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History of Kosovo
Modern province has only existed as a political or territorial entity since 1945. Before then, its territory was ruled entirely or partially by Italian-occupied Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, the Ottoman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, Bulgaria and the Roman Empire. Some have suggested that Kosovo has been a single distinctive region since ancient times but this is strongly contradicted by archaeological findings and historic records. Nor has Kosovo's population been ethnically consistent over the years: the province's complex ethnic map has included Latins, Turks, Roma, Gorani (Slavic Muslims), Circassians and Jews in addition to Serbs and Albanians.
Kosovo from prehistory to 1455
Little is known about Kosovo before about the 11th century AD. The region was certainly inhabited in prehistoric times: in particular, Bronze and Iron Age tombs have been found only in Metohia, and not in Kosovo. After the Indo-European invasion, Kosovo became inhabited by Illyrian and Thracian tribes, such as the Dardani and the Triballi. Later, the whole territory of Kosovo became part of the Roman Empire, although it is not clear whether it was part of the province of Moesia or was divided between Dalmatia and Moesia (a view which is supported by some archaeological evidence). 
According to most historians, Serbs entered the Balkans around the late 6th or early 7th century AD, possibly migrating from the northern Caucasus where Ptolemy placed the "Serboi" in the 2nd century AD. The initial spread of the Slavic population of the Balkans was much larger than today, reaching well into Greece and Albania. Placenames derived from Slavic root words are still widespread in the remaining non-Slav Balkan countries and particularly northern Albania to this day (Kamenica).
The origins of the Albanians are much less clear. Most believe that they are descended from the Illyrians, ancient inhabitants of the western Balkans in Roman times, although Romanian historians have suggested that they may alternatively be descended from the ancient Thracians, who inhabited the Eastern and Central Balkans. Albanian historians claim that in around the 6th century the Illyrians were forced south into what is now Albania by Slav tribes - the predecessors of modern day Serbs. This claim is challenged by the fact that Byzantine chroniclers date the arrival of Albanians (Alvanoi) from Southern Italy at 1043 in central Albania (Durrës) as mercenaries in the army of Maniakis . Some historians, including Serbian, claim the Albanians originate from the Caucasus, particularly Caucasian Albania, but most historians dispute these claims. Albanian linguists suggest that the vocabulary and structure of the Albanian language points to a much earlier presence in the western Balkans. See also: Origin of Albanians
The Kosovo region lay on the outer fringes of the Byzantine Empire and lay directly in the path of the Slav expansion. From about the 850s until about 1014, it was ruled by Bulgaria. Byzantine control was subsequently reasserted by the forceful emperor Basil "the Bulgar Slayer". Serbia at this time did not exist: a number of small Slav kingdoms lay to the north and west of Kosovo, of which Raska (Rascia, central modern Serbia) and Dioclea (Montenegro and norther Albania) were the strongest. In the 1180s, the Serbian ruler Stefan Nemanja seized control of Dioclea and parts of Kosovo. His successor (also called Stefan) took control of the rest of Kosovo by 1216, creating a state incorporating most of modern Serbia-Montenegro.
During the rule of the Nemanjic dynasty, many Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries were built throughout Serbian territory, particularly Kosovo which became the economic, demographic, religious and political heartland. The Nemanjic rulers alternatively used both Prizren and Pristina as their capitals. Large estates were given to Serbian monasteries in Metohia (which included parts of Albania and Montenegro), for which the area earned the designation Metohia or "monastic land". The most prominent churches in Kosovo - the Patriarchate at Pec, the church at Gracanica and the monastery at Visoki Decani near Decani - were all founded during this period. Kosovo was economically important, as the modern Kosovo capital Pristina was a major trading centre on routes leading to ports on the Adriatic Sea. As well, mining was an important industry in Novo Brdo and Janjevo which had its communities of émigré Saxonians miners and Ragusans merchants.
