Kosovo was a self-governing province within
Serbia in Yugoslavia from the end of the Second World
War, but self-government was abolished in the early
1990s. Kosovo Albanian guerrillas took up a fight
against the Serbian regime, and in 1998 war broke out.
The following year, NATO intervened on Kosovo's side,
bombing Serbian targets. Thereafter, Kosovo was ruled as
a UN protectorate until independence was proclaimed in
After Tito's death in 1980, the contradictions within
the Yugoslav federation increased (see Older History).
The Albanian majority in Kosovo felt a growing
dissatisfaction with being controlled by a Serbian,
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Kosovo. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
In the spring of 1981, repeated student
demonstrations were held in Prishtina (Priština)
demanding that Kosovo's status be raised from the
autonomous province of Serbia to the Yugoslav
sub-republic. Serbian military was called in to quash
the protests and state of emergency was announced.
Information on the number of dead varies widely.
The Serbs 'fear of the Albanians' demands for
increased influence was exploited by political leaders
in Serbia. The Kosovo issue became a way to win the
Serbs' support and political power through a strong
nationalist message. Slobodan Milošević, who was elected
President of the Serbian Republic of 1989, immediately
began to reduce the influence of the Albanian people.
The following year, Serbia adopted a new constitution
that effectively abolished the province's autonomy. The
Serbian authorities dissolved Kosovo's parliament on the
grounds that it was countering Serbian national
interests. A tough policy to make Kosovo more Serbian
was initiated: Albanian-language media were shut down,
education in Albanian banned and public servants were
forced to sign a declaration of loyalty to the Serbian
regime, which aimed to exclude Albanians from public
employment. The Kosovo Albanians responded by secretly
establishing parallel healthcare and teaching systems.
Ibrahim Rugova was elected president of the Kosovo
Albanians in an unofficial vote in 1992 and was
re-elected in the spring of 1998. His party's Kosovo
Democratic Alliance (LDK) advocated non-violence in the
fight against Serbian domination. But since these
tactics did not appear to produce any results, in the
mid-1990s, a growing number of Albanians, mainly young
people in exile in countries such as Switzerland and
Germany, began to call for violence to reach the goal -
an independent Kosovo and possible accession to Albania.
Many joined the guerrilla group Kosovo's Liberation
Army (UÇK), which in 1998 conducted a series of attacks
against Serbian government officials in Kosovo and
against Albanians who cooperated with the Serbs. As
UÇK's activities increased, more and more Serbian
soldiers and police were sent to Kosovo. At the same
time, many Kosovo Serbs were equipped with weapons and
they organized themselves into paramilitary units.
War breaks out
In the spring of 1998, Serbian police went very hard
to get hold of UÇK members and weapons among the
Albanians. In early June, the conflict escalated as
Yugoslav forces attacked the UÇK guerrilla. Tens of
thousands of civilians escaped into the mountains or
left Kosovo to seek protection from the fighting.
The outside world reacted strongly to the Serbian
attacks. The US and the EU imposed financial sanctions
During the summer of 1998, pure war broke out in the
province, and the UÇK guerrillas suffered severe defeat.
Houses in Albanian villages were burnt down and some of
the ruins were mined, making the population difficult to
return. When several Albanian mass graves were found at
the end of the summer, the outside world demanded that
the Serbian troops be withdrawn. Otherwise, NATO
threatened to bomb Serb targets inside and outside
Kosovo. A few hours before the deadline expired, the
Serbs withdrew most of their forces.
In December 1998, however, new battles arose and in
February 1999 French Rambouillet finally began
negotiations between the parties, which culminated in a
proposal that after three years of autonomy Kosovo would
be given the referendum on independence. The Serbs said
no to the proposal; since the Albanians were in the
majority, this would certainly lead to an independent
On March 24, 1999, NATO put its threat of bombing
into action. Military targets in particular Serbia and
Kosovo were attacked in a series of attacks. The air
strikes were met by sharp protests from Moscow, which
did not, however, threaten with countermeasures. While
NATO was attacking Yugoslav targets from the air,
Serbian forces launched a violent offensive against
cities and villages in Kosovo. Tens of thousands of
people were displaced, beaten or murdered and their
homes burned down. Large waves of refugees returned to
Serbia is forced to retreat
After eleven weeks of the bombing war, Serbia's
leader Milošević signed during a peace deal which meant
that, at least on paper, he agreed to almost all of
NATO's original demands. According to later estimates,
more than 13,000 people were killed in the 1998-2000
Serbian military and police were given barely two
weeks to leave Kosovo, at the same time as a NATO-led
international peacekeeping force, the Kosovo force (Kfor),
was installed on UN mandate.
