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Prishtinė/Prishtina (Albanian indefinite/definite form) or Priština (Приштина) (Serbian) is the capital city of Kosovo, a landlocked province of Serbia located at . It is estimated that the current population of Prishtina is as high as 500,000. The city has a majority Albanian population, alongside other smaller communities such as Serbs, Bosniaks and Roma. The province's Albanian-dominated interim government and the United Nations administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) have their headquarters in the city. It is the administrative, educational, cultural center of Kosovo. Prishtina is home to the University of Prishtina. Prishtina has an international airport, (Pristina International Airport - PRN).
In Roman times a large town called Ulpiana existed 15 kilometres (9 miles) to the south of modern-day Prishtina. This city was destroyed but was restored by the Emperor Justinian. Today the town of Lipljan stands on the site of the Roman city, and remains of the old city can still be seen.
In medieval times Prishtina grew from the ruins of the former Roman city. The city was located at a junction of roads leading in all directions throughout the Balkan peninsula. For this reason Priština rose to become an important trading centre on the main trade routes across south-eastern Europe. It also became an important mining town.
The Slav occupiers, who had come in the previous centuries and expelled the local Illyrian population whose descendants are Albanians, during the time of the medieval Serbian state, made Prishtina the capital of King Milutin (1282-1321) and other Serbian rulers from the Nemanjic and Brankovic dynasties until the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, when an invading Ottoman army decisively defeated the Serbian army. The whole of Serbia was subsequently conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1459.
While the town retained an almost exclusively Serb character for at least a quarter century more, because of heavy military expulsion/occupation/torture/assimilation of the local Albanian population, it progressively became more and more Turkish, although it was noted that in the 17th century, most of the inhabitants were local Muslim converts (Slavic) rather than Albanians. After centuries of Ottoman rule the town gained a distinct Turkish character.
From the 1870s onwards Albanians in the region formed the League of Prizren to resist Ottoman rule, and a provisional government was formed in 1881. In 1912 Kosovo was briefly included in the newly independent state of Albania. But the following year the Great Powers forced Albania to cede the region to Serbia. In 1918 Kosovo became a part of the newly formed Yugoslavia.
Before the Second World War, Prishtina was an ethnically mixed town with large communities of Albanians, Serbs and Turks. However, Prishtina's Turkish character began to fade slowly during the late 1930's with migrations to the newly-founded Republic of Turkey, which was eager to attract ethnic Turks from outside Turkey to settle the Turkish provinces formerly inhabited by Greeks and Armenians.
The Second World War saw the decline of Prishtina's Serbian community as well as a large-scale settling of Albanians in the town. Between 1941 and 1945 Prishtina was incorporated into the Italian-occupied Greater Albania.
Prishtina after World War II
In 1946, Prishtina became the capital of the Autonomous Kosovan Area (Kosovo). Between 1953 and 1999, the population of Pristina increased from around 24,000 to over 300,000. All of the national communities of the city increased over this period, but the greatest increase was among the Albanian population, who settled in the city after their homes were destroyed by the serbian military during the war. The Albanian population increased from around 9,000 in 1953 to nearly 76,000 in 1981. The Serbian and Montenegrin population increased too but by a far more modest number, from just under 8,000 in 1953 to around 21,000 by 1981. By the start of the 1980s, Albanians constituted over 70% of Prishtina's population.
Although Kosovo was under the rule of local Albanian members of the Communist Party, economic decline and political instability in the late 1960s and at the start of the 1980s led to outbreaks of nationalist unrest. In November 1968, student demonstrations and riots in Belgrade spread to Prishtina, but were put down by the Yugoslav security forces. However, some of the demands of the students were met by the Tito government, including the establishment in 1970 of Prishtina University as an independent institution. This ended a long period when the institution had been run as an outpost of Belgrade University and gave a major boost to Albanian-language education and culture in Kosovo.
