The Kosovo Conflict: From A Turbulent Past To An Uncertain Future

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Background The current situation in Kosovo epitomizes the effects of unbridled nationalism on a people. The nature of the current political and economic systems in this small province of Serbia is a product of repressed feelings of both Serbs and ethnic Albanians and the emaciated socioeconomic position of the area itself.

Kosovo's history and geographic location make it a prime area to foster such heated conflict. The Balkans was home to a great Serbian empire prior to the late 14th century, when it experienced significant decline due to invasions from the Ottoman Turks. The culmination of Serbian defeat occurred in 1389, at the Battle of Kosovo. The Turks gained Kosovo and ruled the Balkans relatively uninterrupted until 1918. Kosovo has always been Serbia's ultimate goal; current ruler Slobodan Milosevic refers to the province as "the heart of Serbia." Ethnic Albanians living in the province have an ultimate goal also: to achieve Kosovo's independence and a union with Albanians everywhere.

Socioeconomic conditions are also quite conducive to friction among the people of Kosovo. The area has always been Yugoslavia's poorest economy, and it has the region's highest illiteracy and infant mortality rates. Demographically, Kosovo is 90% ethnic Albanian Muslims and 10% Serbs, many of which subscribe to Orthodox Catholicism. These two groups have lived in such close proximity for hundreds of years. The Serbs in the Balkans claim Kosovo as part of Serbia for historical reasons, but the Albanians living there argue that they are descendants of the Illyrian tribe that appeared there some 2,000 years ago. This dispute is one factor that fuels the hostilities that plague Kosovo today.

Political unrest has also harassed the small area, beginning when Yugoslavia was created in 1918. From the start, Kosovo was considered a region within the Yugoslav province Serbia, despite ethnic Albanian...