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Background information of Kosovo

Kosovo, an impoverished land with a population of mainly ethnic Albanians, unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. The territory immediately won recognition from the United States and major European Union countries. But Serbia, with the help of its big-power ally Russia, has vowed to block Kosovo from getting a United Nations seat. Kosovo has been the backdrop to a centuries-old and often-strained relationship between its Serb and ethnic Albanian inhabitants. From 1999 to 2008 the province was administered by the UN, after enduring a conflict fuelled by ethnic division and repression. Reconciliation between the majority ethnic Albanians, most of whom support independence, and the Serb minority remains elusive.

More than half of landlocked Kosovo's people live in poverty. Although it possesses rich mineral resources, agriculture is the main economic activity because of decades of under-development. Ethnic Albanians number about 2 million - about 90% of the population. Some 100,000 Serbs remain following a post-war exodus of non-Albanians. The Serbian minority live in separate areas watched over by Nato peacekeepers. History Slavonic and Albanian peoples have lived side by side in Kosovo since the eighth century. The region was the centre of the Serbian empire until the mid-14th century, and Serbs regard Kosovo as the birthplace of their state. Over the centuries, as the ethnic balance shifted in favour of Albanians, Kosovo came to represent a golden age in the Serbian national imagination, embodied in epic poetry. Serbia's defeat at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 ushered in centuries of rule by the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Serbia regained control of Kosovo in 1913, and the province was later incorporated into Yugoslavia. Path to autonomy Serbs and ethnic Albanians vied for control in the region throughout the 20th century. In the 1960s the suppression of Albanian national identity in Kosovo gave way to a more tolerant line from Belgrade. Ethnic Albanians gained a foothold in the Kosovan and Yugoslav administrations. The 1974 Yugoslav constitution laid down Kosovo's status as an autonomous province, and pressure for independence mounted in the 1980s after the death of Yugoslav President Tito. But resentment over Kosovan influence within the Yugoslav federation was harnessed by the future Yugoslav Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic. On becoming president in 1989 he proceeded to strip Kosovo of its autonomy. A passive resistance movement in the 1990s failed to secure independence or to restore autonomy, although ethnic Albanian leaders declared unilateral independence in 1991. In the mid-1990s an ethnic Albanian guerrilla movement, the Kosovo Liberation Army, stepped up its attacks on Serb targets. The attacks precipitated a major, and brutal, Yugoslav military crackdown. War Slobodan Milosevic's rejection of an internationally-brokered deal to end the crisis, and the persecution of Kosovo Albanians, led to the start of Nato air strikes against targets in Kosovo and Serbia in March 1999.

Meanwhile, a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovo Albanians was initiated by the Serbian authorities. Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro, and thousands died in the conflict. Serbian forces were driven out in the summer of 1999 and the UN took over the administration of the province.

1945 socialist autonomous Kosovo metohian History



Events that had happened

Current situations

People in Kosovo (views)