In March 1981, students at Prishtina University rioted over poor food in their university canteen. This seemingly trivial dispute rapidly spread throughout Kosovo and took on the character of a national revolt, with massive popular demonstrations in Prishtina and other Kosovo towns. The Communist Yugoslav presidency quelled the disturbances by sending in riot police and the army and proclaiming a state of emergency, with several killed in clashes and thousands subsequently being imprisoned or disciplined.
Prishtina in the Kosovo War and afterwards
Following the abolition of Kosovo's autonomy by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in 1990, a harshly repressive regime was imposed throughout Kosovo by the Serbian government with Albanians largely being purged from state industries and institutions. Prishtina University was seen as a hotbed of Albanian nationalism and was duly purged: 800 lecturers were sacked and 22,500 of the 23,000 students expelled. In response, the Kosovo Albanians set up a "shadow government" under the authority of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by the writer Ibrahim Rugova. Although the city was formally controlled by Serbs appointed by the Milosevic government, the LDK established parallel structures, funded by private contributions, to provide free services such as health care and higher education that were largely denied to the Albanian population.
The LDK's role meant that when the Kosovo Liberation Army began to attack Serbian and Yugoslav forces from 1996 onwards, Priština remained largely calm until the outbreak of the Kosovo War in March 1999. The city was placed under a state of emergency at the end of March and large areas were sealed off. After NATO began air strikes against Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999, widespread violence broke out in Prishtina. Serbian and Yugoslav forces shelled several districts and, in conjunction with paramilitaries, conducted large-scale expulsions of ethnic Albanians accompanied by widespread looting. Many of those expelled were directed onto trains apparently brought to Prishtina's main station for the express purpose of taking them to the border of Macedonia, where they were forced into exile. The United States Department of State estimated in May 1999 that between 100,000-120,000 people had been driven out of Prishtina by government forces and paramilitaries.
Several strategic targets in Prishtina were attacked by NATO during the war, but physical damage appears to have largely been restricted to a few specific neighborhoods shelled by Yugoslav security forces. At the end of the war, most of the city's 40,000 Serbs (half of which were recent immigrants from Central Serbia) fled. The few who remained were subjected to harassment and violence by Albanian gangs, which reduced Prishtina's Serb population still further. Other national groups accused of collaboration with the Serbian war effort by Albanians - notably the gypsies - were also driven out. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, by August 1999 fewer than 2,000 Serbs were left in the city. That number dwindled to just 200 a few years later and just might have hit rock bottom with the March 17, 2004 Kosovo Unrests.
Prishtina is today the centre of the international presence in Kosovo and is home to the transitional administration of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo.
- 1931 census, out of a total of 18,358 inhabitants: 7,573 spoke Turkish (41%) as their mother tongue - 5,738 spoke the Serbian language (31%) - 2,351 spoke Albanian (13%) - 2,651 spoke other languages (Romany, Circassian etc.) (14%)
- 1953 census recorded 24,229 citizens: 9,034 Albanians (37%) - 7,951 Serbs/Montenegrins (33%) - 4,726 Turks (20%) - 2,518 Roma and other minorities (10%)
- 1961 census found 38,593 citizens: Albanians 19,060 (49%) - 14,695 Serbs/Montenegrins (38%) - 404 Croats (1%) - 195 Roma
- 1971 census found 69,514 citizens: 40,873 Albanians (59%) - 19,767 Serbs/Montenegrins (28%) - 4,119 Roma (6%)
- 1981 census found 108,083 citizens: - 75,803 Albanians (70%) - 21,067 Serbs/Montenegrins (19%) - 5,101 Roma (5%) - 2,504 Slavic Muslims (2%)
- 2004 it is estimated that the population might be as high as 500,000, almost exclusively Albanians
References and links
- The official website of the Municipality of Prishtina
- Erasing History: Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo - US Department of State, May 1999
- Kosovo/Kosova As Seen, As Told - OSCE, 1999
- "Pristina's Serbs flee in thousands", The Guardian, August 12, 1999
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