This brief history, based on authoritative published sources, is intended to provide readers with an objective and reasonably concise history of the hundreds of years of struggle between Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo. Interested readers are strongly encouraged to consult the sources cited for a much fuller treatment of the subject. At the end of the historical summary an analysis of the NATO military intervention of 1999 is provided. This represents the author's opinion of the intervention only,and is not intended to be part of the short history of Kosovo that is provided in this document. The postscript brings us up-to-date on the essentials of the continuing controversies as of November15, 2002.
History Prior to 19th Century
The earliest known inhabitants of Kosovo were called Illyrians by both Greeks and Romans. Albanians today claim to be direct descendants of the Illyrians. Serbian scholars claim that Albanians appeared on the scene in the early Middle Ages as a result of intermarriage between nomadic shepherds and unromanized remnants of Illyrians and Dardanians from Thrace. Tracing such descents is difficult but the people living in the region before the arrival of the Serbs from the North are likely to have some genetic relationships to Albanians, but DNA data would be needed to definitively settle the claim, which in any case is hardly germane to the current conflict. The region was conquered by Alexander the Great 300 years before Christ and became part of the Roman province of Dardania in the 4th century A. D.
Slavs crossed the Danube and moved into the Balkans by the 6th century. These migrations weakened the Byzantium Empire sufficiently that Illyrian speaking people, known to their neighbors as Albanians moved eastward from the Adriatic into the Kosovo region of the Balkans. Their language became known as Albanian and their culture became allied with Byzantium after the breakup of the Catholic Church into Eastern and western branches in 1054. Slavs migrating into the Balkans divided into three groups; Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, as is still true today. By the 12th century almost all arable land in the region now known as Northern Albania and Kosovo was in Slavic hands.
By 1190 Kosovo had become the administrative and cultural center of the medieval Serbian state ruled by the powerful Nemanjic dynasty. This dynasty lasted 200 years and still today Kosovo is known by Serbians as "Old Serbia". However in 1389, in the famous Battle of Kosovo Polje, the Serbs and their allies were defeated by the Ottoman Turks and shortly Kosovo became part of the Ottoman Empire. Albanians started to move back into Kosovo in considerable numbers in the 15th century and the Ottomans took sovereignty over the region in 1489. During this time the great majority of Albanians were still Christians, and Serbs and Albanians lived together in reasonable harmony. Gradually Albanians and to a lesser extent Serbs became converted to Islam. Serb resistance to conversion was strengthened by activities of the Orthodox Church since Kosovo contained many seminaries and was the home of the Serbian Orthodox Church. In the late 17th century Serbs left Kosovo in large numbers as a result of military victories of the Ottoman Turks. This caused the Serbian "center of gravity" to move northward to the region of Belgrade where it has remained ever since. This displacement of the Serb population is known in history as "the great migration". As a result, the region of Kosovo became underpopulated and, attracted by available fertile land, was resettled by Albanians moving eastward from the hills of Albania. At this time these Albanians were both Christian and Muslim.
The Islamic Conquest and Islamization
Serbia including Kosovo was conquered by the Islamic Ottoman Turks in 1459, Bosnia and Herzegovina fell in 1465 and 1483 repectively. During this time Serbian Christians and Jews, as "people of the book", became dhimmis subject to the dhimma or protection offered to Christian and Jews in newly Islamized lands in exchange for their lives. Dhimmi status goes back to the 7th century when the Jews at the oasis of Khaybar in Arabia accepted the treaty offered to them by Muhammed. In exchange for their lives the Jews forfeited ownership of their lands were forced to defer to Muslims on the street, in business dealings and under the Shari'a law, and were forced to by heavy taxes to their Muslim conquerers. This treaty of Khaybar became the model by which all Christian and Jews in newly conquered lands became subject to a condition referred to by the scholar Bat Ye'or as dhimmitude, a contraction of the two word dhimmitude and servitude. Christians and Jews in lands under Islamic rule remained in the status of dhimmitude until the emancipation ordered by the Ottoman Sultan in the middle of the 19th century.under pressure from the European powers. In reality the oppression of the Christians and the Jews in the Balkans didn't end until Serbia achieved independence in 1912 as a result of the first Balkan war.
Late 19th and Early 20th Century
The opening of a Serbian seminary in Prizren in 1871 started a pronounced strengthening of the Serb presence in Kosovo culminating in Serbian reoccupation and control of Kosovo by 1912. Following the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in the Russo-Ottoman War in 1878 the terms of the "Peace Accord" extended Bulgaria westward and gave the Serbs control of Mitrovica and Pristina in Kosovo, while the remainder remained in Ottoman hands. In response to this peace settlement Albanian nationalists called a meeting in Prizren which was attended by over 300 delegates from Kosovo and western Macedonia. This meeting founded what became known as "The Prizren League". The delegates were primarily conservative Muslim landowners whose main interest was to maintain strong Ottoman control of Kosovo to protect them from marauding Balkan neighbors. The League also included Albanian intellectuals inspired by ideas of the European Renaissance who were interested in unification of Albanian people under the umbrella of Ottoman rule. The Ottoman Sultan supported the League because he wanted to instill pan-Islamic ideology as a counterbalance to Christian and Slavic influences. However, as the Ottoman Empire weakened the League moved toward autonomy within the Empire. In this movement the League increasingly became anti-Christian as well, causing considerable anxiety among Christian Albanians and especially among the Serbs. At this time the Muslim leadership encouraged what today would be termed "ethnic cleansing" and as a result more and more Serbs left Kosovo and moved north in Serbia. Also in June 1898 Western powers, reacting to what the perceived as undue Russian interests in the Balkans, compelled Russia to submit to a new peace settlement, this time at the Congress of Berlin presided over by the "Iron Chancellor" Bismarck. This settlement greatly reduced the size of Bulgaria and returned all Albanian inhabited land to the Ottomans. Serbian troops were forced to withdraw from Kosovo.
