Pristina – Prizren, Kosovo is a multiethnic, multilingual city, with its long history and several residents from distinct cultural and linguistic backgrounds. One of the minority ethnic groups in this country is the Kosovo Serbs, formally called “Serbs of Kosovo and Metohija” or “Serbs of Kosmet” (Kosmetski Srbi). This may come as a surprise, but the Kosovo Serbs have a long cultural history dating back to the time of the Serbian empire.
Since the 11th century, a large number of Kosovo Serbs have lived in the Prizren region. Kosovo was part of the Serbian Kingdom from 1200 to 1455. Within that period, the residents were able to live and practice their own cultural customs and traditions. Although Kosovo has been associated with conflicts and violence in recent years, it’s worth understanding their ethnic communities.
History and Language
The conflicts in Kosovo’s history and its people may bring about painful memories. However, they were significant events in forming the Kosovo Serbs’ various cultural beliefs, practices, and national identity. It also helped in the language usage of the people. From religious traditions to language use, different issues led to the battles within the region that people had to go through in the past decades.
Those interested in history may be familiar with the different rulers and Serbian traditions from the medieval period up to the present. There may still be a lot to be done to have the Kosovo Serbs settled in their communities. Nonetheless, the continuous effort to have this minority group recognized in Kosovo is a step toward more opportunities to share and experience numerous ethnic cultures across the country.
In Kosovo’s streets, it is common to hear many people speaking various languages: Albanian, Serbian, Turkish, Romanian, and Bosnian. Until recently, this experience may have been difficult to imagine for those living in Kosovo.
This is such a wonderful experience for anyone who may be surprised to see people speaking two different languages in a conversation and yet understand each other. It is one of the major cultural imprints in the Kosovo Serbs’ memories despite all of the challenges of the past decades.
The Kosovo Serbs speak various dialects, including Timok–Prizren, Kosovo–Resava, and Zeta–South Raška. The language usage is also evident in the people’s artistic practices, such as their retelling of heroic epics and ballads. The people share their community’s history and myths with others. These artistic retellings can also be accompanied by traditional instruments like the gusle (a single-stringed instrument).
Moreover, there are also Kosovo Serb writers to share their tales with the public. They also share a bit of their culture with the world through their works. In 2006, the Albanian and Serbian languages were given equal status as official languages in Kosovo. It is an effort to provide the communities access to government services. In addition, preserving the Kosovo Serbs’ mother tongue ensures the preservation and continuity of the Kosovo Serbs’ culture, tradition, and beliefs.
Image from Halil Ibrahim Cetinkaya, https://unsplash.com/@hicetinkaya
*This article was originally published on Mar 23, 2021