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Kosovo and Metohia (Serbian: Косово и Метохија; Albanian: Kosova), often called just Kosovo, is a province of Serbia, which together with Montenegro constitutes Serbia and Montenegro.

Table of contents
1 Origins of Kosovo's name
2 History
3 Politics and international status
4 Administrative subdivisions
5 Geography
6 Economy
7 Demographics
8 Culture
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 See also
11 External links

Origins of Kosovo's name

The name "Kosovo" is of somewhat obscure origin, apparently being related to the Slavic word kos (or "blackbird"). It is a widely used placename in Slav countries, appearing in Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Russia, among other countries. Some Albanian researchers claim that the name is a Serbian form of an old Albanian placename meaning "high plain", but this is not a widely accepted theory and would not explain the widespread distribution of the name across the Slav countries.

"Metohia" (alternatively spelled Metohija) derives from the Greek word metochia which denotes church-owned land. Historically, this was in western Kosovo, although there is no administrative district of that name today. Albanians tend not to use this name for political reasons and instead prefer to call it Rrafsg i Dukagjinit, the "Dukagjin plateau".

The province is occasionally called Kosmet, a contraction of Kosovo and Metohia which has tended to be used by the Serbian government and Serbian nationalists. Historically it has also been known as Kossovo (until the early 20th century) and before that, Cassovo or Cassua by (mainly Italian) geographers.

Most localities in Kosovo have distinct Serbian and Albanian placenames, some very similar, some differing radically. During the period of Serbian rule from 1912-1999, Kosovo placenames were known internationally exclusively by their Serbian versions. Since the United Nations took over administration of the province in June 1999, the international community has adopted a policy of treating both versions equally. For the sake of convenience, this article gives alternative placenames the first time a locality is mentioned, but will use the more familiar Serbian version thereafter. A useful list of Serbian and Albanian forms of Kosovo placenames is available at


Modern Kosovo has only existed as a political or territorial entity since 1945. Before then, its territory was ruled entirely or partially by Italian-occupied Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, the Ottoman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, Bulgaria and the Roman Empire. Some have suggested that Kosovo has been a single distinctive region since ancient times but this is strongly contradicted by archaeological findings and historic records. Nor has Kosovo's population been ethnically consistent over the years: the province's complex ethnic map has included Latins, Turks, Roma, Gorani (Slav Muslims), Circassians and Jews in addition to Serbs and Albanians.

Kosovo from prehistory to 1455

Little is known about Kosovo before about the 11th century AD. The region was certainly inhabited in prehistoric times: in particular, Bronze and Iron Age tombs have been found in western Kosovo. Later, the whole territory of Kosovo became part of the Roman Empire, although it is not clear whether it was part of the province of Moesia or was divided between Dalmatia and Moesia (a view which is supported by some archaeological evidence). [1]

According to most historians, Serbs entered the Balkans around the late 6th or early 7th century AD, possibly migrating from the northern Caucasus where Ptolemy placed the "Serboi" in the 2nd century AD. The initial spread of the Slavic population of the Balkans was much larger then today, reaching well into Greece and Albania. Placenames derived from Slavic root words are still widespread in the remaining non-Slav Balkan countries.

The origins of the Albanians are much less clear. Many historians believe that they are descended from the Illyrians, the original inhabitants of the western Balkans in Roman times, although Romania historians have suggested that they may alternatively be descended from the ancient Thracians, who inhabited the eastern Balkans. Albanian historians claim that in around the 6th century the Illyrians were forced south into what is now Albania by Slav tribes - the predecessors of modern day Serbs. Some Serb historians claim that Albanians came to the Balkans in the 11th century AD from the Caucasus, but this theory is not widely accepted outside of Serbia. class="external">[1 The first surviving documentary evidence of the Albanians dates only to 1043, but many historical linguists suggest that the vocabulary and structure of the Albanian language points to a much earlier presence in the western Balkans.

The Kosovo region lay on the outer fringes of the Byzantine Empire and lay directly in the path of the Slav expansion. From about the 850s until about 1014, it was ruled by Bulgarian and Macedonian Slavs. Byzantine control was subsequently reasserted by the forceful emperor Basil "the Bulgar Slayer. Serbia at this time did not exist: a number of small Slav kingdoms lay to the north and west of Kosovo, of which Raska or Rascia (in central modern Serbia) and Dioclea (Montenegro) were the strongest. In the 1180s, the Serbian ruler Stefan Nemanja seized control of Dioclea, northern Albania, northern Macedonia and parts of Kosovo. His successor (also called Stefan) took control of the rest of Kosovo by 1216, creating a state incorporating most of modern Serbia and Montenegro.

