Kosovo, Balkan’s touch stone
Here it is a short history of Kosovo, as told us by Wikipedia:
In ancient times, Kosovo was part of a bigger region called Dardania. It was inhabited by tribes postulated to be of mixed Thraco-Illyrian ethnicity which inhabited the Balkans since the late Bronze Age.
By the 6th century, Slavic tribes from north and east of the Carpathian mountains began to settle the Balkans in successive waves. One of these Slavic migrants were the proto-Serbs. They settled a large area of the western Balkans, called Servia (Serbia)- which included modern Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, eastern parts of Bosnia and northern Macedonia. The Slavs actively assimilated many of the indigenous peoples of the Balkans. Some scattered tribes of Illyrians may have escaped the ethno-cultural assimilation, perhaps by fleeing to the mountainous regions of the western Balkans, even as early as during the Roman occupation.
By the 850s AD, Kosovo became part of the expanding Slavic Bulgarian Empire.
A popular uprising against Byzantine rule commenced in Dioclea by Stefan Voislav. One Vukan, a nephew of the Dioclean King Mihailo (Voislav’s descendent), was made Zhupan of Raska by his uncle. He struggled to free Raska from the Byzantines, and pushed through Kosovo c. 1092, and into Macedonia. There were several offensives and counter-offensives, however Vukan eventually accepted Byzantine vassalage. The full Serbian liberation of Kosovo from the Byzantines would not be achieved until 1208 by Stefan Nemanja of the Nemanjic dynasty. During this time Kosovo became the cultural, religious and political heart of the Serbian Kingdom. Numerous Christian monasteries were erected, such as the Visoki Dečani monastery. The zenith of medieval Serbia’s state was reached in 1346, when Stefan Dusan was crowned Emperor of Serbs, Vlachs, Greeks and Albanians, having conquered virtually all of Greece. However, with his death, his multiethnic Christian Empire also died due to internal power struggles, opening the Balkan’s up for the Ottoman invasion. The empire was split amongst regional nobility -Kosovo became a domain of the House of Mrnjavčević initially.
Historical sources suggest that medieval Kosovo had a Serbian character – Serbian was the cultural, political and linguistic idiom of the region. There are not many records delineating the ethnic composition of Kosovo, however, the earliest known census was the Decani charter in 1330. The vast majority of people are shown to be Slavic Serbian, however, there were also other ethnicities such as Vlachs, Bulgaro-Macedonians and Greeks. Less than 2% of households or farmsteads were Albanian. The Albanians are mentioned for the first time in the 11th century, in the Alexiad. There appears to be no records of any Albanian institutions or states in medieval Kosovo. This is not to say that Albanians had not been living in the area before this, but it merely re-affirms the notion that they were a remote, shepherding people that dwelt in the rugged mountains of northern Albania.
The Ottomans invaded and met the Serbian Army under Prince Lazar on 28 June 1389, near Pristina, at Gazi Mestan. Kosovo then became vassalaged to the Ottoman Empire, until its direct incorporation after the final fall of Serbia in 1459.
The Ottomans brought Islamisation with them, particularly in towns, and later also created the Vilayet of Kosovo as one of the Ottoman territorial entities. Kosovo was taken by the Austrian forces during the Great War of 1683–1699 with help of 5,000 Albanians and their leader, a Catholic Archbishop Pjetër Bogdani. The archbishop died of plague during the war. In 1690, the Serbian Patriarch of Peć Arsenije III, who previously escaped a certain death, led 37,000 families from Kosovo, to evade Ottoman wrath since Kosovo had just been retaken by the Ottomans. The people that followed him were mostly Serbs and Albanians abandoned—but they were likely followed by other ethnic groups. Due to the oppression from the Ottomans, other migrations of Orthodox people from the Kosovo area continued throughout the 18th century. It is also noted that some Serbs adopted Islam, while some even gradually fused with other groups, predominantly Albanians, adopting their culture and even language.
