Hidden story about Kosovo: Who was suppressing whom?
by Vladislav B Sotirovic on 18 May 2024 0 Comment

Southern Serbia’s autonomous province of Kosovo and Metochia (KosMet) was subject to a gradual, but permanent change in its demographic content during the time of Titoslavia (Socialist Yugoslavia, 1945-1991). Three principal factors were crucial to the drastic demographic change in this Serbian province in favour of ethnic (Muslim) Albanians and at the expense of ethnic (Christian Orthodox) Serbs and Montenegrins.


Demographic explosion


First and most important was the demographic explosion due to the high birth rate of Albanians. When this trend was in the opposite direction on the global scale, with even African countries diminishing their birth rate, the only European regions with breeding out of all proportions were Albania and KosMet. In a comprehensive article in Newsweek,[1] entitled “Demographic Bomb Is No Longer As It Used To Be”, it has been estimated that by 2050 the only regions with more than 2 children per woman will be the Caribbean Islands, Pakistan, Eastern Guinea, and African countries (except for North and South Africa). And one region in Europe - KosMet. 


Analyzing the world situation, the author writes:

“If the figures are correct, they signify that almost half of the world population lives in the countries whose demographic regime is situated below the replacement level: comments Ebershtadt”.


Nevertheless, there are noticeable exceptions. In Europe, Albania and Kosovo make even more children. Asia has pockets of large natality, with Mongolia, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Saudi Arabia represents the highest birth rate in the world (5.7), after the Palestinian Territories (5.9) and Yemen (7.2). However, some countries have some surprises in store: Arab Muslim Tunisia has fallen below the reproduction threshold. During Titoslavia, Albania’s birth rate was noticeably lower than in KosMet. How to explain this, since in both regions ethnic Albanians constitute the overwhelming majority?


Albania is an independent state, responsible for its own wellbeing. The uncontrollable rise in population implies more hungry mouths, more unemployed, more public expenditures for social needs, etc. But what is unfavourable for a responsible, sovereign state appears favourable for the society that relies on the State it lives in. The more populous the ethnic minority is, the more convincing its demands for financial and other support. The more children in the family, the less income per capita, the more justifiable the demands for public financial help. However, this cannot continue ad infinitum, of course.


Once the final goal has been achieved, and the secession realized (KosMet in 1999), the logic takes the opposite direction – family planning. The logic of “make children in the evening and submit the bill to the State in the morning” does not work any longer, for this is your own state. That is exactly what is going on in present-day Albania.


Immigration from Albania and emigration to Central Serbia


Second, it was the influx (illegal) of ethnic Albanians from neighbouring Albania into KosMet (and partially into Yugoslav Macedonia), both the slow and steady migrants and those termed as metastatic movements. The first immigrant phenomenon appears slowly and has effects that are revealed over centuries, just like the high-rate natality effect. The second is noticeable and has profound psychological effects on the indigenous population, in this case, the Serbs and Montenegrins. It provokes massive moving out of the autochthonous inhabitants, mainly into Central Serbia. The rate of this migration deserves particular attention, for this reveals more than any of the political and demagogical “explanations”.


It has been noticed since this phenomenon was observed and followed statistically that the rate of outflow migration appears constant in time. What does this signify? Central Serbia outnumbers the Serb population in KosMet by more than an order of magnitude. Equally, the area of Serbia is much larger than KosMet. Now, suppose all Serbs (and non-Albanians, for that matter) were willing to quit KosMet (voting by feet, as some Western commentators were eager to emphasize while describing emigration from Miloševic’s Serbia), their numbers in KosMet would diminish exponentially. However, the number of emigrants depends on the possibility of the external reservoir to absorb the influx. The constant rate of emigration means that Central Serbia cannot absorb the immigrants all at once, but only gradually since its capacity is large but finite. Had Serbia been much larger, the number of non-Albanians in KosMet would have been zero by now.




Third, the question arises: Which kind of people were “suppressed” in KosMet when the other population fled from them? Or put it this way: Who was suppressing whom? 


