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Albanians are the largest ethnic group in Kosovo. According to the 1991 Serbian census, boycotted by Albanians, there were 1,596,072 ethnic Albanians in Kosovo or 81.6% of population. By the estimation in year 2000, there were between 1,584,000 and 1,733,600 Albanians in Kosovo or 88% of population, as of today their population is over 92%, except for North Kosovo (where Serbs are 98% majority) and Štrpce where 10,000 Serbs live, 68% of population.



According to the 1991 census, Albanians were a majority in 23 of the 29 present municipalities of Kosovo (in the remaining 6 municipalities, the majority was Serb or Gorani).


Albanians in Kosovo in 1991.
Albanians in Kosovo in 2005 according to the OSCE.
Ethnographic map of the Balkans of 1860
Ethnographic map of the Balkans in the end of the 19th century
Ethnic composition of the Balkans according to the Atlas Général Vidal-Lablache, Librairie Armand Colin, Paris, 1898.
Ethnic composition map of the Balkans by the pro-Greek [1] A. Synvet of 1877, a French professor of the Ottoman Lyceum of Constantinople.
Ethnographic map of the Balkans and west Asia Minor in 1922, C.S. Hammond & Co.
Distribution of Races in the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor in 1923, William R. Shepherd Atlas

Ancient history

Kosovo was part of the region of the the Dardani (Ancient GreekΔαρδάνιοι).[2] Located at the Thraco-Illyrian contact zone, their identification as either Illyrian or Thracian tribe is uncertain[3][4].

Middle Ages

In 1081 AD, Albania and Albanians are mentioned, for the first time in a historical record, by Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates.It is disputed, however, whether that refers to Albanians in an ethnic sense[5].This is not in Kosovo but in northern Albania.

In the late 12th century, the Serbian kingdom of Rascia began incorporating Kosovo part by part from the Byzantine Empire - which had itself wrested them from the First Bulgarian Empire in the 11th century. The Serbian Empire at the center of which Kosovo found itself in the 14th century was multi-national and political allegiance there did not depend upon ethnicity, although Emperor Dušan was crowned for Emperor of Serbs and Greeks.

The Ottomans conquered Kosovo in the 15th century and Islamization began in the Balkans, particularly in the towns, and later the Viyalet of Kosovo - with borders different from the present ones, which were established in 1945 - was also created as one of the Ottoman territorial entities.

Kosovo was taken once by the Austrian forces of Eneo Piccolomini during the Great War of 1683-1699 with help of 5,000 Albanians and their leader, Catholic Archibishop Pjetër Bogdani. The archbishop, like Piccolomini, died from the plague at the end of 1698, and as the Ottomans re-conquered the region they had his grave reopened and his body quartered and given to the dogs because of his role in the rebellion.

Modern era

As the Serbs expelled a large number of Albanians from the regions of Niš, Pirot, Leskovac and Vranje in southern Serbia, which the Congress of Berlin of 1878 had given to the Belgrade Principality, a large number of them settled in Kosovo, where they are known as muhaxher (meaning the exiled, from the Arabic muhajir) and whose descendants often bear the surname Muhaxheri.

As a reaction against the Congress of Berlin, which had given Albanian territories to Serbia and Montenegro, Albanians, mostly from Kosovo, formed the League of Prizren in Prizren in June 1878. Hundreds of Albanian leaders gathered in Prizren and opposed the Serbian and Montenegrin jurisdiction. Serbia complained to the Western Powers that the promised territories were not being held because the Ottomans were hesitating to do that. Western Powers put pressure to the Ottomans and in 1881, the Ottoman Army started the fighting against Albanians. 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. In 1910, an Albanian uprising spread from Pristina and lasted until the Ottoman Sultan's visit to Kosovo in June 1911. The Aim of the League of Prizren was to unite the four Albanian-inhabited Vilayets by merging the majority of Albanian inhabitants within the Ottoman Empire into one Albanian autonomous region. However at that time Serbs have consisted about 25%[6] of the whole Vilayet of Kosovo's overall population and were opposing the Albanian aims along with Turks and other Slavs in Kosovo, which prevented the Albanian movements from establishing their rule over Kosovo.

