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Kosovo Part II

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Ottoman Empire   -  Link

See also: Vilayet of Kosovo See also: History of Ottoman Serbia

The Ottomans brought Islam with them and later also created the Vilayet of Kosovo as one of the Ottoman territorial entities. Ottoman rule lasted for about 500 years, in which time the Ottomans were the absolute paramount power in the region. Many Slavs accepted Islam and served under Ottomans. Kosovo was taken temporarily by the Austrian forces during the War of 1683–1699 with help of Serbs but were defeated and retreated shortly thereafter. In 1690, the Serbian Patriarch of Pec' Arsenije III, who previously escaped a certain death, led 37,000 families from Kosovo, to evade Ottoman wrath since Kosovo had just been retaken by the Ottomans. The people that followed him were mostly Serbs. Due to the oppression from the Ottomans, other migrations of Orthodox people from the Kosovo area continued throughout the 18th century. It is also noted that many Albanians adopted Islam, whilst only a very small minority of Serbs did so.

In 1766, the Ottomans abolished the Patriarchate of Pec' and the position of Christians in Kosovo was greatly reduced. All previous privileges were lost, and the Christian population had to suffer the full weight of the Empire's extensive and losing wars, even having blame forced upon them for the losses.

[edit] Battles of Kosovo

 First Battle of Kosovo

The First Battle of Kosovo occurred on the field of Kosovo Polje on June 28, 1389, when the puling knez (prince) of Serbia, Lazar Hrebeljanovic', marshalled a coalition of Christian soldiers, made up of Serbs, but also of Bosnians, Magyars, Albanians, and a troop of Saxon mercenaries. Sultan Murad I also gathered a coalition of soldiers and volunteers from neighboring countries in Anatolia and Rumelia. Exact numbers are difficult to come by, but most reliable historical accounts suggest that the Christian army was heavily outnumbered by the Ottomans. The combined numbers of the two armies are believed to be less than 100,000. The Serbian-led armies were defeated and Lazar was slain, although Murad I was killed by Miloš Obilic', whose origin is disputed. 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 possibly even a Serbian victory. Serbia maintained its independence and sporadic control of Kosovo until a final defeat in 1455, following which Serbia and Kosovo became part of the Ottoman Empire.

Second Battle of Kosovo

The Second Battle of Kosovo was fought over the course of a two-day period in October 1448, between a Hungarian force lead by John Hunyadi and an Ottoman army lead by Murad II. Significantly larger than the first battle, with both armies numbering twice that of the first battle, the ending was the same, and the Hungarian army was defeated in the battle and pushed from the field. Although the loss of the battle was a setback for those resisting the Ottoman invasion of Europe at that time, it was not a 'crushing blow to the cause'. Hunyadi was able to maintain Hungarian resistance to the Ottomans during his lifetime.


Both of these battles were significant in the overall resistance against the Ottoman advance through the Balkans. Had the Serbian and Hungarian-led coalition armies been victorious in either or both of the battles, it could have changed the course that Kosovo eventually took under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The First Battle of Kosovo sealed the fate of the Serbian resistance, and became a national symbol for heroism and the admirable 'fight against all odds'.

Although he lost the Second Battle of Kosovo, eventually Hunyadi was victorious in his resistance and defeat of the Ottomans in the Kingdom of Hungary. Skanderbeg was also successful in his resistance in his home country of Albania (which then included large portions of Kosovo), a cause that was lost following his death in 1468. Both of these leaders were significant (as was Wallachian leader Vlad III Dracula) in that their resistance gave Austria and Italy greater time to prepare for the Ottoman advance.


Kosovo in the Modern era

See also: History of Modern Kosovo

Vilayet of Kosovo, 1875-1878  Vilayet of Kosovo, 1881-1912 

The territory of today's province was for centuries ruled by the Ottoman Empire. During this period several administrative districts (known as sanjaks ("banners" or districts) each ruled by a sanjakbey (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 Albanian 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 were largely left alone by the Ottomans, but both the Serbian Orthodox and Roman 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 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 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 a small number of Slavs - presumably members of the Serbian Orthodox Church - converted to Islam under Ottoman rule. Today, most Slavic Muslims of Serbia live in the Sandžak 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 Great Turkish War (1683-1699), in one of the pivotal events in Serbian national mythology. In October 1689, a small Habsburg force under Margrave Ludwig of Baden breached the Ottoman Empire and reached as far as Kosovo, following their earlier capture of Belgrade. Many Serbs and Albanians pledged their loyalty to the Austrians, some joining Ludwig'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 Niš, then back to Belgrade, then finally back across the Danube into Austria.

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 insurrection, which was possibly aided surreptitiously by the Young Turks to put pressure on the Sublime Porte, broke out in Priština 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.


20th century

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 Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Between the two World Wars the Yugoslav government tried to evacuate the Albanian population from Kosovo and Macedonia by sending them to Turkey and Albania and then recolonizing it with Serbs. On March 7, 1937 a memorandum was presented to the government by Vaso C(ubrilovic' from the Serbian Academy named Expulsion of the Albanians.