In the early 20th century the "Young Turk Movement", as a liberal movement in opposition to the Sultan, became an important factor within the Ottoman Empire. A constitution was established and electoral laws promulgated. Unfortunately for the hopeful Albanians in Kosovo the electoral law of 1908 stipulated that voters must have a knowledge of the Turkish language in order to vote leaving the great majority of Kosovars, whether Albanian or Serbian, disenfranchised. The Young Turks were strongly opposed to nationalist tendencies within the Empire and worked toward centralization of power and authority and Turkification of all subjects in the Ottoman domain. As is the case in present day Serbia, the Ottomans strongly opposed the autonomy desired by Kosovars in general and Albanians in particular. This was one of many Albanian Kosovar disappointments though the years.
In the first Balkan War of 1912 Albania was attacked by Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. The Albanians were allied with the Ottomans. Serbs joined the army in large numbers to avenge the Serbian defeat by the Turks at the Battle of Kosovo Polje. At this time Kosovo was mostly Albanian. Serbs entered Pristina as Albanians retreated to the mountains. The Serbian army destroyed Turkish and Albanian houses and there was much plundering and killing. Serb peasants followed the army into Kosovo re-occupying the land. The Albanians fought fiercely but lost the war and Kosovo came under Serbian authority. At the Conference of Ambassadors in London in 1912 presided over by Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, Serbia was given sovereignty over Kosovo which it has retained to the present day. Albania, for the first time was internationally recognized and by the Treaty of London in1913 became a fully independent and sovereign state. Within Kosovo not surprisingly there was much anti-Serbian sentiment since the population was still mostly Albanian. In 1913, in the second Balkan War, Bulgaria attacked the Serbian and Greek armies in Macedonia. They miscalculated and were quickly and decisively defeated. Among the outcomes Serbia nearly doubled in size obtaining most of Slavic Macedonia.
World War I
At the beginning of the war Bosnia-Herzegovina had been annexed by and was under the rule of Austria-Hungary. In June 1914 Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist, assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarejevo and the world, especially Europe, was never and will never be the same again. Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia that Serbia felt it could not accept without loss of its honor and sovereignty. Austria-Hungary, with the support of Germany, declared war on Serbia. Russia came into the war in support of its Slavic brothers in Serbia. France and Britain entered the war with Russia because of their alliances. The "Guns of August" were not silenced until November 11, 1918. It is not our role to discuss the many adverse effects of the war, three of which were the rise of Bolshevism in Russia, rise of Fascism in Italy and the rise of Naziism in Germany. We will discuss only the effects of the war on Yugoslavia in general and Kosovo in particular.
The declaration of war by Austria-Hungary was greeted with considerable satisfaction in Albania for understandable reasons. Also for understandable reasons Serbia saw Albania and Albanians as its enemy. As a result vicious guerrilla fighting took place between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo with atrocities on both sides and a flow of refugees of Albanians into Albania. In 1915, the Western allies, in the secret Pact of London, agreed to divide Albania between Greece and Italy leaving only a small autonomous state in the central region. Austria-Hungarian and Bulgarian troops moved into Kosovo. The Serb armies were beaten decisively and in what is known as " The Great Serbian Retreat" made a disastrous trek across Kosovo and the snow- covered mountains of Albania. The army was accompanied by thousands of Serb civilians who were terrified by what they had heard about the fate of Belgium at the hands of the Axis powers. The best estimate is that 100,000 Serbs lost their lives during this grueling retreat. Kosovo was occupied by Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. Many Kosovar Albanians joined the Austria- Hungarian army. Albanian language schools were opened to undermine the Serbian presence. After the tide of battle turned against Austria-Hungary in 1918 the Serb army took revenge massacring women and children and destroying homes. In retaliation guerilla warfare against the Serbs was relentless.
The peace treaties of 1919-1920 established a Yugoslav state with the name "The Kingdom of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs". The name was shortly changed to Yugoslavia. Included in the Kingdom, which was a constitutional monarchy, beside those mentioned above were Bosnia- Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia. Kosovo was again an integral part of Serbia. The Kingdom was comprised of 12 million people, of whom 400,000 were Albanian. It was overwhelmingly a Slavic state. In contrast 64% of the population of Kosovo was Albanian, and of these three-quarters were Muslim. The Kingdom was governed from Belgrade.
It is clear that seeds for ethnic conflict had been re-sown and it didn't take long for them to germinate. Hostilities between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo heated up immediately and by 1921 Albanian Kosovars requested the League of Nations to take steps to unite Kosovo with Albania. They alleged that 12,000 Albanians had been killed and 22,000 imprisoned in Kosovo since 1918. The League was relatively unsympathetic and did not take action. A Kachak movement of armed Albanians seeking annexation by Albania developed. As a result Albanians in Kosovo were increasingly seen by Serbs as comprising an outlaw national liberation movement, subversive to the Yugoslav constitution. In the period 1918-1941, between the two world wars, colonization of Kosovo by Serbian settlers was attempted. Land was appropriated from Albanians illegally and Albanians were encouraged to leave. Some Albanians resisted. In 1931 the population of Kosovo remained 63% Albanian, so it is clear that, for a variety of reasons, the colonization movement had failed except for a few isolated Albanian towns that became more Serbian.
