The Cave of Pëllumbas near Tirana, was inhabited during the Paleolithic period. The first traces of human presence in Albania, dating to the Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic eras, were found in the village of Xarrë, near Sarandë and Mount Dart near Tiranë. The objects found in a cave near Xarrë include flint and jasper objects and fossilized animal bones, while those found at Mount Dajt comprise bone and stone tools similar to those of the Aurignacian culture. The Paleolithic finds of Albania show great similarities with objects of the same era found at Crvena Stijena in Montenegro and north-western Greece.
Several Bronze Age artefacts from tumulus burials have been unearthed in central and southern Albania that show close connection with sites in south-western Macedonia and Lefkada, Greece. Archaeologists have come to the conclusion that these regions were inhabited from the middle of the third millennium BC by Indo-European people who spoke a Proto-Greek language. A part of this population later moved to Mycenae around 1600 BC and founded the Mycenaean civilisation there. Another population group, the Illirii, probably the southernmost Illyrian tribe of that time that lived on the border of Albania and Montenegro, possibly neighbored the Greek tribes.
In ancient times, the territory of modern Albania was mainly inhabited by a number of Illyrian tribes. This territory was known as Illyria, corresponding roughly to the area east of the Adriatic sea to the mouth of the Vjosë river in the south. The first account of the Illyrian groups comes from Periplus of the Euxine Sea, an ancient Greek text written in the middle of the 4th century BC. The south was inhabited by the Greek tribe of the Chaonians, whose capital was at Phoenice, while numerous colonies, such as Apollonia, Epidamnos and Amantia, were established by Greek city-states on the coast by the 7th century BC.
One of the most powerful tribes that ruled over modern Albania was the Ardiaei. The Ardiaean Kingdom reached its greatest extent under Agron, son of Pleuratus II. Agron extended his rule over other neighboring tribes as well. After Agron’s death in 230 BC, his wife Teuta inherited the Ardiaean kingdom. Teuta’s forces extended their operations further southward into the Ionian Sea. In 229 BC, Rome declared war on Illyria for extensively plundering Roman ships. The war ended in Illyrian defeat in 227 BC. Teuta was eventually succeeded by Gentius in 181 BC. Gentius clashed with the Romans in 168 BC, initiating the Third Illyrian War. The conflict resulted in Roman victory and the end of Illyrian independence by 167 BC. After his defeat, the Roman split the region into three administrative divisions.
The city of Krujë was the capital of the Albanian State in the Middle Ages.
During the medieval period, the area what is now known as Albania, remained under Byzantine control until the Slavs began to overrun the country from the 7th century. Later it was captured by the Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century. After the weakening of the Byzantine Empire and the Bulgarian Empire in the 13th century, some of the territory of modern Albania was captured by the Serbian Principality. In general, the invaders destroyed or weakened Roman and Byzantine cultural centers in the lands, that would become Albania.
The territorial nucleus of the Albanian state formed in the Middle Ages, as the Principality of Arbër and the Kingdom of Albania. The Principality of Arbër or Albanon (Arbër or Arbëria), was the first Albanian entiy during the Middle Ages, it was established by archon Progon (Progoni i Krujës) in the region of Krujë, in 1190. Progon, was succeeded by his sons Gjin and Dhimitri, the latter which attained the height of the realm. After the death of Dhimiter, the last of the Progon family, the principality came under the Greek Gregory Kamonas Lord of Krujë, and later Golem. The Principality was dissolved in 1255. Pipa and Repishti conclude that Arbanon was the first sketch of an “Albanian state”, and that it retained semi-autonomous status as the western extremity of an empire (under the Doukai of Epirus or the Laskarids of Nicaea).
The Kingdom of Albania (Mbretëria e Arbërisë) was established by Charles of Anjou (Karli Anzhu) in the Albanian territory. In 1271, he conquered from the Despotate of Epirus. One year later in February 1272, he took the title of King of Albania. The kingdom extended from the region of Dyrrhachium (modern Durrës), south along the coast to Butrint. After the creation of the kingdom, a catholic political structure was a basis for the papal plans of spreading Catholicism in the Balkans. This plan found also the support of Helen of Anjou, a cousin of Charles of Anjou, who was at that time ruling territories in North Albania. Around 30 catholic churches and monasteries were built during her rule in North Albania and also in Serbia. From 1331 to 1355, the Serbian Empire wrestled control over Albania. After the dissolution of the Serbian Empire, several Albanian principalities were created, and among the most powerful were the Balsha, Thopia, Kastrioti, Muzaka and Arianiti. In the first half of the 14th century, the Ottoman Empire invaded most of Albania. In 1444, the Albanian principalities were united under George Castrioti Skanderbeg (Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu), who became the national hero of the Albanian medieval history.
At the dawn of the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in southeastern Europe, the geopolitical landscape was marked by scattered kingdoms of small principalities. The Ottomans erected their garrisons throughout southern Albania in 1415 and occupied most of the country in 1431. However, in 1443 a great and longstanding revolt broke out under the lead of the Albanian national hero George Castrioti Skanderbeg (Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu), which lasted until 1479, many times defeating major Ottoman armies led by the sultans Murad II and Mehmed II. Skanderbeg united initially the Albanian princes, and later on established a centralized authority over most of the non-conquered territories, becoming the ruling Lord of Albania. He also tried relentlessly but rather unsuccessfully to create a European coalition against the Ottomans. He thwarted every attempt by the Turks to regain Albania, which they envisioned as a springboard for the invasion of Italy and western Europe. His unequal fight against the mightiest power of the time, won the esteem of Europe as well as some support in the form of money and military aid from Naples, Venice, Ragusa and the Papacy. With the arrival of the Ottomans, the Islam was introduced in country as a third religion. This conversion caused a massive emigration of Albanians to other Christian European countries, especially the Arbëreshë of Italy. Along with the Bosniaks, Muslim Albanians occupied an outstanding position in the Ottoman Empire, and were the main pillars of Ottoman Porte’s policy in the Balkans.
Enjoying this privileged position in the empire, Muslim Albanians held various high administrative positions, with over two dozen Grand Viziers of Albanian origin, such as Gen. Köprülü Mehmed Pasha, who commanded the Ottoman forces during the Ottoman-Persian Wars; Gen. Köprülü Fazıl Ahmed, who led the Ottoman armies during the Austro-Turkish War; and later Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt.
During the 15th century, when the Ottomans were gaining a firm foothold in the region, Albanian towns were organised into four principal sanjaks. The government fostered trade by settling a sizeable Jewish colony of refugees fleeing persecution in Spain (at the end of the 15th century). The city of Vlorë saw passing through its ports imported merchandise from Europe such as velvets, cotton goods, mohairs, carpets, spices, and leather from Bursa and Constantinople. Some citizens of Vlorë even had business associates throughout Europe.
Albanians could also be found throughout the empire in Iraq, Egypt, Algeria and across the Maghreb, as vital military and administrative retainers. This was partly due to the Devşirme system. The process of Islamization was an incremental one, commencing from the arrival of the Ottomans in the 14th century (to this day, a minority of Albanians are Catholic or Orthodox Christians, though the vast majority became Muslim). Timar holders, the bedrock of early Ottoman control in southeast Europe, were not necessarily converts to Islam, and occasionally rebelled; the most famous of these rebels is Skanderbeg (his figure would rise up later on, in the 19th century, as a central component of the Albanian national identity). The most significant impact on the Albanians was the gradual Islamisation process of a large majority of the population, although it became widespread only in the 17th century.
Mainly Catholics converted in the 17th century, while the Orthodox Albanians followed suit mainly in the following century. Initially confined to the main city centres of Elbasan and Shkodër, by this period the countryside was also embracing the new religion. The motives for conversion according to some scholars were diverse, depending on the context. The lack of source material does not help when investigating such issues. Albania remained under Ottoman control as part of the Rumelia province until 1912, when independent Albania was declared.
The League of Prizren building in Prizren from inside the courtyard.
The National Renaissance (Rilindja Kombëtare) began in the 1870s and lasted until 1912, when the Albanians declared their independence. The League of Prizren (League for the Defense of the Rights of the Albanian Nation) (Lidhja e Prizrenit) was formed on June 1878, in the old town of Prizren, Kosovo Vilayet. At first the Ottoman authorities supported the League, whose initial position was based on the religious solidarity of Muslim landlords and people connected with the Ottoman administration. The Ottomans favoured and protected the Muslim solidarity, and called for defense of Muslim lands, including present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was the reason for naming the league ‘The Committee of the Real Muslims’ (Komiteti i Myslimanëve të Vërtetë). The League issued a decree known as Kararname. Its text contained a proclamation that the people from northern Albania, Epirus and Bosnia” are willing to defend the ‘territorial integrity’ of the Ottoman Empire by all possible means against the troops of the Bulgarian, Serbian and Montenegrin Kingdoms. However, it was signed by 47 Muslim deputies of the League on June 18, 1878. Around 300 Muslims participated in the assembly, including delegates from Bosnia and mutasarrif (sanjakbey) of the Sanjak of Prizren as representatives of the central authorities, and no delegates from Scutari Vilayet.
The Ottomans cancelled their support when the League, under the influence of Abdyl Bey Frashëri, became focused on working toward the Albanian autonomy and requested merging of four Ottoman vilayets, which includes Kosovo, Scutari, Monastir and Ioannina into a new vilayet of the Ottoman Empire, the Albanian Vilayet. The League used military force to prevent the annexing areas of Plav and Gusinje assigned to Montenegro by the Congress of Berlin. After several successful battles with Montenegrin troops such as in Novsice, under the pressure of the great powers, the League of Prizren was forced to retreat from their contested regions of Plav and Gusinje and later on, the league was defeated by the Ottoman army sent by the Sultan. The Albanian uprising of 1912, the Ottoman defeat in the Balkan Wars and the advance of Montenegrin, Serbian and Greek forces into territories claimed as Albanian, led to the proclamation of independence by Ismail Qemali in southern Vlorë, on November 28, 1912.
At the All-Albanian Congress in southern Vlorë on 28 November 1912, the participants constituted the Assembly of Vlorë. The assembly of eighty-three leaders, declared the nation as an independent country and set up a provisional government. The Provisional Government was established on the second session of the assembly on 4 December 1912. Furthermore, it was a government of ten members led by Ismail Qemali, until his resignation on 22 January 1914. However the Assembly also established the Senate (Pleqësi), with an advisory role to the government, consisting of 18 members of the Assembly.
The independence of Albania was recognized by the Conference of London on 29 July 1913. The drawing of the borders of the newly established Principality of Albania ignored the demographic realities of the time. The International Commission of Control was established on 15 October 1913 to take care of the administration of newly established Albania, until its own political institutions were in order. Its headquarters were in Vlorë. The International Gendarmerie was established as the first law enforcement agency of the Principality of Albania. In November, the first gendarmerie members arrived in the country. Prince of Albania Wilhelm of Wied (Princ Vilhelm Vidi) was selected as the first prince of the principality. On 7 March, he arrived in the provisional capital of Durrës and started to organise his government, appointing Turhan Pasha Përmeti to form the first Albanian cabinet.
The city of Skopje after being captured by Albanian revolutionaries in August 1912 after defeating the Ottoman forces holding the city.
In November 1913, the Albanian pro-Ottoman forces had offered the throne of Albania to the Ottoman war Minister of Albanian origin, Ahmed Izzet Pasha. The pro-Ottoman peasants believed that, the new regime of the Principality of Albania was a tool of the six Christian Great Powers and local landowners, that owned half of the arable land.
