“The general sat, and the lines on the map…”

Today, as the world little noted nor long remembered, was the 620th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo. According to AFP, “no incidents were reported during the ceremony” held by Serbian pilgrims and officials near the battlefield that’s no longer Serbian territory, although Belgrade radio station B92 reports—how reliably I don’t know—that some Kosovars marked the day by bulldozing a 1999 monument to the medieval Serb heroes.

Pundits and politicians have forsaken the Balkans, but medievalists should keep Kosovo in mind—not because outsiders should rush to take sides, but because nowhere is a medieval conflict still burning quite so brightly. Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on this date in 1914, the 525th anniversary of the battle, and Slobodan Milosevic chose the 600th anniversary to visit the battlefield and rally nationalistic Serbs. The Battle of Kosovo hasn’t really ended, and one epic poet predicted what diplomats never fully grasped: “Earthly kingdoms are such passing things—/ A heavenly kingdom, raging in the dark, endures eternally.”

From the “Quid Plura?” archives, here’s the medieval background to Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence, and here’s the capture of Radovan Karadžić and the ugly side of modern medievalism.

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