In 1912 during the Balkan Wars, most of Eastern Kosovo was taken by the Kingdom of Serbia, while the Kingdom of Montenegro took Western Kosovo, which a majority of its inhabitants call "The Plateau of Duke John" (Rrafsh i Dukagjinit) and the Serbs call Metohija (Метохија), a Greek word meant for the landed dependencies of a monastery. Colonist Serb families moved into Kosovo, while the Albanian population was decreased. As a result, the proportion of Albanians in Kosovo declined from 75 percent[6][7] at the time of the invasion to slightly more than 65%[7] percent by 1941.

The 1918–1929 period under the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was a time of persecution of the Kosovar Albanians. Kosovo was split into four counties - three being a part of official Serbia: Zvečan, Kosovo and southern Metohija; and one in Montenegro: northern Metohija. However, the new administration system since 26 April 1922 split Kosovo among three Regions in the Kingdom: Kosovo, Rascia and Zeta.

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 April 1941.

After the Axis invasion, the greater part of Kosovo became a part of Italian-controlled Fascist Albania, and a smaller, Eastern part by the Nazi-Fascist Tsardom of Bulgaria and Nazi-German-occupied Kingdom of Serbia. Since the Albanian Fascist political leadership had decided in the Conference of Bujan that Kosovo would remain a part of Albania they started expelling the Serbian and Montenegrin settlers "who had arrived in the 1920s and 1930s"[8]. Prior to the surrender of Fascist Italy in 1943, the German forces took over direct control of the region. After numerous Serbian and Yugoslav Partisans uprisings, 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.

Struggles for independence

The Province of Kosovo was formed in 1945 as an autonomous region 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 the Yugoslavia's name changed to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia's to the Socialist Republic of Serbia in 1953, the Autonomous Region of Kosovo and 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 Region within the Socialist Republic of Serbia. Serbian (called Serbo-Croatian at the time) and Albanian were defined official on the Provincial level marking the two largest linguistic Kosovan groups: Serbs and Albanians.

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.

In 1981 the Kosovar Albanian students organized violent protests seeking that Kosovo becomes a Republic within Yugoslavia. Those protests were harshly contained by the centralist Yugoslav and Serbian governments. In 1986, the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU) was working on a document, which later would be known as the SANU Memorandum. An unfinished edition was filtered to the press. In the essay, SANU portrayed the Serbian people as a victim and called for the revival of Serb nationalism, using both true and exaggerated facts for propaganda. During this time, Slobodan Milošević's rise to power started in the League of the Socialists of Serbia.

Soon afterwards, as approved by the Assembly in 1990, the autonomy of Kosovo was revoked back to the old status. Milošević, however, did not remove Kosovo's seat from the Federal Presidency, installing in it his own supporters to seize more power in the Federal government. After Slovenia's secession from Yugoslavia in 1991, Milošević used the seat to attain dominance over the Federal government, outvoting his opponents.

Many Albanians organized a peaceful active resistance movement, following the job losses suffered by some of them, while other, more radical and nationalistic oriented Albanians, started violent purges of the non-Albanian residents of Kosovo.

On July 2, 1990 an unconstitutional Albanian parliament declared Kosovo an independent country, although this was not recognized by the Government since the Albanians refused to register themselves as legal citizens of Yugoslavia. In September of that year, the Albanian parliament, meeting in secrecy in the town of Kačanik, adopted the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo. Two years later, in 1992, the Parliament organized a referendum which was observed by international organisations but was not recognized internationally because of a lot of irregularities. With an 80% turnout, 98% voted for Kosovo to be independent. Non-Albanian population refused to vote since the referendum wasn't legal. In the early nineties, Albanians organized a parallel state system and a parallel system of education and healthcare, among other things, Albanians organized and trained, with the help of some European countries, the army of the Republic of Kosovo called the KLA. With the events in Bosnia and Croatia coming to an end, the Serb government started relocating Serbian refugees from Croatia and Bosnia to Kosovo. The OVK managed to re-relocate Serbian refugees back to Serbia.[citation needed].

