Statue angers Albanians

October 20, 1995

The unveiling of a statue to 19th-century Serbian scholar Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic at the University of Pristina in Kosovo has angered ethnic Albanians, who make up more than 90 per cent of the population there.

Albanians claim the statue is part of a Serbian campaign to eliminate the ethnic and historic identity of Kosovo and replace it with a Serbian "face".

Although the university was originally founded to provide Albanophone higher education for Kosovo, since 1991 it has been Serbian-staffed and taught.

Albanian teaching has continued but in "alternative" facilities - more than 100 private homes. Nevertheless, this unofficial university now boasts 15,000 undergraduates, 6,000 of them freshmen.

Its degrees are recognised abroad and this summer it produced its first cohort of graduates to receive their entire higher education outside the state system.

Ejup Statovci, who as rector of the "Albanian University" has been prosecuted several times over the past four years for challenging the Serbian "occupation" of the campus, last week reiterated that the Albanians have not relinquished their right to the university buildings and campus.

The unveiling of the statue coincided with the opening of the academic year of the "Albanian University".

To make room for Vuk Karadzic, the Serbs removed the memorial to the victims of the Nazi terror in Pristina during the second world war.

The memorial included a special plaque honouring 114 Albanian intellectuals who perished.

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