Date: Sat, 3 Apr 1999 14:03:38 -0600 (CST)
From: “Workers World” <>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: Background of the struggle in Kosovo
Article: 59643
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Background of the struggle in Kosovo

By Gary Wilson, Workers World, 8 April 1999

Few people in the United States had heard of Kosovo when President Bill Clinton ordered the U.S. military to begin bombing there. Where is Kosovo? What's the background?

Kosovo is a province of Serbia. Serbia is one of two republics in what remains of the country of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia today is about as big as the state of Kentucky, and is more mountainous than that Appalachian state.

The two republics of Yugoslavia are Serbia and Montenegro. Yugoslavia is on the Adriatic Sea across from Italy.

Serbia is a multi-ethnic state. Although it is a majority Serbian, there are many Albanian, Roma, Montenegrin, Bulgarian, Slovak, Croat and other nationalities living in Serbia. Kosovo is the only part of present-day Yugoslavia where there is any ethnic conflict.

Kosovo is an area a little smaller than Connecticut. It is entirely mountainous with two large valleys—Kosovo valley and Metohija valley. That's why all Yugoslav references refer to the region as Kosovo and Metohija, or Kosmet for short.

The mountains are thinly populated while the valleys are densely populated. In fact, Kosovo is the most densely populated region of the Balkans. There are almost as many Albanians living in Kosovo as there are in Albania.

Kosovo has the richest mineral wealth of the Balkans, including rich reserves of coal, nickel, lead, zinc, magnesium, lignite, kaolin, quartz, asbestos, limestone, marble, chrome and bauxite. It also has the biggest power plant in all Yugoslavia, producing essential electricity for all of Serbia.

Big-power invasions of Kosovo for its mineral wealth began with the Roman empire and continued through the Nazi occupation of World War II. Following the end of World War II and the victory of the communist partisans, Yugoslavia— including Kosovo—was finally free of all outside occupiers.

For about 45 years, all the peoples of the Balkans lived together in peace. In fact, socialist Yugoslavia made great achievements in developing a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society. In Yugoslavia no single nationality claimed a majority. There were seven main nationalities and they were not located in geographically distinct areas, but were spread out through the six republics and two provinces.

Only the Yugoslav communists have successfully pursued a policy of multi-ethnic equality in the Balkans. It is a legacy that many in the region are proud of and continue to support.

The Yugoslav government and the government of Kosovo are multi-ethnic. At the peace talks in Rambouillet, France, there were 10 representatives from Yugoslavia. They were not just Serbs; there were two Albanians, a Slavic Muslim, a Turk, a Goran, a Romany and an Egyptian.

Pristina, the capital city of Kosovo, is the fourth- largest city in today's Yugoslavia. It is about the size of Providence, R.I. Pristina was the original capital of Serbia.

Serbs have lived in Kosovo since the 6th century. The Battle of Kosovo of 1389 against the Ottoman conquerors marks the beginning of the Serbian nation.

The Ottoman empire controlled the region until 1878, when an imperialist conference in Berlin divided the region among the emerging European powers.

The majority population of Kosovo was Serbian until World War II, when hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Serbians were either forced to flee or were exterminated by the fascist occupiers.

Kosovo, however, has been a multi-ethnic region for hundreds of years. Kosovo is not only the birthplace of Serbia. It is also considered the birthplace for what is known as the Albanian national renaissance.

Both Serbs and Albanians have historic claims to Kosovo. These claims were recognized by the socialist government of Yugoslavia under Tito. Under the constitution of 1974 Kosovo was an autonomous region under Albanian leadership. The constitution even gave Kosovo an equal vote with the republics in the federal government. It also guaranteed affirmative action-like programs for the Kosovo Albanians. An Albanian university was established for the first time. Before World War II, there was no Albanian center of higher education anywhere.

When Slobodan Milosevic ended Kosovo's autonomous status in 1991, it was a bureaucratic response to a situation that really needed a political response. Throughout the Cold War, the NATO imperialist powers had encouraged anti-communist Albanian nationalists with ties to Kosovo. According to Miranda Vickers' pro-Albanian book, “Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo,” throughout the 1980s the center for Albanian separatism was in New York and its main proponent was the U.S. Congress.

Paramilitary groups with covert Western support began targeting Serbs in Kosovo and inciting anti-Serb sentiments. Tens of thousands of Serbs fled Kosovo in this time because of discrimination, according to Vickers.

After paramilitaries began murdering Serb farmers, Milosevic responded with a political crackdown that curbed Albanian rights.

The imperialist powers seized upon this and began to encourage Albanian separatists. The U.S. Congress funded the founding of a “Kosovo government in exile.”

After the collapse of the socialist government in Albania, the U.S. and Germany quickly swept in. The government of Albania today is completely dependent on the U.S. government for its existence. The U.S. has a military base in Albania and there are up to a hundred top NATO officers stationed in Tirana, the Albanian capital.

According to the French Press Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency has been working in Albania to “modernize” Albania's secret police. This is usually an indication that the CIA is directing the operations.

Albania's foreign policy came so completely under U.S. control that in 1993, Albania joined Paraguay and Israel as the only countries in the world voting with the United States in the UN in favor of Washington's embargo of Cuba.


Albania is the headquarters for the Kosovo Liberation Army, which has been dependent on covert support coming primarily from Germany and the United States.

The Kosovo Liberation Army has made it clear that its goal is an ethnically pure, Albanian-only Kosovo. Even the New York Times, whose reporting has been unabashedly hostile to the Yugoslav government, reported on March 28 that many of the leaders of the KLA trace their roots to a fascist unit set up during World War II by the Italian occupiers.

The Italian fascists and the German Nazis encouraged the creation of a “Greater Albania.” It was meant to deepen ethnic divisions in the Balkans. Never before in history had there been a “Greater Albania.”

The KLA has revived the call for a “Greater Albania” and has patterned some of its uniforms and insignia on the fascist unit set up in World War II.

While the U.S. says it does not support independence for Kosovo, everything it is doing is promoting such an eventuality. It is the old tactic of divide and rule: break Yugoslavia up into ever smaller pieces, keeping them weak and fighting each other, so no state is strong enough to resist the empire.

But the people of Yugoslavia are refusing to accept any further dismemberment of their country.