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Date : 9th March, 2016
Time : c 58’
Total distance run to date : 730 km
Run map and details : Garmin data lost
Kosovo. If you’re like me, you know a lot of stuff happened there, a lot of bad stuff. And quite recently as well. But I’m embarrassed to say that the details are hazy. There’s no excuse – it was a major conflict and one in which the UK was involved. But for some reason I couldn’t have told you much about it.
One of the great benefits of Run the World is that it gives me an excuse to correct my ignorance. So – and forgive me if you already know all this – here’s my attempt at a balanced summary of events.
I think it’s fair to say that Kosovo is different in some ways from the other Balkan wars that happened during the breakup of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Following WWII, Yugoslavia was made up of 6 Republics – Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. Kosovo was an autonomous province within Serbia.
It was inhabited by Serbs and ethnic Albanians and tensions grew throughout the 1990s. In 1998, 3 years after the Dayton Agreement ended most of the fighting in the Balkans, those long standing tensions erupted and war broke out between the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (which, at the time, consisted of Serbia and Montenegro).
There appear to have been atrocities on both sides including the claim that the KLA were harvesting organs from prisoners and selling them on the black market. The West felt that the preponderance of abuses were on the Yugoslavian / Serbian side and NATO intervened with a series of air strikes starting in March 1999 hitting targets across Serbia including Belgrade.
Unlike its earlier air campaign in Bosnia, NATO didn’t have approval from the UN for its actions. Instead NATO argued that it was a humanitarian intervention to protect the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. (NATO sought UN authorisation but China and Russia indicated that they would veto any such proposal.).
The fighting continued until June 1999 and the West, apparently with Tony Blair’s strong support, actively considered sending in ground troops. Eventually, Serbia, perhaps realising that Russia, despite its strong anti NATO rhetoric, wasn’t going to come to its aid, gave way. Kosovo obtained autonomy and its independence was recognised by many though by no means all countries. (It is not yet a member of the UN but it joined the Olympic movement in December 2014. At which point it also joined the ever growing list of countries that I have to run in. )
At its independence, Kosovo created the Newborn Monument – pictured above – and covered it with the flags of all the countries which recognised its independence. (The monument is given a new theme every independence day.)
And the run? I travelled from Skopje in Macedonia to Pristina (the Kosovan capital) through the most litter strewn countryside I can remember seeing on my travels. I got dropped on the outskirts of Pristina and ran into the centre. No litter here, just a nice city centre with masses of people out on the streets and enjoying coffee and lunch.
My aim was to see as much of the city as I could and to find the Newborn Monument, which I eventually did, having already run past it once without noticing. And then back to the car in the relatively slow time of c 58 minutes. (City centre runs are almost always slow for obvious reasons ). Unfortunately, for logistical reasons, I ran on my own so all the information above is based on my personal research rather than anything l learnt on the day.
And if my version of events is inaccurate, or offends anyone, then please get in touch . Constructive criticism is always welcome!