views updated May 23 2018



March 2008

Official Name:

Republic of Kosovo

Editor's Note: Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. This entry was compiled from information available through the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and supplemented with additional information available from the U.S. Department of State as of March 2008.



Serbs migrated to the territories of modern Kosovo in the 7th century, but did not fully incorporate them into the Serbian realm until the early 13th century. The Serbian defeat at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 led to five centuries of Ottoman rule, during which large numbers of Turks and Albanians moved to Kosovo. By the end of the 19th century, Albanians replaced the Serbs as the dominant ethnic group in Kosovo. Serbia reacquired control over Kosovo from the Ottoman Empire during the First Balkan War (1912), and after World War II (1945) the government of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia led by Josip Broz TITO reorganized Kosovo as an autonomous province within the constituent republic of Serbia.

Over the next four decades, Kosovo Albanians lobbied for greater autonomy and Kosovo was granted the status almost equal to that of a republic in the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution. Despite the legislative concessions, Albanian nationalism increased in the 1980s leading to nationalist riots and calls for Kosovo's independence. Serbs in Kosovo complained of mistreatment and Serb nationalist leaders, such as Slobodan Milosevic, exploited those charges to win support among Serbian voters, many of whom viewed Kosovo as their cultural heartland. Under Milosevic's leadership, Serbia instituted a new constitution in 1989 that drastically curtailed Kosovo's autonomy and Kosovo Albanian leaders responded in 1991 by organizing a referendum that declared Kosovo independent from Serbia. The Milosevic regime carried out repressive measures against the Albanians in the early 1990s as the unofficial government of Kosovo, led by Ibrahim Rugova, tried to use passive resistance to gain international assistance and recognition of its demands for independence. In 1995, Albanians dissatisfied with Rugova's nonviolent strategy created the Kosovo Liberation Army and launched an insurgency. In 1998, Milosevic authorized a counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians by Serbian military, police, and paramilitary forces. The international community tried to resolve the conflict peacefully, but Milosevic rejected the proposed international settlement—the Rambouillet Accords—leading to a three-month NATO bombing of Serbia beginning in March 1999, which forced Serbia to withdraw its military and police forces from Kosovo in June 1999. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) placed Kosovo under a transitional administration, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), pending a determination of Kosovo's future status. Under the resolution, Serbia's territorial integrity was protected, but it was UNMIK who assumed responsibility for governing Kosovo. In 2001, UNMIK promulgated a Constitutional Framework, which established Kosovo's Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG), and in succeeding years UNMIK increasingly devolved responsibilities to the PISG.

A UN-led process began in late 2005 to determine Kosovo's future status. Negotiations held intermittently between 2006 and 2007 on issues related to decentralization, religious heritage, and minority rights failed to yield a resolution between Serbia's willingness to grant a high degree of autonomy and the Albanians’ call for full independence for Kosovo. On 17 February 2008, the Kosovo Assembly declared its independence from Serbia.


Location: Southeast Europe, between Serbia and Macedonia

Geographic coordinates: 42 35 N, 2100 E

Map references: Europe

Area: total: 10,887 sq. km; land: 10,887 sq. km; water: 0 sq. km

Area—comparative: slightly larger than Delaware

Land boundaries: total: 700.7 km; border countries: Albania 111.8 km, Macedonia 158.7 km, Montenegro 78.6 km, Serbia 351.6 km

Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims: none (landlocked)

Climate: influenced by continental air masses resulting in relatively cold winters with heavy snowfall and hot, dry summers and autumns; Mediterranean and alpine influences create regional variation; maximum rainfall between October and December

Terrain: flat fluvial basin with an elevation of 400-700 m above sea level surrounded by several high mountain ranges with elevations of 2,000 to 2,500 m

Elevation extremes: lowest point: Drini i Bardhe/Beli Drim 297 m (located on the border with Albania); highest point: Gjeravica/Deravica 2,565 m

Natural resources: nickel, lead, zinc, magnesium, lignite, kaolin, chrome, bauxite


Population: 2,126,708 (2007 est.)

Nationality: noun: Kosovoan; adjective: Kosovoan

Ethnic groups: Albanians 88%, Serbs 7%, other 5% (Bosniak, Gorani, Roma, Turk)

Religions: Muslim, Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic

Languages: Albanian, Serbian, Bos-niak, Turkish


Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Kosovo; conventional short form: Kosovo; local long form: Republika e Kosoves (Republika Kosova); local short form: Kosova (Kosovo); former: Kosovo i Metohija, Autonomna Pokrajina

Capital: Pristina (Prishtine), geographic coordinates: 42 40 N, 21 10 E; time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time); daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

Political subdivisions: 30 municipalities (komunat, singular—komuna in Albanian; opstine, singular—opstina in Serbian); Decan (Decani), Dragash (Dragas), Ferizaj (Urosevac), Fushe Kosove (Kosovo Polje), Gjakove (Dakovica), Gllogoc/ Drenas (Glogovac), Gjilan (Gnjilane), Istog (Istok), Kacanik, Kline (Klina), Kamenice/Dardana (Kamenica), Lep-osaviq (Leposavic), Lipjan (Lipljan), Malisheve (Malisevo), Mitrovice (Mitrovica), Novoberde (Novo Brdo), Obiliq (Obilic), Peje (Pec), Podujeve (Podujevo), Prishtine (Pristina), Prizren, Rahovec (Orahovac), Shtime (Stimlje), Shterpce (Strpce), Sken-deraj (Srbica), Suhareke (Suva Reka), Viti (Vitina), Vushtrri (Vucitrn), Zubin Potok, Zvecan

Constitution: Constitutional Framework of 2001; note—the Kosovo Government is charged with putting forward an AHTISSARI (UN Special Envoy) Plan-compliant draft of a new constitution soon after independence

Legal system: evolving legal system based on terms of UN Special Envoy Martii AHTISAARI's Plan for Kosovo's supervised independence

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch: Chief of state: President Fatmir SEJDIU (since 10 February 2006); head of government: Prime Minister Hashim THACI (since 9 January 2008). Cabinet: ministers; elected by the Kosovo Assembly. Elections: the president is elected for a 5-year term by the Kosovo Assembly; the prime minister is elected by the Kosovo Assembly. Election results: Fatmir SEJDIU and Hashim THACI elected to be president and prime minister respectively by the Assembly.

Legislative branch: unicameral Kosovo Assembly of the Provisional Government (120 seats; 100 seats directly elected, 10 seats for Serbs, 10 seats for other minorities; to serve three-year terms). Elections: last held 17 November 2007 (next to be held NA). Election results: percent of vote by party—Democratic Party of Kosovo 34.3%, Democratic League of Kosovo 22.6%, New Kosovo Alliance 12.3%, Democratic League of Darda-nia-Albanian Christian Democratic Party of Kosovo 10.0%, Alliance for the Future of Kosovo 9.6%; seats by party—Democratic Party of Kosovo 37, Democratic League of Kosovo 25, New Kosovo Alliance 13, Democratic League of Dardania-Albanian Christian Democratic Party of Kosovo 11, Alliance for the Future of Kosovo 10.

Judicial branch: Supreme Court judges are appointed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG); district courts judges are appointed by the SRSG; municipal courts judges are appointed by the SRSG

Political parties and leaders: Albanian Christian Democratic Party of Kosovo or PSHDK [Mark KRAS-NIQI]; Alliance for the Future of Kosovo or AAK [Ramush HARADINAJ]; Alliance of Independent Social Democrats of Kosovo and Metohija or SDSKiM [Slavisa PETKOVIC]; Autonomous Liberal Party of SLS [Slobodan PETROVIC]; Bosniak Vakat Coalition [Dzezair MURATI]; Citizens’ Initiative of Gora or GIG [Murselj HALILI]; Council of Independent Social Democrats of Kosovo or SNSDKIM [Ljubisa ZIVIC]; Democratic League of Dardania or LDD [Nexhat DACI]; Democratic League of Kosovo or LDK [Fatmir SEJDIU]; Democratic Party of Ashkali of Kosovo or PDAK [Sabit RRAHMANI]; Democratic Party of Kosovo or PDK [Hashim THACI]; Kosovo Democratic Turkish Party of KDTP [Mahir YAGCILAR]; New Democratic Initiative of Kosovo or IRDK [Xhevdet Neziraj]; New Democratic Party or ND [Branislav GRBIC]; New Kosovo Alliance [Behgjet PACOLLI]; Popular Movement of Kosovo or LPK [Emrush XHEMAJLI]; Reform Party Ora; Serb National Party or SNS [Mihailo SCEPANOVIC]; Serbian Kosovo and Metohija Party or SKMS [Dragisa MIRIC]; United Roma Party of Kosovo or PREBK [Haxhi Zylfi MERXHA]; Democratic Action Party or SDA [Numan BALIC]

