Cultural heritage of Kosovo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Cultural Heritage of Kosovo)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Kosovo[a] is a partially recognized state and disputed territory located in the Balkan Peninsula in Southeastern Europe. The majority of Kosovars are ethnically Albanian. Kosovo has an expansive cultural heritage, including monuments, clothing items, museums, and traditional food.


Many monuments of Kosovo date from the neolithic period. Throughout history many monuments were changed, destroyed and new elements were added to them. There are different types of monuments that date from the Illyrian period continuing with the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Late Antiquity and Middle Ages, Ottoman Empire period, etc. Most of the historical monuments are stationed in the district of the cities of Pristina, Prizren and Peja. Monuments in Kosovo mostly consist of ancient cities, castles (Kulla), monasteries, mosques and churches.

Visoki Dečani Monastery (1327) in Dečani

Some of the most famous monuments in Kosovo are:

  • The ancient city of Ulpiana (I – VII) was an ancient Roman city. Site for archaeological excavations in which several objects were found. These objects include a woman's head, a man's head, head of eros and a tragic mask.
  • Visoki Dečani Monastery (1327–1335) A major Serbian Orthodox Christian monastery. It is the largest medieval church containing the most extensive fresco decoration.
  • Patriarchate of Peć (1235) A Serbian Orthodox monastery. The complex of churches is the spiritual seat and mausoleum of Serbian archbishops and patriarchs.
  • Sultan Mehmet Fatih Mosque in Pristina (1461)Located right in the heart of the old town center. It is Pristina's largest and most prominent mosque. Its cupola was once the biggest in the region. The square in front of Mbretit Mosque has always been a popular meeting point.
  • The house of League of Prizren (1878)): One of Kosovo's most important historical site. It is a museum complex of four buildings.

Castles are also very common in Kosovo. The castle of Prizren, the city and castle of Artanë which was a huge trade city in the 13th century and earlier, the castle of Kekola an ancient Dardan castle which dates from the Bronze era (1300-1100 b.c), etc.

Unfortunately because of the many wars that Kosovo went through in different years and times, many monuments were destroyed.


Kosovo museum[edit]

Founded in 1949, the Kosovo museum has departments of archaeology, ethnography, and natural science, to which a department for the study of history and the National Liberation Struggle was added in 1959. It has been active in sponsoring archaeological excavations, conservation and other scientific work. Since 1956 it has published an annual journal called 'Buletin i Muzeut të Kosovës', with articles in Albanian (with summaries in French, English or German).[1]

Today Kosovo has seven active museums all over its territory. The museums are the:

National Museum of Kosovo.
  • National Museum of Kosovo: Housed in an Austro-Hungarian style house, containing more than 50,000 items exhibited through various pavilions. Also housed here are exhibits expressing the day in the life for the people in various regions.
  • Railway museum of Kosovo: : A one-room exhibit dedicated to the railways
  • Ethnological museum "Emin Gjiku" in Prishtinë: Monument of culture since the 18th century. At this museum one can find displays of ancient clothing, tools, containers, furniture and old weapons.
  • Albanian league of Prizren:One of Kosovos most important historical sites. It's a complex of four buildings that had been completely reconstructed. Represents where patriots and intellectuals joined to start the political, military and cultural struggle to against the Ottoman Empire in order to appeal for an autonomous Albanian state.
  • Archeological museum in Prizren: Once functioned as a Turkish bathhouse. Now fully renovated and filled with over 800 items of archeological interest from antiquity to the 19th century. Building also acts as a clock tower built at the end of the 19th century.
  • Museum in Mitrovica

National museum of Kosovo[edit]

Ethnological items.

National Museum Of Kosovo is stationed in Pristina was built by Austrians for the Turkish army in 1898, and was used by the Yugoslav national army until 1975. Housed in an Austro Hungarian style house, contained more than 50,000 items exhibited through various pavilions. Also housed here are exhibits expressing the day in the life for the people in various regions. The museum used to have a rich collection of prehistoric objects uncovered in Kosovo – these were all spirited off to Belgrade just before the troubles started in 1998, and hundreds of archaeological finds and ethnographic items yet have to be returned. The extensive permanent archaeology exhibition details life in the region in the Illyrian, Dardanian and Roman periods. Centre stage is the 6,000-year-old Hynesha në Fron (Goddess on a throne) statue, found at Tjerrtorja in 1956 and returned to Pristina in 2002. In front of the building recent history is represented by some artillery hardware, and two large Jewish gravestones. The museum objectives are to save, protect and present the Cultural Heritage of Kosovo.[2]