World War II
Albania was occupied by Italian forces in April 1939. Greece was attacked by Italy in November 1940, but a bloody stalemate resulted that ultimately required German assistance. Rumania joined the Axis in November 1940, and Bulgaria in March 1941. The Yugoslav government was coerced into also joining the Tripartite Pact (Germany, Italy and Japan) on March 25, 1941 followed two days later by an anti-axis coup which Hitler did not later forget. Germany invaded Yugoslavia April 6, and by April 17 formal resistance by the Yugoslav army had collapsed. Croatia, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, became a Fascist state allied with Germany and which killed and persecuted thousands of Serbs. Slovenia was annexed to Italy and Montenegro was occupied by Italian forces. Serbia, Macedonia and Greece were occupied by Germany. The Yugoslav and Greek campaigns required 27 German divisions. Most of Kosovo was occupied by Albania except for the important mining region which remained under German control.
Resistance to German occupation was fierce and took place primarily under the Loyalist Chetnicks under the command of General Mihailovic and the Partisans under the command of the head of the Communist Party Josip Broz, a Croat, later known as Marshall Tito. In 1943 the British Government withdrew support from Mihailovic and threw all it's support in increasing amounts to Tito and the communists. This enabled Tito to fight both the Germans and Mihailovic and the Loyalists thus consolidating post-war communist rule over Yugoslavia. The Serbian guerilla resistance required, at it's peak, 700,000 German soldiers for it to be controlled by Germany.. In Kosovo, under Albanian and German rule nearly 100,000 Albanians moved into Kosovo. Serbs were harassed and attacked by the occupying force of Albanians.
After the war Yugoslavia consisted of republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia. In 1940 the Communist Party of Yugoslavia had committed in writing to an autonomous "Peasant Republic of Kosovo", but as with so many communist promises it wasn't kept. In 1943, at Mulje in central Albania, a committee was established for the "Salvation of Albania". The agreement at the conclusion of this meeting sanctioned the creation of a unified Albanian state including Kosovo. Needless to say, Yugoslavs strenuously objected. Also in 1943 the 2nd Prizren League was established, with delegates from all Albanian territories including Kosovo, and with similar objectives. During the war years Serbs and Montenegrins in Albanian occupied territory were brutalized by the SS "Skanderbeg" division which was comprised of Albanian soldiers under German officers. Albanian village police units also were involved in these activities directed against Serbs. After the war, thousands of Serbs and Montenegrins were prohibited from returning to Kosovo, and thousands of Albanians immigrated into Kosovo.
After Tito had consolidated his power and the rule of the communist party over all of Yugoslavia, he favored a Kosovo within Serbia for political reasons since he needed support from the Serbs and to win them over to communism. Albanian Kosovars were perceived to be politically unreliable because of their wartime cooperation with the Axis powers. Just prior to the end of the war Tito launched a major offensive against the Germans using impressed Albanian troops as well as Serbs. The Yugoslav army also arrested prominent Albanians and collected weapons house to house in Kosovo. The Kosovars responded with a general rebellion against the Partisans which was brutally put down by Tito and his forces with massacres and many atrocities. The National Democratic Committee of Albanians estimated that 48,000 Albanians lost their lives in the six months of fighting that ensued.
The 1946 Yugoslav constitution did not grant territorial autonomy to Kosovo, nor did it grant Albanian status as a recognized nationality. Five nationalities were recognized within the Yugoslav Federation; Serb, Croat, Slovene, Montenegrin and Macedonian. Albanian was not one of them. Kosovo was not recognized as a republic or an autonomous territory within Serbia. Rather it was defined as an autonomous region under Federal not Serbian jurisdiction.
After Tito broke with Stalin in 1948 Yugoslavia ended diplomatic relations with Albania which remained loyal to Moscow. Thousands of Albanians were arrested, now as "Stalinists' rather than as fascists as was the case previously. The 1953 constitution reduced autonomy for Kosovo even more with much repression of Albanians taking place. Not surprisingly, by 1956 there was a resurgence of Albanian nationalism. The Yugoslav government again took steps to disarm Albanians house to house. In the 1963 constitution what little was left of autonomy in Kosovo was reduced even further by placing it under Serbian rather than Federal authority.
In 1967 Tito made his first visit to Kosovo. He purged Alexander Rankovic, who was a strong Serbian "centralist" and much hated in Kosovo, from power in Kosovo. This created euphoria among the Albanian population. More concessions were made to Albanian nationalism dealing with languages, education and other cultural issues. A veritable flood of Albanian nationalism was the predictable result. Because of immigration of Albanians, emigration of Serbs and a very high Albanian birthrate from 1961 to 1971 Albanians increased from 67% to 74% of the population .