Flag description: centered on a dark blue field is the shape of Kosovo in a gold color surmounted by six white, five-pointed stars—each representing one of the major ethnic groups of Kosovo—arrayed in a slight arc

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/28/2008

President: Fatmir SEJDIU

Prime Minister: Hashim THACI



Kosovo's economy has largely transitioned to a market-based system but is highly dependent on the international community and the diaspora for financial and technical assistance. Remittances from the diaspora—located mainly in Germany and Switzerland—account for about 30% of GDP. Kosovo's citizens are the poorest in Europe with an average per capita income of only $1900—about one-third the level of neighboring Albania. Unemployment—at 50% of the population—is a severe problem that encourages outward migration. Most of Kosovo's population lives in rural towns outside of the largest city, Pristina. Inefficient, near-subsistence farming is common—the result of small plots, limited mechanization, and lack of technical expertise. The complexity of Serbia and Kosovo's political and legal relationships created uncertainty over property rights and hindered the privatization of state-owned assets. Minerals and metals—including lignite, lead, zinc, nickel, chrome, aluminum, magnesium, and a wide variety of construction materials—once formed the backbone of industry, but output has declined because investment is insufficient to replace ageing Eastern Bloc equipment. Technical and financial problems in the power sector also impede industrial development, and deter foreign investment. Economic growth is largely driven by the private sector—mostly small-scale retail businesses. Both the euro and the Serbian dinar circulate. Kosovo's tie to the euro has helped keep inflation low. Kosovo has maintained a budget surplus as a result of efficient tax collection and inefficient spending. While maintaining ultimate over-sight, UNMIK continues to work with the EU and Kosovo's provisional government to accelerate economic growth, lower unemployment, and attract foreign investment. In order to help integrate Kosovo into regional economic structures, UNMIK signed (on behalf of Kosovo) its accession to the Central Europe Free Trade Area (CEFTA) in 2006.

GDP (purchasing power parity): $4 billion (2007 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate): $3.237 billion (2007 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 2.6% (2007)

GDP—per capita (PPP): $1,900 (2007 est.)

GDP—composition by sector: agriculture: NA; industry: NA; serices: NA

Labor force: 832,000 (June 2007 est.)

Labor force—by occupation: agriculculture: 21.4%; industry: NA; services: NA (2006)

Unemployment rate: 50% (2007 est.)

Population below poverty line: 30% (2006 est.)

Distribution of family income—Gini index: 30 (FY05/06)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2% (2007 est.)

Investment (gross fixed): 29% of GDP (2006 est.)

Budget: revenues: $893.2 million; expenditures: $796.6 million (2006 est.)

Public debt: NA

Agriculture—products: NA

Industries: NA

Electricity—production: 3.996 billion kWh (2006)

Electricity—consumption: 4.281 billion kWh (2006)

Oil—production: NA

Oil—consumption: NA

Oil—proved reserves: NA

Natural gas—production: NA

Natural gas—consumption: NA

Natural gas—proved reserves: NA

Current account balance: NA

Exports: $13.08 million (2006)

Exports—commodities: scrap metals, mining and processed metal products, plastics, wood

Exports—partners: Central Europe Free Trade Area (CFTA) 56% (2006)

Imports: $84.99 million (2006)

Imports—commodities: petroleum, foodstuffs, machinery and electrical equipment

Imports—partners: Central Europe Free Trade Area (CFTA) 48% (2006)

Economic aid—recipient: $252 million (2006)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: NA

Debt—external: Serbia continued to pay Kosovo's external debt, which it claimed was around $1.2 billion; Kosovo was willing to accept around $900 million, according to the national bank of Serbia (2007)

Currency (code): Serbian Dinar (RSD); euro (EUR) is also in circulation

Exchange rates: Serbian dinars per US dollar—54.5 (2008 est.)


Airports: 10 (2008)

Airports—with paved runways: total: 6; 2,438 to 3,047 m: 1; 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1; under 914 m: 4 (2008)

Airports—with unpaved runways: total: 4; under 914 m: 4 (2008)

Heliports: 2 (2008)


Disputes—international: Serbia with several other states protest the US and other states’ recognition of Kosovo’ declaring itself as a sovereign and independent state in February 2008; ethnic Serbian municipalities along Kosovo's northern border challenge final status of Kosovo-Serbia boundary; several thousand NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers under UNMIK authority continue to keep the peace within Kosovo between the ethnic Albanian majority and the Serb minority in Kosovo; Kosovo authorities object to alignment of the Kosovo boundary with Macedonia in accordance with the 2000 Macedonia-Serbia and Montenegro delimitation agreement

Refugees and internally displaced persons: IDP's: 21,000 This page was last updated on 28 February, 2008

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 3/4/2008

PRISTINA (M) Nazim Hikmet St. No. 30, APO/FPO UNIT 9520 BOX 1000, APO, AE 09741-9520, 381-38-59593000, Fax 381-38-549890, INMARSAT Tel 873-762-029-495, Workweek: M-F, 8:00-17:00, Website: http://pristina.state.gov.

CM:Tina Kaidanow
CM OMS:Frances C. Parish

Alexander M. Laskaris
ECO/CO:Valerie Bilgri- Holm
HRO:Christian Charette
MGT:Robert C Ruehle
POL/ECO:Thomas K. Yazdgerdi
CON:Kimberly A McDonald
PAO:Karyn A. Posner
GSO:Robert Burnett
RSO:Richard Fuller
AFSA:Jeremy R. Wisemiller
AID:Michael Farbman
CLO:Maria Burnett
DAOCol. Johnny Mcqueen
EEO:Christian Charette
FMO:Christian Charette
ICASS Chair:Lansing Dickinson
IMO:Lillian E. Quiles
ISO:Jimmie D. Rabourn
ISSO:Lillian E. Quiles
State ICASS:Thomas K. Yazdgerdi


Consular Information Sheet

September 20, 2007

Description: Kosovo is a region administered under the civil authority of the U.N. Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) pursuant to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244, pending future resolution of its status. At this time, some civilian institutions, including the criminal justice system, are not functioning at a level consistent with Western standards. Kosovo is a cash economy. The currency used throughout Kosovo is the euro.

Entry and Exit Requirements: U.S. citizens need a passport to enter Kosovo. No visa is required by UNMIK, but visitors may be required to produce documentation to demonstrate the purpose of their visit. Generally, visitors allowed to enter Kosovo will be permitted to stay for up to 90 days. Persons who wish to prolong their stay beyond 90 days will need to register at the Office for Registration of Foreigners, located in the Main Police Headquarters in Pristina.

Entry to Serbia from Kosovo should not be attempted without a valid Serbian entry stamp from a Serbian border crossing post. Serbia does not recognize entry stamps from UNMIK border sites, including Pristina Airport, to be valid. For more information on UNMIK regulations on the movement of people, see http://www.unmikonline.org.

Safety and Security: NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops, along with international and local police, are responsible for security and stability in Kosovo. Although the overall security situation has improved, inter-ethnic tensions and sporadic incidents of violence continue to occur. In March 2004, Kosovo experienced three days of widespread interethnic violence, including several incidents in the capital, Pristina. This outbreak resulted in 20 deaths, hundreds of injuries, and approximately 4,000 displaced individuals. Since those riots, there has been no resumption of serious violence, although the atmosphere remains tense, particularly as the EU/Russia/ U.S. troika-led status talks move to conclusion.

Americans should avoid demonstrations and other sites, such as roadblocks, where large crowds are gathered, particularly those involving political/ethnic causes or striking workers.

High unemployment and other economic factors have encouraged criminal activity. While de-mining programs have proven effective, unexploded ordnance and mines remain in some areas. The reliability of telecommunications, electric and water systems remains unpredictable. Travel by U.S. Government officials to some areas of Kosovo that have experienced recent ethnic violence is subject to restrictions.

Medical Facilities: Health facilities are limited, and medications are in short supply. KFOR cannot provide basic health care to non-military personnel, nor can they provide medical evacuation out of Kosovo. The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Crime: Street crimes, in particular theft and purse snatchings, are serious problems in Kosovo, and especially in Pristina. Foreigners are targets for crime, as they are assumed to carry cash. Likewise, foreigners’ homes, vehicles and international non-governmental organization (NGO) offices have been subject to burglaries. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Office in Pristina. While the U.S. Office cannot directly issue new passports, it will assist with arrangements for applying for a new passport in Skopje, Macedonia.