In February 1914, the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus was proclaimed in Gjirokastër by the local Greek population against incorporation to Albania. This initiative was short lived and in 1921, the southern provinces were finally incorporated to the Albanian Principality. Meanwhile, the revolt of Albanian peasants against the new Albanian regime erupted under the leadership of the group of Muslim clerics gathered around Essad Pasha Toptani, who proclaimed himself the savior of Albania and Islam. In order to gain support of the Mirdita Catholic volunteers from the northern part of Albania, Prince Wied appointed their leader, Prênk Bibë Doda, to be the foreign minister of the Principality of Albania. In May and June 1914, the International Gendarmerie was joined by Isa Boletini and his men, mostly from Kosovo, and northern Mirdita Catholics, were defeated by the rebels who captured most of Central Albania by the end of August 1914. The regime of Prince Wied collapsed and later he left the country on 3 September 1914.
First Republic and Monarchy
The short-lived principality (1914–1925) was succeeded by the first Albanian Republic (1925–1928). In 1925 the four-member Regency was abolished and Ahmed Zogu was elected president of the newly declared republic. Tirana was endorsed officially as the country’s permanent capital. Zogu led an authoritarian and conservative regime, the primary aim of which was the maintenance of stability and order. Zogu was forced to adopt a policy of cooperation with Italy. A pact had been signed between Italy and Albania on 20 January 1925 whereby Italy gained a monopoly on shipping and trade concessions.
The Albanian republic was eventually replaced by another monarchy in 1928. In order to extend his direct control throughout the entire country, Zogu placed great emphasis on the construction of roads. Every male Albanian over the age of 16 years was legally bound to give ten days of free labor each year to the state. King Zogu remained a conservative, but initiated reforms. For example, in an attempt at social modernization, the custom of adding one’s region to one’s name was dropped. Zogu also made donations of land to international organisations for the building of schools and hospitals. The armed forces were trained and supervised by Italian instructors. As a counterweight, Zogu kept British officers in the Gendarmerie despite strong Italian pressure to remove them. The kingdom was supported by the fascist regime in Italy and the two countries maintained close relations until Italy’s sudden invasion of the country in 1939. Albania was occupied by Fascist Italy and then by Nazi Germany during World War II.
World War II
After being militarily occupied by Italy, from 1939 until 1943 the Albanian Kingdom was a protectorate and a dependency of Italy governed by the Italian King Victor Emmanuel III and his government. After the Axis’ invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, territories of Yugoslavia with substantial Albanian population were annexed to Albania: most of Kosovo,[a] as well as Western Macedonia, the town of Tutin in Central Serbia and a strip of Eastern Montenegro. In November 1941, the small Albanian Communist groups established an Albanian Communist Party in Tirana of 130 members under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and an eleven-man Central Committee. The party at first had little mass appeal, and even its youth organization netted few recruits.
After the capitulation of Italy in 1943, Nazi Germany occupied Albania too. The nationalist Balli Kombetar, which had fought against Italy, formed a “neutral” government in Tirana, and side by side with the Germans fought against the communist-led National Liberation Movement of Albania. The Center for Relief to Civilian Populations (Geneva) reported that Albania was one of the most devastated countries in Europe. 60,000 houses were destroyed and about 10% of the population was left homeless.The communist partisans had regrouped and gained control of much of southern Albania in January 1944. However, they were subject to German attacks driving them out of certain areas. In the Congress of Përmet, the NLF formed an Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation to act as Albania’s administration and legislature. By the last year in World War II Albania fell into a civil war-like state between the communists and nationalists. The communist partisans however defeated the last Balli Kombëtar forces in southern Albania by mid-summer 1944. Before the end of November, the main German troops had withdrawn from Tirana, and the communists took control by attacking it. The partisans entirely liberated Albania from German occupation on 29 November 1944. A provisional government, which the communists had formed at Berat in October, administered Albania with Enver Hoxha as prime minister.
By the end of the second World War, the main military and political force of the nation, the Communist party sent forces to northern Albania against the nationalists to eliminate its rivals. They faced open resistance in Nikaj-Mërtur, Dukagjin and Kelmend led by Prek Cali. On 15 January 1945, a clash took place between partisans of the first Brigade and nationalist forces at the Tamara Bridge, resulting in the defeat of the nationalist forces. About 150 Kelmendi people were killed or tortured. This event was the starting point of many other issues which took place during Enver Hoxha’s dictatorship. Class struggle was strictly applied, human freedom and human rights were denied. The Kelmend region was almost isolated by both the border and by a lack of roads for another 20 years, the institution of agricultural cooperatives brought about economic decline. Many Kelmendi people fled, some were executed trying to cross the border.
After the liberation of Albania from the Nazi occupation, the country became a Communist state. Afterwards, the People’s Republic of Albania (renamed “People’s Socialist Republic of Albania” in 1976) was founded, which was led by Enver Hoxha and the Labour Party of Albania. The socialist reconstruction of Albania was launched immediately after the annulling of the monarchy and the establishment of a People’s Republic. In 1947, Albania’s first railway line was completed, with the second one being completed eight months later. New land reform laws were passed granting ownership of the land to the workers and peasants who tilled it. Agriculture became cooperative, and production increased significantly, leading to Albania’s becoming agriculturally self-sufficient. By 1955, illiteracy was eliminated among Albania’s adult population.
During this period, Albania became industrialized and saw rapid economic growth, as well as unprecedented progress in the areas of education and health care. The average annual increase in Albania’s national income was 29% higher than the world average and 56% higher than the European average. The nation incurred large debts, first with Yugoslavia until 1948, then the Soviet Union until 1961, and China from the middle of the 1950s. The communist constitution did not allow taxes on individuals; instead, taxes were imposed on cooperatives and other organizations, with much the same effect. Religious freedoms were severely curtailed during the communist regime, with all forms of worship being outlawed. In August 1945, the Agrarian Reform Law meant that large swaths of property owned by religious groups (mostly Islamic waqfs) were nationalized, along with the estates of monasteries and dioceses. Many believers, along with the ulema and many priests, were arrested and executed. In 1949, a new Decree on Religious Communities required that all their activities be sanctioned by the state alone.
After hundreds of mosques and dozens of Islamic libraries, containing priceless manuscripts, were destroyed, Enver Hoxha proclaimed Albania the “World’s first atheist state” in 1967. The churches had not been spared either, and many were converted into cultural centers for young people. A 1967 law banned all “fascist, religious, warmongerish, antisocialist activity and propaganda”. Preaching religion carried a three to ten-year prison sentence. Nonetheless, many Albanians continued to practice their beliefs secretly. The Hoxha dictatorship’s anti-religious policy attained its most fundamental legal and political expression a decade later: “The state recognizes no religion,” states Albania’s 1976 constitution, “and supports and carries out atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people.” Enver Hoxha’s political successor, Ramiz Alia oversaw the dismemberment of the “Hoxhaist” state during the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in the late 1980s.
In 1988, the first outsiders were allowed to walk into the Skanderbeg Square, the main plaza in Tirana.
After the revolution of 1989, reforms were made by the communist government in 1990. Subsequently, the People’s Republic was dissolved and the 4th Albanian Republic was founded on 29 April 1991. The communists retained a stronghold in the Parliament, after popular support in the first multi-party elections in 1991. In March 1992, amid liberalization policies resulting in economic collapse and social unrest, a new coalition led by the new Democratic Party took power after victory in the parliamentary elections of 1992.
In the following years, much of the accumulated wealth of the country was invested in Ponzi pyramid banking schemes, which were widely supported by the government. The schemes swept up somewhere between one sixth and one third of the Albanian population. Despite the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warnings in late 1996, President Sali Berisha defended the schemes as large investment firms, leading more people to redirect their remittances and sell their homes and cattle for cash to deposit in the schemes. The schemes began to collapse in late 1996, leading many of the investors to join initially peaceful protests against the government, requesting their money back. The protests turned violent in February 1997 as government forces responded with fire. In March, the Police and Republican Guard deserted, leaving their armories open. These were promptly emptied by militias and criminal gangs. The resulting crisis caused a wave of evacuations of foreign nationals and of refugees.
The crisis led Prime Minister Aleksandër Meksi to resign on 11 March 1997, followed by President Sali Berisha in July in the wake of the June General Election. In April 1997, Operation Alba, a UN peacekeeping force led by Italy, entered the country with two goals: to assist with the evacuation of expatriates and to secure the ground for international organizations. The main international organization involved was the Western European Union’s Multinational Albanian Police element (MAPE), which worked with the government to restructure the judicial system and the Albanian Police. The Socialist Party had won the previously mentioned parliamentary elections in June 1997, and a degree of political stabilization followed. In 1999, the country was affected by the Kosovo War, which caused a great number of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo to seek refuge in Albania.
Albania joined the 2010 NATO Headquarters summit in Brussels.
On 23 June 2013, the eighth parliamentary elections took place, won by Edi Rama of the Socialist Party. During his tenure as 33rd Prime Minister, Albania has implemented numerous reforms focused on the modernizing the economy and democratizing of state institutions like the judiciary and law enforcement. Additionally, unemployment has been steadily reduced to the 4th lowest unemployment rate in the Balkans.
After the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, Albania started to develop closer ties with Western Europe. At the 2008 Bucharest summit, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) invited Albania to join the alliance. In April 2014 Albania became a full member of the NATO. Albania was among the first southeastern European countries to join the Partnership for peace programme. Albania applied to join the European Union, becoming an official candidate for accession to the European Union in June 2014.
Although Albania received candidate status for the European Union membership in 2014 (based on its 2009 application), the European Union has twice rejected full membership. The European Parliament warned the Government leaders in early 2017 that the 2017 parliamentary elections in June must be free and fair before negotiations could begin to admit the country into the union.
Albania is located in Southeastern and Southern Europe, bordering Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south. The Adriatic and Ionian seas makes up its entire west border. It lies mostly between latitudes 42° and 39° N (Vermosh-Konispol) and longitudes 21° and 19° E (Sazan-Vernik). The territory covers 28,748 square kilometres (11,100 square miles), making it the 145th largest country in the world. It’s coastline length is 476 km (296 mi) and extends along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas within the Mediterranean Sea.
Almost 70% of the country that is mountainous is rugged and often inaccessible from the outside. The three longest mountain ranges includes the Albanian Alps in the north, the Ceraunian Mountains in the southwest along the Albanian Riviera and the Korab Mountains in the east. The highest mountain is probably the Mount Korab, reaching up to 2,764 metres (9,068 ft), making it the 4th highest mountain in the Balkan peninsula. It is located around the border triangle of Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia.
The climate on the coast is typically Mediterranean with mild, wet winters and warm, sunny, and rather dry summers. Inland conditions vary depending on elevation, but the higher areas above 1,524 metres (5,000 feet) in the north, such as the Albanian Alps, the southernmost part of the Dinaric Alps forming part of the Alpide belt, are rather cold and frequently snowy in winter; here cold conditions with snow may linger into spring. Besides the capital of Tirana, which has more than 700.000 inhabitants, the principal cities are Durrës, Korçë, Elbasan, Shkodër, Gjirokastër, Vlorë, Sarandë and Kukës.
Albania is home to one of the three largest and deepest tectonic lakes in Southern Europe. One of them being the Lake Shkodër in the northwest, with a surface which can vary between 370 km2 (140 sq mi) and 530 km2, out of which one third belongs to Albania and the rest to Montenegro. The Albanian shoreline of the lake is 57 km (35 mi). The Lake Ohrid is considered to be one of the most ancient lakes in the world and the oldest one in the European continent. It is situated in the country’s southeast and is shared between Albania and Macedonia. It has a maximal depth of 289 metres (948 feet) and a variety of unique flora and fauna can be found there, including living fossils and many endemic species. Because of its natural and historical value, the Ohrid Lake is under the protection of UNESCO. There is also Lake Butrint in southern Albania near the city of Sarandë, which is a small tectonic lake. In addition, Albania has also a total of 13 islands. The majority of them are small in size with only two being larger than a square kilometer such as Sazan and Kunë.