These developments continued and intensified. The 1974 constitution made Kosovo an Autonomous province but more importantly made it an equal constitutional element of the Federation as one of eight federal units. Although not yet a republic its authority within the Federation was now equal to that of Serbia. In 1978 a centennial celebration of the first League of Prizren was held which caused an even stronger resurgence of Albanian nationalism and a corresponding reduction of loyalty to the unified Yugoslav state. Money going into capital development in Kosovo became a resented financial drain from other regions of Yugoslavia, especially Slovenia and Croatia. A continues demographic explosion of births among low- income, poorly educated Albanians who became dependents of the government increased the financial drain and increased the resentment. In addition, income inequalities became worse in the move toward "market socialism" and the move away from central planning. By 1981 100,000 Serbs left Kosovo and as Albanians continued to move in they now constituted 77% of the population in Kosovo. Making economic development worse, the Serbs who left were better educated and technically trained than the Albanians who moved in.
Tito died May 4, 1980. Among other de-stabilizing effects, Albanians felt that they had lost their new guardian. Less than a year later and not necessarily related to Tito's death, Albanian riots shook Kosovo. The riots were ignited by student grievance at a grossly overcrowded Pristina University, and rapidly spread throughout Kosovo. At this time approximately 28% of the people in Kosovo were students and the education they were getting was inferior because of the overcrowding and because of under-qualified and unqualified faculty. This was a matchbox that it took only a spark to ignite. Serbian and Montenegrin citizens were beaten, their homes burned and their shops looted. Public opinion throughout Serbia turned sharply against the educational system in Kosovo In particular Pristina University became widely believed to be a hotbed of Albanian nationalism. In response, Serbian, Montenegrin and Macedonian nationalisms were all given great impetus.
By the middle 1980's there was an increasing amount of Serb migration out of Kosovo, in respose to widespread intimidation, pressure and some violence on the part of extremist Albanians who made no bones about desiring an "ethnically clean" Kosovo. The first organized protest on the part of Serbian Kosovars took place in 1986. Interestingly, also about this time the strongest statement on behalf of the Serbs in Kosovo was made by a group of Serbian intellectuals under the auspices of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences. Long before Milosevic came to power, this memorandum from this prestigious body called for a revocation of Kosovo autonomy and for a de-Albanianization of Kosovo. However, by this time a strong underground movement for the "National Liberation of Kosovo" had developed along with other underground Albanian groups. Serbs in Kosovo felt, and indeed were threatened. In February 1987 the Serbian government proposed to take away Kosovo's autonomy, even though they did not have the authority to do so since it was under Federal not Serbian authority. From 1974 until the late 1980's Albanians in Kosovo undoubtably had enjoyed the most administrative and cultural autonomy in their history whether under Serbian, Albanian or indeed Ottoman rule, but for the Kosovars that favored independence, it wasn't enough. Some wanted status as a republic within Yugoslavia, while others favored unification with Albania along with Albanians from Macedonia and Montenegro in a "Greater Albania"
Milosevic's political career as a communist party apparachik had barely begun when Tito died in 1980. He rose rapidly and by 1987 he headed a more orthodox wing of the party with Ivan Stambolic heading a more reformist wing. Stambolic became Prime Minister of Serbia when Tito died, and Milosevic was widely seen as Stambolic's protégé. Both men were strongly nationalistic but initially Stambolic was more feared by non-Serbs because of his power and more importantly because he had signaled his intention to centralize authority within all of Serbia including Kosovo. This later changed as Milosevic championed serbs in Kosovo, and Stambolic backed off from his earlier views in response to Albanian riots in Kosovo.
Milosevic first visited Kosovo in April 1987. Until this time he had said little about Kosovo. At a political rally of Serbs, he was emotionally greeted and literally mobbed by crowds of Serbs demanding action against the Albanians for condoning attacks on Serbs and Montenegrins. As mentioned earlier, the Serbian Presidium for Constitutional Change had already proposed to take away Kosovo's autonomy. This strong expression of anger, frustration and political support for Milisovic caused the Communist Party of Yugoslavia to debate the issue of Kosovo as an ethnic and nationality issue and therefore having implications for all the republics. The Serbian leadership mobilized public opinion under the slogan "No Force can now Stop Serbia's Unification". Street demonstrations were held all over Serbia for the return to Serbian authority of the two autonomous provinces Vojvodina and Kosovo, and an end to "Albanian Genocide" in Kosovo. Milosevic came to power as president of Serbia replacing Stambolic in late 1987.
These and other events had repercussions in Kosovo. In November 1988 a five day demonstration for national liberation and autonomy involving 100,000 people was ignited by a miners strike. In February 1989 another miners strike brought life in Kosovo to a standstill with Albanians abandoning work and school to attend protest meetings. Serbs in Kosovo were terrorized and thousands of Serbs in Belgrade demanded that order be restored in Kosovo. A curfew was imposed and the entire province placed under a state of emergency decree.
The process to abolish Kosovo autonomy began in March 1989 via amendments to the Serbian constitution that gave Serbia direct control over Kosovo. These changes also were approved by the Kosovo Parliament after it had been purged of opponents to centralization. Sometimes anniversaries can come at inopportune times. On June 28, 1989 a huge political rally was held at Kosovo Polje to commemorate the Serbian defeat at the hands of the hated Turks in 1389. Thosands of photos and posters of Milosevic were displayed. Milosevic was generally considered not only in Kosovo, but in all of Serbia as well, as the first Serbian leader since the second world war to hve defended Serbia's interests. Serbia and Serbs have a deep-seated persecution complex that cannot be ignored when dealing with the conflict in Kosovo.