In 1766, the Ottomans abolished the Patriarchate of Peć and the position of Christians in Kosovo was greatly reduced. All previous privileges were lost, and the Christian population had to suffer the full weight of the Empire’s extensive and losing wars, even having blame forced upon them for the losses. The main reason for the conversion of Orthodox Albanians into Muslim Albanians was for the greater benefit of less taxes. Remnants of Orthodox Albanians, in Kosovo, went to live in mountains or rural parts of Montenegro.
In 1871, a massive Serbian meeting was held in Prizren at which the possible retaking and reintegration of Kosovo and the rest of "Old Serbia" was discussed, as the Principality of Serbia itself had already made plans for expansions towards Ottoman territory.
Albanian refugees from the territories conquered in the 1876–1877 Serbo-Turkish war and the 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish war are now known as ‘muhaxher’ (which means ‘refugee’, from Arabic muhajir). Their descendants still have the same surname, Muhaxheri. It is estimated that 200,000 to 400,000 Serbs were cleansed out of the Vilayet of Kosovo between 1876 and 1912, especially during the Greek-Ottoman War in 1897.
In 1878, a Peace Accord was drawn that left the cities of Priština and Kosovska Mitrovica under civil Serbian control, and outside the juristiction of the Ottoman authorities, while the rest of Kosovo would be under Ottoman control. As a response, the Albanians formed the nationalistic and conservative League of Prizren in Prizren later the same year. Over three hundred Albanian leaders from Kosovo and western Macedonia gathered and discussed the urgent issues concerning protection of Albanian populated regions from division among neighbouring countries. The League was supported by the Ottoman Sultan because of its Pan-Islamic ideology and political aspirations of a unified Albanian people under the Ottoman umbrella. The movement gradually became anti-Christian and spread great anxiety among Christian Albanians and especially among Christian Serbs. As a result, more and more Serbs left Kosovo northwards. Serbia complained to the World Powers that the promised territories were not being held because the Ottomans were hesitating to do that. The World Powers put pressure on the Ottomans and in 1881, the Ottoman Army began fighting the Albanian forces. The Prizren League created a Provisional Government with a President, Prime Minister (Ymer Prizreni) and Ministries of War (Sylejman Vokshi) and Foreign Ministry (Abdyl Frashëri). After three years of war, the Albanians were defeated. Many of the leaders were executed and imprisoned. The subsequent Treaty of San Stefano in 1878 restored most Albanian lands to Ottoman control, but the Serbian forces had to retreat from Kosovo along with some Serbs that were expelled as well. By the end of the 19th century the Albanians replaced the Serbs as the dominant people in Kosovo.
In 1908, the Sultan brought a new democratic decrete that was valid only for Turkish-speakers. As the vast majority of Kosovo spoke Albanian or Serbian, the Kosovar population was very unhappy. The Young Turk movement supported a centralist rule and opposed any sort of autonomy desired by Kosovars, and particularely the Albanians. In 1910, an Albanian uprising spread from Priština and lasted until the Ottoman Sultan’s visit to Kosovo in June of 1911. The Aim of the League of Prizren was to unite the four Albanian Vilayets by merging the majority of Albanian inhabitants within the Ottoman Empire into one Albanian State. However, at that time Serbs have consisted about 25% of the whole Vilayet of Kosovo’s overall population and were opposing the Albanian rule along with Turks and other Slavs in Kosovo, which disabled the Albanian movements to occupy Kosovo.
In 1912, during the Balkan Wars, most of Kosovo was taken by the Kingdom of Serbia, while the region of Metohija (Albanian: Dukagjini Valley) was taken by the Kingdom of Montenegro. An exodus of the local Albanian population occurred. This is best described by Leon Trotsky, who was a reporter for the Pravda newspaper at the time. The Serbian authorities planned a recolonization of osovo. Numerous colonist Serb families moved-in to Kosovo, equalizing the demographic balance between Albanians and Serbs. Many Albanians fled into the mountains and numerous Albanian and Turkish houses were razed. The reconquest of Kosovo was noted as a vengeance for the 1389 Battle of Kossovo. At the Conference of Ambassadors in London in 1912 presided over by Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, the Kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro were acknowledged sovereignty over Kosovo.