Kosovo War

After the Dayton Agreement in 1995, Albanians legalized the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Yugoslav forces committed war crimes in Kosovo, although the Serbian government claims that the army was only going after suspected Albanian terrorists. This triggered a 78-day NATO campaign in 1999. Albanian KLA played a major role not only in reconnaissance missons for the NATO, but in sabotaging of the Serbian Army as well. During the conflict, some 12,000 people from Kosovo were killed, of whom 4,000-7,000 were Albanians and up to 700,000 Albanians from Kosovo took refuge in neighbouring country of Albania. Some 1,000 Albanians are still missing. According to OSCE numbers and Kosovar Albanian sources on population size and distribution, an estimated 45.7% of the Albanian population had fled Kosovo during the bombings (i.e. from 23 March to 9 June 1999). Over 1, 500 000 Albanians managed to return to their homes in Kosovo to date.

International negotiations began in 2006 to determine the final status of Kosovo, as envisaged under UN Security Council Resolution 1244 which ended the Kosovo conflict of 1999. Whilst Serbia's continued sovereignty over Kosovo is recognised by the international community, a clear majority of the province's population would prefer independence. The UN-backed talks, lead by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, began in February 2006. Whilst progress was made on technical matters, both parties remained diametrically opposed on the question of status itself.[9] In February 2007, Ahtisaari delivered a draft status settlement proposal to leaders in Belgrade and Pristina, the basis for a draft UN Security Council Resolution which proposes 'supervised independence' for the province. As of early July 2007 the draft resolution, which is backed by the United States, United Kingdom and other European members of the Security Council, had been rewritten four times to try to accommodate Russian concerns that such a resolution would undermine the principle of state sovereignty [10]. Russia, which holds a veto in the Security Council as one of five permanent members, has stated that it will not support any resolution which is not acceptable to both Belgrade and Pristina [11].


Kosovo Albanian ethnic costume and dance.
Kosovo Albanian ethnic room.

Culturally, Albanians in Kosovo are very closely related to Albanians in Albania. Traditions and customs differ even from a town to town in Kosovo itself. The spoken dialect is Gheg, typical of northern Albanians. The education, books, media, newspapers, and official language of the institutions is the standard dialect of Albanian, which is closer to Tosk dialect.

Education is provided for all levels, primary, secondary, and university degrees. University of Pristina is the public university of Kosovo, with several faculties and majors. The National Library (Alb: Bibloteka Kombëtare) is the main and the largest library in Kosovo, located in the centre of Pristina. There are many other private universities, among them American University in Kosovo (AUK), etc, and many secondary schools and colleges such as Mehmet Akif College.

The most widespread religion among Albanians in Kosovo is Islam (mostly Sunni but with significant number of Bektashis). The other religion Kosovar Albanians practice is Roman Catholicism. There used to be a small Albanian Orthodox community, but their status is uncertain.

Kosovafilmi is the film industry, which releases movies in Albanian, created by Kosovo Albanian movie-makers.

The National Theatre of Kosovo (Alb: Teatri Kombëtar i Kosovës) is the main theatre where plays are shown regularly by Albanian and international artists.


Music has always been part of the Albanian culture. Although in Kosovo music is diverse (as it was mixed with the cultures of different regimes dominating Kosovo), authentic Albanian music does still exist. It is characterized by use of çiftelia (an authentic Albanian instrument), mandolina, mandola and percussion.

In Kosovo, the folk music is very popular. There are many folk singers and ensembles.

Modern music in Kosovo has its origin from western countries. The main modern genres include Pop, Hip Hop/Rap, Rock, and Jazz. The most notable rock bands are: Gjurmët, Troja, Votra, Diadema, Humus, Asgjë sikur Dielli, Kthjellu, Gillespie, Cute Babulja, Babilon etc. Ilir Bajri is a notable jazz and electronic musician.