Traditional clothes in Kosovo[edit]

Traditional clothes in Kosovo take a special place in Cultural heritage of Kosovo. They were homemade clothes or made by craftsman specialized in that field. Traditional clothing in Kosovo resembles much of the Albanian traditional clothing if not all the same. There are over 200 different kinds of clothing and styles of wearing the clothes all depending on where one is from, the history of one's fis (clan), and many more reasons. First is the headgear, a woolen cone-shaped plis for the male, and a pashnik headdress for the female of a common red color. The plis is white and in some regions men cover it round with a pashnik and in region of Rugova men cover it round with a white cotton scarf.

Second is the pants or dress, depending on the style and gender. The men usually have on long woolen white pants called tirq or a fustanella which is a skirt like costume. The women wear a xhubleta which is a skirt like type of clothing as well, only it can resemble more as an apron in the front instead. Before wearing the shoes, both men and women had socks or Çorape and finally came the Openga or shoes worn by men, whereas women would usually wear wooden clogs.[3] In the past they used decorated guns, decorated pocket clocks, decorated cigarettes boxes etc. . Today plis and tirq are being worn combined with European modern clothes to symbolize national identity. What specifies the region of Metohija is the white scarf which they cover they head with, the region of Drenica is specified with woman with a lot of jewelries and so on.[4]

Traditional Clothing is one of the major factors that has distinguished this nation from its neighboring countries. The motifs and patterns on these garments can be explained by prehistoric religion and chromatically there are three basic colors, the most symbolic of which is red. Overall, women's clothing was better preserved than men as there are regional variations in how these traditional clothes are worn. The most famous was the 'pështjellak', which consisted of a long white shirt and two aprons one for the front and one for the back. Another clothing style worn by the women of Kosovo is the xhubleta, which is a bell wavy skirt which is held by two straps on the shoulders, worn on top of a long-sleeved white linen shirt. The next style is often referred to as the most beautiful of Kosovo clothing. The Veshja e Dukagjinit was a white long sleeve cotton shirt but the edges were colorfully embodied. The last style for the women was that of the southern region of has. This clothing was more distinctive and is commonly found today as it has survived and embraced changes in styles. This look consists of a short white shirt and a full-length linen dress. Men's clothing was a symbol of beauty, however it was less preservative. Unlike women's clothing men's clothing is more uniformed and seemed to change less from region to region. The most popular was the "tirqi" apparel. The look similar to women with the white shirt and vest, the tirqi which were woollen white pants where strictly a characteristic of the men.babies

Traditional food in Kosovo[edit]

The best-known of all and most distinctive one, "flija", is prepared year-round but is a summer favourite. Flija made with "saç" is a speciality from the traditional Albanian cuisine, that is mostly prepared in mountainous areas. It is most certainly one of the typical Kosovar dishes that everyone local will recommend. Baklava is one of the traditional pastries of the Kosovar cuisine, although of Turkish origin. Bakllasarem is also a traditional food of Kosovo it is a salty pie with yoghurt and garlic covering. The Kosovo cuisine developed under the influence Albanian, Turkish, Serbian, Croatian Greek and Italian dishes. The national food of Kosovo is Cheese Byrek. Byrek is a type of baked or filled pastry. They are made of a thin flaky dough known as phyllo dough and are filled with salty cheese (often feta), minced meat, potatoes or other vegetables. Meat is well represented in their daily meals. Due to the harsh continental climate vegetables are seasonal flourishing mainly in the summer.[5]

Intangible culture[edit]

Generally speaking, Albanians are a very secular people. The majority of the Albanian people in Kosovo are of Muslim background and there is still a high percentage of Muslims in Kosovo. On the other hand, the Spiritual Kosovan Culture is not very influenced by the religion. One can quote a line from a poem of Pashko Vasa, a 19th-century Catholic writer, who said that "The religion of the Albanians is Albanianism", meaning that the Albanians identity doesn't derive from their religion.[6] What influences the Kosovan-Albanian cultural heritage the most is the Kanun. This set of laws and rules used to be oral and got published later. Due to the fact that a part of them is very primitive, they aren't used as much anymore, however these rules are a great part of the Kosovar cultural heritage.


