At Kosovo Monastery, Nationalist Clamor Disturbs the Peace


The local mayor, Bashkim Ramosaj, an ally of Mr. Haradinaj, has resisted giving the monastery back any land, defying a 2016 ruling by Kosovo’s Constitutional Court that the territory claimed by Father Sava must be returned. The mayor, who declined to be interviewed, told local media outlets that he would rather go to jail than obey the ruling and surrender territory.

The land, 60 acres of farmland and forest outside the monastery walls, belonged to the church until 1946, when it was seized by Yugoslavia’s socialist government.

In the 1990s, the remnants of a crumbling Yugoslav state returned the land following the rise to power of Slobodan Milosevic, an atheist communist functionary who had metamorphosed into a champion of Serbian nationalism and the Serb Orthodox Church.

While the ethnic Albanians who took shelter in the monastery during the war quietly support the monks, the abbot said, their political leaders often view the land dispute “as a continuation of their war against Serbia, as if we are Milosevic proxies, which we are not.”

The court ruling that confirmed the monastery’s land claim, he added, “was not a Milosevic decision but a decision by the highest court of Kosovo.”

The foot-dragging on implementing the court’s ruling has increasingly exasperated the United States, which sent warplanes to attack Mr. Milosevic’s troops in Kosovo in 1999 and broke his grip on the territory.

The monastery’s case over its land, Philip S. Kosnett, the American ambassador, warned in a recent statement, “is not about ethnicity, politics, or religion; it is about property rights and respect for the law.”