With its coastline facing the Adriatic and Ionian seas, its highlands backed upon the elevated Balkan landmass, and the entire country lying at a latitude subject to a variety of weather patterns during the winter and summer seasons, Albania has a high number of climatic regions relative to its landmass. The coastal lowlands have typically Mediterranean climate; the highlands have a Mediterranean continental climate. In both the lowlands and the interior, the weather varies markedly from north to south. The lowlands have mild winters, averaging about 7 °C (45 °F). Summer temperatures average 24 °C (75 °F). In the southern lowlands, temperatures average about 5 °C (9 °F) higher throughout the year. The difference is greater than 5 °C (9 °F) during the summer and somewhat less during the winter.
Inland temperatures are affected more by differences in elevation than by latitude or any other factor. Low winter temperatures in the mountains are caused by the continental air mass that dominates the weather in south-eastern Europe. Northerly and northeasterly winds blow much of the time. Average summer temperatures are lower than in the coastal areas and much lower at higher elevations, but daily fluctuations are greater. Daytime maximum temperatures in the interior basins and river valleys are very high, but the nights are almost always cool. Average precipitation is heavy, a result of the convergence of the prevailing airflow from the Mediterranean Sea and the continental air mass.
Subarctic climate on Albanian Alps.
Because they usually meet at the point where the terrain rises, the heaviest rain falls in the central uplands. Vertical currents initiated when the Mediterranean air is uplifted also cause frequent thunderstorms. Many of these storms are accompanied by high local winds and torrential downpours. When the continental air mass is weak, Mediterranean winds drop their moisture farther inland. When there is a dominant continental air mass, cold air spills onto the lowland areas, which occurs most frequently in the winter. Because the season’s lower temperatures damage olive trees and citrus fruits, groves and orchards are restricted to sheltered places with southern and western exposures, even in areas with high average winter temperatures. Lowland rainfall averages from 1,000 millimeters (39.4 in) to more than 1,500 millimeters (59.1 in) annually, with the higher levels in the north. Nearly 95% of the rain falls in the winter.
Rainfall in the upland mountain ranges is heavier. Adequate records are not available, and estimates vary widely, but annual averages are probably about 1,800 millimeters (70.9 in) and are as high as 2,550 millimeters (100.4 in) in some northern areas. The western Albanian Alps (valley of Boga) are among the wettest areas in Europe, receiving some 3,100 mm (122.0 in) of rain annually. The seasonal variation is not quite as great in the coastal area. The higher inland mountains receive less precipitation than the intermediate uplands. Terrain differences cause wide local variations, but the seasonal distribution is the most consistent of any area. In 2009, an expedition from the University of Colorado discovered four small glaciers in the Cursed mountains in Northern Albania. The glaciers are at the relatively low level of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), almost unique for such a southerly latitude.
Many endemic plants can be found in the North Albanian Alps, including the Albanian Tulip. (Tulipa albanica)
Although a small country, Albania is distinguished for its rich biological diversity. The variation of geomorphology, climate and terrain create favorable conditions for a number of endemic and sub-endemic species with 27 endemic and 160 subendemic vascular plants present in the country. The total number of plants is over 3250 species, approximately 30% of the entire flora species found in Europe.
Phytogeographically, the territory of Albania can be subdivided into four ecoregions of the Palearctic ecozone: the Illyrian deciduous forests, Pindus Mountains mixed forests, Mediterranean basin and Dinaric Alpine mixed forests.
The Golden eagle is the national symbol.
About 10,000 square kilometres (3,861 square miles) of the territory of Albania is forested and very rich in flora. About 3,000 different species of plants grow in Albania, many of which are used for medicinal purposes. Coastal regions and lowlands have typical Mediterranean macchia vegetation, whereas oak forests and vegetation are found on higher elevations. Vast forests of black pine, beech and fir are found on higher mountains and alpine grasslands grow at elevations above 1,800 metres (5,900 feet).
The forests are home to a wide range of mammals, including wolves, bears, wild boars and chamois. Lynx, wildcats, pine martens and polecats are rare, but survive in some parts of Albania. There are around 760 vertebrate species found so far in Albania. Among these there are over 350 bird species, 330 freshwater and marine fish and 80 mammal species. There are some 91 globally threatened species found within the country, among which the Dalmatian pelican, pygmy cormorant, and the European sea sturgeon. Rocky coastal regions in the south provide good habitats for the endangered Mediterranean monk seal. Some of the most significant bird species found in the country include the golden eagle – known as the national symbol of Albania – vulture species, capercaillie and numerous waterfowl. The Albanian forests still maintain significant communities of large mammals such as the brown bear, gray wolf, chamois and wild boar. The north and eastern mountains of the country are home to the last remaining Balkan lynx – a critically endangered population of the Eurasian lynx.
Due to its long history, Albania is home to many valuable cultural and historical landmarks. From antiquity to the modern period, major cities in the country have evolved from within the castle to include dwellings, religious, and commercial structures, with constant redesigning of town squares and evolution of building techniques.
The country hosts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the ancient city of Butrint south of Sarandë, the medieval Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastër, and Gashi River and Rrajca (part of Shebenik Jabllanice National Park) under the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe.
The Roman Amphitheatre of Durrës, the Royal Illyrian Tombs of Selca e Poshtme, the Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid Region and the ancient city of Apollonia are on the tentative list.
Many ancient architectural treasures from the Illyrians such as Byllis, Amantia, Phoenice and Shkodër can be found in Albania. Due to the long period of rule of the Byzantine Empire, Albania is home to many Byzantine churches, castles, and monasteries. Albania also has many surviving monuments from the five centuries of Ottoman rule. In the 19th century, Albanian medieval towns underwent urban transformations by Austro-Hungarian and Italian architects, giving them the appearance of European cities. During the Communism, many socialist-styled complexes, wide roads, and factories were constructed, while town squares were redesigned and a number of historic buildings demolished.
The Albanian dancer by Alexandre Decamps. (1835)
The Albanian folk music falls into two major groups, the northern Ghegs and southern Labs and Tosks. The northern and southern traditions are contrasted by the rugged and heroic tone of the north and the relaxed form of the south. The Ghegs are known for a distinctive variety of sung epic poetry. Many of the songs are about the ancient history of the Albanians but also the Albanian medieval hero Skanderbeg, who led the struggle against the Turks, and the constant Albanian themes of honour, hospitality, treachery and revenge. Tosk music is soft and gentle, and polyphonic in nature. South Albania is also known for funeral laments with a chorus and one to two soloists with overlapping, mournful voices. Its instrumental music includes the sedate kaba, an ensemble-driven by a clarinet or violin alongside accordions and lahutës. The kaba is an improvised and melancholic style with melodies that Kim Burton describes as “both fresh and ancient”, “ornamented with swoops, glides and growls of an almost vocal quality”, exemplifying the “combination of passion with restraint that is the hallmark of Albanian culture.”
These disparate styles are unified by the intensity that both performers and listeners give to their music as a medium for patriotic expression and as a vehicle carrying the narrative of oral history, as well as certain characteristics like the use of rhythms such as 3/8, 5/8 and 10/8. The first compilation of Albanian folk music was made by two Himariot song artists Neço Muka and Koço Çakali in 1929 and 1931 in Paris during their interpretations with the Albanian song diva Tefta Tashko Koço. Several gramophone compilations were recorded in those years by this genial trio of Albanian artists which eventually led to the recognition of the Himariot Isopolyphonic Music as an UNESCO World Heritage.
The contemporary music artists Ermonela Jaho, Inva Mula, Bebe Rexha and Era Istrefi, have achieved international recognition for their music. Sporano Ermonela Jaho has been described by The Economist as “the world’s most acclaimed soprano”. One widely recognised musician from Elbasan is Saimir Pirgu, an Albanian international opera singer. He was nominated for the 2017 Grammy Award in the category of Best Opera Recording.
Albania’s visual arts tradition has been shaped by the many cultures that have flourished on its territory. The Ottoman Empire ruled over Albania for nearly five centuries, which greatly affected the country’s artwork and artistic forms. After Albania’s joining with the Ottoman Empire in 1478, Ottoman influenced art forms such as mosaics and mural paintings became prevalent, and no real artistic change occurred until Albanian Liberation in 1912.
Following mosaics and murals from antiquity and the Middle Ages, the first paintings were icons Byzantine Orthodox tradition. Albanian earliest icons date from the late thirteenth century and generally estimated that their artistic peak reached in the eighteenth century. Among the most prominent representatives of the Albanian iconographic art were Onufri and David Selenica. The museums of Berat, Korçë and Tirana houses good collections remaining icons. By the end of the Ottoman period, the painting was limited mostly to folk art and ornate mosques. Paintings and sculpture arose in the first half of the twentieth century and reached a modest peak in the 1930s and 1940s, when the first organized art exhibitions at national level. Contemporary Albanian artwork captures the struggle of everyday Albanians, however new artists are utilizing different artistic styles to convey this message. Albanian artists continue to move art forward, while their art still remains distinctively Albanian in content. Though among Albanian artist post-modernism was fairly recently introduced, there is a number of artists and works known internationally. Among most famous Albanian post-modernist are considered Anri Sala, Sislej Xhafa, and Helidon Gjergji.
Albanian mythology consist of myths, legends, folks, fairy tales and gods of the Albanian people. Many characters in its mythology are included in the Songs of the Frontier Warriors (Albanian: Këngë Kreshnikësh or Cikli i Kreshnikëve). The Albanian mythology is divided into two major groups such as legends of metamorphosis and historical legends. The Albanian mythology has its origin to the ancient Illyrians, that inhabited the modern area of Albania during the classical time. Some of the legends, songs and characters include Bardha, Baloz, E Bukura e Dheut, E Bukura e Qiellit, En, Perëndi, Prende, Tomor and Zana e malit.
Albanian folk tales, were first recorded in the middle of the 19th century by scholars including Johann Georg von Hahn, Karl H. Reinhold, Giuseppe Pitrè and other scholars among them well-known Indo-European linguists such as Auguste Dozon, Jan Jarnik, Gustav Meyer, Holger Pedersen, Gustav Weigand and August Leskien.
Albanians wearing the Fustanella (1875). (left) Albanian Peasants costumes – illustration by Percy Anderson from 1906. (right)
Albania’s recorded history of clothing goes back to the classical times. The traditional clothing includes more than 200 different kinds of clothings in all Albania and all Albanian-speaking territories (including Arbëreshë, Arvanites and Arbanasi). Almost each cultural and geographical region has its own specific variety of costume that vary in style, material, color, shape, detail and form. It is one of the factors that has differentiated this nation from other European countries, dating back to the Illyrian period. The dress is often decorated with symbolic elements of Illyrian antique pagan origin, like suns, eagles, moons, stars, and snakes. Presently, the national costumes are most often worn with connection to special events and celebrations, mostly at ethnic festivals, religious holidays, weddings, and by dancing groups. Some conservative old men and women mainly from the high Northern as well as Southern Lands and wear traditional clothing in their daily lives.
The clothing was made mainly of products from the local agriculture and livestock such as leather, wool, linen, hemp fiber and silk. Today, the Albanian traditional textiles are still embroidered in very claborate ancient patterns. Among the most important parts of clothing includes the Qeleshe (Plis), the Albanian hat, the Qylafë, the Fustanella, the Xhubleta, the Xhamadan, the Brez, the Çorape, the Opinga and others.
The Cuisine of Albania – as with most Mediterranean and Balkan nations – is strongly influenced by its long history. At different times, the territory which is now Albania has been claimed or occupied by Ancient Greece, Romans, Byzantine and the Ottoman Turks and each group has left its mark on Albanian cuisine.
