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Assessment for Kosovo Albanians in Yugoslavia

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Kosovo Albanians in Yugoslavia, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 19 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Yugoslavia 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

Since the end of the NATO-led war to stop the actions of Milosevic, the question of the future status of Kosovo has been left unanswered. For the majority of Kosovo's residents, ethnic Albanians, Kosovo must remain under their control. Since the ending of the atrocities against the Kosovar Albanians by the Serbian government of Milosevic, the United Nations has taken the future role of Kosovo under its authority, through the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). They have tried to form a Kosovo inclusive of all Kosovars. A multi-ethic police force was formed to prevent police from acting on the lines of ethnicity. From 2001 to 2003 a complete multiethnic government was voted into power by the people of Kosovo. But the question as to Kosovo's autonomy is still unanswered.

Despite improvement, numerous problems still exist. Ethnic feuds, especially between the Kosovar Albanians and the Kosovar Serbs still persist. Most Kosovar Serbs reside in the northern section of the city of Mitrovica, while the Kosovar Albanians reside everywhere else in the city and the countryside. The groups frequently clash, with the Kosovar Albanians often instigating clashes. The Kosovar Serbs want Kosovo to be a part of Serbia and Montenegro, and the Kosovar Albanians can not allow that.

The future of Kosovo resides squarely in the hands of the UN. If the actions of the UN in dealing with Serbia and Montenegro are any indication of what they have in mind for Kosovo, Kosovo is likely to remain in a federation with Serbia and Montenegro. Regardless, a successful Kosovo is difficult to envision within the Yugoslav federation or outside of it, until inter-ethic conflicts stop and both Serbs and Albanians work together.

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 (GROUPCON = 3), and both have legitimate claims to the area dating back for centuries (TRADITN = 1). 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). 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 (COHESX9 = 5).

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 climate, the economic impact 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, voting, and 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.

It appears that while within the Kosovo region these restrictions are now alleviated, they still exist socially in the society as a whole (ECDIFX03 = 2). In one area the Kosovars are in a much better situation after the 1999 air strikes, and that is in regard to cultural restrictions. Before 1999 the University of Pristina could not conduct classes in Albanian; that has now changed. The restrictions on publishing in Albanian have been lifted, and there is evidence of Albanian cultural organizations and festivities, all of which were restricted or banned prior to the NATO intervention. The main goal of the NATO intervention was to put an end to the repression inflicted on the group by the Serb government. The Kosovars faced mass arrests, torture, resettlement, the destruction of their property and finally ethnic cleansing. The Yugoslav army was in a protracted war with the Kosovar Liberation Army (KLA), a group that promoted Albanian independence (SEPX = 3) which was the rationale given for the repression. Areas that were deemed to be KLA strongholds were attacked and destroyed. Beyond the repression inflicted by the Yugoslav government, Albanians also faced attacks by the Serbs living in the region. There were reports of mass killings of Albanians by the Serb population, with the encouragement of the Yugoslav army. In 2000 this inter-group conflict has continued, but now it is the Albanians who have been accused of attacks on the remaining Serb population in retaliation for the repression they faced. The peace principles agreed upon by all parties to the conflict, the Kosovar Albanians, the Serbs, NATO and Russia, provided for the transformation of the province into an international protectorate, for the withdrawal of the Serb authorities and for the return of the Albanian refugees back to their homes. As a result the repression faced by the Albanians has ended, but there are still disputes in the region. Some of these disputes are among the Albanians themselves. In 2000 there were reports of the assassinations of key KLA leaders. The alleged assassins were not Serbs, rather rival factions within the KLA. Since 2000, the attacks have decreased with each year but many of the attacks are still between rival Kosovar Albanian groups. The UN's task in Kosovo is to establish and ensure peace, to build a state, and to repair the economy. Each of these tasks has been made difficult with the want of revenge by the Kosovar Albanians. A factor exacerbating social tensions is the overall youthfulness of Kosovo. Kosovo is the youngest of all European countries with 60% of its population under 25. This prevents the majority of the population the chance to remember a time where their enemy wasn't the Serbs, and harms any chance at a settlement with Serbia and Montenegro.

As part of the peace agreement, the KLA was to have been disbanded, but this has yet to occur. The KLA still exists, and has formed as of 1999 a political party known as the Party of Democratic Progress. Beyond this party there are several other political parties and organizations that represent the various interests of the Albanians. Some of the main parties include: The National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo, The Democratic League of Kosovo, The Peasant's Party, The Kosovo Parliamentary Party and Kosovo Politica. The Kosovo Albanians also have had support from the government of Albania, which provided training for the KLA, and continues to support ideologically the region. International organizations such as the UN, Red Cross, EU, and Amnesty International have all attempted to protect the group, help refugees, and provide ideological encouragement and economic assistance. Obviously NATO also has provided an enormous amount of military, peacekeeping and economic assistance as well.

The Kosovar Albanians are not united in the majority of their demands. Some favor outright independence, while others favor joining Albania. There are still others who believe that widespread autonomy within Serbia and Montenegro is still possible and preferred. What is agreed upon is that the region needs to gain greater control over their affairs. This control would allow for the group to ensure their civil rights, and protect their language, culture and most importantly, their own citizens from attack and repression. In 2001 the UN put forth the Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo. They set up a 120-member Kosovo Assembly, which elected a President of Kosovo and a Prime Minister in 2002. It is multi-party systems with the three dominant parties representing ethnic Albanians. The region is also extremely poor, and therefore there are demands for whoever is in control of the region for policies to be introduced that will increase the economic status of Kosovo. Many people have been forced from their homes, and have had all of their property destroyed. With so many men having been killed fighting in the KLA, many families have lost their greatest source of income. There are many aspects of Kosovo society that need to be rebuilt, and now that their immediate well-being is secure those demands are beginning to grow louder. The economy is in a transition to a market-based economy, with a huge basing on agriculture, mining, and construction. There is some hope for a brighter tomorrow, but numerous ingredients need to change. With the future of the country still uncertain, Kosovo cannot reach its full economic potential for no company is willing to invest in a country that they are not certain what its political future will be. Despite more than 60% growth of Kosovo's economy since 2000, the overall unemployment and gross domestic product have remained similar. This is due in part to the rapid immigration of those who fled the country during the war into an economic system that cannot handle them.

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. There seems to be a growing distrust of the UN's actions in Kosovo, which might culminate in violence if grievances are left unredressed.


Moore, Patrick "Kosovo Could Spark Another Balkan War" RFE/RL Research Report, vol 1(50), 18 December, 1992, pp. 18-20.

Schmidt, Fabian "Kosovo: The Time Bomb That Has Not Gone Off" RFE/Rl Research Report, vol 2(39), 1 October 1993, pp. 21-29.

Zanga, Louis "Albania Afraid of War Over Kosovo" RFE/RL Research Report, Vol 1(46), 20 November 1992, pp. 20-23.

Zanga, Louis "Albania and Kosovo" RFE/RL Research Report, vol 1 (39), 2 October 1992, pp. 26-29.

Lexis/Nexis: Reuters, July 1993 to 2003.

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