About Kosovo

Much of this information comes from: What Everyone Should Know About Kosovo, World Fact Book, or the State Department.

Where?


Often, when telling people that I am headed to Kosovo I am greeted with an “oh” followed by an “hmm.” This is a normal response for someone who is trying to play it off like they know where Kosovo is. So much like a classic game of “Hot-and-cold”, I attempt to narrow it down, “It’s in Europe. Eastern Europe. To the East of Italy. Surrounded by Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, and Macedonia.” To which I without fail receive an, “Oh. Okay!”

So yes, Kosovo is surround by Serbia to the North, Macedonia to the East, Albania to the South, and Montenegro to the West. As to where exactly I’ll be within Kosovo? That’s up in the air.

Kosovo Mapp


Who?


Kosovo’s population is just over 1.8 million people. Over 92% of Kosovars are ethnic Albanians. With the next largest groups being Bosniaks and Serbians amassing 1.6% and 1.5%  respectfully. As for the makeup of the country, Kosovo is known for its youth, ages 15-24, unemployment rate (55%), which is the second highest in the world.


Language?


The official languages of Kosovo are Albanian and Serbian. Although Bosnia and English will be found as well. And yes, they are both challenging.


Kosovo’s History


Kosovo has a very dense history, which can be best summarized through book I read: What Everyone Should Know About Kosovo. But, here is a short, relative to how long it could be, account of the events from the State Departments website:

“After World War II, Kosovo became an autonomous province of Serbia in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (S.F.R.Y.). The 1974 Yugoslav Constitution gave Kosovo (along with Vojvodina) the status of a Socialist Autonomous Province within Serbia. As such, it possessed nearly equal rights as the six constituent Socialist Republics of the S.F.R.Y.

In 1981, riots broke out and were violently suppressed after Kosovo Albanians demonstrated to demand that Kosovo be granted full Republic status. In the late 1980s, Slobodan Milosevic propelled himself to power in Belgrade by exploiting the fears of the Serbian minority in Kosovo. In 1989, he eliminated Kosovo’s autonomy and imposed direct rule from Belgrade. Belgrade ordered the firing of most ethnic Albanian state employees, whose jobs were then assumed by Serbs.

In response, Kosovo Albanian leaders began a peaceful resistance movement in the early 1990s, led by Ibrahim Rugova. They established a parallel government funded mainly by the Albanian diaspora. When this movement failed to yield results, an armed resistance emerged in 1997 in the form of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The KLA’s main goal was to secure the independence of Kosovo.

In late 1998, Milosevic unleashed a brutal police and military campaign against the KLA, which included widespread atrocities against civilians. Milosevic’s failure to agree to the Rambouillet Accords triggered a NATO military campaign to halt the violence in Kosovo. This campaign consisted primarily of aerial bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (F.R.Y.), including Belgrade, and continued from March through June 1999. After 78 days of bombing, Milosevic capitulated. Shortly thereafter, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1244 (1999), which suspended Belgrade’s governance over Kosovo, and under which Kosovo was placed under the administration of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and which authorized a NATO peacekeeping force. Resolution 1244 also envisioned a political process designed to determine Kosovo’s future status.

As ethnic Albanians returned to their homes, elements of the KLA conducted reprisal killings and abductions of ethnic Serbs and Roma in Kosovo. Thousands of ethnic Serbs, Roma, and other minorities fled from their homes during the latter half of 1999, and many remain displaced.

The 21st Century: In November 2005, the Contact Group (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) produced a set of “Guiding Principles” for the resolution of Kosovo’s future status. Some key principles included: no return to the situation prior to 1999, no changes in Kosovo’s borders, and no partition or union of Kosovo with a neighboring state. The Contact Group later said that Kosovo’s future status had to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. In its declaration of independence, Kosovo committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Ahtisaari Plan, to embrace multi-ethnicity as a fundamental principle of good governance, and to welcome a period of international supervision.

The United States formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state on February 18. To date, Kosovo has been recognized by a robust majority of European states, the United States, Japan, and Canada, and by other states from the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Shortly after independence, a number of states established an International Steering Group (ISG) for Kosovo that appointed Dutch diplomat Pieter Feith as Kosovo’s first International Civilian Representative (ICR).”