There are some notable music festivals in Kosovo:

  • Rock për Rock - contains rock and metal music
  • Polifest - contains all kinds of genres (usually hip hop, commercial pop, and never rock or metal)
  • Showfest - contains all kinds of genres (usually hip hop, commercial pop, unusually rock and never metal)
  • Videofest - contains all kinds of genres
  • Kush Këndon Lutet Dy Herë - contains all kinds of genres which have Christian lyrics

Kosovo Radiotelevisions like RTK, 21 and KTV have their musical charts.

Prominent individuals

Before 1950

  • Gjon Buzuku, born in the 16th century a Catholic priest, born in Ljarje (Kraja), the southeastern region of Montenegro, the writer of one of the earliest books in Albanian, Meshari.
  • Pjetër Bogdani, (1630-1689) born in Has, a Catholic bishop and author of the old Albanian literature as well as an eminent fighter against the Ottoman Empire
  • Isa Boletini, born in 1864, in Boletin, a village close to Kosovska Mitrovica, one of the main commanders of Albanian troops who fought against Ottoman, Bulgarian, Serbian Empire troops in the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.
  • Hasan Prishtina (1873 - 1933) born in Vučitrn, an Albanian intellectual, and organizer of Albanian movements against Ottomans and other regimes installed in Kosovo, during the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.
  • Valbona Gusija, born in 1968 in Pristina, is one of the pioneers of the Albanian social service movement in Canada.


  • Rifat Kukaj (25 October 1938 – September 11, 2005) one of the most successful writers in Albanian literature for children. He was born in Tërstenik, Drenica region of Kosovo.
  • Anton Çetta born in Đakovica, patriot, folklorist, academician, university professor. He was the founder of the Reconciliation Committee for erasing blood feuds in Kosovo (Alb: Komiteti per pajtimin e gjaqeve ne Kosovë). He is famous for having settled almost all of blood feuds among Albanians in Kosovo, in the 1990s.
  • Albin Kurti a former leader of the student protests during late 90s, currently the leader of the VETËVENDOSJE! (Self-determination) movement, which fights for the right of Albanians in Kosovo for self-determination on the future of Kosovo.

See also


  1. ^ Robert Shannan Peckham, Map mania: nationalism and the politics of place in Greece, 1870–1922, Political Geography, 2000, p.4: [1] "Other maps by amongst others the Frenchman F. Bianconi [1877], who was the chief architect and engineer of the Ottoman railways, A. Synvet [1877] and Karl Sax [1878], a former Austrian consul in Andrianople, were similarly favourable to the Greek cause."
  2. ^ Dardanioi, Georg Autenrieth, "A Homeric Dictionary", at Perseus
  3. ^ Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992, ISBN 0631198075, Page 85, "... Whether the Dardanians were an Illyrian or a Thracian people has been much debated and one view suggests that the area was originally populated with Thracians who where then exposed to direct contact with illyrians over a long period..."
  4. ^ "the Dardanians [...] living in the frontiers of the Illyrian and the Thracian worlds retained their individuality and, alone among the peoples of that region succeeded in maintaining themselves as an ethnic unity even when they were militarily and politically subjected by the Roman arms [...] and when at the end of the ancient world, the Balkans were involved in far-reaching ethnic perturbations, the Dardanians, of all the Central Balkan tribes, played the greatest part in the genesis of the new peoples who took the place of the old" The central Balkan tribes in pre-Roman times: Triballi, Autariatae, Dardanians, Scordisci and Moesians, Amsterdam 1978, by Fanula Papazoglu, ISBN 9025607934, page 131.
  5. ^ Pritsak, Omeljan (1991). "Albanians". Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. 1. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 52-53.
  6. ^ a b [2]
  7. ^ a b [3]
  8. ^ [4]
  9. ^ "UN frustrated by Kosovo deadlock ", BBC News, October 9, 2006.
  10. ^ [5]
  11. ^ [6]

External links


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