Emergency numbers in Pristina are Police: 92; Fire Department: 93; and Ambulance: 94. For information on other areas contact the U.S. Office in Pristina.

The UNMIK police force is a contingent of international officers who are working alongside local officers to carry out most normal police functions. The judicial system is still developing under the oversight of UNMIK.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no permanent direct commercial air service between the United States and Kosovo, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Kosovo's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. However, a U.S.-based charter service, which does not require this assessment, began summer commercial flights (June-September) between New York and Pristina in June 2007. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: Road conditions can be extremely hazardous because roads are narrow, crowded, and used by a variety of vehicles, from KFOR armored personnel carriers to horse-drawn carts. Many vehicles are old and lack standard front or rear lights. Mountain roads can be narrow, poorly marked, and lack guardrails. They quickly become dangerous in inclement weather. It is strongly recommended that Americans in Kosovo have vehicles that are registered out-side of Kosovo, to prevent problems in the event of an evacuation, as Kosovo license plates may not be accepted in neighboring countries.

The use of seat belts is mandatory. A driver with a blood alcohol level higher than 0.05 is considered intoxicated. Travelers entering Kosovo by road should be aware that the purchase of local third-party insurance is required.

Special Circumstances: Banking services are available in Pristina and other major towns, although they are not fully developed. There are now a number of banks with international ties that offer limited banking services, including Automated Teller Machines, in Pristina and other major towns. If it becomes necessary to receive emergency funds from abroad, Western Union has offices throughout Kosovo.

Registration and Embassy and Consulate Locations: Americans living or traveling in Kosovo are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security with Kosovo. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the U.S. Office in Pristina and obtain updated information on travel and security in Kosovo. At this time the U.S. Office in Pristina provides only emergency services to American citizens. The U.S. Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia provides all routine consular services such as passport and visa processing. The U.S. Office is located at 30 Nazim Hikmet St. in the Dragodan area of Pristina. The telephone number is (381) 38-549-516, e-mail: [email protected] The web site is http://pristina.usmission.gov.

International Adoption

March 2006

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: Kosovo remains part of Serbia and Montenegro but is governed by the UN Mission in Kosovo. (Kosovo also has local provisional institutions of government that fall under the ultimate authority of the UN.) The United States has an office in Pristina that provides limited services to U.S. citizens in Kosovo. Immigrant visa applications for Kosovars are processed at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority:
Adoption Coordinator
Social Services
Division Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare
011-038-504-604-4680 (Monday -Thursday; callers must speak Albanian)

Adoptive parents may also contact the Centers for Social Work in the municipality from where they are adopting after first establishing contact with the adoption coordinator in Pristina.

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Prospective adoptive parents must first be approved to adopt by their home countries. For U.S. citizens, this means obtaining an approved I-600A from the local office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) covering their U.S. residence.

At this time, Kosovo has not established any age or civil status requirements although it is preferred that at least one of the prospective adoptive parents be not older than 55 years. Kosovo authorities have not identified any medical ineligibilities that would disqualify prospective adoptive parents.

Residency Requirements: There are no residency requirements for intercountry adoption.

Time Frame: As the U.S. Government is unaware of any completed intercountry adoptions from Kosovo, it is not possible to estimate how long such an adoption would take.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: There are no known U.S. adoption agencies that are allowed to operate in Kosovo. Adoptive parents must work directly with the Adoption Coordinator.

Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and state adoption licensing/accrediting office in the state where the agency is located.

Adoption Fees: Authorities in Kosovo have not established any fees related to adoption services.

Adoption Procedures: The Center for Social Welfare (CSW) in each municipality actively searches for a Kosovar family permanently residing in Kosovo to adopt a child in need of a family. The CSW tries to find a family with the same ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic background as the child. After efforts to locate a family in each of the 31 municipalities are exhausted, the child is then referred to the Intercountry Adoption Board for approval for the child to be adopted internationally.

Prospective adoptive parents must submit all documentation to the Social Services Division at the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, where they will be entered into a database.

Parents and children are matched based on the needs of the child. After an initial match is made, the prospective adoptive parents can communicate with their prospective adoptive child. If the match is successful, it will be reviewed and approved by the Adoption Board. After receiving Adoption Board approval, the CSW will complete adoption requirements and issue an adoption decree.

Adoptive parents are required to travel to Kosovo to complete adoption requirements such as signing documents and applying for birth certificates, etc.

Required Documents:

  • Written request for adoption—signed by both spouses;
  • Marriage certificate;
  • Birth certificate for each spouse;
  • Identification document (true copy of ID and passport, issued by State or Federal government agency) for both spouses;
  • Proof of Nationality;
  • Medical certificate regarding health condition and adoption capability—for both spouses, i.e. general health, illnesses that might impact on ones ability to care for a child;
  • Evidence of economic condition (i.e. property ownership, bank statements);
  • Letter of employment and with salary or income information (for both spouses, if applicable);
  • Statement from local police authorities that applicants have no criminal record;
  • Certificate from a competent authority certifying that parental rights have never been taken away from either spouse;
  • Home Study by competent adoption authority in the parents’ place of residence.

Note: All documents must be translated into Albanian or Serbian depending on the child's nationality.

Embassy in Washington, D.C.
2134 Kalorama Road
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: (202) 332-0333
Fax: (202) 332-3933.

Consulate General in Chicago
201 East Ohio St., Suite 200
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Tel: (312) 670-6707
Fax (312) 670-6787
Email at [email protected]

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adopting parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Office in Kosovo:
Dragodan-Arberia, Nazim Hikmet 30, Pristina
Tel: + 381 38 549 516
Fax: + 381 38 548 614
e-mail: [email protected]

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Kosovo may be addressed to the U.S. Office in Kosovo. General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/ OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.


views updated Jun 08 2018


Long a center for competing imperial ambitions, Kosovo in the twentieth century endured a long and bloody process of transformation. Its history is one of subordination, ethnic conflict, and economic deprivation, which took on its early-twenty-first-century coloration when the majority Albanian population in 1910 revolted against the Ottoman Empire (1299–1922). These revolts led to the Balkan Wars of 1912, the military conquest of Kosovo by forces loyal to the Kingdom of Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria, and the formal annexation of Kosovo by Serbia and Montenegro in 1914.

Since both states viewed the non-Slav Albanian, Turkish, and Roma (gypsy) populations as alien and a threat, Montenegro and Serbia established administrations in Kosovo that encouraged Slav migration and settlement while eliminating indigenous communities and institutions. Such tactics, reminiscent of the United States' policies in its efforts to settle the West at the turn of the twentieth century, continued after the creation of the Yugoslav kingdom and also in socialist Yugoslavia after World War II (1939–1945). Despite its socialist rhetoric, nationalist ambitions to sanitize Yugoslavia of non-Slav populations continued under Josip Broz Tito (1892–1980) through "population exchange" programs signed with Turkey in the 1950s. As a result of these policies, hundreds of thousands of Albanians and Turks emigrated from the Balkans.

These policies of social engineering ended when Serbian Interior Minister Alesander Rankovic was removed from power in 1966. Rankovic's removal led to Kosovo's slow integration into greater Yugoslav society. The 1974 redrawing of Yugoslavia's constitution represented a serious effort by Tito's regime to dilute the entrenched power of Serbian interests in the federal government and army, opening the door for Kosovo to enjoy formal political and economic autonomy from the Serbian Republic that claimed full sovereignty over it. Importantly, this period offered Albanians and Turks the opportunity to rise within the Communist Party.

Following the constitutional challenges in 1974 to Serbian hegemony in Kosovo, Albanian members of the Communist Party began to rise in the ranks and take on key administrative roles inside Kosovo. Among the most visible were Azem Vllasi, Veli Deva, Mahmut Bakali, Sinan Hasani, Kaqusha Jashari, Rahman Morina, and Husamedi Azemi. It is important to note that power was always firmly in the hands of the Yugoslav Communist Party, yet several interior security agencies became staffed by ambitious Albanians. Men like Tahir Zemaj (who was assassinated in 2002) became high-ranking officers in the secret military intelligence service (Kontra Obavjestajna Sluzba, the KOS) and would prove to be the real power holders in Kosovar society. This hierarchy still existed in the early twenty-first century. Although public figures such as Ibrahim Rugova, Hashim Thaci, and Ramush Haradinaj among Albanians; Oliver Ivanovic, Rada Trajkovic, and Archbishop Artemije among Serbs; Muamir Kandic and Numan Balic among Bosnians; and Nebehat Erdogan among Turks appear before the public as their respective communities' leaders, the real power lies in the hands of men who operate anonymously, away from public scrutiny. As in all postcommunist countries in the Balkans, the legacy of forty years of communist rule has been debilitating.