Why was KosMet depopulated of non-Albanians and overpopulated with ethnic-Albanians (the Shqiptars as the Albanians call themselves)? What mechanism is responsible for this effect as the third and probably focal reason for the drastic demographic change in KosMet during the lifetime of Titoslavia – suppression. For the sake of clarity, we must distinguish two principal strategies, as used by the (newcomers) Albanians (Shqiptars) to take over land and estate from the rest of KosMet (autochthonous) population – the Serbs and the Montenegrins (in fact, ethnolinguistic Serbs).


We begin with quasi-violent tactics. In villages with a mixed population, non-Albanian houses, or families, adjacent to Albanian ones, lived under constant pressure, even fear, from their neighbours. Any conflict, however innocent, could easily become dangerous, regarding the nature of the Albanian ethos and their social units, tribe (fis) or otherwise. Since the latter outnumber the former, and Albanians are generally well-equipped with arms and ready to use them, the neighbouring (non-Albanian) houses live in permanent fear from eventual conflict and use of the arms by neighbouring Albanians.


The latter may arise for various reasons: Trespassing, livestock damages, “wrong look” at Albanian wife or daughter, etc. Any serious conflict may initiate a blood feud and this may be resolved by leaving the area only.[2] Whatever the surface look may be, the relationship between populations who do not share the same ethos is anything but relaxed. It is the neighbourhood where jokes have no place, since the sensitivity of Albanians, even regarding their own compatriots, is pathologically pronounced. Many families, finding this environment unsupportive simply sell the estate and move away (in Serb case to Central Serbia).


Other causes of emigration are not that innocent. Most frequent is combined physical pressure and financial “encouragement” (suppression). Many inhabitants of underdeveloped and even moderately advanced economic regions in the former Yugoslavia used to work in West Europe, as “Gastarbeiter(s)” (guest workers). If one is travelling through Serbia’s countryside, one will notice a high percentage of new houses, usually unfinished. They are the property of the Gastarbeiter(s), who plan to complete those constructions when returning finally to the homeland (with cash and pensions).


The rationale for this economic mismatch between the homeland and advanced Western society is mainly the disproportion between the nominal and real values of the currencies. One Deutsche Mark – DM (now one Euro) in Western Europe, is in Serbia equal to five DM (Euros) roughly. This disproportion is more pronounced in KosMet. Since the most vigorous members of non-Albanian families have already left their homes, either moving to towns or simply to Central Serbia, the remaining Serbs are not in a position to compete with Albanians (i.e., KosMet’s Albanian Gastarbeiter(s) and their families) in financial terms.


The general stratagem


The general stratagem for overtaking non-Albanian land in KosMet appeared like this:


Initial stage: If the village appears purely non-Albanian, several Albanian families pool money and offer to the most prominent house in the village a considerable amount, exceeding several times its real economic value on the market. The target family resists for some time, but after persistent offerings and psychological and even physical suppression, it usually gives up and sells the estate, moves to Central Serbia, and buys a much bigger estate.


Middle stage: The next target house is offered a somewhat smaller amount and the procedure repeated with an increased level of suppression.


Final stage: As the number of remaining (Serb and Montenegrin) families diminishes, the (Albanian) buyers offer ever lesser amounts and the price goes below the economic one and is followed by in many cases very brutal suppression. In the final stage, estates are sold for symbolic prices, and the village is emptied of the “alien peasants” (of Serb and Montenegrin origin). Consequently, the larger part of KosMet was evacuated of “undesirable inhabitants” (who moved to Central Serbia).  


Needless to say, in places with already mixed populations, the process is much easier and faster. In many cases, people spontaneously left their homes and moved away from the troublesome environment. When talking with Albanians, ordinary people and political activists alike, explain the evacuation of KosMet by the indigenous (Serbo-Montenegrin) population by the latter’s desire to move to the more prosperous regions (of Central Serbia), for purely economic reasons. 


In this way, two aims are achieved. First, it implies the poverty of KosMet, and second, the free choice of those who leave the region. This is an old explanation but sells well in the “international community”. Otherwise, such a cynical argument would be cut off by any serious interlocutor. However, none has asked Albanians who keep blaming non-Albanians in Serbia of suppression, even torture, why don’t they (Albanians) leave KosMet for a better life, like their country of origin, Albania.