The year 1990 began with civil disturbances by tens of thousands of Albanian protesters swelled by workers emptying out of the factories. Violence resulted which was countered with equal or greater violence by security forces. The not surprising result was even more violence, with thirty- one deaths and hundreds injured before the disturbances were quelled and the streets cleared. In March 1990 the Serbian Parliament adopted the "Program for Achieving Peace, Freedom and Equality in Kosovo". It's goal was the peaceful co-existence of all ethnic groups in Kosovo, but it also identified Albanian separatists as the main threat to this goal. Because of all the many past events combined with Albanian desires for independence Albanians could not and did not accept the authority and legitimacy of this program.
In July 1990 the Serbian government deprived the illegal Kosovo Parliament from meeting. In response Albanian parliamentarians assembled on the steps of the Parliament building and proclaimed the Sovereign Republic of Kosova. Within the Yugoslav Federation. Serbia then officially dissolved Kosovo's government and took executive control. The complete removal of Kosovo's autonomy was completed in September when a change in the Serbian constitution redefined Kosovo as a region in Serbia, with administrative and executive control now in the hands of the Serbian National Assembly. The emergency measures imposed by Serbia resulted in a de-Albanianization of cultural and educational institutions in kosovo with a consequent re- Serbianization occurring. In response Albanian Kosovars adopted a constitution for their Republic of Kosova.
Breakup of Yugoslavia
By the 1980's the economy in Yugoslavia, besides being dependent on Western aid with a very large debt, was in a shambles. Debt increased from $6 billion in 1975 to $19 billion in the early 1980's. Interest on the debt combined with mismanagement and a centrally-planned stagnant economy resulted in triple-digit inflation. Conditions were bad throughout Yugoslavia, worse in Kosovo and desperate among Kosovar Albanians.
Along with the collapse of the communist world in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the idea of declaring independence by one of the Yugoslav republics was conceived first in Slovenia in the fall of 1990. Among other reasons, Slovenia, as the most economically advanced of the Yugoslav republics was increasingly distressed about having to subsidize other less well off republics. After a plebiscite that demonstrated overwhelming public support for independence, the Slovenian Parliament declared independence on December 26, 1990 to become effective in six months time if grievances weren't resolved. They weren't and, Slovenia became the first of the Yugoslav republics to achieve independence, and for reasons not gone into here this was accomplished with virtually no military action.
Croatia and Bosnia were different matters and in both cases war resulted after independence was declared. Croatia had been a Fascist state allied to Germany during World War II. Many Serbs had been killed by Croatians at that time and these matters had by no means been forgotten. Franjo Tudjman had become President on a tide of Croatian nationalism as, correspondingly, Milosevic had been elected on a tide of Serbian nationalism. The two dictators wanted, respectively, a greater Croatia or a greater Serbia. Milosevic and Tudjman met in March 1991 and Tudjman proposed a division of Bosnia between them to avoid conflict. This and other negotiations failed and Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia as it was currently constituted. A brutal war resulted with much killing and burning of houses on both sides with ethnic cleansing part of the war from the beginning. A UN brokered cease-fire occurred January 2, 1992 with United States recognition coming in April of that year. However low-level warfare continued between Croatia and Serbia into 1994 as Croatia fought to place the Krajina region, which had been populated largely by Serbs for 400 years, firmly under Croatian control. Croatia got its way and the Krajina Serbs were in essence abandoned by Milisovic. In 1995, the Croatian army, which had been clandestinely armed with the assistance of the United States, took control of Krajina. With the tacit approval of the United States estimates are that anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 Serbs were forced to leave Krajina and without adequate food and water crowded the road to Banja Luka and Serbia. Their reception in Serbia was not warm. Many of the Serbs that remained behind were tortured or killed.
The independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina was recognized by the European community on April 6, 1992, in spite of the fact that the referendum in Bosnia on independence had been opposed and boycotted by the Bosnian Serbs who comprised one-third of the population. In addition the arbitration (Badinter) commission authorized by the European community had recommended against independence since its requirement that all ethnic groups support independence had not been met.
The Bosnian government, led by Alije Izebegovic, was essentially Muslim in nature. For the next three years it fought wars with both Croatia and Serbia. A variety of peace plans were developed, the most prominent of which was the Vance-Owen proposal. This plan essentially provided for a three-way division of Bosnia reflected the warring ethnic groups; Croatian, Serbian and Muslim. The plan was not acceptable to the warring sides and was rejected.
Hostilities ended between Croatia and the Bosnian government in March 1994 with the establishment of a loose Bosnian-Croatian Federation which has not yet to this day coalesced into a workable Federation. One outcome of the peace agreement was the influx of arms into Bosnia though Croatia for the use of the Bosnian government in fighting the Serbs. This was done with the tacit approval of the United States. The war with Serbia continued until United States intervention with air power brought Milosevic, Tudjman and Izebegovic to the negotiating table in Dayton Ohio. Here, under prodding from the United States the Dayton Peace Accord was signed which divided Bosnia in two halves, not completely severed, but not a unified government with real authority either. The two halves are the Bosnian-Croatian Federation with 51% of the territory and Republika Srpska with 49%. Since that time little if any progress has been made to unify Bosnia under one government and it is generally believed that if the UN peacekeepers were to leave war would break out again.