The Ottoman Empire left behind their religion, their language, and their people in Kosovo(dating back to the 14th century). All three mark important facts of the Kosovar culture today. Kosovo has 2 official languages, Albanian and Serbian.[7] Although they have strong Turkish roots in their folkloric music, the mass are not fluent in Turkish, it is only the elders in secular groups and municipalities that speak Turkish. According to the Kosovo Ministry of Education, each student must master and demonstrate their mother tongue during primary and secondary schooling in whichever language they choose (although most students take up the Albanian mother tongue).[8] In addition the first foreign language that every student must demonstrate proficiency, is English.[8] The influence of the Ottomans had a spill-over effect of cultural and religious identity which resulted in the construction of many religious monuments and artifacts in Kosovo. Over 90% of Kosovar-Albanians are of Islamic religion primarily due to the occupation of the Ottoman Empire.[9] Aside from Turkish-religious-structural influences, the current Kosovar culture was also influenced by other ethnic minorities within the region constituting, but not limited to: Roma, Serb, Bosnian, Ashkali, Gorani, etc.[10][11] Thus, instruments like the Kemenche[12] and traditional dances such as Hora from the Turkish culture become a symbol of Kosovar ethnic identity.[13] Similarly, the instrument knows as the Cifteli, is also a widely used instrument in Kosovo with origins from the Turkish culture that dates back to the early Ottoman Empire. Likewise, the Serbians adopted music known as "tallava", a fast-paced folk music type, which has had a great influence in the recent years in Kosovo culture.[3]

Folklore and Oral tradition have been present throughout the history of Kosovo, where these two elements played a crucial role in communicating important information, history and events among communities and generations. A low literacy rate and dynamics of life style in rural areas limited the ability to document important developments in written formats. Consequently, communities transmitted important national events and collective memories to younger generations through oral traditions, including legends, songs, proverbs and stories.[14]


Patriarchate of Peć, the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church from the 14th century

There is no official religion in Kosovo, although the country is predominantly Muslim as the majority of Albanians are Muslim. Most of the ethnic Serbs practice Eastern Orthodoxy.

Oral history[edit]

Unwritten or customary rules are very frequently practiced as law and order among Kosovans with its principles being:

  • Personal honor
  • The equality of persons
  • The freedom of each to act in accordance with own honor, with law limits, and without being subject to another's commands
  • The word of honor known as "besa" creating a situation of inviolable trust (upon Besa, Kosovars take the person's honor and the person's life the remote areas of the country.

Among the current modern times, the former customs and traditions are gradually vanishing due to the influence of the western world The elderly generations are the ones who assist in keeping such customs and traditions alive.

Lahutari - An old man telling a story

Oral traditions have served as vehicles to pass cultural values to next generations and taught lessons about collective memories and experiences, which played a bridge role between generations. While oral traditions had a very positive effect over the centuries, they also enforced social and legal regulations, such as the five-century old Besa and Kanun, which were established and maintained by the traditional institution named oda (chamber).[14]


The concept of "Oda", whether it is considered as gathering at a space or a traditional institution, is a rooted spiritual cultural heritage asset in Kosovo. Figuratively, "Oda" represents a special and distinguished space of a house (a room), which is exclusively dedicated to the elderly men to discuss important family, community or national issues. Moreover, Oda symbolizes the court of law where men, gather to discuss and solve property problems, blood feuds etc. This space was also an important platform of social, cultural life and entertainment for men. Today, after many centuries of practice, "Oda" is still alive and valued in certain communities in Kosovo (mainly rural).[14]


"Besa" is a famous feature of all Albanian people. It mainly represents a "word of honor" or "promise". The "man of Besa" connotes a man of respect and honour, someone to whom one can trust one's life and family. The man who breaks Besa is a man unable to save his Besa and is worth nothing. A man like that will risk of being banished from the community. Besa is the moral testament of Albanians since the appearance of its earliest national and social mythologies.[15]


Kanun is a set of unwritten laws and rules which were only published in the 20th century. Kanun of Lekë Dukaghini is composed of 12 books and 1,262 articles. These are the twelve books:

  1. Church;
  2. Family;
  3. Marriage;
  4. House, Livestock and Property;
  5. Work;
  6. Transfer of Property;
  7. Spoken Word;
  8. Honor;
  9. Damages;
  10. Law Regarding Crimes;
  11. The kanun of the elderly;
  12. Exemptions and Exceptions.[citation needed]

Language preservation[edit]