In the winter of 1915–1916, during World War I, Kosovo saw a large exodus of Serbian army which became known as the Great Serbian Retreat. Defeated and worn out in battles against Austro-Hungarians, they had no other choice than to retreat, as Kosovo was occupied by Bulgarians and Austro-Hungarians. The Albanians joined and supported the Central Powers. As opposed to Serbian schools, numerous Albanian schools were opened during the ‘occupation’ (the majority Albanian population considered it a liberation). Allied ships were awaiting for Serbian people and soldiers at the banks of the Adriatic sea and the path leading them there went across Kosovo and Albania. Tens of thousands of soldiers died of starvation, extreme weather and Albanian reprisals as they were approaching the Allies in Corfu and Thessaloniki, amassing a total of 100,000 dead retreaters. Transported away from the front lines, Serbian army managed to heal many wounded and ill soldiers and get some rest. Refreshed and regrouped, it decided to return to the battlefield. In 1918, the Serbian Army pushed the Central Powers out of Kosovo. During ocupation of Kosovo, the Serbian Army committed atrocities against the population in revenge. Serbian Kosovo was unified with Montenegrin Metohija as Montenegro subsequently joined the Kingdom of Serbia. After the World War I ended, the Monarchy was then transformed into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians (Albanian: Mbretëria Serbe, Kroate, Sllovene, Serbo-Croatian: Kraljevina Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca) on 1 December 1918, gathering territories gained in victory.
The 1918–1929 period of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians witnessed a raise of the Serbian population in the region and a decline in the non-Serbian. In the Kingdom Kosovo was split onto four counties—three being a part of the entity of Serbia: Zvečan, Kosovo and southern Metohija; and one of Montenegro: northern Metohija. However, the new administration system since 26 April 1922 split Kosovo among three Areas of the Kingdom: Kosovo, Rascia and Zeta. In 1921 the Albanian elite lodged an official protest of the government to the League of Nations, claiming that 12,000 Albanians had been killed and over 22,000 imprisoned since 1918 and seeking a unification of Albanian-populated lands. As a result, an armed Kachak resistance movement was formed whose main goal was to unite Albanian-populated areas of the Kingdom to Albania.
In 1929, the Kingdom was transformed into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The territories of Kosovo were split among the Banate of Zeta, the Banate of Morava and the Banate of Vardar. The Kingdom lasted until the World War II Axis invasion of 1941.
The greatest part of Kosovo became a part of Italian-controlled Fascist Albania, and smaller bits by the Tsardom of Bulgaria and Nazi German-occupied Kingdom of Serbia. During the fascist occupation of Kosovo by Albanians, until August 1941 alone, over 10,000 Serbs were killed and between 80,000 and 100,000 Serbs were expelled, while roughly the same number of Albanians from Albania were brought to settle in these Serbian lands.
Mustafa Kruja, the Prime Minister of Albania, was in Kosovo in June 1942, and at a meeting with the Albanian leaders of Kosovo, he said: "We should endeavor to ensure that the Serb population of Kosovo be – the area be cleansed of them and all Serbs who had been living there for centuries should be termed colonialists and sent to concentration camps in Albania. The Serb settlers should be killed."
Prior to the surrender of Fascist Italy in 1943, the German forces took over direct control of the region. After numerous uprisings of Partisans led by Fadil Hoxha, Kosovo was liberated after 1944 with the help of the Albanian partisans of the Comintern, and became a province of Serbia within the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia.