The main meal of Albanians is the midday meal, which is usually accompanied by a salad of fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and olives with olive oil, vinegar and salt. It also includes a main dish of vegetables and meat. Though it is used in several dishes, pumpkins are more commonly displayed and traditionally given as gifts throughout Albania, especially in the region of Berat. Seafood specialties are also common in the coastal cities of Durrës, Sarandë and Vlorë. In high elevation localities, smoked meat and pickled preserves are common.
The history of Cinema in Albania dates back to 1911 and 1912 with the first showings of foreign films and few documentaries in the pre-war and inter-war period. The first public showing to occur in Albania was a little-known title, Paddy the Reliable, a comical story. The publication of foreign films began in the cities of Shkodër and Korçë. The first Albanian films were mostly documentaries; the first was about the Monastir Congress that sanctioned the Albanian alphabet in 1908. During the communism in the country, the Albanian Film Institute that later became known as Kinostudio Shqipëria e Re was founded with Soviet assistance, focusing mostly on propaganda of wartime struggles. By 1990, about 200 movies had been produced, and Albania had over 450 theaters. With the economic transition after the collapse of communism in the 1990s, the Kinostudio was broken up and privatised. A new National Center of Cinematography was established, while cities built modern cinema theatres showing mostly American movies.
After 1945, the communist government founded the Kinostudio Shqipëria e Re in 1952. This was followed by the first Albanian epic film, Skënderbeu, a cooperation with Soviet artists chronicling the life and fight of the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg. The film was awarded from the Cannes Film Festival. Notable Albanian film directors include Andamion Murataj, Besim Sahatçiu, Xhanfize Keko, Dhimitër Anagnosti, Kujtim Çashku, Luljeta Hoxha, Saim Kokona, Saimir Kumbaro, Kristaq Mitro, Leon Qafzezi and Gjergj Xhuvani. Famous actors in Albania: Nik Xhelilaj, Klement Tinaj, Masiela Lusha, Blerim Destani, Aleksandër Moisiu, Tinka Kurti, Pjetër Malota, Sandër Prosi and Margarita Xhepa.
The Tirana International Film Festival was established in 2003 and has become the premier and largest film festival in the country as well as in the Balkans. Durrës hosts the International Film Summerfest of Durrës, the second largest international film festival in the country which takes place every year in late August or early September in Durrës Amphitheatre.
There are also internationally renowned actors in the Albanian diaspora, such as the Albanian-Americans Eliza Dushku, Jim and John Belushi, Kosovo-Albanians Bekim Fehmiu and Arta Dobroshi and Turkish-Albanian Barish Arduç.
Albania participated at the Olympic Games in 1972 for the first time. The country made their Winter Olympic Games debut in 2006. Albania missed the next four games, two of them due to the 1980 and 1984 boycotts, but returned for the 1992 games in Barcelona. Since then, Albania have participated in all games. Albania normally competes in events that include swimming, athletics, weightlifting, shooting and wrestling. The country have been represented by the National Olympic Committee of Albania since 1972. The nation has participated at the Mediterranean Games since the games of 1987 in Syria. The Albanian athletes have won a total of 43 (8 gold, 17 silver and 18 bronze) medals from 1987 to 2013.
Popular sports in Albania include Football, Weightlifting, Basketball, Volleyball, Tennis, Swimming, Rugby, and Gymnastics. Football is by far the most popular sport in Albania. It is governed by the Football Association of Albania (Albanian: Federata Shqiptare e Futbollit, F.SH.F.), which was created in 1930 and has membership in FIFA and UEFA. Football arrived in Albania early in the 20th century when the inhabitants of the northern city of Shkodër were surprised to see a strange game being played by students at a Christian mission.
The Albania national football team, ranking 51th in the World in 2017 (highest 22nd in August 22, 2015) have won the 1946 Balkan Cup and the Malta Rothmans International Tournament 2000, but had never participated in any major UEFA or FIFA tournament, until UEFA Euro 2016, Albania’s first ever appearance at the continental tournament and at a major men’s football tournament. Albania scored their first ever goal in a major tournament and secured their first ever win in European Championship when they beat Romania by 1–0 in a UEFA Euro 2016 match on 19 June 2016. The most successful football clubs in the country are Skënderbeu, KF Tirana, Dinamo Tirana, Partizani and Vllaznia.
Weightlifting is one of the most successful individual sport for the Albanians, with the national team winning medals at the European Weightlifting Championships and the rest international competitions. Albanian weightlifters have won a total of 16 medals at the European Championships with 1 of them being gold, 7 silver and 8 bronze. In the World Weightlifting Championships, the Albanian weightlifting team has won in 1972 a gold in 2002 a silver and in 2011 a bronze medal.
The entire region is commonly referred to in English simply as Kosovo and in Albanian Kosova or Kosovë . In Serbia, a formal distinction is made between the eastern and western areas; the term Kosovo (Косово) is used for the eastern part centred on the historical Kosovo Field, while the western part is called Metohija (known as Dukagjini in Albanian).
Kosovo is the Serbian neuter possessive adjective of kos (кос) “blackbird”, an ellipsis for Kosovo Polje, ‘blackbird field’, the name of a plain situated in the eastern half of today’s Kosovo and the site of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo Field. The name of the plain was applied to the Kosovo Province created in 1864.
Albanians also refer to Kosovo as Dardania, the name of a Roman province formed in 165 BC, which covered the territory of modern Kosovo. The name is derived from ancient tribe of Dardani, ultimately from proto-Albanian word dardha/dardā which means “pear”. The former Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova had been an enthusiastic backer of a “Dardanian” identity and the Kosovan flag and presidential seal refer to this national identity. However, the name “Kosova” remains more widely used among the Albanian population.
The current borders of Kosovo were drawn while part of SFR Yugoslavia in 1945, when the Autonomous Region of Kosovo and Metohija (1945–1963) was created as an administrative division of the new People’s Republic of Serbia. In 1963, it was raised from the level of an autonomous region to the level of an autonomous province as the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija (1963–1968). In 1968, the dual name “Kosovo and Metohija” was reduced to a simple “Kosovo” in the name of the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo. In 1990, the province was renamed the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija.
The official conventional long name of the state is Republic of Kosovo, as defined by the Constitution of Kosovo, and is used to represent Kosovo internationally. Additionally, as a result of an arrangement agreed between Pristina and Belgrade in talks mediated by the European Union, Kosovo has participated in some international forums and organisations under the title “Kosovo*” with a footnote stating “This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence”. This arrangement, which has been dubbed the “asterisk agreement”, was agreed in an 11-point arrangement agreed on 24 February 2012.
The favorable position as well as abundant natural resources were ideal for the development of life since the prehistoric periods, proven by hundreds of archaeological sites discovered and identified throughout Kosovo, which proudly present its rich archeological heritage. The number of sites with archaeological potential is increasing, this as a result of findings and investigations that are carried out throughout Kosovo but also from many superficial traces which offer a new overview of antiquity of Kosovo.
The earliest traces documented in the territory of Kosovo belong to the Stone Age Period, namely there are indications that cave dwellings might have existed like for example the Radivojce Cave set near the spring of the Drin river, then there are some indications at Grnčar Cave in the Vitina municipality, Dema and Karamakaz Caves of Peć and others. However, human settlement during the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age is not confirmed yet and not scientifically proven. Therefore, until arguments of Paleolithic and Mesolithic man are confirmed, Neolithic man, respectively the Neolithic sites are considered as the chronological beginning of population in Kosovo.
From this period until today Kosovo has been inhabited, and traces of activities of societies from prehistoric, ancient and up to medieval time are visible throughout its territory. Whereas, in some archaeological sites, multilayer settlements clearly reflect the continuity of life through centuries.
During antiquity, the area which now makes up Kosovo was inhabited by various tribal ethnic groups, who were liable to move, enlarge, fuse and fissure with neighbouring groups. As such, it is difficult to locate any such group with precision. The Dardani, whose exact ethno-linguistic affiliation is difficult to determine, were a prominent group in the region during the late Hellenistic and early Roman eras.
The area was then conquered by Rome in the 160s BC, and incorporated into the Roman province of Illyricum in 59 BC. Subsequently, it became part of Moesia Superior in AD 87. The region was exposed to an increasing number of ‘barbarian’ raids from the 4th century AD onwards, culminating with the Slavic migrations of the 6th and 7th centuries. Archaeologically, the early Middle Ages represent a hiatus in the material record, and whatever was left of the native provincial population fused into the Slavs.
The subsequent political and demographic history of Kosovo is not known with absolute certainty until the 13th century. Archaeological findings suggest that there was steady population recovery and progression of the Slavic culture seen elsewhere throughout the Balkans. The region was absorbed into the Bulgarian Empire in the 850s, where Byzantine culture was cemented in the region. It was re-taken by the Byzantines after 1018, and became part of the newly established Theme of Bulgaria. As the centre of Slavic resistance to Constantinople in the region, the region often switched between Serbian and Bulgarian rule on one hand and Byzantine on the other, until Serbian Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja secured it by the end of the 12th century.
The earliest reference of the Albanians comes from Michael Attaleiates, who spoke of the Arbanitai located around the hinterland districts of Dyrrachium (modern Durrës) on the Adriatic Sea.
The zenith of Serbian power was reached in 1346, with the formation of the Serbian Empire. During the 13th and 14th centuries, Kosovo became a political, cultural and religious centre of the Serbian Kingdom. In the late 13th century, the seat of the Serbian Archbishopric was moved to Peć, and rulers centred themselves between Prizren and Skopje, during which time thousands of Christian monasteries and feudal-style forts and castles were erected. Stefan Dušan used Prizren Fortress as the capital of the Empire. When the Serbian Empire fragmented into a conglomeration of principalities in 1371, Kosovo became the hereditary land of the House of Branković. In the late 14th and the 15th centuries parts of Kosovo, the easternmost area of which was located near Pristina, were part of the Principality of Dukagjini, which was later incorporated into an anti-Ottoman federation of all Albanian principalities, the League of Lezhë.
In the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, Ottoman forces defeated a coalition led by Lazar Hrebeljanović. Some historians, most notably Noel Malcolm argues that the battle of Kosovo in 1389 did not end with an Ottoman victory and “Serbian statehood did survive for another seventy years.” Soon after, Lazar’s son accepted Turkish nominal vassalage (as did some other Serbian principalities) and Lazar’s daughter was married to the Sultan to seal the peace. By 1459, Ottomans conquered the new Serbian capital of Smederevo, leaving Belgrade and Vojvodina under Hungarian rule until second quarter of the 16th century.
Kosovo was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1455 to 1912, at first as part of the eyalet of Rumelia, and from 1864 as a separate province (vilayet). During this time, Islam was introduced to the population. The Vilayet of Kosovo was an area much larger than today’s Kosovo; it included all today’s Kosovo territory, sections of the Sandžak region cutting into present-day Šumadija and Western Serbia and Montenegro along with the Kukës municipality, the surrounding region in present-day northern Albania and also parts of north-western Macedonia with the city of Skopje (then Üsküp), as its capital. Between 1881 and 1912 (its final phase), it was internally expanded to include other regions of present-day Republic of Macedonia, including larger urban settlements such as Štip (İştip), Kumanova and Kratova. Serbs likely formed a majority of Kosovo’s from the 8th to the mid-19th century. Some scholars, such as the historian Fredrick F. Anscombe, believe that medieval and Ottoman Kosovo was ethnically heterogeneous, with Serbs and Albanians dominating at different times.
