Document Type

Article

Abstract

This brief sketch of the Kosovo myth and its legacy allows one to see how the legend has played such a central role in the popular imagination of the Balkans. In its broader implications, the myth has figured in the debate concerning the origins of national identity. Observing that "the Kosovo battle became an ineradicable part of Serbian history immediately after 1389” and "inspired the greatest cycle of Serbian epic poetry, which was full of hope for the final victory and deliverance,” Aleksa Djilas has thereby argued that "the nineteenth century only revolutionized national identities already formed by language, culture, religion, and, above all, history”. Taken at face value, such insights may seem relatively benign, but they have only served to bolster the widespread perception of the Balkans as a region prisoner to its history, where current conflicts can be explained only by reference to intractable and ancient hatreds whose bloodlust runs deeper than the dictates of reason or self-interest. In recent years, of course, such perceptions have played the greatest role in foreign policy debates, in which the specter of primordial animosities repeatedly raised its head to neutralize incipient outrage at atrocities committed in Bosnia and elsewhere in the region. For those who sought to blame the bloodshed on the historical culture of the Balkan peoples itself, the memory of Kosovo served as proof that the "600-year-long” Balkan conflict was unpreventable, unresolvable, and unworthy of attention.