Kosovo has been a resident of the Stone Age of various
peoples. The area has been incorporated into several
different empires and state formation, and its history is
closely linked to neighboring countries. Since ancient
times, Kosovo has been a contentious border area, with
floating borders, and subject to Roman, Byzantine, Serbian,
Ottoman and Yugoslav rule.
In 1990, the Kosovo Parliament declared the area a
republic within Yugoslavia.
Roman and Byzantine times
In the first century of our time, the Roman Empire took
control of the area, which was then populated by a people
known as the Dardans. These spoke an Indo-European language,
possibly related to Trachic or Illyrian. In the 500s, slaves
began to settle down. Kosovo became a contentious border
area. The Romans partially lost control, and in Late
Antiquity Kosovo was mainly under Byzantine rule.
From the 13th century, Kosovo became the center of the
Serbian Empire during the Nemanja dynasty. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of
Kosovo. This has given
Kosovo the nickname "Cradle of Serbia". There was also an
Albanian minority. A separate Serbian church was founded by
the Serbian prince Sava, the king's brother and archbishop
from 1219. The church site was added to Western Kosovo,
where there are still important Serbian Orthodox sanctuaries
from the 13th century.
The pressure from the Ottoman Empire's expansion led to
the gradual dissolution of the Serbian medieval kingdom. At
the Battle of Kosovo (Kosovo Polje) on June 28, 1389, both
Serbian prince Lazar and Ottoman sultan Murat fell. Within
70 years after the Battle of 1389, all of Kosovo had been
subject to Ottoman rule. From 1455 to 1912, Kosovo was part
of the Ottoman Empire, and after 1878, an Ottoman frontier
During this period, the majority of Albanians gradually
converted to Islam, while most Serbs remained Christians,
closely associated with the Serbian Orthodox Church. Peć was
the seat of Serbian patriarchs from the 1300s to the 1700s
and is a Serbian cultural and religious center. The church
became an important carrier of Serbian art and culture.
Under Ottoman rule, the Battle of Kosovo took on a mythical
significance, and the Serbian Orthodox Church gained great
importance as a carrier of Serbian national traditions,
especially after the patriarchy was restored in 1557.
The people of Kosovo were mostly peasants and landlords
without any political or cultural upper class, but in many
areas they had some local self-government. They lived in
large families (zadruga) and were led by their
village chiefs (knez).
Until the outbreak of the first Balkan war in 1912,
Kosovo was under Ottoman rule. In October that year, Serbia,
Bulgaria and Greece declared war on the Ottomans, and
Serbian forces quickly took control of Kosovo. By this time,
the Albanians had become the majority, and about 30-40
percent of the population was Serbs. Belgrade regarded
Kosovo as Serbian property and the conquest as a liberation,
while the Albanians saw it as an occupation. Serbian forces
burned villages and fled civilians.
The new state of Albania (1912) in the south considered
Kosovo as part of its territory, but with the 1913 peace
agreement, Kosovo was divided between Montenegro and Serbia.
On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary went to war against
Serbia, and Bulgaria occupied territories in the southeast.
Serbian forces fled across the mountain to Montenegro, but a
large number of soldiers died or were captured by the
Austrian army. Kosovo was divided into an Austrian and a
Bulgarian occupation zone, which in 1918 was replaced by
French and Italian forces.
Kosovo in Yugoslavia
After the Serbian army again captured Kosovo in the fall
of 1918, Kosovo became part of the new Kingdom of Serbs,
Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia of 1919). The Albanians
constituted one of the largest non-Slavic minorities in the
empire, but were not recognized as a national minority. The
reluctance to be included in a Slavic and Serbian-dominated
state was strong among the Albanians in the province, and
armed resistance to Yugoslavia continued into the 1920s. Up
to the Second World War, Albanian-language educational
institutions and the use of Albanian written language were
In 1941, much of Kosovo was incorporated into
Italian-controlled Greater Albania. By the reorganization of
Yugoslavia after World War II, Kosovo was incorporated into
the federation, between 1945 and 1963 as the Autonomous
Region of Kosovo and Metohija, part of the Serbian Republic
of Yugoslavia. Parts of the area had now become part of the
Republics of Macedonia and Montenegro.
In 1968 the name was changed to the Socialist Autonomous
Province of Kosovo, and in 1974 increased autonomy in
Serbia. In 1968, there was unrest when Albanian protesters
demanded independence and reunification with Albania. In the
1960s, Belgrade was more favorably voted for autonomy for
Kosovo, and the Yugoslav Constitution of 1974 recognized the
province as an autonomous province within Serbia. In
practice, Kosovo gained autonomy, and the Albanians gained
increased cultural rights.
In the early 1980s, extensive demonstrations broke out
among the Albanians in Kosovo, including demands for full
republican status. This led to counter-reaction from
Belgrade, which turned down attempts at separatism.
Slobodan Milošević had become chairman of the Serbian
Communist Party in 1986 and president in 1987. By mobilizing
Serbian nationalism, he wanted to consolidate power, and
began a campaign aimed at the Albanians. A highlight of
Serbian national mobilization was Milošević's speech in
Kosovo on June 28, 1989, the day of the battle against the
Turks 600 years earlier. Serbian historical myths and the
Serbian Orthodox Church were used in a campaign to assert
the Serbs' rights within the federation. It was widely
believed that Serbia had become the wing of Josip Titos
Yugoslavia, and many of the Serbs in Kosovo expressed strong
dissatisfaction with the Albanian population, which had then
become the majority. By mobilizing the masses, he removed
the party leadership in Kosovo.
In 1989, Milošević changed the Yugoslav Constitution to
reduce Kosovo's autonomy, which in 1990 was repealed by a
new constitution. Albanian leaders responded by declaring
independence from Serbia, while Kosovo was fully governed by