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Kosovo's Post-Independence Inter-Clan Conflict
Unformatted Document Text:  2 On April 15, 2005, Enver Haradinaj and Artan Tolaj were shot at while driving near the village of Rausic, south of Peja. Enver Haradinaj, the younger brother of former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, died on the way to the hospital. Artan Tolaj survived to tell the story. While the motives and the identity of the killers remain unknown, the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) suspects that both men fell victim to the blood feud between the Musaj and the Haradinaj families. 1 Why are such blood feuds taking place in Kosovo? How and why are blood feuds likely to influence the Kosovo political arena after independence? In this essay, I explore the impact of the tradition of gjakmarrja (“blood feuds”) on the political and social life in Kosovo after independence. I argue that clan-based divisions in Kosovo are likely to serve as a basis for political mobilization of elites competing for wealth, power and status. I will first provide a short description of the Kanun i Leke Dukagjinit (“Code of Dukadjini”) which established the practice of blood feuds. Second, I will provide a theoretical analysis of the inter-clan relations. Finally, I will advance several hypotheses about the possible implications of the clan-based divisions on independent Kosovo. I. Blood Feuds and the Code of Dukagjini What is a blood feud? Anthropological studies have detailed the practice of blood feuds among the Northern Albania’s Ghegs, which is likely to have spread to neighboring Kosovo and Macedonia in the early 20 th century. 2 The work of British anthropologist Edith Durham (1863-1944) provides a particularly rich narrative on the traditions of the Ghegs and their adherence to the Code of Leke Dukagjini. 3 The Code is a customary law observed by the Ghegs as early as the 15 th century but formally recorded by Franciscan Father Shtjefėn Gjegjovi (1874-1929) in the mid-1920s. According to the Code, the principle of “an eye for an eye, a life for a life” defines blood feuds. As the main value of traditional Albanian society is honor, any offense upon one’s family, kinsmen or ancestors requires a murder as the only satisfactory revenge. At times, revenge killings of members of two feuding clans would spread over decades. Frequently, justifications based on honor mask the real reason for the blood feud, i.e. the struggle for property rights. Durham describes blood feuds as the “central fact in the life of the people—not merely vengeance, but an offering to the soul of a dead man.” 4 The Code has specific rules about carrying out blood feuds, and about who can engage and fall victim to blood 1 International Crisis Group, “Kosovo after Haradinaj,” Europe Report No.163, 26 May 2005. Available at http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3474 (All websites in this paper were last checked on January 14, 2008). 2 No studies are yet available on the approximate time of the transfer and adoption of the Code of Leke Dukadjini by Kosovo and Macedonian Albanians. Because of common language, culture and frequent interaction, it is plausible that the Code of Leke Dukadjini was gradually adopted in Kosovo and Macedonia in the early 20 th century when Shtjefėn Gjegjovi recorded and published the Code, or even much earlier. 3 Edith M. Durham, Some Tribal Origins, Laws and Customs of the Balkans, London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1928. 4 Edith M. Durham, Some Tribal Origins, Laws and Customs of the Balkans, at p. 162.

Authors: Kaltcheva, Tzvetomira.
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2
On April 15, 2005, Enver Haradinaj and Artan Tolaj were shot at while driving
near the village of Rausic, south of Peja. Enver Haradinaj, the younger brother of former
Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, died on the way to the hospital. Artan Tolaj
survived to tell the story. While the motives and the identity of the killers remain
unknown, the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) suspects that both men fell victim to the
blood feud between the Musaj and the Haradinaj families.
1
Why are such blood feuds
taking place in Kosovo? How and why are blood feuds likely to influence the Kosovo
political arena after independence?
In this essay, I explore the impact of the tradition of gjakmarrja (“blood feuds”)
on the political and social life in Kosovo after independence. I argue that clan-based
divisions in Kosovo are likely to serve as a basis for political mobilization of elites
competing for wealth, power and status. I will first provide a short description of the
Kanun i Leke Dukagjinit (“Code of Dukadjini”) which established the practice of blood
feuds. Second, I will provide a theoretical analysis of the inter-clan relations. Finally, I
will advance several hypotheses about the possible implications of the clan-based
divisions on independent Kosovo.
I. Blood Feuds and the Code of Dukagjini
What is a blood feud? Anthropological studies have detailed the practice of blood
feuds among the Northern Albania’s Ghegs, which is likely to have spread to neighboring
Kosovo and Macedonia in the early 20
th
century.
2
The work of British anthropologist
Edith Durham (1863-1944) provides a particularly rich narrative on the traditions of the
Ghegs and their adherence to the Code of Leke Dukagjini.
3
The Code is a customary law
observed by the Ghegs as early as the 15
th
century but formally recorded by
Franciscan
Father Shtjefėn Gjegjovi (1874-1929) in the mid-1920s.
According to the Code, the principle of “an eye for an eye, a life for a life”
defines blood feuds. As the main value of traditional Albanian society is honor, any
offense upon one’s family, kinsmen or ancestors requires a murder as the only
satisfactory revenge. At times, revenge killings of members of two feuding clans would
spread over decades. Frequently, justifications based on honor mask the real reason for
the blood feud, i.e. the struggle for property rights.
Durham describes blood feuds as the “central fact in the life of the people—not
merely vengeance, but an offering to the soul of a dead man.”
4
The Code has specific
rules about carrying out blood feuds, and about who can engage and fall victim to blood
1
International Crisis Group, “Kosovo after Haradinaj,” Europe Report No.163, 26 May
2005. Available at
http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3474
(All websites in
this paper were last checked on January 14, 2008).
2
No studies are yet available on the approximate time of the transfer and adoption of the
Code of Leke Dukadjini by Kosovo and Macedonian Albanians. Because of common
language, culture and frequent interaction, it is plausible that the Code of Leke Dukadjini
was gradually adopted in Kosovo and Macedonia in the early 20
th
century when Shtjefėn
Gjegjovi recorded and published the Code, or even much earlier.
3
Edith M. Durham, Some Tribal Origins, Laws and Customs of the Balkans, London:
George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1928.
4
Edith M. Durham, Some Tribal Origins, Laws and Customs of the Balkans, at p. 162.


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