The partition of Yugoslavia by the Axis Powers from 1941 and 1945 awarded most of the territory to the Italian-occupied Greater Albania, and a smaller part of it to German-occupied Serbia and 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.[2][3] The Albanian community favored greater autonomy for Kosovo, whilst Serbs favored 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. Beginning in March 1981, 


Kosovar Albanian students organized protests seeking that Kosovo become a republic within Yugoslavia. Those protests rapidly escalated into violent riots "involving 20,000 people in six cities"[4] that were harshly contained by the Yugoslav government.

Serbs living in Kosovo were discriminated by the provincial government, notably by the local law enforcement authorities failing to punish reported crimes against Serbs.[5] The increasingly bitter atmosphere in Kosovo meant that even the most farcical incidents could become causes célèbres. When a Serbian farmer, ?or?e 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 ?or?e Martinovic' has come to symbolize the predicament of all Serbs in Kosovo."

Perhaps the most politically explosive complaint leveled by the Kosovo Serbs was that they were being neglected by the Communist authorities in Belgrade.[6] In August 1987, during the dying days of Yugoslavia's Communist regime, Kosovo was visited by Slobodan Miloševic', 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 Miloševic' 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 Miloševic''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[citation needed].

The new constitution was strongly opposed by many of Serbia's national minorities, who saw it as a means of imposing ethnically-based centralized rule on the provinces.[7] Kosovo's Albanians refused to participate in the referendum, portraying it as illegitimate.

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[cita

The 1990s

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 [1]. 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 [2], 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 sackings were widely seen as a purge of ethnic Albanians, the government maintained that it was simply getting rid of old communist directors.

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. Education in Albanian was withdrawn in 1992 and re-established in 1994. [3] 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 initially advocated non-violent resistance, but later 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 guerrilla war, characterised by regular bomb and gun attacks on Yugoslav security forces, state officials and civilians known to openly support the national government, this included Albanians who were non-sympathizers with KLA motives. In March 1998, Yugoslav army units joined Serbian police to fight the separatists, using military force. In the months that followed, hundreds of Albanian civilians were killed and more than 500,000 fled their homes; most of these people were Albanian. Many Albanian families were forced to flee their homes at gunpoint, as a result of fighting between national security and KLA forces leading to expulsions by the security forces including associated paramilitary militias. The UNHCR estimated that 460,000 people had been displaced from March 1998 to the start of the NATO bombing campaign in March 1999. [4]

There was violence against non-Albanians 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 were Serb. [5]

Following the breakdown of negotiations between Serbian and Albanian representatives, under North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) auspices, NATO intervened on March 24, 1999 without United Nations authority. NATO launched a campaign of heavy bombing against Yugoslav targets (like bridges in Novi Sad). A full-scale war broke out as Albanian fighters continued to attack Serbian forces 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 Miloševic', 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 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. Yugoslav 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.

Kosovo from June 10, 1999

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 100,000 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. [6][7] Some sources put the figure far lower; the European Stability Initiative estimates the number of displaced people as being only 65,000, with another 40,000 Serbs remaining in Kosovo, though this would leave a significant proportion of the pre-1999 ethnic Serb population unaccounted-for. The largest concentration of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo 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. [8]

In March 17, 2004, serious unrest in Kosovo led to several deaths, and the destruction of a large number of Orthodox churches and monasteries 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 proper.

Since the end of the war, Kosovo has been a major source and destination country in the trafficking of women, women forced into prostitution and sexual slavery. The growth in the sex trade industry has been fuelled by NATO forces in Kosovo. [9] [10] [11]

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.[8] 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 [12]. 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 [13].

February 17, 2008

Kosovar Parliament declared unilateral independence, with the blessing of the United  States and Britain and some of the EU Members.   Russia opposes on legal grounds, and Serbia refuses the dismemberment of their State.

If you have observed, it was the empires, and the rulers who decided the fate of the people.   Right from the early times, when people migrated, the stronger ones dominated the weaker and were then made to play the second fiddle.    The last great power in this region was the Ottoman Empire which was replaced by the British and now it is the United States which dictates which direction one should take.    United Nations is a fig leaf for the Powerful Five.    Even among them it is the alliance of the powers that changes the fortunes.   The Powerful block has to fight wars to retain its balance and as it does so, drains  its economic clout and becomes weak, as you saw in the case of the Ottoman and British Empires.   The status quo does not remain.   As the balance tilts, the old memories are revived and they become the new motives to topple the tottering powers and replace them with a new sense of "justice".

Power Politics prevail for the time being, and if History repeats, it might revert to 500 years ago, with the newly belligerent Islamic blocks, uniting against the weakening economic super powers of the West.  If they too resort to the tactics used by the West, in fudging legalities, and limits of using force, one could envisage the carnage when innocent Western women and  children could be abused and raped and murdered as we see in incidents of asymmetrical  warfare going on now.    Perhaps this is what Nostradamus saw in his visions.

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