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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Kosovo Albanians in Serbia

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Serbia Facts
Area:    88,361 sq. km.
Capital:    Belgrade
Total Population:    10,526,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

Kosovar Albanians in the former Yugoslavia exhibit three of the five characteristics that encourage future rebellion: persistent protest in the past, territorial concentration and generally high levels of group organization. However, the unilateral Kosovar declaration of independence in early 2008 was followed by high levels of international recognition, including by most of the member states of NATO, the EU and OSCE. However, the Republic of Kosovo has not applied for membership to the United Nations, due to opposition from Russia, which holds a veto on the UN Security Council.

The future of Kosovo, and hence of Kosovar Albanians, is in part dependent on two factors. First, the relationship with Serbia, which does not recognize Kosovar independence, continues to be tense. However, with radical nationalists out of power, the situation is not likely to escalate to violence. However, violence is likely between Kosovar Albanians and Kosovar Serbs. Intercommunal violence has been a recurrent problem within Kosovo; and although some steps have been taken to improve relations, they have thus far been unsuccessful.


Analytic Summary

The region of Kosovo is of great national importance to two groups, the Albanians and the Serbs. Both claim it as their homeland and have legitimate claims to the area dating back for centuries. The mythical dimension of the Serbian attachment to Kosovo lies within the epic struggle of Czar Lazar in the Battle of Kosovo, which ushered in 500 years of Ottoman rule. For the Albanians, it is part of the traditional Albanian region. With the creation of Yugoslavia in 1945, Kosovo was declared an autonomous province of Serbia within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. However, the policymaking capabilities of the province in reality remained very limited, and effective legislative power was exercised by the Serbian Republic. From 1945, the policy objectives for Kosovo aimed to assimilate the Albanian population and change the cultural characteristics of Kosovo. The attempts at assimilation failed as the Kosovar Albanians continue to speak Albanian (LANG = 1) and have their own traditions and culture (CUSTOM = 1); they also have a distinct religion (BELIEF = 2). While a part of Yugoslavia, the Albanians have been severely repressed, starting in the 1960s and eventually leading to the ethnic cleansing that occurred in the late 1990s, resulting in the NATO air strikes against Serbia. As a result of this long history of repression and discrimination, the Kosovars have had to rely on themselves for survival, and as a result they have become very cohesive.

Leading up to and including the period of NATO air strikes, very large numbers of Kosovars were forced to leave their homes. They had to leave due to the political and the economic impacts of the Serb policies; and by 1998 they were being resettled by the Serb army and police forces; those who tried to stay faced attack and death. The Kosovars were excluded from the political process until after the NATO air strikes (POLDIS99 = 4). They were discriminated against in almost all facets of political life. They were restricted from organizing and voting, as well as discriminated against in recruitment into the military, civil service etc. Under Milosevic, the Albanians were excluded economically (ECODIS98 = 4); the political restrictions translated into a lower standard of living, and restrictions on how they could compete in the market. Since the region was put under the control of the UN in 1999, restrictions have greatly decreased (POLDIS04-06 = 0; ECDIS04-06 = 0), and with Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008, have been eliminated.

The history of protest in the Kosovo region dates back to the 1960s when the region was under severe repression by the secret police. Albanians suffered from economic neglect, economic discrimination, forced assimilation, forced emigration, and political disenfranchisement. Kosovo was Yugoslavia's poorest, most illiterate and most underdeveloped region. In the face of this repression the group began to hold demonstrations (PROT65X = 4). These protests escalated in the 1990s (PROT90X = 5) and this activity continued through the NATO bombing (PROT99 = 3). After the bombing the protests continued in 2000 over issues such as the release from Serbia of KLA prisoners (PROT00 = 4). The Albanians have used militant activity since the creation of Yugoslavia (REBEL45X = 3). In 1998, the KLA began escalated the activity into civil war (REB98 = 6). In 2000 there were reports of minor militant activity by the Albanians against the peacekeeping troops stationed in the region (REB00 = 2). Since 2000, there have been numerous reports of protest against various actions of UNMIK. With it culminating in 2003 with protest asking the UN to leave and allow Kosovo to rule itself. The year 2004 also saw renewed tensions between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs (INTERCON04-06 = 1). This culminated in thousands protesting the deaths of three Albanian children who drowned after allegedly being tormented by a group of Serbs. At least 3,000 Kosovo Albanians took part in the protest which turned violent and resulted in the mobilization of 10,000 UN troops (CCGROUPSEV104 = 5). Dissatisfaction with UNMIK has also flourished, leading to protests in 2006 as a result of the lack of progress towards an independent Kosovo. (PROT05=3; PROT06=4).



International Crisis Group. 2001. "Religion in Kosovo.", accessed 4/15/2008.

International Crisis Group. 2008. "Kosovo's Fragile Transition." Europe Report No. 196., accessed 7/24/2009/

LexisNexis. Various news reports. 1993-2006.

No author. 2008. "Kosovo and Serbia." International Debates. 6:3. 5-10.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Serbia and Montenegro. 2000-2006.


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Information current as of December 31, 2006