By the mid-1980s a nationalist backlash within Serbia led to the ascendancy of a new politicization of ethnicity and history. The rise of the political career of Slobodan Milosevic (b. 1941) most noticeably resulted in Kosovo becoming the primary target for nationalist reactionary politics. By 1989 Serbian nationalists hijacked the Yugoslav federal system and eliminated Kosovo's constitutionally protected autonomy from Serbia. The subsequent ten-year persecution of Albanians created the conditions that led to an armed insurgency in 1996 and ultimately to intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999. Belgrade's organized persecution of Albanians in Kosovo left perhaps 1.5 million Albanians homeless and upwards of 10,000 dead by the spring of 1999. In response to these tactics, the international community imposed a UN–mandated administration in June 1999. When Serbian military forces and militias withdrew from Kosovo and NATO forces entered the province, many Serb residents left, a large number of them resettling in areas bordering Serbia proper. As a result, much as in Bosnia, Belgrade created an ethnically pure region that has since June 1999 been militarily sealed from the rest of Kosovo.

The UN administration, formally called the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), was mandated to run Kosovo until the parties involved reach an agreement on the region's "final status." In the early 2000s, UNMIK was working with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a coalition of NATO forces, the Kosovo Force (KFOR), the United States, and the European Union (EU) to oversee the reconstruction of Kosovo's infrastructure and civil institutions. A tense relationship existed between the stewards of Kosovo's interim administration and its population, who remained the poorest and most isolated in Europe. Some observers believe that the UN's administrative elite failed to fully appreciate the history of the region and underlying forces behind the persistent tensions between Serbs, who demand that Kosovo be returned to Serbia, and Albanians, who seek independence. This lack of understanding may be explained in part by the high turnover of administrative staff, including the frequent changes in UNMIK's chief administrative position, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Kosovo (SRSG). Since 1999 the following individuals have served as SRSG in Kosovo: Bernard Kouchner (hailing from France), July 1999 to January 2001; Hans Haekkerup (Denmark), February 2001 to December 2001; Michael Steiner (Germany), January 2002 to July 2003; Harri Holkeri (Finland), July 2003 to June 2004; and the SRSG named in July 2004, Soren Jessen Petersen (Denmark).

geographic and demographic facts

Spanning an area of 10,686 square kilometers (4,126 square miles), Kosovo shares land boundaries with Albania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Macedonia. Kosovo is surrounded along its southern and western frontiers by high Alpine mountain ranges, while the interior has hilly, fertile, and forested valleys. The main cities of Kosovo other than the capital are Prizren, Peja (Pec), and Mitrovica. The country is rich in natural resources, especially lead, zinc, pyrite, gold, nickel, and brown coal, but the government has not invested in these sectors since the war of 1998 and 1999. Kosovo's climate is continental, resulting in warm summers and cold winters, with temperature extremes ranging from 35°C (95°F) in the summer to −20°C (−4°F) in the winter.

As of 2004, Kosovo's population was 1.9 million, and its capital Prishtina had an estimated 750,000 inhabitants, more than triple the population prior to 1999. According to the Statistical Office of Kosovo, among the recognized ethnic groups living in Kosovo, Albanians (both Muslim and Catholic) make up 88 percent of the population, Serbs represent 7 percent, and smaller numbers of Turks, Roma, Slav Muslims (Bosnians), Ashkhali, Egyptians, and Catholic Slavs (Croats) comprise the rest. The main languages spoken in Kosovo are Albanian, Serbo-Croatian, and Turkish, with English serving as the administrative language of the UN and OSCE.

Kosovo, ravaged by war and decades of economic exploitation, is the poorest region in Europe. Its population reportedly suffers from over 60 percent unemployment, with 50 percent living in poverty and 15 percent in abject poverty. Kosovo is heavily polluted as a result of industrialization and persistent war, with little or no long-term plans having been made to address the problem. The educational system is inadequate; more than fifty thousand young adults enter the labor market each year without any skills. The health-care system is barely functional. The long-term uncertainty over the final status of Kosovo and its failed economy have resulted in continuing violence, crime, and the radicalization of its youth.

In the early twenty-first century, crime remained a major problem in Kosovo. Competition over smuggling and other illegal activities led to the criminalization of many parts of Kosovo. Ethnic violence occasionally surfaced, and very little freedom of movement existed for Albanians in Serbian-populated regions in the north, most notoriously at Mitrovica. Contrary to media depictions of Kosovo since 1999, Serbs walked the streets of Prishtina freely in 2004, and despite the mid-March riots that year which left nineteen dead, tensions are low in many parts of Kosovo, especially for non-Serb minorities who share no open animosity with Albanians. However, tensions between Serbia and Kosovo's Albanians are likely to increase, as unrepentant nationalist parties in Serbia retain a hold on the country's policies and Kosovar Albanians feel threatened by any proposal to allow Kosovar Serbs full access to the region's civil and governmental institutions.

kosovo's government and institutions after 1999

Viewing the tumultuous history of the region through the prism of Kosovo's ethnic, religious, and economic diversity perhaps best helps explain the rationale behind the international community's response to the conflict in 1998 and 1999. The origins of the early-twenty-first-century government in Kosovo may be traced back to June 10, 1999, when the UN Security Council mandated in Resolution 1244 that an interim administration be established to run postwar Kosovo. The spirit of the mandate was that 93 percent of the region's inhabitants would concede their long-term goals of independence in exchange for immediate improvements to their lives. Among the improvements were the promise of immediate security, economic development, and a scheme whereby Albanians living in Kosovo would be permitted to enjoy substantial autonomy within the confines of Serbia and Montenegro, the successor state to Yugoslavia.

Since June 1999, as a result, a number of incongruent and often conflicting agencies from the international community have adopted a provisional self-governing framework in Kosovo. In 2004 Kosovo operated under a constitution drawn within a Provisional Framework for Self-Government that preserved sweeping powers for the UNMIK administration, including veto power of all legislative action. The building of local institutions in this context has been a slow process. In January 2000, for example, the Joint Interim Administrative Departments were created to help set up local elections that first took place in Kosovo's thirty municipalities in October 2000. In May 2001 the new Constitutional Framework of Kosovo was adopted; it allowed province-wide elections to take place in November 2001, and in early 2002 resulted in the establishment of a provisional government. Kosovo's Serbs have resisted participating in OSCE–administered elections in Kosovo, while loyally voting in Serbian national elections. Among Kosovar Albanians, the first elections resulted in widespread enthusiasm, and participation levels were above 70 percent. In the last municipal elections, however, less than 50 percent of the electorate voted. The three major Albanian political parties dominating Kosovo politics are the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), and the Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK). Numerous smaller parties (twenty-six in all) have little influence in the assembly. Kosovo Serbs have flirted with the idea of participating in formal Kosovar institutions, but they have ultimately elected to create their own institutions, in defiance of UN resolutions declaring such a parallel government illegal. All minority communities have at least one political party.

UNMIK formally handed over key governing responsibilities to the Kosovo parliament in 2002 amid the underlying tensions between the majority of the population and Serbs whom UNMIK hoped to reintegrate into daily political life. Despite gestures to grant Kosovars greater responsibilities, UNMIK still controls Kosovo's key institutions. The unelected SRSG presides over the work of the main arms of Kosovo's government, has full control over Kosovo's budget, may intervene and veto any initiative drawn up by the elected Kosovo Assembly, and has absolute control over Kosovo's foreign relations.

To implement its mandate, UNMIK initially brought together four "pillars" under its leadership. At the end of the emergency stage, Pillar I (humanitarian assistance), led by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), was phased out in June 2000. In May 2001 a new Pillar I was established. As of 2004, the pillars are:

Pillar I: Police and justice, under the direct leadership of the UN
Pillar II: Civil administration, under the direct leadership of the UN
Pillar III: Democratization and institution-building, led by the OSCE
Pillar IV: Reconstruction and economic development, led by the EU

In this matrix, the four pillars have considerable power to overstep elected officials associated with the Kosovar government. The government includes an assembly with 120 seats, ten of which are guaranteed to Serbs and ten to other minorities, which far exceeds their actual percentage of the population. The assembly elects a president (in 2004, Ibrahim Rugova), who in turn nominates the prime minister (in 2005, Ramush Haradinaj) who proposes a list of ministers to fill the ten ministry portfolios. In another attempt to guarantee minority rights, Serbs have a permanent hold on the Ministry of Agriculture, and a rotating portfolio in the Ministry of Health has been given to other minority communities. Each ministry is expected to draft laws relevant to their fields of authority. The assembly then undertakes a review of proposed laws, mitigated by the prime minister's office, and if the assembly approves a law, it seeks final sanction by the SRSG.