The province was first formed in 1945 as the Autonomous Kosovo-Metohian Area to protect its regional Albanian majority within the People’s Republic of Serbia as a member of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia under the leadership of the former Partisan leader, Josip Broz Tito, but with no factual autonomy. After Yugoslavia’s name change to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia’s to the Socialist Republic of Serbia in 1953, Kosovo gained inner autonomy in the 1960s. In the 1974 constitution, the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo’s government received higher powers, including the highest governmental titles — President and Premier and a seat in the Federal Presidency which made it a de facto Socialist Republic within the Federation, but remaining as a Socialist Autonomous Province within the Socialist Republic of Serbia. Tito had pursued a policy of weakening Serbia, as he believed that a "Weak Serbia equals a strong Yugoslavia". To this end Vojvodina and Kosovo became autonomous regions and were given the above entitled privileges as defacto republics. Serbo-Croatian, Albanian and Turkish were defined as official languages on the provincial level marking the two largest linguistic Kosovan groups: Albanians and Serbs. In the 1970s, an Albanian nationalist movement pursued full recognition of the Province of Kosovo as another Republic within the Federation, while the most extreme elements aimed for full-scale independence. Tito’s arbitrary regime dealt with the situation swiftly, but only giving it a temporary solution. The ethnic balance of Kosovo witnessed unproportional increase as the number of Albanians tripled gradually rising from almost 75% to over 90%, but the number of Serbs barely increased and dropped in the full share of the total population from some 15% down to 8%. Even though Kosovo was the least developed area of the former Yugoslavia, the living and economic prospects and freedoms were far greater then under the totalitarian Maoist regieme in Albania.
Beginning in March 1981, Kosovar Albanian students organized protests seeking that Kosovo become a republic within Yugoslavia. Those protests rapidly escalated into violent riots "involving 20,000 people in six cities" that were harshly contained by the Yugoslav government. During the 1980s, ethnic tensions continued with frequent violent outbreaks against Serbs and Yugoslav state authorities resulting in increased emigration of Kosovo Serbs and other ethnic groups. The Yugoslav leadership tried to suppress protests of Kosovo Serbs seeking protection from ethnic discrimination and violence.
In 1986, the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU) was working on a document which later would be known as the SANU Memorandum, a warning to the Serbian President and Assembly of the existing crisis and where it would lead. An unfinished edition was filtered to the press. In the essay, SANU criticised the state of Yugoslavia and made remarks that the only member state contributing at the time to the development of Kosovo and Macedonia (by then, the poorest territories of the Federation) was Serbia. According to SANU, Yugoslavia was suffering from ethnic strife and the disintegration of the Yugoslav economy into separate economic sectors and territories, which was transforming the federal state into a loose confederation. On the other hand, some think that Slobodan Milošević used the discontent reflected in the SANU memorandum for his own political goals, during his rise to power in Serbia at the time.,
Milošević was initially sent there as a member of the Communist party. Initially Milošević did not talk to the Serbian nationalists who were at that point demonstrating for rights and freedoms that had been denied to them. During these meetings he agreed to listen to their grievances. During the meeting, outside the building where this forum was taking place police started fighting the locals who had gathered there, mostly Serbs eager to voice their grievances. After hearing about the police brutality outside of the halls, Milošević came out and in an emotional moment promised the local Serbs that "No one is allowed to beat you." This newsbite was then seen on evening news and catapulted a then unknown Milošević to the forefront of the current debate about the problems on Kosovo.
In order to save his skin, Milošević fought back and established a political coup d’état. He gained effective leadership and control of the Serbian Communist party and pressed forward with the one issue that had catapulted him to the forefront of the political limelight, which was Kosovo. This By the end of the 1980s, calls for increased federal control in the crisis-torn autonomous province were getting louder. Slobodan Milošević pushed for constitutional change amounting to suspension of autonomy for both Kosovo and Vojvodina.
Inter-ethnic tensions continued to worsen in Kosovo throughout the 1980s. In particular, Kosovo’s ethnic Serb community, a minority of Kosovo population, complained about mistreatment from the Albanian majority. Miloševic capitalized on this discontent to consolidate his own position in Serbia. In 1987, Serbian President Ivan Stambolić sent Milošević to Kosovo to "pacify restive Serbs in Kosovo." On that trip, Milošević broke away from a meeting with ethnic Albanians to mingle with angry Serbians in a suburb of Pristina. As the Serbs protested they were being pushed back by police with batons, Milošević told them, "No one is allowed to beat you." This incident was later seen as pivotal to Milošević’s rise to power.
