Ciric: The intrusion into the church in Rakinice is an act of aggression against the SOC, demonstrating the continuous threat to Serbian cultural and spiritual heritage in Kosovo
Associate Professor, Dr. Jasmina S. Ciric, an art historian and a Professor at the University of Kragujevac, an expert in Serbian medieval heritage, says for Kosovo Online that the intrusion of Albanians into the Church of St. Archangel Michael in Rakinice and the holding of an alleged religious service not only constitute a criminal offense but also an act of aggression that jeopardizes the spiritual and historical identity of the SOC.
Dr. Ciric says that this event demonstrates the continuous threat to Serbian cultural and spiritual heritage in Kosovo.
"This incident represents not only a criminal offense, that is, an unlawful act but also an act of aggression that endangers the spiritual and historical identity of the Serbian Orthodox Church. I emphasize the necessity of legal prosecution of all participants in this attack, including the self-proclaimed priest Nikolla Xhufko and the group of individuals who participated in this incident", Dr. Ciric says.
According to her, Xhufko's goal is not only to falsely represent himself as a priest but also to "usurp and appropriate" Serbian cultural heritage, and the incident in Podujevo is "just one in a series" of attacks on Serbian cultural and spiritual heritage. She points out that we are witnessing a continuous process of 'Albanization' and 'Kosovarization' of these sanctuaries.
Ciric says that every attack on the spiritual heritage of a people jeopardizes peace and any attempt at tolerance in the region, requiring responsible reactions and prevention at all levels", Dr. Ciric emphasizes.
She notes that the history of the church in Rakinice, after the Serbian-Turkish War of 1878, is linked to additional context about the significance of this place. Albanians also referred to the church as "Kisha Lazarit" - Lazar's church because, according to tradition, after the Battle of Kosovo, the body of Serbian Prince Lazar spent the night there when it was being transported from Pristina to the Ravanica Monastery.
Similar translations of church names exist in Berat, Albania, Dr. Ciric notes, but there are no attempts to alter historical facts related to medieval Berat. She states that such attempts to change Serbian historical heritage in Kosovo highlight the necessity of protecting key locations associated with the cult of Prince Lazar and the Kosovo Oath.
"These activities and intrusions into SOC churches are a part of a broader Albanian pattern of assimilation and appropriation of cultural heritage", Dr. Ciric says, adding that this is not the only incident attempting "identity change and historical alteration" of Serbian cultural and spiritual heritage in Kosovo.
It is stated that on the Explore Kosova website, the Gracanica Monastery is labeled as an Albanian temple, the Catholic cathedral on whose foundations King Milutin built a church. Also, the Church of Our Lady of Ljevis in Prizren is referred to as the Catholic Church of St. Petka.
"Remember also the so-called audience with the Pope when Albin Kurti used images of Serbian medieval heritage for the (sole) purpose of promoting Kosovo's heritage. The mere presence and aggressive imposition in Italy should not confuse us, especially if we know that Albanians financed and translated into Italian the tourist guide 'Kosovo: Itinerary turistici alla scoperta del paese / Kosovo: a tourist guide for exploring the country'. For example, on page 39 of the guide, it is written that the Gracanica Monastery is near Ulpiana, the capital of Dardania and that the church was actually built on the foundations of a Dardanian church. Only on page 115 do they mention that the church was restored by King Milutin, but they refer to it as Kosovar, citing the Brussels Agreement of 2013", Ciric says.
This expert points out that all these examples represent a form of violent, unsubstantiated cultural appropriation and identity change, often serving to alter historical heritage and claim Serbian cultural heritage.
According to her, a similar situation exists in North Macedonia, especially in the vicinity of Kumanovo.
"As if it wasn't enough that members of the KLA forcibly entered the Matejce Monastery in 2002, the endowment of Empress Jelena Nemanjic, or that they damaged the church with graffiti, after 20 years, they still claim that these are objects that constitute their historical heritage as descendants of the Dardani. According to this narrative, they claim to have built Novo Brdo and a whole series of temples in Kosovo and Metohija", Dr. Jasmina S. Ciric concludes.