Much as with the legislature, politics also dominates the selection and staffing of government bureaucracies, with European and U.S. governments wrangling over the appointment of key executive positions. As for the positions held by Kosovars, nepotism is rampant, resulting in a highly ineffective, corrupt bureaucracy. In addition, ethnic quotas have been established, creating tensions within these bureaucracies over the extent to which Serbs are given concessions. The prospects of any serious reform seem unlikely as long as salaries remain low, with top bureaucrats making less than 250 euros a month.

In regard to Kosovo's judiciary, the SRSG appoints all judges and prosecutors in Kosovo, a process that has resulted in many public battles between the Kosovar government and the international community. The courts are structured into four divisions—minor offense courts, municipal courts, district courts, and the Supreme Court of Kosovo—and, much as with all other governmental institutions, Kosovo's Serbian population has been able to successfully circumvent participating in the system. The creation of Pillar I is UNMIK's structural response to not only counter organized crime but also contain interethnic violence.

As far as Kosovo's once thriving, if largely illegal, civil society is concerned, much of the activism that had historically existed in Kosovo has dissipated as the result of the war and postwar changes. Many former civic leaders have found a niche in either political parties or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Serb community has been particularly adept at drawing from resources provided by Belgrade to maintain parallel structures that keep the pressure on UNMIK. Albanian organizations, especially veteran groups, have come under increasing scrutiny as growing violence between some Albanian groups has taken place. UNMIK and KFOR forces have resorted to breaking up demonstrations with antiriot forces imported from Pakistan and Jordan. This

does not promise a stable short-term future for Kosovo. Its institutions have consistently been weakened by open challenges from Serbia regarding the legitimacy of Kosovo's existence and the international community's inability to directly address Albanian demands and concerns. As witnessed in the outbreak of violence on March 17 and 18, 2004, Kosovo's government failed to address the most basic needs of its population, resulting in simmering tensions on the brink of explosion.

See also: Albania; Ethnic Cleansing; Serbia and Montenegro; Turkey; United Nations.


Blumi, Isa. "Kosova: From the Brink—and Back Again." Current History (November 2001):15–20.

Clark, Howard. Civil Resistance in Kosovo. London: Pluto Press, 2000.

Demekas, D. G., J. Herderschee, and D. J. Jacobs. Kosovo Institutions and Policies for Reconstruction and Growth. Washington, DC: International Monitory Fund, 2002.

Dimitrijevic, Vojin. "The 1974 Constitution and Constitutional Process as a Factor in the Collapse of Yugoslavia." In Yugoslavia: The Former and the Future. Reflections by Scholars from the Region, ed. Payam Akhavan and Robert Howse. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1995.

International Crisis Group. <http://www.crisisweb.org>.

Leurdijk, Dick, and Dick Zandee. Kosovo: From Crisis to Crisis. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001.

Magas, Branka. The Destruction of Yugoslavia: Tracking the Break-Up, 1980–1992. London: Verso, 1993.

Malcolm, Noel. Kosovo: A Short History. New York: Harper Perennial, 1999.

Mertus, Julie. Kosovo: How Myths and Truths Started a War. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

OSCE. Political Party Annual Financial Reports for 2002 and 2003.<http://www.osce.org/documents/mik/2004/06/3082_en.pdf>.

Poulton, Hugh. The Balkans, Minorities and States in Conflict. London: Minority Rights Group, 1991.

Statistical Office of Kosovo. Kosovo and Its Population: A Brief Description. <http://www.sok-kosovo.org>.

UNMIK. Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government. <http://unmikonline.org/constframework.htm>.

Isa Blumi


views updated May 11 2018




Kosovo lies between Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro. Its population of approximately two million people is estimated to be over 90 percent Albanian, with the remainder being Serbs, Montenegrins, Muslim Slavs, ethnic Turks, Roma, and others. While it remains a formal part of Serbia-Montenegro, it has been under the United Nations' international administration since 10 June 1999, when the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1244. This Resolution marked the end to NATO's military campaign, "Operation Allied Force," against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The NATO campaign had begun on 23 March 1999 and was designed to compel the Yugoslav government to cease violating the human rights of Kosovar Albanians and to accept changes in Kosovo's political status.

Discord over Kosovo's legal and political status lay at the heart of the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) that began in the early 1980s and continues, as of 2006, to impede diplomatic efforts to end the fractious conflicts in this corner ofsoutheastern Europe. Mediators from the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States have been addressing an issue that has defied resolution since the decline of Ottoman power in the Balkans just before World War I.


Kosovo's deep emotional and symbolic significance to Serbs and Albanians has obstructed the search for a peaceful settlement of national differences. Albanians claim to have lived in Kosovo as Illyrians and Dardanians well in advance of the Slavic invasions of the Balkans in the sixth and seventh centuries. Kosovo was also the site of the Prizren League following the Berlin Congress in 1878 that gave birth to the modern Albanian national movement. On the other hand, Serbs claim Kosovo as "the cradle of Serbian civilization." It was the center of the medieval Serbian state and long the seat of the patriarchate of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The defeat of Serbian forces by the Ottoman Army on 28 June 1389 has forever anointed Kosovo as a symbol of the "new Jerusalem" that is central to the Serbians' sense of place in the Balkans. Over the centuries, a cycle of folk epics about Kosovo transformed these memories so that Serbs closely associated Albanians with the Ottoman Empire and saw them as incapable of governing their own state.

This history provides background to the formation of national states with the retreat of Ottoman power from the Balkans at the end of the Balkan Wars. This retreat led to the creation of an independent Albania that left up to 40 percent of ethnic Albanians outside its borders. The victorious Serbian and Montenegrin armies arrived in Kosovo in 1913 to find a land in which they were greatly outnumbered. The Yugoslav census of 1921 recorded that 280,440 of the 436,929 inhabitants, or 64.1 percent of the population, were Albanian speakers. After World War II Albanians comprised an absolute majority of Kosovo's population and grew from 498,242 people, or 68.5 percent of the population, in 1948 to 1,607,690 people, or 82.2 percent of the population, in 1991. In that same period, the Serbs' share of the population shrank from 23.6 percent in 1948 to 9.9 percent in 1991. Montenegrins' share of the population shrank from 3.9 percent in 1948 to 1 percent in 1991. The Serbian government's efforts to transform Kosovo back to the center of Serbian political and cultural life have been faced with these population trends.


Albanian rebel bands known as Kaçaks resisted the advance of Serbian and Montenegrin forces into Kosovo. As many as twenty thousand Albanians in Kosovo were killed and tens of thousands fled the area during this initial Serb occupation in 1912–1913. With the Serbian defeat by German-Austrian forces in 1915 during World War I the situation was reversed. The Serbian Army, led by its government and royal family, was forced to retreat through Kosovo into Albania and as many as one hundred thousand people died in the trek. Kosovo's Albanian majority initially welcomed the partitioning Austrian, German, and Bulgarian powers. Local government in the Austrian sector employed the Albanian language and the Austrians set up three hundred Albanian-language schools and training academies. Conditions under Bulgarian occupation were significantly worse and were marked by compulsory labor service and forced requisitions of food. With the Austro-Hungarian forces' reversal of fortune in 1918 Serbian troops again brutally occupied Kosovo much as they had in 1913. According to agreements that were made during the fighting among the Allied powers, Kosovo was awarded to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes at the Paris Peace Conference and Kosovo was known as the "southern region" of Serbia and was part of "Old Serbia."


In the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes that was proclaimed on 1 December 1918 Kosovo was part of southern Serbia. The establishment of Yugoslavia, ruled by a royal dictatorship, on 6 January 1929 led to an administrative reform in which the territory of Kosovo was split into three separate banovinas or regions. Albanians were considered a national minority but the government denied them important rights contained in the Treaty on the Protection of Minorities, which it had signed in 1919. Albanians could not legally attend schools taught in their own language, nor were any Albanian-language publications on sale. Only 2 percent of eligible Albanian students were enrolled in secondary schools. All leading administrative positions of authority were in the hands of ethnic Serbs.