Events in Kosovo in the 1990's
By the spring of 1991 the League for a Democratic Kosovo (LDK) had 700,000 menbers with offices in Zurich, Stuttgart and Brussels among other cities. In September of that year the Parliament of the un-recognized Republic of Kosovo approved a resolution supporting the "Independence and Sovereignty of Kosovo". Put to a clandestinely organized and held referendum in Bosnia the resolution was approved overwhelmingly. Following this vote, the "Coordinating Committee of Albanian Political Parties in Yugoslavia" called for either 1) an Albanian republic within Yugoslavia which would include other ethnic Albanians within Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro or 2) an undivided Albanian state of all Albanians in the Balkans, i.e. a "Greater Albania".
In the summer of 1992 Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo were living in a virtual state of apartheid, essentially completely separated from each other. In the Yugoslav elections of December 1992 Albanian leadership in Kosovo advised Albanians not to vote and in large numbers they did not. Milosevic's Socialist Party won the election with 47 seats but the strongly nationalist Radical party won 33 seats putting additional pressure on Milosevic to defend Serbian interests in Kosovo and Serbian nationalism in general. It is likely that Milosevic could have been defeated if the Albanians in Kosovo had in fact voted. With the collapse of communism in Albania, important voices in that country started to talk more about the union of Kosovo with Albania. In the meantime, Albanian Kosovars emphasized what they believed was their ancestral rights to Kosovo by broadcasting and using Illyrian names. On their part, Serbs changed street signs to recognize the importance of Serbian history and culture in Kosovo
.By 1993, 400,000 Albanians had left Kosovo in response to deteriorating socio-economic conditions. The Albanian Kosovars were bitterly disappointed by the Dayton agreement which, in their view, failed to recognize their long-standing and justified demand for independence. The Dayton Accord had not only recognized Republika Srpska, but more importantly had shut the door to the Albanian Kosovar case by decreeing that no additional changes in borders within Yugoslavia would be sanctioned. Meanwhile Serbs in Kosovo became increasingly worried as they saw how poorly the refugees from Krajina had been received and treated in Serbia. They felt isolated, abandoned by Belgrade and increasingly felt they were being sold out to the Albanians. Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo both were mobilizing themselves with arms. Passive Albanian resistance was being replaced by violence, first by the underground "National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo" and then by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The KLA entered into a campaign of terrorism by killing Serbs in the refugee camps and Serbian policemen and border guards in order to radicalize the situation. They succeeded and Serb police and military counter- measures ensued.
In March 1997 civil government in Albania totally collapsed and anarchy resulted. This caused some Albanians to realize that a "Greater Albania" may not be such a great idea after all as they saw Albanians being killed by other Albanians. More importantly, as conditions worsened Albania became wide-open for the removal of military assets by the KLA. This in fact did occur and along with money, some of which has been alleged to come from drugs, and arms coming from other sources, the KLA engaged the Serbian authorities in a full-fledged civil war for independence. The United States advised the League for a Democratic Kosovo, under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova, who sought a non-violent solution to the crisis, that parallel parliamentary elections should not be held and also that Kosovo should remain part of Serbia. However public opinion among Albanian Kosovars swung strongly against Rugova and his non-violent approach and toward the radical KLA.
In her book Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide published in 2002, Bat Ye'or made the following comments about the historical antecedents to the dispute between Muslims and Christians in the Balkans:
“To anyone with some knowledge of the centuries-old
history of Serbian resistance to Ottoman domination, it was obvious that
the return of a form of Islamic power in Bosnia- Herzegovina would be rejected
by Orthodox Serbs. The five centuries of "harmonious and peaceful coexistence”
under Islamic rule, cited by Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic belong
to the theological dogma of the perfection of the shari'a and the dhimmi
For the Orthodox Serbs, however, this same period is considered one of
massacre, pillage, slavery, deportation, and the exile of Christian populations.
In their eyes it was a regime which found its justification in the usurpation
of their land and denial of their rights; hence it represented the exact
opposite of a peaceful, multicultural coexistence based on a system of
social and political justice. Thus, two conceptions of history clashed,
having never before been confronted. On the one hand, there is the version
the dhimmi victims; on the other, that of the conquerors, through jihad.
The territorial feelings of the Serbs toward Kosovo as the homeland of "Old Serbia" with its many Orthodox Christian monasteries are considerably greater than any such feelings toward Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Movement Toward Direct United State Involvement
As the civil war heated up in Kosovo, Western Europe and the United State in early 1998 increasingly became concerned and involved.. A "Contact Group on Kosovo" was established consisting of representative from Germany, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Speaking before the group in March 1998 Secretary of State Madeline Albright put the blame for violence in Kosovo squarely on Milosevic. She outlined terms which he and his government must accept including the presence of international observers in Kosovo, "enhanced" status for Kosovo within Serbia and stopping of the killing. These terms and others were not met and the war intensified.
In October, NATO authorized the NATO Commander to launch air strikes if Milosevic continued to fail to comply with "the repeated political and humanitarian demands of the UN Security Council in regards to Kosovo". On October 27, Albright announced at a news conference in Washington that Milosevic had complied sufficiently with NATO demands that air strikes were not warranted "at this time". Milosevic agreed to withdraw the bulk of his military forces fron Kosovo, to allow 1800 UN observers into Kosovo, and to allow over-flights by NATA planes. In return, he wanted NATO to lift the order authorizing air strikes. NATO refused to do this and instead suspended the order. The KLA, sensing that NATO was on it's side intensified its military efforts and the Serbs intensified their military campaign to defeat the KLA on the field. Hence the October agreement fell apart.