The ethnic composition of Kosovo's population during this period is a controversial issue among Serbian and Albanian historians. Serbs, Albanians and Vlachs were all clearly present, as all three groups were named explicitly in Serbian monastic charters or chrysobulls along with a token number of Greeks, Armenians and Bulgarians. A majority of the names given in the charters are overwhelmingly Slavic rather than Albanian. This has been interpreted as evidence of a crushing Serbian majority. However th chrysobulls show Serbian named sons to Albanian-named fathers and vice-versa. Albanian historians have suggested that this is evidence of cultural assimilation of an alleged pre-Ottoman Albanian population in Kosovo yet this is undermined by records of Serbian-named fathers giving sons Albanian names (which would surely not have happened if the assimilation was a one-way process) and the fact that such cases of mixed names represent a small fraction of less than a twentieth of all the names. This Serbian claim seems to be supported by the Turkish cadastral tax-census (defter) of 1455 which took into account religion and language and found an overwhelming Serb majority.
Ethnic identity in the Middle Ages was somewhat fluid throughout Europe and people at that time do not appear to have defined themselves rigidly by ethnic group. About all that can be said for sure is that Serbs appear to have been the dominant population culturally, and were probably a demographic majority as well.
In 1355, the Serbian state fell apart on the death of Tsar Stefan Dusan and dissolved into squabbling fiefdoms. The Ottoman Empire took the opportunity to exploit Serbian weakness and invaded, meeting the Serbian army on the field of Kosovo Polje on June 28, 1389. The Battle of Kosovo ended in the deaths of both the Serbian Prince Lazar and the Ottoman Sultan Murad I. Although the battle has been mythologised as a great Serbian defeat, at the time opinion was divided as to whether it was a Serbian defeat, a stalemate or even a Serbian victory. Serbia maintained its independence and sporadic control of Kosovo until a final defeat in 1455, following which it became part of the Ottoman Empire.
Kosovo from 1455 to 1912
Teritorry of today's province was for centuries ruled by the Ottoman Empire. During this period, several administrative districts (known as sancaks ("banners" or districts) each ruled by a sancakbeyi (roughly equivalent to "district lord")) have included parts of the territory as parts of their territories. Despite the imposition of Muslim rule, large numbers of Christians continued to live and sometimes even prosper under the Ottomans. A process of Islamisation began shortly after the beginning of Ottoman rule but it took a considerable amount of time - at least a century - and was concentrated at first on the towns. It appears that many Christian inhabitants converted directly to Islam, rather than being replaced by Muslims from outside Kosovo. A large part of the reason for the conversion was probably economic and social, as Muslims had considerably more rights and privileges than Christian subjects. Christian religious life nonetheless continued, with churches largely left alone by the Ottomans, but both the Orthodox and Catholic churches and their congregations suffered from high levels of taxation.
Around the 17th century, there is evidence of an increasingly visible Albanian population initially concentrated in Metohia. It has been claimed (often by Serbian historians) that this was the result of migrations out of the south-west (i.e. modern Albania), and that the putative migrants brought Islam with them. There is certainly evidence of some migration: many Kosovo Albanians have surnames characteristic of inhabitants of the northern Albanian region of Malësi. However, many others do not. It is also clear that many Slavs - presumably members of the Serbian Orthodox Church - converted to Islam under Ottoman rule. Today, most Slavic Muslims of Serbia live in the Sandzak region of southern Serbia, northwest of Kosovo. Historians believe that there was probably a pre-existing population of probably Catholic Albanians in Metohia who mostly converted to Islam, but remained strictly a minority in a still largely Serb-inhabited region.
In 1689, Kosovo was greatly disrupted by the Ottoman-Habsburg war (1683-1699), in one of the pivotal events in Serbian national mythology. In October 1689, a small Austrian force under Margrave Ludwig of Baden breached into Turkey and reached as far as Kosovo, following their earlier capture of Belgrade. Many Serbs and Albanians pledged their loyalty to the Austrians, some joining Baden's army. This was by no means a universal reaction; many other Serbs and Albanians fought alongside the Ottomans to resist the Austrian advance. A massive Ottoman counter-attack the following summer drove the Austrians back to their fortress at Nis, then back to Belgrade, then finally back across the Danube into Austria from whence they had come in the first place.
