Kosovo (known in Albanian as Kosova, in Serbian as Косово и Метохија / Kosovo i Metohija, and in English simply as Kosovo) is a province in southern Serbia. It is the subject of an ongoing territorial dispute between the Serbian government and the province's majority ethnic Albanian population. It is formally part of Serbia, but since the Kosovo War it has been administered by the United Nations as a protectorate. Its Albanian population referred to the province as the Republic of Kosova between 1990 and 1999 and declared it an independent state, though this was recognized abroad only by Albania. The province's final status has yet to be determined; talks on this issue are scheduled for later in 2005.
With an area of 10,887 km² and a population of almost 2 million on the eve of the 1999 crisis, Kosovo borders with Montenegro to the northwest, the rest of Serbia (often called "Serbia proper" in English) to the north and east, the Republic of Macedonia to the south, and Albania to the southwest. The largest cities are Priština, the capital, with estimated 500,000 inhabitants, and Prizren in the southwest with 120,000: five other towns have populations in excess of 50,000.
Metohija, called Rrafshi i Dukagjinit ("Dukagjin plateau") by Albanians, is the large basin at the west of the province. The region includes the towns of Istok, Peć, Dečani , Đakovica, Orahovac, and Prizren. The second largest region is Kosovo, a basin around the Sitnica river containing the cities of Uroševac, Pristina, Vučitrn, and Kosovska Mitrovica. Kosovo Polje (Kosovo Field) is just a small field which was the site of the Battle of Kosovo; when the communist government changed the name of the province to Kosovo in 1968, they also started pushing "Kosovo Polje" as the name of entire region. Part of Kosovo along the river Lab which contains the city of Podujevo is called Malo Kosovo (literally "Little Kosovo"). Just between the Metohia and Kosovo is the Drenica with the cities of Srbica and Klina and Mališevo . Around the river Binačka Morava is Binačko pomoravlje. At the southmost tip of the province, along the border with Macedonia lie the Gora, Sredačka Župa and Sirinićka Župa .
The province is best known as Kosovo - this name has been the most widely used by maps and gazetteers within Serbia and abroad. The alternative spelling Kossovo was frequently used until the early 20th century and before that, Cassovo or Cassua, an Italianisation of the name.
The name Kosovo (pronounced "KOS-so-vo" by Serbs, "ko-SO-va" by Albanians) appears to have its roots in the Slavic word kos which means "blackbird". The root word is widely used as a toponym in Slavic countries and the historical German name for Kosovo Polje, Amselfeld, does indeed mean "field of the blackbird". The name "Kosovo" is itself used in other Slavic countries, appearing in Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Russia (see Kosovo (disambiguation)).
Kosova (pronounced "ko-SO-vah") is the Albanian spelling for the province. Albanians tend to use "Kosova" exclusively in preference to the Serbian name, which many of them reject as a symbol of Serbian dominance. It is also occasionally spelled as Kosovë; this is due to the fact that in Albanian, adding the definite article to a noun changes the ending of the word.
Some Albanian researchers claim that the name is a Serbian form of an old Illyrian placename meaning "high plain", but this is not a widely accepted theory and would not explain the widespread distribution of the name across the Slav countries. The Illyrian form is generally thought to be an Albanian version of an originally Slavic placename.
The Albanian-populated areas of the province and Albania itself tend to use "Kosova" exclusively. "Kosovo" is used, again almost exclusively, in the Serb-populated north of the province and in the rest of the former Yugoslavia. The international community tries to steer a middle path by referring formally to "Kosovo/Kosova." In practice, however, the Serbian variant is still the most frequently used outside of Kosovo while the Albanian variant is widely used by "internationals" within the province.
The use of the two alternative names is a highly sensitive political issue for both Serbs and Kosovo Albanians, who regard the use of the other side's name as being a denial of their own side's territorial rights (in much the same way that Macedonians and Greeks have disputed the name of the Republic of Macedonia). During the Kosovo War, United States President Bill Clinton was criticised for frequently using "Kosova" and appearing to pronounce "Kosovo" the Albanian way, putting the emphasis on the middle syllable rather than on the first syllable as in the Serbian pronunciation. This may, however, have been a simple mispronunciation.