Possibly in anticipation of this inequality, a Committee for the National Defense of Kosovo, or Kosovo Committee, was formed to encourage as many as ten thousand rebel Kaçaks to engage in an anti-Serbian insurgency throughout all Albanian areas in southern Serbia and Montenegro. This insurgency remained active until the end of 1924, when it was finally suppressed by the government in Belgrade with the cooperation of the Albanian government headed by Prime Minister Ahmet Zogu (1895–1961), who had been forcibly removed from this position a year earlier by a coalition that included the Kosovo Committee. The Serbian government assisted Zogu's return to power with this cooperation in mind.

Throughout the interwar period, the Serbian government focused on changing the ethnic composition of Kosovo and sponsored an agrarian reform that primarily featured a colonization program under which former Montenegrin and Serb soldiers were encouraged to emigrate in exchange for land. Under this program, just under two hundred thousand hectares of land—of 584,000 total hectares of land—were redistributed to as many as seventy thousand colonists. Between the two world wars, tens of thousands of Albanians emigrated to Greece, Albania, and Turkey. In 1938 the government signed a convention with the government in Turkey that foresaw the emigration of two hundred thousand people to Turkey over the next six years.


These plans were interrupted by Nazi Germany's attack on Yugoslavia in April 1941 and the subsequent three-way partition of Kosovo. Bulgaria gained control of a small part of eastern Kosovo. The northern section that contained valuable zinc- and lead-producing mines in the city of Mitrovica was attached to the quisling regime in Serbia. The rest of Kosovo was joined with Albanian-inhabited regions of western Macedonia to Albania, which had been conquered by Mussolini's Italy in 1939. In a manner reminiscent of the pattern established during World War I the Italian region saw the establishment of Albanian-language elementary schools. The German military occupiers played a significant role in the occupation of the Serbian section. In the course of the war between thirty thousand and one hundred thousand Serbs fled from or were expelled from the region and between three thousand and ten thousand Serbs and Montenegrins were killed. With the imposition of socialist power in 1944 and 1945 between three thousand and twenty-five thousand Albanians were killed.

Albanian collaboration with the Germans and Italians was driven more by their dislike of Serbs than for their fealty to the goals of the Axis powers. German efforts to develop a Kosovar division to fight against the Serbs were not very successful. Similarly, the antifascist partisans led by the Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito (1892–1980) failed to win significant Albanian support for their cause of establishing a government that gave every nation the right to self-determination. Even the communists' declaration at the beginning of 1944 that appealed to a desire for unity with Albania by working with the communist movement throughout Yugoslavia did not lead many Albanians to join the Communist Party. In July 1945 Kosovo was formally annexed to Serbia. In the period before Yugoslavia's expulsion from the Stalinist Cominform in 1948 there was hope that Kosovo could be reunited with Albania as part of a larger Balkan Federation.


From 1945 until 1990 Kosovo enjoyed autonomous status within the Socialist Republic of Serbia. It was known officially as "Kosovo-Metohia" or "Kosmet" until 1968. (A metoh is an Orthodox Church holding and the title emphasizes Kosovo's Serbian character.) Kosovo was an "Autonomous Region" until the passage of a new Yugoslav constitution in 1963, when it became an "Autonomous Province." Under reforms that were promulgated in 1968 and strengthened in the 1974 constitution Kosovo's government gained a status equivalent in most respects to that of the six Yugoslav republics, with direct representation on Yugoslav federal bodies and the right to write its own constitution, but without the formal right of succession.

This constitutional evolution reflected the changing political circumstances in Kosovo and Yugoslavia more broadly. Yugoslavia's expulsion from the Cominform in 1948 raised fears in Belgrade that anti-Yugoslav propaganda emanating from Albania might have appeal among Kosovo's Albanians. The Serbian-dominated secret police subsequently imposed harsh rule over the region. In the 1950s Serbs and Montenegrins accounted for 50 percent of party membership and of industrial workers when they only made up 27 percent of the population. The regime held public show trials of Albanians accused of subversion and espionage. Thousands of Albanians declared themselves Turks and emigrated to Turkey. The pendulum swung back again with the reforms in the late 1960s, which gave Kosovo Albanians the right to fly a flag bearing the Albanian national emblem. The University of Pristina grew rapidly as an educational center and, under an agreement with the University of Tirana, Kosovo students used textbooks printed in Albania and were taught by visiting professors from Albania. The Albanian share of the industrial and professional workforce, management structures, League of Communists, and police force increased considerably in the period after 1974.


The improved position of Albanians in Kosovo led to increasingly strong demands for elevation of Kosovo's status to that of a republic within the Yugoslav Federation. The culmination of these demands came in massive student demonstrations less than one year after Tito's death in 1981. The strong suppression of these demonstrations and the efforts of Albanian communists to restore order quieted neither the demands of increasingly radical Albanians nor the province's Serbs, whose emigration from Kosovo had begun to increase still further. By the mid-1980s Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo began openly complaining that they were under a great deal of pressure and began to organize for defense of Serbs in Kosovo. The situation of Serbs in Kosovo became a national cause célèbre as the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1986 drafted a memorandum that criticized Serbia's socialist politicians for allowing the genocide of Serbs in Kosovo and leading Serbia to its greatest defeat in history. Developments in Kosovo were also central in propelling the career of Slobodan Milošević (1941–2006), the first senior politician to acknowledge the validity of Serb anger toward Kosovo. Milošević manipulated Serb fears over Kosovo in support of his efforts to gain power throughout the Yugoslav federation and then to create the conditions for the wars that plagued Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo throughout the 1990s.

The Serbian constitution of 1990 eliminated Kosovo's autonomy and Kosovo began to be referred to again in official Serbian documents as Kosmet. The newly established administration systematically removed Albanians from the mass media, government and administration, business, and management, as well as from the health and educational systems. Albanian ceased to be a language of instruction in the university and in high schools. Legislation was passed forbidding the sale of property to Albanians. This repression increased still further as the Serbian government became involved in wars fought in Croatia and Bosnia.


This repression led many thousands of Albanians to emigrate from Kosovo and Albanians remaining in Kosovo to boycott participation in all aspects of official social and political life. They organized a nonviolent parallel political system that was led in the early years by the Democratic League of Kosovo or LDK. Its leader, Ibrahim Rugova (1944–2006), was overwhelmingly elected president in 1992. Contributions from Albanians employed at home and abroad provided the basis for the development of a parallel system of education and health care. By 1997 the failure of this movement to win independence or international recognition led to the emergence of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which engaged in guerrilla warfare in regions that were favored by the Kaçaks in the 1920s. Fighting escalated in 1998 and many thousands of Kosovar Albanians fled into the hills to continue the fighting. Threatened with NATO bombardment, Serbian president Milošević accepted an unarmed observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that would facilitate political negotiations between the Serbian government and the Albanian movement. The effort to build confidence between Serbs and Albanians on the ground failed with increasingly violent fighting between Serb and Albanian forces. Diplomatic efforts to hammer out a political settlement in February 1999 also failed when the Serbian government refused to sign an agreement that would give Albanians the widest possible autonomy within Serbia. This led to the seventy-eight-day NATO campaign, Operation Allied Force, which focused on Serbian military targets and civic infrastructure. During the fighting the Serbian forces killed an estimated eleven thousand Albanians and drove almost a million Albanians out of Kosovo.

The UN interim administration, which was charged with preparing Kosovo for self-government and for the settlement of Kosovo's future status, was bolstered by a NATO force of forty-two thousand troops to provide security. Hundreds of thousands of Albanian refugees quickly flooded back into Kosovo and have emerged as the predominant political force in Kosovo. These interim arrangements have succeeded neither in preventing thousands of Serbs from emigrating from Kosovo nor in providing a basis on which to build confidence between Albanians and Serbs who remain in Kosovo. There is hope among international negotiators that the negotiations over Kosovo's future status that began in 2005 will succeed at resolving the problems that remained unsolved throughout the twentieth century.

See alsoAlbania; Milošević, Slobodan; Serbia; World War I; World War II; Yugoslavia .


Banac, Ivo. The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics. Ithaca, N.Y., 1984.

Cohen, Lenard J. Socialist Pyramid: Elites and Power in Yugoslavia. Oakville, Ont., New York, and Lanham, Md., 1989.

Horvat, Branko. Kosovsko Pitanje. Zagreb, 1989.

Janjić, Dušan, and Shkelzen Maliqi, eds. Conflict or Dialogue: Serbian-Albanian Relations and the Integration of the Balkans. Subotica, 1994.

Judah, Tim. Kosovo: War and Revenge. New Haven, Conn., 2000.

Malcolm, Noel. Kosovo: A Short History. New York, 1998.

Pipa, Arshi, and Sami Repishti, eds. Studies on Kosova. Boulder, Colo., and New York, 1984.

Vickers, Miranda. Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo. New York, 1998.