The Ottoman offensive was accompanied by savage reprisals and looting, prompting many Serbs - including Arsenije III , Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church - to flee along with the Austrians. This event has been immortalised in Serbian history as the Velika Seoba or "Great Migration". It is traditionally said to have accounted for a huge exodus of hundreds of thousands of Serbian refugees from Kosovo and Serbia proper, which left a vacuum filled by a flood of Albanian immigrants. Arsenije himself wrote of a figure of "30,000 souls" (i.e. individuals) who fled with him to Austria, a figure confirmed by other sources.
In 1878, one of the four vilayets with Albanian inhabitants that formed the League of Prizren was Vilayet of Kosovo . The League's purpose was to resist both Ottoman rule and incursions by the newly emerging Balkan nations.
in 1910, an Albanian organised insurrection broke out in Pristina and soon spread to the entire vilayet of Kosovo; lasting for three months. The Ottoman Sultan visited Kosovo in June 1911 during peace settlement talks covering all Albanian-inhabited areas.
Following the First Balkan War of 1912, Kosovo was internationally recognised as a part of Serbia and Metohia as a part of Montenegro at the Treaty of London in May 1913. In 1918, Serbia became a part of the newly formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Between the two world wars the Yugoslavian government tried to evacuate all the Albanian population from Kosovo and Macedonia sending them to Turkey and Albania and colonizing it with Serbian population. On March 7, 1937 a memorandum was presented to the government by Vaso Cubrilovic from the Serbian Academy named Expulsion of the Albanians.
The partition of Yugoslavia, from 1941 and 1945, by the Axis Powers awarded most of the territory to the Italian-occupied Greater Albania, and smaller part of it to German-occupied Serbia and the Greater Bulgaria . During the occupation, thousands of Kosovo Serbs were expelled by armed Albanian groups, notably the Vulnetari militia. It is still not known exactly how many fell victim to this, but Serbian estimates put the figures at 10,000-40,000 killed with 70,000-100,000 expelled.
Following the end of the war and the establishment of Tito's Communist regime, Kosovo was granted the status of an autonomous region of Serbia in 1946 and became an autonomous province in 1963. The Communist government did not permit the return of many of the refugees.
With the passing of the 1974 Yugoslavia constitution, Kosovo gained virtual self-government. The province's government has applied Albanian curriculum to Kosovo's schools: surplus and obsolete textbooks from Enver Hoxha's Albania were obtained and put into use.
Throughout the 1980s tensions between the Albanian and Serb communities in the province escalated. The Albanian community favoured greater autonomy for Kosovo, whilst Serbs favoured closer ties with the rest of Serbia. There was little appetite for unification with Albania itself, which was ruled by a Stalinist government and had considerably worse living standards than Kosovo.
Serbs living in Kosovo complained being discriminated against by the provincial government, notably by the local law enforcement authorities failing to punish reported crimes against Serbs.  The increasingly bitter atmosphere in Kosovo meant that even the most farcical incidents could become causes célèbres. When a Serbian farmer, Djordje Martinovic, turned up at a Kosovo hospital with a bottle in his rectum and a story about being assaulted in his field by "masked men", 216 prominent Serbian intellectuals signed a petition declaring that "the case of Djordje Martinovic has come to symbolize the predicament of all Serbs in Kosovo." Martinovic's subsequent confession that his "assault" had been a botched act of self-gratification did nothing to defuse the ethnic tension that his case had produced.
Perhaps the most politically explosive complaint levelled by the Kosovo Serbs was that they were being neglected by the Communist authorities in Belgrade. In August 1987, during the dying days of Yugoslavia's Communist regime, Kosovo was visited by Slobodan Milošević, then a rising politician. He appealed to Serb nationalism to further his career. Having drawn huge crowds to a rally commemorating the Battle of Kosovo, he pledged to Kosovo Serbs that "No one should dare to beat you", and became an instant hero of Kosovo's Serbs. By the end of the year Milošević was in control of the Serbian government.