During the rule of the Nemanjid dynasty, many Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries were built throughout Serbian territory, including in Kosovo. Large estates were given to Serbian monasteries in western Kosovo, for which the area earned the designation Metohia or "monastic land". The most prominent churches in Kosovo - the Patriarchate at Pec/Peja, the church at Gracanica/Ulpiana and the monastery at Visoki Decani/Decane in western Kosovo - were all founded during this period. Kosovo had relatively little political significance, however, as the medieval Serbian state was ruled principally from other towns: Ras (near Novi Pazar), Skopje in modern Macedonia and Krusevac in central Serbia. Kosovo was economically important, as the modern Kosovar capital Pristina/Pristine was a major trading centre on routes leading to ports on the Adriatic Sea.

The ethnic composition of Kosovo's population during this period is a controversial issue among Serbian and Albanian nationalists. Serbs, Albanians and Vlachs were all clearly present, as all three groups were named explicitly in Serbian monastic charters or chrysobulls. Their relative numbers are unknowable - no censuses have survived - but a majority of the names given in the charters are Serbian rather than Albanian. This has been interpreted as evidence of a Serbian majority, though the names alone do not appear to be a wholly reliable guide: some chrysobulls show Albanian-named fathers giving their sons Serbian names, and vice-versa. Albanian historians have suggested that this is evidence of forced assimilation of Kosovo's Albanian population, but this is undermined by records of Serbian-named fathers giving sons Albanian names (which would surely not have happened if the assimilation was a one-way process). Ethnic identity in the Middle Ages was somewhat fluid throughout Europe and people at that time do not appear to have defined themselves rigidly by ethnic group. About all that can be said for sure is that Serbs appear to have been the dominant population culturally, and were probably a demographic majority as well.

In 1355, the Serbian state fell apart on the death of Tsar Stefan Dusan and dissolved into squabbling fiefdoms. The Ottoman Empire took the opportunity to exploit Serbian weakness and invaded, meeting the Serbian army on the field of Kosovo Polje on June 28, 1389. The Battle of Kosovo ended in the deaths of both the Serbian Prince Lazar and the Ottoman Sultan Murad I. 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 even a Serbian victory. Serbia maintained its independence and sporadic control of Kosovo until a final defeat in 1455, following which it became part of the Ottoman Empire.

Kosovo from 1455 to 1912

Kosovo was for centuries ruled by the Ottoman Empire.

Most historians believe that principal roots of the existing Albanian population arose from migrations out of the south-west (modern Albania) during the centuries of Ottoman rule (particularly during and after the 17th century). During that period, Islam also became the faith of most of the Albanian people.

In 1878, Kosovo was one of the four vilayets with Albanian inhabitants that formed the League of Prizren. The League's purpose was to resist both Ottoman rule and incursions by the newly emerging Balkan nations.

in 1910, an Albanian organised insurrection broke out in Pristina 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 and Metohia were internationally recognised as a part of Serbia at the Treaty of London in May 1913. At this time about 60% of the population of today's Kosovo and Metohia was Serb (see Kosovo population data-points). In 1918, Serbia became a part of the newly formed Yugoslavia.

The partition of Yugoslavia, from 1941 and 1945, by the Axis Powers awarded Kosovo to the Italian-occupied Greater Albania. 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.

With the passing of the 1974 Yugoslavia constitution, Kosovo gained virtual self-government. Reflecting the then approximately 75% Albanian population, schools were able to apply an Albanian curriculum. Surplus/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. The Albanian community favoured sovereignty for Kosovo, whilst Serbs favoured closer ties with the rest of Serbia.

Serbs living in Kosovo were discriminated by Albanians. In August 1987, during the dying days of Yugoslavia's communist regime, Kosovo was visited by Slobodan Milošević, then a rising politician. He appealed to Serb nationalism to further his career. Having drawn huge crowds, 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 Milošević was in control of the Serbian government.

In 1989, the autonomy was revoked by a Serbia wide referendum which implemented a new Serbian constitution which was more democratic as it allowed a multi-party system, introduced factual freedom of speech and promoted human rights.

It also significantly reduced the provinces' rights, which was felt to be a democratic step by Serbs. However, Kosovo Albanians strongly opposed that measure. Albanians refused to participate in the referendum. Since it was a Serbia wide referendum and Albanians are a minority in Serbia as a whole, their participation would not have changed the outcome of the referendum.

However the new constitution had to be ratified by Kosovo's assembly [1]. In March 1989 when the assembly met to discuss the proposals, tanks and armored cars surrounded the meeting place, forcing the assembly to accept the amendments. The constitutional changes handed control of the police, the court system, the economy, the education system and language policies to the Serb government.

After constitutional changes, 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 took away the right of having official media from provinces and official media were integrated within official media of Serbia while still having program in Albanian language. Albanian language media in Kosovo was suppressed. Funding was withdrawn from state-owned media, including 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 appeared; of these, probably the most famous is "Koha ditore", which operated until late 1998 when it was closed following publishing 1999 calendar with KLA iconography and glorification.