Mark Baskin


views updated Jun 27 2018


Kosovo was ineluctably tied to Serbia at the Battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389, wherein the victorious Muslim Turks left the dead for blackbirds to scavenge, according to Serbian folklore. Kosovo was then etched in Serbian ethno-religious consciousness as a place of Serbian torment and sacrifice, ushering in five hundred years of Turkish domination. The Battle of Kosovo marked the end of the Serbian empire. The Turks conquered Albania by 1468, but although most Albanians converted to Islam, they maintained their separate ethnic identity.

Ottoman rule was ending by 1878. Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, and Bulgaria amassed troops and finally succeeded in driving out the Ottoman forces in the Balkan Wars (1912–1913). The geographical extent of Albania was reduced at the behest of France and Russia, leaving more than half of the total Albanian population outside the borders of the diminished state, and placing the area of Kosovo within Serbia. The Serbian victors massacred entire Albanian villages, looting and burning anything that remained. European press reports estimated that Serbs killed 25,000 Albanians.

From the end of the Balkan Wars to World War II, Albanians lived under Serb domination. Their language was suppressed, their land confiscated, and their mosques were turned into stables, all part of an overt Serb policy designed to pressure Muslim Albanians to leave Kosovo. The cycle of revanchism (revenge-based conflict) continued when a part of Kosovo was united with Albania by Italian fascists during World War II and Albanian Nazi collaborators expelled an estimated forty thousand Serbs.

A postwar Constitution, adopted in 1946, defined Yugoslavia as a federal state of six sovereign republics. Kosovo was granted autonomy, allowing it to have representatives in the federal legislature yet keeping its internal affairs under Serbian control. In 1948, Yugoslavia broke away from Stalin's Russia, a move that pitted the Albanian Kosovars against the country of Albania, which was staunchly pro-Russian. Yugoslav and Albanian border guards clashed along the Albanian border, and the Yugoslav secret police intensified its persecution of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. As Serbs persecuted Albanian-Kosovars, the Kosovars harassed Serbs in turn.

Demographic studies from 1979 show that Albanian Kosovars had the highest population growth rate in Europe, especially in rural areas. Increasing numbers of young ethnic Albanians were under the age of 25 and unemployed, fueling dissent. When the President of Yugoslavia, Croat-born Marshall Tito, allowed an Albanian-language university to be established in Kosovo, it became the center of Albanian national identity. Following Tito's death in 1980, students demonstrated for better living conditions in 1981, inspiring construction and factory workers to take to the streets in protest throughout Kosovo.

Retribution was immediate and harsh. The Yugoslav army was sent to Kosovo, killing Albanians and arresting people for "verbal crimes," for which substantial prison sentences were imposed. The press, local governments, and schools were purged of the Albanians who held such jobs (most such employees were Serbs). At the same time, approximately 30,000 Serbs left Kosovo (according to Yugoslav government estimates), ostensibly because of Albanian retaliation. Critics, however, have suggested that the Serbs left for economic reasons. The Yugoslav government economic policy toward Kosovo was one of resource extraction. Wealth, in the form of minerals, was siphoned out of Kosovo for the benefit of the other republics, with very little ever coming back to the impoverished area.

In the mid-1980s Serb-Kosovars complained to the Yugoslav government that the escalating ethnic Albanian birthrate constituted a willful plot against the Serbs. Ethnic Albanian women stopped going to governmentrun hospitals to have babies, fearing that Serb doctors would kill their babies to reduce the birthrate. In 1987,Slobodan Milosevic attended a meeting in Kosovo during which a raucous crowd of Serbs tried to push their way in. Milosevic commanded the police to let "his" Serbs through, establishing himself as the savior of Serbs outside the borders of Serbia. Critics allege that the event was arranged in advance. After Milosevic was elected President of Serbia in 1990, Albanian police officers in Kosovo were suspended from their jobs and replaced with 2,500 Serb policemen imported from Belgrade.

In the spring of 1990, thousands of Albanian schoolchildren became sick and were hospitalized, and it was rumored that Serbs had poisoned them. When Albanian parents attacked Serb property in response, Milosevic immediately transferred another 25,000 police to the area. Serb police were allowed to keep Albanians in jail for three days without charges, and to imprison anyone for up to two months if they had been charged with insulting the "patriotic feelings" of Serbs. The conflict in Kosovo and the Serb annexation of the province in 1987 led to concerns in the other republics that Serbia was intending to transform Yugoslavia into "Greater Serbia." However, the pattern of revanchism in response to the mounting human rights abuses was broken when Albanians turned to passive resistance, following the model of non-violence espoused by Mahatma Gandhi.

The Serb war against Bosnia from 1992 to 1995 worsened the situation for Albanians in Kosovo. This time, Albanians suffered from the anti-Muslim fervor of Serbs and the hardships resulting from the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations in response to the war. The Bosnian war ended with the negotiation of the Dayton Accords in 1995, but Kosovo was left out of the discussion. Disappointed Kosovars watched Western diplomats congratulate Milosevic on his peacemaking efforts. Albanian Kosovars continued their practice of passive resistance until 1997, when the country of Albania collapsed into chaos and Kosovo was flooded with weapons from across the border. The ethnic majority, Albanian Kosovars, now had access to weapons, a serious concern for the Serbs. Suspected members of the newly formed Kosovo Liberation Army were arrested and charged with "hostile association," a charge that was never denied.

A Serb policeman was murdered in 1998, prompting a police attack on a village in which one hundred Albanians were killed. Further massacres of Albanians continued to fuel the mobilization of the Kosovo Liberation Army. As Muslim refugees streamed into Albania, Serbs lined the borders with landmines. An estimated 270,000 Albanians fled to the hills of Kosovo. In the fall of 1998, NATO authorized air strikes against Serb military targets and Milosevic agreed to withdraw his troops. By the winter of 1998, however, the United States was proclaiming that Serbs were committing "crimes against humanity" in Kosovo.

Negotiations to offset the looming humanitarian disaster and end the alleged Serb crimes were fashioned in Rambouillet, France, in early 1999. The peace plan proposed by the United Nations was rejected by both Serbs and Albanian Kosovars. The political blueprint called for NATO troops to be placed in Kosovo to over-see peace and protect the combatants from each other, but Serbia rejected the presence of foreign troops on its soil. A United Nations force, similar to the peacekeepers in Bosnia might have been accepted, but the West insisted on a NATO force. The ostensible reason for this insistence was that the West wanted to avoid a replay situation that occurred in Bosnia. There, the peacekeepers were forced to stand by idly and watch Bosnian women and children be killed. For their part, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) refused to comply with the Rambouillet mandate that they disarm. There had been too many instances in Bosnia, they argued, where Muslims disarmed and put themselves under the protection of the United Nations, only to be murdered by Serbs. This had occurred in Srebenica in 1995, when approximately seven thousand boys and old men were murdered by Serbs while in a United Nations designated safe-haven.

With the negotiations stalled, Serbia sent 40,000 troops to the border of Kosovo, exploiting the break in diplomacy to further what appeared to be preparations for an all-out occupation of Kosovo. Fearing a blood bath, knowing the far superior military strength of the Serb army, and with knowledge of the atrocities committed in Bosnia, the Albanians agreed to the stipulations of the Rambouillet treaty. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians were hiding in the winter hills, thousands more were displaced, and over 2,000 civilians had been killed. The KLA signed the treaty. NATO threatened Serbia with bombing if it refused to sign, but NATO had made such threats before, and the powers in Belgrade had no reason to believe action would be taken against them this time. Despite the NATO rhetoric, they refused.

NATO began bombing strategic targets in Kosovo on March 24, 1999, in response to Serbia's "Operation Horseshoe." Fanning out into the region in a pattern that took on the shape of a horseshoe, Serb soldiers went village-to-village, killing and burning, forcing those who could to run for their lives. To many, it looked as if the NATO bombings caused the extraordinary events that followed. Within three days of the bombing, 25,000 Albanian Kosovars were fleeing in terror. Within weeks 800,000 were fleeing. Serbian border guards took their identification papers and money, destroying any proof they ever existed.

Televised satellite technology yielded pictures of mass graves. Serbs then moved the remains and burned their victims, leaving the victims' families with no way of knowing what had happened to their missing relatives. A common means of disposal was to throw bodies into a well or water supply, rendering the water undrinkable. Cultural monuments and Islamic religious sites were destroyed. Reports estimated that up to 20,000 rapes and sexual assaults were committed against Albanian women. Albanian residents in Mitrovica were expelled, their houses and mosques burned, and women were sexually assaulted during attacks beginning on March 25, 1999. Albanians in other areas, most notably Pristine, were also expelled or killed, and women here, too, were sexually assaulted.