In 1989, the autonomy of Kosovo and the northern province of Vojvodina was drastically reduced by a Serbia-wide referendum. The referendum implemented a new constitution which allowed a multi-party system, introduced freedom of speech and promoted human rights. Even though in practice it was subverted by the Milosevic's government, which resorted to rigging elections, controlled much of the news media, and was accused of abusing human rights of its opponents and national minorities, this was a step forward from the previous Communist constitution. It significantly reduced the provinces' rights, permitting the government of Serbia to exert direct control over many previously autonomous areas of governance. In particular, the constitutional changes handed control of the police, the court system, the economy, the education system and language policies to the Serbian government.
The new constitution was strongly opposed by many of Serbia's national minorities, who saw it as a means of imposing ethnically-based centralised rule on the provinces. Kosovo's Albanians refused to participate in the referendum, portraying it as illegitimate: as it was a Serbia-wide referendum and Albanians are a minority in Serbia as a whole, their participation would not have changed the outcome of the referendum whichever way they voted.
The provincial governments also opposed the new constitution. It had to be ratified by their assemblies, which effectively meant voting for their dissolution. Kosovo's assembly initially opposed the constitution but in March 1989, when the assembly met to discuss the proposals, tanks and armored cars surrounded the meeting place, forcing the delegates to accept the amendments.
After the constitutional changes, the parliaments of all Yugoslavian republics and provinces, which until then had MPs only from the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, were dissolved and multi-party elections were held for them. Kosovo Albanians refused to participate in the elections and held their own, unsanctioned elections instead. As election laws required (and still require) turnout higher than 50%, the parliament of Kosovo could not be established.
The new constitution abolished the individual provinces' official media, integrating them within the official media of Serbia while still retaining some programs in the Albanian language. The Albanian-language media in Kosovo was suppressed. Funding was withdrawn from state-owned media, including that in the Albanian language in Kosovo. The constitution made creating privately-owned media possible, however their functioning was very difficult because of high rents and restricting laws. State-owned Albanian language television or radio was also banned from broadcasting from Kosovo . However, privately-owned Albanian media outlets appeared; of these, probably the most famous is "Koha Ditore", which was allowed to operate until late 1998 when it was closed after it published a calendar which was claimed to be a glorification of ethnic Albanian separatists.
The constitution also transferred control over state-owned companies to the Serbian government (at the time, most of the companies were state-owned and de jure they still are). In September 1990, up to 123,000 Albanian workers were fired from their positions in government and the media, as were teachers, doctors, and workers in government-controlled industries , provoking a general strike and mass unrest. Some of those who were not sacked quit in sympathy, refusing to work for the Serbian government. Although the government claimed that it was simply getting rid of old communist directors, the sackings were widely seen as a purge of ethnic Albanians.
The old Albanian educational curriculum and textbooks were revoked and new ones were created. The curriculum was (and still is, as that is the curriculum used for Albanians in Serbia outside Kosovo) basically the same as Serbian and that of all other nationalities in Serbia except that it had education on and in Albanian language. The new textbooks were (and still are) basically the same as those in Serbian, except that they were in the Albanian language. Education in Albanian was withdrawn in 1992 and re-established in 1994.  At the Priština University, which was seen as a centre of Kosovo Albanian cultural identity, education in the Albanian language was abolished and Albanian teachers were also sacked en masse. Albanians responded by boycotting state schools and setting up an unofficial parallel system of Albanian-language education.
Kosovo Albanians were outraged by what they saw as an attack on their rights. Following mass rioting and unrest from Albanians as well as outbreaks of inter-communal violence, in February 1990, a state of emergency was declared, and the presence of the Yugoslav Army and police was significantly increased to quell the unrest.
Unsanctioned elections were held in 1992, which overwhelmingly elected Ibrahim Rugova as "president" of a self-declared Republic of Kosovo; however these elections were not recognised by Serbian nor any foreign government. In 1995, thousands of Serb refugees from Croatia settled in Kosovo, which further worsened relations between the two communities.
Albanian opposition to sovereignty of Yugoslavia and especially Serbia had surfaced in rioting (1968 and March 1981) in the capital Priština. Ibrahim Rugova advocated non-violent resistance, but later when it became apparent that this was not working, opposition took the form of separatist agitation by opposition political groups and armed action from 1996 by the "Kosovo Liberation Army" (Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës, or UÇK).