Kosovo was part of the wider Ottoman region to be occupied by Austrian forces during the Great War of 1683–99, but the Ottomans re-established their rule of the region. Such acts of assistance by the Austrian Empire (then arch-rivals of the Ottoman Empire), or Russia, were always abortive or temporary at best. In 1690, the Serbian PatriarchArsenije III led thousands people from Kosovo to the Christian north, in what came to be known as the Great Serb Migration. In 1766, the Ottomans abolished the Patriarchate of Peć and fully imposed the jizya on its non-Muslim population.
Although initially stout opponents of the advancing Turks, Albanian chiefs ultimately came to accept the Ottomans as sovereigns. The resulting alliance facilitated the mass conversion of Albanians to Islam. Given that the Ottoman Empire’s subjects were divided along religious (rather than ethnic) lines, Islamisation greatly elevated the status of Albanian chiefs. Prior to this, they were organised along simple tribal lines, living in the mountainous areas of modern Albania (from Kruje to the Sar range). Soon, they expanded into a depopulated Kosovo, as well as northwestern Macedonia, although some might have been autochthonous to the region.
Many Albanians gained prominent positions in the Ottoman government. “Albanians had little cause of unrest”, according to author Dennis Hupchik. “If anything, they grew important in Ottoman internal affairs.” In the 19th century, there was an awakening of ethnic nationalism throughout the Balkans. The underlying ethnic tensions became part of a broader struggle of Christian Serbs against Muslim Albanians. The ethnic Albanian nationalism movement was centred in Kosovo. In 1878 the League of Prizren (Lidhja e Prizrenit) was formed. This was a political organisation that sought to unify all the Albanians of the Ottoman Empire in a common struggle for autonomy and greater cultural rights, although they generally desired the continuation of the Ottoman Empire. The League was dis-established in 1881 but enabled the awakening of a national identity among Albanians. Albanian ambitions competed with those of the Serbs. The Kingdom of Serbia wished to incorporate this land that had formerly been within its empire.
During and after the Serbian–Ottoman War of 1876–78, between 30,000 and 70,000 Muslims, mostly Albanians, were expelled by the Serb army from the Sanjak of Niš and fled to the Kosovo Vilayet.
The Young Turk movement took control of the Ottoman Empire after a coup in 1912 which deposed Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The movement supported a centralised form of government and opposed any sort of autonomy desired by the various nationalities of the Ottoman Empire. An allegiance to Ottomanism was promoted instead. An Albanian uprising in 1912 exposed the empire’s northern territories in Kosovo and Novi Pazar, which led to an invasion by the Kingdom of Montenegro. The Ottomans suffered a serious defeat at the hands of Albanians in 1912, culminating in the Ottoman loss of most of its Albanian-inhabited lands. The Albanians threatened to march all the way to Salonika and reimpose Abdul Hamid.
An exodus of the local Albanian population occurred. Serbian authorities promoted creating new Serb settlements in Kosovo as well as the assimilation of Albanians into Serbian society. Numerous colonist Serb families moved into Kosovo, equalising the demographic balance between Albanians and Serbs.
In the winter of 1915–16, during World War I, Kosovo saw the retreat of the Serbian army as Kosovo was occupied by Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary. In 1918, the Allied Powers pushed the Central Powers out of Kosovo. After the end of World War I, the Kingdom of Serbia was transformed into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians on 1 December 1918.
Kosovo was split into four counties, three being a part of Serbia (Zvečan, Kosovo and southern Metohija) and one of Montenegro (northern Metohija). However, the new administration system since 26 April 1922 split Kosovo among three districts (oblast) of the Kingdom: Kosovo, Raška and Zeta. In 1929, the country was transformed into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the territories of Kosovo were reorganised among the Banate of Zeta, the Banate of Morava and the Banate of Vardar. In order to change the ethnic composition of Kosovo, between 1912 and 1941 a large-scale Serbian re-colonisation of Kosovo was undertaken by the Belgrade government. Meanwhile, Kosovar Albanians’ right to receive education in their own language was denied alongside other non-Slavic or unrecognised Slavic nations of Yugoslavia, as the kingdom only recognised the Slavic Croat, Serb, and Slovene nations as constituent nations of Yugoslavia, while other Slavs had to identify as one of the three official Slavic nations while non-Slav nations were only deemed as minorities.
Albanians and other Muslims were forced to emigrate, mainly with the land reform which struck Albanian landowners in 1919, but also with direct violent measures. In 1935 and 1938 two agreements between the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Turkey were signed on the expatriation of 240,000 Albanians to Turkey, which was not completed because of the outbreak of World War II.
After the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, most of Kosovo was assigned to Italian-controlled Albania, with the rest being controlled by Germany and Bulgaria. A three-dimensional conflict ensued, involving inter-ethnic, ideological, and international affiliations, with the first being most important. Nonetheless, these conflicts were relatively low-level compared with other areas of Yugoslavia during the war years, with one Serb historian estimating that 3,000 Albanians and 4,000 Serbs and Montenegrins were killed, and two others estimating war dead at 12,000 Albanians and 10,000 Serbs and Montenegrins. An official investigation conducted by the Yugoslav government in 1964 recorded nearly 8,000 war-related fatalities in Kosovo between 1941 and 1945, 5,489 of whom were Serb and Montenegrin and 2,177 of whom were Albanian. It is not disputed that between 1941 and 1945 tens of thousands of Serbs, mostly recent colonists, fled from Kosovo. Estimates range from 30,000 to 100,000. There had been large-scale Albanian immigration from Albania to Kosovo which is by some scholars estimated in the range from 72,000 to 260,000 people (with a tendency to escalate, the last figure being in a petition of 1985). Some historians and contemporary references emphasize that a large-scale migration of Albanians from Albania to Kosovo is not recorded in Axis documents.
The province as in its outline today first took shape in 1945 as the Autonomous Kosovo-Metohian Area. Until World War II, the only entity bearing the name of Kosovo had been a political unit carved from the former vilayet which bore no special significance to its internal population. In the Ottoman Empire (which previously controlled the territory), it had been a vilayet with its borders having been revised on several occasions. When the Ottoman province had last existed, it included areas which were by now either ceded to Albania, or found themselves within the newly created Yugoslav republics of Montenegro, or Macedonia (including its previous capital, Skopje) with another part in the Sanxhak region of southwest Serbia.
Tensions between ethnic Albanians and the Yugoslav government were significant, not only due to ethnic tensions but also due to political ideological concerns, especially regarding relations with neighbouring Albania. Harsh repressive measures were imposed on Kosovo Albanians due to suspicions that there were sympathisers of the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha of Albania. In 1956, a show trial in Pristina was held in which multiple Albanian Communists of Kosovo were convicted of being infiltrators from Albania and were given long prison sentences. High-ranking Serbian communist official Aleksandar Ranković sought to secure the position of the Serbs in Kosovo and gave them dominance in Kosovo’s nomenklatura.
Islam in Kosovo at this time was repressed and both Albanians and Muslim Slavs were encouraged to declare themselves to be Turkish and emigrate to Turkey. At the same time Serbs and Montenegrins dominated the government, security forces, and industrial employment in Kosovo. Albanians resented these conditions and protested against them in the late 1960s, accusing the actions taken by authorities in Kosovo as being colonialist, as well as demanding that Kosovo be made a republic, or declaring support for Albania.
After the ouster of Ranković in 1966, the agenda of pro-decentralisation reformers in Yugoslavia, especially from Slovenia and Croatia, succeeded in the late 1960s in attaining substantial decentralisation of powers, creating substantial autonomy in Kosovo and Vojvodina, and recognising a Muslim Yugoslav nationality. As a result of these reforms, there was a massive overhaul of Kosovo’s nomenklatura and police, that shifted from being Serb-dominated to ethnic Albanian-dominated through firing Serbs in large scale. Further concessions were made to the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo in response to unrest, including the creation of the University of Pristina as an Albanian language institution.These changes created widespread fear among Serbs that they were being made second-class citizens in Yugoslavia. By the 1974 Constitution of Yugoslavia, Kosovo was granted major autonomy, allowing it to have its own administration, assembly, and judiciary; as well as having a membership in the collective presidency and the Yugoslav parliament, in which it held veto power.
In the aftermath of the 1974 constitution, concerns over the rise of Albanian nationalism in Kosovo rose with the widespread celebrations in 1978 of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the League of Prizren. Albanians felt that their status as a “minority” in Yugoslavia had made them second-class citizens in comparison with the “nations” of Yugoslavia and demanded that Kosovo be a constituent republic, alongside the other republics of Yugoslavia. Protests by Albanians in 1981 over the status of Kosovo resulted in Yugoslav territorial defence units being brought into Kosovo and a state of emergency being declared resulting in violence and the protests being crushed. In the aftermath of the 1981 protests, purges took place in the Communist Party, and rights that had been recently granted to Albanians were rescinded – including ending the provision of Albanian professors and Albanian language textbooks in the education system.
Due to very high birth rates, the proportion of Albanians increased from 75% to over 90%. In contrast, the number of Serbs barely increased, and in fact dropped from 15% to 8% of the total population, since many Serbs departed from Kosovo as a response to the tight economic climate and increased incidents with their Albanian neighbours. While there was tension, charges of “genocide” and planned harassment have been debunked as an excuse to revoke Kosovo’s autonomy. For example, in 1986 the Serbian Orthodox Church published an official claim that Kosovo Serbs were being subjected to an Albanian program of ‘genocide’.
Even though they were disproved by police statistics, they received wide attention in the Serbian press and that led to further ethnic problems and eventual removal of Kosovo’s status. Beginning in March 1981, Kosovar Albanian students of the University of Pristina organised protests seeking that Kosovo become a republic within Yugoslavia and demanding their human rights. The protests were brutally suppressed by the police and army, with many protesters arrested. During the 1980s, ethnic tensions continued with frequent violent outbreaks against Yugoslav state authorities, resulting in a further increase in emigration of Kosovo Serbs and other ethnic groups. The Yugoslav leadership tried to suppress protests of Kosovo Serbs seeking protection from ethnic discrimination and violence.
Inter-ethnic tensions continued to worsen in Kosovo throughout the 1980s. In 1989, Serbian President Slobodan Milošević, employing a mix of intimidation and political manoeuvring, drastically reduced Kosovo’s special autonomous status within Serbia and started cultural oppression of the ethnic Albanian population. Kosovo Albanians responded with a non-violent separatist movement, employing widespread civil disobedience and creation of parallel structures in education, medical care, and taxation, with the ultimate goal of achieving the independence of Kosovo.
In July 1990, the Kosovo Albanians proclaimed the existence of the Republic of Kosova, and declared it a sovereign and independent state in September 1992. In May 1992, Ibrahim Rugova was elected its president in an election in which only Kosovo Albanians participated. During its lifetime, the Republic of Kosova was only officially recognised by Albania. By the mid-1990s, the Kosovo Albanian population was growing restless, as the status of Kosovo was not resolved as part of the Dayton Agreement of November 1995, which ended the Bosnian War. By 1996, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an ethnic Albanian guerrilla paramilitary group that sought the separation of Kosovo and the eventual creation of a Greater Albania, had prevailed over the Rugova’s non-violent resistance movement and launched attacks against the Yugoslav Army and Serbian police in Kosovo, resulting in the Kosovo War.
By 1998, international pressure compelled Yugoslavia to sign a ceasefire and partially withdraw its security forces. Events were to be monitored by Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observers according to an agreement negotiated by Richard Holbrooke. The ceasefire did not hold and fighting resumed in December 1998, culminating in the Račak massacre, which attracted further international attention to the conflict. Within weeks, a multilateral international conference was convened and by March had prepared a draft agreement known as the Rambouillet Accords, calling for the restoration of Kosovo’s autonomy and the deployment of NATO peacekeeping forces. The Yugoslav delegation found the terms unacceptable and refused to sign the draft. Between 24 March and 10 June 1999, NATO intervened by bombing Yugoslavia aimed to force Milošević to withdraw his forces from Kosovo, though NATO could not appeal to any particular motion of the Security Council of the United Nations to help legitimise its intervention.