By May 20, 1999, one-third of the Albanian population had been expelled from Kosovo. The refugee crisis overwhelmed Macedonia and Albania, threatening to undermine the weak economies of both countries and flood the rest of Europe with refugees and asylum seekers from Kosovo. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, convened to prosecute war crimes in Bosnia, indicted Milosevic for crimes against humanity in Kosovo on May 27, 1999, and NATO escalated its air strikes. With questionable legality, NATO bombed the capital of Serbia, Belgrade, accidentally including in its targets a maternity hospital and the Chinese embassy. On June 2, 1999, Milosevic capitulated to the terms of NATO, and within ten days, Serb troops began pulling out of Kosovo. Between mid-June, when the NATO troops were deployed, and mid-August, 1999, more than 755,000 Kosovars returned to Kosovo.

The situation was reversed for the Serbs. There were an estimated 20,000 Serbs in Pristina, Kosovo, before the NATO bombing. By mid-August, the United Nations High Commission of Refugees reported only 2,000 Serbs left in the capital city, and increasingly violent attacks on the Serb population by Albanian Kosovars were on the rise. Albanian Kosovars used the same tactics that Serbs had used against them, forcing Serbs to sign over their property and possessions and leave. Nearly 200,000 Serb refugees from Kosovo fled into Serbia and Montenegro as the Albanian-Kosovars returned. Again, the departure was abrupt and fearful. The United Nations and NATO asserted their presence in the area, providing the appearance of protection for the now targeted Serbs. Nonetheless, tensions between ethnic Serbs and Albanian erupted into violent conflict again in Kosovo in March 2004. Albanian violence against Serbs was especially pronounced in areas where the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had documented atrocities committed against Albanians, especially around the areas of Mitrovica and Pristina, Kosovo. The violence in March 2004 left nineteen dead. Serbian Orthodox monasteries were demolished, and Serb houses and property were burned and destroyed. Intense debate regarding the partition of Kosovo from Serbia and Serbs from Albanian Kosovars was given new immediacy, but all sides were entrenched in their oppositional positions.

The trial of Milosevic by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia commenced on October 29, 2001, in which he was charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, murder, and persecution (including command responsibility for the sexual assaults on Kosovo Albanian women and the wanton destruction of religious sites) in Kosovo. The prosecution rested its case in February 2004, with the United Nations allowing the defense, judgment, and appeals processes to extend through 2010. The legacy of ethnic cleansing touched everyone throughout the former Yugoslavia. Thousands of Roma (Gypsy) who lived in Kosovo and the surrounding areas remained homeless and have been overlooked by the judicial process. For the Kosovars—both Albanian and Serb—history and experience have provided no solid template for establishing peace.

SEE ALSO Ethnic Cleansing; International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; Milosevic, Slobodan; Nationalism; Peacekeeping; Prevention; Rape; Reconciliation; Safe Zones


Anzulovic, Branimir (1999). Heavenly Serbia. New York: New York University Press.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. "Kosovo Indictment. Slobodan Milosevic: IT-02-54." Available from htttp://www.un.org/icty/glance/index.htm.

Judah, Tim (1997). The Serbs. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

Malcolm, Noel (1998). Kosovo: A Short History. New York: New York University Press.

Vickers, Miranda (1998). Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo. New York: Columbia University Press.

Vucinich, Wayne S., and T. Emmert (1991). Kosovo: Legacy of a Medieval Battle. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Young, Kathleen (2001). "Kosovo." In Europe: Struggles to Survive and Thrive, ed. Jean S. Forward. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Kathleen Z. Young

Kosovo Crisis (1999)

views updated Jun 08 2018

Kosovo Crisis (1999). In spring 1999, a major crisis erupted over Kosovo, the southernmost province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, with the forces of Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic escalating a terrorist campaign to drive out the ethnic Albanian Muslim majority and ensure dominance of the historic region by the Serbian Orthodox Christian minority. When Milosevic had earlier revoked the province's semi‐autonomous status and begun the persecution, ethnic Albanians had protested, then formed a rebel terrorist group, the Kosovo Liberation Army, seeking independence. In early 1999, NATO sponsored talks between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs in Rambouillet, France, but although the Kosovo Albanians grudgingly accepted a proposed settlement for broad autonomy for the province for three years (with possible independence afterwards) and 28,000 NATO troops in Kosovo and Serbia to enforce it, the Serbs rejected it.

Milosevic increased his forces in Kosovo and began mass terrorism of the ethnic Albanian population, killing some inhabitants to frighten the rest and burning entire villages. NATO had already authorized the use of force, and on 23 March 1999, President Bill Clinton declared that military means were necessary to halt the Serbian aggression. The next day, NATO forces began an extensive air assault on targets in Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo, the majority of cruise missiles and bombs delivered from American planes and ships. It was the biggest allied military assault in Europe since World War II and NATO's first actual combat, but Serbian forces quickly continued to drive ethnic Albanian refugees—ultimately a million of them—from their homes into neighboring Macedonia, Montenegro, and Albania, as the Kosovo Crisis threatened to spread throughout the Balkans.

In the next ten weeks, NATO waged an escalating air war against military and other targets in Serbia and Kosovo, flying 35,000 missions, including 10,000 in which 23,000 bombs or missiles were dropped. Hampered by bad weather and political fears in the alliance, the air campaign started slowly and ineffectively, but over time, more aggressive bombing and the use of precision‐guided munitions enabled NATO to destroy numerous military targets as well as targets in the urban infrastructure, including ultimately electricity grids and water supplies. NATO estimated that at least 5,000 Yugoslavian soldiers and police were killed (Serbia said 600); in addition, perhaps 1,200 civilians died as a result of mistaken bombings of trains, hospitals, and most prominently, the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. NATO lost only two aircraft, one of them a Stealth fighter, but both American pilots were rescued. By the end of May, a ground offensive along the Kosovo borders by the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army dislodged many Serbian forces out of their hiding places, allowing NATO aircraft to destroy them. The civilian population in the Serbian cities was suffering deprivation from the bombings. Although the British government pressed for a ground attack, political opposition to the war grew within Italy, Greece, and Germany, and the resolve of the NATO alliance showed signs of weakening.

On 3 June 1999, responding to the deteriorating situation and pressed by Russian and Finnish envoys, Milosevic declared that he accepted an international peace plan aimed at ending the Kosovo conflict and allowing the ethnic Albanian refugees to return to what remained of their homes in Kosovo. Under its terms, all of the 40,000 Serbian military and police forces would withdraw rapidly from Kosovo which they did beginning 10 June, following another week of bombing, and some 50,000 foreign troops all under a United Nations flag—many of them, including an estimated 7,000 U.S. forces, from NATO and under NATO command—would move in to police the province. Independence for Kosovo was not part of the new proposal, instead there would be “substantial autonomy” to be decided by the UN Security Council. The sixteen‐member NATO alliance had held together long enough to force Milosevic to let the Kosovar refugees return, but what remained uncertain was the ultimate future of Kosovo as well as the long‐term use of NATO military forces in such wars and peacekeeping operations in the twenty‐first century.
[See also Bosnian Crisis.]


Traian Stoianovich , Balkan Worlds: The First and Last Europe, 1994.
Susan L. Woodward , Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War, 1995.
Miranda Vickers , Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo, 1998.
Greg Campell , The Road to Kosovo: A Balkan Diary, 1999.

John Whiteclay Chambers II


views updated Jun 27 2018

Kosovo Autonomous province in s Serbia; the capital is Pristina. Ottoman victory in the Battle of Kosovo Field (1389) broke the power of Serbia. In 1913, it was reclaimed by Serbia and was incorporated into Yugoslavia in 1929. After World War 2, it became an autonomous province of Serbia. In 1974, Kosovo was granted a degree of autonomy. In 1990, the 80% Albanian population demanded greater autonomy. Serbia responded by imposing direct rule. The violent suppression of demonstrations escalated into a full-scale war in 1999. NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia led to a Serbian withdrawal and the reinstatment of Kosovo's autonomous status. In 2002, Yugoslavia became Serbia and Montenegro. Kosovo officially became part of Serbia, but kept its autonomous status. Area: 10,887sq km (4205sq mi). Pop. (1998 est.) 2,222,000.


views updated May 17 2018

Kosovo an autonomous province of Serbia bordering on Albania, the majority of whose people are of Albanian descent, and which in 1999 was subjected to ethnic cleansing by Serbian paramilitary forces, resulting in the bombing of Belgrade by Nato.