Isniq and Istog, Kosova

Manchester United is a global brand and, in addition, the least liked team in the English Premier League, the side that everyone enjoys seeing beaten or embarrassed.  

Adnan Januzaj was purchased by Man Utd from the Belgian champions RSC Anderlecht in 2011, aged 16. Although born in Brussels, it is immediately clear from his name that his family is not of traditional Belgian heritage. The surname is Albanian. The forename Adnan, which means “settler” in Arabic, is common in Muslim parts of the Balkans, in Turkey and across the Middle-East. Januzaj’s father Abedin migrated to Belgium from Istog, Kosova in 1992, apparently to avoid the draft into the Yugoslav People’s Army as the state fell apart.  

Istog (or Istok in the Serbian language) is a twin village, in a peculiarly Kosovar Albanian sense. Its twin is Isniq (Istinić in Serbian). In fact, it would be more true to say that, rather than siblings, Isniq is the parent settlement which gave birth to Istog.   

The founding myth is as follows. At a date probably during the latter half of the C17th, three Catholic Albanian brothers from the Shala clan in Albania left their native highlands in Malësi e Madhe, where land was in short supply. They settled in the Rrafshi i Dukagjinit plains (known as Metohija in Serbian) near a modest settlement then known as Istinići, populated by a handful of households of the Orthodox confession (probably ethnic Albanian rather than Serb) of the Bojkaj clan. In due course, both the Orthodox Bojkaj, and the descendants of the incoming Catholic brothers, converted to Islam, and the settlement, being populated by Albanian speakers, generally became known as Isniq.  

During the mid-C19th, Isniq had expanded to the extent that all land was accounted for, and the village’s overflow population settled at Istog, where they were effectively serfs (çifçi) rather than independent peasant agriculturalists or pastoralists. Henceforth, many families had two homes, one in Isniq and one in Istog, under the same head of household (at least until post-WW1 reforms in Yugoslavia).  

To explain this, one must understand the traditional clan structure in this part of Kosova. The word for a clan is fis. Each fis is subdivided into lineages, or lines of descent (patrilineal, as only male lines are considered). There are two local words for these in Albanian, both of which have a geographical meaning coinciding with the genealogical meaning – mëhallë (derived from the Turkish mahalle) and lagje. These translate to lineage but also to neighbourhood or quarter – this is because residence followed kinship lines, and the entire lineage would live in the same part of the village. In turn, each mëhallë or lagje was subdivided into barks, which were the main kinship group for most practical and social purposes. Each bark was also subdivided, into shpies. A shpie was a household (equivalent to a Slavic zadruga) – a usually walled compound in which typically might live an old man, his sons and the sons’ children, or alternatively (following the death of the elder, if the shpie does not divide, the sons as brothers and their children). Finally, within each shpie are the hises. A hise is the equivalent of a nuclear family – i.e. a man, his wife and their children.  

In the case of Isniq and Istog, then, it is the shpie which might have two physical households, one in each village, under the headship of the same head of household.   

As for the Januzaj family or bark, in Isniq this comprised three shpies in 1900, six in 1932 and 13 in 1975. They were relatively well-off and, indeed, it seems that the leader of the Januzaj was a spahi, a hereditary landowner favoured under the Ottomans, responsible for collecting the tithe on behalf of the local bey. In Istog, there is a mëhallë or quarter named Januzaj in which the family lives. It is in this place that the footballer Adnan Januzaj’s father was born.  

The Google Map shows the two Kosovar towns.

This article first appeared on the bluebirdresearch website. Since the original article was written, Adnan has been sold by Man U to the Spanish La Liga club Real Sociedad.

Catholic communities in Kosova

The Google Map shows the known Roman Catholic churches in Kosova. Note that in some cases, where the exact location of the church building could not be established on the map, the pin marking the church is simply placed in the centre of the village or town.

Some of the churches are of recent construction (such as the cathedral dedicated to Mother Teresa in the capital, Prishtina) and it is likely that the number of places of worship will continue to increase with religious freedom in Kosova and ongoing Catholic pastoral outreach.

It will be seen that the three main clusters of Catholic settlement are around Gjakova, between Peja and Klina, and in the SE around Stublla.

According to the 2011 census, 38,438 individuals identified themselves as Catholic, approximately 2% of the total population.

 

Catholic communities in Karadag, Kosovo

This Google Map shows a Catholic enclave in an otherwise Muslim area of south-eastern Kosovo known as Skopska Crna Gora in Serbo-Croat, as Mali i Zi i Shkupit in Albanian, and as Karadağ in Turkish. All three names translate to English as “black mountains”.

This small population was known locally as the latini (being of the Roman Catholic faith) and probably was no larger than 5,000 during the second half of the C20th. What is particularly interesting is that there were not just Albanians (as one might have expected in Kosovo) but also Croats among the Karadag Catholics. For example, Stublla was an Albanian Catholic village, while Letnica, Šašare, Vrnavokolo and Vrnez were Croat Catholic villages. Kabaš had a Croat majority with a minority of Albanian inhabitants.

The isolated Croat community, distant from its Croatian congeners, was ethnographically distinct. The older women wore Turkish-style dimije; the inhabitants of Vrnavokolo spoke fluent Albanian. Originally, it was served by a single church dedicated to the Madonna, the Letnička Gospa, in the village of Letnica.

In the context of the growing fragmentation of the former Yugoslavia and the likelihood or at least fear of conflict spreading to their part of Kosovo, it was perhaps predictable that the Croat population should decide to emigrate en masse to independent Croatia. In 1992/93, the majority were resettled as refugees in a cluster of villages recently abandoned by Serbs in Slavonia – Bastaji, Ćeralije, Đulovac, Koreničani and Voćin (shown as green pins on the Google Map). The 2011 census of Kosovo showed only 70 Croats remaining across the municipality of Vitia which covers Letnica and district: presumably mostly the elderly and their carers who refused to emigrate, perhaps supplemented by some returnees from Slavonia.

The Catholic Albanians of Karadag have their own church in Stublla, dedicated to Shën Gjergji (St George) and this community survives, despite some societal pressure for Kosovar Albanians to be Muslim. Additionally, there is a complicated and improperly understood history of crypto-Catholicism in the region, with such outwardly Muslim but inwardly Catholic adherents known locally as laramanë (formally, in Latin, as occulti, or secret).

 

Sufi lodges in Kosova

This Google Map shows the location of Sufi dervish lodges in Kosovo during the late 1980s / early 1990s, while the territory was still a constituent part of Serbia but shortly before the first self-proclaimed state of the Republic of Kosova in 1992.

The colour of the pins denotes the Sufi order to which the lodges belong – e.g red for lodges of the Halveti order, yellow for Sadi lodges.

 

Source:

Ger Duijzings, “Religion and the Politics of Identity in Kosovo”, pub Hurst & Co, 2000