Historical background of Kosovo

An anomaly in the Yugoslav system

Kosovo (or, in Albanian, Kosova) and its majority Albanian population always constituted an anomaly in the Yugoslav system. More numerous than Macedonians, Montenegrins and Slovenians, Albanians were categorized as a nationality or narodnost. The rationale was that unlike the constituent peoples of Yugoslavia, Albanians constituted the majority in a neighboring nation-state, Albania. Thus they already "had" their own state. Instead of being grouped into a single Republic, Yugoslavia's Albanian population was divided between three Republics (Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia) and constituted a linguistic and cultural minority in all three. The largest number lived in Kosovo, where they constituted a majority, and where Albanian cultural and political activism was concentrated.

1974 Constitution gave Kosovo status close to that of a Republic

Tito's government gave federal funding to aid development in Kosovo, especially in the 1960s and 1970. Much of the funding was spent on public buildings and housing in Pristina, the capital. The city's University was opened in 1970 and attracted Albanian students and intellectuals from all over Yugoslavia. The 1974 constitution granted Kosovo status close to that of a Republic, with a government, constitution, control of legal and educational systems, and representation in the presidency of Yugoslavia.

Kosovo did not have right to secede

As an "autonomous province" of Serbia, Kosovo resembled republics in every respect save one: it did not have the constitutional right to secede. Additionally, Albanians were not recognized as a “narod” or constituent people of Yugoslavia. Gaining Republic status remained part of the agenda of Kosovo's Albanian leaders.

Tensions between Serbs and Albanians

Police repression continued throughout the 1980s against Albanians. At the same time, Serbian emigration from the province increased, as did Serbian media assertions of atrocities committed by Albanians against Serbs. Tensions between Serbs and Albanians continued to rise and came to a head after Milošević’s accession to power in Serbia in 1987.

Milošević stripped Kosovo of its autonomy, staging a vote by the province's parliament, effectively to dissolve itself. Protests over specific grievances, including a hunger strike by Albanian miners at the Trepca lead and zinc mines, evolved into massive demonstrations, prompting violent reprisals by police as had occurred in 1981.