Today's Kosovo was ruled by Greeks and Romans
before the Serbian Empire was established in the Middle
Ages. The Muslim Turks then took over in the Balkans,
and the battle of the Trast field in Kosovo in 1389
became the beginning of a 500-year Turkish dominance.
After World War I, Serbia with Kosovo became part of
The area where Kosovo is located is believed to have
been inhabited already in prehistoric times. During
antiquity, it was part of the Dardania region, which was
then partly conquered by Alexander the Great's father,
Philip II of Macedonia. Just before the beginning of our
era, the Romans occupied the area.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Kosovo, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
In the 6th century AD, Serbs began to migrate from
today's Ukraine and in the 11th century Stefan I from
the Nemanja dynasty gathered the various Serbian clans
in one state.
In medieval Serbia, which was to cover large parts of
the Balkans, Kosovo was the administrative and cultural
center. Around this historic golden age, when hundreds
of churches and monasteries were built, among other
things, a number of myths emerged and Kosovo came to be
seen as the cultural and national cradle of the Serbs.
In the town of Peć (Peja in Albanian) in Kosovo, the
Serbian Orthodox Church was also founded in 1219 (see
Religion). For the Serbian national feeling, Kosovo has
always played a big role.
At the end of the 1300s, the Muslim Ottomans (Turks)
began to subjugate large parts of the Balkans. After the
battle of the Trast field in Kosovo (Kosovo polje) in
1389, the area came under Turkish domination.
In the late 1600s, Serbs, encouraged by the Austrian
Habsburgs, made an attempt at rebellion. The attempt
failed and a large number of Serbs left Kosovo, while
Albanians moved in.
After the Balkan Wars 1912–1913, when the Ottoman
Empire fought back, the Albanians gained their own
state, Albania. At that time, the population of Kosovo
consisted of a quarter of Serbs and three quarters of
Albanians. The Kosovo Albanians had hoped that Kosovo
would belong to the new Albanian state, but Serbia
regained control of Kosovo, which thus became part of
the South Slavic kingdom established after the end of
the First World War.
Between 1918 and 1929 Kosovo through Serbia was part
of the kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and
Slovenes under Serbia's regent Aleksandar
Karađorđević (Karadjordjevic). During this period, the
authorities attracted Serbs to move to Kosovo by
offering them special benefits. At the same time,
Albanian nationalists and activists were oppressed,
which made the Albanians see the Serbs as oppressors.
The tense conditions in the kingdom, especially between
Serbs and Croats, eventually brought the country to the
brink of civil war. In 1929, King Aleksandar dissolved
the parliament, disrupted the constitution and made
himself a dictator. At the same time, the country was
renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (Yugo = South). A
period of economic decline, political contradictions and
increased violence followed.
Part of Yugoslavia
During World War II, most of Kosovo was annexed by
Albania, which entered into a personnel union with
fascist Italy. After the war, Kosovo became a
self-governing province within Serbia in socialist
Yugoslavia, established by Josip Broz (Tito).
Tito got off to a start in Soviet leader Josef
Stalin's tracks. The country was given a constitution
based on the Soviet Constitution of 1936 and the
Communist Party was the only permissible political
force. All opposition was suppressed and major parts of
business were nationalized. Eventually, however, Tito
came on a collision course with Stalin and in 1948
Yugoslavia was excluded from the communist community.
Tito was then forced to turn to the west. He changed
domestic policy and allowed decentralization of economic
decision-making (including through self-management
systems at the factories). Yugoslavia also received
extensive financial and military assistance from the
United States and other Western countries.
In Kosovo, the contradictions were sharpened during
the Serbian administration. The Belgrade government
feared that the Albanians in Kosovo sympathized with the
regime in Albania. To control the Albanian population,
all key items were given to Serbs or Montenegrins, which
made Albanians feel like second-class citizens.
In the 1970s, Yugoslavia began to have financial
problems and worsened during the 1980s. At the same
time, the internal contradictions increased. Tito now
wanted to curb Serbia's growing influence by
strengthening other units within the federation. Tito
gave Albanians the right to open Albanian-language
schools and universities, and both Albanian and
Serbo-Croatian became official languages in Kosovo. By
a constitutional reform in 1974, Kosovo was in practice
given the same status as the six sub-republics, with a
president, a prime minister and a representative in the
Federal Presidency. On the paper, however, Kosovo
remained an autonomous province within Serbia, which was
a setback for the Albanian nationalists who wanted the
province to become its own sub-republic or even an
When the new constitution came into force, Kosovo
authorities, now controlled by Albanians, began to
discriminate against Serbs and other minorities. Many
Serbs, Turks, Romans and others got rid of their jobs in
the administration. By emigration, together with high
birth rates among Albanians, the Serbs' share of the
population had now fallen to 8 percent. Just over 90
percent were Albanians.
The Albanian people continued to demand Kosovo's
status as a sub-republic. The demands increased after
Tito's death in 1980, while the Serbs in the province
felt increasingly vulnerable.