The Kosovo Dilemma: Albanian War Concept vs. Serbian Peaceful Compromise

By Batakovic, Dusan T. | Serbian Studies, Summer-Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

The Kosovo Dilemma: Albanian War Concept vs. Serbian Peaceful Compromise


Batakovic, Dusan T., Serbian Studies


The problem of Kosovo is, beyond doubt, the most complex multi-ethnic conflict in contemporary Europe raising dangerous security challenges that represent a long-term threat to the stability of both Serbia and the whole region. It might even, if left uncontrolled, bring back the whole of the Western Balkans into the vicious cycle of renewed multi-ethnic conflicts, provoking a domino-effect with unforeseeable consequences. (1)

The roots of Kosovo conflict dates way back in the past but were accelerated by combined effects of nationalism, religious and ideological strife in the twentieth century. After World War Two and the subsequent communist takeover, Yugoslavia, previously a kingdom was restored as a Soviet-type communist federation. Serbia became one of its six federal units, with Kosovo and Metohija, a region with a mixed Serb and Albanian population, within its borders. It was under Tito, that Kosovo and Metohija--under Byzantium, Serbian Kingdom, Empire and Despotate, as well as during the Ottoman rule, modern Kingdom of Serbia and royal Yugoslavia respectively--integrated in wider political units, became a distinct entity. It was in 1945 that Kosovo emerged for the first time in history as a separate administrative unit, autonomous region (autonomna oblast) within Serbia. At first a region (1946), Kosovo was upgraded into an autonomous province (1963) of Serbia, equal in autonomous rights with the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina. (2)

The status of Kosovo was additionally upgraded by constitutional amendments in 1968 and 1972 and finally by the 1974 Constitution. (3) Kosovo Albanians obtained the main say in political life, a decision approved by communist dictator Tito in order to pacify the growing Albanian nationalism, strongly supported by neighboring Stalinist Albania of Enver Hoxha. (4) An Albanian-dominated assembly of Kosovo removed the word "Metohija" from the province's name already in 1968, for it sounded too Serbian and too Christian. It's a classical case of historical revisionism being used as a tool to advance a present political agenda. (5) It was a process that after repeated discrimination of the Kosovo Serbs throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, skillfully silenced by the communist authorities, (6) escalated into large-scale Albanian demonstrations, after March 1981 onwards, demanding for Kosovo the right to secede thus announcing the rapid disintegration of the Yugoslav communist federation. (7)

It was Albanian nationalism, in addition, that brought Slobodan Milosevic to power in 1987. The Albanian challenge to both Serbia and Yugoslavia inevitably led to other forms of inter-ethnic conflict, after the autonomy of Kosovo was scaled back, in 1990, to the level provided by the 1963 Constitution. (8) A fierce reaction of Kosovo Albanians followed, who, denouncing what they called the Serbian "apartheid," boycotted all state institutions and the Belgrade-appointed administration. Kosovo Albanians were first organized into a passive resistance, symbolized by Ibrahim Rugova. The tacit coexistence of two parallel systems, Serbian and Albanian, spared the province from large-scale interethnic conflicts, such as those raging in other parts of the former Yugoslav federation between 1991 and 1995. Nevertheless, the same period witnessed a yearly rhythm of six to twelve terrorist attacks on the Serbian police by smaller armed groups of Kosovo Albanians. This low-intensity conflict, more like testing the police force in preparation for large-scale actions, went on until the middle of 1996, when the number of attacks tripled. The reported score of 31 ambush attacks in 1996 rose to fifty-four in 1997. (9) The Albanian resistance became increasingly violent after 1998 when the KLA (UCK, so-called Kosovo Liberation Army), a terrorist Albanian guerilla organization, trained in neighboring countries, and sponsored from abroad, started attacks against Serb policemen, civilians and Albanians loyal to Serbia. …

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