Kosovo

1,794,303
Pristina
Europe
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Kosovo has been the scene of control by many groups and empires as the ebb and flow of European history has left its mark.

Between 839 and 1241 the area was part of the Bulgarian empire for much of the time, but was subject to attacks by the Byzantine Empire and was entirely controlled by the Byzantines from 1018 to 1180.

Kosovo was absorbed into the Serbian state of Rascia around 1180. It remained part of Serbia until an expanding Ottoman Empire finally took the area in the important Battle of Kosovo in 1389 when the army of the Serbian Prince Lazar Hrebljanović was defeated by the Ottoman Turks under the leadership of Sultan Murad I. For many Serbians it is their emotional attachment to this historic battle, in which Sultan Murad I lost his life, and its symbolism as a heroic struggle against all odds, that makes the creation of modern day Kosovo as an independent state so painful.

Kosovo remained part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912 and it was during this period that Islam was brought to the region. In the early 1900s the Ottoman Empire was facing its own problems as the central government grew weak and was challenged by a group known as the Young Turks. Rebellions on the fringes of the Empire became commonplace, not least in Albania and Kosovo.

In 1912 the Ottomans finally lost control as they fought and lost the First Balkan War. Albania became an independent state whilst much of Kosovo was once more absorbed into Serbia. After the First World War, and the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Kosovo was absorbed into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians and many more Serbians moved into the northern part of the territory.

In 1929 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Kosovo was split between three regions; the Zeta Banovina in the east with the capital in Cetinje, Vardar Banovina in the southeast with the capital in Skopje and the Morava Banovina in the northeast with the capital in Niš.

At the start of the Second World War Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis powers and Kosovo was absorbed into Italian controlled Albania. At the end of the war many Serbians left the region and were replaced by Albanians, changing the balance of the population.

Subsequently Kosovo became part of Marshal Josip Tito’s communist controlled Yugoslavia but with a largely ethnic Albanian population. In 1974 a new constitution for Yugoslavia left Kosovo with a large degree of autonomy. Having tasted a little autonomy the Kosovans wanted more autonomy and by the mid-1980s there were increasing calls for Kosovo to become part of Albania.

In 1989 a weak and threatened communist regime in Belgrade withdrew autonomy from Kosovo. Withdrawal of further rights outraged the Kosovan people and by February 1990 there was mass rioting and a state of emergency was declared. By now Yugoslavia was breaking up, first losing Slovenia and then Croatia.

Kosovo seized its opportunity as Macedonia and Bosnia & Herzegovina attempted to split away in 1992. An unsanctioned election was called and Ibrahim Rugova was elected President of a self-declared Republic of Kosovo. The move was resisted by the Belgrade government and by 1996 the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) had launched a guerrilla war against the Yugoslav army.

By 1998 the two sides were involved in outright war and many atrocities were committed. NATO brokered negotiations broke down in 1999 and on 24th March that year NATO launched attacks against key strategic targets. The war ended on 10th June 1999 and a NATO led force known as Kosovo Force (KFOR) entered the province to guard the people and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Around 250,000 people are believed to have fled the province during this period for fear of reprisals and many Serbian Orthodox churches were attacked. The tension between Albanians and minority groups, especially Serbians has continued to this day although minority groups are now elected into the Assembly of Kosovo.

The first elections in Kosovo took place in 2001 when the political parties decided to form a unity government and elected Ibrahim Rugova as President and Bajram Rexhepi from the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) as Prime Minister.

In 2004 the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) emerged as the largest party with 47 of the 120 seats in the Assembly of Kosovo and they entered into a coalition with the Alliance for the Future or Kosovo (AAK). Ramush Haradinaj of the AAK became Prime Minister and Ibrahim Rugova of the LDK retained the position of President.

Ramush Haradinaj resigned as Prime Minister in March 2005 after he was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal; he was acquitted of all charges on 3rd April 2008. Meanwhile he was replaced by Bajram Kosumi (AAK) but after the death of President Rugova in January 2006 Kosumi was replaced by Agim Çeku.

Fresh elections were held in November 2007 and the PDK led by Hashim Thaçi emerged the largest party with 34 of the 120 seats in the Assembly. The PDK eventually formed a coalition government with the LDK giving the two parties 62 seats, a slim majority.

On 17th February 2008 Kosovo’s parliament declared independence and to date 108 UN member states have recognised the new state.

In the 2010 general election the PDK emerged victorious once more, taking 34 seats. Thaçi was able to put together a coalition of parties including the New Kosovo Alliance (AKR) with 8 seats and a number of smaller parties from the minority communities.

The President is elected for a five year term by the Kosovo Assembly.

The unicameral National Assembly has 120 seats of which 100 are directly elected, 10 seats are guaranteed for ethnic Serbs, 10 seats guaranteed for other ethnic minorities and members serve four year terms.

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Kosovo at joint 95th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 36 (where 100 is least corrupt).