In anticipation of a decision on Kosovo's future
status, the province was ruled by an international
transitional administration under the United Nations
(United Nations Mission in Kosovo, Unmik). In October
2000 local elections were also organized under the
auspices of the European Security Organization OSCE.
These waters were persuasive by Ibrahim Rugova's LDK,
much to the disappointment of the formally dissolved and
disarmed UÇK guerrillas, gathered politically behind his
former commander Hashim Thaçi and his Kosovo Democratic
However, the Kosovo Serbs boycotted the election.
After the war, a large number of Serbs had been driven
away, harassed and even killed. In the lawless state in
which Kosovo was located, organized crime also gained a
In November 2001, the people of Kosovo went to
elections to select their own National Assembly for the
first time. The newly elected parliament would then
appoint, among other things, a president and a prime
minister. Subsequently, it was intended that Unmik would
gradually hand over power to the new bodies. The
Albanian parties had all the independence of Kosovo at
the top of their program, while the Serbs wanted Kosovo
to continue to belong to Serbia.
Again, LDK was the largest with just under 45 percent
of the vote, almost twice as much as the more radical
In March 2002, Ibrahim Rugova was elected president.
LDK's political dominance persisted in the coming years,
and the party held the post in the 2004 elections, which
was largely boycotted by the Serbian minority.
The most serious riots between Albanians and Serbs
since the 1999 war occurred in March 2004. Violence
blazed in the divided city of Mitrovica after a couple
of Albanian boys drowned in the Ibar River. Rumors,
never confirmed, spread that they had been chased in the
river by Serbian youths. The incident led to outbreaks
of violence throughout Kosovo and also in Serbia, where
protesters tried to set fire to mosques in Belgrade and
Niš. NATO quickly dispatched troops reinforcements and
the violence ceased since Kfor improved the protection
of the Serbian enclaves in the province.
Following the unrest, the UN decided to speed up the
process of Kosovo's future. Former Finnish President
Martti Ahtisaari was appointed to lead the negotiations,
which began in February 2006 in Vienna. Just before that
Rugova had died of lung cancer.
After a year's absence, Ahtisaari presented his
report on Kosovo's future status in early February 2007.
According to the report, Kosovo would be entitled to
"enter into international agreements, including the
right to apply for membership in international
organizations". The area had its own constitution, flag
and national anthem. Albanian and Serbian would both be
official languages and the Serbian minority would have
far-reaching autonomy. At the same time, the
international military and civilian presence in Kosovo
would continue. Nowhere in the document was independence
mentioned. Instead, it spoke of a "multi-ethnic Kosovo".
While the Kosovo Albanians were largely satisfied
with the report, the dissatisfaction was even greater in
Belgrade. Both parties saw it as the beginning of full
independence for Kosovo. However, Ahtisaari explained
that it would be seen as a basis for negotiations.
Proposal for independence
Following a new round of talks in Vienna, at the end
of March 2007, Ahtisaari presented its final report to
the UN Security Council. In it, he suggested - against
Serbia and Russia's will - that Kosovo should become
independent, but that the path to independence during a
transitional period would be monitored and supported by
international civilian and military presence.
The United States gave its support to the Ahtisaari
Plan and expected it to be adopted by the UN Security
Council, but several proposals for resolutions were
rejected by Russia. Finally, a troika, made up of
representatives from Russia, the US and the EU, was
commissioned to start a new round of negotiations. But
the negotiations between Serbia and the Kosovo Albanian
Parallel to the new negotiations, parliamentary
elections were held in Kosovo in November 2007. This
time PDK became the largest party with 35 percent of the
vote. The turnout was low and almost the entire Serbian
minority abstained. In January 2008, Hashim Thaçi was
appointed prime minister of Kosovo and PDK formed
government with LDK as well as some representatives of
the Serbian and Turkish minorities.
