The Story Behind the Story
Ancient peoples inhabited the lands that now make up Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro, including Kosovo and Metohija) for millennia before Rome conquered the region in the first century AD. Archeological findings reveal that during the Paleolithic period (ca. 200 000 - 8 000 BC) man hunted and foraged in the mountains, valleys, and interior plains of today's Yugoslavia.
poured across the empire's borders during the fifth and sixth centuries.
The Slavs spoke an Indo-European language and organized themselves into
clans. In the sixth century, the Slavs allied with the more powerful
Avars to plunder the Danube Basin. The Avar incursions proved key to
the development of Yugoslavia because they immediately preceded, and
may have precipitated, the arrival of the Serbs and Croats. The Serbs
occupied large parts of the land toward the end of the twelfth century.
Ancient Serbia - including Macedonia, Raska, Kosovo and Metohija - enjoyed a high political, economic and cultural reputation in Medieval Europe, and reached its apex in mid-14th century, during the rule of Tzar Stefan Dusan. Soon afterward, however, the period is marked by the rise of a new threat: the Ottoman Turk sultanate gradually spreading from Asia to Europe and conquering Byzantium first, and then the other Balkan states.
Why Kosovo is
The Turks persecuted the Serbian aristocracy, determined to physically exterminate the social elite. Since the Ottoman Empire was an Islamic theocratic state, Christian Serbs lived as virtual bond servants - abused, humiliated and exploited. Consequently they gradually abandoned the urban centres to withdrew to the mountains. Serbia (and most of the Balkans) was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for almost five centuries. In this period, about two-thirds of the Albanian population, including its most powerful feudal landowners, converted to Islam.
War between Muslims
and the Holy Alliance
Serbian resistance to Ottoman domination, latent for many decades surfaced at the beginning of 19th century with the First and Second Serbian Uprising in 1804 and 1815. The Turkish Empire was already faced with a deep internal crisis without any hope of recuperating. Resulting from the uprisings and subsequent wars against the Ottoman Empire, the independent Principality of Serbia was formed and granted international recognition in 1878.
The Balkan wars 1912 - 1913 terminated the Turkish domination in the Balkans. Turkey was pushed back across the channel and national Balkan states were created in the territories it withdrew from. With the end of World War I and the downfall of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire the conditions were met for proclaiming the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians in December of 1918.
The new troubled
During World War II, communist-led partisans waged a victorious guerrilla struggle against foreign and Croatian fascists, and supporters of the prewar government. While the war was still raging, in 1943, a revolutionary change was proclaimed with the abolition of monarchy in favour of the republic. Josip Broz Tito became the first president of the new socialist Yugoslavia, established as a federal state comprising six republics: Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro and two autonomous regions - Vojvodina and Kosovo-and-Metohija. The two autonomous regions were an integral part of Serbia. This led to the rebirth of Yugoslavia as a socialist federation under communist rule on November 29, 1945, and when Kosovo first received its official name, it previously known only as the Kosovo Plain (or, Kosovo Field).
Under Josip Broz Tito, Yugoslav communists were faithful to orthodox Stalinism until a 1948 split with Moscow. At that time, a Soviet-bloc economic blockade compelled the Yugoslavs to devise an economic system based on Socialist self-management. To this system the Yugoslavs added a nonaligned foreign policy and an idiosyncratic, one-party political system. This system maintained a semblance of unity during most of Tito's four decades of rule. The trend to secure the power of the republics at the expense of the federal authorities became particularly intense after the adoption of the 1974 Constitution that encouraged the expansion of Croatian, Slovenian, Moslem and Albanian nationalism and secessionism. Soon after Tito's death on 4 May1980 long-standing differences again separated the communist parties of the country's republics and provinces.
Economic turmoil and the re-emergence of an old conflict between the Serbs and the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo fuelled a resurgence of nationalism. In 1990, demands for greater autonomy were rebuffed by Serbia, which imposed direct rule and rescinded its status as an autonomous region. Albanians were repressed and Serbian migration into the region encouraged. In response Albanians pressed for Kosovo's complete independence, and in 1992 elected a nominal parliament and boycotted Serbian elections. In 1996 the militant Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) begins attacking Serbian policeman. In February 1998 Milosevic sends troops to Kosovo to quash unrest in the province. A guerrilla war breaks out. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians were forced to flee their homes.
NATO was reluctant to intervene because Kosovo - unlike Bosnia in 1992 - was legally a province of Yugoslavia. Proof of civilian massacres finally gave NATO the impetus to intervene for the first time ever in the dealings of a sovereign nation with its own people. In an October 12, 1998, truce brokered by American diplomat Richard Holbrooke, and under the threat of a military air strike - for which there was little enthusiasm among several NATO countries - President Slobodan Milosevic agreed to the withdrawal of military forces. Fighting continued, however, and neither side accepted Washington's proposal for the province - the ethnic Albanians demanded full independence while Serb leaders would agree only to limited autonomy.
The KLA's all-or-nothing position in effect meant that they preferred to continue their ground war against the Serbs - with NATO essentially operating as the KLA's air force. Washington, ready to play hardball with Serbia, was in particular frustrated by the ethnic Albanians' narrowsighted intransigence. Finally, on March 18 the KLA signed while the Serbs again refused, adamant that NATO troops would not be stationed in Kosovo. On 24 March 1999, NATO began it's air strikes against Yugoslavian targets, flying thousands of sorties against Serbian targets for 71 days, often firing depleted uranium (DU) munitions.
By July 1999, the Serbian forces were forced out of Kosovo and some 40 000 NATO-organised KFOR troops were sent in. Ethnic Albanians returned to Kosovo, and immediately started to attack the Serbian Kosovars, dumping Kosovo back into a yet another era of conflict. Between July - when Nato troops entered Kosovo - and November 1999, Albanian Muslims destroyed more than 80 centuries-old churches - including the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Musutiste, built in 1465 - along with 16th Century icons which included the icon of the Apostle Thomas. In affect, the Albanian Kosovars launched Kosovo's ninth stage of ethnic cleansing.