The western Balkans were part of the Roman and Byzantine Empires before ethnic Serbs migrated to the territories of modern Kosovo in the 7th century. During the medieval period, Kosovo became the center of a Serbian Empire and saw the construction of many important Serb religious sites, including many architecturally significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries. The defeat of Serbian forces at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 led to five centuries of Ottoman rule during which large numbers of Turks and Albanians moved to Kosovo. By the end of the 19th century, Albanians replaced Serbs as the dominant ethnic group in Kosovo. Serbia reacquired control over the region from the Ottoman Empire during the First Balkan War of 1912. After World War II, Kosovo's present-day boundaries were established when Kosovo became an autonomous province of Serbia in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (S.F.R.Y.). Due at least in part to discrimination against ethnic Albanians by Belgrade, Albanian nationalism increased in the 1980s, which led to riots and calls for Kosovo's independence. In 1989, Belgrade instituted a new constitution revoking Kosovo's autonomous status. Kosovo's Albanian leaders responded in 1991 by organizing a referendum declaring Kosovo independent. Belgrade undertook repressive measures against the Kosovo Albanians in the 1990s, provoking a Kosovo Albanian insurgency.
Beginning in 1998, Yugoslavia conducted a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians (some 800,000 ethnic Albanians were forced from their homes in Kosovo). After international attempts to mediate the conflict failed, a three-month NATO military operation against Yugoslavia beginning in March 1999 forced Belgrade to agree to withdraw its military and police forces from Kosovo. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) placed Kosovo under a transitional administration, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, pending a determination of Kosovo's future status. A UN-led process began in late 2005 to determine Kosovo's final status. The 2006-07 negotiations ended without agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, though the UN issued a comprehensive report on Kosovo's final status that endorsed independence. On 17 February 2008, the Kosovo Assembly declared Kosovo independent. Since then, close to 100 countries have recognized Kosovo, and it has joined numerous international organizations. In October 2008, Serbia sought an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality under international law of Kosovo's declaration of independence. The ICJ released an advisory opinion in July 2010 affirming that Kosovo's declaration of independence did not violate general principles of international law, UN Security Council Resolution 1244, or the Constitutive Framework. The opinion was closely tailored to Kosovo's unique history and circumstances.
Demonstrating Kosovo’s development into a sovereign, multi-ethnic, democratic country, the international community ended the period of Supervised Independence in 2012. Kosovo held its most recent national and municipal elections in 2021, ushering in a government led by the Self-Determination Movement's (VV) Albin KURTI, a former political prisoner who did not fight in the 1998-99 war. Serbia continues to reject Kosovo's independence, but the two countries began EU-facilitated discussions in April 2013 to normalize their relations, which produced several subsequent agreements the parties have implemented to varying degrees, though they have not yet reached a comprehensive agreement on the normalization of relations. Kosovo has pursued bilateral recognitions and memberships in international organizations, moves that Serbia strongly opposes. Kosovo signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU in 2015, and the EU named Kosovo as among the six Western Balkan countries that will be able to join the organization once it meets the criteria to accede. Kosovo also seeks memberships in the UN and in NATO.
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NOTE: The information regarding Kosovo on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Kosovo 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Kosovo 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.
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