On June 28, 1989, Milošević delivered a speech in front of a large number of Serb citizens at the main celebration marking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, held at Gazimestan. Many think that this speech helped Milošević consolidate his authority in Serbia.
In 1989, Milošević, employing a mix of intimidation and political maneuvering, drastically reduced Kosovo’s special autonomous status within Serbia. Soon thereafter Kosovo Albanians organized a non-violent separatist movement, employing widespread civil disobedience, with the ultimate goal of achieving the independence of Kosovo. Kosovo Albanians boycotted state institutions and elections and established separate Albanian schools and political institutions. On July 2, 1990, an unconstitutional Kosovo parliament declared Kosovo an independent country, although this was not recognized by Belgrade or any foreign states. Two years later, in 1992, the parliament organized an unofficial referendum which was observed by international organizations but was not recognized internationally. With an 80% turnout, 98% voted for Kosovo to be independent.
According to the Kosovo in Figures 2005 Survey of the Statistical Office of Kosovo, Kosovo’s total population is estimated between 1.9 and 2.2 million in the following ethnic proportions (but many pre-1999 Kosovar Serbs and individuals from other ethnic groups originally from Kosovo now live in Central Serbia, about 250.000-350.000). The estimate from 2000-2002-2003 goes (a 1,900,000 strong population):
- 92% Albanians
- 4% Serbs
- 2% Bosniaks and Gorans
- 1% Roma
- 1% Turks
Sunni Muslims account for more than 90% of the population in Kosovo Catholicism and Orthodoxy are also practiced by the people.
Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have the largest population growth in Europe. The people’s growth rate in Kosovo is 1.3%. Over an 82-year period (1921-2003) the population grew 4.6 times. If growth continues at such a pace, based on some estimations, the population will be 4.5 million by 2050.
So, what I understand from here:
1. Kosovo was a distinct region before Slavic migrants come there, 6th century.
2. The Albanians are mentioned for the first time much later, in the 11th century, in the Alexiad.
3. Historical sources suggest that medieval Kosovo had a Serbian character
4. In time, Albanians become much more numerous than the Serbs (92% Albanians, 4% Serbs)
And now, top 10 pro and cons arguments for the Kosovo’s independence, as cited by Kosovo Compromise:
Top 10 pro-independence arguments
- Serbia has lost Kosovo in 1999
- Everything is already decided: Kosovo will be independent one way or another
- International law is passé
- Kosovo is "unique" because of civil war, foreign intervention and international administration
- Serbia ‘s ‘progressive elite’ wants to cut off “the cancer of Kosovo”
- If they do not get what they want, Albanians will explode in even more violence
- "Border-drawing wrongdoings of 1913 at the expense of ethnic Albanians" must be corrected today
- There can be no economic progress in Kosovo without independence
- Serbia should choose between Kosovo and the EU
- Human rights standards will be respected only if and when Kosovo becomes independent
Top 10 anti-independence arguments
- Why should one side get it all, the other side lose it all?
- Why impose independence as the “only” solution for Kosovo?
- Why endanger international law?
- Why would Kosovo be an exception in the world?
- Why punish democratic Serbia ?
- Why reward Albanian violence?
- Why create a second Albanian state?
- Why create a completely new state from scratch…when integration is the keyword?
- Why risk new instability that blocks a EU perspective?
- Why did NATO intervene in 1999?
For human rights or protectorate-building?
At first glance, before writing this article, I was convinced that Kosovo have to belong to Serbia. Now, after I red several articles pro and against Kosovo’s independence, I am no more so sure that the decision is so simple. Every argument has its own base in reality. I still believe that Kosovo has to stay with Serbia, but I am not as sure as before that this is the right decision. In fact, I think that here it is impossible to take a correct decision. Any decision will be, some people will suffer and there will be some international issues due to the respective decision.
Anyway, if Serbia will loose Kosovo, this will be just the beginning for Serbia.
The question is: what will be the future status for Kosovo?