During the conflict, roughly a million ethnic Albanians fled or were forcefully driven from Kosovo. In 1999 more than 11,000 deaths were reported to the office of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia prosecutor Carla Del Ponte. As of 2010, some 3,000 people were still missing, of which 2,500 are Albanian, 400 Serbs and 100 Roma. By June, Milošević agreed to a foreign military presence in Kosovo and the withdrawal of his troops. After the Yugoslav Army withdrew, over half of Kosovo’s Serbs and other non-Albanians flew or were expelled and many of the remaining civilians were subjected to abuse. During the Kosovo War, over 90,000 Serbian and other non-Albanian refugees fled the war-torn province. In the days after the Yugoslav Army withdrew, over 200,000 (over half) Serb and other non-Albanians civilians were expelled from Kosovo and many of the remaining civilians were victims of abuse. After Kosovo and other Yugoslav Wars, Serbia became home to the highest number of refugees and IDPs (including Kosovo Serbs) in Europe.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) prosecuted crimes committed during the Kosovo War. Nine senior Yugoslav officials, including Milošević, were indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between January and June 1999. Six of the defendants were convicted, one was acquitted, one died before his trial could commence, and one (Milošević) died before his trial could conclude. Six KLA members were charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes by the ICTY following the war, but only one was convicted.
In February 2007, Ahtisaari delivered a draft status settlement proposal to leaders in Belgrade and Pristina, the basis for a draft UN Security Council Resolution which proposed ‘supervised independence’ for the province. A draft resolution, backed by the United States, the United Kingdom and other European members of the Security Council, was presented and rewritten four times to try to accommodate Russian concerns that such a resolution would undermine the principle of state sovereignty.
Russia, which holds a veto in the Security Council as one of five permanent members, had stated that it would not support any resolution which was not acceptable to both Belgrade and Kosovo Albanians. Whilst most observers had, at the beginning of the talks, anticipated independence as the most likely outcome, others have suggested that a rapid resolution might not be preferable.
After many weeks of discussions at the UN, the United States, United Kingdom and other European members of the Security Council formally ‘discarded’ a draft resolution backing Ahtisaari’s proposal on 20 July 2007, having failed to secure Russian backing. Beginning in August, a “Troika” consisting of negotiators from the European Union (Wolfgang Ischinger), the United States (Frank G. Wisner) and Russia (Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko) launched a new effort to reach a status outcome acceptable to both Belgrade and Pristina. Despite Russian disapproval, the U.S., the United Kingdom, and France appeared likely to recognise Kosovar independence. A declaration of independence by Kosovar Albanian leaders was postponed until the end of the Serbian presidential elections (4 February 2008). Most EU members and the US had feared that a premature declaration could boost support in Serbia for the ultra-nationalist candidate, Tomislav Nikolić.
In November 2001, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe supervised the first elections for the Kosovo Assembly. After that election, Kosovo’s political parties formed an all-party unity coalition and elected Ibrahim Rugova as President and Bajram Rexhepi (PDK) as Prime Minister. After Kosovo-wide elections in October 2004, the LDK and AAK formed a new governing coalition that did not include PDK and Ora. This coalition agreement resulted in Ramush Haradinaj (AAK) becoming Prime Minister, while Ibrahim Rugova retained the position of President. PDK and Ora were critical of the coalition agreement and have since frequently accused that government of corruption.
Parliamentary elections were held on 17 November 2007. After early results, Hashim Thaçi who was on course to gain 35 per cent of the vote, claimed victory for PDK, the Democratic Party of Kosovo, and stated his intention to declare independence. Thaçi formed a coalition with current President Fatmir Sejdiu’s Democratic League which was in second place with 22 percent of the vote. The turnout at the election was particularly low. Most members of the Serb minority refused to vote.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008. As of 17 February 2018, 113 UN states recognise its independence, including all of its immediate neighbours, with the exception of Serbia. Since declaring independence, it has become a member of the international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, though not of the United Nations.
The Serb minority of Kosovo, which largely opposes the declaration of independence, has formed the Community Assembly of Kosovo and Metohija in response. The creation of the assembly was condemned by Kosovo’s president Fatmir Sejdiu, while UNMIK has said the assembly is not a serious issue because it will not have an operative role. On 8 October 2008, the UN General Assembly resolved, on a proposal by Serbia, to ask the International Court of Justice to render an advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence. The advisory opinion, which is not binding over decisions by states to recognise or not recognise Kosovo, was rendered on 22 July 2010, holding that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was not in violation either of general principles of international law, which do not prohibit unilateral declarations of independence, nor of specific international law – in particular UNSCR 1244 – which did not define the final status process nor reserve the outcome to a decision of the Security Council.
Some rapprochement between the two governments took place on 19 April 2013 as both parties reached the Brussels Agreement, an EU brokered agreement that would allow the Serb minority in Kosovo to have its own police force and court of appeals. The agreement is yet to be ratified by either parliament.
The country’s northernmost point is Bellobërda at 43° 14′ 06″ northern latitude; the southernmost is Restelica at 41° 56′ 40″ northern latitude; the westernmost point is Bogë at 20° 3′ 23″ eastern longitude; and the easternmost point is Desivojca at 21° 44′ 21″ eastern longitude. The highest point is Gjeravica at 2,656 metres (8,714 ft) above sea level, and the lowest is the White Drin at 297 metres (974 ft).The Shar Mountains encompasses one-tenth of Kosovo’s territory.
Most of the country’s borders are dominated by mountainous or high terrain. The most noticeable topographical features are the Bjeshkët e Nemuna and the Shar Mountains. The Bjeshkët e Nemuna, also known as Albanian Alps or Prokletije, are a geological continuation of the Dinaric Alps. The mountains run laterally through the west along the border with Albania and Montenegro. The southeast is predominantly dominated by the Shar Mountains, which forms the border with the Republic of Macedonia. Besides, the mountain ranges, Kosovos most territory is comprised mostly of two major plains including the Kosovo Plain in the east and the Metohija Plain in the west.
The country’s hydrological resources are relatively small. The longest rivers of the country include the White Drin, the South Morava and the Ibar. Sitnica, a tributary of Ibar, is the largest river lying completely within the country’s territory. River Nerodimka represents Europe’s only instance of a river bifurcation flowing into the Black Sea and Aegean Sea.
Located strategically in Southeastern Europe, Kosovo receives species from Europe and Eurasia. The forests are significantly present in the country, at least representing 39% of the total surface area of Kosovo. Phytogeographically, the country straddles the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. In addition, it falls within the Balkan mixed forests terrestrial ecoregion of the Palearctic Temperate broadleaf and mixed forest. The country’s biodiversity is conserved in two national parks, eleven nature reserves and one hundred three other protected areas. Both the Bjeshkët e Nemuna National Park and Sharr Mountains National Park are the most important regions of vegeation and biodiversity inside the country.
The flora encompasses more than 1,800 species of vascular plant species, but the actual number is estimated to be higher than 2,500 species.The diversity is the result of the complex interaction of geology and hydrology creating a wide variety of habitat conditions for flora growth. Although, Kosovo represents only 2.3% of the entire surface area of the Balkans, but in terms of vegetation the country represents 25% of the Balkan flora and about 18% of the European flora. The fauna is composed of a wide range of species. The mountainous west and southeast provide a great habitat for several rare or endangered species including brown bears, lynxes, wild cats, wolves, foxes, wild goats, roebucks and deers. A total of 255 species of birds have been recorded, with raptors such as the golden eagle, eastern imperial eagle and lesser kestrel living principally in the mountains of Kosovo.
Most of Kosovo experiences a continental climate with mediterranean and alpine influences. The climate is strongly influenced by its proximity to the Adriatic Sea in the west, the Aegean Sea in the south but also the European continental landmass in the north.
The coldest areas of the country are the Mountains in the west and southeast, where alpine climate is found. The warmest areas of the country are especially at the extreme southern areas close to the border with Albania characterised by the mediterranean climate. Mean monthly temperature ranges between 0 °C (32 °F) (in January) and 40 °C (104 °F) (in July). Mean annual precipitation ranges from 600 to 1,300 mm (24 to 51 in) per year, and is well distributed year-round.
To the northeast, the Kosovo Plain and Ibar Valley are drier with total precipitation of about 600 millimetres (24 inches) per year and more influenced by continental air masses, with colder winters and very hot summers. In the southwest, climatic area of Metohija receives more mediterranean influences with warmer summers, somewhat higher precipitation (700 mm (28 in)) and heavy snowfalls in the winter. The mountainous areas of Bjeshkët e Nemuna in the west, Shar Mountains on the south and Kopaonik in the north experiences alpine climate, with high precipitation (900 to 1,300 mm (35 to 51 in) per year, short and fresh summers, and cold winters. The average annual temperature of Kosovo is 9.5 °C (49.1 °F). The warmest month is July with average temperature of 19.2 °C (66.6 °F), and the coldest is January with −1.3 °C (29.7 °F). Except Prizren and Istok, all other meteorological stations in January recorded average temperatures under 0 °C (32 °F).
Kosovo is a multi-party parliamentary representative democratic republic. The country is governed by legislative, executive and judicial institutions which derive from the Constitution, although until the Brussels Agreement, North Kosovo was in practice largely controlled by institutions of Serbia or parallel institutions funded by Serbia. The legislative is vested in both the Parliament and the ministers within their competencies. The Government exercises the executive power and is composed of the Prime Minister as the head of government, the Deputy Prime Ministers and the Ministers of the various ministries.
The judiciary is composed of the Supreme Court and subordinate courts, a Constitutional Court, and independent prosecutorial institutions. There also exist multiple independent institutions defined by the constitution and law, as well as local governments. It specifies that the country is a secular state and neutral in matters of religious beliefs. Freedom of belief, conscience and religion is guaranteed with religious autonomy ensured and protected. All citizens are equal before the law and gender equality is ensured by the constitution. The Constitutional Framework guarantees a minimum of ten seats in the 120-member Assembly for Serbs, and ten for other minorities, and also guarantees Serbs and other minorities places in the Government.
The President serves as the head of state and represents the unity of the people, elected every five years, indirectly by the parliament through a secret ballot by a two-thirds majority of all deputies. The head of state invested primarily with representative responsibilities and powers. The president has the power to return draft legislation to the parliament for reconsideration and has a role in foreign affairs and certain official appointments. The Prime Minister serves as the head of government elected by the parliament. Ministers are nominated by the Prime Minister, and then confirmed by the parliament. The head of government exercises executive power of the country.
Foreign relations and military
The foreign relations of Kosovo are conducted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pristina. As of 2017, 110 out of 193 United Nations member states recognise the Republic of Kosovo. Within the European Union, it is recognised by 23 of 28 members and is a potential candidate for the future enlargement of the European Union.
Although, Kosovo is member of several international organizations including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, International Road and Transport Union, Regional Cooperation Council, Council of Europe Development Bank, Venice Commission and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In 2015, Kosovo’s bid to become a member of UNESCO fell three votes short of the two-third majority required to join. Almost 21 countries maintain diplomatic missions in Kosovo. The country maintains 24 diplomatic missions and 28 consular missions abroad.
The relations with Albania are in a special case, considering that the two countries share the same language. The Albanian language is one of the official languages of Kosovo. Albania has an embassy in the capital Pristina and Kosovo an embassy in Tirana. In 1992, Albania was the only country whose parliament voted to recognise the Republic of Kosova. Although Albania was also one of the first countries to officially announce its recognition of the sovereign Republic of Kosovo in February 2008.