Hashim Thaçi made a promise he made to the electorate
and began his tenure of proclaiming Kosovo's
independence. In order not to play Serbian extremist
nationalists in his hands, he waited until after the
Serbian presidential election in January.
Independence is proclaimed
On February 17, 2008, Kosovo was declared
independent. The declaration of independence was hailed
by the Albanians, while the Serbs in Kosovo protested.
Riots erupted in the city of Mitrovica, which is divided
between Serbs and Albanians. Independence was quickly
recognized by the United States and most EU countries,
but met with opposition from Serbia and its allies,
Hashim Thaçi and his PDK also won the election at the
end of 2010, again with LDK second. After the election,
Thaçi formed a coalition government with two smaller
In late summer 2011, the situation in northern Kosovo
worsened. The presence of Kfors peace force was
strengthened in connection with the unrest that ensued
as Kosovo authorities tried to secure control of the two
border stations between northern Kosovo and Serbia.
Following mediation by the EU, Serbia and Kosovo
agreed in April 2013 on an agreement that would
integrate the Serbian-dominated areas in the north with
the rest of Kosovo, including by giving the Serbs
autonomy in many issues (see further Calendar). Both
Albanian and Serbian nationalists opposed the agreement,
but it was later confirmed by the parliament in
Prishtina and by the Belgrade government.
The local elections in November 2013 became a first
test on the implementation of the agreement. The result
was mixed: in southern Kosovo many of the Serbs took
part in the elections, but in the north, only one in
five voted. Serbia activists were on hand to get local
Serbs to abstain, and in Mitrovica there was violence to
deter voters. Parts of the vote in the city had to be
New elections and government crisis
In May 2014, Parliament was dissolved due to
disagreement on two basic issues (regarding the
establishment of a regular army and the preservation of
reserved seats in Parliament for the minorities). In the
recent election held in June, 30 different parties
participated, but the differences between them were
quite small. Winners in the elections became PDK again
and Hashim Thaçi looked to be able to form government
for the third time (see further Calendar).
After the election, however, the three opposition
parties LDK, the Alliance for Kosovo's Future (AAK) and
Initiative for Kosovo (Nisma) merged in a coalition
supported by the Leftist Nationalist Movement for
Self-Determination (Vetëvendosje, LV). As the coalition
grew larger than the PDK, AAK leader Ramush Haradinaj
was brought forward as his prime ministerial candidate.
A prolonged government crisis was thus initiated, partly
because of different interpretations of what the
Constitution said about who had the right to form
government (that the coalition was formed only after the
election was to its disadvantage).
It was only six months after the parliamentary
elections that Kosovo finally got a new government,
after LDK resigned from the opposition coalition and
reached a settlement with the PDK. LDK leader Isa
Mustafa, former mayor of Prishtina, became prime
minister with the outgoing prime minister Hashim Thaçi
as his deputy. Thaçi also got the post of Foreign
Minister and was promised to succeed Atifete Jahjaga in
2016 as president (the president is elected by
In April 2016, Thaçi, who has lost in popularity in
recent years, was also elected new president but only
after three attempts and his installation was edged by
A border agreement signed in 2015 with Montenegro
became a hot political issue. A vote on the border
agreement was postponed several times in Parliament
before the government, after heavy pressure from, among
others, the EU and the US, decided to implement it in
May 2017. The opposition parties then filed a
declaration of confidence against the government and
gained a majority for it, and the government fell.
President Hashim Thaçi then dissolved the parliament and
announced new elections in June 2017.
Following the parliamentary elections, a partial
alliance of PDK, AAK and Nisma government was formed,
supported in Parliament by the 20 members representing
minorities. This time, AAK's Haradinaj became head of
government for an unstable coalition government.
When Haradinaj took office, he pledged to continue
the dialogue with Serbia, fight corruption and revise
the controversial border agreement with Montenegro so
that this could be approved - a requirement from the EU
to give Kosovo visa freedom to the EU countries.
Parliament ratified the disputed border agreement in
March 2018, despite continued violent protests mainly