The Albanian Language is the main language in Kosovo. Albanian, has two main dialects: Geg (in the northern part) and Tosk (in the southern part). Therefore, the Albanian language spoken in Kosovo is much more similar to the Geg dialect, even though the standard Albanian language has been established long ago based on the Tosk dialect. However, the main official language in Kosovo is: standard Albanian. Despite that, minorities in Kosovo still strive to protect their own languages. For example, in Prizren, almost every institution has its name written in Turkish as well. The OSCE said Kosovo should do more to enable members of different communities to learn each other's languages and overcome linguistic barriers. The legislative framework in Kosovo obliges institutions to provide services in the official languages in use, but there are shortcomings in how that is being implemented. "Those shortcomings can be overcome with capacity building within institutions, be it by enabling municipalities to hire translators or to better train the existing ones or by helping them develop forms and signs in the official languages," Gaon told SETimes.[16]

Protecting the cultural heritage[edit]

Because of the Wars (especially the recent one) that took place in Kosovo, many monuments and other cultural properties of Kosovo were destroyed or stolen. During the 1998-1999 conflict, more than a third of Kosovo's 600 mosques were damaged or destroyed.[17] Kosovo's Islamic heritage suffered devastating events during the "ethnic cleansing" operations. Qurans were found with pages ripped out and spread with feces, and valuable collections of Islamic manuscripts were burned.[17] Preservation of cultural heritage is always difficult to discuss since every side in the wars made a contribution to the destruction rather than preserving the architecture of the other ethnicity.[18] Preserving what is left and restoring what is lost, is one of the main goals of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, and many other non-governmental organisations such as: CHwB and RIC. Their work is dedicated in rescuing and preserving tangible and intangible cultural heritage touched by conflict, neglect or human and natural disasters.

There are many projects that are organised for this cause and one of them is the annual "Tour de Culture", which attracts many people from many countries. In this event, many monuments all around Kosovo are promoted and the interesting part is that all of the transport is done by bicycles. This project is organised by CHwB and UN Habitat and has had great success in the past years.[19]

In order to coordinate their general activities relating to cultural heritage, the Ministry of Culture has founded together with the European Commission Liaison Office to Kosovo (EULO) and with the Special Representative of the European Union (EUSR) a "Forum for exchange of information about cultural heritage in Kosovo”.[20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The political status of Kosovo is disputed. Having unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo is formally recognised as an independent state by 97 UN member states (with another 15 states recognising it at some point but then withdrawing their recognition) and 96 states not recognizing it, while Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory.


  1. ^ Riedlmayer, Andres. "Bosnia Report." Bosnia Report -March - June 2000. N.p., Mar. 2000. Web. 23 Feb. 2013. Archived 2012-10-18 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Kosovo Museum." InYourPocket. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. Archived 2013-06-14 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b "Kosovo Culture - Be in Kosovo - Visit Kosovo - Business in Kosovo - Invest in Kosovo - Tourism in Kosovo - Rent a Car in Pristina - Guides in Kosovo - Study in Kosovo."Be In Kosovo. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.
  4. ^ Ismajli, Rexhep, and Mehmet Kraja. Kosova: Vështrim Monografik. Prishtinë: Akademia E Shkencave Dhe E Arteve E Kosovës, 2011
  5. ^ "Kosovar Cuisine." Kosovo. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.,227 Archived 2016-04-02 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Judah, Tim. "Albanians." Kosovo: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.
  7. ^ library
  8. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-08-07. Retrieved 2014-04-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Muslims in Europe: Country guide". 23 December 2005.
  10. ^ "Cumbus Means Fun! The Story of a 20th Century Instrument".
  11. ^ "Horah".
  12. ^ Hugo Pinksterboer, Tipbook: Cello (2002), p. 106.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-03-12. Retrieved 2014-05-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ a b c Intangible Cultural Heritage: A Strangely Familiar Concept! N.p., n.d. Web.
  15. ^ Kushova, Alma. "Besa." (2004): n. pag. Besa | OpenDemocracy. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.
  16. ^ "Overcoming Language Barriers in Kosovo." ( N.p., 27 Aug. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.
  17. ^ a b UNESCO Courier. Sep2000, Vol. 53 Issue 9, p40. 1p
  18. ^ Religion in Eastern Europe. Feb2009, Vol. 29 Issue 1, p1-19. 19p.
  19. ^ "Cultural Heritage without Borders." Cultural Heritage without Borders. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013. Archived 2006-04-02 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Kosovo. Ministria E Kultures Rinise Dhe Sportit. - Ministria E Kulturës, Rinisë Dhe Sportit. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.,10
  21. ^ Kosovo. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. - Ministry of Foreign Affairs. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.,120

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]