The Battle of Kosovo 1389: An Albanian Epic
By Anna Di Lellio; with translations by Robert Elsie
IB Tauris, 2009
The Battle of Kosovo of 1389 holds enormous significance in the formation of modern Balkan nation states, especially among South Slav and Serbian nationalist circles. What has given this single battle such resonance, even more than six centuries later, and what does it reveal about the complex tangle of identity in the contemporary Balkans? Robert Elsie’s beautiful new translation brings a little-known Albanian epic account of the battle between the Ottoman Sultan Murat I and a coalition of Balkan forces brilliantly to life. The fantastic tale of Murat’s campaign in Kosovo and his assassination by the Albanian knight Millosh Kopiliq is more often presented from the Serb perspective, which extols particularly the valour of the Serbian knight Milos Obilic. By proposing an alternative narrative, The Battle of Kosovo offers a more nuanced understanding of this powerful myth of nationalism and belonging. Anna Di Lellio’s sensitive commentary explores the significance of this epic poem and of the battle more generally in post-war Kosovo in reinforcing a collective identity that emphasises resistance against foreign oppression and identifies strongly with a European, predominantly Christian culture. The Battle of Kosovo is an important addition to our understanding of the past, present and future of this complex Balkan nation as well as the broader issues of national memory and identity.
Book depicts Serb medieval hero as “Albanian knight” – news article from B92, a radio station in Belgrade