Matthew Stevenson: “Across the Balkans: Diplomatic Fault Lines in the Sandžak of Novi Pazar”

My traveling luck ran out in Kraljevo, a small city in central Serbia. There I had hoped to catch the train south to Raška, not far from Novi Pazar (the administrative center of the Sandžak). But I was too late for the morning train and too early for the evening train.

As much as I wanted to follow the route of the Novibazar Railway, in the end I decided to catch a bus heading from Užice to the coast that would drop me in Novi Pazar. That still meant waiting several hours in Kraljevo, the center of which was about a kilometer from the station.

At least I would get a good luck at the fateful lands in the Sandžak, which in the last two hundred years has been occupied or overrun by the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Yugoslavia, Nazi Germany, Italy, Albania, and Serbia, while Austria, Montenegro, and Bulgaria have claimed parts or all of it. It’s the equivalent of the Polish Corridor in the Balkans.

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Robert Rigney “Among Serbia’s Muslims: In the Sandžak”

The Sandžak is an ethnically-mixed Muslim-Slav (Bosniak) majority region of Serbia sandwiched between Montenegro, Kosovo and Bosnia. Its economy is underdeveloped and far poorer than many other regions in Serbia, partly because it was an Ottoman backwater until 1912, partly due to deliberate neglect by Serbian authorities between the world wars and under Milošević. Some people refer to the Sandžak somewhat ominously as the “Bermuda Triangle of the Balkans”. People, they say, have been known to disappear here without a trace.

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ĆAMIL SIJARIĆ “ĆEHOTINA I DRINA I MEĐU NJIMA FOČA”

Ćehotina govorila Drini: pričekaj me sjutradan do podne, dok ja dođem mutna i krvava… i tako dalje; mutna jeste dolazila, a ne zna se da je nekad došla i krvava. Dolazi Drini sa desne strane, manja je i tanja od nje i boje je drukčije – nije zelene, kao što je zelena Drina.

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ĆAMIL SIJARIĆ “TO JE ZEMLJA HERCEGOVINA”

Hercegovina, zemlja Humska, lomna, krševita – čime vas to mami? I slobodno bi se moglo reći: ko je vidio cio svijet, a nije vidio Hercegovinu, taj nije vidio ovaj čudesni dio svijeta. Nije čudesnost u njenom suncu, kojeg je ovdje toliko da se svijet potopi. Nije ta čudesnost ni u zemlji, koja je ovdje crvena tako kao da je krvlju prelivena. Nije ta čudesnost u bjelini kamena, koji je ovdje bijel kao cvijet. Ni u rodnoj grani njegove voćke, koja je rodnija nego igdje. Ni u mjesečini njenih noći, koje su svjetlije nego igdje. Ni u ovome… ni u onome… nego u tome što te mami da dođeš! Da na njen kamen nogom staneš. Da visinama, da dubinama, da daljinama oko predaš. Da vidike sagledaš, da im dušu pokloniš – da izmjeriš gore nebo, dolje kamen, tamo neko polje… Polja su ovdje kao slike. A slike su utisnute u ram, a ram je bijel – jer je od kamena. A kamen je ovdje gotovo svuda – pod nogom, jer pod rukom je, pod glavom je, po njemu se hodi, o njemu se zbori. Kad se nekud pogleda, pogled padne na kamen. Kad nebom zagrmi, kamen odgovori.

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