Sunday, January 01, 2006

Kosovo fieldwork: Holy Archangels Monastery restoration

Kosova/Kosovo fieldwork notes extracts

This post details a visit to the Holy Archangels Monastery or the Monastery of the Holy Archangels on Prizren town limits; it also discusses restoration and the narrative of victimhood. At 1.10am on the 29th of July 2005, I noted that I was staying in Prishtine that night and the next, but that, "after that, I don't know".
If my remaining meetings are at the start of next week, I'll stay here, going on day trips, have the meetings, then leave (to Ohrid [seat of the Macedonian Orthodox Church] and thence to Greece); if they're at the end of next week, I'll leave for Ohrid on Saturday morning, have a long, long weekend there, then have the meetings, then leave (to Greece - if soon enough, to Mitrou or Athens airport to see a friend, if not, to Paliampela and Thessaloniki to see my friends).
I went on to record that:
I still need to write about Archangel [Monastery], conflict zone practice and possible research practice (possible means of implementing my proposal), as well as the conversation with one UNMIK contact, (the limits of) the scope of my enquiry and recommendations (for instance, the establishment of an autocephalous Kosovan Orthodox Church), the importance, practice and implications of consequentialism in human rights practice and the visit to Ferizaj.

While I remember, an archaeologist in an inter-governmental organisation (IGO) dismissed relativism... saying plainly, "relativism's just a cop-out".

I went to Archangel Monastery on the 21st of July 2005, arriving at the same time as an American think tank team... The person who drove me in the taxi on the way there pointed out part of the fort that had been destroyed by the Serbs because the KLA slept there (which must've been one of the few occasions when their actions could've been defended with the argument of military necessity).

I took photos of the rock face, but I may incidentally have taken photos of the point that I later learned from the monks was blown up by Albanians to cause a rock fall intended to bury Serb visitors to the monastery.
At Holy Archangels Monastery or the Monastery of the Holy Archangels,
the monks were very welcoming, ushering me in, much to my surprise and the Americans' displeasure... without even taking my passport. I followed the Americans' tour round the monastery, which was a basic narrative of its history (though, unlike the rest of Kosovo, things went wrong in 1999, not 1998, according to its occupants) [the details of which can be accessed on the Holy Archangels Monastery website]. Twice, the narrative was interrupted - but only once was it my fault!
The first time,
Father German tried to claim that the Serbian kingdom's law code was the first to bind the king to the same law as his subjects [in the Seventeenth Century]. A German with the Americans protested that the English Magna Carta had done so two centuries earlier, in the Fifteenth Century.

Though, when he was naive enough to seek my confirmation [because my knowledge of English history is inadequate], I said that I didn't think so and that our rulers have always managed to find a way around the law.

When this descended into a spat between the two of us, detracting from Father German's narrative of victimhood, he intervened, declaring that it didn't matter who was first, merely that both had long histories of civilised conduct, that both were great civilisations with honourable traditions.
The second time,
Father German complained that, "we wanted to restore it [the monastery], but the EU and UNESCO refused to give us any money"; when I pressed, querying, "I thought the Council of Europe [CoE] and UNESCO offered money for restoration...", he responded, "no. They refused to give us any money."
It's woth noting that I have written about Archangel Monastery before. At the time, I suggested that:
this may be true, for this site, but if it is, it's exceptional, as by far the most frequent complaint, as I explained to the Americans is that the Council of Europe and UNESCO offered the money and the support and "they [the Serbian Orthodox Church] refused to let them rebuild or restore sites.

They wanted to keep their wounds open, to bear their wounds publicly, to prove their victimhood, which is real - they really are victims - but so were the Albanians before them, the difference being that the mosques have largely been restored, so it's far harder to see".
Supporting the Serbian Orthodox Church's case, Holy Archangels Monastery has not been included in the thirteen cultural properties that, on the 12th of December 2005, UNESCO confirmed it would be restoring between 2006 and 2007; however, the Monastery of the Holy Archangels is now part of an occupied site undergoing renovation and it is still unclear who is obstructing what work.
I continued, "it's a matter of tactics too - they're both tactics, the Serbs maintain the buildings unrestored to demonstrate their presence and their victimhood, the Albanians restore their buildings to demonstrate their presence and the vitality of their living culture".

I said, "but the restoration is, evidently, being funded by Saudi sources, so the old, original designs, that were multicultural and syncretic, are being replaced by monocultural, Orthodox Islamic designs".

I then achieved my stand-out moment of stupidity so far, when, on one American commenting, "there's a heavy price to pay", I replied, "no, it's all paid for by the Saudis", so he was forced to state the obvious, namely that, "I mean that there's a heavy price to pay in terms of the loss of the multicultural traditions". I must find his contact details and explain that part of going native involved adopting a pervasive literalism.
Whilst considering this encounter, I observed that,
this reminds me of the discussion with an NGO's aid worker on the loss of multiculturalism (as an ideology and a practice, not as a reality, which persists despite nationalists' efforts to the contrary).
It also reminded me of,
the administrators overheard in the Phoenix discussing the current practice of buying an education, but [that purchase] necessitating doing so from Wahhabis and [that education] thereby radicalising the youth.
I closed by noting that, "I must recount these as well as the rest of the Archangel visit and every thing else, up to and including going to Ferizaj".

Participants have been afforded anonymity (unless they were acting in an official capacity and unless they waived the right to anonymity explicitly). Formatting has been changed to make it easy to read in a blog.

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