This stratagem has been applied not only in KosMet, but everywhere in Serbia where ethnic Albanians are present in rural areas, including the Preševo valley (Bujanovac, Preševo, and Medveda in Central Serbia neighbouring North-East KosMet). All these counties were predominantly inhabited by non-Albanians in 1945 when KosMet was constituted as an autonomous region; now only in Medveda are Serbs still the majority. The State of Serbia tried to prevent this illegitimate taking over of non-Albanian (Serbian) land in the 1980s and 1990s by a law of non-transfer of real estate property between different ethnic partners (Serb-Albanian), but this measure had little effect.


Many non-Albanians simply take money without recording the transfer before the court. At the moment it is almost impossible to estimate who legally owns the land in KosMet and in the Preševo valley. Presumably, this domino effect is operative in other regions where ethnic Albanians live in noticeable numbers, as in the western parts of North Macedonia. Persistent bargain offers combined with intimidations, like burning haystacks, killing live stocks, dogs, etc., cannot fail to produce the desired effect – moving away.




Living in such an environment, isolated from the rest of the world, including Central Serbia, those unfortunate people have acquired many attributes of Albanians. Settling down in Central Serbia, by buying land or a house/flat, they find themselves apart from the local population, who treat them as alien elements.[3] The main effect of the isolation in KosMet was the conservation of the ethos and folklore. These Serbs from KosMet represent the best-preserved traditional autochthonous culture of the Slavic population in Serbia and around.


KosMet has proved to be the largest reservoir of Serbian folklore and tradition in general. It is presumably this fact that makes the local population in Central Serbia suspicious of the KosMet immigrants. This phenomenon appears common to all Dinaric regions, but KosMet was the national, cultural, political, and historic core of Serbia, and it was not the physical geography that shrank, but the native population.


This affected not only Serbs but any non-Albanian ethnicity in KosMet. The latter have been moving from KosMet continuously, as well as from the western parts of North Macedonia. A typical example is the village of Janjina, near Priština and Gracanica, inhabited entirely by Croats. The latter completely abandoned the village at the beginning of the Albanian (Kosovo Liberation Army) rebellion (terrorism) in February 1998 and moved to Croatia. The same applies to Roma and other “ethnic minorities”, like the so-called Egyptians,[4] Ashkalias, Turks, and Muslim Bosniaks.[5] Xenophobia is a driving force of Albanians (in Albania, North Macedonia, and KosMet alike) and is making other groups uneasy.  


The situation in urban areas is technically different but equally uneasy. The older Albanian generations, aware of the historicity of their non-Albanian neighbours and the cultural heritage it implies, are reluctant to mix. The young generations, rising with meteoric speed in number, experience the rest of the non-Albanian urban population with alarm. European visitors to KosMet were stunned to see the segregation between Albanian and non-Albanian youth walking in the streets in the evening (the so-called “Corso”) in KosMet towns, including Priština. The same applied to cafes, pubs, etc., where the “ethnically pure public” was present. As the number of non-Albanians decreased, the ever-smaller communities in towns found themselves isolated and “strangers at home”. This psychological pressure prompted non-Albanian youth to leave KosMet, even before open hostilities started in February 1998 – the Kosovo War. 



[1] Translated from Courrier International, No. 149, March 2005, p. 44.

[2] Many families in Central Serbia arrived there from Dinaric regions (Montenegro, Herzegovina) to escape blood feuds, especially in the 19th century.

[3] The same was and is true with Serb refugees from Croatia to Central Serbia from 1971 onwards. They are in many cases called “Croats” by the autochthonous people of Central Serbia. However, the Serbs from KosMet are never called “Albanians” by the local autochthonous population of Central Serbia but rather “Kosovars”.

[4] What relationship of this minority (in fact, Roma) with the Egyptians proper is difficult to determine now, but this is of minor importance to us here.

[5] The Balkans is not only the melting pot of various ethnicities but also a rich source of new ones, real and imaginary.


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