Yugoslavia Table of Contents
The province of Kosovo, formerly called Kosovo-Metohija, became the locus of an important political issue during the late 1960s. Removal of the Rankovic state security system in 1966 allowed the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo to demonstrate for improvement of very poor economic and political conditions. In the next decade, a number of Albanian nationalist groups were active on a small scale in Kosovo. The decentralizing effect of the 1974 Constitution further reduced oppression of Albanians in the province; however, loosening state control increased the scale and visibility of nationalist disturbances in the 1970s. Large-scale demonstrations in 1981 led to a complete purge of the Kosovo party, a harsh security crackdown, and bitter relations between Albania and Yugoslavia (see Foreign Policy , this ch.).
In the 1980s, the gravity of the Kosovo issue increased for several reasons: Kosovo's drive for republic status or total separation increasingly was supported by blatant Albanian intervention; Yugoslavia's richest republics were frustrated by federal investment requirements designed to improve Kosovo's economic situation without any return for their money; and uncontrollable nationalism in one part of the federation threatened to encourage similar bursts of independence elsewhere in the multinational state. The use of the Kosovo issue to reinspire Serbian nationalism was especially worrisome to other republics, while it radicalized most of Yugoslavia's Albanian population. In 1989 Slobodan Milosevic called Kosovo "the heart of Serbia," citing Kosovo's history as the center of the medieval Serbian kingdom that ended in a storied defeat by the Turks in 1389 (see The Serbs and Serbia, Vojvodina, and Montenegro , ch. 1). However, Kosovo had similar historical significance for its largely Albanian population of the late twentieth century; this created an ethnic political struggle that some observers compared to the West Bank situation in the Middle East.
By 1988 intensified political demonstrations and the deadlock of the Serbian and Albanian wings of the Kosovo party provided a pretext for political intervention by the Serbian government in Kosovo. A thorough Serbianization campaign begun in 1987 had undercut local compromise efforts by removing all party officials showing sympathy for the Kosovan nationalist cause. By one estimate, 485,000 Kosovans were arrested between 1981 and 1987. Civil rights increasingly were suspended. The intervention also eliminated the influence of Azem Vlasi, an ethnic Albanian who had been a strong, moderate spokesman for liberalization in the Kosovo League of Communists. Vlasi and his colleagues were purged in 1989, and their prolonged trial by the Serbian government for counterrevolutionary activities brought strong condemnation from Slovenia and Croatia.
The internal politics of Kosovo were dominated by severe economic backwardness and hatred between the Albanian majority and the Serbian minority. Conditions worsened in the 1980s despite disproportionately high national investment in the region (see Regional Disparities , ch. 3). Although the Serbs claimed that the Albanians ran an organized campaign to drive out Slavs, economic conditions were at least as instrumental in the decline of the Serbian population. Many Albanians also left to seek employment elsewhere. After the purge of 1989, the Kosovo League of Communists and assembly were puppet organizations controlled from Belgrade--a situation that exacerbated nationalist feeling and protests. In 1990 political control of the province still eluded the Serbian party, which continued its polemics with the Slovenes and Croats over Kosovo policy. An opposition group, the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo, began a propaganda campaign against the Serbs and the League of Communists of Kosovo that year. In 1990 the fragmentation of the LCY at its Fourteenth Congress provoked a new series of violent demonstrations against Serbian oppression. The Federal Executive Council drafted a plan to alleviate the Kosovo crisis, but factions in the Federal Assembly delayed its passage.
Data as of December 1990
Yugoslavia Table of Contents