The Global Peace Index 2015 ranked Kosovo 69th out of 163 countries. The President holds the title of commander-in-chief of the military. Citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to serve in the Kosovo Security Force. Members of the force are protected from discrimination on the basis of gender or ethnicity. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) led the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) in 2008, started preparations for the formation of the Kosovo Security Force. In 2014, the former Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi declared, that the National Government had decided to establish a Defence Ministry in 2019, officially transform the Kosovo Security Forces into the Kosovan Armed Forces, an Army which meets all the standards of NATO members with the aim to join the alliance in the future.
The Ahtisaari Plan envisaged two forms of international supervision of Kosovo after its independence such as the International Civilian Office (ICO), which would monitor the implementation of the Plan and would have a wide range of veto powers over legislative and executive actions, and the European Union Rule of Law Mission to Kosovo (EULEX), which would have the narrower mission of deploying police and civilian resources with the aim of developing the Kosovo Police and judicial systems but also with its own powers of arrest and prosecution. The declaration of independence and subsequent Constitution granted these bodies the powers assigned to them by the Ahtisaari Plan. Since the Plan was not voted on by the UN Security Council, the ICO’s legal status within Kosovo was dependent on the de facto situation and Kosovo legislation; it was supervised by an International Steering Group (ISG) composed of the main states which recognised Kosovo. It was never recognised by Serbia or other non-recognising states. EULEX was also initially opposed by Serbia, but its mandate and powers were accepted in late 2008 by Serbia and the UN Security Council as operating under the umbrella of the continuing UNMIK mandate, in a status-neutral way, but with its own operational independence. The ICO’s existence terminated on 10 September 2012, after the ISG had determined that Kosovo had substantially fulfilled its obligations under the Ahtisaari Plan. EULEX continues its existence under both Kosovo and international law; in 2012 the Kosovo president formally requested a continuation of its mandate until 2014.
The relations between Kosovo-Albanians and Serbs have been hostile since the rise of nationalism in the Balkans during the 19th century. During Communism in Yugoslavia, the ethnic Albanians and Serbs were strongly irreconcilable with sociological studies during the Tito-era indicating that ethnic Albanians and Serbs rarely accepted each other as neighbours or friends and few held interethnic marriages. Ethnic prejudices, stereotypes and mutual distrust between ethnic Albanians and Serbs have remained common for decades. The level of intolerance and separation between both communities during the Tito-period was reported by sociologists to be worse than that of Croat and Serb communities in Yugoslavia which also had tensions but held some closer relations between each other.
Despite their planned integration into the Kosovar society and their recognition in the Kosovar constitution, the Romani, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities continue to face many difficulties, such as segregation and discrimination, in housing, education, health, employment and social welfare. Many camps around Kosovo continue to house thousands of Internally Displaced People, all of whom are from minority groups and communities. Because many of the Roma are believed to have sided with the Serbs during the conflict, taking part in the widespread looting and destruction of Albanian property, Minority Rights Group International report that Romani people encounter hostility by Albanians outside their local areas.
The Republic of Kosovo is currently divided into seven districts , according to the Law of Kosovo and the Brussels Agreement of 2013, which stipulated the formation of new municipalities with Serb majority populations. The districts are further subdivided into 38 municipalities (komunë). The largest and most populous district of Kosovo is the District of Pristina with the capital in Pristina, having a surface area of 2,470 square kilometres(953.67 sq mi) and a population of 477,312.
According to the Statistical Office of Kosovo, the country’s population is estimated to be between 1.9 and 2.2 million with the following ethnic composition, 92% Albanian people, 4% Serb people, 2% Bosniak people and Gorani people, 1% Turkish people and Romani people. As of the CIA estimates the following ratio: 88% Albanians, 8% Kosovo Serbs and 4% other ethnic groups. According to CIA The World Factbook estimated data from July 2009, Kosovo’s population stands at 1,804,838 persons. It stated that ethnic composition was 88% Albanians, 7% Serbs and 5% of other ethnig groups including Bosniaks, Gorani, Roma, Turks, Ashkalis, Egyptians and Janjevci – Croats.
Albanians, steadily increasing in number, have constituted a majority in Kosovo since the 19th century, the earlier ethnic composition being disputed. Kosovo’s political boundaries do not quite coincide with the ethnic boundary by which Albanians compose an absolute majority in every municipality; for example, Serbs form a local majority in North Kosovoand two other municipalities, while there are large areas with an Albanian majority outside of Kosovo, namely in the neighbouring regions of former Yugoslavia: the north-west of Macedonia, and in the Preševo Valley in Southern Serbia.
At 1.3% per year as of 2008 data, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have the fastest rate of growth in population in Europe. Over an 82-year period (1921–2003) the population of Kosovo grew to 460% of its original size. Whereas Albanians constituted 60% of Kosovo’s 500,000 person population in 1931, by 1991 they reached 81% of Kosovo’s 2 million person population. In the second half of the 20th century, Kosovo Albanians had three times higher birth rates than Serbs. In addition, most of Kosovo’s pre-1999 Serb population relocated to Serbia proper following the ethnic cleansing campaign in 1999.
According to the Constitution, Albanian and Serbian are the official languages of Kosovo. Almost 95% of the population speaks Albanian as their native language, followed by South Slavic languages and Turkish. Due to North Kosovo’s boycott of the census, Bosnian resulted in being the second-largest language after Albanian. However, Serbian is de facto the second most spoken language in Kosovo. Since 1999, the Albanian language has become the dominant language in the country, although equal status is given to Serbian and special status is given to other minority languages.
The Parliament adopted the Law on the Use of Languages in 2006 committed Kosovo institutions to ensuring the equal use of Albanian and Serbian as the official languages. Additionally, other languages can also gain recognition at municipal level as official languages if the linguistic community represents at least 5% of the total population of municipality. The Law on the Use of Languages gives Turkish the status of an official language in the municipality of Prizren, irrespective of the size of the Turkish community living there.
Municipalities of Kosovo are largely rural, with only eight municipalities having more than 40,000 inhabitants living in the urban areas.
Kosovo is a secular state with no official state religion. The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and conscience. According to the 2011 Census, 95.6% of the population of Kosovo are Muslims. These figures do not represent individual sects operating in the country such as the Sufism or Bektashism, which are sometimes classified generally under the category of Islam. 3.69% of the population are Catholic and an equal number or up to 5% Orthodox (the largely Orthodox Serbian minority boycotted the census). The Catholic Albanian communities are mostly concentrated in the cities of Gjakova, Prizren, Klina, and a few villages near Peć and Vitina. The Serb minority is largely Serbian Orthodox.
Christianity has a long-standing tradition in the country, dating back to the Eastern Roman period. During the Middle Ages, the entire Balkan peninsula had been Christianized by both the Romans and Byzantines. From 1389 until 1912, Kosovo was officially governed by the Ottoman Empire and a high level of Islamization occurred. After the World War II, the country was ruled by secular socialist authorities in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. During that period, the population of Kosovo became increasingly secularized. Today, over 90% of its population are from Muslim backgrounds, most of whom are ethnic Albanians but also including Slavs (who mostly identify themselves as Gorani or Bosniaks) and Turks.
According to the 2014 Freedom of Thought reports by the IHEU, the country was ranked first in the Southern Europe and ninth in the world as Free and equal for tolerance towards religion and atheism.
The economy of Kosovo is a transition economy. It suffered from the combined results of political upheaval, the following Yugoslav wars, the Serbian dismissal of Kosovo employees and international sanctions on Serbia of which it was then part. Since the independence in 2008, the economy has grown every year. Despite declining foreign assistance, growth of GDP averaged over 5% a year. This was despite the global financial crisis of 2009 and the subsequent Eurozonecrisis. Additionally, the inflation rate has been low. The most economic development, has taken place in the trade, retail and construction sectors. Kosovo is highly dependent on remittances from the Diaspora, FDI and other capital inflows.[
Kosovo’s largest trading partners are Albania, Italy, Switzerland, China, Germany and Turkey. The Euro is the official currency of country. The Government of Kosovo have signed free-trade agreements with Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and the Republic of Macedonia. Kosovo is a Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) member, agreed with UNMIK, and enjoys a free trade within the non-European Union countries.
The secondary sector accounted for 22.60 of GDP and a general workforce of 800.000 employees in 2009. There are several reasons for this stagnation, ranging from consecutive occupations, political turmoil and the War in Kosovo in 1999. The electricity sector is considered as one of the sectors with the greatest potential of development. Kosovo has large reserves of lead, zinc, silver, nickel, cobalt, copper, iron and bauxite. The nation has the 5th largest lignite reserves in the world and the 3rd in Europe. The Directorate for Mines and Minerals and the World Bank estimated, that Kosovo had €13.5 billion worth of minerals.
The primary sector is based on small to medium-sized family-owned dispersed units. 53% of the nation’s area is agricultural land and 41% forest and forestry land, whereas 6% for others. The arable land is mostly used for corn, wheat, pastures, meadows and vineyards. It contributes almost to 35% of GDP including the forestry sector. Wine has historically been produced in Kosovo. The wine industry is successful and has been growing after Kosovo War. The main heartland of Kosovo’s wine industry is in Orahovac, where millions of litres of wine are produced. The main cultivars include Pinot noir, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Kosovo exports wines to Germany and the United States. During the “glory days” of the wine industry, grapes were grown from the vineyard area of 9,000ha, divided into private and public ownership, and spread mainly throughout the south and west of Kosovo. The four state-owned wine production facilities were not as much “wineries” as they were “wine factories”. Only the Rahovec facility that held approximately 36% of the total vineyard area had the capacity of around 50 million litres annually. The major share of the wine production was intended for exports. At its peak in 1989, the exports from the Rahovec facility amounted to 40 million litres and were mainly distributed to the German market.
The natural values of Kosovo represents quality tourism resources. The description of Kosovo’s potential in tourism is closely related to its geographical location, in the center of the Balkan Peninsula in Southeastern Europe. It represents a crossroads which historically dates back to the classical times. The country serves as a link in the connection between Central and Southern Europe, the Adriatic Sea and Black Sea. The mountainous west and southeast of Kosovo has great potential for winter tourism. Skiing takes place at the winter resort of Brezovica within the Shar Mountains.
Kosovo is generally rich in various topographical features including high mountains, lakes, canyons, steep rock formations and rivers. Brezovica, with the close proximity to the Pristina Airport (60 km) and Skopje Airport (70 km), the resort is a possible destination for international tourists and has the potential to become the most desired winter tourism destination in the Balkans. Other major attractions include the modern capital of Pristina, the historical cities of Prizren, Peja and Gjakova but also Ferizaj and Gjilan.
The New York Times included Kosovo on the list of 41 places to visit in 2011.
Currently, there are two main motorways in Kosovo including the R7 connecting Kosovo with Albania and the R6connecting Pristina with the Macedonian border at Hani i Elezit. The construction of the new R7.1 Motorway began in 2017.
The R7 Motorway (part of Albania-Kosovo Highway) links Kosovo to Albania’s Adriatic coast in Durrës. Once the remaining European route (E80) from Pristina to Merdare section project will be completed, the motorway will link Kosovo through the present European route (E80) highway with the Pan-European corridor X (E75) near Niš in Serbia. The R6 Motorway is currently under construction. Forming part of the E65, it is the second motorway constructed in the region and it links the capital Pristina with the Macedonian border at Elez Han, which is about 20 km (12 mi) from Skopje. Construction of the motorway started in 2014 and it is going to be finished in 2018.