On January 28, 1999 NATO warned that it was ready to use military force immediately, and Britain and France went further to indicate that they were ready to send in ground forces to enforce a peace settlement. A conference was held at Rambouillet in France in mid-February to negotiate an end to the war. Present were the Western allies, Yugoslavia and representatives of the major Albanian Kosovar groups demanding independence. The Western Allies led by the United States issued a two-week deadline, backed by threatened air strikes, during which time both parties must agree to the proposed settlement. This settlement, dictated by the West required Yugoslavia to withdraw its forces from Kosovo, the KLA to lay down their arms, NATO peace-keeping troops on the ground to enforce the agreement and a three year period to settle the political future of Kosovo. Yugoslavia believed that in three years following the required referendum it would be forced to grant Kosovo complete independence which was and is the stated goal of the KLA. Appendix B to the Peace Accord proposed at Rambouillet included provisions more appropriate for an occupying force after an armistice than a peace accord. It required Yugoslavia to surrender to NATO many aspects of its national sovereignty. It is not surprising that Yugoslavia was unwilling to sign the Rambouillet document. Neither side would agree and the bombing deadline was extended two weeks. The conference re-convened in Paris two weeks later and enough pressure was put on the Albanians that they finally agreed to sign the Rambouillet agreement. Milosevic would not sign and President Clinton dispatched Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke to Belgrade for one last meeting with Milosevic on March 22. Milosevic accused the United States of sitting on the Albanian side of the table. His view was that the inevitable outcome of the three year period to determine the fate of Kosovo would be the severing of Kosovo from Serbia, an outcome he could not accept. Holbrooke asked him if he knew what his refusal to agree to the "Rambouillet Accord" meant. Milosevic replied "you are going to bomb us". Holbrooke said "that's right". There was no misunderstanding. The bombing started March 24.
The bombing was initiated by NATO to stop ethnic cleansing and the killing of Albanian Kosovars. The expectation on the part of NATO was that Yugoslavia would capitulate to the West and sign the Rambouillet agreement. This did not happen. Instead Yugoslavia stepped up its war with the KLA and close to a million Kosovars were driven out of Kosovo mostly by the Serbs but to some extent by the bombing itself. Most of the vacated homes in Kosovo were burned by Serbs. After 73 days of bombing the infrastructure of Serbia has been seriously damaged and it's economy set back probably decades. A political resolution to the conflict was sought by the G-8 group of industrialized countries with Russia playing the role of mediator. As of this date (June 5 1999) Yugoslavia and NATO have signed an agreement. Both sides had to compromise and they did. For NATO Yugoslavia has agreed to "substantial" autonomy for Kosovo, withdrawal of all Serb military, police and paramilitary forces, return of all the refugees, and an international armed security presence in Kosovo with "substantial" NATO participation. On the other hand for Yugoslavia the agreement calls for respect of the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, Kosovo remains in Yugoslavia, the agreement is under the authority of the Security Council of the United Nations not NATO, and calls for involvement of Russian troops in the peacekeeping forces.
The news media in the United States are claiming that Milosevic caved in to NATO because of the bombing, the indictment of Milosevic as a war criminal by the International War Crimes Tribunal and a last minute opaque threat by President Clinton that perhaps he might agree to a ground invasion of Kosovo after all. More objectively however, Yugoslavia got what it went to war over, namely the retention of Kosovo within Yugoslavia, respect for the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, Security Council involvement where both Russia and China have veto power and the presence of Russian (read Slavic) troops in the security presence. Reference to a referendum on Kosovo independence in three years as proposed at Rambouillet was not in the Miltary-Technical agreement ending the bombing. In short the very items that Serbia objected to at Rambouillet were not in the agreement Serbia signed to end hostilities. It seems clear to this observer that the agreement signed in June would have been agreed to by Serbia, if not the KLA,.at Rambouillet thus saving the Serbian infrastructure and economy, not to mention human lives. The KLA cannot be altogether pleased with the agreement and it is likely that it will become a major problem for the UN and NATO rather than the asset it was felt by NATO to be during the bombing..
The war was a gigantic miscalculation by the West. It did not expect the expulsion of a million Kosovars from Kosovo. Instead it expected a quick capitulation by Yugoslavia. It was tragically wrong on both counts and a humanitarian disaster of monumental proportions has occurred. The agreement to end the conflict was the best that either side could expect to get. However, the future in Kosovo will be rocky and will require a peacekeeping force including substantial numbers of U. S. troops for many years. No one was a winner in this war, not Yugoslavia, not the people of Serbia, not the KLA, not Albanian Kosovars, not Serb Kosovars, not the region where political instability has increased, not NATO, and certainly not the United States which by virtue of the bombing had worsened not only relationships with the governments of Russia and China but with the Russian and Chinese people as well.
Postscript, November 12, 2002
The understandings of the United States and its NATO allies about the
history of the Balkans unfortunately does not appear to include events
prior to Tito's death in 1980, and Milosevec's ascendancy to the Presidency
of Serbia in 1987. These events have been described above.
However, as Bat Ye'or wrote, also described above, to the Serbs, the five
preceeding centuries consisted of massacres, pillage, slavery and exile
of Christians on the part of Muslims during the Islamic assault into Europe.