The constitution also gave control over state-owned companies (at the time, most of the companies were state-owned and de jure they still are) to Serbian government, so the new non-communist government fired old communist (mostly Albanian) directors and some of those who stayed have quit, refusing to work for Serbian government. 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 [1], provoking a general strike and mass unrest.

The Albanian curriculum and textbooks were revoked, and new made. 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. New textbooks were (still are) basically the same as those in Serbian, except that they were in Albanian language. Education on Albanian language was reportedly ([1]) withdrawn in 1992 and re-established in 1994; also, education of Albanian language was cut at the Priština University. It is reported that Albanian teachers were also sacked en-masse. Albanians responded by boycotting state schools and attempts to maintain a "parallel" system of Albanian-language education.

Kosovo Albanians were outraged by these developments. 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 presence of the Yugoslav Army and police was significantly increased to quell the unrest.

Unsanctioned elections were held in 1992, overwhelmingly elected Ibrahim Rugova as "president", however these elections were not recognised neither 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 advocated non-violent resistance, but later when it became apparent that this was not working, opposition took the form of separatist agitation by opposition political groups and armed action from 1996 by the "Kosovo Liberation Army" (Ushtria «lirimtare e KosovŽs, or U«K). The Serbian police and U«K actions by 1998 created a state of low intensity warfare with some 2000 dying prior to Kosovo War of 1999.

The U«K repeatedly attacked Serbian police. In March 1998 Yugoslav army units joined Serbian police to fight the U«K separatists. In the months that followed, hundreds of people were killed and more than 200,000 have fled from their homes, most of these people were Albanians. Some international media have reported that many Albanian families told of being forced to flee their homes at gunpoint.

The United Nations estimated that during the Kosovo War, nearly 640,000 Albanians fled Kosovo between March 1998 and the end of April 1999. Most of the refugees went to Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or Montenegro. Most western media have reported that at some border crossings, some identification papers of some Albanian families were destroyed by Serbian officials.

Slobodan Milošević and other senior Serb officials were indicted by the United Nations for war crimes committed by Serb forces in Kosovo. There were no indictments of NATO and KLA officials.

Politics and international status

Its international status is anomalous in that although it is formally a province of the Republic of Serbia, actual administration is presently conducted by the United Nations with no involvement on the part of the Serbian governments (under Security Council resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999; see Security Council Resolutions 1999). A parliament was elected in November 2001 and Ibrahim Rugova was selected as president in March 2002, however the UN retained control of security, justice and external affairs.

Kosovo's anomalous status is the result of the Kosovo War of March-June 1999, in the course of which air strikes against the Federal republic of Yugoslavia's armed forces and civilian infrastructure by members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, without endorsement by the United Nations, forced the signing of the Kumanovo agreement which provided for the withdrawal of military and the province's occupation by a NATO-led force (KFOR) including also Russian troops (no longer serving as of July 2003).

Since 1998, Yugoslav forces were heavily fighting with the KLA, during which, according to NATO intentionally, a number of Albanian civilians was killed, wounded or temporarily driven out of province, and NATO claims that it began air strikes in order to stop that.

Both NATO and the UN continue formally to recognise Kosovo as a part of Serbia although Serbia is not allowed to exercise any sovereignty over it, as since 1999 much of the Serb population have departed and local Albanians are reluctant to see Serbian sovereignty in Kosovo restored in practice. On the other side, Serbia would hardly recognize Kosovo's independence, and recognizing the independence of Kosovo without Serbia's consent would violate international law (the principles of territorial integrity and noninterference in internal affairs). The most likely outcome is the indefinite continuation of the current situation.

Administrative subdivisions


With an area of 10,887 km2 and a population of almost 2 million on the eve of the 1999 crisis, Kosovo borders with Montenegro to the northwest, rest of Serbia to the north and east, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the south and Albania to the southwest. The largest cities are Priština, the capital, with 190,000 inhabitants, and Prizren in the southwest with 120,000: five other towns have populations in excess of 50,000.

Geographical regions

Metohia is the large valley at the west of the province; it could be seen as dark crescent on the left side of the map. It could be said that rest of the province is Kosovo, though it is comprised of several geographical regions. Malo Kosovo (perhaps the best translation is "Kosovo Proper") is the valley containing the cities of Pristina and Kosovska Mitrovica. Around the river Binacka Morava is Binacko pomoravlje. At the southmost tip of the province lies Gora.


UNMIK declared the Euro as the official currency in Kosovo, however the Serbian dinar remains an official currency in Kosovo. The Dinar is widespread in Kosovo because most trade is done with the rest of Serbia and the Kosovo Serb enclaves also use it widely. Other international currencies (Dollar, Swiss Franc) are also widespread.


The population is currently comprised of a majority of
Albanians (estimated at 80% prior to the international conflict of 1999, but now somewhat larger owing to the flight of many Serbs and other non-Albanians; see Kosovo population data-points).


Miscellaneous topics

See also

External links