Kosovo Kosovo, a landlocked province within Serbia, has been the backdrop to a centuries-old and often-strained relationship between its Serb and ethnic Albanian inhabitants.

The province is administered by the UN, having endured a conflict in the late 1990s which was fuelled by ethnic division and repression. Sovereignty rests with Belgrade. Reconciliation between the majority ethnic Albanians, most of whom seek independence, and the Serb minority remains elusive.

The region is one of Europe's poorest, with more than half of its people living in poverty. Although it possesses rich mineral resources, agriculture is the main economic activity.

Ethnic Albanians number about 1.5 million; some 100,000 Serbs remain following a post-war exodus of non-Albanians. The Serbian minority live in separate areas watched over by Nato peacekeepers. International diplomats have voiced concern over slow progress on their rights.
Following delivery of a UN report on progress in establishing the foundations of democratic government, the process of UN-sponsored talks on the future status of Kosovo got under way in November 2005. The death of President Rugova in January 2006 came just as the negotiations proper were due to begin.

Slavic and Albanian peoples have co-existed in Kosovo since the 8th century. The region was the centre of the Serbian empire until the mid-14th century, and Serbians regard Kosovo as the birthplace of their state.

Over the centuries, as the ethnic balance shifted in favour of Albanians, Kosovo came to represent a Serbian golden age, embodied in epic poetry.

Serbia's defeat at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 ushered in centuries of rule under the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Serbia regained control of Kosovo in 1913, and the province was incorporated into the Yugoslav federation.

Serbs and ethnic Albanians vied for control in the region throughout the 20th century. In the 1960s the suppression of Albanian national identity in Kosovo gave way to a more tolerant line from Belgrade. Ethnic Albanians gained a foothold in the Kosovan, and Yugoslav, administrations.

The 1974 Yugoslav constitution laid down Kosovo's status as an autonomous province, and pressure for independence mounted in the 1980s after the death of Yugoslav President Tito.
But resentment over Kosovan influence within the Yugoslav federation was harnessed by the future leader, Slobodan Milosevic. On becoming Yugoslav president in 1989, he proceeded to strip Kosovo of its autonomy.

A passive resistance movement in the 1990s failed to secure independence or to restore autonomy, although ethnic Albanian leaders declared unilateral independence in 1991.

In the mid-1990s an ethnic Albanian guerrilla movement, the Kosovo Liberation Army, stepped up its attacks on Serb targets. The attacks precipitated a major, and brutal, Yugoslav military crackdown.
Slobodan Milosevic's rejection of an internationally-brokered deal to end the crisis, and the

persecution of Kosovo Albanians, led to the start of Nato air strikes against targets in Kosovo and Serbia in March 1999.

Meanwhile, a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovo Albanians was initiated by Serbian forces. Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. Thousands of people died in the conflict.

Serbian forces were driven out in the summer of 1999 and the UN took over the administration of the province.

 There have been signs of impatience on the part of the ethnic Albanian community over the length of time it is taking to decide on Kosovo's future status. Clashes between Albanians and ethnic Serbs in March 2004 left 19 people dead.

A UN-sponsored talks process got under way in 2006.




 1.8 million        

 Ethnic Groups

 Albanian, Serbs, Roma


Muslim, Orthodox

 Languages N/A
 GDP (per capita)


 Population below poverty line 13% 

Source: BBC, CIA

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