatia were announced. The Committee for Montenegro was a small federation, under whose umbrella there were regional committees – for KiM, Boka and Sandžak. Soon that organization was changed, the committee for Kosovo and Metohija was taken away from Montenegro and was directly linked to the Central Committee of the KPJ. Boka and Sandžak remained Montenegrin.
During the war years, many things were overturned. The strengthened communist-partisan movement carried out a new organization, councils were formed for: Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro and Boka, Sandžak…
AT THE SECOND session of AVNOJ (November 29, 1943 in Jajce), where the foundations of the future federation were laid, the Sandžak delegation was also invited. True, his councilors failed to break through, but that did not affect his status. Those invited from Macedonia, Serbia and Vojvodina did not arrive either. Among the elected councilors from Sandžak were all seven of them of communist-Serbian nationality.
On April 23, 1941, the Germans declared Sandžak Independent
Sandžak was not left to anyone, not even by the Germans, who occupied and hammered border stakes across Yugoslavia. Four days after the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia, NDH (April 19, 1941), the Germans also proclaimed the Independent Sandžak. They entrusted the management of this war creation mainly to the Muslims of Novi Pazar, and Aćif-effendi was appointed as the chief. He also acquired his own military force – the Muslim militia. The militia guarded and protected Aćif and the majority of Muslims, and persecuted Serbs and their own who supported partisan brotherhood and unity, as well as the Chetniks.
A quick reaction followed. A second Sandžak was formed, Serbian-Montenegrin, with Prijepolje as its throne. Shots rang out immediately.
FIRST, they liberated Mojkovac, and the next day, Bijelo Polje… No one was afraid of them, neither the Italians, nor the Germans. Their leader and organizer was Rifat Burdžević, party secretary for Sandžak in the broadest limits. The Military Committee was also elected at the public assembly, and Mufti Lemezović joined it. The Partisans became a source of fear and trembling on their home ground, but they did not have the weapons and logistical support to threaten their rivals, the militia in Novi Pazar and Sjenica. Fearlessness adorned those fighters; heroes were proclaimed from their ranks: LJubiša Miodragović and his wife Đina (Vrbica), Milisav Stanković and Velimir Jokić.
In the summer of 1942, the Sandžak brigade, although it was considered elite, had to retreat to Bosnia. Supreme Commander Tito liked this unit a lot, and he included it in his strike group at the Supreme Staff, in the same unit as the First and Second Proletarian and Fifth Montenegrin, which he personally commanded.
Rifat and his followers instilled fear in many, but it was short-lived. He was killed in one of the operations. Those who befriended and fought with him claimed that he outlived his fate, so that the people of his region would breathe more rationally and more complexly.
WHAT HAPPENED in the Novopazar sandjak under Effendi Acif? Acif, with his people, was exposed to daily hardships, and he was not satisfied with the size of the territory he controlled. He immediately requested, with the Germans, an even more secure support. He sought it out from Ante Pavelić, that is, the NDH, with which he bordered. Efendija wrote and sent a delegation to Zagreb, which offered the unification of Sandžak and Croatia. Time has overtaken Aćif, and revenge has arrived.
The character and work of Acif-Effendi have not yet been forgotten. The fans carry slogans with his name, and they would like the Novi Pazar stadium to bear his name as well. Others would like him to be rehabilitated first, and then to be properly celebrated as the first state-maker.
TOMORROW: SANDJAK DIVIDED BY SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
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