Metohia (alternatively spelled Metohija) derives from the Greek word μετόχια (metochia), a term which denotes church-owned land. Historically, the estates of the Serbian Orthodox Church were located principally in this region. The name does not indicate a modern administrative district. Albanians tend not to use the name, regarding it as a statement of Serbian territorial ownership (which they reject for political reasons), and instead prefer to call it Rrafsh i Dukagjinit, the "Dukagjin plateau".
Some Kosovo Albanians refer to Kosovo as Dardania, the name of the ancient Roman province which covered the territory of modern Kosovo and part of the Republic of Macedonia. Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova has been an enthusiastic backer of a "Dardanian" identity and his flag and presidential seal refer to this notional identity. However, it is not recognised by any international power and the name "Kosova" remains more widely used among the Albanian population.
The province is occasionally referred to as Kosmet, a contraction of Kosovo and Metohija which has tended to be used by the Serbian government.
Former official names
- Autonomous Kosovo-Metohijan Area (1945-1963)
- Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija (1963-1968)
- Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo (1968-1989)
- Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija (1989-present)
Kosovo was also called the "Republic of Kosova" by the shadow Kosovo Albanian government between a 1990 declaration of independence and the Kosovo War in 1999. Only Albania recognised the province's independence but neither Serbia nor the international community followed suit. The "Republic of Kosova" was effectively replaced by the current UN protectorate following the war.
The question of what to call the inhabitants of Kosovo collectively has also aroused some debate. They have been called variously "Kosovars", "Kosovans" and "Kosovians". The two words accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary are "Kosovar" (borrowed from Albanian), the most widely used variant in English, by a long way, and "Kosovan" (using the English rules for demonyms) much less used. "Kosovian" is considered a non-standard word and very little used at all.
As Kosovo has no formal statehood, current international usage is to refer to Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians. Most of the Albanian-descended community in Kosovo would prefer the use of Kosovar or Kosovan because of the attendant political overtones, whilst the Serb minority continue to think of themselves as Serb or Serbian (from Kosovo).
Most localities in Kosovo have distinct Serbian and Albanian placenames, nearly all very similar, some differing radically, Like that of Ferizaj, for example. It went from Ferizaj to Ferizovic and eventually changed into Urosevac. During the Serbian administration of 1912-1999, Kosovo localities were known internationally almost exclusively by their Serbian names.
Since the United Nations took over administration of the province in June 1999, the administration and some international organisations have adopted a policy of treating both versions equally. For the sake of convenience, this article gives alternative placenames the first time a locality is mentioned, but will use the more familiar Serbian version thereafter. A useful list of Serbian and Albanian forms of Kosovo placenames is available at
The province never had an official flag of its own. The Albanian flag is used by the Albanian-dominated administration and the vast majority of Kosovo Albanians. Kosovo's president, Ibrahim Rugova, has proposed an alternative flag of "Dardania" based on the design of the Albanian flag, but even within Kosovo it is little used. The Serb-inhabited area of north Kosovo uses only the flag of Serbia and Montenegro, which is formally the flag of the whole of Serbia including Kosovo, although this usage is rejected by virtually all Kosovo Albanians. The United Nations administration in Kosovo intends to establish a new flag for the province, which will undoubtedly be very different from the two national communities' existing flags. The current flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina emerged from a similar process of national reconciliation.
See History of Kosovo.
Politics and international status
Kosovo's international status is anomalous in that although it is formally a province of the Republic of Serbia, actual administration is presently conducted by the United Nations with no involvement on the part of the Serbian governments (under Security Council resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999; see Security Council Resolutions 1999). The government of the province is the responsibility of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Under the terms of the Kumanovo agreement and subsequent UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which ended the Kosovo War, security is provided by the Kosovo Force (KFOR), which is led by NATO and is answerable to UNMIK.
UNMIK has so far established a provisional assembly, provisional government and the office of provisional president, which are legislative and executive bodies under UNMIK's control. Control of security, justice and external affairs are still under full UNMIK control. The Assembly of Kosovo was elected in November 2001 and Ibrahim Rugova was elected as president in March 2002. The seat of the assembly, government and president is in Pristina. So far, the parliament has enacted and UNMIK approved a constitutional framework, customs code, and two criminal codes.
