Albanians in Kosovo

Albanians in Kosovo

Large numbers of ethnic Albanians lived outside the country, in Italy, Greece, Turkey, the United States, and especially in Yugoslavia or its former republics. Estimates based on Yugoslav census data indicated that the number of Albanians in Yugoslavia in 1981 totaled more than 1.7 million, or almost 8 percent of the country's total population, of which about 70 percent resided in Kosovo, a province of Serbia, 20 percent in Macedonia, and 9 percent in Montenegro. The predominantly Albanian Kosovo had the highest birthrate in Europe and one of the highest in the world: 29.9 per 1,000 in 1987. Persons under twenty-seven years old accounted for 60 percent of Kosovo's total population, and students--a reservoir of political ferment--over 30 percent. In 1981 only 12 percent of the Albanian population in Kosovo was employed.

Student protests over living conditions in early 1981 led to bloody riots throughout Kosovo, which accelerated the exodus of Serbs and Montenegrins. The number of departures totalled 60,000 between 1981 and 1991. Haunted by the specter of secession, the Serbian government resorted to repressive measures, culminating in the revocation of Kosovo's autonomous status in July 1990. Hundreds of Albanian activists were tried and imprisoned, and a campaign was launched to entice Serbs to settle in Kosovo. Serbian authorities suspended publication of the Albanianlanguage daily Rilindja, alleging that it had become a "mouthpiece" of Albanian nationalists. Thousands of students and parents protested the introduction of a Serbian-language standard curriculum for all middle and secondary schools. As a result of the curriculum's implementation, many Albanian-language schools had to be closed. At Kosovo's University of Pristina, student placements were reserved, in disproportion to the population, for ethnic Serbs and Montenegrins--many from outside Kosovo. (Even though a number of these reserved places were not filled in the fall of 1990, Albanian applicants were denied admission to the university.) Discrimination against Albanians seeking employment or housing was rampant.


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