War and its aftermath
See the article Kosovo War for a fuller treatment.
The KLA launched a low-intensity guerrilla war characterised by regular bomb and gun attacks on Serbian security forces, state officials and civilians accused of "collaborating" with the Serbian government. In March 1998 Yugoslav army units joined Serbian police to fight the separatists, using military force on a large scale. In the months that followed, hundreds of people were killed and more than 200,000 fled their homes; most of these people were Albanians. Many Albanian families were forced to flee their homes at gunpoint, as a result of fighting between Serbian and KLA forces and also as the result of expulsions instigated by the security forces and associated paramilitary militias. There was violence against ethnic Serbs as well: UNHCR reported (March 1999) that over 90 mixed villages in Kosovo "have now been emptied of Serb inhabitants" and other Serbs continue leaving, either to be displaced in other parts of Kosovo or fleeing into central Serbia. The Yugoslav Red Cross estimated there were more than 30,000 non-Albanian displaced in need of assistance in Kosovo, most of whom are Serb. 
A full-scale war broke out on March 24, 1999 following the breakdown of negotiations between Serbian and Albanian representatives. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervened, heavily bombing Yugoslav civil targets (like bridges in Belgrade). Simultaneously, Albanian fighters continued to attack Serbian forces and Kosovo Serb civilians, and Serbian/Yugoslav forces continued to fight Albanian rebels amidst a massive displacement of the population of Kosovo, which most human rights groups and international organisations regarded as an act of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the government forces. A number of senior Yugoslav government officials and military officers, including President Milošević, were subsequently indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for war crimes for which they were allegedly responsible during the war.
The United Nations estimated that during the Kosovo War, nearly 640,000 Albanians fled or were expelled from Kosovo between March 1998 and the end of April 1999. Most of the refugees went to Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or Montenegro. Government security forces confiscated and destroyed the documents and licence plates of many fleeing Albanians in what was widely regarded as an attempt to erase the identities of the refugees, the term "identity cleansing" being coined to denote this action. This made it difficult to distinguish with certainty the identity of returning refugees after the war. Serbian sources claim that many Albanians from Macedonia and Albania - perhaps as many as 300,000, by some estimates - have since migrated to Kosovo in the guise of refugees. The entire issue may be moot, however, due to the survival of birth and death records.
The war ended on June 10, 1999 with the Serbian and Yugoslav governments signing the Kumanovo agreement which agreed to transfer governance of the province to the United Nations. A NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) entered the province following the Kosovo War, tasked with providing security to the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Before and during the handover of power, an estimated 300,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians, mostly Romas, fled the province for fear of reprisals. In the case of the non-Albanians, the Roma in particular were regarded by many Albanians as having assisted the Serbs during the war. Many left along with the withdrawing Serbian security forces, expressing fears that they would be targeted by returning Albanian refugees and KLA fighters who blamed them for wartime acts of violence. Thousands more were driven out by intimidation, revenge attacks and a wave of crime after the war as KFOR struggled to restore order in the province.
Large numbers of refugees from Kosovo still live in temporary camps and shelters in Serbia proper. In 2002, Serbia and Montenegro reported hosting 277,000 internally displaced people (the vast majority being Serbs and Roma from Kosovo), which included 201,641 persons displaced from Kosovo into Serbia proper, 29,451 displaced from Kosovo into Montenegro, and about 46,000 displaced within Kosovo itself, including 16,000 returning refugees unable to inhabit their original homes.  Some sources put the figure far lower; the European Stability Initiative estimates the number of displaced people as being only 65,000, with another 128,000 Serbs remaining in Kosovo. The largest concentration is in the north of the province above the Ibar river, but an estimated two-thirds of the Serbian population in Kosovo continues to live in the Albanian-dominated south of the province. 
In March 17, 2004, serious unrest in Kosovo led to several deaths, mostly among Kosovar Albanian, and the destruction of a large number of Orthodox churches and monastries in the province, as Albanians clashed with Serbs. Several thousand more Kosovo Serbs were reported to have left their homes to seek refuge in Serbia proper or in the Serb-dominated north of Kosovo.
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