The nation hosts two airports, the Gjakova Airport and the only International Airport of Pristina. The Gjakova Airport was built by the Kosovo Force (KFOR) following the Kosovo War, next to an existing airfield used for agricultural purposes, and was used mainly for military and humanitarian flights. The local and national government plans to offer Gjakova Airport for operation under a public-private partnership with the aim of turning it into a civilian and commercial airport. The Pristina International Airport is located southwest of Pristina. It is Kosovo’s only international airport and the only port of entry for air travelers to Kosovo.
In the past, Kosovo’s capabilities to develop a modern health care system were limited. Low GDP during 1990 worsened the situation even more. However, the establishment of Faculty of Medicine in the University of Pristina marked a significant development in health care. This was also followed by launching different health clinics which enabled better conditions for professional development.
Nowadays the situation has changed, and the health care system in Kosovo is organised into three sectors: primary, secondary and tertiary health care. Primary health care in Pristina is organised into thirteen family medicine centres and fifteen ambulantory care units. Secondary health care is decentralised in seven regional hospitals. Pristina does not have any regional hospital and instead uses University Clinical Center of Kosovo for health care services. University Clinical Center of Kosovo provides its health care services in twelve clinics, where 642 doctors are employed. At a lower level, home services are provided for several vulnerable groups which are not able to reach health care premises. Kosovo health care services are now focused on patient safety, quality control and assisted health.
Education for primary, secondary, and tertiary levels is predominantly public and supported by the state, run by the Ministry of Education. Education takes place in two main stages: primary and secondary education and higher education.
The primary and secondary education is subdivided into four stages: preschool education, primary and low secondary education, high secondary education and special education. Preschool education is for children from the ages of one to five. Primary and secondary education is obligatory for everyone. It is provided by gymnasiums and vocational schools and also available in languages of recognized minorities in the country, where classes are held in Albanian, Serbian, Bosnian, Turkish and Croatian. The first phase (primary education) includes grades one to five, and the second phase (low secondary education) grades six to nine. The third phase (high secondary education) consists of general education but also professional education, which is focused on different fields. It lasts four years. However, pupils are offered possibilities of applying for higher or university studies. According to the Ministry of Education, children who are not able to get a general education are able to get a special education (fifth phase).
Higher education can be received in universities and other higher-education institutes. These educational institutions offer studies for Bachelor, Master and PhDdegrees. The students may choose full-time or part-time studies.
Sport is a significant component of the society and culture of Kosovo. The most prominent sports in Kosovo include football, basketball, judo, boxing, volleyball and handball. The country became a full member of the International Olympic Committee in 2014. It participated at the 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
The most popular sport in the country is football by far. It was first codified in 1946. In 1922, the first clubs were formed such as the FC Gjakova and FC Prishtina. During the cold war era from 1945 until 1991, football in former Yugoslavia was advancing so fast that in 1946 it was formed the Federation of Kosovo, as a subsidiary of the Federation of Yugoslavia. FC Prishtina became the most successful club in the First Leagues of Yugoslavia, while KF Trepça was part of the league for one year. In 1991, the first independent Federation of Kosovo were founded, after all football players, almost from Kosovo, were banned from the League in Yugoslavia. The first game was held in the stadium of KF Flamurtari on 13 September 1991 in Prishtina, which marked in the same time the start of the first independent championship in Kosovo. The governing body in the country, is mainly responsible for national team and the most main cup competitions.
Three football players born in Kosovo (Milutin Šoškić, Fahrudin Jusufi, Vladimir Durković) were part of Yugoslavia national football team, which won a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics and a silver medal at the 1960 European Championship. Stevan Stojanović from Kosovo, who played for Yugoslavia, was part of Red Star Belgrade and they won 1990–91 European Cup. Nowadays, in many European teams there are players of Albanian origin from Kosovo how had the opportunity to show their talents and values. Thus, Lorik Cana was the captain of Olympique de Marseille and Sunderland A.F.C as well as the Albanian national team, while Valon Behrami who played for West Ham United F.C., and currently is playing for Watford FC and Swiss national football team. There are other players who had the opportunity to play for European Football Teams such as Xherdan Shaqiri, who plays as a midfielder for Stoke City and for the Switzerland national football team or Adnan Januzaj.
Basketball is also one of the favourite sports of the people in Kosovo. The first championship was held in 1991, with the participation of eight teams. The Basketball Federation of Kosovo was accepted as a full member of FIBA on 13 March 2015. Notable players born in Kosovo who played for the successful Yugoslavia and Serbia national teams include Zyfer Avdiu, Marko Simonović and Dejan Musli. Some of them are continued to competing for Serbia after recognition of Kosovo from FIBA.
Judoka Majlinda Kelmendi became World Champion in 2013 and 2014, and also the European Champion in 2014. At the Summer Olympics 2016, Kelmendi became the first decorated Kosovan athlete to win a gold medal, also the first gold medal for Kosovo in a major sport tournament. Nora Gjakova won first medal for Kosovo at the European Games, when she earned bronze in 57 kg category.
The lahuta is used by Gheg Albanians for the singing of epic songs or Albanian Songs of the Frontier Warriors.
Although the music in Kosovo is diverse, authentic Albanian and Serbian music still exist. Albanian music is characterised by the use of the Çifteli. Classical music is well known in Kosovo and has been taught at several music schools and universities. In 2014, Kosovo submitted their first film for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, with Three Windows and a Hanging directed by Isa Qosja.
In the past, epic poetry in Kosovo and Northern Albania was sung on a lahuta and then a more tuneful çiftelia was used which has two strings-one for the melody and one for drone. Kosovan music is influenced by Turkish music due to the almost 500-year span of Ottoman rule in Kosovo though Kosovan folklore has preserved its originality and exemplary. Archaeological researches tells about how old is this tradition and how was it developed in parallel way with other traditional music in the Balkan. There were found lots of roots since 5th century BC like paintings in the stones of singers with instruments. (Is famous the portrait of “Pani” who was holding an instrument similar to flute).
The contemporary music artists Rita Ora, Dua Lipa and Era Istrefi, are all of Albanian origin and have achieved international recognition for their music. One widely recognised musician from Prizren is guitarist Petrit Çeku, winner of several international prizes.
Singer Rona Nishliu finished 5th in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, while Lindita represented Albania in 2017.
Kosovo is home to many Monasteries and Churches from the 13th and 14th century that represents the Serbian Orthodox legacy. Architectural heritage from the Ottoman Period includes mosques and hamams from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Other historical architectural structures of interest include kullas from the 18th and 19th centuries as well as a number of bridges, urban centers and fortresses. While some vernacular buildings are not considered important in their own right, taken together they are of considerable interest. During the 1999 conflict in Kosovo, many buildings that represent this heritage were destroyed or damaged. In the Dukagjini region, at least 500 kullas were attacked, and most of them destroyed or otherwise damaged.
Kosovan art was unknown to the international public for a very long time, because of the regime, many artists were unable to display their art in art galleries, and so were always on the lookout for alternatives, and even resorted to taking matters into their own hands. During the Kosovo War, many studios were burned down and many artworks were destroyed or lost. Until 1990, artists from Kosovo presented their art in many prestigious worldwide renowned centers. They were affirmed and evaluated highly because of their unique approach to the arts considering the circumstances in which they were created, making them distinguished and original.
On February 1979, the Kosova National Art Gallery was founded. It became the highest institution of visual arts in Kosovo. It was named after one of the most prominent artists of Kosovo Muslim Mulliqi. Engjëll Berisha, Masar Caka, Tahir Emra, Abdullah Gërguri, Hysni Krasniqi, Nimon Lokaj, Aziz Nimani, Ramadan Ramadani, Esat Valla and Lendita Zeqiraj are some of few Albanian painters born in Kosovo.
The cuisine in Kosovo is similar to the cuisine of the surrounding places (Albania, Montenegro, Greece), and has been significantly influenced by Turkish cuisine and Albanian cuisine. Common dishes include burek, pies, flija, kebab, suxhukand other sausages, stuffed peppers, lamb, beans, sarma, burjan, pita and rice. Bread and dairy are important staples in Kosovar Albanian cuisine.
The most widely used dairy products are milk, yogurt, ayran, spreads, cheese and kaymak. Meat (beef, chicken and lamb), beans, rice and peppers are, likewise, major parts of the Kosovo Albanian diet. Vegetables are used seasonally. Usually, cucumbers, tomatoes and cabbage are pickled. Herbs such as salt, black pepper, red pepper and Vegeta are also popular.
Traditional Kosovan desserts are often made with sherbet, which is cooked sugar with either lemon or vanilla flavor. Baklava is one of the most widely used pastries in Kosovo. Another is Kajmaçin, which is composed of baked eggs, mixed with sugar and oil. Sheqer Pare is a pastry similar to baklava, as it is topped with sherbet.
Other pastries such as Kaqamak, Tespishte, Rovani, Tulluma and Pallaqinka are also a very popular breakfast foods in Kosovo. They are usually topped with Nutella, cheese, or honey. Shampite or Llokuma is served as a treat for children, and mostly as the first treat to guests on the days of Bajram.
The film industry of Kosovo dates from the 1970s. In 1969, the parliament of Kosovo established Kosovafilm, a state institution for the production, distribution and showing of films. Its initial director was the actor Abdurrahman Shala, followed by writer and noted poet Azem Shkreli, under whose direction the most successful films were produced. Subsequent directors of Kosovafilm were Xhevar Qorraj, Ekrem Kryeziu and Gani Mehmetaj. After producing seventeen feature films, numerous short films and documentaries, the institution was taken over by the Serbian authorities in 1990 and dissolved. Kosovafilm was reestablished after Yugoslav withdrawal from the region in June 1999 and has since been endeavoring to revive the film industry in Kosovo.
The International Documentary and Short Film Festival is the largest film event in Kosovo. The Festival is organized in August in Prizren which attracts numerous international and regional artists. In this annually organized festival films are screened twice a day in three open air cinemas as well as in two regular cinemas. Except for its films, the festival is also well known for lively nights after the screening. Various events happen within the scope of the festival: workshops, DokuPhoto exhibitions, festival camping, concerts, which altogether turn the city into a charming place to be. In 2010 Dokufest was voted as one of the 25 best international documentary festivals.In 2010 Dokufest was voted as one of the 25 best international documentary festivals.
International actors of Albanian origin from Kosovo include Arta Dobroshi, James Biberi, Faruk Begolli and Bekim Fehmiu. The Prishtina International Film Festival is the largest film festival, held annually in Pristina, in Kosovo that screens prominent international cinema productions in the Balkan region and beyond, and draws attention to the Kosovar film industry.
The movie Shok was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film at the 88th Academy Awards.The movie was written and directed by Oscar nominated director Jamie Donoughue, based on true events during the Kosovo war. Shok’s distributor is Ouat Media, and the social media campaign is led by Team Albanians.
The Media consists of different kinds of communicative media such as radio, television, newspapers, and internet web sites. Most of the media survive from advertising and subscriptions. As according to IREX there are 92 radio stations and 22 television stations.
Pristina is an important fashion design, production and trade hub in the Albanian-speaking territories. Kosovo has been well documented for its success in global beauty pageantry at Miss Universe. Furthermore, Miss Kosovo is a closely followed event throughout the Kosovo. The first titleholder was Zana Krasniqi, who placed as a Top 10 finalist at the 2008 Miss Universe pageant. She is the first ever Kosovo-Albanian woman to enter and place in the contest finishing 6th, just two tenths of a point from the top five. The following year turned out to be another success for the Miss Universe Kosovo pageant: Marigona Dragusha placed second runner-up to Miss Universe 2009 in the Bahamas making her to be the first delegate from Kosovo to make it top the top five.
In terms of placements, Kosovo has been one of the most successful entrants into the Miss Universe pageant. Ever since debuting in 2008, Kosovo has missed the semi-finals only twice, in 2010 and 2014, beating many countries that have been competing for decades.