When Aliya Izetbegovic, the leader of the Muslim faction in Bosnia stated
But it didn't. In the Bosnian wars of 1992-5 Muslim, Croat (Catholic) and Serb (Orthodox) factions fought for control of Bosnia. The United States intervened in the conflict decisively with air power on the side of the Muslims. The result was the Dayton Peace Accords, negotiated in Dayton, Ohio ansd signed in Paris September 14, 1995. These accords were signed by the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The accords set up a Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina consisting of two entities: a Croation-Muslim Federation and a Republica Srpska.
This arrangement has failed the test of time. In October 2002 an article in the International Herald Tribune realistically suggested that it is time to admit defeat. There is no Nation-State of Bosnia-Herzegovina, instead there are, in fact, three separate entities, since a Croat-Muslim Federation is as much a delusion as a country of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This in spite of billions of dollars of international aid, Western involvement in governance and Western troops. More than half the pre-war population was displaced during the 1992-1995 war and as of 1998 fewer than 15% had returned, in spite of the fact that return of refugees was a priority of the Dayton Accords.
As noted above, Yugoslavia and NATO had signed an agreement to end the
NATO bombing campaign against the infrastructure of Serbia. This
agreement was formalized by UN Security Council Resolution 1244 adopted
June 10, 1999. Key elements of this resolution were the right of
all refugees to return home, committment of all member states to the sovereignty
and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia and, most importantly, a framework
for a political solution to the Kosovo crisis based on the following general
- Withdrawal from Kosovo of military, police and paramilitary forces;
- Deployment in kosovo of effective international civil and security presences, endorsed and adopted by the United Nations capable of guaranteeing the achievment of common objectives;
-Establishment of an interim administration for Kosovo to be decided by the Security Council of the United Nations to insure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants of Kosovo.
-The safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons and unimpeded access to Kosovo by humanitarian aid organizations;
-A political process towards the establishment of an interim political framework agreement providing for substantial self-government for Kosovo, taking full account of the Rambouillet accords and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of yugoslavia and the other countries of the region, and the demiltarization of the KLA;
- Comprehensive approach to the economic development and stabilization of the crisis region.
It is clear that a political process providing for "substantial" self-government for Kosovo while "recognizing the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia was a band-aid but not a solution to the Kosovo crisis. Kosovo was at the time, and indeed still is an integral part of the territory of Serbia within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Bat Ye'or pointed out, more fully cited above: “To anyone with some knowledge of the centuries-old history of Serbian resistance to Ottoman domination, it was obvious that the return of a form of Islamic power in Bosnia- Herzegovina would be rejected by Orthodox Serbs". Even more so would be the loss of Kosovo, considered to be "Old Serbia" and the heart of Serbian culture. It is likewise clear that the Albanian Kosovars want total separation from Serbia, either as an independent Kosova or as part of a "Greater Albania" that would also include parts of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro.
In the year following the ending of the war in Kosovo, ethnic Albanian terrorists started destabilizing the Presovo Valley in Serbia on the Kosovo border by carrying out terrorist attacks. These incursions were condemned by the UN Security Council but continued. By May 2001 the situation had worsened to the point that NATO was forced to make common cause with its old adversary Serbia to disarm the rebels. The Albanian terrorists signed a demilitarization agreement with NATO but it is doubtful that they have given up their irredentist ambitions. Many apparently have moved to Macedonia to continue the struggle.
In addition to the Presovo Valley in Serbia, armed Albanians from Kosovo and Albania pressed hard to destabilize and indeed dis-member Macedonia where at least a quarter of the populaton is ethnic Albanian. It might be recalled that one of the stated aimes of NATO's campaign against Serbia was to stabilize the region. This has not occurred. The real concern in Macedonia is that the part of the country inhabited primarily by ethnic Albanians will become, along with Kosovo, a part of "Greater Albania." The ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army continues to battle the Macedonian Army. Peace plans have been signed and shattered. At this time the outcome is in doubt.
In October 2001, the governments of Yugoslavia and Serbia jointly issued a declaration that NATO had failed to enforce the terms of Security Council Resolution 1244. Subsequently the parliaments of Serbia and Montenegro have been working on a Constitutional Carter for a new National State of Serbia and Montenegro. This to replace Yugoslavia which was nearly completely dismembered. A draft of the Charter states that Kosovo is and will remain part of Serbia. This should come as no surprise to anybody. Also no surprise the parliament of Kosova on Novemer 8, 2002 adopted a resolution rejecting proposals that Kosova will remain part of Serbia.
At this time the situation in the Balkans remains unsettled and dangerous. It is clear that the the Dayton dream of a unified Bosnia has not happened and does not seem likely to. Nor has it come to pass that Kosova has achieved its long sought goal of independence from Serbia. The ambiguity of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 remains, leaving the fate of Kosovo unresolved. Macedonia is increasingly destabilized by the ethnic Albanian insurgency and the goal of a greater Albania under Muslim control is a possibility, but not likely. NATO's bombing campaigns in Bosnia and Serbia stopped the fighting, but settled nothing. We must await the judgment of the "Cunning of History"
Miranda Vickers. Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo.
Jasminla Udovicki and James Ridgeway (Eds). Burn this House: The
Christopher Bennett. Yugoslavia's Bloody Collapse. Causes,
Course and Consequences.
New York Times. The Road to War: A Special Report. April 18, 1999
Bat Ye'or. Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide.
Bat Ye'or. The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam:
From Jihad to Dhimmitude.
General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Initialed in Dayton Ohio
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted by the Security
Council on 10 June 1999..