Before the Yugoslav wars began in Slovenia in 1991, the autonomous province of Kosovo had been viewed as the most likely location for an outburst of ethnic violence. In contrast to the other Yugoslav republics, where the various ethnic groups had-with the important exception of World War II-lived together in relative peace, Kosovo had for a long time been the site of ethnic tensions, particularly following (and not long after) Tito's death in 1981. It was also Kosovo, in the late 1990s, that brought the international spotlight back to Former Yugoslavia, as it became the site of frequent discrimination and isolated acts of violence against the Albanians. Eventually these hostilities were replaced by full-scale ethnic cleansing, which ultimately prompted an armed intervention by NATO starting in March 1999. Then, as now, the issue relevant to legal bodies such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), but also to politicians and scholars, is whether the events of Kosovo justified the label "genocide."
A key factor in the dispute between Serbs and Albanians was that Kosovo played a special role in Serbian ideology because of a battle in 1389 and the legendary significance attributed to it in the public memory. At the same time, Kosovo was predominately populated by Albanians (approximately 90 percent of the population) and steered by an Albanian-dominated regional government. The series of harsh, anti-Albanian measures