UNMIK is issuing travel documents which serve instead of passports in countries which are accepting to recognise them as such; UNMIK is also issuing identity cards and car plates, which again are valid only in countries which are accepting them as such. Kosovo's postal system is also usable only in countries which are accepting to recognise it as such (letters addressed to Kosovo only, or to Serbia and Montenegro have a chance of not arriving; the Universal Postal Union advises correspondents to use "Kosovo (UNMIK)" as the address ).
UNMIK has also created a police force (the Kosovo Police Service) with employees from all ethnic communities (Albanian, Serbian, Roma, Bosniac, Roma, etc), and manages the province's railways and airline (Kosova Airlines). The airspace of the province is controlled by KFOR. UNMIK uses the United Nations flag.
The Constitutional Framework enacted by the Kosovo assembly (with UNMIK approval) has adopted a policy of affirmative action in the assembly to ensure that the province's minorities are properly represented. Out of 120 seats, 10 are reserved for Serbs and another 10 for non-Albanian minorities, while the remaining 100 seats are elected through direct voting.
Kosovo is still formally recognised internationally as a part of Serbia. Its final status has not yet been resolved, though talks on the subject are planned for later in 2005, and considerable difficulties lie ahead in reconciling the apparently incompatible positions of the Serbian and Albanian sides. The Albanians reject Serbian sovereignty; although the fall of the Milosevic government has eased some of the political tensions between the two administrations, most Kosovo Albanians do not believe that the Serbian side will respect Albanian rights. On the other side, Serbia is adamantly opposed to the independence of Kosovo and for historical and religious reasons continues to see the province as the heartland of Serbian culture. The international community is reluctant to see Kosovo become independent, as its independence without Serbia's consent would violate international law (the principles of territorial integrity and noninterference in internal affairs ). It could also potentially provide a precedent for the secession of the Republika Srpska from Bosnia, which could re-ignite the war in that country. The most likely outcome is the indefinite continuation of the current situation (with EU institutions taking over the roles of UN and NATO, a process which can be observed in present-day Bosnia)
Main article: Subdivisions of Serbia and Montenegro
Administrative subdivisions in Kosovo are known as opstinas , usually named after the largest town in them. They were originally set up by Yugoslavia and do not precisely parallel the administrative subdivisions set up by the parallel ethnic Albanian government. The Kosovo Government and Assembly are planning to reconcile this inconsistency and implement broad devolution throughout the province.
UNMIK declared the euro to be official currency of the province in 2001 in the course of implementing a currency reform. This was undertaken to replace the previous widespread use of the Deutschmark, which had become de facto currency even before the 1999 war. However, the Serbian dinar remains an official currency, though used principally by the Kosovo Serb enclaves; it is only used sporadically outside of them. Most trade is conducted using the euro, Kosovo's administration uses euros exclusively, and all commercial banks use the euro as the primary currency. Of other international currencies, the United States dollar and Swiss franc are the most widespread.
Main article: Demographic history of Kosovo
Albanians comprise an almost 90% majority of the population of the province. Their percentage as a proportion of the province's population has increased steadily over time as a result of a high birth rate, immigration from Albania and concentrion of Albanians from areas formerly under the Sandjak of Nish, southern Serbia. Most of the province's Albanian population became refugees during the war but quickly returned to their homes at its end. In the aftermath of the conflict, several hundred thousand non-Albanians (especially Serbs and Romas) fled the province to escape renewed intercommunal violence. The non-Albanian population of Kosovo has continued to fall in recent years due to a combination of economic hardship and tension (and occasional violence) in ethnically mixed area.
According to the 2000 Living Standard Measurement Survey of the Statistical Office of Kosovo, Kosovo's total population is approximately 1,970,000 with the following ethnic proportions:
- 88% Albanians (1,733,600)
- 7% Serbs (137,900)
- 1.9% Muslim Slavs (37,400)
- 1.7% Roma (33,500)
- 1% Turks (19,700)
Provisional Institutions of Self-Government