Less than a month before Kosovo’s general election, the government has decided to rename the airport Adem Jashari, after the Kosovo Albanian fighter hero, whose death, in March 1998, along with that of dozens of his extended family at the hands of Serbian security forces, was one of the triggers for the uprising against Serbian rule
The government’s proposal is the rough equivalent of northern Kosovo’s Serbs renaming their airport „Slobodan Milosevic”, their wartime leader, who ethnically cleansed the Kosovo Albanians. (This is probably exactly what they would do, if only they had an airport.)
Sarajevo airport is particularly important to Bosniaks; during the war the city only survived the siege thanks to humanitarian supplies flown in there by the UN, and by arms which were delivered through a tunnel that the Bosnians dug under the runway connecting the city with territory they held on the other side of it.
Less than half an hour’s flight away, Belgrade airport (pictured) was renamed Nikola Tesla in 2006. A rather less divisive figure, Tesla was a Serb-turned-American whose work was crucial in the discovery and development of commercial electricity. He was born in 1856 in what is now Croatia; happily, both Serbs and Croats can agree that he is a figure worth celebrating.
Annoyingly, flights between Zagreb and Belgrade never resumed after the war. There are only 230 miles between the cities; not enough, perhaps, to make commercial flights viable. You can, however, fly from Belgrade to Ljubljana, the Slovene capital, whose airport was renamed Joze Pucnik in 2007, after a famous dissident widely regarded as one of the fathers of Slovene independence.
Down south the Albanians have renamed Rinas, or Tirana airport, after Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Although she was an ethnic Albanian she actually came from neighbouring Macedonia, having been born in 1910 in Skopje.
Most controversial of all has been the renaming of Skopje airport after Alexander the Great, in 2007.
friends of Macedonia thought this must be some sort of one-off joke designed to gain a rise out of the Greeks, who believe that the Macedonians are trying to expropriate symbols of Hellenism. It was not. The Macedonians proceeded to rename a motorway that runs towards Greece after Alexander too.
I know there have been no moves to rename the airport, which is sometimes known as Golubovci after its location.
Podgorica was actually the first of all the region’s airports to change its name, by virtue of the fact that in 1992 the city itself reverted to its original name after being known in communist times as Titograd.