Turkish census of Kosovo in 1455: 13,000 Serb homes, only 46 Albanian

Ottoman army at Visoki Dečani Monastery

BELGRADE – Serbian daily “Telegraf” reports on a study of an official Ottoman document which records that Kosovo was almost entirely Serbian in the mid 15th century, a striking reversal from the status of Serbs in the autonomous province today.

Ottoman army at Visoki Dečani Monastery
Ottoman army at Visoki Dečani Monastery

The last census conducted in Kosovo in 2011 shows 1.7 million inhabitants of whom nearly all are Albanians. A number of reasons lie behind this. The demographics of the Serbian province has shifted dramatically as ethnic Albanians now have the highest birth rate in Europe. Secondly, Serbs in the north widely boycotted the census which was instigated from Priština and held in suspicion by ethnic Serbs. Crucially, most Kosovo Serbs were ethnically-cleansed after the region was overrun by the terrorist group KLA backed by NATO following the 1999 conflict. Efforts by international forces to return Serbs back to Kosovo have proved to be largely superficial and ineffective.

Kosovo has always been seen by Serbs as the cradle of their identity, where Serbian spiritual history was forged in 1389. Albanians lay claim to the province today in terms of populace but also in articulating a myth of historical identity.

The first written reference to Albanians dates from the 11th century. However, many Albanians claim they are descendants of an Illyrian tribe, the Albanoi, whose presence in the Balkans predate that of the Serbs.

In 1455, the Ottoman administration conducted a “defter” in the administrative region of their empire roughly the same as Kosovo and Metohija. It found:

  • nearly 13,000 Serbian houses in all 480 villages and towns in Kosovo
  • 75 Vlach households in 34 villages
  • 46 Albanian homes in 23 villages
  • 17 Bulgarian homes in 10 villages
  • five Greek homes
  • one Jewish
  • one Croatian

Of the names mentions 96% are on Serbian origin and around 2% of Roman origin. While today every town and village in Kosovo has both a Serbian and Albanian name, at the time the Turkish “Domesday Book” was compiled not a single place name used a toponym of Albanian origin.

Whether the purported Illyrian origin of the Albanian people is true or not, what is clear is that any concept of Kosovo as heartland of cultural identity based on a collective consciousness (such as Serbs have safeguarded through the Kosovo cycle) is a modern invention for political ends.

Out of interest, the most popular male names recorded in 1455 were Radislav, Bogdan, Radica, Stepan and Nikola. Popular women’s names were Olivera, Radislava, Stojislava, Jelena, Stanislava, Vladislava and Vlkosava (Vlkosava and Vlk have since become Vukosava and Vuk), all names of Serbian origin.

9 COMMENTS

  1. All of this coming out right before the UNESCO vote. Seems a bit odd or is this propaganda? You decide!

    To my knowledge Ottomans never took down ethnicity in their censuses.

    • Actually the Turkish agreement with Serbia to share the archives is fairly recent, so this information being available to Serbs about now corresponds with that, and was in motion before the UNESCO proposal.
      Turks did take detailed records and it is these records which even specify specific Serbian monasteries and churches in certain areas, while Serb records of those years were destroyed (probably by those same Turks, or later by the German bombing of Serbian libraries during the wars and their looting of monasteries, including their books – the Germans actually still have some books they stole during WWII – I don’t know why Serbia doesn’t formally request them back).

    • The ethnic composition of the certain areas (like in Kosovo) from the Ottoman censuses can be reconstructed according to the names of enlisted families or people. That is exactly the case with this 1455 Kosovo census (Brankovic’s land) done by the Ottoman authorities

    • Then YOUR knowledge is VERY limited. Turks were good record keepers so they could keep up with the TAXABLE households in any region they ruled.

      GO back to school. LEARN something!

      • I propose you to attend a course on “Introduction to Historiography” at any normal university. After that, we can continue the conversation.

    • It seems that this helped , I mean regarding the voting, hehehehhe….Your entire so called” history” is a propaganda and it’s forged decades ago.

      • I agree with you Nalina that Albanians are falsifying the history of the Balkans in very ethnoschauvinistic way. Only one example: Thay are not at all autochtonous Balkan people as they came as the last Balkan nation to this peninsula. Only in 1043. Originally they are from the Caucasus but not from the Balkans. We know well that the Serbs are in fact the native Balkan people but not the Albanians. Thank you very much for your support.

  2. The whole modern world now gets a taste of Islamophobia. Serbs are now not the only ones at disagreement with old theology people stuck in time. The shift has begun. Whites with Slavs have had enough! Politics have run their dated course. Actions shall speak louder than words and this time America + friends better remember, Karma’s a B*tch and she is coming . . .

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